Saturday, November 29, 2008

News Item. 

India is fucked.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Warning 

From someone who doesn't dismiss the significance of Obama's victory, but who also knows that it isn't enough. Without a true revolutionary alternative -- that is, without an alternative to the system tout court -- the aspirations of the people for something more and better will be harnessed by the forces of barbaric savagery. This has and will remain the weapon of the fascist right: liberalism is not enough, never enough. People will always want more. And if they don't get it, they will choose death and call it the supreme victory.

The warning, anyway, is from Mike Davis:

Only three things, in my opinion, are highly likely:

First, there is no hope whatsoever of the spontaneous generation of a new New Deal (or for that matter, of Rooseveltian liberals) without the combustion of massive social struggles.

Second, after the brief Woodstock of an Obama inauguration, millions of hearts will be broken by the administration's inability to manage mass bankruptcy and unemployment, as well as end the wars in the Middle East.

Third, the Bushites may be dead, but the hate-spewing nativist Right (particularly the Lou Dobbs wing) is well-positioned for a dramatic revival as neoliberal solutions fail.

The great challenge to small bands of the left is to anticipate this mass disillusionment, understanding that our task is not "how to move Obama leftward," but to salvage and reorganize shattered hopes. The transitional program must be socialism itself.

Davis is simply repeating the classic analysis of fascism and hard-right politics offered by Trotsky. Below is a summary of Trotsky's key ideas about fascism, developed during his exile in the 1930's. The summary here just collects a few of Trotsky's key points and quotations. It's from the International Socialist Review.

It all still applies today, especially if we understand that Trotsky means something like "working poor" when he refers to "working class." And globally, many of the "proletariat" aren't exactly workers at all -- just desperate and dispossessed.

"The centerpiece of Trotsky’s argument was that fascism was a mass movement based in the middle class, but backed by big capital, that sought to destroy the working-class movement. Again and again he called for united working class action against the Nazi movement. The reformist SPD—the largest working-class based party in Germany—feared mobilizing its ranks against Hitler, preferring parliamentary manuevers and appeals to the state instead. Trotsky argued that the the Communist Party (KPD)—which alone still did not have the forces to defeat Hitler—should propose a United Front with the Social Democrats (SPD) for the purposes of physically confronting the Nazis. Such a policy would have been gladly supported by rank-and-file workers of all political shades, would have exposed the Social Democrats' half-heartedness, and would have stopped Hitler in his tracks. Sadly, the KPD followed a completely opposite strategy. Under the directives of Stalin the KPD leaders refused to call for a united front with the SPD, whom they insanely considered to be the 'moderate wing of fascism.' This policy paralyzed the working-class movement and allowed Hitler to take power without a fight....

Excerpts from Trotsky:

'The gigantic growth of National Socialism is an expression of two factors: a deep social crisis, throwing the petty-bourgeois masses off balance, and the lack of a revolutionary party that would be regarded by the masses of the people as an acknowledged revolutionary leader. If the Communist Party is the party of revolutionary hope, then fascism, as a mass movement, is the party of counterrevolutionary despair.'

'Fascism has opened up the depths of society for politics. Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside of the twentieth century the tenth or thirteenth. A hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms. The Pope of Rome broadcasts over the radio about the miraculous transformation of water into wine. [Sadly Trotsky sees this as barbaric -- and sadly of course the reduction of Christian supernaturalism to mere assertions of divinely sanctioned power _is_ often barbaric. --GA] Movie stars go to mediums. Aviators who pilot miraculous mechanisms created by man’s genius wear amulets on their sweaters. What inexaustible reserves they possess of darkness, ignorance and savagery! Despair has raised them to their feet, fascism has given them a banner. Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of normal development of society has now come gushing out from the throat; capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism. Such is the physiology of National Socialism.'

'[T]he Big Bourgeoisie, even those who supported Hitler with money, did not consider his party theirs. The national “renaissance” leaned wholly upon the middle classes, the most backward part of the nation, the heavy ballast of history. Political art consisted in fusing the petty bourgeoisie into oneness through its common hostility to the proletariat. What must be done in order to improve things? First of all, throttle those who are underneath. Impotent before big capital, the petty bourgeoisie hopes in the future to regain its social dignitiy through the ruin of the workers.'

