All posts by Daily Links

2.24.2017 Daily Links

                 This Day in History                 

Today is Women’s Day in Zoroastrian tradition, Engineer’s Day elsewhere in Iran, Flag Day in Mexico, and National Artists Day in Thailand; in the Eastern Roman Empire seventeen hundred fourteen years ago, Emperor Galerius first broadcast an edict that permitted and encouraged persecution of Christians, a situation that continued for nearly a decade; a hundred eighty-one years past that, in 484, meanwhile, the Vandal King Huneric furthered his support for Arian thinking by removing Christian bishops, banishing some to Corsica and martyring others; more or less exactly a thousand and ninety-eight years thereafter, in 1582, a thirteenth Pope Gregory instituted the Gregorian Calendar to catch up with missing leap years; precisely a quarter century further along, in 1607, one of the first operas opened its performances as L’Orfeo, in Mantua, Italy; another century and four years onward, in 1711, a George Frideric Handel opera—the first Italian show written for an English stage—premiered in London;


                A Thought for the Day                

The facade of ‘neutrality,’ the non-sequitur of ‘objectivity,’ in no realm exercise a more mysterious and pernicious primacy than in the arena of media policy and production, the central locus of the creation of culture in the current context of the Internet’s fruition and ‘reality television’s’ rise as aspects of the power of the electromagnetic spectrum: this surreal fetishization of an intellectual impossibility, which holds creators to a rotten standard that one can no more achieve than one can, to coin a phrase, ‘fill God’s shoes,’ serves obvious and yet often overlooked sociopolitical purposes, to wit, first, it makes certain that no ‘established’ mediation can easily either ‘take sides’ against establishment machinations or illustrate the biases and truly objective one-sidedness of the ruling perspectives of the day; second, it makes essentially unattainable any embrace of dialectical thinking or awareness of paradox since all ‘centrist’ ideation inherently eschews polarity and its necessary revelations of contradiction; and third, it completely sunders the critical connection between the discovery of knowledge and any action to effectuate what such understanding implies as important to do, inasmuch as being neutral means that one must remain indifferent as to ‘interested’ outcomes; such a listing of invidious results might continue, though perhaps one can state the case with sufficient force when one says that maintaining a commitment to fairness is not even slightly incompatible with ridding ourselves of the contemptible concatenations of a detachment that violates both the laws of physics and the potential for any sort of ethical or moral foundation.

                  Quote of the Day                       
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. Steve Jobs
                   Doc of the Day                      
1. Jaqueline Smetak, 1994.
2. Fidel Castro, 2008.
3. Judith Butler, 2011.
Numero UnoPraise boss when morning work bells chime.
  Praise him for chunks of overtime.

Praise him whose bloody wars we fight.

  Praise him, fat leech and parasite.
–Wobbly Doxology
Whether we are old enough to remember the Vietnam war or not, we all see the images–of the soldiers, of the victims of the war, of those who opposed it. Absent from the pictures are working people who, if they appear, seem strange and alien creatures–the young construction worker captured in a New York Times photo as he attacked a wheelchair-bound antiwar veteran with an American flag, or perhaps those sad and foolish people at the end of The Deer Hunter singing their sad and foolish little patriotic song.  American working people, although it was they and their sons and husbands and brothers who were sent off to fight the war, are dim and silent in our memories.  Philip Foner, Emeritus Professor, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, old time radical and respected Labor historian, wrote his book to fill in some gaps and set some records straight.  US Labor and the Vietnam War, barely 150 pages, doesn’t and can’t, tell the whole story.  It exists as an outline and a collection of documents; a place to start with what people in Labor did.  It doesn’t fully answer the why, and those who are curious will have to search further.  But Foner is a teacher, and like all good teachers, he gives us a start.  The finish we will have to do ourselves.


                     Nearly Naked Links                  

From Thursday’s Files

Interest in Exoplanets –

Tolstoy’s Kingdom of God –

Excommunicating Tolstoy –



student writing arm



Located on a scenic farm near Chicago and Lake Michigan, Taleamor Park hosts two-week and longer residencies for artists seeking quiet time and ample space. The co-directors seek to create a loving, esthetic, and respectful atmosphere that balances needs for creative solitude and for community. There is a simple online application form due six weeks before the start of the month of the proposed residency, but later applications will be considered whenever space remains. However, assistantship applications for any 2017 date are due February 14, 2017.


Pacific Review accepts a variety of work, including comics, visual art, photography, documented performance, hybrid, fiction, memoir and more.

pascal maramis - flickr
pascal maramis – flickr


OPB is hiring a Video Producer/Writer to tell compelling stories exploring Oregon history. This salaried, exempt position is a full time, regular status position with benefits. For more information and instructions on how to apply, go to OPB’s careers page. OPB is an Equal Opportunity Employer.


2.24.2017 Day in History

Today is Women’s Day in Zoroastrian tradition, Engineer’s Day elsewhere in Iran, Flag Day in Mexico, and National Artists Day in Thailand; in the Eastern Roman Empire seventeen hundred fourteen years ago, Emperor Galerius first broadcast an edict that permitted and encouraged persecution of Christians, a situation that continued for nearly a decade; a hundred eighty-one years past that, in 484, meanwhile, the Vandal King Huneric furthered his support for Arian thinking by removing Christian bishops, banishing some to Corsica and martyring others; more or less exactly a thousand and ninety-eight years thereafter, in 1582, a thirteenth Pope Gregory instituted the Gregorian Calendar to catch up with missing leap years; precisely a quarter century further along, in 1607, one of the first operas opened its performances as L’Orfeo, in Mantua, Italy; another century and four years onward, in 1711, a George Frideric Handel opera—the first Italian show written for an English stage—premiered in London; twenty-eight years yet later on, in 1739, Persia’s ruler led his empire’s forces in a decisive victory at the Battle of Karnal over the Mughal Emperor in India, setting the stage for the sack of Delhi; two hundred thirty-one years back, a baby boy opened his eyes who would rise as the thinker, writer, folklorist, Wilhelm Grimm; two hundred fourteen years prior to today, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Marbury v. Madison, which established the primacy of judicial review as a ‘court of last appeal’ for issues of law and policy; twenty-eight years past that conjunction, in 1831, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek finalized the ejection of Mississippi’s Choctaw Indians in accordance with the U.S.’s Indian Removal Act; a hundred forty-nine years before the here and now, Andrew Johnson became the first President to face impeachment by the House of Representatives; another thirteen years thereafter, in 1881, China and Russia signed a treaty that settled border and control issues mostly in favor of Qing Dynasty; fourteen years forward from there, in 1895, insurrection began near Santiago, Cuba, leading soon enough to transfer of imperial domination from Spain to the United States; thirteen years hence, in 1908, the Supreme Court upheld an Oregon statute that disallowed forcing women to work longer than ten hour days; four years more on time’s path, in 1912, police in

CC BY-NC by State Library Victoria Collections
CC BY-NC by State Library Victoria Collections

Lawrence, Massachusetts viciously beat children and women who had taken their fathers’ and husbands’ place on the picket line; half a decade past that, in 1917, across the Atlantic in London, the U.S. ambassador received the Zimmermann telegram, in which German authorities promised Mexicans the return of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona if the nation would declare war on the United States; seven hundred thirty days henceforth, in 1919, the U.S. Congress passed another in a long line of laws that criminalized child industrial labor, its predecessor’s having just suffered the fate that all of these laws did, till the end of the New Deal, to wit the Supreme Court found them an unwarranted intrusion of the property rights of the rich; two decades onward, in 1939, the Supreme Court did its part to in a different way to defend ruling class profiteering, finding sit-down strikes illegal interference with property’s imprimatur; three years subsequent to that instant, in 1942, Canada’s war administrator authorized internment of all Japanese residents and citizens; thirteen years nearer to now, in 1955, a male child was born who would mature as the wildly successful Steve Jobs; just three hundred sixty-five days after that moment, in 1956, a baby girl entered our midst who would grow up as the incisive theorist of gender and identity and consciousness, Judith Butler; nine years further along the temporal arc, in 1965, the Service Employees

US flag reflexion on Vietnam Veterans Memorial 12 2011 000124 by Mariordo Mario Roverto Durán Ortiz - Own work
US flag reflexion on Vietnam Veterans Memorial 12 2011 000124 by Mariordo Mario Roverto Durán Ortiz – Own work

International Union, Local 1199 became the first labor organization to condemn the U.S.’s illegal intervention in Vietnam; two years shy of two decades past that exact second, in 1983, the U.S. Congress’ condemnation of placing Japanese in concentration camps four decades before resulted in a final report about these matters; half a dozen years still closer to now, in 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini put up $3 million for the assassin who would murder the author ofThe Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie; just three years less than two decades more proximate to the present pass, in 2006, the magnificent maven of science fiction and novel storytelling, Octavia Butler, closed her eyes for the final time; just two years hence, in 2008, Fidel Castor, after nearly a half century at the helm of Cuba, stepped down from power; four additional years in the direction of now, in 2012, Jay Berenstain, beloved children’s storyteller, breathed his last.

2.24.2017 Nearly Naked Links

From Thursday’s Files

Interest in Exoplanets –

Tolstoy’s Kingdom of God –

Excommunicating Tolstoy –

Scypes on Strategy

Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance

Thomas Merton on Simone Weil, Pacifism –

Eurasian Geopolitics of Defense

4 NATO members choose Russia to defend them over NATO – poll

Persistently Mediated Fascism –

Fukushima’s Omnipresent Catastrophe

Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?

Alleging ‘Protest’ As Elite Smokescreen

The New Wave Of Violent Protests Is Exactly What The Elite Want — Here’s Why

Controlling Algorithms Rather Than Vice Versa –

Growing Fascination With Nazi ‘Victory’ –

Hypocrisy About Yemen & Saudis

The West’s Moral Hypocrisy on Yemen

Silicon Valley and DOD Collaborate on Biodeath Machines

Silicon Valley and the Pentagon – The New Pioneers of Biological Warfare

Trump’s Media Enemies Not ‘Progressive’ Friendly

The Press Is Trump’s Enemy, Not the Left’s Friend

HST’s Fear-&-Loathing Campaign Article –

Anti Fascist African American Activism –

Ruling-Class Splits, Working-Class Solidarity

Behind the “Deep State Coup”

Aldrich Ames’ Story –

Town Meeting Uprisings Confront Congressmen –

Predatory, Domineering Intelligence –

America’s Thriving Police State –

Volatile Mixes: Inequality, Populism, Democracy

Global Inequality, Populism And The Future Of Democracy

Christianity, Community, Merton –

Karl Jaspers’ ‘On My Philosophy’ –

2.24.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Jaqueline Smetak, 1994.
2. Fidel Castro, 2008.
3. Judith Butler, 2011.
Numero UnoPraise boss when morning work bells chime.
  Praise him for chunks of overtime.

Praise him whose bloody wars we fight.

  Praise him, fat leech and parasite.

–Wobbly Doxology
Draft_card_burning_vietnam war

Whether we are old enough to remember the Vietnam war or not, we all see the images–of the soldiers, of the victims of the war, of those who opposed it. Absent from the pictures are working people who, if they appear, seem strange and alien creatures–the young construction worker captured in a New York Times photo as he attacked a wheelchair-bound antiwar veteran with an American flag, or perhaps those sad and foolish people at the end of The Deer Hunter singing their sad and foolish little patriotic song.  American working people, although it was they and their sons and husbands and brothers who were sent off to fight the war, are dim and silent in our memories.  Philip Foner, Emeritus Professor, Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, old time radical and respected Labor historian, wrote his book to fill in some gaps and set some records straight.  US Labor and the Vietnam War, barely 150 pages, doesn’t and can’t, tell the whole story.  It exists as an outline and a collection of documents; a place to start with what people in Labor did.  It doesn’t fully answer the why, and those who are curious will have to search further.  But Foner is a teacher, and like all good teachers, he gives us a start.  The finish we will have to do ourselves.

The story of Labor and the Vietnam war exists with the larger context of the story of American radicalism. In the 1960s, a significant number of American Leftists gave up on the revolutionary potential of working class people. Following the lead of Herbert Marcuse, they shifted their attention to students. Marx had defined revolutionary potential not in terms of attitude or ideology or even specific activities, but in terms of the relationship of a particular class to the means of production. The more essential a class was to production, the more inherently revolutionary this class would be. In simple terms, if all the lawyers walk, it’s an inconvenience. If the line workers walk, everything shuts down.

In the 1930s, the revolutionary potential of the working class was fairly obvious, widely understood, and readily accepted. Labor unions went from near extinction to being a political force that had to be reckoned with, and the New Deal so thoroughly incorporated the radical agenda that the Communist Party USA, with an estimated membership of over 80,000, endorsed New Deal programs with unbounded enthusiasm. Three decades later, working class people were regarded by many radicals as rock-headed bigots solidly in support of a hopelessly racist and imperialist system. As Carl Oglesby stated it in 1969:

A politically practical Left must be able to convincingly say, “This is not even a good battle.” But how could the American Left have said that, since it had traditionally endorsed a program whose simplest driving objective was for the same economic security “for the masses” which the “masses” in question believed themselves already to possess. (3)

Indeed, how could one convince the workers to rise up and overthrow a system which was benefiting them in real and material ways? The dominant angst of the era shifted from a proletarian angst–“Brother, can you spare a dime?”–to an angst afflicting the middle and upper middle classes and the intelligentsia. Radicals were set adrift and when the civil rights movement became the dominant cause, what progressives saw on the other side were white workers. When the Vietnam war heated up, what they saw again were white workers opposing them.

The biggest single factor in the latter perception was AFL-CIO president George Meany’s support for Lyndon Johnson and his war policies. Labor spoke with a monolithic voice. Worse, Labor spoke with a Neanderthal voice. In May of 1965, Meany declared that the AFL-CIO would support the war in Vietnam “no matter what the academic do-gooders may say, no matter what the apostles of appeasement may say.” He further argued that those who criticized the war were “victims of Communist propaganda.” (20-21) From organized Labor, no other voice was audible.

But other voices should have been audible. According to polling information from the late 1960s, most Americans were highly ambivalent abut the War and among working class Americans, the symptoms of war weariness were particularly acute. Working class people should have, therefore, joined the peace movement in droves, but they didn’t. Citing this polling information, Milton Rosenberg, Sidney Verba, and Philip Converse pointed out in 1970 that among white male union members, twenty-seven percent were “convinced hawks,” that is, “people who both refuse to say we made a mistake in getting into Vietnam and feel we should now escalate the war.” However, seventeen percent were “convinced doves,” that is, people who “feel we did make a mistake and now prefer to pull the troops out.” (77) Therefore, although these “doves” were clearly outnumbered, as one out of five white male union members, they should have made some sound loud enough to be heard.

It was the opinion of Rosenberg, Verba and Converse that cultural differences between workers and peace activists accounted for, at least in part, this silence since these differences made communication between these groups, at best, difficult. Although workers, because of their ambivalence and because they were bearing a disproportionate share of the cost, were predisposed to support an end to the war, they were not particularly eager to join forces with peace activists. Rosenberg, Verba and Converse comment:

The delight which some radicals on the fringe of the peace movement have taken in baiting the conventional virtues and relatively simple world understandings of Middle America have closed many minds. These displays of contempt may have been important in providing the radicals with emotional thrills or a stronger sense of moral superiority over the less well educated, but… the price to the cause of peace in terms of mass support has been high. (71)

The origins of this baiting reach further back than the war, and one could argue that it all started with the Massachusetts Bay Colony and John Winthrop’s notion that the Puritans were the Chosen People. The more immediate source of the problem, however, was American pacifism as it developed following World War II. During the war, pacifists had been unable to go beyond support for conscientious objectors and, after that war, found themselves almost totally isolated. Maurice Issermann reports that the pacifist movement split between those who wanted to engage in active resistance and those who felt that “‘cultural and personal areas’ were really more important than… political and economic concerns.” (136) The peace movement thus turned inward, limiting itself to bearing witness. In 1960, when pacifists attempted a change in strategy and tried to combine bearing witness with active resistance in a futile effort to close down the shipyards at New London and Groton, Connecticut, where Polaris submarines were being built, workers attacked them. Issermann comments:

As far as the pacifists were concerned, the issues in New London… were reduced to a question of sin and repentance: workers were accomplices to murder as long as they contributed their labor to building missile bases and submarines. Most of the pacifists came from better-educated and more prosperous backgrounds than the workers they were trying to reach… They made no effort to understand why a high-paying union job was not something that workers in New London were likely to quit on the advice of high-minded middle-class strangers. (163)

Issermann called this an “unfortunate legacy of the New England moral reform tradition.”

Of course, class differences had caused problems for other efforts to promote change, most notably the abolitionist and the suffragist movements, and some of the same factors were operating in the case of the Vietnam antiwar movement. As Charles DeBeneditti notes, the organized opposition to the war came “mainly from middle-class, college-educated whites, materially comfortable and motivated by largely moral considerations.” These people were also “tolerant of changes in popular culture, sexual mores, and race relations”:

In contrast, the great majority of Americans favoring disengagement from Vietnam were…. in the lower economic class, often women and blacks, with grade school educations and low prestige jobs. Politically inarticulate and generally isolationist, these disaffected citizens opposed the war as a waste of men and money…. Suspicious of most authority, they seemed ambivalent in the face of cultural change, but they made no secret of their dislike for active protesters. (394)

Further, indicates DeBeneditti, these potential doves may have been “alienated by qualities they associated with militant radicals who, although not representative, got much media exposure.” (394)

Although the media was credited with increasing public awareness and changing public perceptions of the war, thus helping to bring it to an end, what actually happened was somewhat different. According to William Hammond in Public Affairs: The Military and the Media, 1962-1968, the problem with the public perception of the war lay not with the supposedly uncooperative press, but with President Johnson’s own public relations strategy:

The president was convinced that the conflict was necessary but believed that the American public and Congress lacked the will, without very careful handling, to carry it to a successful conclusion. Accordingly, he sought to move the country toward an acceptance of war, but in so doing to alienate as few Americans as possible. A policy of gradually increasing pressures against North Vietnam seemed the best approach…. Johnson had his way, but at the cost of his own credibility. (385)

Although the press “dutifully repeated every one of the president’s assertions…. each official statement of optimism about the war seemed to have a pessimistic counterpart and each statistic showing progress an equally persuasive opposite.” (386) What turned the public against the war “was not news coverage but casualties.” Public support “dropped inexorably by 15 percentage points whenever total U.S. casualties increased by a factor of ten.” (387)

Similarly, the news media did not undercut the war effort by presenting antiwar activists in a positive light. Todd Gitlin, in The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left, argues that the supposedly “typical” protester was actually a media construct:

The media create and relay images of order. Yet the social reality is enormously complex, fluid, and self-contradictory, even in its own terms. Movements constantly boil up out of the everyday suffering and grievance of dominated groups. From their sense of injury and their desire for justice, movements assert their interests, mobilize their resources, make their demands for reform, and try to find space…. [But] just as people as workers have no voice in what they make, how they make it, or how the product is distributed, so do people as producers of meaning have no voice in what the media make of what they say or do, or in the context within which the media frame their activity. (3, 11)

As Michael Parenti notes, “protesters are portrayed as a deviant and unrepresentative sample of the American people… marginalized groups presumably lacking in credible politics,” portrayed as “violent and irrational, or linked to groups thought to be violent, or in some way threatening or disloyal.” (100) This alone would make working class Americans, themselves marginalized and anxious about that status, hesitant to identify themselves as peace activists. In turn, as DeBeneditti reports, “although radicals tended to romanticize blacks and poor whites, for the most part working-class Americans were regarded as inert and inaccessible.” (394)

In other words, a peace coalition which would have included large numbers of working class people was rendered virtually impossible by mutual distrust. In part, this distrust was created and exacerbated by each side’s respective reference groups. DeBeneditti states, “According to contemporary opinion analysts, most people responded to the Vietnam War as they did to other foreign policy developments–not out of a knowledge of the situation, but rather in response to cues issued by respected reference groups… political parties or religious and social affiliations.” (395) Although American radicals had identified rather strongly with working class people for several decades–hence the persistent tendency to romanticize them–the McCarthy Purges had made radical identification with the working class and working class identification with radicalism risky for both groups since such an identification signified a Marxist Leninist orientation. Because the 1956 exposure of the horrors of Stalinism had thoroughly discredited the Communist Party USA, since the early 1930s the dominant group on the American Left, the tiny Socialist Workers Party remained as virtually the only radical group with both the desire and the wherewithal to draw workers into the peace movement. DeBeneditti notes that SWP did have some success in this regard and a detailed account of the Party’s participation in the antiwar movement may be found in Fred Halstead’s Out Now! A Participant’s Account of the American Movement Against the Vietnam War.

Halstead read the situation a bit differently than did some of the others. He did not blame radical insensitivity to worker sensibilities for the chasm which existed between Labor and peace activists. Rather, he placed primary responsibility squarely on the shoulders of AFL-CIO leadership. Halstead argued that the “AFL-CIO’s ‘obsession with anticommunism’ had led it into ‘open collaboration’ with the most right-wing, antiunion agencies ‘both at home and abroad.'” (363) Although a serious rift had developed between AFL-CIO President George Meany and UAW President Walther Reuther over the AFL-CIO’s “blind obedience to the State Department and its associations with the CIA… the top UAW leaders never laid it out before the rank and file.” (362-363) Halstead felt that if UAW leadership had been willing to take on George Meany, the antiwar movement would have developed in a very different direction:

[Antiwar labor leaders] could easily have taken the leadership of the antiwar movement then and there [at the Labor Leadership Assembly for Peace conference in 1967] if they’d had the will…. They certainly had far more resources at their command than those who were then leading the movement…. But labor leaders in the assembly couldn’t bring themselves to take such a plunge…. For one thing they still represented a distinct minority in AFL-CIO officialdom…. [and a] successful fight with Meany within the AFL-CIO would require redressing the balance of power by involving the rank and file. (361)

This the leadership was not willing to do because their own political power had, since World War II, depended on their ability to control the rank and file to prevent strikes and excessive worker demands. Tom Geoghegan in Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flat on It’s Back, Gary Gerstle in Working-Class Americanism: The Politics of Labor in a Textile City, 1914-1960, and George Lipsitz in Class and Culture in Cold War America: “A Rainbow at Midnight,” deal with this in some detail. In essence, the undemocratic bureaucracy which came to characterize American labor unions was the result of government efforts to control the labor force in order to fight the Second World War. This control continued after the war, maintained by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and by the anticommunist McCarthy era purges. Lipsitz notes:

Striking at real and potential rivalries in unions, equating excessive militance with treason, and employing legal restrictions to narrow the poles of political debate, anti-communism proved effective at home, but even more so in winning support for the one way [as defined by corporate liberalism] to bring about full employment and production within the system–overseas expansion…. For labor leaders, anti-communism enabled them to gain admission to the corporate liberal elite and to help make and administer policy to an unprecedented degree. In return, they provided a firm commitment to labor peace at home. (132)

Thus, another way to read the Vietnam war situation vis à vis Labor is that antiwar labor leaders could not have done more than they did no matter how much they may have wanted to. In spite of Halstead’s assertion that these people had the resources, their access to these resources was blocked by political and institutional factors.

This is essentially the position taken by Philip Foner in U.S. Labor and the Viet-Nam War. Although American Labor had a history of opposing war and had vehemently condemned the Spanish-American war, criticized President Wilson’s intervention in Mexico in 1916, and initially opposed American involvement in World War I, by 1917 the AFL, under the leadership of Samuel Gompers, had endorsed the idea that the United States should join that conflict, and issued a statement which said in part that the AFL would “offer our services to our country in every field of activity to defend, safeguard and preserve the Republic of the United States against its enemies.” (3) The AFL also supported Wilson’s policies regarding the Soviet Union, supporting the Kerensky government and opposing the Bolsheviks. This would continue unabated through the 1920s and 1930s.

However, notes Foner, “large and important sections of the American labor movement enthusiastically supported the Bolshevik Revolution, and bitterly opposed Wilson’s interventionist policy.” (3) When the CIO was established in 1935, “new and large sections of the labor movement asserted themselves in a progressive manner in the field of foreign policy.” (4) but by 1949, the CIO was firmly behind the policies of the Cold War. In 1955, the AFL and CIO merged with Jay Loveston, a vociferous anticommunist, in charge of the International Affairs Department.

Loveston is an interesting study in and of himself, although Foner doesn’t talk much about his past. Born in 1898, Loveston joined the Socialist Party while a student at City College of New York. He soon emerged as an articulate defender of the Bolshevik Revolution, supporting an extreme left wing faction of the Socialist Party which favored “underground” organization. By the end of the twenties, he had moved to the right within the American Communist movement, espousing “American Exceptionalism,” and supporting Nikolai Bukharin’s “Right” policies within the Comintern. In 1929 this, and his love of factionalist infighting, led to his expulsion from the Communist Party USA. He took a few hundred others with him to form the Communist Party Opposition. In 1941 he dissolved this group, by that time renamed the International Labor League of America, and joined the AFL’s Free Trade Union Committee. When the AFL and CIO merged, this became the International Affairs Department. There, Loveston worked closely with both the State Department and the CIA. According to Paul Buhle, Loveston was “the personal architect of interventionist trade union policy” and “facilitated the entanglement of the American ‘New Right’ and the AFL-CIO leadership.” (437). For Loveston, a veteran of American Marxist-Leninist factionalism, opposition to Stalinist communism was not mere opportunism. For him, it was personal.

