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you are not a piece of crap, and your solidarity work matters

[This cross-posted piece is by Brother Francisco writing as Galtisalie for Anti-Capitalist Meetup at Daily Kos.]

 

“Resist much, obey little.”

hello cruel world. take that. and that. and that. leftists look injustice in the eye then look for a stick to poke it with, find lonely leaves of grass, and injustice blinks or maybe winks.

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it by yourself.
It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”

by the end of 1877’s Virgin Soil, Turgenev’s sixth, final, and longest novel, Nejdanov has taken his own life, unwilling to go to prison in Siberia for a cause that has taken everything from him and will not, in his own mind, accept his desire for the beautiful, culminating, like Whitman, in a desire to write poems. ironically, by dying, his most stalwart comrade, the hopelessly in love Mashurina, is deprived of the one thing, Nejdanov, to which she is devoted other than the revolution. desperate for any remembrance of Nejdanov, Mashurina spends a few moments at the end with the blowhard but equally lonely socialist hanger-on Paklin. Paklin, desperate for conversation and relevance, tosses out stupid questions. Mashurina slams the door:

Paklin pulled himself up.
“Why, of course … do have some more tea.”
But Mashurina fixed her dark eyes upon him and said pensively:
“You don’t happen to have any letter of Nejdanov’s … or his photograph?”
“I have a photograph and quite a good one too. I believe it’s in the table drawer. I’ll get it in a minute.”
He began rummaging about in the drawer, while Snandulia went up to Mashurina and with a long, intent look full of sympathy, clasped her hand like a comrade.
“Here it is!” Paklin exclaimed and handed her the photograph.
Mashurina thrust it into her pocket quickly, scarcely glancing at it, and without a word of thanks, flushing bright red, she put on her hat and made for the door.
“Are you going?” Paklin asked. “Where do you live? You might tell me that at any rate.”
“Wherever I happen to be.”
“I understand. You don’t want me to know. Tell me at least, are you still working under Vassily Nikolaevitch?”
“What does it matter to you?” “Or someone else, perhaps Sidor Sidoritch?” Mashurina did not reply.
“Or is your director some anonymous person?” Mashurina had already stepped across the threshold. “Perhaps it is someone anonymous!”
She slammed the door.
Paklin stood for a long time motionless before this closed door.
“Anonymous Russia!” he said at last.

in some ways, we all have had the door slammed in our face and are left anonymous. more sadly than Mashurina, who at least was on the clearly ascending side of history, we are more like the pathetic Paklin, trying to piece together our own relevance. the oppressors are desperate too, to make us feel that we are on the descending side of history, and oh how it feels that they are right when that door slams yet again. Continue reading

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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Evo Morales, “Live Well” vs “Live Better”

[This is a cross-post of a wonderful diary by UnaSpenser published by Anti-Capitalist Meetup at Daily Kos. I am proud that it is the first ever post at this humble website by someone other than me! It discusses a subject of great importance to all of humanity, Evo Morales' "Vivir Bien" strategy for Bolivia, which I think holds great promise as a model for our world. By the way, I have benefited enormously by participating in Anti-Capitalist Meetup. The group "meets," virtually that is, every Sunday at 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time. Ya'll come. Solidarity, Brother Francisco]

It can be very disheartening to contemplate the state of the world, these days. Climate change, growing wealth inequality, civil rights erosion, violence, violence and more violence. As a practitioner of bearing witness, it all gets overwhelming and can lead to despair, unless I find beacons of light. One of the beacons I’ve found is Evo Morales of Bolivia.

If you’re not aware of him, he is the first indigenous president of Bolivia. That would be notable, in and of itself, but he has represented so much more than a demographic token. He’s now a leading voice in a worldwide coalition for a sustainable future. Something he calls “Vivir Bien.”

