Category Archives: Socialism

What “That’s Not Realistic” Really Means: Bernie Sanders, Social Democracy, and Capitalist Apologetics

When discussing politics, or listening to pundits in the mainstream media in the run up to the 2020 presidential election, you’ve probably heard a common refrain: certain policies are “not realistic.” It’s similar to the close-minded remark that certain politicians, such as Bernie Sanders, have issues regarding their “electability”. What are these elites and people who continually parrot these media narratives actually saying?

The most obvious translation of “that’s not realistic” is this: we the people are powerless to change things. Of course, most of those who use the “unrealistic” fallacy conveniently have power and money, which has disillusioned them from imagining any possibilities for transformative changes, and blunted their ability to feel empathy for those less fortunate. It makes zero sense to call Sanders’ policies unrealistic when nearly all of Europe maintains core social democratic institutions with mass public approval.

The question of “how can we pay” for programs like Medicare for All, free college, debt relief, and a Green New Deal always comes up. This is hilarious, of course, because no one asks the elites to justify the annual $750 billion US military budget. Drastically cutting the military budget and redistributing the surplus is how you pay for these social programs.

Another accurate and blunter rendering of what the unrealistic/unelectable memes mean would be: “Don’t ask for too much. Know your place, peasants.” Notice how you don’t see poor people claiming that socialism or “democratic socialist” policies are unrealistic. I’m fairly certain slaves were told their freedom was unrealistic, the suffragettes were told their right to vote was unrealistic, JFK was told by many of the “smartest” people that a moon landing before 1970 was unrealistic. We can go on and on.

Then there are others who are somewhat “progressive”, sympathetic but disillusioned and cynical, and many will say that socialism or even social democracy sounds nice, but we all know the powers that be will never go down without a fight and allow for a systematic reconfiguration of society. In other words, it’s not so much that socialism is unrealistic; but rather, the threat of the elites turning up the authoritarian dial to full-blown neo-fascism is real; therefore, we still cannot afford to nominate a reformist social democrat. Egalitarian, humane, and fair policies are too much to ask for: the best we can do is tinker around the edges and reform capitalism incrementally and very slowly.

This is a blatant falsehood. It’s nothing more than a media-blasted form of collective hive-mind Stockholm syndrome, your basic case of false consciousness. There is a kernel of truth here, and that is the elites will never voluntarily allow for a transfer of power to the masses. The point of electing Sanders (despite his severe foreign policy limitations and reformist inclinations) is the potential of elevating working class consciousness and activating a mass base that will fight, protest, and strike when the ruling classes attempt to drop the hammer on him, his allies, the citizenry, and his policy and legislative agenda.

Just like with any other massive whopper, if enough people in the media parrot that Sanders is “unelectable”, it takes on a life of its own. The “unrealistic” narrative becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and perception becomes paramount over reality. Material facts count for nothing, what matters are the feelings and ideological fables of pro-capitalist apologists. Only gradual change can occur, don’t ask for too much or you risk collapsing the whole system, because a Sanders presidency upholding democratic socialist principles would somehow turn the US into another Venezuela. Which, by the way, Venezuela is a democracy, and was a rapidly developing and improving nation before the combination of the drop in oil prices, sanctions, and US imperial meddling took its toll. A tragic example of how perception “trumps” reality in our new game show upside-down world.

Somehow changing things too fast will “rock the boat” and gulags and purges will come back into fashion. Promoting democracy will somehow work against citizens’ interests and do the opposite. It’s quite telling how the elites and the media view the prospect of the masses actually having power, no?

Isn’t it obvious how screwed up things are, and that the primary culprits are capitalists? Just consider global warming for a moment. Only one hundred companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. If just those one hundred companies invested their profits in renewable energy technology, they could potentially mitigate the worst effects of future warming on their own starting right now. Not to mention that even the smallest green tech breakthroughs in the sector could generate massive federal subsidies to help with the high cost of research and development. Rather than that, however, these one hundred companies continually choose short-term profits over the health of the planet; hire some of the best and brightest scientists and engineers from all over the globe, all in order to divert their brainpower into constructing the most destructive industry the world has ever seen.

What kind of nation is so cowed and beaten down that the moderate reforms offered by Sanders are viewed as impossible to achieve? What about the millions of others who view his economic and social priorities with such fear, hatred, and derision?

Policies such as a Green New Deal, $15 an hour minimum wage, free college, universal healthcare, a universal jobs program, and student debt relief are extremely popular. These are simply the next logical steps to blunt the worst effects of capitalism on a path towards social democratic governance. The ideas promoted by Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar have a democratic mandate with many policies that have over 70% support. If centrist liberals and conservatives want to fight the will of the people, not only are they showing their true colors (as promoters of oligarchy), they are going to lose in the long run. If the Democratic Party had any intelligence and backbone, which of course they don’t, they would put Sanders and “the Squad” at the center of a new progressive agenda.

The undercurrent that is worth returning to in the “it’s not realistic” argument is that most of those who trot out this sort of thing are comfortable, well-off, if not just filthy rich. It’s the elites, but also crucially the conservative and liberal middle to upper-middle classes, the professional-managerial classes (PMCs), as well as small to medium size business owners, those who have climbed our fake “meritocracy” who don’t want to rock the boat.

Many have achieved some sort of professional “success” and secure middle class economic status, and to see a portion of that wealth given back to the poor and working classes makes the PMC class extremely uncomfortable. Of course it’s no surprise that most of these voters are white, unable to see how the structural and generational racism helped their families secure wealth and privilege, and catapulted them into their cushy jobs, while minorities, the poor, and younger voters overwhelmingly support Sanders.

Let’s just take one example: doctors. Doctors are not your typical PMCs, as they frankly do not have to climb a corporate hierarchy which gives them a bit more “freedom” to think and live without completely debasing themselves. One would think they’d be more progressive than your average bank executive or middle manager, and most probably are. Yet, as this survey shows, only 49% of MDs support Medicare for All (M4A below). Medical professionals are supposed to be the “best and brightest” in our society, so this a pitiful figure, really. It turns out they are just another specialist class which cannot see beyond their own narrow material interests, and refuse to make the connections as to how poverty and lack of health care leads to worse health outcomes for the whole of society.

A healthier population would mean less work for doctors, who are constantly putting in long hours. You’d think they’d be all for M4A. Yet the same study confirms the obvious suspicion that it’s all about the money, with 59% being concerned that M4A would reduce physician compensation. Doctors are very highly paid anyways, so the idea that they’d be making a little less should not be a deal breaker. But, yet again, there class interests dictate to them to want to work more, and want to hold a less healthy population captive to our horrible and inhumane health system.

Economic repercussions of a potential President Sanders are in the back of the upper-middle classes’ minds. These folks are worried about their 401k, the stock market dipping, or a that recession could begin. The upper quintile (top 20% of wage earners) or so would probably pay marginally more taxes to fund social programs, and somehow giving back to those less fortunate (as well as accruing the civic benefits of living in a happier and healthier nation) is seen as dangerous. However, the PMCs are so myopic that they can’t see the blinding truth that the vast majority of any tax increase would be paid by the top 1-5%, and that the marginal tax increases they might face would drastically improve the whole of society.

The key thing to remember is that these professional class lackeys of the elite view their wealth as paramount, which they never refer to as such; instead using euphemisms like having “security”, “freedom from worrying about money”, and a “comfortable lifestyle”. Don’t rock the boat or their lifestyles might be impacted, and they might have to share the best doctors in town, rub elbows with the rabble at their favorite café or upscale gym or yoga studio, and generally interact with what they see as the wretched of the Earth. The PMCs also all vote, and though they may lean slightly Democratic, there is a large contingent of Trump supporters as well. Yet the PMCs who vote Democrat are mostly older (40+) and will lean towards those who reflect their beliefs in climbing the “meritocracy,” such as the technocratic doofuses Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete in the primaries.

It’s true that imploding the economy via capital flight might be the first thing elites would try to do to undermine a Sanders presidency. Yet that would not be his fault. In this hypothetical situation, the cynical moderate liberal and conservative PMCs would rather pin the blame on the wrong person (Sanders) than try to understand the structural failures of capitalism, and how malevolent and vindictive the elites are.

Another undercurrent of the PMCs and petit bourgeois class is related to the uniquely harsh sado-masochistic traits in US society. I sometimes refer to this phenomenon as “cultural Puritanism.” It was best summed up by H.L. Mencken, when he stated: “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”1

In other words, many in the middle classes and petit bourgeois get off on the suffering of their lower income neighbors and work colleagues, as well as finding perverse enjoyment in being exploited by their ruling class bosses and administrators. Brutal hierarchies in work and public life somehow validates and reinforces this cruel behavior in the bourgeois and PMC mind, rather than being viscerally repulsed by the crushing alienation and domination of social and economic life by elite one-percenters. So, universal healthcare, free college, and debt relief aren’t fair, as the poor aren’t “working for it” and “paying their fair share.”

The redistributive policies fundamentally clashes with the PMC worldview, because democratic socialist policies make clear that the poor and working classes built the modern world and deserve better treatment in a vastly unequal capitalist system. The implicit ideology of the “moderate” liberals is ultimately a conservative worldview: the poor are stupid, lazy, and crucially, they didn’t suffer in the right sort of ways; for instance by getting an MBA, by going to law school, by wasting their lives in boardrooms and management meetings, flying around the globe to sell useless products and giving PowerPoint presentations, and whatever else the corporate drones of the world do to convince themselves that they’ve “earned” their riches solely through their own “hard work.”

It’s quite visible when conversing with pro-capitalists, and you can see it on TV all the time when mainstream talking heads discuss Sanders’ policies, whether it’s on Fox, CNN, or MSNBC. I call it the Tucker Carlson look, although his facial expressions are just the most ridiculous of the bunch. He’ll invite a guest on, say a morally decent person like Cornel West, who’ll spell out their ideas to make the world a better place, or at least a slightly less shitty one; and the brow becomes slightly furrowed, mouth goes a bit agape, a look of a mix of befuddlement and incredulity appears, following by either a snide, condescending, dismissive attitude and/or apoplectic rage. These people instantly become either confused, angry, or both at the thought of structurally changing society to help people in need.

What they seem to be thinking, but find it impossible to come to terms with, is this:

“Wait, you’re saying that my actions and lifestyle are implicated in hurting people? You’re making me self-reflect on my empty, hollow concepts of how to care for people and how my bankrupt worldview has made society demonstrably worse? And even though you’re not necessarily blaming me personally, you’re claiming my ideas are not my own, but rather the result of capitalist cultural hegemony which shapes, distorts, and filters my own ideological beliefs to suit capitalism? In the freest and greatest country ever to exist? I refuse to believe this! This is an outrage!”

The whole idea of trying to talk with people who are that far gone is absurd. The good news is conservatives, centrists, and progressive liberals do not always resemble the caricatures that leftists often stereotype them as. Most people are far too normal, boring, and trying to cope with their own problems to rigidly accept capitalist dogmas. Many more are fundamentally uninterested with politics beyond what serves their immediate needs and those of their family and friends, and that’s ok. What’s important is to keep trying to show that the publics’ needs can be better met under a socialist system. There is no nice way to tell someone that their views are ignorant, and it’s extremely difficult to do so without encountering the type of reaction shown above. It’s very difficult, but not impossible. This is the task we are faced with.

It can get depressing when confronting mass ignorance. It’s important to remember that the ultra-rich and their PMC lackeys are in the minority, however. I believe part of what’s been overlooked is that while the elites would be reigned in economically in a social democracy, the PMCs would not lose out much at all, as alluded to above. Rather, they would be hit with a loss in social capital. This is because many, but not all, will be exposed as the selfish burghers they are, for these are the little piggies that helped construct the system for their corporate overlords. It’s very much like in the military, where the officer classes attempt to justify their war crimes by stating they were just following orders.

Like little Eichmanns, they probably know this excuse will not work when the working classes become fully cognizant of their betrayals. Just like US military officers today, who are war criminals for their actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other nations, many of the PMCs are white-collar criminals, upholding a rotten system and implementing neoliberal austerity, structural racism, medical malfeasance, intellectual property theft, and gentrification. Even if their jobs or actions are technically legal, many of them at least can intuit to varying degrees that their work is just plain wrong. They are traitors to their fellow citizens and they know it. They serve the oligarchy and they know it. Therefore, their only hope is to cling to capitalist politicians as their saviors. These people believe that electing the technocrat Warren or the empty sloganeer Buttigieg can clear their conscience, and stop those dark voices in the back of their mind telling them that they are sell-outs, because they voted for a “progressive.”