Although anti-Stalinism had long been a legitimate position to take, as Alan Wald notes, the term “eventually became a catchall slogan in the United States to rally together diverse elements against radical social change.” (367) Purging Communists from American unions was not done to save American workers from the horrors of totalitarianism, but, as Lipsitz argues, to increase “collaboration between unions and employers in the name of industrial peace.” (17) It also guaranteed that labor unions, no matter what their members might have wanted, would support government foreign policy. Initially it seemed that this support benefited union members. Labor leaders were anxious to cooperate not only because such cooperation increased their own power, but also because such cooperation offered a solution to the specter of rising unemployment. Although the economy in the early 1960s was booming, it was not, as stated in the AFL-CIO American Federationist (October 1962), “generating the number of jobs needed to meet the nation’s requirements.” (Foner: 13). To solve this problem, unions demanded shorter hours and more defense spending. Thus, the Vietnam war, so long as the body count remained low, could be seen, and was seen, as a positive benefit. By 1970, however, the economic burden the war was imposing on working class Americans was outstripping the economic benefits. As Foner comments:

The atrocities [of the war] certainly contributed to [worker] feeling that the United States had no business in Vietnam and that it should get out as fast as the ships and planes could bring the soldiers home. But more effective in causing them to reach this conclusion was the fact that living costs and rising taxes were wiping out all gains won at the bargaining table, and that overtime and the holding of two jobs, the only way in which workers had heretofore been able to keep their heads above water, was disappearing in the economic showdown already under way. (92)

Voicing Labor frustration, a full-page ad appeared in the Washington Post on 25 February 1970. It said, in part: “As long as we are in Vietnam we will have insufficient housing, education and health care. Our cities will rot.” (Foner: 91).

But even by 1970 when, according to polling data, over eighty percent of American people wanted out of the war, the voices of dissent within organized labor were still in the minority. Disagreement over the war had so split the labor movement that in 1972, the AFL-CIO refused to endorse any candidate for president. In spite of strong opposition to Nixon, George Meany issued the rather disingenuous statement that the AFL-CIO had never been “motivated by political partisanship…. We are neither the property nor the proprietor of any political party, and we have never deviated from this policy.” (Foner: 145) However, individual unions did, on their own, endorse. Over twenty-five unions, including the UAW, AFSCME, the Newspaper Guild, the Transport Workers Union, and ILGWU, endorsed McGovern, and a handful, most notably the Teamsters (Foner notes evidence of a payoff since Nixon had pardoned imprisoned Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa the previous year), went for Nixon.

This scattering of what had previously been virtually unanimous support for Democratic candidates had been a long time in coming and strong disagreement over foreign policy was a major factor.  Foner wrote U.S. Labor and the Viet-Nam War in order to dispel stereotypes, to assure people that ‘Meany and the AFL-CIO Executive Council did not represent the entire labor movement.’  In fact, voices of dissent, however faint, could be heard early on.  In October of 1962, for example, William H. Ryan of the International Machinists Union testified before a House Subcommittee that machinists felt that ‘government defense contracts subjected them to the whims of the Pentagon and that there was more reliability in civilian employment than in jobs tied to war production.’  Union members started to voice opposition to the Vietnam war early in 1965.  The first union to come out against the war was Local 1199, Drug and Hospital Employees Union, in a telegram sent to President Johnson on 24 February 1965.  In May of 1965, the Negro American Labor Council adopted a World Peace Resolution, and on May 9, the Missouri Teamster carried an editorial criticizing Johnson’s war policies.  Others followed but strenuous opposition was not possible.  Meany was too powerful and could retaliate against antiwar unions in inter-union disputes.  Also, Labor had grown overly dependent on the Democratic Party.  ILGWU President Harry Bridges, a long time radical activist, put the matter most succinctly:

Effective action–such as trying to stop shipments–not only requires real understanding and unity of our own members, but a national movement willing to stand by and help out if we get ourselves into trouble. (Foner: 25)

As Bridges was well aware, there was no such movement.”  Jaqueline Smetak, “Philip Foner, U.S. Labor & the Vietnam War;” Part One of a 1994 Review-Essay

Lyrics to "Solidarity Forever" from UE song book, 1952 (Helen Quirini Papers)
Lyrics to “Solidarity Forever” from UE song book, 1952 (Helen Quirini Papers)

Numero Dos“Dear Compatriots:
Last Friday, February 15, I promised you that in my next reflection I would deal with an issue of interest to many compatriots.  Thus, this now is rather a message.The moment has come to nominate and elect the State Council, its President, its Vice-Presidents and Secretary.For many years I have occupied the honorable position of President.  On February 15, 1976 the Socialist Constitution was approved with the free, direct and secret vote of over 95% of the people with the right to cast a vote.  The first National Assembly was established on December 2nd that same year; this elected the State Council and its presidency.  Before that, I had been a Prime Minister for almost 18 years.  I always had the necessary prerogatives to carry forward the revolutionary work with the support of the overwhelming majority of the people.There were those overseas who, aware of my critical health condition, thought that my provisional resignation, on July 31, 2006, to the position of President of the State Council, which I left to First Vice-President Raul Castro Ruz, was final.  But Raul, who is also minister of the Armed Forces on account of his own personal merits, and the other comrades of the Party and State leadership were unwilling to consider me out of public life despite my unstable health condition.

It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis-à-vis an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of me, and I felt reluctant to comply.

Later, in my necessary retreat, I was able to recover the full command of my mind as well as the possibility for much reading and meditation. I had enough physical strength to write for many hours, which I shared with the corresponding rehabilitation and recovery programs. Basic common sense indicated that such activity was within my reach. On the other hand, when referring to my health I was extremely careful to avoid raising expectations since I felt that an adverse ending would bring traumatic news to our people in the midst of the battle. Thus, my first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle. I kept saying that my recovery “was not without risks.”

My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s all I can offer.

To my dearest compatriots, who have recently honored me so much by electing me a member of the Parliament where so many agreements should be adopted of utmost importance to the destiny of our Revolution, I am saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief.

In short letters addressed to Randy Alonso, Director of the Round Table National TV Program, –letters which at my request were made public– I discreetly introduced elements of this message I am writing today, when not even the addressee of such letters was aware of my intention. I trusted Randy, whom I knew very well from his days as a student of Journalism. In those days I met almost on a weekly basis with the main representatives of the University students from the provinces at the library of the large house in Kohly where they lived. Today, the entire country is an immense University.

Following are some paragraphs chosen from the letter addressed to Randy on December 17, 2007:

‘I strongly believe that the answers to the current problems facing Cuban society, which has, as an average, a twelfth grade of education, almost a million university graduates, and a real possibility for all its citizens to become educated without their being in any way discriminated against, require more variables for each concrete problem than those contained in a chess game. We cannot ignore one single detail; this is not an easy path to take, if the intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary society is to prevail over instinct.’

‘My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, much less to stand in the way of younger persons, but rather to contribute my own experience and ideas whose modest value comes from the exceptional era that I had the privilege of living in.’

‘Like Niemeyer, I believe that one has to be consistent right up to the end.’

Letter from January 8, 2008:

‘…I am a firm supporter of the united vote (a principle that preserves the unknown merits), which allowed us to avoid the tendency to copy what came to us from countries of the former socialist bloc, including the portrait of the one candidate, as singular as his solidarity towards Cuba. I deeply respect that first attempt at building socialism, thanks to which we were able to continue along the path we had chosen.”

And I reiterated in that letter that “…I never forget that ‘all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn.”

Therefore, it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer.  This I say devoid of all drama.

Fortunately, our Revolution can still count on cadres from the old guard and others who were very young in the early stages of the process.  Some were very young, almost children, when they joined the fight on the mountains and later they have given glory to the country with their heroic performance and their internationalist missions.  They have the authority and the experience to guarantee the replacement.  There is also the intermediate generation which learned together with us the basics of the complex and almost unattainable art of organizing and leading a revolution.

The path will always be difficult and require from everyone’s intelligent effort.  I distrust the seemingly easy path of apologetics or its antithesis the self-flagellation.  We should always be prepared for the worst variable.  The principle of being as prudent in success as steady in adversity cannot be forgotten.  The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong; however, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century.

This is not my farewell to you.  My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas.  I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by comrade Fidel.’  It will be just another weapon you can count on.  Perhaps my voice will be heard.  I shall be careful.

Thanks.'”  Fidel Castro Ruz, Letter of Resignation; originally published in Granma

CC BY-NC by polizeros
CC BY-NC by polizeros

Numero Tres“In the last months there have been, time and again, mass demonstrations on the street, in the square, and though these are very often motivated by different political purposes, something similar happens: bodies congregate, they move and speak together, and they lay claim to a certain space as public space.  Now, it would be easier to say that these demonstrations or, indeed, these movements, are characterized by bodies that come together to make a claim in public space, but that formulation presumes that public space is given, that it is already public, and recognized as such.  We miss something of the point of public demonstrations, if we fail to see that the very public character of the space is being disputed and even fought over when these crowds gather.  So though these movements have depended on the prior existence of pavement, street, and square, and have often enough gathered in squares, like Tahrir, whose political history is potent, it is equally true that the collective actions collect the space itself, gather the pavement, and animate and organize the architecture.  As much as we must insist on there being material conditions for public assembly and public speech, we have also to ask how it is that assembly and speech reconfigure the materiality of public space, and produce, or reproduce, the public character of that material environment.  And when crowds move outside the square, to the side street or the back alley, to the neighborhoods where streets are not yet paved, then something more happens.  At such a moment, politics is no longer defined as the exclusive business of public sphere distinct from a private one, but it crosses that line again and again, bringing attention to the way that politics is already in the home, or on the street, or in the neighborhood, or indeed in those virtual spaces that are unbound by the architecture of the public square.  So when we think about what it means to assemble in a crowd, a growing crowd, and what it means to move through public space in a way that contests the distinction between public and private, we see some way that bodies in their plurality lay claim to the public, find and produce the public through seizing and reconfiguring the matter of material environments; at the same time, those material environments are part of the action, and they themselves act when they become the support for action.  In the same way, when trucks or tanks suddenly become platforms for speakers, then the material environment is actively reconfigured and re-functioned, to use the Brechtian term.  And our ideas of action then, need to be rethought.  In the first instance, no one mobilizes a claim to move and assemble freely without moving and assembling together with others.  In the second instance, the square and the street are not only the material supports for action, but they themselves are part of any theory of public and corporeal action that we might propose.  Human action depends upon all sorts of supports – it is always supported action.  But in the case of public assemblies, we see quite clearly not only that there is a struggle over what will be public space, but a struggle as well over those basic ways in which we are, as bodies, supported in the world – a struggle against disenfranchisement, effacement, and abandonment.

Of course, this produces a quandary. We cannot act without supports, and yet we must struggle for the supports that allow us to act. Of course, it was the Roman idea of the public square that formed the background for understanding the rights of assembly and free speech, to the deliberate forms of participatory democracy. Hannah Arendt surely had the Roman Republic in mind when she claimed that all political action requires the “space of appearance. She writes, for instance, “the Polis, properly speaking, is not the city-state in its physical location; it is the organization of the people as it arises out of acting and speaking together, and its true space lies between people living together for this purpose, no matter where they happen to be.” The “true” space then lies “between the people” which means that as much as any action takes place somewhere located, it also establishes a space which belongs properly to alliance itself. For Arendt, this alliance is not tied to its location. In fact, alliance brings about its own location, highly transposable. She writes: “action and speech create a space between the participants which can find its proper location almost anywhere and anytime.” (Arendt, The Human Condition, 198). So how do we understand this highly transposable conception of political space? Whereas Arendt maintains that politics requires the space of appearance, she also claims that space is precisely what politics brings about: “it is the space of appearance in the widest sense of the word, namely, the space where I appear to others as others appear to me, where men (sic) exist not merely like other living or inanimate things but make their appearance explicitly.” Something of what she says here is clearly true. Space and location are created through plural action. And yet, her view suggests that action, in its freedom and its power, has the exclusive power to create location. And such a view forgets or refuses that action is always supported, and that it is invariably bodily, even in its virtual forms. The material supports for action are not only part of action, but they are also what is being fought about, especially in those cases when the political struggle is about food, employment, mobility, and access to institutions. To rethink the space of appearance in order to understand the power and effect of public demonstrations for our time, we will need to understand the bodily dimensions of action, what the body requires, and what the body can do, especially when we must think about bodies together, what holds them there, their conditions of persistence and of power.

This evening I would like to think about this space of appearance and to ask what itinerary must we travel to move from the space of appearance to thecontemporary politics of the street? Even as I say this, I cannot hope to gather together all the forms of demonstration we have seen, some of which are episodic, some of which are part of ongoing and recurrent social and political movements, and some of which are revolutionary. I hope to think about what might gather together these gatherings, these public demonstrations during the winter of 2011 against tyrannical regimes in North Africa and the Middle East, but also against the escalating precarization of working peoples in Europe and in the Southern hemisphere, the struggles for public education throughout the US and Europe, and those struggles to make the street safe for women, gender and sexual minorities, including trans people, whose public appearance is too often punishable by legal and illegal violence. Very often the claim that is being made is that the streets must be made safe from the police who are complicit in criminality, especially on those occasions when the police support criminal regimes, or when, for instance, the police commit the very crimes against sexual and gender minorities that they are supposed to stop. Demonstrations are one of the few ways that police power is overcome, especially when they become too large and too mobile to be contained by police power, and when they have the resources to regenerate themselves. Perhaps these are anarchist moments or anarchist passages, when the legitimacy of a regime is called into question, but when no new regime has yet come to take its place. This time of the interval is the time of the popular will, not a single will, not a unitary will, but one that is characterized by an alliance with the performative power to lay claim to the public in a way that is not yet codified into law, and that can never be fully codified into law. How do we understand this acting together that opens up time and space outside and against the temporality and established architecture of the regime, one that lays claim to materiality, leans into its supports, draws from its supports, in order to rework their functions? Such an action reconfigures what will be public, and what will be the space of politics.

Arendt’s view is confounded by its own gender politics, relying as it does on a distinction between the public and private domain that leaves the sphere of politics to men, and reproductive labour to women. If there is a body in the public sphere, it is masculine and unsupported, presumptively free to create, but not itself created. And the body in the private sphere is female, ageing, foreign, or childish, and pre-political. Although she was, as we know from the important work of Adriana Cavarero, a philosopher of natality, Arendt understood this capacity to bring something into being as a function of political speech and action. Indeed, when male citizens enter into the public square to debate questions of justice, revenge, war, and emancipation, they take the illuminated public square for granted as the architecturally bounded theatre of their speech. Their speech becomes the paradigmatic form of action, physically cut off from the private domicile, itself shrouded in darkness and reproduced through activities that are not quite action in the proper and public senses. Men make the passage from that private darkness to that public light and, once illuminated, they speak, and their speech interrogates the principles of justice it articulates, becoming itself a form of critical inquiry and democratic participation. For Arendt, rethinking this scene within political modernity, their speech is understood as the bodily and linguistic exercise of rights. Bodily and linguistic – how are we to understand these terms and their intertwining here?

For politics to take place, the body must appear. I appear to others, and they appear to me, which means that some space between us allows each to appear. We are not simply visual phenomena for each other – our voices must be registered, and so we must be heard; rather, who we are, bodily, is already a way of being “for” the other, appearing in ways that we cannot see, being a body for another in a way that I cannot be for myself, and so dispossessed, perspectivally, by our very sociality. I must appear to others in ways for which I cannot give an account, and in this way my body establishes a perspective that I cannot inhabit. This is an important point because it is not the case that the body only establishes my own perspective; it is also that which displaces that perspective, and makes that displacement into a necessity. This happens most clearly when we think about bodies that act together. No one body establishes the space of appearance, but this action, this performative exercise happens only “between” bodies, in a space that constitutes the gap between my own body and another’s. In this way, my body does not act alone, when it acts politically. Indeed, the action emerged from the “between.”

For Arendt, the body is not primarily located in space, but with others, brings about a new space. And the space that is created is precisely between those who act together. The space of appearance is not for her only an architectural given: “the space of appearance comes into being” she writes, “wherever men are together in the manner of speech and action, and therefore predates and precedes all formal constitution of the public realm and the various forms of government, that is, the various forms in which the public realm can be organized.” (Arendt, The Human Condition, 199) In other words, this space of appearance is not a location that can be separated from the plural action that brings it about. And yet, if we are to accept this view, we have to understand how the plurality that acts is itself constituted. How does a plurality form, and what material supports are necessary for that formation? Who enters this plurality, and who does not, and how are such matters decided? Can anyone and everyone act in such a way that this space is brought about? She makes clear that “this space does not always exist” and acknowledges that in the classical Polis, the slave, the foreigner, and the barbarian were excluded from such a space, which means that they could not become part of a plurality that brought this space into being. This means that part of the population did not appear, did not emerge into the space of appearance. And here we can see that the space of appearance was already divided, already apportioned, if the space of appearance was precisely that which was defined, in part, by their exclusion. This is no small problem since it means that one must already be in the space in order to bring the space of appearance into being – which means that a power operates prior to any performative power exercised by a plurality. Further, in her view, to be deprived of the space of appearance is to be deprived of reality. In other words, we must appear to others in ways that we ourselves cannot know, that we must become available to a perspective that established by a body that is not our own. And if we ask, where do we appear? Or where are we when we appear? It will be over there, between us, in a space that exists only because we are more than one, more than two, plural and embodied. The body, defined politically, is precisely organized by a perspective that is not one’s own and is, in that sense, already elsewhere, for another, and so in departure from oneself.

On this account of the body in political space, how do we make sense of those who can never be part of that concerted action, who remain outside the plurality that acts? How do we describe their action and their status as beings disaggregated from the plural; what political language do we have in reserve for describing that exclusion? Are they the de-animated “givens” of political life, mere life or bare life? Are we to say that those who are excluded are simply unreal, or that they have no being at all – the socially dead, the spectral? Do such formulations denote a state of having been made destitute by existing political arrangements, or is this the destitution that is revealed outside the political sphere itself? In other words, are the destitute outside of politics and power, or are they in fact living out a specific form of political destitution? How we answer that question seems important since if we claim that the destitute are outside of the sphere of politics – reduced to depoliticized forms of being – then we implicitly accept that the dominant ways of establishing the political are right. In some ways, this follows from the Arendtian position which adopts the internal point of view of the Greek Polis on what politics should be, who should gain entry into the public square and who should remain in the private sphere. Such a view disregards and devalues those forms of political agency that emerge precisely in those domains deemed pre-political or extra-political. So one reason we cannot let the political body that produces such exclusions furnish the conception of politics itself, setting the parameters for what counts as political – is that within the purview established by the Polis those outside its defining plurality are considered as unreal or unrealized and, hence, outside the political as such.

The impetus for Giorgio Agamben’s notion of “bare life” derives from this very conception of the polis in Arendt’s political philosophy and, I would suggest, runs the risk of this very problem: if we seek to take account of exclusion itself as a political problem, as part of politics itself, then it will not do to say that once excluded, those beings lack appearance or “reality” in political terms, that they have no social or political standing, or are cast out and reduced to mere being (forms of givenness precluded from the sphere of action). Nothing so metaphysically extravagant has to happen if we agree that one reason the sphere of the political cannot be defined by the classic conception of the Polis, is that we are then deprived of having and using a language for those forms of agency and resistance that focus on the politics of exclusion itself or, indeed, against those regimes of power that maintain the stateless and disenfranchised in conditions of destitution. Few matters could be more politically consequential.

Although Agamben borrows from Foucault to articulate a conception of the biopolitical, the thesis of “bare life” remains untouched by that conception. As a result, we cannot within that vocabulary describe the modes of agency and action undertaken by the stateless, the occupied, and the disenfranchised, since even the life stripped of rights is still within the sphere of the political, and is thus not reduced to mere being, but is, more often than not, angered, indignant, rising up and resisting. To be outside established and legitimate political structures is still to be saturated in power relations, and this saturation is the point of departure for a theory of the political that includes dominant and subjugated forms, modes of inclusion and legitimation as well as modes of delegitimation and effacement.

Luckily, I think Arendt does not consistently follow this model from The Human Condition, which is why, for instance, in the early 1960s she turns her attention to the fate of refugees and the stateless, and comes to assert in that context the right to have rights. The right to have rights is one that depends on no existing particular political organization for its legitimacy. In her words, the right to have rights predates and precedes any political institution that might codify or seek to guarantee that right; at the same time, it is derived from no natural set of laws. The right comes into being when it is exercised, and exercised by those who act in concert, in alliance. Those who are excluded from existing polities, who belong to no nation-state or other contemporary state formation may be “unreal” only by those who seek to monopolize the terms of reality. And yet even after the public sphere has been defined through their exclusion, they act. Whether abandoned to precarity or left to die through systematic negligence, concerted action still emerges from such sites. And this is what we see, for instance, when undocumented workers amass on the street without the legal right to do so, when populations lay claim to a public square that has belonged to the military, or when the refugees take place in collective uprisings demanding shelter, food, and rights of mobility, when populations amass, without the protection of the law and without permits to demonstrate, to bring down an unjust or criminal regime of law or to protest austerity measures that destroy the possibility of employment and education for many.

Indeed, in the public demonstrations that often follow from acts of public mourning, especially in Syria in recent months where crowds of mourners become targets of military destruction, we can see how the existing public space is seized by those who have no existing right to gather there, and whose lives are exposed to violence and death in the course of gathering as they do. Indeed, it is their right to gather free of intimidation and threat of violence that is systematically attacked by the police or by the army or by mercenaries on hire by both the state and corporate powers. To attack the body is to attack the right itself, since the right is precisely what is exercised by the body on the street. Although the bodies on the street are vocalizing their opposition to the legitimacy of the state, they are also, by virtue of occupying that space, repeating that occupation of space, and persisting in that occupation of space, posing the challenge in corporeal terms, which means that when the body “speaks” politically, it is not only in vocal or written language. The persistence of the body calls that legitimacy into question, and does so precisely through a performativity of the body that crosses language without ever quite reducing to language. In other words, it is not that bodily action and gesture have to be translated into language, but that both action and gesture signify and speak, as action and claim, and that the one is not finally extricable from the other. Where the legitimacy of the state is brought into question precisely by that way of appearing in public, the body itself exercises a right that is no right; in other words, it exercises a right that is being actively contested and destroyed by military force, and which, in its resistance to force, articulates its persistence, and its right to persistence. This right is codified nowhere. It is not granted from elsewhere or by existing law, even if it sometimes finds support precisely there. It is, in fact, the right to have rights, not as natural law or metaphysical stipulation, but as the persistence of the body against those forces that seek to monopolize legitimacy. A persistence that requires the mobilization of space, and that cannot happen without a set of material supports mobilized and mobilizing.

Just to be clear: I am not referring to a vitalism or a right to life as such. Rather, I am suggesting that political claims are made by bodies as they appear and act, as they refuse and as they persist under conditions in which that fact alone is taken to be an act of delegitimation of the state. It is not that bodies are simply mute life-forces that counter existing modalities of power. Rather, they are themselves modalities of power, embodied interpretations, engaging in allied action. On the one hand, these bodies are productive and performative. On the other hand, they can only persist and act when they are supported, by environments, by nutrition, by work, by modes of sociality and belonging. And when these supports fall away, they are mobilized in another way, seizing upon the supports that exist in order to make a claim that there can be no embodied life without social and institutional support, without ongoing employment, without networks of interdependency and care. They struggle not only for the idea of social support and political enfranchisement, but their struggle takes on a social form of its own. And so, in the most ideal instances, an alliance enacts the social order it seeks to bring about, but when this happens, and it does happen, we have to be mindful of two important caveats. The first is that the alliance is not reducible to individuals, and it is not individuals who act. The second is that action in alliance happens precisely between those who participate, and this is not an ideal or empty space – it is the space of support itself – of durable and liveable material environments and of interdependency among living beings. I will move toward this last idea toward the end of my remarks this evening. But let us return to the demonstrations, in their logic and in their instances.

It is not only that many of the massive demonstrations and modes of resistance we have seen in the last months produce a space of appearance, they also seize upon an already established space permeated by existing power, seeking to sever the relation between the public space, the public square, and the existing regime. So the limits of the political are exposed, and the link between the theatre of legitimacy and public space is severed; that theatre is no longer unproblematically housed in public space, since public space now occurs in the midst of another action, one that displaces the power that claims legitimacy precisely by taking over the field of its effects. Simply put, the bodies on the street redeploy the space of appearance in order to contest and negate the existing forms of political legitimacy – and just as they sometimes fill or take over public space, the material history of those structures also work on them, and become part of their very action, remaking a history in the midst of its most concrete and sedimented artifices. These are subjugated and empowered actors who seek to wrest legitimacy from an existing state apparatus that depends upon the public space of appearance for its theatrical self-constitution. In wresting that power, a new space is created, a new “between” of bodies, as it were, that lays claim to existing space through the action of a new alliance, and those bodies are seized and animated by those existing spaces in the very acts by which they reclaim and resignify their meanings.

For this contestation to work, there has to be a hegemonic struggle over what we are calling the space of appearance. Such a struggle intervenes in the spatial organization of power, which includes the allocation and restriction of spatial locations in which and by which any population may appear, which means that there is a spatial restriction on when and how the “popular will” may appear. This view of the spatial restriction and allocation of who may appear, in effect, who may become a subject of appearance, suggests an operation of power that works through both foreclosure and differential allocation. How is such an idea of power, and its corollary idea of politics, to be reconciled with the Arendtian proposition that politics requires not only entering into a space of appearance, but an active participation in the making of the space of appearance itself. And further, I would add, it requires a way of acting in the midst of being formed by that history and its material structures.

One can see the operation of a strong performative in Arendt’s work – in acting, we bring the space of politics into being, understood as the space of appearance. It is a divine performative allocated to the human form. But as a result, she cannot account for the ways in which the established architecture and topographies of power act upon us, and enter into our very action sometimes foreclosing our entry into the political sphere, or making us differentially apparent within that sphere. And yet, to work within these two forms of power, we have to think about bodies in ways that Arendt does not do, and we have to think about space as acting on us, even as we act within it, or even when sometimes our actions, considered as plural or collective, bring it into being.