The concept of vivir bien (live well) defines the current climate change movement in Bolivia. The concept is usually contrasted with the capitalist entreaty to vivir mejor (live better). Proponents argue that living well means having all basic needs met while existing in harmony with the natural world; living better seeks to constantly amass materials goods at the expense of the environment.

This isn’t just a vague “feel good” philosophy. It is a set of principles to live by and guide public policy. Let’s take a look at what those principles are, how they’ve been applied in Bolivia and how they are being adopted beyond Bolivia, along with some of President Morales’ personal background. Continue reading

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Gramsci and Gaza: Getting Palestinians Into Our Inner Space

[First published by Brother Francisco writing as Galtisalie for Anti-Capitalist Meetup at Daily Kos.]

“We were talking about the space between us all”
George Harrison

“It’s always the same story. For a fact that interests us, touches us, it is necessary that it becomes part of our inner life, it is necessary that it does not originate far from us, that is the people we know, people who belong to the circle of our human space.”
Antonio Gramsci

“Hasta allí Gramsci. Siempre un adelantado. Siempre con los que sufren.”
Osvaldo Bayer

We all need justice and safety, none more than Jews in the wake of the Holocaust. But apparently those “filthy Arabs” are humans too. An artificial redefinition of space known as “a new nation” can be founded for ostensibly “humane” reasons but use patently inhumane means of achievement.

I thought in a “constitutional” “democracy” we were supposed to all agree on certain basic organic principles (not including freedom from want and fear, of course) and then work out the details with voting?–unless, of course, we are Native Peoples, African Americans, or European Americans who happened to be poor in the temperate Atlantic region of North America in the late 1700’s. What could possibly go wrong? For a contemporary answer to this non-academic question, so dependent on militarization and deception, look to the southeastern side of the Mediterranean Sea.

The mad, unjust, and unsafe Zionist experiment we now know as Israel has commonly exercised cultural hegemony over U.S. society in relation to the Arab people of Palestine (which includes in my definition what we now call “Israel”). A U.S. President is expected to declare himself (or, perhaps one day soon, herself) “a Zionist” and profess allegiance to Israel’s “right” not merely to exist but to exist “as a Jewish state,” even though this implies sanctioning ethnic cleansing and other forms of oppression in the past and in the future. I hereby call bullshit on this. I am putting down my sitar and typing this post in solidarity with all of the people of Palestine.

Typing, and talking and singing, about the space between us all can be part of the foundation for ending this cultural hegemony. Doing other things positive about the physical hegemony of Israel over Palestine may be the result. But let us not neglect the inner geographical challenge. If the suffering of people in distant lands does not even lead to our mourning their suffering, I think that Gramsci and Bayer would say that our typing, talking, and singing is superficial and that we are not really “with those who suffer.” We have not humanized those whom we do not mourn upon their suffering.

This is not picking on Israel. Dehumanization is the tactic upon which the U.S. was established. It is the tactic upon which capitalism rules the world. Where I live, in the Deep South, “Whites” were quite comfortable singing praises to Jesus while killing and taking the “Indians'” land and killing and exploiting “Blacks” (I’ve not, of course, used the racist terms commonly used by “White” “Christians” for Native Peoples and African Americans back in “the day,” which still exists in much of the Deep South) to fuel “our” (how sweet!) economy, and after that for a hundred years after the Constitution was rewritten, to continue to deny “Blacks” living in what the founding racist fathers decided to call “the United States of America” the basic rights of all human beings. So we are damn good at dehumanization, in the U.S. and all around the world. It may be our most well-developed mass skill.

The question is, how do we end this endless oppressive inhumane rut of dehumanization? We have a Humane Society for Animals but for some reason do not think we should have a Humane Society for Humans. When my dog dies I cry, but when and if I learn that a Palestinian is hit by an Israeli bomb paid for by the U.S. I am supposed to thank the Good Lord that Armageddon is upon us. Continue reading

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A Pseudonymous Requiem for Yesterday in My Radical Life

[Cross-posted from Anti-Capitalist Chat at Daily Kos]

I thought I should pay a tiny tribute and wave goodbye to yesterday. I think that is something important for me to do. We have to know when to fight and when to retreat and redeploy. We have to constantly marshal our force of one to use it most effectively.

