Socialism, American Style – Part Four

The Social Collective

In another life, when I was still a young man just back from the war in Vietnam, I tried to find work in my hometown of Norfolk, Virginia and had to settle for a low paying job in an auto parts store for minimum wage, which was sub-minimal and totally insufficient for anyone addicted to three meals a day.  It wasn’t enough to live on, but lacking either a college education or a useful trade, I had trouble finding anything that would pay me a decent wage.  In an interview for one position that did pay a decent wage, the manager I spoke to asked me if I’d learned anything from the military that I could translate to the job for which she was hiring, I said with a smile, “Well… I could kill your competitors.”  She laughed, but didn’t think that fit the job description, so I wasn’t hired.  After I moved across the river to the city of Newport News, the home at the time of the nation’s largest shipyard, I was hired there… and though the pay was not particularly high for the work it entailed, relative to the same jobs up north where unions dominated the shipyard trades, that Virginia yard paid the highest wages for skilled trades in the region… and they were willing to train new guys off the street.  Accordingly, the yard drew many young men from all over the South.

150113-N-RC246-112-2

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) arrives pierside at Naval Base Kitsap Bremerton prior to a planned incremental availability at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. US Navy photo. “I built that.”

My first assignment in 1968, after attending a brief class on welding, was to help lay the keel and work the inner bottom tanks of a huge nuclear attack aircraft carrier.  Worked there for about a year and a half as a shipfitter, responsible for assembling the steel structure of the hull according to designs and specifications laid out on drawings, enormous blueprints that were two dimensional representations of the structure, thousands of pages of which were required to direct dozens of trades in all the infinite details of the ship’s construction and assembly.  The creation and drafting of these design documents and drawings required an enormous pool of engineering expertise in dozens of technical disciplines, drawings that were completed by hundreds of designers, engineers, draftsmen, mathematicians… experts all, men and women who worked in a building the size of an entire city block.

newport_news_shipbuilding

The shipyard was enormous, the size of a small city.

They’d labored there for over a year designing that carrier.  In the actual construction, besides the shipfitters who did the work of assembling the plates and the molded shapes, an army of welders knitted the cellular components of the hull and the superstructure together such that all its physical components were as one united body.  Behind the structural trades, there were pipefitters, electricians, loftsmen, machinists, riggers, painters and countless other tradesmen and technicians of every sort… each with their own set of skills, thousands of men and even a few women, though it would be decades before women managed to become a significant part of the labor force there.

The ship was nothing but a hull number when I worked on it and was not completed until long after I’d moved on from Virginia.  Launched from the drydock and christened the USS Nimitz,  CVN 68 in 1972, tt was fitted out and completed dockside in the yard, then finally delivered to the Navy in Norfolk and commissioned as a ship of the line in 1975, a little more than seven years from the day the shipyard got the order to build it… a massive project, one that easily dwarfs such primitive world wonders as the Great Pyramids in Egypt.  Designed to last fifty years, the Nimitz is still in operation today, operating out of Bremerton, Washington.  She… (it’s common… traditional to speak of a ship with the pronouns she, her) … she is not scheduled to be retired from service (decommissioned) and replaced by a newer carrier until the year 2022.

My point in telling you these things is simply this… as individuals, we can never begin to accomplish that which can be achieved by groups of people working in concert, one with many, each bringing specific knowledge and skills to the greater task.  When people work together, they can accomplish virtually anything they can imagine and deem worthy of the effort.

The question then arises… these great things we accomplish?  What benefit do they ultimately bring to the many people who actually do the work?  For me… and for many, the work and the wages were a short term benefit, but I was aware that shipyard work was subject to long lay-offs according to the ability of the yard’s owners to obtain contracts.  In Newport News the owner was a bloodless corporation that had acquired the yard from private ownership… after which they immediately employed a small army of time-study analysts armed with clipboards to begin the process of winnowing those they deemed ‘inefficient’ from the labor force.  These “experts” were mostly young men in white shirts and ties who had never done any shipyard work in their life and who interpreted as “unnecessary and inefficient” even a gang of fitters awaiting the drop of a huge section onto the hull by a crane.  They were particularly interested in eliminating older fitters who received the higher wages so that they could hire younger, less experienced men who could be hired at a rate far less per hour than the veterans.  A corollary benefit to the corporation was this…. if they could rid themselves of men who’d worked for decades, they would not have to pay them a full pension.  You can believe or disbelieve their motivations as you wish, but I will tell you without any reservation that practices like that are fully in line with the concept and reality of capitalism which is not subject to moral, but rather to financial motivations… bottom line… profit.

But the immediate answer to the purpose served in the construction of the USS Nimitz was “national defense” and, even if we question the need for construction of such a massive vessel in an age where a single tactical nuclear missile can neutralize an entire fleet, national defense is the stated purpose for which it is built.  At the time it was built, it cost the American taxpayers about $1,000,000,000 (that’s one billion) which equates to about $4,750,000,000 in today’s dollars.  Though I have no idea how much it cost to maintain and operate the Nimitz over the last four decades, the expense has been justified by the various military adventures our nation has precipitated globally… limited warfare with nations who could never challenge the American military juggernaut and survive.  Proportionately and metaphorically speaking, we’ve built ourselves a military monolith that equates to a massive sledge hammer with which to deal with minor flea infestations in the houses of people we can’t even see beyond the vast oceans that separate us, places that we will likely never visit, even as tourists.  National “defense” and the abuses that are inherent in a powerful military-industrial complex is a moral issue… and quite beyond the scope of this humble document… but, sometimes, I simply cannot help myself from casting an elbow in that general direction hoping to connect with the appropriate chin.

Given a budget of nearly five billion dollars and the collective skills of thousands of engineers, mathematicians, designers, draftsmen, technicians and tradesmen from every skilled and technical craft known to mankind, what would you have them produce?  Speaking entirely for myself, it wouldn’t be a nuclear aircraft carrier and the profit in dollars required to overpay the CEOs and the CFOs et al. in a massive corporation, or to offer the various bribes and donations to however many admirals and politicians it takes to win the contract… all the while maintaining a small army of lobbyists to ensure a steady flow of more billions in lucrative government work… and then, above all, to produce sufficient dividends for the corporation’s greedy stockholders.  But hey… that’s just me.  I can’t even begin to change the world, especially at my age and with few resources on which to draw… but I can influence one small part of it… and when this series is complete, it’s my plan to begin putting the theory of the institutional model of a local social collective to work by planning and building one in the little city where I live.

Social collectives are, I believe, the corporations and the governance of the future and an immediate solution for the growing needs of many Americans today, those who have not been fulfilled economically or socially within the current environment of capitalist-inspired inequities within the profit motivated society in which we live.  Social collectives are a way for everyone to get their fair share of the collective benefits supplied by their individual effort invested in a collective venture… and the return?  Equal shares for everyone… no matter the effort and the investment of each… there will an equal return for every member of the collective and equal access to every resource, with democratic control of the work and the outlay in every benefit it may produce.  You can call it socialism.  You can call it community.  You can call it co-operation.  You can even call it Fred if it pleases you to do so.  I prefer to call it a social collective rather than a socialist collective or a cooperative or simply a collective, which choice bears not a dimes worth of difference either way.  The purpose of its construct is neither an “ism” nor an ideology… neither a brand nor a religion, though its authors can make it thus if they so desire… and all its membership agrees.

In fact, no single individual should drive the creation of a social collective.  One person can do the work of attracting others to the idea, acting in the role of an organizer… and he or she may even guide its formation for a time, but the group itself must be the author of its purpose and its focus in a purely democratic process that will, over time, require occasional and consistent commitment and effort on the part of every member.  Remember, the collective is a democratic institution and democracy is not a spectator sport.  It’s a way of life.

Let’s say that you are the organizer… an individual who has the energy and the desire to get things started.  What steps should you take?  Is there a model you can follow, an example that provides you with the framework for a plan?  Simple answer is “Absolutely.”   If you have ever done the work of an activist, chances are you already have the skills… or at least some of them.  If not, here is an excellent manual you could use to help you on your way:   Click on the link to the manual here:

Organizing Handbook

It is important however, to always remember that, even though it takes initiative and leadership to get something started, the leadership role in a social collective is not the same as a leadership position in an enterprise devoted to profit.  A social collective is founded upon the essence of community in absolute and universal equality, such that every member is equal to every other member, each bearing the same rights and the same privileges as does every member of the collective. The best model you could possibly choose is that of what the founder of Christianity, the carpenter from Nazareth declared to his disciples two thousand years ago, “…If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.”

laoziOr, you could follow the words of the author of the Tao te Ching, Lao Tzu, who, 500 or so years before Jesus, declared, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists.  When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, ‘We did it ourselves.’”

And this single characteristic… equality… is essential to the concept of a social collective, the acceptance, the embrace, even the celebration of absolute equality within and among the membership, such that even its leaders, its founding members, no matter the personal investment they make, is ever permitted any greater benefit or privilege than any other individual within the collective.  Without an understanding that equality is the utter foundation for its existence, every social collective will fail.

As I have tried to demonstrate from the beginning of this work, history is rife with examples that show us that socialist governance without democracy and equality in every aspect of its structure is not capable of surviving.  Every attempt at establishing a socialist institution could eventually morph into some form of autocracy when its principles are compromised.  When the group places a premium on leadership it will eventually adopt all the characteristics of a plutocracy.  In the early Christian church, the concept of Christian leadership was utterly reversed from that which is paramount in its doctrine.  In the Soviet socialist revolution, the Party leadership became a new aristocracy that proved even more oppressive and brutal than the Tsarist regime from which the people had supposedly been liberated in 1917.

