Category Archives: Communism/Marxism/Maoism

Marx’s Labor Theory of Value: Bad Science and Bad for Ecological Socialism

Value and Socialist Distribution

Marxists need a scientific theory of value. I do not make that statement because I think it is controversial. I make it because I am not convinced that Marx provided one. By “scientific” I mean a theory that identifies an empirically detectable and measurable property that gives value to commodities, and a theory that is consistent with fundamental propositions of other relevant sciences, such as physics and chemistry. I do not reject the labor theory of value out of hand, and I do not believe that my criteria necessarily lead to rejection of everything Marx had to say about value theory. I am willing to consider the possibility that labor produces a value-endowing property, but to understand labor’s role, if any, in producing value, we must do more than repeat the familiar bromide that “labor creates value.” And we should keep in mind (while being careful not to conflate use value and exchange value) that Marx himself said: “Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values as labour . . .”1

A scientific theory of value must answer these questions: In what way does labor serve as a source, or the source, of value, if it indeed does so? Is understanding value strictly a matter of quantifying physical properties produced by labor, or are other factors involved? How are quantities of labor and other relevant properties, measured? Do these quantities correlate with measurable quantities of value, and if so, how? Besides helping us understand how commodities acquire value and how value is measured, a scientific understanding of value is critical for implementing what I call the socialist principle of distribution.2  If we cannot understand and measure value, then we cannot implement the principle, and if we cannot do that, then we cannot have socialism; furthermore, we cannot have communism either, not if we think of communism as a mode of distribution that develops out of socialism.

What is the principle of socialist distribution? It has been expressed in many ways, but the gist of it is that under socialism the worker is supposed to receive a “fair” distribution, that is, he receives from society a quantity of goods and services equal in value to the labor he has performed, minus deductions for public purposes such as social insurance, public schools, reinvestment in public enterprises, or construction of public infrastructure, just to name a few. This contrasts with capitalist distribution in which the worker receives less value than he has contributed due to capitalist expropriation of surplus value at the point of production, which is supplemented by other expropriatory methods such as fraud, debt, rent, wage discrimination, taxation by the capitalist state, neoliberal austerity, full or partial privatization of public enterprises, and so-called corporate welfare.

In “Critique of the Gotha Program,” Marx expressed the socialist principle of distributive justice when he said that in the primary stage of socialism, the worker receives:

a certificate from society that he has furnished such and such an amount of labour (after deducting his labour for the common funds), and with this certificate he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as costs the same amount of labour.3

This distributive principle presupposes the ability to measure quantities of labor, which are equated with quantities of value.

Other versions of the socialist principle have been influenced by Marx’s formulation, but they are not identical to it. Article 12 of the 1936 Constitution of the USSR states: “The principle applied in the U.S.S.R. is that of socialism: From each according to his ability to each according to his work.”4 Many socialist constitutions contain similar expressions. 5

The Soviet formula is worded differently than the statement in the Gotha Program. It speaks of distribution according to work, and thereby alludes to different kinds of work with presumably differing values, but it does not explicitly mention quantities of labor. What does this imply? Does the principle assume that different forms of work produce the same or different quantities of value, and what about differences in the quality of labor? Socialist countries that adopted the principle “to each according to his work,” did not practice equal compensation for all forms of work. This suggests they did not think all types of work had the same value. Recognition of quantitative and qualitative differences in various forms of work is likely the basis of that distinction.

Quantitative and qualitative differences were recognized as a matter of principle in socialist countries, and this was used to justify higher compensation for work considered above average in those terms. In Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, a 1960s training manual for Soviet cadres, differences of quantity and quality are said to determine both the size and quality of the rewards that workers receive.

In socialist society, the bulk of material and cultural values are distributed in accordance with the quantity and quality of labour expended by each worker in social production. Those who work more and better receive a larger and better reward for their work from socialist society.6

Obviously, this presupposes criteria for determining both quantitative and qualitative values of various forms of work, so that higher forms can be identified and given greater compensation. This raises many questions. What are the criteria for measuring the quantity and quality of labor? Can these things be measured directly or are they reducible to a more fundamental quantity?

For Marx, the difference between high and low-quality labor is apparently reduced to the production of lower and higher quantities of value. Marx developed the distinction in Capital. In explaining this distinction, I will take the basic proposition of Marx’s labor theory of value for granted: quantities of labor produce corresponding quantities of value; thus, it is clear that Marx reduced quantities of value to quantities of labor, which is in keeping with a labor theory of value.

In Capital, v. I, Marx distinguished simple and complex labor. Simple labor “is the expenditure of simple labour-power, i.e. of the labour-power possessed in his bodily organism by every ordinary man, on the average, without being developed in any special way.” Complex labor, by contrast, has an above average value-creating power that “counts only as intensified, or rather multiplied simple labour, so that a smaller quantity of complex labour is considered equal to a larger quantity of simple labour.”7  Complex labor is higher in quality in the sense that it expends more labor power in a given time than simple labor and therefore creates more value. For example, if a simple laborer and a complex laborer both work for an hour, the latter produces a higher quantity of value than the former.

In Capital, v. III, Marx offered concrete examples of simple and complex labor. He used day labor as an example of simplicity and goldsmithing as an example of complexity.8  Commercial workers were classified as complex laborers due to their knowledge of “commerce and languages, etc.” Marx wrote: “The commercial worker proper belongs to the better-paid class of wage laborer; he is one of those whose labour is skilled labour, above-average labour.”9  Skilled mechanics were included among complex laborers in a footnote to Capital, v. III, written by Engels.10  These examples reveal that complex labor is trained and educated labor; apparently Marx viewed this as the basis of its higher value productivity.

Evidently, Marx assumed that “simple” jobs, say, ditch digging or repetitive work in manufacturing, are less “complex” than the work of goldsmiths, mechanics, and commercial operatives. What characteristics do these forms of work possess which make them “above average” in complexity? They are more valuable, it will be said, but this is a mere tautology since value and complexity have already been equated. We need to know what Marx meant by complexity and why complexity is more valuable, in the sense of knowing what quantities complexity is reducible to (if any), and how these quantities are measured? How did he know that complexity of labor produces more value than simplicity? Did he just intuit this as self-evident? Granted, intuition (if that is what Marx used) can be correct, but he did not show why his intuition is correct. In the examples, complexity seems to mean a greater number of required skills; the complex job has more dimensions, more steps that must be mastered; it requires more training, education, and knowledge to perform than “simple” labor.

Does work that requires more training and education in and of itself produce more value than work requiring less? Has Marx drawn a distinction without an explanation? To merely repeat that complex work is more valuable because it represents more labor in a given time, and it represents more labor just because it is more complex, is a blatantly circular explanation. Once again, we are back to the fundamental problem of measuring quantities of labor and explaining how those quantities produce corresponding amounts of value—in short, the problem of value creation and measurement.

Creating and Measuring Value in Capital

Marx is usually called a materialist who was trying to put socialism on a scientific basis. Therefore, we shall expect the labor theory of value developed by Marx in Capital, v. I to identify the value-creating property of labor, whatever it happens to be, as a physical characteristic that serves as the quantifiable basis of exchange value. This is a reasonable expectation of any scientific theory, but will it be borne out?

In Capital, v.1, Marx begins his discussion of the labor theory of value by stating that two commodities of equal exchange value must share a common element that is present in both in equal magnitudes. If our assumption about Marx’s intention to develop a scientific theory is correct, he must be preparing to describe a physical and therefore quantifiable element.

Let us now take two commodities, for example, corn and iron. Whatever their exchange relation may be, it can always be represented by an equation in which a given quantity of corn is equated to some quantity of iron, for instance, 1 quarter of corn = x cwt of iron. What does this equation signify? It signifies that a common element of identical magnitude exists in two different things, in one quarter of corn and similarly in x cwt of iron. Both are therefore equal to a third thing, which is neither the one nor the other. Each of them, so far as it is exchange-value, must therefore be reducible to this third thing.11

We should expect Marx to explain what this presumably physical element is, how it is measured, and on what basis he claims to know of its existence. But he offers this astonishing proclamation instead:

This common element cannot be a geometrical, physical, chemical, or other natural property of the commodities.12

Marx just said that the value-endowing element is not and cannot be a physical property. He did not bother to explain why he thinks this is the case, but it follows that he must believe commodities can have non-physical properties, does it not? This appeal to an immaterial element should cause profound consternation among those who think Marx had a scientific theory of value, scientific in the sense of making empirically testable claims about the nature of value, claims that can be nothing other than materialistic. Despite all the talk about Marx’s materialism, his theory is obviously based on an immaterialist metaphysics, which holds that all commodities share a common non-material property that gives them exchange value. Marx is not a materialist after all, at least not when it comes to exchange value. I will leave it to others to explain how an historical materialist can be an immaterialist regarding value creation, since analysis of changes in various modes of value creation; i.e., modes of production, are the basis of historical materialism.

If the value-creating property is not physical, then what are its properties, how are these properties known, and how is it possible to measure them if they are indeed non-physical?

A use-value, or useful article, therefore, has value only because abstract human labour is objectified or materialized in it. How then is the magnitude of this value to be measured? By means of the quantity of the ‘value forming substance’, the labour contained in the article. This quantity is measured by its duration, and the labour-time is itself measured on the particular scale of hours, days, etc.13 “Abstract human labor,” according to Marx, is the “value forming substance” that is “materialized” in commodities. How does Marx know this? It is evidently a conclusion of pure reason that is not further analyzable. But how can an immaterial element (an abstraction) become materialized and take up residence in a physical commodity (like the word becoming flesh)? What a confusion of categories! The problem is only compounded by this additional description of the common element:

As exchange-values, all commodities are merely definite quantities of congealed labour-time.  14

Here the value forming substance is described as “congealed time,” specifically labor time; apparently “congealed labor time” is used synonymously with “abstract human labor.” It seems strange to speak of time in this way. Can other kinds of time also “congeal” such as sleep time or mealtime? Or does the fact that labor time is spent working endow it with a unique (and fantastic) physical property that allows it to congeal? What can even be capable of congealing except material substances with specific physical properties? Marx does not say. What could he say? We are faced with an apparent contradiction: exchange value is an immaterial property and yet it congeals; the thing that congeals is time. But time is not form of matter that can alternate among various states, such as the classical states of solid, liquid, gas, and plasma, or the many high and low energy states discovered by modern physics. To say that time, which is a dimension of reality and not a state of matter, can “congeal” is to say that something immaterial can do that which only matter can do; it is an assertion that surpasses all understanding.

Marx’s treatment of the subject in Capital, v. II, exhibits this contradiction:

The substance of value is and remains nothing more than expended labour-power – labour independent of its particular useful character – and value production is nothing but the process of this expenditure.  . . . The process of production disappears in the finished commodity. The fact that labour-power was expended to create it now appears in the form that the commodity has the following concrete property: it possesses value. The magnitude of this value is measured by the amount of labor expended; the commodity value cannot be resolved into anything further, and consists of nothing more.15

There is no talk of congealed time in this passage, but the contradiction is apparent in that value is spoken of as a “concrete property” when we were assured in Capital, v. I, that value is a non-physical property (what can a concrete property be if not physical?). The term “congealed labour” appears soon after the above passage, when Marx makes the following comment on surplus value:

Over and above them both there is still the surplus value. This has in common with the value component that replaces the variable capital advanced in wages that it is a value newly created by the workers – congealed labour.16

Here Marx speaks of congealed labor rather than congealed time. To this writer, it is a significant difference: a theory in which “labor” congeals rather than “labor time” is a different theory. Did Marx have two theories or is it just one muddled theory? “Congealed labor” denotes a process that becomes congealed, whereas “congealed labor time” denotes a dimension, but Marx does not seem to be aware of this distinction. Alternate phrasings also appear in Capital, v. III; sometimes Marx writes “[t]he value contained in a commodity is equal to the labour-time taken in making it”17; at other times he refers to “the amount of labour contained in it” [the commodity].18  He might have thought the two phrases – congealed labor and congealed labor time – are synonymous, but they are not. It is a characteristic of well-formed scientific theories that terms are precisely defined and used consistently. Marx’s theory fails to meet this standard.

Try as I might, I cannot find any reason to accept either his “congealed labor time” or “congealed labor” terminology because both phrases seem equally nonsensical. Congealability is a property of physical substances, is it not? Melted fat, for example, “congeals” at the top of chicken soup as it cools, and blood with sufficient clotting factors “congeals” (coagulates) into a scab; both are examples of matter changing from liquid to solid. But again, time is not a state of matter; it is a dimension that does not change states. As a succession of moments, this dimension is a pre-condition that is necessary for matter to undergo qualitative changes from one state to another, such as water freezing solid then melting back into liquid or evaporating into gas. The fact that time provides the context in which matter changes states does not entail that time is a physical substance that congeals or undergoes other physical changes, likewise with so called “labor time.” To reiterate, Marx had no justification for saying that labor time can congeal into commodities, thereby giving them exchange value. Time cannot congeal into anything, let alone a commodity. Likewise, with “labor,” which denotes a process that consists of a series of activities. The activities are engaged in by physical beings and, of course, take place in time, but this does not mean that specific actions or entire sets of actions are physical substances that congeal like chicken fat.

The theory doesn’t make any more sense when applied to concrete situations. How would Marx use it to explain why one commodity has a higher exchange value than another? According to him, if it takes 10 times more labor time to produce a pair of pants than it takes to produce a box of paper clips, then the pants are 10 times more valuable than the clips. And if, in a given time, your labor produces 10 times the amount of value that mine does, then your labor is 10 times more valuable than mine. Why? Congealed labor time is the active ingredient, so to speak. Marx has to say that the pants have 10 times more abstract human labor time congealed in them, because your labor congealed more time than mine did. It also follows that your labor is more productive than mine, and this can be explained in two ways: it is either faster or it is more complex. How else could it create more value in the same amount of time?

Why is this a terrible explanation? Marx’s talk about congealed time (and congealed labor) has already been exposed as nonsensical, and a nonsensical explanation is not an explanation at all. Still, we might wonder if Marx’s theory really is so terrible. If we assume labor time is the measure of value, does it not follow that something that takes more time to produce is more valuable than something that takes less? It certainly does, but the conclusion follows only if we assume from the outset that labor time is the substance and measure of value. This is an obvious circular argument because the premise that needs to be proven is assumed to be true at the outset. When nonsense is acceptable, then all other forms of nonsense are acceptable as well; we might as well say that the patron saint of commodities conferred a larger blessing on the pants than on the paper clips, and that this blessing was manifested at a ratio of 10:1.

Keep in mind: Marx did not say that value comes from time spent laboring in some ordinary language understanding of “labor time.” He said more valuable commodities contain a larger amount of congealed abstract human labor time. That is why the pants have a higher exchange value than the box of paper clips. Please show me where I can find this congealed time, this “value-forming substance” among the fibers, dyes, tools, equipment, and energy used in making the pair of pants. It can’t be done, not because science has not yet found a way to detect the presence of this substance, but because the existence of such a substance is impossible in principle.

The obvious conclusion is that when Marx speaks of congealed labor time, he is talking nonsense. Before you condemn me for being uncharitable to Marx, consider this: what can talk of congealed time suggest except a quantity of time spent laboring in which the time itself hardens into the object that is being created? If anyone can explain to me what this means, how it occurs, and show it to me happening, I will abandon this criticism, but I do not think this is likely to happen.

Matter, Energy, and the Labor Theory of Value

Let us spend no more time – congealed or otherwise – on this embarrassing muddle. Labor is not a substance; it is a process performed and undergone by substances, by human workers and the products they work upon. This might seem like a mere truism, no more “substantive” than Marx’s talk of congealed time, but at least I can take you to a workshop, farm, or factory and show you an actual labor process happening. If Marx were there, he would have to say, “labor time is congealing here,” and if we responded – “What!?” – he would have no answer. To say that labor time is a substance makes about as much sense as saying that running time is a substance, and that a fast runner produces more of a substance called “running time” than a slow one. Of course, work and running obviously take place in time, which is a necessary condition for the unfolding of all processes, but that doesn’t help Marx’s argument. You may insist on talking about “labor time” as if you have made a great discovery, but it is unnecessary because everyone knows that labor requires time. I will insist on this, however; although value is created during time spent laboring, labor time is not the thing that creates or endows value; rather it is the dimension in which value is endowed.

We said that labor is performed by a human worker, a physical being, upon another physical being, an object that we call a commodity. Time is a precondition of these events. It must be something that happens during this time that gives the commodity its exchange value. What happens? Workers consume and apply energy in orderly, planned, and desired ways to enhance and transform the useful properties of matter. The result is a commodity with exchange value. Rationally directed energy consumption is the common element that Marx was seeking.

Labor is the alteration of matter through the rationally governed consumption of energy. Thus, the labor process requires ability and skill, in addition to energy and matter. Since matter and energy are equivalent (E = mc2 after all) we can reduce this to the statement that commodity production requires the skillful use or consumption of energy. Since the law of the conservation of energy also applies here, we will understand “consumption” to mean the transformation of energy from one state into another, with no net gain or loss of energy and, correspondingly, the consumption or transformation of matter, again with no net gain or loss. Movement, changes of state, and consumption occur, but not creation in the sense of bringing substances into being out of nothingness nor annihilation in the sense of transforming substances from being into nothingness. Acquisition of skill also requires energy consumption, and again this consumption must be rationally directed to the desired end; therefore, in the case of labor the rational consumption of energy, a special case of energy consumption, is not further reducible.

We have reduced the statement that commodity production requires matter, energy, and skill to the statement that it requires energy and skill. We can shorten this to the statement that commodity production requires energy consumption, because the mental effort of acquiring and applying skill is a form of energy consumption. Skillful energy consumption contrasts with the non-rational consumption that occurs in nature, in the Sun, for example (as far as we know).

The amount of energy consumed is the irreducible component of value. The exchange value of any commodity is therefore reducible to the amount of energy expended to produce it, not the amount of time taken to expend that energy. Quantities of value do not correlate to quantities of time; they correlate to quantities of energy expended in a given time; the quantity of energy is the “common element” shared by the quarter of corn and the hundred weight of iron that Marx spoke of in Capital, vol. I. This includes the energy embodied in the substance and the energy required to transform the substance in the desired way. Obviously, greater or lesser amounts of energy can be expended in the same amount of time; the quantity depends on the form of energy and the skill of the worker. Skill, regardless of its degree of complexity, moves, allocates, or transforms energy and matter, but it does not create these things anew. Energy is the value-endowing ingredient of the labor process. It has a dual role in the process as both transformer and thing transformed.

Rationally expended energy is the “common element” of all commodities. The amount of expenditure represented by the finished commodity is its objective exchange value. From the worker’s standpoint, the sum of energy that he consumes while working, plus the amount of energy required to maintain himself as a worker, constitutes the value of his labor. This is also the quantity of value (matter/energy) owed him in exchange for his labor. This quantity can be expressed in any units you like – gram calories, kilogram calories, joules, British thermal units, etc. – provided we have a technique for measuring in terms of the unit in question and a method for converting into other commonly used units. In-depth treatment of the practical problems entailed by this theory are beyond the scope of this paper; however, it should be noted that measurement of human energy expenditure is a developed science with a history reaching back to 1919 with the formulation of the Harris-Benedict equation for estimating an individual’s basal metabolic rate.  19  The results of that science show without doubt that manual or simple labor requiring lower levels of training and education requires higher energy expenditures than intellectual or complex labor requiring higher education and training. Thus, there is no justification for wage discrimination against simple labor in our theory of value as energy expenditure.20

This is a rethinking, not a rejection, of the labor theory of value. It has the advantage of identifying the empirically observable and measurable feature of labor – energy expenditure – that endows a commodity with value. As a move toward a scientific theory of value, it is superior to Marx’s unscientific attempt to explain value by appealing to the existence of an unobservable value-endowing substance called “congealed labor time,” or sometimes just “labor time.” It is also consistent with the basic principles other scientific disciplines, such as physics and chemistry, which recognize the existence of matter and energy as physical substances and study the physico-chemical processes that fuel the transformations of the various states of matter. The theory is also compatible with the methodological principles of empiricism, which frown on explanations that postulate the existence of unobservable entities. This is real materialism, not a faux materialism disfigured by Hegelian metaphysical (and ultimately bourgeois) philosophical remnants. Removal of congealed time as a feature of Marxism can only improve its standing among the sciences.

Marxism and the Crisis of the Anthropocene

There is a connection between Marx’s theory of value, especially his overvaluation of complex or intellectual labor in contrast to simple or manual labor, and the procreationism, productionism, and consumerism that are core ideals of the original bourgeois Christian civilization. Marx (unwittingly?) adopted these ideals whole cloth.21  His vision of socialism strives to be truer to them than capitalism could ever be by striping them of their class character and democratizing them. These ideas have helped blind Marxists to the tight logical relationship between class struggle and ecology. Marx’s labor theory of value is implicated in this problem because productionism and consumerism are enabled and justified by the high consumerist privileges allegedly due to highly skilled workers who perform complex labor. Procreationism is a result of viewing people in advanced countries, with their large numbers of highly-skilled workers, as the crowning glory of humanity: the more there are, the better; the more they produce and consume, the better.

