Volatility

February 26, 2010

“The Law” Fought The Law and the Law Lost

 

On Thursday Obama held his health care summit with the Republicans. This is part of his desperate attempt to reinvigorate his zombie health racketeering/bailout bill. It’s also part of the ongoing saga of his demented and creepy fixation on “bipartisanship.”
 
We can hope his vile corporate sellout racket mandate goes down in flames as it deserves. As for bipartisanship, while it’s true that the MSM demands of Democrats that no matter how far to the right they’ve already gone, they must still go further to appease the Reps, since when does anyone obey the MSM? We all know the MSM are cowardly little worms who would cave in and lick your boots if you popped them one in the nose. That’s what the Republicans did with their absurd “liberal media” accusations, and to this day the media are their flunkies. So if the Dems wanted to simply shout back, “you’re Republican waterboys and stenographers!”, I doubt it would take long to force a shift.
 
(The MSM’s corporate whoredom doesn’t make a difference here. Both parties are corporatist. It’s simply a matter of which is the media’s favorite. Who does it always implicitly side with, and of whom does it always demand, “you have to shift to work with the other”?)
 
As for the summit itself, this is all kabuki. It’s really stupid that the Dems even tilted at this windmill at all. If Obama weren’t a moron where it comes to politics he’d have known that the Reps weren’t going to help him or give him any political cover for the mandate whatsoever. Why would they? This is win-win for them. However rapacious the bill gets will simply give the Reps even more space to attack the Dems as corporate sellouts in November. That’s absurd, of course: the Reps love the bill, as long as they can make the Dems take on all the responsibility and blame for it. The Dems seem to be out of their minds on this one, even more idiotic than usual. They’re not going to get any corporate love for it; the rackets are already shifting back to the Reps, as always happens.
 
For some odd reason, the Dems have taken what started out as a simple plan to entrench the status quo while pretending to seek “reform” (as the Congress is doing with Wall Street) and turned it into an invasion of Russia. They’re now fixated on getting one of most monstrous bills in American history passed. No matter how bitter the lonely partisan cold, they’re determined to endure it. However high the snowdrifts of adverse polling, they’re crazily burrowing through them. November looms before them, a more horrific vista than a burning Moscow in the dead of winter, but they stagger on, hypnotized. Any sane person can see how they’ll be left to do nothing but shiver in the blizzard amid the smoldering ashes, sick and hungry as the rags start to fall off their backs.
 
Can anyone think they’ll ever recover? Nobody else ever has. If the Republicans don’t get their “permanent majority” in the end after all, it won’t be for lack of every Democratic effort to hand it to them.
 
Since they never intended to seek real reform in the first place, why did the Dems take this health bill seriously and bring this debacle upon themselves? The Reps understand this is a phony process, how nobody in the power structure or media takes it seriously except as political theater. (In yesterday’s post I spoke of how under imperial corporatism domestic issues are treated frivolously except as plunder opportunities. Now of course the Dems want to use this bill to help the rackets with their extortions. But they had the option of doing a lot less if the Reps really weren’t going to join in the charade. The point is supposed to be one’s own political survival. And perhaps literal survival – many Dems and liberals in general are deluded that if the Reps ever had total power that they would refrain from governing as overt one-party fascists. Keep dreaming. A lot of supercilious “liberals” who started out laughing in 1933 were in for a nasty surprise.)
 
This is an example of how the Republicans bring a knife to a knife fight and the Dems bring a water pistol. The Reps understand that we no longer have the rule of law or any real civic endeavor but just a zero sum brawl. It’s political, and it’s to the death.
 
