FUCK NEOLIBERALISM

The following is a guest column by Australian academic Simon Springer, a geographer/anarchist. The title of the essay leaves little doubt about his attitude towards the pseudo-progressive ideology that currently infects the Democratic Party and which, under different disguises, is rapidly enslaving much of the world. It is not too much to say that unless the Democratic Party purges itself of this malicious Corporatist infection, it is likely to go the way of the Whig Party; hopefully some party which is truly on the side of working men and women will replace it. We don’t need two parties dedicated to enriching the 1% at the expense of the rest of the country; in the best of all scenarios, the GOP would also wither away and be replaced by a party more in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln. This essay does not discuss Neo-Liberalism’s evil twin, Neo-Conservatism, but I gather from his other published works that professor Springer is not a fan of that poison apple either. This essay is republished through Creative Common license and I claim no ownership or copyright of it. I do not necessarily agree with all the author’s opinions, but I believe his views are worth airing on as many forums as possible. You can contact the author through the Academia.edu portal or via his website.  

Fuck Neoliberalism

Simon Springer

Department of Geography, University of Victoria simonspringer@gmail.com
Abstract: Yep, fuck it. Neoliberalism sucks. We don’t need it.
Keywords: fuck neoliberalism; fuck it to hell

Fuck Neoliberalism. That’s my blunt message. I could probably end my discussion at this point and it wouldn’t really matter. My position is clear and you likely already get the gist of what I want to say. I have nothing positive to add to the discussion about neoliberalism, and to be perfectly honest, I’m quite sick of having to think about it. I’ve simply had enough. For a time I had considered calling this paper ‘Forget Neoliberalism’ instead, as in some ways that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve been writing on the subject for many years (Springer 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015; Springer et al. 2016) and I came to a point where I just didn’t want to commit any more energy to this endeavor for fear that continuing to work around this idea was functioning to perpetuate its hold. On further reflection I also recognize that as a political maneuver it is potentially quite dangerous to simply stick our heads in the sand and collectively ignore a phenomenon that has had such devastating and debilitating effects on our shared world. There is an ongoing power to neoliberalism that is difficult to deny and I’m not convinced that a strategy of ignorance is actually the right approach (Springer 2016a). So my exact thoughts were, ‘well fuck it then’, and while a quieter and gentler name for this paper could tone down the potential offence that might come with the title I’ve chosen, I subsequently reconsidered. Why should we be more worried about using profanity than we are about the actual vile discourse of neoliberalism itself? I decided that I wanted to transgress, to upset, and to offend, precisely because we ought to be offended by neoliberalism, it is entirely upsetting, and therefore we should ultimately be seeking to transgress it. Wouldn’t softening the title be making yet another concession to the power of neoliberalism? I initially worried what such a title might mean in terms of my reputation. Would it hinder future promotion or job offers should I want to maintain my mobility as an academic, either upwardly or to a new location? This felt like conceding personal defeat to neoliberal disciplining. Fuck that.

It also felt as though I was making an admission that there is no colloquial response that could appropriately be offered to counter the discourse of neoliberalism. As though we can only respond in an academic format using complex geographical theories of variegation, hybridity, and mutation to weaken its edifice. This seemed disempowering, and although I have myself contributed to the articulation of some of these theories (Springer 2010), I often feel that this sort of framing works against the type of argument I actually want to make. It is precisely in the everyday, the ordinary, the unremarkable, and the mundane that I think a politics of refusal must be located. And so I settled on ‘Fuck Neoliberalism’ because I think it conveys most of what I actually want to say. The argument I want to make is slightly more nuanced than that, which had me thinking more about the term ‘fuck’ than I probably have at any other time in my life. What a fantastically colorful word! It works as a noun or a verb, and as an adjective it is perhaps the most used point of exclamation in the English language. It can be employed to express anger, contempt, annoyance, indifference, surprise, impatience, or even as a meaningless emphasis because it just rolls off of the tongue. You can ‘fuck something up’, ‘fuck someone over’, ‘fuck around’, ‘not give a fuck’, and there is a decidedly geographical point of reference to the word insofar as you can be instructed to ‘go fuck yourself’. At this point you might even be thinking ‘ok, but who gives a fuck?’ Well, I do, and if you’re interested in ending neoliberalism so should you. The powerful capacities that come with the word offer a potential challenge to neoliberalism. To dig down and unpack these abilities we need to appreciate the nuances of what could be meant by the phrase ‘fuck neoliberalism’. Yet at the same time, fuck nuance. As Kieran Healy (2016: 1) has recently argued, it “typically obstructs the development of theory that is intellectually interesting, empirically generative, or practically successful”. So without fetishizing nuance let’s quickly work through what I think we should be prioritizing in fucking up neoliberalism.

The first sense is perhaps the most obvious. By saying ‘fuck neoliberalism’ we can express our rage against the neoliberal machine. It is an indication of our anger, our desire to shout our resentment, to spew venom back in the face of the noxious malice that has been shown to all of us. This can come in the form of mobilizing more protests against neoliberalism or in writing more papers and books critiquing its influence. The latter preaches to the converted, and the former hopes that the already perverted will be willing to change their ways. I don’t discount that these methods are important tactics in our resistance, but I’m also quite sure that they’ll never actually be enough to turn the tide against neoliberalism and in our favour. In making grand public gestures of defiance we attempt to draw powerful actors into a conversation, mistakenly believing that they might listen and begin to accommodate the popular voice of refusal (Graeber 2009). Shouldn’t we instead be done talking? Here is the second sense of ‘fuck neoliberalism’, which is found in the notion of rejection. This would be to advocate for the end of neoliberalism (as we knew it) in a fashion advanced by J.K. GibsonGraham (1996) where we simply stop talking about it. Scholars in particular would discontinue prioritizing it as the focus of their studies. Maybe not completely forget about it or ignore neoliberalism altogether, which I’ve already identified as problematic, but to instead set about getting on with our writing about other things. Once again this is a crucially important point of contact for us as we work beyond the neoliberal worldview, but here too I’m not entirely convinced that this is enough. As Mark Purcell (2016: 620) argues, “We need to turn away from neoliberalism and towards ourselves, to begin the difficult – but also joyous – work of managing our affairs for ourselves”. While negation, protest and critique are necessary, we also need to think about actively fucking up neoliberalism by doing things outside of its reach.