If we consider what it is to appear, it follows that we appear to someone, and that our appearance has to be registered by the senses, not only our own, but someone else’s, or some larger group. For the Arendtian position, it follows that to act and speak politically we must “appear” to one another in some way, that is to say, that to appear is always to appear for another, which means that for the body to exist politically, it has to assume a social dimension – it is comported outside itself and toward others in ways that cannot and do not ratify individualism. Assuming that we are living and embodied organisms when we speak and act, the organism assumes social and political form in the space of appearance. This does not mean that we overcome or negate some biological status to assume a social one; on the contrary, the organic bodies that we are require a sustaining social world in order to persist. And this means that as biological creatures who seek to persist, we are necessarily dependent on social relations and institutions that address the basic needs for food, shelter, and protection from violence, to name a few. No monadic body simply persists on its own, but if it persists, it is in the context of a sustaining set of relations. So if we approach the question of the bio-political in this way, we can see that the space of appearance does not belong to a sphere of politics separate from a sphere of survival and of need. When the question of the survival not only of individuals, but whole populations, is at issue, then the political issue has to do with whether and how a social and political formation addresses the demand to provide for basic needs such as shelter and food, and protection against violence. And the question for a critical and contesting politics has to do with how basic goods are distributed, how life itself is allocated, and how the unequal distribution of the value and grievability of life is instituted by targeted warfare as well as systematic forms of exploitation or negligence, which render populations differentially precarious and disposable.

A quite problematic division of labor is at work in Arendt’s position, which is why we must rethink her position for our times. If we appear, we must be seen, which means that our bodies must be viewed and their vocalized sounds must be heard: the body must enter the visual and audible field. But we have to ask why, if this is so, the body is itself divided into the one that appears publically to speak and act, and another, sexual and laboring, feminine, foreign and mute, that generally relegated to the private and pre-political sphere. That latter body operates as a precondition for appearance, and so becomes the structuring absence that governs and makes possible the public sphere. If we are living organisms who speak and act, then we are clearly related to a vast continuum or network of living beings; we not only live among them, but our persistence as living organisms depends on that matrix of sustaining interdependent relations. And yet, if our speaking and acting distinguishes us as something separate from that corporeal realm (raised earlier by the question of whether our capacity to think politically depends on one sort of physei or another), we have to ask how such a duality between action and body can be preserved if and when the “living” word and “actual” deed – both clearly political – so clearly presuppose the presence and action of a living human body, one whose life is bound up with other living processes. It may be that two senses of the body are at work for Arendt – one that appears in public, and another that is “sequestered” in private –, and that the public body is one that makes itself known as the figure of the speaking subject, one whose speech is also action. The private body never appears as such, since it is preoccupied with the repetitive labor of reproducing the material conditions of life. The private body thus conditions the public body, and even though they are the same body, the bifurcation is crucial to maintaining the public and private distinction. Perhaps this is a kind of fantasy that one dimension of bodily life can and must remain out of sight, and yet another, fully distinct, appears in public? But is there no trace of the biological that appears as such, and could we not argue, with Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers, that negotiating the sphere of appearance is a biological thing to do, since there is no way of navigating an environment or procuring food without appearing bodily in the world, and there is no escape from the vulnerability and mobility that appearing in the world implies? In other words, is appearance not a necessarily morphological moment where the body appears, and not only in order to speak and act, but also to suffer and to move, to engage others bodies, to negotiate an environment on which one depends? Indeed, the body can appear and signify in ways that contest the way it speaks, or even contest speaking as its paradigmatic instance. Indeed, could we still understand action, gesture, stillness, touch, and moving together, if they were all reducible to the vocalization of thought through speech?

Indeed, this act of public speaking, even within that problematic division of labour, depends upon a dimension of bodily life that is given, passive, opaque and so excluded from the realm of the political. Hence, we can ask, what regulation keeps the given body from spilling over into the active body? Are these two different bodies and what politics is required to keep them apart? Are these two different dimensions of the same body, or are these, in fact, the effect of a certain regulation of bodily appearance that is actively contested by new social movements, struggles against sexual violence, for reproductive freedom, against precarity, for the freedom of mobility? Here we can see that a certain topographical or even architectural regulation of the body happens at the level of theory. Significantly, it is precisely this operation of power – foreclosure and differential allocation of whether and how the body may appear – which is excluded from Arendt’s explicit account of the political. Indeed, her explicit account of the political depends upon that very operation of power that it fails to consider as part of politics itself.

So what I accept is the following: Freedom does not come from me or from you; it can and does happen as a relation between us or, indeed, among us. So this is not a matter of finding the human dignity within each person, but rather of understanding the human as a relational and social being, one whose action depends upon equality and articulates the principle of equality. Indeed, there is no human on her view if there is no equality. No human can be human alone. And no human can be human without acting in concert with others and on conditions of equality. I would add the following: The claim of equality is not only spoken or written, but is made precisely when bodies appear together or, rather, when, through their action, they bring the space of appearance into being. This space is a feature and effect of action, and it only works, according to Arendt, when relations of equality are maintained.

Of course, there are many reasons to be suspicious of idealized moments, but there are also reasons to be wary of any analysis that is fully guarded against idealization. There are two aspects of the revolutionary demonstrations in Tahrir square that I would like to underscore. The first has to do with the way a certain sociability was established within the square, a division of labor that broke down gender difference, that involved rotating who would speak and who would clean the areas where people slept and ate, developing a work schedule for everyone to maintain the environment and to clean the toilets. In short, what some would call “horizontal relations” among the protestors formed easily and methodically, and quickly it seemed that relations of equality, which included an equal division of labour between the sexes, became part of the very resistance to Mubarek’s regime and its entrenched hierarchies, including the extraordinary differentials of wealth between the military and corporate sponsors of the regime, and the working people. So the social form of the resistance began to incorporate principles of equality that governed not only how and when people spoke and acted for the media and against the regime, but how people cared for their various quarters within the square, the beds on pavement, the makeshift medical stations and bathrooms, the places where people ate, and the places where people were exposed to violence from the outside. These actions were all political in the simple sense that they were breaking down a conventional distinction between public and private in order to establish relations of equality; in this sense, they were incorporating into the very social form of resistance the principles for which they were struggling on the street.

Secondly, when up against violent attack or extreme threats, many people chanted the word “silmiyya” which comes from the root verb (salima) which means to be safe and sound, unharmed, unimpaired, intact, safe, and secure; but also, to be unobjectionable, blameless, faultless; and yet also, to be certain, established, clearly proven[1]. The term comes from the noun “silm” which means “peace” but also, interchangeably and significantly, “the religion of Islam.” One variant of the term is “Hubb as-silm” which is Arabic for “pacifism.” Most usually, the chanting of “Silmiyya” comes across as a gentle exhortation: “peaceful, peaceful.” Although the revolution was for the most part non-violent, it was not necessarily led by a principled opposition to violence. Rather, the collective chant was a way of encouraging people to resist the mimetic pull of military aggression – and the aggression of the gangs – by keeping in mind the larger goal – radical democratic change. To be swept into a violent exchange of the moment was to lose the patience needed to realize the revolution. What interests me here is the chant, the way in which language worked not to incite an action, but to restrain one. A restraint in the name of an emerging community of equals whose primary way of doing politics would not be violence.

Of course, Tahrir Square is a place, and we can locate it quite precisely on the map of Cairo. At the same time, we find questions posed throughout the media: will the Palestinians have their Tahrir square? Where is the Tahrir Square in India? To name but a few. So it is located, and it is transposable; indeed, it seemed to be transposable from the start, though never completely. And, of course, we cannot think the transposability of those bodies in the square without the media. In some ways, the media images from Tunisia prepared the way for the media events in Tahrir, and then those that followed in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and Libya, all of which took different trajectories, and take them still. As you know many of the public demonstrations of these last months have not been against military dictatorships or tyrannical regimes. They have also been against the monopoly capitalism, neo-liberalism, and the suppression of political rights, and in the name of those who are abandoned by neo-liberal reforms that seek to dismantle forms of social democracy and socialism, that eradicate jobs, expose populations to poverty, and undermine the basic right to a public education.

The street scenes become politically potent only when and if we have a visual and audible version of the scene communicated in live time, so that the media does not merely report the scene, but is part of the scene and the action; indeed, the media is the scene or the space in its extended and replicable visual and audible dimensions. One way of stating this is simply that the media extends the scene visually and audibly and participates in the delimitation and transposability of the scene. Put differently, the media constitutes the scene in a time and place that includes and exceeds its local instantiation. Although the scene is surely and emphatically local, and those who are elsewhere have the sense that they are getting some direct access through the images and sounds they receive. That is true, but they do not know how the editing takes place, which scene conveys and travels, and which scenes remain obdurately outside the frame. When the scene does travel, it is both there and here, and if it were not spanning both locations – indeed, multiple locations – it would not be the scene that it is. Its locality is not denied by the fact that the scene is communicated beyond itself, and so constituted in a global media; it depends on that mediation to take place as the event that it is. This means that the local must be recast outside itself in order to be established as local, and this means that it is only through a certain globalizing media that the local can be established, and that something can really happen there. Of course, many things do happen outside the frame of the camera or other digital media devices, and the media can just as easily implement censorship as oppose it. There are many local events that are never recorded and broadcast, and some important reasons why. But when the event does travel and manages to summon and sustain global outrage and pressure, which includes the power to stop markets or to sever diplomatic relations, then the local will have to be established time and again in a circuitry that exceeds the local at every instant. And yet, there remains something localized that cannot and does not travel in that way; and the scene could not be the scene if we did not understand that some people are at risk, and the risk is run precisely by those bodies on the street. If they are transported in one way, they are surely left in place in another, holding the camera or the cell phone, face to face with those they oppose, unprotected, injurable, injured, persistent, if not insurgent. It matters that those bodies carry cell phones, relaying messages and images, and so when they are attacked, it is more often than not in some relation to the camera or the video recorder. It can be an effort to destroy the camera and its user, or it can be a spectacle of destruction for the camera, a media event produced as a warning or a threat. Or it can be a way to stop any more organizing. Is the action of the body separable from its technology, and how does the technology determine new forms of political action? And when censorship or violence are directed against those bodies, are they not also directed against its access to media, and in order to establish hegemonic control over which images travel, and which do not?

Of course, the dominant media is corporately owned, exercising its own kinds of censorship and incitement. And yet, it still seems important to affirm that the freedom of the media to broadcast from these sites is itself an exercise of freedom, and so a mode of exercising rights, especially when it is rogue media, from the street, evading the censor, where the activation of the instrument is part of the bodily action itself. So the media not only reports on social and political movements that are laying claim to freedom and justice in various ways; the media is also exercising one of those freedoms for which the social movement struggles. I do not mean by this claim to suggest that all media is involved in the struggle for political freedom and social justice (we know, of course, that it is not). Of course, it matters which global media does the reporting and how. My point is that sometimes private media devices become global precisely at the moment in which they overcome modes of censorship to report protests and, in that way, become part of the protest itself.

What bodies are doing on the street when they are demonstrating, is linked fundamentally to what communication devices and technologies are doing when they “report” on what is happening in the street. These are different actions, but they both require bodily actions. The one exercise of freedom is linked to the other exercise, which means that both are ways of exercising rights, and that jointly they bring a space of appearance into being and secure its transposability. Although some may wager that the exercise of rights now takes place quite at the expense of bodies on the street, that twitter and other virtual technologies have led to a disembodiment of the public sphere, I disagree. The media requires those bodies on the street to have an event, even as the street requires the media to exist in a global arena. But under conditions when those with cameras or internet capacities are imprisoned or tortured or deported, then the use of the technology effectively implicates the body. Not only must someone’s hand tap and send, but someone’s body is on the line if that tapping and sending gets traced. In other words, localization is hardly overcome through the use of a media that potentially transmits globally. And if this conjuncture of street and media constitutes a very contemporary version of the public sphere, then bodies on the line have to be thought as both there and here, now and then, transported and stationery, with very different political consequences following from those two modalities of space and time.

It matters that it is public squares that are filled to the brim, that people eat and sleep there, sing and refuse to cede that space, as we saw in Tahrir Square, and continue to see on a daily basis. It matters as well that it is public educational buildings that have been seized in Athens, London, and Berkeley. At Berkeley, buildings were seized, and trespassing fines were handed out. In some cases, students were accused of destroying private property. But these very allegations raised the question of whether the university is public or private. The stated aim of the protest – to seize the building and to sequester themselves there – was a way to gain a platform, indeed, a way to secure the material conditions for appearing in public. Such actions generally do not take place when effective platforms are already available. The students there, but also at Goldsmiths College in the UK more recently were seizing buildings as a way to lay claim to buildings that ought properly, now and in the future, to belong to public education. That doesn’t mean that every time these buildings are seized it is justifiable, but let us be alert to what is at stake here: the symbolic meaning of seizing these buildings is that these buildings belong to the public, to public education; it is precisely the access to public education which is being undermined by fee and tuition hikes and budget cuts; we should not be surprised that the protest took the form of seizing the buildings, performatively laying claim to public education, insisting on gaining literal access to the buildings of public education precisely at a moment, historically, when that access is being shut down. In other words, no positive law justifies these actions that oppose the institutionalization of unjust or exclusionary forms of power. So can we say that these actions are nevertheless an exercise of a right and, if so, what kind?
Modes of Alliance and the Police Function

Let me offer you an anecdote to make my point more concrete. Last year, I was asked to visit Turkey on the occasion of the International Conference against Homophobia and Transphobia. This was an especially important event in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, where transgendered people are often served fines for appearing in public, are often beaten, sometimes by the police, and where murders of transgendered women in particular happen nearly once a month in recent years. If I offer you this example of Turkey, it is not to point out that Turkey is “behind” – something that the embassy representative from Denmark was quick to point out to me, and which I refused with equal speed. I assure you that there are equally brutal murders outside of Los Angeles and Detroit, in Wyoming and Louisiana, or even New York. It is rather because what is astonishing about the alliances there is that several feminist organizations have worked with queer, gay/lesbian and transgendered people against police violence, but also against militarism, against nationalism, and against the forms of masculinism by which they are supported. So on the street, after the conference, the feminist lined up with the drag queens, the genderqueer with the human rights activists, and the lipstick lesbians with their bisexual and heterosexual friends – the march included secularists and muslims. They chanted, “we will not be soldiers, and we will not kill.” To oppose the police violence against trans people is thus to be openly against military violence and the nationalist escalation of militarism; it is also to be against the military aggression against the Kurds, but also, to act in the memory of the Armenian genocide and against the various ways that violence is disavowed by the state and the media.

This alliance was compelling for me for all kinds of reasons, but mainly because in most Northern European countries, there are now serious divisions among feminists, queers, lesbian and gay human rights workers, anti-racist movements, freedom of religion movements, and anti- poverty and anti-war mobilizations. In Lyon, France last year, one of the established feminists had written a book on the “illusion” of transsexuality, and her public lectures had been “zapped” by many trans activists and their queer allies. She defended herself by saying that to call transsexuality psychotic was not the same as pathologizing transsexuality. It is, she said, a descriptive term, and makes no judgment or prescription. Under what conditions can calling a population “psychotic” for the particular embodied life they live not be pathologizing? This feminist called herself a materialist, a radical, but she pitted herself against the transgendered community in order to maintain certain norms of masculinity and femininity as pre-requisites to a non-psychotic life. These are arguments that would be swiftly countered in Istanbul or Johannesburg, and yet, these same feminists seek recourse to a form of universalism that would make France, and their version of French feminism, into the beacon of progressive thought.

Not all French feminists who call themselves universalists would oppose the public rights of transgendered people, or contribute to their pathologization. And yet, if the streets are open to transgendered people, they are not open to those who wear signs of their religious belonging openly. Hence, we are left to fathom the many universalist French feminists who call upon the police to arrest, detain, fine, and sometimes deport women wearing the Niqab or the Burka in the public sphere in France. What sort of politics is this that recruits the police function of the state to monitor and restrict women from religious minorities in the public sphere? Why would the same universalists (Elisabeth Badinter) openly affirm the rights of transgendered people to freely appear in public while restricting that very right to women who happen to wear religious clothing that offends the sensibilities of die-hard secularists? If the right to appear is to be honored “universally” it would not be able to survive such an obvious and insupportable contradiction.[2]

To walk on the street without police interference is something other than assembling there en masse. And yet, when a transgendered person walks there, the right that is exercised in a bodily form does not only belong to that one person. There is a group, if not an alliance, walking there, too, whether or not they are seen. Perhaps we can call “performative” both this exercise of gender and the embodied political claim to equal treatment, to be protected from violence, and to be able to move with and within this social category in public space. To walk is to say that this is a public space in which transgendered people walk, that this is a public space where people with various forms of clothing, no matter how they are gendered or what religion they signify, are free to move without threat of violence. But this performativity applies more broadly to the conditions by which any of us emerge as bodily creatures in the world.

How, finally, do we understand this body? Is it a distinctively human body, a gendered body, and is it finally possible to distinguish between that domain of the body that is given and that which is made? If we invest in humans the power to make the body into a political signifier, then do we assume that in becoming political, the body distinguishes itself from its own animality and the sphere of animals? In other words, how do we think this idea of the exercise of freedom and rights within the space of appearance that takes us beyond anthropocentrism? Here again, I think the conception of the living body is key. After all, the life that is worth preserving, even when considered exclusively human, is connected to non-human life in essential ways; this follows from the idea of the human animal. Thus, if we are thinking well, and our thinking commits us to the preservation of life in some form, then the life to be preserved takes a bodily form. In turn, this means that the life of the body – its hunger, its need for shelter and protection from violence – would all become major issues of politics. Even the most given or non-chosen features of our lives are not simply given; they are given in history and inlanguage, in vectors of power that none of us chose. Equally true is that a given property of the body or a set of defining characteristics depend upon the continuing persistence of the body. Those social categories we never chose traverse this body that is given in some ways rather than in others, and gender, for instance, names that traversal as well as the trajectory of its transformations. In this sense, those most urgent and non-volitional dimensions of our lives, which include hunger and the need for shelter, medical care, and protection from violence, natural or humanly imposed, are crucial to politics. We cannot presume the enclosed and well-fed space of the Polis where all the material needs are somehow being taken care of elsewhere by beings whose gender, race, or status render them ineligible for public recognition. Rather, we have to not only bring the material urgencies of the body into the square, but make those needs central to the demands of politics.

In my view, a different social ontology would have to start from the presumption that there is a shared condition of precarity that situates our political lives. And some of us, as Ruthie Gilmore has made very clear, are disproportionately disposed to injury and early death than others, and racial difference can be tracked precisely through looking at statistics on infant mortality; this means, in brief, that precarity is unequally distributed and that lives are not considered equally grievable or equally valuable. If, as Adriana Cavarero has argued, the exposure of our bodies in public space constitutes us fundamentally, and establishes our thinking as social and embodied, vulnerable and passionate, then our thinking gets nowhere without the presupposition of that very corporeal interdependency and entwinement. The body is constituted through perspectives it cannot inhabit; someone else sees our face in a way that none of us can. We are in this way, even as located, always elsewhere, constituted in a sociality that exceeds us. This establishes our exposure and our precarity, the ways in which we depend on political and social institutions to persist.

After all, in Cairo, it was not just that people amassed in the square: they were there; they slept there; they dispensed medicine and food, they assembled and sang, and they spoke.  Can we distinguish those vocalizations from the body from those other expressions of material need and urgency?  They were, after all, sleeping and eating in the public square, constructing toilets and various systems for sharing the space, and so not only refusing to be privatized – refusing to go or stay home – and not only claiming the public domain for themselves – acting in concert on conditions of equality – but also maintaining themselves as persisting bodies with needs, desires, and requirements.  Arendtian and counter-Arendtian, to be sure.  Since these bodies who were organizing their most basic needs in public were also petitioning the world to register what was happening there, to make its support known, and in that way to enter into revolutionary action itself.  The bodies acted in concert, but they also slept in public, and in both these modalities, they were both vulnerable and demanding, giving political and spatial organization to elementary bodily needs.  In this way, they formed themselves into images to be projected to all of who watched, petitioning us to receive and respond, and so to enlist media coverage that would refuse to let the event be covered over or to slip away.  Sleeping on that pavement was not only a way to lay claim to the public, to contest the legitimacy of the state, but also quite clearly, a way to put the body on the line in its insistence, obduracy and precarity, overcoming the distinction between public and private for the time of revolution.  In other words, it was only when those needs that are supposed to remain private came out into the day and night of the square, formed into image and discourse for the media, did it finally become possible to extend the space and time of the event with such tenacity to bring the regime down.  After all, the cameras never stopped, bodies were there and here, they never stopped speaking, not even in sleep, and so could not be silenced, sequestered or denied – revolution happened because everyone refused to go home, cleaving to the pavement, acting in concert.”  Judith Butler, “Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street;” European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies, 2011

2.23.2017 Day in History

An anachronistic fifteenth-century miniature depicting the sack of 410
An anachronistic fifteenth-century miniature depicting the sack of 410

On this day, the festival of Terminalia, held in honor of Terminus, occurred in Ancient Rome, and it marked Red Army Day in Soviet Russia; in the Turkish reaches of the Roman Empire one thousand seven hundred and fourteen years ago, Diocletian ordered the destruction of the Christian Church in Nicomedia, inaugurating almost a decade of severe persecution; not quite twenty-three decades subsequently, in 532, Byzantium’s Emperor Justinian called for construction of a new place of worship in nearby Constantinople, which would become the renowned Hagia Sophia; nine hundred twenty-three years later, in 1455, the publication of the Gutenberg Bible first took place, the inaugural Western book printed with movable type; only one year less than an entire century afterward, more or less seven thousand miles Southwest in Spanish Chile, in 1554, Mapuche fighters

CC BY-NC-ND by wallyg
CC BY-NC-ND by wallyg

decimated the Spanish at the Battle of Marihueno; three hundred eighty-four years before the here and now, the baby boy opened his eyes who would rise as the administrator and tell-all diarist, Samuel Pepys; a hundred ninety-seven years ahead of today, meanwhile, working class and other disaffected plotters who were conspiring to murder the entire British cabinet fell into the hands of the police as a result of an informer in their midst; just three hundred sixty-six days forward from that, in 1821, the renowned English poet John Keats drew his last breath; a decade and a half further along the temporal arc, in 1836 in faraway Texas, the Battle of the Alamo began in San Antonio; eleven years yet later on, in 1847, American troops during the Mexican American War, under future president General Zachary Taylor, defeated Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna, who had commanded the temporary victors at the Alamo; eight additional years toward the present pass, in 1855, the brilliant thinker and physicist Carl Friederich Gauss took a final breath; half a dozen years thereafter, in 1861, Secret Service agents successfully spirited the President-elect through Baltimore and into the District of Columbia, supposedly thwarting would-be assassins in the process; seven years henceforth, in 1868, a male baby was born who would become the radical spokesman for Black people, William Edward Burqhart Dubois; another seven hundred thirty-one days further along, in 1870, Mississippi reentered the Union, an erstwhile ‘Reconstructed’ polity; thirteen years past that point, in 1883, Alabama became the first jurisdiction in the Americas to enact a formal Anti-Trust law, and an infant male called out who would

By Allan Ajifo
By Allan Ajifo

mature as Karl Jaspers, a German psychiatrist and philosopher; two years subsequent to that conjunction, in 1885, French imperial fighters won a key battle over Vietnamese resistance in the Tonkin region of Indochina; another two years later still, in 1887,the Hall siblings, Albert and Julia, first demonstrated the capacity to create pure Aluminum metal; one hundred nineteen years back,  Émile Zola faced imprisonment in France after writing “J’accuse,” a letter that condemned the French government of anti-Semitism and wrongfully imprisoning Captain Alfred Dreyfus; half a decade after that instant in time and space, in 1903, Cuba acceded to U.S. imperial extortion and leased Guantánamo Bay to the United States “in perpetuity;’ a single year more in the direction of now, in 1904, the faux journalism of William Randolph Hearst began to ‘investigate’ the sinister aspects of Japanese immigration, with the intention of passing legislation to reduce or exclude such incursions, ‘Open Door’ or not, and the baby male took a first breath who would end up writing and researching history and war as William Shirer; thirteen years yet nearer to now, in 1917, the first demonstrations occurred that culminated in the February Revolution in Saint Petersburg, Russia; a decade afterward,

October Revolution - public domain
October Revolution – public domain

in 1927, German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg wrote a letter to fellow physicist Wolfgang Pauli, in which he described his uncertainty principle for the first time, and on the other side of the Atlantic, the Radio Act of 1927, a huge gift to monopoly media, started the regulation of broadcasting that put advertising at the center of mass media in America; thirteen years even closer to the current context, in 1940, Woodie Guthrie, fresh from a frost trek hitchhiking and hoboing  across the United States, penned his first draft of the iconic, “This Land Is Your Land;” a single year hence, in 1941, more in keeping with the corporate agendas of power in the land, Glenn Seaborg, who had already  shown the ability to create Plutonium by bombarding Uranium ‘heavy’

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory flickr
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory flickr

Hydrogen, isolated and collected a small sample of the lethal element that almost never occurs naturally; a thousand ninety-five days further down the pike, in 1944, a baby boy shouted out who would grow into the rocker and crooner and songwriter, Johnny Winter; a short year later and close enough to halfway round the globe, in 1945, U.S. troops and Filipino guerillas liberated the infamous Los Banos internment camp and the country’s capital in Manila on the same day; two years farther along time’s path, in 1947, a key actor in modern political economy, the International Organization for Standardization, first came into existence in Geneva; two years later, in 1949,  César Aira, Argentine writer and translator, was born; seven more years along the road, in 1954, the first mass inoculation of children against polio with the Salk vaccine began in Pittsburgh; two decades nearer to now exactly, in 1974, the Symbionese Liberation Army demanded $4 million before it would release kidnap victim, and eventually collaborator, Patty dioxin_times beachHearst; nine extra years past that point, in 1983, the Environmental Protection Agency elected to purchase the community of Times Beach, near St. Louis, because of the level of toxic pollution there; another year onward to the day, in 1984, well-liked author Jessamyn West, Richard Nixon’s Quaker cousin, breathed her last; seven years past that juncture, in 1991, Saudi troops invaded Iraq and inaugurated the ground phase of that brutal, bloody conflict; a dozen years yet later on, in 2003, the sociologist and thinker Thomas K. Merton died; two years subsequently, in 2005, France briefly mandated that teachers instruct their pupils about the “positive values” of colonialism despite a firestorm of protest against such falsification; three years after that exact day, in 2008, Scottish-American union leader Douglas Fraser met his end.

