Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama from Sidney J. Gluck

Attached is an open letter to President Barack Obama.

I don't know whether you agree with my point of view or not; but I am functioning out of the feeling that the negative aspects of capitalism are becoming obvious to people all around the world regardless of class positions, that understanding its avaricious nature brings them closer to Marx's analysis of the system which all of you can read his seminal word on "Capital." Chapter 26 which deals with the law of capitalist accumulation will give you the prototype of which the USA's capitalism is the arch example of its worst (together with the British who started out but are following along with the USA).

Globalization is a mess and everyone knows that the USA has created more poverty with its capital investments than existed before the global expansion. We know that formal colonial countries are seeing through this domination and are moving in directions which reject the control of foreign capital in their own developments. WE ARE LIVING IN A CENTURY OF EPOCHAL CHANGE. Our hope is that the change which is now developing in the form of a bipolar economic structure will continue to redevelop economies technologically and sustainably. We hope too that the ultimate resolution of differences between the double-structured world economic system will not be resolved by warfare. That is the most important struggle we must be involved with. A peaceful acceptance of epochal change and the survival of all in a better world.


Sidney J. Gluck

Dear President Obama,

The world economic crisis sparked by the financial sector of our country has put the capitalist system on a defensive more openly than any other time in history. I am one of many who strongly supported your candidacy based on your vocalization of much of what we felt had to be changed in our country to make it more livable for those of us who produce the wealth and intellectual atmosphere.

You are facing the sharpest attack from the ranks of the Republican Party. We all admire your diplomatic ability to deal with those who disagree with you; but, the time has come when you must take an ideological position in order to clarify the issues involved in building a new type of economic structure in the country. This means that the dominance of the financial institutions in the political decisions affecting the majority must be defended openly against misrepresentations and manipulations which we all now know come from the unsupported defense of government that gives primacy to capital accumulation whether it be finance capital or industrial capital.

You do not have to embrace socialism. That is not the ideological position that put you in power. You were put in the White House with a promise to govern in the name of the working majority. True, you would like to have support from all sections of political and economic forces, but YOU WILL NOT GET IT.

If you continue to move along supporting the program of the financial circles in our country, your presidency is DOOMED. Listen to the needs of the majority and cater to it.

You can announce openly that you are not for socialism but you are for correcting the ills of the capitalist system and to relinquish domination of other countries allowing them to move independently as their people desire.

The Republican Party is pressing for the continuation of the kind of economic distortions that has dragged the world down. Openly facing this fact will help you reshape our country’s goals.

We are in an epoch of change. We must remove barriers and encourage each nation to resolve their day to day problems created by greed and distorted wealth accumulation. It does not make you a socialist to talk for Main Street but they need a spokesman in high places that will act for them.

You are in an enviable yet complicated position. Exposing the negative effect of unregulated finance capital which dominates humanity today would memorialize you for the next thousand years. The Bush Administration preempted the first move to deal with the economic crisis by bailing out the perpetrators who squandered every cent in bonuses and bashes. You are now faced with additional steps to bail out the industrial capitalists who have the responsibility of reshaping these enterprises into a new technological and green economy whose purpose is to raise the living standards of all.

The fulfillment of your promises requires that you take an ideological position. You will go down in history as having broken the racial barrier but it will end at that if you continue to be consumed by the economic crisis. OUR SYSTEM NEEDS CHANGE. Do what you can within that system. This means openly opposing the Republican Party’s program already on the road to capturing the presidency and congress in 2010 before they bring us further down. Don’t let them bully you with the “socialist” label.

The ball is in your court to change the situation. In your most diplomatic way you must take an ideological position to correct the problems of the system as you promised and restore true democracy which favors the needs of the majority.


Sidney J. Gluck

Monday, March 30, 2009

Obama's No Socialist. I Should Know.

This question that keeps popping up about Barack Obama being a socialist is very interesting and it is a question that Barack Obama should answer for himself.

I disagree with many positions of the Socialist Party and often wonder if the Socialist Party understands what socialism is all about; but, I don't say "Billy Wharton's No Socialist. I Should Know." Because Billy Wharton can speak for himself.

Fox News called out Sam Webb, the nominal head be default of the Communist Party USA, to make the exact same assertion about Barack Obama... and Webb dutifully said the same thing for Rupert Murdoch who supported Obama--- that Obama is no socialist.

Since Sam Webb claims he wants no association with "20th Century socialism," I can assume that Sam Webb is no socialist, either; and that he wouldn't know a socialist if he met one... so, he couldn't possibly know whether or not Barack Obama is a socialist. Why the heck is Webb even speaking for Obama? Could it be that Webb and Obama really do share a common ideology?

So, how would Webb or Wharton know if Barack Obama was a socialist or not--- either an open socialist or a closet socialist... after all, the socialist New Party did endorse Barack Obama when he ran for public office in Illinois... and, Barack Obama came to a New Party meeting to personally accept the endorsement--- there are even pictures of this... we all remember the billboards along our highways put up by the John Birch Society--- Martin Luther King sitting next to the communist with a big red circle around him.