Direct action beyond neoliberalism speaks to a prefigurative politics (Maeckelbergh 2011), which is the third and most important sense of what I think we should be focusing on when we invoke the idea ‘fuck neoliberalism’. To prefigure is to reject the centrism, hierarchy, and authority that come with representative politics by emphasizing the embodied practice of enacting horizontal relationships and forms of organization that strive to reflect the future society being sought (Boggs 1977). Beyond being ‘done talking’, prefiguration and direct action contend that there was never a conversation to be had anyway, recognizing that whatever it is we want to do, we can just do it ourselves. Nonetheless, there has been significant attention to the ways in which neoliberalism is able to capture and appropriate all manner of political discourse and imperatives (Barnett 2005; Birch 2015; Lewis 2009; Ong 2007). For critics like David Harvey (2015) only another dose of the state can solve the neoliberal question, where in particular he is quick to dismiss non-hierarchical organization and horizontal politics as greasing the rails for an assured neoliberal future. Yet in his pessimism he entirely misunderstands prefigurative politics, which are a means not to an end, but only to future means (Springer 2012). In other words, there is a constant and continual vigilance already built into prefigurative politics so that the actual practice of prefiguration cannot be coopted. It is reflexive and attentive but always with a view towards production, invention, and creation as the satisfaction of the desire of community. In this way prefigurative politics are explicitly anti-neoliberal. They are a seizing of the means as our means, a means without end. To prefigure is to embrace the conviviality and joy that comes with being together as radical equals, not as vanguards and proletariat on the path towards the transcendental empty promise of utopia or ‘no place’, but as the grounded immanence of the here and now of actually making a new world ‘in the shell of the old’ and the perpetual hard work and reaffirmation that this requires (Ince 2012).

There is nothing about neoliberalism that is deserving of our respect, and so in concert with a prefigurative politics of creation, my message is quite simply ‘fuck it’. Fuck the hold that it has on our political imaginations. Fuck the violence it engenders. Fuck the inequality it extols as a virtue. Fuck the way it has ravaged the environment. Fuck the endless cycle of accumulation and the cult of growth. Fuck the Mont Pelerin society and all the think tanks that continue to prop it up and promote it. Fuck Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman for saddling us with their ideas. Fuck the Thatchers, the Reagans, and all the cowardly, self-interested politicians who seek only to scratch the back of avarice. Fuck the fear-mongering exclusion that sees ‘others’ as worthy of cleaning our toilets and mopping our floors, but not as members of our communities. Fuck the ever-intensifying move towards metrics and the failure to appreciate that not everything that counts can be counted. Fuck the desire for profit over the needs of community. Fuck absolutely everything neoliberalism stands for, and fuck the Trojan horse that it rode in on! For far too long we’ve been told that ‘there is no alternative’, that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’, that we live in a Darwinian nightmare world of all against all ‘survival of the fittest’. We’ve swallowed the idea of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ hook, line and sinker; when in reality this is a ruse that actually reflects the ‘tragedy of capitalism’ and its endless wars of plunder (Le Billon 2012). Garrett Hardin’s (1968) Achilles’ heel was that he never stopped to think about how grazing cattle were already privately owned. What might happen when we reconvene an actual commons as a commons without presuppositions of private ownership (Jeppesen et al. 2014)? What might happen when we start to pay closer attention to the prefiguration of alternatives that are already happening and privileging these experiences as the most important forms of organization (White and Williams 2012)? What might happen when instead of swallowing the bitter pills of competition and merit we instead focus our energies not on medicating ourselves with neoliberal prescriptions, but on the deeper healing that comes with cooperation and mutual aid (Heckert 2010)?

Jamie Peck (2004: 403) once called neoliberalism a ‘radical political slogan’, but it is no longer enough to dwell within the realm of critique. Many years have passed since we first identified the enemy and from that time we have come to know it well through our writing and protests. But even when we are certain of its defeat, as in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent Occupy Movement, it continues to gasp for air and reanimate itself in a more powerful zombified form (Crouch 2011; Peck 2010). Japhy Wilson (2016) calls this ongoing power the ‘neoliberal gothic’, and I’m convinced that in order to overcome this horror show we must move our politics into the realm of the enactive (Rollo 2016). What if ‘fuck neoliberalism’ were to become a mantra for a new kind of politics? An enabling phrase that spoke not only to action, but to the reclamation of our lives in the spaces and moments in which we actively live them?

What if every time we used this phrase we recognized that it meant a call for enactive agency that went beyond mere words, combining theory and practice into the beautiful praxis of prefiguration? We must take a multipronged approach in our rejection of neoliberalism. While we can’t entirely ignore or forget it, we can actively work against it in ways that extend beyond the performance of rhetoric and the rhetoric of performance. By all means let’s advance a new radical political slogan. Use a hashtag (#fuckneoliberalism) and make our contempt go viral! But we have to do more than express our indignation. We have to enact our resolve and realize our hope as the immanence of our embodied experiences in the here and now (Springer 2016a). We need to remake the world ourselves, a process that cannot be postponed.

We’ve willfully deluded and disempowered ourselves by continuing to appeal to the existing political arrangement of representation. Our blind faith has us waiting endlessly for a savior to drop from the sky. The system has proven itself to be thoroughly corrupt, where time and time again our next great political candidate proves to be a failure. In this neoliberal moment it’s not a case of mere problematic individuals being in power. Instead, it is our very belief in the system itself that epitomizes the core of the problem. We produce and enable the institutional conditions for ‘the Lucifer effect’ to play itself out (Zimbardo 2007). ‘The banality of evil’ is such that these politicians are just doing their jobs in a system that rewards perversions of power because it is all designed to serve the laws of capitalism (Arendt 1971). But we don’t have to obey. We’re not beholden to this order. Through our direct action and the organization of alternatives we can indict the entire structure and break this vicious cycle of abuse. When the political system is defined by, conditioned for, enmeshed within, and derived from capitalism, it can never represent our ways of knowing and being in the world, and so we need to take charge of these lifeways and reclaim our collective agency. We must start to become enactive in our politics and begin embracing a more relational sense of solidarity that recognizes that the subjugation and suffering of one is in fact indicative of the oppression of all (Shannon and Rouge 2009; Springer 2014). We can start living into other possible worlds through a renewed commitment to the practices of mutual aid, fellowship, reciprocity, and non-hierarchical forms of organization that reconvene democracy in its etymological sense of power to the people. Ultimately neoliberalism is a particularly foul idea that comes with a whole host of vulgar outcomes and crass assumptions. In response, it deserves to be met with equally offensive language and action. Our community, our cooperation, and our care for one another are all loathsome to neoliberalism. It hates that which we celebrate. So when we say ‘fuck neoliberalism’ let it mean more that just words, let it be an enactment of our commitment to each other. Say it loud, say it with me, and say it to anyone who will listen, but most of all mean it as a clarion call to action and as the embodiment of our prefigurative power to change the fucking world. Fuck Neoliberalism!