Perhaps mostly unconsciously, some upper-middle class and elite liberals and conservatives want income inequality, economic stratification, and gentrification to increase, so as not to have to deal with, talk to, or even be forced to interact and look upon the poor and downtrodden, as they are to varying degrees responsible for their plight.

Most people, however, are not getting a fat paycheck from corporate oligarchs, and therefore the unstated and explicit narratives to support this god-forsaken system don’t work. Most citizen are at least willing to listen with an open mind, and the only people who really try to vouch for capitalism are economists, mainstream politicians, or affluent PMC sycophants and business owners who directly benefit from upholding the status quo. This has always been about 20-25% of the populace, a pitiful minority, really. Dismantling the horrible, inhumane system of capitalism will require tact and a sustained effort to repeat the fact that the onus is on those who construct the system to defend and prove its worth. Clearly, capitalism has outlived its usefulness, and the only ones who are unrealistic are those who want to uphold the status quo and insist that everything can stay the same. The only realistic solution is to go beyond capitalism and evolve into a democratic system that works for everyone.

  1. In “A Few Pages of Notes,” The Smart Set (January 1915).

How is Washington “Liberating” Free Countries

There are obviously some serious linguistic issues and disagreements between the West and the rest of the world. Essential terms like “freedom”, “democracy”, “liberation”, even “terrorism”, are all mixed up and confused; they mean something absolutely different in New York, London, Berlin, and in the rest of the world.

Before we begin analyzing, let us recall that countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the United States, as well as other Western nations, have been spreading colonialist terror to basically all corners of the world. And in the process, they developed effective terminology and propaganda which has been justifying, even glorifying, acts such as looting, torture, rape and genocides. Basically, first Europe, and later North America literally “got away with everything, including mass murder”. The native people of Americas, Africa and Asia have been massacred, their voices silenced. Slaves were imported from Africa. Great Asian nations, such as China, what is now “India” and Indonesia, got occupied, divided and thoroughly plundered.

And all was done in the name of spreading religion, “liberating” people from themselves, as well as “civilizing them”.

Nothing has really changed.

To date, people of great nations with thousands of years of culture, are treated like infants; humiliated, and as if they were still in kindergarten, told how to behave, and how to think.

Sometimes if they “misbehave”, they get slapped. Periodically they get slapped so hard, that it takes them decades, even centuries, to get back to their feet. It took China decades to recover from the period of “humiliation”. India and Indonesia are presently trying to recuperate from the colonial barbarity, and from, in the case of Indonesia, the 1965 U.S.-administered fascist coup.

But if you go back to the archives in London, Brussels or Berlin, all the monstrous acts of colonialism, are justified by lofty terms. Western powers are always “fighting for justice”; they are “enlightening” and “liberating”. No regrets, no shame and no second thoughts. They are always correct!

Like now — precisely as it is these days.

Presently, the West is trying to overthrow governments in several independent countries on different continents. From Bolivia (the country has been already destroyed) to Venezuela, from Iraq to Iran, to China and Russia. The more successful these countries get, the better they serve their people, the more vicious the attacks from abroad are, the tougher the embargos and sanctions imposed on them are. The happier the citizens are, the more grotesque the propaganda disseminated from the West gets.

*****

In Hong Kong, some young people, out of financial interest, or out of ignorance, keep shouting: “President Trump, Please Liberate Us!” Or similar, but equally treasonous slogans. They are waving U.S., U.K. and German flags. They beat up people who try to argue with them, including their own Police Force.

So, let us see, how the United States really “liberates” countries in various pockets of the world.

Let us visit Iran, a country which (you’d never guess it if consuming only Western mass media) is, despite the vicious embargos and sanctions, on the verge of the “highest human development index bracket” (UNDP). How is it possible? Simple. Because Iran is a socialist country (socialism with the Iranian characteristics). It is also an internationalist nation which is fighting against Western imperialism. It helps many occupied and attacked states on our planet, including Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia (before), Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, to name just a few.

So, what is the West doing? It is trying to ruin it, by all means; ruin all good will and progress. It is starving Iran through sanctions, it finances and encourages its “opposition”, as it does in China, Russia and Latin America. It is trying to destroy it.

Then, it just bombs their convoy in neighboring Iraq, killing its brave commander, General Soleimani. And, as if it was not horrid enough, it turns the tables around, and starts threatening Teheran with more sanctions, more attacks, and even with the destruction of its cultural sites.

Iran, under attack, confused, shot down, by mistake, a Ukrainian passenger jet. It immediately apologized, in horror, offering compensation. The U.S. straightway began digging into the wound. It started to provoke (like in Hong Kong) young people. The British ambassador, too, got involved!

As if Iran and the rest of the world should suddenly forget that during its attack on Iraq, more than 3 decades ago, Washington actually shot down an Iranian wide-body passenger plane (Iran Air flight 655, an Airbus-300), on a routine flight from Bandar Abbas to Dubai. In an “accident”, 290 people, among them 66 children, lost their lives. That was considered “war collateral”.

Iranian leaders then did not demand “regime change” in Washington. They were not paying for riots in New York or Chicago.

As China is not doing anything of that nature, now.

The “Liberation” of Iraq (in fact, brutal sanctions, bombing, invasion and occupation) took more than a million Iraqi lives, most of them, those of women and children. Presently, Iraq has been plundered, broken into pieces, and on its knees.

Is this the kind of “liberation” that some of the Hong Kong youngsters really want?

No? But if not, is there any other performed by the West, in modern history?

*****

Washington is getting more and more aggressive in all parts of the world.

It also pays more and more for collaboration.

And it is not shy to inject terrorist tactics into allied troops, organizations and non-governmental organizations. Hong Kong is no exception.

Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia, China, Venezuela, but also many other countries, should be carefully watching and analyzing each and every move made by the United States. The West is perfecting tactics on how to liquidate all opposition to its dictates.

It is not called a “war”, yet. But it is. People are dying. The lives of millions are being ruined.

• First published by China Daily – Hong Kong

Flu Deaths: US 6,600 — China 25


As of 24 January, a grand total of 25 people in China have died from a new strain of flu being dubbed “Wuhan”, after the city where it started. A few days ago, when 17 had died, Chinese media reported that 16 of them were over 65 years of age and the 17th was 61. So, clearly, the elderly is the most at risk group. But, that’s the case for mutating flu viruses every winter.

Beijing is taking unprecedented, anti-market, anti-capitalist measures to control it. Right at the peak of the busiest travel event in the history of the human race, Chinese New Year, Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, has been quarantined and they just sealed three more nearby towns, bringing the total to 20 million residents. The magnitude of these public health measures is unprecedented in the history of the human race. The whole country is mobilizing to save as many lives as possible and Beijing has warned all government officials and citizens to NOT suppress any evidence of the flu’s existence. This real time webpage in English is available in Mandarin for all Chinese citizens, so they can react accordingly.

It is not just in Wuhan. Beijing and other cities have cancelled their New Year fairs and other public activities. China’s integrated, national rapid response is going to cost the economy billions of yuan/dollars. Try shutting down Paris, London or New York, all smaller than this midsized Chinese metropolis. It will never happen, because too many moneymakers would not be able to make a profit. Western countries just let their people die. It’s called “free markets” and the cold-blooded “cost of doing business”.

Private companies are also showing solidarity in living up to Mao Zedong’s celebrated maxim: serve the people! Alibaba’s online retail platform, Taobao, announced that they would not allow vendors to gouge customers buying face masks, even offering subsidies, so everyone could be protected. Get a load of that! In the West, the prices would go up many-fold, to exploit the people, making them unaffordable for the poor and those most in need, like the elderly on limited incomes.

Meanwhile, back at the capitalist ranch, in the last two months, 6,600 Americans died from flu. You saw that number right: six-thousand-six hundred human beings in about 60 days. This is not some unhinged conspiracy theory, but is factually reported by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC). In fact, every year, 12,000-79,000 Americans have lives shortened from the flu. Last year’s was particularly lethal, when 4,000 citizens were dying every week.

China, with 20% of the world’s people has nationwide, universal health care. Longevity continues to increase. In the United States and the UK, the world’s neoliberal, capitalist dystopias, life expectancy is going down. When my family was living in the US, 2001-2010, we couldn’t afford health insurance. Our policy was: Don’t get sick and if we get sick, don’t go the doctor. Otherwise, we’d leave the clinic with hundreds or thousands of dollars of inflated charges, and if we didn’t cough it up, they extorted us with a lien on our house or got a court order to garnish our paychecks. It’s perfectly legal gangsterism, euphemistically called, “business as usual.”

In any case, we also stood a good chance of getting killed by going, since 250,000 citizens die every year – not from a lack of medical care – but from negligent and corrupt intervention. American doctors killing you is the third leading cause of death. It’s the American Dream Nightmare. The United States’ medical extraction industry is cruel, corrupt, and criminal to the core. However, for hospitals, medical staff, insurance and pharmacy companies, profits are off the charts, which is the main benchmark of success in that part of the world.

Reflecting on the above facts, you have to hand it to the West’s Propaganda Machine. This hyperbolic, anti-China propaganda is racism that has been going on for centuries. For the West’s oligarchs, all this orchestrated brainwashing brilliantly deflects from just how bad it is back home, when in the time it takes me to write, podcast and post this article, 100 Americans will have died of flu, without a prayer, by a government and economic system that couldn’t give a rat’s ass about their loss.

King Tides and Who’s King of the Hill?

I’m watching the Pacific heave up a king tide in the tiny town of Waldport on the Oregon Coast. Houses right above the beach line are now soaked, their back and front yards littered with driftwood, logs and tree stumps.

And water. The power of that expanding ocean and the rising tides lend pause for any sane person realizing that this yearly cyclical event is a premonition: what I am seeing now is going to be the new normal. Everything shifts with one-three-nine feet of ocean rise in the next 20-30-50-100 years. The winds are pushing up more sea spray, and the entire scene is both amazingly beautiful and dangerous to the future of my town, a million towns across the globe.

That “normal” is no more beaches, or, that is, until the ocean takes out homes and front and back yards to sweep away more of the land to deposit beach materials to create beaches.

The idea of humanity is to deploy hard mitigation techniques to fight the tide of rising oceans — dikes, boulders, trillions of tons of earth, cement, sea wall, diversion conduits, stilts, bloated and expensive channeling and walling off wetlands.  You know, more and more busy bees, busy ants trying to push back on the forces of nature. Then there is retreat and abandonment. Obviously, we see how well retreat works when so many investments in capitalism are tied around the real estate and infrastructure of so many of their industries and businesses being so close to the impending ocean inundation. Forgot about abandonment for a long while, as we can see for obvious reasons beach community after beach community rebuilding after powerful hurricanes, that will look like rain storms under the impending new normal of heating ocean currents, etc.

There are other ways to plan for a world without ice, but we are an insane species who have let overlords control every blinking, swallowing, thinking, defecating, urinating, masticating, breathing, bleating, REM-ing moment of our lives. We have been so brainwashed and colluded and controlled that we can’t think even though we should and are capable of fixing the mitigation plans. Retrenchment is out of the question when it comes to capitalism, USA all the way, arrogance, and war making against people, planet, species. Ecosocialism!

Unless we change the conversation. Unless we get people to start thinking about and talking about and working for a viable alternative to the market-driven collapse of civilization. Our job, as ecosocialists is to put forward a practical plan to slam the brakes on emissions, an emergency response to the climate emergency. This plan has to begin with brutal honesty:

We can’t have an infinitely growing economy on a finite planet.

We can’t suppress emissions without closing down companies.

We need to socialize those companies, nationalize them, buy them out and take them into public hands so we can phase them out or retrench them.

If we close down/retrench industries then society must provide new low- or no-carbon jobs for all those displaced workers and at comparable wages and conditions.

We have to replace our anarchic market economy with a largely, though not entirely, planned economy, a bottom-up democratically planned economy.

The environmental, social and economic problems we face cannot be solved individual choices in the marketplace. They require collective democratic control over the economy to prioritize the needs of society and the environment. And they require national and international economic planning to reorganize and restructure our economies and redeploy labor and resources to those ends. In other words, if humanity is to save itself, we have to overthrow capitalism and replace it with some form of democratic eco-socialism.

