Friday, January 30, 2015

Correction

Uh-oh, I mistakenly stated that Allende's UP government had co-opted Allende into its cabinet during the 1972-1973 period leading to its overthrow.  I was mistaken.  The UP government appointed Pinochet as General Chief of Staff in 1972, and then in 1973, elevated the august Augusto to  Commander-in-Chief of the Army on August 23, 1973, less than three weeks prior to the coup. 

My sincere apologies for not having recognized that Allende appointed generals of the "Schneider Doctrine" (faithful service to the constitution) to his cabinet, which generals of course were completely ineffective at thwarting the coup. 

S.Artesian
January 30, 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Relevant, Unsectarian, Tall, Tan, and Fly

It seems my comments on the ascendancy of Syriza to governmental power in Greece have rubbed some people the wrong way.  One VIB has classified me as an "irrelevant sectarian."

Let me address that immediately:  I would have to have many more readers, supporters, than I do now to be classified as an irrelevant sectarian.  It's something to be aspired to, given the current circumstances.

So that's one level of inaccuracy of the evaluation.  Another level is in the use of "sectarian."  Sectarian, in actual class struggle, applies to those groups that substitute their own needs for the needs of the class.  Class is the determining element in this assessment.  So, for example, if a group has an analysis that points out how incapable trade unions are of becoming vehicles for expanding class struggle, that's not sectarian.  If, however, when the headquarters of a trade union are being raided by government or non-government forces because the union is accused of protecting undocumented workers, and if that same group rejects participating in the defense of that union headquarters, in militant direct opposition to the government or non-government force, that is sectarianism. 

This being the material world where relations are expressed as things,  things can get  complicated.   Several years ago, after a particular vote on a particular piece of legislation, which I think had to to with affordable medical care in the US, an African-American Democratic congressman from Georgia, John Lewis, upon leaving the Capitol building was assaulted, spat upon, and threatened by those associated with the nut-job faction of  US capitalism (oh so suited to represent the capitalist class as a whole). 

John Lewis is the  former chairman of SNCC, organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, "Freedom Summer" in Mississippi, and the voting rights drive in Alabama; is a big D Democrat, "Senior Chief Deputy Whip" of the big D Democrats in the House of Representatives, and without a doubt the single bravest person I have ever met in my life.  As a matter of fact, I believe people like Lewis, afraid of nothing,  are in this world to balance off the people like me, afraid of everything.  But that's a different discussion

Regardless of his party affiliation as a big D Democrat, the refusal to defend John Lewis from assault by the koched up cracked heads of the Rand right would be, and is, sectarian, despite Mr. Lewis' position on the "other side" of the class line. 

Confusing?  OK, let's dig a little deeper.  We have to discern the determinants, the driving force,  of a conflict, a movement, a struggle.  We have to distinguish those determinants from the movement. We have to separate the movement from its momentary expressions in, by, as a particular organization.

Well, we know that the determinants of the "civil rights" movement were, and are, the oppression and exploitation of black labor, that the movement, the struggle for civil rights,  as determined by that condition of black labor, is itself a development in the struggle for the emancipation of that labor, and thus a condition itself for the emancipation of all labor. 

Now the Democratic Party is not and has never been an organization of that struggle; its origin is in the suppression of black labor, so no, we don't defend Democrats.  We don't urge anyone to vote for any Democrat, even John Lewis. But make no mistake, the assault on John Lewis is indissoluble from his role in the struggle for the emancipation of black labor.  There is no end to history; and there is no end, as yet, to oppression of black labor.  So physical defense of John Lewis in such circumstances is a minimal requirement.

Like I said, things get complicated with capitalism, but mostly because relations get expressed as things.

If we take this method of analysis-- determinants, movement, organization-- to Greece, we can clearly discern that the determinants are in the inability of capitalism to reproduce itself profitably enough.  The determinant is in the conflict between labor, as the social ability of humans to satisfy, and develop, the needs of other humans; and the condition of labor, labor-power expressed as wage-labor, so that that labor  is the private property of the class owning the machinery of production. The determinant is in the need of capital to drive the cost of the reproduction of labor-power below its value.

 The determinant then is the conflict between the means and relations of production.  And that conflict is what distinguishes the struggle as revolutionary. 

