Challenging colossal property wrongs; prefiguring property “rewrites”

Chief Justice Roger B. Taney was the ideological forefather of Justice Antonin G. Scalia, both defining wealthy white men’s “legitimate” property interests to ensure their economic wellbeing, just as both deemed other people’s bodies as legitimately subject to wealthy white men’s control. So what are we gonna do about it, and how do we survive and escape despair during the process?

Perhaps one day, if we save the planet over Scalia’s dead body, his proposed statue in the proposed National Garden of American Heroes (www.theguardian.com/… ) will be treated like that of Taney (en.m.wikipedia.org/…). President Lincoln made no public statement in response to Taney’s death but did attend his memorial service. (en.m.wikipedia.org/…) Fine that “Scalia was Ginsburg’s favored souvenir shopping buddy when they traveled together” (www.washingtonpost.com), but he’s no hero.

Scalia was to the environment and women’s bodies what Taney was to the human chattel of the United States. Scalia’s opposition to abortion and birth control was well known (www.wsj.com/…archive.thinkprogress.org/…). This piece begins with a discussion of Scalia’s seminal property rights opinion, which is far less well known but, because it was the majority’s decision, far more profound in its long term implications. Scalia is no longer around to opine against abortion and birth control, but his property wrongs legacy lives on.

An extreme version of “vested” ruling class property rights in the U.S. has been so fetishized by Scalia and his sacred brotherhood—into malignant property wrongs—that despair is also our enemy.

We are in a long struggle for liberty and justice for all, but we do not have time for a long struggle, and the odds, both economic and legal, are horribly stacked against us. It’s too late for Scalia to have a Once-ler conversion and start to clean up his mess. It’s our mess now. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

In the meantime and for all time, people need good food to eat. The ruling class likes to use the fear our basic needs will not be met to assure that we will never be able to focus very long on the long struggle. We must do all we can with what we have both to fight the long struggle and to joyously prefigure the world we want through the way we treat each other on a daily basis.

We really have no good choice but to use a broader spectrum of resistance than just protest and political engagement, as critical as those forms of resistance are. Even as we work to build a successful intersectional property “rewrites” movement, we can help each other and fight despair through an anarchistic strategy older than the first real estate deeds. We can do humane deeds of solidarity with the land we do have use of.

Below the break is a very brief description of this strategy, sustainably updated for a planet on fire. There I will write from the heart as a human and from the mind as a leftist soil scientist whose maternal and paternal grandparents each in one way or another were tied to land used to grow food. Nothing there will be new, but it may be helpful to view it in the context of property rights and wrongs, a connection not always made.

But first it may be helpful to describe with a few citations the property wrongs we are up against that are so deserving of a rewrite and that can cause such despair. We must not eschew both protest and political engagement to address ongoing and past property wrongs. Property wrongs are not only at the foundation of systemic racism but also helping to ruin the environment.

Property Wrongs

Hard to believe but when Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council (www.law.cornell.edu/…) came out 28 years ago, your humble writer, then a young environmental bureaucrat in the south, gave serious consideration to going on a hunger strike. I felt that if people would only notice what had just happened they would see what lay ahead for desperately needed U.S. environmental regulations.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and in a time of capitalist triumphalism, few were noticing and even fewer seemed to care. Since then we have had a new awakening of interest in the environment, largely centered on climate change. It is high time to take notice. Perhaps now people will begin to see what the younger me saw back then.

If the South Carolina Supreme Court of all places, once the bastion of human chattel slavery property rights, could be reversed by the now fully conservative U.S. Supreme Court for not being conservative enough on property rights, the fetishization of private property interests over the people’s interests was complete.

The state was not even allowed to do a good thing to protect the public interest, supposedly because the U.S. Constitution says “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” South Carolina had somehow violated the Fifth Amendment and taken state-defined property rights by putting in place a state permitting system that could potentially deny David H. Lucas a permit to build beach houses on sand dunes he had purchased in 1986.

Your head may be spinning when you read that last sentence, but I can assure you it was party time at the Federalist Society. Based on right wing “libertarian” economic theory adopted by Scalia writing for the conservative majority, every private property owner has the constitutional right to make economically viable use of every parcel of property no matter where the parcel lies. Any modern environmental regulation (which virtually by definition goes further than the common law of nuisance, for that’s the point) standing in the way of economically viable use “takes” the property.

The implications were and are vast, not only for sand dunes and irreplaceable wetlands, rainforests, and endangered species, which often are located on private property. By conservative judicial fiat, any public interests, such as clean water and air and saving the planet from global warming, were rendered constitutionally secondary in importance to private property profitability. The only degree of  off-site harm prevention assured of not being a “taking” was that which would have already been protected under the common law of nuisance.

