The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world it didn’t exist. The drone strikes and wars being perpetuated by the same groups of people regardless of political affiliation made the idea of a deep state seem more and more an acceptable topic to discuss in 2016. But a major fault that parts of the US Left made, most blatantly by Jill Stein, was to assign Hillary Clinton as the sole, anointed candidate of the imperial state.
Trade, trade, trade. The only thing that President Trump has consistently raised as often as his racist hatred of immigrants and imperialist threats against Muslims is trade. The appeal of this invocation of trade is the idea that the trade deals of the past few decades (most infamously NAFTA) are responsible for the mass outsourcing of primarily working class jobs. It is an argument that does not enjoy the support of economic orthodoxy which stubbornly holds to its free trade dogma, but has broad political support outside of it. As Dean Baker points out, the increase of the trade deficit is directly correlated to the loss of manufacturing jobs.
Title is quote from Crazy Horse, as documented in Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (1970).
Housing As A Modern Rallying Point
How do we organize in late stage capitalism? This question is often debated among Leftists of the US in reference to the precarity of modern existence. The destruction of unions has made at-will employment the norm. Confronting the police’s racism is dealt with harshly. Capitalism’s reach seems inescapable, infecting even the social programs which would seem to mitigate its cruelties. In such a world, people feel alienated from their employment and from their participation in political life: how can they speak up at work when they can get fired without any recourse? Why participate in political life when their options are limited to two brazenly corrupt capitalist parties?
Organizers in Austin, Jackson, New York, and many other regions have turned to housing. While the modern condition of housing typifies the aforementioned precarity, it is an issue that is nearly impossible to be alienated from. For the alienated working class person, the home is one of the few realms where they can exercise dominion and seek refuge (obviously to varying degrees – the police rob many people from the safety of the home).
First off the idea for this post largely comes from a, believe it or not, somewhat civil and productive discussion about anarchism vs. Marxism. Particularly a member of the Commune for Distributing Agitprop (CDAP) asked me this question:
What exactly are the institutions you would use to characterize a proletarian state? What do they look like, and how are they operated?
I think this is such a crucial and oft-ignored question even by many socialists. Worse still, both some anarchists and socialists will respond with the non-answer that destroying the bourgeois state, abolishing private property, and facilitating direct participation by the proletariat will inherently create communism, that ideal state of cooperative equality and liberation. We are faced with “What is Step 1?” and answer with a description of Step 76.
So this post will be a bit different from the others in that it is not about the law. But I thought since today is the beginning of the arbitrary “Women’s History Month,” I might as well use the occasion to give y’all a glimpse into a project I’m working on. That project is Reading The Dialectic Of Sex, a comprehensive companion book to Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex. Firestone is one of the great feminist theorist, and particularly her contribution to feminism is valuable to those of us who are Marxists because it employs historical materialism rather than liberalism, post-structuralism, etc. So see below for a draft of the first chapter, and I would love to hear any feedback:
Societies that value their workers tend to enshrine protections for their workers’ health into law. One of the most common protection, but foreign even in an ideological sense to the United States, is paid or even subsidized vacation. In the Soviet Union, all workers received 2 weeks of paid vacation and workers in the more dangerous industries received 4 weeks of paid vacation. Cuba gives its state employees a month of paid vacation and guarantees a week of paid vacation to private sector employees. In Bolivia you receive 15 days of vacation your first 5 years of work, 20 days your second five years, and 30 days if you have worked more than 10 years. The wealthier social democracies of Europe give even more expansive vacation to their citizens, the most infamous example being Italy as documented in Michael Moore’s most recent movie. In many of these countries, the vacation is not seen as a luxury, but rather as preventative medicine, and medical professionals are often present at the various resorts and spas to guide the visiting workers in how to relieve the various mental and physical stresses that have built up from their labor. And despite being dominated by the influence of for-profit companies, most medical journals agree that there are enormous health benefits to regularly taking vacation.
See my summary of the first day of the conference here.
After the amazing first day of the conference I was not sure that level of radical knowledge could be sustained, but I was very wrong. The second day, despite not getting into the first session I wanted to because of overcrowding, was just as good.
The Rebellious Lawyering Conference (RebLaw) began yesterday at Yale Law School, bringing together law students, lawyers, and community organizers to discuss a plethora of social justice issues. The author attended two of the sessions, which were amazing and yielded interesting legal perspectives and strategies worth elaborating on (and of course there were many simultaneous sessions which you can check out here). And tomorrow I’ll give a similar summary of the sessions I attend today.
Things are looking worse and worse for the liberal advocates of legalism and reform as direct action continues to win over and over and over again while doing things through the proper channels continues to fail. The latest blow is the resignation of Federal Reserve Board Governor Daniel K. Tarullo. Mr. Tarullo’s term was supposed to continue until 2022 but, for undisclosed reasons, he has left prior to that expiration. Know for his rigorous (or haphazard, at least according to the bankers) stress tests that he conducted against the banks to test how they would weather various economic emergencies, Mr. Tarullo was the closest thing to a public advocate on the Fed. Admittedly not a high bar, but nevertheless with his departure things will likely get worse for the working class.
For those of us who remember the NAFTA protests or who have fought against Cory Booker or Rahm Emmanuel in the war against teachers, it should be clear that liberalism is not an ideology friendly to organized labor. And yet so many of the major unions endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, even before the end of the primary when the obviously more pro-labor candidate was still in the race.
Leaving all the worthwhile critiques of modern labor leadership aside for a moment, what we have seen in the nomination of “literally the worst” Andrew Puzder alone makes union support of Democrats somewhat understandable. After all, even the most “third way” (thirdest?) Democrat would not dare to appoint a fast food CEO to the Department of Labor.
Well not quite – Hillary Clinton purportedly would have nominated Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for the position. But we do not need to dig into speculation about a hypothetical Democrat president who will never be. Because the untold story of unions being busted in the neoliberal era is that it was started a decade before Reagan took office by a liberal justice of the Supreme Court.