And many members of the Socialist Party did endorse, and vote for, Obama over their own candidate.

And the National Board of the Communist Party USA, Chaired by Sam Webb, did--- unfortunately--- endorse Barack Obama... they even turned out en masse clapping and cheering for Obama's inauguration ceremony; perhaps invited by Obama himself?

Obviously we can carry this question of "is, or isn't, Obama a socialist" to the absurd extremes, which the right-wing has, and is, doing.

We all know that the real reason this question has even arisen is due to anti-communist "red-baiting." Red-baiting is a favorite past time of the over-paid pea-brained, capitalist sooth-Sayers when they aren't busy creating their next big lie explaining to us how great capitalism is.

The so-called "leaders" of the Communist Party USA even claim that John Maynard Keynes was "a great socialist economist."

Now, are we all going to start asking, again, "Is Obama a socialist" because he supports a bastardized neo-liberal Keynesian approach to economics?

There is good reason to suspect that Barack Obama has a very good grasp of what socialism is because he had one the very best teachers, Frank Marshall Davis--- who I am sure schooled the young Barack Obama well in Marxist-Leninist ideology. But, does this mean Barack Obama is a socialist?

In fact, just about every graduate from Harvard University's School of Business receives the best Marxist education money can buy... how many of the graduates are communists or socialists? If we are lucky, maybe a handful.

I have met socialists and communists who had less of an understanding about what socialism is than Barack Obama--- Sam Webb is one such person; that he would be stupid enough to go on national television and answer a question meant for Barack Obama, a question only Barack Obama should be asked--- without himself knowing what socialism is--- proves my point. Talk about the stupid trying to lead a dumb donkey!

Actually, Obama demonstrated a pretty good grasp of socialist thinking, and practice, when he asked in response to the taunts from the right-wing something to the effect: "Am I a socialist now because I might have shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a kid in grade school?"

I kind of doubt Barack Obama ever shared anything with anyone seeing as how he is nothing but a self-serving, self-promoting opportunist politician who only cares about himself to the exclusion of everyone else.

I have known a number of socialists and communists just like him... so, I think he just might be some kind of socialist or communist... but, I'm not about to call him "comrade." If he had been a communist or socialist before, "sell out" would be the more appropriate word now.

Is Obama a socialist or communist? Let this dumb donkey Obama answer this stupid question himself.

Socialists and communists shouldn't be concerned with this question in the least... what we should be concerned about is stopping the three wars raging in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and halting all further support and financial assistance to the Israeli killing machine and slashing the senseless military budget so we can solve the real problems people are experiencing.

I haven't seen Sam Webb or Billy Wharton addressing the problems of working people here in Minnesota, or anyplace else for that matter... they have been silent on the closing of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant as two-thousand jobs are about to be flushed down the Mississippi and chopped up like suckers passing through the turbines of the hydro-dam which has powered this plant for over 80 years--- compliments of tax-payers.

Where is the call by Webb or Billy Bob Wharton for public ownership of this plant?

What the heck, they were even silent when their support was needed for SF 607, a piece of legislation brought forward by a few progressive Minnesota state legislators... and, then, where do "Communist" Sam Webb and "Socialist" Billy Wharton stand on a "people's bailout;" we didn't see hide nor hair of them when the same Minnesota state legislators brought forward the Minnesota People's Bailout to try to protect workers like the Ford workers losing their jobs.

Two-million casino workers employed in the Indian Gaming Industry at over 350 casino/resort/hotel/motel/restaurant/theme parks spread out across the country using "Compacts" to establish right-to-work for less without any rights colonies sending these two-million workers to jobs in smoke-filled places of employment without any rights under state or federal labor laws... the most Draconian working conditions in the world where these two-million workers are directly under the thumbs of outright gangsters and mobsters who bust into the homes of workers and beat them with baseball bats and steel pipes until their heads swell to the size of a basketball--- not a peep from Sam Webb or Billy Wharton.

Sam Webb and Billy Bob Wharton both can wax as eloquently as John Sweeney--- that Methodist preacher passing himself off as a labor leader--- about the Employee Free Choice Act; but, none of them have the courage to stand up and call for repealing the repressive "At-will hiring; at-will firing" legislation on the books in twenty-eight states--- in fact, none of them are even aware that this Draconian legislation is the major impediment to union organizing in the United States today; a hurdle not even the Employee Free Choice Act will be able to jump.

The real question here is not about whether Barack Obama is a socialist or communist.

The real question here isn't even whether or not Sam Webb and Billy Wharton are Communists and Socialists, respectively--- because we know Billy Wharton doesn't want to be called a Communist and Sam Webb has already stated he wants it known that he completely disassociates himself from 20th Century socialism.

The one and only issue involved in this question being asked as far as if Barack Obama is a socialist or communist is this:

Is the American working class going to tell these anti-communists to take their red-baiting and shove it where the sun doesn't shine?