As an environmental agency worker at the time I can attest that the chilling effect on government regulators was enormous. To this day each federal and state permit decision and regulation is in effect scrutinized to make sure it won’t stop any private property owner from making economically viable use, which is typically viewed with caution from a liability standpoint to be synonymous with making a profit on the investment. Agencies often don’t have access to, and capability to analyze, proprietary profitability information. So when pressed they usually take the applicant’s or industry’s word for it. While agencies can take a chance and risk going to court over whether that is what Lucas requires, in the industry and government offices where potentially expensive permitting decisions are made and policies set, that is usually what it means in practice.

Scalia oversaw the final installation of a constitutional interpretation system rigged to live in the past and prevent people from being saved if a ruined planet is necessary for companies to make money.

He is another in a long line of judicial Once-lers. The system he protected and enhanced of private profit over people is the constant Thneed.

Furthermore, the mid-19th century spirit of Taney was subtly being channelled by Scalia in a “liberating” landmark property rights decision celebrated by wealthy white men. Once again the U.S. Supreme Court oh so reluctantly concluded that it simply could not, no I say, could not, within the framer’s hallowed intent, allow a constitutional interpretation injustice—to dune owners and certainly not to slave owners.

Property wrongs are now calcified property rights under the Fifth Amendment. Just compensation is owed for the unjust.

The judicial branch serves as the ultimate environmental damager protector much as it once protected the institution of slavery. There is now, thanks to the so-called originalist Scalia, an invented federal “constitutional” economic backstop in the event humane elected officials can somehow be put in power in the legislative and executive branches.

The Trump administration’s corrupt and extreme attacks on environmental regulations are the natural outgrowth of this corrupt and extreme so-called property rights movement. The Trump administration looks for support not only from conservative judicial appointees but also from a century of festering anti-public interest legal rhetoric accepted as gospel in the halls of the powerful. Its inhumane environmental policy is linked to its inhumane policies against minorities, women, and immigrants through a near worship of a skewed way right view of private property, ensuring the maintenance of historical patterns of injustice, imperialism, and environmental destruction.

I guess to go on a hunger strike is to embrace a primal fear because of a broader moral concern. Would I have been a fool to go on that hunger strike? Not at all, and looking back, I wish I had done so to try to draw attention to the issue. But we cannot expect everyone to sacrifice like that. I myself didn’t go on a hunger strike and have rarely missed a meal, and never due to economic hardship. Hardly a profile in courage, I decided instead to write a forgotten agency magazine article and to do my best to keep up an internal agency fight for what was right.

I did not see then, and I do not see now, how we can save humanity from self-destruction when “property rights” are, at least according to the dominant right wing thinking of the U.S. judiciary, considered paramount over social needs and regulations based on science.

I note with some envy a portion of the German Constitution approved in 1949 by the occupying Western allies of World War II:

Article 14 [Property, inheritance, expropriation]
(1) Property and the right of inheritance shall be guaranteed. Their content and limits shall be defined by the laws.
(2) Property entails obligations. Its use shall also serve the public good.
(3) Expropriation shall only be permissible for the public good. It may only be ordered by or pursuant to a law that determines the nature and extent of compensation. Such compensation shall be determined by establishing an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected. In case of dispute respecting the amount of compensation, recourse may be had to the ordinary courts.


It should not matter to us that 60 years before Lucas some pompous white man decided it would be a good idea to preference coal company mining profits over human needs.

Prior to Justice Holmes’ exposition in Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S. 39343 S.Ct. 158, 67 L.Ed. 322 (1922), it was generally thought that the Takings Clause reached only a “direct appropriation” of property, Legal Tender Cases, 12 Wall. 457, 551, 20 L.Ed. 287 (1871), or the functional equivalent of a “practical ouster of [the owner’s] possession.” Transportation Co. v. Chicago, 99 U.S. 635642, 25 L.Ed. 336 (1879). See also Gibson v. United States, 166 U.S. 269275-276, 17 S.Ct. 578, 580, 41 L.Ed. 996 (1897). Justice Holmes recognized in Mahon, however, that if the protection against physical appropriations of private property was to be meaningfully enforced, the government’s power to redefine the range of interests included in the ownership of property was necessarily constrained by constitutional limits. 260 U.S., at 414415, 43 S.Ct., at 160. If, instead, the uses of private property were subject to unbridled, uncompensated qualification under the police power, “the natural tendency of human nature [would be] to extend the qualification more and more until at last private property disappear[ed].” Id., at 415, 43 S.Ct., at 160. These considerations gave birth in that case to the oft-cited maxim that, “while property may be regulated to a certain extent, if regulation goes too far it will be recognized as a taking.” Ibid.

On a positive note, without recognizing itself as such, and led by the reparations movement, a broad and deep property “rewrites” movement is gradually emerging in this country to attempt to right a host of serious continuing property wrongs.

This complex and frankly not adequately cohesive movement dialectically and implicitly confronts the right wing property rights movement of the last century. But it is important to realize that the right wing property rights movement’s TRUE intellectual roots are in systemic racism grounded in absolutist constitutional interpretation of convenience. Scalia was standing on the shoulders of the famously sitting Taney.

