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Limits to looney tunes–the Fugs, vulgar Yippie singers who ~stopped a war

 

Beaten from the start, Yiddish-speaking socialist, Yippie yodeling, would-be White House exorcists never give up even when the big crowds are long gone. 

When comedian talk show hosts and SNL skits focus intense energy of the college-educated liberal demographic against a demagogic doofus is not a bad time to critique the preeminent relevant experience of the Vietnam era. We can learn a lot from the successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses, of the Fugs and what could be somewhat accurately characterized as their more well-known political auxiliary, the Yippies.

While much can be accomplished through using satire to sing truth to power, motivate youth, and crudely rip, the vulgar approach has its limitations. It can turn off as well as turn on, leading us into reciprocal spirals of name calling. It is no substitute for fully inclusive mass democratic action.

Laughing at Trump can easily slip into, or be perceived as, laughing at his supporters, many of whom are already happy to sling epithets in defense of God and country, as anyone who has spent five minutes spying on a right-wing website can attest. Two can play at troglodyte calling, and some of us are partial to our own cave-dwelling ancestors from lean times of the last century.

More importantly, fixation on Trump’s buffoonery and the counter-buffoonery it spontaneously generates may cause us to underestimate the need for a comprehensive political-economic program for all, including those who are generally politically apathetic. Trump will not be around forever, and, in any event, many are neither current Trump acolytes nor naturally enculcated with a full set of liberal predilections and values. Cultural entertainment weaponry may engender group cohesion among those who do not consider themselves to be the butt of the joke yet cause us to avoid deeper democratic conflicts and the corrollary need to speak the truth in love and not solely in ridicule.

To assess the boundaries of boneheaded advocacy bonanza, I bring you an honest critique of one of my all-time favorite bands, the Fugs. Before the future safe Weird Al got his first accordion lesson, they were giving dangerous mockery training to a generation and helping to change the world for the better.

It is impossible to establish socialism—or, to reference other related immediate challenges facing the Fugs in the mid-1960’s, to stop an unjust war, to support the civil rights and sexual revolutions, and to raise the consciousness of millions of young people—without conflict. As the Fugs would amply demonstrate, sometimes the more creative the conflict the better. Within a couple of years the Yippies would generally adopt their approach, and the Fugs would become Yippies themselves.

The seriousness with which the Fugs applied their silly ingenuity should not be underestimated, nor their cultural impact. They were not out to mock for laughs as such but to change the world, and to a significant, but to them and us inadequate, degree they succeeded. They played a major cultural role in stopping the war and empowering the quest for sexual authenticity.

While they were fearless oddball creative geniuses, that alone was not their secret. Revolutionary intent not only emanated their music but also to a large extent overcame their lack of instrumental and vocal talent. Even their least musically satisfying work made a desperate stab at justice.

We too, wherever we live, are vested with responsibility to do our best to work for justice, although local conditions may appropriately affect the songs we sing and whether we can sing at all. Being class conscious, and conscious of the class struggle, imbues us with the obligation to confront injustice. This is true from the Yiddish-speaking Lower East Side of the early 20th Century (movingly documented in the Fug Ed Sanders’ tribute immediately below) to the Spanish-speaking Latin America of the early 21st.

But love must be democratically part of the equation too. Gallows humor and jagged reparte are not the only medicine we need. We will not emerge from every conflict victorious or ever permanently emerge into a static socialist utopia.

As socialists, we place an emphasis on building a base of justice for all. We must deal honestly, patiently, and constructively with our own imperfect selves and with imperfect others near and far during the never-ending building process. We are faced with often overwhelming individual and collective challenges, defeats, failures, anger, and grief. Without much democratic compassion our best efforts in conflict may be ineffective or even counterproductive to building the just world society in which we believe.

But let us not be too hard on those who have done their best as species beings on the front lines. It is tough to fight multiple revolutions simultaneously. We may, like the Fugs so inelegantly sang, swim through rivers of shit and should be able to sing honestly about the nasty journey.

Yet some of our needed allies might prefer asterisks, older, arguably more “ennobling” songs, and Budweiser if not drug-free porch-swinging. Looking back, it is obvious that to build socialism we needed Grandma from the kitchen and Uncle Bo from the tractor or the picket line in the marches and sit-ins with us, even as we needed to wriggle our hips in ecstasy to the devil’s music and to tell Grandma and Uncle Bo that the lives of their grandchildren and children were being stolen by Johnson and Nixon.

To say the least Yoda, tough it would have been to balance all this. Easier it was and is to harmoniously point out Grandma and Uncle Bo’s hypocrisy and racism. While do that we must, we must not stop there.

These two dimensions of positive cultural change, conflict and love, necessarily can be puzzling and contradictory. We must be ever mindful of the need for both, and of the obligatory tension this creates for truly democratic movements, including all the people involved, not just creative leaders. Comradeship and solidarity cannot be isolated much less shrinking to be democratically effective.

Any possible transition to socialism would necessitate mass mobilization and the democratic legitimacy garnered by having demonstrated majority support. Only a strong majority movement that affected the consciousness of the army rank-and-file could forestall an armed coup by the right. Even when a repressive regime necessitates a minority road to revolution, democratic socialists stand with Rosa Luxemburg—revolutionary Marxist leader in Germany a century ago—in her advocacy of the restoration of civil rights and liberties once the authoritarian regime has been overthrown.”