'German fascism, like Italian fascism, raised itself to power on the backs of the petty bourgeoisie, which it turned into a battering ram against the organizations of the working class and the institutions of democracy. But fascism in power is least of all the rule of the petty bourgeoisie. On the contrary, it is the most ruthless dictatorship of monopoly capital. Mussolini is right: the middle classes are incapable of independent policies. During periods of great crisis they are called upon to reduce to absurdity the policies of one of the two basic classes. Fascism succeeded in putting them at the service of capital.'

'The coming to power of the National Socialists would mean first of all the extermination of the flower of the German proletariat, the destruction of its organizations, the eradication of its belief in itself and its future. Considering the far greater maturity and acuteness of the social contradictions in Germany, the hellish work of Italian fascism would probably appear as a pale and almost humane experiment in comparison with the work of German National Socialism.'

'The Communist Party must call for the defense of those material and moral positions which the working class has managed to win in the German state. This most directly concerns fate of the workers’ political organizations, trade unions, newspaper, printing plants, clubs, libraries, etc. Communist workers must say to their Social Democratic counterparts: “The policies of our parties are irreconcilably opposed; but if the fascists come tonight to wreck your organization’s hall, we will come running, arms in hand, to help you. Will you promise us that if our organization is threatened you will rush to our aid?” This is the quntessence of our policy in the present period. All agitation must be pitched in this key. The more persistently, seriously, and thoughtfully...we carry on this agitation, the more we propose serious measures for defense in every factory, in every working-class neighborhood and district, the less the danger that a fascist attack will take us by surprise, and the greater the certainty that such an attack will cement rather than break break apart the ranks of the workers.'

'Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for anyplace; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the Social Democratic workers canbring victory. Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left!'

Source: The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, (Pathfinder, 1971)

The shit is going to continue to cascade into the fan -- in ways that are truly scary to try to imagine -- and people will need an alternative to Obama to believe in. The alternative had better be one that is to Obama's left, an alternative that Obama himself can move towards and manipulate. Otherwise, people are going to be pissed, and Obama will be a focal point for a new articulation of hatred and madness.


Nouriel Roubini interviewed by Newsweek.

NEWSWEEK: What are your thoughts on the team Obama assembled?
Nouriel Roubini: The choices are excellent. Tim Geithner is going to be a pragmatic, thoughtful and great leader for the Treasury. He has experience at the Treasury and the IMF [International Monetary Fund], then the New York Fed. I have great respect for both Geithner as well as Larry Summers. I think both of them in top roles in economics in the administration were good moves. I think very highly of them both.

NW: What are the first things they need to tackle?
Roubini: First one is the fiscal stimulus, because the troubled economy is in a freefall, so we really need to boost aggregate demand, and the sooner and larger the better. The second thing they should do is recapitalize the financial system. Most of the $700 billion is going to be used to recapitalize banks, broker dealers, finance companies and insurance companies. To do it aggressively and fast is going to be important.

NW: The plan Obama has talked about includes spending on infrastructure and energy development to create jobs. How likely is that to produce long-term aid to the economy?
Roubini: We need to do it because demand and spending and housing are literally collapsing. That will get a boost from public-sector spending: [spending on] infrastructure, unemployment benefits, state and local government aid, more food stamps. We're going to have to think larger, but I don't think you can pass most of it until January when [Obama] comes to power. We're going to have to wait, because nothing seems possible for the time being. But I expect most of his plans will pass once the new administration is in power....

NW: Your view of the economic future is often a bit less than optimistic. What does Obama's team signal about what could be coming?
Roubini: Look, he wants to get things done, so he's choosing a really terrific team. To me, it says that he's choosing people who have great experience. He's choosing people who are pragmatic and who realize the severity of the national problem we're facing. They're knowledgeable about markets, about the economy and the political process in Washington. These are the very best people he could have chosen. I can't look too far, but it's a very good signal of what he wants to do.

Roubini predicted the crisis two years ago, was against the Paulson bailout, and generally has been hyper-pessimistic and very critical of Bush's response to the situation. So it's good that he likes Geithner. And apparently he approves of Obama's general strategy for getting some basic things done.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bad shit 

Geithner = Paulson.