If Marxism is going to stay relevant in the twenty-first century and beyond, it must provide a theoretical basis for building forms of socialism and communism that can survive in the Anthropocene epoch. The term refers to our contemporary period in which modern economic systems are exerting increasingly harmful effects on Earth’s natural systems. Classical Marxism, Marxism-Leninism, and their numerous variants, share with capitalism this productionism, consumerism, and procreationism: a desire for unlimited expansion of production, consumption, and population that thrusts society toward environmental crisis.22 This outlook views nature mainly as a source of use values to be assimilated into the production process. It fails to appreciate nature as a delicately balanced complex system that harbors all life by providing its material basis. Unchecked, these tendencies lead to severe environmental degradation as the productive forces are developed and production and consumption increased. This condition afflicts any modern system, whether socialist or capitalist, that combines vast power to utilize and transform nature with the failure to perceive the consequences as threats to the viability of natural systems, species, and individual life forms. Socialism and communism must distinguish themselves from capitalism on this point by ridding themselves of productionism, consumerism, and procreationism. Societies that aim to liberate human beings from capitalism must have a clear understanding of the dangers posed by these interrelated phenomena and a definite plan for harmonizing the twin goals of meeting society’s material needs while preserving its organic and inorganic foundations. Marxism must place primary importance on the fact that the world’s irreplaceable ecosystems count as fundamental material needs of all life and the basis of material and cultural wealth. To accomplish this, Marxism needs new concepts and principles that elucidate the direct but overlooked relationship between class struggle and ecology.

Textual Evidence of the Problem: The Economic Purpose of Communism

Present at the dawn of Marxism was the tendency to view development as an unqualified good and to ignore its negative effects on nature. Consider The Communist Manifesto’s paean to the awesome productive forces unleashed by capitalism:

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all proceeding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground—what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?23

The Manifesto says that an immediate goal of the communist revolution is to make the proletariat “the masters of the productive forces of society.”24 It assigns to the new ruling class the task of using state power “to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.”25  These are the same productive forces that the bourgeoisie used to subject nature to the needs and designs of their class. This talk of subjugating nature is dangerous because nothing about socialism, in and of itself, guarantees that the proletariat will act with more wisdom toward nature than the bourgeoisie.

When the socialist revolution converts capital into the common property of society, only the class character of the property is changed. The potential of the mode of production to destroy the environment remains unchanged, despite it being socialized. Abolishing the class character of capital does not alter its disposition toward nature.26

Socialism does not guarantee environmental sustainability. Misuse of the productive forces to destroy nature remains just as much of a danger as it was under capitalism. In the primary stage of socialism, the struggle to free the new society from the remnants of capitalism must prioritize plans to build an ecological socialism. Ecology is therefore one of the primary missions of the class struggle, but the Communist Manifesto is blind to this, perhaps excusably blind given the period in which it was written, but blind nonetheless.

The danger of unbridled productionism and consumerism was apparently unrecognized by the later Marx as well. In the Critique of the Gotha Program, he envisioned the “higher phase of communist society”—sometimes referred to as “full communism,” as a time when the productive forces have expanded far beyond the already colossal extents of the capitalist and early socialist eras, when cooperatively produced wealth flows so abundantly that it can be distributed “to each according to his needs.”27  This implies the continuation of productionism and consumerism (and why suppose any limits on procreation?) under communism, while the environmental implications remain unacknowledged.

The productionism and consumerism at the heart of Marx’s conception of post-capitalist society is exacerbated by Lenin’s gloss on the Gotha Program which views communism as the period when “an enormous development of the productive forces” makes wealth so plentiful that:

[t]here will then be no need for society, in distributing the products, to regulate the quantity to be received by each; each will take freely ‘according to his needs’.  . . .  Everyone will have “the right to receive from society . . . any quantity of truffles, cars, pianos, etc.28

Lenin surpassed Marx by predicting that under communism consumer goods would be produced in limitless quantities completely free for the taking. We leave it to the reader to contemplate the environmental devastation that would result from unrestrained production and consumption of automobiles, not to mention truffles, pianos, etc. Some might try to dismiss these passages as instances of a revolutionary exuberance that had no effect on the actual practices of socialist countries. The extensive and easily accessible history of ecocidal development in these countries belies this view and exposes environmental practices under socialism as no better than under capitalism overall; the reader is urged to investigate this independently, since a full review of the history is beyond the scope of this paper.

Besides practice, we should consider theoretical discussions during actually existing socialism. Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism describes socialism as “an era of tempestuous development of productive forces” when “the socialist state considers that its main purpose is the expansion of production in order to provide a continuously rising living standard for the population.”29  This breakneck development will enable “the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries to undertake with full confidence the task of reaching . . . a level of consumption surpassing in every respect that of the most highly developed capitalist countries.”30  Socialist consumerism is but a prelude to the glittering consumerist paradise that will arrive with full communism. Following Lenin, the supply of goods will be so plentiful that controlling the amount of consumption will be unnecessary.31 People will assess their own needs and simply take as much as they want; there will be “no need to determine which needs are reasonable and which are not.”32  Nor should there be any worry about natural limits on growth. Shortages of raw materials, for example, will never occur because ever advancing agriculture, more intensive exploitation of lands and oceans, and creation of synthetic materials will be enough to satisfy every imaginable need.33 With no barriers to expansion, communist consumerism will be limitless.

Critics might accuse the author of ignoring passages from the Marxist canon that express serious regard for ecological issues. These might include: the recognition that humankind is fundamentally part of nature, as well as discussions on overcoming man’s alienation from nature found in numerous passages in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844; complaints about a lack of urban planning, air pollution and other unhealthy living conditions in the proletarian districts of English cities described in Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England  34, and in his Dialectics of Nature the recognition that “humans and nature exist in a coevolutionary relationship” and man should not become too smug about his victories over nature because “For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us.”35; the oft-cited discussion in Capital, volume 1, chapter 15 of soil depletion under capitalist farming caused by disruption of the “metabolic interaction between man and the earth” as well as the view that capitalist agriculture undermines “the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker”36; and the declaration in Critique of the Gotha Program that: “Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values . . . as labour, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power.”37 Lenin’s enthusiasm for establishing nature reserves should also be mentioned here.38

Nevertheless, a set of disconnected ad hoc comments and policies does not amount to a mature theoretical treatment of and comprehensive policy toward ecological issues, nor does it temper, override, or repudiate the productionism, consumerism, and procreationism at the heart of the Marxist-Leninist conception of socialist and communist society.

Toward a Genuinely Ecological Marxism

 A convincing and effective ecological Marxism must amount to more than a tacked-on addendum without clear logical connections to the fundamental principles and revolutionary orientation of Marxism. These connections do exist. The Class Struggles in France contains Marx’s famous discussion of “The Four Alls” in which he explains that the task of the proletariat during the transition from capitalism to socialism is to abolish all class distinctions, all relations of production, all social relations, and all ideas that spring from capitalist society.39 Classical Marxism indeed viewed itself as much more than a mere logical extension of the bourgeois Enlightenment, sans economic classes, but it did not always realize this vision. Poductionism, consumerism, and procreationism are anachronistic leftovers from the philistinish, unscientific, and mindless optimism of the bourgeois Enlightenment, meshed with the capitalistic logic of profit maximization. Together they entail complete expropriation and commodification of nature for use in the valorization process. Ecocide is inherent in the logic of both profit maximization and the maximization of consumption. As required by the four alls, classical Marxism should have rejected bourgeois ideals such as unlimited production and consumption. They must be rejected now.40

There is nothing in the logic of Marxist socialism that necessitates such an error, especially provided the errors in Marx’s labor theory of value are overcome. The fundamental purpose of socialism, as understood by the founders of Marxism, is to organize society to cooperate in and coordinate its efforts to satisfy the material and cultural needs of its members and to return to workers the same amount of value that they invest in society, minus absolutely necessary deductions or unavoidable losses. This immediately raises questions about the extent of material and cultural production entailed by the word “satisfy.” Does ecology dictate limits on what is permissible here? Evidently it does. Historically, Marxists and Marxist-Leninists have had a weak grasp on this question and its answer. They apparently thought there was no need for any strictures on production and consumption, including the production of human beings (Chinese Marxism notwithstanding), but there really are objective limits dictated by the requirements of Earth’s ecology. Therefore, the dangerous and simplistic goal of perpetual quantitative increases in material living standards should be removed from Marxism and replaced by the explicit recognition that the achievement of socialism’s purpose is impossible without healthy ecosystems. Taking this necessary condition into account, it follows that the purpose of socialism is cooperation in the satisfaction of society’s material and cultural needs to the degree compatible with the preservation of nature. The idea that socialism and communism should place caps on production, consumption, and population growth, must become core guiding principles of Marxism in all its forms if they are to remain relevant in the Anthropocene.

Implications

(1) Marx’s labor theory of value overvalues labor power in the sense that it erroneously believes that human labor is the creator of a potentially infinite expansion of value. The realization that labor manipulates quantities of matter/energy, which may then be identified with quantities of value, rather than creating value, per se, disconnects compensation from the notion that its purpose is to remunerate acts of pure and potentially infinite creativity. When we cease to view human beings as “creators” of value rather than users and appreciators who need value, we reduce them from the bogus, quasi-divine status conferred on them by the more Promethean strains of the Enlightenment, to the lesser, but more honest status of normal living beings. Workers are then viewed as beings with needs that are worthy of respect, consideration, and satisfaction, but with no right to place their needs and wants above the health of the whole living system of Earth and its biosphere.

(2) To reiterate: Labor does not “create” value. It reconfigures pre-existing quantities of matter and energy to serve useful purposes. These purposes are not strictly class neutral. In capitalism they serve the capitalist class’ interest in profit maximization; under socialism they must satisfy the material and cultural needs of the working class within ecological limits. The importance of labor’s power to manipulate matter should not be underestimated, but it is not value creation, per se. Economic value is not a substance in and of itself. Therefore any such value judgments and value hierarchies based on them that are not grounded in quantifiable energy expenditures should be viewed with a high degree of skepticism. “Value” is not a uniquely independent substance, but this does not mean it is purely fictitious. It is an epiphenomenon of the labor process, of the rationally directed use of energy, and is real as such. But value in its original and grounding manifestation, the dual form of matter and energy, pre-exists human and all other life forms. The worker is an arranger and discoverer of values, but not a creator. Nature is the source of all values, not only use values, as Marx erroneously believed.

(3) In this concept of ecological socialism, the fundamental principle of socialist distribution that the individual receives from society a quantity of value equal to what he has contributed to it, remains in force; the difference is that value is reinterpreted in materialist terms as energy expenditure and return that on expenditure. Marx’s understanding of value as congealed labor time is rejected as an idealistic Hegelian reification of the concepts of labor and time that is incompatible with materialism.

(4) The distribution scenario for the primary stage of communism sketched by Marx in “Critique of the Gotha Program” is therefore rewritten:

He receives a certificate from society that he has consumed such and such an amount of energy (after deducting part of this amount for the common funds), and with this certificate he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as costs the same expenditure of energy. The same amount of energy which he has given to society in one form he receives back in another. But all expenditures must take place within quantifiable ecological limits.

The principle for the higher phase of communism is reworded:

From each according to his ability to each according to his need, within the limits of nature’s capacities!

(5) This reformulated theory of value requires reinterpretation of the concepts of exchange value, surplus value, price, and fair compensation. Exchange value is reinterpreted as the amount of energy required to produce the commodity; surplus value as the amount of energy contributed by the worker to the production process that exceeds the quantity of energy that he receives in return for his labor. Fair compensation now means an equal energy exchange between the worker and the owner of the productive enterprise, minus deductions necessary to maintain the enterprise and other socially necessary subtractions; under socialism the owner will be the whole society. Since ecology is logically prior to all society, this principle applies whether the owner is a capitalist, a class, an alliance of classes, a state, or a free association of workers.

(6) The only justification for differences in compensation is measurable differences in energy expended by workers during the labor process. This replaces Marx’s standard of labor time and the distinction between simple and complex labor. Compensation differences based on differences in the quality or complexity of different forms of work are unjustified in these terms. Justification requires demonstration of a quantifiable difference among forms of work. For example, if a construction worker expends more energy than an accountant, the former is owed higher compensation than the latter, if not, then not. Society may choose to use compensation differences to encourage quality improvements or the acquisition of complex skills, but such considerations are matters of social utility that violate the reformulated principle of socialist distribution if they are not justifiable in material terms. In this interpretation, the priority of socialist distribution is to return to individuals the amount of energy they have invested in society, minus necessary deductions. Adherence to this principle is incompatible with distribution regimes that promote either poverty or wealth by returning to workers either less or more than the amount of energy they have contributed. Furthermore, it has been argued that there is no scientific basis for such distinctions, contrary to Marx’s erroneous belief that complex labor necessarily has greater objective value because of its higher “value creating” capacity. In a socialist society, compensation differences permitted for reasons of social utility must be minimized and regulated to prevent capitalist restoration.

(7). Marx’s view that smaller quantities of complex labor are equal to larger amounts of simple labor is justified only if there is evidence that complex labor consumes more energy than simple labor. But there is no such evidence. The evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary: simple manual labor requires higher energy consumption than complex intellectual labor.41  The reformulated theory of value provides no justification for a compensation hierarchy favoring complex intellectual labor over simple manual labor.

(8) The fact that some forms of work involve manipulation of higher quantities of energy than others does not entail that workers in those fields expend more of their own metabolic energy during their work or as part of their labor in acquiring and maintaining their ability to perform high-energy work; nor are they entitled to higher compensation because they “create” higher energy fields. Energy and matter, in conformity to their respective conservation laws, are neither created nor destroyed. These fundamental constituents of our material reality may be transferred or transformed from one state into another by the worker, but unlike Shiva, the human worker, whether of hand or brain can neither create nor destroy matter and energy. Since value is reducible to quantities of energy, the conservation laws also apply to value. Strictly speaking, the view that labor creates value is erroneous. Labor manipulates quantities of matter and energy and thereby manipulates quantities of value. New methods of manipulating value are discovered during the labor process, but human beings do not possess the power of creating matter, energy, or value out of nothing. 

(9) Since the universe is composed of a pre-established quantity of matter and energy, the labor process in the broadest sense is the act of directing finite quantities of energy. The process can be exploitive (capitalism) or cooperative (socialism).

(10) A reasonable socialism aims to meet each person’s material needs (emphasis on needs, not wants) in quantities that correlate with the society’s productive capacity, preservation of its ecological foundations, and the functioning of society within known ecological limits. The reinterpreted theory of value promotes this, while Marx’s theory discourages it. Any deviation from these limits that favors intellectual workers (or any other social stratum) on the erroneous assumption that they contribute more labor or “create” more value than other workers is unjustified. Socialist society must respect objective energy values and the dialectic of needs and limits. It cannot shirk its responsibility to meet fundamental material needs, but it must prohibit breaking ecological limits to provide so called elite strata (intellectual workers or even elite populations such as North America or Western Europe) with extravagant compensation levels that they are erroneously judged to deserve under the old labor theory of value.

(11) In this concept of value, over consumption of energy by favored social strata that exceeds their actual contribution to society, is dealt with by limiting compensation to the quantity of energy contributed by the worker. This does not preclude the possibility that specific forms of energy, such as fossil fuels, may come under additional regulations required for maintaining a healthy ecology. Yes, a socialist society must return to workers what they invest in society, but it would be madness to give so much that its ecological foundations are destroyed in the process. The point is for socialism to fill basic needs, not unlimited wants.

(12) The primary concern of socialism must not be to provide human beings with limitless material abundance. It must strike a balance between material needs and known ecological limits, and the conception of need must evolve with changes in our knowledge of ecological limits. Socialism must fairly compensate workers for the energy they contribute to the common good, but whether this results in material abundance is a secondary concern. It must be decided how much growth is compatible with a thriving environment. Because the material world is ultimately entropic (as expressed by the Boltzmann entropy equation (S = k log W), life’s flourishing requires temporarily decreasing entropy through matter/energy inputs, both natural and rationally directed; consequently, there must be a sense of limits to disruptive growth, a preference for permitting nature to exist undisturbed, and recognition of the importance of letting things be.

(13) Consumption must be understood as compensation for one’s material contribution, not a reward for virtue of any kind (which must be its own reward if it is to remain virtuous); otherwise, talented workers, and this includes those who are talented at self-promotion, fraud, deception, theft, violence, and gluttony, will take the vast bulk of social goods for themselves and condemn other to second class status as the deserved outcome of their inferiority; in the process they will destroy the biosphere with their voracious consumption, which they view as “just” reward for their limitless superiority. Capitalism and the old productivist/consumerist socialism, with the groundless distinctions between work deserving of high and low rewards, must be rejected. A scientific socialism, scientific in the sense that it takes other sciences seriously (including climatology and ecology) must be about limiting human consumption, not unleashing it. Consumption must be within the limits defined by climatology and ecology, rather than the Promethean consumerist aspirations of classical liberalism, nineteenth-century Marxism, twentieth-century Marxism-Leninism, and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. This might seem unfair to Chinese socialism, which promises to build an “ecological civilization” amid rapid and massive development; but it is too soon to tell whether this promise will prove empty; what is certain is that it has already made a substantial contribution to the global climate crisis by releasing what are now world-leading quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere.

(14) The idea that scientific socialism must be compatible with other sciences requires clarification. It does not mean that socialists must acknowledge the established assumptions and findings of all sciences and explicitly agree with them. (Does it matter whether socialists know and accept the latest findings of actinology, otology, tribology, etc.? Probably not.)  It is enough for socialists to take account of established theoretical principles and empirical findings in all sciences that bear directly upon their project and take care not to violate their principles, unless they can show that the established principle is incorrect and must be abandoned. I mean by “established” principles and findings those that have withstood scrutiny so far and which have not been convincingly refuted by any other science, including Marxism. Marx should be criticized, for example, when he talks about labor time as a congealable ingredient that the labor process adds to the material substance of the commodity. This conflicts with a fundamental proposition of modern physics which views time as an immaterial dimension of reality, not an ingredient that can be added to things by some process or other, such as labor. If Marxists cannot provide convincing reasons to prefer their assumptions about time to those of modern physics, then the traditional Marxist theory of value should be reformulated in terms compatible with physics. On the other hand, if Marxists can refute standard physics by rigorously demonstrating that time should be regarded as a substance (the substance of value as Marx called it) then physics should adapt to Marxism, but this does not seem likely.

(15) Besides the need for an empirically defensible theory of value, Marxism must be kept relevant in the newly named Anthropocene epoch. This name denotes the present age of planetary environmental crisis. It is now clear that the intractable environmental problems facing humankind are the result of human activities, especially the complementary economic and scientific developments that have taken place since the Industrial Revolution (at the very latest). A terrifying increase in human power to devour the environment has occurred, causing a constellation of problems that includes: air, water, and soil pollution; global warming and climate change; human overpopulation; resource depletion; the global destruction of habitats; and mass extinctions. The stress on the material bases of life has killed vast numbers of organisms in what is called the Sixth Great Extinction.42 There is even some concern that Homo sapiens may not survive the Anthropocene. No one is sure whether life can survive if industrial civilization continues its trajectory toward unlimited economic growth, or whether humans, if they do survive, will be forced to revert to the lower consumption levels that characterized early- or pre-industrial eras. If Marxists can develop a theoretical and practical program for dealing with the problems of the Anthropocene, the world will flock to it; otherwise the world will look to capitalist solutions such as liberalism, neoliberalism, social democracy, and fascism for solutions. This will happen regardless of how dangerous and absurd it seems to Marxists.

(16) A scientific theory of value is necessary not only to bring Marxism in communion with the other empirical sciences, it is also a prerequisite of an ecological Marxism, which is in turn crucial to Marxism’s relevance in the Anthropocene. It must replace Marx’s “labor mixing” theory, which is a holdover from natural rights-based, labor-mixing theories of bourgeois political economists.43  It is scientifically correct that Marxists aim to replace these ideological mystifications with empirically verifiable propositions; it is also a wise political strategy, because science-based political strategies, like all human endeavors informed by the relevant scientific disciplines, actually stand a reasonable chance of achieving the intended results.

