This is a useful discussion with Wolin, but the verdict is in, no? Capitalism has undermined democracy in the US, in a most elusive way (for those who have never heard of K street, it is far from elusive for everyone else) and the analysis of this is now nearly two centuries old.
The new question becomes, can communism coexist with democracy: it is a crucial question, and our views here about democratic communism are not shared by all leftists. To say the least.
Let’s consider Plan A, we have, and now Plan B: Plan A touches our discussions of the ‘end of history’ ‘dog chasing its tail’ situation: democracy fails for lack of communism, communism fails for lack of democracy. Our view here. In this situation, while the Old Guard tunes out we try to create a revolutionary transition to communism that will result in a democratic situation….Very idealistic.
Plan B is involves looking at the actual track of the communist idea in the nineteenth, but especially the twentieth century. The snafu appeared early with the idea of ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ (see the book by Hal Draper).
The whole concept is confused, but it won out with Lenin, as Kautsky went ballistic and wrote a book on the abuse of the term.
Marx (check Harrington’s Socialism) and Engels changed their views after 1848, some say, and worked in a democratic context and we see the result in the beautiful labor movement of the Second Internationale which flourished until the First World War and the labor movement’s capitulation to voting the war credits.
After the world war started the views of many hardened (or maybe it had happened already) the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ came to front the efforts of the Bolshevik vanguard to speak in the name of that proletariat as, well, a dictatorship..? (The original term took off in the nineteenth century because the term meant something else, like ‘dictation’ in an office situation. This is a full blown semantic tragedy and deserves its Shakespeare to put the plot in somber blank verse.)
In retrospect revolutionaries might have more carefully analyzed both Plan A and Plan B. Plan A derailed and Lenin and others took up the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat on the grounds that, to put it in my own words, liberal governments had failed and… read Wolin above. And this became a justification for a dictatorship in the name of the proletariat. And that failed also.
The logic of Lenin should however be examined: he saw a crucial point and didn’t want to lose the revolution to idiocy, sentimental liberalism, but attempted the effort in the Tsarist world, an unpromising context, even for a revolutionary.
To put it in my words on Plan B we confront the obvious fact that if a democracy is failing we can’t use democracy so defined to repair it. That was one of the original good/bad ideas behind the fumbled football called ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. A kind of transition is needed where we create something new, a really suspenseful period.
To put some money down on Plan B, we can toss in the towel, fainting spells in the Plan A peanut gallery, and confess that sentimental versions of Plan A are problematical, and we turn to Plan B, to let a revolutionary vanguard try its luck with a transitional reconstruction. It seems to have not worked with Bolsheviks. But look more closely, the revolutionary transition is not a total failure: it occurred with the American Revolutionary war: the transition was not a democracy because it had no government in voiding the British parliament’s claim. But it did lead to democracy after the ‘dictatorship’ of the revolutionaries and their vanguard. The point is that the Constitution came after the revolution (and seems almost to have betrayed it). Their task was easier because they compromised on all issues and let the revolution slide into a format that would soon show up the ‘bourgeois revolution’ They had an easier time of it. But now we can see we have to do the job again, and this asks the question, after our spiel on Plan B, whether we can, in the suspension of law and order in a revolutionary transition, make it back to democracy after founding communism. We can see that the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ is a bungled statement of a significant issue. If we wish to found a global ‘new communism’ we enter the nightmare of global guerilla warfare, questions of rights in the context of civil war, the Gandhis far back in the rear view mirror, and many questions about how to do it, confronting sundry issues like the people already involved in a spastic muddle for a related revolution of the jihadists. Let us hope for something better than that these were the forerunners to global revolt. But they are, and speak for a tradition of global jihad, basically a global revolution, claiming theirs is better than Plan B nonsense, because it has no guidance from god! Looking at the reactionary whites in the Russian Civil War, who began to pioneer ethnic cleansing of jews, many would express skepticism at the superiority of the right.
But the point is clear that we can see that if the climate crisis, capitalist domination, and economic collapse come together in strong combinations many will be volunteering for Plan B, and Alice’s expansion in size on eating the right, or wrong pill will usher in the hard-bitten and ‘realistic’ troopers at a match with the Reds of the Russian revolution. Scary, eh?
Everyone will scurry back to Plan A here, and this has been the understandable view of many in the last twenty years since the fall of Communism in Russia. But we should wonder now if Gorbachev got it right.
In any case, it is worth reading a Counterpunch article today
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/24/where-hucksters-rule/, which goes into the defining era of the term ‘democracy’, and the thinking of Rousseau who was crucial. The point is that this period had to decide what democracy meant. It was not true that electoral democracy was the only candidate. But it did win out.
We are in a similar position now with communism.
The neo-liberal elite won’t stop until it has full control, recreates slavery and attempts genocidal elimination in the name of ‘evolution’, social darwinism.
Until about two hundred years ago, “democracy,” rule by the demos, the people as distinct from social or economic elites, was widely regarded in much the way that “anarchy” now is.
The prevailing view was that while it could be enlightening to reflect upon democracy as a theoretical possibility, no reasonable person would actually endorse it as a political ideal.
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Tomgram October 23, 2014
American Exceptionalism and Its Discontents
By David Bromwich
The Importance of Being Exceptional
From Ancient Greece to Twenty-First-Century America
By David Bromwich
The origins of the phrase “American exceptionalism” are not especially obscure. The French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville, observing this country in the 1830s, said that Americans seemed exceptional in valuing practical attainments almost to the exclusion of the arts and sciences. The Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, on hearing a report by the American Communist Party that workers in the United States in 1929 were not ready for revolution, denounced “the heresy of American exceptionalism.” In 1996, the political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset took those hints from Tocqueville and Stalin and added some of his own to produce his book American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword. The virtues of American society, for Lipset — our individualism, hostility to state action, and propensity for ad hoc problem-solving — themselves stood in the way of a lasting and prudent consensus in the conduct of American politics.
