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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fool Me Twice: Trojan Horse Democrats Pile Into the House of Single-Payer



Duplicitous Democrats are trying to sabotage single-payer, again.

It’s great that more than a third of Democratic senators have signed on to co-sponsor Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-All bill. It’s a potentially strong bill that’s been welcomed by single-payer activist organizations like Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and National Nurses United (NNU), and it represents a victory for the tireless work of single-payer activists and the popular pressure they stoked. It is also, we must recognize, only possible because of Bernie’s insistent promotion of healthcare as a right, in a campaign that widened the field of American political discourse.

Above all, it is a result of continuing disgust with American for-profit health insurance system. It marks the exasperation with Obamacare’s half-assed attempt to patch up that system, and the rejection of the even crueler Republican schemes. 

At the very least, this bill puts single-payer “on the table” of legislative action and public discussion. The “public discussion” part is perhaps the most important. People will now hear about single-payer, and its advocates will not be completely shut out of media coverage from Fox to PBS, as they are now. Even the Democratic Party will have to talk about it.

But please, please, do not be fooled. It does not mean that most, or any, of those co-sponsoring Democratic senators actually support single-payer. Most of those Democrats have signed on because they felt politically forced to, because they knew they could not face their constituents if they didn’t. But many of them do not support single-payer, have no intention of actually working to make it happen, and will, in fact, do their best to undermine and prevent it.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Donald The Destroyer: Assessing The Trump-Effect

Newsweek.com

Oh please say to me
You'll let me be your man
And please say to me
You'll let me hold your hand
Now, let me hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

So, we’ve officially gone from The West Wing to Animal House. To the regret of Democrats and liberals, Donald Trump cuts a presidential image far removed from the Sorkinite Aristotelian Quaalude (h/t Emmet Penney) of a Jed Bartlett in the Oval Office. To the chagrin of Republicans and corporate conservatives, his demeanor increasingly resembles the adolescent antics of a Bluto punching it out ringside at the WWF. Politicians and commentators from both sides of the narrow aisle are all shocked and saddened at the ongoing insult to American “presidentialness.”

In a recent irruption of his self-sabotaging panglossia, Trump has given a bizarre interview to the New York Times in which, among other gems: 1) He warned the Special Counsel to stay away from his businesses.  2) He stated that health insurance costs $12 a year. 3) He taught his interviewers that the head of the FBI does not report to the Attorney General. And 4) In a series of blurts that I find particularly bizarre and telling, he repeatedly emphasized that French President Emmanuel Macron is a “strong” guy who “loves holding my hand… people don’t realize he loves holding my hand...He’s a very good person. And a tough guy…but he does love holding my hand.” As the man with the cigar might say, textbook symptomatic utterance.  (It's such a feeling...I can't hide. I can't hide. I can't hide.)

These are all signs of Trump's complete ignorance regarding policy fundamentals as well as his overwhelming narcissism. It's quite a bonus that it comes so obviously tinged with a familiar “bromantic”--i.e., per cigar-man, homo-erotic--attraction for strong men who (he imagines) give him the love he so desperately needs. There are charming versions of that in the playfulness of the locker room or at the chessboard, but it's somewhat more disturbing as a central, unrecognized obsession of the pussy-grabbing leader of the most powerful country in the world, whose discourse seems to whirl around a black hole of narcissism and need. It makes for a hollow and dangerous man.

Monday, June 26, 2017

California Scheming: Single-Payer Betrayed By The Democrats Again


Nothing better illustrates the political bankruptcy of the Democratic Party—for all progressive intents and purposes—than California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s announcement on Friday afternoon that he was going to put a “hold” on the single-payer health care bill (SB 562) for the state, effectively killing its passage for at least the year.

The Democratic Party finds itself in a bind in California. They hold the governorship and a supermajority in both houses of the legislature, so they can pass any bill they want. SB 562 had passed the Senate 23-14.

There was enormous enthusiasm among California progressive activists, who, with organizations like Campaign for a Healthy California (CHC,) and the National Nurses United (NNU,) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) were working tirelessly, and hopeful of success.  After all, Bernie’s people were taking over the California party from the bottom since the election. I recall a night of drinking last year with an old friend who has been spearheading that effort, as he rebuffed my skepticism, and insisted that this time there would be a really progressive takeover of the California party, and single-payer would prove it. After all, once enough progressive pressure was been put on the legislators, the bill would be going to super-progressive Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, who had made advocacy of single-payer a centerpiece of his run for President in 1992, saying: “We treat health care not as a commodity to be played with for profit but rather the right of every American citizen when they’re born.” Bernie foretold.

Unfortunately, today that Governor is, according to Paul Song, co-chair of the CHC, “doing everything he can to make sure this never gets on his desk.” And it won’t. Unfortunately, all the Democrats like Rendon, who “claims to be a personal supporter of single-payer,” will make sure that their most progressive governor is not put in the embarrassing position of having to reject what he’s been ostensibly arguing for for twenty-five years, of demonstrating so blatantly what a fraud his, and his party’s, progressive pretensions are.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Resist This: The United States Is At War With Syria



The United States is at war with Syria. Though few Americans wanted to face it, this has been the case implicitly since the Obama administration began building bases and sending Special Ops, really-not-there, American troops, and it has been the case explicitly since August 3, 2015, when the Obama administration announced that it would “allow airstrikes to defend Syrian rebels trained by the U.S. military from any attackers, even if the enemies hail from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” With the U.S. Air Force—under Trump, following Obama’s declared policy—shooting down a Syrian plane in Syrian airspace, this is now undeniable.  The United States is overtly engaged in another aggression against a sovereign country that poses no conceivable, let alone actual or imminent, threat to the nation. This is an act of war.

As an act of war, this is unconstitutional, and would demand a congressional declaration. The claim, touted by Joint Chiefs’ Chairman, Gen. Dunford, that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al-Qaeda provides constitutional justification for attacking the Syrian government is patently false and particularly precious. In the Syrian conflict, it’s the Syrian government that is the enemy and target of al-Qaeda affiliates; it’s the U.S. and its allies who are supporting al Qaeda. The authorization to fight al-Qaeda has been turned into an authorization to help al-Qaeda by attacking and weakening its prime target!

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