All I got to say is that if with capitalism on the skids to oblivion dragging the rest of us along with it down the road to perdition; if the working class in the United States doesn't give red-baiting the boot and get up to speed real quick-like about what socialism is all about, we are in for some very rough times.

We might all be socialists now, but, are we all prepared to struggle for socialism to save out butts?

A little suggestion for Sam Webb, Billy Wharton and Barack Obama: If American workers start learning about the socialist alternative to capitalism from real communists like Marx, Engels, Lenin, William Z. Foster, James W. Ford, Earl Browder, Wyndham Mortimer, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Paul Robeson, Gus Hall, W.E.B. DuBois and Henry Winston, they might want to begin looking to see where they can find a safe haven because there are going to be some mighty angry workers in the good old U.S.A. And if I were them I would forget about those sandy beaches in the Cayman Islands.

It is nice that "Communist" Sam Webb and "Socialist" Billy Bob Wharton are sparring with Rupert Murdoch's boys; but, they might want to consider taking part in the real class struggle on the side of the working class against Barack Obama and his Wall Street crowd who are laughing like hell all the way to their banks in the Cayman Islands to deposit our tax-dollars and the profits they extract from our hides.

And while we are talking about what makes a socialist or communist we should consider where people stand in regard to imperialism.

Imperialism, U.S. imperialism in particular, is taking a heavy toll on working people, and humanity in general.

There are the obvious victims dying and wounded in these dirty imperialist wars.

Rather than acknowledging that "we are all socialists now," with so few people understanding what socialism is... maybe we should consider that most of us are all "victims of imperialism now" because the United States has over 800 military bases on foreign soil dotting the globe when we should have 800 public health care centers spread out across the United States providing free health care for all.

I think if we can get up to speed with a quick lesson on imperialism, we will be ready for "Socialism 101" in short order.

Alan L. Maki

Obama's No Socialist. I Should Know.


By Billy Wharton
Sunday, March 15, 2009; Page B01

It took a massive global financial crisis, a failed military adventure and a popular repudiation of the Republican Party to make my national television debut possible. After 15 years of socialist political organizing -- everything from licking envelopes and handing out leaflets to the more romantic task of speaking at street demonstrations -- I found myself in the midtown Manhattan studio of the Fox Business Network on a cold February evening. Who ever thought that being the editor of the Socialist magazine, circulation 3,000, would launch me on a cable news career?

Obama's No Socialist. I Should Know.

The media whirlwind began in October with a call from a New York Times writer. He wanted a tour of the Socialist Party USA's national office. Although he was more interested in how much paper we used in our "socialist cubby hole" than in our politics, our media profile exploded. Next up, a pleasant interview by Swedish National Radio. Then Brian Moore, our 2008 presidential candidate, sparred with Stephen Colbert. Even the Wall Street Journal wanted a socialist to quote after the first bailout bill failed last fall. Traffic to our Web site multiplied, e-mail inquiries increased and meetings with potential recruits to the Socialist Party yielded more new members than ever before. Socialism -- an idea with a long history -- suddenly seemed to have a bright future in 21st-century America.

Whom did we have to thank for this moment in the spotlight? Oddly enough, Republican politicians such as Mike Huckabee and John McCain had become our most effective promoters. During his campaign, the ever-desperate McCain, his hard-charging running mate Sarah Palin and even a plumber named Joe lined up to call Barack Obama a "socialist." Last month, Huckabee even exclaimed that, "The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead, but the Union of American Socialist Republics is being born."

We appreciated the newfound attention. But we also cringed as the debate took on the hysterical tone of a farcical McCarthyism. The question "Is Obama a socialist?" spread rapidly through a network of rightwing blogs, conservative television outlets and alarmist radio talk shows and quickly moved into the mainstream. "We Are All Socialists Now," declared a Newsweek cover last month. A New York Times reporter recently pinned Obama down with the question, "Are you a socialist, as some people have suggested?" The normally unflappable politician stumbled through a response so unconvincing that it required a follow-up call in which Obama claimed impeccable free market credentials.

All this speculation over whether our current president is a socialist led me into the sea of business suits, BlackBerrys and self-promoters in the studio at Fox Business News. I quickly realized that the antagonistic anchor David Asman had little interest in exploring socialist ideas on bank nationalization. For Asman, nationalization was merely a code word for socialism. Using logic borrowed from the 1964 thriller "The Manchurian Candidate," he portrayed Obama as a secret socialist, so far undercover that not even he understood that his policies were de facto socialist. I was merely a cudgel to be wielded against the president -- a physical embodiment of guilt by association.

The funny thing is, of course, that socialists know that Barack Obama is not one of us. Not only is he not a socialist, he may in fact not even be a liberal. Socialists understand him more as a hedge-fund Democrat -- one of a generation of neoliberal politicians firmly committed to free-market policies.

