Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Disturbing Tendency In Canada

ntA few months ago on the TV news, I saw what was dubbed a “red day”. This consisted of a bunch of people dressing up in red jackets or shirts carrying Canadian flags in “support of the troops.” You were left with the feeling that anyone with the temerity to show up with a banner saying “Support the Troops – Bring Em Home” would not be popular, to put it mildly. These pro-war demonstrations were organized by the Conservative government and their allies in the military. I thought it strange that they would dress in the color of the Liberal Party to support a war that only the right-wing is enamored of. But that wasn't what troubled me. The sight of people wearing a kind of political uniform demonstrating in favor of war and militarism had a familiar and ominous feeling about it. “Ah, but I am just being paranoid,” I thought.

Then, a few weeks ago I went to a demonstration in support of a coalition to replace the minority Conservative government. The anti-coalition right wing showed up for their demonstration, and low and behold many of them were dressed in red and waving Canadian flags. The hatred most of them directed toward us was something I had not seen in a long time. As a friend of mine said. “These people would stick us in a concentration camp if they could.” and I had the feeling he was not far off base.

I am sure if you were to question the people in red, they would hold reactionary opinions on a whole set of issues such as women, trade unions, First Nations, Quebec, immigrants etc. A kind of quasi-fascism has been whipped up by the Conservative Party and we must not allow them to get away with this.

Some other thoughts on this. This “people in red” thing is really a US import. We Canadians traditionally view wrapping yourself in the flag as vulgar and American. Anglo-Canadian nationalism is low key and tends to emphasize opposition to the influence of the US government and corporations upon our way of life, rather than some sort of rabid “Canuckism.” A further irony is the Conservative Party is the US corporate state's Canadian arm or Fifth Column. This is the party that wanted to drag us into the Iraq war of aggression. This is the party that wants to hand us over, lock, stock and barrel to US corporations. This is the party that destroyed the old Tory party and has imported US-style right-wing politics into this country.

But I have seen this before in Chile. The Pinochetistas are rabid, flag wrapped, super-nationalists – who gave their country over to the Gringos on a silver platter. Who killed or drove into exile the very people who created their national culture. Like the “people in red”, their nationalism is little more than a lot of noise.

What we have then, is a kind of “comprador fascism” Under the mask of nationalism they persecute – or in the case of the Canadian variety – intend to persecute - the progressive forces. The far-right mass are made up of “little people”, fearful and bigoted lower middle class types, but behind them lies the corporate ruling class. There is no longer a “national bourgeoisie”. The ruling class of Canada and the US have the same essential interests, and for them there is but one country to whom they are loyal - “Cap

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Questions About Cooperative Socialism

The following questions were based on the previous article "The Myth of Socialism as Statism"

Anders writes: It definitely makes sense that a system of local control of the economy and governmental functions is quite different from the statist national socialism the people associate with the word socialism today. I'd be curious to see several things.

1. What prevents workers co-ops?
1a. Most rich people's wealth is primarily tied up in capital goods that give workers jobs and produce goods that ordinary people buy (e.g. cars, flat screen tvs, clothes, books, houses.)
To the degree that capital comes from workers pension funds, don't workers own the means of production?
Doesn't all of this serve the same social function as co-ops?

ANS. 1. Lack of capital. Lack of the sort of privileges that the state granted to capitalists in order to establish the capitalist system.
1a. Ownership without control is meaningless. Think of "owning" a house, but not allowed to live in it our have any say over what happens to it. Workers have no control of their pension funds and those same funds have little direct say over the companies they technically own part of. The thing about coops is that members have a direct say in the direction of the coops, and a share of the profits. In no capitalist corporation do workers have the former, and only a small minority the latter, and even then the vast bulk of the profits go to the top.

2.If all power dissolves to the local level - what is to prevent
a. people from seceding to have single family co-ops and businesses.
b. the local powers that be from oppressing newcomers and the younger generation.
c. the municipalities from being statist and failing just like real states? Similarly wouldn't the local municipalities that are most successful be like little hong kongs with comparatively few rules or municipal control?
d. didn't small scale socialist experiments always fail? similarly municipal socialism was always a drain on the local government. Privatization is important today precisely because the state needs productive private enterprise that it can tax, public enterprise is a drain on state resources.
e. How do co-ops and municipalities and various economic enterprises get created and how do the old ones disappear? In free enterprise firms dissolve and merge and get created from scratch.
f. what kind of violence would be necessary to maintain the system?