(http://www.dsausa.org/toward_freedom)

The rest of this story idiosyncratically traces through the surviving founding Fug’s competing heritage of conflict and love—from the 1950’s through the 1960’s to the present. How we the people over generations sort through competing currents of conflict and love possibly has something to do with whether true democracy ultimately manifests—i.e, shallow democracy through capitalism or deep democracy through socialism.

1950’s—Ed’s Creative Roots

Ed came out of the tail end of the Beat Generation, so to speak, and with all his courage, heart, mind, and witty potty mouth intact. To come out of a generation generally means that one has remnants of both the positive and the negative aspects of that generation. Even though Ed was and is brilliant, we learned from the Beats …

Talent is no excuse. There is much not to like about many of the Beats, including misogyny (http://www.salon.com/2015/10/11/jack_kerouacs_unhealthy_infatuation_with_marilyn_monroe_partner/) and grotesque self-centeredness. More than a little of these tendencies seeped into “open-minded” 1960’s culture, to say the least. Some cultural insensitivity toward others, including even some oppressed groups, made it into a portion the Fugs’ work even as they consciously sought to contribute to the liberation of these groups.

But even as the Beats planted some bad seeds, some of them also planted very good seeds of conflict and love. The last words of a brilliant Beat I (unlike some, https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2014/2/5/1275061/-William-Burroughs-was-a-Life-Long-Drug-Addict-Who-Killed-His-Wife) do not much like shows these good seeds bearing full fruit as the end drew near. Last words even of a sometime fiend, if not particularly those of a sometime fiend, can be illuminating.

“There is no final enough of wisdom, experience- any fucking thing. No Holy Grail, No Final Satori, no solution. Just conflict.
Only thing that can resolve conflict is love, like I felt for Fletch and Ruski, Spooner, and Calico. Pure love. What I feel for my cats past and present.

Love? What is it?
Most natural painkiller what there is.
LOVE.”

William S. Burroughs

(https://www.google.com/amp/s/beatpatrol.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/william-s-burroughs-last-words-73097-1997/amp/)

1960’s—Ed’s Semi-Stardom

Pushing the mass cultural conflict envelope much further in the decade following the decade of the Beats was bound to happen, but the Fugs made it happen in a more intellectually and socially conscious way than it otherwise would have, emanating not only from their Beat backgrounds but also from the twin sense of conflict and love in their music. The Fugs were the willfully deranged generous cousins of Baez and Dylan, a brilliant, primitive, proto punk 1960s folk rock band that grew out of the Beat movement and was close friends with Allen Ginsburg.

The Fugs, who took their name from the euphemism Norman Mailer invented for his novel ”The Naked and the Dead,” were formed in 1964 in New York by Mr. Sanders, a Midwesterner who had graduated from New York University with a degree in ancient Greek, and Tuli Kupferberg, the poet and cartoonist whom Mr. Ginsberg remembered in ”Howl” as the person who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and survived. (Mr. Ginsberg said the other day that the incident actually took place on the Manhattan Bridge in 1945.) ‘Exorcisms’ at the Pentagon In 1966, the group began a series of Off Broadway engagements that included a long stay at the Players Theater, on Macdougal Street, where they gave more than 600 performances. Their later activities included satiric ”exorcisms” at the Pentagon in October 1967 and at the grave of former Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, in Appleton, Wis., the following year.

((http://www.nytimes.com/1987/08/21/arts/pop-jazz-the-fugs-look-back-to-1967-s-summer-of-love.html.))

It is good that as Dylan largely eschewed the political winds he had magically helped to stir up the Fugs were there to pick up the slack and then some.

In 1964, after watching Robert Creeley and Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) dancing to the jukebox at the Dom, Ed Sanders proclaimed to Tuli Kupferberg, “We’ll set poetry to music.” Tuli agreed and the two went on to form the Fugs.

Sanders explains: “We drew inspiration for the Fugs from a long and varied tradition going all the way back to the dances of Dionysus in the ancient Greek plays and the ‘Theory of the Spectacle’ in Aristotle’s Poetics and moving forward to the famous premiere performance of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi in 1896, to the poèmes simultanés of the Dadaists in Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire in 1916, to the jazz-poetry of the Beats, to Charlie Parker’s seething sax, to the silence of John Cage, to the calm pushiness of the Happening movement, to the songs of the civil rights movement, and to our belief that there were oodles of freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution that were not being used.”

(http://www.granarybooks.com/collections/ed-sanders/fugs.html#top)

They were consciously (though apparently sometimes semi-conscious) trying to be revolutionaries and in some ways succeeded.

“This is the era of the civil rights, sexual and consciousness expansion revolutions, and those are the banners under which The Fugs are going to present themselves to America.”

This was the opening declaration of the 1960s New York band The Fugs.

You may not have heard of them, but they were one of the most innovative bands of the late 1960s. They were musical rebels with a cause.

(https://socialistworker.co.uk/art/15479/The+Fugs%3A+proto+punk+and+the+60s+sound+that+echoes+today)

The revolutions they were and we are still part of will never be completed. We should learn from the errors to redeem as much of the irredeemable as we can. The Fugs to some extent, and much more so the broader Yippie movement, could have been more loving toward some of the squares.

The revolutionary ends do not always justify the cultural conflict means. But we should put most of the satirical “river of shit” idiocy into context.

