Monday, November 13, 2017

Politically, the capitalist and socialist refusal of autonomy takes the form of the centrist demand that all particular projects be subordinated to the general interest of development. Among capitalists diverse autonomous demands must not be allowed to challenge or undermine the central processes of profit making, investment and growth. Among socialists, such demands must not be allowed to impede the realization of the general interests of the working class, which in practice turn out to be the party's plans for realizing surplus, investment and growth. Thus the autonomous activities of women, blacks, peasants, students, industrial workers, and so on, must be either integrated within the overall development process (which eliminates their autonomy) or suppressed.

Harry  Cleaver, Reading Capital Politically

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Red November, black November,
Bleak November, black and red.
Hallowed month of labor’s martyrs,
Labor’s heroes, labor’s dead.

Labor’s wrath and hope and sorrow,
Red the promise, black the threat,
Who are we not to remember?
Who are we to dare forget?

Black and red the colors blended,
Black and red the pledge we made,
Red until the fight is ended,
Black until the debt is paid.

— By Ralph Chaplin
author of Solidarity Forever

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Gun Control

Civil laws develop simultaneously with private property out of the disintegration of the natural community.  -- Karl Marx, from The German Ideology
I do not oppose gun control laws in America, but neither do I support them.  I do not support them because I do not see that they will do any good. I understand the impetus behind the drive for gun control, and I appreciate that it seems like a no brainer that fewer guns = fewer bodies, but it seems to me more and more grasping at straws in the face of the horror of our violent US culture. Like so many mainstream solutions to intractable problems, we seem content to understand the aspirins we take to assuage the pain of our cancers as the chemotherapy that will kill the cancers. Sometimes, we can't even understand what the cancer is: violence is the cancer, not guns, and any solution that does not directly address violence is bound to fail. Besides, even if gun control laws could significantly lower the numbers of guns, how long before knives, arson, acid, and car bombs become all the rage in our violent country?

The last thing that this country needs is a "War on Guns": as has been coughed up ad infinitum by the second amendment crowd, the War on Drugs only barely affects the availability of said illegal drugs, and we can assume that guns would be the same. Unlike drugs, which are consumables, guns would remain around for a long time before they start deteriorating* . . . and as the flow of drugs into the US continues barely abated, so would the flow of guns continue. Banning assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and conversion kits may hold down death tolls somewhat; but even as every life is significant, pardon me for being troubled by any accounting which finds solace in 15 deaths instead of 20, or 30 deaths instead of 50.

And let's not forget, per John Ehrlichman, how the War on Drugs was conceived as a racist/anti-left shitshow. The history of gun control too has a whiff of racism wafting around it: the NRA, who supported many gun control initiatives in its history, was all in with Governor Ronald Reagan when California passed the Mulford Act in 1967. This legislation, which essentially prevented citizens from carrying weapons in public, was authored directly in response to the Black Panthers. The pivot toward free and open access to guns for all citizens, for both Reagan and the NRA, came later, after the threat of armed African American revolutionaries was somewhat diminished**. There is absolutely no reason to believe that, if we add another major prohibition for our existing law enforcement regime to enforce, that its outcome with regards to race (and class!) would be any different than our disastrous, racist drug war. Our police have shown an overt tendency to use laws and initiatives as tools of control (as opposed to mediation), and those tools are always wielded disproportionally against certain populations.  Does it seem wise to further empower institutions which have demonstrated, over and over again, the inability to execute governance in a consistently just way?

Again, it is violence that we seek to eliminate, not guns. We can outlaw acts of violence, we can do our best to regulate the tools of violence, but violence itself exists beyond definition of the law. Law exists to institutionalize and legitimize the state, which in turn institutionalizes the violence of the class for whom the state functions. Capitalism, the religion enshrined in our country (and by the west in general), is based on competition and inequity, and violence is a natural condition of this inequity. Of course, any mainstream discussion of violence in our country almost exclusively assumes that violence is anti-social (be it resistance or simply the white-hot explosion of our culture's id) while explaining away state violence as something other than violence. The intransigence of the problem lies in the fact that to erase violence, you must destroy the very foundation of our culture, a culture that is built on violence. Considering the magnitude of that task - not to mention the fact that such an act would be considered revolution - it's clear why so many want to substitute gun control for real substantive change.

We are educated to believe the laws protect the underclass and powerless in our culture . . . and ultimately they do, somewhat, but only to the degree that protecting the underclass serves the state, not the underclass itself***. It is (obviously!) not a bad idea to enact good laws; but laws serve the state (which, per the Marx quote above, is interchangeable with private property in our culture), and what we really want to do is to change our culture. To this end, we need to rebuild what Marx calls "natural community" . . . you could, for instance, begin with the idea that access to healthcare is the right of every person (not "every citizen" - break away from the chauvinism of arbitrary borders, build a community of humanity worldwide). You could follow up with the idea that everyone is owed a living, and that everyone has equal access to the riches of the world. You could see to it that no one stands on another's shoulders. You could turn these concepts into laws, if you are able, but most importantly, you want to build these values: our laws, good and bad, ultimately serve a corrupt master. It is the culture we are trying to change, so that is where we must start. Building a natural community in this manner will do more to end mass killings than any law we could pass.

Again, I don't necessarily oppose gun control. If it were up to me, every woman would have free and open access to any gun she wanted, while every man would be completely banned from owning any guns****. And Lord knows that I am not aligning myself with second amendment types; as I've said for years, guns don't kill people, idiots who think think their rights to guns supersede the safety of our citizens do. Besides, the whole idea of trying to control guns is quickly becoming technologically moot: it will take years for liberals to regain anything resembling control of the Congress and the White House, which is an absolute minimum requirement for passing gun legislation. By that time, it is likely that home production of guns will be easily accessible with the latest 3D printers and computer machining equipment, and the patriots of the US will be flooding the countryside with guns for no other reason that to support their reactionary ideology. Gun control will very soon be an impossibility; only changing the culture will save us.
____________________
*  This is not, in and of itself, a reason to oppose gun control, and I do not suggest that it is. If I believed that gun laws now would drastically reduce illegal weapons even 50 years from now, that would be a reasonable result. I do not, however, believe that to be the case.
** Note that Reagan supported the Brady Bill, as well as an assault weapons ban, which would put him right in line with current Democrat gun control efforts. It is also worth noting that he supported these initiatives well after he had to worry about gathering votes for public office (1991 and 1994, respectively).
*** See Adam Smith's defense of welfare: he understood that a free market economy required a buy-in, both literally and figuratively . . . and if nothing else, he understood that it was in the free market's interests to keep its workers from revolting (or, you know, dying of starvation).
**** Yeah, I know, gender's bullshit: let's go with any less physically capable being can own a gun, any physically capable being can't.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day

Labor Day’s a sop
tossed out by the bosses
like a dry husk
Joe Hill didn’t die for Labor Day
Joe Hill just died

When Joe Hill rises again
we'll see who takes his place
in the cold ground

                             -- Wm. Zink