The social collective derives its success, even its reason for existence from the concepts of equality and democracy, but equality above all.  If it cannot maintain the ability to afford to every member, it will fail.  Every dispute must be settled, every conflict resolved within the dictates of the principles of equality in justice, so if you plan to build a social collective, the language of its founding document must somehow reflect the essential understanding and means for obtaining justice within the group based upon the absolute equality of its membership.  Secondly and with no less importance, it must outline the structure through which democratic governance can be realized.  In a social collective, it’s leaders must be democratically chosen, answerable to the membership and they can receive no more privilege, no more esteem, no more benefit than any other member.  They must be willing to accept that the work they accomplish is a responsibility they accept without any additional compensation beyond that which is required for them to accomplish the demands of their job.

120704112156-declaration-of-independence-story-topAs Americans, we have a much better chance than any previous peoples or nations to establish socialist institutions because our personal freedoms and our rights guaranteed in our Constitution are founded upon the bedrock principle in the Declaration of Independence that preceded the founding of our nation’s government and states… “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Equality may not be the driving motivation of our economy… and true equality has been a slow and evolving process we have yet to achieve, but it is in our psyche… it’s in our blood.  Having said all that, I would also state that it is important to develop a reason for anyone to join a social collective, to get an understanding of its benefit to the membership and the possibilities inherent in group solidarity.  It has to begin somewhere, so the task of the organizer is to take some initiative and canvass the community, determine a need, and suggest a a purpose around which a social collective could be formed.  The founding theme could be absolutely anything, for instance, these:

  1. A grocery co-op in a food desert.
  2. Acquisition of a business by its employees from an owner wanting to sell in order to keep jobs in a community… or the foundation of any new, worker-owned business to create employment where jobs are scarce.
  3. A health care and transportation collective in a community of retirees providing in-home medical care and assistance and/or transportation services for people who cannot drive themselves or do not own a car.  An Uber collective, if you will.
  4. An intentional community providing housing for its membership… offering both privacy for individuals and families along with all the advantages of extended family through a social collective.
  5. A child care co-op.
  6. A credit union.
  7. Community work spaces developed for the acquisition and use of special, expensive tools that the membership can share… and/or storage space with an option for shared equipment like lawn mowers, tractors.
  8. Community gardens for the collective effort and benefit of growing fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers.
  9. A mutual aid or a legal aid collective, providing help for its membership such that they need never be forced to rely upon charitable institutions or state-sponsored social welfare organizations… a collective that springs from the concept that a people united in solidarity through a social collective, however poor, need not rely on the charity of those who possess greater resources than they do, but can fend for themselves with the dignity and respect every one of us deserves as a human being.

The possibilities are endless and they can include any number of goals such as those listed in combination according to the needs of the members.  The initial purpose can be ambitious or modest… but you have to start somewhere.

In the next essay, I will provide details of the steps an organizer can take to get things started… and perhaps even suggest a narrative in a specific example for the kind of social collective I might plan to initiate in my little city here in Ohio, how it can be be formed, how structured, logistical and legal issues, etc.

Watch this space.

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Socialism, American Style by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Socialism, American Style – Part Three

As a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, I more or less agree with the following Article of their Constitution, which states their Purpose:

“We are socialists because we reject an economic order based on private profit, alienated Untitledlabor, gross inequalities of wealth and power, discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, disability status, age, religion, and national origin, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo. We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships. We are socialists because we are developing a concrete strategy for achieving that vision, for building a majority movement that will make democratic socialism a reality in America. We believe that such a strategy must acknowledge the class structure of American society and that this class structure means that there is a basic conflict of interest between those sectors with enormous economic power and the vast majority of the population.”

Fairly broad implications, no?  It does however, satisfy one sense of what socialism could be in America, though it does not lay out a plan for how such a structure could be achieved when the present established order seems to have a stranglehold on not only the wealth, tkCRGIsland, and resources, but has even managed to gain the lion’s share of influence upon our supposed constitutional democracy.  If it comes, change will come from some sort of populist movement, an organized effort.  But, what course will that movement take in order to bring about change… what does it require?  Many believe that shift has already begun, that Bernie Sanders’ candidacy in 2016 was the opening salvo in an inevitable political revolution.  The Sanders campaign, though unsuccessful in the Democratic Primary, never really lost its momentum, but gradually morphed into a political movement called Our Revolution, which is a nationwide political force that was downloadactive in developing candidates for mid-term elections in 2018 and is building up now for the big one in 2020. 

Check out their website.  Their agenda is not merely ambitious.  It’s quite successful.  Here’s the link to:  Our Revolution

And, no doubt, there are probably some people today who still hearken back to the Bolshevik Marxists of 1917 and dream of a Marxist revolution in the Soviet model.  To be sure, in the 1960s, there were some who talked of being the Vanguard of the Revolution in America and even committed acts of violence accordingly.  Here is an excerpt from a document written by members of the Weather Underground movement, responsible for multiple bombings across America in the late 1960s.  These people were deadly serious…

WU“People ask, what is the nature of the revolution that we talk about? Who will it be made by, and for, and what are its goals and strategy?  The overriding consideration in answering these questions is that the main struggle going on in the world today is between U.S. imperialism and the national liberation struggles against it. . . .  So the very first question people in this country must ask in considering the question of revolution is where they stand in relation to the United States as an oppressor nation, and where they stand in relation to the masses of people throughout the world whom U.S. imperialism is oppressing.  The primary task of revolutionary struggle is to solve this principal contradiction on the side of the people of the world. It is the oppressed peoples of the world who have created the wealth of this empire and it is to them that it belongs; the goal of the revolutionary struggle must be the control and use of this wealth in the interests of the oppressed peoples of the world. . . . The goals is the destruction of U.S. imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism. Winning state power in the U.S. will occur as a result of the military forces of the U.S. overextending themselves around the world and being defeated piecemeal; struggle within the U.S. will be a vital part of this process, but when the revolution triumphs in the U.S. it will have been made by the people of the whole world. . . .”

Hard to imagine how it might have begun, with a bunch of kids sitting around the floor, guys with long hair and beards, girls in sandals and paisley sundresses… passing around a communal joint, listening to hafmc-5-1-3-_sq-3148696ae8dfe9e47d54b980f9589f7ca4eff5d6-s800-c85Grace Slick… “One pill makes you larger… one pill makes you small.  And the one that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all… go ask Alice…” 

Then one of the sullen group holds up his hand, says, “Flash on this, man.  Tell me what you think.  Let’s get serious about this revolution scene.  Let’s stop talking it up like tourists, man.  Let’s get down and get real.  Let’s blow up a bank.”

Some guy on the other side of the room says, “Whoa !”  He stops, thinks, speaks… “Cool.  But first… don’t we, like, need… a manifesto.  I mean… that’s how they do things, right?”

It’s probably unfair to characterize them in this way, just for a grin.  Of course, as in every movement, there are poseurs and dilettantes, tourists looking for some kicks, finding themselves in over their heads… but many were sincere, people who actually believed in the concepts of true justice in equality, but ultimately?  They were children.  There was violence, to be sure, and kent-state-podcast-16x9the violence of the 1960’s led to blowbacks in the 1970’s… like the killing of six cornered members of the Symbionese Liberation Army in Los Angeles, a massacre and a conflagration that ended what seemed like an incredible, legendary run of success in subversion.  Blowback… like the killing of young student protesters and innocent bystanders at Kent State and at South Carolina State University,  Blowback… like the Hough race riots in Cleveland that were capped by a flyover by Air Force jets, a subtle reminder of the awesome and dreadful power of the established order.  America was never closer to cataclysmic class warfare than it was in the 1960s and progressive movements were never more systematically and brutally suppressed than they were in the years following the apex of unrest in 1968.  I speak of it because we often forget and dismiss the possibility of such a thing happening in America.

But is the grand concept of a socialist revolution… either political like that of Bernie Sanders or violent like that once espoused by groups like the Weather Underground even necessary?  America is a free society still and there are ways to actually live the socialist dream under the umbrella of existing law.  If we are sincere in our ideals, we can build a socialist society right alongside that of the corporatists and design it in such a way that it would not only compete with the less humanistic culture of profit and exploitation, but quite possibly and eventually supplant it.

“Okay, Jimbo, what are you smoking?”

Let’s consider growing problems in the US that have not yet been properly addressed, for instance, that of the aging Boomers born in prosperous post-war America in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  They are a huge population that is aging now, many of whom are now retired and who will 3b3e6d3fc7b3067f5a30afd139da02belikely and soon be in need of the kind of health care that can only be provided in an institutional environment.  In the meantime, income inequality has been exacerbated to the degree that too many Americans can no longer expect the same benefits of prosperity enjoyed by a wide membership in a middle class that once permitted unchallenged mobility, guaranteed job security, a pension and a family home for so many people in the two to three and even four of the decades following World War II.  At the same time, our society’s institutions have degraded to the point that community, even familial relationships no longer provide the security that cushions individuals from life-altering disaster following even minimal economic hardships.

Freezing weather threatens lives of homeless in USA

From Time Magazine

Social isolation makes us dependent upon our ability to pay our way in the world and those elements of government that once served to make up for the growing lack of community and family assistance… that so-called “social safety net” is fast disappearing.  American social norms require us to be consumers of products and without the ability to pay for what we need, we could immediately become mere aliens, strangers, homeless cast-aways in the street surrounded by lighted windows in comfortable homes in the night, the homes of people whose doors are closed and locked to us… people either ignorant of our desperation… or critical, even hostile concerning our needs.