2.23.2017 Daily

          BREAKING NEWS RIGHT NOW          

In a world of work where more and more receive less and less, while overall availability of any employment at all continues its automated decline, a sobering look from Portside, via Inside Higher Ed, at adjunct faculty in Youngstown, Ohio, who last received any increase in pay twenty-five years ago and have no definite prospects for changing such a situation, though particular organizing drives and campaigns have resulted in substantial improvements in conditions and pay at a very few other institutions where the apparently inexorable trend to increase the number of non-tenure-track teachers has also been manifest, a story of labor’s travails that parallels a new Bob Lefsetz posting about the brutal contractions and disruptions in the ski-resort industry, in which Vail is buying up its competitors that it has driven to the brink of extinction, both of which explications of ‘disruption’ and the ‘gig economy’ seem perfectly congruent with a Naked Capitalism review of a Lancet projection of life expectancy in ‘advanced’ economies, where U.S. desultory experience in relation to women will likely decline slightly, while men’s likely lifespan will fall more precipitously in relation to other nations, all of which in turn interconnects with a pair of reports about renewable energy developments, the first  from Ecowatch about the growing role of State backing in amplifying renewable potential, which a second item from  Economist examines in terms of the ‘disruptions’ that cheap renewables are wreaking in the utility and electrical industries generally—all of which reportage about the contemporary workplace’s political economy and social impacts blends logically with a briefing  from The Times about recent upheavals at Uber as a result of hyper-competitive and undeniably sexist practices at the top-of-the-heap firm that holds itself out as the perfect exemplar of the new ways and their irresistible superiority.

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SEARCHDAYreason OR rationality OR reasoning OR logic OR cognition "political economy" OR economics OR employment OR "labor and capital" disruption OR transition OR contradiction OR contraction "nuclear power" OR "nuclear weapons" OR "arms sales" OR "merchants of death" irrationality OR paradox empire OR imperialism history OR origins OR development = 1,560,000 Intersections.

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              TODAY’S HEART, SOUL, &                                  AWARENESS VIDEO                  

By an anthropologist and cognitive scientist, an in many ways technocratic presentation that comes to scrappy scribe and stalwart citizens via Edge, in the form of almost an hour about symbols and meaning and inference and communication and persuasion that seeks to contextualize the subtle and the complex elements of language and culture without semiotic or post-modernist or Marxist ideation, in so doing presenting a combination of structuralist and pragmatist thinking that leads to an evolutionary approach, in turn the basis for seeing the growth of communicative interaction in terms of biological precepts and social outcomes, an overview from the point of view of the intelligentsia that conjoins with a new item  in The Intercept about the parasitical rich, in the event a report on Peter Thiel’s Palantir company and software, an accessible and potent surveillance tool that, in its own estimation, portends a world without real potential for private thoughts and actions, both of which both supplement and contrast markedly with a sour new comic shtick  on Bill Maher’s regular program, in which the sometimes incisive host is reading a fatuous script about a ‘crazed’ President and the need to ‘resist’ that neither he nor at least his non-comatose guest even remotely believe, an ideal contextualization in turn for a new Free Thought Project article that examines a half-century old Malcolm X interview with Mike Wallace in which the grassroots leader discusses organizing and the police state, an interlude that is also available as a portal via YouTube, altogether materials that in aggregate speak to the fascist potential of the present pass, something that a more than fifty-year old British film , It Did Happen Here, portrays with some measure of dramatic intensity, while a new Amazon Prime series, The Man in the High Tower, considers quite similar issues and potentialities very much in the here and now.



Crushing Labor, Crushing ‘Progress’

A Chief Organizer analysis of the dire condition that afflicts unions today in the current political environment that is so fraught for so many: “Some unions are reportedly taking steps to prepare for these losses, both in their organizing and servicing programs, but lessons from not only Wisconsin but also from the British labor movement where union security was lost under Prime Minister Thatcher, indicate the losses under any reckoning will be severe. Never make the mistake in believing this will be a crisis only for American workers and their organizations. Conservatives know well what progressives should never forget, crippling institutional labor will have a seismic impact on all progressive organizations and capacity.”



YouTube Versus Its ‘Tubers’

A Polygon analysis of the fraught and predatory nature of life in the bowels of youtube-for-a-living: “Let’s play (ha) a game you can’t win. In the comments below, tell me how to get your videos featured, get your subscribers to watch videos or get your related videos in the related videos sidebar as opposed to some other person on YouTube….

I can bet that some of you got it right, but the problem is that your answer will become wrong in the next month or so. Content producers get frustrated with the system because the rules keep changing; it always seems like the site is keen to promote someone else, and it can feel impossible to keep up.”


Maher’s Abjection to CIA ‘Salvation’

A WSWS exploration of an SOP and ultimately fruitless opinion on what can produce necessary change by a faux liberal trying to sell the resistance out to the intelligence establishment: “Maher, who built a reputation for himself as an iconoclast during the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal and subsequently under George W. Bush, has claimed at various times to be a “liberal,” a “libertarian” and a “progressive, a sane person.” As we have noted previously: “His sneering, cynical, ‘anti-establishment’ posturing is aimed at taking in a certain section of those, especially among the young, disaffected with official politics and orienting them in quite a reactionary direction. His ‘iconoclasm’ has never gone farther than skin deep.””

GENISSAngolan Geopolitics Thirty Years Ago

A Spy Culture look back at the political evolution of a very-relevant section of the world, in regards to the entire history of colonialism and Western hegemony, from the always potent lens of film: “But new evidence and fresh conceptual approaches turn these narratives upside down. Research in a range of South African state archives—civilian and military—enables us to piece us together a much richer picture of South African geopolitics and the relationship with the United States. Meanwhile, bringing South African actors and their worldviews into the foreground provides an entirely different view on the big picture at stake here.”

2.23.2017 Doc of the Day

1. W.E.B. Du Bois, 1915.
2. Karl Jaspers, 1941.
3. Thomas Streeter, 1996.
CC BY-NC-ND by Bobulix
CC BY-NC-ND by Bobulix
Numero Uno ‘Semper novi quid ex Africa,’ cried the Roman proconsul; and he voiced the verdict of forty centuries. Yet  there are those who would write world-history and leave out this most marvelous of continents.  Particularly to-day most men assume that Africa lies far afield from the center of our burning social problems, and especially from our present problem of World War.  Yet in a very real sense Africa is a prime cause of this terrible overturning of civilization which we have lived to see; and these words seek to show how in the Dark Continent are hidden the roots, not simply of war to-day but of the menace of wars to-morrow.
Always Africa is giving us something new or some metempsychosis of a world-old thing.  On its black bosom arose one of the earliest, if not the earliest, of self-protecting civilizations, and grew so mightily that it still furnishes superlatives to thinking and speaking men.  Out of its darker and more remote forest fastnesses, came, if we may credit many recent scientists, the first welding of iron, and we know that agriculture and trade flourished there when Europe was a wilderness.  Nearly every human empire that has arisen in the world, material and spiritual, has found some of its greatest crises on this continent of Africa, from Greece to Great Britain.  As Mommsen says, ‘It was through Africa that Christianity became the religion of the world.’  In Africa the last flood of Germanic invasions spent itself within hearing of the last gasp of Byzantium, and it was again through Africa that Islam came to play its great role of conqueror and civilizer.  With the Renaissance and the widened world of modern thought, Africa came no less suddenly with her new old gift.  Shakespeare’s Ancient Pistol cries,–
‘A foutre for the world, and worldlings base!
I speak of Africa, and golden joys.’
He echoes a legend of gold from the days of Punt and Ophir to those of Ghana, the Gold Coast, and the Rand.  This thought had sent the world’s greed scurrying down the hot, mysterious coasts of Africa to the Good Hope of gain, until for the first time a real world-commerce was born, albeit it started as a commerce mainly in the bodies and souls of men.   So much for the past; and now, to-day: the Berlin Conference to apportion the rising riches of Africa among the white peoples met on the fifteenth day of November, 1884.  Eleven days earlier, three Germans left Zanzibar (whither they had gone secretly disguised as mechanics), and before the Berlin Conference had finished its deliberations they had annexed to Germany an area over half as large again as the whole German Empire in Europe.  Only in its dramatic suddenness was this undisguised robbery of the land of seven million natives different from the methods by which Great Britain and France got four million square miles each, Portugal three quarters of a million, and Italy and Spain smaller but substantial areas.  The methods by which this continent has been stolen have been contemptible and dishonest beyond expression.  Lying treaties, rivers of rum, murder, assassination, mutilation, rape, and torture have marked the progress of Englishman, German, Frenchman, and Belgian on the dark continent.  The only way in which the world has been able to endure the horrible tale is by deliberately stopping its ears and changing the subject of conversation while the deviltry went on.  It all began, singularly enough, like the present war, with Belgium.   Many of us remember Stanley’s great solution of the puzzle of Central Africa, when he traced the mighty Congo sixteen hundred miles from Nyangwe to the sea.  Suddenly the world knew that here lay the key to the riches of Central Africa.  It stirred uneasily, but Leopold of Belgium was first on his feet, and the result was the Congo Free State — God save the mark!  But the Congo Free State, with all its magniloquent heralding of Peace, Christianity, and Commerce, degenerating into murder, mutilation, and downright robbery, differed only in degree and concentration from the tale of all Africa in this rape of the continent already furiously mangled by the slave trade.  That sinister traffic, on which the British Empire and the American Republic were largely built, cost black Africa no less than 100,000,000 souls, the wreckage of its political and social life, and left the continent in precisely that state of helplessness which invites aggression and exploitation.  ‘Color’ became in the world’s thought synonymous with inferiority, ‘Negro’ lost its capitalization, and Africa was another name for bestiality and barbarism.   Thus, the world began to invest in color prejudice.  The ‘Color Line’ began to pay dividends.  For indeed, while the exploration of the valley of the Congo was the occasion of the scramble for Africa, the cause lay deeper.  The Franco-Prussian War turned the eyes of those who sought power and dominion away from Europe.  Already England was in Africa, cleaning away the debris of the slave trade and half consciously groping toward the new Imperialism.  France, humiliated and impoverished, looked toward a new northern African empire, sweeping from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. More slowly, Germany began to see the dawning of a new day, and, shut out from America by the Monroe Doctrine, looked to Asia and Africa for colonies.  Portugal sought anew to make good her claim to her ancient African realm; and thus a continent where Europe claimed but a tenth of the land in 1875, was in twenty-five more years practically absorbed.

Why was this? What was the new call for dominion?  It must have been strong, for consider a moment the desperate flames of war that have shot up in Africa in the last quarter of a century: France and England at Fashoda, Italy at Adua, Italy and Turkey in Tripoli, England and Portugal at Delagoa Bay, England, Germany, and the Dutch in South Africa, France and Spain in Morocco, Germany and France in Agadir, and the world at Algeciras.

[11] The answer to this riddle we shall find in the economic changes in Europe. Remember what the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have meant to organized industry in European civilization. Slowly the divine right of the few to determine economic income and distribute the goods and services of the world has been questioned and curtailed. We called the process Revolution in the eighteenth century, advancing Democracy in the nineteenth, and Socialization of Wealth in the twentieth. But whatever we call it, the movement is the same: the dipping of more and grimier hands into the wealth-bag of the nation, until to-day only the ultra stubborn fail to see that democracy, in determining income, is the next inevitable step to Democracy in political power. [12] With the waning of the possibility of the Big Fortune, gathered by starvation wage and boundless exploitation of one’s weaker and poorer fellows at home, arise more magnificently the dream of exploitation abroad. Always, of course, the individual merchant had at his own risk and in his own way tapped the riches of foreign lands. Later, special trading monopolies had entered the field and founded empires over-seas. Soon, however, the mass of merchants at home demanded a share in this golden stream; and finally, in the twentieth century, the laborer at home is demanding and beginning to receive a part of his share. [13] The theory of this new democratic despotism has not been clearly formulated. Most philosophers see the ship of state launched on the broad, irresistible tide of democracy, with only delaying eddies here and there; others, looking closer, are more disturbed. Are we, they ask, reverting to aristocracy and despotism — the rule of might? They cry out and then rub their eyes, for surely they cannot fail to see strengthening democracy all about them? [14] It is this paradox which has confounded philanthropists, curiously betrayed the Socialists, and reconciled the Imperialists and captains of industry to any amount of ‘Democracy.’ It is this paradox which allows in America the most rapid advance of democracy to go hand in hand in its very centres with increased aristocracy and hatred toward darker races, and which excuses and defends an inhumanity that does not shrink from the public burning of human beings. [15] Yet the paradox is easily explained: The white workingman has been asked to share the spoil of exploiting ‘chinks and niggers.’ It is no longer simply the merchant prince, or the aristocratic monopoly, or even the employing class, that is exploiting the world: it is the nation; a new democratic nation composed of united capital and labor. The laborers are not yet getting, to be sure, as large a share as they want or will get, and there are still at the bottom large and restless excluded classes. But the laborer’s equity is recognized, and his just share is a matter of time, intelligence, and skillful negotiation. [16] Such nations it is that rule the modern world. Their national bond is no mere sentimental patriotism, loyalty, or ancestor worship. It is increased wealth, power, and luxury for all classes on a scale the world never saw before. Never before was the average citizen of England, France, and Germany so rich, with such splendid prospects of greater riches. [17] Whence comes this new wealth and on what does its accumulation depend? It comes primarily from the darker nations of the world — Asia and Africa, South and Central America, the West Indies and the islands of the South Seas. There are still, we may well believe, many parts of white countries like Russia and North America, not to mention Europe itself, where the older exploitation still holds. But the knell has sounded faint and far, even there. In the lands of darker folk, however, no knell has sounded. Chinese, East Indians, Negroes, and South American Indians are by common consent for governance by white folk and economic subjection to them. To the furtherance of this highly profitable economic dictum has been brought every available resource of science and religion. Thus arises the astonishing doctrine of the natural inferiority of most men to the few, and the interpretation of ‘Christian brotherhood’ as meaning anything that one of the ‘brothers’ may at any time want it to mean. [18] Like all world-schemes, however, this one is not quite complete. First of all, yellow Japan has apparently escaped the cordon of this color bar. This is disconcerting and dangerous to white hegemony. If, of course, Japan would join heart and soul with the whites against the rest of the yellows, browns, and blacks, well and good. There are even good-natured attempts to prove the Japanese ‘Aryan,’ provided they act ‘white.’ But blood is thick, and there are signs that Japan does not dream of a world governed mainly by white men. This is the ‘Yellow Peril,’ and it may be necessary, as the German Emperor and many white Americans think, to start a world-crusade against this presumptuous nation which demands ‘white’ treatment. [19] Then, too, the Chinese have recently shown unexpected signs of independence and autonomy, which may possibly make it necessary to take them into account a few decades hence. As a result, the problem in Asia has resolved itself into a race for ‘spheres’ of economic ‘influence,’ each provided with a more or less ‘open door’ for business opportunity. This reduces the danger of open clash between European nations, and gives the yellow folk such chance for desperate unarmed resistance as was shown by China’s repulse of the Six Nations of Bankers. There is still hope among some whites that conservative North China and the radical South may in time come to blows and allow actual white dominion. [20] One thing, however, is certain: Africa is prostrate. There at least are few signs of self-consciousness that need at present be heeded. To be sure, Abyssinia must be wheedled, and in America and the West Indies Negroes have attempted futile steps toward freedom; but such steps have been pretty effectually stopped (save through the breech of ‘miscegenation’), although the ten million Negroes in the United States need, to many men’s minds, careful watching and ruthless repression. III             [21] Thus the white European mind has worked, and worked the more feverishly because Africa is the Land of the Twentieth Century. The world knows something of the gold and diamonds of South Africa, the cocoa of Angola and Nigeria, the rubber and ivory of the Congo, and the palm oil of the West Coast. But does the ordinary citizen realize the extraordinary economic advances of Africa and, too, of black Africa, in recent years? E. T. Morel, who knows his Africa better than most white men, has shown us how the export of palm oil from West Africa has grown from 283 tons in 1800, to 80,000 tons in 1913 which, together with by-products, is worth to-day $60,000,000 annually. He shows how native Gold Coast labor, unsupervised, has come to head the cocoa-producing countries of the world with an export of 89,000,000 pounds (weight not money) annually. He shows how the cotton crop of Uganda has risen from 3000 bales in 1909 to 50,000 bales in 1914; and he says that France and Belgium are no more remarkable in the cultivation of their land than the Negro province of Kano. The trade of Abyssinia amounts to only $10,000,000 a year, but it is its infinite possibility of growth, that is making the nations crowd to Adis Abeba. All these things are but beginnings, ‘but tropical Africa and its peoples are being brought more irrevocably each year into the vortex of the economic influences that sway the Western world.’ There can be no doubt of the economic possibilities of Africa in the near future. There are not only the well-known and traditional products, but boundless chances in a hundred different directions, and above all, there is a throng of human beings who, could they once be reduced to the docility and steadiness of Chinese coolies or of seventeenth and eighteenth century European laborers, would furnish to their masters a spoil exceeding the gold-haunted dreams of the most modern of Imperialists. [22] This, then, is the real secret of that desperate struggle for Africa which began in 1877 and is now culminating. Economic dominion outside Africa has, of course, played its part, and we were on the verge of the partition of Asia when Asiatic Shrewdness warded it off. America was saved from direct political dominion by the Monroe Doctrine. Thus, more and more, the Imperialists have concentrated on Africa. [23] The greater the concentration the more deadly the rivalry. From Fashoda to Agadir, repeatedly the spark has been applied to the European magazine and a general conflagration narrowly averted. We speak of the Balkans as the storm-centre of Europe and the cause of war, but this is mere habit. The Balkans are convenient for occasions, but the ownership of materials and men in the darker world is the real prize that is setting the nations of Europe at each other’s throats to-day. [24] The present world war is, then, the result of jealousies engendered by the recent rise of armed national associations of labor and capital, whose aim is the exploitation of the wealth of the world mainly outside the European circle of nations. These associations, grown jealous and suspicious at the division of the spoils of trade-empire, are fighting to enlarge their respective shares; they look for expansion, not in Europe but in Asia, and particularly in Africa. ‘We want no inch of French territory,’ said Germany to England, but Germany was ‘unable to give’ similar assurances as to France in Africa. [25] The difficulties of this imperial movement are internal as well as external. Successful aggression in economic expansion calls for a close union between capital and labor at home. Now the rising demands of the white laborer, not simply for wages but for conditions of work and a voice in the conduct of industry make industrial peace difficult. The workingmen have been appeased by all sorts of essays in state socialism, on the one hand, and on the other hand by public threats of competition by colored labor. By threatening to send English capital to China and Mexico, by threatening to hire Negro laborers in America, as well as by old-age pensions and accident insurance, we gain industrial peace at home at the mightier cost of war abroad. [26] In addition to these national war-engendering jealousies there is a more subtle movement arising from the attempt to unite labor and capital in world-wide freebooting. Democracy in economic organization, while an acknowledged ideal, is to-day working itself out by admitting to a share in the spoils of capital only the aristocracy of labor — the more intelligent and shrewder and cannier workingmen. The ignorant, unskilled, and restless still form a large, threatening, and, to a growing extent, revolutionary group in advanced countries. [27] The resultant jealousies and bitter hatreds tend continually to fester along the color line. We must fight the Chinese, the laborer argues, or the Chinese will take our bread and butter. We must keep Negroes in their places, or Negroes will take our jobs. All over the world there leaps to articulate speech and ready action that singular assumption that if white men do not throttle colored men, then China, India, and Africa will do to Europe what Europe has done and seeks to do to them. [28] On the other hand, in the minds of yellow, brown, and black men the brutal truth is clearing: a white man is privileged to go to any land where advantage beckons and behave as he pleases; the black or colored man is being more and more confined to those parts of the world where life for climatic, historical, economic, and political reasons is most difficult to live and most easily dominated by Europe for Europe’s gain. IV

[29] What, then, are we to do, who desire peace and the civilization of all men? Hitherto the peace movement has confined itself chiefly to figures about the cost of war and platitudes on humanity. What do nations care about the cost of war, if by spending a few hundred millions in steel and gunpowder they can gain a thousand millions in diamonds and cocoa? How can love of humanity appeal as a motive to nations whose love of luxury is built on the inhuman exploitation of human beings, and who, especially in recent years, have been taught to regard these human beings as inhuman? I appealed to the last meeting of peace societies in St. Louis, saying, ‘Should you not discuss racial prejudice as a prime cause of war?’ The secretary was sorry but was unwilling to introduce controversial matters! [30] We, then, who want peace, must remove the real causes of war. We have extended gradually our conception of democracy beyond our social class to all social classes in our nation; we have gone further and extended our democratic ideals not simply to all classes of our own nation, but to those of other nations of our blood and lineage — to what we call ‘European’ civilization. If we want real peace and lasting culture, however, we must go further. We must extend the democratic ideal to the yellow, brown, and black peoples. [31] To say this is to evoke on the faces of modern men a look of blank hopelessness. Impossible! we are told, and for so many reasons — scientific, social, and what not — that argument is useless. But let us not conclude too quickly. Suppose we have to choose between this unspeakably inhuman outrage on decency and intelligence and religion which we call the World War and the attempt to treat black men as human, sentient, responsible beings? We have sold them as cattle. We are working them as beasts of burden. We shall not drive war from this world until we treat them as free and equal citizens in a world-democracy of all races and nations. Impossible? Democracy is a method of doing the impossible. It is the only method yet discovered of making the education and development of all men a matter of all men’s desperate desire. It is putting firearms in the hands of a child with the object of compelling the child’s neighbors to teach him not only the real and legitimate uses of a dangerous tool but the uses of himself in all things. Are there other and less costly ways of accomplishing this? There may be in some better world. But for a world just emerging from the rough chains of an almost universal poverty, and faced by the temptation of luxury and indulgence through the enslaving of defenseless men, there is but one adequate method of salvation — the giving of democratic weapons of self-defense to the defenseless. [32] Nor need we quibble over those ideas, — wealth, education, and political power, — soil, which we have so forested with claim and counter-claim that we see nothing for the woods. [33] What the primitive peoples of Africa and the world need and must have if war is to be abolished is perfectly clear: — [34] First: land. To-day Africa is being enslaved by the theft of her land and natural resources. A century ago black men owned all but a morsel of South Africa. The Dutch and English came, and to-day 1,250,000 whites own 264,000,000 acres, leaving only 21,000,000 acres for 4,500,000 natives. Finally, to make assurance doubly sure, the Union of South Africa has refused natives even the right to buy land. This is a deliberate attempt to force the Negroes to work on farms and in mines and kitchens for low wages. All over Africa has gone this shameless monopolizing of land and natural resources to force poverty on the masses and reduce them to the ‘dumb-driven-cattle’ stage of labor activity. [35] Secondly: we must train native races in modern civilization. This can be done. Modern methods of educating children, honestly and effectively applied, would make modern, civilized nations out of the vast majority of human beings on earth to-day. This we have seldom tried. For the most part Europe is straining every nerve to make over yellow, brown, and black men into docile beasts of burden, and only an irrepressible few are allowed to escape and seek (usually abroad) the education of modern men. [36] Lastly, the principle of home rule must extend to groups, nations, and races. The ruling of one people for another people’s whim or gain must stop. This kind of despotism has been in later days more and more skillfully disguised. But the brute fact remains: the white man is ruling black Africa for the white man’s gain, and just as far as possible he is doing the same to colored races elsewhere. Can such a situation bring peace? Will any amount of European concord or disarmament settle this injustice? [37]Political power to-day is but the weapon to force economic power. To-morrow, it may give us spiritual vision and artistic sensibility. To-day, it gives us or tries to give us bread and butter, and those classes or nations or races who are without it starve, and starvation is the weapon of the white world to reduce them to slavery. [38] We are calling for European concord to-day; but at the utmost European concord will mean satisfaction with, or acquiescence in, a given division of the spoils of world-dominion. After all, European disarmament cannot go below the necessity of defending the aggressions of the whites against the blacks and browns and yellows. From this will arise three perpetual dangers of war. First, renewed jealousy at any division of colonies or spheres of influence agreed upon, if at any future time the present division comes to seem unfair. Who cared for Africa in the early nineteenth century? Let England have the scraps left from the golden feast of the slave trade. But in the twentieth century? The end was war. These scraps looked too tempting to Germany. Secondly: war will come from the revolutionary revolt of the lowest workers. The greater the international jealousies, the greater the corresponding costs of armament and the more difficult to fulfill the promises of industrial democracy in advanced countries. Finally, the colored peoples will not always submit passively to foreign domination. To some this is a lightly tossed truism. When a people deserve liberty they fight for it and get it, say such philosophers; thus making war a regular, necessary step to liberty. Colored people are familiar with this complacent judgment. They endure the contemptuous treatment meted out by whites to those not ‘strong’ enough to be free. These nations and races, composing as they do a vast majority of humanity, are going to endure this treatment just as long as they must and not a moment longer. Then they are going to fight and the War of the Color Line will outdo in savage inhumanity any war this world has yet seen. For colored folk have much to remember and they will not forget. [39] But is this inevitable? Must we sit helpless before this awful prospect? While we are planning, as a result of the present holocaust, the disarmament of Europe and a European international world-police, must the rest of the world be left naked to the inevitable horror of war, especially when we know that it is directly in this outer circle of races, and not in the inner European household, that the real causes of present European fighting are to be found? [40] Our duty is clear. Racial slander must go. Racial prejudice will follow. Steadfast faith in humanity must come. The domination of one people by another without the other’s consent, be the subject people black or white, must stop. The doctrine of forcible economic expansion over subject people must go. Religious hypocrisy must stop. ‘Blood-thirsty’ Mwanga of Uganda killed an English bishop because he feared that his coming meant English domination. It did mean English domination, and the world and the bishop knew it, and yet, the world was ‘horrified’! Such missionary hypocrisy must go. With clean hands and honest hearts we must front high Heaven and beg peace in our time. [41] In this great work who can help us? In the Orient, the awakened Japanese and the awakening leaders of New China; in India and Egypt, the young men trained in Europe and European ideals, who now form the stuff that Revolution is born of. But in Africa? Who better than the twenty-five million grandchildren of the European slave trade, spread through the Americas and now writhing desperately for freedom and a place in the world? And of these millions, first of all the ten million black folk of the United States, now a problem, then a world salvation.

