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Rosa Luxemburg and the Libertarian Left

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Posted on Jan 14, 2011
Manfred Bruckels (2005)

This memorial to Rosa Luxemburg can be found along the Landwehrkanal in Berlin.

By Scott Tucker

(Page 4)

In fact, the heads of Liebknecht and Luxemburg were hammered by a working-class soldier wielding a rifle butt, before they were both finished off with bullets. In the wake of war, some regiments of troops followed orders and turned their guns upon workers; other remnants were swept up by aristocratic officers and formed the Freikorps. There has been no lack of critics who find both rough and poetic justice in their murders. Moralizing hacks can be found in any profession, so we can set aside the less talented journalists and academics, and instead quote a founder of the field of sociology, Max Weber. He began a speaking tour in early January 1919 while the revolution was still an infant in the cradle, and while Luxemburg and Liebknecht still fought as revolutionaries for the socialist republic. Weber said, “Liebknecht belongs in the madhouse and Luxemburg in the zoo.” After their murders, Weber noted that Luxemburg had called upon “the street” and had been trampled under by the mob. In Weber’s view, however, working-class politics were hardly distinguished from mob rule and the end of all politics, unless kept under the tight managerial rein of a ruling elite. Marianne Weber, his wife, recounted in “Max Weber: A Biography” these words of her husband to Gen. Erich Ludendorff: “In a democracy the people choose a leader whom they trust. Then the chosen man says, ‘Now shut your mouths and obey me.’ The people and the parties are no longer free to interfere in the leader’s business.”

Others have delivered a similar moral and historical verdict upon Luxemburg and her comrades, and upon all the armed rebel workers of the German revolution. These moralists, including some notable historians, balance the scales of justice between revolution and counterrevolution so that all who live by the sword deserve to die by the sword. The duplicity and hypocrisy of that verdict is plain enough, precisely as a general rule of bourgeois society. A person of faith who would rather die than wield weapons against any other person may command respect, however much we disagree and are inclined to fight for our lives. But for the sake of this argument, let us set aside the honorable witness of pacifists. That is exactly what President Barack Obama did when he gave his speech in acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama praised the gospel of peace, and “the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.” He missed barely a breath when he went on to say, “I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats made to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world.”

Leon Trotsky once wrote a polemic on this very subject titled “Their Morals and Ours.” Without taking quite his line, the cases of Liebknecht and Luxemburg force us to question the common ground that remains between their morals and ours, to the degree traditional morality preserves a tradition of public freedom. If we raise the question of public freedom founded upon common morals, then all moral ground begins to quake beneath us, and is riven down to the depths. The question does have an economic dimension, and not for socialists alone. Obama’s Nobel speech contained many statements any person of good will could defend, and yet from first word to last it was a rhetorical bridge thrown over both national and global class divisions. For make no mistake: An imperial power never defines “evil” within an ideological Garden of Eden, but only and always within the world as it is.

Truly, the moral dilemma of violence cannot be solved once and for all by any single religious or political creed. But the dilemma must at least be stated honestly, and we should not let newspaper columnists and career politicians regiment us into the usual ranks and uniforms. We must raise the question of violence and class struggle in such a way that it remains open, so long as armed states and ruling classes exist. To avoid misunderstanding, or deliberate distortion, let’s be clear here that fighting for socialism is never a good enough cause to build police states and to fill mass graves with political opponents. Luxemburg deserves credit as a revolutionary socialist for daring to raise moral and political objections to the theory and practice of Lenin both before and after his party took power in Russia. Lenin confirmed some of her doubts and fears, but only others would be able to document Stalin’s systematic lies and brutality, which would exceed anything she had dared to imagine under a socialist regime.

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During most of her life, Luxemburg was active on the left wing of the international socialist movement, a period in which Social Democracy was the general term for partisan Marxism. War and revolution divided the international movement of working-class emancipation into two large opposing partisan camps of socialists and communists, a fact which had fateful consequences during the rise to power of the Nazi Party in Germany. In the usual morality tale, the communists bear the much greater burden of blame for the division of the German left and the rise of German fascism. But in that case, who bears the greater burden of blame for collaboration with German nationalism, militarism and imperialism—in short, with the deadly and official politics of class collaboration of that era?

To say that the German Communist Party took marching orders from Moscow very soon after the deaths of Luxemburg and Liebknecht is both true and too simple, and in any case does not answer the previous question. Such a statement may even be a device to keep that question forever in the unusable past, as opposed to repeating the version of German history of more utilitarian value for the present forms of nationalism, militarism,and imperialism—and, in fact, of direct utility for the deadly and official politics of class collaboration of our own era. If we “rescue” the life and work of Luxemburg from the crucible and molten elements of her era, we are still cast into the crucible of our own—with plenty of political heat, to be sure, but without the light and guidance that the past can still bring to the present.

After World War II, Luxemburg and Liebknecht were portrayed on East German postage stamps, and various streets, monuments and factories bore their names; yet neither the German Communist Party nor the German Democratic Republic (which was neither democratic nor a republic) ever published the complete works of Luxemburg, as Lenin had strongly recommended after her death. Each year in January, their deaths are still commemorated by a march of nearly all factions and parties of the German left to their graves in Berlin.

In all the years since her death, Luxemburg’s words (and not only her views on the Russian revolution) have been drafted into some polemical battles far removed from the cause of revolutionary socialism; or else the very person of Luxemburg has been fitted into some partisan uniforms that are not her style at all. There is still a tug of war over the legacy of Luxemburg, whether she is recruited to the cause of democratic socialism, or to the cause of Leninism and Trotskyism. In the first case, her thorough (and ferocious) critique of the “orthodox” Social Democrats of her time is often swept under the carpet; and in the second case, Lenin and Trotsky are allowed to “correct” her stubborn errors, a job they did honorably in their own time but which should hardly remain the last word. Either way, she then becomes a front-parlor specimen of taxidermy, a stuffed owl under a bell jar.

George Lichtheim, the historian, called Luxemburg “a really hopeless case,” and he was one of many who took that view. As Arendt wrote, “Every New Left movement, when its moment came to change into the Old Left—usually when its members reached the age of forty—promptly buried its enthusiasm for Rosa Luxemburg together with the dreams of youth; and since they had usually not bothered to read, let alone understand, what she had to say they found it easy to dismiss her with all the patronizing philistinism of their newly acquired status.”

Those who prefer to reduce Luxemburg’s work to slogans will not pay much attention to the particular case she made for a socialist republic. She insisted that the German and Russian socialists must include a “republican program” among their political demands, and this made other leading comrades wary, whether they stood on the revolutionary left like Lenin, or in the German orthodox mainstream like Kautsky.  Lenin declared his admiration for the “Junius Brochure” at a time when he still remained unaware Luxemburg was the author. (As Luxemburg had chosen the pseudonym Junius, that became the popular title of her illegal pamphlet “The Crisis in German Social Democracy,” begun in prison in February 1915 but not published until April 1916.) Lenin immediately raised the criticism, however, that daring to proclaim “the program of a republic … [means] in practice to proclaim the revolution—with an incorrect revolutionary program.” As Arendt noted, “Well, a year later the Russian Revolution broke out without any ‘program’ whatsoever, and its first achievement was the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic, and the same was to happen in Germany and Austria.” Despite the criticism directed at Luxemburg on this point from both reformist and revolutionary socialists, her foresight was borne out by events. Poland gained national independence, but the formal republic quickly passed under the dictatorship of Josef Pilsudski, who had been a member of the nationalist right wing of the Polish Socialist Party. So in this particular, too, Luxemburg’s deep misgivings about Polish nationalism proved prescient. Arendt wrote, “It is indeed the republican question rather than the national one which separated her most decisively from all others. Here she was completely alone, as she was alone, though less obviously so, in her stress on the absolute necessity of not only individual but public freedom under all circumstances.”

