Friday, July 30, 2010

"They make a desert and call it peace." -- Tacitus

If I have to hear the phrase that last month was "the bloodiest month in Afghanistan yet" ONE MORE GODDAMN TIME I am going to scream. Just scream.

It's like every month for years now. I'm starting to wonder if they even know they're saying it anymore, or if it just rolls off their tongues while their blank lifeless eyes gaze unblinking into the teleprompter abyss. Hello? Anyone out there? Hello?

Isn't someone going to say something?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Enemy: The Uses Of Nationalism

Of all the devices employed by the Enemy ( the Capitalists, the Ruling Class, Mammon, call them what you will), nothing has been as useful a tool as nationalism. Even Religion is merely an arm of the modern bourgeois State's body- even in America, where supposedly they are separate. Time and again the workers of the world have been swept up in the tide of nationalism to slaughter each other in their millions for the gain of a few rich men. How can a student of the struggles of labor forget that in 1914, even as it seemed workers- organized on an international scale- were about to achieve great victories against the Enemy, the aristocrats and politicians of Europe plunged the world into war. Seemingly overnight proletarian cries for unity were drowned out by crowds roaring for war, with pro- war factions in the various social democratic parties being among the most vociferous.
Even so, old- style nationalism made a certain amount of sense. The class antagonisms were much more sharply defined than they are today, but in times of international conflict the Ruling Class actually made some sacrifices. Most of the officer corps of the warring powers of The Great War were made up of young men of the upper classes and machine guns did not differentiate between a metal fitter from Birmingham and the son of an Earl. This shared sacrifice increased the feeling of national solidarity, what the Germans called volksgemeinschaft (lit. people's community), a submergence of class interests for the good of one's country. Of course, while it was impressive that the Kaiser visited workers in their factories to " ask" them to increase production, the truth was that the middle and working classes were doing most of the sacrificing when it came to money and resources. But the impression, which grew rosier as the First World War faded into memory, was that everyone pitched in and worked together for the cause.
The last gasp for the old nationalism, at least in the West and Japan, was the Second World War. Despite the resurgence of British pluck during the Blitz and the dogged resistance of the German and Japanese populations to Allied bombing, the war was just too costly for that level of enthusiasm to be maintained, particularly for the war's losers.
Even the Americans, the people least touched by the Second Great Catastrophe, were sick to death of war. The Ruling Class was rapidly seeing that there was no need for their sons to set an example on the modern battlefield and indeed, the few rewards military service had to offer them, such as glory and fame for the family name, had been submerged in the mud of Passchendaele and incinerated by the atomic blast at Hiroshima. There was no room for the heroic individual in the age of industrial war.
Instead, a new nationalism had to be invented, a new way to bring glory and honor to warfare that increasingly took on the character of mechanized slaughter.
The age of conscription gave the American elites their answer. The mass armies gave rise to a new heroic ethos, one that embraced the faceless masses and wove it into a Homeric figure for military personnel and civilian alike: The Common Soldier. In the American Civil War he was Billy Yank and Johnny Reb. World War One gave us Americans the Doughboy. GI Joe came along in the Second World War. Finally the Vietnam War developed the latest incarnation of the American Fighting Man- The Grunt.
Of course war and nationalism are always closely linked, as the later is the psychological tool to get large numbers of people to fight the former. In the new nationalism, the ethos of the Grunt ingeniously relies on the negative aspects of armed conflict to romanticize its legend. A large part of the military's image about itself evolved in the Vietnam War. The Grunt is victimized by the horrors of war- killing, being maimed, losing comrades, and enduring mortal terror- but he endures all out of a sense of duty to the ungrateful civilians back home who ignore or actively oppose the conflict he is fighting in. The Grunt is wiser than those soft people back home, knows better than the politicians in Washington DC how to fight his enemy, and it is his burden to endure criticism of the mission from effete liberal protesters even as he protects them from a cruel and insidious foe.
It is a powerful image, and one that a lot of Americans wish to identify with. Thus the flurry of " Support Our Troops" magnetic car stickers. Of course the troops doing the fighting and dying don't get any real support from a shitty little sticker but it makes small- time jingoists throughout the nation feel as if they are involved, albeit in an absolute minimalist and chickenshit way.
In fact, in the new nationalism being a soldier is the only honorable profession a prole can have. Think about it. Right- wing propaganda has smeared the once honorable profession of teaching as a job that only lazy and talentless losers, protected by an all- powerful union, take on ( that you would take on such a low- paying job already makes you suspect to money grubbing right- wing assholes who measure everything's worth through the prism of greed). Autoworkers? Whiny,overpaid, fat bastards who take a coffee break every five minutes and get undeserved benefits. In fact it would be hard to find any proletarian profession that is not despised or just plain ignored by the right- wing noise machine. The new nationalism has no place for those who are not billionaires or Grunts. And the Grunt finds out very quickly that despite the constant flag- waving and fine words uttered by politicians, celebrities, and jingoistic shills, once he/ she is no longer a useful commodity to The Man ( i.e. wounded or otherwise unfit for duty) he/ she is thrown away. After all, the Bosses can't use a broken tool.
In fact, the remarkable thing about the new nationalism is how overwhelming its negativity is. Old school nationalists dreamed of improving the lives of the people in their empires, through progress and science ( it was mostly bullshit of course- squeezing profit out of the colonies was the main goal). The new nationalism doesn't even try to make that pretense. Even its favorite drum to beat, American Exceptionalism, is shot through with negativity. Other people hate us because of our freedoms, our wealth, or because they are jealous that Americans are so awesome. All those fuckers in those snooty European countries should be grateful because America saved their asses in World War 2 ( actually the Germans had committed most their resources to fighting the Red Army). All those Third World folks should love us because we give them so much foreign aid. Instead they bite the hand that feeds them ( most of the aid given to foreign governments by the U.S. is military in nature- when it comes to actually feeding people, or building infrastructure America kind of stingy). We need to punish them.
Ah yes, now we come to the heart of this beast- being a patriot these days is all about getting back at someone. The Muslims. The Immigrants. African- Americans. Homosexuals. The Left. Single mothers. Unions. Europe. The Gub'mint. The list of enemies is endless. Like any good foe they are weak enough to pick on but somehow strong enough to never really be defeated. And The Enemy knows this. Like Goldstein in George Orwell's novel 1984 the Other dreamed up by Fox News and other right- wing propaganda outlets leaves the red- blooded, flag- eatin' patriot in a seething fume, unable to focus on what to do about his own shitty life. " If only those ( insert evil people who are destroying the American Way Of Life here) would go away, everything would be better!" he rages.
The new nationalism is all about destruction. Destruction of governments, economies, people. The irony is that the creators of this philosophy, this New American Century, have more in common with their foreign allies among the Global Capitalist elite than with their followers back in the States. Quite brilliantly The Enemy has convinced a large section of the American working class that their interests coincide with the elite's. Thus do these deluded souls willingly support those who partake in the dismantling of the thing they claim to love the most- their own country.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's Not News, Democrats-Most Progressives Know You Suck