Yeah, I know, we didn’t all sign up for the pollution, the massive surveillance, the penury, the ecosystems destruction, the addictions promoged and promulgated by consumerism, the predilections of greed, the gentrification, McDonaldization, Walmartization, Facebook-Google-IZATION of our worlds, for sure. But all of that didn’t just happen, since this country has a DNA-warp which allows for almost complete deification of the rich and the powerful and the controlling. Celebrity cultism doesn’t even scratch the surface of how colonized the Western mind has become.

Yep, we were sleeping when all the psy-ops, info-wars, algorithmic predictive shit came barreling into our lives. And complicit in the entire colonization of our minds, bodies, hearts, souls, futures and fates by a Brave New World corporate SOP and a big brother government.

Wet, Wild, Unpredictable

I’m talking to a few people who are here in Waldport photographing with phones the king tide phenomenon, and they dance back and forth out of the surge of high tide and the sneaker waves pummeling parking lots, cars and yards.

Some say, “Well, this is man’s doing. Or it will be more and more each decade. Amazing we think we are the highest forms of life in our universe.”

Yes. this is a direct quote from one of the bystanders who also told me she plants as many trees on her five acres, and she sees the little town of Waldport sort of vanishing in the coming decades because she knows there is no will of the people to work together to move it, or to put in hard barriers, which in the end won’t do that much.

Oh, those 7 R’s: retrench, retreat, regroup, reorganize, reassess, reinvent, revive.

In my slow (by many of my friends’ standards) life here, I am faced with a lot of time to write, a lot of people who are precarious, faced with poverty and with people who end up in my column for a little rag on the coast. Some of those pieces end up in Dissident Voice.

Not exactly tinged with revolution and Marxism and anarchy and ecosocialism and hard left zeal to at least give a decent run at this perverse society of exploitative and predatory capitalism, the columns are my emotional and intellectual Prozac, man, insulating me for a few nanoseconds from the madness of this world and the reimagining of my own sanity. I’ve got a friend out there who sees the scientists and others I feature in this rag of a column as sell outs, as reasons for the many precipitates  the communities and the cultures within those communities are failing.

Scientists and capitalism, an old pairing that has done wonderfully destructive things to people, planet, ecosystems big and small. And I get it, really, as I plod through slipstream after slipstream. Man, I am on the thin ice of aging (63 next month) and being made anachronistic daily by my idiotic dream of still getting something out there on some mainstream best sellers or notable list for my brand of literary fiction.

Reimagining Sanity - Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (Paperback): Paul Haeder

I daily have fights on various channels and in person about how people like us, like me, give zero to society.

What great invention or engineering feat have you done? What contribution to the good of humanity have you done? I bet everything you do — including typing your idiocy on your computer — is the result of engineers and technologists and doers. Take your poor ass liberal teaching (indoctrination) and Podunk writing (who the hell reads your irrelevant stuff?) and crawl back to your tie-dyed, smoked out Oregon. Another libtard/turd . . . Living in Oregon? ‘Nuff said!

This is the hard-wired brain of many Americans — and the so-called left and the wavering liberals are part and parcel part of that mindset because so many in my lifetime have denigrated my brand of revolution, perspective and analysis as way too extreme or radical. Irrelevant. Utopian. Impossible. Foolish. Something along those lines, as tempered as the above quote really is since most people I run into who label me commie, socialist and libtard are threatening my life, want my expulsion from love-it-or-leave-it-in-a-coffin USA. It gets worse what these pigs of capitalism and red-white-blue Military Industrial Complex say to me on-line and sometimes in person.

They are here to wear us down . . . 

Nothing works, it seems. Each big, small, tiny, gargantuan community is flooded with takers, and the leavers of the world, the givers, are not only out-gunned, but the entire fabric of capitalism and consumer culture and this military-might-makes-right society is flooded with those Yankees.

Begging for a countywide warming shelter, no free clinics, no dentists, reckless law enforcement hobbling the poor with more violations and court dates and jail time. The RV-with-Jeep-in-tow-and-vacation-home America against the very people who do the oil changes, the plumbing fixes the burger flipping, the road . . . .

Have a beer and celebrate when the video of Saddam’s neck is snapped by a rope. Celebrate with tailgaters when Osama bin Laden’s supposed dead body is sealed up in body bags  by those magnificent SEALs.

Despair is easy in this country, with the wide gape of peering into the belly of the beast, which is really us, US, USA.

I work as a substitute teacher and also work for a national non-profit that has designed this anti-poverty program around social capital and unconditional cash transfers. I am daily struggling to see how my two books that are coming out will make a drop in any bucket, and I am plagued with the fear of lifelong bad decisions, with a general anxiety disorder, and my own form of collective Stockholm Syndrome just daily slogging along in this messed up culture, society and country.

Let me reframe here — Any creative artist who is revolutionary and communist in purpose is going to be whacked hard in this competitive, superficial, predatory, hard-boiled, violent, usury-drawn country. Every single monetary interchange and human exchange is filled with duality after duality. Contradictions. Counter-intuitive thinking. Equivocation. Rationalization.

Daily it’s as if I have to fight very hard to stave off the insanity from surfacing, or at least battening down all those mental duress points from congealing. Daily, I have to quell the anger. Daily, I have to resort to looking toward some spiritual  formula to stay sane, pacific, and within the constraints of the social contracts laid out to keep me from going ballistic.

And yet . . . . I also work with people in complete struggle against all aspects of capitalism — shitty jobs, low pay rates; shitty vehicles or vapid public transportation; shitty local culture for people with no money, or no places for children to gather without throwing in dollars for the ride; shitty schools for their kids; shitty housing situations; shitty social capital and community resources; shitty backgrounds; shitty family dynamics; shitty physical and mental health; shitty credit scores; shitty prospects; shitty people controlling their shitty lives; shitty air and water.

Then, it’s up against this backdrop of drive-in fast-food culture, in this homogenization of every mile of roadside attraction country. Little things like — Did you know that the 7-11 corporation is directly responsible for all those bodegas and cool little family holes in the wall in places like New York going belly up? Colonization, like cancer . . . page from the playbook of Starbucks, Walmart, Amazon, the lot of them. Flipping 7-11 “convenience” stores flooding neighborhoods using economies of scale and the power of billions to push out the mom and pop’s, the little guy or gal. Rents go out the roof, and that’s it, RIP small town/big town America.

Yet . . . but . . . however . . . hold on a minute! Many of these people living under shitty circumstances can muster some sense of positive daily outlook. Sure, many have false hope, and many believe that hype and propaganda of the American Dream, that anyone can be a millionaire — forgetting that there is-will be-was always a million suckers born every minute in this stolen land.

Given that, though, my whole life has been compelled to understand that survivable character in these people — how they can get a can of sardines and believe they have caviar. You know, the old lemons made into lemonade axiom.

That’s what the new short story collection coming out, Wide Open Eyes — Surfacing from Vietnam, galvanizes in the 17 short stories: the will to survive, and not always thrive. Like that coyote chewing leg out of trap to limp on three legs to still live another day and another. Three-legged Americans, these characters in this collection are all somehow tied to the Vietnam War, plagued by their own survival or someone close to them. It’s not thematic, and each story is a stand-alone. I didn’t even try and thread this or that juxtaposition to make the collection super cohesive or interlinked. Alas, though the book is a stand-alone in that all the stories have that atmospheric and gritty demarcation between failure and giving up and just going on, moving ahead . . . no matter the circumstances of past, present or future.

In that sense WOE is an American book, like the wide scope of American literature. That’s Wide Open Eyes from Cirque Press, available, gulp, on Amazon, my arch nemesis. There will be a review of the book here soon. Looking at maybe four sales from my DV crowd. Oh well.

That little detail is like death by a thousand cuts, and, coming around the bend to 63 years old, I am having a difficult time having my principles stick. Everything about Amazon, about Bezos, about the people who plan the company from coder to software and logistics engineer, who develop AI and flood the world with the non-competitive shit that is the company, I despise . . . and yet, here we are, Year of the Rat, 2020, and I have just given over my soul in a Faustian Bargain to Amazon hawking my book with their bloody cut of the deal.

Checking out isn’t an option, and the fight is now for the little guy and gal, the child, the wordless old man with Parkinson’s, the bent over old lady checking items at the Safeway. There may be MAGA in some of those struggling souls, and that’s a whole other deal. For now, though, what is this country, and what is the ordinary man-woman-child?

Country as an idea, country as something that doesn’t exist, country as something continually changing because of outside forces. Country as a word from the enemy, meaning the empire. — Roque Dalton, Salvadoran poet

Joseph Campbell (“The Power of Myth”) quote roiling around my busy mind:  I don’t think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life. All he has to do is recognize it and then cultivate it and get going with it. I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman, or child.

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.

Colombia: Where Life has to Defeat Death

In one of the poorest neighborhoods of Bogota, Belen, I saw two people bleeding in the middle of the road. One person was clearly dead. A group of onlookers was moving frantically, shouting loudly. There was an attempt to resurrect an injured man. I asked the driver to inquire whether our help was needed, but he was told something insulting by the locals, and insisted that we leave the scene immediately.

Was it a traffic accident? Or a murder? The driver did not know. He actually did not want to know.

“Look,” he said. “You may be a Russian or Chinese Communist, or whatever, but here, in the middle of this slum, you kind of look like a gringo, and that is a damn big disadvantage to both of us, and to my car. So, if you don’t intend to bury your bones here, we should not stop in the middle of this neighborhood, for too long.”

“I thought they love Gringos in Colombia,” I uttered, sarcastically.

“Down there, yes,” my driver waved his hand towards the financial center of Bogota. “But not here. Not up here.”

Before becoming a driver, this individual used to be a top manager at one of the biggest South Korean electronics companies operating in Colombia. I have always been having good luck with my drivers. During the Dirty War in Peru I once was driven, for weeks, by a retired and thoroughly broke army general, and in Bulgaria, after the East European collapse, by a former ambassador to the United Nations.

Neo-liberal Colombia has some of the greatest and most bizarre disparities I have witnessed anywhere on Earth.

After filming and photographing in the middle of various tough slums that have mushroomed along the hills ‘above’ the capital, I returned to my hotel.

Just a few kilometers away from the misery-stricken dwellings, in a coffee shop of my hotel, a group of upper-class Colombians from Cali was having a casual dinner. The people were loud and I could not avoid overhearing their conversation. They spoke about their dogs having diarrhea, regularly, and how it could actually be stopped or prevented.

“It is outrageous,” one of them lamented. “Poor animal has been shitting and shitting. What is it telling us about the quality of Colombian food and water?”

*****

Obviously, someone had enough of such contrasts. Or more precisely, few millions of Colombian people decided that the situation is, should we say, “indigestible”.

And, so, on November 21, 2019, Colombia exploded.

Like Chile did, a few weeks earlier.

The explosion has been spontaneous, angry, and for the extreme right-wing government of President Iván Duque Márquez, very embarrassing. Some would say even, scary. His approval rating hit the bottom, 26%. Not as bad as in Chile, where the admirer of Pinochet’s dictatorship, President Pinera, ended up with just a pathetic 10% support from his citizens. Not as bad, but bad enough.

Colombia and Chile united in rage

Imagine that you are presiding over a fundamentalist neo-liberal country with hardly any public education or healthcare, with monstrous disparities, with some 9 U.S. military bases (it really depends how you count them; could be bit less or more), and with a foreign policy which has been shamelessly dictated from the North. Imagine that you still have those semi-active left-wing guerilla movements on your territory, but at the same time your government is simply super-hostile towards anything socialist, Communist, red or pink or even slightly progressive. And that many people in your own country actually strongly dislike the direction in which you are moving the nation.

Imagine that you have all sorts of problems at home, and that the left-wing guerilla movements are not the only issues you have to face here: you also have fascist militias which are murdering and disappearing people, you have those narco-mafias which sometimes have better social programs for the poor than your government does, and you also have the anti-imperialist Venezuela fighting for its survival immediately next door; a country which the United States has been trying to destabilize, ruin and turn into a regressive, oppressive Gulf state.

You have hundreds of thousands of the Venezuelan ‘refugees’ on your territory. Some say millions. People who have been escaping from the monstrous U.S. sanctions and from the outright U.K. and German theft of the Venezuelan gold, and monetary assets. It is scary, isn’t it? You have no idea who these people are. Are they really against the Venezuelan President, Maduro? For decades, millions of your people, Colombians, were crossing the border, escaping misery, seeking a better life in Caracas and Maracaibo. You know why it is now the other way round: because Venezuela has been raped, plundered by your masters in the United States and Europe. And it was done with your help, Mr. Duque. Now nobody knows what is coming next.