Whatever one makes of the contradictions of the classical republican tradition and of the European Enlightenment, Luxemburg stood upon that historical ground even as she advanced the cause of socialism. This is why her most famous words can still be found emblazoned on banners in public marches and protests around the world, whenever and wherever the democratic left gathers in earnest. Real democracy in economic life would require, Luxemburg argued, the self-emancipation of the working class: willing to gain and defend reforms, to be sure, but also guided by the revolutionary goal of socialism. Her life spanned nearly 50 years of European Social Democracy, and the first years of Soviet communism. Born in the same year as the Paris Commune, Luxemburg became the most thorough early critic of revisionism within the socialist movement; she also turned her analytical skills against the official claim of Marxist orthodoxy among German Social Democrats; and in her final years she forecast the dangers inherent in Lenin’s conception of a revolutionary vanguard party, including the potential deformation of the Russian revolution.

We are free to question her premises, and her conclusions, and every dash or comma between. We do no favors to her memory or to the cause of socialism, however, if we simply turn Luxemburg’s work into another form of idealist philosophy. Then why bother returning to her work at all? Because “the unity of theory and practice” also requires translation to our own time and world, and the critical power of her mind is still contagious. Though her books have settled under the inevitable layer of historical ash, the glowing embers only need stirring by living breath and study. This will come in due course in our own era of class struggles and imperial rivalries, as a new generation of readers find their way to her work, and possibly to the cause of socialism.

Footnote: Arendt’s essay was prompted by the publication of a two-volume biography by J. P. Nettl titled “Rosa Luxemburg,” published by Oxford University Press in 1966. An abridged version (lacking the photographs) was published simultaneously by Schocken Books, and Arendt’s essay also served in that edition as the introduction. All of Luxemburg’s most important works and many of her articles have been available in English translations of varying quality, but these books are not always easy to find. Of the Luxemburg sources online, the following website is the best for current scholarship in both German and English: www.rosalux.de/english/foundation. There is also a Luxemburg archive online, www.marxists.org/, a fine effort, though not all the works are complete; and thorough notes and scholarship would still be welcome. There have always been gaps, knots and puzzles in the published work of Luxemburg. We now have the good news that her “Complete Works” are due to be published in 14 volumes by Verso. The inaugural volume will be the most complete collection of her letters now available in English. One likely knock-on effect of this brave publishing venture is that the best out-of-print books related to Luxemburg and to the German revolution may also find their way into print again. Finally, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung is a German political foundation that promotes democratic socialism worldwide. Click here to visit the site.


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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, January 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm Link to this comment

Thinking that ditching and scraping everything valued by the
capitalism of the West was the only solution that was at the root
of Marx’s failure.  While there is a plethora of variations on the
Marxist theme, classical Marxism, of which Luxemburg was accused,
has the inherent problem of oversimplification and idealization of
Marx’s observations resulting from historical materialism by both
himself and his acolytes.  It was thinking an entire society, not just
one person or an ideological intellectual group, could just turn over
the economic card and voila! Communism would prevail and be
acceptable.  The logic it seemed was just too obvious.  His moving
around periodically first from Cologne then to Paris then back to
Cologne then arrested then moved on to London shows that his ideas
were inherently flawed and did not catch fire until the intellectuals
caught up. 

There was more to it than the authorities who kept him on the move. 
Those for whom he built his theories just didn’t get it!  There were
reasons! So in spite of the self-defeating process of capitalism, there is
something about it that sustains it.  Nearly the entire world operates on
the capitalistic system much to the utter disgust of those with the
communistic bent.  Maybe there is also something intrinsic in the
idyllicism of Rousseau that misses the imagination of pragmatic people. 
Like reality.  But more so in Marx.  And while it is romantic to think
redistribution of wealth serves the poor more equitably, and is
conceptually altruistically appealing, that there is something morally
fine in practicing selflessness, the problem seems to be that Marx’s
‘secular’ solution could not and cannot work when it is a problem of the
spirit.  Marxism “requires” people to be altruistic who naturally are not. 
The creative power of the mind’s eye gives even the most abject poor
the wild notion that their life can get better…with more wealth. 
Hobbesism rules the day after all.  It does as much today as it did in the
19th century. 

That principally is a conservative belief.  Where the more liberal minded
Rousseau thought education and individual integrity were the solutions
to economically leveling out for the common good, Marx’s collective
action simply gets inadequate traction in the imagination of most of the
“proletariat” people.

The next big problem with Marxism, was also one of human nature. His
idea of freedom invariably turns into tyranny. Freedom is another
romantic and ambiguous idea not well understood.  The word is thrown
around so as to become a banality when it really has no meaning until it
is applied to particulars.  If freedom is the state of being in which
choices and actions are completely detached from the influence or
coercion of persons or society then no, absolute freedom is not an
attainable goal. As long as people exist within a social system or a
hostile environment where natural conditions affect survival, there will
be influence directly or indirectly.  There still rages a debate over
whether there are natural rights, inalienable rights.  Humans are not
born into a free state as they are dependent on a caretaker upon birth. 
Even before birth, the health of the mother determines a large part of
the health of the baby.

Even though governments may collude to exploit and impoverish its
citizens, we see that when communism as coerced as it was on
Russians, Chinese, Cubans, we see it has not worked. Written history
shows that the chronicles of mankind is in fact the history of class
struggle. But what struck down Marx’s theory is the other fact that
economic conditions improved over the history since his era for most
workers in capitalistic societies regardless of how gradual it was. There
are always those who will opine for, yearn for a communist state.  But
history shows there are endemic problems such as a miscalculation of
the desires of a population.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 18, 2011 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

Lafayette—Going by what I’ve read of Marx, the scenario he envisioned seemed to be rather like what happened in Argentina, that is, the capitalist superstructure ceased functioning and the workers (including managerial and technical workers) took the physical plants over and kept them going as cooperatives.  Lenin’s methods—secret police, censorship, propaganda, concentration camps, fascist organization—were largely inherited from the Tsar’s regime.  (The excuse was that there was a war on, and indeed there were several, lasting until 1922 or 1923 as hot wars and continued as cold wars by the West until the 1930s.)  There is not much in Lenin’s methods that can be directly attributed to Marx, as far as I know.  However, you all Marx-Lenin experts should not be shy about straightening me out; I’m always willing to learn.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, January 18, 2011 at 11:00 am Link to this comment

What sort of person was Rosa Luxemborg? She came across an idea, she percieved the truth in it, poured her life into that truth, and creatively lived that truth, having a profound effect on the world. In her case the idea was Communism, but what type of person was she?

I am not asking what the average, mediocre, and typical person thinks of her. That will not be helpful, because the average person does not understand the process and only sees an outcome: ‘extemism’

I do not wish to disturb the average person with this question. I want the mediocre to enjoy the solace they get from their moderation. Perhaps you should stop reading this post. Judge yourself. For the rest, i continue…

What do we call a person who comes across an idea and percieves the truth in it? i suppose we could call them Aware.

But “Aware” is not enough. She also acknowledged the truth that she percieved. I suppose we should call that Idealism.