Anyone who still wants to believe in law or civics should look at examples like the Blackwater acquittal, or the Obama administration’s direct defiance of domestic law, international law, and treaty, in its refusal to bring war criminals to justice. Most recently we had its whitewashing of war crimes laundered through legal briefs. I think of all the times in reading history I see a situation deplored where a country or province was letting fugitives and outlaws walk around in the open, free and brazen. Even in supposedly backward, rotten Serbia, Karadzic had to stay disguised, and Mladic has to lay low. But in today’s America, even admitted war criminals are not only out in the open but still hold positions of respect and lucre. I don’t recall any of those stories form history depicting such temerity of flouting the law.
 
And of course we’ve had no significant Wall Street indictments at all. The entire cadre should be swept clean, for larceny, fraud, control fraud, embezzlement, bribery, extortion, conspiracy, racketeering, and treason.
 
Several times I’ve compared modern America with the 19th century France of the Dreyfus Affair. I first did so in connection with this same health racket issue, the Teabagger protests last summer. There Astrofurfed mobs are clearly redolent of the reactionary shock troops the anti-Dreyfusards sent out to temporarily dominate the streets in the first stages of the Affair. Just as then, so today the criminal system is ready to bolster its lawlessness with shock troops. And just as back then, the media either won’t touch it or is scrupulous in denying we’re in a state of political anarchy, where the only “politics” which exist any longer are the politics dictated by corporate interests.
 
In the broad sense the parallel with that “origin of totalitarianism” (Arendt) and today’s situation is this general top-down anarchy, this general liquidation of the law and of any substantive politics. It’s the abdication of journalism, which was supposed to be a public-interest watchdog. It’s the atmosphere where TPTB set the tone and enforce the notion that everything’s a joke, that everything’s shabby theater, or in its “progressive” version that everything should focus on incremental “process”. The result is the same punchline.
 
What’s left to defend and empower today? We’ve lost our politics and our law. Justice, fairness, democracy, freedom itself no longer exist under this system. We’re on the same path down to the abyss Europe earlier descended. What can we do? What’s left to uphold? What’s left to grasp and cherish?
 
Or to put that question in a less abstract and more concrete way, who will still fight for these things? The measure of their existence is simply the people’s will to be vigilant and fight. That’s the perception and the will which lay at the core of America’s 18th century revolutionary endeavor.
 
I too see no place to make a stand for freedom, morality, and justice within the system. That’s why my endeavor has been to critique the system, to try to figure out what the forces are which assail these great values, how they’re configured, their strategy.
 
And now it’s time to find the space where we can make a stand, and to construct the counter-strategy, and to embark upon the systematic action. 

August 14, 2009

Health Reform Fight (2 of 3)

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Health Racket Bailout — Tags: — Russ @ 3:13 am
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In my last post I described the uncivil fascist unruliness of today’s right wing mob scene. Today let’s consider some possibilities for direct counteraction as well as broader civil disobedience in the face of tyrannical policies.
 
To begin with, there is progressive protest going on, as detailed in Peter Dreier’s Nation piece of August 6. If you haven’t heard of campaigns like the Home Defenders anti-foreclosure/anti-eviction activism, part of the reason is that the corporate media has basically imposed a news blackout on such actions, even as it hammers us ad nauseum with accounts of every crackpot right wing screaming session.
 
So perhaps one thread of activism we need, as assistance to the others, is to pressure the MSM to cover the protest of real Americans every bit as much as it does that of “real Americans”, that is the bad, worthless, vandalistic disgraces Palin calls by that term. 
 
On the level of conventional politics, everyone has the idea of pressuring individual Congressmen to do the right thing. And many of us are familiar with how FDR had to be pressured from below to institute the real New Deal, the part that actually helped Americans rather than just stabilized the banks.
 
The lesson here, sometimes missed, is that pressure did not mean e-mail campaigns. It meant strikes. It meant physical resistance to plant closures, scabs, thugs of every sort. It means counterdemonstrations at these “town halls” where so far the enemy has mostly had the space to himself. Only lately has there been some (literal) pushback, which I’m certainly happy to see, although the counteraction is still nowhere near as coordinated as enemy aggression. 
 