The ultimate rhetorical framework for the Lucas decision was actually put in place by slave-holding founding fathers, including James Madison, author of the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. For now Madison appears to have largely won, with the notable exception of the partial liberation of humans from chattel slavery. This partial liberation would have been the most heinous of takings in Madison’s eyes even as he privately conceded slavery’s immorality.

Where’s just compensation to the progeny of the slaves who paid for Madison’s powdered wig lifestyle?

To extract slave labor, Madison instructed his overseer to “treat the Negroes with all the humanity and kindness consistent with their necessary subordination and work.” The amount of work must have been high, for Madison told a British visitor that he could make $257 per Negro annually for only $12-13 in upkeep.


When one hears Cato Institute (f/k/a Charles Koch Foundation) types palpitating over the need for protection of property rights it is tempting to not go get a pitchfork and march into not out of 1000 Massachusetts Ave. The Cato Institute is the “suck-it-up and let us keep our wealth” center of faux libertarianism. Countless landless human beings were sold, tortured, raped, murdered, and died working the land, which was stolen from countless previously landed Native Americans. What about their property rights and the unpaid compensatory debt to their descendants?

The Cato Institute approach is to say “sad,” provide some support for criminal justice reform, undercut calls for reparations (www.cato.org/…, www.cato.org/…) and fair housing (www.cato.org/…, www.cato.org/…), and more generally blame government programs and the alleged dependency of Blacks and Native Americans that squelches their entrepreneurial spirits.

[C]ongress has a profound responsibility to address American Indian issues—not to hand‐​out more money but to enact deeper reforms to strengthen individual property rights, efficient legal structures, investment, and entrepreneurship.


Recasting immoral acts and property accumulation as unconstitutional, ensuring just compensation for property wrongs, and establishing a loving distribution of the surplus production from the land could take still more generations and enormous sacrifices to overcome the status quo of injustice. President Lincoln emancipated using his commander in chief powers during the Civil War as a legal means to liberate “owned” human beings in areas of revolt (en.m.wikipedia.org/…). But he felt he had to accept as a given the immoral assumption that human beings could be owned in the first place.

How messed up is that? A system that, except in times of a bloody civil war, is so sick that it won’t allow the legislative or executive branches to free people without permission of or payment to the wealthy white tyrants terrorizing and taking the liberty and lives of almost 4 million human beings. Talk about an evil empire!

Little wonder why we should not be reappraising “property rights” and accepting as self-evident truth that, as all are created equal, the slaves each day of their lives had a property interest in their own persons deserving of just compensation. (racism.org/…)

Wrapping ruling class interests in immoral property rights rhetoric is time-honored, but that doesn’t make it right. Current property rights lingo implicitly harkens back to the “good old purist property rights days” of slavery.

And if the Constitution recognises the right of property of the master in a slave, and makes no distinction between that description of property and other property owned by a citizen, no tribunal, acting under the authority of the United States, whether it be legislative, executive, or judicial, has a right to draw such a distinction or deny to it the benefit of the provisions and guarantees which have been provided for the protection of private property against the encroachments of the Government.

Now, as we have already said in an earlier part of this opinion upon a different point, the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution. The right to traffic in it, like an ordinary article of merchandise and property, was guarantied to the citizens of the United States in every State that might desire it for twenty years. And the Government in express terms is pledged to protect it in all future time if the slave escapes from his owner. This is done in plain words — too plain to be misunderstood. And no word can be found in the Constitution which gives Congress a greater power over slave property or which entitles property of that kind to less protection that property of any other description. The only power conferred is the power coupled with the duty of guarding and protecting the owner in his rights.

Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393, 451-2 (1856)

Chief Justice Taney was not the first judge who defended the morally indefensible.

Nineteenth century apologists for the expansion of slavery developed a political philosophy that placed property at the pinnacle of personal interests and regarded its protection to be the government’s chief purpose. The Fifth Amendment’s Just Compensation clause provided the proslavery camp with a bastion for fortifying the peculiar institution against congressional restrictions to its spread westward. Based on this property-rights centered argument, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, in Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), found the Missouri Compromise unconstitutionally violated due process.

Tsesis, The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom (2004), p. 14.

He certainly wasn’t the last.

What then shall we do in addition to protesting and fully participating in such other democratic processes as are available to remedy property wrongs?

Previously I’ve written about human solidarity and soil sharing in the context of Trump’s blood and soil movement. (www.dailykos.com/…) Now I’d like to briefly bore into the concept of soil sharing as a specific means to help survive America’s colossal property wrongs. Through soil sharing we may joyously prefigure on at least some of the land how the country could be and should be with property rewrites. Once soil sharing was the way of life for humanity. Examples exist of soil sharing by innumerable humans throughout unrecorded and recorded history.

Before I briefly lay out my synthesis for prefigurative soil sharing in 2020’s America, I wanted to give a few remembrances, apologies, and pledges for the future:

Remembrance to Native Americans both before the European invasion, afterwards, and today who knew and know how to live off the land in harmony with nature. I’m especially sorry my white Georgia ancestors lived on stolen red clay land near the Kolomoki mounds complex. I will learn from the past and do my best to be a good ally.