  1. Marx, Karl. “Critique of the Gotha Program.” In Robert Tucker, ed. The Marx-Engels  Reader, 2nd ed. p. 525–541. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1978 (1875),  525.
  2. Lenin used the term “socialism” to describe what Marx called the “first phase of communist society” and “communism” to denote Marx’s “higher phase of communist society.” I have followed this practice when I have considered it convenient to do so. Thus,  I refer to the distributive principles of the lower and higher phases as the “socialist principle of distribution” and the “communist principle of distribution,” respectively. For Lenin’s usage see The State and Revolution, Chapter V, §3-4; for Marx’s, see “Critique of the Gotha Program,” Part I, §1. For an objection to this practice see: Layton, Richard. “No Marx!Dissident Voice. April 9, 2015.
  3. Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Program,” p. 530.
  4. Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Moscow, 1936.
  5. Cf. Simons, William B., ed. The Constitutions of the Communist World. The Hague:  Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1984.
  6. Kuusinen, O.V., et al., ed. Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1963, p. 584.
  7. Marx, Karl. Capital, vol. 1. New York: Vintage Books, 1977 (1867), p. 135.
  8. Marx, Karl. Capital, vol. III. London: Penguin Books, 1991 (1898). p. 241.
  9. Ibid. p. 414.
  10. Ibid. p. 414 – 415, n. 39[a].
  11. Marx, Karl. Capital, vol. 1, p. 127.
  12. Ibid. p. 127.
  13. Ibid., p. 129.
  14. Ibid. p. 130.
  15. Marx, Capital, v. II, p. 462.
  16. Ibid. p. 464.
  17. Marx, Capital, v. III, p. 133.
  18. Ibid. p. 1006.
  19. Harris, J. Arthur and Francis G. Benedict. A Biometric Study of Basal Metabolism in Man. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution, 1919. There is an extensive literature on human energy consumption in daily life, work, and recreational activities.  A small sample includes:  R. Passmore & J. Durnin. “Human Energy Expenditure.” Physiol Rev. 1955 Oct; 35(4) 801–840; T. Church et al. “Trends over 5 Decades in U.S. Occupation-Related Physical Activity and Their Associations with Obesity.” PLoS ONE.  2011 May; 6(5) 1–7; M. Mansoubi et al. “Energy Expenditure during Common Sitting and Standing Tasks: Examining the 1.5 MET Definition of Sedentary Behavior.” BMC Public Health. 2015: Article number 516; S. Bilici et al.  “Energy Expenditure and Nutritional Status of Coal Miners: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Archives of  Environmental & Occupational Health. 2016; 71(5) 293–299; R. Griffin, et al. “Gluttony and Sloth? Calories, Labor Market Activity, and the Rise of Obesity.” Journal of  the European Economic Association. 2016; 14(6) 1253–1286; J. Deyaert et al. “Attaching Metabolic Expenditures to Standard Occupational Classification Systems:  Perspectives from Time-Use Research.” BMC Public Health. 2017; Article number 620.
  20. Calories burned by a 185 lb person in 30 minutes in the following occupational activities: computer work – 61; light office work – 67; sitting in meetings – 72; desk work – 78; bartending/serving – 173; general construction – 244; coal mining – 266; masonry- 311; general steel mill – 355. From: Harvard Health Publishing. “Calories Burned in  30 Minutes by People of Three Different Weights.”
  21. For procreationism see Marx’s discussion of Malthus in Capital, v.1, p. 766–767, and his remarks on surplus population in Capital, v. 3, p. 324–325). Procreationism is a remnant of Judeo-Christian traditions, retained and gradually transformed into a human rights issue by some religious and secular liberals in bourgeois societies. This aspect of the tradition was abandoned by bourgeois clerics such as Malthus, who prescribed anti-procreationism as a solution to the poverty and misery of the surplus working-class population. Marx’s view is that there is no natural limit on human population. The immiseration of so-called “surplus populations” in capitalism is due solely to the exploitive relations of production in that system. Marx’s procreationsim grows out of the connections between Marx’s views on population, the higher value ascribed to intellectual workers by his labor theory of value, and his productionist/consumerist sympathies. Like capitalism, Marx’s socialism requires perpetual reproduction of producers (with an emphasis on highly skilled intellectual workers) and consumers in unlimited numbers to facilitate perpetual economic growth.
  22. For an early example of his productionism/consumerism see the section on “The Meaning of Human Requirements” in Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.
  23. Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party. In vol. 6 of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, 477–519. New York: International Publishers, 1976 (1848), p. 489.
  24. Ibid. p. 495.
  25. Ibid. 504.
  26. Ibid. p. 505. Except for a line on “improvement of the soil generally” as part of a program to expand agriculture, the manifesto’s 10-point program gives no indication that ecological concerns will play a role in the transition from capitalism to communism.
  27. Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Program,” p. 531.
  28. Lenin, Vladimir I.  The State and Revolution. In vol. 25 of V. I. Lenin: Collected Works, 385–497. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964 (1917), p. 473.
  29. Kuusinen, et al., Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, p. 544, 569.
  30. Ibid. p. 570.
  31. Ibid. p. 705.
  32. Ibid. p. 706-707.
  33. Ibid. p. 700.
  34. Engels, Frederick. The Condition of the Working Class in England. In vol. 4 of Karlarx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, 294–596. New York: International Publishers, 1975 (1845), passim.
  35. The “coevolutionary” remark is from Clark, Brett and Richard York. “Reflections in Honor of the Twentieth Anniversary of Levin’s and Lewontin’s The Dialectical Biologist,” Monthly Review 57 (1) (May 2005): p. 13–22. The quote on victories over nature is from Engels’ Dialectics of Nature. London: Wellred Publications, 2012 (1883), p. 182.
  36. Marx, Capital, v. I., p. 637–638.
  37. Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Program,” p. 525.
  38. Foster, John Bellamy. “Late Soviet Ecology and the Planetary Crisis,” Monthly Review 67 (2) (June 2015): p. 1–20.
  39. Marx, Karl. The Class Struggles in France: 1848-1850. In vol. 10 of Karl Marx,  Frederick Engels: Collected Works, 45–145. New York: International Publishers, 1978 (1850), p. 127.
  40. Chinese socialism is an exception to the charge of procreationism; both the one-child policy and the recently adopted two-child policy firmly reject it.
  41. See note 20.
  42. Cf. Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Great Extinction. New York: Henry Holt and Comany 2014.
  43. For an early labor mixing theory see John Locke’s discussion of property in chapter 5 of The Second Treatise of Civil Government.

Lukacs’s Marxist Aesthetics

Lukács, 1913

György Lukács’s views on aesthetics will be found in one of his two major mature works, The Specificity of the Aesthetic, the other one being Towards an Ontology of Social Being. They both constitute huge treatises. The Specificity of the Aesthetic extends to approximately 1800 pages, its purpose being to clarify the categories of Marxist aesthetics and the nature of the aesthetic phenomenon. It was to be followed by two further sequences – The Work of Art and Aesthetic Behavior and Art as a Social-Historical Phenomenon – with the second revolving around the problems of structure and technique of artistic work and the third with the historical dimension of art. Towards an Ontology of Social Being, a work of approximately 1450 pages, attempts to highlight the ontological foundations of social being in labor, exploring the relationships between nature and society as well as the historical structuring of the social. It was to be followed by an Ethics, which, like the two sequels of The Specificity of the Aesthetic, was never written. Nevertheless, in both works we find several hints on issues that Lukacs would deal with in the parts he was unable to realize.

The great value of Lukacs’s last two works and their enormous importance for the further development of Marxism has been underlined by serious Marxist experts. P. Vranicki characteristically maintains that The Specificity of the Aesthetic “must be included among the most important conquests of the culture of our times.”1  St. Morawski, for his part, summarizes Lukacs’s contribution to Marxist aesthetics in the following terms:

One of Lukacs’s great merits is that he showed there is a Marxist aesthetics. At the same time, he undertook several analyses of changes within the Marxist doctrine (e.g., Mehring, Lenin). There is no doubt that no Marxist theorist has broadened the circle of aesthetic questions or analyzed and systemized them more deeply than Lukacs. Those who say that Lukacs provides the first Marxist system of aesthetics are not mistaken. There is no problem which he has not placed in a new light; no aesthetic question on which he has not shown that Marxism has its roots in the best European tradition. Always extremely sensitive to our cultural heritage, Lukacs still never fails to point out the revolutionary philosophical and aesthetic changes wrought by Marx… Marxist aesthetics can only be developed by incorporating his achievements and by learning from his mistakes. Only in this way will it be able to attain new horizons.2

The Specificity of the Aesthetic does indeed include multi-dimensional, original and in-depth analyzes of aesthetic problems, which methodologically derive from the best traditions of the materialistic assimilation of the Hegelian dialectic by the classics. It promotes thus decisively the understanding of art as a special form of reflection of reality, illuminating its relation to other areas of human action and clarifying its aesthetic basis.

As has been adequately demonstrated in Marxist literature, Marx’s analysis of capitalism in Grundrisse and Capital is strongly based on the Hegelian logic of the concept, with its three moments of universality, particularity, and singularity.3  Marx starts with capital in general to develop the fundamental categories of capitalist economy (value, surplus value), which operate in the sphere of production. Only after that he refers to individual capitals and their competition as the specific form that determines the distribution of surplus value in its various parts. In his Aesthetics, Lukacs follows the same logical scheme in his analysis of the fundamental for the theory of realism concept of the type. A type, he argues, embodies the moment of particularity, as an intermediary between the moments of universality and singularity. In it, the individual is combined with the general, to the extent that the subjectivity of the hero is freed from purely random individual traits and elevated to the general condition of the age.

Lukacs extensively refers to the Marxist dialectic of the universal and the particular, but he argues that the case with art is different. The scientific study of a field, typically Marx’s analysis of capitalism, follows a course from the universal to the individual or vice versa. Although real capital is a specific thing, a particular, yet scientific knowledge oscillates between the two ends of the abstraction, the universal and the singular, with the general representing the decisive moment. In art, by contrast, and this has to do with its anthropomorphic character, it is particularity that represents the fundamental moment around which the other two are ordered:

The specificity of the aesthetic sphere is that particularity does not only mediate between generality and singularity, but also acts as an organizational center. This means that the reflection movement does not go, as in knowledge, from generality to singularity and then vice versa (or in the other sense), but that particularity, as center or middle point, is the point of departure and arrival; that is, these movements, on the one hand, run through the way from particularity to generality and return, and on the other hand, act as a link between particularity and singularity. It is not therefore a transverse movement between the two extreme categories, but a movement between the center and the periphery.4

The realist writer can certainly emphasize more in one type the general or the individual, depending on the plot of the work, the development of a character, etc. The analysis of these moments and their composition in the particular, however, is not at all a sterile dialectical exercise or pedantry; on the contrary, it illuminates essential aspects. In Carpenter’s They Live, to limit ourselves to one example, Holly, if viewed from the standpoint of universality, embodies the American dream, the fulfillment which dominant values promise. As an individual, on the other hand, she is the rich human being, which in its spontaneous movement remains however directionless, passively adapting herself to the dominant impulses of the system; even if momentarily those who tend to overthrow it act on her, they do not change her internally. Her particularity, as a combination of these two moments, can only be the attitude she adopts at the end of the film, when she tries to prevent the hero from destroying the transmitter of the aliens with the words, “You cannot win”. The fact that Nada kills Holly and destroys the transmitter before being shot by aliens is the realistic climax of the film: on the one hand he gets rid of his illusions (expressed at the beginning of the movie in his own words, “I follow the rules and wait for my chance”); on the other hand, the great sacrifices the working class has to make in order to put an end to the system of exploitation are also clarified. The particular, as a concrete crystallization of individual and general impulses, is here the center for the realistic representation of the whole; any other outcome would mean a distortion of the real developmental trends.

The type represents thus the means of authentic (realistic) artistic creation, but there are two other important things in it: purpose and content. Its purpose is to achieve harmony through catharsis; its content, on the other hand, is mimesis, the peculiar artistic reflection of reality, without which art cannot accomplish its purpose.

Lukacs defines catharsis in accordance with Aristotle and Lessing, as “the transformation of passions into virtuous inclinations”. In this way art fulfills a defetishizing function, removing obstacles to practical action and making man receptive to the new. But while in Aristotle, catharsis refers mainly to tragedy and the feelings of fear and sympathy it mobilizes, Lukacs insists that it embraces all artistic realms. Even more: “The concept of catharsis is much broader. As with all major categories of aesthetics, we also find that catharsis has its primary origin is in life, not in art, to which it comes from life”.5  Catharsis, therefore, reflects the link of art with life, with human potentials and needs. In this connection, Lukacs refers to Hegel’s practically oriented aesthetics, in order to explore the historical genesis of the forms and types of artistic creation and to integrate aesthetical behavior into the totality of human activities.”6

Mimesis is the artistic representation of life in its particular expression that becomes the object of a work of art and is reproduced in it. Lukacs also uses the concepts of reflection and representation as equivalent with it. He also insists here that what is involved here is not a photographic representation, a snapshot, but a reproduction of the contradictory movement, of the correlation with the totality of the real:

Even those [arts] that reproduce the immediate objectivity of the external world with artistic immediacy do not originate –especially from the perspective of aesthetic realism– by a simple, much less photographic representation, but by the emergence of the coincidence of phenomenon and substance in the phenomenon that becomes thus both nearer and more distant from life… Even clearer is this relevance to the structure, to the nature of the content, presented by the particular totality of each work. Its realistic character is judged by how profoundly and aptly, how comprehensively and genuinely it is able to reproduce and raise the problems of the personal and historical moment of its creation from the perspective of their enduring importance to the evolution of humanity. 7

Lukacs extensively discusses the intellectual basis of mimesis, using the tools of Pavlovian psychology. According to Pavlov’s theory, man has two signal systems: Signal System 1 (the direct impressions of reality, this is also present in animals) and Signal System 2 (language, the signals of these first signals, words, generalizations, etc., this being specific to human beings). Lukacs interposes between them Signal System 1; i.e., imagination, which shares a number of common features with each one of the other two. The latter two systems emerge from work, in particular the need for humans to react effectively to new experiences, associating them with what is already known. Giving a more dialectical interpretation of the psychological response to Pavlovian stimuli, Lukacs emphasizes the crucial role of imagination in art and its inherent opposition to bourgeois ideological norms: bourgeois ideology tends to limit knowledge and communication to Signal System 1, emphasizing immediate, functional elements of behavior, while authentic art sheds light on its social bases, its motivation and its long-term effective directions.

Its character as a dialectical mimesis of reality lends a specific, objective content to the work of art. Lukacs rejects relativistic approaches, in the style of Adorno, according to which a multitude of interpretations of a work of art are possible, without any possibility or criteria of choice between them.8 A radical relativism and indeterminacy of this kind is typical of modernist tendencies; the realistic work of art, by contrast, brings to light the real connections, thereby leaving fewer ambiguities. This does not at all imply that different interpretations of a work cannot be offered or that content is given in a clear, unambiguous way; Lukacs criticizes naturalism and the panegyric Stalinist art for precisely this reason. In a realistic work of art ambiguity does have a place, but as a moment of a contradictory, transitional reality, which encompasses opposing aspects and possibilities; the latter, even if not fully clarified, come to a certain relation, the one towards which life itself is tending, and this allows us to distinguish between valid and false interpretations.

The key position Lukacs attributes to mimesis stimulates a comparison with the way Plekhanov conceived the issue, all the more so as Plekhanov was in many ways his forerunner, posing in an elementary way many problems of Marxist aesthetics and philosophy worked out by Lukacs in his mature work. Plekhanov recognizes the importance of mimesis in social and particularly in artistic development, but he assesses ​​it as a fundamentally conservative principle. Imitation is involved in every creation and social attitude that aims to reproduce already known practices, patterns of behavior, etc. But, Plekhanov argues, in social practice there is another aspect, i.e., contradiction (conflict), which being active is the most vital as it pushes change forward. In a lengthy argument, he criticizes the bourgeois thinkers’ formulation of the issue:

Tarde, who has written a very interesting essay on the laws of imitation, regards it as the soul of society as it were. As he defines it, every social group is an aggregation of beings who partly imitate one another at the present time, and partly imitated one and the same model in the past. That imitation has played a very big part in the history of all our ideas, tastes, fashions and customs is beyond the slightest doubt. Its immense importance was already emphasized by the materialists of the last century: man consists entirely of imitation, Helvetius said. But it is just as little to be doubted that Tarde based his investigation of the laws of imitation on a false premise. When the restoration of the Stuarts in Britain temporarily re-established the rule of the old nobility, the latter, far from betraying the slightest tendency to imitate the extreme representatives of the revolutionary petty bourgeoisie, the Puritans, evinced a very strong inclination for habits and tastes that were the very opposite of the Puritan rules of life. The strict morals of the Puritans gave way to the most incredible licentiousness. It became good form to like, and to do, the very things the Puritans forbade. The Puritans were very religious; high society at the time of the Restoration flaunted its impiety. The Puritans persecuted the theater and literature; their downfall was the signal for a new and powerful infatuation for the theater and literature… In a word, what operated here was not imitation, but contradiction, which evidently is likewise rooted in the properties of human nature… We may consequently say that though man undoubtedly has a strong tendency to imitation, it manifests itself only in definite social relations… In other social relations the tendency to imitation vanishes and gives place to its opposite, which for the present I shall call the tendency to contradiction.9

One could think that Plekhanov’s view, with its emphasis on contradiction, is more radical than that of Lukacs. Yet this is not true. In fact, Plekhanov’s view is dualistic, involving two principles, imitation and contradiction, that operate independently of one another. No matter how he tries further to correct it, noting that contradiction distinguished the nobles’ attitude towards their enemies, while between them unity prevailed, based on the imitation of their more advanced representatives by others, we finally get a simplistic picture: within one class there is imitation, between classes conflict. This view erases the complexity of evolution, overlooking in particular the contradictions between different parts of a class, which are often not negligible. Lukacs’s conception of mimesis, by contrast, precisely because it relates to the imitation of processes or evolving situations, embodies contradiction: artistic mimesis involves both resemblance and contrast to the original.

Lukacs emphasizes this point with regard to music, citing the example of Pindar’s ode to the lamentation of Medusa’s sister Evryali. The mimesis of the lament in the melody of the flute is alike and at the same time different from the lament; otherwise one could not explain how while the lament expresses a feeling of pain, its melodic transmutation can provide comfort and even enjoyment. Between feeling and artistic representation, he notes, there is a “qualitative leap”; art transcends human daily life, so that “whatever is bad or unpleasant in life mimetically can offer joy.”10

With his historical presentation of the mimetic phenomenon Lukacs establishes further the “in itself” being of art. Primitive art was so closely associated with religion and magic that it could not yet be called mimetic. Mimesis emerges when art becomes independent; it establishes a distance between representation and reality that does not exist in magical ceremonies. At the same time, the ensuing independence of the various spheres (science, religion, art), even if all of them refer to the social and human relationship with the world, gives to each one its own special character. In the natural sciences, “dehumanization” is predominant, what is represented there is the material world abstracting as much as possible from man. Religion refers to the subjective world, eliminating the natural and shifting the first to a beyond. In art, too, the subjective world predominates, but without eliminating the link to reality.

Mimetic ways vary in every art, in literature, music, sculpture, painting, architecture, the applied arts. But in various kinds of an art the focus of mimesis shifts too; in literature, for example, epic focuses on individuality and drama on universality. However, Lukacs insists, mimesis is a universal principle of art; it allows for a unified treatment of the artistic and aesthetic phenomenon, without canceling its differentiations.

This raises the question about the content of mimesis in each specific art and especially in arts without a direct reference to the real world. The representation of the real is evident in literature, painting, sculpture, but what does music represent? Lukacs replies that music represents the feelings and inner life of man. This may seem inconsistent with his general definition of mimesis, but he himself argues that these feelings are not purely subjective but typical feelings and mental states of people at a given stage of social development which are mobilized by external determinations. Of course, music can be combined with singing, as in opera, where its connection to social reality becomes explicit. However, its distinctive feature is melody and its particular stamp as an art is revealed there, not in the accompanying verses of a song. In this context, music is a double imitation or an imitation of imitation; an imitation of the inner human world which in turn imitates the outside world. The typical is detected in the degree of universality of emotions it mobilizes, the moment of the particular lies in its ability to elevate the individual feeling into the general feeling of the times.11

Some theorists such as St. Morawski argue that the introduction of psychological-intellectual elements into the process of mimesis destroys its meaning: “Mimesis,” he writes, “is supposed to concern the relation of art to a directly given outside reality. In the arguments focusing on music and architecture, however, the accent moves to psychological or psycho-social attitudes. If one were to posit the expression of definite psychic or psycho-social states as a constitutive element of mimesis, then the concept would be so altered that Lukacs’ entire thesis would become a truism. It would become an elastic statement – such as that art is always dependent on reality.12

It would indeed be arbitrary to argue that the artist directly expresses in mimesis the mental states caused by his experiences, the causes of his inspiration, and so on. Artistic creation does not revolve around the artist’s feelings, but around the source of those feelings, being an appropriation of the inner nature of the thing attracting his interest and attention. This does not negate the fact that the mental states he experiences, which are not self-existent but include pre-existing class, value, etc., determinations, act on the mode of appropriation and are thus incorporated into the artistic result. In this sense, Lukacs insists, mimesis cannot be separated from the artist’s inner process and the work of art is the unity of the two.13

In the part on cinema, while criticizing Benjamin, Lukacs offers some interesting insights into the relationship between cinema and theater. Benjamin had argued that cinema is an art form devoid of the aura of “unique character”, since the public does not come into direct contact with the actors as in theater, thereby narrowing its aesthetic impact. Lukacs accuses him of romantic anti-capitalism here, arguing that cinema actually opens wider aesthetic fields than theater does. While in theater the outside world is reduced to a scenery, in cinema we have a representation of the whole of life: both the actions of the protagonists and the social space in which they unfold are actively present, allowing a deeper exploration of their interrelations. With that in mind, Lukacs also traces in cinema a “double mimesis”, as in music, the difference being that in the latter we have a vertical, while in cinema a horizontal process of abstraction (instead of a chain external-internal-doubly internal, one form the external to the internal and to the concrete).14

The universality of cinema is also highlighted in another connection, that of the representational medium. Most arts mobilize a particular human sense in their own distinctive imitation process, vision, hearing, language, and so on. They thus abstract a particular aspect of the heterogeneity of life, which they mimic from a definite viewpoint, a situation Lukacs describes by introducing the notion of a homogeneous medium. In cinema, however, we do not have a homogeneous medium: what is represented is the heterogeneity of life itself in all its aspects. This does not mean that mimesis ceases to exist or that we have a mere return to the raw heterogeneity of direct experience. Heterogeneity is reproduced here from a specific point of view, stressing and highlighting certain specific aspects of it. In its presentation of the the outside and the inner world a movie inevitably selects, condenses and enhances some of its elements, creating a specific atmosphere that establishes its own unique homogeneity.15

Consequently, the broad popularity of cinema is not a sign of aesthetic deterioration. On the contrary, it is closely linked to its potential of expanding the representational field to the extent of becoming an authentic, great folk art. Of course, Lukacs points out that this potential is realized in comparatively few films that deeply touch the public, like the films of Eisenstein, Pudovkin and Chaplin.16