A big disadvantage the people suffer vis their enemies is the lack of a coordinating network for counteractivism and self-defense, the way the right has such networks of their astroturfing, fraud, and smear campaigns. It’s an ugly truth but a truth nevertheless that every kind of ruthlessness must be met with surpassing ruthlessness, if you want to win a war.
 
Pressuring the MSM; pressuring Congressmen, online but also in person; demonstrating for the right programs, counterdemonstrating against the bad and against the scum who would shut down the people’s discussions; direct resistance to social and environmental crimes such as mountaintop removal mining; setting up a national clearinghouse for witnesses to report environmental crimes; organizing farmer resistance vs. banker and biotech thugs; antiforeclosure and eviction programs like the Home Defenders, and many other such actions are available.
 
We can especially encourage more assertive labor action. Here let me recommend Fred Goldstein’s excellent free e-book Low Wage Capitalism which offers an abundance of tactical suggestions stemming from the strategic principle that the rank and file are ready for direct action, and strong direct action will communicate its energy to more and more among the dispossessed. To put it in the Yeatsian terms I discussed in the last post, this would invigorate and impassion the best. Throughout this economic disaster one constant has been how the workers have been both beaten and cursed, their jobs eradicated and their well-being scapegoated as the real source of corporate ill-health. This is so despicably wrong, factually and morally, though all too normal according to disaster capitalist tactics, that by itself it lays bare the fundamental wickedness of government and media, that they have abetted such a lie.
 
So those who would fight for the people must especially be ready to fight for the workers in their direct actions, and against their enemies, against the thugs and scabs. If all decent people could just resolve to hold this line, “right or wrong”, it would invigorate and in itself bring into being the whole renewal.
 
In the aftermath of the financial crash and the widely perceived absolute forfeiture of all moral and rational credibility on the part of monopoly finance capitalism, the political space still remains fairly open for reform and reconstitution, in spite of the despicable failure of the nominal “progressives”, starting with Obama, to enter that space with a new idea and a complete call for real Change. This is also in spite of the deranged attempts by the rabid reactionaries to fill the space themselves with their standard tactics of lies, fear, and hate. That they have largely failed so far is a testament to the bankruptcy of their screams and the new, more mature outlook of Americans.    
 
What do we fight for? An American renewal, where wealth becomes a source of beneficence and health for those who created it, instead of being stolen and hoarded and used as a weapon by parasites and gangsters. Where the land and the law are once again the domain of the people and not a private reserve and demented pleasure palace. Where the existing toxic and brutal wasteland can be replanted and repeopled with a better world of community and freedom, things which today are only words, not even memories.  
 
But this renewal must be led by a break with the criminals of today, those who have so corrupted and polluted the system that it must be swept absolutely clean. While individuals may have their personal preferences, the call must be both positive and negative. We have an enemy whose utter destruction is both a necessity and a moral and aesthetic value in itself. 
 
Part of the reason I bring this up is because lots of people don’t like a negative emphasis. They so dislike the sense of fighting “against” something, as a matter of personal temperament, that they come to deny the basic truth of political struggle, and of history itself, that all action is dialectical, and has both its creation and its creative destruction, its affirmative striving and its ruthless purging. That the negative can be just as motivational and inspiring as the positive. Anyone who studies the history of resistance to the Nazis sees how they fought just as much against the Nazis’ evil as for justice and freedom.
 
In the last post I described how the socialists finally joined the Dreyfusards against the antisemitic thugs. The workers established a presence on the streets, opening a political space for the Dreyfusard activists to operate without having to fear so much for their literal physical safety. This was of critical importance. But as Arendt describes, the workers were motivated primarily in a negative way:
 
At last Clemenceau convinced Jaures that an infringement of the rights of one man was an infringement of the rights of all. But in this he was successful only because the wrongdoers happened to be the inveterate enemies of the people ever since the Revolution, namely, the aristocracy and the clergy. It was against the rich and the clergy, not for the republic, not for justice and freedom that the workers finally took to the streets. True, both the speeches of Jaures and the articles of Clemenceau are redolent of the old revolutionary passion for human rights. True, also, that this passion was strong enough to rally the people to the struggle, but first they had to be convinced that not only justice and the honor of the republic were at stake but also their own class “interests”. 
 