 The determinant is NOT in the "colonization of the European South;" not in the "struggle" between "finance global international capital" and "local, national" capital; not in "democracy;" not in "privatization" vs. "nationalization," not in any of that-- ever, anywhere, for a single second.

The movement of the workers and poor of Greece is driven forward by the determinant, but is not, and cannot yet be, the simultaneous full expression and abolition of that conflict.  To achieve that, to bring the determinants to resolution, the class has to install itself in its own organizations of class power, breaking up the state machinery of the old ruling class.  That's the task, and it is one that unequivocal and inescapable, and relentless, that is thrown upon the working class.

Syriza is not the movement of the entire class and should not be identified as such.  It might be a momentary expression of where the "majority" of class perceives its interests are but this is hardly a done deal. 

However precisely because Syriza, as presently constituted, deflects from the class recognition, apprehension, of the driving forces behind the class' own movement; precisely to the extent that Syriza empowers itself as an alternative to class' organization of  new bodies of power; Syriza develops itself as a condition in conflict with that ultimate, unequivocal, inescapable relentless task. 

Practically speaking, this means no support for the Syriza government.  It does not mean apathy to attacks on Syriza by the bourgeoisie and its agents.  The bourgeoisie don't make the distinction, between organization and class, remember.  It does mean developing and articulating a social program that can be executed by the working class precisely to the degree that it establishes its own governing bodies; its own mechanisms of defense; its own control of economics, which economics is nothing but the condition of labor. 

S.Artesian
January 28, 2015




Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Στη συνέχεια, περιστρέφουμε δεξιά

When I read the comments of what passes for the left in this historical era about the "victory" of Syriza in Greece, I feel like I'm watching a game of "Concentration" as played by those suffering from short-term memory loss.  They cards are always the same, and they're always in the same place, but our cheering tearing players just can't recall the locations.

For example,  channeling the spirit of the late Doctor Salvador Allende,  Alexis Tsipras, brand new PM of Greece, has appointed the leader of the Greek Independent party (ANEL) as minister of defense.  (Right, right, I know 40 years is not considered short-term, but it seems like only yesterday to me.)

Some of us might recall how Dr. Allende coopted one Augusto Pinochet [correction] as Commander-in-Chief of the Army just prior to the coup of September 11, 1973.  Allende was a brilliant tactician, and strategist, not to mention humanitarian, all around good-guy, friend of the working people.  Clearly he saw what we, mediocre tacticians, neophyte strategists, not too humanitarian, and nowhere close to being good guys or friends to anybody, couldn't see: that coopting Pinochet would require the good general to remain just that, a good, loyal general.

Apparently Pinochet didn't see it that way either.   Augusto at least understood loyalty to class over loyalty to government.  Take a lesson.

So Tsipras hands the defense portfolio to Pannos Kammenos, leader of ANEL, and a man who proposes that Greece should renounce its debt; prosecute former government ministers for corruption; demand and obtain reparations from Germany for actions during WW2;  expel immigrants; restore Christian education to the public school system; and thinks BTW that Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists don't pay taxes.

Let's put it directly.  As matters of program, of class program, we oppose reparations; we oppose expelling immigrants, we welcome immigrants; we oppose and prohibit religious education in the school system; and we don't think Jews, Muslims, Buddhists are different from Christians, Hindus, Animists because they are Jews, Muslims, Buddhists when it comes to protecting private property.

Therefore, we don't care what ANEL's position is on the EC/ECB/IMF debt agreements; we don't care what ANEL's position is on the actions of former government ministers.  ANEL represents a section, even if only a sliver, of the bourgeoisie; of nut-job capitalism, which as the Koch Bros. have demonstrated, can be so perfectly representative of capitalism as a whole.

If you read the comments of those who raise the roof for Syriza, you find very little being said about the alliance with ANEL.  The ANEL cards are there, all right, in plain sight, but our learned leftists don't recognize it.  "Where did a put that defense portfolio?  On my left?  On my right?"