But even “Idealist” does not go far enough to describe the type of person she was. Rosa does not merely contemplate the idea, she does not remain in a mere platonic relation to the idea. She does not percieve the truth from a distance. Instead she goes deeper. She poured her life into that truth, molding her innermost parts to that truth. So we must keep noticing, keep thinking, keep asking. What type of person was Rosa Luxemorg?

When an idealist lives for truth, acts upon truth, and is will to die for truth, they deserve a specific name, a catagory of their own. They have a profound effect on the world around them. This effect is immediate and direct, like an earthquake. It has after-effects like an earthquake too, often unexpected by the idealist herself. These indirect after effects profoundly influence the world, like an aftershock from an earthquake which opens a spring of water in the desert. Untraced, unappreciated, but soon claimed by the average person as if they themselves opened up the spring of clear water.

Of course it doesnt always work this way. If the idealist lives a ‘truth’ which is completely untrue, then their earthquake will be only harmful, and the aftershocks disorient and destroy. To the extent that their ‘truth’ is True, that is the extent that the benefits follow. “By their fruits ye shall know them”.

But what shall we call this catagory of person, who is first marked by ‘awareness’, and then becomes an ‘idealist’ and finally who lives and acts the idea? This type of person is in a special catagory, where each one has 10,000 times more influence on society(for good or ill) than the normal person. They ought to be recognized for what they are. Even if we are not as great as they are, we ought to at least recognize them for what they are.

Yes, if nothing else, we must recognize them, and name them. Here and now. Idealists who live their truth are fundamentalists.

So much of what the mediocre today believes is ‘common sense’, which ‘everyone knows’ and which we consider our birthright today, was opened to us and still lives today because of fundamentalists, people like Rosa Luxemborg.

In our disagreement with what we percieve to be their errors, it is easy for the average person to forget that we(the mediocre) owe them so much, that their contributions changed the world under our feet, that the spring of water which sustains us today was their doing, and not our own.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, January 18, 2011 at 5:51 am Link to this comment

Lafayette: He proposed that all the means of production belong to and be managed by the state in a Command Economy.

I was wrong, after all.

It should read:

His philosophy, in practice, led to a totalitarian communist state that owned the means of production (agricultural and industrial) that were managed in a Command Economy.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, January 18, 2011 at 5:39 am Link to this comment

Anar: If you know of any place where Marx actually specified a command economy or anything else, though, do cite it; I’d be very interested. 

Me too. The above is blog-gadfly nitpicking.

Lenin (et al) implemented the principles of Marxism within a totalitarian state employing a Command Economy “in practice”. (practice = the actual application or use of a plan or method, as opposed to the theories relating to it)

Read the English (in the original post) and buy a dictionary.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 18, 2011 at 12:34 am Link to this comment

Lafayette, January 17 at 11:14 pm:

‘... [Marx’s] analysis was right, but his solution proved to be an utter failure. He proposed that all the means of production belong to and be managed by the state in a Command Economy…’

Actually, Marx was quite vague about how the post-capitalist state should be organized, as far as I know.  Comrade Lenin and his friends also seemed to be at a loss back in 1917.  If you know of any place where Marx actually specified a command economy or anything else, though, do cite it; I’d be very interested.  Too late for Vladimir Ilyich, though.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, January 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment

OM: Why is Marxist ideology a failure in practice? Is the whole Marxist project rotten or is there a particular error that makes the rest of the project fail?

Marx’s historical analysis of the situation that existed in Russia at the end of the 19th century was accurate.

From his Communist Manifesto (1848):

We see then (that) the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society.

Remember, Marx’s observations were made during the last decades of the Agricultural Age, in which most of the economic wealth had been generated by agriculture. The Industrial Age had started but was not yet ubiquitous.

Yet, his proposition that a bourgeois society (those who possessed capital) exploited the proletariat (workers/laborers) by their ownership of production was not all wrong. It is, even, comparable to what is happening today. Though now, unlike then, there is much less abject poverty, which was prevalent in his time.

Owning land was tantamount to having a headlock on wealth, much as owning corporate equity is today. Agricultural wealth was slowly transforming into capital assets that also owned the means of industrial production—which proved far more remunerative than agriculture.

His analysis was right, but his solution proved to be an utter failure. He proposed that all the means of production belong to and be managed by the state in a Command Economy.

This proved to be a colossal failure because it presumes that:
* All consumer wants/needs are known and predetermined by the state, therefore there is no need for a market economy.  Consumers have no choice in the matter.
* Individuals have different capacities and should be remunerated differently base upon individual talents.
* It can manage a Command Economy (which, as demonstrated in a disastrous manner, it could not).

Marxism implemented as communism was indeed a “failure in practice”.

The optimal solution, were anyone seeking it, is not found in either Marxism or Capitalism, but somewhere between both.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, January 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

JDMysticDJ said: The article makes clear that all the differing factions mentioned claimed authority on the basis of Marxist doctrine, ignoring that Marx’s dialectic has has been proven to be prescient in certain respects, but that attempts to establish governance based on the Marxian ideology have been a total failure in practice, and did not lead to the progress of humanity and humanitarianism, but quite the contrary.

Why is Marxist ideology a failure in practice? Is the whole Marxist project rotten or is there a particular error that makes the rest of the project fail?

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous, January 17 at 4:50 pm:

‘“Perhaps transparency, in all commercial trade and governmental systems, which affect the general public should be made compulsory.”

And what form of intimidation would you suggest?  Think down the road from that coercion, do you think, since I must assume you are a thinking individual, that full transparency is possible even with compulsion, even with duress and enforcement?’

I think standard North American governmental intimidation and force would do the trick.

1.  The government itself could be constitutionally required to be transparent to its citizens.

2.  Governments, being the authors of incorporation, could require transparency in all corporations chartered by them, as well as other similar legal fictions.

3.  Transparency could be required in all business affairs involving interstate, interprovincial, and international commerce.

It’s not going to happen, of course, because those with power and wealth have no intention of making their business transparent, and most of the rest of us willingly follow.  But no special increment of state power is needed for it.

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skmacksk's avatar

By skmacksk, January 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment

Thank you, Scott Tucker, great writing,compelling intellectual history.
Best regards,
SteohenKMackSD

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, January 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment

<b>Lafayette, January 17 at 11:13 am:

‘Anar: Lafayette—entropy2 did not propose a conspiracy, and in any case, posting a passage from Wikipedia is not an argument.

You are right; it is only part of an argument.

To propose that any government is inherently one that allows the upper-class to manipulate the lower class is, indeed, “Conspiracy Theory”.

Any democracy established upon the rule of law cannot be conspiratorial unless overtaken and run by tyrants. (Presently, Tunisia is a case in point.)

All that exists presently is prima-facie evidence of political collaboration, not conspiracy. ...’

The term ‘conspiracy theory’ (as the Wikipedia article notes) no longer means simply a theory about a conspiracy; it is a special term imputing falsity, absurdity and paranoia to an idea.  But you have not shown that entropy2’s ideas are false or absurd; you’ve merely called them by a bad name.

If you’re going to argue against entropy2’s propositions (or anyone else’s) rationally, I suggest you discard the propagandistic mode and approach the issues straightforwardly—if you can.

You’re quite right in saying that a democracy, or indeed any other kind of regime, established on the rule of law cannot be (literally) conspiratorial, because a conspiracy is an agreement to commit a crime.  But this is trivial, a tautology. 

Any sort of regime, including especially a democracy, can be conspiracy-like if those who hold power secretively agree to activities and policies which do not accord with the interests and desires of those they rule.  That is often the case because the interests and desires of those who have power over others are likely to be different from those over whom they have power—obviously.  That is a discrepancy we can observe in daily life as well as predict theoretically, and we can observe it in the present conduct of our own governments.