Your people are waking up, rising and starting to demand your resignation, or even the demise of the entire Colombian regime.

What do you do; how do you react?

First you pretend that you are listening. Even that you have some sympathy with your own people. But when you see that the protesters think that all that you offer (actually, not that much) is not enough, you deploy the special forces; you do it the Chilean way; you start using brutal police and military contingents, as well as under-cover para-military units. That is what your masters in the North tell you to do, and you are a good obedient servant of the U.S. government and those several “international organizations” controlled by Washington, including the Organization of American States” (OAS), World Bank, IMF, to name just a few.

You get a clear and loud message from Mike Pompeo in Washington. You can go ‘all the way’. You can kill, without being criticized. You can torture. This is all in the frame of the Monroe Doctrine, or, as some say, of the Second Operation Condor. As long as the killing and torture are done by the “right” people, against the “wrong” ones, they can never be criticized.

You begin frightening people. People begin getting injured, or even dying.

Where Dilan Cruz was killed, torn Colombian flag

You killed a boy. A young kid. His name was Dilan Cruz. His entire life was ahead of him. He was only 18 years old. Your forces shot him in the head with a bean bag round.

I went there, where it happened. People waved torn Colombian flags where Dilan was murdered.

That’s where Colombia is at this moment.

National strikes are shaking the capital and other major cities. Smoke and teargas are filling the air above several major streets. The atmosphere is tense. Nihilist, frightening graffiti is everywhere. The glass at your idiotic, overpriced ‘public’ transportation system (just glorified buses, nothing else) is shattered.

It may be just a beginning. Most likely it is.

Your regime is waiting. Will the demonstrators get tired and return home? If they retreat, fine. If not, it is likely that the state is ready to protect the status quo by crushing them; by killing many, injuring thousands, like in Chile.

In neo-liberal Latin America, which is governed by the U.S. and its “Monroe Doctrine”, human lives are worth nothing. What people demand is listened to, then analyzed, and in the end, used against them.

*****

In Bogota, in front of the building of the Attorney General of the Nation (Procuraduria General de la Nacion), hundreds of protesters, mainly indigenous, were blocking a square, despite a heavy police presence in the area.

Mainly indigenous protesters

One of the protest leaders, Mr. Felix Rueda, spoke to me, in front of the camera, while the notorious Colombian police force, “Esmad” (the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron), was slowly closing in on us, controlling all the nearby streets:

We are victims of the armed conflict. We are people who were hit hard by violence; something we thought would never happen again in this country. I represent the victims. And I fight for human rights. All these people around here are victims of the armed conflict.

A lady behind him begins to shout:

Here, almost all of us are victims. We are peasants, with no protection, whatsoever.

Mr. Rueda continues:

These people are victims of the state violence; perpetrated by the armed groups.

I asked him why there are no mass media outlets covering their plight.

Sometimes they come. But mostly just when we break down some doors, or when someone dies. One person has already died during the last weeks. Many were injured. Again, Colombians are now fighting against Colombians.

Another woman from the crowd screams at me:

There are also rapes; girls are being raped, even boys…

Police, military and the para-military response to the protests in Colombia has been so outrageously tough, so violent, that even some mass media outlets in the West had no choice but to notice and to report the gravest excesses. The Guardian wrote on 11 December, 2019:

For the past three weeks, Colombia has been racked by demonstrations triggered by widespread discontent with the proposed economic reforms of the rightwing president, Iván Duque, whose approval rating has dropped to just 26% since he took office in August last year.

Protesters are also angry at the lack of support for the historic 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), which formally ended five decades of civil war that killed 260,000 and forced more than 7 million to flee their homes.

In a country which not long ago suffered the highest kidnapping rate in the world – and whose security forces have themselves been implicated in forced disappearances – the videos of police snatching protesters evoked disturbing memories.

According to the national victims’ agency more than 150,000 people were forcibly disappeared between 1986 and 2017, with up to 80,000 still missing. Combatants on all sides of the conflict engaged in the practice.

Police in slums protects or scares?

Since the beginning of the protests, Colombian forces have been disappearing people from the streets; something that is bringing traumatic memories to the citizens. In one case, a young woman protestor, was grabbed and pulled into an unmarked vehicle. Two people jumped into their car and chased the vehicle, persistently, until the victim was released. This was a well-documented case: “a young woman dragged into an unmarked Chevrolet”. But I was told that there were many other cases, that went unreported and almost unnoticed.

*****

I flew to Barranquilla, a city on the majestic River Magdalena. This is where this great Colombian waterway joins the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.

This is where one of the greatest novels of the 20th Century, Love in the Time of Cholera, written by the Colombian Communist writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, took place. This is where Florentino Ariza waits for the love of his life, Fermina Daza, for fifty-one years, nine months and four days. This is where he makes love to her, finally, on a river boat, at old age. Looking at the surface of this majestic river, Garcia Marquez, finishes his novel. I always thought that the book was fully connected to Cartagena, but I was explained to, that no; it was linked inseparably to the Magdalena River.

Constanza Vieira and her partne

And this is where my friend, one of the most important Colombian journalists, Constanza Vieira, lives.

She picked me up at the airport, together with her partner, drove me to the long, new riverside, where we sat down and spoke for hours about Colombia; her beloved and tortured land.

Her father had met Mao, on two occasions. She knew all about the negotiations between the government and FARC. She is a walking encyclopedia, when it comes to Colombia. But this is not what I wanted to know this time.

Latin America was in turmoil. The Bolivian government was overthrown in a brutal, fascist coup. Chile and Colombia were rising. Venezuela was fighting for its survival. Where was this country going?

Constanza spoke about corruption under Duque, about Uribe’s crimes, and about the grave violations of human rights in her country:

Colombia in a setting of South America, is a conservative country; very conservative. It is suffering from one right-wing government after another. Here, the inequality is tremendous, one of the greatest in Latin America. When the protests had erupted here, the governments negotiated with the protesters, but never delivered on what they agreed. Colombia is a neo-liberal country. Now it is being shaken by huge protests. In this context, we have to thank Chile. Because whenever in the past Colombians were demanding true changes, our government would tell us: ‘look at Chile! Chileans and all of us have to be thankful to General Pinochet. The country is so prosperous. Capitalism works!  So, the uprising in Chile, where people are rejecting neo-liberalism, is having a tremendous impact on Colombia.

The situation in Colombia is truly grotesque, and the cynicism endless. Constanza mentions just one example, which would be hard to even imagine in most of the other countries on the continent:

In this country, corruption is just enormous. And so are violations of human rights. Now imagine: the government of Duque decided to pay compensation to the victims of human rights violations, as well as victims of corruption – from the budget allocated to public universities!

Joint US-Colombian Air Force Facilities

I asked her about the U.S. military bases.

You see, it is not as simple as it used to be. United States is not staffing the bases with its own soldiers, permanently. The soldiers who come here are usually under-cover. It is often an intelligence unit or two, or these are soldiers who come and go, using local military bases only when they need them.

As we are parting at the airport, late at night, her partner, a writer, goes back to the “basics” – to Simon Bolivar:

If you talk to people all over Latin America, the great majority will say that they admire Simon Bolivar. Our great Liberator! But if you listen and look closer, you soon realize that the Bolivarian ideals are being betrayed, almost everywhere, all around us.

*****

Colombia is boiling. There is not just one problem that the country is facing; there are dozens, perhaps hundreds.

While indigenous people have been marching on Bogota, protesting and struggling for their rights and culture to be respected, the coca leaf cultivating farmers (most of them indigenous families) are demanding that their crop finally gets legalized.

All this, while the Colombia peace court is exhuming some 50 bodies in extra-judicial killings cases, presumably committed by the military.

As recently reported by Reuters:

False positive killings numbered at least 2,248 between 1998 and 2014. The majority of the murders took place during the term of former President Alvaro Uribe, according to the attorney general’s office.

People were defined as dying in combat, but in reality, they were victims of extra-judicial killings.

Misery and shame

Extreme poverty, extra-judicial killings, corruption, unemployment, an embarrassing foreign policy, police brutality, extremely high crime rate – everything is inter-connected. Everything seems to be explosive.

*****

One night, all around rebellious Bogota. Graffiti everywhere. Police on high alert. Clusters of people, assembling, then disappearing into the night.

Behind the airport, in the center of a town called Fontibon, there is a meeting of the committee which is organizing one of the strikes. I am being taken there by David Curtidor, a prominent Colombian activist.

He introduced me to Ms. Luz Janneth Zabaleta, a professor of mathematics, who is deeply involved in the organization of the protests. She explained to me:

Until now, all those government’s so-called reforms were made against the workers, indigenous people and students. This uprising will change everything.

 Her comrade, Arturo Partilla Lizarazo, a labor lawyer passionately supported her words:

Now Colombia is entering a huge struggle; it is fighting for the dignity of human beings, inhabiting this country. Neo-liberal policies have failed, here and elsewhere. And Colombia is ready to defeat those neo-liberal policies, which have already destroyed so many lives of our people.

We talk about the former government of President Uribe, which according to both, was basically following a policy of war. We also discuss the awful plight of the common Colombian people, of millions of starving children, the horrendous unemployment rate among young people, and the unimaginable hardship endured by elderly, retired people.

Later, at Parkway, which is a narrow park in the center of the city, I witnessed protesters waving Colombian and Chilean flags. There is live music. Young people are dancing. Units of the riot police are moving along the edges of the park. Are they going to attack? If yes, when? Nobody knows.

I drive through the now empty Bolivar Square, then near the Presidential Palace, barricaded, blocked by the military. Several government buildings are covered by black, protective curtains. Somehow, they look like a funeral halls.

Right next to the government district, there is a red light district’; full of sex workers, pimps and police units. In Colombia, power and misery shamelessly coexist next to each other.

*****

On my last day, before departing Bogota for La Paz, Bolivia, I was visited by a legendary educator, German Vladimir Zabala Archila, a liberation theologist who used to work with, among others,  Ivan Illich.

Still very active all-over Latin America, helping to set up revolutionary educational systems in various, particularly indigenous-majority countries, Vladimir is promoting the so-called “Pedagogy of Otherness” (Pedagogia de La Otredad).

Vladimir is an eternal optimist. He believes that Colombia, as well as the entire Latin America, are undergoing tremendous, irreversible transformations:

We are in the middle of great cultural changes. I can see it even in my own middle-class part of the city. My neighbors, whom I thought were very conservative ladies, are these days banging their pans in the middle of the street, in what is clearly a protest against the system and the government. We call it here “I am scared, but I am marching!”

One of our previous presidents used to say: ‘All we have to do is to become part of the United States.’ Colombian paramilitary groups infiltrated Venezuela, on behalf of the West. But look now. There is growing solidarity among black and indigenous people in such places like Cali. And even Evo [Morales] was here, marching with us. He is beloved by the people of Colombia.

“And now?” I asked Vladimir. “Evo… How does it all look from here?”

He does not hesitate:

We didn’t expect this coup. We were quite certain that Evo’s popularity in Bolivia would protect him. We were confident in Cuban intelligence. We did not think that Santa Cruz would succeed, with its horrible Nazis like Camacho, who are connected with narco-traffickers, and backed by the West…

But Vladimir is still optimistic, and so am I.

Latin America is waking up. United, as they say here, people can never be defeated. And slowly, reluctantly, Latin American nations are finally trying to unite.

*****

Things will not change overnight in Colombia, but they will eventually change.

As I drive through Bogota, I see anti-government graffiti, I see damaged buildings, the remains of the battles fought between protesters and the security forces. But I also see some strange attempts to infiltrate the rebellion, like the clenched fists that look just too familiar; like Otpor, a symbol of the Western-backed “Color Revolutions”.

It is too early to draw conclusions, but Colombian rebels have to be vigilant. While people are fighting for a new South America, while they are getting injured, while some are even dying, the West is plotting, together with President Duque and his regime; they are analyzing and trying to figure out how to keep things as they have been, for those long stagnant decades. If the government can get away with it, it would give absolutely nothing — zero.

This will be a long and difficult struggle.

Colombia is one of the most damaged places in Latin America; one of the most turbo-capitalist, and one of the most sold out to the West.

On the other hand, its opposition is vibrant and diverse. Its people are amazing; many very brave, educated and determined people.

*****

My last day in Bogota, as I was falling asleep, I heard some loud gunshots right in front of my hotel.

After years in Beirut, I was used to such sounds. ‘Celebratory shooting into the air’, I thought, half asleep. But people were screaming, too. Exhausted, I fell asleep.