[This gap is in the original.]

Twenty centuries before the Christ a great cloud swept over sea and settled on Africa, darkening and well-nigh blotting out the culture of the land of Egypt.  For half a thousand years it rested there until a black woman, Queen Nefertari, ‘the most venerated figure in Egyptian history,’ rose to the throne of the Pharaohs and redeemed the world and her people.  Twenty centuries after Christ, black Africa, prostrate, raped, and shamed, lies at the feet of the conquering Philistines of Europe.  Beyond the awful sea a black woman is weeping and waiting, with her sons on her breast.  What shall the end be?  The world-old and fearful things, War and Wealth, Murder and Luxury?  Or shall it be a new thing — a new peace and new democracy of all races: a great humanity of equal men?  ‘Semper novi quid ex Africa!'” W.E.B. Du Bois, “African Roots of War

walking walk shadow psychology indecision doubt introspective critic existential doubt

Numero DosI. The Course of my Development

On February 23, 1883 I was born in Oldenburg, a son of Karl Jaspers, the former sheriff and later bank director, and bis wife Henriette, nee Tantzen.  I passed a well-guarded childhood in the company of my brothers and sisters, either in the country with my grandparents or at the seaside, sheltered by loved and revered parents, led by the authority of my father, brought up with a regard for truth and loyalty, for achievement and reliability, yet without church religion (except for the scanty formalities of the Protestant confession).  I attended the high school of my home town, and from 1901 the University.

My path was not the normal one of professors of philosophy. I did not intend to become a doctor of philosophy by studying philosophy (I am in fact a doctor of medicine) nor did L by any means, intend originally to qualify for a professorship by a dissertation on philosophy. To decide to become a philosopher seemed as foolish to me as to decide to become a poet. Since my schooldays, however, I was guided by philosophical questions. Philosophy seemed to me the supreme, even the sole, concern of man. Yet a certain awe kept me from making it my profession.

Instead I felt that I should look for my vocation in practical life. At first I chose the study of law with the intention of becoming an attorney. At the same time I attended classes in philosophy. That proved disappointing. The lectures offered nothing of what I sought in philosophy: neither the fundamental experiences of Being, nor guidance for inner action or self-improvement, but rather, questionable opinions making claim to scientific validity. The study of law left me unsatisfied, because I did not know the aspects of life which it serves. I perceived only the intricate mental juggling with fictions that did not interest me. What I sought was perception of reality. Concern with art and poetry were incomplete substitutes; so even was an enthusiastic journey to Italy to see Roma aeterna, to sense history and to gaze on beauty (1902). This aimless way of life came to an end after my third semester. I began the study of medicine, impelled by a desire for knowledge of facts and of man. The resolution to do disciplined work tied me to both laboratory and clinic for a long time to come. Ostensibly I was aiming at the practice of medicine; yet already with the secret thought of eventually pursuing an academic career at the university, though actually not in philosophy but in psychiatry or psychology. After some years (since 1909) I published my psycho-pathological researches. In 1913 I qualified as university lecturer in psychology.

Up until then my life had been a spiritual striving in what was, actually, politico-sociological space, untroubled by general happenings and without political consciousness, though with momentary forebodings of possible distant dangers. All intentness centred on my own private life, on the high moments of intimate communion with those closest to me. Contemplation of the works of the spirit, research, continual intercourse with things timeless, were the purpose and meaning of life’s activities. Then in 1914 the World War caused the great breach in our European existence. The paradisiacal life before the World War, naive despite all its sublime spirituality, could never return: philosophy, with its seriousness, became more important than ever.

To a great extent my psychology had assumed the characteristics, without my being conscious of it, of what X subsequently called Existenz Clarification. This psychology was no longer merely an empirical statement of the facts and laws of events. It was an outline of the potentialities of the soul which holds a mirror up to man to show him what he can be, what he can achieve and how far he can go: such insights are meant as an appeal to freedom, to let me choose in my inner action what I really want. As the realisation overcame me that, at the time, there was no true philosophy ut the universities, I thought that facing such a vacuum even he who was too weak to create his own philosophy, had the right to hold forth about philosophy, to declare what it once was and what it could be. Only then, approaching my fortieth birthday, I made philosophy my life’s work.

II. Making Tradition Our Own

We can ask primal questions, but we can never stand near the beginning. Our questions and answers are in part determined by the historical tradition in which we find ourselves. We apprehend truth from our own source within the historical tradition.

The content of our truth depends upon our appropriating the historical foundation. Our own power of generation lies in the rebirth of what has been handed down to us. If we do hot wish to slip back, nothing must be forgotten; but if philosophising is to be genuine our thoughts must arise from our own source. Hence all appropriation of tradition proceeds from the intentness of our own life. The more determinedly I exist, as myself, within the conditions of the time, the more clearly I shall hear the language of the past, the nearer I shall feel the glow of its life.

In what way the history of philosophy exists for us is a fundamental problem of our philosophising which demands a concrete solution in each age. Philosophy is tested and characterised by the way in which it appropriates its history. It might seem to us that the truth of present-day philosophy manifests itself less in the formation of new fundamental concepts (as “borderline situation,” “the Encompassing”) than in the new sound it makes audible for us in old thoughts.

A merely theoretical contemplation of the history of philosophy is insufficient. If philosophy is practice, a demand to know the manner in which its history is to be studied is entailed: a theoretical attitude toward it becomes real only in the living appropriation of its contents from the texts. To apprehend thought with indifference prevents its appropriation. Knowledge that does not concern the knower comes between the content of knowledge and its resurrection; but in the assimilation of philosophy by later ages a lapse of thought is a constant feature. Concepts which were originally reality pass through history as pieces of learning or information. What was once life becomes a pile of dead husks of concepts and these in turn become the subject of an objective history of philosophy.

Everything depends therefore on encountering thought at its source. Such thought is the reality of man’s being, which achieved consciousness and understanding of itself through it. Though one needs knowledge of the concepts that emerge in the history of philosophy, the purpose of such knowledge remains to gain entrance to the exalted living practice of these past thoughts. My own being can be judged by the depths I reach in making these historical origins my own. There is no palpable criterion for this in outward appearances. Such true thinking goes through history as a mystery which can reveal itself, however, to everyone with understanding, for this hidden thinking was once reality. Having been written down it can be rediscovered: at any time it can spark a new blaze.

The history of philosophy is not, like the history of the sciences, to be studied with the intellect alone. That which is receptive in us and that which impinges upon us from history is the reality of man’s being, unfolding itself in thought.

A philosophical history of philosophy has the following characteristics:

1. The real import of history is the Great, the Unique, the Irreplaceable The great philosophers and the great works are standards for the selection of what is essential. Everything that we do in studying the history of philosophy ultimately serves their better understanding. All other questions are secondary, as, for instance, whether the Great is also the most effective, or whether, perhaps, precisely the misunderstanding of greatness has a wider public appeal because of its mediocrity and its lowered standard. How the quality of greatness appears to us, with constant transposition and questioning, in the totality of things, what we prefer and how we prefer it, that must prove its worth by our ability to see through the remainder, the widespread, the universally prevalent, in order to judge it fairly, and to appreciate it. What remains strange and incomprehensible to w is a limit to our own truth.

2. Understanding of the ideas demands a thorough study of the textsPhilosophy can only be approached with the most concrete comprehension. A great philosopher demands unrelenting penetration into his texts. This necessitates both the realisation of a whole philosophy in its entirety, and taking pains with every single sentence in order to become conscious of its every nuance. Comprehensive perception and accurate observation are the basis of our understanding.

3. Understanding of philosophy demands a universal historical view As a universal history of philosophy, the history of philosophy must become one great unity. Philosophising, as it occurs in each historical age, involves the penetration, without limit, into the unity of the revelation of Being. This solitary, but vast, moment of a few millennia, emerging from three different sources (China, India, Occident), is real by virtue of a single internal connection. Though too immense to be envisaged as a pattern, it encompasses us nevertheless as a world. No one person can attain that concrete nearness everywhere. He can have his roots only in relatively few sublime works. The immensity of the Whole and the evocative tones of its unity are indispensable for achieving universal philosophic communication as well as for realising the truth of each individual’s concrete understanding.

4. The philosopher’s invisible realm of the spirit The philosopher lives, as it were, in a hidden, non-objective community to which every philosophising person secretly longs to be admitted. Philosophy has no institutional reality and is not in competition with the church, the state, the real communities of the world. Any objectification, whether it be the formation of schools or sects, is the ruin of philosophy. For the freedom that can be attained in philosophising cannot be handed down by the doctrine of an institution. Only as an individual can man become a philosopher. From becoming a philosopher he can derive no claims. He must not have the folly to wish to be recognised as a philosopher. Professorships in philosophy are instituted for free mediation of ideas by teaching, which does not preclude their being held by philosophers (Kant, Hegel, Schelling). But in philosophy’s realm of the spirit there is no objective certainty and no confirmation. In the realm of the spirit, men become companions-in-thought through the millennia, become occasions for each other to find the way to truth from their own source, although they cannot present each other with readymade truth. It is a self-development of individual in communication with individual. It is a development of the individual into community and from there to the plane of history, without breaking with contemporary life. It is the effort to live from and on behalf of the fundamental, though these become audible to him who philosophises, without objective certainty (as in religion), and only through indirect hints as possibilities in the totality of philosophy.

5. The universal-historical view is a condition for the most decisive consciousness of one’s own age What can be experienced today becomes fully tangible only in the face of humanity’s experiences-both those which can no longer be relived and those which become a living experience for the first time this very day. Only through being conscious can the contents of the past, transmuted into possibilities, become the fully real contents of the present. The life of truth in the realm of the spirit does wt remove man from his world, but makes him effective for serving his historical present.

These fundamental views of history developed only slowly in me. I discovered that the study of past philosophers is of little use unless our own reality enters into it. Our reality alone allows the thinker’s questions to become comprehensible. We can thereby read their works as if a11 philosophers were contemporaries.

The order in which the great stars of the philosophers’ heaven rose for me is, perhaps, accidental. While I was still at school Spinoza was the first. Kant then became the philosopher for me and has remained so. In the voices of Plotinus, Nicholas of Cusa, Bruno, and Schelling I heard as truth the dreams of the metaphysicians. Kierkegaard located consciousness both of the Source, which is so indispensable today, and of our own historical situation. Nietzsche gained importance for me only late as the magnificent revelation of nihilism and the task of overcoming it (in my youth I had avoided him, repelled by the extremes, the rapture, and the diversity). Goethe contributed the atmosphere of humanitas and un-selfconsciousness. To breathe this atmosphere, to love with Goethe whatever is essential among the apparitions of the world, and like him to touch, with awe, the unveiled boundaries, was a blessing amid the unrest, and be came a source of justice and reason. Hegel for a long time remained a well-nigh inexhaustible material for study, particularly for my teaching activity in seminars. The Greeks were always there; after the discipline of their coolness, I liked to turn to Augustine; however, despite the depth of his existential clarification displeasure with his rhetoric and with his lack of all scientific objectivity and with his ugly and violent emotions drove me back again to the Greeks. Only finally I occupied myself more thoroughly with Plato, who now seemed to me perhaps the greatest of all.

Among my deceased contemporaries I owe what I am able to think-those closest to me excepted-above all to the one and only Max Weber. He alone, through his being, showed me what human greatness can be. Nissl, the brain anatomist and psychiatrist, set an example for me, in the years I worked under him, of critical research and the purest scientific method.

Even in the history of philosophy we can witness the tremendous incisiveness of our age. Hegel is a consummation of two and a half millennia of thought. True, in his basic philosophic attitude, although not in his concrete positions, Plato is as alive today as ever, perhaps more than ever. Even now we can philosophise from Kant. In actuality, however, we cannot forget for one moment what has been brought about since by Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. We are so exposed that we constantly find ourselves facing nothingness. Our wounds are so deep that in our weak moments we wonder if we are not, in fact, dying from them.

At the present moment, the security of coherent philosophy, which existed from Parmenides to Hegel, is lost. This does not prevent us from philosophising from the single foundation of man’s being on which was based the thinking of those millennia in the Occident which are now, in some sense, concluded. To become aware of this foundation in yet another way, we are referred to India and China as the two other original paths of philosophic thought. Instead of slipping into nothingness at the disintegration of millennia we should like to feel unshakeable ground beneath us. We should like to comprehend in one historical whole the only general phenomenon which may permit posterity to probe its substance more deeply than has ever been done. The alternative “nothing or everything” stands before our age as the question of man’s spiritual destiny.

III. Drives to the Basic Questions

Philosophy did not mean simply cognisance of the universe (that results from the sum total of the sciences in constant indetermination and transition), nor epistemology (which is a subject of logic), nor the knowledge of the systems and texts of the history of philosophy (such knowledge touches only the surface of thinking). Philosophy grew in me through my finding myself in the midst of life itself. Philosophical thought is practical activity, although a unique kind of activity.

Philosophic meditation is an accomplishment by which I attain Being and my own self, not impartial thinking which studies a subject with indifference. To be a mere onlooker were vain. Even scientific knowledge, if there is anything to it, is not a random observation of random objects; for the critical objectivity of significant knowledge is attained as a practice only philosophically in inner action.

Philosophy as practice does not mean its restriction to utility or applicability, that is, to what serves morality or produces serenity of soul. The process, in which knowledge is employed as a means of thinking out the possibilities that, bear upon a finite objective, is a technical, not a philosophical, activity. Philosophising is the activity of thought itself, by which the essence of man, in its entirety, is realised in the individual man. This activity originates from life in the depths where it touches Eternity inside Time, not at the surface where it moves in finite purposes, even though the depths appear to us only at the surface. It is for this reason that philosophical activity is fully real only at the summits of personal philosophising, while objectivised philosophical thought is a preparation for, and a recollection of, it. At the summits the activity is the inner action by which I become myself; it is the revelation of Being; it is the activity of being oneself which yet simultaneously experiences itself as the passivity of being given-to-oneself. The mystery of this boundary of philosophising at which alone philosophy is real, is only circumscribed by the unrolling of thoughts in the philosophical work.

Since the basic questions of philosophy grow, as practical activity, from life, their form is at any given moment in keeping with the historical situation; but this situation is part of the continuity of tradition. The questions put earlier in history are still ours; in part identical with present ones, word for word, after thousands of years, in part more distant and strange, so that we make them our own only by translation. The basic questions were formulated by Kant with, I felt, moving simplicity: 1. What can I know? 2. What shall I do? 3. What may I hope? 4. What is man? Today these questions have been reborn for us in changed form and thus become comprehensible to us anew also in their origin. The transformation of these questions is due to our finding ourselves in the kind of life that our age produces:

1. Science has gained an ever-growing overwhelming importance; by its consequences it has become the fate of the world. Technically, it provides the basis for all human existence and compels the unpredictable transmutation of all conditions. Its contents cause wonder and ever greater wonder. Its inversions cause scientific superstitions and a desperate hatred of science. Science cannot be avoided. It extends further than in Kant’s time; it is more radical than ever, both in the precision of its methods and in its consequences. The question “What can I know?” therefore becomes more concrete and at the same time more inexorable. Seen from our point of view Kant still knew too much (in Wrongly taking his own transcendental philosophy for conclusive scientific knowledge instead of philosophical insight to be accomplished in transcending) and too little (because the extraordinary mathematical, scientific and historical discoveries and possibilities of knowledge with their consequences were in great part still outside his horizon).

2. The community of masses of human beings has produced an order of life in regulated channels which connects individuals in a technically functioning organisation, but not inwardly from the historicity of their souls. The emptiness caused by dissatisfaction with mere achievement and the helplessness that results when the channels of relation break down have brought forth a loneliness of soul such as never existed before, a loneliness that hides itself, that seeks relief in vain in the erotic or the irrational until it leads eventually to a deep comprehension of the importance of establishing communication between man and man.

Even when regulating his existence man feels as if the waves of events had drawn him beyond his depth in the turbulent ocean of history and as if he now had to find a foothold in the drifting whirlpool. What was firm and certain has nowhere remained the ultimate. Morality is no longer adequately founded on generally valid laws. The laws themselves are in need of a deeper foundation. The Kantian question “What shall I do?” is no longer sufficiently answered by the categorical imperative (though this imperative remains inevitably true), but has to be complemented by the foundation of every ethical act and knowledge in communication. For the truth of generally valid laws for my actions is conditioned by the kind of communication in which I act. ‘-What shall I do?” presupposes “How is communication possible? How can I reach the depth of possible communication?”

3. We experience the limits of science as the limits of our ability to know and as limits of our realisation of the world through knowledge and ability; the knowledge of science fails in the face of all ultimate questions. We experience limits of communication: something is lacking even when it succeeds. The failure of knowledge and the failure of communication cause a confusion in which Being and truth vanish. In vain a way out is sought either in obedience to rules and regulations or in thoughtlessness. The meaning of truth assumes another value. Truth is more than what we call truth (or rather correctness) in the sciences. We want to grasp truth itself; the way to it becomes a new, more urgent, more exciting task.

Our philosophising can be summarised thus within these three questions:

What can we know in the sciences?
How shall we realize the most profound communication?
How can truth become accessible to us?

The three fundamental drives for knowledge, for communication and for truth produce these questions. Through them we reach the path of searching. But the aims of this searching are man and Transcendence (or: the soul and the Deity). At them the fourth and fifth fundamental questions are aimed.

4. In the world man alone is the reality which is accessible to me. Here is presence, nearness, fullness, life. Man is the place at which and through which everything that is real exists for us at all. To fail to be human would mean to slip into nothingness. What an is and can become is a fundamental question for man.

Man, however, is not a sufficient separate entity, but is constituted by the things he rices his own. In every form of his being man is related to something other than himself: as a being to his world, as consciousness to objects, as spirit to the idea of whatever constitutes totality, as Existenz to Transcendence. Man always becomes man by devoting himself to this other. Only through his absorption in the world of Being, in the immeasurable space of objects, in ideas, in Transcendence, does he become real to himself. If he makes himself the immediate object of his efforts he is on his last and perilous path; for it is possible that in doing so he will lose the Being of the other and then no longer find anything in himself. If man wants to grasp himself directly, he ceases to understand himself, to know who he is and what he should do.

This confusion was intensified as a result of the process of education in the nineteenth century. The wealth of knowledge of everything that was produced a state in which it seemed that man could gain mastery over all Being without yet being anything himself. This happened because he no longer devoted himself to the thing as it was, but made it a function of his education. Where humanity founds itself only on itself, it is experienced again that it has no ground beneath it.

The question about humanity is pushed forward. It no longer suffices to ask beyond oneself with Kant “What may I hope?” Man strives more decisively than ever for a certainty that he lacks, for the certainty that there is that which is eternal, that there is a Being through which alone he himself is. If the Deity is, then all hope is possible.

5. Hence the question “What is man?” must be complemented by the essential question whether and what Transcendence (Deity) is. The thesis becomes possible: Transcendence alone is the real Being. That the Deity is suffices. To be certain of that is the only thing that matters. Everything else follows from that. Man is not worth considering. In the Deity alone there is reality, truth, and the immutability of being itself. In the Deity there is peace, as well as the origin and aim of man who, by himself, is nothing, and what he is he is only in relation to the Deity.

But time and again it is seen: for us the Deity, if it exists, is only as it appears to us in the world, as it speaks to us in the language of man and the world. It exists for us only in the way in which it assumes concrete shape, which by human measure and thought always serves to hide it at the same time. Only in ways that man can grasp does the Deity appear.

Thus it is seen that it is wrong to play off against each other the question about man and the question about the Deity. Although in the world only man is reality for us that does not preclude that precisely the quest for man leads to Transcendence. That the Deity alone is truly reality does not preclude that this reality is accessible to us only in the world; as it were, as an image in the mirror of man, because something of the Deity must be in him for him to be able to respond to the Deity. Thus the theme of philosophy is oriented, in polar alternation, in two directions: deum et animam scire cupio [I desire knowledge of God and the soul].

In taking up again Kant’s fundamental questions five questions arose: the question of science, of communication, of truth, of man, and of Transcendence. I shall now go a little further into the meaning of these questions, both into the impulses that lead to them and into the preliminaries of a philosophical answer:

1. What is science? -In my youth I sought philosophy as knowledge. The doctrines which I heard and read seemed to meet this claim. They reasoned, proved, refuted; they n were analogous with all other knowledge; yet they aimed at the whole rather than at single subjects.

I soon found out that most philosophical and many scientific doctrines failed to yield certainty. My doubting did not become absolute and radical. It was not doubt in the style of Descartes; such doubt, which I encountered later, I did not entertain in reality, but only as a kind of game. Commencing at first with the sciences, my doubt questioned single assertions, each doubt being by way of an experiment.

It shook my faith in the representatives of science, though not in science itself, to discover that famous scientists propounded many things in their textbooks which they passed off as the results of scientific investigation although they were by no means proven. I perceived the endless babble, the supposed “knowledge”. In school already I was astonished, rightly or wrongly, when the teachers’ answers to objections remained unsatisfactory. The parson proved the existence of God from the failure of the stars to collide and paid no heed to the objection that the stars’ great distance from each other makes the probability of a collision small, or that maybe there are collisions which we do not observe because they have not yet involved us. I observed the pathos of historians when they conclude a series of explications with the words “Now things necessarily had to happen in this way”, while actually this statement was merely suggestive ex post facto, but not at all convincing in itself: alternatives seemed equally possible, and there was always the element of chance. As a physician and psychiatrist 1 saw the precarious foundation of so many statements and actions, and beheld the reign of imagined insights, e.g. the causation of all mental illnesses by brain processes (I called all this talk about the brain, as it was fashionable then, brain mythology; it was succeeded later by the mythology of psychoanalysis), and realised with horror how, in our expert opinions, we based ourselves on positions which were far from certain, because we had always to come to a conclusion even when we did not know, in order that science might provide a cover, however unproved, for decisions the state found necessary. I was surprised that so much of medical advice and the majority of prescriptions were based, not on rational knowledge, but merely on the patient’s wish for treatment.

From these experiences the basic question emerged: What is science? What can it do? Where are its limits? It became clear that science, to deserve its name, must be cogent and universally valid. Self-discipline in making assertions is necessary above everything to maintain the sharpest criticism, the clearest consciousness of method, the knowledge in which way, for what reasons, and with what certainty, I know in each case. Neither sceptically to surrender everything, nor to seize something dogmatically as a conclusion in advance, but rather to retain the attitude of the researcher, accepting knowledge only on the way, with its reasons, and relative to its viewpoints and methods, turned out to be far from easy. This attitude of mind is attainable only with an ever-active intellectual conscience. As a consequence of this procedure, it appeared that cogent validity does indeed exist and that it is a great privilege of man to be able to grasp it with clear judgment. It appeared, however, that such scientific knowledge is always particularised, that it does not embrace the totality of Being but only a specific subject, that it affords no aim to life, has no answer to the essential problems that move man, that it cannot even furnish a compelling insight into its own importance and significance. Man is reduced to a condition of perplexity by confusing the knowledge that he can prove with the convictions by which he lives.

If science, with its limitation to cogent and universally valid knowledge, can do so little, failing as it does in the essentials, in the eternal problems: why then science at all?

Firstly, there is an irrepressible urge to know the knowable, to view the facts as they are, to learn about the events that happen to us: for example, mental illnesses how they manifest themselves in association with those that harbour them, or how mental illness might be connected with mental creativity. The force of the original quest for knowledge disappears in the grand anticipatory gestures of seeming total knowledge and increases in mastering what is concretely knowable.

Secondly, science has had tremendously far-reaching effects. The state of our whole world, especially for the last one hundred years, is conditioned by science and its technical consequences: the inner attitude of all humanity is determined by the way and content of its knowledge. I can grasp the fate of the world only if I can grasp science. There is a fundamental question: why, although there is rationalism and intellectualisation wherever there are humans, has science emerged only in the Occident, taking former worlds off their hinges in its consequences and forcing humanity to obey it or perish? Only through science and face-to-face with science can 1 acquire an intensified consciousness of the historical situation, can I truly live in the spiritual situation of my time.

Thirdly, I have to turn to science in order to learn what it is, in all science, that impels and guides, without itself being cogent knowledge. The ideas that master infinity, the selection of what is essential, the comprehension of knowledge in the totality of the sciences; all this is not scientific insight, but reaches clear consciousness only through the pursuit of the sciences. Only by way of the sciences can I free myself from the bondage of a limited, dogmatic view of the world in order to arrive at the totality of the world and its reality.

The experience of the indispensability and compelling power of science caused me to regard throughout my life the following demands as valid for all philosophising: there must be freedom for all sciences, so that there may be freedom from scientific superstition, i.e. from false absolutes and pseudoknowledge. By freely espousing the sciences I become receptive to that which is beyond science but which can only become clear by way of it. Although I should pursue one science thoroughly, I should nevertheless turn to all the others as well, not in order to amass encyclopedic knowledge, but rather in order to become familiar with the fundamental possibilities, principles of knowledge, and the multiplicity of methods. The ultimate objective is to work out a methodology, which arises from the ground of a universal consciousness of Being and points up and illuminates Being.

Above all, the sciences are to be employed as a tool of philosophy. Philosophy is not to be ranged alongside them as merely another science. For even though it is linked to science and never occurs without it, philosophy is wholly different from science. Philosophy is the thinking by which I become aware of Being itself through inner action; or rather it is the thinking which prepares the ascent to Transcendence, remembers it, and in an exalted moment accomplishes the ascent itself as a thinking act of the whole human being.