ANS. a. Nothing. And in a free society you could not put such restraints. But "all power would not dissolve to the local level." This is not political or economic autarky. As a paleao-libertarian, I am sure you are familiar with federalism and the subsidiary concept. They apply here and in questions b and c. As well.
b. A constitution and direct democracy of the town meeting/neighborhood assembly type combined with worker councils.
c. The municipalities would be situated within county, regional and national federations. Towns taken over by authoritarians would still have to deal with these federations.
d. I presume you are talking about either worker coops or "utopian" colonies.The former did in the 19th and early 20th Century due to severe under-capitalization due to working class poverty, governmental and corporate hostility. Today, there are thousands of worker coops and many of them are successful by any standard. Utopian colonies are not the pervue of this article, the vast majority did fail due to poor conception. The intentional communities of today, such as Georgist land trusts, eco villages, cooperative communities, and so forth have done rather well, all considered. I don't favor government ownership of any kind, so I really can't justify "municipal socialism", other than to say that I don't think that it has always been a drain on a community. Most municipal "nationalizations" were carried out not because of any ideology, but by conservative governments for practical reasons – corporate capitalism could not deliver the goods. I added "municipal ownership" because I am a political realist – Mutualists will not be the only tendency influencing events. (to say the least!)
e. Like any other business – people get together, form an association. They disappear when the members decide that they don't wish to continue with the project.
f As a system, very little. Since everyone would have a say in how their community is governed and the nature of the economy and workplace, since everyone would get a share of the wealth and extreme economic differences would disappear, there would be a restoration of community, and thus a decline in the social problems that create conflict with our present society.

I should add that none of the above is utopian. Coops already exist as do forms of direct democracy, decentralization and genuine federalism. All that is required is that such tendencies be generalized. And the countries that are the most egalitarian and democratic are also the ones with the least internal violence/social problems.

The Myth Of Socialism As Statism

This is from 2 years ago but an interesting set of questions was sent to me - appearing in the next posting based on this article.

What did the original socialists envision to be the owner and controller of the economy? Did they think it ought to be the state? Did they favor nationalization? Or did they want something else entirely? Let’s have a look, going right back to the late 18th Century, through the 19th and into the 20th, and see what important socialists and socialist organizations thought.
*Thomas Spence – farm land and industry owned by join stock companies, all farmers and workers as voting shareholders.
* St. Simon – a system of voluntary corporations
* Ricardian Socialists – worker coops
* Owen – industrial coops and cooperative intentional communities
* Fourier – the Phlanistery – an intentional community
* Cabet - industry owned by the municipality (“commune” in French, hence commune-ism)
* Flora Tristan – worker coops
* Proudhon – worker coops financed by Peoples Bank – a kind of credit union that issued money.
* Greene – mutualist banking system allowing farmers and workers to own means of production.
* Lasalle – worker coops financed by the state – for which he was excoriated by Marx as a “state socialist”
* Marx – a “national system of cooperative production”
* Tucker - mutualist banking system allowing farmers and workers to own means of production.
* Dietzgen – cooperative production
* Knights of Labor – worker coops
* Parsons – workers ownership and control of production
* Vanderveldt – socialist society as a ‘giant cooperative”
* Socialist Labor Party – industry owned and run democratically thru the Socialist Industrial Unions
* Socialist Party USA – until late 1920’s emphasized workers control of production.
* CGT France, 1919 Program - mixed economy with large industry owned by stakeholder coops.
* IWW – democratically run through the industrial unions.
* Socialist Party of Canada, Socialist Party of Great Britain, 1904-05 program – common ownership, democratically run – both parties, to this very day, bitterly opposed to nationalization.
* SDP – Erfurt Program 1892 – Minimum program includes a mixed economy of state, cooperative and municipal industries. While often considered a state socialist document, in reality it does not give predominance to state ownership.
Well? Where’s the statism? All these socialisms have one thing in common, a desire to create an economy where everyone has a share and a say.

Why The Confusion
The state did play a role in the Marxist parties of the Second International. But its role was not to nationalize industry and create a vast bureaucratic state socialist economy. Put simply, the workers parties were to be elected to the national government, and backed by the trade unions, cooperative movement and other popular organizations, would expropriate the big capitalist enterprises. Three things would then happen: 1. The expropriated enterprises handed over to the workers organizations, coops and municipalities. 2, The army and police disbanded and replaced by worker and municipal militias. 3. Political power decentralized to the cantonal and
municipal level and direct democracy and federalism introduced. These three aspects are the famous “withering away of the state” that Marx and Engels talked about.

The first problem with this scenario was that the workers parties never got a majority in parliament. So they began to water-down their program and adopt a lot of the statist reformism of the liberal reformers. Due to the Iron Law of Oligarchy the parties themselves became sclerotic and conservative. Then WW1 intervened, splitting the workers parties into hostile factions. Finally, under the baleful influence of the Fabians, the Stalinists and the “success” of state capitalism in the belligerent nations, the definition of socialism began to change from one of democratic and worker ownership and control to nationalization and statism. The new post-war social democracy began to pretend that state ownership/control was economic democracy since the state was democratic. This, as we see from the list above, was not anything like the economic democracy envisaged by the previous generations of socialists and labor militants.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Solidarity Quebec Victory

Solidarite Quebec  has won a seat in the Quebec election. Although this is

only one seat this indicates a growing radicalization. The QS is a party of
the social movements and rejects the neo-liberalism of the Parti Quebecois.
It is also more radical than the NDP and is the first new left-wing
See http://www.quebecsolidaire.net/

Friday, December 05, 2008

Conservatives – the Stupid Party?