 Acknowledgements

I owe my title to Jack Tsonis. He wrote me a wonderful email in early 2015 to introduce himself with this message as the subject line. Blunt and to the point. He told me about his precarious position at the University of Western Sydney where he was trapped in sessional hell. Fuck neoliberalism indeed. Jack informs me that he has since gained employment that is less precarious, but seeing the beast up close has made him more disgusted and repulsed than ever. Thanks for the inspiration mate! I’m also grateful to Kean Birch and Toby Rollo who listened to my ideas and laughed along with me. Mark Purcell motivated greatly with his brilliant delight in thinking beyond neoliberalism. Thanks to Levi Gahman whose playful spirit and support demonstrated an actual prefiguration of the kinds of ideas I discuss here (“Listen Neoliberalism!” A Personal Response to Simon Springer’s “Fuck Neoliberalism”). Peer reviews from Farhang Rouhani, Patrick Huff and Rhon Teruelle demonstrated tremendous unanimity giving me reason to believe that there is still some fight left in the academy! Special thanks to the translators Xaranta Baksh (Spanish), Jai Kaushal and Dhiraj Barman (Hindi), Ursula Brandt (German), Fabrizio Eva (Italian), anonymous contributor (French), Eduardo Tomazine (Portuguese), Haris Tsavdaroglou (Greek), Sayuri Watanabe (Japanese) and Gürçim Yılmaz (Turkish), as well as Marcelo Lopes de Souza, Myriam Houssay-Holzschuch, Ulrich Best, and Adam Goodwin for helping to organize the translations. Finally, thanks to the many people who so kindly took the time to write to me about this essay and express their solidarity after I first uploaded it to the Internet. I’m both humbled and hopeful that so many people share the same sentiment. We will win!

References

Arendt, H. (1971). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: Viking Press.
Barnett, C. (2005). The consolations of ‘neoliberalism’. Geoforum, 36(1), 7-12.
Birch, K. (2015). We Have Never Been Neoliberal: A Manifesto for a Doomed Youth. Alresford: Zero Books.
Boggs, C. (1977). Marxism, prefigurative communism, and the problem of workers’ control. Radical America, 11(6), 99-122.
Crouch, C. (2011). The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism. Malden, MA: Polity Press
Gibson-Graham, J. K. (1996). The End of Capitalism (as We Knew It): A Feminist
Critique of Political Economy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Graeber, D. (2009). Direct Action: An Ethnography. Oakland: AK Press.
Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162(3859), 1243-1248.
Harvey, D. (2015). “Listen, Anarchist!” A personal response to Simon Springer’s “Why a radical geography must be anarchist”. DavidHarvey.org. http://davidharvey.org/2015/06/listen-anarchist-by-david-harvey/
Healy, K. (2016) Fuck nuance. Sociological Theory.
https://kieranhealy.org/files/papers/fuck-nuance.pdf
Heckert, J. (2010). Listening, caring, becoming: anarchism as an ethics of direct relationships. In Franks, B. (ed.). Anarchism and Moral Philosophy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 186-207.
Ince, A. (2012). In the shell of the old: Anarchist geographies of territorialisation. Antipode, 44(5), 1645-1666.
Jeppesen, S., Kruzynski, A., Sarrasin, R., & Breton, É. (2014). The anarchist commons. Ephemera, 14(4), 879-900.
Le Billon, P. (2012). Wars of Plunder: Conflicts, Profits and the Politics of Resources. New York: Columbia University Press.
Lewis, N. (2009). Progressive spaces of neoliberalism?. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 50(2), 113-119.
Maeckelbergh, M. (2011). Doing is believing: Prefiguration as strategic practice in the alterglobalization movement. Social Movement Studies, 10(1), 1-20.
Ong, A. (2007). Neoliberalism as a mobile technology. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 32(1), 3-8.
Peck, J. (2004). Geography and public policy: constructions of neoliberalism. Progress in Human Geography, 28(3), 392-405.
Peck, J. (2010). Zombie neoliberalism and the ambidextrous state. Theoretical Criminology, 14(1), 104-110.
Purcell, M. (2016). Our new arms. In Springer, S., Birch, K. and MacLeavy, J.
(eds.). The Handbook of Neoliberalism. New York: Routledge, pp. 613-622.
Rollo, T. (2016). Democracy, agency and radical children’s geographies. In White, R. J., Springer, S. and Souza, M. L. de. (eds.). The Practice of Freedom: Anarchism, Geography and the Spirit of Revolt. Lanham, MD: Rowman &
Littlefield.
Shannon, D. and Rouge, J. (2009) Refusing to wait: anarchism and tntersectionality. Anarkismo. http://anarkismo.net/article/14923
Springer, S. (2008). The nonillusory effects of neoliberalisation: Linking geographies of poverty, inequality, and violence. Geoforum, 39(4), 15201525.
Springer, S. (2009). Renewed authoritarianism in Southeast Asia: undermining democracy through neoliberal reform. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 50(3), 271276.
Springer, S. (2010). Neoliberalism and geography: Expansions, variegations, formations. Geography Compass, 4(8), 1025-1038.
Springer, S. (2011). Articulated neoliberalism: the specificity of patronage, kleptocracy, and violence in Cambodia’s neoliberalization. Environment and Planning A, 43(11), 2554-2570.
Springer, S. (2012). Anarchism! What geography still ought to be. Antipode, 44(5), 1605-1624.
Springer, S. (2013). Neoliberalism. The Ashgate Research Companion to Critical Geopolitics. Eds. K. Dodds, M. Kuus, and J. Sharp. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, pp. 147-164.
Springer, S. (2014). War and pieces. Space and Polity, 18(1), 85-96.
Springer, S. (2015). Violent Neoliberalism: Development, Discourse and Dispossession in Cambodia. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Springer, S. (2016 a) The Anarchist Roots of Geography: Toward Spatial Emancipation. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Springer, S. (2016 b) The Discourse of Neoliberalism: An Anatomy of a Powerful Idea. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Springer, S., Birch, K. and MacLeavy, J. (2016) An introduction to neoliberalism. In Springer, S., Birch, K. and MacLeavy, J. (eds.). The Handbook of Neoliberalism. New York: Routledge, pp. 1-14.
White, R. J., and Williams, C. C. (2012). The pervasive nature of heterodox economic spaces at a time of neoliberal crisis: towards a “postneoliberal” anarchist future. Antipode, 44(5), 1625-1644.
Wilson, J. (2016). Neoliberal gothic. In Springer, S., Birch, K. and MacLeavy, J.
(eds.). The Handbook of Neoliberalism. New York: Routledge, pp. 592-602.
Zimbardo, P. (2007). The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. New York: Random House.

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Ambrose Bierce on Immigration

Ambrose-Bierce
Ambrose Bierce.  Cynic, observer of the human condition, disappointed idealist.

 

“Think what a better world it would be if we all-the whole world-had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.  And it is still true, no matter how old you are-when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.” Robert Fulghum

It seems like some issues in American politics never go away, they just change their context.  One such issue is the question of Immigration Policy.

