Monday, December 31, 2018

On the end of 2018, taking a week off from social media, and false urgency

I think it's as funny as anyone does that I announce web breaks, then return as soon as the mood passes, which is why it surprises me that taking the last week off hasn't been hard. I rather like knowing comments are piling up on Twitter and Facebook. I'll be sad if any of them involve opportunities that have passed, but that's not how social media usually works. It's all about false urgency.

As I get older, I find myself missing two things that frustrated me when I was young, the mail only coming once a day and Sunday being a day with few things to do. I don't know that either made us better people, but they might've made us a little saner. Whether you think humans are the creation of God or nature. these things are true: we like having time to be lazy, and if we're under stress for too long, we break.

I am pleased with 2018, though I continue to wish the Democrats had paid attention to the polls and gone with the candidate who would've done better against Trump. There are two good things about him: he hasn't been as warlike as Hillary the Hawk would've been, and he makes the brutal crass nature of capitalism more obvious than she would have. Offhand, I can't think of a third.

I am especially pleased that the class-first movement is growing. Ten years ago, Adolph Reed, Walter Benn Michaels, and Kenan Malik were almost alone in their willingness to criticize identitarianism. Now there are bright younger mainstream writers like Matt and Elizabeth Bruenig and Briahna Joy Gray carrying on the fight to make a fair world.

As for my immediate world, I continue to be grateful to my family and friends, and especially to Emma, who is the best of both.

My love to you all!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Five quotes by Marx and Engels about democratic revolution, plus one against revolutionary dictatorships

“Above all, it will establish a democratic constitution, and through this, the direct or indirect dominance of the proletariat.” — Friedrich Engels, Principles of Communism, 1847

"the first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle for democracy" —The Communist Manifesto, 1848

“there are countries – such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland – where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means.” —Karl Marx, 1872 speech in Amsterdam

"Thinking men of all classes begin to see that a new line must be struck out, and that this line can only be in the direction of democracy. But in England, where the industrial and agricultural working class forms the immense majority of the people, democracy means the dominion of the working class, neither more nor less. Let, then, that working class prepare itself for the task in store for it, — the ruling of this great empire; let them understand the responsibilities which inevitably will fall to their share. And the best way to do this is to use the power already in their hands, the actual majority they possess in every large town in the kingdom, to send to Parliament men of their own order. [...] Moreover, in England a real democratic party is impossible unless it be a working men's party." —Frederick Engels' 1881 article in The Labour Standard

"From Blanqui's assumption, that any revolution may be made by the outbreak of a small revolutionary minority, follows of itself the necessity of a dictatorship after the success of the venture. This is, of course, a dictatorship, not of the entire revolutionary class, the proletariat, but of the small minority that has made the revolution, and who are themselves previously organized under the dictatorship of one or several individuals." —Frederick Engels

Selections from Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme

I wish Marx had simply rewritten the Gotha Programme, but what he did instead was typical of him: he shredded it. In the shredding are essential elements of his thought, so I will pluck out the ones that strike me now:

Labor is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labor, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power.

The man who possesses no other property than his labor power must, in all conditions of society and culture, be the slave of other men who have made themselves the owners of the material conditions of labor. He can only work with their permission, hence live only with their permission.

In present-day society, the instruments of labor are the monopoly of the landowners (the monopoly of property in land is even the basis of the monopoly of capital) and the capitalists.

In England, the capitalist class is usually not even the owner of the land on which his factory stands.

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

It is altogether self-evident that, to be able to fight at all, the working class must organize itself at home as a class and that its own country is the immediate arena of its struggle – insofar as its class struggle is national, not in substance, but, as the Communist Manifesto says, "in form". But the "framework of the present-day national state", for instance, the German Empire, is itself, in its turn, economically "within the framework" of the world market, politically "within the framework" of the system of states. Every businessman knows that German trade is at the same time foreign trade, and the greatness of Herr Bismarck consists, to be sure, precisely in his pursuing a kind of international policy.

Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The farce called meritocracy, with supporting quotes

The rich claim institutions are meritocracies if merit is rewarded once you're in and overlook the fact that it's easier to get in if you're rich. If you want a meritocracy, you have to end poverty. In our current race to the top, many of the runners aren’t starting on the track—they’re starting in the swamp.

One of our planet's most privileged people shows how easy it is for meritocrats to lie to themselves:

“I loved working on Wall Street. I loved the meritocracy of it and the camaraderie of the trading floor.” —Chelsea Clinton

a few quotes

“America thinks of itself as a meritocracy, so people have more respect for success and more contempt for failure.” —Toby Young

“Modern meritocratic society, especially in the United States, ... seeks to justify domination on the ground of justice, virtue, and merit, to say nothing of the insufficient productivity of those at the bottom.” ― Thomas Piketty

“The meritocratic class has mastered the trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children." —Matthew Stewart

'And look, we have young people in this country who are thirty years old living with their parents. We have young people in this country who don't have jobs, who graduate from college and are fed the lie of meritocracy. "You get a degree, you get a job."' —Henry Giroux

“This argument has been codified in the twentieth century as meritocracy, in which those on top in the process of capitalist accumulation have merited their position.“ —-Immanuel Wallerstein

“the percentage of the world's population for whom such ascent was possible has gone up. But even though it has grown up, meritocratic ascent remains very much the attribute of a minority.” —Immanuel Wallerstein

“Meritocracy reinforced hierarchy. ...meritocracy as an operation and scientific culture as an ideology created veils that hindered perception of the underlying operations of historical capitalism.” —Immanuel Wallerstein

“Those who are able to climb up the ladder will find ways to pull it up after them, or selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies, and kin to scramble up. In other words: 'Who says meritocracy says oligarchy.'” —Chris Hayes

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A short rant about "institutional racism"

"Racism is an attitude, and institutions can't have attitudes." —Adolph Reed

When I shared that on Facebook, someone I'll call R questioned it, so I said:

If racism is an institution, where is its headquarters? Who are its employees? Who decides its policies?

“Institutional racism” is how liberals discuss the way that capitalism’s limited class mobility creates generational poverty for people of color—and how they ignore generational poverty affecting white people.

R pointed to redlining affecting black people, so I added this:

Have you done any reading about "place not race"? White people in redlined areas do not get a pass for being white. The areas are redlined because they are poor. That they are racially disproportionate is beside the fact.

Capitalism's headquarters are where the stock markets are. The terms of exploitation are regulated by the government—that's why the gender wage difference pretty much goes away when you compare pay for the same job.

R then did what Adolph Reed notes antiracists tend to do, which was to say, "Distilled, your claim seems to be, racism isn't a thing. It's misunderstood classism at best, an intellectual failure to apprehend a red herring." I replied:

The problem is your distillation. Of course racism is a thing.

But your use of classism points to the problem. When I first heard the word, I thought it referred to the way capitalism works. Then I realized that it's how liberals talk about class prejudice as though the problem is that the poor aren't treated with more respect.

And yes, you are wrong. Did King stop working on racism to fight the class war?

ETA: Thinking about this, I shared a thought on social media:

If you tell left identitarians that class matters more and identity matters less than they think, they hear you saying identity doesn't matter. They cannot imagine the class-first position, even though it was Martin Luther King's.

Yes, Adolph Reed noted this years ago.