Yesterday began with a notification from WordPress.com wishing my hobby website a Happy One Year Anniversary! (I won’t provide the link for fear that the thousands who would click it would cause a crash.) My ultimate “hobby,” by the way, is the core of my existence. Like most of the other 1,054,220 people at Daily Kos, I want to do my best to help to try to save the world. That is my life; that is our life. As an anti-capitalist democratic internationalist on the ever-shifting left wing of the possible, I believe in working with a wide swath of people, including “liberals” as they are called in the U.S., because I think that we all have important roles to play. Continue reading

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Part 2 on the Need for Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism

[Cross-posted from Anti-Capitalist Meetup at Daily Kos. Here's the link to Part 1 of this series.]

Things are certainly going to crapola for many poor Central American children these days. But at least they are not having their lives ruined by elected socialists. Barbarism is so much better. Somalian freedom anyone? Where, oh where, have I read about this before? Some murdered democratic revolutionary internationalist perhaps.

 

The Political-Economic Basis For Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism

We must refuse to separate morality from economics, to ignore the historical and political dimensions of economic justice, and to narrowly define “justice” as the head-in-the-sand enforcement of U.S. laws. (According to a good Jesuit who mourned for those dying in Central America, including his owns priests, justice should be in the service of love.) For instance, when we receive reports about Latin American children in flight to the U.S., we must be mindful that the U.S. has spent generations undermining Latin America efforts to achieve economic justice. Continue reading

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“Waiting for the Signal” to Revolt in the late 1890s

[Cross-posted from Hellraisers Journal at Daily Kos.]

This diary is dedicated to JayRaye, who has rediscovered so many Hellraisers, including Henry O. Morris, radical labor journalist, see, e.g., Hellraisers Journal: Tear-stained Women…Besieged the Bull Pens in Cripple Creek and Victor. JayRaye wrote me a message about Mr. Morris’s novel. The book is available as a free e-book here, except for missing page 17 and the corresponding illustration, which I will give you down below. She thought that as a socialist and a Christian, I might find Morris and his novel worthy of more detailed study. After I started reading it, I thought it would make a good diary, and JayRaye agreed. JayRaye loves it when her research leads to other research. Morris himself remains something of a mystery, as with many labor heroes. His reporting is an important part of the historical record. But it’s also time we pay attention to his fictional hellraising, which we could use more of if we are to get more of the non-fictional type. Our minds may yet be motivated by creative acts.

This is what the opposite of Atlas Shrugged looked like in the late 1890s:

The winter of 1898-‘9 has passed and May day has come. …
Oh, Mr. Plutocrat, this first day of May has been a long time coming, but it has dawned at last–the day is here.
As people begin to throng the streets their eyes are greeted on every hand with a mystic symbol …
As the morning drags along the Associated Press bureau begins to receive messages asking if New York can explain the meaning of the sign. Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore are among the first to ask for information, their questions mingling with telephone calls from Brooklyn, Jersey City, Hoboken, Harlem–all on the same subject.
As the day grows older queries came in rapid succession from Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Paul, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Denver, New Orleans and all the Southern cities. This announcement comes from San Francisco:

“This city flooded with a peculiar symbol chalked on the sidewalks and printed on billboards. Advices from all over the State say that every town and village is filled with them, every cross-road fence has one or more placards. What do they mean?”