William Greider:

On Friday, we learned that Timothy Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve, would become his new treasury secretary and Larry Summers, who held the same position in the Clinton administration, would be the White House overseer of economic policy. On Monday, Geithner was busy executing the government's massive rescue of Citicorp -- the very banking behemoth that Geithner and Summers helped to create back in the Clinton years, along with Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin, Clinton's economics guru. Now Rubin is himself a Citicorp executive and his bank is now being saved by his old protege (Geithner) with the taxpayers' money.

The connections go way beyond irony. They raise very serious questions about where the new president intends to lead and whether he has the nerve to break from the weak and haphazard strategy of the Bush administration. It has dumped piles of public money on the largest financial institutions and demanded little or nothing in return, hoping for the best. Geithner has been a central player in the deal-making, from Bear Stearns to AIG to Citi. The strategy has not only failed, it has arguably made things worse as savvy market players saw through the contradictions and rushed out to dump more bank stocks....

Their approach has clearly been designed to preserve what's left of the Wall Street establishment and maintain the supremacy of the largest financial firms while the taxpayers pick up their losses. That model has failed and too many smart people know why. The bailouts have been too little too late and aimed at an impossible objective -- persuading private capital investors to believe in the phony assurances proffered by the bankers. AIG, the insurance giant taken over by the feds, has turned into a bloody hemorrhage. Citigroup will be another and may soon be joined by other major banks demanding the same favorable terms. Wasting more public money on insolvent mastodons is the least of it. The real scandal is it doesn't work. It can't work because the black hole is too large even for Washington to fill. Government should take over the failing institutions or force them into bankruptcy, break them up and sell them off or mercifully relieve everyone, including the taxpayers.

Stock markets rallied again with the salvage of Citigroup. But not everyone in Wall Street was cheering. Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics, the bank monitoring firm that has repeatedly been right about the banks when the government officials were wrong, had harsh words for the deal. "Pretending that Citi is going to be a going concern I think is silly," Whalen said. "We should be thinking about breaking this company up and redistributing the assets into stronger hands."

Monday, November 24, 2008

o happy day! (an advertisement, of course) 

Many thanks this thanksgiving to Iain McKay (no, not that one) for his hard work in bringing the first volume of the Anarchist FAQ into print.

Now available from AK Press, you too can learn everything you wanted to know about anarchism but were afraid to ask, all from one handy cuddle-up-in-bed- or toilet-readable volume! For those already familiar with the FAQ, this will save you from bleeding out of your pixel-assaulted eyes trying to get through a 250 page .PDF file.

So good on ya, Iain. Hopefully this will further the discussion within the movement, and provide something more accessible for the anarcho-curious.

what would be different 

Think Progress has a nice interview with historian Andrew Bacevich. Sez Bacevich:

I would want to see a President Obama explicitly abrogate the doctrine of preventive war and to question fundamentally whether global war — open-ended global war — really provides the proper framework in which to address the threat posed by violent Islamic radicalism.

This would mean declaring an end to the so-called War on Terror. Highly desirable, but not bloody likely. Like the War on Drugs, not only are such notional wars irresistible means of social control, but also have a large industry and bureaucracy developed around them making them difficult to dissolve, dislodge or repurpose.

I would however settle for Obama abrogation of the doctrine of preventive war, even if only in word. Given Biden's execrable defense of interventionism at the VP debate, and the generally interventionist bent of the incoming foreign policy team, I would be surprised if preventive war were repudiated in an Obama administration. However, it is certainly something that should be pushed by the anti-war movement and non-aligned Obama supporters, most of which are currently focused on the nuts and bolts of the current wars and not the legalisms behind it. Like torture, preventive war should be made explicitly forbidden.

In a similar vein, John Tarleton has a nice short piece up that gives a thumbnail idea of the gap between Obama's proposed policies and something more genuinely progressive as well as links to groups that are working on the issues.

what do you mean we can't chose the Preznit again? 

Clarence Thomas puts the lawsuit to contest Obama's citizenship on the Supreme Court docket. Story here.


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