We can metaphorically designate such governments as ‘conspiracies’ as Mr. Assange seems to, but it is only a metaphor, and as it seems to excite a desire to descend into propaganda, I suggest we abandon it.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, January 17, 2011 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

“Perhaps transparency, in all commercial trade and governmental
systems, which affect the general public should be made
compulsory.”

And what form of intimidation would you suggest?  Think down the
road from that coercion, do you think, since I must assume you are
a thinking individual, that full transparency is possible even with
compulsion, even with duress and enforcement?

Report this

By tedmurphy41, January 17, 2011 at 11:10 am Link to this comment

Perhaps transparency, in all commercial trade and governmental systems, which affect the general public should be made compulsory. It just may stop the ongoing disasterous episodes, in finance and foreign affairs, from being routine one-offs; at the very least, you will be able to access this information should you be so inclined. Confidentiality really isn’t the issue here, within our democratic systems if this method of working were implemented. It may even catch on with a Worldwide demand for openness;  we should not have to wait for a Wikileaks type organisation to supply the information to which we all have a right to see, as we all finish up paying a high price for it, and unfortunately, some more than others.

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JDmysticDJ's avatar

By JDmysticDJ, January 17, 2011 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

This article is not incomprehensible, but unnecessarily tedious. The essence of this article has to do with the conflict between those who advocate for reform as opposed to those who advocate for total revolution. Currently the Left is dominated by those who advocate for reform and I believe that that reality is responsible for the condemnation of the current Left by such as Hedges, his ilk, and fellow travelers.

Articles such as this showcase the author’s in depth study of factionalism within the Left’s historically broad spectrum, but the author’s obvious “intellectualism” gives no validity to the author’s deductions, conclusions, and interpretations. In fact, the author’s conclusion is vague, hard to decipher, and not substantiated by his examples and references.

The article makes clear that all the differing factions mentioned claimed authority on the basis of Marxist doctrine, ignoring that Marx’s dialectic has has been proven to be prescient in certain respects, but that attempts to establish governance based on the Marxian ideology have been a total failure in practice, and did not lead to the progress of humanity and humanitarianism, but quite the contrary. That is not to say that elements of Marxism have not been proven to be beneficial, but those benefits were derived from reform, and not from total revolution.

The article must be a disappointment to those who expected something different based on the title. The author’s designation of Rosa Luxemburg and other Leftists as being Libertarian can only be based on the socialist polemics mentioned in the article.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, January 17, 2011 at 9:28 am Link to this comment

For the claim that one cannot understand another’s pain is to deny
the capacity of the imagination of putting oneself in another’s place
and understanding their feelings, desires, ideas, and actions.  More,
it is even to deny that imagination exists.

The two party-system presents the polarized views of America and
ought to continue so that the extremes may be seen for what they
are.  Independents have the lofty position to sway the population
towards one end or the other of the political spectrum. Independents
essentially are the third party.

Attempts to create political parties of influence have frequently been
tested.  There are more than 50 political parties beyond Democrats
and Republicans that have made forays into American politics and
none of them had the staying power needed to survive national politics. 
There are reasons politically both philosophical and scientific. 
Factionalizations are needed in my opinion to put the issues on the
table for often they are hidden.  We need those who can articulate the
various facets of reality.  But there should be no delusion that the
citadels of the liberal minded and the conservative minded are
assaultable. 

Statism, Centrism, are all part of the collectivist political attitude.  It is
the philosophy of the herd and is always in contention with the
philosophy of the individual, or the anarchistic bent.  What each implies
depends on the successful force of the extreme elements.

Glib answers do not do it.  If liberals and progressives have trouble
recognizing the historic failures of the means to achieve peace then it
has to be asked why?  What is the cause of their blindness?  How does
the herd peacefully win their freedom and equality from those who
oppress?  Has that ever been pulled off?  Countries seen as ruled by
law were hard won through years of war.  It is always a revolution in the
social structure that lies in a new economic base that is the most
important feature of class warfare. It is foolish to think that peaceful
arcadias fall from heaven. 

States developed for reasons too easily forgotten or set aside by those
who sigh for utopian autonomy.  If humans got along without states for
millennia it was because they were in a state of savagery.  With
intellection comes social control of the savage instincts.  Words like
freedom and equality are romantic abstractions that generalize and
distance ideas from reality.  It is a clever strategy of simplification
whereby details are relegated to ambiguity and intuition.  They only
have meaning when experienced.  Freedom to do what?  Equal to what? 
These broad sweeping terms can never have meaning unless they are
used factually.

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By Lafayette, January 17, 2011 at 6:13 am Link to this comment

REBUTTAL

Anar: Lafayette—entropy2 did not propose a conspiracy, and in any case, posting a passage from Wikipedia is not an argument.

You are right; it is only part of an argument.

To propose that any government is inherently one that allows the upper-class to manipulate the lower class is, indeed, “Conspiracy Theory”.

Any democracy established upon the rule of law cannot be conspiratorial unless overtaken and run by tyrants. (Presently, Tunisia is a case in point.)

All that exists presently is prima-facie evidence of political collaboration, not conspiracy.

I maintain that the there exists socially unjust Income Unfairness in America and that the numbers/facts prove it. I would never opine that such is due to a conspiracy of individuals at the top of our government. Why?

Because what has happened is actually far more banal and less Hollywoodian than you or e2 imagine. Which means this:
* At the grassroots level of Jack ‘n Jill America, people believe that free-markets always “get it” right and so there never ever is the need for government intervention. That notion is dumber-than-dumb, but prevalent in our nation.
* Secondly, the grassroots have fairly consistently voted rightwards since their High Priest Ronald Reagan, thus allowing his followers (of unfettered free-markets) to introduce / implement policy that worsened a bad situation.

And the Left (Billy-boy) did nothing to alter Income Unfairness. In fact, it worsened under his administration that willfully believed the dot.com “boom” was economic goodness. Its “bust” and the ensuing wreckage proved such to be a fantasy.

Income Unfairness in America can be demonstrated factually by the research of Pickety-Saez to go back to the beginning of the 20th century. (See here) Quite likely it has always been that way; we got around finally to showing it when the numbers to do so became available to research.

Lastly, WE elected consistently those into power who wished to maintain the economic status quo – because we gobbled their pathetic nonsense hook, line and sinker. We WANT to believe that free-markets are the best economic system available on earth - despite the evidence to the contrary.

Free-market economies are certainly better than the totalitarian Command Markets variety. But the demise of Communism does not definitively prove that, necessarily, Free Markets are superior economic systems. Yet, that dogma is what most Americans – I submit – presently wish to believe.

MY POINT: The Truth Is Somewhere In Between

Here’s how:
•  As a nation of pragmatic people, we should adopt what has proven to work elsewhere. Which is Economic Centrism.  That is, to allow Regulated Free-markets to function wherever they do the job competently and to let Public Services function were they are the more efficient solution.
•  There are two “better solutions” that are immediately necessary as regards the economic future of our country. The first is a Public Option National Health Care and the second is almost-free Tertiary Level Education (for all who subscribe to one).

Why those two? Because a National Health Service is as crucial to our well-being as Homeland Security, the DoD, or your local Firemen. And because only a tertiary-level education (vocational, college, university) will enhance our workforce necessary to obtain / maintain decent and durable jobs.

Both are morally just and thus socially imperative.

