Tagged: Karl Marx

Everything’s not lost

Jacobin magazine is already attempting to cushion the inevitable disappointment of Berniebros/brosettes with a quote from Eugene Debs:

“It is infinitely better to vote for freedom and fail than to vote for slavery and succeed.” – Eugene Debs

The “losing is winning” mentality is Debs making a virtue of necessity.

After the rude welcome Trump received at a UFC event in NYC, Dana White will receive a tweetful of hate from the Big Bonespur.


Warren and Sanders lack a heavyweight in economics to legitimate their half statements about paying for M4A.

This is doubtless because they are riding the wave of anti-expertise ressentiment of the current populist moment.

The otherwise intelligent Dave Weigel recently referred to Clinton’s “gaffe” re coal miners in West Virginia.

Clinton’s gaffe?

Preliminary figures for 2018 show 80,778 people were employed by mine operators and contractors. That’s a record low, and about a thousand fewer than were employed by coal in the last year of the Obama administration.

Coal miners are dinosaurs.


As a student of the “Critique of the Gotha Program,” Bernie knows the proles must use the state to smash the bourgeoisie. Marx’s hostility to Bakunin followed from this. Likewise, Bern as no affinity with anarchism. Hence, no blathering about the deep state from his quarter.


Buttigieg’s plan for a plethora of “national service” programs, which would also function as a pre-requisite for future employment, sounds like the model for an American Stakhanovite.

Service is for knechts, serfs, and butlers in Merchant-Ivory films.

Let’s not make Deadspin out to be the NY Times or any other serious journalistic venture.

Made of stone

As any astute Marxist knows, the working class has not always been progressive (the example of their support for Brexit and Trump is the latest evidence). Also, this Marxist would know that the mode of production in capitalism does not stand still, but is constantly revolutionised. Consequently, the industrial mode of production (most highly rationalised by Henry Ford and Frederick Taylor) could only be a time limited affair. Moreover, the skills and aptitudes needed for work under these labour conditions would also have a relatively short life span. In other words, industrialism as a mode of production would never last forever; thus the towns which built themselves around a mode of production that would become obsolete are similarly doomed to go the way of weavers and steam powered locomotives.

This process of obsolescence was hastened by the battering down of “all Chinese walls” (Marx): not only were “foreign” markets opened to the mode of capitalist consumption, they were opened to mode of capitalist production (industrial production). If capital follows “cheap labour,” then it was also inevitable that industrial production (manufacturing) would migrate across borders to more hospitable climes for the maximum profit extraction/labour exploitation. The spirit of socialist internationalism, that workers of the world share a common plight and a common struggle, is thwarted by national populist tendencies. The effort to restore Chinese walls in the form of new Hadrian’s Wall against the EU or neo-mercantilist policies (Trump) is anachronistic.

Finally, there’s the issue of climate change. The romanticised vision of industrial production, which runs counter to the satanic mill, The Jungle, and the workhouse of its reality, does not comport well with efforts to curb the degradation of the environment. Here, one can turn to an auto-critique of Marx himself: his Grundrisse is brimming over with anti-ecological statements. In other texts (such as the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844), the great man holds that the essence of the worker is bound up with “his” ability to work on nature, i.e., to destroy nature. The worker’s alienation from nature (both internal and external) is premised on “his” loss of the object of labour in a system of private property; “his” alienation is not premised on the filthy waters, toxic air, and superheated atmosphere that results from “his” labour in industrial capitalism. It is not surprising that the states inspired by Marxist thinking (the old CCCP and DDR, and today’s China) were/are global leaders in pollution, no different from their non-Communist brethren in “the West.”


Gong show

Cartoon politicians like Farage and Trump are the pacifiers of the working man and woman.

Mr Trump is on a victory tour, first stop in my hometown of Cincinnati. It’s only a matter of time before he starts pinning military medals on his suit jacket.

Mr Trump’s election was a global 9/11. He could very well turn the US into a Verbrecherstaat.

In psychoanalytic terms, he’s a psychical infant.

Infantile psyche + Twitter = global clown show. This is the quality of entertainment the Deplorables crave.

There’s no way back to the economic and cultural insulation of the Shire. As Marx wrote long ago, the cheap commodities of the bourgeoisie have battered down all Chinese walls. Brexit and Trump walls will fare no better.

Clock strikes ten

The shift from humourless intersectionality to ironic, lifestyle feminism is welcome. Thank you, Ms Dunham.


In the wake of the Greece debacle (for Mr Tsipras and the demagogue Varoufakis), talk of the final days of capitalism is sure to ensue. It’s worth remembering that the end of capitalism was just around the corner. In 1848. The final crisis of capitalism never quite happened. Hence, in its place there arose the “crisis of crisis theory” (Claus Offe). Anyone recall the “falling rate of profit”?

Capitalism is always innovativing, which Marx recognised. Methods of procuring profit are revolutionised constantly; whatever does not work, is abandoned. What Marx failed to recognise was the role that the state would play in extending the shelf life of capitalism well beyond his worst fears. The state is not merely the “executive committee” of the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the working class; it is also an engine of capitalist expansion. Most importantly, the state makes the ethereal, invisible hand quite visible to investors.

The term “postcapitalism” is a fudge on the fact that it’s still capitalism (or “late capitalism” as per Adorno). Mr Graeber is, at best, a theorist of the “last crisis,” not the “next crisis” and certainly not the “final crisis,” which never arrives anyway. My advice: don’t waste time enrolling in Potlatch Economics 101.

Comment te dire adieu

Maureen Dowd’s 1098th column on the Clintons is a doozy.

Hillary’s inability to dispense with brass-knuckle, fanatical acolytes like Brock shows that she still has an insecure streak that requires Borgia-like blind loyalty, and can’t distinguish between the real vast right-wing conspiracy and the voices of legitimate concern.