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Dear friends of NCSE,
A reminder that speakers from NCSE are available. And over 24,000
Texans are calling for errors in the coverage of climate change in
social studies textbooks under consideration to be corrected.
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Ebola’s evolutionary roots more ancient than previously thought
October 24, 2014
University at Buffalo
A new study is helping to rewrite Ebola’s family history. It shows that Ebola and Marburg are each members of ancient evolutionary lines, and that these two viruses last shared a common ancestor sometime prior to 16-23 million years ago.
Israel, Palestine, and Netanyahu’s Agenda
by ROBERT FANTINA
As the United States continues to babble about a negotiated settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu has clarified for the world what the U.S., and any thinking person, has known for years: Israel simply isn’t interested. On July 11, as Israel was using U.S-provided weaponry to massacre Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Mr. Netanyahu said this: “I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.”
Democracy in America
Where Hucksters Rule
by ANDREW LEVINE
In less than two weeks, this year’s midterm elections will be history; hardly anyone cares.
Why would they? There are some state and local elections in the offing where the outcomes matter. But at the national level, it is a wasteland.
[Marxism] Fwd: 5 Things About Slavery You Probably Didn’t Learn In Social Studies: A Short Guide To ‘The Half Has Never Been Told’
Noam Chomsky: The One Big Thing America Needs to Do to Turn Itself Around
We could start by actually living up to our own laws.http://www.alternet.org/world/noam-chomsky-one-big-thing-america-needs-do-turn-itself-around
Friday, October 24, 2014
Climate Needs ‘Radical Shock Treatment'; EU Pledges Only ‘Smelling Salts’
Challenging EU narrative, Green campaigners say only place European pledges are “leading” is towards climate disaster
Perhaps the greatest argument for the transition to communism, in fact the framework of Last and First Men starting with its title, is the deterioration under social darwinist ideology, and more than ideology: facts on the ground, of the general population as a whole subjected to both ideological molding and also to unknown and insidious physiological effects. In an age of epigenetics we have to wonder what a hard core subjection to processes well symbolized by the Ayn Rand demonic is having on the mental and physical state of defenseless populations.
Last and First Men is a discussion of communism, new communism, rubric-communism under definition, and also a related discussion of evolutionary theories and ideologies and a challenge to darwinism and its core social darwinist implications. The marxist left has become entangled with darwinism, and it needs to rapidly debrief the whole legacy of darwinian theory.
http://history-and-evolution.com/whee4th/chap2_2_4.htm: the way in which the idea of natural selection, absent in animal realms, becomes an object of deliberation in modern man’s cognition, and this is a fallacy. We cannot induce natural selection to induce evolution. The exact sequence involved in hominid speciation is ultra complex and most probably cannot be induced by piecemeal changes. We are in the presence of an unknown. The ‘last and first men’ need to come to an equilibrium from social darwinist deterioration and wait upon a deeper understanding toward the self-evolution of the first after the last men, or the last men after the first hominids.
Meanwhile the marxist cadre is a gang of hopeless klutz’s on evolutionary theory: a full debriefing of these darwin mugs is on the agenda asap!
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Share the World’s Resources
The Coming Financial Crisis: A Harbinger of World Renewal?
As the prospect of global financial crisis beckons once again, will our elected leaders finally accept the need for an entirely new economic approach that breaks away from the primacy of growth and profit – or will their hand be forced by a resurgence of mass public protest?
The confusion of the current left lies in the inability to focus on a working class. The solution in general is easy: the working class for the american system is on another continent: the chinese ‘industrial colony’ fulfills the definition, but the result here is that even a working class consumer in the US is an exploiter with his iPhone, …
A solution proposed in Last and First Men is to refound the issue in a Universal Class in which the proletariat is a core representative but not the exclusive member of the revolutionary ‘public’. At this point, the champions of revolution would as well spring from a wide variety of class situations, and the Universal Class can appeal to all of these in separate but related discourses. The Universal Class is better because it does not pit the proletariat against everyone else and creates an exist strategy for persons of all classes to be ‘born again’ as members in a united endclass. Engels is a good example: he was a capitalist who made his exit to the idea at least of a Universal Class.
The old formulation made everyone with a stake in revolution but were not ‘proletarian’ outcasts of a kind in the minds of the champions of the proletariat. Such groups can have fatally compromised ideological mentalities, but it has not been really true that the proletariat would be free of ideology.
There are an awful lot of people who are somehow excluded from activism by the original focus on the proletariat. The Universal Class is the better solution, one that can re-adapt to a new proletarian focus in the creation of global transnational parties and organizations.
keyword search leads to ‘NR’ articles, sorry, but useful fodder?
The dreary reading of the rightwing commentary on marxism is a bit stale, but the basic charge of killing too many people remains: how about some simple solutions:
communist social contracts,
communist defined rights against property rights sublimated into the Commons: habeas corpus, etc…
separation of powers: state jurisdiction/governance, economic bodies with independent powers, and powers of appeal as against…
Economies should not be controlled by government dictators but economic bodies mediated with popular consent/
Marxists have a built in ban against thinking in concrete terms, but that doesn’t work…
The transition to communism can be a strong-authority context with some robust democratic core liberties. But the problem is really in the minds of those who are conditioned to democracy as bourgeois democracy: a populist communism will come when the larger public sees communism properly defined in its self-interest.
Still a long way to go, but the first step is to cut the cord with doctrinaire marxism without getting into BS compromises: the core of marxism, its theories and dialectics apart, is the remorphable core…Aha, piecemeal communist social engineering, in honor of Karl Popper the once and future socialist…