Much creative vulgarity probably had to be written and crooned in the mid-1960’s on the way to stopping the war and sexual liberation. The competing phenomena of conflict and love were present in many of the sometimes sordid songs of the Fugs precisely because they were trying to be singing poet revolutionaries.

An active environmentalist, Mr. Sanders also thought of the slogan ”Think globally, act locally.” Politically, he characterizes himself as a Democratic Socialist.

”I have mixed feelings about the history of the Fugs,” he conceded. ”If I had it to do again, I would have used my education more and been more serious about the exploration of democracy. But in the 60’s, I was so horrified by what what was going on, I thought the only response was to be grotesque.”

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/08/21/arts/pop-jazz-the-fugs-look-back-to-1967-s-summer-of-love.html

Sometimes the results were clarifyingly existential, both as unsettling and sublime as human existence itself.

At Present—Ed’s Thinned Hair and Crowds

There is no glorious ending to this Beaten story, and that’s probably the way it should be.

Semi-fame mostly gone, Ed Sanders is still working for a better world.

He has found some bit of inspiration in online activism and the nurturing of semi-social or socialist ideas, but he acknowledges “it’s really a terrible situation.”

“I don’t have a lot of hope,” he says. “It’s like when they grow a sugar maple stand in New England. You plant the sugar maple tree not for your own children but your grandchildren. So the seeds of peace are like sugar maples. We’re planting them for long after we’re gone.”

***

As I watch Ed Sanders walk away, I stand here, almost gagging as the wind blows the porta john stench my way and I don’t even consider the possibility that the spell may have worked.

(http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/columns/article/20863656/democracy-in-crisis-a-countercultural-exorcism)

Democracy in crisis, it is tempting not to acknowledge the facts of the struggle over the porto john stench. The howl continues, but it too was long ago commodified and can be micromanaged in the palms of our hands. At the tail end of fruit fly generations, drones armed, vulgarity disarmed, reduced human beings valued mostly to consume wearing MAGA hats wander the capital to look at the White Dump, dumping rivers of asterisks out of dharma bums like the vendors desperate to sell talking ties who hold it in all day do when they get home.

P.S. I threw in the bit about talking ties as an excuse to include this video of middle-aged Ed Sanders doing his thing, but please don’t call it shtick. There is considerable thoughtfulness of and for humanity in the work. Love still readily emanates, and, rather than disappearing, conflict awaits opportune situations for resurfacing. Such is our obligation.

 

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I still believe: the gone but not forgotten Marxist analysis of Sam Shepard’s plays

I still believe.

It was the late 80’s, and the supposedly evil empire was running on fumes. Never one for good timing, I was in my late 20’s and had just discovered I was in my heart and mind a socialist. It would be 25 years before I knew what kind made sense for me (multi-tendency radical democratic socialist) and freed myself to fully commit to what I holistically think of as the world’s greatest humanitarian project.

I soon was living in a sort of mini Christian commune in my small southern city. Basically, four recovering fundamentalist, similarly aged friends from a small Episcopal church with the world’s greatest priest (lots of greatests in this piece, but he really was, https://gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com/2015/06/06/another-bernie-a-loving-quietly-radical-priest-has-died/) decided that we should try living out our open-minded but devout Christian faith in a serious manner.

Truth be told, we were also saving our money and trying out group living because we were informally part of a slightly larger group of people which was thinking about starting a co-housing community. (The co-housing community ended up happening and involved buying a small piece of urban land. It still exists today and is a tiny but to me very sweet success, although I had to move and never built my own small house there.)

Two of the friends were a really wonderful married couple. Then there was a friend I shall call Bryce, whom we thought of as the world’s greatest and most overly-qualified male secretary while he was working on his dissertation.

Bryce was a Kansan and to this day is one of the three smartest, most well-read, and thoroughly decent human beings I’ve ever met. I love him like the older brother I never had. He was the real deal. The topic of his dissertation was to be a Marxist analysis of Sam Shepard’s plays.

The commune unfortunately only made it a few months—not because anything bad happened or because we learned that living in a group was unworkable but for miscellaneous unavoidable reasons that come into lives like bark floating down a river. We all like bark ourselves drifted apart. I’ll always love them as family and to this day treasure them in my heart.

A couple of years ago, I tried to make contact with them around the time Father Bernie died. The couple had eventually amiably gone their separate ways, remarried other people, and were now living fulfilled lives on opposite sides of the world. Bryce reportedly went back to Kansas and got in a great relationship of his own, but when I looked for him, my search was mysteriously unsuccessful.

I couldn’t find the dissertation on line anywhere either. I so hope it got written. Along with Father Bernie Dooly’s dissertation at Accademia Alphonsiana in Rome (“Civil Disobedience as a Christian Option”, http://www.alfonsiana.org/accademia/db_titolo_1.php), there are no two things I’d rather read.

I love you dearest father, brothers, and sister. May we live our lives helping to build the humane world the long-haired radical socialist Jew wanted us to build.