With our corporate masters and their lackeys in the governments of the G20 nations all in agreement that rather than sacrifice any of their undeserved wealth they are going to institute austerity measures a pall of dread has descended upon the hearts of working people everywhere. The malaise is particularly evident in those liberal democrats who put so much faith in hope-n- change only to find out that it was chump change.
Instead of looking for a solution that will benefit workers and put the country back on the economic track the current administration scolds us for not being realistic. " Barack Obama is not Santa Claus" the Democratic Leadership Council ( DLC) admonishes us, wagging their finger in our faces ( what arrogance- personally I would like to break that finger off and shove it up the DLC's collective cornhole). No, I never expected Barack Obama to magically grant us every wish on the progressive list. I expected him to do pretty much what a democratic president does these days- make great speeches about getting shit done and then getting very little shit done. The fucking national house is burning down, with the Republicans throwing more gas on the fire and the Democrats trying to put it out with their dicks.
Already, four months away from the mid- term election, the democrats are playing the only card they have left in their deck. The " Vote For Our Sucky Party Or Those Guys Who Suck Even More Will Get In" card. How about I vote for someone who doesn't suck? I'm tired of the used car salesman approach the democrats take towards their working class base.
Face the facts, you true believers who think that every window- dressing piece of legislation that the O- Team comes up with, whether it was the vastly overrated health care bill or toothless financial reform, is a " start". Look behind the bullshit curtain and you will see the same old manipulation of power to get the right people in the right places to make sure The Man is still gettin' his- at your expense, of course.
P.S. Apologies for the paucity of posts. Both me and Dres have a shitload of, ummm, shit on our plates in July and August. We will try to get two posts out a week for now.

