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Sometimes I wonder

By Michael J. Smith on Thursday June 21, 2007 08:53 AM

Die Tradition aller toten Geschlechter lastet wie ein Alp auf dem Gehirne der Lebenden.* -- Karl Marx

Owen alluded recently to my fondness for Doug Henwood's Left Business Observer and the mailing list associated with it, lbo-talk. I cheerfully admit the charge, even though lbo-talk is certainly by far the most irascible, uncivil, squabblesome e-mail list I have ever seen -- and that's saying a lot. Doug himself has a listowner style strongly reminiscent of Don Rickles. But I like it anyway -- or maybe, that's why I like it. Too much damn civility and sensitivity going around. Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, as Jack Nicholson says in some movie, I've forgotten which.

Still, sad to say, even in this coven of highly advanced Marxoids, it's amazing what a grip the Democratic Party retains on the minds of many. I don't usually call attention to my own japeries in other fora -- seems like the ultimate in blogger narcissism -- but I'll make an exception for once.

On the mailing list yesterday, a thread erupted (sounds like something a carbuncle would do, doesn't it?) in response to tiny poison toad Mike Bloomberg's disaffiliation from the pachyderms and apparent intent to self-fund an independent run. Naturally it wasn't long before somebody bemoaned the likely effect on the Democrats. Also naturally, I took the bait and we were off to the races. A few excerpts:

Michael Smith wrote:

> On Wednesday 20 June 2007 14:27, Andy F wrote:
> >  We'd be able to
> > relive the whole Nader thing again.
> How I wish. 

Oh, and that worked out SO well. (And I voted for Nader in 2000.)

* * *

the Democrats (it seems to me) represent a weak but present barrier against a full blown assault on labour, women, gay, black people, etc. While the initial setback of the demolition of the Democrats might be a positive, even necessary, step in the direction of a long- lasting solution for these groups and the underlying ideologies, what of the suffering caused in the transition period? Are those directly affected ready and able to bear that cost?

* * *

Do you believe the Democrats do not contribute in providing some roadblocks to erosion of workplace rights, abortion rights, affirmative action, etc? No doubt they have been extravagantly cowardly in the aftermath of 9/11, but they did manage to push through a minimum wage increase, and will I think shoot down any possible Bush nominees to the Supreme Court who are off the centre. These are small and uncertain gains, but as Doug points out they may be the only ones available to the respective constituents....who is to make the call? Surely not me, sitting in my position of privilege? If the unions, NOW, HRC, etc endorse the Dems, what next?

* * *

On Jun 20, 2007, at 6:14 PM, Michael Smith wrote:

> I think it worked out very well. It denied the 
> Democrats a victory.  
> True, like
> the Bourbons, they've still learned nothing 
> and forgotten nothing,  
> and for
> the same reason, but perhaps if we keep doing 
> it to them they will  
> fall apart
> and clear the ground.

For what? Just what are the Dems blocking? The revolutionary urge of the masses? When they fall, this frustrated and hitherto unexpressed revolutionary urge will spontaneously organize itself into a party and program? If there were all this bottled-up lust for transformative politics, why couldn't Ralph break 5%?

* * *

The stupidity I was talking about was yours, Michael, sorry to say....

1. The Democrats will not go away, wither away, disappear, or otherwise do our work for us if they lose the next election. The two-party system is just too useful. They will just shift further right again, while the GOP continues to fall into the Schwarzchild radius of Christofascism. 2. The masses are not quivering on the brink of left wing revolution; the people who are organized to take advantage of a political vacuum want things that you don't even want to think about, theocracy....

3. Sure, the masses might run up the red flag and start singing The Internationale tomorrow, and pigs might grow wings and fly, but "the beans might be magic" is a pretty poor substitute for political analysis. Why on earth should be base a political strategy on the possibility that for reasons no one can explain, all the observable forces now in motion, with all their inertia, might inexplicably reverse direction?

4. I love that "yeah, well, there might be some suffering if the Democrats collapse, but social upheaval involves suffering." You're pretty fucking blithe about it. Omelets and eggs, yawn? The worse the better? "Nach Hitler Uns!" Gee, that didn't work out so well either. No wonder the far left has about as much traction on the working class as a flea on ice.