This election year we hear the Republican candidate spewing racial stereotypes and absurd solutions to the problem of illegal immigration.  While members of his own party have condemned his statements, the truth is that for the last eight years their own stand on illegal immigrants has not been that much different than his.  Before the Great Recession of 2008, moreover, they positively welcomed “undocumented” immigrants because, they said, “we can’t get Americans to do hard work” and similar excuses for allowing cheap unskilled labor to undercut the American worker.

Conversely, the Democratic Party has embraced illegal immigrants–supposedly–even as President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than his predecessors combined.  To be sure, some humane immigration policies have been temporarily put in place by the present POTUS, but this is like putting a topical anesthetic on the skin to cure an internal tumor.

The truth is, many American blue collar workers have seen their good paying jobs disappear over the years, only to be replaced by low wage, no benefit jobs.  Americans are not lazy, nor they unwilling to do hard work; they simply want to be paid a decent wage, something the multinational corporations who run our government and who are writing the international “Free” Trade deals that continue to ship whole factories overseas don’t want.  What most working class Americans don’t understand is that each wave of illegal immigrants flooding into our country are the byproducts of these phony trade deals, which are neither free, nor even much about trade.  NAFTA spurred a flood of illegal Mexican workers, displaced by the deal, who came north seeking work; CAFTA did the same thing to Central Americans, also desperate for work at any price.  Nothing spurs ethnic animosity like the perception that these new arrivals are here to take your already substandard paying job.

The moral philosopher and humorist, Robert Fulghum, once observed that “All I Really Need to Know, I learned in Kindergarten.”  Consider, if you will, the game of Musical Chairs; every time the music stops, everyone scrambles for a chair and someone ALWAYS LOSES. Then another chair is taken away and the music starts again;  again and again, the music stops and another chair is taken away, until only one person wins.  Do you all remember how many fights and arguments broke out over that game?  I do.  Our “rigged” economy is very much like that game of Musical Chairs.  So, yes, a lot of working class Americans are bigoted against immigrants, legal or illegal, because they blame them for the loss of their once prosperous and affluent lifestyle, without ever stopping to think who it is that is really manipulating the music and the chairs.

What has all this got to do with Ambrose Bierce?  Actually, precious little; but in the late nineteenth century many “real Americans” were also concerned about immigration and worried that the furriners were going to ruin our country. Having delved into Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce’s life and works for over six years as I worked on my current book, whenever I see a current political issue heatedly debated, it naturally reminds me of something Bierce said or did.  For you edification, therefore, I present Bierce’s take on immigration:

“America has issued a general invitation. Whether that may have been judicious or not is not for them to say who have accepted it. If we keep open house, we do not need, neither will we tolerate, an intimation from a guest that the company is not sufficiently select.” In other words, only Native Americans have a right to complain about more recent immigrants.”  AGB

Things have changed greatly from the day Bierce uttered his observation, but I would aver that his words still contain much wisdom.

 

Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife cover
Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife, due out in 2016 and available at all the better bookstores.

 

 

 

 

 

Pilgrim Communism, Part II

Plymouth Bay Colony Seal
Seal of the Plymouth Bay Colony, showing a colonist planting crops

In our discussion of Pilgrim and Puritan Socialism in our previous essay, we of course simplified what are sometimes nuanced issues, and in this medium we rarely footnote all the sources which relate to a subject.  However, if one looks at various pop articles and secondary sources relating to the subject of early New England socialism, you will find a distinct bias to those articles.  Largely penned by Conservative Christian apologists, they strain to emphasize what a failure these early efforts at communal economic organization were and interpret it as the triumph of Capitalism over Socialism.

 

The_Mayflower_Compact_1620_cph.3g07155
Signing the Mayflower Compact, establishing the organization and rules for the Plymouth Bay Colony, (via Library of Congress)

First off, modern Conservative Christians stand in relation to Christianity in the way National Socialists stand in relation to Socialism—while they may sound the same, in the main it’s in name only.

Another thing to consider is that Capitalism did not exist in the seventeenth century; Capitalism was a by-product of the growth of industrialization, which did not really begin until the late eighteenth century and came to the fore in the nineteenth.  Mercantilism was the dominant economic system of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and even at the beginning seventeenth century England still retained many vestiges of Medieval Manorial economics, such as the open field system.  So, to a certain degree, discussing “Capitalism” versus Puritan socialism is irrelevant and anachronous.  Apparently, some modern Conservative dogmatists feel threatened by the fact that their forefathers were not as ideologically pure as they.

That being said, there were other factors at work, especially in the Plymouth Bay Colony, that I did not go into in part 1.  Not all the colonists on the Mayflower were coming to the New World for religious liberty or enamored of Biblical economic justice; seventeenth century sources refer to “adventurers and planters” and clearly the Congregationalists were not among the “adventurers” in the group.

 

Samoset
The hard times of the early Plymouth settlers were not due to their socialistic economy so much as trying to plant European crops in a climate unsuited to them. Samoset and his tribesmen befriended the settlers and taught them to plant crops better suited to New World conditions.

So, the more secular settlers were of course unhappy about the austere communal (or “communistic”) system initially set up, where all their resources (mostly food) were stored in one communal warehouse and everybody shared work duties according to their ability and resources were shared equally.  To a large extent this austere form of socialistic practice was out of necessity.  The colonists did not land until November of 1620, far too late to plant any crops; many were already suffering from diseases such as scurvy due to the long sea journey and were too sick to pull their own weight as far as work was concerned.  As it was, the settlers had to steal parched corn from the nearby Indians due to lack of food.  Half of the colonists died that first winter; more, maybe all, would have died had they not pooled their resources and instead practiced “rugged individualism.”

Even after the first winter, the colonists tried to plant crops unsuited to the harsh New England climate and it wasn’t until the Native Americans (who most definitely were practicing a form of tribal communism) taught the immigrants how to plant native crops and cultivate them, that the food shortages truly disappeared.

 

It should be noted that Jamestown, which did not practice communism or socialistic economics at all, had an even worse time of it at the start because everybody did try to do their own thing (mainly looking for gold and trying to enslave the local tribesmen) and they were so short of food at one point that they started digging up corpses from the ground and engaged in cannibalism.  That is what “Capitalism” (sic) resulted in.  So, from a comparative viewpoint, the Pilgrims early form of communistic austerity was relatively successful.  However, as their governor, William Bradford, noted, many were far from happy with such a strict economic regimen and after the initial hard times, in 1623 loosened discipline to where land was parceled out to individual families, although ownership was still held in common by the colony as a whole.

