Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Election Day

I am deeply aware that people fought and died for their right to vote. Democracy is, or rather, would be, a good thing, and surely it is righteous for people to demand not to be excluded from what passes for political process. Democracy is theoretically a mechanism whereby collectivity resolves into taking action in an act of shared commitment and responsibility. Problem is, I don't think that's what's actually happening right now.

My head has spent the last year split in two places, one watching this extended dumpster fire of an election, and two immersed in doing research on the probably esoteric (outside Ethiopia that is) subject of the Ethiopian revolution. There in 1974, a group of dedicated communist revolutionaries started an underground newsletter called "Democracy," that became one of the most well-read political papers in the country. The "Democracy" these folks argued for (and died for, by the thousands) was first demanded of the emperor Haile Selassie, and later, after the military snatched power from a popular uprising, became a rallying cry for pushing aside the military in favor of a popular people's government. So I've had quite a few occasions to think about what democracy might mean.

Listen, this, this USA, this is not a real democracy. This is a parody of democracy: it is not those abstaining from voting today who are spitting in the face of the freedom riders of the 1960s, it is the entire political system that is doing so. An elaborate and deeply embarrassing spectacle that wasted millions of dollars (ie, made a bunch of entertainment companies rich) just left people with the "choice" between a bloated fascist businessman, a deeply unprincipled and dishonest career politician responsible for the deaths of untold thousands who happens to be a woman, and a handful of quixotic alternatives who, with the one notable exception of Mimi Soltysik of the Socialist Party — who isn't even on most printed ballots — specialize in peddling low-frequency bullshit. (And to be clear I include there everyone from the problematic Greens and PSL, to the reprehensible SEP, SWP, libertarians and WWP).

It should be obvious, and yet strangely is not, to most, that this is in fact a dictatorship, the dictatorship of rich property owners we Marxists like to call the bourgeoisie. A government by and for rich people that has diabolically convinced millions that every few years being forced to rubberstamp choices presented to you from column A or column B, when mostly people want and need something else entirely, is actually what "democracy" looks like. It's not. And if you think dictatorship is a harsh word, take off your blinders and look at the role of police in this country and the role of the American military in the world, and see that "they" don't really give a shit what you think. Ruling though repression, fear and circuses, the class that owns this country needs us a lot more than we need them.

It's like a sickness what this country does to people. Like you, I have been indoctrinated for most of my almost 58 years that voting is a sacred responsibility. I have previously voted for Democrats, previously voted third parties, and occasionally abstained. The one thing I have learned is that I will never again close my ears to the evil promises of politicians in favor of the few morsels I want to actually hear. And yet with everything I know and I have studied, I still find myself wracked with guilty obligation. And so I have tried to figure out what I would do today.

Watching the intense fear that has been whipped up by both Democrats and Republicans fills me with both disgust and sadness. I can't blame or condemn most people for exercising what feels like the only thing they can do to stave off the obvious dangers ahead, though I urge folks to hit the books for the truth how that "I voted" sticker is zero defense against an actual fascist onslaught. I am, it must be said, pretty disappointed not in regular people with good hearts taking a stand against the vile and noxious Trump, but in leftists willing to overlook the vile and noxious Clinton, but that's a more complicated story.

I wish that the left was strong enough to run what I believe is actually correct, a campaign of revolutionary abstentionism. I think it would be an excellent step along the way to presenting a transcendent vision of liberation that revolutionaries need to find a way to re-popularize if we are ever to move out of the realm of symbolism. Symbolism is right now the only thing a micro-movement for revolutionary abstention can offer. One day the withholding of our participation in this game will be a weapon; it's not that yet.

It seems to be a beautiful day outside. I'm ever so privileged to be unemployed today and not quite at the bottom of my bank account. That same beautiful blue sky extends west to the Dakotas, and east across oceans and seas to Syria; distances far beyond sight and hearing yet not beyond knowledge.
I know where my polling place is. But I'm going to walk the other way.