Some acknowledge it, and being schooled as contortionists, switch from Concentration to Twister We get this from the VIB (very important blogger) Richard Seymour:
As far as I can tell, the Syriza leadership and parliamentary bloc first dabbled with an alliance with ANEL during the Cypriot banking crisis in 2012-13.  In his response to the crisis, Tsipras argued that the European leadership was colonising the south, using debt servitude as its main instrument.  This clearly articulated one dimension of the Greek struggle, which is the struggle for national self-determination.  Greece's position in the European imperialist chain, the attitude of the troika to Greek public opinion, the effective cancellation of democracy, are all as central as the struggle against the Greek bourgeoisie.  And indeed, Syriza distinguishes between different fractions of the bourgeoisie - the oligarchs tied to what Pablo Iglesias called the 'Finance International', and the 'national' or 'subaltern' bourgeoisie who want capitalism to be made to work again, but for whom the memorandum doesn't work.  So this strategic idea of, to give it the 1970s Gramscian gloss, a 'national-popular', cross-class alliance to break the memorandum, has a very definite referent in the nature of the Greek struggle and in Syriza's analysis of Greek capitalism.



ANEL makes a certain sense as a partner in this.  It is right-wing in ways that only a UKIP Facebook forum on chemtrails would fully understand and its leader, Panos Kammenos, is a thug.  However, it represents the breakaway from the main capitalist party, New Democracy, on the specific axis of the memorandum.  And it is in a way ideal for the Syriza leadership because it is anti-memorandum without being anti-euro.  Moreover, it also has a 'popular' character: if this election followed past form, its support will have been concentrated in the working class, and weak in the middle class - to this extent, its electoral profile more closely resembles that of a leftist party than New Democracy.  So, for almost two years now, Tsipras et al have been maintaining contacts with ANEL on the basis of their shared opposition to the memorandum.
Did you read that?  The Greek struggle for "national self-determination."  See, I missed that.  I thought, silly me, that the Greek struggle for national self-determination had pretty much taken place in the 19th century, with its independence from the Ottoman empire, and was concluded finally, bloodily, and counter-revolutionarily, as all national self-determination are  sooner or later, with the massive population "exchanges" and slaughters of the 20th century.

Yeah, yeah, I know, our VIB says that the struggle against the IMF, against the troika, against international capitalism's suspension of Greek democracy is no less important than the struggle against the Greek bourgeoisie,  Sorry, when you put it like that, you are presuming, and preserving, the notion that prior to the bankruptcy/bailout, Greece had democracy.  Your presuming that "Greek capitalism" was a petty, benign system, maybe the idyllic "simple commodity production" that Marx never referred to, which now finds itself subjugated by the demands of "foreigners." When you put it like that, you are on the same platform already as ANEL.

Capitalism in Greece does not exist separate and apart from the ECB, the EC, the IMF.

Greek capitalism does not require "democracy," "regard for public opinion," or "national self-determination." It does require the EU, the ECB, the IMF.

So we've got this "strategic idea" of "national popular"cross class alliance.  And we give it a "Gramscian gloss"  and that makes it sound so profound, so modern, so "dialectical." Few, I guess, recall that the national popular cross class alliance is an old, and murderous program against social revolution.  I mean who is going to call Gramsci, the imprisoned martyr, the regular Gandhi of the proletariat, "counterrevolutionary"?  ME?  No way.  Somebody might accuse me of being a Bordigaist, whatever that is.

Take the Gramscian gloss away and what do have?  You have a popular front.  You have Mao's "new democracy," or maybe the "bloc of four classes."  You maybe, maybe, if there's a strong working class movement independent of the "bloc," have the MNR in Bolivia, including its romance with, and theoretical debt to romantic fascism.  You have pretty much the defeat of every working class revolution since.....well, since 1919.

You have Germany.  Does anybody here think Syriza is more astute, more connected with the proletariat, more radical than the SPD and the USPD in 1919? 1921? 1923?

Does anyone here think Syriza is more nimble, more intelligent, more intransigent than the popular front in Spain, in France?

Does anyone think that this, this niche-ing of the bourgeoisie (bad=finance, international; good=industrial, national) was not the very same mask worn by the UP in Chile to cover its anti-revolutionary, anti-proletarian struggle against  los cordones industriale?  

Does anyone here think Syriza is more prepared for armed struggle than the FSLN, or the  FMLN in 1980?

Of all these failures, some slogged hard and true for "national self-determination," of course; most distinguished between the "bad, international" capitalists and the "patriotic, good;" all were collaborations, cross-class collaborations. 

