Category Archives: Uncategorized

French Elections

Link to an article by Diana Johnstone summarizing the French presidential election environment:

“The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty”

(see also: “Slavoj Žižek: Dear Britain”)

Plus, here is a link to an interview of Raquel Garrido conducted by Cole Stangler about the most promising candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon:

“France Rebels”

Another contextual link:

“The Meaning of France Insoumise”

Anatoly Shtyrbul – The Autonomous Industrial Colony “Kuzbass”

Link to an article by Anatoly Shtyrbul:

“The Autonomous Industrial Colony ‘Kuzbass'”

Bonus links: Project Kuzbas: American Workers in Siberia, “Descendants of Dutch Colonists Visit OAO Koks,” “From Stalingrad to Kuzbas: Sketches of the Socialist Construction in the USSR,” “The American Industrial Colony in Kuzbass in the Years of 1922–1927”

David Broder – Being Anti-Trump Isn’t Enough

Link to an article by David Broder comparing Silvio Berlusconi to Donald Trump:

“Being Anti-Trump Isn’t Enough”

Bonus Quote:

“all the Leftists’ and liberal democrats’ worry about the danger of neo-Fascism lurking beneath Berlusconi’s victory is misplaced and, in a way, much too optimistic: Fascism is still a determinate political project, while in the case of Berlusconi, there is ultimately nothing lurking beneath, no secret ideological project, just the sheer assurance that things will function, that he will do better.  In short, Berlusconi is post-politics at its purest.  The ultimate sign of ‘post-politics’ in all Western countries is the growth of a managerial approach to government: government is reconceived as a managerial function, deprived of its properly political dimension.”  Slavoj Žižek, Revolution at the Gates, p. 303.

Bonus link: “Donald Trump’s Travel Expenses in 10 Weeks Cost US Taxpayers as Much as Barack Obama Spent in Two Years”

Hopeless Arguments

Kate Arnoff interviewed Ann Pettifor, for an article entitled “Want to Stop Fascism? Start By Taming the Finance Sector.”  The article demonstrates the hopeless centrism of Pettifor’s solutions, and the limited and self-defeating theory she applies to get there.

The crux of her argument is to apply Karl Polanyi‘s theory from his book The Great Transformation.  Pettifor calls Polanyi’s thesis unique.  It wasn’t.  Rather, it was a milquetoast version of the likes of Veblen, Lenin, Luxembourg, and Marx (Marx’s posthumous publications especially).  Her analysis is also selective and hypocritical.

First, the good.  Pettifor belongs to a school of thought that is sort of the UK counterpart to Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).  This means she has a good grasp of how taxes, money creation, and related things really work (as opposed to how the are usually explained by neoclassical economists).  Those points do not come from Karl Polanyi.  Anyway, she rightly focuses on the perceived/self-imposed impotence of government, though in the interview she offers nothing constructive to say about how to create political will to counter that self-imposed feeling of impotence (other than vague reference to China not being impotent when it comes to imposing capital controls, which are not discussed in any meaningful detail in the interview).

As to the bad, well, like most center-left bourgeois liberals these days, her entire program is basically to re-create the “golden age” of the post-WWII “fordist” prosperity.  She refers to “full employment” in that period.  Really?  She must mean full employment for white males.  Because that era depended, in large but unacknowledged measure, on racial segregation and patriarchy.  Include non-whites and women in the statistics and even during the “golden age” there was no full employment or equal access to social welfare programs — as noted by the likes of Alan Nasser, Howard Zinn, Selma James, Jennifer Mittelstadt, and others.  Also, American prosperity during that period was in large part dependent upon the destruction of the European manufacturing bases, hence temporarily eliminating that source of competition.  So, there are very real questions about whether those were beggar-thy-neighbor policies, or simply dependent upon the misery of (global) others that are conveniently externalized in the analysis.

Following Polanyi (and Nancy Fraser), she offers essentially a historically-based argument that falls within the realm of sociology.  Much like Polanyi’s, her argument suffers from being anecdotal and selective.  For instance, the interview (and perhaps this the fault of the interviewer and her editors more than Pettifor) suggests that adopting Polanyi’s political program will defeat the rise of a new fascism.  Historically, this is quite inaccurate.  The sort of New Deal welfare state of the Roosevelt administration did not defeat fascism — recall the term “premature anti-fascist”.  Rather, history showed that Axis powers fascism was defeated largely by communist entry into WWII, at great sacrifice.  Does that not suggest that the way to defeat fascism is communism?  Pettifor is trying to avoid that conclusion, and she does so poorly in this interview.

Polanyi mostly wrote in reaction to the right-wing theorists (Mises, Hayek, Rand, etc.) who wrote in opposition to the political left.  Rather than champion Polanyi, who really offers very little, it seems wiser to simply disregard the idiotic right-wing nutcases that Polanyi argued against and instead simply return to the earlier leftist thinking of Lenin and the like.  Commenting on Polanyi, The Nation cited “Polanyi’s refreshing reminder that a failure to stop an entire system isn’t necessarily a failure: Reform does not preclude something more radical in the future.”  Of course, Lenin’s What Is to Be Done? made precisely the opposite argument, that pursuit of minor reforms and amelioration of symptoms does preclude radical solutions to root causes.  As François Mitterrand said upon the failure of his political program in the 1980s: “In economics, there are two solutions. Either you are a Leninist. Or you won’t change anything.”

Debunking Rockhill

Gabriel Rockhill wrote a piece entitled “Free Speech Is Not the Issue”.  This sanctimonious article unfortunately takes a good premise and spoils it through a weak argument that relies upon a false dichotomy.  Much of the (so-called) argument relies upon ad-hominem attacks on a piece run in another publication, with Rockhill labeling the other article as taking a “supposed,” “thoughtless” and “misguided” position, etc.  While no doubt, Rockhill is correct to focus on the question of power, and to say “the right to be a bigot is not the right to have a university promote your bigotry,” his overall argument fails because it presupposes that people can fight for power or free speech, but not both.  They are presumed to be mutually exclusive.  A historical contrast would be Malcolm X, who quite eloquently argued for both.  Even if parity of power were achieved, wouldn’t it collapse if there was no free speech and hence no way to know and understand power?  Rockhill’s argument is short-sighted in this regard.  This is not to say that the other article is comprehensive and beyond criticism, but rather that the two approaches seem rather complementary in a way Rockhill summarily rejects without significant discussion — indeed, the authors of the other article might well agree with much of what he says regarding power and institutions.  The general tenor of his critique seems to be about which side can better lay claim to moral/ethical purity, and better cultivate an image of the “true” defender of liberty, equality, etc.  And that is a very tiresome debate indeed.  It is the essence of left factionalism that is a persistent thorn in the side of left political action (as Malcolm X noted).  It also overlooks the insights of Lenin’s What Is to Be Done? approach.