I HAVE A NEW PODCAST: Revolutionary Left Radio!

I have a brand new podcast which features activists, organizers, and intellectuals on the revolutionary left (democratic socialists, Marxists, anarchists, etc.); we discuss political philosophy, activism, and current events.

If you are interested in left wing political philosophy, and left wing analysis of political and cultural events, this podcast is perfect for you!

This is our first time doing anything in the realm of podcasting or radio, so there will be a bit of a learning curve. However, I am proud of our first episode and I encourage people to listen to it here:  http://revolutionaryleftradio.libsyn.com/

Our Facebook page is called, appropriately, “Revolutionary Left Radio” (facebook.com/revleftradio). We will post every episode on our FB page as well as on LibSyn.

 

Go check it out!

 

The Failure Of Neoliberalism: Right Wing Reactions and Left Wing Solutions

A study by Oxfam just came out this week which shows that the richest 8 people on Planet Earth have more wealth than the bottom 50% of human beings combined.

Think about that…

The report goes on to say:

“While one in nine people on the planet will go to bed hungry tonight, a small handful of billionaires have so much wealth they would need several lifetimes to spend it. The fact that a super-rich elite are able to prosper at the expense of the rest of us at home and overseas shows how warped our economy has become.”

This is what is often referred to as “neoliberalism”; basically globalized capitalism. This is the status quo, and all over the world people from all parts of the political spectrum are beginning to register their discontent with this system. Broadly speaking, there is a Right and a Left reaction to Neo-Liberalism.

The Reaction from the Right

The reaction to the globalized status quo from the right is, well, reactionary. In the face of the chaos and impotence of late stage capitalism, the right angrily recoils, not unlike a snake, into some mythologized past. In the United States, it has taken the form of the electoral victory of a rabid ethno-nationalist, equipped with the not-so-subtle slogan of ‘Make America Great Again’. For the right, the complexity and inequality produced by capitalism is hard to understand, and so they resort to what they have known (or think they have known) by trying to drag the world back to a “simpler time”; into some romanticized version of the past (which, incidentally, never actually existed). The right’s scapegoats, as they have always been, are the simple scapegoats of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Trump ran on a campaign of white nationalism with virulence aimed at every minority imaginable. Brexiters similarly focused their ire at Muslims and immigrants when they voted to leave the E.U. All over Europe, from Greece to France to Germany, right wing movements are on the rise. This violent bigotry often takes the form of nationalism, a tried and true vehicle for the right.

This, of course, is the predictable response from reactionaries; but as usual, their hyper-simplistic, tribalistic narratives of bigotry and nationalism are viscerally appealing to large swaths of the population in any given country. While the left tries to appeal to the intellects  and sense of history of the people, the right has the advantage of merely having to appeal to their emotions; anger, hatred, confusion, and fear. It’s not pretty, but in times of economic uncertainty, its always been effective.

The Reaction from the Left

The reaction to the globalized status quo from the left is to critique the overarching socio-economic system that is driving the global engine: capitalism itself. We know that the only way to move beyond the stagnation and absurdity of the neoliberal established order is to revolutionize the global economy such that it is controlled by, and works in the name of, common people all over the globe.

Unlike the right’s offer of angry nativism and bigotry, the left offers a more nuanced approach to our problems: one rooted in history, economics, and science (notably environmental science and sociology). The only answer to cartoonish levels of inequality and exploitation (which are inherent features of capitalism) is a socialist economic system. The goal is to take the enormous material gains that capitalism has made possible and employ them for the betterment of all, instead of for the massive enrichment of a relative few.

The equality, sustainability, community control, fairness, internationalism, and cooperation of a global socialist economic system is the only way forward. As the old saying goes: “Socialism or Barbarism”. Although at first glance that statement may seem like a false dichotomy, its becoming increasingly clear that we have very few options on the table. The status quo is dysfunctional, unsustainable, radically unequal, and promotes all types of social neurosis (terrorism, mass shootings, and widespread cases of addiction, anxiety and depression in the population). The right offers solutions to precisely none of these problems… How can they? They do not even understand the problems themselves. Only the left has anything reasonable to say about a possible world after this one, and although there will be differences based on the country, the culture, and the context in which leftist solutions get implemented, the overarching values and principles of the left are undoubtedly progressive and represent our best only chance at improvement from this point forward.

In short, the sophisticated response to neoliberalism, to be sure, is the international and intersectional solidarity, the emphasis on economic and political equality, and the social and cultural progress pushed by the revolutionary left.

Conclusion

Capitalism is eating its own tail. It has served its historical purpose and is now becoming superfluous; but it will not exist the stage gracefully, it must be ushered off.