Friday, July 9, 2010

if you believe hard enough, maybe the money will just pour out of your ass.

I came across an interesting link in the blog "Mark Mendall's America" today, discussing the pessimism that, with American business and consumers in its grip, threatens the whole world economy. The implication is that if the economy isn't friendly enough to business - if credit isn't sufficiently free-flowing, if labor costs aren't cheap, if markets are unprotected, if consumers aren't nibbling on the lures, then they'll hold their cash reserves hostage. No money for anyone else. (Obviously we're talking about the medium-term here, as the law of diminishing returns will set in after a few years ... leading to something like the 20 years of stagnation Japan has seen.)

The problem with faith-based economics, though, is that it doesn't address the underlying material conditions.

It's great to say, "Consumers need to buck up and spend," like Bush did after 9/11. Or for the economists to say, "Let's encourage business back to the table." (Businesses are indeed composed of "fat cats," and, like cats, must be coddled and cajoled into dealing with actual people. Unlike real cats, our entire social well-being depends on them.)

Yet this rhetoric doesn't deal with concrete policies. Let's look, briefly, at the pundents and their suggestions.

In this corner: Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Slick Willy and member of Obama's "economic transition team." He spells out that US consumers are out of cash and credit now that the housing bubble has burst. Foreign consumers could fix this - if only their economies hadn't been geared to producing cheap goods and had instead given them some sort of consumer wage. Oops.

Guess we shoud've fought harder against NAFTA. When you lose unions, you lose a significant amount of the working class's involvement in the consumption sphere.

In this corner: Peter Morici, former Chief Director/"Head Economist" of the U.S. International Trade Commission. His article points out that the Obama administration's trillion-plus stimulus squandered much of the money and failed to produce an adequate number of jobs. This is ... actually, very true. (Don't worry, the stuff he says about the deficit being bigger than it was under Bushie is also stupidly ignorant, considering Bush didn't have more than a moment of the recession to deal with; any Prez under that pressure would have enacted some kind of stimulus.) Under the Obama model, a lot of that money went to NGOs and nonprofits and private corporations. Under the Republican model, it probably would have gone to private corporations and tax cuts for the rich. The difference is pathetically negligible.

A "New-New Deal" would have been better - but even that hadn't been sufficient in the 1930s. The economy had only been rebooted by World War II, the significant loss of industry and labor in Europe, and the unprecedented rebuidling effort of the Marshall Plan. In order to create jobs on the scale we needed (and still need), we need to bypass big business's profit model entirely. (On a related note, has anybody thought about how the census project is what kept employment even remotely afloat through the Spring? The census happens once every ten years - we only had this boon because it happened to be 2010. That's like calling Christmas sales sign of a recovery. It's seasonal, you idiots!)

Anyway. People don't get fed on prayer; people get fed on bread. People don't get jobs on faith. We get it from employers. And as if bakers hoarded bread, people would riot and take it, if employers refuse to give us jobs, we ought to take the workplaces. Obviously they aren't running the economy in our interests. Perhaps its time control of the economy changed hands.

Preferably before the budget cuts - which will be equally ineffective, and even more harmful for working families- come rolling in.