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When I said Western Sahara would be a general election issue, Clintonites laughed (and worse)

Here is the piece where I raised the claim fifteen months ago: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/7/9/1400647/-Hillary-Clinton-s-Western-Sahara-Policy-Will-Be-a-General-Election-Issue
If you don’t want to read it at Daily Kos, you can read it at my little “change the world” hobby website: https://gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com/2015/07/11/hillary-clintons-western-sahara-policy-would-be-a-general-election-issue/
(Here’s the initial piece a week before when I first raised the scandal–in the context not of politics but of my anti-capitalist democratic internationalism:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/07/05/1399252/-Anti-Capitalist-Meetup-Part-3-on-the-Need-for-Anti-Capitalist-Democratic-Internationalism
https://gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com/2015/07/06/part-3-on-the-need-for-anti-capitalist-democratic-internationalism/)

My outspokenness on this issue indirectly resulted in the first of my two suspensions from Daily Kos. A Clintonite was so abusive to me when I raised the Western Sahara matter in a comment to a Hillary Clinton glorification piece that I carried the wound to a future internet encounter where I accused the person of being a shill working for the Clinton campaign with no evidence, other than circumstantial and logical that is, which isn’t good enough to even ask the shill question. (I don’t feel like looking through my thousands of comments for the glorious encounters, but they were doozies I can assure you.)

And now, it is indeed a general election issue, being raised not only by her opponent– https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2016/10/21/politics/clinton-morocco-trump-pay-for-play/index.html
–but also by the MSM.

A writer in the Atlantic says:

[T]his exchange about Morocco, first reported by The New York Post, is the clearest example yet in the emails posted by WikiLeaks of the type of arrangement that people find most, well, icky about the Clintons. Bill and Hillary wanted a deep-pocketed donor to make a large contribution and foot the bill for a ritzy conference, and the king of Morocco wanted access to the woman who, then as now, was the leading candidate to be the next president of the United States. The Clintons didn’t apparently care that, as the Post noted, Morocco had a spotty record on human rights. The State Department has cited the Moroccan government for widespread corruption, and the government-owned mining company that paid for the CGI meeting has been cited for its own human-rights abuses.
https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2016/10/21/politics/clinton-morocco-trump-pay-for-play/index.html

P.S. I am still following the Chomsky approach in this election and holding my nose and voting for Clinton as the LOTE: http://caucus99percent.com/content/rounding-error-hillarys-prescient-pricey-even-18-million-freudian-slip

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How to revolt, yesterday, today, and every blessed day

Deep democracy must be for all in equality or it is for no one. There is no room for the white supremacy that underlies not only much of U.S. past but also much of U.S. present.

Please check out this excellent piece in yesterday’s Guardian about African Americans joining with Native Americans on the front lines of the people’s grassroots struggle for justice using non-violent direct action.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/14/why-i-stand-in-solidarity-with-the-dakota-pipeline-protesters

The author, Ijeoma Oluo, links her struggle as an African American and a feminist, and also recognizes how the blame game encompasses a broader set of issues:

I stand with Standing Rock, because we, like you, have had our babies stolen from our arms and our language and history stolen from our mouths. We, like you, have seen our culture turned into costume and our art turned into advertising.

We have all have seen our blood drench this soil in the name of white supremacy, our infant mortality rates climb in a system that aims to keep us in poverty and ill health. We, like you, have seen our men and women die in the streets at the hands of murderous cops. We see your water threatened today by the same carelessness and corruption that has ruined our water and threatened our health in Flint. And we see people look at you today and say, like they say to us: that the poverty and the incarceration and the illness and the crime – it’s all your fault.

To me this evidences the permanent revolution of the masses. All leftists of whatever race or ethnicity should stand up, embrace it, and be in solidarity with it. The days of the class struggle standing outside of the race and gender struggles for justice and equality, or failing to join in the struggle for the seventh generation’s need for ecological justice for Mother Earth, are over.

I have previously written:

[W]e human beings are in dire trouble, and the status quo will not suffice, but we have to move forward to justice lovingly and democratically as the permanent revolution of the masses or we will destroy each other in the process of trying to save ourselves.

We should “[r]ecognize the inherent relationship of true democracy with the permanent revolution of the masses”:

We the people cannot escape our continuing revolutionary responsibility. A viable socialism will not spontaneously generate, but it cannot be imposed. It must be democratically “articulated.”

***

A few of us, or even a substantial minority of us, cannot act successfully in isolation or as an undemocratic vanguard to a decent society for all. A viable socialism will be inclusive and reject discrimination, privilege, nationalism, and exceptionalism. Striving to build walls or islands of privileged “justice” surrounded by oceans of injustice is not articulating a viable socialism.

A decent society for all must ultimately and continuously be articulated by the masses themselves. That is the essence of true democracy. A society of true democrats will itself be a living articulation of a viable socialism.

https://gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com/2016/09/04/3-suggestions-for-the-great-labor-of-love-articulating-a-viable-socialism/

Note: This is not a piece on the limited application of the “armed struggle” approach in most settings. I fully support the armed struggle of the Syrian Kurdish anarcho-socialists, who also through their emphasis on equality embody the democratic revolution this piece espouses. https://gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com/2014/10/20/in-our-hearts-and-on-the-ground-international-solidarity-with-the-deep-democrats-of-rojava/

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3 suggestions for the great labor of love, articulating a viable socialism

220px-Gramsci (1)

“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” Antonio Gramsci Letter from Prison (19 December 1929)

Years before the nearly successful Bernie Sanders run for the presidency, one did not need too keen eyesight to see the need and opportunity. There was nothing new about the need and opportunity. The need and opportunity existed a century ago every bit as much as it exists today.

