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.


#LessVotingMoreRevolution


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/

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Crucial Message for Our Times

Cover of the 1920s Turkish Communist journal Aydinlik picturing Rosa Luxemburg

The excerpt below is not rare or hard to find. It's been in print for generations, and thanks to the good comrades at the Marxist Internet Archive, it is freely available on the internet. But this crucial document, Rosa Luxemburg's timely attack on Bernsteinian revisionism "Reform or Revolution?" should be required reading for today's generation of socialists, especially those who, in the process of #FeelingTheBern, think they are merely choosing one of many strategies for a better world. Youthful optimism is a beautiful thing. But sometimes it is of dire importance to look back over a hundred years ago. Truly, there's nothing new under the sun. The revolution is nothing without the wisdom of fighters, leaders, comrades, philosophers and theoreticians who have fought these battles before. Their sacrifices are supposed to make our struggle easier.

Pay attention!

Below are excerpts from Reform or Revolution, chapter 8, "Conquest of Political Power," first published in 1900 and revised in 1908. Luxemburg's entire pamphlet is available on MIA.

"[D]oes the development of democracy render superfluous or impossible a proletarian revolution, that is, the conquest of political power by the workers?

Bernstein settles the question by weighing minutely the good and bad sides of social reform and social revolution. He does it almost in the same manner in which cinnamon or pepper is weighed out in a consumers’ co-operative store. He sees the legislative course of historic development as the action of “intelligence,” while the revolutionary course of historic development is for him the action of “feeling.” Reformist activity, he recognises as a slow method of historic progress, revolution as a rapid method of progress. In legislation he sees a methodical force; in revolution, a spontaneous force.

We have known for a long time that the petty-bourgeoisie reformer finds “good” and “bad” sides in everything. He nibbles a bit at all grasses. But the real course of events is little affected by such combination. The carefully gathered little pile of the “good sides” of all things possible collapses at the first filip of history. Historically, legislative reform and the revolutionary method function in accordance with influences that are much more profound than the consideration of the advantages or inconveniences of one method or another....

Legislative reform and revolution are not different methods of historic development that can be picked out at the pleasure from the counter of history, just as one chooses hot or cold sausages. Legislative reform and revolution are different factors in the development of class society. They condition and complement each other, and are at the same time reciprocally exclusive, as are the north and south poles, the bourgeoisie and proletariat....

That is why people who pronounce themselves in favour of the method of legislative reform in place and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modifications of the old society. If we follow the political conceptions of revisionism, we arrive at the same conclusion that is reached when we follow the economic theories of revisionism. Our program becomes not the realisation of socialism, but the reform of capitalism; not the suppression of the wage labour system but the diminution of exploitation, that is, the suppression of the abuses of capitalism instead of suppression of capitalism itself....

No law obliges the proletariat to submit itself to the yoke of capitalism. Poverty, the lack of means of production, obliges the proletariat to submit itself to the yoke of capitalism. And no law in the world can give to the proletariat the means of production while it remains in the framework of bourgeois society, for not laws but economic development have torn the means of production from the producers’ possession....

In a word, democracy is indispensable not because it renders superfluous the conquest of political power by the proletariat but because it renders this conquest of power both necessary and possible. When Engels, in his preface to the Class Struggles in France, revised the tactics of the modern labour movement and urged the legal struggle as opposed to the barricades, he did not have in mind – this comes out of every line of the preface – the question of a definite conquest of political power, but the contemporary daily struggle. He did not have in mind the attitude that the proletariat must take toward the capitalist State at the time of the seizure of power but the attitude of the proletariat while in the bounds of the capitalist State. Engels was giving directions to the proletariat oppressed, and not to the proletariat victorious....

Just as all roads lead to Rome so too do we logically arrive at the conclusion that the revisionist proposal to slight the final aim of the socialist movement is really a recommendation to renounce the socialist movement itself."
 



 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

How much is Assata's life worth?


Assata Shakur is a hero of our time. Her autobiography is required reading. "Assata Taught Me" tee-shirts have become ubiquitous in the era of #BlackLivesMatter. And yet, liberal Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is on record voting to extradite Shakur, called here "Joanne Chesimard," from Cuba where she now lives, back to prison in the United States. How do supporters of Sanders justify this? Personally, I hope Assata doesn't ever #FeelTheBern and stays free in socialist Cuba.


Friday, February 05, 2016

Hijack! Bernie Sanders and the Message of Occupy Wall Street



There is a clear straight line from the rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street to the rhetoric of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Back in Occupy, there were three contending forces challenging economic injustice in this country. There were the End The Fed Paulite rightwingers, who thankfully in NYC were always a tiny minority; there were the Money Out of Politics people, usually also in the minority but generally identifiable as more middle class and more Democratic Party/mainstream oriented; and then there were the social radicals, the anarchists, leftists, and community activists. There was certainly tension in this last group between those who wanted to bring up big-picture, ideology-rooted solutions and those who wanted to engage in strictly responsive organizing, but this third group managed to dominate Occupy as a whole. It certainly did in Occupy Sunset Park in which I was very active.

The genius of Occupy Wall Street included building the kind of united front where these forces could coexist. Had either the End The Fed people or the Money Out of Politics people dominated, Occupy would have been truncated, and of negligible longevity or impact. It was the presence of the social radicals—and I credit the anarchists above all—who dared to make challenging the fundamentals of capitalism seem like everyday possibility.

What we are seeing in the 2016 elections is the seizure of the message and the remnants of momentum by the Money Out of Politics people, and this is not actually a good thing. It was very clear watching Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire debate how limited this vision is, and how un-radical it is. This is actually Sanders' central focus, and far from containing any kernel of socialism, it is anything but a politically revolutionary demand. Of all the exploitative, oppressive, and broken things about capitalism in the USA, the fact that money buys political influence is the least remarkable. It is either naive magical thinking or deceptive ideological dishonesty to present money in politics as the keystone issue of our times, and to channel the obvious and massive popular discontent into the umbrella of reforming campaign financing and Wall Street influence represents not the triumph of popular upsurge but an attempt by a certain ideology to hijack social momentum. Sure, Wall Street is odious. But it is odious because it is the essence of capitalism not some discoloration of imaginary American democracy.

The enthusiasm behind Sanders' campaign is certainly remarkable, showing many of the signs and symptoms of a real social movement. But let's be clear: the Sanders campaign is not some kind of spontaneous popular upsurge, it is a Democratic Party election campaign, and even if it is often at odds with wings of the Democratic establishment, it is anything but a real social movement with open-ended revolutionary potential. Social radicals, who understand how ideology, class, and leadership function, should not be coddling the illusions consciously fostered by the Sanders campaign; it will come to regret surrendering to a wing of the Democratic Party.

Occupy reminded us that "another world is possible." The world the Sanders campaign is advocating looks a lot like this one. The rich ideological heritage of social revolutionaries identifies capitalism as the problem, and presents us with the imperative of revolutionary change. Setting aside competing strategies and visions for the moment, we would do well to remember all those ideologues and freedom fighters who understood that it is literally impossible to see mass justice and liberation under capitalism, even a capitalism slightly tamed by reform. Hope is a beautiful thing, but to triumph, hope must be informed by an accurate diagnosis of the problem and a prognosis for a cure.

Social radicals who have signed up to organize for Sanders are surrendering the future for the illusion of popular support. It's called opportunism, and it also doesn't work. The Democratic Party is stronger than we are, and they're gonna stay that way unless we make the break that generations of freedom fighters before us understood.