POST SCRIPTUM

If we have to tax the piss outta the plutocrats to achieve those two above objectives (and balance our National Budget as well), then let’s vote into Congress and the White House the politicians who are willing to stick their necks-out to implement such a dangerous proposition.

The plutocrats will go ballistic and make all efforts necessary to impede or kill such a socially revolutionary idea.

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By Anarcissie, January 17, 2011 at 12:19 am Link to this comment

Lafayette—entropy2 did not propose a conspiracy, and in any case, posting a passage from Wikipedia is not an argument.

I must add, though, that there really are conspiracies, and surely some of the theories about them are more or less correct.

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By OzarkMichael, January 16, 2011 at 9:15 pm Link to this comment

You would think as a conservative i would not care about the intramural theological hairsplitting that the Communist Parties tortured themselves over. It reminds me of how a Luther might argue with a Calvin. In the odyssey of exploring new ground, the ideological map of the new territory is sketched out between the two intrepid explorers.

Somehow the finer points of disagreement stick out so much that the other person gets called an idiot. Here at the most serious and dangerous point of the game when so few are with you, and when so many are against you… you excommunicate them.

Yes, your best ally, your fellow traveller, your brother, your comrade… is suddenly an ‘idiot’ and you never want to see them again. On and on it goes. Who was allied with whom, and what they later broke up over, etc etc. The article runs through this quickly, but you got a feeling for it. Because even though ‘it was only Communists’ they are still human beings trying to puzzle out uncharted territory. It is a real life soap opera and the stakes are high. But it cant go on forever, somebody is going down, or maybe they all are. Even if the Revolution succeeds you wonder what will keep these people from each others throats. If I, your humble unenlightened conservative, can percieve it, surely they could tell they were playing with fire. Yet with scholarly earnestness the show went on.

The Communist story, understood subjectively(from each single human heart)ah, it is a tragedy. Tragedy of course provides glimpses into humanity that you rarely see otherwise.

Thus I have always been drawn to Communist history. Big fan of Trotsky here.

Anyway, thanks Truthdig for the very extensive article. One of the better offerings here in a long time. It is what it is with no embellishments. Straight up and thought provoking. Was that so hard?

Thanks for linking to “Their Morals and Ours”, (a personal favorite) after which the unfortunate Trotsky discovered what it leads to.

My favorite line from “Their Morals and Ours”: Whoever does not care to return to Moses, Christ or Mohammed...
To which I respond, “Count me out. I would not leave Moses or Christ for anything this world could offer, and i fear that everyone will suffer for your leaving, including you!”

But I cant help wishing the story ended differently for Leon. And Rosa.

There is no alternate reading of history, there is no prayer we can utter, no tearful wish, that can rescue the doomed historical person from their final fate. 

But that is the sort of comment that is deemed insignificant amongst the hard thinking realists here. So I need to contribute something objective and substantial if I want to earn some cred. Ahem…

Perhaps these perpetual arguments and breakups explain why the far Left is so politically impotent today.

There. One sentence. My contribution! What would you do without me?

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By OzarkMichael, January 16, 2011 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie said: Lenin and Luxemberg believed, or professed to believe, that just one more state, one more war, was necessary to solve the problem and move humanity along to some happy future where the state would wither away.  Whatever their intentions, the outcomes in history of achieving peace, freedom and equality through war, repression and hierarchy—whether carried on by Communists or liberals—have failed or are in the process of failing in every instance.  This is obvious, and yet liberals and progressives seem to have a great deal of trouble recognizing it.

Me, I cannot help but like the above writing in content, brevity and style. A good Anarchist is hard to find. But even when you do, what shall we do with him/her? What do they do alone? What do they do when two of them meet?

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By Lafayette, January 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment

e2: You can’t imagine that the problem lies not with the wielders of power, but with the centralization and concentration of power itself. Hierarchies, by their nature, serve those at the top.

Welcome to the World of Conspiracy Theory.

From WikiP:

Conspiracy theory was originally a neutral descriptor for any claim of civil, criminal, or political conspiracy.[1] However, it has become largely pejorative and used almost exclusively to refer to any fringe theory which explains a historical or current event as the result of a secret plot by conspirators of almost superhuman power and cunning.

Conspiracy theories are viewed with skepticism by scholars because they are rarely supported by any conclusive evidence and contrast with institutional analysis, which focuses on people’s collective behavior in publicly known institutions, as recorded in scholarly material and mainstream media reports, to explain historical or current events, rather than speculate on the motives and actions of secretive coalitions of individuals. Scholars argue that conspiracy theory goes beyond the boundaries of rational criticism when it becomes nonfalsifiable.

Such a theory is a closed system of ideas which explains away contradictory evidence by claiming that the conspirators themselves planted it. The term “conspiracy theory” is therefore often used dismissively in an attempt to characterize a belief as outlandishly false and held by a person judged to be a crank or a group confined to the lunatic fringe.  Such characterization is often the subject of dispute due to its possible unfairness and inaccuracy.

According to political scientist Michael Barkun, conspiracy theories once limited to fringe audiences have become commonplace in mass media.  He argues that this has contributed to conspiracism emerging as a cultural phenomenon in the United States of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and the possible replacement of democracy by conspiracy as the dominant paradigm of political action in the public mind. 

According to anthropologists Todd Sanders and Harry G. West, “evidence suggests that a broad cross section of Americans today…gives credence to at least some conspiracy theories.”  Belief in conspiracy theories has therefore become a topic of interest for sociologists, psychologists and experts in folklore.

With those words, I leave you to your own devices.

Good exchange, though. Thanx.

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By entropy2, January 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment

We could go on forever, but why bother.

Your arguments tend to run along the lines of “things are meant to work this way…if we just elect the right leaders, all will be well.” You can’t imagine that the problem lies not with the wielders of power, but with the centralization and concentration of power itself. Hierarchies, by their nature, serve those at the top.

But, by all means, keep trying to find that bunch of perfect technocrats that will wisely define the “common good” for the rest of us and then bring it about without stepping on anyone’s rights.

Let us know when you find it.

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By bob, January 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Good article. Good choice by Truthdig.

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By FiftyGigs, January 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment

Two months after the election. When does the revolution start, or are we just talking?

Government is a problem for all people all the time. Read the article in front of your face. Germany. 1917. Clearly, America is not Nazi Germany. Neither is it 1492 Spain.

The power of government attracts the aggressive. Always has, always will, and if you know otherwise, please explain how your solution will work.

The problem in America is much simpler. The problem isn’t what our government isn’t.

The problem is what it is.

Our agenda appears to be unusually biased toward aggressive self-interest these days. Making it uniquely worse, it seems the majority is either unaware of it, or is going along with it. Why? Because institutions are all run by conservatives.

Conservativism has become an industry. Wear a suit, proclaim love of God and nation, and a printed list of other positions, and you have access to a wonderland of opportunity. You don’t even have to be honest or legit. If you’re smart, you can spin anything. Have a good lawyer, and you’re in business, my friend.

Seems idyllic, except the formulaic nature of conservatism attracts… guess who, aggressive self-interests. Aggressive self-interests backed by institutional power and literal force. Okay, thugs.

Palin may or may not be at fault in the Tuscon incident, but she and many other conservatives haven’t discouraged it. Reagan was shot, yet that didn’t stop the progression of conservative thuggery and violence, which continues happening to this day ... this day. This shooting. Yesterday’s Democratic nominee’s office bombing. Last week’s plane crash (how’d you like to see THAT coming at your office window!). Last decade’s war. On top of the incessant screams of the anti-abortion activists warning of God’s wrath.