Many in America, a fast-growing population of the have-nots, are now rapidly approaching a demographic majority.  The so-called War on Poverty that I recall from the grand and hyperbolic rhetoric of the 1960s… seems to have been quite as abandoned as were the Nike missile sites I saw as a child in the 1950s and, later, the vast network of ICBM missile silos that dotted the rural countryside during the Cold War.  Both metaphorical wars, in fact, were abandoned, one because Russian Communism failed and the USSR dismantled itself, the other because… disinterest?  God knows, not unlike the Soviet Union, the War on Poverty never survived the Reagan era.  And so we now have an enormous population of Americans who are not sharing in the American Dream, which has become more of a nightmare these days… and many Americans are returning to an old love affair with socialism, which makes perfect sense, since capitalism is failing to meet their needs and is the fuel that drives the engines of economic and social inequality. 

The question then becomes, “What now?  How can we do this?”  The solution?  It’s not rocket science.  We don’t need secret, subversive cadres of violent Vanguards of the Revolution.  We don’t need politicians.  We don’t need bold, brilliant programs centered around some revolutionary new idea.  All we need is each other.  Socialism is so easy it’s absurd.  It exists all around us already, with thousands of people currently involved in the everyday practice thereof.  It’s not just an ideology… not a program… not something you put on and off like a shirt or the latest fashion and it has no specific rules or protocols.  You could call it user defined, like open source software.  It’s a way of life, an attitude, a perspective you can acquire, a skill you can learn… and it’s called cooperation.  All we really lack to make socialism a success is to do it.  It’s really nothing more than people download (1)coming together to help one another.    But for those of you who must have a program or a label for every institution and every segment thereof, these distinctions do exist.  And if you want something new and shiny, some packaged idea that’s neat and tidy and ready for prime time?  We can do that too.

Say that you live in a small town or city in America.  Chances are, you’re not very far from a large urban area with rural lands and farms in close proximity.  You have a diverse population and a significant number of people in need of waning social services, some poor, some aged, some working, some not.  Chances are you have people who were recently laid off from a factory that went belly up or moved away, people with no real prospects beyond what McDonalds or Walmart might have to offer them, which is hardly a living wage.  You have vacant lots, empty storefronts, vacant houses, open and uncultivated fields.  You have kids with degrees from decent colleges living with their parents because… no jobs… and enormous debt due to student loans from institutions that are ready and waiting like vultures to swoop down and sweep up their share of any gains whenever they do manage to find decent work.  You have people who have spent most of their life with their heads just above water, decent, hardworking folks who raised children and built homes, maintained the marrow of the nation’s economic wealth… but now in their old age, it’s harder every day to keep going.  They need help and, like many, cannot count on their children to provide it and they wonder, “How will I ever manage to survive when that day finally comes… that day when I can’t take care of myself anymore.”  

Chances are that all of these people are disconnected one from the other.  We live in a society that promotes a lifestyle of independence, that champions the image of rugged individualism, a mythology that tells us we only have worth and value to the community when we can pay our own way and make our own way without help or assistance.   But… just suppose for a moment that all of these people were somehow united and joined together in a social collective… an organization that seeks to provide for the needs of each member by pooling the resources of all… eliminating duplication of assets and resources within the group… establishing a fund between them, money they all contribute according to their ability, a common fund that makes up for the economic shortfalls of those who have less money than the others, while tapping into the collective reservoir of skills and abilities of everyone within the group in order to provide services for one another, services each member might otherwise have to purchase for themselves.

A social collective.  What the hell is that? 

I would answer that it is nothing more than people joined together for the purpose of ensuring that no one among their number need ever have to face a challenge on their own.  Too simple?  Hell yes.  So simple you might think that if it was a good idea, it would have caught on a long time ago.  But there is history enough to attest to the fact that it did and we’ve covered some of that history already.  And, to some extent, there are groups of people even today, folks who have established social collectives of varying size and function.  They exist all around us under various names and with differing motivations.  There are grocery cooperatives, trade co-ops, extended families, indigenous tribes, employee owned businesses, religious groups, even collective farms and intentional communities.  They are, for the most part, successful in their limited versions of the concept of a social collective and it has always amazed me that so many… if not most American people are not aware of them, even if they know they exist.

Maybe Americans are inimical to the concept because they are socially primed from birth for a lifetime of productive labor for wages, brought up to be a part of some grand plan under the auspices and vicissitudes of the free market economy… but join a co-op? 

“Sounds… I dunno, unAmerican.  Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett went out there on their own… chopped down trees, built log cabins, planted some corn, killed a lot of bears, smoked a lot of meat… fought Indians and opened up new territory.  Hell, they’d never go live in some kind of ‘intentional community’ wouldn’t join no co-op.  No’sir… they were good Americans.  Co-ops?  Communes?  Collectives?  Sounds all hippy-like and whatnot.  No thank you.” 

But the truth be told?  A lot of the frontier was opened up by people who formed intentional, 61931576_2356146084598573_6817999246524940288_nsocialistic communities.  Barn raising is not a practice exclusive to the Amish, but was quite common on the frontier and even in areas that had long been under cultivation in America because…

Well, while some men can build their own homes… few men, even such giants as Daniel Boone have the ability to build their own barns. Barns are enormous.

Once upon a time in America, people practiced a brand of socialism they called community and cooperation… concepts that seem to have gone out of favor in this modern age of capitalism, competition, commercialism, consumerism and the social isolation that follows in the wake of American exceptionalism… the idea that individuals should make their own way and take their rightful place according to the privilege afforded them by the contents of their wallets.

We can do this.  There is enormous power and strength in solidarity.

Do you consider yourself a socialist?  If so, how do you intend to go about making socialism a reality in a nation like America, a country whose people seem to be inimical… not merely to the concept… but even to the name of socialism?  Why start a revolution that is designed to tear down the old world and start all over again from scratch… why do all that when you can build something now… something that will sustain itself through whatever the future might bring?  Suppose you just got together with a lot of your neighbors, people in your own community.  Suppose you all looked around, hashed it out, determined what the needs are.  You can then establish priorities… design and build a custom fit, local social collective to suit yourselves.  But… how do you go about it making it happen?  And what’s it supposed to look like when it’s done?

That will be the subject of Part Four in this series.  Watch this space.

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Socialism, American Style by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Mueller speaks !!

I watched and listened. This is both a report and an opinion…

It was enlightening to finally watch and listen to him today after two years of silence and to observe that Robert Mueller walks and speaks with an unexpected air of humility. For some reason, I expected more gravitas and the baritone certitude that some men in high office seem to exude… accordingly, his demeanor makes him more believable, the voice of an intelligent, reticent, and capable observer.
Three things he seemed especially focused upon that I could discern as important matters to relate were these:
1. Indictment of a sitting President was and is NOT allowed under DOJ guidelines and thus no indictment… nor even an accusation against the President was ever going to be part of the process or the report, but Mueller re-iterated that if the President could have been exonerated of wrongdoing through obstruction, the report would thus state, however it did state that he could NOT be thus exonerated.
2. “…the work (the Mueller Report) speaks for itself.”
3. “…there were multiple systematic efforts to interfere with our election.”
God only knows what the pundits will make of Mueller’s statements… I’ve more or less stopped listening, but the greatest take away can be summed up in the following three statements:
Read the Mueller Report.
Read the Mueller Report.
Read the Mueller Report.
When you do… and if you read it with an open mind and an understanding of the law, our Constitution, and the moral imperatives of governance… you will come to the logical conclusion that immediate impeachment of President Trump and all of those in government who have enabled him in his wrongdoing is not only justified, but essential to the preservation of our Republic.

 

I suppose the greater tragedy in events surrounding the Mueller report and the incredible maelstrom of misinformation that surrounds what may or may not be contained therein is that not only the American people, but such a large number of their representatives in Congress have not read it and spend more time demanding to know what is not included in the report than in actually discovering what is.
Read it for yourself and see if you do not agree with me when I say that “Even the redacted version presents as clear a case of obstruction of justice as any sentient human being needs to impeach the President. It only needs to be read.”
Read it and then contact your representatives and tell them that Trump must be impeached now… today.

Read it here:  DOJ Mueller Report in .pdf file

You can view the press conference here:  Mueller Press Conference 5/29/2019

 

Socialism, American Style, Part Two

This series will be a long-running essay, maybe turn into a book length feature you can buy someday, but for now… it’s free to read…

Before we talk about Marx and Engels and their particular and very successful brand of socialism, we have to remember that a successful idea is not necessarily the best idea.  No one can argue against the notion that the explosion of industry and commerce fueled by coal and oil and natural gas was incredibly successful in terms of economic and technological advancement and in quantitative measures.  However, in terms of raising the standards of the majority of peoples in the world, in terms of qualitative measures?  Not so great.

 No doubt the twentieth century was good for people like the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, the Fords and the Morgans, all the industrialists, the financiers, the corporate giants and the money people.  To be certain, power shifted over time as competition for resources made enemies of nations, but it condensed and eventual turned global for the mutual benefit of all the wealthy individuals and their borderless corporate behemoths.  And in spite of two global wars, rumors of wars, plagues, famines, genocide, conflict, colonial bondage, economic upheaval, and natural disasters that claimed untold millions of lives and enslaved many millions more in virtually untenable conditions of economic and actual bondage, starvation, disease and suffering… this new class of global oligarchs managed, not only to thrive, but to gain and maintain unprecedented control of the world’s wealth.

One has to believe that all that suffering and poverty, not to mention the measurable and damaging effects of global warming, and quite in spite of the economic and technological advancements, was not such a good thing for humankind after all, seeing that it only seems to benefit only a small percentage of the world’s population.  We have smart phones and Twitter, cable and Kardashians… but not much else.