What Sanders did that could be called innovative was made possible because he consciously tried to learn from the political failures of his hero, Eugene V. Debs. If you haven’t already watched Sanders’ Debs film, please do so at some point during this election cycle. I think that having done so assumptions by some on the left about Sanders’ political naivete or cravenness may lessen.

Although Debs was a true radical international socialist, and hence in isolation more politically to my liking, I suspect that Sanders loves humanity and our world as much as Debs did and is trying to do as much good as he can politically in his own life and times.

It was not truly innovative for Sanders to come up with a fairly standard (and for that matter rather meek) social democratic menu. The Green Party and other left parties have more progressive platforms and therefore in isolation are more attractive to me.

Nonetheless, I believe that it was innovative for Sanders in his life and times to bring his campaign into the Democratic Party. For this he has taken a lot of criticism from many on the left and even more such criticism for choosing to endorse Hillary Clinton.

This piece will not rehash or debate any aspect of the Sanders vs. Clinton campaign or the endorsement. Nor will it visit the questions of whether Sanders’ innovation truly made sense strategically or makes sense going forward. Nor will it lecture anyone on how they should vote. Good people like Chris Hedges (cited below) and Noam Chomsky (www.alternet.org/…) can disagree on some of these questions.

Rather, I am focusing on an even bigger and more important matter, the great labor of love. I am citing Sanders’ nearly successful approach to running for president simply as an example of the potential value of being willing to examine and even shake off intellectual and personal cobwebs that may, if only incrementally or indirectly, impede “articulat[ing] a viable socialism,” to use Hedge’s term.

We as a species cannot afford to fail to articulate a viable socialism. Pointing out the abundant failures of capitalism is not enough, either as a matter of theory or practice. Winning that argument is easy compared to the task of framing and achieving a viable socialist alternative.

I will briefly attempt to lay out a practical democratic foundation of personal conduct and social discourse that may eventually, in an ongoing and never-ending manner, articulate a viable socialism.

But first, why is there the need and opportunity?

The need and opportunity

Far less has changed since before President Obama took office than many of the U.S. liberal intelligentsia sometimes acknowledge. The crises of capitalism still surround us. Even if you or I somehow manage to live in a financially secure enough bubble to not personally sense this, we do not have to look too far to see the suffering of our “neighbors,” to use the radical international socialist Jesus’s term.

In late 2008, citing George Orwell writing in the Great Depression, and without specifically predicting by name the political marriage of fatuous fundamentalists like Jerry Falwell, Jr. to his non-religious royal fatuousness Donald Trump, Chris Hedges presciently anticipated their perverse union. He also accurately referenced what should have been done to prevent their union from enticing a large segment of “whites” in the U.S.:

If Barack Obama does not end the flagrant theft of taxpayer funds by corporate slugs and the disgraceful abandonment of our working class, especially as foreclosures and unemployment mount, many in the country will turn in desperation to the far right embodied by groups such as Christian radicals. The failure by the left to offer a democratic socialist alternative will mean there will be, in the eyes of many embittered and struggling working- and middle-class Americans, no alternative but a perverted Christian fascism. The inability to articulate a viable socialism has been our gravest mistake. It will ensure, if this does not soon change, a ruthless totalitarian capitalism.

(www.truthdig.com/…)

One quibble with this is the assumption that Christian fascism in the U.S. is anything new. I recently was cleaning out my aging fundamentalist parents’ old papers and encountered a pompous Christian fascist leader staring back at me.

image.jpeg

In 1981, this man claimed to control a moral majority and had a recently elected president and magazine covers to “prove” it.

Now is past time to learn from our mistakes. It is not entirely fair to single out, as Hedges did, President Obama in the U.S. system of divided government for these mistakes. However, fixated celebration of the prevention during his presidency of a global depression is obtuse.

But how on earth are we as a disparate group of deep democrats around the world to proceed to change a system reinforced by so much division, distraction, and systemic opposition turned against the masses and in favor of the oligarchs and their mercenaries? The simple answer is that we alone can’t. However, that recognition is not cause for despair but reinvigoration of our deep democratic theory and practice.

Here are three related suggestions for building true democracy capable of articulating a viable socialism.

Three suggestions for articulating a viable socialism

(1) Honestly and fearlessly critique all relevant issues. For instance, critique not only capitalist but also socialist successes, failures, and limitations and not only the successes, failures, and limitations of the two-party political system in the U.S. but also the successes, failures, and limitations of third parties and independents.

If you choose to work politically as a Democrat, do not by doing so sacrifice your duty to honestly and fearlessly critique the party’s failures and the costs of your wasting precious time or money supporting candidates you do not believe in. But if you choose to work politically outside the Democratic Party, do not sacrifice your ability to honestly and fearlessly critique the potential value of working with Democrats, such as through short term alliances, and do not disregard the costs of your unwillingness to form such alliances.

To give another related example where honest and fearless critique is vital, do not neglect intersectionality. In considering a class-based critique do not neglect issues of race and gender, and vice versa.

Also, do not under- or over-value the indirect action of voting and electioneering in comparison to a wide variety of direct action that may be available to you, including protesting, cooperating with those near you geographically or ideologically, and otherwise living as much as possible in solidarity and in jointly fighting the powerful.