The first clear indication that Obama is not, in fact, a socialist, is the way his administration is avoiding structural changes to the financial system. Nationalization is simply not in the playbook of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his team. They favor costly, temporary measures that can easily be dismantled should the economy stabilize. Socialists support nationalization and see it as a means of creating a banking system that acts like a highly regulated public utility. The banks would then cease to be sinkholes for public funds or financial versions of casinos and would become essential to reenergizing productive sectors of the economy.

The same holds true for health care. A national health insurance system as embodied in the single-payer health plan reintroduced in legislation this year by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), makes perfect sense to us. That bill would provide comprehensive coverage, offer a full range of choice of doctors and services and eliminate the primary cause of personal bankruptcy -- health-care bills. Obama's plan would do the opposite. By mandating that every person be insured, ObamaCare would give private health insurance companies license to systematically underinsure policyholders while cashing in on the moral currency of universal coverage. If Obama is a socialist, then on health care, he's doing a fairly good job of concealing it.

Issues of war and peace further weaken the commander in chief's socialist credentials. Obama announced that all U.S. combat brigades will be removed from Iraq by August 2010, but he still intends to leave as many as 50,000 troops in Iraq and wishes to expand the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A socialist foreign policy would call for the immediate removal of all troops. It would seek to follow the proposal made recently by an Afghan parliamentarian, which called for the United States to send 30,000 scholars or engineers instead of more fighting forces.

Yet the president remains "the world's best salesman of socialism," according to Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. DeMint encouraged supporters "to take to the streets to stop America's slide into socialism." Despite the fact that billions of dollars of public wealth are being transferred to private corporations, Huckabee still felt confident in proposing that "Lenin and Stalin would love" Obama's bank bailout plan.

Huckabee is clearly no socialist scholar, and I doubt that any of Obama's policies will someday appear in the annals of socialist history. The president has, however, been assigned the unenviable task of salvaging a capitalist system intent on devouring itself. The question is whether he can do so without addressing the deep inequalities that have become fundamental features of American society. So, President Obama, what I want to know is this: Can you lend legitimacy to a society in which 5 percent of the population controls 85 percent of the wealth? Can you sell a health-care reform package that will only end up enriching a private health insurance industry? Will you continue to favor military spending over infrastructure development and social services?

My guess is that the president will avoid these questions, further confirming that he is not a socialist except, perhaps, in the imaginations of an odd assortment of conservatives. Yet as the unemployment lines grow longer, the food pantries emptier and health care scarcer, socialism may be poised for a comeback in America. The doors of our "socialist cubby-hole" are open to anyone, including Obama. I encourage him to stop by for one of our monthly membership meetings. Be sure to arrive early to get a seat -- we're more popular than ever lately.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

My response to "The Nation Magazine" forum on reimagining socialism

We see what a Nation Forum on “Reimagining Socialism” consists of (See blog below); the same dishonesty in intellectualism with which The Nation has become associated with for many years now under the Editorship of Katrina vanden Heuvel whose “socialist credentials” consist of an anti-communist resume of unending attacks on real socialism where it existed--- most notably in the Soviet Union and the East European people’s socialist democracies now under the thumb of gangster capitalism, and unending attacks on Communist Parties without explaining how it is possible to organize socialist movements and how workers can come to power without Communist Parties.

One characteristic each and everyone of these essays is short of is specific solutions to our common problems.

Is it not strange that the views of working class Communists--- Marxists-Leninists--- would not be invited or tolerated in such a forum on socialism? Certainly Communists have demonstrated a right to be heard based upon our activities.

None-the-less, this Forum on socialism is very interesting, useful and informative--- as well as being welcome--- because it demonstrates very clearly the bankruptcy of these well-heeled, muddle-headed, middle class intellectual socialists who supported Barack Obama--- first making the ridiculous claim that he was a “progressive” which provided Obama to get through the primaries [actually they did such a good job with Obama many of us were left scratching our heads wondering if he wasn't some kind of closet socialist or even a Communist); then they proclaimed to the world, “No, no; Obama is no socialist like us, to help Obama get past the vicious red-baiting of John McCain and the Rush Limbaugh's of the world; and they now are making the claim that Obama is a “centrist leaning to the left” and that there is something “progressive” to be found in each of his actions even when every single one of his most important acts has been to further drive down the standard of living of the working class while pushing up the cost-of-living factors combining to make life miserable for working people in a way none of these well-heeled, muddle-headed, middle class intellectual socialist dreamers of utopias could ever comprehend or understand no matter how much they erroneously claim to understand “The Open Marxism” of Antonio Gramsci,” who, with Palmiro Togliatti developed our modern day understanding that Communist Party Clubs are the back-bone, strength, brain and action centers capable of bringing about socialism when these Clubs form a mighty and powerful network comprising the Communist Party giving leadership to working class struggles for reform which constantly advance the need for the socialist alternative to capitalism, without which socialism has never been achieved and without which socialism will never be achieved in the United States or anyplace else… and it was Lenin and his comrades in arms who pioneered the way to power based upon what they learned from studying about capitalism from Karl Marx and the failure of the French communards during their short-lived but heroic stand we know as the Paris Commune.