Friday, November 04, 2016

I’m Not With Her

“I’m With Him”?

A little history lesson, for those who think voting for the "lesser evil" is a successful strategy. A lesson for those who are terrified of Trump. The SPD noted here were the German social democrats, sort of the left liberals of their time:

"[In 1932] The SPD regarded Hindenburg as the only man who could defeat Hitler and keep the Nazi Party from winning the elections (and they said so throughout the campaign)..... In the runoff election of April 1932, Hindenburg defeated Hitler for the presidency....Finally, the 85-year-old Hindenburg agreed to make Hitler chancellor, and on the morning of 30 January 1933, Hindenburg swore him in as chancellor at the presidential palace."

Sure, history never repeats itself.

#LessVotingMoreRevolution #RevoltDontVote

Monday, September 05, 2016

Echoes of a past life: New Moon

New Moon New York was an open Pagan circle in New York City in the early 1990s. This footage has surfaced, bringing back some memories, a surprising memory hole, and a bit of personal embarassment. This video includes footage of several events, only one of which I attended, the probable “Lughnassadh” ritual that begins about at the 11 min. mark, held in either NYC's Central Park or Inwood Park. Yours truly may be seen at heard about 16:35, bearing that fuzzy red wheel. Yeah, we took ourselves pretty seriously, but we also had lots of fun. As silly as this looks to me 20+ years later, I learned a lot about myself and the world in that period. I'm pretty glad I graduated from this sort of Cosplay/LARP scene, now in my mid-50s I'm sort of mortified by the trappings of that chapter of my spirituality. That said, that moment of spirituality healed me of some fundamental life hurt and I wouldn't want to erase that chapter of my life even if it seems so curiously foreign to me now.

But these were good people. I note with sadness several faces no longer among the living, not least the legendary Alexei Kondratiev and his partner Len. I see my dear magical partner C, and my incredibly handsome but deeply conflicted and closeted boyfriend W, nicknamed by C “Mr. Outdoors.” It's good to remember my friends from New Moon. I'm surprised at how little of this event I remember, it all seems just out of reach. Which is okay, it was a really long time ago and I have moved far far away from that moment in my life.

And now, back to life as a 21st-century communist.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Apartheid Love Triangle

Hillary Clinton + Elizabeth Warren + Benyamin Netanyahu: Apartheid Love Triangle. God, I can't wait for the US elections to be over.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Best Election Graphic of 2016

I can't claim any credit for it, source unknown. But I love everything about this, right down to the "I Voted" sticker on the dumpster. Children are the future, indeed.

Meanwhile, if you really wanna vote in 2016, check out #REV16, the campaign of Mimi Soltysik and Angela Walker, on the Socialist Party USA ticket, but running far to the left of SPUSA's usual politics.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Parable of the Buffet

I wrote this a year ago for my friends on Facebook as the election season started. I didn’t anticipate how the election season would actually unfold, and I certainly didn’t anticipate the Bernie Sanders phenomenon. But now that the primaries are within sight of an end, with the contest of Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump (!) a near certainty leaving the Sanders episode as an apparent blip at best (or an apparently successful episode of sheepdogging as many of us have been saying), it seems completely relevant once again. It may be that one day elections are a vehicle for the left: Right now, they’re a resistance-crushing, soul-deadening curse, a societal prophylactic against actual social change. Bon appetit!

A parable; trigger warning, obscenity:

You’re very hungry. You find a lovely buffet.

At the buffet are three tureens. To your horror, as you lift the lid off the first, you discover a miasma of small pieces of broken glass and animal feces. A little perturbed, you slam the lid back down. You move on to the second tureen. When you lift the lid, the stench is remarkable, and a melange of unmistakably human turds and jaggedly sharp glass shards reveals itself. You're a little freaked out but you move to the third tureen. There, you find a gourmet preparation of your most favorite dish, and while you realize you will have to move away from the buffet to enjoy it, you devour it with relish.