Meanwhile...  Meanwhile?  Meanwhile, ANEL is chanting, and with better reason and prospects than the KPD ever had, "Nach Tsipras, Uns!"

S. Artesian
Irrelevant Sectarian
January 27, 2014

Monday, January 26, 2015

PS

PS:  I want to be the first to condemn the anti-democratic, illegal, unjust, EU/IMF conspired/inspired attacks on the Syriza coalition government in Greece. 

Once again, the "birthplace of democracy" is the victim of an attack upon democracy that nobody could have anticipated coming, even though we say "once again."

Once again the parasitic alliance of finance capital, armaments makers, the military, and international speculators has pulled off a completely unexpected surprise assault, which was surprising and unexpected even though it was once again. 

Once again, we will not be defeated, even though we're saying once again.

S.Artesian

January 26, 2014


Πρώτα περιστρέφουμε προς τα αριστερά .... Τότε

OK, just let me get this out of the way, before "it" happens-- the it being what always happens when we get all excited and wet ourselves over some "new" "radical" formation getting governmental power under capitalism-- you all know how it goes, or went, with Peron, with Nasser, or Peron again, or (way back in the day) the MNR, or Goulart, or the Unidad Popular, or the MFA, or the ANC, or  Madura, etc.etc.etc.

Some questions:

1. Can Syriza possibly mitigate, ameliorate the conditions of the Greek economy in isolation and in the face of opposition from the European Union?

2. If the answer to (1) is "no." Stop. Start over. I mean really, really over.

3. If the answer to (1) is "yes": what will it take? Now let's recall that "economics" is never economics. It's always class struggle. So policies, programs, maneuvers, all have a half-life that is determined by who's stronger in the class struggle.

4. Is Syriza committed to advancing class struggle?

5. If the answer to (4) is "no," see (2).

6. If the answer to (4) is "yes," see (3). What will it take? Will it not take organization of the working class as a class independent from all government and state machinery? Will it not take organs of dual power? Will it not take introducing that struggle directly into the military?

7. Is Syriza capable of guiding, assisting, participating in such organization while it "governs," while it administers, and ministers to, capitalism?

8. Can such dual power even be sustained "locally" without achieving a reciprocating existence throughout Europe?

9.. Which leads us to the final question, which is always the first question, is the overthrow of capitalism necessary?

10.  If the answer to (9) is "yes," you better dry yourself, change your knickers and start over.

If the answer to (9) is "no," no more questions.  You're wasting time, and will be wasting lives sooner than you think.


S.Artesian
January 26, 2014

Friday, January 16, 2015

Goodbye, Charlie

Can we sum up here?  Probably not.  Probably a fool's errand, but call me foolish:

1. Assassination of journalists (not really clear who killed the hostages in the supermarket) by those claiming allegiance to iterations of Al-Qaeda and/or ISIS/ISIL

2. After shock, outpouring of grief:  Everybody (well, almost everybody) is flicking their Bics, like at a big concert, humming the tune "Unity, Republican Values," holding hands and swaying to the music.

3. A few, tone deaf Marxists, anarchists, etc. can't hear the music, but do see where this "unity" is heading-- or rather trailing.  It's trailing behind in a march with Merkel, Cameron, Hollande, Netanyahu, etc. etc. ad infinitum at its head.

4. The danger, these few tone deaf off-key malcontents suggest, is that nothing greases the wheels of repression, and war like national unity....and republican values.  Check your history if you disagree

5. The few, different drummers provide the usual, and requisite disclaimers--
opposition to terrorism;
opposition to hostage taking;
opposition to executing journalists;
opposition to "fundamentalism."

They repeat this despite  the fact that all their previous actions, arguments, positions amount to a rejection of terrorism. religion, etc.  They do this for a number of reasons:
a) they believe it's worth repeating
b) they do it in the attempt to pre-empt the unity and value crew
c) they do it to provide some protection against the repression that is sure to follow the attacks
d) they do it because they think there's a deeper problem, a deeper "reason"-- using "reason" to mean a determining force that is getting expressed in the warped actions by the assassins.
e)That deeper "reason" of course is of course the conflicts, antagonisms, that both rend, and bind, capitalism
.
6.The few, different drummers, point out, tactlessly, vulgarly, rudely, whatever-ly, that the victims,  were actively promoting the dominant side, in a conflict-- that is to say the ridicule and demonization of an entire "type"--  "the other"--  those who are associated with Islam.