 

So, was Pilgrim socialism successful?  The modern ideologues would have you believe it was a failure; but bear in mind the colony had been set up as a proprietary charter from the start and owed money to the financial backers of the colony in England, who expected their investment back within a certain time.  The colony was set up as a communal endeavor from the beginning, with the profits from the colony earmarked to pay back the investors, after which there would be a division of the assets among the colonists.  In fact, despite all the hardships and delays, the Plymouth colonists did pay back the investors, after which there was an equitable division of the assets of the colony among the surviving colonists.  So, while the “socialist experiment” did not continue on, neither was it a failure.

Plymouth storehouse and homes
Replica of early Plymouth storehouse and homes.

 

 

The situation could best be likened to the Lutherans of the Amana Colony of Iowa; they too set up a religious commune, which included both agriculture and manufacturing; eventually they sold the manufacturing rights to a corporation—which is why you can still buy Amana refrigerators to this day.  The Amana commune did not continue, true; but I would hardly call it a failure.  Much the same could be said of the Plymouth Colony and, with somewhat different circumstances, the Puritan’s economic experiment.  Today, about 35 million Americans claim ancestry from the Pilgrims; despite the challenges and hardships, I would say that is something of a success story.

DAILY PLANET SWIFT BOATS THE BERN

AS CRUCIAL AS NEW YORK IS FOR SLICK HILLARY, WE ALL KNEW HER MEDIA HACKS WOULD GO ALL OUT TO DISCREDIT BERNIE SANDERS.  WELL ITS BEGUN.

surprised Hillary
Slick Hillary distributed copies of the Daily Planet hatchet job to her minions to use against Brooklyn Bernie

The New York Daily News (aka The Daily Planet–you know with the tabloid with the big globe in its lobby) had an interview with candidate Bernie Sanders.  Actually, hatchet job would be a better description.  The tack they took was a classic from the Republican playbook; they “Swiftboated” him.

In case you are too young to remember, back in 2004, nearly half the country was already soured on George W. Bush, the Vietnam Era playboy who had his Daddy pull strings to get himself into the Air National Guard to avoid going to Viet Fucking Nam.  Running against draft dodge George was Senator John Kerry, a war hero who was awarded the Purple Heart five times–FIVE TIMES==but who was painted as a liar and a coward by GOP shills.  Well, enough of the public bought that lie that King George II won re-election.  So, the evil genius GOP hacks and their media lackeys took Kerry’s strong point and by repetitive lying and misrepresentation, turned that strong point into his weak point.  That is, in essence, what the Hillary hacks at the NY Daily News have tried to do in their interview.

If anything, Bernie Sanders has gone into too much detail about what he will do when elected President. His critique of the Washington establishment is as deep as it is broad and by his avoiding large donors and super PAC money, he has walked the walk as well as talking the talk.  He also has made no secret that he intends to rein in Wall Street at the earliest opportunity.  This we all know.

Hillary vs Bernie on Panama Trade Agreement

So what does Hillary’s shill at the Daily Planet do?  Why attack Bernie as being shallow and having no plan as to what he’s going to do, of course!  In regard to how Bernie would break up the big banks, they badgered him to cite chapter and verse as to EXACTLY he would go about doing that, on the surface of it a perfectly moronic question.

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Bernie opposed the Panama trade agreement which enabled billionaires to dodge taxes; Slick Hillary pushed it through to help her corporate friends.

As President, the POTUS does not give specifics as to how his policies are carried out: that’s what his cabinet and their departments are supposed to do.  How do you go about going after the banksters who committed massive fraud and nearly destroyed the world economy? How do I prosecute thee? Let me count the ways.

There are dozens, possibly hundreds of ways to go about reining in the Banksters and their mega banks; but first you have to get elected.  Then appoint Elizabeth Warren to your cabinet and I GUARANTEE she will find a way or three; or four, or more.

all-banksters-550
Just appoint Elizabeth Warren to your cabinet Bernie, then let her at these Banksters; she’ll take care of the details!

 

Another so called “Gotcha” by the Hillary shill was on Sanders notable lack of enthusiasm for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Neo-Fascist policies.  Because Bernie, a NEW YORK JEW doesn’t go along with rubber stamping the failed policies of the extreme right wing parties in Israel and tacitly approves of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem (which EVERY previous US president has at least given lip service too) this is supposed to be a negative.  Bernie Sanders grew up seeing the adults in his neighborhood with the concentration camp tattoos; he is pro-Israel, he is A JEW; but he does not support the failed policies of extreme right wing Israeli governments who have chosen to intervene in the internal politics of the United States big time.

That being said, it is true that foreign policy is not Bernie Sanders strong point.  We must contrast that with Hillary Clinton’s VAST experience in foreign policy: such as approving a trade agreement with Panama to enable her billionaire friends to dodge taxes and launder money; voting for the Iraq War; pushing President Obama to intervene in Libya (Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi); and, of course, the sterling success of our intervention in Syria.  And let us not forget the looming TPP deal, which will lose us millions more in trade deficits and jobs, but enrich her billionaire multi-national corporatist friends.  So yes, Hillary is a foreign policy “expert” and Bernie is not.  He just believes in fairness, justice and peace.

banksters-preview

Well, mark my word.  The New York Daily Planet hatchet job is just the opening salvo in the Hillary Media campaign to keep New York voters from finding out the truth about Brooklyn born Bernie and their carpet-bag former senator.

 

AMERICA’S FIRST SOCIALISTS

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A communal feast where everyone shares equally in the fruits of their common labor–sometimes known as “The First Thanksgiving.” No tipping was allowed.

It remains to be seen whether the presidential candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders is just an outlier or the beginning of a major sea-change in American politics.  In either case, it would be good at this juncture for us all to reflect on Socialism and its history in American politics and society.  The history of American Socialism is not exactly a secret, but on the other hand most Americans have a very poor understanding of what it is and was.  Whatever one may think of it as a political and economic movement, the chances are you are wrong in your assumptions, good or bad.  At best, I think most folks know that Bernie Sanders is far from being the first socialist to appear on the scene, but how far back this movement goes is very poorly understood.

Do you know–or think you know–who were the very first Americans to practice Socialism?

—–Think it was members of the American Communist Party in the 1930’s?  Nope: they were outspoken, militant and slavishly devoted to Joe Stalin, and most people during the Cold War associated them with disloyalty and treason; but no, they were hardly the first or only ones to advocate some kind of socialist solution.

—–How About the Socialists active during Gilded Age and the early 1900’s?  Well, there were a bunch of folks active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and as mayors of cities and congressmen they generally had a good reputation for honesty and good government; but no they were not the first.  Guess again.

—–How About the Civil War Era, were they the first?  You’re getting warmer.  There were a whole bunch of people who espoused some kind of Socialism and were active in Abolitionism as well; but no, they weren’t the first, not by a longshot.