2. How is communication possible? I do not know which impulse was stronger in me when I began to think: the original thirst for knowledge or the urge to communicate with man. Knowledge attains its full meaning only through the-bond that unites men; however, the urge to achieve agreement with another human being was so hard to satisfy. I was shocked by the lack of understanding, paralysed, as it were, by every reconciliation in which what had gone before was not fully cleared up. Early in my life and then later again and again I was perplexed by people’s rigid inaccessibility and their failure to listen to reasons, their disregard of facts, their indifference which prohibited discussion, their defensive attitude which kept you at a distance and at the decisive moment buried any possibility of a close approach, and finally their shamelessness, that bares its own soul with out reserve, as though no one were present. When ready assent occurred I remained unsatisfied, because it was not based on true insight but on yielding to persuasion; because it was the consequence of friendly cooperation, not a meeting of two selves. True, I knew the glory of friendship (in common studies, in the cordial atmosphere of home or countryside). But then came the moments of strangeness, as if human beings lived in different worlds. Steadily the consciousness of loneliness grew upon me in my youth, yet nothing seemed more pernicious to me than loneliness, especially the loneliness in the midst of social intercourse that deceives itself in a multitude of friendships. No urge seemed stronger to me than that for communication with others. If the never-completed movement of communication succeeds with but a single human being, everything is achieved. It is a criterion of this success that there be a readiness to communicate with every human being encountered and that grief is felt whenever communication fails. Not merely an exchange of words, nor friendliness and sociability, but only the constant urge towards total revelation reaches the path of communication.

The painful stimulus that was philosophically decisive was the question how I was myself to blame for the insufficiency of communication. The insufficiency was indubitable fact. But the fault could not lie only with the others. I, too, am human like them. The same sources of inhibition of communication exist in me as in them. The inner action, by which I train myself, had to illumine my self-concealment, arbitrariness and obstinacy, and to compel me to strive towards a revelation that can never be completed. The philosophical insight became possible precisely through my own failure. We can only recognise that evil which is in ourselves. What we cannot be at all, we cannot understand either.

The philosophical mood arose from the experience of insufficiency in communication. Occupation with mere object which does not lead somehow to communication seemed wrong to me. Solitary devotion to nature this deep experience of the universe in the landscape and in the physical nearness to its shapes and elements, this source of strength for the soul- could seem like a wrong done to other human beings, if it became a means of avoiding them, and like a wrong done to myself, if it tempted me to a secluded self-sufficiency in nature. Solitude in nature can indeed be a wonderful source of self-being; but whoever remains solitary in nature is liable to impoverish his self-being and to lose it in the end. To be near to nature in the beautiful world around me therefore became questionable when it did not lead back to community with humanity and serve this community as background and as language. Subsequently the question “What do they mean for communication?” passed through my philosophising with respect to all thought, all. experience, and all subject-matters. Are they apt to promote communication or to impede it? Are they tempters to solitude – or heralds of communication?

This led to the basic philosophical questions: How is communication possible? What forms of communication can be accomplished? What is their relation to each other? In what sense are solitude and the strength to be able to be alone sources of communication? The answers are given, especially in the second volume of my Philosophy, in terms of concrete representations-by psychological means-and their principles will be treated in my Logic.

The thesis of my philosophising is: The individual cannot become human by himself. Self-being is only real in communication with another self-being. Alone, I sink into gloomy isolation-only in community with others can I be revealed! in the act of mutual discovery. My own freedom can only exist if the other is also free. Isolated or self-isolating Being remains mere potentiality or disappears into nothingness. In institutions that maintain soothing contact between men under unexpressed conditions and within unadmitted limits are certainly indispensable for communal existence; but beyond that they are pernicious, because they veil the truth in the manifestation of human Existenz with illusory contentment.

3. What is truth? The limits of science and the urge toward communication both point to a truth that is more than a possession of the intellect.

The cogent correctness of the sciences is but a small part of truth. This correctness, in its universal validity, does not unite us completely as real human beings, but only as intellectual beings. It unites w in the object that is understood, in the particular, but not in the totality. Admittedly, men can be true friends through scientific research, by means of the ideas that are realised in this process, and the impulses towards Existenz that make their appearance in it. But the correctness of scientific knowledge unites all intellectual beings in their equality, as it were, as replaceable points, not, in its essence, as human beings.

To the intellect all else, in comparison with what is correct, counts only as feeling, subjectivity, instinct. In this division, apart from the bright world of the intellect, there is only the irrational, in which is lumped together, according to the point of view, what is despised or desired. The impulse which pursues real truth by thought springs from the dissatisfaction with what is merely correct. The division, spoken of previously, paralyses this impulse; it causes man to oscillate between the dogmatism of the intellect that transcends its limits and, as it were, the rapture of the vital, the chance of the moment, life. The soul becomes impoverished in all the multiplicity of disparate experience. Then truth disappears from the field of vision and is replaced by a variety of opinions which are hung on the skeleton of a supposedly rational pattern. Truth is infinitely more than scientific correctness.

Communication, too, points to this more. Communication is the path to truth in all its forms. Thus the intellect finds clarity only in discussion. How man as an existent, as spirit, as Existenz, is or can be in communication-that is what allows all other truth to appear. The truth that makes itself felt at the boundary of science is the same that is felt in this movement of communication. The question arises what kind of truth it is.

We call the source of this truth the Encompassing, to distinguish it from the objective, the determinate, and particular forms in which beings confront us. This concept is by no means familiar and by no means self-evident. We may clarify the Encompassing philosophically, but we cannot know it objectively.

At this point the decision is made whether we can attain philosophising or whether we fall back again at the boundary where the leap to transcending thinking must be made :. If such words as feeling, instinct, heart, drives, and affections, which are suggestive of psychological analysis, are claimed as sources of truth, then we merely name the basis of our life, but it remains in darkness, causing us to slip down into supposedly comprehensible psychology, while actually everything depends on reaching the bright region of truly philosophical thought.

The methods of transcending are the bases of all philosophy. It is impossible to anticipate briefly what they accomplish. Perhaps a few words may suggest, even if not explain, what is meant.

Everything that becomes an object to me approaches me, as it were, from the dark background of Being.  Every object is a determinate being (as thisconfronting me in a subject-object division), but never all Being.  No being known as an object is the Being.

Does not the sum of all objects form the totality of Being? No. As the horizon encompasses all things in a landscape, so all objects are encompassed by that in which they are. As we move towards the horizon in the world of space without ever reaching it, because the horizon moves with us and re-establishes itself ever anew as the Encompassing at each moment, so objective research moves towards totalities at each moment which never become total and real Being, but must be passed through towards new vistas. Only if all horizons met in one closed whole, so that they formed a finite multiplicity, could we attain, by moving through all the horizons, the one closed Being. Being, however, is not closed for us and the horizons are not finite. On all sides we are impelled towards the Infinite.

We inquire after the Being which, with the manifestation of all encountered appearance in object and horizon, yet re cedes itself. This Being we call the Encompassing. The Encompassing, then, is that which always makes its presence known, which does not appear itself, but from which everything comes to us.

With this fundamental philosophical thought we must think beyond all determinate beings to the Encompassing in which we are and to the Encompassing which we are ourselves. It is a thought turns us round, as it were, because it frees us from the shackles of determinate. Being; yet the thought of the Encompassing is only a first approach. In its brevity it is still a purely formal concept. With further elaboration, modes of the Encompassing soon emerge (the Being of the Encompassing as such is world and Transcendence; the Being of the Encompassing that we are is an existent, a consciousness in general, spirit, Existenz). Thus arises the task of clarifying all modes of the Encompassing. We become aware of truth in its total possibilities, its extent, its width and depth, only with the modes of the Encompassing.

The clarification of all the Encompassing derives its motive from our Reason and Existenz.

The impulses in which we open ourselves without limit, in which we want to give language to everything that is, embrace, as it were, all that is most strange and most distant, seeking a relation with everything, denying communication to nothing, these we call reason. This word, to be distinguished radically from intellect, meets the condition of truth as it can emerge from all modes of the Encompassing. Philosophical logic is the self-comprehension of reason.

Truth in this comprehensive sense, in which the truth of the intellect (and that of the sciences with it) is but an element, is founded in the Existenz that we can become. What matters is that our life is guided by something unconditional which can only spring from the decision. Decision makes Existenz real, forms life and changes it in inner action, which, through clarification, keeps us soaring upward. When it is founded on decision, love is no longer an unreliably moving passion, but the fulfilment to which alone real Being reveals itself.

What must be done in thinking of life is to be served by a philosophising that discovers truth by retrospection and by anticipation. This philosophising has no meaning unless a reality of the thinker complements the thought. This reality is not profession or-application of a doctrine, but the practice of being human which propels itself forward in the echo of the thought. It is a movement, an upward soaring on two wings as it were. Both wings, the thinking and the reality must support the flight. Mere thinking would be an empty moving of possibilities, mere reality would remain a dull unconsciousness without self-comprehension, and therefore without unfolding.

This philosophising emerged for me from psychology, which had to change and became Existenz Clarification. Existenz Clarification in its turn pointed to Philosophical World Orientation and to Metaphysics. Finally, the sense of this thinking is understands itself in a Philosophical Logic this considers not only the intellect and its products (judgment and conclusion), but discovers the foundation of truth, in its complete range, in the Encompassing. Being is not the sum of objects; rather objects extend, as it were, towards our intellect in the subject-object division, from the Encompassing of Being itself, which is beyond objective comprehension, but from which nevertheless all separate, determinate objective knowledge derives its limits and its meaning and from which it derives the mood that comes out of the totality in which it has significance.

4. What is man? As a living being among others man is the subject of anthropology. In his inner aspect he is a subject for psychology, in his objective structures, that is in communal life, a subject for sociology. Man, in his empirical reality, can be a subject of research in many directions; but man is always more than he knows or can know about himself.

As something knowable man appears in his manifold empirical aspects. As a being that is known he is always divided up into whatever he will reveal himself to be according to the methods of research employed. He is never a unity and a whole, never man himself, once he has become the subject of knowledge.

If I want to reassure myself philosophically about being human I cannot, therefore, stop at the knowable aspects of empirical man in the world. Man, in a way, is everything (as Aristotle says about the soul). Becoming aware of man’s being means becoming aware of Being in time as a whole. Man is the Encompassing that we are; yet even as the Encompassing, man is split. As I said before, we become aware of the Encompassing that we are in a number of ways: as an existent, as consciousness generally, as spirit, as Existenz. Man lives in his world as an existent. As thinking consciousness generally he is searchingly oriented towards objects. As spirit he shapes the idea of a whole in his world existence. As possible Existenz he is related to Transcendence through which he knows himself as given to himself in his freedom How man achieves unity is a problem, infinite in time and insoluble; but it is nevertheless the path to his search. Man is less certain of himself than ever.

In philosophising man is not a species of particular existent beside other existents, but he becomes clear to himself as something unique, something all-enclosing, something completely open, as the greatest potentiality and the greatest danger in the world, as being the exception of Being, as the communication of scattered Being, which in him reveals itself to itself.

5. What is Transcendence? Man is for us the most interesting being in the world. We, as human beings ourselves, want to know what we are and can be; but a constant occupation with man causes surfeit. It seems as if, in that occupation, the essential was missed. For man cannot be comprehended on the basis of himself, and as we confront man’s being there is disclosed the other through which he exists. For man as possible Existenz that is Transcendence but while man is in the world as a perceptive reality, Transcendence is, as if it were not there. Nor is it fathomable. Its being itself is doubtful And yet all philosophising is directed towards the goal of achieving certainty about Transcendence.

It may be objected that philosophy is mistakenly trying to achieve what only religion can achieve. In the cult religion offers the bodily presence, or at least experience, of Transcendence. It founds man on God’s revelation. It points paths of faith in revealed reality, in mercy and salvation, and it gives guarantees. Philosophy am achieve none of that.

If philosophising is a revolving round Transcendence, it must therefore have a relation to religion. The manner in which philosophy and religion react to each other is indeed an expression of their self comprehension and of the depth of their realisation. Historically we see this relation in the form of struggle, of subordination, of exclusion. A final and unchanging relation is not possible. Here a boundary shows itself. Where the problem is not merely grasped by insight but is actually solved, man has become narrow. When religion is excluded by philosophy or philosophy by religion; when one side asserts dominance over the other, by claiming to be the sole and most exalted authority, then man loses his openness to Being and his own potentiality in order to obtain a final closing of knowledge, but even this remains closed to him. He becomes,, whether he limits himself to religion or to philosophy, dogmatic, fanatical and, finally, with failure, nihilistic. To remain truthful religion needs the cot science of philosophy. To retain a significant content philosophy needs the substance of religion; yet any formula, such as this, is too simple; for it obscures the fact that there is more than one original truth in man. All that is possible is to avoid mistaking one for the other. Philosophy, from it side, cannot wish to fight religion. It must acknowledge it, albeit as its polar opposite, yet related to it through this polarity. Religion must always interest it because philosophy is constantly stirred up, prodded, and addressed by its Philosophy cannot wish to replace religion, compete with it, nor make propaganda on its own behalf against it. On the contrary: philosophy will have to affirm religion at least as the reality to which it, too, owes in existence. If religion were not the life of mankind, there would be no philosophy either.

Philosophy as such, however, cannot look for Transcendence in the guarantee of revelation, but must approach Being in the self-disclosures of the Encompassing that are present in man as man (not in the proofs of the intellect or in the insights which the intellect, as such, might obtain) and through the historicity of the language of Transcendence.

The question “What is Transcendence?” is not answered, therefore, by a knowledge of Transcendence. The answer comes indirectly by a clarification of the incompleteness of the world, the imperfectibility of man, the impossibility of a permanently valid world order, the universal failure bearing in mind at the same time that there is not nothing, but that in nature, history, and human existence, the magnificent is as real as the terrible. The decisive alternative in all philosophising is whether my thinking leads me to the point where I am certain that the “from outside” of Transcendence is the source of the “from inside”, or whether I remain in Immanence with the negative certainty that there is no outside that is the basis and goal of everything the world as well as what I am myself.

No proof of God succeeds in philosophy if it attempts to provide compelling knowledge; but it is possible for “proofs” of God to succeed as ways of transcending thought. Rational thinking can transcend the categories of all that is thinkable to the point where opposites coincide; it can go beyond them in the individual category, e g. that of sufficient cause or purpose-to the, in fact, untenable thought of a last cause and a final purpose. In that way, the necessity of seeking is understood in the baselessness of our merely factual existence and our soul is kept open to the Origin. The representation of the fragmentation of Being and the radical contradictoriness present in every form demonstrates that nothing we can know endures through itself.

Part of the externality of Transcendence is its unknowability; its internality is the code message of all things. In view of the fact that the limit and the basis of all things can be made tangible, it is possible to perceive everywhere the thread of light which connects them with Transcendence. Even though Transcendence is thus immanent, it is so only in an unlimited ambiguity and cannot be grasped with any finality. Philosophising merely establishes the general right to trust in that which seems to speak to me as the light of Transcendence.

How I understand this language, however, is based on what I really am myself. What I am myself is based on my original relations to Transcendence: in defiance and in surrender, in falling away and in soaring up, in obedience to the law of day and in the passion of night. When I philosophise I clarify and remember and prepare how, through these relations, I can experience Eternity in Time. The experience itself cannot be forced and cannot be proved: it is the fulfilled historicity of my Existenz.

Philosophy can further demonstrate the consequences that appear when the interpretation of Being wishes to restrict itself to pure immanence. It can lift the veils that threaten at all times to wrap man in untruth. It accomplishes this with unprovable propositions of the intellect, with supposed knowledge of the world as a whole, and with results seemingly scientific. But in doing away with pseudo-knowledge philosophy does not establish a positive knowledge of Transcendence comparable to scientific knowledge.

Philosophy can clarify our conscience; it can show how we experience the demand of a universal law that we recognise as inevitable. At the boundary it can show the real failure even of obedience to this law, and cause the individual to feel anew the demand for unconditional obedience which addresses him in his historicity – though without universality or universal validity; and here again philosophy can show the boundary and the failure in Time.

On all paths it is essential to reach the Source where h highest consciousness the demand becomes audible in the world which, in spite of failing to be realised in the world, yet produces the true Being through obedience to it.

Philosophy can clarify that such a Source is possible; yet what the Source is and what it speaks it cannot anticipate.  For reality is historical and awaits every individual that arises anew in this world.  Everything that philosophy says in substance and remembers in history remains relative, in so far as it is utterable, and has to be translated and appropriated in order to become a path to one’s own original comprehension of the Unconditional.

In thinking along these lines, philosophy employs a two-fold presupposition that is objectively unprovable but accomplishable in practice.  First, man is autonomous in the face of all the authorities of the world: the individual, reared by authority, at the end of the process of his maturation decides in his immediacy and responsibility before Transcendence what is unconditionally true.  Second, man is a datum of Transcendence: to obey Transcendence in that unconditional decision leads man to his own Being.

How I can succeed in reading the code message in the fullness of beings, in existing concretely in my relations with Transcendence, in gaining my own Being in historically formed obedience to Transcendence, all this is conjoined to the fundamental question how the One is in the many, what it is, and how I can become certain of the One.” Karl Jaspers, “On My Philosophy;” in Existentialism From Dostoyevsky to Sartre

capitol state nation US American politics

Numero TresC. Inside the Beltway as an Interpretive Community

The existence of this kind of interpretive community in American politics is informally acknowledged by the colloquialism known to all who are involved with the policy process: ‘inside the beltway.’  This phrase does not just refer to a place: many of the poor and working class residents of Washington D.C. are geographically inside the freeway which circles the city, but they are not ‘inside the beltway,’ and some of those who are ‘inside’ spend much of their time geographically elsewhere.  Rather, the phrase stands for both an institutional context — the network of public and private organizations associated with the Federal government — and a perspective — the point of view of Washington officials and bureaucrats, which is acknowledged to be peculiar and difficult to understand to those on the “outside.”

The interpretive community of broadcast policy is basically a subset of the larger ‘inside the beltway’ community in Washington.  Like any interpretive community, it has its structures of authority, its masters and initiates, its roles and rituals.  Taken together, these activities help generate stability of interpretation both on the level of contingent issues (e.g., is it acceptable to discuss common carrier regulation of cable TV this year? is a rhetoric of ‘economic efficiency’ necessary to being taken seriously today?) and on enduring patterns of thought (e.g., the belief that political problems can be resolved by expertise).

Of course, the interpretive community does not generate absolute unanimity on all issues.  Particularly since its self-understanding includes the premise that its activities are on some level consistent with liberal democratic discussion, it frequently engages in heated debate and struggle over particular issues.  But it organizes and circumscribes debate in very particular ways.  One of the functions of any interpretive community is to designate which issues and which positions are properly subject to debate, and which issues are beyond the pale.  A measure of the ideological strength of an interpretive community is the extent to which it can ignore its critics: if one resorts to denouncing those who speak from outside the community the interpretive framework is troubled, but if one can afford to greet them with indifference, the power of the framework is secure.

The core institutions that maintain the particular interpretive community associated with broadcast policy are the FCC and similar government offices: e.g., the Federal Trade Commission, the Office of Management and Budget, Congress’ Office of Technology Assessment, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in the Department of Commerce. These institutions, in turn, share personnel and maintain ongoing relationships with a number of Congressional committees and committee staffs.[5] Mastering the shifting labyrinth of organizations, Congressional subcommittees, hearings, procedures, and terminologies in which broadcast policy is conducted has been the basis for many a distinguished and lucrative career.

Another premise shared by the broadcast policy community is that of the autonomy and neutrality of expertise. Although the FCC and related government institutions are to various degrees independent and neutral under law, they lack both the resources and the institutional distance from elected officials to successfully produce analyses that consistently appear autonomous and expert.[6] Other institutional homes for broadcast policy experts are needed.

Research universities, of course, are a natural institutional site for fostering the required neutral expertise. They regularly provide the society with a corps of individuals whose claim to authority and income rests on their degrees and professional training, and who thus are predisposed to careers as experts of one sort or another. Moreover, the tradition of the disciplinary specialty dovetails nicely with the socio-political need for expertise in policy matters; broadcast or telecommunications policy can and has become a subspecialty for academics in political science, communications, and law. Courses appear in the catalogs, articles appear in the journals, and academic conferences devote panels and subdivisions to matters of broadcast law and policy. In a few cases, institutes and programs within universities have been created specifically devoted to media policy.[7]

From the point of view of the broadcast policy world, however, universities can be too independent. Tenure and the principle of intellectual freedom allow for work that strays far outside the proper bounds of policy research. Psychologists, for example, have produced a steady stream of work that embarrasses TV network executives with exhaustive studies of the negative effects of televised violence. Marxists and other malcontent tenured radicals rail against the for-profit foundations of the system in print and in front of their undergraduates. And even more frequently, academics produce work that is simply too technical and specialized to be of use to those inside Washington: the jargon, theorizing, and concern for obscure academic debates produces scholarship that does little more for policy participants than cause their eyes to glaze over.

The authors of this scholarship may believe that their work is ignored by the policy circles in Washington because of a cowardly resistance to hard truths or because of a conspiracy on the part of the powers that be. Those inside the policy world, on the other hand, are more likely to say that the problem is simply that this kind of academic work is too “impractical.” There is a certain kind of truth to the latter explanation: to be practical in this context means that one somehow contribute to the larger project of using neutral expertise to integrate broad liberal principles within a corporate consumer economy. Being “practical” in this particular corporate liberal sense is a requirement of admission to the world of broadcast policy, and being “practical” is not exactly the same as being brilliant, wise, or insightful. Hence, if academic research doesn’t successfully associate itself with this larger project, no amount of compelling evidence or elegant theory can gain the research a serious hearing in the policy world.

Because of the tendency towards “impracticality” in academia, a number of secondary institutions have evolved for circumscribing policy discussion: a few think tanks and foundations have made broadcast policy one of their specialties.[8] At least one well-funded annual Conference (the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference) devotes much of its energy to media regulation, and occasional blue-ribbon Commissions (e.g., the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television[9]) all provide funding and outlets for policy expertise. The function of these organizations is to foster that special mix of practical yet expert activity that corporate liberal policy requires. They thus provide funding, outlets for research, and contexts that bring select academics and other experts together with Washington insiders around specific policy issues. The result is a steady supply of new research grants, conferences, research reports, and jobs for policy specialists, carefully screened and selected by the community of policy experts themselves. In this context, the shared meanings necessary for interpretive stability can be maintained.

It is tempting to understand the institutional context of broadcast policy instrumentally: after all, corporations pay corporate lawyers and lobbyists and create trade organizations in order to serve corporate interests in Washington.[10] Conflicts are generally between corporations, not between corporations and other “interests.” Much of what goes on is thus fueled rather directly by corporate profit desires.

Yet the profit motive alone can not account for all that goes on, at least not in a simple way. For, in a corporate liberal environment, administrative neutrality and expertise are political prerequisites of pro-corporate decisions. If there is going to be government intervention on the industry’s behalf, it must be done in a way that at least suggests the presence of neutral principles and expert decisionmaking, i.e., some independence from corporate interests. As a result, even corporations have an interest — an ambivalent one — in fostering institutions that are not mechanically tied to corporate designs, institutions that demonstrate some autonomy.

II. The Meaning of Broadcast Policy: Expertise Brings Order to Chaos on Behalf of Liberalism

A. Corporate Liberal History: The 1927 Act as the Rule of Law

One key to understanding any community is to look at the stories the community tells itself about itself. The community of broadcast policy is no exception. With remarkable frequency, textbooks, law journals, and legal decisions tell a particular version of the story of the 1927 Radio Act and the origin of broadcast law in the United States. In the early 1920s, the story goes, the fledgling broadcast industry lacked a proper institutional and legal order. As a consequence, broadcasters interfered with one another and chaos reigned. In response to the chaos, Congress stepped in and resolved the problem by passing the first legislation to govern broadcasting and creating the Federal Radio Commission. The imposition of law and administrative structure thus brought order to chaos. This is the origin myth of American broadcast policy.[11]

Not surprisingly, these abbreviated historical accounts vary somewhat according to the agenda of their authors. The most common telling of the story describes the 1927 Act and the resulting regulatory apparatus as the technologically necessary outcome of a period of preregulatory chaos in the 1920s.[12] Some conservative advocates of marketplace principles, on the other hand, have recently described the Act as the hamhanded actions of marauding government bureaucrats restraining the efforts of plucky commercial entrepreneurs operating in a natural marketplace.[13]Significantly, however, none of these accounts discuss in any detail the pre-1920 history of broadcasting I discussed in the previous chapter. All those events that set the stage for the both the regulatory patterns and the broadcast marketplaces of the 1920s — the assertion of legal control of the spectrum on behalf of a corporate-military alliance in 1912, the efforts of the amateurs during the ‘teens, etc. — are omitted from the accounts.

These omissions reveal a more general story that is being told in the context of the specific story of early broadcasting: the story that laws impose order on social relations, not the other way around. By starting the story in the early 1920s, one does not have to address the extralegal organizational patterns that presaged the 1927 Act. Without the pre-1920 developments, the ’27 Act is not a matter of asserting one kind of order at the expense of other possible forms of organization, nor a matter of using legislation to underwrite an already present but pre-legal form of order. Rather, before there was simply chaos, and then in 1927 law brings order and justice.

Part of the implicit message here is a reassertion of the liberal belief in “the rule of law, not of men,” i.e., in the capacity of formal rules and procedures to transcend politics. The traditional story implies that the 1927 Act and its 1934 successor represent an abstract, transcendent, impersonal order — the rule of law — not an assertion of the visions, designs, and interests of some specific groups and individuals at the expense of others — the rule of men. But it is also a particularly corporate liberal variant of that belief: it is less a story of lawyers and judges locating bright lines in the world of rights and responsibilities than a story of administrator-engineers making technical decisions on the basis of the public safety, Kilohertz, signal propagation characteristics, technological progress, etc.