Yes, there are intelligent people who call themselves conservatives. Most of these hearken back to the humanitarian side of classical liberalism or to old fashioned Tory social consciousness. But they are few in number, cruelly thrust aside by neoconservative or neoliberal barbarism. (See my previous posting.)

It makes some sense that the wealthy and powerful should wish to conserve their power and wealth, even though this is done at our expense. It also makes sense that a host of toadies, such as loyal servants, hangers-on and wannabees, would have similar ideas to their masters. Then there are the various religious hate cults which the wealthy and powerful encourage. These "Christians" can be counted on to hate their neighbor, to be obsessed with the sins of the poor and ignore the atrocities committed by the master class. Combine the rich, the toadies and the nuts and you maybe get 20% of the population. But the cons can get up to 40% support. What about the other 20%?

It is hard for any rational, thoughtful person to be a right-winger. Even a basic knowledge of history shows us that to be "right" is to always be wrong. On every single issue of importance for the last 300 years the forces of progress have been correct and the forces of reaction dead wrong. Consider this list:
Parliament vs. the king. The right chose the king, parliament won. Slavery – the right supported the slave-owners. Universal male suffrage – the right opposed. Democratic and human rights for women, the right opposed. Colonialism – the left opposed, the right supported. Fascism, the left opposed, the right appeased, aided and abetted. Independence for the colonies, the right opposed. The US Civil Rights Movement, the right opposed. The women's movement, the right opposed. Environmentalism, the right opposed. Global warming, the right denies...

While the great mass of conservatives are not well educated and lack cultural sophistication, they in a sense, choose to be stupid. Ignorance is no excuse these days. With the Internet one can find an entire library of information on any subject in history with in seconds. Ignorance today is willful ignorance. To be willfully ignorant is to be stupid, even though you may not be so innately. To be willfully ignorant is to deliberately block out that which you do not want to know about, in other words, to be in a state of denial. But denial is not a conscious choice, like choosing brands of soup, but is rooted in sub-conscious repression.

Does the Conservative Mass Suffer From Stockholm Syndrome?

Dr. Gabor Mate in an interview given recently on CHLY, stated that people who are prejudiced against certain groups, in this case the homeless and drug addicts, are themselves emotionally wounded, but in a state of denial. In denying their own pain they deny it in others. The walking reminders of their own suffering, suffering that they have repressed, and therefore on the surface able to "cope with life", creates the "blame the victim" scenario. We are all familiar with the self-righteous letters to the editor (or even, shamefully enough, editorials) along the lines of "I was abused as as child but I didn't end up __________ " Or "These people could stop doing drugs if they wanted to." "They need to buck up, that's all." "The residential schools closed years ago, they are just an excuse."

I would take this further. One of the key aspects of conservative politics is the authoritarian personality. Statistically, someone with an authoritarian personality is far more likely to be attracted to the right than the left. Authoritarianism does not come out of the air, but is inculcated by authoritarian parenting. Such parenting by its very nature is abusive, as it is based upon repression, fear, and neglect of the child's emotional needs. The children of authoritarian parents are not allowed to express the rage that results from their parenting and thus repress it, giving rise to the state of denial. As adults they will fervently claim they adore their parents and their upbringing was the best imaginable.
Everyone with an authoritarian personality is a wounded individual. For the mass of ordinary people who have been subjected to an authoritarian parenting, the abuse does not end there. Throughout their lives they will be humiliated, bullied, and exploited by a range of authority figures such as teachers, police, bosses, politicians, bureaucrats and so forth. (Keep in mind these abusive officials are themselves deeply wounded individuals.)

What we then get is a form of Stockholm Syndrome. The dominated and humiliated tend to identify with their oppressors, in the same way that the kidnapped victims of terrorists sometimes identify with their captors. While the captive's affirmation of the terrorists is a result of both traumatization and the usually just cause (but not methods) of their captors, the mass conservative form is rooted in childhood trauma and subsequent repression.

The prejudices promoted by the rulers are similar to those that the conservative victim has learned from his parents. This provides the ideological link, in the same way the terrorists claims of fighting for freedom and justice, provide the link for the kidnapped. The childhood trauma and denial allow a shift from "I love my parents" (Who abused me - which is repressed) to "I love my boss" (Who bullies and exploits me – repressed) and "I love my President/Prime Minister" (Who sends my children off to be killed and squanders my tax money – repressed.)

A growing tendency toward humane parenting since WW2 has helped to undermine the dominant nature of the authoritarian personality. The right knows this, and hence the so-called culture war. It would be fine if we had several hundred years, but we don't. We face a triple threat – global economic crisis, global warming and peak oil. How do we neutralize the impact of, if not help cure the victims of conservative Stockholm Syndrome?
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