This is our culture.

More people are more passionate about accomplishing the goals you see before you today in the world, which are the goals they want. Fewer people are passionate about accomplishing the goals you want.

We here suspect the majority share our goals. Neither political philosophy nor economic theory can account for the behavior of our people. In my opinion, however, if one considers this within the focus of media—what it should be, as opposed to what it actually is—some of the modern nonsense starts to make sense.

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By Fat Freddy, January 16, 2011 at 8:36 am Link to this comment

Lafayette

“Meaning this: There is a regulatory environment and then there is its application, in terms of policing and enforcement. Our regulatory system, in this matter, has been lax due to the political will of those in power. My conclusion is that they were manipulated by Vested Interests. But, that is a political factor and not inherent to the regulatory environment. “

The ICC [Interstate Commerce Commission] illustrates what might be called the natural history of government intervention. A real or fancied evil leads to demands to do something about it. A political coalition forms consisting of sincere, high-minded reformers and equally sincere interested parties. The incompatible objectives of the members of the coalition (e.g., low prices to consumers and high prices to producers) are glossed over by fine rhetoric about “the public interest,” “fair competition,” and the like. The coalition succeeds in getting Congress (or a state legislature) to pass a law. The preamble to the law pays lip service to the rhetoric and the body of the law grants power to government officials to “do something.” The high-minded reformers experience a glow of triumph and turn their attention to new causes. The interested parties go to work to make sure that the power is used for their benefit. They generally succeed. Success breeds its problems, which are met by broadening the scope of intervention. Bureaucracy takes its toll so that even the initial special interests no longer benefit. In the end the effects are precisely the opposite of the objectives of the reformers and generally do not even achieve the objectives of the special interests. Yet the activity is so firmly established and so many vested interests are connected with it that repeal of the initial legislation is nearly inconceivable. Instead, new government legislation is called for to cope with the problems produced by the earlier legislation and a new cycle begins.

— Milton Friedman (Free to Choose: A Personal Statement)

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By Lafayette, January 16, 2011 at 6:04 am Link to this comment

DE FACTO

e2: I don’t know about “Modern Economic Statism,” but our statism in the good old US of A:

Hyperbole. Let’s see how.

Discourages competition through regulatory barriers to market entry by smaller players and artificial rents through intellectual “property” monopolies.

I agree that generalized market consolidation has raised the hurdle to market entry for some and thus reduced competition. It is the purpose nonetheless of such regulations to assure the opposite.

Meaning this: There is a regulatory environment and then there is its application, in terms of policing and enforcement. Our regulatory system, in this matter, has been lax due to the political will of those in power. My conclusion is that they were manipulated by Vested Interests. But, that is a political factor and not inherent to the regulatory environment.

Health Care is a prime example. Consider the lack of competition as demonstrated in this info-graphic here.

2. Operates most public services in order to buttress centralized, hierarchical corporate behemoths (the interstate highway system subsidizes concentration of industry and the “walmartization” of our economic life.

One instance where such may be true is the case of Health Care.  The national budget supports subventions to corporations to purchase Health Care.  But this too is a matter of political will and not a failure of the principles of regulatory enforcement.

The question of WalMart is a matter of local regulatory enforcement of zoning laws. WalMart does as any retailer – it places outlets where there is a potential for revenue. The fact that it is successful is not due to any preference in terms of zoning regulations, but because the public frequents its stores.

The public education system churns out compliant, monoskilled corporate drones with the critical-thinking skills and intellectual curiosity of a rock.)

You may be right about the Public Education system, but it is hardly part of any regulatory environment.  No regulation exists to force parents to school their children in public secondary education. (In other countries, this is regulated.)

3. Through its manipulation, ensures a capital-heavy, push-supply, consumption/credit driven economy that, again, serves bloated, non-responsive corporate bureacracies.

No, these factors have nothing to do with the regulatory environment, except indirectly. Binging on cheap-credit is what Americans wanted to do. Now they are paying the consequences of such adle-headed behaviour.

Americans want their cake AND eat it – which is simply self-indulgence. Provoking just the sort of behavioural indigestion that brought about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

What the hell – nothing lasts forever.  Out of hubris, we just think it does.

POST SCRIPTUM

You fail to make a distinction between intrinsic regulatory facts and regulatory enforcement. The former is law, the latter is a matter of political will.

Enforcement of the law depends upon policing – and when the political will is not there, then the police work lapses into laxity. The political will of this country, even under Billy-boy Clinton, was to not interfere with business.

This sad fact was a great incentive to business profits but also a outstanding disservice to the US public. Supposedly, we, the latter, were to be happy with the crumbs off the table in the form of of our salaries for some and, for the lucky ones, their equity gains.

Again, the facts show (here) that such was not the case. De facto, we are a bunch of losers.

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By Lafayette, January 16, 2011 at 3:31 am Link to this comment

THE FACTS

e2: More the fools, they. Repubs or Dems, the state grows and grows,

Emotional hogwash. Get your facts right before spewing nonsense.

The facts about comparative total government spending as a percentage of GDP:
* The US (here ) demonstrates a leveling off of expenditures since 1980 of around 35%
* The EU (here )—according to this Legend: maroon > 55%, red 50-55%, orange 45-50%, yellow 40-45%, green 35-40%, blue 30-35%, purple < 30% (not presently used).

We live in a country where, comparatively amongst developed countries, national budget expenditure is much less than elsewhere.

Of course, its all a matter of where a country spends its budget and in the US a healthy chunk (18.7%) goes in DoD-spending. See here. As a percentage of GDP, no country in the EU equals even half that of the US percentage. See here.

Of course, if you want to pander to the simplistic Rightist notion in America that BigGovernment is THE EVIL, then be my guest. But you wont get much sympathy in this forum. Perhaps you should look elsewhere?

e2… as does the income/wealth gap between the rich and the rest of us.

That’s the only part you got right. Bravo!

MY POINT: In a blog, everybody is a pundit

The facts are a lot more difficult to obtain and present in a forum than Idle Conjecture. Which is why most blogs can be so full of bullsh*t.

But they do make a lot more sense in a serious debate.

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By Anarcissie, January 15, 2011 at 9:40 pm Link to this comment

Amon Drool—I think the state is ‘evil’ in the sense that I don’t like it.  I don’t like it because I do not wish to be coerced.  I would prefer to live in peace, freedom and equality with other beings, insofar as possible.  The state, being violent, repressive and hierarchical doesn’t permit this.  I don’t think institutionalizing sociopathic violence is the way to accomplish my desires, although I agree it has some short-term payoffs for those who manage to stay on top of the heap.  As for history,  human beings seem to have gotten along without states for most of the hundred or two hundred millennia they’ve been humans of the supposedly sapient kind, so empirically speaking organization into a state does not seem to be a human requirement—far from it. 

Lafayette—your remarks this time are admirably succinct, but ‘hogwash’ and ‘nonsense’ are not an argument.

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By ChaviztaKing, January 15, 2011 at 7:44 pm Link to this comment

This is not related to this specific topic, but it is a very nice message of inspiration and motivation for the dark pessimist times that we are living today.

We must also pray to God to give us the necessary motivation to be positive in these negative times

Colossians 3:1-17
Living as Those Made Alive in Christ

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

.