7.Well, that's just intolerable to unity and value, so the argument is joined.  Meanwhile, of course, what the few pointed out, that any expression of unity and values that excised "bourgeois" from "republic" only provides a cover for repression,  takes material shape. Quelle surprise.


And here's a bit of obiter dictum for comrades who think the institutions and "democratic values" of France were built by the French Revolution-- bullshit.  Those institutions were built by bringing the revolution to an end. Read your history. 

Your institutions, your values are built upon slavery, upon the re-imposition of slavery, you ignorant, blind "republicans" you.

January 16, 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

No Mr. Charlies

Seems a lot of people are missing the obvious when it comes to the attack on Charlie Hebdo, even when they come oh so close by identifying it as "France's 9/11." 

No, I don't mean that "9/11" was an inside job.  I mean that 9/11 was so perfect that if it hadn't have happened, it would have been an inside job; that if it hadn't have happened, the bourgeoisie would have invented it.   

I mean that if we're going to talk about "France's 9/11," the issue to discuss is the purpose to which 9/11 was put.  The purpose was war, war spending, militarization, and the incredible boondoggle, the transfer of wealth from the so-called "national treasury" to the pockets of the security contractors, the military suppliers, to the corporations specializing in  kidnappings, tortures, assassinations.

And in all this talk about racism, and Charlie Hebdo  not being racist because "it attacked all religions and religious fundamentalism," we're ignoring the purpose racism serves.
 
Racism in its social manifestation expresses a relation of power.

To illustrate, a cartoon in the US of a black person, wearing overalls, eating watermelon, shuffling and saying "massah" is racist; not so for a cartoon showing white people wearing khaki pants, polo shirts, and running down to the mall to eat at Chuck E. Cheese pizzeria, and catch the director's cut of The Sound of Music.

Back in the day, there was an argument made by some claiming the Nation of Islam in the US was "racist" because their publications referred to "white, blue-eyed devils."

I didn't think so.  Those references were not "racism" because the Nation of Islam had absolutely zero power over the social relations that were the material basis for racism in the US. Those references were a response to, a defense against the institutionalized, programmatic attacks on African-Americans.

The relations of power, and to power, are fundamental to racism.

So...so that when the Danish newspaper publishes the cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb for a turban, that is indeed "racist;" and the cartoon about the doctor informing an expectant Moslem father "Congratulations, it's a bomb" is racist. 

The relations of power are such that the bombing that's really going on, the "dominant" so to speak mode of destruction is the bombing of people who are in the main Moslem.

Now you and I may agree  that the bombing isn't being done because they are practitioners of Islam, but that point might be lost on those having to endure daily bombings, and in particular lost when there is no class-conscious movement, on an international basis, opposing these bombings; engaging in the struggle against the system perpetrating these attacks.

Hebdo's cartoons fed, they reproduced, the dominant relations of power-- the relations that include white phosphorus being used, and with impunity by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza; the one that has capitalist intelligence agencies arming militias, encouraging their "extra-judicial" actions in order to buttress the characterization of those practicing Islam, and/or of those speaking Arabic,  as "savages," "brutes;" the relations that has the US torturing "suspects" who are Moslem; the very same relations, back in the day,  that had General John "Black Jack" Pershing executing rebels in the Philippines and burying them in pits with pigs. 

Say all you want about cartoons of the pope being naked and fucked in the ass.  Doesn't matter, and doesn't count.  Nobody's launching cruise missiles against the Vatican; killing hundreds of thousands of Catholics just for being there.

Our tasks are 1) to expose and oppose the "institutional policies," domestic and international of capitalism, that are used to categorize Arabs and/or Moslems as "enemies." 2) prevent the manipulation of events and reactions by the bourgeoisie and their state to further and expand these policies-- i.e. using "unity" or "shared values" as a stepping stone to further militarization 3) conceding nothing to, and identifying as reactionary, the ideology and practices, of fundamentalists who use the type of attacks against Charlie Hebdo as advertising, for recruitment.

January 13, 2015