5. Our alternatives suck. The Democrats are lousy, they will sell us out, they are in the process of doing so. Again. The Republicans are threatening to put the lights out for real. Our enemies are extremely well organized. We are fucked sideways.

6. I kind of agree... that the best thing we can do is help organize in movements. That's not inconsistent with an open eyed support of less obnoxious Democrats. It doesn't require such support, but when I look at what the Supreme Court just did to the Equal Pay Act, I think maybe it's nor such a bad idea, as long as we are clear that this isn't a step towards the revo. It's just as step back from the abyss.

* * *

At 05:14 PM 6/20/2007, you wrote:
>perhaps if we keep doing it to them they will fall apart
>and clear the ground.
well, it could be paving the way for bloomies as the new party, eh? :) i mean, like clearing the way for what? exactly? clearing the way ain't going to bring the demise of capitalism or anything else, no more than the upheavals of the 60s (watergate, pentagon papers, etc.) cleared the way for anything other than more of the same. and we're in worse shape, now, in terms of any kind of organized political infrastructure to take advantage of such crises, than we were in the 60s/70s.
Now you wouldn't be surprised to read this stuff on Daily Kos, but on lbo-talk? These guys and gals are such fire-eating Reds they make Trotsky look like Kautsky. And man oh man, are they ever intellectuals! They eat Foucault for breakfast, dine on Hegel auf Deutsch, take a little shot of Nietzsche as a nightcap. Yet the sorry old Democratic Party seems to have planted its brain bug all the same in a good many of these mighty intellects.

And what to make of the masochistic delight with which the direness of our predicament is so lip-smackingly delineated? What is that about? Aren't revolutionaries supposed to be, like, hopeful? Not this gang -- instead we get the prisoner's dithyramb to his chains. O mighty chains! Chains of steel! You hold me so tight, chains! I'll never get out of you, O chains, no matter how I writhe and wriggle! You are some chains, O chains!

* All the stuff handed down from every generation of the dead weighs heavy as a nightmare on the brains of the living.

Comments (15)


ibo gaine for
the ibo talkers

meme turps

garlic headed demeritoids

let them desicate
in their own colloidal marx mince

father smiff
swim back to dah raff honey

Conscious leftists make up too small a proportion of the electorate to be relevant to electoral politics. If we could achieve some unity we could have considerable effect -- outside electoral politics, with consequent effect on electoral politics.

He's right. As a hypothetical, say one of our Green friends here -- maybe Ms. Xeno or Alan Smithee -- managed to get elected to office. Without a whole lot of people standing behind them, that foot in the door does no good.


Love op's poem. Is he/she a regular? keep 'em coming!


The Democrats aren't "selling us out" - they are the enemy, they are just as much part of the problem as the GOP is. To pretend otherwise is to engage in willful delusions or just plain stupidity.

Saying you can build a movement and vote for a Dem is the same thing as saying you can build a movement and vote for a Republican. They are both opposed to what we want and need because they're on the side of Corporate America 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

These people are a hell of a lot dumber than the gun-toting Bush-voting redneck that they attack for not signing the Internationale.

Scruggs, I can't run for office. Owing to my failure to conduct myself like a lily for the last forty-one years. It would never fly. I do sometimes daydream about calling up Randi Rhodes and getting in a few choice insults before they cut me off, however.

I love it when these fuckwits whine that they don't understand why Nader couldn't break 3% in 2000. Uh, Nader couldn't break 3% because you're fucking fools and cowards, you twits. He couldn't break it because he was shut out of the debates by Gore and his corporate backers. He couldn't break it because our voting system and so-called media are twin stinking piles of horseshit.

Frankly, you are smart enough to know all this, and you always have been. Your claims of selective ignorance ring as hollow as they ever did. Much like the Reid-Pelosi squads claim that they are helpless to do anything about the war and Bush.


"Aren't revolutionaries supposed to be, like, hopeful?"

I think the answer is "NO".