Remembrance to the murdered, raped, kidnapped, separated, and enslaved Africans and their descendants who somehow grew and prepared their own food after working in the forced labor fields, ate their meals amidst the blood and soil from so many property wrongs, then fought for and won their own freedom only to be brutally betrayed and oppressed in a supposedly free country. I’m so sorry I grew up with the racism of my Georgia ancestors and white privilege wired into my brain. I will learn from the past and do my best to be a good ally.

Remembrance to the Black Panther Party, “responsible for creating what members referred to as survival programs, including the well-known Free Breakfast for Children Program.”

Remembrance to my West Tampa born Latinx grandmother Laura, my personal hero of heroes, who first taught me how to grow food in the tiny plot of soil she owned in Hialeah with my grandfather Manuel, who was raised terrace farming in the mountains of La Gomera in the Canary Islands. I am rich in my heart from both of you. You never had a mower because you grew food or native plants in nearly every inch of yard.

Finally, please note two other important things before you read my synthesis:

First, this is not at all intended to imply that we can have justice in America without remedying its property wrongs. Soil sharing without such remedying is prefigurative only, and certainly not curative. In addition, it cannot and never will take the place of vital social insurance programs such as Supplemental Nutrient Assistance Program (SNAP), which need to be greatly expanded not gutted as under Trump. To suggest otherwise would not merely be grandiose but to contribute to the very property wrongs that must be remedied.

Second, this is not intended to cover the subject of commercial agriculture in America, a major topic highly related to property wrongs. (Please see this piece for ideas on potential reforms to commercial agriculture: .www.dailykos.com/…).

Respect nature, restore the soil, grow some food if you sensibly can, and share the surplus

1. If we are growing food as part of prefigurative soil sharing we must respect nature. We must not grow food where it makes no sense to do so or in a way that causes erosion or water or air pollution. We must avoid chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, as well as any non-recycled soil amendments. We must recycle and avoid wasting water. We must contribute a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from our actions and hopefully a lot more. We must learn to grow locally as much of our food as sensible.

2. We all can help restore the soil, if only in a small way. Everyone can minimize their food waste. Everyone can compost their unavoidable food waste or give it to someone who does. And everyone who composts can either use the compost themselves or give the compost to someone else local who can use it. Minimize mowing area and recycle leaves and other yard debris onsite or nearby rather than sending it to a landfill. Treat the soil well, and it will reward us.

3. Grow some food if you sensibly can. Don’t grow food if it doesn’t make sense for you. Not everyone is in a position to grow food, and not every spot is climactically or physically suited to grow food. Soil and food growing potential varies from person to person, place to place, and by time of year.

4. If you can grow some food congratulations. Now comes the best part: you can share any surplus with others, as humans have been doing since they first learned how to domesticate plants. Growing food, at least if your livelihood doesn’t depend upon it, can be a richly rewarding experience, good for body and soul. If you do it well, you might even grow more than you can consume in your own household. That will allow you to share the surplus with neighbors, food banks, community kitchens, and the like.

In solidarity,





Trump’s blood and soil movement vs. human solidarity and soil sharing


“Very fine people,” per Trump. As reported in Daily Progress, 8/11/2017:

The ralliers shouted many of the same chants at the May event, such as “blood and soil,” but this time, they declared that Charlottesville was their city now.

In a statement, UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan condemned the rally. “…I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the hateful behavior displayed by torch-bearing protestors that marched on our Grounds this evening. I strongly condemn the unprovoked assault on members of our community, including University personnel who were attempting to maintain order,” she said. “… The violence displayed on Grounds is intolerable and is entirely inconsistent with the University’s values.”

Make no mistake: We are witnessing a presidential administration and campaign fundamentally based on the normalization of a blood and soil ethos in the U.S. This is something a small percentage of traditional conservatives, to their credit, recognize and abhor. This shared recognition and abhorrence must not cause the democratic left to omit from the reelection conversation a clear and resonant philosophical-political-economic counter to Trump’s blood and soil movement.

For all its value, person-specific resistance of “Trump” is not enough.

The Resistance (also known as the #Resistance) began as an American liberal-left-wing political movement that protests the presidency of Donald Trump.[1][2] It was established as a grassroots movement[3] on January 19, 2017,[4] and has since grown to include not only Democrats, but Independents and Republicans against Trump. Members of the movement are known for their prolific use of Twitter, especially the “#Resist” hashtag.[5]


It is critical. But it is not sufficient.

Trump’s movement is not all about Trump. He tapped into something ugly; he did not make the ugly out of whole cloth. Trump’s grotesque conduct is flamboyantly narcissistic by design, technique that comes so naturally to Trump that it diverts the eyes from the larger ugliness, but technique nonetheless.

Whether his technique is the partial product of a personality disorder, a very stable genius, or dumb luck, Trump has a bunch of wicked people and a bigger bunch of traditional conservatives united. This unity in Trump’s movement exists even if the traditional conservatives seek plausible deniability (important to some religious and Wall Street Trumpers).