Marx and Engels saw this coming (well… maybe not Twitter, certainly not selfies, but they did envision some of the troubling effects of the industrial age) and it gave them an idea.  They took socialism, economics, and history… boiled it down to its essence and gazed into the future through the prism of their time.  They saw the world as a struggle, an endless conflict between the owners and the renters, the industrialists and the workers, the bankers and the common man and the little guy was always losing.  It was every bit as bad in their day, possibly worse in terms of social inequities, poverty, and bondage in labor.  They leaped from their perspective of a duality in conflict to a conclusion that basically states, “There’s ever so many more of us than there is of them.  And their control is an unsustainable tyranny based entirely upon a mythology of ownership.”  They understood that the disparity in numbers and the abstract, illogical basis for ownership could easily be exploited in an argument for the purpose of economic reformation.  The injustice of drastic economic inequality could be used to inspire change, to bring about true equality and common ownership… social cooperation as opposed to competition for the vast wealth of resources in the world.

But how to make it happen?

Because they understood that privilege and power were not something that would ever be offered up or willingly surrendered by those who hold it simply for the good of all mankind… simply because it was the right thing to do.  No… it had to be taken. Revolution was the only possible means to their desired end.  They further hypothesized that the change… in order to work at all… would have to be global, universal, in order to eliminate all opposition, which they rightly presumed would be passionate and brutal.  Their goal was nothing less than world revolution.   Ambitious, to say the least, but theirs was a seductive idea, one that brought promise to the suffering masses.  The masses.  That would be the innumerable people who worked for other people… in factories, shops, mills, and in mines, the serfs who still plowed fields that did not belong to them through countless generations, tenant farmers.  The masses.  The proletariat.  The have-nots.

Imagine you are one of these, contemporaries of Marx… a man in a tavern somewhere in Europe at the end of an endless day in a coal mine.  You put down your glass and contemplate another.  Then some little guy at the far end of the room stands up on a table and starts calling out the Marxist plea…  “Workers of the world unite.  You have nothing to lose but your chains.”  You recognize this man.  He’s not some wild-eyed agitator, not some radicalized university student slumming on the poor side of the tracks… you’ve seen him in the mines, sweating alongside you in the half-light of a kerosene torch. 

You listen to his impassioned speech and you are moved.  The argument is not merely seductive, it’s a lifeline.  He speaks of a world where all men are truly equal, where there is no division of class between the bosses and the people who work with their hands, where democracy rules the workplace, where no profit drives production, just the needs of all the people… all… the people… a world where everyman provides what he is able and where everyman is given his fair share according to the dictates of his need… a world where the curse of God does not exist and everyman and everywoman and everychild will equally share in the abundance of the earth.  One minute, you are a hopeless, half-drunk wreck of a man in endless bondage to his labor, leaning in to a slow, short walk on a killing ground… and the next?  You can see yourself reborn… as the Vanguard of the Revolution, a working-class hero, a Marxist, the savior of the common man.  You push your way through the sweaty crowd and call out to your comrade… “Brother, I hear you.  Where do I sign?”

Fast forward to one of those odd moments in history.  Ronald Reagan in Berlin.  It’s 1987. The world was then defined by two “super powers” which were the United States and the Soviet Union.  In the mind of Reagan and many of his contemporaries, the entire world was engaged in ideological and actual combat… locked at an impasse in what has become known as the Cold War, a struggle to the death between capitalism and communism, between the Marxists and the bastions of liberty, between the “The Free World” and the “Evil Empire.”

Immediately following WWII, as Allies, both the Americans and the Soviets, along with troops from other nations such as England and the Free French, Africans from the colonies, Canadians, Australians, all converged on the German homeland, some units meeting together, embracing one another in celebration and friendship… and why not?  The Axis nations of Germany, Italy and Japan had threatened not only the freedom, but the very lives of everyone they tried to overcome in a war of domination that involved virtually every nation and race of mankind upon the earth.  Yet, almost immediately, and as though in preparation for some future conflict between them, the intelligence apparati of both the Americans and the Soviets, the predecessors of the CIA and the KGB began to pick apart and commandeer the dreadful technology of war on which the Germans had been working, recruiting both German scientists and Nazi military intelligence officers for the purpose of some future conflict that the leaders of both nations must have thought inevitable.

True enough, with the division of Germany into Eastern and Western sectors… with the East under strict Soviet control and total isolation from the West… with the appropriation of Soviet occupied nations East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania into the USSR… with the isolation and division of Berlin, deep within the Soviet sector and the building of walls and barbed wire fences to isolate East Germans from even their families and friends in the Western sector… all seemed to prove the fact beyond the speculation that another, a Third World War was indeed a possibility, only this time it would be fought between nations who possessed the dreadful nuclear weapons that had already entirely obliterated two cities in Japan and caused devastating after effects from radiation poisoning for decades afterward.

That specter loomed over every spurned attempt at conciliation between the US and the Soviets and they had once brought the world to within a hair’s breadth of nuclear annihilation over missiles in Cuba.  Their conflict was not about religion, not about any territorial dispute, but about a simple ideological idea that had somehow gone horribly wrong.  The workers’ paradise envisioned by Marx and Engels had become a totalitarian menace even greater than that which Hitler, Mussolini, and the mindless imperialism of the Empire of Japan had ever presented. 

You can get a sense of the feelings of apprehension in the West by listening to the famous “Iron Curtain speech delivered by Winston Churchill on March 5, 1946 at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri:

“I have a strong admiration and regard for the valiant Russian people and for my wartime comrade, Marshal Stalin. There is deep sympathy and goodwill in Britain — and I doubt not here also — toward the peoples of all the Russians and a resolve to persevere through many differences and rebuffs in establishing lasting friendships. It is my duty, however, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe. From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow. The safety of the world, ladies and gentlemen, requires a unity in Europe, from which no nation should be permanently outcast…  …In a great number of countries, far from the Russian frontiers and throughout the world, Communist fifth columns are established and work in complete unity and absolute obedience to the directions they receive from the Communist center. Except in the British Commonwealth and in the United States where Communism is in its infancy, the Communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization.”

 

Sen. Joseph McCarthy listens to his attorney, Roy Cohn, during the televised Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954. The series of hearings badly damaged the senator’s image and led to a vote of censure by the Senate.

Churchill was acutely aware of the threat, viewed the world in conflict, and he did his best to impress Americans with the dangers, whether real or imagined.  Politicians in the USA were already using the Soviets as a bogey man to stir up mistrust of socialists and communists in our own nation and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, eventually weakening the labor movement, the early civil rights movement, and virtually every liberal cause by placing the mark of Cain on many American intellectuals who had aligned themselves with the leaders thereof. 

McCarthyism was not the first Red Scare. There had been others in the past and it was but the tip of the iceberg.  The result?  One could say that the long-standing practice of periodic purges of socialists from the American political melting pot and the fear of the Russian Revolution since the day it broke out in 1917 has led us to the point where we are at today, overwhelmed with the ascendancy of right-wing nationalists, militarists, corporatists and burdened with an unyielding and powerful politically conservative intellectual primacy within the leadership of both parties.  

History illuminates the present with a necessary backlight.  People forget these things.  Context is essential and history provides us with the context that leads to understanding phenomena.  But how is it that the idealistic vision of a workers’ paradise as drafted by a German philosophical duo became such a monster in the Soviet Union?  We can’t even begin to tackle that one… would take volumes to express, but to be sure, the Russian Revolution in 1917 was hardly the revolution Marx and Engels had envisioned and… as it emerged from the chaos of wars, privation, and famine, the genocidal police state that was guided by a paranoid sociopath named Stalin was ultimately built upon the unmarked graves of innocent millions.  The emergent empire, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was never even close to the socialist model outlined by Marxist ideology.  Simply put, the Soviets weren’t socialists.

How does that happen?  I suppose that if you can answer the question, how did the Christian Church, founded upon the precept of humility expressed in the words, “the last shall be first and the first shall be last”… how did it become an imperial power at various times in its history?  How did followers of the Galilean who said, “I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also….” how did these people eventually institute the various Crusades and Inquisitions that may have been the cause of some pretty horrible deaths in numbers that no one can begin to properly estimate, though some say it’s between 30,000 and 300,000 men, women and children… how did that happen?

You guessed it… they got it wrong.   It’s really that simple, hard to comprehend, difficult to accept, but ultimately?  That simple.

Anyway, let’s get back to where we left old Ronald Reagan… in 1987, standing at the Brandenburg Gate and the famous Berlin Wall dividing East and West Berlin, ready to launch a verbal assault thereon.  Some conservatives get all teary eyed to recall the moment and the man, who was looking every inch the cowboy actor turned President, but there he was.  No denying, it was a very dramatic moment, hallowed… some might say (not me, but some might).

Fact is, he said a lot of stuff that day, but this is what’s remembered best… a march of words, soft, conciliatory tones at first, slowly building to a forceful, masculine crescendo at the end: “We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev…Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

The speech was made on June 12, 1987 and only a little over two years later, in November of 1989, the Berlin Wall did come down as the Evil Empire’s Iron Curtain and the reign of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe came to a slow, but inevitable collapse.  Now… did Ronald Reagan have anything to do with that… was he a modern day Joshua, whose little marching band of rams horns is supposed to have caused the walls of Jericho to collapse?  Did Ronnie’s resolute jaw and well delivered lines bring on the collapse of the Soviet Empire?

Once upon a time (true story) I was talking to some friends in the parking lot of the shipyard where we worked.  The last line of the story I was telling them was meant to impress, to suggest that I had some personal political clout with the national union… of which our Local was an unimpressive, but spirited member.  We were talking about an upcoming strike and whether the national would listen to us and support the strike for the length of time we expected it would take to get everything we wanted in a new contract.   