With the rise of hyper-automation and artificial intelligence, the contradictions of capitalism will only continue to become more stark. The values of capitalism (inequality, competition, infinite growth, etc.) are proving to be unsustainable, exploitative, and existentially dangerous. The rise of the right in the face of capitalism’s failures represents an even more dangerous possibility than neoliberal capitalism itself. Both of these approaches are poisonous.

As a civilization, we are in the middle of a dark tunnel, the neoliberal establishment’s apologists want us all to take a seat, hunker down, and stay where we are for as long as possible (while they ransack the world in the name of “progress”). The right, on the other hand, wants to grab us by the hair and drag us back the way we came; preferring the dull comfort of what we have known to the frightening uncertainty of moving forward. The left, in direct opposition to both, has made out a tiny pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel, and are urging us to move courageously towards it.

I do not know what direction we will ultimately go, but I know that now is not the time to throw your hands up and let the cards fall where they may; it is time to stand up and fight! We cannot hand this world over to the vampires and the fascists…

 

 

The Importance of Protest in the Face of a Trump Adminstration

“What’s the point of protesting? The election is over, dude, this is pointless. Ugh.”

Answer: NYC, Chicago, Seattle, Oakland, Berkeley, L.A., Denver, and even lil ol’ Omaha erupted as tens of thousands of people in major cities all across the country took to the streets today…

What does it accomplish? It sets a tone. It shows political grievance. Protests are, and always have been, an important and legitimate way to do that. Women got the vote largely by marching and protesting and not shutting up. Black folks got civil rights by marching and protesting and not shutting up. Workers got the minimum wage and weekends and safe working conditions largely from taking to the streets and marching and protesting and not shutting up. Grassroots movements have been an essential part of every single shred of progress that this country, or any other, has ever achieved.

The intent is not to overturn the election; that’s impossible. It’s to show force and to let the new Administration know that millions of us are not okay with the right-wing take over of our government, and when/if they try to do anything that crosses a line, we will shut shit down. We will be a constant source of political agitation.

Try to build a wall and send out deportation squads to split up families?
We will march on Trump Tower.
Try to take away women’s reproductive rights?
We will march on the Capitol.
Try to revive the Keystone XL pipeline, or push through DAPL, and threaten our water sources?
We will march on the White House.

This is politics. This is democracy. This is one side showing the other side that we won’t take it lying down; that they can’t just do whatever they want with no backlash. We will be a thorn in the fucking side of the Trump administration every damn step of the way. And if you don’t like that, If that just fucking rubs you the wrong way, then just do what you’ve always done: make cynical comments on Facebook, vote every few years, and be overly-flattered with yourself. It’s no sweat off our backs. You are irrelevant, and we got work to do.

More Meaningful Ways To Spend Your Time This November Instead Of Voting for Hillary or Trump.

Hillary Clinton will be our next president. Trump is tanking in every poll, and stands a snowball’s chance in Hell at winning this election, especially after he is embarrassed in the first debate (and he will be embarrassed). His relatively small cadre of angry white voters aren’t enough to propel him into office. The GOP has put up perhaps the single worst presidential candidate in modern American history. Even Hillary supporters have realized this, and have pulled back a bit on the shameless fear-mongering and condescending finger-wagging.

So, since a Clinton victory is inevitable (as I predicted as far back as the night before the first Super Tuesday of the primaries: https://selfaware1.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/super-tuesday-2016-analysis-and-predictions/), here are some ways you can spend your time, INSTEAD of going to a voting booth and casting a vote for Hillary, that will have a far more meaningful impact on the world:

– Write a well-argued public blog or FB post exposing and criticizing the un-democratic nature of American elections.

– Have a discussion with your children about the importance of political and social engagement.

– Donate a small amount of money to a good charity or cause.

– Research the requirements for running for local public office, and if you meet the requirements, run.

– Participate in a protest, rally, or march in your town or city; and use it as an opportunity to network with other like-minded activists in order to lay the groundwork for more political action in the future.

– Watch (and comprehend) a documentary about the causes of the 2008 economic recession or how the influence of money in our political system dramatically skews the focus of our government in favor of the rich and powerful, and then tell someone else about it.

– Have a deep political discussion with a friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor.

– Consciously abstain from voting for either of the candidates offered up by the dictatorship of the wealthy, and let as many people as possible know exactly *why* you are consciously abstaining.

– Plant a tree or a small garden in your back yard; increasing the biodiversity of the small patch of land in your possession.

– Pick up litter on the side of the road or the shore of a river/lake/ocean and recycle what you can.

Any and all of these activities will be more beneficial to you, and to your community, than casting a vote for either Trump or Hillary.

Anarchism In The Context Of Today’s World

Being an anarchist, for me, does not mean that I think we can have, or even should have, a stateless society overnight, or in the near future. That wont happen.

