Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Honoring Robert Parry

(Diane Duston/AP)
Robert Parry’s death is a profound loss to our country as a political and intellectual community. It’s a shame that most Americans don’t know that—and, indeed, don’t even know who Robert Parry is. That ignorance is a sign of how impoverished our political and intellectual community has already become.
Those of us who have been following his work for decades know how principled and reliable, and what a great resource, that work was. We took him for granted as a touchstone of journalist integrity, to which we could always return to get a take on important issues that, whether we agreed with it or not, was unfailingly honest, thoroughly-researched, and demanding of our attention.
We also took for granted his own life story of being blocked from doing that honest, principled work in the mainstream media, and having to continue his career through a self-financed independent newsletter and website (Consortium News), a trajectory that guaranteed his continuing integrity and his relative obscurity.
We took too much for granted.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending, and Modern Monetary Theory




Taxes do not fund government spending.

That’s a core insight of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) whose radical implications have not been understood very well by the left. Indeed, it’s not well understood at all, and most people who have heard or read it somewhere breeze right past it, and fall back to the taxes-for-spending paradigm that is the sticky common wisdom of the left and right.1

This, despite the fact that the truth of the proposition is obvious if you think through just a few steps about the process of money-creation. What makes it hard to see is the dense knot of conventional theory and discourse in which we are entangled, and which seems impossible to cut as cleanly as MMT suggests.

But the discussion around the newly-enacted Republican tax bill has brought the issue of tax policy to the forefront again, and it’s time for the left to realize how fundamentally wrong that common wisdom is, and how continuing to argue within the phony terms of the taxes-for-revenue paradigm occludes and reproduces a persistent reactionary fiction regarding what taxes are for.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Zionism In The Light of Jerusalem

Wissam Nassar | DPA


Donald Trump's official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is an embarrassment. A salutary embarrassment.

It’s a clumsy, all-too-obvious unmasking of decades of bipartisan U.S. policy whose contempt for Palestinians has been cloaked with a smile and a handshake.


As such, it's an embarrassment for the Zionist political and media elite that prefers to operate behind smiles and handshakes, and not flaunt their power.


It's an embarrassment to liberal Zionists and “peace process” promoters everywhere—in the American political parties and media, in European conservative and social democrat governments, and in Jewish Zionist organizations. For fifty years, they have laser-focused attention on the post-’67 “occupation,” and done all that they can [nothing concrete], in solidarity with the Israeli Jewish peace movement [dwindling to insignificance in an increasingly fascistic political culture], to end the occupation [ minimize its cost to the Jewish state, ‘cause “no concessions, no withdrawals, no Palestinian state” is already proclaimed Israeli policy].


It's an embarrassment to the Arab monarchs and the Palestinian Authority functionaries, who for decades have collaborated in the task of subduing Palestinian rage as Israel went about its colonizing project, holding out the promise that the good American Daddy and his kinder, gentler Israeli Jewish progeny would one day reward the Palestinians for their good behavior.


It’s an embarrassment to those liberals who want to portray Donald Trump as a uniquely evil interloper imposed on American politics by a foreign power, rather than understand him as the product of an American political culture that they helped to create while obtusely refusing to recognize what they were doing.


The only parties who are not embarrassed are the “hard”—that is, intellectually honest and consistent—Zionists in Israel and the United States (many liberal Democrats included) and Donald Trump himself, who is immune to embarrassment.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sticks and Stones: Free Speech And Punching Politics



Many Americans, and not only those on the left, were rightfully outraged in August by the sight of hundreds of torch-bearing “white nationalists”—i.e., white supremacists, explicit racists and fascists, the KKK, and Stormfront—marching through the streets of Charlottesville to protest the removal of a monument to a warrior “hero” of the slave system of the Confederacy. And hundreds of counter-demonstrators, from various political and religious tendencies, were on the scene to make that outrage known.

The melee that resulted, which ended in the killing of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, brought to a boil the debate about free speech and aggressive physical violence that has been percolating among various corners of what's called "the left" in this country since the sucker punch of Richard Spencer during his on-the-street TV interview in January.

The question is: In our country today, is it acceptable, even necessary, to deny right-wing, characterizable-as-“fascist,” political opponents the right to express their views in public, with whatever means necessary, whether that be legal censorship or preemptive physical force?

There is now a significant cohort of people—40% of millennials, according to Pew Research—who answer that question “Yes.”

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Rifle on the Wall: A Left Argument for Gun Rights
(Reprise)

(This article, which was published on Counterpunch, is a condensed and updated version of an essay that was published on this site in 2013, and can be found here. See also related links below.)





"That rifle on the wall of the labourer's cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there."
–George Orwell


As can be expected, in the aftermath of the horrific mass murder committed in Las Vegas by Stephen Paddock, the issue of “gun control” and “gun violence” comes to the fore again. Reprising some of the points I made in an essay on the subject after the Sandy Hook shooting, I want to argue against the impulse to use this event to eliminate what the marxist and socialist left has historically recognized as an important right.

Let’s start with the basic difference in principle: Some people consider the citizen’s right to possess firearms a fundamental political right.

The political principle at stake is simple: to deny the state the monopoly of armed force, and, obversely, to empower the citizenry, to distribute the power of armed force among the people. The “sub-political” concerns—hunting, collecting, individual self-defense—are valid in themselves, but they are not as important to the gun rights question as the political concern about the distribution of power in a polity. 

This is not a right-wing position. Only in the ridiculous political discourse of the United States, where Barack Obama is a marxist, can citizens' right to gun ownership be considered a purely right-wing demand. The notion that an armed populace should have a measure of power of resistance to the heavily armed power of the state is, if anything, a populist principle, and has always been part of the revolutionary democratic traditions of the left. Per George, above, and Karl, here: “The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition… Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary.”

That’s because left socialists who hold a marxist analysis of capitalist political economy have a particular understanding of the state—including our American capitalist state; for them, it’s an apparatus whose main purpose is to protect class rule and its accompanying injustices, and to project compliance-inducing aggression on behalf of the American elite and its favored allies — locally, nationally, and internationally. They understand that any mitigations of these injustices and aggressions are not the products of the liberal state’s inherent neutrality and altruism. They are the hard-won, always-precarious, fruits of social movements that scare the liberal capitalist state into forgoing particular wars, advancing particular minority and civil rights, establishing remunerative social welfare policies, etc.

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