To which New York replies:
“We do not know. New York is also covered with them.” …
[W]hen the grand council of the revolutionists conceived the idea of this symbol, as a means of notifying its members of the day and the hour of the beginning of the conquest, it was considered very improbable that any person outside the revolutionary order could translate the sign, and so far as literal translation went their judgment was correct. But, mingling with this heterogeneous mob of wildly excited people was one who, by a chance begotten of inspiration, solved it. True, only a portion of it, but that portion contained its primary meaning. This individual was not a learned judge, a lynx-eyed detective, nor an alert reporter; but a creature of less than ordinary intelligence–an old woman almost in her dotage. This chance interpreter came shuffling up, elbowing her way to the bulletin board which bore, together with the bulletins, the strange device. Mumbling and grumbling, she wiped her watery eyes with her soiled apron, peered long and earnestly at the inscription, then, turning to the gaping crowd, she burst out into wild shrieks of hysterical laughter:
“Ha! ha! ho! Hooray! The devil fiddles for his imps to dance. It’s sweet music when old Nick plays. Ha, ha! Oho! Hee, hee! Say yer prayers, ye wicked sinners–this means Revolution! Revolution, I say! D’ye hear me?” …

Morris, Henry O. Waiting for the Signal, Ch. XXVI. Chicago: The Schulte Publishing Co. (published 1898, copywright 1897).

Myths can be powerful stuff. During these latest dark days for the worker in the U.S., we logically need to recapture some of the earlier mythic force. But we need to do this mindfully.

The other side is wickedly but brilliantly using populist “outsider” and even anti-banker rhetoric to manipulate fearful “white” workers. They do so to energize their own selfish cause, including right wing GOTV, but also to divert a large segment of the masses from fighting for constructive deep economic change. Although we can debate how to define “the workers,” on some level the true outsiders are everyone who is not part of the 1%. By diverting attention from our commonality as workers, the plutocrats defeat solidarity.

Updating myths to grim facts on the ground may need to begin with revisiting key dreams large numbers of workers at one time carried in our hearts and minds, and which some still do. After all, we need to always remember that under capitalism, things have generally been hard times for the workers. Political power always has been more wishful thinking than achieved, even under FDR. All of these earlier myths were imperfect and even the best of our myths are in constant need of improvement. Some of the myths of the past were rough, embarrassing, unwise, or even partly wrong, but they were real too, because they fictionally responded, however imperfectly, to shared tangible material conditions, in a way that the other side can only dream. Real people are not perfect. Sometimes they share poorly in their desperation. Coping strategies are not pretty. It is hard when your family is hungry to be your brother or sister’s keeper, especially when they look differently. Solidarity knows no boundaries, yet it is difficult to rearrange much less overturn capitalist conditions in a single valley much less a nation state or the world. The plutocrats don’t want us to even try. Alas, sadly when we do try we often carry around prejudices that the universal “wecannot tolerate, but which “we” must acknowledge in order to address the very real faults without losing the potential for solidarity. Continue reading

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Part 1 on the Need for Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism

[Note: This is my version of light summer reading (but my nickname's not "Buzzkill" for nothing). Hey, I'm even breaking this diary into two parts. It's not healthy to read while you eat but if you do, have a nice sandwich (better make that two), chew slowly, and by the time you're to the pickle, maybe you'll be done. I want to present in bite-size easily digestible pizzas my vision of a peaceful deep democratic revolution. I'm not there yet. I enjoy all the rabbit trails that make up the whole too much and mixing metaphors like a ... concrete mixer. (Do similes count?--see, I do know the difference.) Below all bad writing is my own and unintentional.]

No pressure, but in late 2012 Kyle Thompson at The Other Spiral wrote:

I think the most important thing at this point in time is for the left to reclaim three areas: 1) Internationalism 2) The vision of the future and 3) Economic legitimacy. Without internationalism each struggle feels isolated and localism will never be anything more than localism. … Similarly the left needs to reclaim the future. If all we can imagine for the future is dystopia we will never be motivated enough to build socialism. This is basically the work of artists, conjuring up an image of what might be …. Finally the left must fight to achieve at least a niche of respectability in economic discourse.