In the last parts of The Specificity of the Aesthetic, Lukacs discusses the separation of art and religion. Religion, he argues, is dominated by an individualistic perspective, the purpose of the religious person being his salvation as an individual; art, like science, elevates the individual to the general. Therefore, “in its objective intent, art is as hostile to religion as science is”. This is not to say that Lukacs excludes from the realm of authentic art religious works such as the Renaissance paintings or Bach’s Passions, but he argues that these are in fact secular works, even if under a religious cloak. Of course there is a religious art proper in which the allegorical, symbolic element plays a key role. It represents a lower level of artistic assimilation of reality, the origin of which Lukacs traces in the ornamental mode of representation, dominated by abstract structural elements such as rhythm, symmetry and proportion. Their absence of meaningful content creates a gap between reality and religious representation, which is covered by the allegorical invocation of the transcendent.17

  1. P. Vranicki, History of Marxism, Odysseas Editions, Athens 1976, vol. ΙΙ, p. 208.
  2. St. Morawski, “Mimesis – Lukacs’ universal principle”, Science and Society, 32 (1), 1968, p. 27, 38.
  3. See, e.g., F. Moseley, “The Universal and the Particulars in Hegel’s Logic and Marx’s Capital”, Universality refers to what is common in a group of objects, phenomena, etc., ignoring their differences. Singularity refers to the individual, taken separately from like and non-like phenomena or objects. Particularity is the concrete, the individual as a moment of the whole. For a discussion of the corresponding method of quantum mechanics in relation to microcosmic phenomena. See the chapter on R. Feynman in Chr. Kefalis, The Great Natural Scientists, Topos Editions, Athens 2015, p. 129 ff.
  4. G. Lukacs, La Peculiaridad de lo Estético, Editiones Grisalbo, Barcelona 1967, vol. 3, p. 213.
  5. G. Lukacs, ibid, vol. 2, p. 500.
  6. For a comprehensive discussion of this relationship see G. Oldrini, “Lukacs’s aesthetics in the light of its relation to Hegel’s aesthetics,” in Georg Lukacs. Interpretive Approaches, Alexandria Editions, Athens 2006, p. 295-328.
  7. G. Lukacs, Aesthetics of Music (the chapter on music of The Specificity of the Aesthetic), Topos Editions, Athens 2018, p. 129. There is no need to explain how far away is this formulation from the narrow-minded Stalinist notions of “socialist realism”.
  8. In this spirit, e.g., Adorno, responding without stating it explicitly, to Balzac’s appreciation of Lukacs as a realist, presents an interpretation of Balzac as the delusional inventor of a semi-paranoid system of social relations. For Adorno’s argument, see P. U. Hohendahl, “The theory of the novel and the concept of realism in Lukacs and Adorno”, in Georg Lukacs Reconsidered, Critical Essays in Politics, Philosophy and Aesthetics, Continuum, London 2011, p. 79-80.
  9. G. Plekhanov, “Unaddressed Letters,” in Selected Philosophical Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1981, vol. V, p. 274-275.
  10. G. Lukacs, Aesthetics of Music, p. 13-15.
  11. For the above, see G. Lukacs, Aesthetics of Music, especially p. 49 ff., 77 ff., 97 ff.
  12. St. Morawski, ibid, p. 36.
  13. Lukacs explicitly emphasizes this in one of his polemics against Brecht, who downplayed the role of psychological elements in artistic creation: “The content of a work of art –however intellectual– does not just consist in such a relationship to things in themselves, even though this may form an essential aspect of the work as a totality. It entails also a personal response to the factual complex it reflects and from which it is inseparable. Whether that response be one of tragic shock, optimistic acceptance or ironical criticism, etc., carries as much weight as the thought content itself. Nor does such a response abolish the work’s objectivity; it merely gives it new emphasis. What counts is the importance of both the content and the response it elicits for the development of mankind and the way in which both can become the property of humanity” (G. Lukacs, “On  Bertolt Brecht” ).
  14. J. Kelemen adequately analyses these connections: «It might not be accidental (and even supports the affinity of film and music) that terms of musical theory seem to be the most adequate to present montage structures of modern film art… An affinity of music and film has also been supported by the fact that music also constitutes a double reflection and its first level is not desanthropomorphic, either” (J. Kelemen, The Rationalism of Georg Lukacs, Palgrave Macmillan, New York 2014, p. 130).
  15. As Kelemen also notes, «atmosphere has constituted a central term of film aesthetics. Extending the concept of Georg Lukacs we may discover in atmospheric unity a functional analogy with the homogeneous medium characterizing other forms of art and expressions” (J. Kelemen, ibid, p. 130).
  16. See G. Lukacs, La Peculiaridad de lo Estético, vol. 4, p. 178-179, 189-190, etc.
  17. For a more detailed exposition of the above points, see G. Parkinson, Georg Lukacs, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1977, p. 140-142.

Crisis after Crisis and Still the Citizen in Capitalism Follows the Paymaster as God

I’ve been running into a lot of soft democrats and confused environmentalists lately who are all up in arms about things that really don’t mean diddly-squat in the scheme of things. You know, the presidential election (sic), all the perversity of not only Trump, but Holly-dirt, Mainlining Media, and the billionaire class, and this rotten society that still after 400 years of slavery and after a thousand treaties with indigenous peoples broken is as racist as ever.

Southern California Communist Party of USA:

slavery

More so racist in a time of supposedly more information and revised histories of this raping class of people who brought their sad, swathed-in-money-and-subjugation religion to these teeming shores. And other shores, too.

We’ve got people taking a hard position on …  we have to ban plastic straws and we have to ban grocery bags and we have to do something with all that plastic out there … when the positions should be centered around global justice, global poverty, the military industrial complex that is the purview of dozens of countries now, many of which are dealing with abject poverty — Pakistan, India, err, USA!

We never ever talk about the military, because that’s taboo, off limits, sacred cow of the Empire, even folks wearing Birkenstocks and bamboo underwear. Or mining operations by UK, French, USA, Australia, and Oh Canada.

Canadian Mining Companies Are Destroying Latin America1

Canada Mining Companies in Latin America Have Blood on Hands. An injured protester flees as riot police use tear gas and batons to disperse a protest

Canadian mining activity in Latin America has skyrocketed over the past decade. Acting on 1994’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada signed agreements with several Latin American countries to facilitate easy access for resource extraction. Those countries include Peru (2009), Colombia (2011), Panama (2013), and Honduras (2014). As such, five of the top ten locations for Canada’s international mining assets in 2014 were Latin American countries.

According to Natural Resources Canada, the value of Canadian mining assets abroad reached $148.7 billion in 2012, accounting for 66 percent of all Canadian mining assets.

Canadian activities in Mexico are especially pronounced. With nearly 200 companies in operation, Mexico is the top destination for Canadian mining investment outside of Canada. In Guerrero, terror, violence, and intimidation are a daily occurrence and the gold is said to be cheap and easy to mine. Indeed, Canadian companies such as Goldcorp, Newstrike Capital, Alamos Gold, and Torex Gold Resources all have a strong presence there.

So many of my friends want to move to Canada, cuz that paradise is so humane and loving! I try to talk sense in them, so they change the subject:

So, they spend countless hours thinking of ways to collect the plastic and incentivize schemes to have the stuff shredded and put into road asphalt. Ways to get that “precious plastic” into those 3-D printing machines.

Twisted up like pretzels, they go on and on about the ways we the people shall be/should be putting our effort/money in cleaning up our mess, err, created by corporations, and the plastics industries, which is just another front for the chemical industry, which is tied at the umbilical cord to the oil industry, since everything we do now is cooked and polymerized from that fossil goo we have so become not only addicted to but galvanized into.

Our human shit is bound up with plastics, and our food and air and soil are flogged with chemical after chemical, until all the residues and off-gassing and concomitant synergistic coalescing of physiological side effects have so altered Homo Sapiens before we are born that this is a massive, uncontrolled Doctor Frankenstein and Doctor Moreau  experiment  with outcomes we already see and feel:

  • lower sperm count in young boys and men
  • more than half of USA population cut with chronic illnesses
  • mental disturbances in more and more kindergartners and 1-12 students
  • allergies in more and more kindergartners and 1-12 students
  • more and more physical and intellectual anomalies in more and more kindergartners and 1-12 students
  • more collective passivity in the culture collectively — i.e. Stockholm Syndrome for the masses as their/our leaders-bosses-criminal politicians perpetrate the largest theft of human, monetary and ecological resources the planet or any country has ever seen
  • more and more dis-connectivity of certain melanin-starved racists to begin both mass suicides and mass shootings, as they see more and more people they are against while they continually self-medicate and calorically/chemically-abuse their own selves and zygotes
  • more mass delusion of the massive popular (insipid, droll, infantile) culture that takes more and more time and money away from individuals and families until they are indebted to the millionaire and billionaire class — the same class they now bow to, look up to, regal, valorize

Think about it for a second — Capitalism means we the people take it a million times a day, and we then believe we are the problem, we are the destroyers of the planet (we the 80 percent). We believe collectively that the corporations are mostly benevolent, that Stockholders R’ Us and that companies are people too!

I have had zero choice in all the plastics in 99 percent of the shit I have to have to be a writer, social services worker, contractor, naturalist, etc. Plastic in my car, around my car, even though it’s 2000 Chevy Metro, three-banger five speed with 220,000 original miles?

The externalities and economies of scale WE the PEOPLE pay for. It’s gotta stop —

Even though plastic is destroying our oceans, big corporations are being given money to produce cheap plastic. Taxpayers pay more than 90% of the cost of recycling, while huge subsidies are placed on fossil fuels, the major building block for plastic. This is unfair: we need to take bold action now.

Corporations should pay for the damage they cause. Only then will they be forced to create environmentally friendly alternatives. Fossil fuel companies received subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.7tn) worldwide in 2015, China alone provided subsidies of $2.3tn. As plastic is made out of fossil fuels, these are effectively colossal plastic subsidies.

Rather than being paid to pollute our waters, the polluters should pay for their plastic waste to be recycled. Currently that cost is covered by the taxpayer, but instead the cost of recycling should be part of the cost of the plastic itself – with the additional money being transferred to local governments to pay for recycling. The government should reward retailers who develop new sustainable ideas, and raise charges on packaging that is difficult to recycle. This would reduce the demand for deadly plastics among producers and retailers.

I could go on and on, but for brevity’s sake, I will shift this essay into the arena of just what is important to people in a time of mass surveillance, mass extinction, mass shootings, mass criminality of the FIRE brand class (sic)  — Finance Insurance Real Estate. What really is important to people who scoured Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and the infinite sound byte website and endless drivel of Youtube, TED-X and those top 10 “news” sites where all the news is unfit to send over the Internet.

If one were to have a one-on-one talk with supposedly enlightened ones, who care about the environment, know what the politics are and are on board for some massive change, they still get it so wrong, so dangerously wrong. Commie is not a good thing to them, and more and more greenies are telling me how they worry about China/Asia coming over the Pacific to take away the great resources from Canada and USA, since our (sic) North America is blessed with resources, blessed with money, blesses with less impacts from global heating.

It’s so sad, so sad, that the collective DNA of America still defaults to many of the myths and lies of both sides of the manure pile — anti Chinese, anti-Russians, anti-North Koreans, anti-Syrians, et al.

Then we drift into the prostitute line up on mainstream TV, prognosticating on who would be the best to replace Trump. Haha. It is a viscous carnival circle jerk, with all sorts of caveats on who is better than whom, and in the end, it’s always Biden would be the best, since the polls say that — oh the polls!

“We believe to put our time and money and brain-power into understanding the issues and priorities is where we can most have an impact,” Gallup Editor in Chief Frank Newport told Politico. Let other operations focus on predicting voter behavior, the implication went, we’re going to dig deeper into what the public thinks about current events.

Still, Gallup’s move, which followed an embarrassingly inaccurate performance by the company in the 2012 elections, reinforces the perception that something has gone badly wrong in polling and that even the most experienced players are at a loss about how to fix it. Heading into the 2016 primary season, news consumers are facing an onslaught of polls paired with a nagging suspicion that their findings can’t be trusted. Over the last four years, pollsters’ ability to make good predictions about Election Day has seemingly deteriorated before our eyes.

Out of all those “candidates,” I still hear from liberals here on the coast of Oregon say, Mayor Pete. “Oh, we want Mayor Pete!” This is that other disease that should have been listed above in the bullet points — some guy, who is a declared homosexual, who went to Iraq on his own in the US military, and he’s proud of it. These people don’t even bend knee for Bernie or Tulsi, because, alas, that Mad comics book guy might be the feminized or neutralized face of their own boys. Go Pete, right!

Here, some fun:

Bizarrely, at least for someone who needs to win Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina to be elected president, Mayor Pete began the evening with a long description of his Rhodes scholarship at Oxford (England, not Old Miss), where he took “a first in PPE” (philosophy, politics, and economics) at Pembroke College. (William Pitt the Younger and Monty Python’s Eric Idle are among its famous graduates.)

Acting like a kindly thesis adviser during orals, Capehart carefully went through each line of Mayor Pete’s curriculum vitae, just so the audience would not miss the fact that after the years at Harvard and Oxford, Pete also got his ticket punched as a 29-year-old mayor in South Bend and as an ensign in the U.S. naval reserve, in which he was deployed as an intelligence officer to NATO command in Kabul.

Oh, and by the way, he also worked as a consultant for McKinsey and, more recently, found time to write his memoirs, Shortest Way Home.It’s painting/writing by the numbers, so any aspiring candidate can sound like the father-dreaming Barack Obama (“A river is made drop by drop”).

In the end Mayor Pete will fall victim to what so far has delivered him to the presidential jamboree—the paper chase of credentialism.

Without Harvard, Oxford, McKinsey, and Afghanistan on his resumé, Mayor Pete would look more like an overly bright Jeopardy! contestant than a presidential candidate. (Alex Trebek: “He’s the mayor of a midwestern city and in his spare time he wants to be president. Let’s give a big welcome for Pete Buttigieg….”)

But with so many golden tickets in his background, after a while, when voters ask about what it will take to cut the $1 trillion blown on Homeland security or the best way to lower carbon emissions, they will want to hear more than Pete’s self-directed love songs. Whitman said, “I and this mystery, here we stand,” but he wasn’t running for president.

Thus, as Requiem for a Lightweight: the Mayor Pete Factor
by Matthew Stevenson points out, this guy, Mayor Pete, is the guy your old mother might like.

The heart of it is many women of the democratic party species think of some soft guy, some dude who goes on and on about his marriage vows, who is trapped in his own small world of faux intellectual pursuits — Rhodes Scholar, Oxford, and with a complete disconnect from the problems in his South Bend — as the leader of the world? Because of their perverted Trump, this fourth grade thinker, the art of the bad deal, the man who admits to all of the gross things and ideologies — they want, what, an opposite of the un-man Trump with another guy who is certainly not capable of real political work?

Democrats have no idea why Trump is in (voter suppression, and such illegalities) and why a good chunk of Americans are supporting his perversion. They don’t get that their own beds are messed up with that perversion — God, Country, Tis of Thee. Really, liberals have not fought hard enough in their own circles and families.

Just today, at Depoe Bay, working the naturalist volunteer gig, where I wander around the tourists gawking at the gray whales blowing real close by, I was talking with some guys from The Bay (Oakland-San Fran). They looked like partners, and the funny thing, they had this old guy in the car, one of the dude’s father.

These two thanked me for my naturalist talents, and fortunately, I also chime in while talking whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals and sea lions the connection to ecology and the lack of ecological health with the politics of deception.

Yeah, they hate Trump, make fun of Trump, and both men are articulate, probably in the Silicon Valley bubble of good times and big bucks. But, alas, they found out quickly I was more than just a cetacean naturalist under the auspices of a national organization that demands no politics in our spiels . . . when they know I am more than anti-Trump and that I have done my despicable stint in US military, worked in prisons, worked in immigration refugee outfits, and that I teach they want me to “have a talk with my dad back there — he’s so fucking pro-Trump.”

Out here watching these leviathans, as long as a school bus, 80,000 pounds, eating mysids the size of one rice grain to the tune of a ton a day, they wanted me to have a chat with the old guy, a chat that would end up in maybe the old man’s heart attack or stroke.

This is it, though, the end of discourse, the fear of having real conversations with embedded souls who have been sold down the river of stupidity and demigods and felons like Trump.

I also drive an old Honda Shadow, 1100cc, black, and most bikers or old men and women on $30k Harley’s, they too are MAGA. So, when I drive into a pub or bar with a bunch of weekend bikers, I don’t fear those conversations.

Hell, my Canadian mother always told me to hold steady and say it like it is. No fear, isn’t that some meme to sell some wasteful product!

Ahh, then I talked with an Italian family, and the father/husband, Justine, talked with me, wondered about Oregon, about the state’s politics (seems progressive, until you leave Portland). He said that in Italy, there is no environmental movement, that the news hardly covers climate change and food insecurity, and that in reality he is afraid for his 14-year-old daughter who was in the car with her mother. The mother thanked me for the whale tips, and she smiled when she saw her old man getting a primer on America, albeit, on the world according to an ecosocialist.

An Italian wanting to know why his own country’s media (controlled by a few Mafioso) haven’t done their job? More of the same in EU, in the colonized countries, those former-empires, now just little men and little women of old. The Media control the message!

I’ve had a few talks over the weeks with citizens from France, Germany, Portugal, Brazil, UK, etc. Hands down, they all have told me they have never had conversations in their vacations here about the things I broach. You see, it’s not anti-Trump that does it. It’s anti-Corporation, anti-Military, anti-Media, anti-Capitalism alongside pro-Green, pro-Socialista, pro-Ecosocialism, pro-retrenchment, pro-Global Collective Strategy, pro-Lock-Them-Up (we know who the “we” are, don’t you know). Most Americans, when talking with foreigners, do not get into the facts about this flagging empire. Maybe most don’t know the facts herein.

Just grounding people today who lean toward “play nice green,” who lean toward Tulsi or Beto or Pete, well, the jig is up.

Back to acceptable male characters:

The feminization of men and this homosexual bias (in favor of) that many in the democratic party parlay into what they believe are serious credentials to tackle climate change, to go after the banks, after the trillionaires with our loot, to draw down US military spending, to draw down the empire, to retrench during a time of hate and loathing inside climate change, well, this speaks volumes why Americans by and large are afraid of themselves, and have no stomach for hard work and the at least gutsy project of ecosocialism, even the work of one Howie Hawkins.

They would give Buttigieg the entire ranch, in this daft belief that a soft man, a cerebral (whatever that means) man of youth, is somehow capable of tackling these blood-sucker Republicans, their brawny lobbyists, and their perfectly criminal billionaire masters.

Forget Bernie, and they won’t touch Elizabeth Warren. Crazy liberals, man, with this Mayor Pete thing.

At least this millionaire Yang has some guts on the reality of global warming:

Here, on National Propaganda Radio, Andrew Yang:

Yang’s answer to his doom and gloom descriptions of the economy and many other problems is a universal basic income proposal he’s calling the “freedom dividend” — $1,000 a month to every U.S. citizen 18 years and older.

“Donald Trump is our president today, in large part, because he got some of the problems right, but his solutions are the opposite of what we need. His solutions were we’re going to build a wall, we’re going to turn the clock back, we’re going to bring the old jobs back,” Yang said. “We have to do the opposite of all that. We have to turn the clock forward. We have to accelerate our economy and society as fast as possible. We have to evolve in the way we see work and value.”

Most politicians will say, “We can do it; we can beat it.” I just told the truth [at the second Democratic debate], which is that we’re only 15% of the world’s emissions. Even if we were to go zero carbon, the Earth would continue to warm in all likelihood because of the energy composition of other countries. Now, I take climate change very, very seriously. It’s an existential threat to our way of life. Apparently, I might take it more seriously than even some other people who believe it’s serious because I think it’s worse than anyone thinks.

So I think we should move toward renewable energy sources as fast as possible but also proactively try and mitigate the worst effects and even try and restore our habitat in various ways by reforesting tracts of land and reseeding the ocean with kelp, marine permaculture arrays and things that can help rehabilitate what we’ve done — because right now, the Atlantic Ocean is losing 4 to 8% of its biomass every year. Then you can do the math on that — it’s a catastrophe in the making.

It is worse than these shills and candidates and their corporate backers are saying. Way worse, and for Yang to state that, well, he gets my applause in a field of ameliorators and idiots who want to go all hopey-dopey and pull some shit that we still have time.

We need just to pull down some of the carbon, 1.2 trillion trees planted.

Fox Maple Woods in Wisconsin.

There is enough room in the world’s existing parks, forests, and abandoned land to plant 1.2 trillion additional trees, which would have the CO2 storage capacity to cancel out a decade of carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new analysis by ecologist Thomas Crowther and colleagues at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university.

This is a powerful talking point for any candidate — fucking trees, man, it’s not rocket science —  and think of the world class diplomacy and goodwill this multi-country project would engender. Instead, we have criminals like Trump and his crony in Brazil, Bolsonaro, throwing their bizarro words out into the ether making a Hitler seem so-so cultured and hip to a more effective propaganda:

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro says non-governmental organisations may be setting fires in the Amazon to embarrass the Brazilian government after it cut their funding, despite offering no evidence to support the claim.

record number of fires — 72,843 — were recorded in the Amazon this year, according to The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe).

But conservationists have blamed Mr Bolsonaro for the Amazon’s plight, saying he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land.