The next morning, on the way to the airport, I was told by my driver: “At night, they killed a French man, right in front of the entrance to your hotel.”

‘Too many corpses’, I thought. ‘Too many people are dying in Colombia. For whatever reasons, but dying unnatural deaths.’

At Bogota Airport hundreds waiting for hours in line while officers playing and chatting

At the airport, passport control check took almost two hours. Immigration officers were showing absolute and open spite towards the passengers. They were chatting with each other, banging into their mobile phones, even eating. While people waited in endless lines, like cattle. Absolute impunity.

On the Avianca flight from Bogota to La Paz, my neighbor was a typical US lady-apparatchik.

“Where are you from?” she asked me in an arrogant tone of voice, right before take off.

“Russia,” I said.

What?”

“Russia.”

“What’s that?”

“Russian Federation”.

“Oh, Ru-siah!” She gave me a bizarre, pre-programmed, aggressive look.

I was leaving an old US colony for a new one, recently ‘acquired’ one.

The woman who was sitting next to me on the plane was radiating the unmistakable chill of death. My body began shaking slightly. But then I recalled the last words of Garcia Marquez’s brilliant novel, written on the shores of the Rio Magdalena:

The Captain looked at Fermina Daza and saw on her eyelashes the first glimmer of wintry frost. Then he looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.

My body relaxed. And I was suddenly certain that it will be life, as well as the great passion for it, that will finally liberate Colombia from the appalling embrace of death.

First Published by 21WIRE

All photos by Andre Vltchek

Incredible Lightness of Quetzalcóatl

From the far distance sounded the muffled howling of a family of monkeys, monos gritones, passing the night in the crowns of the mighty trees. It echoed through the jungle like the roar of an angry mountain lion. Gruesome and terrifying, it seemed to tear the night apart, but it did not disturb the jungle. It sang and fiddled, chirped and whistled, whined and whimpered, rejoiced and lamented its ever-unchanging song with the constancy of the roaring sea.

B. Traven, “Trozas”

Note: This is part two in a series on Mexico and the passion and the glory of an American (me) rejiggering his relationship to finally yawn out of the swill of this sick North American consumer fiesta and move away. We’ll see how that unfolds, as I too am in the grip of viscous repeated battered country abuse syndrome!

*****

She holds onto her role as daughter in this patriarchal land — Mexico. Not sure how patriarchal it would have turned out if the Spanish sword, swine, syphilis, santos, holy see, germs had never set root in this New World.

She’s 52, unmarried, unable to birth progeny. She spent years in the USA to gain a stake so she might get a sliver of her father’s property for which to build a little casita.

Her brothers get the father’s and deceased mother’s land and small houses, small parcels. Claudia has a small school supply store in Axochiapan (her deceased mother’s for years) but she can’t make a living at it thanks to Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart and other box store cancers. She has her younger sister in Cuernavaca, and she works three jobs to barely survive with her technical degree in computer repair and IT. These two women — Claudia and Alejandra — have more “la capacidad” in their pinky fingers than all of America has in its jowls. Claudia was so broke she ended up buying 30 buenas noches (poinsettias for the Christmas time) to sell on the street in upscale neighborhoods in Cuernavaca. She made no sales as Land Rovers and Lexus coupes zoomed by.

The plague of propaganda, low prices, low quality, and brand loyalty has run rampant in this southern land, like dengue mosquitoes lighting upon the children while still in vitro.

Years ago, both Alejandra and Claudia spent time in a print plant in Gresham, Oregon, and most of their siblings had also thrown in around Portland, and many more hoofed it through the causeway to Minneapolis. Many made it to the El Norte without proper papers from the US Gestapo.

Claudia thinks sometime in 2020 she might be eligible to return to the USA. For Alejandra, that’s five years down the pike. We’ll vouch for and sponsor both of them.

Both are proud, smart, feminist, and self-determined. They are full of empathy, and would give the shirts off their backs to help friends, family, anyone in need.

They worked hard in El Norte, conjoined efforts, lived small, and saved money. Mexico was always in their dreams, and they were here to try and build something back home.

Back home, 90 years of bastard politicians in the two parties  — PAN and PRI —  literally have ripped off trillions from Mexico’s coffers;  and the bastards’ bastard, USA, El Yanqui, and the other financiers and the dirty industry honchos, all have a history of theft and murder, and are still readily staged to exploit, which is another word for steal.

Very little is allowed to be manufactured in Mexico — cars, buses, equipment, more. NAFTA allows for a pipeline of US-made and US-provisioned stuff that the Mexicans could easily produce. We all know what the NAFTA two-step American gut disease is.

Claudia’s hardy but sad, admitting to bouts of depression; and her friend, my spouse, came to see her for the very first time for a visit to Claudia’s homeland. To her small pueblo where cane fields, corn forests and a few cows populate the land. All of that, plus me, new in my spouse’s life with a trainload of history with Mexico, Latin America, La Raza, hatred of El Yanqui, created a unique mix of ingredients that bonded us quickly as we went through by car (a friend of Claudia’s rented a new KIA Sole to us cheap) and saw many parts of Morelos and Guerrero.

These are powerful rendezvouses you’ll never get from Holly-Dirt Netflix originals. This story is not closed, but it’s universal.

In the chaotic Stockholm Syndrome lives of North Americans, nothing about the struggle to overthrow the chains of Capitalism and crony corruption resonates since North America is one flagging mall-dragging country, where the population is compliant in the workplace, but mad as hell on the troll worlds of on-line “discourse.” Sort of the salt peter of revolution and real deterministic radical action — the world wide web; Holly-dirt; Youtube; the infantilism and Chlamydia of mainstream pop culture;  wacko political correctness; the four seasons of  24/7  violence for younger and younger males with their sweaty warped joysticks; the endless joke-joke of Americans relishing in their own stupidity and air power; the endless useless pedantics in academia, the courts, and the state department.

It is so real, how falsely revisionist the North American concept of history for this Turtle Island. Trump is the culmination of all of the superficiality, all the Ponzi schemes, all the bankruptcy courts, the insipid hubris of the stupid, all the PT Barnum hustle, all the smoke and mirrors, all the self-aggrandizement, all the narcissistic syndromes, all the puffed-up faux bravado of a man (and many MAGA men) who would last 10 seconds in a field with some of my former veterans who are mad as hell at the lies of empire, the lies at the top, the failure of ALL POTUS’s.

Not one has the capacity to understand “third” world people, or people in Mexico, or the races, the Indians, the tug of the white supremacists who launched their hairy bodies into Mesoamerica to play their swindle for King-Queen-Captain-Cardinal on a people who had pretty much figured out things for several millennia before the hordes of hustlers and rapists and murderers from Iberia and the Anglo lands penetrated their soil and jungles and bays.

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Cuernavaca

Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry was one of my top 100 books a while back. It shows the anachronistic debased values of a British envoy, drunkard, impotent, and the the emerging pathogen of Nazism embraced by the industrialists and that included some in Mexico. The Power and the Glory, too, by Graham Greene. The passion, impassioning, and possessiveness of men. Macario and Treasure of Sierra Madre (B. Traven and John Huston books and scripts respectively) and Night of the Iguana.

Contemporary writers in Mexico and some of their well-known titles also inspire:

In Search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi.
The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel.
Diablo Guardián by Xavier Velasco.
Down The Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos.
The Uncomfortable Dead by Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Subcomandante Marcos.
Leaving Tabasco by Carmen Boullosa.

More here, Mexico’s Finest Contemporary Writers: Tracing a Cultural Renaissance

More authors I’ve danced with during mescal-induced jaguar nights: Luis Spota, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, Jaime Sabines, Martin Luis Guzman, and Valeria Luiselli.

And the simple poetics of Mexicans who were determined to break the yoke of the oppressors:

My sole ambition is to rid Mexico of the class that has oppressed her and given the people a chance to know what real liberty means. And if I could bring that about today by giving up my life, I would do it gladly.

Pancho Villa

In that first blow to the deaf walls of those who have everything, the blood of our people, our blood, ran generously to wash away injustice. To live, we die. Our dead once again walked the way of truth. Our hope was fertilized with mud and blood.

Subcomandante Marcos

Like all of Latin America, Mexico after independence in 1821 turned its back on a triple heritage: on the Spanish heritage, because we were newly liberated colonies, and on our Indian and black heritages, because we considered them backward and barbaric. We looked towards France, England and the U.S., to become progressive democratic republics.

— Carlos Fuentes

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My good friend from Tucson, John, who became bi-lingual early in his life before his three years as an Army LT,  ended marrying a woman from Cuernavaca. I was at the wedding 33 years ago. He’s got three daughters, and he’s been divorced a while. She came from upper class environs, and he was a Navy commander’s son living in the desert. He and I like our motorcycles, and he is now a translator on the international market, from home, via Skype, phone, what have you. He’s single again, living the desert rat life of many a gringo who has gotten a taste of Mexico in their blood and entwined it into his children’s DNA.

He forewarned me to not head to Cuernavaca or the State of Guerrero or anywhere away from the quintessential tourist zones. He was citing US State Department provisos, whichever news feeds he reads, and the broken down minds of his fellow Arizonans.

Of course, he and the State Department are dead wrong, as was Reagan’s idiotic ambassador to Mexico, Gavin. But with Trump and idiotic millionaires like Maddow and the like, the USA is one starched up Marvel comic book world of good and bad, light and evil, where the highest thinkers (sic) are at least a couple of notches below Lex Luther’s mental prowess, for sure.

The result of this xenophobia is a large city, Cuernavaca, that in December had very non-Mexican few tourists. The city is looking tired and worn, as is most of Mexico, excluding the industrial complexes, mining operations, smelting outfits, et al.

The ebb of life, though, even in the threadbare places in Mexico, is compelling. Laughter and hands held. The peek-a-boo amazing sights, sounds, and smells around every corner and in every walkway.

Our second largest trading partner behind Canada, Mexico is a shell of a country in many ways. Ugly Botoxed white women and men on billboards, their green and blue eyes like a cold lizard’s, and on TV, in positions of power, while la gente is continually denigrated and spat upon by the elites.

Axe

We are hatchets of steel and fire.
We live to reap and illuminate.
With the metal,
we fell the trunk.
With the flame,
we illuminate the cut,
the felling of what we are.

Carmen Boullosa

 

Diego Rivera, Liberation of the Peon, B. Traven

Invasions

Trump told the previous president of Mexico that he would be sending in the American cavalry to take care of “those bad hombres.”

He accused Peña Nieto of harboring “a bunch of bad hombres down there” and warned:

You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.

But there is a history of US meddling, both through “diplomatic channels,” through the economic structural violence our hit men are known for, and with troops:

When Woodrow Wilson took office in 1913, he inherited a chaotic diplomatic relationship with Mexico. Two years earlier, the country’s longtime head of state, Porfirio Díaz, had been deposed. Over three decades in power, Díaz had been strongly aligned with American economic interests, which came to control 90 percent of Mexico’s mineral resources, its national railroad, its oil industry and, increasingly, its land. Resentful of the “peaceful invasion” from their northern neighbors, in 1911 middle-class and landless Mexicans overthrew Díaz and installed a noted public intellectual and reform champion, Francisco Madero, in the presidency. Not long after, the military, under the leadership of General Victoriano Huerta, deposed and executed Madero.

Displaying his deep piety and moral conviction, Wilson declared that he would never “recognize a government of butchers” and declared his intent to “teach” Mexico “a lesson by insisting on the removal of Huerta.” To that end, he sent two personal envoys to Mexico City to instruct the country’s political leaders—“for her own good”—to insist on Huerta’s resignation. The mission fared poorly. For one, the envoys—William Bayard Hale, a journalist, and John Lind, a local politician from Minnesota—spoke not a word of Spanish. Lind privately regarded Mexicans as “more like children than men” and conducted himself accordingly, to the detriment of the mission.

[…] At first, Villa sought to align himself with Wilson, but as his grasp on power became more tenuous, he sought to raise additional resources by taxing American corporations and through general banditry. He took matters a step too far when his forces confiscated the sprawling Mexican ranch of American publisher William Randolph Hearst and briefly invaded a New Mexico border town, crying “Viva Villa! Viva Mexico!”