The next time you are hungry you return to this buffet. However, you notice there are only two tureens. You remove the first lid, and once again find the vile stew of animal shit and broken glass. You remove the second lid, and once again your senses are assaulted by the display of jagged glass and human waste. You're very upset and disappointed. A person's gotta eat!

What do you do? You might complain to the chef. You might call the health department. You might overturn the buffet and its filthy tureens in outrage. You might even try specially ordering that delicious third dish, but you are now quite concerned about the state of the buffet's kitchen. You will probably go home and cook your own dinner. But I'm pretty sure the absolute last thing you would ever consider doing is eating from the tureen of human turds while explaining that at least it wasn't cat shit. And you certainly wouldn't listen to anyone who tried to convince you that eating shit wasn't really that bad.

‪#‎LessVotingMoreRevolution‬ ‪#‎ReadyForHillary‬ ‪#‎ChuyGarciaBillDeBlasioBarackObamaJeanQuan‬

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

“It it’s red, white & blue, it’s not real socialism”

Bernie took a drubbing in the NY state primary yesterday, despite the mobilization of much of the NYC left. I am in the strange position of thinking it's great that so many regular folks are open to some of the things Sanders is saying, while actually horrified that so many leftists have set aside their principles and historical legacy to dive in to the Democratic Party. I think long term that nothing good can come of Sanders’ redefining of socialism and revolution to mean something akin to the right wing’s corrupted definition. Anyway, hopefully this meme gets at the difference between Bernie Sanders’ professed socialism and the real socialism of someone like Eugene Debs, who was unequivocal in his opposition to capitalism itself. Nobody on the left should be waving those stars and stripes. Point that fucking bloodsoaked imperialist banner somewhere else.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mao Badges

I bought my first Mao badge when I was a teenager in the early 1970s. Since then I have accumulated a collection of several hundred. I thought I'd share a few of my favorites. I'll post up more in a few days. These badges were produced for decades, starting in the 1940s before the whole of China was liberated. The heyday of Mao badges was the Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976, when millions of varieties were manufactured for mass consumption: most of these were the red and silver "bicycle reflector" type made of aluminum, none of which I'm actually showing today.

The first two photos here show photos from badges of the early period, stamped out of steel and enameled. I'm told that these early pins have been heavily counterfeited, which surprises me not one bit, so who knows if this are legit originals, I don't. Notable here is the pin above with the silhouettes of Mao and Stalin, the one below dated 1948, and the one below showing a Chinese volunteer bayonetting a red blob labelled "America," issued in solidarity with the DPRK, clearly a composition like the "take that" stamps I have featured here The Cahokian.

This final batch of badges are all plastic: the heart and two of the white pins are soft, squishy, puffy vinyl.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Vote Soltysik/Walker! #REV16

In my old age I have become convinced that voting is generally a meaningless enterprise, a false form of democracy that amounts to being forced to play a loser's game. As anybody who has read my blog for a few years knows, this is not the position I have always held: indeed my tempered enthusiasm for Obama 2008 is quite evident in the earlier pages of this blog. Let's just say I have learned my lesson.

So I'm back to thinking about the symbolism of voting. I have been extremely favorably impressed by the modest electoral campaign of Mimi Soltysik and Angela Walker of the Socialist Party USA. I'm not going to make a thorough analysis right now of their campaign, of the checkered history of the SPUSA, or even of the reasons I believe organizing for fake socialist Bernie Sanders represents a major strategic mistake, betrayal even, but I would like to urge my readers to check out the #REV16 campaign. Whether or not they are officially on the New York ballot in the fall, this is the ticket I will be casting my meaningless vote for in November. I am skipping the primary, condemning both Sanders, Clinton and of course the frightening trio on the Republican side.