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By ChaviztaKing, January 15, 2011 at 7:36 pm Link to this comment

SOME TRAITS OF REVOLUTIONARY STAGE OF THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE WORKING CLASS (SOCIALISM) IN USA

The old bourgeois world is sick unto death, how sick only the financiers and bankers, who have kept its corrupt old body above ground for many years, really know. Whilst it lies on its death-bed wrapped in its grave clothes of paper money the Peace Conference, by the terms imposed on the United States has given it its coup-de-grace; and now all that the Dictatorship of the People has to do is to bury it decently !!

The dictatorship of the workers will only be of a transitory character. When the economic transformation shall have been accomplished and the different social classes have disappeared a free association of equal citizens will have been obtained in which association the free development of individual character will be the necessary condition of the free development of all

The first economic measures to be taken will be the socialisation of all the financial capital and the extinction of State debts (small capital sums being exempted) the socialisation of the means of transport; of all airlines, of all large corporations, of all large agrarian enterprises, and of great commercial and industrial undertakings.

As soon as capitalist domination has been put an end to, plans must be made for the security of the new conquests. The bourgeoisie must be at once disarmed, and the proletariat must be mobilised as socialist Militia to prevent the Republican Party and the far-right from overthrowing the new Socialist US government.

By this means only can the american-proletariat overcome the attempts of counter revolutionaries, betrayers of the new dictatorship of the american workers, and annul the natural tendency of the progressive liberal bourgeoisie reformists, traditional democrats, and republicans to oppose the radical measures like expropiating the businesses of the Republicans and the exproprations of all large enterprises like Wal Marts, Target Stores, Sears and all large corporations of America.


,

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By Amon Drool, January 15, 2011 at 6:19 pm Link to this comment

anar…you seem to think that the ‘state’ is inherently a bad thing. haven’t people throughout history formed into organizations/governments/ states?  if we had an infinite planet, states wouldn’t be that necessary..we all could just head out for that western frontier when we got sick of our fellow human beings.

if a group of people inhabiting a particular territory forms a state with the intent of making that particular territory sustainable and productive through time, wouldn’t you want that state to have coercive power to keep the functional living integrity (hehe) of that territory intact from those who would violate it?

force, power, coercion (along with other stuff) are all parts of Being. sure, coercive power can at times be evil; but at other times it is necessary.

i’m kinda with rousseau and some of the founding ‘fathers’.  all we can do is attempt to design democratic structures and processes through which an informed populace can implement its will.  just cuz we haven’t organized that ‘state’ yet, doesn’t mean the concept of ‘state’ is inherently flawed.

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By Lafayette, January 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment

Anar: Governments, and the states which they produce, are based on coercive violence and are thus intrinsically repressive, the opposite of the libertarian idea.

Hogwash. Only if you want to believe such nonsense.

The above can happen, but is not common in countries ruled by law (and not tyrants); which is the case as regards most Western Economies.

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By Anarcissie, January 15, 2011 at 1:16 pm Link to this comment

Lafayette, January 15 at 12:48 pm:

‘WORD GAMES

  e2: but she was no less a statist than Lenin

And so? (Statism = a political system in which the state has substantial central control over social and economic affairs.) ...’

‘Word games’ are what we do here.  You are certainly a major participant.

Governments, and the states which they produce, are based on coercive violence and are thus intrinsically repressive, the opposite of the libertarian idea.  Lenin and Luxemberg believed, or professed to believe, that just one more state, one more war, was necessary to solve the problem and move humanity along to some happy future where the state would wither away.  Whatever their intentions, the outcomes in history of achieving peace, freedom and equality through war, repression and hierarchy—whether carried on by Communists or liberals—have failed or are in the process of failing in every instance.  This is obvious, and yet liberals and progressives seem to have a great deal of trouble recognizing it.

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By Shamima Akther, January 15, 2011 at 11:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dear Sir/Madam,
Greetings!
First of all I want introduce my self- I am Shamima working with a national NGO in Bangladesh named VERC.  I am searching a book named “The origin of Family, Privet Property and State” by Friedrich Engels.  How can I get this book?
If you give me any information in this regard, I shall be grateful to you.
Thanks and regards.

Shamima
Associate Coordinator
Training and Communication Section
Village Education Resource Center (VERC)
B-30, Anandapur, Savar,
Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Cell# 01711363734

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By entropy2, January 15, 2011 at 10:20 am Link to this comment

@Lafayette - a couple of points:

Modern Economic Statism does allow intervention in a Market Economy in order to assure:
* Competition and prevent market consolidation into oligopolies,
* Public Services where competition is not possible due both to a penury of Supply facing strong Demand, for which the former seeks rentier-prices,
* The regulation of markets to assure that the Supply of goods and services does not dominate their Demand, thus producing illicit manipulation of the latter by the former.

I don’t know about “Modern Economic Statism,” but our statism in the good old US of A:
1. Discourages competition through regulatory barriers to market entry by smaller players and artificial rents through intellectual “property” monopolies.
2. Operates most public services in order to buttress centralized, hierarchical corporate behemoths (the interstate highway system subsidizes concentration of industry and the “walmartization” of our economic life. The public education system churns out compliant, monoskilled corporate drones with the critical-thinking skills and intellectual curiosity of a rock.)
3. Through its manipulation, ensures a capital-heavy, push-supply, consumption/credit driven economy that, again, serves bloated, non-responsive corporate bureacracies.

The American Left prefers Statism because it is a political mechanism to assure Income Fairness.

More the fools, they. Repubs or Dems, the state grows and grows, as does the income/wealth gap between the rich and the rest of us. “Reform” consists of bandaids for the serfs after the daily whipping, never a challenge to the foundations of corporate dominion.

This didn’t start with Ronnie Rayguns. The mainstream American left abandoned its libetarian roots early in the last century in favor of statist technocrats and tame unions. That’s how we got where we are today.

The statist left loves to say “If people were perfect, we wouldn’t need government.” So…we concentrate more and more coercive power in the hands of the most imperfect, venal and power-hungry elements in our society. Is it any surprise that we always get the same result?

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By Lafayette, January 15, 2011 at 7:48 am Link to this comment

WORD GAMES

e2: but she was no less a statist than Lenin

And so? (Statism = a political system in which the state has substantial central control over social and economic affairs.)

What you fail to underscore is that Communism was a totalitarian economic system where the state owned all means of production - which is not necessarily statism. The issue in question is the degree to which the state is allowed to assure certain presumed outcomes.

Modern Economic Statism does allow intervention in a Market Economy in order to assure:
* Competition and prevent market consolidation into oligopolies,
* Public Services where competition is not possible due both to a penury of Supply facing strong Demand, for which the former seeks rentier-prices,
* The regulation of markets to assure that the Supply of goods and services does not dominate their Demand, thus producing illicit manipulation of the latter by the former.

Statism in its modern context today is akin to Centrism if we must throw words about. When both are combined, then administrations employ state means to produce wanted outcomes, by which means all citizens benefit from an economic system and not just a select percentage.

Statism does not necessarily imply totalitarianism, though, indeed, statist Communism did indeed do so.

The American Right abhors statism since it feels that the “State” should exist only to protect individual rights, meaning, mostly property rights. This is in-line with the individualist notion that what I have earned belongs uniquely to me.

The American Left prefers Statism because it is a political mechanism to assure Income Fairness. Mind you, that does not mean Income Equality (as was presumed under Communism). It means fair and impartial sharing in the economic wealth that we all work daily to produce.

Let’s get away from the socio-ideological context that pitted “US” against “THEM”. There is now only “WE, THE PEOPLE.

As there was in the beginning of this nation. We got off track somewhere ...