Perhaps most importantly, look at facts holistically. Do not accept facts in isolation from their context and do not accept as ordained artificial boundaries that have been imposed by the powerful. We live on one crowded planet, and the masses have to find a way to reject divide and rule and get along together.

(2) Try to practice compassionate, mindful self-discipline rather than blindly following any party’s discipline or any person’s indiscipline. Be willing to consider your own vulnerabilities and weaknesses but also to speak up boldly when you feel it is the right thing to do about the critique that you have developed.

How can the masses be expected to democratically seize power when they do not even profess to believe they should have a full spectrum of rights as human beings? And how can they know these rights if the already mobilized left does not plainly and consistently proclaim them? Proclaiming a right to health care, as the Democratic Party platform is now doing under the influence of Sanders, while long overdue, is far from adequate as a statement of economic rights.

On the other hand, recognize that there will be tension in our political relationships. Some allies of convenience will not be acting in good faith but to preserve as much as possible a status quo that divides, rules, fools, and oppresses the masses. The bigger the tent, the greater the tension and the intrusion of reactionaries. Sometimes self-discipline will suggest that we tolerate more tension than we would prefer as well as even people we rationally do not trust.

Do not get overly discouraged by our own or anyone else’s failures and limitations. (See Gramsci!) But also do not underestimate the essential difficulty, which includes the challenge of democratically convincing others to join us in articulating a viable socialism.

Nejdanov spoke about the antagonism between Heine and Borne, Proudhon, and realism in art. Solomin alone sat listening and reflecting, the smile never leaving his lips. Without having uttered a single word, he seemed to understand better than the others where the essential difficulty lay.

Turgenev, I.S., 1877. Virgin Soil. (ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/…)

(3) Recognize the inherent relationship of true democracy with the permanent revolution of the masses. We the people cannot escape our continuing revolutionary responsibility.  A viable socialism will not spontaneously generate, but it cannot be imposed. It must be democratically “articulated.”

True democracy must embody the permanent revolution of the masses. We cannot expect a utopian stasis will ever be achieved. Where there remains injustice, it is our collective duty to end it.

The masses have to want socialism for it to work well. True democracy does not exist where society is not organized so that the masses have their needs met and are truly treated as equals. They will eventually be repelled by a “socialism” or a “democracy” of unmet needs and inequality where some are more equal than others.

A viable socialism will be iterative and deeply democratic. Totalitarianism is not an option. Calcification and resentment set in where human beings are not willingly engaged in self-disciplined creativity for the common good.

A viable socialism will be both materially and values based. The ownership and control of the means of production and distribution are secure in the hands of one ruling class or another as long as the masses have values that accept this scenario.

As a starting point for articulating more deeply democratic values, all nations, including the U.S., should finally ratify the Eleanor Roosevelt-inspired International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. www.gwu.edu/…

A viable socialism will not be undemocratically imposed or set in stone for all times and all places. It must be democratically coercive against capitalist power, corruption, and those who seek to oppose or overlook the common good for their own selfish wants or ambition, but it must be flexible, open-minded, and forgiving too.

Many of our newfound brothers and sisters will have been competitors, rivals, or even enemies. To end a world of divide and rule, healing of divisions among the manipulated masses must occur.

No single programmatic vision will be the only viable socialist vision. Hedges’s specific construct seems to be a good starting point for the U.S., but it does not pretend to be a full articulation of a viable socialism. It will certainly not be adequate for all times and all places.

We will either find our way out of this mess by embracing an uncompromising democratic socialism—one that will insist on massive government relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars—or we will continue to be fleeced and impoverished by our bankrupt elite and shackled and chained by our surveillance state.

The masses may be quietly crying even when they are not yet openly crying out for justice much less coalescing behind a specific political-economic program. The U.S. is a nation of widespread self-medication and undiagnosed PTSD. What passes for democracy often ignores their cries and actively works to perpetuate injustice.

True democrats will not ignore their cries. True democrats will be listening for their cries, long muffled by the ruling class. True democrats will be permanent loving revolutionaries against injustice.

But first and foremost, to be effective, true revolutionaries of a viable socialism must be democratically persuasive. Our vision must be the nascent vision of the masses themselves, democratically compelling because it emanates from their own economically, socially, and culturally hegemonic values, which must be rationally discerned from understanding the full spectrum of human needs. (Again, see Gramsci!)

A few of us, or even a substantial minority of us, cannot act successfully in isolation or as an undemocratic vanguard to a decent society for all. A viable socialism will be inclusive and reject discrimination, privilege, nationalism, and exceptionalism. Striving to build walls or islands of privileged “justice” surrounded by oceans of injustice is not articulating a viable socialism.

A decent society for all must ultimately and continuously be articulated by the masses themselves. That is the essence of true democracy. A society of true democrats will itself be a living articulation of a viable socialism.

 

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the search once more for the light that sings inside of us

One more socialist poetry bath piece (see here for a previous one), this one a short autobio-critique of an untitled poem by Pablo Neruda published in 1973, the year he died and saw everything he believed in destroyed by CIA-led fascist murderers. He wrote it as an old arthritic man as part of his existential The Sea and the Bells collection (tr. William O’Daly, Copper Canyon Press, 1988).