Soltysik and Walker seem like really great, dedicated activists, down to earth working class folks, and their campaign is being run on a platform far to the left of the Green Party; and unlike other leftist candidates with the possible exception of Mary Scully, they are running full up against the Sanders social democratic juggernaut. The Party of Socialism and Liberation and the Green Party seem both to be engaged in a soft endorsement of Sanders until his probable defeat in the primaries: #Rev16 is engaged in no such ridiculousness, confronting the issues from a revolutionary point of view up and down the line right now.

Voting won't bring revolution, but standing up for what you believe in and making a statement sure doesn't hurt. Meanwhile, the fight for socialism is in people talking to each other, organizing, preparing, sharpening our tools. #LessVotingMoreRevolution

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A second blog!

EPRP demonstration in Ethiopia in 1976.

“What!?” you say, “He can barely keep up with this one!”

Well, it's true, I've become a very lazy blogger. While I'm extraordinarily proud of the year I wrote for this blog once a day, my contributions here have become far and few between. During the period I was writing for the Kasama Project, now ended, I hardly posted here at all. I'm finding my voice again though, so don't give up on me. Meanwhile, however, I have undertaken a new project I'm really excited about.

My new, second blog, certainly not replacing this one, is called “Abyot: The Lost Revolution” and it is documenting a research project I have undertaken on the Ethiopian revolution of the 1970s. I started this blog over a year ago and didn't really tell anybody about it; but now that I am well into the research project itself, I want to share what I'm learning, and I have begun much more regular postings.

It's a subject I have been interested in for, no lie, forty years. Here's an excerpt from my new blog's statement of intent:

In 1976 I was eighteen years old and a university student in Chicago. My brief tenure in college was marked by my increasing radicalization, as I became involved with the American revolutionary left. I became a voracious consumer of worldwide revolutionary literature along with the classics of Marxist theory. I attended protests and forums, conferences and demonstrations, and, in those long-ago days, admired the organization and fortitude of leftist students from around the world from places like Iran, Ethiopia, Eritrea and elsewhere. I went to demonstrations where police or right-wingers were menacing and threatening, and certainly saw the potential of brutality. In my years as a radical I've witnessed hundreds of arrests and atrocious acts of police violence. But my life has rarely been in direct danger as a result of my political activities....

In 1976 a revolution in Ethiopia was experiencing a crucial shift, and I watched and studied these events as they happened. Military officers were consolidating their co-optation of a mass, popular uprising. Thousands of revolutionary students my very age were out in the streets fighting for that revolution and attempting to resist the hijacking of the revolution by the military. The students, along with workers and peasants, were organized under the red banners of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party (EPRP), at the time a largely clandestine Marxist-Leninist formation. Very shortly the EPRP faced a massive, genocidal government campaign of violence and extermination. Dubbed "The Red Terror" by the military government, soon thousands of student revolutionaries my age were rounded up and murdered. The commitment of these young revolutionaries was inspirational to me, and gave me great pause to consider the contrasts and contradictions.

This blog is an investigation project.

What was the EPRP at the height of its power? What were the forces it was up against? What was the dynamic of the Ethiopian Revolution? Why did the EPRP lose?

I hope to excavate, if not rehabilitate, the historical reputation of the EPRP during its Marxist-Leninist period through a process of curation, collection, research and reportage. I will post articles, artwork and photos, book excerpts, reviews, and if I find them, reminiscences, about the Ethiopian revolution, primarily in the second half of the 1970s but extending through the 1980s.

At the new blog I have also posted a more expanded series of study questions which explains some of the issues I'm trying to understand. That post is entitled “8 Study Questions on the Ethiopian Revolution.”  And I've posted — and will update, as I go — the reading list of works I'm consulting for my research. I'm posting cool artwork, photos I find, sharing bits of the research and provocative bits of the story as it unfolds, and I hope to eventually produce more substantial essays about the subject of my studies itself.

If you're interested in revolutionary history, a story that is really woefully forgotten or misunderstood, hop on over and take a look! http://abyotawi.blogspot.com/