Incensed, Wilson raised a “punitive expedition” of 10,000 soldiers under the direction of General John J. Pershing. Equipped with all the modern trappings of war—reconnaissance aircraft, Harley Davidson motorcycles—the invading army searched high and low for Villa. It was like finding “a needle in a haystack,” Pershing would soon complain. Though Villa’s forces continued to plunder and maraud, the Americans proved incapable of finding and capturing the rebel leader. When Villa surfaced briefly in Glenn Springs, Texas, with his troops, only to disappear soon thereafter, the Wilson administration was left mortified and bereft of an explanation.

American entry into the Great War allowed Wilson and Pershing to save face. In February 1917 the expedition returned to American soil. Within weeks, Pershing sailed for Europe to command the nation’s war effort.

Trump has now warned the new Mexican president that he will deem drug cartels as terrorist organizations, igniting the TNT of war and invasion. This was on all the people’s minds when I was traveling just days ago in Mexico; even in the conservative mass media. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said:

But in these cases we have to act independently and according to our constitution, and in line with our tradition of independence and sovereignty.

War is irrational. We are for peace.

AMLO’s comments came after Trump fired off a series of tweets Tuesday morning offering Mexico “help in cleaning out these monsters.” Trump:

The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!” Trump said. “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!

No matter how barbaric the cartels are, and how in bed they are with the police, army, government, the barbarism of the US is in line with the Spanish and Portuguese slave traders. Each and every weapon manufactured and sold in the USA that gets south of the border is part of that barbarism. Every line of coke and hit of Meth consumed by the great happy USA population is a bullet to the head of the innocents of Mexico.

Like Italy, Mexico is at the whim of the Church and Mafia. Like Western Culture, every blinking moment in every individual’s life is determined by the billionaires, their cabal of financial and retail felons. We are at the whim of the heads of Boeing, Exxon, Raytheon and any number of resource extractors and consumer bombers. Fortune magazine praises the millionaires and billionaires and their disruptive industries, technologies, financial instruments. All of it is still American sodomy of a race, a culture, a place, a land.

In Mexico, the juxtaposition of Nestle bottles everywhere or the VW’s and the Dodge’s is easily supplanted by the hard lives of Mexicans still eking out livings and conjugating their traditions, no matter how deeply Western Plastic Culture and Consumer Goods have infiltrated their land.

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Family Wedded to Culture, Land, History

Yanquis and Stars and Bars flag wavers are the sum total of their genocidal roots destroying First Nations’ peoples and the enslavement of Africans, but also the deep racism and bigotry perpetrated against not just Filipino and Chinese and Japanese, but against the Jew, Eastern European, German, Irish, Italian, et al.

Drowning women deemed witches, complete decimation of the grasslands, the wetlands, the bayous, the slaying of buffalo and wolf and grizzly, and the metal machines cutting into earth and stoking the flames and smoke of today’s generation of cancer-riddled people. I have these trolls attempting to harass me, trolls who listen to that ape of a man, Stephen King of Iowa, who drivels his white supremacist crap on how the white Christian lands/peoples have contributed 90 percent or more of the marvels of modern humanity — from the internet to microscopes, from splitting of the atom to cinema, from supersonic jets to soda pop. These pigs are on the airwaves, both of the Tucker Carson kind and the liberal Hollywood and media types continually showing the great boom of intelligence in the Western White World, or in many cases, the great achievements of the Judaeo-Christian.

“Shit-hole” country may have come out of the racist whites’ moldy mouths decades/centuries before Trump’s bloviating (how many US presidents have shown outright racism against  ALL nations of color?), but it’s in the minds of liberals, democrats, those so-called professional class, the college educated, and the journalists and diplomats. Most Americans see the words “backwards” or “not evolved enough” or “heathen” or “simpleton” when they see Mexico or Mexicans.

[link] The irony is that Trump’s own ancestors came from Africa, as did all mankind. In the book and documentary “The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey,” the geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells traces the human migration out of Africa. He travelled the world for a decade to trace genetic markers by taking blood samples—from Bushmen in the sweltering Kalahari Desert and the Chukchi in icy Siberia to the Hopi in the American West—to prove the trail of the human migration. Wells concludes, “Old concepts of race are not only socially divisive but scientifically wrong.”

In the end we know which country is the shit-hole, the shitty one, and its collective stupidity and infantilism continues to lobotomize the masses. I teach k12, and the food these kids eat and then waste is criminal, but emblematic of the American project of exceptionalism and the right to pollute, throw away, discard, waste, over-consume. The youth have no culture, no art, no interest in anything but making a few dollars fast.

The reality is this throw-away society is right now generating, through this corrupt capitalism, more and more discarded peoples in this country and in other countries. The AI-Robot-GIG-Uber-ization-Amazon-ification-Economies of Scale-Centralization will again generate more and more disposed of humanity — in the USA, and elsewhere.

We know socialistic systems of organizing are the only way to stem this destruction. Read or watch  any number a a million essays, interviews, books on the subject.

What capitalism has done is gut Mexico, forcing families to break up sisters and brothers, sons and  daughters, uncles and aunts, grandkids and cousins, friends and lovers, husbands and wives to head to El Norte tob e exploited by capitalism on steroids and to weather the scourge of racist Americans, police, policies, bureaucracies, attitudes.

The amount of hate against Mexicans or Latino/a people is high in USA.

In their own country, the people of the land in Mexico are now sugar coated, eating crappy food, drinking soda, and hauling their bodies full of hormone disrupters, full of petro-chemicals, GMOs, nitrous oxide, and a million other particulates created by the full-scale NAFTA exploitation and the theft of their own culture, land, resources by the white devils in their own country — the elites educated in the Milton Friedman school of destruction.

Brotherhood

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

Netflix, The 43 — This docuseries with Paco Ignacio Taibo II in it, disputes the Mexican government’s account of how and why 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College vanished in Iguala in 2014.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II—leader in the 1968 Mexican student strike, journalist, social activist, union organizer—is widely known for his crime novels, and is considered the founder of the neo-crime genre in Latin America. One of the most prolific writers in Mexico today, more than 500 editions of his 51 books have been published in over a dozen languages. Taibo has won many awards, including the Grijalbo, the Planeta/Joaquin Mortiz in 1992, and the Dashiell Hammett three times, for his crime novels. His biography, Guevara: Also Known as Che (St. Martin’s Press, 1996), has sold more than half a million copies around the world and won the 1998 Bancarella Book of the Year award in Italy. Taibo organizes the Semana Negra (Noir Week), a crime fiction festival held every year in Gijón, Spain.

Taibo: Yes. I wanted to destroy the old idea that history is science and fiction is fantasy. Everybody knows that is not true. It’s a game: Just Passing Through starts asking if it’s really a novel, if it’s rather a history book, because of this and this and this. And then, in the second paragraph, it says: this is a novel, this cannot be a history book, it’s full of fiction. Then, in the third paragraph, what the hell is a novel, what the hell is a history book? The game is trying to destroy this secure attitude of historians to history and this secure attitude of fiction writers about fiction. There’s nothing secure in history. I don’t like security. History shouldn’t be a secure space, a comfortable space. Comfortable for whom? Readers? Writers? It’s the opposite.

We’ll go deeper in this reclamation of what it means to be in, live in, be with, hold onto Mexico and Mexicans!

Why “Go Home Yanqui” Country is that Shit-Hole USA it Has Always Been

Los Dias de los Muertos are highly stylized rituals grounded in Aztec mythology when those who had passed on during the year migrate to the darkness of Mictlan in the north – the 1st is reserved for the innocents, the children, and the 2nd for the rest of us poor sinners. Traditional altars, garnished with cempaxeutl (a kind of marigold), photographs of the “difuntos” (deceased ones), jugs of tequila and mezcal, the favorite cigarettes of the dead, steaming bowls of turkey mole, and spun sugar “cranios” (skulls) blanket the land from border to border. Thanks to Calderon and the drug war that he launched to please his handlers in Washington which has triggered the cartels’ murder spree, the newly dead are dying faster than such altars can even be assembled.

Unlike the persona of Santa Muerte, the macabre cult around which the drug cartels have consolidated and who purportedly protects the true believers from the Grim Reaper, los Dias de los Muertos are designed to accept and mock Death, rendering it less terrifying for those of us who teeter on the brink. This year, I will wander the allies of our make-believe Mictlan disguised as my own cancer-ridden liver. We shall soon see who gets to laugh last.

“A Ding-Dong Year for Death in Mexico,” John Ross

**Part I of a Thousand**

They say in America that everyone wants to be American. Everyone wants to come to the United States of America. The world – especially third world or partially-developed peoples – envies this Anglo colony of mutt-infested Englanders.

But the lot of them – in academia, media, politics, business, the average Joe and Jan, as well as the governmental trolls – thinks Mexicans, Indians, et al have not only a hankering to leave behind their homelands and families and cultures. But to assimilate, and strip all history and the fingerprints of their terra, or land, from their very being.

They are wrong.

I’m in Cuernavaca now, after being with a young woman – 52 – and her 30-something sister and my spouse. This is the place of the rich, the tourists, the indulgent, the traffic, even the Walmart’s and Costco’s and IHOP’s.

Writing about Mexico has been an avocation for me over the years having lived and worked here, and having lived and worked on the border, in El Paso, the world’s largest border city in the world adjoining Juarez.

Over the years — from the first overlay of my being age 16 going to the Sea of Cortez as a recreational diver, to my work as a faculty member in El Paso’s University of Texas campus, to my own back and forth relationship with Mexico and Central America — I have had to confront the racists of the world spewing their hate against everything Mexico, anyone from down south of the border.

In this country I call my birthplace but not my aligned place, USA, I have confronted the most vile, ignorant and hateful “people” surrounding what they consider their legitimate prejudice and judgment against Mexico. But this legacy of Trump-brand racism was there under the Carters, Nixons, Reagans, Bushes, Clintons, Obamas. Way before, even.

Some facts:

In 1925, Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote that “Japanese immigrants are not capable of assimilation into the American population…Anyone who has traveled in the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European and American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results.”

Woodrow Wilson, a southerner, opposed postwar Reconstruction because “the dominance of an ignorant and inferior race was justly dreaded.” He opposed giving blacks the right to vote, claiming “it was a menace to society,” and as president he oversaw the re-segregation of the federal government. He lived in the White House a century ago.

Calvin Coolidge signed an immigration bill aimed at keeping out “the yellow peril” — i.e. Asians, along with Africans and Arabs. “America must be kept American,” he said in 1923.

Donald Trump said once Nigerians have seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts.

“Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control,” Trump said in a 1997 Playboy interview.

Over and over and over, I have had to confront family, friends, students, strangers with their idiocy and racism, both soft and hard, prejudice and bigotry, over and over and over. Ruben Navarrette Jr. of USA Today wrote after the El Paso murders:

Only in the past decade has there been a surge in books that expose this hidden history, including “Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence against Mexicans in the United States, 1848-1928” by William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb. In the 19th century, Mexican Americans were beaten and run off their property; in Texas and elsewhere, thousands were lynched. The World War II generation put up with segregated schools and being barred from public swimming pools, restaurants, barber shops and other establishments.

And within the country’s color scheme, Mexican Americans are in between black and white. In the 1960s, the saying was: If you’re white, you’re all right. If you’re black, stay back. And if you’re brown, stick around. The idea was that the country would accept Latinos as full participants in society, if we would just wait for our moment.

Well, we never got our moment. What we got instead, at a Walmart in West Texas, was mayhem and bloodshed and heartache.

Mexican Americans have been defined by ambivalence. But after what happened in El Paso, that is a luxury we can’t afford.

It is both a strange time and a point in this country’s disgusting history that is easily understood by and through history:

El Paso shooting: ‘Open season’ on Hispanics in America thanks to ‘racist in chief’ Trump/Trump has utterly failed in the president’s traditional role of uniting the country. His legacy will be stained by his deadly xenophobia and racism.

Two weeks in Mexico is never enough, but part of the purpose of my trip was to assimilate my partner (with Mexican family roots but no deep  Mexico experience) to Mexico. She went back in her life to visit a friend who she worked with (together 11 years ago), or in some sense, who she managed as an employee in Oregon.

In either case, we introduced ourselves to Claudia’s 30th high school reunion in a town called Axochiapan (look at this story on the brain-drain/people/labor/ cultural-drain of this small place surrounded by cane (sugar), cattle, corn, and hard working people stripped of agency by USA NAFTA, corrupt banks, corrupt presidents, all on the line of the financial theft of a developing country going back way before the United Fruit Company, Exxon, and the other Fortune 1000 corrupting felonious corporations making a dime on the gallons of blood and sweat of the people they deem as disposable, purposeless (push them off the land where the gems and metals are) and below that white DNA mutating set of genes that has for centuries put the world on fire.

