Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Reply to Troutsky

I have had the pleasure of engaging in a conversation of sorts with Troutsky. To say that we do not agree on much would be an understatement, yet, ironically, I have found that I can have a more reasonable discussion with a socialist who is steamed at how conservative our government tends to be than with a republican party hack who claims that his party is. In other words, Mr. Troutsky is thinking and I greatly appreciate it.

Some time ago, I asked him: What small changes would you recommend to assuage the damage done by the current system?

He replied in length.

Being one of the more thoughtful bloggers to engage me in this cyber spatial discourse, I want to provide an equally thoughtful response to your questions regarding my ideology and viewpoint and also thankyou for the somewhat rare , civil tone of your comments. It would seem at first blush that we have fundamental disagreements as to what constitutes "progress"in terms of historical development and human social conditions but this may be decieving, may in fact be more a product of labels and symbols and terminology than real opposition.

Your basic question has to do with my obviously radical beliefs and how I might effect changes given the modern "realm of necessity" and it's seemingly insurmountable blockages to the revolutionary project to which I subscribe. Somebody recently said "praxis is now an enigma".Yes indeed, the last seventy years has seen the movement for an international workers party eviscerated , due to some terrible mistakes in both theory and action. On these points the Left owes everyone a huge apology and a reckoning of those mistakes in detail is in order. Stalin was a tyrant, probably "evil", though I struggle somewhat with that word. Ho Chi Mihn, Mao, Nasser, and all the other "leaders" turned dictator or ideologue , teaches us something of the razors edge separating revolutionary struggle from fascist despotism. Some even attempt to include Hitler and Milosevich in the panapoly of discredited socialist leaders, a fine piece of propoganda, if false. I understand any distrust of the Left carried over from this last, brutal, blood spattered century.

But this notion of "dustbin of history" is to me an unscientific way of approaching past epochs and within each of the struggles these figures represent there is a matrix of cause and effect requiring a great deal of study and analysis before they are relegated to a place, much less a dustbin, in history. As Edward Said and others have taught, controlling the dominant narrative is the highest expression of imperialism, once our minds have been colonized the power has been projected without a shot having been fired. This is where the more modern concept of "The Spectacle", best expressed by Debord, comes into play with the New Imperialism and it's imperative to translate over-accumulated capital into some type of "fix". All of this to say, there is much modern theoretical work going on right now, much of it very exciting. There is a great deal of organizing and agitating going on right now, in areas such as global justice, human rights, environmental justice etc. There are many struggles against various forms of oppression going on right now, there is a huge global peace movement and all these factions are beginning to make linkages between themselves and the structural and systemic roots of their various causes, many of which, as Marx astutely pointed out, are economic in nature. In other words, we aint goin in no dustbin.

As to the question ,"what is to be done" or as you put it , what small changes can we hope to effect, knowing that we cannot overthrow capitalism overnight. Though you wouldnt know it by reading mainstream media, socialists are everywhere. There are still trade unionists who know exactly what the struggle is about, there are many more who still need to be organized. We have a long and proud tradition with many heroes but the schools don't teach it, the radio doesnt play our songs and the tv news won't mention our activities. General Electric owns NBC. (you get the point) Though sectarian factionalism plagues the movement, there are many parties and organizations, Communist, Socialist, Maoist , Marxist-Leninist etc.. who educate and demonstrate and are building a student movement, there are brilliant scholars and intellectuals working to adapt theory to contemporary issues but most importantly there is a mass groundswell of moral indignation at the denigration of basic liberal values which so many people around the globe believe exemplify the progress of mankind. For these well meaning "progressives", militarization, vast inequalities in opportunity and huge disparities in wealth are causing them to question bourgeois "democracy" and question authority, priveledge, wealth and power. What I do is constantly and at every chance possible point out to people the basic contradictions and immoral aspects inherent within the capitalist system and point them ,depending upon their development, to resources where they can learn more, to areas where they can become active and to likeminded comrades where they can find solidarity. Although I realize "liberal reforms" and electoral politics are a shadow game, they provide a space where i can interact with my fellow citizens and try to educate. For example, I worked on the Kerry campaign in several states and some local campaigns here in Montana knowing full well those figureheads are just part of the Spectacle but taking every opportunity to discuss capitalism with all the good liberals I meet. Lenin spoke of the unwillingness of Marxists to engage in the "realm of necessity" as "Left -wing infantilism" . Marx did not try to predict when the "rupture" of capitalist forces would occur, he did teach us to be ready and what signs to look for.