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By Lafayette, January 15, 2011 at 7:23 am Link to this comment

PRISM THIS

ST: Will history look different if seen through the prism of her life and work?

Silly question, Scott Tucker. Will history look different if seen through the prism of MY life and work? The answer is “Most certainly, yes”.

It is arrogant impertinence to think, and propose, that one can interpret an individual prism (those fundamental beliefs/notions that are formed by life’s experiences) of someone else’s life. That contextual knowledge is privy only to them.

We can only reflect (key word) upon their prism, but we cannot presume to know it. How can we, if we did not live their lives?

What we can learn from Rosa Luxembourg’s adventurous life, since she lived in times of both high economic anxiety and abrupt political movement, is that she became an articulate spokeswoman for the proletariat - that is the German working class in the first half of the last century.

But what does that mean for America today? Much the same, but where is the spokesperson? Nowhere to be seen in our political class today. So, how does that context differ then from now or now from then?

Rosa’s fault line was the fact that she was an intellectual taking sides with the uneducated working class. Doing so is always tricky. The working class can understand an intellectual’s dialog that promotes their desire to better their live confronting an economic system that exploits them. But they will remain suspicious of their “intellectual motivations”. After all, they will ask, “S/he does not live our lives of poverty, so how can she really know”?

They cannot possibly understand that we may share their pain. If they could, they would be at a higher intellectual plane.

Misery wants company. It seeks company. Not words and high-minded propositions.

MY POINT

Why is America different, now from then? To understand how, try explaining Social Justice in terms of Income Unfairness. Does a black family in abject poverty in America live a different life today than a farm laborer in Poland at the turn of the nineteenth century?

In a way, yes. The former is likely to have a television that allows them a vision of the world beyond their solitary lives. Life expectancy is also a few decades more now than it was then. And, almost certainly, given the obesity pandemic present in America, people today get a LOT more food. In fact, their lives revolve around those two singular aspects—entertainment and eating.

How’s that for a prism?

So, where’s the spark to light the fire of Social Justice today? Given the dampness of the timber, it would take a flame-thrower to light that fire.

A SECOND POINT

The two-party system that exists today is insufficient to represent all the American people. Why?

Because American political opinion may be divided Left from Right, but the consequential results of elections depends upon the “swing vote”. That is, for whatever the reasons, people will vote Right or Left without the least bit of remorse for their lack of fidelity to either side. They shift with whichever prevailing wind of the moment that suits them. They are a fickle and highly volatile lot.

Which is why I suggest that we carve out from the rump of the Democrat Party, a Social Democrat Party, bereft of BlueDogs who should not inhabit any party that traditionally adheres to Left-wing notions. A party that promotes specifically Social Justice and patently the means to rectify Income Fairness as a priority.

That would give Americans, both intellectual and unintellectual, the choice they seek.

And, just maybe, substantially better lives.

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By entropy2, January 15, 2011 at 1:50 am Link to this comment

Nice bio, but no relevance to left-libertarianism. Luxemburg was certainly principled and courageous socialist, but she was no less a statist than Lenin.

Start talking about Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, de Cleyre and Tucker among many others, to understand the roots of modern-day left libertarianism.

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By ChaviztaKing, January 15, 2011 at 1:36 am Link to this comment

READ THIS GREAT ARTICLE BY LEON TROTSKY ABOUT ROSA LUXEMBURG AGAINST STALIN AND HIS EVIL FOLLOWERS: HANDS OFF ROSA LUXEMBURG. (The article is a lot longer, so you will have to click on the link)

http://www.marxist.com/hands-off-rosa-luxemburg-1932.htm

Stalin’s article, Some Questions Concerning the History of Bolshevism, reached me after much delay. After receiving it, for a long time I could not force myself to read it, for such literature sticks in one’s throat like sawdust or mashed bristles. But still, having finally read it, I came to the conclusion that one cannot ignore this performance, if only because there is included in it a vile and barefaced calumny about Rosa Luxemburg.
Stalin’s article, Some Questions Concerning the History of Bolshevism, reached me after much delay. After receiving it, for a long time I could not force myself to read it, for such literature sticks in one’s throat like sawdust or mashed bristles. But still, having finally read it, I came to the conclusion that one cannot ignore this performance, if only because there is included in it a vile and barefaced calumny about Rosa Luxemburg. This great revolutionist is enrolled by Stalin into the camp of centrism! He proves – not proves, of course, but asserts – that Bolshevism from the day of its inception held to the line of a split with the Kautsky center, while Rosa Luxemburg during that time sustained Kautsky from the left. I quote his own words: “... long before the war, approximately since 1903-04, when the Bolshevik group in Russia took shape and when the Left in the German Social Democracy first raised their voice, Lenin pursued a line toward a rupture, toward a split with the opportunists both here, in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, and over there, in the Second International, particularly in the German Social Democratic Party.” That this, however, could not be achieved was due entirely to the fact that “the Left Social Democrats in the Second International, and above all in the German Social Democratic Party, were a weak and powerless group ... and afraid even to pronounce the word ‘rupture,’ ‘split.’”

To put forward such an assertion, one must be absolutely ignorant of the history of one’s own party, and first of all, of Lenin’s ideological course. There is not a single word of truth in Stalin’s point of departure. In 1903-04, Lenin was, indeed, an irreconcilable foe of opportunism in the German Social Democracy. But he considered as opportunism only the revisionist tendency which was led theoretically by Bernstein.

Kautsky at the time was to be found fighting against Bernstein. Lenin considered Kautsky as his teacher and stressed this everywhere he could. In Lenin’s work of that period and for a number of years following, one does not find even a trace of criticism in principle directed against the Bebel-Kautsky tendency. Instead one finds a series of declarations to the effect that Bolshevism is not some sort of an independent tendency but is only a translation into the language of Russian conditions of the tendency of Bebel-Kautsky. Here is what Lenin wrote in his famous pamphlet, Two Tactics, in the middle of 1905: “When and where did I ever call the revolutionism of Bebel and Kautsky ‘opportunism’? ... When and where have there been brought to light differences between me, on the one hand, and Bebel and Kautsky on the other? ... The complete unanimity of international revolutionary Social Democracy on all major questions of program and tactics is a most incontrovertible fact” [Collected Works, Volume 9, July 1905]. Lenin’s words are so clear, precise, and categorical as to entirely exhaust the question.

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By Michael Cavlan RN, January 15, 2011 at 12:36 am Link to this comment

I concur. Excellent article TruthDig.

Another name to throw into the mix is James Connolly.

James Connolly was a radical leftist in Ireland in the early 1900’s. He went to
New York and helped co-found the IWW. The wobblies.
He was also active in the issue of Irish liberation from England. He was a
dedicated Socialist. He helped Jim Larkin in the Great Strike and Lock Out in
Dublin 1913. He then worked on the Citizens Army and was a commander in
the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin 1916. Captured, he was executed by a British
firing squad.

After his and others deaths by firing squad, Ireland rose up and fought the
British Empire to a standstill.

One of his political thoughts at the time was “dont give a damn what sect leads
the revolution, just start the damned revolution.”

Could not agree more..


Pssstttt

The revolution will not be blogged or funded by 501 3c’s.

It will not be televised on Keith Olbermann either. Or Air America.

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By Robespierre115, January 14, 2011 at 11:36 pm Link to this comment

Great to see Truthdig publish this great piece on Rosa Luxemburg. We must begin to rediscover the great revolutionary thinkers including Bakunin. As Chris Hedges has written on this site, the “liberal class” represented by clowns like Obama is dead.

WE MUST REBEL!

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