Gradually over two decades El mar y las campanas has done for me what “that kindness … we are afflicted with” did for Neruda. It gives me solace and helps to keep me fighting for the loving open world Neruda believed in. Continue reading

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Republicans school Pope Francis on King James English

Suffer the children,
and the persons of color,
and the persons of color who commit minor traffic offenses,
and the persons of color and other poor without the ability to pay fines, court costs, and probation fees, issue a capias warrant if they will lose their job if they miss work and fail to appear for any of their multiple court appearances,
and the persons with lady parts,
and the victims of sexual violence, who had it coming to them,
and the lepers,
and the persons with mental illness,
and the disabled,
and the sick,
and the persons with cancer, diagnosed or undiagnosed,
and the widows,
and the orphans,
and the aliens,
and the persons of other religions,
and the landless,
and the starving,
and the thirsty,
and the persons without even clothes,
and the Jonathans who love Davids,
and the persons who go to college and are loaded with debt,
and the homeless,
and the persons who do not know how they will pay their rent,
and the persons who lost their homes to foreclosure,
and the peasant farmers who lost their farms to land grabs and neoliberal trade agreements and are now living the dream on the periphery of megacities,
and the surplus army of the unemployed,
and the broken,
and the wounded from our wars,
and the prostitutes, thieves, and others who turn to desperate coping strategies to survive in the cruel world God has ordained for them,
and the prisoners, take away their rights, including the most sacred of all rights, the right to carry handguns and high-powered weapons, and, if they are persons of color, put them in private prisons in Democratic voting districts,
and the addicts in our drug war,
and the parents unable to buy consumer goodies for the kiddies who have not declared war on Christmas,
and the elderly,
and the persons dependent on free stuff,
and the poor persons living in low-lying areas vulnerable to sea level rise without state-subsidized coastal insurance,
and the persons who try to alleviate suffering of the above, et tu, Jorge?

Note: “Suffer” circa 1611 may be roughly translated “f*** you loser™.”

And speaking of the hallowed King James, never allow a king to suffer, and when in doubt find some witches. Continue reading

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Huntington’s disease and blessing a nation with evil priorities

This piece was first published on 9/24/15 by Brother Francisco as Galtisalie for the I ♥ Democratic Socialism group at Daily Kos. Some of the comments there are touching, highly informative, and also “Socratic” and “prophetic” as Cornel West uses the terms, by which we are tearful and mindful of the oppressed in our questioning and answering, and don’t fail to cry out in the wilderness for them.

I saw the man sitting there, shaking like an alcoholic experiencing horrible DTs–and this false appearance is part of the horror of advanced Huntington’s disease. Twice in the last few months, he has been unable to perform the simple act of taking a long bus ride across the south to get to one of his children. He just wants to live out his days near family. But I gather, they may not want to have much to do with him anymore.

I mention him and that disease because it is the latest horror story I have seen with my own eyes because the U.S. does not have a proactive social safety net for people with disabilities. I am not at all an expert in this disease or in disability in the U.S., but I know what I saw, and I know what I heard, and it was all horror and sadness. Horror and sadness on the face of a human being, and horror and sadness of those he comes into contact with of his dire situation and needs, and the utter mismatch of the social safety net to that situation and needs.

It should not be the case in any place on the earth, but especially in the richest nation on its face, the arrogant nation with the earth’s global reserve currency and the evil priority of having the earth’s largest military-industrial complex so that we can keep the world safe for capitalism, making defense contractors rich, and the perpetuation of injustice like that happening to this pitiful man, unable to walk, only able to shake and fight to say a few words about how he got here and where he is trying to go.

In the U.S. we set up our social safety net for people under 65 as a set of flaming hoops. If you can jump through the flaming hoops, you can maybe get enough money and other assistance to live in poverty. If you can’t jump through any one of the flaming hoops set up for you to fail, you do not get coverage and you live in extreme poverty with little or no assistance. And if your disease is of a “progressive” nature and its pace of progression exceeds your inability to get back in and get through the flaming hoops another time, you can remain stuck with the previous low, and now clearly inadequate, benefits level.

So that man sits shaking horribly and without the increase in disability assistance to which he probably is entitled. He will probably live out his painful days with a feeling of utter loneliness and abandonment in a series of psych wards and mental health facilities. No human being deserves to end that way.

We need to have a social safety net with social workers who are ombudspersons combing the streets in search of the lost sheep. They are not hard to find–the lost sheep that is. Instead we leave the lost sheep to die lonely deaths, without even the measly government assistance to which they are entitled.

I have seen someone in horrible physical and mental anguish, without anything, without even the active compassion of a nation that supposedly cares about justice for all. The Pope said yesterday God “bless” America. I am reminded of another verb another religious leader used. He was being not a traitor but the prophetic voice of one crying out in the wilderness.

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Of “dead communist dictators,” cold sore spit, and Orajel™

This piece was first published on 9/21/15 by Brother Francisco as Galtisalie for the Anti-Capitalist Meetup group at Daily Kos.

Nowheresville, 5:00 pm CT, 9/21/15

TESTIMONIAL OF THE CHASTENED: Hello. Good evening, or good morning to my comrades already suffering under the dreaded would-be communist dictatorship of Corbyn. My name is Francisco, aka Galtisalie, and I approve this message. My most humble thanks to our corporate sponsors at Orajel for

Telling the Difference Between Cold Sores and Canker Sores

These two ailments are commonly confused. Both canker sores and cold sores occur near the same location, share many of the same triggers such as stress, facial trauma, and hormonal changes and can be very painful. But, it is important to distinguish between the two conditions to ensure that you get the best treatment available.