My last line was delivered with all the drama it required, when I said, “Trust me, I’ve got friends in high places…”  And then, though there was not a cloud in the sky and no hint of a storm within sight, the loudest clap of thunder you can imagine resounded overhead, signaling a lightning strike we did not see, but which must have been very, very close… a loud, crack that echoed off the side of a ship in the drydock nearby and pretty much caught us all by surprise.  It took every bit of self-control for me to do it, but I just nodded, tilted my head to look heavenward, and said, “…and I mean really high places.”

I believe that Ronald Reagan’s speech brought down the Berlin Wall with the same conviction that I believe that odd, serendipitous crack of thunder over the shipyard that day was divine validation of my boastful and somewhat exaggerated claim.  I’ll let my readers decide for themselves, but hey… I’ve drifted away from my thesis.  I promise to get back on course in Part Three. 

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Socialism, American Style by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Socialism, American Style – Part One

“Socialism?  It’ll never work… never has, never will.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Two words… Vena Zuela.”

Actually, that’s one word, Bubba… Venezuela… and this brief exchange occurred in response to a statement I made about democratic socialism.  Needless to say, it quickly ended what might have been a futile attempt on my part to try and make up for a vacuum in historical and political education that might have been several generations in the making.

But it points out the fact that many Americans, perhaps a good percentage of them, judging by some of the responses my essays seem to attract, know little about socialism and what little they know seems to be shot through with many and similar false notions about both its concept and its history.  So these essays are intended to … if not educate, at least to present alternate perspectives that will essentially contradict much of the mythology and misinformation that’s out there.


Socialism has deep, ancient roots we can actually trace in recorded history, perhaps even farther back in time.  We could extend its existence to pre-history and the beginnings of human societal groups if the study of isolated primitive groups encountered by anthropologists in recent history is any indication of what those early tribal societies might have been like.  To be sure, the Bible, with its history of the early and primitive Christian “church” which is not to be confused with the post Constantine era, was noticeably communist in the social sense as recorded in the Book of Acts, chapters two and four.

And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.  And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”  Acts 2:44-47 (Italics mine)

And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.  Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”  Acts 4:33-37

Tertullian of Carthage, who was an early Christian and who left many written works, lived from 160 to 220 AD.  He wrote of the Christian way of life thus, “One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives.”

There is little evidence, however, of Christian communism after the Edict of Constantine, which essentially took all the properties, temples, and religious paraphernalia of all the pagan religions and turned them over to the Christians.  The emperor Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Empire and instituted special status for the ministers and deacons and bishops.  It changed the character of Christianity and initiated a new social structure, which essentially gives us the Roman model of Christian hierarchies.  What began as the scriptural model of the “last shall be first” and vice versa, suddenly became… with the windfall of land and wealth that had previously belonged to the pagan temples… an imitation of the Empire, with a new aristocracy in a top-down tradition of authority.  Bishops who’d considered themselves the “servants of all” became rulers of all… and that’s probably when Christian tithing and the Catholic “priesthood” first began, with an imitation of the pagan religious societies they’d supplanted… even to the point of mimicry of certain pagan religious practices and traditions.  But hey, interesting though it is, that’s another thesis altogether.

Christian communism was part of the social construct in many religious monastic orders in the interim, but it also enjoyed a brief secular revivification in mid-seventeenth century England, during the time of Oliver Cromwell’s interregnum government… when the nation’s monarch lost both his divine franchise and his head simultaneously.  An Englishman named Gerrard Winstanley, quite aggressively and in the spirit of the times, led a group of primitive Christian socialists that called itself the True Levellers.  They occupied and farmed public land that had been set aside and marked off by ditches and hedges, destroyed the boundaries and began farming the previously unused land and began living in a communal setting, sharing everything among their number… shamelessly cooperative.  Much like their apostolic forefathers, they pledged themselves to have “… all things in common.”

Cheeky blighters!

Landowners in the neighborhood, concerned that common people, who certainly outnumbered them, might get similar notions… fearing the possibility that every blighted knave who lusted after bread, might suddenly decide private property rights were not quite exclusive, nowhere near as sacred a concept as previously imagined, were terrified.  The possibility that their crops, their farmland, their cozy, comfortable country manors might suddenly be seized, appropriated by radical thought and agrarian reform was, for them, intolerable.

Oh… anarchy… anarchy!!

Some of them went running to the zealously Puritan Oliver Cromwell, accused these dangerous socialist upstarts of licentious behavior and impious predilections.  Eventually a few of them were properly shot for their heretical thoughts and the movement was dispersed accordingly.

Long before Marx and Engels came along and codified their own specific and somewhat complex brand of socialism, one that included, even necessitated global application through an immediate and somewhat passionate call for world revolution… there were several less complex, less global, but less successful movements that were socialist in nature.  Though they were based upon a similar premise of community and cooperation, they were often expressed in diverse economic models.  Some were peculiar to be sure, even bizarre in their approach to the ideal, but they were socialist utopia nonetheless, designed with the specific condition of mutual benefit for all of their members through a sense of equality and conformity in cooperative ventures.

Charles Fourier’s brand of utopian socialism was the most structured of the lot, based upon a somewhat unusual theory concerning labor and its more “seductive” qualities.  A self-styled social scientist, Fourier was quite specific concerning the construction of his communities, even to the design of the buildings they should use and

ViviLnk

though many communities were established around the world, none lasted much longer than the fervor of his disciples, which, sadly, did not survive beyond the seed money they planted in their ambitious projects.  Perhaps it may be said that, though the people involved were enthusiastic about the logical and humanistic idea of socialism, they lacked the necessary skills required to sustain it.  Nonetheless, Fourier’s socialist communes managed to plant their socialist seed on American soil with substantial communities in Texas, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey and New York, even Kansas.  In Massachusetts, they attracted the scions of Transcendentalism and a great deal of notoriety accordingly.  In the end, however, the eccentricities of its founder and some of his bizarre ideas proved no decent basis on which to change the world, but I’ll leave the interesting details to the footnotes of history.  You can always google his name.

Meanwhile, back on the Continent… socialist theories were everywhere abundant.  Louis Auguste Blanqui was a leading socialist during the turbulent years of mid-nineteenth century France.  I would characterize him as socialism’s “angry man” and clearly an advocate of violence to achieve the aims of social progress.  Accordingly, he spent a great deal of his time in prison.  Whereas the utopian socialists, like Fourier’s disciples, proceeded to build their society anew separate from and quite in spite of the world around them, Blanqui insisted that the way was to be paved by revolution and the utter elimination of bourgeois society.  He was not, however, a Marxist, nor was he a social theorist.  His plan was “revolution now” and, though he believed that an equitable redistribution of wealth should follow in its wake, he evidently had no clear plan on how that could be achieved and sustained.

While Americans were struggling with the profoundly troubling institution of human slavery, with all the furies of hell unleashed in its Civil War, many socialist thinkers and activists found a receptive following in Europe, where the industrial and serf bondage of vast numbers of its poorest people lived with conditions that were not really much better than the actual slavery that existed in the American Southland.  The troubled society and unstable governments there, weakened by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, were a fertile field for the more compassionate thinkers of the age, men who were every bit as impassioned in their ideas of liberating working class Europeans as were the Abolitionists in America’s “free” states who sought to end the institution that upheld slavery in the South.  We’ll talk about their philosophical lineage and the conditions that led to actual socialist revolutions at various times in various European nations at a later date.  Mid-nineteenth century Europe was an ideological Petri dish that enabled the spread of socialism and anarchy, with plots and players by the score.  The subject is easily worth a few volumes, at least.

The intellectual marriage of the German economist and philosopher, Karl Marx, and his countryman Friedrich Engels, who spent much of his youth in England, could easily be called the Big Bang Theory of socialist ideology, the one unified theory that ultimately gave rise to the most successful revolutions… or more accurately at least, the longest lived.  I’ll discuss this dynamic duo, their prodigious beards, and the Communist Manifesto in the next essay here in a week or so, but for now… this will have to do.

Watch this space…

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Socialism, American Style by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Why capitalism will fail…

…and, yes, I do understand that such a title as that places the author in one of those troubling lights, one that suggests he is either a rock-throwing, graffiti spraying, dreadlock-topped and angry young anarchist post-grad whose revolutionary thesis in the form of a graphic historical novel that attempts to redefine Bakunin as prophet and seer for the 21st century… or one of those “new age commies” with a lumberjack beard and a man-bun, looking to save the Earth by wrapping his lettuce, carrots, celery, e3ddb24c898167db1bee81136ed85e50--lumberjack-men-man-bunand radishes in planet-friendly, wax-process paper rather than storing it in plastic Zip-loc bags, the sort of zeitgeist common man of the 21st century who stays home and watches the kids while writing a socialist cookbook-cum-manifesto titled, “Thirty-seven ways to eat the rich.”

As much as I might like you to think of me in synch with such a seductive, rebel sort of image, along with the manly, disheveled ‘look’ that goes with it?  As much as that might boost my image?  Let me assure you, up front and out loud, that I am neither of those things, but probably both… in spirit at least, if not in fashion… and infinitely more radical and dangerous in fact than any Marvel-inspired stereotype you could imagine, armed as I am with opinions based upon facts and referential analysis of historical precedence.  But hey… relax, these are only ideas, little seeds I like to plant in the minds of the innocent and the unwary.

But enough about me… let’s talk about you.