French communards who were murdered fighting for the rights of working people.

Not to mention that the defeat of fascism was largely accomplished due to the leadership of Joseph Stalin who had to act quickly to feed and educate a starving and mostly illiterate nation, adequately house an impoverished nation while building up its industrial might while the most advanced imperialist countries not only sat back hoping that the new socialist society and government would collapse, but was doing all in their power to try to cripple all efforts by the Soviet people to create a better life than what they inherited by a bunch of arrogant, backwards, mean, selfish and cruel czars who lived off the blood and sweat of the people who wallowed in poverty under a government whose policies were formulated under terms known as “benign neglect.”

Antonio Gramsci, worker, Italian Communist Party organizer, thinker, theorist, philosopher, writer, activist, elected politician and victim of brutal fascist political repression.

Some of the socialists can even wax eloquent about the "Communist Manifesto" but they fail to comprehend--- or possibly in quaintly, caffelatte-liberal fashion ignore the fact--- that the reason Marx and Engels wrote and distributed the "Communist Manifesto" was to help build Communist organizations, i.e. Communist Parties in every country consisting of networks of Communist Party Clubs in working class communities and where people worked and recreated--- something the "red" Finns did quite well in communities in many states across America.

What our middle class socialist friends fail to understand, is that the "Communist Manifesto" packaged with the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides us with a very powerful educational action packet.

And the closest any of these muddle-headed middle class intellectuals can come to bringing themselves to acknowledge the contributions of Communists in building socialism as an alternative to this capitalist system which is rotten to the core, presently on the skids to oblivion, dragging along the working class down the short, bumpy road to perdition is the mention of Lenin’s famous question without acknowledging his name: “What is to be done?”

“What is to be done?,” a question none of these self-proclaimed, muddle-headed middle class intellectual socialists has attempted to even remotely articulate an answer to.

We working class Communists are not afraid to stand our views up against these faux socialists and bring forward real solutions to this current capitalist economic mess now unfolding before us on a global scale which threatens to engulf us all even deeper in wars, poverty, misery and despair all of which has roots in the capitalist system which is based upon the exploitation of labor where there are only two sources of wealth: labor and Mother Nature; capitalists rob the first and rape the latter which is where all of our modern day problems arise.

From reading these essays one would not imagine there are problems involving trying to save jobs by saving factories and entire industries because these “socialists” have never called for the public ownership of a specific factory as a means to saving jobs… nor a comment from any of these “green” socialists as to what should be done to save the jobs of two-thousand workers employed at one of the greenest and largest mass production plants in the world of which a hydro-dam is situated adjacent to it on the Mighty Mississippi River located in the midst of a quaint neighborhood that built up around the plant as workers struggled for their rights to work in a safe and healthy work environment--- a working class struggle which has created one of the greenest communities in North America or, for that matter, anyplace else in the world… and not a single one of these muddle-headed, middle class intellectuals who first posed as progressives supporting Barack Obama now claiming to speak for socialists and socialism who acknowledge they have no political base or political home other than their ivory tower surroundings from which to test their socialist perspectives on us don’t even question that Communists have been left out of this forum on socialism and they completely ignore the very specific problems of working people and the working class as they drone on and on about the need to begin building the movement for socialism behind struggles for reforms.

It boggles my mind that these socialists have the audacity and arrogance to write about working people losing their jobs when they cannot even muster engaging in dialog about saving closing plants as in the auto industry… common sense, never mind socialist understanding which is assumed to contain a modicum of common sense, dictates that you cannot save the jobs of workers whose plants are being literally demolished by capitalists who are so mean and vicious that they will blow up a plant and demolish it just to evade competition from the public sector.

We do not hear from these socialists any suggestions about bringing the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and the hydro-dam that has powered the operation for decades compliments of local, state and federal tax-payers who have pretty much subsidized the entire operation including a thirty-million dollar high technology-learning center which is part of the public school system.

One can only “imagine” the kind of movement which might emerge should these socialists The Nation magazine has enlisted to bring us this forum on “reimagining socialism,” should these same writers spend a little time talking to workers at the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and other closing plants and mines and mills about their futures’ before sitting down at their keyboards to write these kinds of frivolous essays when working people require so much more.

Are there no workers who are competent writers The Nation could have recruited for its “reimagining socialism” forum?

We do not hear the thoughts of these socialist writers about making the minimum wage a real living wage, constantly updated through appropriate legislation based upon real cost-of-living factors; why not?

We do not hear from any of these muddle-headed, middle class, intellectual, socialists the need to forge a massive united peace movement which begins to really educate the American people to the real nature of imperialism--- the highest and last stage of capitalism in its most decadent form--- by suggesting that instead of 800 U.S. military bases on foreign soil, what we really need is 800 public health care centers spread out across the United States providing free universal access to comprehensive, all-inclusive health care to the American people.