There is limited value to debating Trump’s intelligence or psyche at this point. We need to give the devil his due. This buffoon has created one hell of a united movement. We must not underestimate him, but more important, we must not underestimate, much less overlook altogether, his movement as such.

Trump brilliantly but easily stitched Tea Partiers with the Alt-Right because Tea Partiers are quite comfortable with white privilege, even if in their hearts a few question white supremacy. MAGA and KAG hats, and, where I live, huge Trump flags flown in the back of huge pickups (where huge Confederate flags and more recently huge Gadsden flags once flew), are not exclusively symbols of a cult of personality but also camouflage for the ideology of the movement itself. White privilege can now be readily fought for without overtly appealing to racism, although Trump does plenty of overtly racist appealing (www.newyorker.com/…)

The everyday overt racism of the Alt-Right, which overlaps with celebration of the Confederacy, now directly and indirectly reinforces beneficiaries of white privilege who claim not to be racists and some of whom may even believe themselves. When members of the Alt-Right go “too far,” as everyone knows some will, with guns used and not simply drawn, or with a motor vehicle driven into a crowd, their more mainstream political allies can celebrate their victimhood at being tied in with “the” racists.

Such a self-reinforcing system of wide-spread community acceptance of white privilege, using as added group cohesion fuel resentment of outsider critics, worked well under Jim Crow. Not every white banker, businessman, or preacher had to don the white hood and robes to support the status quo. The lynching might take place in the town square with all the respectable people watching or it might take place out in the fields or in a barn. Thanks to Trump, but not exclusively because of Trump, widespread community support for white privilege is once again socially-acceptable even as the very existence of white privilege is denied most vociferously by the Alt-Right on behalf of the larger movement.

But as important as it is to accurately describe Trump’s movement for what it is, this also is insufficient. Those few traditional conservatives who are our allies in resisting Trump are wholely unwilling to confront him with an alternative that is appealing to a united working class. Some liberals are also reticent to do so, which helps Trump’s movement to falsely claim that it is for the working class. It is unwise for the left to acquiesce in minimizing the moment as being all about Trump or even all about resisting.

We must not overlook our responsibility to present a positive and truly working class alternative to Trump’s movement and not just confront its fascism. If we do not wish to acquiesce to Trump’s blood and soil movement, sooner rather than later we must plainly articulate a loving alternative.

Of course, positive ideas alone cannot win a dialectical struggle. We must resist too, with our very being, Trump’s blood and soil movement. However, to do our best in this struggle, principles must be inferred from events that have been going on not just in the time of Trump but also throughout recorded American history. This essay suggests these inferred principles, distilled to their essence, may be summarized as human solidarity and soil sharing, and that a counter movement should be based on these principles and not just on resistance.

White Americans in general are unwilling to honestly reckon with the fact of continuing white privilege—including not only the absence of experiencing racial prejudice in their own lives but also that they as a group financially benefit to this day. White Americans who came before them shed innocent blood of enslaved, murdered, and tortured Native Peoples, stole the soil, and then, where it was advantageous to the white ruling class, worked that stolen, blood-stained soil with enslaved, murdered, and tortured Africans and their descendants for centuries without compensation. This has profound ramifications to this day. (See, e.g., www.wipsociology.org/….)

Third generation German American Trump is right about one thing—he is quintessentially American in the philosophical-political-economic underpinnings of his movement. His is merely the latest blood and soil manifestation in the U.S.

White America was essentially a blood and soil bastion long before the Nazis ever got the idea. Before the Civil War was the centuries-long first wave of a European American blood and soil movement, violently taking most of the arable soil of the continent in what came to be known as the U.S. (en.m.wikipedia.org/…), leaving blood in its path, with much of that soil then worked through the violently-extracted blood of still more innocent, trafficked human beings and their innocent, trafficked progeny.

After the short-lived Reconstruction, the second wave of the blood and soil movement was fully back in control in the south even as it ghettoized blacks in the north and ensured the remaining desired midwestern and western hands were placed in white hands, with God on their side of course.

This writer believes that we must seek to have permeate to the Democratic Party core, through our words and actions as the left seeking to build a truly united, multi-racial working class party in the U.S., that we are a positive human solidarity and soil sharing movement, opposing with all our hearts, minds, and strength Trump’s blood and soil movement, and not merely Trump himself. 

Before I briefly postulate this counter movement, I would like to dispense with the notion that Trump’s movement is not a blood and soil movement in the small “f” fascist American tradition even though its more respectable apologists would deny this fact. (The fact that some members of ethnic and racial minorities also are apologists for Trump makes it all the more important to be able to articulate an inclusive, humane alternative.)

It is easy to see that Trump purposefully makes it ever so slightly tenable for his more respectable apologists. He contextually fudges his fascism just enough to give his more respectable apologists a tiny bit of cover.

Meanwhile, while most of Trump’s brown shirts do not literally wear brown shirts, they are a key component of the “united right” as he desires it, dangerous and mobilized, ready to bring assault rifles to a state capital near you. It is fair to say that the Alt-Right is the right side of his base, significant in numbers (abcnews.go.com/…), especially in swing states, but, more important, influential in ideology and political dynamics well beyond their numbers. For Trump to truly disown them would be to reject his own blood and soil movement. In other words, unfathomable.

Here’s how former campaign chairman and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon sees it:

The combative 66-year-old is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, which he once described as “the platform of the ‘alt-right’”, a movement that has embraced racism and antisemitism, and an ex-chairman of Donald Trump’s divisive 2016 election campaign.

His transition to a senior role at the White House was hailed as “excellent” by the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and “amazing” by Peter Brimelow of the white nationalist site VDAR. Bannon left the administration in 2017 after playing a key role in the US president’s equivocation over a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was widely condemned, but remains influential.

“We’ve turned the Republican party into a working-class party,” said Bannon, relaxing at a table with an autographed photo of Trump behind him. “Now, interestingly, we don’t have any elected representatives who believe that, but that’s a legacy issue. We’ll get over that. We’ve got to find our AOCs.”


When Trump gave enormous comfort to his tiki torch-bearing supporters in Charlottesville he used false equivalence and hollow faux criticism because this would help provide cover for his more respectable apologists (just as the term “Alt-Right” allows the U.S. far right to sound nicer to some).

The more respectable apologists then also get to exercise their own Trumpian victimhood muscles, since they can tell each other that they are being unfairly characterized as racist “like the KKK.” Trump claimed, “You also had some very fine people on both sides.” The more respectable apologists then hear themselves as being symbolically present very fine people innocently protecting dear old Robert E. Lee’s statue from the politically correct libtards.

Trump in practice warmly embraced “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups” comprising the marchers by superficially stating that such groups are, after all, generic “criminals and thugs, … repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans”—blah blah blah, wink wink, nudge nudge—but heck, “they’re calling you, MAGA hat man, a racist too, even as you’re just a Great American, that’s all,” nothing to see here, go to a gun show.

It was no less tactical than when these same fascists call the Democratic governor of Michigan a Nazi for not reopening the state during the pandemic, even as Trump eggs them on while simultaneously maintaining his shallow appearance of national leadership for his more respectable apologists.

If those who show up at the Capitol really want to protest a Nazi, they could have done so while still complying with stay-at-home orders: All they need to find an inheritor of the racist logic of that terrible regime is a look in the nearest mirror.


In other words, confuse or “trigger” the enemy, crowd out the conversation with meaningless words, and keep those brown shirts happy down deep while fanning the flames of victimhood for the more respectable apologists of the movement.

As should be clear by now, there were no “very fine people” who were part of the organizing or promotion of Unite the Right. Unite the Right was an event planned not by traditional conservatives, but by groups and individuals that despise traditional conservatives, like Peinovich, who helped coin the term “cuckservative” to refer to traditional conservatives who spoke out against racism and anti-Semitism.

And during that same press conference, Trump added this:

No, no. There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly, the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call ’em. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest, because you know, I don’t know if you know, but they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this: there are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country. Does anybody have a final – does anybody have a final question? You have an infrastructure question.

“The night before” is referring to the Friday night torchlit rally of August 11, where more than 200 attendees held tiki torches on the campus of the University of Virginia and chanted “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil.” Whatever this event may have been, it was certainly not “people protesting very quietly.”


The starting place in opposing Trump’s movement is plainly calling it what it is, a blood and soil movement. Then, knowing what we are resisting, we must as a matter of politics, form a broad but also passionate coalition of well-intentioned people of good will to oppose it. That coalition will need to coalesce around a candidate, and at this point we know that candidate will be Joe Biden. However, support for Biden must not be the ending place. No single candidate, and certainly not Biden, can be the sum total of the left’s political existence.

Our political existence must accurately reflect the dialectical reality of objective conditions. These objective conditions include the fact that Trump has tapped into a sometimes dominant, now long-festering, fascist tendency in America.

We cannot rely on an idyllic view of America, much less American exceptionalism of the type espoused by traditional conservatives, to save us when our opposition reflects a very real and dangerous tendency deeply rooted within that culture. In fact, fully pulling this tendency out by the roots is probably not possible. Try as we may, even our best counter efforts are part of a dialectical process only partly within our control. But we are responsible for doing our best as humans to get a humane outcome for all, which can build but not rely on such worthy American philosophical ideals as “liberty and justice for all.”

Everything is in continual process of becoming and ceasing to be, in which nothing is permanent but everything changes and is eventually superseded. All things contain contradictory sides or aspects, whose tension or conflict is the driving force of change and eventually transforms or dissolves them. But whereas Hegel saw change and development as the expression of the world spirit, or Idea, realizing itself in nature and in human society, for Marx and Engels change was inherent in the nature of the material world. They therefore held that one could not, as Hegel tried, deduce the actual course of events from any “principles of dialectics”; the principles must be inferred from the events.

The theory of knowledge of Marx and Engels started from the materialist premise that all knowledge is derived from the senses. But against the mechanist view that derives knowledge exclusively from given sense impressions, they stressed the dialectical development of human knowledge, socially acquired in the course of practical activity. Individuals can gain knowledge of things only through their practical interaction with those things, framing their ideas corresponding to their practice; and social practice alone provides the test of the correspondence of idea with reality—i.e., of truth.


Part of our best efforts includes articulating a positive philosophical-political-economic vision in opposition to the fascist tendency Trump enhances. This positive vision should empower and instruct us while also democratically appealing to better angels. The question remains, what should the counter movement itself mobilize in favor of as opposed to be against?

First taking a step back, this male, half-white writer is highly respectful of and hesitant to critique the opposition to Trump. Although much of the organized Resistance seems to have been corporatized and lost its substantive edge, even now it is necessary to tread lightly into this even when one envisions one’s own motives as being for sincere Socratic purposes.

With that caveat, postulating a positive and holistic left response to Trump is not merely about substance but also about simple, resonant messaging in a protracted dialectical struggle. The Resistance a year after Trump’s electoral college victory was as substantively robust as it was in raw numbers of activists. Arguably no would-be mass movement in U.S. history initially placed a greater emphasis on intersectionality.

Since then, people have continued to show up to protests in significant numbers – a research team led by civil-resistance scholar Erica Chenoweth and political scientist Jeremy Pressman has tallied hundreds of demonstrations around the country each month since January.

But the more dramatic development has been a quieter one: all around the country, people have channeled the restless, do-it-yourself political energy that fueled the Women’s Marches and the airport protests into the formation of locally grounded, multi-issue resistance groups.

The recent Women’s Convention organized by the national team behind the Women’s Marches was a conscious and deliberate effort to lift up the political analysis and organizing wisdom of women of color and provide intersectional feminist leadership to the resistance at large.


Trump’s ethnonationalism is still enthusiastically embraced by most of his base, who will very likely remain loyal to it even if he loses reelection. In its retreat to blood and soil ideology it was in part a reaction to neoliberal globalism but more so an upwelling of white supremacy already strongly present. These truly are dangerous times, but for many the dangerous times never ended.

An opposition to Trump’s reactionary movement that either overlooks substance or is easily caricatured as confounding, complex, or hyperintellectual will lack staying power at our collective peril. There must be a simple way of describing the dialectical antidote to Trump’s two-pronged blood and soil movement. While it must be substantively robust, its themes must be easily understandable and salient to the full spectrum of needs of humanity.

“Human solidarity” as a counter to Trump’s tacit emphasis on “white blood”

Whether it is civil, reproductive, labor, or immigrant rights, or programmatic concerns such as the need for a good health care system and healthy environment for all, human solidarity beckons us to reject, not exacerbate, divisions based on anyone’s so-called blood. All humans bleed red. Regardless of one’s race or sexuality, for instance, we all need the same basic material needs to be met. Trump’s appeal for whites to reject concern for others not from one’s tribe is an unintentional clarion call for a dialectical counter demand for a concern for others just based on their shared humanity.

No one likes to feel abandoned to suffer alone. Everyone has experiences in their own lives or in that of their near ancestors where this is evidenced. Many children have experienced or are experiencing the gut-wrenching horror of seeing parents unemployed. Moreover, many children are going hungry in the U.S. as you read these words. (www.brookings.edu/…)

As an American socialist in the Eugene V. Debs tradition, I recently thought of the moving story of his encounter with the old umbrella mender. Even in the man’s intense suffering he showed stalwart human solidarity.

There was something peculiarly grand about the scarred old veteran of the industrial battlefield. His shabbiness was all on the outside, and he seemed transfigured to me and clad in garments of glory. He loomed before me like a forest-monarch the tempests had riven and denuded of its foliage but could not lay low.

He had kept the faith and had never scabbed!


A passionate societal commitment to human solidarity tells you that you are not alone, that I care about you and am willing to sacrifice with you and share your struggles. I am willing to try to help you up even when you have fallen in despair.

Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.


Your suffering matters to me so much so that it becomes my aim to alleviate this suffering in as reliable a manner as possible. The spilled blood of a young African American on a Georgia street is a call to human solidarity not a celebration of the blood of his white killers. Which side are we on? Hopefully we are on the side of human solidarity, not the side of “white blood,” which is a proxy for white aggression and privilege.

“Soil sharing” as a counter to Trump’s tacit emphasis on “white soil”

We cannot restrict our human solidarity to civil rights, as important as those are. Human solidarity must extend to the material world, including to the very soil beneath our feet, which provides us all with space to live and food to eat. Soil and its yield are not for the privileged or for one race which happened to prevail, with God on its side, but for sharing for the common benefit of all.

How we choose to equitably manifest this soil sharing must be democratically decided, but share we must if we believe in human solidarity. Well-funded and widely accessible food stamp, school meal, housing, and domestic violence shelter programs are examples, as is support for UNICEF (www.unicef.org) and UNHCR (www.unhcr.org/…) and peace initiatives.

Prior to and throughout recorded history human beings have been arguing and fighting about the space between us all. The space between us all is neither a vacuum nor solely metaphorical. It includes real irreplaceable things such as the air, water, land, and other resources of our planet. …

We live on and from a thin layer of precariously-watered soil which formed from weathering rocks and decaying organic matter over millions of years and which human beings are capable of eroding and depleting in a geological second and have never figured out how to share for the common good. We need to start thinking and talking more lovingly about this space and each other’s place in it so that we can identify and do just and rational things to deal with our shared space plight.(gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com/…)

Again, we can all borrow from our own experiences of serious vulnerability or those of our recent forebears, or we can look around our own city or county. Desperate and disenfranchised people are all around us. Food bank shelves are empty as soon as they are stocked.

I have never gone hungry. My parents were dirt poor but seemed to have managed to eat enough. But their parents sometimes did go hungry and dressed in rags, as did endless generations of kin who came before them, some of whom were active in the 19th and 20th century labor movement. My grandparents did not talk much about their childhoods. I recently learned a family story from around the same time as Debs met the old umbrella mender.

My paternal Cuban American grandmother was a homeless young girl living in the woods of Hillsborough County, Florida, where she was born in 1906. One night she was given a small dry piece of bread by her striking cigarmaker father for dinner. He did not have anything that night for dinner himself. By 1918 he would be dead, leaving behind a widow and three kids, and Debs would be disenfranchised and in receipt of a 10-year federal prison sentence for his human solidarity in a time of war.

Little wonder that as an elderly widow decades later she grew peas in her tiny Hialeah yard. “Solidarity with all the hungry people!,” she seems now to have been subconsciously saying, as she also did through the cheap print of JFK with words from his “ask not” speech hanging inside and her frequent reminders that the Democratic Party was the party of the working people.

Her joyful and simple instruction on pea growing made a great impression on me when I would visit her as a youngster. It inspired me as an adult to learn more about our soil and to ponder how all people should have access to gardening.

I have come to believe, both as a soil scientist and as a socialist, that, where climate and other natural conditions will permit it, workers’ gardens in some form need to be made available to everyone. Workers’ gardens at the very least would allow humans living in crowded settings to produce some good and needed food, and to provide some mutual aid in society’s restoration of its lost nutrient balance. The demand for workers’ gardens could easily be part of, and not undercut, the broader demand for justice.


The same unjust system that once slaughtered and enslaved PoC and even now uses fascists to provide militant force has led both to homelessness and to a metabolic rift between humans and the rest of nature.

“Metabolism” for Marx, signified the whole of nature and its interdependent processes, of which humans were necessarily a part.

In 1844 he declared:

Humans live from nature, ie: nature is our body, and we must maintain a continuing dialogue with it if we are not to die.

To say that humanity’s physical and mental life is linked to nature simply means that nature is linked to itself, for humans are part of nature.

And in his notes for Capital, later assembled by Engels as Volume 3, Marx declared that capitalism had severed that link, to produce “an irreparable rift in the interdependent process of the social metabolism, a metabolism prescribed by the natural laws of life itself.”


Things do not have to be this way. God did not ordain this. Please let us not shrink from resisting Trump’s blood and soil movement not only with a broad spectrum of political allies but also with our human solidarity fully intact to ensure that our soil is equitably shared.

We can manifest our counter movement in our daily lives through human solidarity and soil sharing. We can even, as part of our holistic movement, grow and share the produce of whatever pot or patch of soil we can touch with our own hands, just like our grandmothers did.

Dedicado a mi abuela.

(For additional thoughts on soil sharing, please see this 2018 piece on the need for a better, and progressively socialistic, U.S. agriculture policy, which would leave us much better prepared for pandemics: www.dailykos.com/…)


Lenten dialectic of a democratic socialist Christian

The struggle of wounded people from varying cultures to unite in solidarity for justice is difficult. On our common ground of justice we must not, however, forego the opportunity to, as the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Shout out, do not hold back!” (Isaiah 58).

I must first begin with a word of e-repentance, if not a full blogging-flogging. I have sometimes chosen harsh and self-centered words in my stories and comments. When writing I’m going to try to be more kind and less self-centered.

Yet I’m told on this Ash Wednesday that even in our failures and weaknesses, it is not “the fast … to humble oneself… to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes” that the Lord seeks. Rather,

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house …?

Our focus on our failures must not be allowed to excuse omission of acts truly worthy of repentance:

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

Another season of Lent has dawned for persons in the Christian tradition and with it the obligation not only to get down on our knees but also to then get off our knees and loose the bonds of injustice, which those who have tied do not want loosed. Which side will we choose to be on?


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.”


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.

William S. Burroughs


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.


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.”


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.


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.”


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.


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.



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.


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:

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.

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


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.


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.


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/


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.


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.


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.



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


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