What being an anarchist REALLY means for me is to be constantly surveying the political, social and economic landscape in search of all forms of hierarchy, power, authority, and injustice, and then systematically analyzing and critiquing those structures; forcing them to justify said hierarchy/power/authority, or be opposed in every way possible.

Those systems of hierarchy, authority, and power can be obvious, like in the case of governments or corporations, but they can also be more subtle, albeit just as dangerous, like in the case of patriarchy, institutional racism, homophobia/transphobia, etc. An anarchist opposes them all, and knows *exactly why* she/he opposes them.

Additionally, its our social duty, to whatever extent possible, to self-govern. This means making a concerted, daily effort to behave as morally as possible; to plant, in you own little sphere of influence, the seeds of a better world. A world of cooperation, solidarity, social responsibility, and love.

If you call yourself an anarchist, you better be trying everyday to do these things or what’s the point? Anarchism is not just wanting to “smash the state”; its much, much more than that. Its about developing yourself and your community, its about caring for your fellow human beings, its about opposing injustice anywhere and everywhere that it appears.

Ultimately, its about believing that a better world, a more just world, is possible, and then taking on the responsibility of trying to help build that world…

Fascism in the UK and Liberalism’s False Equivalency

The fascist, right-wing, neo-nazi asshole who murdered a British politician a few days ago shouted “Britain First” before killing the mother of two. He killed her because she was an advocate for immigrants and opposed Britain leaving the European Union.

“Britain First!” is the UK equivalent of “Make America Great Again!”, reflecting the same right-wing elements of the respective countries: Anti-immigrant, nativist/nationalist, and white supremacist in nature.

The murder came almost exactly a year after the White Supremacist, and Confederate-Flag waving racist, Dylann Roof, walked into a black church in Charleston and slaughtered innocent black people because of the color of their skin.

These are examples of right-wing terrorism. This is what happens when fascism and racism go unchecked. You NEVER see Socialists or Communists or Anarchists doing this shit. We don’t shoot up abortion clinics, or churches, or gay clubs. We don’t slaughter innocent human beings to get our points across. **Ever**. The ONLY people we want to be violent with are the fascists and racists who have proven to be violent against innocent people, ethnic/racial/religious minorities, LGBTQ people, and vulnerable communities.

Anyone (often liberals and conservatives) who draw a false equivalency between the violence of fascists and the violent self-defense of anti-fascists are morally and intellectually bankrupt, and actually support and perpetuate fascism indirectly via their unprincipled pacifism and refusal to take action against an obvious, proven threat.

Philosophical Anarchism: Self Autonomy vs. State Authority

To be a human being in our modern civilized context is to exist in relation to authority; to a state. Indeed, most of human history has been defined by hierarchical relations between people. For thousands of years, the legitimacy of authority and hierarchy have scarcely been questioned. There may have always been someone in any given society who has questioned such concepts, but for the most part gods and kings have exerted their dominance over others. Only since The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries has authority, whether celestial or terrestrial, been systematically questioned. However, even to this day we struggle with the legitimacy of authority, the concept of personal liberty, and the conflict between the two.

Anarchy, proposed and advocated by many people throughout modern history, is seen as a possible solution to the problem of authority. Louis Pojam, in his paper The Justification for Government, distinguishes between two forms of anarchy: positive and negative. The former is a belief that human nature is inherently good and a utopia can exist on Earth if only we can be free from the chains of the state. The latter, more sober in its approach, is advocated by Robert Paul Wolff, and asserts that the issue of the state can be boiled down to the conflict between state authority and personal autonomy. Wolff believes the two are inherently in opposition and favors autonomy. State authority, according to Wolff, is the right to rule or command. It is obvious that most people do, indeed, concede to state authority. They do it for a myriad of reasons, but mainly because it’s just normal to do so. We were born into this world under the command of the state, our parents obeyed the state, and we just pick up where they left off. Most people never sit down and criticize this assumption, unfortunately, and so the state lives on exerting its authority. Personal autonomy, on the other hand, consists not in merely choosing how to act (being responsible for your own actions) but in taking responsibility for your actions. Which , according to Wolff, consists in “gaining knowledge, reflecting on motives, predicting outcomes, criticizing principles, and so forth”. By acting in such a way the responsible man comes to be autonomous; to be sovereign over himself. I, personally, appreciate this distinction and I think Wolff does an impressive job with defining the two concepts.