—–How About the Early decades of the Nineteenth Century, were there Socialists around during the Early Republic?  Yes, there were and in addition to those espousing political ideas, many organized communes were established as bold social and intellectual experiments, reminiscent of the Hippie communes of the 1960’s;  But no, sorry no brass ring; they weren’t the first.

OK.  If you’re still with me, let me clue you in: not only is Socialism as American as apple pie and a Thanksgiving Turkey, its origins in America go back to the very English first settlements–assuming we don’t include Native Americans, who lived in tribal communities without private property going back to the Mesolithic Era here.  It was, in fact, the early settlers of New England who first practiced Socialism, folk whom you may know as the Pilgrims.

Actually, there were two groups of settlers in New England, the ones we call Pilgrims (although they didn’t use that name) and the Puritans; the Plymouth Bay Colony and the Massachusetts Bay colony respectively.  According to my family’s genealogists we claim ancestors in both groups, although the lineage is a bit convoluted.  Regardless, these early settlers are usually held up as models of the Protestant Work Ethic and cited as positive role models for the Capitalist Way, which is a popular lie you no doubt were told in grammar school.

Protestants they were, and pretty austere ones at that, but they also did something modern Bible thumpers rarely seem to do; they read all the passages of the Bible, not just the ones that were convenient or suited some media evangelist’s get rich quick gospel.  If you get deeply into both the Old and New Testaments, you will find quite a bit there that does not jibe too well with modern notions of Capitalism and big business.  The Bible has things like, oh, a progressive income tax (OT), or, say, passages where it tells you to give all your possessions to the poor and follow Jesus (NT); stuff like that.

Eventually, of course, Mammon won out over Jehovah with the Puritans and they became prosperous smugglers, merchants, manufacturers, whalers, transporters of slaves and assorted other activities that made one filthy rich but are not particularly good for the soul.

If you travel through New England, you will find a vestige of the region’s socialist roots.  Just about every little town or village has a “commons” and, of course, the Boston Commons is well known to residents of Beantown.  Originally, every community’s land was held in “common” and distributed according to the town Elders’ dictates.

Across the state line in New York, the center of town is usually called the village “green” (as in “Tavern on the Green”) which is short for Bowling  Green.  Of course, the Dutch in New Amsterdam were fond of their bowling and would play Nine-Pins in the town square whenever weather allowed while quaffing the product of a nearby inn or tavern.  In Puritan New England, such merriment was strictly forbidden; hard work and prayer substituted for singing, dancing and gaming.

Plymounth Rock
A piece of the Rock–Plymouth Rock

When the Pilgrims first arrived in 1620, they did not have an easy time of it.  They did not arrive off the New England until November of that year, far too late for growing any crops and that first winter nearly half of the 102 colonists died.  Of more interest for our concern was the fact that, at first, everything that the colony produced was pooled together and held in the “common storehouse” at one end of the Plymouth settlement.  This system was in force for the first couple of years, partly out of necessity: the colony was facing starvation for first few seasons, and more indigent immigrants arrived by boat from England, but the extra mouths to feed were not accompanied by enough supplies to provide for them.  The Plymouth colonists at one point were reduced to stealing parched corn from a local Indian tribe to avoid starving.

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Local Native American leader Samoset welcomes the arriving English. They return the courtesy by stealing corn, which was better than the Jamestown colonists, who turned to cannibalism.

This communal system did not sit well with some of the more able bodied males in the colony, many of whom had migrated in hopes of making their fortune in the New World and not for religious reasons (they were called “the Strangers” by the more religious) and had no desire to provide for other men’s wives and children.  Governor Bradford and the English backers of the enterprise abolished the system of the common storehouse in 1623 and land was divided among settlers to farm individually.  However, the colony still retained communal title to the land even though it was farmed separately, and all the tools were still held in collectively and doled out as needed.  Moreover, meadowlands for the grazing of livestock were still managed in common, plus fishing, hunting and fowling rights were held in common as well, so the concept of private property and ownership still remained a weak one for some years.

The Puritan by Augustus Saint-Gaudens
The Puritan by Augustus Saint Gauden.  The Puritans were sober, industrious and, in the early days, socialists.

The story of the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, (begun by the Puritans, a different religious sect than the Congregationalist Pilgrims), was not dissimilar to that of the Plymouth colony, save that they were even more austere and, well, more puritanical. Moreover, the Puritan colony was planned from the start as a theocracy; in theory, not man, but God, ruled the Puritan communities.

Each new township established by the Puritan elders had about six to ten square miles of land, effectively some 30 to 40 thousand acres, and each resident of a township had access to the community’s common pasturage.  There was no particular ideology at work here, however, it was just the best way to organize a Godly community and, in many cases, they were simply continuing the traditional open field system they’d known in the Old Country, itself was a holdover from the middle ages.  As time went on, and austere virtue began giving way to unelightened self-interest and greed, and regulating the fair and proper use of the common lands of the New England communities became more and more bothersome for beleagered town elders having to discipline those who took more than their fair share.

In the end, the fact that most of the land in New England was ill suited to intensive farming probably had more influence in the breakdown of Puritan agrarian socialism than the economic superiority of Captitalism or any other economic theory.  Then too, many frugal Yankees found that building ships and transporting goods across the open seas was far more rewarding than the backbreaking work of being a Jabez Stone style farmer in a rock filled field.  Moreover, it became a firm tenet of Puritan belief that material wealth was Jehovah’s way of rewarding the virtuous–and by the end of the seventeenth century, Yankee merchants had become very virtous indeed.

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The Pine tree was the symbol of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the end Money triumphed over virtue in Puritan New England.

 

 

 

—–

Legacy Voters and the Looming Demise of Neo-Liberal Democrats

Since the Reagan Era, the Democratic Party, despite having once been the standard bearer of the basic values of the New Deal, has continually failed to live up to anything remotely resembling its responsibility to the American public.  The reasons for this have been obvious for some time, yet the party establishment continues to turn a blind eye to its own fundamental flaws.

The fundamental changes began in the late sixties, in particular with the 1968 Democratic Convention.  That event was a disaster for the New Deal Democrats in a number of ways.  First off, the convention marked the last gasp of the Democratic Party Dixiecrats.

Ever since the advent of the New Deal there had been an inner struggle in the Democratic Party between its Progressive Wing and the Segregationists.  In 1968 the Segregationist "Dixiecrats" left and joined the GOP.
Ever since the advent of the New Deal there had been an inner struggle in the Democratic Party between its Progressive Wing and the Segregationists. In 1968 the Segregationist “Dixiecrats” left and joined the GOP.