I cite this truth not to applaud it but to accept it as a fact of political nature, especially in the far more fragmented and meaner world of today. We have to seize every vantage point, sound every rallying cry, exalting the good and demonizing the bad, without being overly precious about the ivory tower ethics of it all.
 
In the case of the Dreyfus Affair, the end result was victory over what looked for a time like impossible odds.
 
There remains one last arena for action and even civil disobedience, involving our horrendous debt load, much of it contracted with con men and predators, even as they don’t have to honor their debts or face the consequences of their fiscal recklessness and failure. I’ll talk about this in the third of these posts. (There I’ll also be getting back specifically to the health care fight.)  

August 12, 2009

Health Reform Fight (1 of 3)

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Health Racket Bailout — Tags: , , , — Russ @ 4:56 am
As happens often nowadays, pundits looking to punch up their political commentary with some poetry have had recourse to Yeats’ The Second Coming:
 
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
 
It seems this needs to be restated a bit, since by definition the (politically) best are full of passionate intensity and take passionate action, while those who “lack all conviction” are down there with the worst.
 
So where it comes to something like the health care battleground, what we mean to say is that those who in theory should be the best have abdicated or betrayed (which I’m certain is what Yeats meant).
 
(The same goes for the Burke attribution, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing”. Since the measure of a good man is a good action, by definition those who “do nothing” are not good men. They are sheep, slaves. So this really should say, “The only thing required for evil to triumph is that sheep do nothing.” So far the evidence bears this out, every time.)
 
In this first of three posts I’ll deal with the worst, then discuss the aspiring best in the second.  
 
Even as well-heeled mobsters in politics and business conspire to strangle in its cradle health care reform for the common people, from amid those same people a more literal mob has been spewing its clamor against the very reforms which would better their lives.
 
The mobs have materialized at congressmen’s appearances and “town hall” events, shrieking, threatening and committing violence. There’s a question as to how orchestrated the actual mob scenes are. Clearly to some extent these are rent-a-thugs and incorrigible shriekers organized by right-wing Astroturfs. Perhaps to some extent the claque provides the core, stakes out the turf, upon which free-floating anger can then congeal.
  
Much ink has been spilled on the nature and motivation of these persons. Why do they rage against those who could help them and for those who seek only to further impoverish and enslave them? Here’s the basic answer.
 
America no longer has an intact middle class. What seemed to be its middle class over the last 30 years has only been levitated by debt and asset bubbles, even as its wages declined and its job security became endangered. What we’ve therefore had is a zombie middle class. Now that the debt and housing bubbles have burst, nothing can prevent a huge portion of the potemkin middle class from sinking into poverty. This is especially true of the petit bourgeoisie, the lower middle class which has provided Republicanism’s base.
 
These are the people who were always the most willing to be brainwashed by religion and the American Dream ideology. In the course of this they have come to reject any true concept of economics and politics as class struggle. Instead they cling desperately to their self-identification as “middle class”, but they reinterpret this as not an economic and social category but as a cultural and religious one.
 
They are then ripe to deceive themselves and to be deceived by their own exploiters into interpreting everything in terms of culture war and scapegoat. So the reason for their economic hardship, their slow deterioration now become a free-fall, isn’t predatory corporations, manipulative and larcenous banks, Republican shredding of the safety net, and globalization. No, it’s Democrats, “liberals”, unions, environmentalists, blacks, the poor as such.
 