The economy, they tell me, is booming.  Are you getting your share?  Of course not.  Saddled with student loan debt for a principle sum that seems to grow the more you pay 3b3e6d3fc7b3067f5a30afd139da02beinto it, money you borrowed for a degree that would give you a decent living if it translated into real-world value, perhaps you already know that the possibility you could own a home of your own probably seems like a pipe dream.  Mom and Dad might have left you theirs when they died and they certainly would have, but for the inordinately inflated cost of the medicine and health care that didn’t quite give them the longevity they’d hoped for.  Drug companies, co-pays and deductibles impoverished them, took what was left of their savings after their retirement plan succumbed to whatever economic reason that caused the fund to go broke.  They lost their home in the process… and you?  Well, if they were still alive, you would likely be taking care of your parents.  Sadly, those of you whose parents have survived may yet be burdened with their end-of-life care.  And… since you can barely afford to take care of yourself and a family, if you’ve been optimistic enough to marry and have children… how will you take on the more and greater debt that comes with such an added responsibility?

If that’s not your situation?  If you are you doing very well today in an economy that provides for the wealthy by borrowing from the future of everyone else… if you enjoy the benefits of corporate welfare like other wealthy Americans with a stake in huge monopolistic enterprises like Amazon… if you pay no taxes whatsoever?  How fortunate for you, but stop for a moment and think… how long can this go on?

For the rest of us, who are not so lucky?  Hyperbole and hypotheticals notwithstanding, the facts tell us this:  the opportunities that existed for our parents are not as prevalent today and for us as it was back then and for them.

It’s not hard to pinpoint the cause of such unprecedented economic inequality.  The facts are there, though hidden and mystified by those who manipulate the truth.  You ask, “What is truth?”  Ask a huindrd people and you will get a hundred different answers, but the truth doesn’t change.  Truth is not a marketable commodity.  Every fact, figure, or representation of truth is only and absolutely binary in terms of its reality.  A thing is either true… or it is untrue.  Truth cannot be enhanced, varnished, polished, rendered more attractive in any way except that it will detract from its essential being.  A fact is either true or it is not.  There is no liberal truth, no libertarian truth, no conservative truth.  There is only truth.  Everything else?  Dross and manipulation.

Convincement, the result of long decades of propaganda in the form of marketing and hucksterism brings us down to the pinnacle of possibilities in government evolution under the influence of capitalism… and what doesdt.common.streams.streamserver that look like, exactly?  In 2016 it led to the presidency of the ultimate huckster and capitalist poster boy, Donald Trump, the current skipper of a sinking ship of state that better resembles… and could very well be modeled after… the example set by the present Russian plutocracy under Putin.  Wealthy American oligarchs and right-wing corporatists now direct and control virtually every segment of the executive branch of our Federal government.  They’ve begun dismantling benchmarks, controls, and safeguards that have been established over long decades of progress in protections for the average American from the growing influence of monopolies and corporate monoliths.

I’ve often and unapologetically labeled Trump’s administration “fascistic” in the past and even progressives have criticized me for doing so, but it fits the description quite well if we can hear the opinion of people who lived in a time when fascism threatened the safety and freedoms of the entire world.  If you don’t accept my characterization, then read this… from Henry A. Wallace, Vice President under Franklin Delano Roosevelt (quoted in the New York Times, April 9, 1944) and then tell me you do not sense an eerie feeling of historical déjà vu….

Henry-Wallace-1947-resize-1

“The really dangerous American fascist… is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power… They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective, toward which all their deceit is directed, is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

(Snooze alert – in that the following two paragraphs may include boring descriptive reprsentations of economic concepts, but I will try to be brief.)

If we take the concept of capitalism down to its basics, it could be explained as an economic theory based upon the concept of property and commercial exchange that transcends the original method of trade, which was barter… a simple swap, where one commodity was traded with another comparatively valued commodity based upon the needs of both parties.  Capitalism renders trade infinitely more efficient by introducing commodity exchange with the use of money, which is any medium that represents value in terms of the need for which it is exchanged.  Trade assumes both the concept of property and the value of money.

Without getting into the details where the devil resides, capitalism is driven by needs… by the satisfaction of human needs and desires through trade.  But there is no equity built into the system that we know as a free market economy.  It’s all about competition for profit, some reward of extra value acquired by obtaining greater value in the trade than that value required to produce the commodity traded….. and blahblahblah… blah.

Simply put, capitalism is based on greed with the rewards going to those who can get more of everything than everybody else.  It collapses every now and then due to massive inequities and inflated values inherent with inevitable institutional dishonesty when greed is the defining energy source… and when it does collapse, everyone suffers.  Greed is at its peak today, so get ready for another major economic disaster.

I wrote the following assessment on Facebook back in October of 2016, before Trump was even elected, when everyone could not believe that the fascist pretender had a chance of becoming the “leader of the free world…”

“The pharmaceutical companies and the medical industry have grown fat and rich by developing pain medications that have caused drug dependencies in millions of people who would never have otherwise been led into a dependent lifestyle. In the meantime, criminalization of street drugs has led to mass incarcerations and created a for-profit prison industry that makes millions off the labor of prisoners in a new

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“The Lord provides” = Jacob Burck 1934

brand of slavery.  In the meantime, the price of life saving drugs which have been somewhat affordable in the past and necessary for the survival of millions of people are systematically and suddenly overvalued beyond the reach of any but the most wealthy Americans.

“Bankers commit crimes that result in catastrophic financial losses and economic collapse nationwide, putting thousands out of their homes and others out of their jobs. Not only does our government not prosecute these insidious parasites, but rewards them by bailing out their banks while they set up roadblocks that make it it virtually impossible for homeowners to come back from foreclosure.  Injustice abounds.  Social and economic equality does not exist in any discernible measure. We are not living in a post racial society, nor do we enjoy the same freedoms and opportunity that were prevalent only fifty years ago. We are moving quickly toward an oligarchy of race, privilege and wealth that fairly ignores the concept of the common good of all people in a democratic republic that once conceded this primary and indisputable fact… that we are all created equal.”

Tell me things have gotten better since then.  I dare you.  Capitalism will fail us again and again and again and again and… et cetera, et cetera… ad infinitum.

Okay… I get tired of criticizing things as they are.  I want to talk about things as they should be.  My next essay here won’t consist of any additional critiques… no continuation of an ongoing though relevant screed listing the numerous evils of American capitalism.  Instead, I will begin to present an alternative possibility, a thing to be accomplished, not through some violent Marxist revolution, but American style.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something absolutely different and quintessentially… unequivocally American as… you know….

 

 

What’s old is new again… and radical… and bold… and, suddenly, germane

In today’s repressive political climate?  Unless he was fairly well off and not really concerned about whether he could make a living wage… if he was a union man formed in the older socialist forge, your great-grandfather’s politics might seem controversial, perhaps even denounced as unAmerican by those who know it’s not, but fear it nonetheless.  Socialism, today, is an ideological brand name that’s not just fallen out of favor, but has been profoundly booed, tabooed and rendered lfvirtually unnameable as a viable political perspective in this nation through decades, more than a century of “legal” repression driven by political and social propaganda from the right.  McCarthyism and plutocracy notwithstanding, socialism is a term that has been rendered unquestionably profane in the mind of a majority of Americans, as though the mere mention of it conjures visions of Soviet dictatorships, violent repression, tyranny, even godlessness… corruption and vice beyond all comprehension… but hey…  buckle up, America, the “S” word is once more out of the box today… and it’s coming back, slowly, inevitably gaining ground… invading the American ethos.  Whether you consider it a revolution or a necessary and political evolution… it’s coming.  So, perhaps it’s time to put aside your fears, America.  Be objective and find out what it really means.

A near global financial collapse and economic depression caused by out-of-control financial monoliths, coupled with recently and broadly published facts and data concerning the present, shocking disparities in American economic and income inequality helped launch a profound public reaction expressed in a powerful, popular, though leaderless Occupy movement in 2011 and in the 2016 Democratic Primary election, an apparently unexpected phenomenon in which a self-proclaimed democratic

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Photo from CNN.com

socialist Senator launched a viable and powerful challenge to the establishment candidate who had been considered incontestable.  And the Senator mounted that challenge, not with 1,000 dollar-a-plate private events and generous endowments from corporate giants and the occasional hedge fund manager, but with individual donations from ordinary Americans, small amounts from huge numbers of citizens who resonated with his message, a call for equality in all things… in economic as well as social circumstance, a purely socialist agenda.  These two major events and the proliferation of other, similarly progressive activist movements across the nation display the changing perceptions and the prevailing mood of the electorate.  It represents a growing challenge to established American political institutions.

Not that it’s new.  We’ve been here before.  More than once. And in ways that are eerily similar in both the cause and the reaction.  To quote Pearl Buck’s classic novel, The Good Earth, which was written about China before World War II, but has applicability in universal human concepts throughout history… “When the rich are too rich there is a way, and if I am not mistaken, that way will come soon.” 

Following hard times and economic failures in our own history, America came quite close, if not to a social revolution, at least to a social political evolution that involved socialist theories and expressed itself in various ways, primarily through militant trade unions and political engagement.  In one instance, the collapse of the stock market in 1929 and subsequent bank failures throughout the nation entirely upset the American economy and devolved into a dreadful period of economic hardship, devastating unemployment, bread lines, soup kitchens and great numbers of homeless men and women nationwide.  Our grandparents called it The Great Depression.

America’s response to the nationwide crisis was to elect the Democrat and progressive Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the office of President in an election that could be accurately described as a political tectonic shift.  Roosevelt’s New Deal launched bold programs and initiatives that were nothing less than socialist in both concept imagesand in fact.  They were not only accepted by the vast majority of Americans, but proved wildly popular and, eventually, thoroughly successful in bringing the collapsed American economy back toward an even keel.