Unfortunately, it is a variation of every column she’s written on the Clintons. But least we know the thoughts are hers alone (not borrowed from someone else).


Mr Netanyahu is apparently clueless about that fact that he’s being used by Mr Boehner, who is a risible failure as Speaker of the House of Representatives, mocked by conservatives and pitied by liberals who aren’t prone to slow down and stare at traffic accidents.



The problem with the New Republic article on the Chapel Hill murders is that it fails to mention any instances (empirical instances) of violent extremism among atheists other than the gun collector in North Carolina. Reference to books by Dawkins et. al and public opinion polling as a sign of extremism is specious. However, the title of the article is good click bait for the New Republic, which has undergone a massive editorial upheaval in recent months.


Marx’s line in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, “here the content exceeds the phrase,” seems to apply to the historical practice of Christianity in relation to the nice words about loving each other and one’s enemy. Both violence and charity have been equal parts of the very nature of Christianity for much of its history. Physical violence has been largely reined in in the post-Enlightenment era.

No no thanks no

Apparently, Archie has been killed. I’d be more upset if Veronica were offed.

A first edition of Das Kapital sold for 40 thousand USD. Marx was a newspaper journalist, part of the culture industry.

The new Thor will be female.

It would have made more sense if Darth Vader had been Luke’s mother.

Now that the World Cup is over, hipsters regret abandoning German Hefeweizen for the Belgian Stella.

Now that the Swedish court has upheld the charges against him, will Mr Assange leave his posh Knightsbridge accommodations and face justice?

Vampyres rarely have extended family members.

It’s only jargon if you haven’t read the books.

Occupy Wall Street redux: adieu #OWS

24 September 2012

A year later, Occupy Wall Street is a faded memory. What I wrote in October 2011 was, if not fully predictive, at least diagnostic.

The #OWS crowd is the typical mix of left-wing and progressive causes one finds at any large demo. The symbolism of the mass gathering is, however, losing its efficacy as a carrier of political meaning. It is telling that only confrontations with baton-wielding and mace-spraying police (as opposed to Blackberry-wielding and derivatives-spraying financiers) have brought it wider attention: alas, the police don’t run “Wall Street” or crash the Lehmann Brothers of the world. At some point, enlightened elements of the #OWS will figure out that engagement with the Democrats is the only means to bring about practical reforms. Clever Democratic politicians would be wise to leverage this left-wing angst. But short of an actual revolution, no new form of people’s capitalism is likely to emerge and the youth of the nation must grow accustomed to conditions of scarcity that have beset most people at most times in history. The golden years of the housing and credit bubbles are gone forever.

From a more sympathetic, participant’s experience, Laurie Penny offered the following Decembrist view.

LP: There are different ways of being on the streets, and all of them are political. As the recession immiserates more and more of us, resistance will increasingly become a process of negotiating trauma, of developing economies of care that include the lost, the destitute, the down-and-out, those who cannot be “fluffy” because they have become crusted over with the debris of desperation. When these occupations are evicted, not everyone involved will be able to go home, scrub the dirt out of their hair and go back to work. Those who have lost their jobs and homes, those who left them to protest, and those who never had them in the first place attract disapprobium from their own side as well as from those determined to slander the anti-capitalist movement as filthy and unkempt. Useful activism, however, usually involves getting your hands dirty.

Recalling an earlier “Society of December”:

Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaus, brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ-grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars – in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French term la bohème. MarxThe 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

By February 2012, it was over.

The time for the Occupy movement has passed. In part, because it failed to generate practical political engagements and fixated on meaningless, narcissistic skirmishes with police, it allowed its message to be co-opted (in the USA by Obama). Even its allegedly novel “process” was merely the second coming of 1960s style (see the “Port Huron Statement”) participatory democracy; worse, the inefficiency of this process model has not been criticized within Occupy, it has become an article of faith, of identity, of self-congratulation. Consequently, Occupy is now no more than an entertaining charivari that offers a pleasing, even charming, distraction from the tawdry circus of the Republican Party’s presidential primary and the dissembling rhetoric of political authorities around the globe.

As winter and police thinned out the remaining urban campers, and as spring became summer, #OWS slipped further into history, displaced by obsession with American presidential politics and the corporate logo-besotted Olympics. Even the pathological character flaws of celebrity hacktavist Julian Assange managed to blot out the infodumpery of wikileaks, the last standard bearer for speaking truth to power left on earth.

#OWS was a beatnik charivari, the last gasp of New Left nostalgia, still inhaling the purple haze of countercultural patchouli. While it is not quite right to dismiss the Occupyistas merely as Starbucks-drinking hypocrites, the encampments did give the appearance, as one CNBC commentator noted, of an Apple products expo. The revolution will not be livestreamed. The dream of “people’s capitalism” is still a literary wish fulfillment.

The actor’s performance inflamed the audience, and subversive proposals came from all parts of the hall.

‘No more academies! Away with the Institut!’

No more missions!’

‘No more matriculations!’

‘Down with university degrees!’

‘No,’ said Sénécal. ‘Let us keep them, but let them be conferred by universal suffrage, by the People, the only true judge!’

In any case, this was not the most important thing to do. To begin with, the rich had to be levelled down. And he depicted them wallowing in crime under their gilded ceilings, while the poor, writhing with hunger in their garrets, practised all the virtues. The applause became so loud that he broke off. He stood for a few minutes with his eyes shut and his head thrown back, as if he were rocking himself to sleep on the wave of anger he had aroused.

Then he started speaking dogmatically, in phrases as imperious as laws. The State must seize the banks and the insurance companies. Legacies would be abolished. A public fund would be set up for the workers. Flaubert, Sentimental Education.