Most of these writers deny that socialism is on the table right now as we are living in what can only be described as the greatest “Marxist moment” in all of human history.

Three wars rage on while many of these “socialists” accept Obama’s concept of “peace” to be the successful imperialist occupation of Iraq where the oil flows to the west as the profits surge into the pockets of the seven thieves comprising the global capitalist oil industry.

Each of these “socialists” talk about how ‘climate change” is one of the greatest dangers we as human beings and our living environment face; but, none of these muddle-headed middle class intellectual socialists will stand with the workers of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant struggling to save their jobs and a model of green manufacturing.

All were fully aware of the legislation being put forward by a handful of Minnesota State Legislators to save the plant… none struck a key on their computer keyboards as legislation was defeated by the political allies of Barack Obama in the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party--- which derives part of its name from the most advanced political party independent from capital created by progressive, socialists and communists which ruled Minnesota politics for two decades submersed in the day-to-day struggles of working people for a better life… not even a mention from these “socialist” writers in The Nation magazine’s Forum On Socialism about the base and foundation we have from what remains of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party… a foundation of progressive and liberal thought that even this Republican Governor and one of the most well oiled and financed Republican machines has not been able to break through and crush.

One has to ask the question of these well-heeled, muddle-headed, middle class, intellectual socialists: What planet are you living on and writing from that you cannot answer even the most basic questions concerning “What Is To Be Done?” when it comes to addressing the specific problems of everyday life working people are experiencing?

Why no mention here from these socialists of the immediate need for a “people’s bailout?” No mention of the “Minnesota People’s Bailout” brought forward by the same small group of progressive Minnesota State Legislators who tried desperately to save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and hydro-dam in trying to save two-thousand good-paying union jobs providing these workers with decent work and a decent life. The “Minnesota People’s Bailout” could easily be used as a template by other state legislatures and the United States Congress to, as Minnesota State Senator David Tomassoni has said: “We need to work our way out of this economic mess not try to buy our way out;” a direct challenge to Barack Obama’s pro-profit, pro-Wall Street, anti-people agenda.

To hear it from these well-heeled, muddle-headed, middle class, intellectual socialists, there are no Wall Street coupon clippers nor capitalist sooth-Sayers… there is only the “high road” to socialism working with friendly capitalists or the “low road” to socialism forced on us by the merchants of death and destruction… according to them, the first road places socialism someplace in the distant future; the latter road may kill us all before we can get there… great excuses for well-heeled, middle class intellectuals to evade the here and now… especially when socialism is so abhorrent to Barack Obama he runs from it like he ran after getting the socialist oriented New Party endorsement in Chicago and ran for the door before saying “thanks;” staying just long enough to, reluctantly, get his picture taken.

It would be nice if just once The Nation magazine and its editor posing as a great defender of “class-less democracy” could see its way to allowing a Communist to venture an opinion on this question of “reimagining socialism” because such an opinion might put a little “zip” and “gusto” into the discussion of these well-heeled, latte-loving, muddle-headed, middle class intellectual socialists whose only value for an expensively bound Communist Manifesto is as an ornament on their ebony coffee tables with ivory drawer handles; intellectuals who fail to bring even the “love me, love me; I’m a liberal” enthusiasm for socialism into this discussion much less bringing forward the needed ideas working people need to become engaged in the struggle for real power… social, political and economic power.

It is almost like these writers are more afraid of socialism than they are of capitalism… they can afford to place socialism on the back-burner for another day waiting for working people to buy their coffee-table books. Working people cannot afford the luxury of such intellectualism as they struggle daily just for survival. Working people cannot afford the luxury of putting off the struggle for socialism because the struggle for socialism is now, more than ever, part of the struggle for survival.

Anyways, read what these writers in The Nation have to say… then read my blog for a working class Communist perspective on what socialist activists are doing as these middle class intellectuals, long divorced from any struggles, are writing about… some of the writings contain some good thoughts we can make use of.

Reading the views of others always helps us strengthen our own ideas about what the politics and economics of livelihood is really all about; real socialism.

To the extent that these essays in The Nation magazine contribute to a wider dialog, discussion and debate about the socialist alternative to capitalism they are most welcome and useful and the writers should be thanked for this; but that is about all… with a couple notable exceptions.

I do find it interesting that The Nation magazine would deny its readers voices from those with a political perspective who organized and led the struggles for the New Deal reforms through building the very powerful “People’s Front” while educating working people and so many people from all walks of life about the socialist alternative to capitalism.

From these writers we read their joke about the socialist economist concerning recession; but, from these socialist writers there is not the acknowledgment we are living in the midst of a full-fledged capitalist economic depression.

I find it rather ironic that these writers in "The Nation Magazine Forum on Reimagining Socialism all seem to think that socialism is not on the table today as if by some kind of pious proclamation they have the right to take it off the table.