“This is a sick statement, a pitiful statement,” said Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil’s public policy coordinator. “Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy.” Bolsonaro, a longtime sceptic of environmental concerns, wants to open the Amazon to more agriculture and mining, and has told other countries worried about rising deforestation since he took office to mind their own business.

In this context, it seems easy for democrats to hail Mayor Pete or Ms. Harris or Tulsi Gabbard has real home-run hitters in the game of life.

End ICE and CBP? That is one step, certainly easier than planting trees, or about the same?

The greens just can’t go far enough — and reference the above point that greenies out here in Portland’s haunts, the Oregon Coast, believe “they” will be coming to and flooding into the USA to get “our stuff.”

Last month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Senator Kamala Harris released their Climate Equity Act – the first draft of a critical component of a Green New Deal. The act aims to protect marginalized communities as Congress attempts to “address” climate change by creating a system that gives environmental legislation an equity score based on its impact on “frontline communities.”

By their definition, frontline communities include people of color, indigenous and low-income people, as well as groups vulnerable to energy transitions – like rural, deindustrialized, elder, unhoused and disabled communities. The proposed bill would also create an Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability, which would “work with” key federal departments – including the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS – which houses FEMA as well as predatory immigration agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

As the intensity of the climate crisis grows, migration will also increase. A 2018 report from the International Organization for Migration estimates 405 million people will be forced to emigrate by 2050. As lawmakers consider how to equitably respond to climate catastrophe, it’s critical that they do so with a clear vision in mind. Any definition of frontline communities must also include current and future undocumented immigrants. And a plan for climate justice cannot leave room for “working with” agencies like ICE and CBP, which should instead be abolished.

DHS has already laid out its response to climate change: a path that requires increased border security and deportations – all to preserve a status quo that harms people of color. A 2012 report from the department clearly elaborates how they imagine climate change will impact their role. “Over time,” the report states, “the Department will expand its planning to include potential climate change implications to securing and managing our borders, enforcing and administering our immigration laws, and other homeland security missions.”

The job of some of us is to rat out the lies, and lately while listening to Democracy Now (not the best, but for now, the only M-F single hour on the Internet, dealing with issues close to my heart, albeit, still pushed through the meat grinder that is a Soros World) I have been messing with LinkedIn people. The amount of trash from Barrons, Bloomberg, Forbes, NYT, WaPo on LinkedIn tells us who the paymasters are of this Microsoft thing which I end up linking into while listening/watching an hour’s worth of new here on the Oregon Coast. I have somehow connected (sic) to more than a thousand, and I am sure to play a little bit of havoc in many of the colonized’s minds.

For instance, I will get from some “sustainability officer” that Lightsource BP is doing great great things. This outfit is British Petroleum, and in fact, it’s more than greenwashing. It’s green pornography — selling a company as sustainable when it is involved in crimes against humanity and tax fraud and accounting fraud and the biggest single oil spill in the world in the Gulf of Mexico.

But in America, and Canada, this kind of crap leads the way in the minds of Americans — so happy millionaires and billionaires are taking control of the future!

BP (formerly known as “British Petroleum”) is a global oil, gas and chemical company headquartered in Britain and responsible for the largest environmental disaster ever in the United States, the April 20, 2010, blowout of its Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico (discussed in more detail below). The company owns numerous refineries and chemical manufacturing plants around the world.  BP is the United Kingdom’s largest corporation. Its global headquarters are in London, and its U.S. headquarters are in Houston, Texas. Its major brands include BP, AmPm, ARCO, and Castrol. The company reported in 2012 that natural gas makes up more than half of BP’s energy production, making us the largest producer and supplier in the U.S.

Access the BP’s corporate rap sheet compiled and written by Good Jobs First here.

Other BP spills and disasters

But when you engage with these people who vaunt the Exxon’s and US Forest Service and the BP’s of the world, they accuse one (me) of nay-saying, of being radicalized, of being outside the normal box. And, in one case, “Nuff said . . . you’re from Portland . . . can’t wait for the big one so I can have some beachfront property in Arizona.” This from people on LinkedIn who tout themselves as business leaders, members of their business round-tables in their respective locales.

Oh Americans . . . Oh Canadians . . . what a terrible lot we have become!

Except, when getting a cogent and smart response to one of my tame DV pieces: One Woman’s Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions, Seaweed, Wave Energy — The doors that science strives to unlock

Excellent article. I really enjoyed it as I have your others over the years at Dissident Voice. Interesting writing style that morphs with the subject.

I live at the other side of North America in Nova Scotia, whose capital is at the 45th parallel, about the same as Oregon. Part of our Canadian province has a shoreline with the Bay of Fundy which has the highest tides in the world for all practical purposes for a decent sized body of water, about 43 feet rise and fall almost twice per day. Capturing some of that energy has been the holy grail for decades. One of my Physics profs was gung-ho about it all back in 1964. It is caused by a resonance phenomenon not unlike the kids swilling the bath water back and forth until it slops over the ends, so detuning that is a big consideration to take into account. Fiddling too much with the physical size and shape of the bay could either cause even higher tides – or lesser ones. God knows what will happen with sea level rise.

We have had a functioning 25MW tidal generator for some decades at the end of the river that flows into an inlet of the bay, said inlet being twenty miles long and five wide itself. But that is small beans compared to what the main bay could provide.

Several multi-million dollar projects in recent years have had equipment ruined by the tides and particularly currents during trials and these were only proof of concept underwater machines of no huge size. So things have ground to a halt for the time being with the last company, Irish of all things, going bankrupt and leaving a broken machine in the waters. I’d be a bit worried about fish kill with that underwater propeller gizmo you illustrate – recent machines here look nothing like that.

We are served by a Federal Government’s Bedford Institute of Oceanography performing similar investigations I would presume to those you describe in the article but over the North Atlantic and up into Frobisher Bay, and locally have invasive species such as green crab ourselves.There are, however, marine “national park” areas along our Atlantic coast and up into the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence.

On land we are subject to similar depredations of forest clear-cutting you so clearly describe about Oregon but that is provincial rather than Federal jurisdiction and land owners run the local politicians as was ever the case, but on the whole I’d say our population is somewhat more green aware than seems to be the case in the US. And we are rural, the total population being under a million with great dependency on the ocean and little industry. Overall it ain’t a bad spot but likely to be coastally submerged by rising ocean waters soon, unfortunately. The rest of Canada tends to think of our Atlantic Region area as Hicksville and gives us a paternal pat on the head now and then, and frankly we like it that way. Being left alone, that is.

The Oregon connection I have is an old acquaintance from the US East Coast who lived in Nova Scotia for a time 50 years ago, and then went west. I recently recommended your blog to her.

Keep it up. You are an evocative writer.

Best, Bruce Armstrong

Now, that’s the ticket, really, getting pugnacious and pertinent commentary from afar. Indeed, and what Bruce says I didn’t say because part of my writing is about working for a rag that highlights coastal things to do, coming, staying, buying and doing. I pitched a column, Deep Dive, to allow for a longer form of people feature. Luckily, it’s been a green light, but I itch, oh do I itch, to go on the stream of consciousness and maybe off the rails for some polemics, but I understand audience awareness, the rhetorical tricks of Cicero. Ethos, Pathos, Logos!

As an ecosocialist and communist of the ultimate kind — democracy, freedom, collective consciousness and action, food, air, water, education, health, transportation for all — I understand that the science I described in the piece is tied to more of the same: making money from taxpayer coffers, utilizing land grant schools and their faculty and professional staff for free consultations and studies, and putting R & D into all the wrong baskets — that’s what blue energy is. Waves? Tides? Rivers? Whew, the conversation is always plumbed close to technology as savior, AI as implementation, robotics as freedom.

We are in many dire crises, and when we have a single look at some wave energy, as the article briefly covered, all stops are put back into the dialogue. The feature around the marine biologist did hook more into invasive species and the benthos — what’s happening at the bottom of the sea. That is the love of my life — the sea, ocean, marine systems. Thanks, Bruce, for the pugnacity in your timely and parallel observations in your comment to me.

Of course Howie Hawkins’s work and undying struggle to be heard as a Green Party Presidential candidate is worthy of DV, and thanks to DV, here it is: On Day One, the Next President Should Declare A Climate Emergency

I have a tough time getting people to read Howie’s statements and platform without the rejoinder — “Yeah, that stuff is really going to get through Congress, the Senate, ALEC and the Corporate powers!”

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another.

—Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment? (1784)

  1. https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/7b7ned/canadian-mining-companies-are-destroying-latin-america-924

Why Are Americans So Confused About the Meaning of “Democratic Socialism”?

The meaning of democratic socialism―a mixture of political and economic democracy―should be no mystery to Americans.  After all, socialist programs have been adopted in most other democratic nations.  And, in fact, Americans appear happy enough with a wide range of democratic socialist institutions in the United States, including public schools, public parks, minimum wage laws, Social Security, public radio, unemployment insurance, public universities, Medicare, public libraries, the U.S. postal service, public roads, and high taxes on the wealthy.

Even so, large numbers of Americans seem remarkably confused about democratic socialism. This April, at a CNN town hall in New Hampshire, an attendee complained to Senator Bernie Sanders, a leading proponent of democratic socialism, that her father’s family left the Soviet Union, “fleeing from some of the very socialist policies that you seem eager to implement in this country.” Sanders responded:  “Is it your assumption that I supported or believe in authoritarian communism that existed in the Soviet Union?  I don’t.  I never have, and I opposed it.”  He added: “What democratic socialism means to me is we expand Medicare, we provide educational opportunity to all Americans, we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.”

But, despite Sanders’ personal popularity and the popularity of the programs he advocates, large numbers of Americans―especially from older generations―remain uneasy about “socialism.”  Not surprisingly, Donald Trump and other rightwing Republicans have seized on this to brand the Democrats as the party of socialist dictatorship.

Why does socialism―even something as innocuously labeled as democratic socialism―have this stigma?

Originally, “socialism” was a vague term, encompassing a variety of different approaches to securing greater economic equality.  These included Christian socialism, utopian socialism, Marxian socialism, syndicalism, evolutionary socialism, and revolutionary socialism.  For a time, Socialist parties in many countries, including the Socialist Party of America, housed these differing tendencies.

But the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution led to a lasting division in the world socialist movement. The Bolsheviks, grim survivors of Russia’s centuries-old Czarist tyranny and vigorous proponents of socialist revolution, regarded the democratic, parliamentary path followed by the Socialist parties of other countries with scorn.  Consequently, renaming themselves Communists, they established Communist parties in other lands and called upon true revolutionaries to join them.  Many did so.  As a result, the world socialist movement became divided between Socialist parties (championing multi-party elections and civil liberties) and rival Communist parties (championing revolution followed by a Communist Party dictatorship).

Despite the clear difference between Socialist parties (promoting democratic socialism, often termed social democracy) and Communist parties (promoting the authoritarian Soviet model and Soviet interests), plus the bitter hostility that often existed between them, many Americans associated one with the other.

This confusion was enhanced, in subsequent decades, by the tendency of Communists to cling to the term “socialist.”  As “socialism” had positive connotations for many people around the world, Communist leaders frequently argued that Socialists weren’t “socialist” at all, and that Communists were the only true “socialists.”  Communist-led nations alone, they claimed, represented “real socialism.”

Actually, Communist and Socialist parties didn’t have much in common.  The Soviet government and later unelected Communist regimes―much like fascist and other rightwing governments―became notorious as brutal tyrannies that instituted mass imprisonment, torture, and murder.  In reaction, many Communists grew disillusioned, quit their parties, or sought to reform them, while popular uprisings toppled Communist dictatorships. By contrast, Socialist parties won elections repeatedly and governed numerous nations where, less dramatically, they enacted democratic socialist programs. Nowhere did these programs lead to the destruction of political democracy.

Meanwhile, the Socialist Party of America gradually disintegrated.  One reason for its decline was government repression during World War I and the postwar “Red Scare.” Another was that, in the 1930s, the Democratic Party adopted some of its platform (including a massive jobs program, Social Security, a wealth tax, union rights for workers, and minimum wage legislation) and absorbed most of its constituency. Rather than acknowledge the socialist roots of these popular policies, President Franklin Roosevelt and the Democrats chose to talk of a New Deal for “the common man.”  This sleight of hand boosted the Democrats and further undermined the dwindling Socialist Party.

In response, conservatives―especially big business, its wealthy owners, and their political defenders―acted as if a Red revolution had arrived.  Assailing Social Security, Republican Congressman Daniel Reed predicted that “the lash of the dictator will be felt.”  In January 1936, at a gala dinner sponsored by the American Liberty League, a group of wealthy business and conservative leaders, Al Smith―the former New York Governor who had turned sharply against the Roosevelt administration―addressed the gathering and a national radio audience.  Charging that New Dealers had enacted “the Socialist platform,” he asserted that “there can be only one capital, Washington or Moscow. There can be only one atmosphere of government, the clear, pure, fresh air of free America, or the foul breath of communistic Russia.”

During America’s Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union, conservatives frequently employed this line of attack.  “If Medicare passes into law, the consequences will be dire beyond imagining,” Ronald Reagan warned a radio audience in the early 1960s.  “You and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”  Against this backdrop, most Democrats kept their distance from the word “socialism,” while much of the public simply wrote it off as meaning tanks in Moscow’s Red Square.

More recently, of course, the disappearance of the Soviet Union and most other Communist nations, rising economic inequality, the attractive model of Scandinavian social democracy, and Bernie Sanders’ Americanization of “socialism” have enhanced the popularity of “socialism”―in its democratic socialist form―in the United States.

It’s probably premature to predict that most Americans will finally recognize the democratic socialist nature of many programs they admire.  But that’s certainly a possibility.

  • Originally published at the History News Network.
  • Whittaker Chambers or Alger Hiss: Who’s the Real Traitor?

    Though #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list for 13 weeks in 1952, beloved of William Buckley and Ronald Reagan (“As long as humanity speaks of virtue and dreams of freedom, the life and writings of Whittaker Chambers will ennoble and inspire.”), despite being hailed as “one of the dozen or so indispensable books of the century” (George Will), Witness quickly disappeared from our collective consciousness. We remember its most famous victim, Alger Hiss, as a nice guy who was mercilessly hounded, the prelude to the McCarthy purges of the 1950s, a gruesome stain on US history.

    Chambers was a talented writer, penning popular short stories in the New Masses in 1931, a full time editor and journalist at Time. His autobiography is full of details of both sides of the so-called treachery of the times, and Chambers’ own ruminations about love and death and the whole damn thing. It swings from over-the-top self-righteousness to self-abnegation, maniacal zeal as a communist, then as a spy, then as self-proclaimed Mr Right, and woe to anyone standing in the way of his mission to Save the World from Communism.

    Like his closeted father, his uncle and brother, all of whom committed suicide, he was possessed by a demon, which drove him to an early grave, working 36-hour days at Time in the 1940s, first doing book reviews, then editing the foreign news page (till he had his second heart attack), then back to books. His fellow journalists resented his new-found conservative attacks on their liberal New Dealer mindset, seeing them all as commie dupes. He immortalized himself destroying the careers of ‘good guys’, Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White among many others, for their idealistic sins. He became a born-again Quaker, though, like fellow Quaker Richard Nixon, he still believed in ‘just wars’ against commies.

    Victims

    His worldview was apocalyptic, first through pink lenses, then puritan. Evil is the central problem of human life. The two opposing worldviews: man as flawed/ sinful (Christianity) vs man as good/ perfectable (enlightenment, liberalism -> communism).

    Alger Hiss

    Alger Hiss

    We remember only Alger Hiss as Chambers’ victim, but Hiss got off lucky. Chambers exposed Harry Dexter White (1892–1948), the senior American official at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference that established the postwar economic order, as a spy. White died of a heart attack shortly after HUAC hearings in 1948.

    White and Keynes at Bretton Woods

    Hiss was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in 1950 (for perjury, as his ‘crimes’ were from 1938) serving only three years and eight months. While in prison, Hiss acted as a volunteer attorney, adviser, and tutor for many of his fellow inmates. Disbarred, he served as a lowly clerk until in 1975, he was readmitted to the Massachusetts bar, the first time a convicted felon was reinstated. The contents of the ‘pumpkin papers’ were finally revealed as of no importance to state security.

    White and Keynes at Bretton Woods

    Hiss insisted to the end he was innocent. Witness certainly reveals Chambers and Hiss as close friends for as long as Chambers remained in the party. What kind of spy was White? “The economics White advocated were hardly Marxist. They were by this time what would be described as thoroughly Keynesian … As for White’s domestic politics, these were mainstream New Deal progressive, and there is no evidence that he admired communism as a political ideology. White’s daughters still strongly maintain his innocence.1 Chambers crucified Hiss and White merely for wanting to treat the Soviets as what they were — allies, friends.

    Revenge

    Despite his protestations of fighting evil, what Chambers really was after was personal revenge. He had believed and found his faith was betrayed by Stalin’s crimes, which he now believed included wanting WWIII and world conquest, though we must take his word, as there is no evidence of this in Chambers’ Witness (or anywhere else, to my knowledge, beyond rhetorical flourishes). He quotes his own draft Time editorial ‘Ghosts on the roof’ about the Yalta conference in 1945, where he portrayed the Soviet Union and US as ‘jet planes’ flying towards each other, where one has to destroy other. This virtual declaration of war was removed before it was published, though the new Cold War theme remained.

    His new Christian faith armed him for his heretical/ saintly battle against communists, despite his Time colleagues, who were all New Dealers riding high on the crest of WWII, when the Soviets were our friends. He made the transition from communist militant to communist heretic to Christian saint, always the mantra: ‘how could one man be right when so many say he’s wrong?’. Always the self-proclaimed martyr, forced to resign from Time, driving himself to an early death.

    His original name was Vivian, his father an artist, a father in name only, so, of course, he was bullied, a lonely child. He ran away from home and found work tearing up street car tracks for a few months, his stint with the proletariat. Born in 1901, he was 16 when the Russian revolution electrified the capitalist world, and like idealistic youth at the time, he searched out those allied with it. He tried the Webbs, Fabian socialism,  but ‘there was no life there. The reek of life was missing.’ To remake the world, socialism involved violent struggle to get and keep power.

    If you just read the first 300 pages of Witness, you can come away believing, like he did (but in his case, later with horror), that communism will triumph, despite the many horrors perpetrated in the name of the revolution under Stalin.

    He explains three influences on him in his testimony to the grand jury’s question ‘what does it mean to be a communist’: the Cheka founder Dzerzhinsky, who cleaned latrines in his Warsaw prison as an example to those less developed, the German Jew Eugene Levine, leader of the 1918-9 Bavarian Soviet Republic, when sentenced to death, who told his executioner a communist is ‘always under sentence of death’, and the Russian Narodnik Kalyaev/ Sazonov, who burned himself alive as protest against flogging.2

    Witness is an indictment of both great faiths of our times, capitalism (sorry, ‘freedom’) and communism. Both are doomed. WWI led to the Russian revolution. WWII has led to the last stage of the crisis with the rise of communism as a world power. Here, war led to revolution. Now it’s the reverse: revolution will lead to WWIII, launched by the communists to take control of the world. Wait a minute. Presumably capitalism/ freedom led to WWI and WWII. So now it’s communism leading to WWIII? Chambers sketched out the dubious scenario that would dominate the US zeitgeist for the next half century, and which continues today in the ‘war on terror’, now expanded to include Islam. It seems war is alive and well, sans communism, and is the result of capitalism/ freedom.

    We must always be on guard, as it is easy ‘to fall into the communist trap: The vision inspires, the crisis impels.’ Communism offers two powerful certainties: a reason to live and die. But this belies ‘a shallowness of thought, and leads to incalculable mischief in action.’ Though his argument is a pox on both houses, he retreats to the protection of the devil he knew first as the lesser of two evils, and exhorts us to seek salvation in religion, as the mistake was ‘man without god.’ One could never be a complete man without god. This is the fatal deficiency at the root of all the troubles of modern man.

    Chambers literally thanks the Lord for delivering him from evil. He saw the light. Breaking with communism was a religious experience, as indeed it was for other renegades like him. Elizabeth Bentley went through a similar life journey, becoming even more central to HUAC’s work, to the point that she became a full-time paid informer for the FBI. In 1948, like Chambers and Soviet defector Krivitsky, she has a spiritual awakening, becoming a Roman Catholic. She was frequently invited to lecture on the Communist threat by Catholic groups happy to pay her $300 fee. Krivitsky suddenly was (presumably) murdered in 1939 before he could be baptized Episcopalian.

    Chambers was convinced communism would triumph, explaining to his wife: we are leaving the winning world for the losing one. It is hard to take this seriously, given his litany of bungling, both petty and epic, of communists throughout the period. He heard about the Ukrainian famine in the early 30s, he knew first hand of the devastating purges, the Spanish civil war (i.e., the uncivil war of the Stalinists against the Trotskyists there), the rejection by the Comintern of a common front with social democrats in Germany in 1929, allowing Hitler to move easily into power.

    This movement was poised to conquer the world? He told Hiss of his doubts a few days before Christmas in 1938, just before breaking with the party. Hiss told him this was just ‘mental masturbation’. Hiss knew where the real danger to the world lay.

    Hiss forgave Chambers his doubts (he no doubt shared them) and wanted to stay friends, giving Chambers a present for his daughter even as Chambers was telling him he was finished with communism. As Chambers was preparing to rat on someone who appeared to be his closest friend at the time, this sweet gesture brought tears to his eyes. Chambers was a hopeless romantic who fell out of love, lost his faith, sought revenge for its betrayal of him, and subconsciously drove himself to an early grave, a long drawn out suicide, a family trait.