B. Corporate Liberal Organization: the FCC

An obvious (though not the most cogent) sign of the corporate liberal principles underlying broadcast policy is the structure of the FCC that originated in the 1920s. By law, the FCC is an independent regulatory commission supposedly insulated from the winds of politics by formal institutional boundaries and rules. FCC decisions can be appealed to the Federal Courts, but only when the FCC can be claimed to have violated a legal or Constitutional rule; the Courts accept that, within its own sphere, the FCC’s administrative expertise is to be respected. Commissioners must come from both political parties, and once appointed they are by law independent. The organization of the FCC thus embodies the corporate liberal faith that neutral expertise and social engineering can be brought into the service of liberal principles.

As any cultural anthropologist is quick to assert, underlying rules of behavior are rarely of a mechanical sort. Rather, their application is more a matter of art than science, and is typically rife with ambiguity and nuance. Participants must do a lot of work to creatively construct actions that uphold or celebrate the rules, often in contexts with which the rules seem to conflict. In the case of the FCC, for example, many decisions can be explained in terms of partisan politics; a newly elected Administration in Washington typically appoints a majority of sympathetic commissioners to the FCC, who then make decisions reflecting the Administration’s views.[14] When the Reagan administration appointed Mark Fowler to be Commission Chair, for example, Fowler’s many pro-industry, “deregulatory” decisions at the FCC reflected the general political views of the Reagan administration.

Yet the rules of the game are such that the decisions cannot be officially justified on political grounds.   Commissions are supposed to be staffed by experts, not politicians.   A commissioner cannot defend a decision with the argument that ‘this is what the majority of the people want because they voted this way.’  FCC decisions must be justified within the framework of expertise: with references to expert testimony, statistical evidence, and a neutral public interest.  More than one FCC decision has been overturned by the courts simply because these discursive rules were violated, because the political nature of its decision was not sufficiently couched in the trappings of neutral expertise.  In one particularly illustrative case, Fowler changed his vote on a broadcast policy issue after a visit to the Whitehouse.  Eyebrows were raised throughout Washington, and some suggested that his action constituted a violation of the law.  Fowler’s mistake in the incident was not that he pursued policies shaped by the politics of the President that appointed him.  No one would expect him to do otherwise.  His mistake was to allow the politics of his decision to become blatant.  He violated the discursive rules of policy.

Today, it must be pointed out, the belief in the administrative neutrality and expertise of the FCC has lost much of its cogency among participants in the policy world.  This may in part be because of its obviousness: a particular ritual activity once cherished can over time become a stale cliché that no longer grips the imagination in the way it once did.  So today among seasoned policy experts it is a matter of insider wisdom that the FCC’s autonomy is largely a chimera, that its activities are deeply political.  But this does not mean that the policy insiders have abandoned the ideal of apolitical expertise.  When symbols become clichés, communities are more likely to create new, more subtle symbols than they are to abandon the premises that the symbols embody.

The inhabitants of the contemporary broadcast policy world, therefore, follow more subtle, implicit versions of the discursive rules of expertise and apolitical objectivity.  These rules exist on an implicit level throughout key sectors of twentieth century American political culture, and by their implicitness are rendered all the more powerful.  The rules extend to lobbying organizations, Congressional committees, foundations, think tanks, the legal profession, and, at its outer perimeter, universities.  This world is united by shared patterns of talk and action, by the set of expectations that come with the idea of expertise in a corporate liberal universe.” Thomas Streeter, Selling the Air; Chapter Four, “Inside the Beltway As an Interpretive Community–the Politics of Policy:”


2.23.2017 Daily Links


                    This Day in History                  

On this day, the festival of Terminalia, held in honor of Terminus, occurred in Ancient Rome, and it marked Red Army Day in Soviet Russia; in the Turkish reaches of the Roman Empire one thousand seven hundred and thirteen years ago, Diocletian ordered the destruction of the Christian Church in Nicomedia, inaugurating almost a decade of severe persecution; not quite twenty-three decades subsequently, in 532, Byzantium’s Emperor Justinian called for construction of a new place of worship in nearby Constantinople, which would become the renowned Hagia Sophia; nine hundred twenty-three years later, in 1455, the publication of the Gutenberg Bible first took place, the inaugural Western book printed with movable type; MORE HERE

                A Thought for the Day                

nuclear nukeProbably the most dangerous element of the potential for nuclear extinction is how it might occur either quickly, in a heated rush of thermonuclear incineration and irradiated vomitus, or slowly, in the accumulated genetic and cellular damage from the succession of Chernobyl’s and Fukushima’s that must occur unless humanity’s collective energies eliminate these inevitable engines of murder and suicide from our midst, in either case the mere existence of the possibility for such eventualities a long-term, ticking time bomb that sooner or later will, inarguably and without exception, go off and take all of us with it at some point, though not now, of course, not yet; perhaps the most sinister, one can definitely say insidious, aspect of how the Modern Nuclear Project continues to receive top-billing and the highest possible priority despite this absolutely ineluctable and inevitable proclivity for ecocide is how the badge of authority silences learning about, or participation in regard to, nuclear matters, a hidden and horrible component of nukes’ apparently unstoppable presence that in turn flows from the simple proposition that capitalism’s leaders and the planetary rulers who answer to them have identified fission power and fusion weapons as a sine qua non for their continued ascendancy, meaning that quite plausibly many of them would take their chances in the shelters or in a stable Earth orbit after the missiles flew and all but a few human beings were expired, since by their own estimation of things the alternative would be their demotion from the heights of the global plutocracy that currently calls the shots to merely a small group of clever people with no extra rights because of their wealth, accumulation of capital, and so forth, including the Hydrogen Bombs and nuclear power plants that we need to dismantle and otherwise eliminate.

                  Quote of the Day                       
There is an electric fire in human nature tending to purify – so that among these human creatures there is continually some birth of new heroism. The pity is that we must wonder at it, as we should at finding a pearl in rubbish. John Keats
                   Doc of the Day                      
1. W.E.B. Du Bois, 1915.
2. Karl Jaspers, 1941.
3. Thomas Streeter, 1996.
Numero Uno ‘Semper novi quid ex Africa,’ cried the Roman proconsul; and he voiced the verdict of forty centuries. Yet  there are those who would write world-history and leave out this most marvelous of continents.  Particularly to-day most men assume that Africa lies far afield from the center of our burning social problems, and especially from our present problem of World War.  Yet in a very real sense Africa is a prime cause of this terrible overturning of civilization which we have lived to see; and these words seek to show how in the Dark Continent are hidden the roots, not simply of war to-day but of the menace of wars to-morrow.  Always Africa is giving us something new or some metempsychosis of a world-old thing.  On its black bosom arose one of the earliest, if not the earliest, of self-protecting civilizations, and grew so mightily that it still furnishes superlatives to thinking and speaking men.


                     Nearly Naked Links                  

From Wednesday’s Files

Reason’s Voice: Russia’s NOT the Enemy –

Facebook’s Bullseye on Journalism –

When Zionists Join Anti-Semites –



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This grant is awarded annually to assist working class, blue-collar, poor, and homeless writers who have been historically underrepresented in speculative fiction, due to financial barriers. We are currently offering one $750 working class grant annually, to be used as the writer determines will best assist his or her work. Deadline February 28, 2017.


Classical music fellowships from Luminarts will award a total of $55,000 to seven musical performers in a variety of categories.

pascal maramis - flickr
pascal maramis – flickr


The Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California seeks an engagement editor who can advance the work of our California media partners, furthering public knowledge, storytelling, engagement and connection around community health and health policy issues in diverse communities.



2.23.2017 Nearly Naked Links

kale vegetable food

From Wednesday’s Files

Capital’s Guaranteed Starvation of Humankind

Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050

Reason’s Voice: Russia’s NOT the Enemy –

Trump’s Fate in Regard to Russia

Fools Russians where angels fear to tread

Rich Ideologues Who Destroy Choice

How a Ruthless Network of Super-Rich Ideologues Killed Choice and Destroyed People’s Faith in Politics

Facebook’s Bullseye on Journalism –

When Zionists Join Anti-Semites –

Explicating Toshiba’s Nuclear Meltdown –

Hypothesizing Oscar Wilde’s Gay Sexuality –

Anthropocene Citizenship Definition –

Yugoslav & Crimean Double-Standards

Yugoslavia & Ukraine: a tale of western double standards

Defending Democracy: Time Is Short –

CIA Mind Control Lessons –

Debating Nukes, Again –

Rolling Stone’s Long Dylan History –

Hibakusha Litigation in Japan Now –

Addiction Worsens in Economic Slumps –

Labor’s Persistent Potential in Dixie –

Ruling Class Splits & Trump –

Unleashing Churches Politically: Disastrous Potential –

Deadly Construction Work, Analyzed –

Capital’s Suicidal Impulses –

Huey’s Dissertation in Full –

Deep-State Versus Democracy –

Repeated Instances of CIA Hegemony

The CIA vs. The Presidency: This Is Not The First Time

Deconstructing an Iconic Idea

Cogito ergo sumus

Renewables’ ‘Success’, Failure, in Texas –

Trump’s New NSC Strategist

POTUS Trump’s NSC Pick – H.R. McMaster On ‘Continuities Of War & The Future Of Warfare

Boxing Turkey In in Syria

In Syria, Turkey Finds Itself Boxed In: What’s Next?

2.22.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Populist Party Platform, 1892.
2. Documents relating to Leo Tolstoy, 1890s.
3. Terry Eagleton, 2011.

woman senate politics elections

Numero Uno

The conditions which surround us best justify our cooperation; we meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench.1

The people are demoralized; most of the States have been compelled to isolate the voters at the polling places to prevent universal intimidation and bribery.  The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced, business prostrated, homes covered with mortgages, labor impoverished, and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists.  The urban workmen are denied the right to organize for self-protection, imported pauperized labor beats down their wages, a hireling standing army, unrecognized by our laws, is established to shoot them down, and they are rapidly degenerating into European conditions.  The fruits of the toil of millions are badly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of these, in turn, despise the Republic and endanger liberty.  From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes—tramps and millionaires.  The national power to create money is appropriated to enrich bond-holders; a vast public debt payable in legal-tender currency has been funded into gold-bearing bonds, thereby adding millions to the burdens of the people.

Silver, which has been accepted as coin since the dawn of history, has been demonetized to add to the purchasing power of gold by decreasing the value of all forms of property as well as human labor, and the supply of currency is purposely abridged to fatten usurers, bankrupt enterprise, and enslave industry. A vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized on two continents, and it is rapidly taking possession of the world. If not met and overthrown at once it forebodes terrible social convulsions, the destruction of civilization, or the establishment of an absolute despotism.

We have witnessed for more than a quarter of a century the struggles of the two great political parties for power and plunder, while grievous wrongs have been inflicted upon the suffering people. We charge that the controlling influences dominating both these parties have permitted the existing dreadful conditions to develop without serious effort to prevent or restrain them. Neither do they now promise us any substantial reform. They have agreed together to ignore, in the coming campaign, ever issue but one. They propose to drown the outcries of a plundered people with the uproar of a sham battle over the tariff, so that capitalists, corporations, national banks, rings, trusts, watered stock, the demonetization of silver and the oppressions of the usurers may all be lost sight of. They propose to sacrifice our homes, lives, and children on the altar of mammon; to destroy the multitude in order to secure corruption funds from the millionaires.

Assembled on the anniversary of the birthday of the nation, and filled with the spirit of the grand general and chief who established our independence, we seek to restore the government of the Republic to the hands of the ”plain people,” with which class it originated. We assert our purposes to be identical with the purposes of the National Constitution; to form a more perfect union and establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. . . .

Our country finds itself confronted by conditions for which there is not precedent in the history of the world; our annual agricultural productions amount to billions of dollars in value, which must, within a few weeks or months, be exchanged for billions of dollars’ worth of commodities consumed in their production; the existing currency supply is wholly inadequate to make this exchange; the results are falling prices, the formation of combines and rings, the impoverishment of the producing class. We pledge ourselves that if given power we will labor to correct these evils by wise and reasonable legislation, in accordance with the terms of our platform. We believe that the power of government—in other words, of the people—should be expanded (as in the case of the postal service) as rapidly and as far as the good sense of an intelligent people and the teaching of experience shall justify, to the end that oppression, injustice, and poverty shall eventually cease in the land. . . .

We declare, therefore—

First.—That the union of the labor forces of the United States this day consummated shall be permanent and perpetual; may its spirit enter into all hearts for the salvation of the republic and the uplifting of mankind.Second.—Wealth belongs to him who creates it, and every dollar taken from industry without an equivalent is robbery. ”If any will not work, neither shall he eat.” The interests of rural and civil labor are the same; their enemies are identical.

Third.—We believe that the time has come when the railroad corporations will either own the people or the people must own the railroads; and should the government enter upon the work of owning and managing all railroads, we should favor an amendment to the constitution by which all persons engaged in the government service shall be placed under a civil-service regulation of the most rigid character, so as to prevent the increase of the power of the national administration by the use of such additional government employees.

FINANCE.—We demand a national currency, safe, sound, and flexible issued by the general government only, a full legal tender for all debts, public and private, and that without the use of banking corporations; a just, equitable, and efficient means of distribution direct to the people, at a tax not to exceed 2 per cent, per annum, to be provided as set forth in the sub-treasury plan of the Farmers’ Alliance, or a better system; also by payments in discharge of its obligations for public improvements.

  1. We demand free and unlimited coinage of silver and gold at the present legal ratio of 16 to 1.
  2. We demand that the amount of circulating medium2 be speedily increased to not less than $50 per capita.
  3. We demand a graduated income tax.
  4. We believe that the money of the country should be kept as much as possible in the hands of the people, and hence we demand that all State and national revenues shall be limited to the necessary expenses of the government, economically and honestly administered. We demand that postal savings banks be established by the government for the safe deposit of the earnings of the people and to facilitate exchange.

TRANSPORTATION.—Transportation being a means of exchange and a public necessity, the government should own and operate the railroads in the interest of the people. The telegraph and telephone, like the post-office system, being a necessity for the transmission of news, should be owned and operated by the government in the interest of the people.

LAND.—The land, including all the natural sources of wealth, is the heritage of the people, and should not be monopolized for speculative purposes, and alien ownership of land should be prohibited. All land now held by railroads and other corporations in excess of their actual needs, and all lands now owned by aliens should be reclaimed by the government and held for actual settlers only.

Expressions of Sentiments
Your Committee on Platform and Resolutions beg leave unanimously to report the following: Whereas, Other questions have been presented for our consideration, we hereby submit the following, not as a part of the Platform of the People’s Party, but as resolutions expressive of the sentiment of this Convention.

  • RESOLVED, That we demand a free ballot and a fair count in all elections and pledge ourselves to secure it to every legal voter without Federal Intervention, through the adoption by the States of the unperverted Australian or secret ballot system.
  • RESOLVED, That the revenue derived from a graduated income tax should be applied to the reduction of the burden of taxation now levied upon the domestic industries of this country.
  • RESOLVED, That we pledge our support to fair and liberal pensions to ex-Union soldiers and sailors.
  • RESOLVED, That we condemn the fallacy of protecting American labor under the present system, which opens our ports to the pauper and criminal classes of the world and crowds out our wage-earners; and we denounce the present ineffective laws against contract labor, and demand the further restriction of undesirable emigration.
  • RESOLVED, That we cordially sympathize with the efforts of organized workingmen to shorten the hours of labor, and demand a rigid enforcement of the existing eight-hour law on Government work, and ask that a penalty clause be added to the said law.
  • RESOLVED, That we regard the maintenance of a large standing army of mercenaries, known as the Pinkerton system, as a menace to our liberties, and we demand its abolition. . . .
  • RESOLVED, That we commend to the favorable consideration of the people and the reform press the legislative system known as the initiative and referendum.
  • RESOLVED, That we favor a constitutional provision limiting the office of President and Vice-President to one term, and providing for the election of Senators of the United States by a direct vote of the people.
  • RESOLVED, That we oppose any subsidy or national aid to any private corporation for any purpose.
  • RESOLVED, That this convention sympathizes with the Knights of Labor and their righteous contest with the tyrannical combine of clothing manufacturers of Rochester, and declare it to be a duty of all who hate tyranny and oppression to refuse to purchase the goods made by the said manufacturers, or to patronize any merchants who sell such goods.”  Populist Party Platform, 1892
Ilya Repin - Tolstoy
Ilya Repin – Tolstoy

Numero Dos“[missing introduction about the Gates of Hell not prevailing against the holy Church]In our days, God has permitted a new false teacher to appear – Count Leo Tolstoy.  A writer well known to the world, Russian by birth, Orthodox by baptism and education, Count Tolstoy, under the seduction of his intellectual pride, has insolently risen against the Lord and His Christ and against His holy heritage, and has publicly, in the sight of all men, repudiated the Orthodox Mother Church, which reared and educated him, and has devoted his literary activity, and the talent given to him by God, to disseminating among the people teachings repugnant to Christ and the Church, and to destroying in the minds and hearts of men their national faith, the Orthodox faith, which has been confirmed by the universe, and in which our forefathers lived and were saved, and to which till now Holy Russia has held and in which it has been strong.

[missing list of offences]

Therefore the Church does not reckon him as its member, and cannot so reckon him, until he repents and resumes his communion with her.  To this we bear witness to-day before the whole Church, for the confirmation of the faithful and the reproof of those who have gone astray, especially for the fresh reproof of Count Tolstoy himself.  Many of those near to him, retaining their faith, reflect with sorrow that he, at the end of his days, remains without faith in God and in our Lord and Saviour, having rejected the blessings and prayers of the Church and all communion with her.” Decree of Excommunication of Leo Tolstoy, Russian Orthodox Church; 1901

                         “You ask me:1. Should people who are not particularly advanced mentally seek an expression in words for the truths of the inner life, as comprehended by them?

2. Is it worth while in one’s inner life to strive after complete consciousness?

3. What are we to be guided by in moments of struggle and wavering, that we may know whether it is indeed our conscience that is speaking in us, or whether it is reflection, which is bribed by our weakness? (The third question I for brevity’s sake expressed in my own words, without having changed its meaning, I hope.)

These three questions in my opinion reduce themselves to one,—the second, because, if it is not necessary for us to strive after a full consciousness of our inner life, it will be also unnecessary and impossible for us to express in words the truths which we have grasped, and in moments of wavering we shall have nothing to be guided by, in order to ascertain whether it is our conscience or a false reflection that is speaking within us.  But if it is necessary to strive after the greatest consciousness accessible to human reason (whatever this reason may be), it is also necessary to express the truths grasped by us in words, and it is these expressed truths which have been carried into full consciousness that we have to be guided by in moments of struggle and wavering.  And so I answer your radical question in the affirmative, namely, that every man, for the fulfillment of his destiny upon earth and for the attainment of the true good (the two things go together), must strain all the forces of his mind for the purpose of elucidating to himself those religious bases by which he lives, that is, the meaning of his life.

I have frequently met among illiterate earth-diggers, who have to figure out cubic contents, the wide-spread conviction that the mathematical calculation is deceptive, and that it is not to be trusted. Either because they do not know any mathematics, or because the men who figured things out mathematically for them had frequently consciously or unconsciously deceived them, the opinion that mathematics was inadequate and useless for the calculation of measures has established itself as an undoubted truth which they think it is even unnecessary to prove. Just such an opinion has established itself among, I shall say it boldly, irreligious men,—an opinion that reason cannot solve any religious questions,—that the application of reason to these questions is the chief cause of errors, that the solution of religious questions by means of reason is criminal pride.

I say this, because the doubt, expressed in your questions, as to whether it is necessary to strive after consciousness in our religious convictions, can be based only on this supposition, namely, that reason cannot be applied to the solution of religious questions. However, such a supposition is as strange and obviously false as the supposition that calculation cannot settle any mathematical questions.

God has given man but one tool for the cognition of himself and his relation to the world,—there is no other,—and this tool is reason, and suddenly he is told that he can use his reason for the elucidation of his domestic, economic, political, scientific, artistic questions, but not for the elucidation of what it is given him for. It turns[463] out that for the elucidation of the most important truths, of those on which his whole life depends, a man must by no means employ reason, but must recognize these truths as beyond reason, whereas beyond reason a man cannot cognize anything. They say, “Find it out, through revelation, faith.” But a man cannot even believe outside of reason. If a man believes in this, and not in that, he does so only because his reason tells him that he ought to believe in this, and not to believe in that. To say that a man should not be guided by reason is the same as saying to a man, who in a dark underground room is carrying a lamp, that, to get out from this underground room and find his way, he ought to put out his lamp and be guided by something different from the light.

But, perhaps, I shall be told, as you say in your letter, that not all men are endowed with a great mind and with a special ability for expressing their thoughts, and that, therefore, an awkward expression of their thoughts concerning religion may lead to error. To this I will answer in the words of the Gospel, “What is hidden from the wise is revealed to babes.” This saying is not an exaggeration and not a paradox, as people generally judge of those utterances of the Gospel which do not please them, but the assertion of a most simple and unquestionable truth, which is, that to every being in the world a law is given, which this being must follow, and that for the cognition of this law every being is endowed with corresponding organs. And so every man is endowed with reason, and in this reason there is revealed to him the law which he must follow. This law is hidden only from those who do not want to follow it and who, in order not to follow it, renounce reason and, instead of using their reason for the cognition of the truth, use for this purpose the indications, taken upon faith, of people like themselves, who also reject reason.

But the law which a man must follow is so simple[464] that it is accessible to any child, the more so since a man has no longer any need of discovering the law of his life. Men who lived before him discovered and expressed it, and all a man has to do is to verify them with his reason, to accept or not to accept the propositions which he finds expressed in the tradition, that is, not as people, who wish not to fulfil the law, advise us to do, by verifying reason through tradition, but by verifying tradition through reason. Tradition may be from men, and false, but reason is certainly from God, and cannot be false. And so, for the cognition and the expression of truth, there is no need of any especial prominent capacity, but only of the faith that reason is not only the highest divine quality of man, but also the only tool for the cognition of truth.

A special mind and gifts are not needed for the cognition and exposition of the truth, but for the invention and exposition of the lie. Having once departed from the indications of reason, men heap up and take upon faith, generally in the shape of laws, revelations, dogmas, such complicated, unnatural, and contradictory propositions that, in order to expound them and harmonize them with the lie, there is actually a need of astuteness of mind and of a special gift. We need only think of a man of our world, educated in the religious tenets of any Christian profession,—Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant,—who wants to elucidate to himself the religious tenets inculcated upon him since childhood, and to harmonize them with life,—what a complicated mental labour he must go through in order to harmonize all the contradictions which are found in the profession inoculated in him by his education: God, the Creator and the good, created evil, punishes people, and demands redemption, and so forth, and we profess the law of love and of forgiveness, and we punish, wage war, take away the property from poor people, and so forth, and so forth.

It is for the unravelling of these contradictions, or[465] rather, for the concealment of them from ourselves, that a great mind and special gifts are needed; but for the discovery of the law of our life, or, as you express it, in order to bring our faith into full consciousness, no special mental gifts are needed,—all that is necessary is not to admit anything that is contrary to reason, not to reject reason, religiously to guard reason, and to believe in nothing else. If the meaning of a man’s life presents itself to him indistinctly, that does not prove that reason is of no use for the elucidation of this meaning, but only this, that too much of what is irrational has been taken upon faith, and that it is necessary to reject everything which is not confirmed by reason.

And so my answer to your fundamental question, as to whether it is necessary to strive after consciousness in our inner life, is this, that this is the most necessary and important work of our life.  It is necessary and important because the only rational meaning of our life consists in the fulfillment of the will of God who sent us into this life.  But the will of God is not recognized by any special miracle, by the writing of the law on tablets with God’s finger, or by the composition of an infallible book with the aid of the Holy Ghost, or by the infallibility of some holy person or of an assembly of men,—but only by the activity of the reason of all men who in deeds and words transmit to one another the truths which have become more and more elucidated to their consciousness.  This cognition has never been and never will be complete, but is constantly increased with the movement of humanity: the longer we live, the more clearly do we recognize God’s will and, consequently, what we ought to do for its fulfillment.  And so I think that the elucidation by any man (no matter how small he himself and others may consider him to be—it is the little ones who are great) of the whole religious truth, as it is accessible to him, and its expression in words (since the expression in words is the one unquestionable symptom of a complete clearness of ideas) is one of the most important and most sacred duties of man.

I shall be very much pleased if my answer shall satisfy you even in part. …

Dear Sir:—You write to me asking me to express myself in respect to the United States of North America ‘in the interests of Christian consistency and true peace,’ and express the hope that ‘the nations will soon awaken to the one means of securing national peace.’

I harbour the same hope.  I harbour the same hope, because the blindness in our time of the nations that extol patriotism, bring up their young generations in the superstition of patriotism, and, at the same time, do not wish for the inevitable consequences of patriotism,—war,—has, it seems to me, reached such a last stage that the simplest reflection, which begs for utterance in the mouth of every unprejudiced man, is sufficient, in order that men may see the crying contradiction in which they are.

Frequently, when you ask children which they will choose of two things which are incompatible, but which they want alike, they answer, ‘Both.’

‘Which do you want,—to go out driving or to stay at home?’—’Both,—go out driving and stay at home.’

Just so the Christian nations answer the question which life puts to them, as to which they will choose, patriotism or peace, they answer ‘Both patriotism and peace,’ though it is as impossible to unite patriotism with peace, as at the same time to go out driving and stay at home.

The other day there arose a difference between the United States and England concerning the borders of Venezuela.  Salisbury for some reason did not agree to something; Cleveland wrote a message to the Senate; from either side were raised patriotic warlike cries; a panic ensued upon ‘Change; people lost millions of pounds and of dollars; Edison announced that he would invent engines with which it would be possible to kill more men in an hour than Attila had killed in all his wars, and both nations began energetically to arm themselves for war. But because, simultaneously with these preparations for war, both in England and in America, all kinds of literary men, princes, and statesmen began to admonish their respective governments to abstain from war, saying that the subject under discussion was not sufficiently important to begin a war for, especially between two related Anglo-Saxon nations, speaking the same language, who ought not to war among themselves, but ought calmly to govern others; or because all kinds of bishops, archdeacons, canons prayed and preached concerning the matter in all the churches; or because neither side considered itself sufficiently prepared,—it happened that there was no war just then.  And people calmed down.