I’ll up the ante and say that together we must constantly work to combine all three into a new praxis, one that learns from the past but also is willing to modify or even Jetson imagery that unnecessarily divides us. But, we’ve caught a break: in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of capitalist imagery has worn thin. Ecology and unemployment are biting capitalism on the buttock, just as our side predicted. When I was a kid, I was counting on one of those glass-topped space sedans to zip me around town one day. I’m beginning to doubt that’s going to happen. The caution yellow Pinto with shag carpeting on the dash that zipped me to my first job has long since finished rusting to nothingness, and only the bondo I liberally applied during those bong-heady times remains at the bottom of some landfill.

The future is with us, and that’s scaring the bondo out of the oligarchy, but our side’s still dazed and confused, and the oligarchy wants to keep its party going until the polar ice cap has gone and every last carbon chain has been broken to fuel the Pintos of the 21st century we will purchase to drive to the jobs we won’t have. I’m no artist and have no credentials for economic discourse. That leaves me with a possible niche of utility if not respectability researching internationalism. But since I’m writing from the Deep South of the U.S., home of a widely-held theory about the U.N. involving the mark of the Beast, I’d better toss in some revolutionary ever-modern art to get things started, and, in Part 2, follow-up with Luxemburg, who gives the political-economic basis for anti-capitalist democratic internationalism. If Rosa’s not respectable and respectful enough for the dismal scientists they can kiss my grits. 

Continue reading

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Taking the Kid Gloves Off With Francis’s Street Cred: Poetic Justice

So much depends on true democracy being allowed to broaden, deepen, and flourish in the economic sphere. That is one of the things that concerns me about Pope Francis, whom I admire in many ways. He shows great concern for the poor but does not link this with how laws currently pass or don’t pass, the role of the unelected judiciary that keeps constitutional interpretation in the U.S. locked in the past and doing the bidding of capital, and the lack of a democratic global institution accessible directly by the people in search of rights. I published this post earlier this week at my Galtisalie blog at Daily Kos because of these concerns, as well as emerging events in Spain threatening women’s right to control their own bodies. I hope that it is taken for the constructive criticism in the spirit of George Orwell in which it is intended. It was written not to insult Pope Francis but to hold him to the highest standard, which he should demand from himself on behalf of the one he follows. This standard is more exacting than promotion of the interests of any institution, including the so-called “Church.” If the Church is “the body of Christ” comprised of “Christians,” that body should be willing to sacrifice itself to create “earth as it is in heaven” and trust that it will be resurrected to the greater glory.

Sincerely,

Brother Francisco

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From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. (Luke 12:48, NRSVCE)

I’m glad a global wealth tax has Jesus’s endorsement. But that is just for starters. Jesus reportedly was so socio-economically demanding that his most renowned sermon, on the mount, is some debatable combination of hyperbolic and literal impossible challenges but most certainly liberating and a rejection of any unjust status quo. If it is intended to put pressure on the low and unholy, take me for instance, how much more is expected from someone whose followers claim him to be Vicarius Christi. I am both a struggling Christian contemplative by intuitive spiritual necessity fitfully pursuing a quiet interior life and a leftist who, to use Thomas Merton’s words (Seeds of Destruction, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1964) feels obliged to make himself part of the sacrificing “we”–“We must dare to pay the dolorous price of change, to grow into a new society. Nothing else will suffice!”–but scratches his head how to do this but has to try the best he can anyway. As much as I want inner peace my confused interior life is no more important than my confused exterior life. I am responsible for my action and inaction each day within a given capitalist context I seek to change for the betterment of all, if I can figure out how, and meanwhile I am trying to at least take a spoonful of this or that to the poor and their allies in the global pit of human despair, aka, hell on earth, aka, the OPPOSITE of “earth as it is in heaven.” Would that I could move mountains, or at least a Congressional vote or two, that would be love that counts, the greatest of all of these Christian notions. (Meanwhile, why did I grow up in Christian fundamentalism where not cussing, not lusting, and especially not lusting after someone of the same gender, and “patriotism” seemed to be the paramount goals? What “Christian” leaders allowed that to happen? What are the roots of this navel gazing, private part fixation, and Constantinianism?) Continue reading

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Mother’s Day and Humane Cat Herding–Know Our Rights and Fights!