    Chambers’ accusations do have the ring of truth, but it is a personal vindictive truth, which ran roughshod over others’ lives in the cause of Chambers’ personal mission to save the world. He understands that communism is the logical conclusion of the enlightenment, liberalism, ‘Edwardian gluttonous pursuit of pleasure, secular good works, and progress,’3 but prefers staying at the level of gluttonous pursuit.

    The pumpkin legacy

    Chambers and his acolyte McCarthy did their best to destroy the best of American life, the New Dealers with their ideals and openness to ‘secular good works’ without the gluttony. I would hazard that he did just as much, no, more harm than Stalin’s very evil purging and hapless cat-and-mouse espionage. But Stalin’s purging was primarily of Russian communists or suspected Soviet plotters. I can’t think of one instance of real damage done to the West by Soviet spying. The Soviets were bound to crack the atom in any case, and, the sooner the better, given the anti-communist hysteria, when even Bertrand Russell toyed with the idea of a quick nuclear war before the Soviets had recovered from WWII.

    In fact, Soviet espionage was far more benign than that of the US. The CIA and others parachuted defectors behind ‘enemy lines’ to sabotage industry, later planted computer viruses into equipment the Soviets were importing, poisoned progressive thought through media control. Proof of this is found in the so-called Mitrokhin Archives. KGB Major Vasili Mitrokhin was for 30 years KGB archivist in foreign intelligence, and brought every conceivable secret when he defected to Britain in 1992.

    Christopher Andrew’s Sword and the Shield (1992) and The KGB and the Battle for the Third World (2005), based on the archives show pathetically little in terms of subversion and no overarching plan to invade anywhere. Despite his anticommunist bias, Andrew shows that the KGB did little with the information it collected, which mostly involved technology acquisition, and which shows the reactive nature of Soviet undercover work—attempts to uncover sabotage by the West, use of blackmail to protect Soviet sources.

    Canada’s most celebrated Soviet spy was Fred Rose, Canada’s one and only communist MP. In 1945, when the Soviet Union was branded as Canada’s enemy, this led to the arrest of Rose and denial of his parliamentary immunity, when he was found guilty of conspiring to turn over information about the explosive RDX44 to the Soviets. The Soviet defector Gouzenko had stolen documents from the Soviet embassy, and alleged that Rose was leading a spy ring of up to 20 Soviet spies.

    He was never allowed to clear his name. Rose did not see sharing RDX information at the time as spying, as the Soviets were allies, doing most of the fighting against the Nazis, but he was quickly convicted. When released, his health broken, abandoned by his wife while in prison, he was unable to work, hounded by the RCMP, and finally emigrated to Poland. In later years, Rose admitted his error, saying, “I made one mistake in my life and I paid for it,” but he was denied the chance to clear his name of spying, as his Canadian citizenship was revoked in 1957, and his appeal was denied. Too late to matter, in 1958 Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Ellen Fairclough amended the Citizenship Act with the “Fred Rose amendment” so that such a removal of Canadian citizenship could never happen again.

    “The horror of treason is sin against the spirit,” Chambers wrote in reviewing Rebecca West’s The Meaning of Treason for Time in 1947 (which, he boasts was read by ‘a million more or less’). But isn’t that what Chambers did? Hiss (sort of) betrayed (in the interests of world peace). But Chambers too betrayed. He betrayed his friends, and for what? Imperialism?

    What about Forster’s “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country”? Especially if ‘my country’ is doing nasty things.

    The muck of McCarthyism endures in our collective memory. Chambers’ recounting of his HUAC testimony is, as he puts it, comedy. The committee members (including Nixon who became his ‘valued friend’) were the uncouth, undignified, ungrammatical, rude and ruthless, as no decent members of congress wanted to serve on it. They were almost uniformly bigotted, emphasizing Jewish names when calling and interrogating witnesses. The images we remember, if any, are of Lauren Bacall and others marching in protest at the blacklisting and jailing of actors.

    It’s hard not to pity Chambers, who saw himself as testifying for something, rather than against people who were once his intimate friends, that is, he was blind to the harm he was doing to them. The HUAC media farce couldn’t help but portray him as the bad guy, even as the Cold War clouds were gathering. Those ‘witnessing’ the Hiss trials didn’t really care much about microfiche spools in pumpkins (though that was entertaining). They were fascinated, appalled by fat, pompous Whittaker’s tattling on, betraying his handsome, intellectual friend Alger, culminating in his sensational interview on Meet the Press in 1948, ‘a savage assault with little restraint or decency,’ ‘fun for the boys, death for the frogs.4 How could he stoop to this sordid business? To what end?

    He admits that he was ‘bringing ruin on the lives of so many people and … would never again really be able to live with myself.’ ‘The penalty is a kind of death, most deadly if a man must go on living. He admits his witnessing ‘destroyed himself to make his witness.’5 Hey, Whittaker, remember Stalin’s ‘you have to break eggs to make an omelette’?

    Bacall and Bogarte and other stars battle HUAC

    Bacall, Bogart and other stars battle HUAC

    He bemoans ‘the death of religious faith’, and takes shelter in Quakerism, but no one was listening. All they heard is the ugly HUAC clatter. Watched their beloved Hollywood stars like John Garfield, nice guys like White, dying of heart attacks as humiliated martyrs. My heroes are those brave enough to protest at the risk of their own careers (Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracey, Humphrey Bogart….). The list of wonderful Americans who stood up to the anti-communist hysterics like Whittaker Chambers is long, and will be remembered long after Chambers et al are consigned to the dustbin of history.

    Spydom’s legacy

    Ethel Rosenberg

    Whether or not Hiss et al were religious, whether or not they ‘sinned’ by breaking the law, they showed far more ‘spirit’ than newly christianized Chambers and Bentley. The victims have been slowly rehabilitated starting in the 1960s with Dalton Trumbo openly credited with the screenplay of Spartacus (1960). In 2015, New York City Council issued a proclamation stating that “the government wrongfully executed Ethel Rosenberg,” and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer officially recognized, “the injustice suffered by Ethel Rosenberg and her family,” and declared her birthday, September 28, “Ethel Rosenberg Day of Justice in the Borough of Manhattan.” In March 2016, Michael and Robert (via the Rosenberg Fund for Children) launched a petition campaign calling on President Obama to formally exonerate their mother. 60 Minutes presented the story of the Rosenberg children and their quest for justice.

    While Chambers was loudly lauded in his 1961 obits, Bentley (whose victims numbered 80) was passed over. Already by the 1960s, people were tired of the spy mania, and rightly, as the Soviet spies were (misguided?) idealists, each one a personal tragedy, shot down by traitors-to-the-cause. Few besides the Reagans and Buckleys remembers Chambers or Bentley et al as noble patriots, rightly, as they were (excuse me) rats escaping/ scuttling their ship, betraying their friends. It seems Hiss really was on Soviet spy lists, as revealed when archives were opened after 1991. Whether he was a ‘card-carrying communist’ and lied, I don’t know and don’t care.

    I do know that such spies as Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Rudolph Abel and Kim Philby are now admired and increasingly honoured for their idealism and courage. They spied in the interests of humanity, against imperialism. I’m with them. Eat cake, Whittaker.

    Witness was dusted off for its 50th anniversary in 2002, with a foreword by William F Buckley, who recalls that only two years after its publication ‘almost total silence had closed in on him.’ In his foreword, Robert Novak, relying on Hungarian archives, harrumphs: So, the case is closed. Hiss was a liar, spy and traitor. But these inveterate Cold Warriors are wrong on all counts: communism was not the all-powerful ogre intent on war and conquest, it was wrong to betray you friends for believing what you did and then didn’t.

    Chambers’ ‘valued friend’, Nixon, made detente with the evil commies his greatest legacy. As communism mellowed, it turns out Christianity and communism are reconcilable after all.

    As the red scare and blacklist unravelled in the 1950s, the journalist who led the expose of Chambers in 1948, David Sentner, went on to arrange a visit by William Hearst Jr with Khrushchev in 1956, which won a Pulitzer Prize, leaving Chambers’ plans to orchestrate the destruction of the communist ‘jet plane’ in shambles.

    So where is Chambers/ Bentley’s legacy? Down there in Dante’s Ninth Circle—the “lowest, blackest, and farthest from Heaven”—with real American traitors like Jonathan Pollard (who gave away lots of genuine secrets) sentenced to life in 1987, granted Israeli citizenship in 1995, who despite Israeli pleas/ whining, is still under house arrest after 28 years in prison. Now there’s a real traitor — for all but the Israelis, who paint murals and name buildings (in east Jerusalem) in his honour.

    1. Benn Steil, The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order (2013).
    2. Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952), Foreword as a letter to my children, p. 38.
    3. Ibid., p. 499.
    4. Ibid., p. 702.
    5. Ibid., pp. 710, 693.

    Whittaker Chambers or Alger Hiss: Who’s the Real Traitor?

    Though #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list for 13 weeks in 1952, beloved of William Buckley and Ronald Reagan (“As long as humanity speaks of virtue and dreams of freedom, the life and writings of Whittaker Chambers will ennoble and inspire.”), despite being hailed as “one of the dozen or so indispensable books of the century” (George Will), Witness quickly disappeared from our collective consciousness. We remember its most famous victim, Alger Hiss, as a nice guy who was mercilessly hounded, the prelude to the McCarthy purges of the 1950s, a gruesome stain on US history.

    Chambers was a talented writer, penning popular short stories in the New Masses in 1931, a full time editor and journalist at Time. His autobiography is full of details of both sides of the so-called treachery of the times, and Chambers’ own ruminations about love and death and the whole damn thing. It swings from over-the-top self-righteousness to self-abnegation, maniacal zeal as a communist, then as a spy, then as self-proclaimed Mr Right, and woe to anyone standing in the way of his mission to Save the World from Communism.

    Like his closeted father, his uncle and brother, all of whom committed suicide, he was possessed by a demon, which drove him to an early grave, working 36-hour days at Time in the 1940s, first doing book reviews, then editing the foreign news page (till he had his second heart attack), then back to books. His fellow journalists resented his new-found conservative attacks on their liberal New Dealer mindset, seeing them all as commie dupes. He immortalized himself destroying the careers of ‘good guys’, Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White among many others, for their idealistic sins. He became a born-again Quaker, though, like fellow Quaker Richard Nixon, he still believed in ‘just wars’ against commies.

    Victims

    His worldview was apocalyptic, first through pink lenses, then puritan. Evil is the central problem of human life. The two opposing worldviews: man as flawed/ sinful (Christianity) vs man as good/ perfectable (enlightenment, liberalism -> communism).

    Alger Hiss

    Alger Hiss

    We remember only Alger Hiss as Chambers’ victim, but Hiss got off lucky. Chambers exposed Harry Dexter White (1892–1948), the senior American official at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference that established the postwar economic order, as a spy. White died of a heart attack shortly after HUAC hearings in 1948.

    White and Keynes at Bretton Woods

    Hiss was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in 1950 (for perjury, as his ‘crimes’ were from 1938) serving only three years and eight months. While in prison, Hiss acted as a volunteer attorney, adviser, and tutor for many of his fellow inmates. Disbarred, he served as a lowly clerk until in 1975, he was readmitted to the Massachusetts bar, the first time a convicted felon was reinstated. The contents of the ‘pumpkin papers’ were finally revealed as of no importance to state security.

    White and Keynes at Bretton Woods

    Hiss insisted to the end he was innocent. Witness certainly reveals Chambers and Hiss as close friends for as long as Chambers remained in the party. What kind of spy was White? “The economics White advocated were hardly Marxist. They were by this time what would be described as thoroughly Keynesian … As for White’s domestic politics, these were mainstream New Deal progressive, and there is no evidence that he admired communism as a political ideology. White’s daughters still strongly maintain his innocence.1 Chambers crucified Hiss and White merely for wanting to treat the Soviets as what they were — allies, friends.

    Revenge

    Despite his protestations of fighting evil, what Chambers really was after was personal revenge. He had believed and found his faith was betrayed by Stalin’s crimes, which he now believed included wanting WWIII and world conquest, though we must take his word, as there is no evidence of this in Chambers’ Witness (or anywhere else, to my knowledge, beyond rhetorical flourishes). He quotes his own draft Time editorial ‘Ghosts on the roof’ about the Yalta conference in 1945, where he portrayed the Soviet Union and US as ‘jet planes’ flying towards each other, where one has to destroy other. This virtual declaration of war was removed before it was published, though the new Cold War theme remained.

    His new Christian faith armed him for his heretical/ saintly battle against communists, despite his Time colleagues, who were all New Dealers riding high on the crest of WWII, when the Soviets were our friends. He made the transition from communist militant to communist heretic to Christian saint, always the mantra: ‘how could one man be right when so many say he’s wrong?’. Always the self-proclaimed martyr, forced to resign from Time, driving himself to an early death.

    His original name was Vivian, his father an artist, a father in name only, so, of course, he was bullied, a lonely child. He ran away from home and found work tearing up street car tracks for a few months, his stint with the proletariat. Born in 1901, he was 16 when the Russian revolution electrified the capitalist world, and like idealistic youth at the time, he searched out those allied with it. He tried the Webbs, Fabian socialism,  but ‘there was no life there. The reek of life was missing.’ To remake the world, socialism involved violent struggle to get and keep power.

    If you just read the first 300 pages of Witness, you can come away believing, like he did (but in his case, later with horror), that communism will triumph, despite the many horrors perpetrated in the name of the revolution under Stalin.

    He explains three influences on him in his testimony to the grand jury’s question ‘what does it mean to be a communist’: the Cheka founder Dzerzhinsky, who cleaned latrines in his Warsaw prison as an example to those less developed, the German Jew Eugene Levine, leader of the 1918-9 Bavarian Soviet Republic, when sentenced to death, who told his executioner a communist is ‘always under sentence of death’, and the Russian Narodnik Kalyaev/ Sazonov, who burned himself alive as protest against flogging.2

    Witness is an indictment of both great faiths of our times, capitalism (sorry, ‘freedom’) and communism. Both are doomed. WWI led to the Russian revolution. WWII has led to the last stage of the crisis with the rise of communism as a world power. Here, war led to revolution. Now it’s the reverse: revolution will lead to WWIII, launched by the communists to take control of the world. Wait a minute. Presumably capitalism/ freedom led to WWI and WWII. So now it’s communism leading to WWIII? Chambers sketched out the dubious scenario that would dominate the US zeitgeist for the next half century, and which continues today in the ‘war on terror’, now expanded to include Islam. It seems war is alive and well, sans communism, and is the result of capitalism/ freedom.

    We must always be on guard, as it is easy ‘to fall into the communist trap: The vision inspires, the crisis impels.’ Communism offers two powerful certainties: a reason to live and die. But this belies ‘a shallowness of thought, and leads to incalculable mischief in action.’ Though his argument is a pox on both houses, he retreats to the protection of the devil he knew first as the lesser of two evils, and exhorts us to seek salvation in religion, as the mistake was ‘man without god.’ One could never be a complete man without god. This is the fatal deficiency at the root of all the troubles of modern man.

    Chambers literally thanks the Lord for delivering him from evil. He saw the light. Breaking with communism was a religious experience, as indeed it was for other renegades like him. Elizabeth Bentley went through a similar life journey, becoming even more central to HUAC’s work, to the point that she became a full-time paid informer for the FBI. In 1948, like Chambers and Soviet defector Krivitsky, she has a spiritual awakening, becoming a Roman Catholic. She was frequently invited to lecture on the Communist threat by Catholic groups happy to pay her $300 fee. Krivitsky suddenly was (presumably) murdered in 1939 before he could be baptized Episcopalian.

    Chambers was convinced communism would triumph, explaining to his wife: we are leaving the winning world for the losing one. It is hard to take this seriously, given his litany of bungling, both petty and epic, of communists throughout the period. He heard about the Ukrainian famine in the early 30s, he knew first hand of the devastating purges, the Spanish civil war (i.e., the uncivil war of the Stalinists against the Trotskyists there), the rejection by the Comintern of a common front with social democrats in Germany in 1929, allowing Hitler to move easily into power.

    This movement was poised to conquer the world? He told Hiss of his doubts a few days before Christmas in 1938, just before breaking with the party. Hiss told him this was just ‘mental masturbation’. Hiss knew where the real danger to the world lay.

    Hiss forgave Chambers his doubts (he no doubt shared them) and wanted to stay friends, giving Chambers a present for his daughter even as Chambers was telling him he was finished with communism. As Chambers was preparing to rat on someone who appeared to be his closest friend at the time, this sweet gesture brought tears to his eyes. Chambers was a hopeless romantic who fell out of love, lost his faith, sought revenge for its betrayal of him, and subconsciously drove himself to an early grave, a long drawn out suicide, a family trait.

    Chambers’ accusations do have the ring of truth, but it is a personal vindictive truth, which ran roughshod over others’ lives in the cause of Chambers’ personal mission to save the world. He understands that communism is the logical conclusion of the enlightenment, liberalism, ‘Edwardian gluttonous pursuit of pleasure, secular good works, and progress,’3 but prefers staying at the level of gluttonous pursuit.

    The pumpkin legacy

    Chambers and his acolyte McCarthy did their best to destroy the best of American life, the New Dealers with their ideals and openness to ‘secular good works’ without the gluttony. I would hazard that he did just as much, no, more harm than Stalin’s very evil purging and hapless cat-and-mouse espionage. But Stalin’s purging was primarily of Russian communists or suspected Soviet plotters. I can’t think of one instance of real damage done to the West by Soviet spying. The Soviets were bound to crack the atom in any case, and, the sooner the better, given the anti-communist hysteria, when even Bertrand Russell toyed with the idea of a quick nuclear war before the Soviets had recovered from WWII.

    In fact, Soviet espionage was far more benign than that of the US. The CIA and others parachuted defectors behind ‘enemy lines’ to sabotage industry, later planted computer viruses into equipment the Soviets were importing, poisoned progressive thought through media control. Proof of this is found in the so-called Mitrokhin Archives. KGB Major Vasili Mitrokhin was for 30 years KGB archivist in foreign intelligence, and brought every conceivable secret when he defected to Britain in 1992.

    Christopher Andrew’s Sword and the Shield (1992) and The KGB and the Battle for the Third World (2005), based on the archives show pathetically little in terms of subversion and no overarching plan to invade anywhere. Despite his anticommunist bias, Andrew shows that the KGB did little with the information it collected, which mostly involved technology acquisition, and which shows the reactive nature of Soviet undercover work—attempts to uncover sabotage by the West, use of blackmail to protect Soviet sources.

    Canada’s most celebrated Soviet spy was Fred Rose, Canada’s one and only communist MP. In 1945, when the Soviet Union was branded as Canada’s enemy, this led to the arrest of Rose and denial of his parliamentary immunity, when he was found guilty of conspiring to turn over information about the explosive RDX44 to the Soviets. The Soviet defector Gouzenko had stolen documents from the Soviet embassy, and alleged that Rose was leading a spy ring of up to 20 Soviet spies.

    He was never allowed to clear his name. Rose did not see sharing RDX information at the time as spying, as the Soviets were allies, doing most of the fighting against the Nazis, but he was quickly convicted. When released, his health broken, abandoned by his wife while in prison, he was unable to work, hounded by the RCMP, and finally emigrated to Poland. In later years, Rose admitted his error, saying, “I made one mistake in my life and I paid for it,” but he was denied the chance to clear his name of spying, as his Canadian citizenship was revoked in 1957, and his appeal was denied. Too late to matter, in 1958 Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Ellen Fairclough amended the Citizenship Act with the “Fred Rose amendment” so that such a removal of Canadian citizenship could never happen again.

    “The horror of treason is sin against the spirit,” Chambers wrote in reviewing Rebecca West’s The Meaning of Treason for Time in 1947 (which, he boasts was read by ‘a million more or less’). But isn’t that what Chambers did? Hiss (sort of) betrayed (in the interests of world peace). But Chambers too betrayed. He betrayed his friends, and for what? Imperialism?

    What about Forster’s “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country”? Especially if ‘my country’ is doing nasty things.

    The muck of McCarthyism endures in our collective memory. Chambers’ recounting of his HUAC testimony is, as he puts it, comedy. The committee members (including Nixon who became his ‘valued friend’) were the uncouth, undignified, ungrammatical, rude and ruthless, as no decent members of congress wanted to serve on it. They were almost uniformly bigotted, emphasizing Jewish names when calling and interrogating witnesses. The images we remember, if any, are of Lauren Bacall and others marching in protest at the blacklisting and jailing of actors.

    It’s hard not to pity Chambers, who saw himself as testifying for something, rather than against people who were once his intimate friends, that is, he was blind to the harm he was doing to them. The HUAC media farce couldn’t help but portray him as the bad guy, even as the Cold War clouds were gathering. Those ‘witnessing’ the Hiss trials didn’t really care much about microfiche spools in pumpkins (though that was entertaining). They were fascinated, appalled by fat, pompous Whittaker’s tattling on, betraying his handsome, intellectual friend Alger, culminating in his sensational interview on Meet the Press in 1948, ‘a savage assault with little restraint or decency,’ ‘fun for the boys, death for the frogs.4 How could he stoop to this sordid business? To what end?

    He admits that he was ‘bringing ruin on the lives of so many people and … would never again really be able to live with myself.’ ‘The penalty is a kind of death, most deadly if a man must go on living. He admits his witnessing ‘destroyed himself to make his witness.’5 Hey, Whittaker, remember Stalin’s ‘you have to break eggs to make an omelette’?