Way North of the Border by Eduardo Porter and Elisabeth Malkin

Mexican mecca in Twin Cities by Eduardo Porter and Elisabeth Malkin. This was written 15 years ago, 2005:

They call Minneapolis the new Axochiapan, said Ramiro Hernandez, a successful businessman who arrived in the United States illegally 20 years ago from Axochiapan, a small town in the central Mexican state of Morelos.”Ninety percent of the population there has people over here. Kids come here as soon as they come of age.

There are so many men from Axochiapan in the area that the village priest came to visit.

“Father Miguel came to look for the husbands and take them back, but he didn’t manage to get any,” Enrmquez Navarro said.

Migration is leaving a deep mark on Axochiapan, a county seat at the center of a cluster of villages with a population of some 30,000.

In Quebrantadero, one of the villages, people talk of closing the primary school because there are so few young children left.

Municipal officials in Axochiapan estimate that at least a third of the population has moved.

The places we went to (some) were not on the gringo trail, in the expat’s travel log, or mapped on the tourist trap itinerary. We stayed in homes where the water is iffy, where the toilets have to be swamped with buckets of water to flush, where the chickens and cocks and dogs all hang out while we eat peanuts and drink mescal under the brilliant stars and swooping bats and sounds of a small dying town still spasming to life at night.

It just so happened we were in Mexico during the days of saints, the days leading up to Christmas. Young and old people making the pilgrimage to genuflect to the Virgin of Guadalupe, which were long hikes along roads and highways. Days of walking to show tribute to the religion of the conquerors, the religion of biting repression, misogyny, and endless Byzantine corruption all the way from Rome to a two-bit Mexican village of peasants.

In the true character of a writer, artist, photographer, teacher, radical, and systems thinker, I didn’t view this as contradictory or destabilizing for me since I have grown up in the Azores, lived overseas in poor towns in the UK, France, and then many of backpacking venture to Mexico, Central America, Vietnam, elsewhere.

The closer I got to Claudia’s 87-year-old father, who rides his horse, Muneca (doll) through the town into the milpas to tend to watering his 25 cows, the more I went into the cellular level of wanting nothing more than the entire western project, ramshackle as it is, razed, burned and vanished.

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MAGA freaks I have met daily and who troll me on my websites, on my Linked In, in my life, well, they are the mutants I dream about — German, English, French, Slavic, et al. The pathogens who send their criminals (like Canadian mining outfits) into the high sierra or forested mountains or hardscrabble deserts of this land I call a second home.

The compassion, loyalty, love of life, connection to family, no matter how disheveled or fractured it may be, in these people’s pinkies is a thousand times more than the attempts at solidarity or cohesion I have experienced in many many a time with countless families in this country — United Snakes of America.

People daily ask me why I am still here, in the US of Israel. Why I am so discontented and so critical of this land of loafers, charlatans, cheats, racists, delusionals, arrogant fools AND still I live here? I get Stockholm syndrome and battered spouse syndrome and unnecessary attachment phobia.

As Andre Vltchek says sometimes — I believe it too — that Westerners going to live as expats Haiti, Vietnam, Mexico, all those South American countries, what the hell do they bring, give, contribute to? Here, a great piece I reference a lot of the time — “What Cannot Be Written in the USA” June 19, 2015, DV.

I was shocked by the state in which I found the United States.

I left many years ago. I left New York, which was, for more than a decade, my home. I never returned, except to launch my books and films, and to see my friends. I never stayed for long time. Two weeks, this time, was the longest in years.

This visit broke me. It exhausted me. It thoroughly depressed me.

I saw clearly how grotesque pseudo-morality, disgusting religious concepts and hypocrisy influenced and ruined entire nations, client states, worldwide, especially in Asia and Africa.

Yes, I believe in collective guilt. Holding US citizenship, I share the guilt. And therefore, I work non-stop, not to wash my hands, but to stop the madness.

I am convinced that the West, the white race and its lackeys abroad, have no right to rule over this Planet. I saw enough to back my conviction.

The West is finished, its culture dead. What is left is unattractive, even horrifying. There is no heart, no compassion, and no creativity. And those billions of people beyond the Western realm should not be dying, while forced to support the aggressive individualism of the post-Christian, post-Crusade colonialism and fascism of Europe and the United States.

He gives us more of the context of his despair, again, at DV:

The citizens of the Empire were eager to describe themselves as “victims”. Did the same spectacle appear in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s? Most likely yes! “Defeated Germany was hit by hyper-inflation, reparations, therefore it was a victim!” It felt it became a victim of the Bolsheviks and the Jews and the French, and the Roma… The United States was not defeated externally, only internally. The two settings are different. Yet there are many similarities, especially in how two empires have treated “un-people”.

“Do you believe in collective guilt, in collective responsibility?” Someone challenged me from the public.

“Definitely!” I shouted back. “The responsibility and the guilt of the West, of the white race, of Christianity, of the Empire! Collective responsibility and guilt for hundreds of millions of victims defined as un-people. Victims gassed, bomber, starved, mutilated… Collective guilt and responsibility for raping the free will of billions in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. Collective guilt and responsibility for the ongoing global apartheid!”

I can leave anytime, and I have on many occasions, but I am needed here, for a bit more time. I teach, I write, I work on an anti-poverty program, I live, I suffer, I engage. Now on the Oregon Coast. But, of course, there is more to this world than tap water, dish washers, lighted streets, order, lawless law, hegemony, reckless capitalism, penury, the lies of the empire, the rot of the professional class, the lies of the academic class, the tricks of the financial barons, the putrid propaganda of Hollywood-DoD-CIA.

Definitely, suffering and supplication and oppression are in the eye of the beholder. What more can life be than the relationships we hold dear, the simplicity of breathing in and out, the reality of one chopped-up coconut and one finely browned tortilla and endless laughter and guacamole and bits of cheese and papayas and mescal?

I didn’t have Trump or Sanders or Warren or FOX News or Holly-dirt or NYT or Bezos or Forbes or Economist or Military Industrial Complex on my mind while hoofing it to the field where 87-year-old Rodolfo went daily to water his cattle.

Horse and old man and two unmarried daughters taking care of the father whose wife died of cancer years ago.  Adrian, his brother, laughed at my horsemanship, and in the end I didn’t give a shit about macho-macho man (I know horses fairly well). He laughed and cajoled and razzed me, and it was all in good fun.

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That night, after taking shots (photos) of the church and the band and the youth doing the toritos (paper mache bulls rigged with Roman candles and crazy fireworks) thing, Adrian was on his motorcycle, in his cups beyond anything an American might approve of, and he held me in his grip and just went on and on about being brothers with this crazy American with the Einstein hair. He laughed, we chugged tequila, and he drove off with the cycle’s light turned off.

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So this friend (now family) in Mexico who wanted so much to impress my partner with the value of her own friendship with a gringa but also to show us a good side of her country. Claudia knew I was already deep into Mexico from an early age. What Claudia wanted was for my partner to enjoy the deep sense of her gratitude as her former boss in the USA and a sense of renewed and energized friendship.

What Claudia and her sister Alejandra and her father Rodolfo and the entire clan did was they introduced us to people of their clan, their tribe, and they wanted to impress upon us a sense of belonging in their country.

Hands down, the country is saddened about and steeled against the Donald Trump School of Racism spewed out against their country. Saddened still by the huge number of MAGA followers who despise Mexico and Mexicans and Mexican-Americans and anything Chicano or Latino.

Mexico’s at crossroads, too, again and again. Many in the state department and parasites of the bumbling media tell/report to people not to come to Mexico, or warn of wandering at night as a ticket to the grave Ross talks about in the epigraph above.

You can’t count the times in one or two blocks of driving here where neoliberalism and consumerism haven’t taken over the people. If you think the chains and Home Depots have colonized every pathetic place in the USA, we are seeing it at every turn in Mexico.

Yet this land of eagle and snake, blood and fire, church and conquistador, virgin mother and narco-trafficker, child and historian, baby and hunched over old man, pyramids and basilicas, pottery and plastic has something deep ingrained in most of the gente, the people of the land, pueblos, cities and villages.

In a span of a few days, I have returned to my other mother country, to the place where I learned how to think and write and feel and love and dispel all the chains of my mother and father countries.

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In the UK Do Subjects Deserve their Rulers?

I constantly receive such letters; letters which repeat, again and again, year after year, basically the same thing: “If only we would have an opportunity to vote out our damn system!”

Such letters, emails and messages keep coming to me from the United States, but also from the United Kingdom. Particularly, after certain events, like when the Western empire overthrows some progressive government in Asia, Latin America or the Middle East.

I honestly wonder: “Don’t my readers actually periodically have that proverbial opportunity they are longing for? They can, can’t they, install socialism; to let it storm into Downing Street like an early spring?”

But they keep missing that opportunity, again and again. Or, are they really missing it? Actually, for so many years they have voted in the most extreme forms of capitalism and imperialism, so one has to wonder whether the British voters perhaps truly deserve their rulers?

*****

The results of the British elections became so radical, so conservative, that even the most conformist British press, like The Economist, doesn’t appear to be able to stomach them, anymore.

Of course, I am being sarcastic, because precisely that the mainstream press is one of the main reasons, why the British electorates vote as they do.

But seriously, could anyone in his or her sane state of mind vote for BoJo?

Just put Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn next to each other, and listen to each of them for ten minutes, and it would appear that anyone who would vote for the leader of the Conservative Party should be ripe for the mental asylum.

Unless… Unless! Yes, precisely: Unless he or she actually openly or secretly longs for those neo-liberal, deeply conservative “values”, which were introduced to the “Western world” by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, after some wild and extremist theories that were floated behind the walls of the Chicago School of Economics by market fundamentalists such as Friedman and Von Hayek. And after entire nations, such as Indonesia and Chile (both of them now lying in ruins), were raped, tied up and then used as guinea pigs.

Unless the British voters really admire Western imperialism, and that notorious, legendary, sadistic hand of the English teacher holding a ruler over the fingers of a petrified pupil, roaring threateningly: “Shall I?” Unless they truly like this kind of arrangement of the world.

I often wonder: What if they do? Perhaps they do. They most likely do, at least many of them. The voters, I mean…

*****

For years and decades, many thinkers, writers and left-leaning intellectuals are, for some abstract reasons, convinced, that the great majority of Europeans are tricked or coerced into supporting that beastly, insane foreign policy of the United States.

They think that “were Europe to be truly free”, it would embark on a socialist path, as it tried, but was prevented from doing, right after WWII.

I never bought into that argument. Socialist, even Communist European euphoria lasted for only a few years. What followed was the abandoning almost all values and ideals for a series of orgies: food orgies, sex orgies, sports orgies, pop crap culture orgies, and finally the empty travel orgies. Europe is living beyond its means, and is planning to do so, for decades to come. It cannot survive, and it doesn’t want to live without the brutal plunder of the world, or read, without the “conservative neo-liberal regime”.

These days, most of the Europeans support its brutal and unruly offspring, on the other side the Atlantic. Such support guarantees that the complexes of superiority will be pampered, that the working hours will stay short (at the expense of those ‘un-people’ in all corners of the globe), food cheap, and porn and sports free or almost free of charge (at least on television and computer screens).

So, basically, we are talking a clear status quo, which in turn is almost synonymous with the “conservative values”.

*****

The Economist went mental, commenting on the elections in its leading story “Britain’s nightmare before Christmas.” And that was even before the results were announced. Predictably, it trashed Mr. Corbyn and his “bankrupt views” (among them his refusal to antagonize, loot and provoke Venezuela, Iran and Russia), but then it went after BoJo’s throat:

Brexit is not the only problem with Mr. Johnson’s new-look Tories. He has purged moderates and accelerated the shift from an economically and socially liberal party into an economically interventionist and culturally conservative one. Angling for working-class, Leave-voting seats in the north, he has proposed extra state aid, buy-British government procurement and a sketchy tax-and-spending plan that does not add up. Also, he has absorbed the fatal lesson of the Brexit campaign: that there is no penalty for lying or breaking the rules. He promised not to suspend Parliament, then did: he promised not to extend the Brexit talks, then did. This chicanery corrodes trust in democracy… For all these reasons this newspaper cannot support the Conservatives.

How truly heartbreaking!

Deep drift inside the conservative world?

Not really. Boris Johnson simply broke some rules. He showed himself as unreliable, vulgar and embarrassing. He did it all in public. These things are never forbidden, at least not in the U.K. Racism, even sexual crimes, are fine there, as long as they are kept behind closed doors. Well-camouflaged lies are perfectly fine, too, no matter which party leaders utter them, be it Thatcher or Blair.