“Happy Mother’s Day” in many countries in the world. Hopefully you did not have to prepare a hormone-laden turkey dinner for eleven as in Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want” painting. I’m not an art critic, so no problem with his Thomas Kinkade style, but I never liked the composition of the painting, and now I pretty much hate it–it’s unchallenging paternalism, the grins, particularly of the younger men, the bourgeois crystal, linen, “silvah,” and china, unh-unh–it did not strike me as, shall we say, reflective of the seriousness of the challenge of resolving hunger in most of the world, or even of “coming out of” the Depression in the U.S. with a fledgling of a welfare state. What an incredible cultural missed opportunity to educate Amurrricans. On the other hand, we have to know our fights, and “our” rights will be met or unmet on tables both alike and unlike this one, and maybe we should suppose that those young men might indeed be overjoyed with the first feast they have had ever or in a long time. IMHO, best not to get too picky with our potential political allies in such matters. So, Norman, if you’re up there, hope you don’t mind my imaginative doctorin'; you did some good popularizing work on human decency, but in this case, thanks for nothing. I sort of love that, according to the most trusted name in news, in 1948 you voted for another Norman, Thomas, but you soon fell off that wagon (and by voting for him you in a tiny way almost helped throw the election to another Thomas, Dewey, and because I am a pragmatist on the left wing of the possible, I would not have liked to see that happen). I will not be holding any candles in your late afternoon-glow honor.

I will try to be at least a little more pro-system change in this diary than a Rockwell painting. This has turned into a socialized Mother’s Day wish directed equally to men and women–not to deprive mothers of deserved praise but in hope of one day achieving a world that will bring all women, and children and men too, freedom from want and fear, if not an occasional huge Butterball. If we want to achieve such a world we must first recognize the clear moral justification for it, something Rockwell completely missed, undoubtedly on purpose, and for that he is morally accountable in my accounting. This moral justification is the underpinning for “rights,” not hoped-for Thanksgiving Day bounty. However, “visualizing” our rights to freedom from want and fear, while incredibly important, is obviously not the same thing as “achieving” it. This diary is also about pursuing the most efficient and peaceful path to such a world. To be as efficient and peaceful as possible on the journey to a just and loving world, we need to know our fights as well as our rights. As many people as possible need to learn about humane “cat herding.” Continue reading

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“Those hundred lovers are asleep forever.”

So ends De Profundis (Tom Clark’s English translation), a short simple poem by Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca.

The rest of the poem:

Those hundred lovers
are asleep forever
beneath the dry earth.
Andalusia has
long, red-colored roads.
Córdoba, green olive trees
for placing a hundred crosses
to remember them.

I realize that in some ways my timing is off. In the Christian liturgical tradition, Psalm 130, the first De Profundis, came last week, in the fifth week of Lent. And García Lorca did not die this same day one hundred years ago today. He died in 1936, wiki-portedly on August 19, although his body has never been found, and the exact circumstances of his death are unknown.

And life lost another lover yesterday, another leftist García in fact. And reportedly, two thousand years ago, give or take, another outspoken leftist lover of sorts also died today, as observed in some religious traditions, which have a follow-up more optimistic observance still to come.

I bring up García Lorca today because, for my Holy Week, I have been reading his three tragedies, and last night I finished reading the last one.

 

He wrote The House of Bernarda Alba, audaciously, in that same 1936. It was his last completed play. Every word of the play is a poke in the eye of the dishonest rightwing hatred that was coming to ugly fruition all around him.

In these days, let us be so bold as to follow the example of those who have come before us who have dared to say the inconvenient truths and to stand up for the outcast. That is a far better tribute than going to church today or Sunday, to be followed by a plate of ham. Continue reading