Ever since FDR there had been an uneasy coalition of Southern Democrats, who espoused white supremacy but remained with the party for the benefits that the New Deal conferred on the South: rural electrification, the TVA, Federal road programs and other perks of being part of party which promoted national recovery; all this outweighed its increasingly progressive stands regarding its tilt towards civil rights for Southern Democrats.  Also, the Democratic Party wasn’t the hated party of Lincoln—in essence they continued to vote Democratic because they were legacy voters.   But when the party began seating integrated delegations for certain Southern states, the Segregationist wing finally walked out of the Democratic Party—and walked straight into the Republican Party.  Since that time GOP has continued to use “dog whistle” politics to rally racists to their party, without overtly espousing racism.

"Dog Whistle" Politics: using code words to appeal to racists that may sound innocuous but lets the target audience know you're one of them.
“Dog Whistle” Politics: using code words to appeal to racists that may sound innocuous but lets the target audience know you’re one of them.

 

Once upon a time, the Republicans had also benefited from their own legacy voting block—African Americans.  For generations, the GOP was still the party of Lincoln to African Americans, even though the party had sold them out in 1876 to Southern whites, promising to end Reconstruction in order to retain the presidency.  Then, in 1927, a massive flood of the Mississippi River inundated large parts of the deep South: 27,000 square miles of land was inundated up to a depth of 30 feet.  200,000 Blacks were flooded out of their homes and lived in relief camps for long stretches of time.  While Whites and Blacks alike were affected, Blacks were neglected by the white leadership of the South.  The Republicans made promises to African Americans to help them recover from the widespread destruction of their homes and livelihood, but many of the promises made by President Herbert Hoover to Blacks were broken.  This caused widespread disillusion among a core constituency of legacy voters of the GOP and Hoover lost to FDR in 1932.  From 1932 onward, Blacks began voting Democratic—not initially because the Democrats were all that much better, but because the Republicans had abandoned them.  As time went on, however, the Democratic Party sided more and more with African Americans needs and wants.

Hillary Clinton talks the talk but walks with the banksters and Wall Street oligarchs.
Hillary Clinton talks the talk but walks with the banksters and Wall Street oligarchs.

Today we see a Democratic Party which, like the GOP of the 1920’s, has neglected and abandoned not one, but several of its core constituencies.  In the 1980’s blue collar workers began voting Republican—the so-called Reagan Democrats—not because the Republicans were doing all that much more for them, but because the Democrats had taken them for granted and were doing nothing to secure their loyalty with positive programs.  Worse still, many Democrats, seeing the perceived ideological success of the Reagan presidency, decided to abandon the ideals of the New Deal and started cozying up to the big money of Wall Street and started promoting anti-labor, job killing programs such as NAFTA (thanks for nothing Bill Clinton).  These so-called Neo Liberals retained the superficial trappings of the party: nominal support of civil rights, paying lip service to women’s rights, and the preservation of Social Security and Medicare, if half-heartedly.  But more and more, Neo-Liberals have been anything but liberal and more and more the docile lap-dogs of Wall Street banks.  In effect, they have turned the Democratic Party into what has been dubbed “Republican Light” and as more than one political pundit has observed, why should voters turn out for a watered down Republican agenda, when they can simply vote for the real thing?

"Goldwater Girl" Hillary worked for Conservative Barry Goldwater in 1962 even as Bernie Sanders was fighting for Civil Rights in Chicago.
“Goldwater Girl” Hillary worked for Conservative Barry Goldwater in 1962 even as Bernie Sanders was fighting for Civil Rights in Chicago.

Americans of African Descent turned out for Obama in 2008 and 2012 in record numbers, largely based on his race, but also for his promises of real economic change.  In 2008 Obama promised all Americans a fundamental change in the way politics would be done in DC; the Republicans vowed to block him at every turn.  Sadly, the Republicans have largely succeeded, while most of Obama’s promises have been broken.

Even when he had a majority in Congress, President Obama did next to nothing to pursue the Progressive promises he had made to the American people.  His political opponents labeled him a “radical leftist” and socialist, but in truth, Obama proved to be yet another Neo-Liberal, yet another Wall Street Democrat.  To be sure, he passed some healthcare reforms; but it was the program first proposed by the Conservative Heritage Foundation—basically Romney care writ large.

On other fronts, Obama proved himself even less progressive and less reformist: his appointee for Attorney General was a Wall Street lawyer who refused to prosecute any of the criminal actions of the banksters and corporate thieves who nearly brought about world fiscal collapse.  His Secretary of Education, it also turns out, was a big promoter of privatization of public schools—something which enriches private corporations at public expense and leaves public education worse off than if nothing had been done.

With Obama no longer around to turn out the Black vote, unless the Dems can offer solid economic and political reasons for them to go to the polls, it is likely African Americans will sit out the 2016 elections.  Hillary Clinton has the endorsement of many Black leaders, true; but her Neo-Liberal policies will do nothing to help African Americans and may well prove very harmful to them economically.

Bernie Sanders in 1962 organizing a protest against police brutality in Chicago.
Bernie Sanders in 1962 organizing a protest against police brutality in Chicago.

Democrats of this Neo-Liberal stink tank school put great faith in demographics; they look at the growing numbers of Hispanics and other minorities and assume that these ethnic groups will automatically vote Democratic in coming election cycles.  This is a delusion; if you do not give them a reason to support your party they will not go out and vote.  The Neo Liberals want to have their corporate cake and get to eat it as well.  They are so very, very, wrong.

Just as Blacks deserted the Republicans because the party had abandoned them, the majority of middle class Americans, as well as all those minority demographic groups Neo Liberals assume will vote their way, are at the very least likely to stay home and allow the reactionaries of the newer, uglier GOP to continue to rule.  Sadly, many adherents to the Tea Party who call themselves Conservative don’t understand that the party they serve is out to savage their own Social Security, Medicare and VA benefits; by the time they wake to their mistake, it may well prove too late to undo.  So it is very important for some alternative to the reactionary right to be presented to voters, and so far the Democratic Party has failed dismally at that task.  If all the Dems can offer is the same old Neo-Liberal lies such as Goldwater Girl Hillary offers, the party has only a marginal chance of winning the White House and no chance of taking back Congress to actually get things done.

The future of the Democratic Party—if there is one—lies with listening to the voices of insurgents such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  People of all backgrounds, races and age groups are flocking to Bernie Sanders’ banner, not because he is particularly charismatic or charming—he is not—but because of the policies and issues he espouses.  Bernie Sanders policies are not radically new, far from it; they are a basic reaffirmation of the New Deal agenda and its Progressive predecessors, adapted for the modern day.  This is what voters are responding too and will turn out in record numbers for; not the failed policies that have transferred the wealth of the middle class to the 1% who seek to turn our nation into an oligarchy.

Bernie Sanders being arrested in a non-violent Civil Rights demonstration in 1963.
Bernie Sanders being arrested in a non-violent Civil Rights demonstration in 1963.