Wolff also discusses the “paradox of man’s condition”, which is the fact that man’s increasingly clear understanding that he is own master runs parallel with an increasingly complex, technological and bureaucratic state. This is an interesting as well as an insightful claim. Indeed, politics does seem to be so complex that even an intelligent, aware, and politically motivated person has a very hard time keeping up on all of the issues of the day. It is impossible for any one person to grasp our relatively new and ever-changing global political situation. In my opinion, this is cultural evolution, speeding up exponentially, for both the individual and the collective. Neither the state nor the individual has any hope of slowing this process down, let alone stopping it. I do not know where this process will take us, but one thing seems plausible to me: The more people become aware of their own ability to be their own master, the more appealing anarchy will look. I am going to step out on a limb and suggest that all forms of human socio-economic liberation movements (LGBT, women’s rights, civil rights, worker’s rights, etc.) will eventually culminate in the realization that the individual needs to liberated from authority, in all of its forms. I do not think that will happen in our lifetime and I do not think most people can handle that sort of radical freedom at this point. But in 500-1,000 years, if our species is still around, I think anarchy will be the only form of social organization that will suit our intelligence and morality. The push from kings to elected representatives is a push towards human liberation and there is no reason to believe that that progress will stop at parliaments and presidents.

The notion of autonomy that Wolff asserts has been critiqued, notably by G. Carl Cohen. Cohen argues that autonomy is a necessary but not sufficient condition for morality. After all, an autonomous actor may simply be wrong about what he feels the right thing to do is. In essence, there is an extra layer of morality that needs to be applied to autonomy. Autonomy has to coincide with good ethics, and nothing about autonomy alone encompasses that intrinsically. I believe that Cohen has a great point, and it does help clean up Wolff’s notion conceptually. However, I think Wolff would acknowledge the legitimacy of Cohen’s critique and easily incorporate it into his concept. I think it is implicit in Wolff’s argument that good ethical decisions are to be favored, it’s just that Wolff is focusing on defining the concept of autonomy and doesn’t really discuss that aspect of it. But much like Aristotle, it is implied that by gaining knowledge, being reflective, etc. good moral conduct rises to the top. Of course that may not always be the case, but it is obviously to be preferred.

The conflict between the authority of the state and the right for every man and woman to be autonomous consists in their definitions. As Wolff claims, the former is defined by a right to rule and the latter by a refusal to be ruled, making the two mutually exclusive. In my opinion, although Wolff makes a compelling argument and I feel a surge of anarchic rebellion in my gut whenever I read him, I do not think we need to define the two concepts in a way that necessitates their mutual exclusivity. A proper state, which very well may never have existed thus far in history, would respect the autonomy of individuals while maintaining a decent society in which everyone has the equal opportunity to flourish. An attempt at this type of state was clearly made by the founding fathers of America, although, based on the contradictions of slavery, classism and sexism of the time, it was never truly implemented, in my opinion.

Wolff’s anarchism has been criticized by many people, including social contract theorists, who make various claims about the legitimacy of a state and its theoretical ability to not only coincide with personal liberty, but to actually create a context in which such liberty can flourish. For Hobbes, it was necessary to avoid a “nasty, brutish, and short” existence, and a social contract which established a state was a way to avoid such unappealing circumstances. In fact, people prefer to establish such a state in order to preserve their natural rights. The no-so-implicit claim made by Locke, Hobbes, and the other social contract theorists is that anarchism is exactly what people don’t want. However, there are problems, which anarchists and their ilk gleefully point out, and high on that list of issues is the problem of consent. I, Brett Anderson, was simply born in America and had no say in the matter of who governed me. I never signed a document conceding to state authority, so what right does the state have to assume my consent? Well, according to the social contract theorists, the fact that I do not leave this country is indicative of my tacit consent. From Socrates to Locke, the point is made that I am free to leave at any time. But, as David Hume has pointed out, this is not truly feasible for most people, and I would argue it has inherent class restraints. It costs money to fly, to buy new property in a new place, to find work, etc., not to mention the emotional and social ties that I would sever by leaving my community of family and friends. Thus, the problem of consent is a sticking point for social contract theorists, and the reply from the anarchist is loud and clear: abolish the state and the problem goes away. I am not convinced that the problem disappears entirely, but that is a discussion for another time.

Another critique to Wolff’s anarchism comes from a paper entitled “Ethics and Sovereignty” by Blizek and, one of my personal favorite philosophers, Rory Conces . They argue that freedom and autonomy are not necessarily diminished by the state. In fact, the state can actually provide a form of security that could very well be lacking in an anarchist society. I have a daughter, and I find the fact that the police and ambulance are always 10-15 minutes away quite reassuring and comforting. Anarchy, although valid in some respects, cannot always guarantee the safety and security of its people. How would an anarchist society defend itself from a non-anarchic state the size of China or Russia, or from the blind aggression of states like Iran or North Korea? Also, how would an anarchist society protect me from intruders and aggressors in my home or on the streets? Would every man, woman and child be responsible for their own security or would anarcho-capitalist security firms have to be paid to ensure security? Both of those alternatives are horrifying to me. On this point, Locke, Hobbes, Blizek and Conces have a strong point.