They are tricked into focusing their anger and hate on the very people who share their suffering at the hands of the same enemy, and the very people who are trying to help them against that enemy. Instead of becoming activists against regressive social policy and tax codes, against “free” trade, and for decent social programs and strong unions, they focus on blanket opposition to all reform, screaming about sex, school prayer, anti-evolution, denying climate change, opposing gay marriage, and demanding proof of Obama’s citizen birth. How any of this could possibly help their economic situation is a mystery, but somehow, mystically, they think it will.
 
In The Origins of Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt wrote of the peculiar “selflessness” of many among the economically dispossessed masses following WWI. By selflessness she did not mean that they sought to help others, but rather that, against their own socioeconomic interests, they tended to give up on attempts at constructive activism and instead plunged into conspiracy theories and culture war diversions. Arendt considered this to be characteristic pre-totalitarian behavior among masses ripe for “coordination” [Gleichschaltung].
 
This socioeconomic bloc, today represented by the hardcore Bush 20%, has historically been fascism’s base.    
 
(This is the predominant, class war element of the phenomenon. On the level of base hominid psychology, there’s also the wretched existence of those simply born to be hateful bullies. These will naturally tend to fail socially and economically and to then gravitate to the thug camp, since they’re by nature too cowardly to fight against power, but are happy to become its hired goons.)
 
So we have this proto-fascist bloc, and in the mobs we have its activist vanguard. To analyze this as a pre-totalitarian situation, we can compare it with Arendt’s analysis of another such situation, the Dreyfus Affair of the 1890’s. Here too we have class-driven reaction, camouflaged as a massive culture war skirmish involving the ugliness of anti-semitism, religious strife, snobbery, social climbing among privileged individuals from otherwise despised minorities, etc. (For anyone who’s not familiar with the case, I recommend looking it up – you might find it endlessly rich with contemporary parallels.)
 
Here’s one passage from Origins, which describes events only slightly more intense than what we’re already seeing today, right down to details of organization. The only difference is the level of actual violence (so far).
 
Every stroke of the Dreyfusards (who were known to be a small minority) was followed by a more or less violent disturbance on the streets. The organization of the mob by the General Staff was remarkable. The trail lead straight from the army to the Libre Parole [antisemitic newspaper] which, directly or indirectly, through its articles or the personal intervention of its editors, mobilized students, monarchists, adventurers, and just plain gangsters and pushed them into the streets. If Zola uttered a word, at once his windows were stoned. If Scheurer-Kestner [first major politician who took on the cause] wrote to the colonial minister, he was at once beaten up on the streets while the papers made scurrilous attacks on his private life. And all the accounts agree that if Zola, when once charged, had been acquitted he would never have left the courtroom alive.
The cry, “Death to the Jews”, swept the country. In Lyon, Rennes, Nantes, Tours, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrante, and Marseille – everywhere, in fact – antisemitic riots broke out and were invariably traceable to the same source. Popular indignation broke out everywhere on the same day and at precisely the same hour. Under the leadership of Guerin [thug demagogue] the mob took on a military complexion. Antisemitic shock troops appeared on the streets and made certain that every pro-Dreyfus meeting should end in bloodshed. The complicity of the police was everywhere patent.
  
Things looked very bad at this point. And what turned things around? When the workers, after long ignoring the affair as a stupid feud among the bourgeoisie, finally came to see it as the thoroughgoing assault on the people and on freedom which it really was. After much persuasion, Clemenceau and Zola convinced socialist leader Jaures, and although there continued to be infighting among the socialists, the best now found themselves:
 
Scarcely had J’Accuse appeared when the Paris socialists held their first meeting and passed a resolution calling for a revision of the Dreyfus case…A socialist meeting even branded antisemitism a “new form of reaction”….Although a split in its ranks continued throughout the Affair, the party now numbered enough Dreyfusards to prevent the Ligue Antisemite from thenceforth controlling the streets.
 
As we can see here a parallel with today’s mob, so perhaps we can also pick up some clues on how to counteract that mob and drive it back into its ratholes.
 
That’ll be one of the subjects of part 2.