So long as the Dems remain wedded to Wall Street and economic abominations such as the TPP, the party will fail. Eventually, if both parties continue to kowtow to the Wall Street oligarchs, the banksters, and the neo-fascist Koch suckers, new parties will arise to replace them.  Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

 

 

 

Which side is the Black Lives Matter Movement on?

In a primary season fertile in unpredictability, extremism and just plain weirdness, you have to go some way to stand out as the wild hamster of politics, but the Black Lives Matter and allied movements have managed to achieve that status.  Unfortunately, BLM and others who are new to Progressive politics and Civil Rights are, so far, doing their cause more harm than good.

The Obama Presidency, which started out as the crowning achievement of African Americans’ quest for full equality and integration into American society, has instead presided over a resurgence of overt racism and bigotry.  That’s not President Obama’s fault, but his passivity in the face of overt racism and bigotry is.  No longer content to simply use the ‘dog whistle’ politics, the Republican Party has chosen to enable the worst elements of their party and legitimize them.  Dog Whistle politics is nothing new to the GOP, but along with it they are engaging in massive efforts to disenfranchise Blacks, Latinos and whoever else they think might not vote their way.

Meanwhile, the American public has been horrified to witness unarmed African Americans murdered in cold blood by police, with government officials colluding in and whitewashing these outrageous acts.  Even some right wing politicians took pause at what has happened to our country when they witnessed armored cars and machine-gun armed cops dressed more for Iraq turn out to suppress peaceful demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri.  Part and parcel with these acts of police brutality is the militarization of police forces across the nation.  Of course, what do you expect when you are continually declaring war on crime, war on drugs, war on running stop signs, war on jaywalking, etc.  and while politicians are being bribed and goaded by the Prison Industrial Complex to lock as many people up to enrich for profit prison corporations?

Enter Black Lives Matter and others of the same ilk from out of nowhere, outraged and angry.  The outrage and anger is legitimate and most Americans of any color would agree with them, except that they have gone about it in a manner calculated to alienate those most sympathetic to the cause.  Jumping up on stage when a candidate is speaking, in an age of terrorism and when we have seen too many Progressive politicians murdered since the sixties, seems more calculated to put themselves as individuals in the spotlight, rather than the issues the purport to support.  Too many in BLM seem interested in self aggrandizement rather than real progress.

Mind you, their basic premise is absolutely correct.  For example, there was the case where a black couple is killed in a hail of gunfire by cops because their car backfired while passing a precinct station; one of the cops, jumped on the hood of the car and pumped 16 bullets into the elderly couple; but he was not indicted because, the judge said, they couldn’t know if those 16 bullets out of the 150 shot were the fatal shots!  A black man is shot down in Walmart because he is handling a toy gun; a black youth in an OPEN CARRY state is shot down with another toy gun without even being given a chance to drop it.  Cops shoot first and think later and do so with impunity.  So yes, these and other acts are outrageous and should not be tolerated anymore—as they never should have been tolerated to start with.

But rather that protesting against the Republican legislators and district attorneys who enable this psychopathic behavior by police, BYM disrupts Bernie Sanders rallies, purposefully discrediting and disrupting the one candidate who is seriously committed to ending police abuse today—and who was protesting police brutality in Chicago long before they were ever born.

Bursting into a private Hillary fundraiser was perhaps more justifiable, although no less obnoxious.  But even here, the real issue of that meeting–that those attending it were billionaires, banker and oligarchs who were all backing Goldwater Girl Hillary with their millions—was ignored. The BYM protester managed to distract the media pundits from her civil rights message by the manner of her performance art.  In this and other incidents, their reason for disrupting the meeting is lost on the media pundits—their own grandstanding becomes the main focus of the news media.

The shutting down of the Trump rally last week in Chicago was not the doing of BLM, admittedly, but here again the intent of disrupting that rally was lost on the media and in the end did more harm than good.  Corporate media immediately portrayed Trump as the victim and the protestors as aggressors.  Trump even managed to pin the blame on Bernie Sanders for the disruption, despite the absurdity of the accusation.  Way to go, protesters!

What the mainstream media mainly focused on in this case was that demonstrators were throwing punches at Trump supporters.  In fairness, Trump’s choice of a U. of Illinois campus, whose student body was predominantly composed of ethnic minorities and immigrants, was probably deliberately provocative; filling the campus with Trump’s redneck and radical right supporters were the equivalent of waiving a red flag at a bull.  Also, from the footage, it was unclear who began throwing the punches first; perhaps the demonstrators were simply defending themselves against assault.  But that doesn’t matter: the message of that Chicago student protest was totally forgotten in reports of the melee.  Left wing violence was what got reported, whether that was a true portrayal events or not.

More than a generation ago, I produced a syndicated radio news show, where we taped an interview with Marshal McLuhan and another University of Toronto associate.  It was rather like an intellectual tag team wrestling match, with the two authors completing each other’s sentences in the interview.  McLuhan’s ideas about media and communications have become so familiar as to become trite; but many of McLuhan’s ideas remain relevant and especially in this present instance.

Marshall McLuhan coined the term “the Media is the Massage” which, besides being a clever turn of phrase, implied that the form of your communication is often more important than the actual content of the message itself. If you are trying to protest violence against minorities by police, yet you yourself visually communicate a message of violence, you hurt your cause, not help it.  It doesn’t matter one bit whether your intentions are good, if you give those who oppose you propaganda  to continue to obstruct that progress.  Others may disagree with me, but I maintain that BYM and other newbies the Civil Rights have been counterproductive, if not outright inimical to their stated goals.

In the 1960’s, demonstrators like Bernie Sanders and others used non-violent demonstrations, passive resistance, sit-ins and similar tactics for good reason; these methodologies employed was carefully thought so that opponents could not claim the moral high ground, especially when their racist opponents perpetrated violence against them.

Non-Violence is not an easy program to carry out; it not only requires self-restraint, it requires a great deal of moral courage.  When verbal insults and physical threats are hurled at you, it is natural to react in kind, but that is exactly the wrong sort of response; that defeats the very message you are trying to convey. The Civil Rights demonstrators of the sixties knew all this.  Apparently that lesson needs to be learned all over again–otherwise it is doomed to failure.

In just the last few years we have seen a dramatic rollback of voting rights and civil rights, this coming after a generation of rollbacks in worker’s rights and the rapid disintegration of the middle class,  as the top 1% have accrued more and more wealth and power to themselves.  Always bear in mind that racism is almost always based in economics; both the white trash racists and their minority victims are playing a game of musical chairs and are both fighting for the remaining chairs that haven’t been taken away from them by the 1%.  So wise up and stop playing by the billionaire’s rules.

A re-dedication to social and economic justice is needed and those new to the struggle, like the members of Black Lives Matter and the other recent arrivals are welcome—but don’t attack those who are on your side and don’t enable the enemies of social and economic justice with actions and images that end up hurting that cause.  Just sayin.