The trendlines for the USA have been going down for a long time. You know that if you read Henwood... he's provided a lot of data about the economy that shows uninterrupted winnings for the rich, since about 1970.

We've been in the Empire business since at least 1846 (since Day 1, from the point of view of the natives). What is different about Vietnam and Iraq? Or any other American imperial misadventure? The names change, but it's the same as it ever was.

None of this stuff is gonna change... it's baked in. Our addiction to war and militarism and fantasies about "the market"... not to mention the anti-intellectualism of the religio-freaks... just too many hurdles to overcome. Not even Renaldo Nehemiah could make it.


I think Michael's opponent makes pretty good points. The main argument against the Democrats is that they are part of the same corporate national security state -- with Zionism thrown in to boot -- the Republicans are. The argument against the Republicans is that they are much farther along that path than anyone else, in fact, pretty close to a national security dictatorship -- with Protestant theocracy thrown in to boot.

Rather than dissolve the Democratic party, spend your time dissolving American theocracy, neo-liberalism, corporate control of media, business control of local and state government. Assume that when the time is ripe, when public opinion is aroused around an issue, someone in the two-party system will notice it.

On war, and the fantasy of global control through control of oil, history and the rest of the world will defeat us, not any chaos-promoting political movement at home.

If Marx were a contemporary American, he would laugh at the idea of revolution here. He would watch his investments, and sound just like Doug Henwood, or Ralph Nader. Ralph Nader doesnt talk about revolution; he believes in changing the system the old-fashioned way.


who's talking revolution here ???

i read only those who
see a class collision ( the can't hides )
those who see class regression (the henverts )


Revolution? I agree with Owen. People pursuing the 'relax and enjoy it' approach have an inability to see anything positive about building pressure on inherently unresponsive institutions. Stop Me is one aspect of the bare minimum needed to do that.


Thus bobw:

The main argument against the Democrats is that they are part of the same corporate national security state -- with Zionism thrown in to boot -- the Republicans are. The argument against the Republicans is that they are much farther along that path
What this formulation overlooks is that this is a system in motion (the mode of existence of matter, as I believe Engels may have observed). Granted that the R's are 'farther along,' it needs to be added that the D's are doing everything they can to keep up. If you inhabit the gap between them, guess what direction you're going?

It's a system -- a collusive, symbiotic system. And as somebody wrote here a while back, it's a system that works to produce change, not stasis -- change in the wrong direction from our point of view.

The thing to do with a machine like this is monkeywrench it. And jam your monkeywrench into its most vulnerable spot, not its strongest.

"Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, as Jack Nicholson says in some movie, I've forgotten which."

Late Jack Nicholson in "As Good as It Gets".... But as far as the cinema goes I think this ancient Roman saying first appeared in "The Big Chill" where it is said by the Tom Berenger character.



Michael, you have not answered the questions raised!

BTW, I am no red (probably a "yellow" or "orange" at best), have not yet read Trotsky or Kautsky, am no fan of Daily Kos, and believe strongly in civility. FWIW! ;-)


Ravi -- What questions do you mean? I don't recall seeing any questions...


Michael: the questions from me (which you quote above) about "who makes the call". I think you may have answered it on lbo-talk.

Also, the horror: I am going to use your very blog to update the populace on the horse-race! Here is what the polls say (via CNN):

Pit the two front-runner's against each other and what do you get? A very close match -- Clinton 49 percent, Giuliani 48 percent.

With all the new attention since his party switch, Bloomberg's support seems to be on the rise -- 17 percent in a three-way contest against Clinton and Giuliani.

That's not happening yet. Right now, Bloomberg would take votes about equally from Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, and the outcome would still be close (41 percent for Clinton, 38 percent for Giuliani).


"With all the new attention since his party switch, Bloomberg's support seems to be on the rise -- 17 percent in a three-way contest against Clinton and Giuliani."

That's pretty impressive, considering that he hasn't spent a dime on the race yet. I'd give him a decent chance of winning if he jumps in. Perot got 19% in spite of dropping out of the race and getting back in, badly mismanaging his campaign, and saying all that crap about the Republicans trying to disrupt his daughter's wedding.

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