But a person has to have too little perspicacity not to see that the causes which now are leading to a conflict between England and America have remained the same, and that, if even the present conflict shall be settled without a war, there will inevitably to-morrow or the day after appear other conflicts, between England and Russia, between England and Turkey, in all possible permutations, as they arise every day, and one of these will lead to war.

If two armed men live side by side, having been impressed from childhood with the idea that power, wealth,[471] and glory are the highest virtues, and that, therefore, to acquire power, wealth, and glory by means of arms, to the detriment of other neighbouring possessors, is a very praiseworthy matter, and if at the same time there is no moral, religious, or political restraint for these men, is it not evident that such people will always fight, that the normal relation between them will be war? and that, if such people, having clutched one another, have separated for awhile, they have done so only, as the French proverb says, “pour mieux sauter,” that is, they have separated to take a better run, to throw themselves with greater fury upon one another?

Strange is the egotism of private individuals, but the egotists of private life are not armed, do not consider it right either to prepare or use arms against their adversaries; the egotism of private individuals is under the control of the political power and of public opinion. A private person who with gun in his hand takes away his neighbour’s cow, or a desyatína of his crop, will immediately be seized by a policeman and put into prison. Besides, such a man will be condemned by public opinion,—he will be called a thief and robber. It is quite different with the states: they are all armed,—there is no power over them, except the comical attempts at catching a bird by pouring some salt on its tail,—attempts at establishing international congresses, which, apparently, will never be accepted by the powerful states (who are armed for the very purpose that they may not pay any attention to any one), and, above all, public opinion, which rebukes every act of violence in a private individual, extols, raises to the virtue of patriotism every appropriation of what belong to others, for the increase of the power of the country.

Open the newspapers for any period you may wish, and at any moment you will see the black spot,—the cause of every possible war: now it is Korea, now[472] the Pamir, now the lands in Africa, now Abyssinia, now Turkey, now Venezuela, now the Transvaal. The work of the robbers does not stop for a moment, and here and there a small war, like an exchange of shots in the cordon, is going on all the time, and the real war can and will begin at any moment.

If an American wishes the preferential grandeur and well-being of America above all other nations, and the same is desired for his state by an Englishman, and a Russian, and a Turk, and a Dutchman, and an Abyssinian, and a citizen of Venezuela and of the Transvaal, and an Armenian, and a Pole, and a Bohemian, and all of them are convinced that these desires need not only not be concealed or repressed, but should be a matter of pride and be developed in themselves and in others; and if the greatness and well-being of one country or nation cannot be obtained except to the detriment of another nation, frequently of many countries and nations,—how can war be avoided?

And so, not to have any war, it is not necessary to preach and pray to God about peace, to persuade the English-speaking nations that they ought to be friendly toward one another, in order to be able to rule over other nations; to form double and triple alliances against one another; to marry princes to princesses of other nations,—but to destroy what produces war. But what produces war is the desire for an exclusive good for one’s own nation,—what is called patriotism. And so to abolish war, it is necessary to abolish patriotism, and to abolish patriotism, it is necessary first to become convinced that it is an evil, and that it is hard to do. Tell people that war is bad, and they will laugh at you: who does not know that? Tell them that patriotism is bad, and the majority of people will agree with you, but with a small proviso. “Yes, bad patriotism is bad, but there is also another patriotism, the one we adhere to.” But wherein[473] this good patriotism consists no one can explain. If good patriotism consists in not being acquisitive, as many say, it is none the less retentive; that is, men want to retain what was formerly acquired, since there is no country which was not based on conquest, and it is impossible to retain what is conquered by any other means than those by which it was acquired, that is, by violence and murder. But even if patriotism is not retentive, it is restorative,—the patriotism of the vanquished and oppressed nations, the Armenians, Poles, Bohemians, Irish, and so forth. This patriotism is almost the very worst, because it is the most enraged and demands the greatest degree of violence.

Patriotism cannot be good. Why do not people say that egotism can be good, though this may be asserted more easily, because egotism is a natural sentiment, with which a man is born, while patriotism is an unnatural sentiment, which is artificially inoculated in him?

It will be said: ‘Patriotism has united men in states and keeps up the unity of the states.’  But the men are already united in states,—the work is all done: why should men now maintain an exclusive loyalty for their state, when this loyalty produces calamities for all states and nations?  The same patriotism which produced the unification of men into states is now destroying those states.  If there were but one patriotism,—the patriotism of none but the English,—it might be regarded as unificatory or beneficent, but when, as now, there are American, English, German, French, Russian patriotisms, all of them opposed to one another, patriotism no longer unites, but disunites.  To say that, if patriotism was beneficent, by uniting men into states, as was the case during its highest development in Greece and Rome, patriotism even now, after eighteen hundred years of Christian life, is just as beneficent, is the same as saying that, since the ploughing was useful and beneficent for the field before the sowing, it will be as useful now, after the crop has grown up.

It would be very well to retain patriotism in memory of the use which it once had, as people preserve and retain the ancient monuments of temples, mausoleums, and so forth.  But the temples and mausoleums stand, without causing any harm to men, while patriotism produces without cessation innumerable calamities.

What now causes the Armenians and the Turks to suffer and cut each other’s throats and act like wild beasts?  Why do England and Russia, each of them concerned about her share of the inheritance from Turkey, lie in wait and do not put a stop to the Armenian atrocities?  Why do the Abyssinians and Italians fight one another?  Why did a terrible war come very near breaking out on account of Venezuela, and now on account of the Transvaal?  And the Chino-Japanese War, and the Turkish, and the German, and the French wars?  And the rage of the subdued nations, the Armenians, the Poles, the Irish?  And the preparation for war by all the nations?  All that is the fruits of patriotism.  Seas of blood have been shed for the sake of this sentiment, and more blood will be shed for its sake, if men do not free themselves from this outlived bit of antiquity.

I have several times had occasion to write about patriotism, about its absolute incompatibility, not only with the teaching of Christ in its ideal sense, but even with the lowest demands of the morality of Christian society, and every time my arguments have been met with silence or with the supercilious hint that the ideas expressed by me were Utopian expressions of mysticism, anarchism, and cosmopolitanism. My ideas have frequently been repeated in a compressed form, and, instead of retorting to them, it was added that it was nothing but cosmopolitanism, as though this word “cosmopolitanism” unanswerably overthrew all my arguments. Serious, old, clever,[475] good men, who, above all else, stand like the city on a hill, and who involuntarily guide the masses by their example, make it appear that the legality and beneficence of patriotism are so obvious and incontestable that it is not worth while to answer the frivolous and senseless attacks upon this sentiment, and the majority of men, who have since childhood been deceived and infected by patriotism, take this supercilious silence to be a most convincing proof, and continue to stick fast in their ignorance.

And so those people who from their position can free the masses from their calamities, and do not do so, commit a great sin.

The most terrible thing in the world is hypocrisy. There was good reason why Christ once got angry,—that was against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

But what was the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in comparison with the hypocrisy of our time? In comparison with our men, the Pharisees were the most truthful of men, and their art of hypocrisy was as child’s play in comparison with the hypocrisy of our time; nor can it be otherwise. Our whole life, with the profession of Christianity, the teaching of humility and love, in connection with the life of an armed den of robbers, can be nothing but one solid, terrible hypocrisy. It is very convenient to profess a teaching at one end of which is Christian sanctity and infallibility, and at the other—the pagan sword and gallows, so that, when it is possible to impose or deceive by means of sanctity, sanctity is put into effect, and when the deception does not work, the sword and the gallows are put into effect. Such a teaching is very convenient, but the time comes when this spider-web of lie is dispersed, and it is no longer possible to continue to keep both, and it is necessary to ally oneself with either one or the other. It is this which is now getting to be the case in relation to the teaching about patriotism.

Whether people want it or not, the question stands[476] clearly before humanity: how can that patriotism, from which result innumerable physical and moral calamities of men, be necessary and a virtue? It is indispensable to give an answer to this question.

It is necessary either to show that patriotism is such a great good that it redeems all those terrible calamities which it produces in humanity; or to recognize that patriotism is an evil, which must not only not be inoculated in men and impressed upon them, but from which also we must try to free ourselves at all cost.

C’est à prendre ou à laisser, as the French say. If patriotism is good, then Christianity, which gives peace, is an idle dream, and the sooner this teaching is eradicated, the better. But if Christianity really gives peace, and we really want peace, patriotism is a survival from barbarous times, which must not only not be evoked and educated, as we now do, but which must be eradicated by all means, by means of preaching, persuasion, contempt, and ridicule. If Christianity is the truth, and we wish to live in peace, we must not only have no sympathy for the power of our country, but must even rejoice in its weakening, and contribute to it. A Russian must rejoice when Poland, the Baltic provinces, Finland, Armenia, are separated from Russia and made free; and an Englishman must similarly rejoice in relation to Ireland, Australia, India, and the other colonies, and coöperate in it, because, the greater the country, the more evil and cruel is its patriotism, and the greater is the amount of the suffering on which its power is based. And so, if we actually want to be what we profess, we must not, as we do now, wish for the increase of our country, but wish for its diminution and weakening, and contribute to it with all our means. And thus must we educate the younger generations: we must bring up the younger generations in such a way that, as it is now disgraceful for a young man to manifest his coarse egotism, for example, by eating everything[477] up, without leaving anything for others, to push a weaker person down from the road, in order to pass by himself, to take away by force what another needs, it should be just as disgraceful to wish for the increase of his country’s power; and, as it now is considered stupid and ridiculous for a person to praise himself, it should be considered stupid to extol one’s nation, as is now done in various lying patriotic histories, pictures, monuments, text-books, articles, sermons, and stupid national hymns. But it must be understood that so long as we are going to extol patriotism and educate the younger generations in it, we shall have armaments, which ruin the physical and spiritual life of the nations, and wars, terrible, horrible wars, like those for which we are preparing ourselves, and into the circle of which we are introducing, corrupting them with our patriotism, the new, terrible fighters of the distant East.

Emperor William, one of the most comical persons of our time, orator, poet, musician, dramatic writer, and artist, and, above all, patriot, has lately painted a picture representing all the nations of Europe with swords, standing at the seashore and, at the indication of Archangel Michael, looking at the sitting figures of Buddha and Confucius in the distance. According to William’s intention, this should mean that the nations of Europe ought to unite in order to defend themselves against the peril which is proceeding from there. He is quite right from his coarse, pagan, patriotic point of view, which is eighteen hundred years behind the times. The European nations, forgetting Christ, have in the name of their patriotism more and more irritated these peaceful nations, and have taught them patriotism and war, and have now irritated them so much that, indeed, if Japan and China will as fully forget the teachings of Buddha and of Confucius as we have forgotten the teaching of Christ, they will soon learn the art of killing people (they learn these things quickly, as[478] Japan has proved), and, being fearless, agile, strong, and populous, they will inevitably very soon make of the countries of Europe, if Europe does not invent something stronger than guns and Edison’s inventions, what the countries of Europe are making of Africa. “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” (Luke vi. 40).

In reply to a prince’s question how to increase his army, in order to conquer a southern tribe which did not submit to him, Confucius replied: “Destroy all thy army, and use the money, which thou art wasting now on the army, on the enlightenment of thy people and on the improvement of agriculture, and the southern tribe will drive away its prince and will submit to thy rule without war.”

Thus taught Confucius, whom we are advised to fear. But we, having forgotten Christ’s teaching, having renounced it, wish to vanquish the nations by force, and thus are only preparing for ourselves new and stronger enemies than our neighbours. A friend of mine, who saw William’s picture, said: “The picture is beautiful, only it does not at all represent what the legend says. It means that Archangel Michael shows to all the governments of Europe, which are represented as robbers bedecked with arms, what it is that will cause their ruin and annihilation, namely, the meekness of Buddha and the wisdom of Confucius.” He might have added, “And the humility of Lao-tse.”

Indeed, we, thanks to our hypocrisy, have forgotten Christ to such an extent, have so squeezed out of our life everything Christian, that the teachings of Buddha and Confucius stand incomparably higher than that beastly patriotism, by which our so-called Christian nations are guided.  And so the salvation of Europe and of the Christian world at large does not consist in this, that, bedecking themselves with swords, as William has represented them, they should, like robbers, cast themselves upon their brothers beyond the sea, in order to kill them, but, on the contrary, they should renounce the survival of barbarous times,—patriotism,—and, having renounced it, should take off their arms and show the Eastern nations, not an example of savage patriotism and beastliness, but an example of brotherly love, which Christ has taught us.” Leo Tolstoy, “Reason & Religion,” “Patriotism or Peace”

marx socialism communism 

Numero Tres“Praising Karl Marx might seem as perverse as putting in a good word for the Boston Strangler.  Were not Marx’s ideas responsible for despotism, mass murder, labor camps, economic catastrophe, and the loss of liberty for millions of men and women?  Was not one of his devoted disciples a paranoid Georgian peasant by the name of Stalin, and another a brutal Chinese dictator who may well have had the blood of some 30 million of his people on his hands?

The truth is that Marx was no more responsible for the monstrous oppression of the communist world than Jesus was responsible for the Inquisition.  For one thing, Marx would have scorned the idea that socialism could take root in desperately impoverished, chronically backward societies like Russia and China.  If it did, then the result would simply be what he called ‘generalized scarcity,’ by which he means that everyone would now be deprived, not just the poor.  It would mean a recycling of ‘the old filthy business’—or, in less tasteful translation, ‘the same old crap.’  Marxism is a theory of how well-heeled capitalist nations might use their immense resources to achieve justice and prosperity for their people.  It is not a program by which nations bereft of material resources, a flourishing civic culture, a democratic heritage, a well-evolved technology, enlightened liberal traditions, and a skilled, educated work force might catapult themselves into the modern age.

Marx certainly wanted to see justice and prosperity thrive in such forsaken spots.  He wrote angrily and eloquently about several of Britain’s downtrodden colonies, not least Ireland and India.  And the political movement which his work set in motion has done more to help small nations throw off their imperialist masters than any other political current.  Yet Marx was not foolish enough to imagine that socialism could be built in such countries without more-advanced nations flying to their aid.  And that meant that the common people of those advanced nations had to wrest the means of production from their rulers and place them at the service of the wretched of the earth.  If this had happened in 19th-century Ireland, there would have been no famine to send a million men and women to their graves and another two or three million to the far corners of the earth.

There is a sense in which the whole of Marx’s writing boils down to several embarrassing questions: Why is it that the capitalist West has accumulated more resources than human history has ever witnessed, yet appears powerless to overcome poverty, starvation, exploitation, and inequality?  What are the mechanisms by which affluence for a minority seems to breed hardship and indignity for the many?  Why does private wealth seem to go hand in hand with public squalor?  Is it, as the good-hearted liberal reformist suggests, that we have simply not got around to mopping up these pockets of human misery, but shall do so in the fullness of time?  Or is it more plausible to maintain that there is something in the nature of capitalism itself which generates deprivation and inequality, as surely as Charlie Sheen generates gossip?

Marx was the first thinker to talk in those terms. This down-at-heel émigré Jew, a man who once remarked that nobody else had written so much about money and had so little, bequeathed us the language in which the system under which we live could be grasped as a whole. Its contradictions were analyzed, its inner dynamics laid bare, its historical origins examined, and its potential demise foreshadowed. This is not to suggest for a moment that Marx considered capitalism as simply a Bad Thing, like admiring Sarah Palin or blowing tobacco smoke in your children’s faces. On the contrary, he was extravagant in his praise for the class that created it, a fact that both his critics and his disciples have conveniently suppressed. No other social system in history, he wrote, had proved so revolutionary. In a mere handful of centuries, the capitalist middle classes had erased almost every trace of their feudal foes from the face of the earth. They had piled up cultural and material treasures, invented human rights, emancipated slaves, toppled autocrats, dismantled empires, fought and died for human freedom, and laid the basis for a truly global civilization. No document lavishes such florid compliments on this mighty historical achievement as The Communist Manifesto, not even The Wall Street Journal.

That, however, was only part of the story. There are those who see modern history as an enthralling tale of progress, and those who view it as one long nightmare. Marx, with his usual perversity, thought it was both. Every advance in civilization had brought with it new possibilities of barbarism. The great slogans of the middle-class revolution—”Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”—were his watchwords, too. He simply inquired why those ideas could never be put into practice without violence, poverty, and exploitation. Capitalism had developed human powers and capacities beyond all previous measure. Yet it had not used those capacities to set men and women free of fruitless toil. On the contrary, it had forced them to labor harder than ever. The richest civilizations on earth sweated every bit as hard as their Neolithic ancestors.

This, Marx considered, was not because of natural scarcity. It was because of the peculiarly contradictory way in which the capitalist system generated its fabulous wealth. Equality for some meant inequality for others, and freedom for some brought oppression and unhappiness for many. The system’s voracious pursuit of power and profit had turned foreign nations into enslaved colonies, and human beings into the playthings of economic forces beyond their control. It had blighted the planet with pollution and mass starvation, and scarred it with atrocious wars. Some critics of Marx point with proper outrage to the mass murders in Communist Russia and China. They do not usually recall with equal indignation the genocidal crimes of capitalism: the late-19th-century famines in Asia and Africa in which untold millions perished; the carnage of the First World War, in which imperialist nations massacred one another’s working men in the struggle for global resources; and the horrors of fascism, a regime to which capitalism tends to resort when its back is to the wall. Without the self-sacrifice of the Soviet Union, among other nations, the Nazi regime might still be in place.

Marxists were warning of the perils of fascism while the politicians of the so-called free world were still wondering aloud whether Hitler was quite such a nasty guy as he was painted.  Almost all followers of Marx today reject the villainies of Stalin and Mao, while many non-Marxists would still vigorously defend the destruction of Dresden or Hiroshima.  Modern capitalist nations are for the most part the fruit of a history of genocide, violence, and extermination every bit as abhorrent as the crimes of Communism.  Capitalism, too, was forged in blood and tears, and Marx was around to witness it.  It is just that the system has been in business long enough for most of us to be oblivious of that fact.

The selectiveness of political memory takes some curious forms. Take, for example, 9/11. I mean the first 9/11, not the second. I am referring to the 9/11 that took place exactly 30 years before the fall of the World Trade Center, when the United States helped to violently overthrow the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende of Chile, and installed in its place an odious dictator who went on to murder far more people than died on that dreadful day in New York and Washington. How many Americans are aware of that? How many times has it been mentioned on Fox News?

Marx was not some dreamy utopianist. On the contrary, he began his political career in fierce contention with the dreamy utopianists who surrounded him. He has about as much interest in a perfect human society as a Clint Eastwood character would, and never once speaks in such absurd terms. He did not believe that men and women could surpass the Archangel Gabriel in sanctity. Rather, he believed that the world could feasibly be made a considerably better place. In this he was a realist, not an idealist. Those truly with their heads stuck in the sand—the moral ostriches of this world—are those who deny that there can be any radical change. They behave as though Family Guy and multicolored toothpaste will still be around in the year 4000. The whole of human history disproves this viewpoint.

Radical change, to be sure, may not be for the better. Perhaps the only socialism we shall ever witness is one forced upon the handful of human beings who might crawl out the other side of some nuclear holocaust or ecological disaster. Marx even speaks dourly of the possible “mutual ruin of all parties.” A man who witnessed the horrors of industrial-capitalist England was unlikely to be starry-eyed about his fellow humans. All he meant was that there are more than enough resources on the planet to resolve most of our material problems, just as there was more than enough food in Britain in the 1840s to feed the famished Irish population several times over. It is the way we organize our production that is crucial. Notoriously, Marx did not provide us with blueprints for how we should do things differently. He has famously little to say about the future. The only image of the future is the failure of the present. He is not a prophet in the sense of peering into a crystal ball. He is a prophet in the authentic biblical sense of one who warns us that unless we change our unjust ways, the future is likely to be deeply unpleasant. Or that there will be no future at all.

Socialism, then, does not depend on some miraculous change in human nature. Some of those who defended feudalism against capitalist values in the late Middle Ages preached that capitalism would never work because it was contrary to human nature. Some capitalists now say the same about socialism. No doubt there is a tribe somewhere in the Amazon Basin that believes no social order can survive in which a man is allowed to marry his deceased brother’s wife. We all tend to absolutize our own conditions. Socialism would not banish rivalry, envy, aggression, possessiveness, domination, and competition. The world would still have its share of bullies, cheats, freeloaders, free riders, and occasional psychopaths. It is just that rivalry, aggression, and competition would no longer take the form of some bankers complaining that their bonuses had been reduced to a miserly $5-million, while millions of others in the world struggled to survive on less than $2 a day.

Marx was a profoundly moral thinker. He speaks in The Communist Manifesto of a world in which “the free self-development of each would be the condition of the free self-development of all.” This is an ideal to guide us, not a condition we could ever entirely achieve. But its language is nonetheless significant. As a good Romantic humanist, Marx believed in the uniqueness of the individual. The idea permeates his writings from end to end. He had a passion for the sensuously specific and a marked aversion to abstract ideas, however occasionally necessary he thought they might be. His so-called materialism is at root about the human body. Again and again, he speaks of the just society as one in which men and women will be able to realize their distinctive powers and capacities in their own distinctive ways. His moral goal is pleasurable self-fulfillment. In this he is at one with his great mentor Aristotle, who understood that morality is about how to flourish most richly and enjoyably, not in the first place (as the modern age disastrously imagines) about laws, duties, obligations, and responsibilities.

How does this moral goal differ from liberal individualism? The difference is that to achieve true self-fulfillment, human beings for Marx must find it in and through one another. It is not just a question of each doing his or her own thing in grand isolation from others. That would not even be possible. The other must become the ground of one’s own self-realization, at the same time as he or she provides the condition for one’s own. At the interpersonal level, this is known as love. At the political level, it is known as socialism. Socialism for Marx would be simply whatever set of institutions would allow this reciprocity to happen to the greatest possible extent. Think of the difference between a capitalist company, in which the majority work for the benefit of the few, and a socialist cooperative, in which my own participation in the project augments the welfare of all the others, and vice versa. This is not a question of some saintly self-sacrifice. The process is built into the structure of the institution.

Marx’s goal is leisure, not labor. The best reason for being a socialist, apart from annoying people you happen to dislike, is that you detest having to work. Marx thought that capitalism had developed the forces of production to the point at which, under different social relations, they could be used to emancipate the majority of men and women from the most degrading forms of labor. What did he think we would do then? Whatever we wanted. If, like the great Irish socialist Oscar Wilde, we chose simply to lie around all day in loose crimson garments, sipping absinthe and reading the odd page of Homer to each other, then so be it. The point, however, was that this kind of free activity had to be available to all. We would no longer tolerate a situation in which the minority had leisure because the majority had labor.

What interested Marx, in other words, was what one might somewhat misleadingly call the spiritual, not the material. If material conditions had to be changed, it was to set us free from the tyranny of the economic. He himself was staggeringly well read in world literature, delighted in art, culture, and civilized conversation, reveled in wit, humor, and high spirits, and was once chased by a policeman for breaking a street lamp in the course of a pub crawl. He was, of course, an atheist, but you do not have to be religious to be spiritual. He was one of the many great Jewish heretics, and his work is saturated with the great themes of Judaism—justice, emancipation, the Day of Reckoning, the reign of peace and plenty, the redemption of the poor.

What, though, of the fearful Day of Reckoning? Would not Marx’s vision for humanity require a bloody revolution? Not necessarily. He himself thought that some nations, like Britain, Holland, and the United States, might achieve socialism peacefully. If he was a revolutionary, he was also a robust champion of reform. In any case, people who claim that they are opposed to revolution usually mean that they dislike certain revolutions and not others. Are antirevolutionary Americans hostile to the American Revolution as well as the Cuban one? Are they wringing their hands over the recent insurrections in Egypt and Libya, or the ones that toppled colonial powers in Asia and Africa? We ourselves are products of revolutionary upheavals in the past. Some processes of reform have been far more bloodstained than some acts of revolution. There are velvet revolutions as well as violent ones. The Bolshevik Revolution itself took place with remarkably little loss of life. The Soviet Union to which it gave birth fell some 70 years later, with scarcely any bloodshed.

Some critics of Marx reject a state-dominated society.  But so did he.   He detested the political state quite as much as the Tea Party does, if for rather less redneck reasons.  Was he, feminists might ask, a Victorian patriarch?  To be sure.  But as some (non-Marxist) modern commentators have pointed out, it was men from the socialist and communist camps who, up to the resurgence of the women’s movement, in the 1960s, regarded the issue of women’s equality as vital to other forms of political liberation.  The word ‘proletarian’ means those who in ancient society were too poor to serve the state with anything but the fruit of their wombs.  ‘Proles’ means ‘offspring.’  Today, in the sweatshops and on the small farms of the third world, the typical proletarian is still a woman.

Much the same goes for ethnic matters.  In the 1920s and 30s, practically the only men and women to be found preaching racial equality were communists.  Most anticolonial movements were inspired by Marxism.  The antisocialist thinker Ludwig von Mises described socialism as ‘the most powerful reform movement that history has ever known, the first ideological trend not limited to a section of mankind but supported by people of all races, nations, religions, and civilizations.’  Marx, who knew his history rather better, might have reminded von Mises of Christianity, but the point remains forceful.  As for the environment, Marx astonishingly prefigured our own Green politics.  Nature, and the need to regard it as an ally rather than an antagonist, was one of his constant preoccupations.

Why might Marx be back on the agenda?  The answer, ironically, is because of capitalism.  Whenever you hear capitalists talking about capitalism, you know the system is in trouble.  Usually they prefer a more anodyne term, like ‘free enterprise.’  The recent financial crashes have forced us once again to think of the setup under which we live as a whole, and it was Marx who first made it possible to do so.  It was The Communist Manifesto which predicted that capitalism would become global, and that its inequalities would severely sharpen.  Has his work any defects?  Hundreds of them.  But he is too creative and original a thinker to be surrendered to the vulgar stereotypes of his enemies.” Terry Eagleton, “In Praise of Marx;” 2011