    Bacall and Bogarte and other stars battle HUAC

    Bacall, Bogart and other stars battle HUAC

    He bemoans ‘the death of religious faith’, and takes shelter in Quakerism, but no one was listening. All they heard is the ugly HUAC clatter. Watched their beloved Hollywood stars like John Garfield, nice guys like White, dying of heart attacks as humiliated martyrs. My heroes are those brave enough to protest at the risk of their own careers (Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracey, Humphrey Bogart….). The list of wonderful Americans who stood up to the anti-communist hysterics like Whittaker Chambers is long, and will be remembered long after Chambers et al are consigned to the dustbin of history.

    Spydom’s legacy

    Ethel Rosenberg

    Whether or not Hiss et al were religious, whether or not they ‘sinned’ by breaking the law, they showed far more ‘spirit’ than newly christianized Chambers and Bentley. The victims have been slowly rehabilitated starting in the 1960s with Dalton Trumbo openly credited with the screenplay of Spartacus (1960). In 2015, New York City Council issued a proclamation stating that “the government wrongfully executed Ethel Rosenberg,” and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer officially recognized, “the injustice suffered by Ethel Rosenberg and her family,” and declared her birthday, September 28, “Ethel Rosenberg Day of Justice in the Borough of Manhattan.” In March 2016, Michael and Robert (via the Rosenberg Fund for Children) launched a petition campaign calling on President Obama to formally exonerate their mother. 60 Minutes presented the story of the Rosenberg children and their quest for justice.

    While Chambers was loudly lauded in his 1961 obits, Bentley (whose victims numbered 80) was passed over. Already by the 1960s, people were tired of the spy mania, and rightly, as the Soviet spies were (misguided?) idealists, each one a personal tragedy, shot down by traitors-to-the-cause. Few besides the Reagans and Buckleys remembers Chambers or Bentley et al as noble patriots, rightly, as they were (excuse me) rats escaping/ scuttling their ship, betraying their friends. It seems Hiss really was on Soviet spy lists, as revealed when archives were opened after 1991. Whether he was a ‘card-carrying communist’ and lied, I don’t know and don’t care.

    I do know that such spies as Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Rudolph Abel and Kim Philby are now admired and increasingly honoured for their idealism and courage. They spied in the interests of humanity, against imperialism. I’m with them. Eat cake, Whittaker.

    Witness was dusted off for its 50th anniversary in 2002, with a foreword by William F Buckley, who recalls that only two years after its publication ‘almost total silence had closed in on him.’ In his foreword, Robert Novak, relying on Hungarian archives, harrumphs: So, the case is closed. Hiss was a liar, spy and traitor. But these inveterate Cold Warriors are wrong on all counts: communism was not the all-powerful ogre intent on war and conquest, it was wrong to betray you friends for believing what you did and then didn’t.

    Chambers’ ‘valued friend’, Nixon, made detente with the evil commies his greatest legacy. As communism mellowed, it turns out Christianity and communism are reconcilable after all.

    As the red scare and blacklist unravelled in the 1950s, the journalist who led the expose of Chambers in 1948, David Sentner, went on to arrange a visit by William Hearst Jr with Khrushchev in 1956, which won a Pulitzer Prize, leaving Chambers’ plans to orchestrate the destruction of the communist ‘jet plane’ in shambles.

    So where is Chambers/ Bentley’s legacy? Down there in Dante’s Ninth Circle—the “lowest, blackest, and farthest from Heaven”—with real American traitors like Jonathan Pollard (who gave away lots of genuine secrets) sentenced to life in 1987, granted Israeli citizenship in 1995, who despite Israeli pleas/ whining, is still under house arrest after 28 years in prison. Now there’s a real traitor — for all but the Israelis, who paint murals and name buildings (in east Jerusalem) in his honour.

    1. Benn Steil, The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order (2013).
    2. Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952), Foreword as a letter to my children, p. 38.
    3. Ibid., p. 499.
    4. Ibid., p. 702.
    5. Ibid., pp. 710, 693.

    Communism is closer than you think

    Another world is possible and it is coherently presented in Aaron Bastani’s new book entitled Fully Automated Luxury Communism.

    The revolution is here and its main protagonist is technology.

    Bastani writes with almost messianic verve on how capital is about to transform itself into labor.

    It’s all about humanity accelerating the possible practices and uses of the information age which will/is revolutionizing everything from energy production to food consumption.

    And he has a point. After all, humanity has been changing itself and its environment through technology for well over a million years.

    As Bastani describes it, we have gone through three Great Disruptions: the first was Agriculture, the second the Industrial Revolution and the third which is just getting started is the Age of Information.

    The third age will be one where supply vastly overwhelms demand. A world where energy, material resources, and information of all kinds will be cheap and abundant. In short, a world where communism, as Marx intended it, will be possible.

    As Bastani says, if it isn’t luxurious, it can’t be communism.

    Here, Bastani develops the thesis that technology is a necessary but not sufficient catalyst for ushering in the necessary material conditions for communism. The other condition is a fundamental change of social system which replaces capitalism’s ideological focus on scarcity and a society motivated and structured by the profit motive.

    In short, without revolutionary technological advance there cannot be satisfactory and sustainable material abundance which is the prerequisite for communism. A world where work is akin to play and man’s fundamental physical needs are met. In this case through a combination of robotic automation, AI, genetic engineering, and, yes, even asteroid mining.

    While some of Bastani’s futurist visions may seem over the top, much of it is well within the realm of possibility within a few decades time if not earlier. Even if prophecy is often a doomed and dismal business, Bastani’s central premise that man is able to utilize the laws of physics to extend, deepen, and enrich his quality of life has been proven time and again since at least the Age of Enlightenment.

    At a moment in time where negativity seems to be all around us, it is refreshing that someone young and from the left (Bastani is an ardent supporter and media spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn) has the courage to bring forth a political manifesto that is vibrantly optimistic. And as he often reminds us, links himself securely to communism’s founder in his understanding of the crucial importance of technology for revolutionary societal change.

    Dr. Chris Wright: “Critical and Informed Thinking Is Dangerous to the Powerful”

    Mohsen Abdelmoumen: You wrote Worker Cooperatives and Revolution where you talk about workers’ cooperatives. In this fascinating book, we note your optimism about the coming of a new era where the human is at the center. You give the example of the cooperative New Era Windows, in Chicago. In your opinion, are we in a new era where the union of workers in the form of a cooperative will shape the future of the world?

    Dr. Chris Wright: I think I may have been a little too optimistic in that book about the potential of worker cooperatives. On the one hand, Marx was right that cooperatives “represent within the old form the first sprouts of the new.” They’re microcosmic socialism, since socialism is just workers’ democratic control of economic activity, which is essentially what cooperatives are. Even in the large Mondragon firms that have seen some conflicts between workers and the elected management, there is still vastly more democracy (and more equal pay) than in a typical large capitalist enterprise.

    Moreover, there’s an expanding movement in the U.S and elsewhere to seed new cooperatives and promote the transformation of existing capitalist firms into co-ops (which, incidentally, are often more productive, profitable, and longer-lasting than conventional businesses). Countless activists are working to spread a cooperative ethos and build a wide range of democratic, anti-capitalist institutions, from businesses to housing to political forms like participatory budgeting. (Websites like Shareable.net and Community-Wealth.org provide information on this movement.) This whole emerging “solidarity economy” is really what interested me when I was writing the book, though I focused on worker co-ops. I was struck that the very idea of a socialist society is just the solidarity economy writ large, in that all or the majority of institutions according to both visions are supposed to be communal, cooperative, democratic, and non-exploitative.

    It’s true, though, that a new society can’t emerge from grassroots initiative alone. Large-scale political action is necessary, since national governments have such immense power. Unless you can transform state policy so as to facilitate economic democratization, you’re not going to get very far. Cooperatives alone can’t get the job done. You need radical political parties, mass confrontations with capitalist authorities, every variety of disruptive “direct action,” and it will all take a very, very long time. Social revolutions on the global scale we’re talking about take generations, even centuries. It probably won’t take as long as the European transition from feudalism to capitalism, but none of us will see “socialism” in our lifetime.

    Marxists like to criticize cooperatives and the solidarity economy for being only interstitial, somewhat apolitical, and not sufficiently confrontational with capitalism, but, as I argue in the book, this criticism is misguided. A socialist transformation of the country and the world will take place on many levels, from the grassroots to the most ambitiously statist. And all the levels will reinforce and supplement each other. As the cooperative sector grows, more resources will be available for “statist” political action; and as national politics becomes more left-wing, state policy will promote worker takeovers of businesses. There’s a role for every type of leftist activism.

    MA: Do you not think that the weakening of the trade union movement in the USA and elsewhere in the world further encourages the voracity of the capitalist oligarchy that dominates the world? Does not the working class throughout the world have a vital need for a great trade union movement?

    CW: The working class desperately needs reinvigorated unions. Without strong unions, you get the most rapacious and misanthropic form of capitalism imaginable, as we’ve seen in the last forty years. Unions, which can be the basis for political parties, have always been workers’ most effective means of defense and even offense. In the U.S., it was only after the Congress of Industrial Organizations had been founded in the late 1930s that a mass middle class, supported by industrial unions with millions of members, could emerge in the postwar era. Unions were important funders and organizers of the American Civil Rights Movement, and they successfully pushed for expansion of the welfare state and workplace safety regulations. They can serve as powerful allies of environmentalists. It’s hard to imagine a livable future if organized labor isn’t resurrected and empowered.

    But I don’t think there can be a return of the great postwar paradigm of industry-wide collective bargaining and nationwide social democracy. Capital has become too mobile and globalized; durable class compromises like that aren’t possible anymore. In the coming decades, the most far-reaching role of unions will be more revolutionary: to facilitate worker takeovers of businesses, the formation of left-wing political parties, popular control of industry, mass resistance to the global privatization and austerity agenda, expansion of the public sphere, construction of international workers’ alliances, etc.

    Actually, I think that, contrary to old Marxist expectations, it’s only in the 21st century that humanity is finally entering the age of the great apocalyptic battles between labor and capital. Marx didn’t foresee the welfare state and the Keynesian compromise of the postwar period. Now that those social forms are deteriorating, organized labor can finally take up its revolutionary calling. If it and its allies fail, there’s only barbarism ahead.

    MA: Your book Finding Our Compass: Reflections on a World in Crisis asks a fundamental question, namely, do we live in a real democracy?

    CW: We certainly don’t. None of us do. The U.S. has democratic forms, but substantively it’s very undemocratic. Even mainstream political science recognizes this: studies have shown that the large majority of the population has essentially zero impact on policy, because they don’t have enough money to influence politicians or hire lobbyists. Practically the only way for them to get their voices heard is to disrupt the smooth functioning of institutions, such as through strikes or civil disobedience. We’ve seen this with the gilets jaunes protests in France, and we saw it when air traffic controllers refused to work and thus ended Donald Trump’s government shutdown in January 2019. We live in an oligarchy, a global oligarchy, which isn’t constrained much by the normal “democratic” process of voting.

    But voting can be an important tool of resistance, especially if there are genuine oppositional candidates (like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example). In that case, society can start to become a little more democratic. So it remains essential for the left to organize electorally, even if it will take a while for there to be a big policy payoff.

    MA: Do you not think a new crisis of capitalism is in progress? Does not the capitalist system generate crises?

    CW: I’m not an economist, but anyone can see that capitalism has a deep-rooted tendency to generate crises. There’s a long tradition of Marxist scholarship explaining why crises of overproduction and underconsumption (among other causes) repeatedly savage capitalist economies; David Harvey, Robert Brenner, and John Bellamy Foster are some recent scholars who have done good work on the subject. A lot of it comes down to the fact that “excessive capitalist empowerment,” to quote Harvey, leads to “wage repression” that limits aggregate demand, which constrains growth. For a while the problem doesn’t really appear because people can borrow, and are forced to borrow more and more. But accumulation of debt can’t go on forever if there’s no growth of underlying income. Huge credit bubbles appear as borrowing gets out of control and capitalists invest their colossal wealth in financial speculation, and the bubbles inevitably collapse. Then things like the Great Depression and the Great Recession happen.

    As horrible as economic crises are, leftists should recognize, as Marx did, that at least they present major opportunities for organizing. It’s only in the context of long-term crisis and a decline of the middle class that there can be a transition to a new society, because crisis forces people to come together and press for radical solutions. It also destroys huge amounts of wealth, which can thin the ranks of the hyper-elite. And the enormous social discontent that results from crisis can weaken reactionary resistance to reform, as during the 1930s in the U.S. (On the other hand, fascism can also take power in such moments, unless leftists seize the initiative.)

    There is no hope without crisis. That’s the paradoxical, “dialectical” lesson of Marxism.

    MA: You wrote an article about Obama’s mediocrity. Don’t you think that the current US President Donald Trump is competing with Obama in mediocrity?

    CW: In the competition over who’s most mediocre, few people hold a candle to Trump. He’s just a pathetic non-entity, an almost impossibly stupid, ignorant, narcissistic, self-pitying, cruel, vulgar little embodiment of all that’s wrong with the world. He’s so far beneath contempt that even to talk about him is already to lower oneself. So in that sense, I suppose he’s a suitable ‘leader’ of global capitalism. Obama at least is a good family man, and he’s intelligent. But he’s almost as lacking in moral principles as Trump, and he has no moral courage at all. I don’t know what to say about someone who announced in 2014, as Israel was slaughtering hundreds of children in Gaza, that Israel has a right to defend itself, and went on to approve the shipment of arms to that criminal nation right in the midst of its Gaza massacre. He’s a self-infatuated megalomaniac without morality.

    MA: You wrote in one of your articles that the US government considers its citizens as enemies by using generalized surveillance. Does not the real danger come from this system which spies on everyone?

    CW: I think Glenn Greenwald is right that few things are more pernicious than an expansive “national security” state. Surveillance is a key part of it, facilitating the persecution of protesters, dissenters, immigrants, and Muslims. The so-called “law and order” state is a lawless state of extreme disorder, in which power can operate with impunity. It begins to approach fascism.

    One danger of the surveillance state is that it might operate like Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon: because people don’t know when they’re being watched or targeted, they monitor and regulate themselves all the time. They avoid stepping out of line, being obedient drudges and consumers. Any misstep might sweep them up in the black hole of the police state’s bureaucracy. So they internalize subservience. Of course, in our society there are many other ways of making people internalize subservience. Surveillance is only one, though a particularly vicious and dangerous one.

    Another reason to be concerned is that internet companies’ ability to “spy” on users allows them to censor content, whether on their own initiative or from political pressure. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other such companies are constantly censoring leftists (and some on the right) and deleting their accounts. Critics of Israeli crimes are especially vulnerable, but they’re hardly alone. The only real way to solve this problem would be to make internet companies publicly owned, because private entities can do virtually whatever they want with their own property. It’s absurd that leftists can connect and coordinate and build movements only subject to the approval of Mark Zuckerberg and other corporate fascists. It’s also terrifying that a surveillance alliance can develop between corporate behemoths and governments. That’s another feature of fascism.

    MA: How do you see the inhuman treatment of Julian Assange and the persecution of him by the British and American administrations?

    CW: As left-wing commentators have said, the persecution of Assange is an assault on journalism itself, and on the very idea of challenging the powerful or holding them to account. In that sense, it’s an assault on democracy. But that’s pretty much always what power-structures are doing, trying to undermine democracy and expand their own power, so the vicious treatment of Assange is hardly a surprise. But I doubt that the U.S. and Britain will be able to win their war on journalism in the long run. There are just too many good journalists out there, too many activists, too many people of conscience.

    MA: This capitalist society is based on consumption but boasts of concepts such as “freedom of expression”, “human rights”, “democracy”, etc. Don’t we live rather in a fascist system?

    CW: I wouldn’t say the West’s political economy is truly fascist. It has fascist tendencies, and it certainly cares nothing for freedom of expression, human rights, or democracy. But civil society is too vibrant and gives too many opportunities for left-wing political organizing to say that we live under fascism. The classical fascism of Italy and Germany was far more extreme than anything we’re experiencing now, especially in the U.S. or Western Europe. We don’t have brownshirts marching in the streets, concentration camps for radicals, assassinations of political and union leaders, or total annihilation of organized labor. There’s still freedom to publish dissenting views.

    But major power-structures in the U.S. would love to see fascism of some sort and are working hard to get there. And they have armies of useful idiots to do their bidding. American “libertarians,” for example, of whom there are untold millions, are essentially fascist without knowing it: they want to eliminate the welfare state and regulations of business activity so as to unfetter entrepreneurial genius and maximize “liberty.” They somehow don’t see that in this scenario, corporations, being opposed by no countervailing forces, would completely take over the state and inaugurate the most barbarous and global tyranny in history. The natural environment would be utterly destroyed and most life on Earth would end.

    In one sense of fascism, Marxists from the 1920s and 1930s would, as you suggest, say we do live in a rather fascist system. For them, the term denoted the age of big business, or, more precisely, the near-fusion of business with the state. Insofar as society approached a capitalist dictatorship, it was approaching fascism. We don’t literally live under that kind of dictatorship, but without determined resistance it could well be our future.

    MA: Isn’t there a need to reread Karl Marx? How do you explain the disappearance of critical thinking in Western society?

    CW: I actually think there’s a lot of critical thinking in Western society. The rise of “democratic socialism” in the U.S. is evidence of this, as is the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. The left is growing internationally — although the right is too. But insofar as society suffers from a dearth of critical thinking, the reasons aren’t very obscure. Critical and informed thinking is dangerous to the powerful, so they do all they can to discourage it. Lots of studies have probed the methods of corporate and state indoctrination of the public, and the enormous scale of it. Noam Chomsky is famous for his many investigations of how the powerful “manufacture consent”; one of the lessons of his work is that the primary function of the mass media is to keep people ignorant and distracted. If important information about state crimes is suppressed, as it constantly is, and instead the powerful are continually glorified, well then people will tend to be uninformed and perhaps too supportive of the elite. It’s more fun, anyway, to play with phones and apps and video games and watch TV shows.

    The mechanisms by which the business class promotes “stupidity” and ignorance are pretty transparent. Just look at any television commercial, or watch CNN or Fox News. It’s pure propaganda and infantilization.

    As for Karl Marx: there’s always a need to read Marx, and to reread him. He and Chomsky are probably the two most incisive political analysts in history. But Marx was such an incredible writer too that he’s a sheer joy to read, and endlessly stimulating and inspiring. He rejuvenates you. (His political pamphlets on France, for instance, are stylistic and analytic masterpieces.) Besides, you simply can’t understand capitalism or history itself except through the lens of historical materialism, as I’ve argued elsewhere.

    Of course, Marx wasn’t right about everything. In particular, his conception and timeline of socialist revolution were wrong. The “revolution,” if it happens, will, as I said earlier, be very protracted, since the worldwide replacing of one dominant mode of production by another doesn’t happen in a couple of decades. Even just on a national scale, the fact that modern nations exist in an international economy means socialism can’t evolve in one country without evolving in many others at the same time.

    I can’t go into detail on how Marx got revolution wrong (as in his vague but overly statist notion of the “dictatorship of the proletariat”), but in Worker Cooperatives and Revolution I devote a couple of chapters to it. It’s unfortunate that most contemporary Marxists are so doctrinaire they consider it sacrilege if you try to update or rethink an aspect of historical materialism to make it more appropriate to conditions in the 21st century, which Marx could hardly have foreseen. They’re certainly not honoring the Master by thinking in terms of rigid dogma, whether orthodox Marxist or Leninist or Trotskyist.

    MA: You are a humanist and the human condition is central in your work. Are you optimistic about the future of humanity?

    CW: Frankly, no, I’m not. The forces of darkness just have too much power. And global warming is too dire a threat, and humanity is doing too little to address it. It’s worth reflecting that at the end of the Permian age, 250 million years ago, global warming killed off almost all life. If we don’t do something about it very soon, by the end of the century there won’t be any organized civilization left to protect.

    And then there’s the problem of billions of tons of plastic waste polluting the world, and of the extinction of insects “threatening the collapse of nature,” and of dangerous imperialistic conflicts between great powers, and so on. I don’t see much reason for optimism.

    We know how to address global warming, for example. But the fossil fuel industry and, ironically, environmentalists are acting so as to increase the threat. According to good scientific research, as reported in the new book A Bright Future (among many others), it’s impossible to solve global warming without exponentially expanding the use of nuclear power. (Contrary to popular opinion, nuclear power is generally very safe, reliable, effective, and environmentally friendly.) Renewable energy can’t get the job done. The world has spent over $2 trillion on renewables in the last decade, but carbon emissions are still rising! That level of investment in nuclear energy, which is millions of times more concentrated and powerful than diffuse solar and wind energy, could have put us well on the way to solving global warming. Instead, the crisis is getting much worse. Renewables are so intermittent and insufficient that countries are still massively investing in fossil fuels, which are incomparably more destructive than nuclear.

    But the left is adamant against nuclear power, and it’s very hard even to publish an article favorable to it. Only biased and misinformed articles are published, with some exceptions. So the left is working to exacerbate global warming, just as the right is. Why? Ultimately for ideological reasons: most leftists like the idea of decentralization, dispersed power, community control of energy, and anti-capitalism, and these values seem more compatible with solar and wind energy than nuclear. The nuclear power industry isn’t exactly a model of transparency, democracy, or political integrity.

    But the Guardian environmental columnist George Monbiot is right: sometimes you have to go with a lesser evil in order to avoid a greater one, in this case the collapse of civilization and probably most life on Earth. Is that a price environmentalists are willing to pay so they can preen themselves on their political virtue? So far, it seems the answer is yes.