*****

But back to voting and the British nation.

To simplify everything: Jeremy Corbyn is a decent man. Not perfect, but decent. It is obvious. He is a person who cares about his fellow citizens. He also cares about those billions, in all corners of the Earth, who have been robbed and brutalized by the Western empire (of which the U.K. is, undeniably, an indispensable part).

Look at Boris Johnson and you get the opposite. And it is not a state secret. I have many friends in the U.K., and a great majority would confirm that he is an upsetting buffoon, if not something much more terrible.

Mr. Corbyn is true Labour. He is trying to reverse what all of us know is taking place: that the U.K. has sunk so low, and many of its children are literally starving. Its social system has collapsed under the right-wing (in the past, both Conservative and “New Labor”) governments. That British citizens cannot afford to live in their own cities, anymore. That both education and medical care, as well as infrastructure, are crumbling, in fact going to the dogs.

He wants to stop the despicable suffering of the millions of victims of the Western reign, in all parts of the Earth.

Of course, these facts would never appear in the pages of The Economist.

Boris Johnson does not give a flying fuck about the issues mentioned above. He is on the stage. Since his youth, he has always been playing and acting, as well as self-promoting. He is perhaps the most embarrassing figure in British politics.

And yet… And yet. Perhaps Corbyn’s humanism is his biggest weakness. At least in Europe, particularly in the U.K.

As the New York Times reported:

As votes were counted on Friday, the Conservatives were projected to win 364 seats in the House of Commons, versus 203 for the Labor Party, according to the BBC, with almost all of Parliament’s seats decided. That would give the Conservatives about a 75-seat majority, their largest since that amassed by Margaret Thatcher in 1987.

That is clear message where the public stands, isn’t it?

Of course, I know that soon, my friends and comrades will begin to read into the outcome of the elections: that only a fraction of the population voted. That people were confused. That the mass media manipulated the entire narrative. And many arguments of this nature.

And I am sure that they will be correct.

However, the United Kingdom voted, and these are terribly, outrageous results.

People voted for the most extreme, shameless type of neo-liberalism. They voted for a brigand type of imperialism, neo-colonialism and racism.

*****

My personal observations do not matter, but I’d like to add them, nevertheless.

I come to London at least twice a year. Almost all my visits are work, or “struggle-related”. I am interviewed there, I show my films, promote my books, or speak at the universities.

I used to enjoy my visits. But not anymore.

There is terrible tension in the air. People have become impolite, even aggressive.

As a Russian, I am constantly challenged. Even my very slight accent provokes immediate questions “where am I from?” When I reply, what follows are often direct provocations.

My Chinese friends report much graver abuses.

London is not at peace with itself, that is certain.

I have written about Brexit on several occasions, and as a matter of principle, I refuse to do it in this essay.

Lately, everything is being explained and justified by Brexit.

I don’t believe that it could be. Doing so is a gross simplification.

Perhaps the West is truly an anti-socialist, anti-Communist entity. Perhaps that is why it keeps overthrowing left-wing governments, all over the world. Perhaps that is why it keeps voting in the most unsavory individuals one could imagine.

Perhaps the U.K. deserves the rulers it gets.

There is one little nuance which is being constantly overlooked: the U.K. is not really against Labour. Remember Tony Blair, a closet Thatcherite, and a man who served as an advisor to the murderous Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, responsible for millions of lost lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Blair is also a man responsible for hundreds of thousands of the lost human lives in the Middle East. Remember? Well, he was so-called “New Labour”. But that was obviously just fine, as far as the British voters were concerned.

And there is one more ‘little nuance’ worth mentioning: almost the entire Europe is moving to the right; towards the racist, self-serving right. And it is not only Europe which wants to stay in the EU, or Europe which desires to leave the bloc. Both parts are heading in a similar direction.

Perhaps, after all, the voters deserve their leaders!

Right-wing “leaders” are thriving. While rationality, decency and kindness are kicking the bucket in agony.

• First published by NEO (New Eastern Outlook) a journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Why Revolutionaries Should be Atheists

Orientation

As one of the co-founders of Planning Beyond Capitalism, you might ask why we would publish an article about atheism? Shouldn’t we just stick to political economy and leave people’s beliefs about the origin of the universe and our place in it for future generations to figure out?  We have many reasons for thinking that an atheist stance is crucial for revolutionaries to take. Politically, I trust atheists more than anyone else, because I trust that their political commitment is to this world since we do not have a back-door escape of some God looking after us in the next life in case the revolution doesn’t work out.

Most people believe in the existence of invisible spiritual beings. But most of them have not thought out clearly why they believe in them and how their lives would be different if they didn’t believe in them. On the surface, it seems to me a major reason why people believe in spiritual beings is because their parents believed in them, along with other authority figures in their lives.  Belief in spiritual beings might be practiced out of love and respect for those who have cared for them. Belief in God helps us to overcome a fear of death by the promise of not only a life in the hereafter, but an eternal life in the hereafter. These beliefs, combined with the propaganda of the churches, not just in books but in the liturgy, rituals, architecture, and statues that have been created, are bought and paid for by gullible parishioners.

For atheists it’s a different story. My guess is that most people who are atheists have thought long and hard about the existence of spiritual beings. Like most people who are in a minority, we know far more about the beliefs of the majority than the majority knows about our beliefs. If theists understood us, we would not be accused of being hedonists, or evil people with no morality.

The purpose of this article is to flesh out some of my own reasons for rejecting the existence of spiritual beings in the hopes of strengthening the commitments of other atheists who came to it more intuitively.

Qualifications

My references to monotheism will be limited to Christianity, which I know best. I’m confident there will be overlap with Judaism and Islam, at least in part. Secondly, I am only focused on the existence of God, not the subset of issues that come with it. So, there will be no discussion of where we came from or the existence of life after death.

Anthropological and historical reasons

In my opinion, atheists begin their contention with those who believe in God by mistakenly accepting that the monotheists move to dismiss animism and polytheism from the debate. Instead, I think atheists should make the monotheistic religion face that:

  1. For most of human history from 100,000 years ago until 5,000 years ago tribal societies did not believe in gods or a single god. They believed in earth spirits, ancestors’ spirits or totems.
  2. Once people began to believe in high gods (with the rise of agricultural states) they were polytheistic gods and goddesses for another 2,500 years before monotheism became a contender.

We should dispute this monotheistic assumption by making them face that people have not always believed in God and that their belief in monotheism is:

  1. historically recent, and;
  2. only appeared in certain parts of the world.

We must also challenge their assumption that monothetic belief is somehow naturally arrived at through the use of reason. We must make them face their blood-stained history of the subjugation of pagan earth-spirits, ancestor spirits, gods and goddesses on their way to a maniacal rule. We should not let monotheists smuggle in their claim to solely represent the forces of spirituality. A real discussion about atheism should be between atheists, believers in earth spirits, ancestor spirits, goddesses, gods and God. Monotheists should have to debate, not just atheists, but animists and polytheists. This will weaken the force of monotheism because in this light they are outnumbered, both historically and cross-culturally by animists and polytheists.

Geological reasons

Belief in gods or a single God was due in part to the results of large-scale natural disasters—earthquakes, volcanoes and floods or comet debris. These events filled people with terror and triggered their imagination with the belief that the god(s) must be angry. When people lack an explanation for natural events that threaten them, they imagine the disaster comes from a God who controls nature.

Notice how God is in control. There is no monotheistic deity who is out of control. In other words, nothing happens by chance. Monotheists prefer accepting even the devil to chance. At least the devil has a focus, a will and is predictably evil. The most important thing for monotheists to believe is that someone had better be driving. This hoped-for control makes it possible to influence God through propitiation, casting spells or praying.

Sociological reasons

As Marx pointed out, religion is the opium of the people. For the lower classes, it is opium because it teaches people to wait patiently through a miserable life in the hopes of a future “pie-in the sky”. Religion is also an expression of humanity’s alienated creativity. God is the doer of all things humanity wishes it could do but it cannot. Humanity then disowns its own creativity and projects it onto a god who then tells humanity what to do. Therefore, the utilitarian achievements in irrigation, agriculture and the calendar are attributed to the workings of God, not of humanity’s own creation. Others say that gods were once great human beings on earth who were reified by future generations that did not experience the new inventions directly.

If people wanted to be objective about the characteristics of God, those characteristics would have little or nothing to do with our own comfort level. But what do we find with the monotheistic deity? We have either a tempestuous father figure of the Old Testament or a loving father of the New Testament who, one way or another, is looking out for us just like the parents we wish for.

Furthermore, when life gets confusing or difficult, we are consoled by the prospect that God has a “plan” for each of us. But how does the plan work? How can it possibly be coordinated with God’s plan for everyone else? In answer to this we might be told “God works in mysterious ways”. In other words, secondary rationalizations.

A good objection to Marx’s theory that religion is the opium of the people is that if God is just a consolation prize for the lower classes, then that should mean that people in the middle and upper classes who have good material lives would be able to see through the subterfuge of theism and become atheists. But, as we know, there are plenty of people in the higher classes who have a good life, yet still believe in God. How can that be explained?

It is true that most middle and upper middle-class people continue to believe in God in spite of their comfortable conditions. However, it also is true that a higher percentage of atheists will be found in these classes. Yet this doesn’t explain the rationale of the rest of them. Another factor to consider is whether the economy or ecology of a society is stable or unstable. My prediction is that the more stable the political economy of a society, the percentage of people who are atheists will rise. But when the ecology or political economy becomes unstable, it’s a different story for the upper classes. For example, in contemporary capitalist society, the upper classes live very well, yet capitalism is very unstable and might give capitalists reason to consider believing in God because they don’t know how long they can count on their wealth.

Political reasons

The favorite explanation for the Radical Enlightenment is that religion is the tool of elites to keep people ignorant and distracted by the promise of a world to come after death.  This enables these elites to hold onto their power and property in this world. It is important for elites to ensure that people believe they are tainted with original sin because that weakens people’s self-confidence and resilience to navigate in the world with neither God nor the elites. It is also important that God be seen as a father, for that is a model for the habit of submission in the family.

Psychological reasons

I think Freud hit the nail on the head with this one. He said belief in religion was infantile. It was a wish to climb back into the womb where there is no conflict, pain or uncertainty. Everything is taken care of by the father.  People believe in God as a substitute parent who loves them unconditionally.

Wilhelm Reich thought that religion requires that sexuality must be repressed. Sexuality is a way for humans to give each other pleasure without the need of elites or deities. If people can be taught that sex is a bad thing, they will be more dependent on religious authorities to give life meaning. Or in the case of sour grapes, you can repress the desire for sex while pretending to be above it all, as Nietzsche might point out. Belief in God helps us to overcome a fear of death by the promise of not only a life in the hereafter, but an eternal life in the hereafter.

Where does this repressed sexuality lead? There is nothing sicker than the fantasy life and deeds of religious authorities whose sexual life is repressed. One only has to look at the torture techniques of the religious authorities against midwives in Early Modern Europe and the Catholic priests’ contemporary continuing molestation of little boys.

Ontological reasons

How can God be all loving and all powerful while there is great suffering in the world? How to account for the hundreds of thousands of innocent children and adults who are bombed, starved and inhumanely treated in the name of nationalism? Either God is not all-powerful because there is great suffering which he is powerless to do anything about, or he is all-powerful and not all-loving because he permits suffering to continue.

“Divine Intervention” by God into human history is a big thing. But what does it say about God’s engineering prowess if he constantly has to butt into his creation process? Human beings design things that can last a very long time without any intervention. What kind of engineer is a god who has to intervene in his creation from time to time because he botched things the first time? If God were all powerful it seems the world would not be in the mess that it is in. “Thoughts and prayers?” Why is prayer necessary if God has a plan? Why are we begging for mercy from a lousy engineer? Divine intervention reveals God to be a bad engineer.

Atheism and politics

The relationship between atheism and politics is tricky. Broadly speaking, those who are atheists are divided into liberals and socialists. Many liberal atheists are still supportive of capitalism. So too, many socialists are monotheists when they believe in some kind of liberation theology like those of the Catholics who consider Christ to be a revolutionary. Yet for all the reasons addressed above, those who are the most trustworthy for carrying through revolutionary socialism are atheists. As socialist atheists, we gain immortality through building heaven on earth, either in our own generation or in generations to come.

• First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism