Archive for the 'Marxism' Category

Victory! Marxist/Anarchist party wins seat in Quebec election!

The most successful far left party in all of North America (excluding Mexico) is, without a doubt a provincial party in Québec called Québec Solidaire.

As of tonight, QS has become the only party in North America containing various sub-party groupings which openly identify as: Anti-Stalinist Marxist, radical, pacifist, anarchist, socialist, environmentalist and feminist, to hold a seat at the state or provincial level.

chretien-strangling-clennettUnfortunately, the Québec Solidaire candidate in my riding (Hull), Bill Clennett, only placed third after the Parti Québécois and the Liberals.  Clennett, for those of you who don’t know, rose to fame in that quintessentially Canadian way:  he was once literally strangled by then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien on national television.

While I strongly disagree with Québec Solidaire’s sovereigntist leanings, the victory tonight in the provincial riding of Mercier is nothing short of one of the most important victories for the far left in the industrialized world.  This is one of the first times that I’m aware of since 1872 where anarchists and Marxists did that which commentators of all stripes had long claimed to be impossible:  They worked together within a single party structure and they succeeded.

red-flag-2If you want to see democracy in action, look no further than Québec Solidaire.

If you want to see the kind of anarchist/Marxist/social democratic co-operation that must characterize 21st Century struggle, look no further than Québec Solidaire.

If you want to see victory in the riding of Mercier, look no further than Québec Solidaire and Amir Khadir.

“Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose, but their chains…  Workers of the world unite!”

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See also:

Is Capitalism Justified?

Is socialism violent or is liberalism hypocritical?

Marx on religion: Dispelling more myths about socialism

Great Quotes: Marx

Marx on religion: Dispelling more myths about socialism

Never has there ever been a worldview, never has there ever been an idea, and never has there ever been a word so misrepresented and so misunderstood as ‘socialism’… except possibly for ‘Marxism’. Because of this, it has been an ongoing feature here at Paulitics, to dispel some of the myths surrounding socialism (see here and here).

For some time now, I have been wanting to do a short featurette on Marx’s views on religion to dispel them once and for all, and today, having read the same blatantly mis-quoted phrase claiming to be written by Marx for the hundredth time, I finally decided that it was time to dispel this myth once and for all.

The first myth to dispel is that of the famous quote supposedly from Marx which is his opponents use to paint him as a dangerous elitist who scorned the masses. The quote which everybody seems to think Marx wrote is:

Religion is the opiate/opium of the masses”

The only problem with this is that nowhere in any of Marx’s writings, did he ever write these words.

Even the very few instances where this ‘quotation’ is given a citation, the citation is often not entirely correct thus making verification of this quotation even more difficult. The most common citation for this quotation is that it was written in 1843 and occurs in Marx’s essay “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”. In actuality, this quotation occurs in the Introduction to Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and was actually written right at the cusp between 1843 and 1844, many months after the main portion of the Critique was written. Indeed, because of this, many ‘collected works’ editions of Marx’s writings do not even feature the Critique as a part of the same text as the Introduction because Marx had written and published other material, most notably On the Jewish Question between his completion of the two parts.

Nevertheless, the full quotation of Marx’s ideas on religion expressed in this essay are actually, when read in context, rather anti-elitist. In fact, Marx’s ideas in his Critique are rather sympathetic to the religious masses whilst simultaneously being highly critical of the institution of religion itself.

The full quotation reads as follows:

“The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly a struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their conditions is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, the embryonic criticism of this vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

-Karl Marx.
Quoted in “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction.”
Robert C. Tucker, ed. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1978. p. 54.

When reading the full quotation, the necessity of the ruling class never quoting the entire passage in its entirety becomes clear. Reading the incomplete non-quotation supposedly from Marx, one has the impression of a Christopher Hitchens or H.L. Mencken-like figure who looks down upon and scorns the masses for their religiosity.

Another important, oft-forgotten aspect related to this famous quotation is that Marx was not even the only person to say something along these lines. Four years after Marx wrote this quotation, Charles Kingsley, a Canon of the Church of England — a man who more likely than not had never read the then obscure and unknown Karl Marx — wrote that the Bible was used as an “opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they were being overloaded.” (Howard Selsam & Harry Martel. Reader in Marxist Philosophy. New York: International Publishers, 1963. p. 224). Keep in mind this is a man of the church saying this independently of Marx.

So, it is really little wonder that the vast majority of the population takes Marxism and socialism to be synonymous with all that is evil.

The goal of this post and the series on dispelling the myths about socialism is not designed so much to convince people that Marxism and socialism are not evil (although I obviously think they’re the opposite of evil).  The goal of this series is to provide irrefutable proof that much of the popular conceptions about Marxism and socialism are either caricatures, half-truths or downright fictions.

The public can do with this knowledge what they like.  But it is clear to me that if a truly fair hearing of Marxism or socialism ever were to become possible, the ruling classes would not know what hit them.

Happy May Day?

Today is May Day, the original Labour Day throughout the world (including Canada and the U.S.).  And, despite the conscious policy decision to divorce Labour Day in Canada and the U.S. from May 1st, the day should still hold meaning for us to reflect on the democratic victories that our struggles have won but also on the work that needs to be done.

So, in the spirit of the importance of recognizing how much work we have yet to do, how’s this for a ‘happy May Day’?

From The Guardian:

“Italy’s new parliament met for the first time yesterday with applause for Rome’s mayor-elect, Gianni Alemanno, a day after followers celebrated his triumph with straight-arm salutes and fascist-era chants.

Alemanno, a former neo-fascist youth leader, took 54% of the vote in a run-off on Sunday and Monday, crushing his rival, Francesco Rutelli, a deputy prime minister in the last, centre-left government.

[…]

On Monday night, the area around Rome’s city hall rang to chants of “Duce! Duce!”, the term adopted by Italy’s dictator, Benito Mussolini, equivalent to the German “Führer”. Supporters of the new mayor gave the fascist Roman straight-arm salutes.”

But, despite this little tidbit of news that I came across today, May Day wasn’t all bad news this year.  Earlier today on the internets, in my travels amongst its many tubes, I found a fantastic list of Marxist webcasts by university professor named Ron Strickland.

So, if any of you comrades need to wash the unpleasant taste caused by seeing modern-day Italians give fascist salutes, I recommend one of two things:  Booze; or Marxist webcasts.

I for one have decided to partake in both.

You can access Strickland’s Marxist webcasts here.

Happy May Day comrades!

A *Really* Inconvenient Truth: ‘Green capitalism’ is an oxymoron

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oxymoron-eco-capitalism-2.pngI recently came across an interview with Joel Kovel, the man behind A Really Inconvenient Truth and Enemy of Nature.

Joel Kovel is an eco-socialist who critiques Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth not from an environmental skeptic position, but rather on the contrary, he critiques it from the left.

The interview is well worth the listen to if you get the chance. However, I do suggest that if you’re going to listen to it, do it soon because I’m not sure how long the radio program will be hosting the file.

You can access it here:

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or you can access it here.

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New poll of Canadian corporate elites shows interesting results

In the year 2000, Canada taxed corporations at a rate of 44.6%.  Despite Jean Chrétien and Brian Mulroney, we had been able to maintain this relatively good rate of taxation which we first achieved during the Liberal-NDP minority governments in the 1960s and 1970s.  Since then, however, Canada’s corporate tax rates have dropped precipitously by over a quarter to only 30.9% in 2007

During this time, the only public opinion polls conducted that I am aware of were conducted on Canadian corporate elite opinion alone.    This, quite simply, is because elites understand that the public’s opinion on such ‘frivolous’ matters would be inappropriate to solicit.  The public’s opinion is not of any consequence to the determining of public policy in this area, thus why get their hopes up by asking them?  Why remind them that their opinion will simply be disregarded shortly after it is documented?

Nevertheless, it is still worth taking a look at what Canada’s corporate elites would like to see reformed in Canada’s government spending and taxation policy because, on these issues, their opinion is more equal than others and thus is far more likely to be an indicator of what changes will come.

The most recent example of such a poll of corporate elites was conducted recently by Conrad Winn, the president of Compass Polling (and possibly the most infuriating man I’ve ever had the misfortune of meeting).  Despite Winn’s delusions that the CBC actually has a whole cadre of communists working for them, that universities are only designed to indoctrinate children with Marxist propaganda and that CNN is nothing more than the propaganda arm of the U.S. Democratic Party (believe it or not he’s actually said all of these things), Winn is smart enough to know that it is elite opinion on this issue which matters and thus is worth soliciting.

The results of Winn’s poll are thus, very revealing. 

canadian-corporate-elite.png

The margin of error for this poll is +/- 8.7%, so I have highlighted the most popular response for each question in yellow (questions where two responses are highlighted are statistically tied in first place). 

The first thing that should leap out at Canadians is that this poll destroys the myth that the Canadian bourgeois does not want a large government or an activist state.  Indeed on the contrary, Canada’s bourgeois (much like America’s bourgeois) wants government intervention into the private sector in certain limited regards.  Contrary to what is published in the mainstream media, this is nothing all too surprising.  Ever since the end of the Second World War, economists of all stripes have noted that without heavy government support and intervention in the economy, capitalism would collapse.   In 1944, economist Paul Samuelson predicted the 1948 economic employment crisis when he wrote that “the present prosperity is ‘artificial,” and that many of the central sectors of the economy “cannot possibly maintain their present level of employment, or one-half, or one-third of it.”  Thus, ever since, virtually all industrialized governments (including the Canadian and U.S. governments) have been actively subsidizing corporations through ‘corporate welfare’ and ‘military keynesianism’ in order to sustain the capitalist mode of production.

The poll above illustrates that, contrary to the majority of the populace, the bourgeois is well aware of the importance of the activist role of the state.  Canada’s bourgeoisie wants increases in government subsidies to the private sector for infrastructure funding and military funding (military keynesianism) in addition to increased government activism in paying down the national debt and increasing health care payments (which, after all, relieves employers from having to offer private heath insurance unlike their American counterparts).

But, on the other hand, there is one other final item which is interesting and worthy of consideration in this poll of Canada’s bourgeoisie.  While the poll illustrates that capitalists recognize the value to them of these various forms of corporate welfare, the last two questions (highlighted in red), also conclusively show that they just don’t want to have to be the ones to pay for it.

Don’t you love that we’re teaching the Afghans to be ‘free’ just like us?

“On the contrary, the citizen, always active, sweats, agitates himself,
torments himself incessantly in order to seek still more labourious
occupations; he works to death, he even rushes to it in order to get
in condition to live, or renounces life in order to acquire immortality.
He pays court to the great whom he hates, and to the rich whom he
scorns. He spares nothing in order to obtain the honour of serving
them; he proudly boasts of his baseness and their protection; and
proud of his slavery, he speaks with disdain of those
who do not have the honour of sharing it.”
-Rousseau, Second Discourse

See also:

Propaganda in Action: Ontario’s election “priorities”?

Poll: Do you support the conservatives or oppose helping children? WTF!

Our entire existence summed up in one cartoon

Just when you think capitalism can’t sink any lower…

“The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.”

Despite the fact that Marx first wrote about the concept of “commodification” one and a half centuries ago, it is only in the last 25 years or so that the term has come into popularity (leave it to liberals to ‘borrow’ one of Marx’s ideas 125 years after the fact and then call it their own and praise themselves for their magnificent brilliance).

But, given that new items are being commodified at alarming rates, maybe liberals can be forgiven for coming slightly late to the party.

There are countless examples of items which have become, as of late, owned and thus commodified by corporations.  Two examples include: Human and animal genomes which are now owned by corporations every time a new discovery is made; Fox News successfully countered a court case challenging their right to own the phrase “Fair and Balanced”; and the song ‘happy birthday’, to which every sung performance must be met with royalties to the song’s owners, as Girl Scouts of America learned the hard way.

There is nothing particularly new or secretive about this development.  However, when I learned of this new development in commodification, I was at a loss for words:

believe-in-god.png

Marketing a product that claims to connect one to God is nothing new.  The Catholic Church practiced something more or less similar to this for hundreds of years under their practice of the ‘buying of indulgences‘.

But actually copyrighting the phrase “Believe in God”?  Chutzpah, pure chutzpah.

Tariq Ali on Chavez, Venezuela and the struggle against neoliberalism (audio)

socialist-podcast.pngEpisode #5 of the Paulitics Podcast has now been released. This episode features a talk by noted radical intellectual, Trotskyist and salient figure with the New Left Review publication, Tariq Ali.

Ali’s talk is loosely on the topic of his 2006 book entitled “Pirates Of The Caribbean: Axis Of Hope” and features a fantastic discussion of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela including both the challenges to the revolution  and the successes of the revolution.

venezuelan-flag.pngchavez-and-supporters.pngAlso in the episode, I take some time to despell some more myths regarding the constitutional reform package.  I despell the myth that the reform package was hugely centralizing or authoritarian by pointing out that several of the reforms were actually decentralizing and libertarian in nature.  In fact, some of the proposals, including the proposal to decrease of the central government’s share of taxation revenues so as to increase the share of the revenues for the various states, and the reform of the central bank are all things that the Ron Paul fanatics have been clamoring for in the United States.

To listen to Ali’s talk or to download the episode, click here.

To find out how to subscribe to the podcast and have episodes brought to you automatically, click here.

To view past episodes of the Paulitics Podcast, click here.

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“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words”

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”   -Orwell, 1984


I know I’ve been bringing up Orwell a lot more frequently as of late (see here, here, here and here), but when I came across this comment on reddit.com yesterday, my mind just screamed to me: “NEWSPEAK!  NEWSPEAK!  NEWSPEAK!”

The comment is:

“Progressives like to blame the greed of corporations. Libertarians like to blame the coercion of government. Progressives want democratic action to solve corporations, and end up giving a ton of power to the government.  Libertarians want the market to solve problems, and give a ton of power to corporations.

We need to get together and realize that elite power sucks regardless of where it originates. Progressives need to stop looking at the government as a benevolent solver of problems. Substitute libertarians for progressives and the market for the government.

What we need is a third way. I don’t even mean a third party, but a political consensus that acknowledges we need to be ever vigilant against elite power.  I think this consensus can be forged and maintained on the internet. I hope that the campaign of Ron Paul is only the start.” (source)

It isn’t that this particular writer is attempting to manipulate somebody.  Indeed, on the contrary,  think it is obvious that this writer is genuinely interested in progressing beyond the existing state of politics.  The reason why this comment is indicative of Newspeak, though, is that this person is writing as if he has just discovered for himself a ‘new’ idea for a political viewpoint when in fact, the idea for what he is talking about has existed for hundreds of years since at least the time of the so-called ‘Diggers’ in mid-17th Century England. The only problem is that, because of ‘Newspeak’ (for lack of a better word), the very essence and meaning of the word he seeks has been removed from political discourse and to the extent that it can be found in political discourse it is, just as Orwell predicted, taken to mean the exact opposite of what it actually means.

Orwell writes:

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

So let’s see here: this writer is looking for some new ‘third way’ forward away from Conservatism and authoritarianism other than libertarianism and what the U.S. laughably considers to be ‘progressivism’.

Here is a graphical view of a standard 2-axis political orientation chart with the left-right economic spectrum horizontally and a vertical axis demarcating statism and state control versus anti-statism.  This is nothing new or revolutionary, but it is in a way, precisely its simplicity and commonality that illustrates the point I am trying to make better than anything else.

As you can see, there is a huge gaping hole in one quadrant.

For ease of reference and clarity, I’ve superimposed the position of various people onto this grid according to politicalcompass.org and other sources.

new-left-right-spectrum-people-2.png

While it is clear that every other ideology in the political compass grid is easily labeled (i.e., I could have easily gone into more detail and labeled the bottom right corner ‘Anarcho-Capitalism” and the top edge from roughly the centre to the far right as “fascism” and so on and so forth), it is true that, unlike all other quadrants on this grid, there is no one agreed upon word describing the bottom left quadrant (where Chomsky and I reside).

Chomsky himself alternates between calling it broadly “libertarian socialist” and “anarcho-syndicalist” (yes, I’m aware those are technically two different things, but I’m just talking insofar as a broad name for the quadrant goes).  I call it “True Marxism” or “True Progressivism”.  But there are also any number of other names for it:

-Anti-statist Communism (a redundant phrase as far as I’m concerned)
-Anarchist-Communism
-Trotskyism
-Post-Marxism (a term popularized by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe)

So, in essence, Orwell’s fear of the ‘destruction of words’ has been realized.  Not only does the general populace not have a universally agreed-upon word to describe our ideas, but we ourselves can’t agree on a word for ourselves.  We are, quite literally, they who are without name.  We can no longer use the word Marxism — although it would quite technically be an accurate label for the quadrant broadly understood — because, just as Orwell predicted, it’s meaning in modern parlance has been inverted into its exact opposite.

In a world without a nomial label attached to these ideas, the consequences of which are illustrated beautifully by the comment above, it has become nearly impossible for people to even think revolutionary thoughts because the person has to derive them from scratch themselves without the advantage of their long and rich history.  And, even if they do derive these ideas from scratch, the problem remains about how to express these ideas to others without further cluttering up the nomenclature for such ideas.  Thus, I would argue that it has come to the point where our very existence, our very presence as individuals holding these ideas, has itself become a revolutionary act.

While I am crushed by capitalism,
I continue to breathe.  And so long as
I breathe, I continue to hope.  And it
is this hope that animates my struggle.

See Also:

War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength

Our entire existence summed up in one cartoon

All that glitters is not golden

When does it start?

U.S. Presidential Candidates compared to Canadian political parties

Lectures by Michael Parenti and Alex Callinicos now available

new-blog-banner-7.pngI was just talking to some readers of my blog who were asking me when I was going to do a second episode of the Paulitics Podcast. 

I actually did Episode #2 of the podcast a while back and I just released Episode #3 of the podcast yesterday evening, so both are up and available for download to either your computer or iPod (or other .mp3 player).

For those of you who are interested, you can either check the podcast’s main page regularly for new updates at www.paulitics.mypodcast.com or, probably easier for you, you can download any number of free “podcast catchers” which will automatically download the latest episode of all of your favourite podcasts to your computer and then you don’t have to go hunting around for episodes every time a new one is published.

The best podcast catcher is probably iTunes (you don’t need an iPod to use iTunes) but there are other goods ones such as Juice.

Conversely, if you like the idea of having a program bring you podcasts but don’t want them automatically downloaded, you can use an RSS feed aggregator to catch as many podcasts as you like (such as www.feedbucket.com).

Two of my favourite podcasts which you can put into your podcast catcher or iTunes by copy the hyperlink are:

Democracy Now!: http://www.democracynow.org/podcast.xml
Big Ideas: http://www.tvo.org/TVOspecial3/WebObjects/TVOMedia.woa?bigideasfeed

Also, the Paulitics podcast hyperlink to copy into your podcast catcher is:
http://paulitics.mypodcast.com/rss.xml

Or, conversely, you can download or listen to episode #2 featuring a talk by Alex Callinicos on imperialism and empire from a theoretical perspective here.

And you can download or listen to episode #3 featuring a talk by the fantastic orator Michael Parenti on globalization and capitalism here.  (Parenti’s talk is much less theoretical than Callinicos’s talk).


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