Nonetheless, more work needed to be done, as those same financial institutions and corporate giants who brought the nation to economic collapse in 1929, began once again to embrace the same greedy practices in ways that clearly threatened to usurp the hard-won gains in prosperity through increased production and to use the profit thereof to enrich those wealthy families and financiers who’d survived the Depression.  The problem then, just as it is today was expansive  and crippling economic inequality.

In his Message to Congress on Curbing Monopolies, delivered on April 29, 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke of the danger inherent in income inequality, calling out the growing concentration of wealth in powerful corporations and financial institutions at home, while alluding to the growing power of fascism in Europe, understanding the relationship between corporate institutions and the governance in both Italy and Germany.  He wrote…

“Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people.   The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger fdr-smile2than their democratic state itself.   That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.  The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.  Both lessons hit home.   Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing.  This concentration is seriously impairing the economic effectiveness of private enterprise as a way of providing employment for labor and capital and as a way of assuring a more equitable distribution of income and earnings among the people of the nation as a whole.”

In response to similar economic inequality today, there is a new voice in America today.  And whether it comes from self-proclaimed socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or… from progressive consumer advocates like Elizabeth Warren, their message is similar and revolutionary… or for the faint of heart… evolutionary.

It sounds like this:

“When we talk about the word ‘socialism,’ I think what it really means is just 220px-Alexandria_Ocasio-Cortez,_official_portrait,_116th_Congressdemocratic participation in our economic dignity and our economic, social, and racial dignity. It is about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over their economic and social wellness, at the end of the day.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

“The billionaire class fully understands what is at stake. That’s why a handful of them SBY3PMQSJNFULFDPZX6QUCK63Yare pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the current elections. Their goal is not to strengthen the middle class, but continue the trend in which the rich are getting richer at the expense of everyone else.”

Bernie Sanders

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to Elizabeth_Warren,_official_portrait,_114th_Congresseducate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

Elizabeth Warren

To be sure, these voices don’t always agree, but whether you advocate a kinder, gentler, and more just form of capitalism, or the gradual dismantling of all inequity and injustice through socialism… business as usual is definitely coming to an end.

Socialism in America has very deep roots.  The labor movement grew up in the same rough neighborhood as the socialist movement.  Their voices were virtually a chorus.  Many of those who fought for their rights in solidarity in labor, were also those who preached the message downloadof socialism.  Trade unions, though many curiously conservative union leaders would deny it today, are the perfect expression of democratic socialism and only one manifestation of socialist thought that pervades our history… quite in spite of all efforts to suppress it ever since that day when men and women found the strength in solidarity to stand up for their rights together.

Socialism in America has yet to be properly defined, even as those human rights upon which our nations was founded have yet to be fulfilled in universal suffrage according to the premise that all of us… every one of us… is due his or her dignity and liberty in perfect equality through a universal, Constitutional guarantee of justice under the law.

Socialism in America has yet to be properly expressed and reasonably defined, but to be sure, it’s coming.  There is much talk… and with cause… about the power and the influence of wealth on the political structures of this nation, but the inequality that exists today is as bad as that which existed in our past.  The force of it threatens our democracy as never before.  We can talk about the history of socialism… discuss the many theories concerning its structure and methods, but none of that will apply to the specifics and the ethos of American life.  The books could be opened and academics can polemicize for hours on end with the many and varied theories that purport to instruct and direct us, but theory is dust in the wind.  What’s failed in the past should not guidedownload (1) us in the future.

America will write its own book.  We the people will define our own society.  Just as we did once before… we will do it again.  We’ll not be paying the piper for his tune.  We’ll write our own… and the other nations of the world?  Just as they did when they saw what we’d done when we threw off our king and built our own and democratic republic?  Maybe they will take heart, one by one.  Maybe they’ll follow our lead and throw off the nominal slavery of corporate dominion as well.  It won’t be easy.

But like the lady wrote back in 1931… ““When the rich are too rich there is a way, and if I am not mistaken, that way will come soon.” 

The Green New Deal in a readable format and a video…

For the purpose of clarity and for my own use in comprehending the content, I copied and pasted the text of the legislation for the Green New Deal (House Resolution 109) into an MSWord .doc file and reformatted the language in less daunting form so it can be read more easily (hopefully).  It contains the same language, but in a smoother context, one that I find renders it less intimidating so I could actually make sense of it.

I thought I would pass it on to you, so hopefully you’ll take the time to read it.  Granted, it’s not much in the headlines these days, given the feud and fuss over the de-fanged and blacked-out Mueller Report, which, it turns out, is quite an indictment of Trump as it is… but rest assured, the people who rolled out the Green New Deal are not about to give up and neither should you.  The problems it points out are not going to vanish and the solutions it presents are bold, viable, and absolutely necessary for the future of us all.

I’ve included links to both the original text and my own format below:

If you like to read legislative text in the raw, (some people are like that) go here:
https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/109/text

But if you are legislatively challenged and want to read the MSWord outline I created for easier reading, go here:
Click here to read the Green New Deal in plain English format

Feel free to copy it and pass it on to anyone who might benefit.  The more people who are aware of what it actually says, the less chance there is that Koch and Exxon funded think-tanks can fool us by trying to put out disinformation.

I’ll be writing more about it in the future, but I thought that this profoundly interesting and even engaging introduction to the content of the program might be worth a look:

Mobs, momentum, consensus, and the race to be the first to cast a stone…

Senator Elizabeth Warren is calling aloud for impeachment and a Republican group is buying advertisements on Fox that call for accountability.  The media, of course, is aflame with indignation… somewhat slow to arise, but welcome nonetheless.  How sad that it took so long for the “I” word to surface with any substance behind it, if indeed, the mob sounds and pitchforks can be considered substance,  Yet, even now, before any of these leaders have surely had sufficient time to read, much less digest the entire Mueller report… and before they have seen the likely most damaging information that the frog-faced Trump-friendly philistine Barr has seen fit to withhold from intelligent eyes, they are ready now, after more than two years of obvious and in-your-face criminality and corruption, to finally call up the posse, to saddle up and ride.  Sad that it took so long for our Congress to finally grow a spine.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy they’re so motivated now, dismayed perhaps… knowing that such lynch mobs sometimes lose their steam… knowing that the courts could now become the new and crippling blockades to action… knowing that the candidates and the righteously indignant whoevers will then point to and blame the judiciary as the new stumbling block to justice… knowing that this is but the beginning, so far from the end of it… assuming that Trump is no Nixon, having neither the wit nor the will to resign, but will fight this to the bitter end.

In the meantime, he will continue to fragment and dismantle what remains of our Federal government, a task that pleases many of those who now decry and defame him with newfound zeal for integrity, born-again passion for justice.  And by the time the mob starts to gather, it’s not really about integrity or courage… is it?  Life goes on and Pence is waiting in the wings.  The cure could be worse than the cancer.

Me?  I wanted the man impeached from day one, but I’m still reading the Mueller report and I don’t have a staff to do all the reading and write me a summary… and I never really trusted the media, so I’ll get back to you later with the substantive stuff.

For now?  Save me at least one very big stone that I may guiltless in good conscience cast with all righteous indignation and wrath.

Nancy Pelosi vs Franklin Delano Roosevelt… will the real Democratic Party please stand up !!

In a 60 Minute interview that aired on Sunday last, CNBC reports that Nancy Pelosi said, “I do reject socialism.  If people have that view, that’s their view.  That is not the view of the Democratic Party.”  All due respect to Nancy Pelosi, de facto leader of the party in minority that ascended once again to control at least the House, sailing into control on the winds that filled their sails… winds of change that emanated from progressive Democrats and other activists within her party determined to reverse the trends of economic inequality, corporate control of politics, and right wing hegemony, including candidates who were willing to openly identify themselves as democratic socialists… but, perhaps she’s not listening, or even knows the electorate as well as she believes.

It’s obvious, however, that the Democratic Party, the same Party that gave America its longest running, wildly popular President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, is no longer the party of the New Deal, nor the kind of party that could so embrace the common good of all its members, giving Americans a legislative agenda that offered us Social Security, the WPA, the FDIC, the National Labor Relations Board, the Glass–Steagall Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Tennessee Valley Authority and countless other bold social programs designed to lift our nation up from the economic collapse in 1929 that was caused by the unparalleled greed of irresponsible bankers, financiers, and monopolistic industrialists.  These programs were vilified by conservatives in their day as a dangerously anti-American socialist agenda which, even in the current conservative climate, are today accepted as inevitable, necessary, beneficial programs that are every bit as American as Mom, the flag, and butter crusted, cinnamon infused, and sugar topped, sweet apple pie.

Nonetheless, and for years now, particularly during the past four decades… since conservatives in both parties canonized Ronald Reagan and began to sing his profane little tune of corporate welfare and the mythology of trickle down economics, Democrats have moved increasingly to the right with their economic policies, suffering a major tectonic shift, claiming territory once held entirely by Republicans, during the Clinton administration.

To be sure, these neo-liberal Democrats retained those “radical” ideas that were inviolable in the minds of most Democrats, like equal “opportunity”, abortion rights, women’s rights, and other fashionable causes célèbres that identified them with a liberal brand, but only in so far as they did not compete with a conservative economic agenda that favored the heavy corporate donors who were so enamored of Clintonian Democracy.  These neo-liberal disciples of the apostle Billary now control the DNC and operate the strings of the corporate media like puppet masters in a Punch and Judy drama in which they assume the role of “Not Trump” as opposed to, say, the Party of Economic and Social Reform. So… where does that leave the progressives in the Party?