Because none of these writers, by virtue of their middle class status, is suffering the brunt of the attacks on the working class creating a crises of everyday living for so many working people they have no sense of urgency to solve any of the myriad of problems working people are just expected to endure. In taking socialism off the table they don't even have the plain old common decency to address the need for specific reforms to alleviate the problems working people are experiencing.

For these middle class intellectuals every demand that working people make for reforms is always too much when they say that things have to be accomplished "incrementally." Socialism is too big of a leap but so is a living minimum wage based upon real cost of living factors is too much at one time.

These muddle-headed middle class intellectual socialists remain quiet as their Democratic Party friends bring forward the idea that a 70 cent increase in the minimum wage should be delayed in this time of crisis for restaurant workers because the bosses would suffer!

To the way of thinking of these muddle-headed middle class intellectuals working people will have to patiently "wait their turn" for Barack Obama's second term.

I am wondering if these middle class intellectual socialists who like to hold up Antonio Gramsci in opposition to Lenin think that Gramsci would set aside this Marxist moment by saying socialism is not on the table?













Build a Communist Party Club in your neighborhood, school or workplace today so we can bring real socialist perspectives into the public square for dialog, discussion and debate.

Yours in the struggle,

Alan L. Maki

58891 County Road 13

Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Phone: 218-386-2432

Cell phone: 651-587-5541

E-mail: amaki000@centurytel.net

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Thoughts From Podunk


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rising to the Occasion Reimagining Socialism: A Nation Forum

The Nation.

Socialism's all the rage. "We Are All Socialists Now," Newsweek declares. As the right wing tells it, we're already living in the U.S.S.A. But what do self-identified socialists (and their progressive friends) have to say about capitalism's current troubles? We've asked them, and you can read their spirited replies in the forum that follows this essay. --The Editors

Rising to the Occasion
Reimagining Socialism: A Nation Forum
By Barbara Ehrenreich & Bill Fletcher Jr.

This article appeared in the March 23, 2009 edition of The Nation.

If you haven't heard socialists doing much crowing over the fall of capitalism, it isn't just because there aren't enough of us to make an audible crowing sound. We, as much as anyone on Wall Street in, say, 2006, appreciate the resilience of American capitalism--its ability to regroup and find fresh avenues for growth, as it did after the depressions of 1877, 1893 and the 1930s. In fact, The Communist Manifesto can be read not only as an indictment of capitalism but as a breathless paean to its dynamism. And we all know the joke about the Marxist economist who successfully predicted eleven out of the last three recessions.

But this time the patient may not get up from the table, no matter how many times the electroshock paddles of "stimulus" are applied. We seem to have entered the death spiral where rising unemployment leads to reduced consumption and hence to greater unemployment. Any schadenfreude we might be tempted to feel as executives lose their corporate jets and the erstwhile Masters of the Universe wipe egg from their faces is quickly dashed by the ever more vivid suffering around us. Food pantries and shelters can no longer keep up with the demand; millions face old age without pensions and with their savings gutted; we personally are consumed with anxiety about the future that awaits our children and grandchildren.

Besides, it wasn't supposed to happen this way. There was supposed to be a revolution, remember? The socialist idea, prediction, faith or whatever was that capitalism would fall when people got tired of trying to live on the crumbs that fall from the chins of the rich and rose up in some fashion--preferably inclusively, democratically and nonviolently--and seized the wealth for themselves. Such a seizure would have looked nothing like "nationalization" as currently discussed, in which public wealth flows into the private sector with little or no change in the elites that control it or in the way the control is exercised. Our expectation as socialists was that the huge amount of organizing required for revolutionary change would create an infrastructure for governance, built out of--among other puzzle pieces--unions, community organizations, advocacy groups and new organizations of the unemployed and nouveau poor.

It was also supposed to be a simple matter for the masses to take over or "seize" the physical infrastructure of industrial capitalism--the "means of production"--and start putting it to work for the common good. But much of the means of production has fled overseas--to China, for example, that bastion of authoritarian capitalism. When we look around our increasingly shuttered landscape and survey the ruins of finance capitalism, we see bank upon bank, realty and mortgage companies, title companies, insurance companies, credit-rating agencies and call centers, but not enough enterprises making anything we could actually use, like food or pharmaceuticals. In recent years, capitalism has become increasingly and almost mystically abstract. Outside manufacturing and the service sector, fewer and fewer people could explain to their children what they did for a living. The brightest students went into finance, not physics. The biggest urban buildings housed cubicles and computer screens, not assembly lines, laboratories, studios or classrooms. Even our flagship industry, manufacturing autos, would require major retooling to make something we could use--not more cars, let alone more SUVs, but more windmills, buses and trains.

What is most galling, from a socialist perspective, is the dawning notion that capitalism may be leaving us with less than it found on this planet, about 400 years ago, when the capitalist mode of production began to take off. Marx imagined that industrial capitalism had potentially solved the age-old problem of scarcity and that there was plenty to go around if only it was equitably distributed. But industrial capitalism--with some help from industrial communism--has brought about a level of environmental destruction that threatens our species along with countless others. The climate is warming, the oil supply is peaking, the deserts are advancing and the seas are rising and contain fewer and fewer fish for us to eat. You don't have to be a freaky doomster to see that extinction may be what's next on the agenda.

In this situation, with both long-term biological and day-to-day economic survival in doubt, the only relevant question is: do we have a plan, people? Can we see our way out of this and into a just, democratic, sustainable (add your own favorite adjectives) future?

Let's just put it right out on the table: we don't. At least we don't have some blueprint on how to organize society ready to whip out of our pockets. Lest this sound negligent on our part, we should explain that socialism was an idea about how to rearrange ownership and distribution and, to an extent, governance. It assumed that there was a lot worth owning and distributing; it did not imagine having to come up with an entirely new and environmentally sustainable way of life. Furthermore, the history of socialism has been disfigured by too many cadres who had a perfect plan, if only they could win the next debate, carry out a coup or get enough people to fall into line behind them.

But we do understand--and this is one of the things that make us "socialists"--that the absence of a plan, or at least some sort of deliberative process for figuring out what to do, is no longer an option. The great promise of capitalism, as first suggested by Adam Smith and recently enshrined in "market fundamentalism," was that we didn't have to figure anything out, because the market would take care of everything for us. Instead of promoting self-reliance, this version of free enterprise fostered passivity in the face of that inscrutable deity, the Market. Deregulate, let wages fall to their "natural" level, turn what remains of government into an endless source of bounty for contractors--whee! Well, that hasn't worked, and the core idea of socialism still stands: that people can get together and figure out how to solve their problems, or at least a lot of their problems, collectively. That we--not the market or the capitalists or some elite group of über-planners--have to control our own destiny.

We admit: we don't even have a plan for the deliberative process that we know has to replace the anarchic madness of capitalism. Yes, we have some notion of how it should work, based on our experiences with the civil rights movement, the women's movement and the labor movement, as well as with countless cooperative enterprises. This notion centers on what we still call "participatory democracy," in which all voices are heard and all people equally respected. But we have no precise models of participatory democracy on the scale that is currently called for, involving hundreds of millions, and potentially billions, of participants at a time.

What might this look like? There are some intriguing models to study, like the Brazilian Workers Party's famous experiments in developing a participatory budget in Porto Alegre. Z Magazine founder Michael Albert developed a detailed approach to mass-based planning that he calls participatory economics, or "parecon," and one of us (Fletcher, in his book Solidarity Divided, written with Fernando Gapasin) has proposed a locally based network of people's assemblies. But all this is experimental, and we realize that any system for mass democratic planning will be messy. It will stumble; it will be wrong sometimes; and there will be a lot of running back to the drawing board.

But as socialists we know the spirit in which this great project of collective salvation must be undertaken, and that spirit is solidarity. An antique notion until very recently, it flickered into life again in the symbolism and energy of the Obama campaign. The Yes We Can! chant was the slogan of the United Farm Workers movement and went on to be adopted by various unions and community-based organizations to emphasize what large numbers of people can accomplish through collective action. Even Obama's relatively anodyne calls for a new commitment to volunteerism and community service seem to have inspired a spirit of "giving back." If the idea of democratic planning, of controlling our destiny, is the intellectual content of socialism, then solidarity is its emotional energy source--the moral understanding and the searing conviction that, however overwhelming the challenges, we are in this together.

Solidarity, though, is an empty sentiment without organization--ways of thinking and working together, and of connecting the social movements that are battling injustice every day. We see a tremendous opportunity in the bleak fact that millions of Americans have been rendered redundant by the capitalist economy and are free to dedicate their considerable talents to creating a more just and sustainable alternative. But if we are serious about collective survival in the face of our multiple crises, we have to build organizations, including explicitly socialist ones, that can mobilize this talent, develop leadership and advance local struggles. And we have to be serious, because the capitalist elites who have run things so far have forfeited all trust or even respect, and we--progressives of all stripes--are now the only grown-ups around.

Other Contributions to the Forum

(Note: The links to these essays are in blog above.)

Immanuel Wallerstein, "Follow Brazil's Example"

Bill McKibben, "Together, We Save the Planet"

Rebecca Solnit, "The Revolution Has Already Occurred"

Tariq Ali, "Capitalism's Deadly Logic"

Robert Pollin, "Be Utopian: Demand the Realistic"

John Bellamy Foster, "Economy, Ecology, Empire"

Christian Parenti, "Limits and Horizons"

Doug Henwood, "A Post-Capitalist Future is Possible"

Mike Davis, "The Necessary Eloquence of Protest"

Lisa Duggan, "Imagine Otherwise"

Vijay Prashad, "The Dragons, Their Dragoons"

Kim Moody, "Socialists Need to Be Where the Struggle Is "