[Because this is a kid-friendly Anti-Capitalist Meetup piece, and last week I showed you an image of Che Guevara getting a colonoscopy, which I intended to be comforting to proponents of a single payer health care system, I will let you click here if you want to see nasty illustrations of the two ailments. Also, because my ACM pieces are becoming increasingly obscure, as the personal contradicts plain-spokenness due to lack of sleep and valuable things to say, I hereby provide an obscure executive summary, to use the jargon of our capitalist betters.]

Executive Summary of this Week’s Anti-Capitalist Meetup Diary

1. Everyday People Everywhere Want Themselves and Others to Have the Things They Truly Need to Live Healthy and Fulfilled Lives. Trust Me on That or See This Wonderful 20-Minute Talk by a Socialist Monk in an Orange Outfit, Who Lives in Venezuela, for More Information:

2. Sometimes Very Caring Revolutionaries Make Mistakes in a Complex Capitalist World: Course Correction Can Be Very Difficult and Elections Can Be Lost.

Fledgling Caring Bolivarian Socialism Facing Fierce Reactionary Opposition and Other Extremely Trying Circumstances, Some of Its Own Making,
Gradually Tempted to Morph into Paternalistic Authoritarianism à la Cuba in Order to Continue Trying to Do Right by Its Poor and Predictably Becoming Less Popular in the Process ≈ Economic Justice with Painful Counter-Productive Anti-Democratic Canker Sores, Non-Contagious, Inflamed by Black-Market Corruption

3. The Very Non-Dude Global Capitalist System Abides: the World’s Oligarchs Get Their Way, and the Everyday People Catch the Cold Sores, Because That’s Just the Way It Is, Like the Rising and Setting of the Sun.

Hegemonic Global Capitalism, Sometimes Masquerading as Democracy and Other Times Not Bothering, Existing by Exploiting the Surplus Army of the Unemployed, Keeping Profits and Resource Rents for the World’s Oligarchs, Demanding Outrageous Inequality as the Price of Progress, and Regularly and Periodically Bringing Crises to the Everyday People, followed by Demands for Austerity for the Everyday People ≈ Massive Oozing Highly Contagious Painful Cold Sores Carried by Bribe-Subsidized Political Spit All around the Burning Big Blue Marble and Placed on the Poor and, to a Varying Lesser Extent, Other Members of the 99%

4. Our Friendly, Personable Corporate Sponsors Put the Hood in Personhood

through Advertising and Hired Politicians, Divide and Rule, Spreading Cold Sores and Trying to Create Demand for Their Own Products, Happy to Provide Temporary Relief for Their Sores and Ours, If You Can Afford the Treatment, and Who Can Afford Not to Afford It?

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Sanders on drug policy

This piece was first published on 9/19/15 by Brother Francisco as Galtisalie for the I ♥ Democratic Socialism group at Daily Kos.

Individuals and families have internalized calendars of dates that aren’t always written down even if they are known. In my family, the dates, for good or for bad, often have something to do with drug addiction. For us, national drug policy is a matter of great interest, and even survival.

Today would have been Aunt Gloria’s (my mother’s half-sister) birthday, had she not lost her battle with drug addiction (OxyContin/heroin in the final years, before that cocaine). She’d be on Social Security by now if she’d lived. Instead she died alone, date uncertain. Her body was found days later in her apartment.

A couple of years before Gloria died, eight years ago next month, on a day I’ll always be thankful for, my brother and I were able to put the money together to pay for our little sister’s expensive treatment for drug addiction (OxyContin/heroin as the drug “of choice,” with cocaine and other hard drugs also in the mix) and to support her some financially during the first year post-treatment as she gradually rebuilt her life. We learned that getting detoxed and counseled for 28 days at an expensive high quality facility was just the start.

Because we were able to find some additional cash to do so, we could help her not only with initial treatment but also with the costs of room and board for a year at a special place for recovering women addicts. That way she was able to get a fresh start away from people and places with bad associations. Over time, she also came to realize the depth to which she was a victim of PTSD, which is not limited to victims of foreign wars.

So, in our family, we were able to pay the financial costs of another human being having a chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But it is still her life and her struggle, and to me, an ongoing miracle, and I take nothing for granted. When tough times come, as they always do, and she deals with them without using, I feel that another increment of a miracle has occurred.

We are so proud of her and thankful to have her. The little girl we grew up playing basketball with every day always had a big and loving heart. As a teenager she turned to hard drugs to cope with the stress of being a lesbian growing up hiding who she was in a dysfunctional fundamentalist household with a schizophrenic mother, of having dyslexia, and of being an untreated victim of sexual violence occurring both when she was in elementary school and again when she was in high school.

Our little sister is a wonderful human being who now is able to pass on much love and support to others, including our still living parents. My dad, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, now accepting of my sister’s sexuality and that of her loving partner, gets a smile on his old wrinkled face, and mist comes to his puffy old eyes, when he thinks about how thankful he is to have my little sister back. So, in my immediate family, one who was so lost has now been found. 🙂

But not every family has the resources to go down this privately-financed path to recovery, and indeed, other members of our extended family have not been so lucky and are now dead. Drug recovery should not be for the chosen few.
Continue reading