What does that bode for the future, when the leadership of the Democratic Party has no desire to aid or entertain the “green dream” of so many of its younger membership, now clearly the more active, not really interested in neo-liberal politicians who pat them on the head and tell them to get in line and accept the same sort of incrementalism and corporatist theories that have made paupers of the majority of working Americans.  Big labor pays Nancy’s freight while corporations spend millions in an effort to make unions illegal.  And our college-educated minority?  They are, too many of them, in debt and in servitude to their student loans for life… like most Americans who try to get ahead… saddled with crippling debt and no clear path to the elusive, if not mythic, American Dream.  Our aged are in danger of being priced out of medical care, in spite of Medicare… and they will be for the unforeseeable, and for some, very short future… for as long as pharmaceutical companies act like mafiosi with medications that should be as inexpensive as clean water, which is less expensive and much less clean than it was forty years ago… and in some areas?  Toxic.  Does any of this sound familiar?

But why talk about distressed populations?  They were abandoned long ago for lack of political clout, worthy now of little more than lip service.  Nancy Pelosi says in effect, if not with the words, “Let them eat cake.”  Does she imagine herself so correct that she no longer listens?  It’s time for the Party of FDR to go back to its roots.  Let’s hope that it’s not too late.  If the Democratic Party of today seems impotent now in relation to Trump?  Where will they stand next year when they demand more loyalty of the electorate than they’ve ever given us in return.

The parallax view from here….

“As an American citizen of German birth I finally testify that I am painfully familiar with certain political trends. Spiritual intolerance, political inquisitions, and declining legal security, and all this in the name of an alleged ‘state of emergency.’ … That is how it started in Germany.”  Thomas Mann in response to accusations by the House Un-American Activities Committee that he was a communist.

74a72e9d61ef6e8fb175031b4318632dThe novelist who gave us a classic novel, The Magic Mountain, was an early and fierce critic of Adolf Hitler and the poisonous culture of the Nazis.  Because of his public, even fearless words against them, he was forced to flee his native Germany in 1933, eventually finding refuge in the United States where he became a citizen in 1944.  Yet, even in America, he found himself similarly threatened and hounded by the forces of McCarthyism as he publicly protested and wrote against the oppression of American writers and intellectuals during the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee hearings that amounted to nothing less than fear mongering persecution, eventually leading to blacklisting and even to prison sentences as in the case of the Hollywood Ten.  As a result of his public criticism of yet another fascist movement, he was finally forced to leave the U.S. and return to Europe.

The McCarthy era was a low point in American history, proving beyond doubt that the fears of those Americans like Sinclair Lewis, who in 1935 imagined the seed of fascism could find fertile soil in the American psyche, were more than prophetic,  The House Un-American Activities Committee and the later McCarthy hearings in the Senate demonstrated that “it can happen here” and it did to the extent that the foundations of intellectual oppression and propagation of fear was laid.  All that was lacking was the proper demagogue, a role that McCarthy tried desperately to fill.  Thankfully he was thwarted.  The saving graces of our nation at the time were the decency and strength of its leadership, as exemplified in people like attorney Joseph Welch who challenged McCarthy at the Army hearings, and the power of the free press, the courage of journalists like Edward R. Murrow.  The eventual shaming of the demagogues who very nearly destroyed the character and intent of our Constitution was inevitable, but not before they exacted a terrible price on their victims, literally destroying the reputations and careers of thousands of people on the basis of lies and baseless accusation, creating an environment of fear and mistrust.

All of that seems now to have returned and we are once again faced with the ugly specter of fascist intent and unprecedented demagoguery in the person of Donald Trump.  Time and again, this amoral, despotic individual has proven himself invulnerable to every criticism, moving by incremental steps toward autocracy by pushing against the moral and institutional constraints that we always believed were inviolable.  He toys with Congress, attacks our courts, vilifies his critics, challenges and ruthlessly mocks the authority of anyone in our government who tries to oppose him.

On any given day, one could point to any one of a dozen of his actions as a dangerous precedent, the sort of behavior that would eventually bring down any previous politician… and yet, it almost appears as if he draws strength from every cry of “foul” that comes his way.  What is it that makes this man invulnerable?

Has he so wearied his critics with his lack of shame that they simply give up in frustration?  We know well enough that for all his faults, his enablers are willing to forego any appearance of personal integrity for the rewards they receive when he satisfies their corrupt intent, giving them the license they’ve always craved in pursuit of autocracy.  But now, even his greatest critics within the government seem impotent, utterly restrained from meaningful action against him.

Is it possible that they too see opportunity in the phenomena he’s unleashed?  Are they afraid of him?  Or merely and similarly as jaded as his enablers. The answers may not come from a normal perspective.  Perhaps they will come from a parallax view, an unpopular and skewed perspective from the fringes of our society, from a perspective that may no longer exist in our contemporary culture.  Perhaps it will come from the distance, from the past, from the echoes of what we once held dear but seem, somehow, to have lost.

Where is our Sinclair Lewis?
Where is our Thomas Mann?
Where is our Joseph Welch?
Where is our Edward R. Murrow?

Or have we become the very force that feeds the beast we fear, if not through outright support, then with silent acquiescence?  Is this present circumstance the sum of our failures, the substance of our corruption as a nation?  If we hope to survive, we’d better find out just what it is we have lost and regain it.  And soon.

Time is not our friend.

The next revolution will be televised… but will it survive the competition for ratings?

National priorities are too often shaped in a centralized fashion and in circles of focus and influence that entirely eliminate the application of a democratically discerned and representational administration of the will of the majority.  Too complex?  Simply put, then, we have allowed a culture of autocracy to usurp and assume not only the responsibilities of the self-governed, but the lion’s share of the economic benefits we have produced through our collective productivity.
Not unlike the same brand of top-down priorities that compelled the first Americans to write a firm letter to King George telling him to take his taxes and a hike simultaneously, while acting as though it was quite within their rights to govern themselves bottom-up without that divinely inspired autocracy the crown represented at the time.
At the time, it was one hell of an idea, and remarkably successful.  A fluke, perhaps, due to the fact that all the crowns in Europe were too busy competing with one another in global warfare over this and that trade dominion in other backwater continents and had not the time to care about a few British bumpkins in Boston and Philly… ordinary farmers and tradesmen with delusions of democratic grandeur.
We got lucky. Look what happened to the French.

They did not fare so well by half for all their fundamental revolutionary esprit.
Perhaps that’s why, as a nation, we eventually got soft, insulated as we were from the tyrannies and terrors of European conflict… until such time as our war profiteers saw profit to be had in our involvement, plunging us all into so much overseas warfare that we somehow got the idea it was our raison d’être, that we were the anointed defenders of… what? Freedom?
Under that curious brand we became the world’s unpaid mercenaries, this uber-militaristic nation with some apparent national will to martial all our nation’s resources toward maintaining a military power unparalleled in our time, quite at the expense of our own common welfare, in order to wage incessant war for this or that “ally”… though less, if at all,  in the name of some idealistic purpose than for commercial access to and control of such needful commodities as oil which belong to poorer, weaker nations… warfare in the name of profit… though we are quite in denial of the true reasons… and for the sake of what? Appearances? Hard to tell, but in so doing and by continuing to allow it, we’ve managed to create for ourselves an ever more parasitical autocracy than mad King George could have ever hoped to effect.
Maybe it’s time for another Philadelphia Brand course correction.
Maybe it’s time to write another letter… an email, perhaps, but this time with a lot of BCCs.  Not to the people who supposedly represent us in the seat of our government, but to all the CEOs of all the global corporations that own them and pull their various strings.
What, after all, do we really have to lose? And… who knows? Like those earlier Americans, we just might get lucky.

Racing toward a different kind of world with apathy and elan… America descending

I’ve written about this before in other venues, been criticized for the analogy accordingly, but I truly never better understood until recently, if at all, how the German people allowed such a bizarre, motley crew of bigoted fanatics, political extremists, and the outright criminally insane… how they allowed such dangerous, posturing fools as those surrounding Hitler to march them so proudly into self-destructive trends with such obvious intent from the outset.  One need only read Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, which was published in two volumes in 1925 & 1926 to understand how he might respond in the 1930’s and 1940’s as a leader of the German Reich.  The predictability was stunning.

AFP_L72YNBy the same token, one need only observe the people surrounding Trump… to have listened to everything Trump was saying before he was elected to the office of the presidency of the United States in order to not only know how he would respond to the power given him, but to accurately predict that he would seek to abuse the office, broach the legal limits thereof, and to personally enrich himself from a position of authority in our government.

Nonetheless, early and numerous critics of his amoral and despotic style notwithstanding, who among the red-hatted throngs that followed him from the start could possibly predict that Trump would so easily discern the corruption around him and use the profound lack of integrity extant in American politics today to his advantage in dismantling the very government and its Constitution which he is theoretically sworn to uphold and protect?  Certainly they cannot still be blind to his character… or, more properly, his lack thereof. Do they even care?  And if not, why not?

So many American people, like the Germans before them, seem to need and to love a strong man who will soothe their fears concerning uneasy perceptions of threats from within and without.  For all their denial… for those, at least, who do not say such things aloud for fear of criticism… his message is unwavering and infinitely clear.  It’s a very dark message.  Is it now the message of America?

I’m reminded of the Bible verse, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

I have no doubt that the critics of Hitler, those who were not fooled by their fears, could easily discern the subliminal truth in the evil of his message.  Were they happy enough to shrug their objections aside when the German economy rebounded as it re-armed itself with a mad sort of pride in its growing invincibility?  Is that why they let him continue?

They did, you know… let Hitler continue.  He could never have done what he did if they’d truly opposed him when opposition was possible.  Is that what’s happening here?