So what is a Libertarian to do in these times? Do your candidates hope to control the power of corporations? Do you hope to cut military spending? The few Libertarians I know who can articulate their views seem to have a great deal of faith in Friedman and the Market but at least they havent been bullied away from a vision of a better world. Call it idealistic or Utopian if you like, the courage to dream is diametrically opposed to the fear- based world view so in vogue now and is at the core of a humanistic spirituality so needed on our planet.

Indeed, what is a libertarian to do? First, I think that there are several areas where left and right--and perhaps only far left and far right--can emphatically agree. We would both say that an imperialist foreign policy is detrimental to the well-being of America. Perhaps we may not agree on the reasons playing empire is a bad idea, but a call to clean up the Iraq mess has been heard loudest from the far left, and recently, from the far right.

Secondly, we can agree that civil liberties need to be given back. The Patriot Act was a sham that should never stand up to constitutional muster and it stinks of the alien and sedition acts of yore. On these two limited fronts, I would offer to wage war. And there is one more.

It is imperative that Washington be rid of corruption. It is the job of Congress to spend money for the public good. While we would disagree as to what constitutes this "good", it is safe to say there are certain measures that are ostensibly not good, namely pork spending. It is difficult to find a way to do away with this egregious waste of tax-payer dollars--especially when the "fiscally conservative" republicans are very large culprits--but I have an idea that just may help. It starts with "term" and ends with "limits".

Our representatives no longer represent us in any real way. Rather, they are policy whores for the plutocratic corporations. Do not get me wrong, I have not had an epiphany and do not feel that corporations are intrinsically evil. Rather, I merely wish that our representatives were beholden to our interests, not those of some big-wig with money and power.

Term limits would undermine, at least in theory, the influence of the wealthy. Power is a wonderful narcotic. I am suggesting we mandate Congress does some time in rehab. Of course this is wonderfully idealistic. As big a bunch of fools as they may be, I know of no man who has fired himself of his own volition. Still, one can hope.

I believe that this would be all for now. Of course there are departments I wish to slash, and programs to cut, but advocating such is only treating the symptoms of the disease. While this is emblematic of a Western style medicinal approach--if not Western thought in general--forgive me if I suggest a way to treat the actual problem. It has been said--by me, among others--that our representative spend like drunken sailors. It is impossible to remove the drink of power, but a new crew of sailors may just do the trick.

Also, I do not believe capitalism is panaceatic. Ayn Rand seems to think so, but she is wrong. It is an imperfect system to be sure, but I cannot find a suitable replacement. It is immoral to take from one man to give to another, no matter his need. Christian compassion depends on the consent of the giver. To legislate morality is a bit of an oxymoron.

Lastly, libertarianism is admitedly, almost a doomed philosophy. The tendency is always to grow away from a libertarian style of government. So while I hope to turn the government right around, pragmaticism tells me that the prospect of saving this sinking ship mighty slim. My omnipresent pessimism is a bit depressing, but I cannot afford to run from what I see to be the truth of the matter.

It is just too bad I couldn't remain young and idealistic for very long. Twenty is too early to be bitter.


troutsky said...

It would certainly be hard to argue with any of the reforms you propose. The common ground is interesting.I am not as sure as you that bringing in a new batch of representatives more often deals with the root of the problem (which is what radicalism is all about)but I have no problem with the concept of more citizen participation. You find it on a local level but at the national level ,with lobbyists and lawyers , it is practically non-existant.I have carried on a decade long debate with a libertarian conservationist who runs a think tank here called Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment.(F.R.E.E) you might find his views interesting.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

I really try hard to come up with ideas that transcend party differences, and I'm glad I have succeeded at least nominally.

Do not make the mistake of assuming that I believe that term limits are some sort of panacea. They probably aren't. What it is, is a good start. If we got term limits into place, then we could begin the next stage of reforms.

I will check out F.R.E.E. Thanks.

troutsky said...

Ill tell you why an old "liberal" turned more radical somewhat late in life. It's the slow pace of "reforms" and the time crunch I believe we are facing as a species.Your piece on Eisenhour describes the growing relationship between military/ industrial which is a simplified description of something I believe potentially very deadly, a new fascism.The past century of murderous world wars (fifty million plus corpses)is nothing compared to the new mayhem which could be unleashed unless new structures are created. Add to this the threat from eco-system collapse and my children face a bleak century rising. Radicalism is the optimism that humans can rise to these challenges in time, eschewing reform for revolution.It was close at hand only seventy five years ago and could be again.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

You might want to check out Vox Day's column for this week. I think it fits in with what you call a "new fascism".