    We humans have to break free of our tribal ways, our herd-thinking ways. We have to be more willing to think critically, self-critically, and stop being so complacent and conformist. The younger generation, actually, seems to be leading the way, for instance with the Extinction Rebellion and all the exciting forms of activism springing up everywhere. But we still have a terribly long way to go.

    I haven’t lost hope, but I’m not sanguine. The next twenty or thirty years will be the most decisive in human history.

    The Neoliberal Rearguard

    Once declared by The New York Times to be, “the most important intellectual alive,” a quote it surely regrets, prolific gadfly Noam Chomsky has said that, “Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.” How true. However, the same dictator might find the sloppy, often incoherent work of that uniform press to be a problem in need of a solution, especially at a time when it finds itself assaulted on all sides by alternative media. The mainstream finds itself desperately waging rearguard actions as it stumbles beyond the shadow of respectability. As it retreats into a shell of reactionary conformity, the mainstream has become a parody of itself. Once, its propaganda was well-crafted and replete with nuance and high-quality dissimulation, such that the average American reader could be duped regardless of his or her preconceived notions.

    That is no longer the case. The demise of authority in the mainstream is thanks largely to the relentless round-the-clock news cycle and a deep bias in favor of sound bytes and sensationalism. How ironic that the collapse of faith in western media is caused by its own relentless fealty to profitability. The corporate press has now become, for vast segments of the population, a transparently deceitful congeries of second-rate pseudo-journalists who traffic in base fictions at the behest of elite capital. Meanwhile, ranks of first-rate independent journalists now dot the coarse hide of the staggering beast of the mainstream, more woodpeckers than parasites, slowly penetrating the dense carapace of falsehood that coarsens the consciousness of western citizenry. Only relentless infusions of capital are keeping the beast alive. Quantitative easing for the propaganda class.

    If you want a nice index of the abysmal depths to which modern political discourse has sunk, there are dozens of pristine examples on YouTube. In fact, the site is in some sense a junk-strewn wasteland of western cultural debris, each piece of trash boasting thousands of views. I recently watched an episode of the BBC’s, “The Daily Politics”, now mercifully discontinued after 15 years of spreading disinformation disguised as “in depth” coverage of political events. Last July, just before being shuttered for good,, the show hosted the communist Aaron Bastani. (Perhaps this was another effort to align Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn with the fraudulent effigies of Stalin and Mao.)

    This show is a particularly good example of what happens when a freethinker is for some reason permitted time on a mainstream network and utters viewpoints that are well outside the Overton Window of acceptable opinion. The airing of such thinkers is not, as most suspect, an example of an open press, but rather a calculated effort to censor unacceptable ideas. On a psychological level, it serves the same purpose of unifying the herd as burning witches did in the medieval epoch. There is some sort of malign catharsis in communal attacks on ideological enemies. Just look at the vicious historical Hindu violence against minority Muslims in India. Communalism, they call it. In any event, this collection of pseudo-journalists, arrayed around a table in comfortable chairs, was an especially nice representation of the idiocy of our current political dialogue. Four neoliberals had to be brought on to collectively mock, browbeat, and quiz the good-natured YouTube host of “The Bastani Factor” on his bizarre communist politics.

    Theater of the Absurd

    The stage is set by show producers when they cast a giant image of a yellow hammer and sickle against a vast background of red (gulag blood, no doubt). This farcical backdrop covers half the set. The “guest” Bastani is first mocked for handing out a t-shirt that says, “I’m literally a communist.” Then he is asked by moderator Jo Coburn, a haughty establishment tool with a penchant for constant interruptions, whether or not Bastani is simply whitewashing “a murderous ideology.”

    After Bastani finishes describing communism for the panel, Laura Hughes of the highly esteemed Financial Times declares that she felt like she’d just sat through her high school history class all over again, and that what was really needed was, “a new word” other than communism, since the latter was obviously so freighted with capitalist propaganda (she didn’t exactly say that). Political pundit and Tory Matthew Parris then jumps in to say he’s perfectly comfortable with the current word, and that Marx was perfectly clear about what he meant by it. Hughes gazes at Parris, nodding with a condescending smile, before Coburn leaps in to ask again about the supposedly nine million slaughtered at the hands of Stalin’s purges, gulags, and induced famines. Parris laughs uncomfortably and defensively remarks, “Well, I’m not a communist!” But the bloodthirsty Coburn isn’t satisfied. Is understanding communism not, in effect, trivializing its crimes? Parris then confirms for all and sundry that the practice of communism will most certainly require mass slaughter.

    Coburn jumps back to Bastani, asking whether it requires violence. Rather than say it requires the seizure of property from the ruling class, and that this act might inspire violent resistance, as it did from the kulaks following the Bolshevik revolution, Bastani attempts to smooth it all over with an anecdote from the 14th century, which appeases no one and distracts everyone. Here another conservative journalist, Suzanne Evans, declares, in reference to the disturbing t-shirt, to say, “I’m literally a communist” is tantamount to saying, “I’m literally a fascist.” Hughes bounces up and down in her chair and reminds the panel that communism “didn’t work!” She then reiterates her call for “a new word.” Someone then asks whether Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would wear Bastani’s communist t-shirt, prompting Bastani to point out that Corbyn isn’t actually a communist. Evans smugly replies, “He’s 90 percent a communist” (to guffaws in the gallery).

    Parris has by this point recovered from the dreadful insinuation that he was a tankie. He then announces that one of the main problems with communism, aside from the mass slaughter, is that it still has a “student Che Guevara mystique about it.” This insight is met with knowing nods and throaty growls from the panel. He then bafflingly adds that free marketers (like himself) “haven’t been robust enough in defending what we believe in.” Bastani might have noted that a century of nonstop laissez faire propaganda from the business press should surely have squelched a few noisy gangs of undergrads in Che t-shirts. Alas, the show then dribbled to a close, everyone declining the offer of the t-shirt as though it were smallpox-infested blanket from colonial times.

    The comments section beneath the YouTube video was largely sympathetic to Bastani, but in places typically descended into an intra-communist debate about what communism actually is, with one ideologue insisting that, “The USSR was not remotely Marxist!” Several naysayers chimed in with the usual boilerplate about how everything we enjoy today is a product of capitalism and how capitalism is “by far” the best system ever conceived for human prosperity, etc. As usual, the capitalists take credit for everything except the death toll.

    Punching Back

    Unfortunately, this is garden variety stuff on mainstream television. One hardly utters a non-mainstream perspective before opposition pundits have their hackles up and are firing off stock phrases about the glories of the free market. There are numberless responses to this kind of commercial pablum, of which a handful come to mind.

    First, no one is saying capitalism isn’t a great engine of material production. Even Marx praised it on that count. But we should never tire of pointing out that capitalism isn’t about markets; it’s the division of resources between capital and labor, the latter of which get brutally exploited by the former. As for markets, there were plenty of slave markets in the ancient world, and plenty of markets under feudalism, and there have been plenty of markets in socialist economies. Second, the numerous social advances made in the US were made in spite of capitalism, not because of it. It’s not as though the franchise, the eight-hour work day, or the social safety net were commodities distributed by profit-seeking capitalists in some magically humane laissez faire agora.

    Third, the Soviet Union was a demonstrable success, achieving some remarkable industrial gains during just the Thirties alone, before western jackals watched while the Nazi Wehrmacht rolled into Russia, and was finally unraveled by pro-western factions within the Soviet state. The German Democratic Republic is another example of a profoundly different, and generally more humane, kind of social organization, that is continuously given the short shrift by ideologues hurling their “Stasi state” jibes into the bristling ether of social media. Fourth, we’d have never even begun to exit the Great Recession of 2008 without China’s command economy, with its various socialist aims and government controlled production.

    Fifth, no one bothers to investigate the propaganda surrounding communism, referred to in this awful BBC show as a “murderous ideology”. The purge and gulag and famine death figures were popularly disseminated largely by Robert Conquest, a British propagandist, and are suspect at best, and at worst fraudulent. The majority of the left won’t even go there for fear of crossing the threshold into pariah status, and being thrust into that burgeoning cultural pen of actual socialists and communists. Sixth, there are thought to be some 20 million people since the end of WWII who have died at the hands of imperial capitalism, and its unquenchable thirst for new markets. Those figures are not likely to be falsified, at least partially because they are not the product of a ferociously anti-Communist propaganda system, but rather independent alternative journalists without a bourgeois mandate to romanticize neoliberalism and demonize communism. Nor are those numbers likely to stall; the implacable drive for hegemony promises much more slaughter, with many more million brown men, women, and children adding to the figures, plenty of them doubtless LGBTQ+ and trans. Seventh, India, for instance, is hardly better off than it was before the capitalist invasion by Britain. Same goes for the Congo or anyplace else capital has reached for market access. Life in the metropole is considerably different than life in the ransacked provinces.

    Eighth, when you argue for the current system, you’re arguing for a capitalist oligarchy in which 1 percent of humanity controls more than half the world’s wealth, and 30 percent control 95 percent of the wealth, leaving 70 percent of the world’s population to support itself on 5 percent of the world’s resources, access to which are nevertheless being hotly contested by capital. Ninth, recent studies have shown marked rises in suicides as neoliberal austerity takes hold in the metropole itself, while hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers have taken their own lives thanks to neoliberal structural reforms in a story that provoked meager interest in western capitals. Tenth, it’s been conclusively shown that we are heading into the sixth mass extinction event in history, produced by capitalist industrialization. Yet almost all of us are in denial, either as Republicans hastily summoning their liberal conspiracy talking points, or as neoliberal Democrats who still cling to the meager thread of the Obama era and the Paris Accords, as if Obama and Paris were really going to address climate change the way it needs to be addressed.

    Alas, these responses might have short-circuited the hive mind of the BBC panel. Facts, hurled into a pandemonium of deceits, can have that effect. Of course, Bastani was shuttled away before any of these considerations were tabled, the benighted doxies of imperialism happy to have had another go at the far left before decamping for their next bourgeois dinner party, anxious to don their own ‘most important intellectual’ attire and regale placid peers of the intelligentsia with tales of ideology run amuck.

    Plutocracy V: Subterranean Fire

    Plutocracy V: Subterranean Fire, written and directed by Scott Noble, continues the run of quality documentaries by Metanoia Films. The film provides the historical context that allows the viewer to understand why inequality reigns while social justice and peace lag today. The, at first blink, curious title stems from a quotation by the American labor leader August Spies, who was one of four anarchists hanged in 1887 after being found guilty in the bomb explosion that wounded and killed several policemen and civilians in what became known as the Haymarket affair.

    Said Spies to the court:

    But, if you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labor movement—the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil and live in want and misery, the wage slaves, expect salvation—if this is your opinion, then hang us!

    Here you will tread upon a spark, but here, and there, and behind you, and in front of you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up.

    It is a subterranean fire.

    Subterranean Fire documents historically how the capitalist class have nefariously accumulated wealth and power for selfish purposes by depriving working people of dignity and rights.

    Subterranean Fire details at the outset how strike actions and popular revolts were put down by corporations through their cronies, including police, private detectives, vigilantes, and even the National Guard. In the Homestead strike of 1892, after workers had defeated the Pinkerton agency’s private army, the National Guard was brought out.

    According to data cited in the film, in 1929, 60 percent of the population lived well below the poverty line. Despite large increases in productivity, there was no trickle down of profits. Neither was there a social safety net.

    Labor historian Peter Rachleff tells how organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army were enmeshed in the capitalist pattern, categorizing the poor into deserving and undeserving of assistance based on what their “interrogations” uncovered about one’s life style. The unemployed were often blamed for being without employment.

    Violence against workers was rampant, and the government was complicit in the violence. The über-rich industrialist Henry Ford hired armed guards to crush disenchanted workers. These armed guards shot and killed hunger marchers from the River Rouge plant.

    Finally in 1935, unions were legalized. There was hope. A crafts union, the AFL was formed; also formed was an industrial workers union, the CIO. These two were to merge years later into the AFL-CIO.

    Subterranean Fire informs how unions sought to end prejudice — an obvious sine qua non in the battle between the moneyed power of the capitalist class and working class.

    A message that is compelling and clearly conveyed is that government (and hence “democracy”) is not a force for the masses of workers. Especially prominent in pushing for the dignity of labor were communist leaders.

    Communism and Social Justice

    Rachleff identified the communists’ goal as developing workers as human beings.

    Of particular importance to communists was the inclusion of the Black masses. The KKK, who were supported by state power, warned against Blacks attending communist meetings.

    The Scottsboro Boys surrounded by Alabama National Guard, 20 March 1931

    Communists played a prominent role in the scathingly egregious example of racism meted out to the Scottsboro boys. African-American Studies professor Carol Anderson lays out how nine Black teenagers were falsely accused of rape by two White prostitutes. This raised temperatures to boiling among racist Whites. In a one-day trial, eight youths were sentenced to the electric chair and the other youth to life imprisonment. Eventually one woman recanted her false testimony, but it was 17 years before the last prisoner was released for a crime never committed.

    Immigrants were also targeted for exploitation.

    Stoop labor, such as farm labor where the worker was often stooped over while working in the fields, was considered undesirable. This provided work opportunities for those more desperate; Mexican workers were attracted by the opportunity for work. As immigrant labor, they were without rights and often mistreated. To avoid a labor shortage during WWII, the US-Mexico had reached agreement on the Bracero program, a massive guest worker program that allowed over four million Mexican workers to migrate and work temporarily in the United States from 1942 to 1964. Scandalously, many Braceros still seek to collect unpaid wages from that time. As Justin Chacon, author of No One Is Illegal points out, this form of captive labor has continued into the present. The current backlash against immigrants supported by the Donald Trump government augurs back to the Bracero program.

    Resistance in the Arts

    Artists, writers, and actors were centers of unionization and resistance against exploitation of people. Such artistic expression was opposed by the capitalist class.

    Subterranean Fire features an excerpt from director Tim Robbins’ movie Cradle Will Rock, where the capitalist Nelson Rockefeller is questioning the artist Diego Rivera who was commissioned by Rockefeller to produce a fresco for the Rockefeller Center in New York city. However, the pro-communist display was too much for Rockefeller to stomach; he subsequently had the fresco destroyed.

    Diego Rivera, Man at the Crossroads, 1933, Rockefeller Center prior to destruction

    The Importance of Solidarity

    In Flint, Michigan, autoworkers occupied factories and conducted sit-down strikes. Historian Sharon Smith points out the ingenuity of such a tactic: while factory owners were readily willing to use violence against workers, they were loathe to damage their own factories.

    Women of the epoch played an important role in supporting the labor rights actions of the men. Women auxiliaries sneaked food into the men; they broke windows to prevent men from being overcome by gas attacks; and they served as a distraction to police.

    The strikers reached out to fellow autoworkers across the country and fostered much unity. These tactics helped workers win demands from Big Auto.

    Sit-down strikes spread across the country. The film tells that in 1937 almost 5 million workers took part in sit-down strikes. It was a heady time for workers.

    However, in the end, the grassroots organizing power of workers was undermined by the union leadership which sought an alliance between labor and capital. The Communist Party of America also failed the working class.

    In another blow to workers, the Supreme Court ruled sit-down strikes illegal in 1939.

    The demonized state of workers was epitomized in the summer of 1937 when Chicago police shot at a parade of striking steelworkers and their families. Fifty were shot and 10 died. President Franklin Roosevelt sat on the fence and blamed both sides for the violence.

    Later, however, FDR appeared to have a change of heart, and in 1944 he backed a second Bill of Rights for all. Among the rights were such basics as “a right to a useful and remunerative job,” “the right of every family to a decent home,” and “the right to adequate medical care.” According the the documentary, FDR was no true friend of labor, and his expressed views were in anticipation of the United States entering WWII. Nonetheless, FDR died a year later.

    Demonizing Workers and the Left

    Capitalists, with media in tow, demonized communists and anarchists. The Alien Registration Act of 1940 aimed to preserve the status quo. Japanese-Americans were interred. Communists were targeted.

    The FBI was involved. Edgar Hoover had leftists monitored and surveilled by tactics including wiretaps and break-ins. The anti-leftism was so extreme that a section of corporate America supported fascism. The fascists supported Nazi Germany in WWII.1

    Post-WWII the top income tax rate was 91% until 1964. One-third of workers belonged to a union. From 1940 to 1967 real wages doubled. Living standards doubled.

    However, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 would attack workers, banning many types of strikes, closed union shops, union political contributions, communists and radicals in union leadership, and the compelled payment of union dues. The Supreme Court upheld Taft-Hartley, and it remains in force today.

    The film also examines McCarthyism, a witch hunt against communists or communist-leaning types, as a psychological attack against Americans. No one was safe. Blacklisting was in vogue and among the first blacklisted were the so-called Hollywood 10 for either communist sympathies or refusal to aid Congress’ House Un-American Activities Committee investigations into the Communist party or having fought for the rights of Blacks and workers. The list expanded much past 10. One celebrity given in-depth prominence in Subterranean Fire was singer Paul Robeson who refused to back down before Congress, stated he was for Negro and worker rights, and accused Congress of neo-fascism.

    McCarthyism hit hysterical heights as exemplified by Texas proposing the death penalty for communist membership and Indiana calling for the banning of Robin Hood.

    McCarthyism was foiled when it bit off more than it could chew. When McCarthyism took on the establishment, in particular the military, its impetus ground to an inglorious halt. The Alien Registration Act was ruled unconstitutional, and the First Amendment right to political beliefs was upheld.

    Subterranean Fire notes that the damage to the labor movement was already done. A permanent war economy was established: overtly through the military and covertly through the CIA. Come 2001, union membership had dropped to 13.5%. Radicals were disconnected from their communities; union democracy was subverted by a top-down leadership which avoided the tactic of striking for collective bargaining; the court system was heavily backlogged with labor-management issues, which usually were ruled in favor of management.

    Some outcomes noted in the film,

    In the early 21st century, Americans took on the dubious distinction of working more hours than any other country….

    There is no single county in America where a minimum wage earner can support a family.

    The Rise

    Grotesque income and wealth disparity signifies the current state of neoliberalism. Yet Subterranean Fire finds glimmers of change for working men and women.

    Despite relating the historical trampling of the working class, the film concludes on a sanguine note. Union strength appears to be on the rebound with solidarity being a linchpin. Labor strikes were on the upswing in the US, with teachers leading the way. Fast-food workers are fighting for a decent wage. Labor, which has seen real wages stagnate in the age of neoliberalism, is fighting back worldwide. Autoworkers in Matamoros, Mexico are striking and colleagues in Detroit, Michigan have expressed support for their sisters and brothers. The Gilet Jaunes in France have been joined by labor. A huge general strike took place in India. The uptick of resistance was not just pro-labor but anti-global warming in Manchester, UK; Tokyo, Japan; Cape Town, South Africa; Helsinki, Finland; Genoa, Italy; and, Nelson, Aotearoa (New Zealand).

    All this, however, must be considered through the lens of the current political context. A virulent anti-socialist president and his hawkish administration occupy the White House in Washington. Despite the nationwide strike actions, the right-wing BJP and prime minister Narendra Modi won a recent huge re-election in India. The purportedly centrist Liberal Party in Canada, rhetoric aside, has been, in large part, in virtual lockstep with the US administration.2

    The Importance of Metanoia Films

    Today, people with access to the internet have little excuse for continuing to depend on state-corporate media sources. Why would anyone willingly subject himself to disinformation and propaganda? Not too mention paying for access to such unreliable information and the soul-sapping advertisements that accompany it.

    It is important that we be cognizant of the search engine manipulations of Google, the biased opinions parlayed by moneyed corporate media, and the censorship of social media data-mining sites. The corporate-state media nexus wants to limit and shape what we know. The current war on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange is proof positive of this. Assange and WikiLeaks exposed horrific war crimes. It is a no-brainer that a person should be congratulated for bringing such evil perpetrated by the state to the public awareness. Instead the establishment seeks to destroy WikiLeaks, the publisher Assange, and Chelsea Manning who is accused of providing the information to WikiLeaks.

    Given the corporate-state power structure’s ideological opposition to WikiLeaks and freedom on information as well as the preponderance of disinformation that emanates from monopoly media, it seems eminently responsible that people seek out credible independent sources of information. Metanoia Films stands out as a credible source.

    There are plenty of independent news and information sites that provide analysis that treat the reader/viewer with respect by substantiating information provided in reports and articles with evidence, logic, and even morality. The reader/viewer who seeks veracity has an obligation to consider the facts, sources, and reasoning offered and arrive at her own conclusions.

    Metanoia documentaries lay out a historical context that helps us understand how we arrived at the state of affairs we find ourselves in today. It is an understanding that is crucial to come up with solutions for a world in which far too many languish in poverty, suffer in war zones, and are degraded by the cruelties of inequality. It is an understanding that is crucial for communicating, planning, and organizing the establishment of new societies in which all may flourish and of which all may be proud.

    Independent media is meant for independent thinkers and those who aspire to a better world. Watch Plutocracy V: Subterranean Fire and the first four parts in the Plutocracy series and become informed.

    1. For an in-depth history, read Jacques R. Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War (Toronto: Lorimer, 2015), a book which exposes US motivations during WWII as serving corporate interests.
    2. Note Canadian prime minister Trudeau’s stand on Assad in Syria, Maduro in Venezuela, Huawei and the extradition hearings on Meng Wanzhou, antagonisms with China, and antagonism with Russia’s Putin. Also consider Canada’s poor record on effectively taking on climate change. These actions differ little from president Trump south of the border.