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The nature of democracy in our capitalist world: Satirized August 4, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Democracy, Humor, Political Commentary, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: what I have put together here is a little photo essay on the subject of democracy in our capitalist world.  

 

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Many say that in a democracy you get what you deserve.  As if there were meaningful choice.

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I had an emotional response when I saw this picture.  It is our children who will inherit a world permanently at war.  This symbolizes their basic nee for a world free of institutionalized violence.

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Those with a cynical outlook along with those who profit from our oligarchy would have us believe that there is nothing better.

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The corporate reality.

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As feudalism was based upon serf labor, capitalism relies on wage slavery.  In both cases those who create value do not share the wealth democratically.  Not only capitalists but many on the left refuse to recognize that there is a world beyond capitalism, a world of worker democracy.

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The fetishism of elections in capitalist democracy.  

S

 

There are a few meaningful differences between the two major parties, but on the essentials of war and the economy they are virtually indistinguishable.

2016: The Year the Americans Found out Our Elections Are Rigged May 15, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in 2016 election, bernie sanders, Democracy, donald trump, Hillary Clinton, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: this may be the year that Americans found out, but of course, in the sense of capital in the form of corporations and military limiting and controlling candidacies and choices, US elections have always been rigged.  The Trump and Sanders phenomena are somewhat unique challenges to the two-party oligarchy (Republicrats), with the difference being that the Republicans did not have the degree of entrenchment that the Democrats have in Hillary Clinton (although I admit that at first I was almost sure that Jeb Bush would in the nomination), thereby allowing the tide of populist support for Trump to sweep away the Republican establishment.  Probably only the indictment of Clinton for her blatant email security breaches would give Sanders a fighting chance to win the Democratic nomination in spite of his overwhelming grass roots popularity, the negatives about Clinton, garden variety misogyny, and polls hat show him dong better against Trump (I surf Instagram and find literally dozens of pro Bernie sites, a handful of right wingers, and absolutely not one Hillary Clinton supporter).

And by all means don’t miss George Carlin’s video at the end of this piece.  It is brilliant.

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“Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. senators and congress members.” – Former President Jimmy Carter

By Nick Bernabe

Source: AntiMedia

The 2016 election has been a wild ride, with two insurgent grassroots campaigns literally giving the political establishment a run for its money. But as the events of this presidential primary season play out, it’s becoming clear the U.S. election — and even more so, the presidential race — is a big scam being perpetrated on the American people.

Events from the last week have exposed the system as an illusion of choice and a farce. They have reinforced at least one study showing the U.S. is an oligarchy rather than a democratic republic.

The Wyoming democratic caucus took place on Saturday, purportedly to allow voters to have their voices heard in the race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Sanders lost the Wyoming caucus by winning it with a 12 percent margin.

Wait, what?

How does one lose by winning 56 percent of the votes? This happens when the political process is, according to the New York Post, “rigged” by superdelegates. The Postsummed up this “strange” phenomenon:

“[U]nder the Democratic Party’s oddball delegate system, Sanders’ winning streak — he has won seven out of the past eight contests — counts for little.

“In fact, despite his win, he splits Wyoming’s 14 pledged delegates 7 to 7 under the caucus calculus.

“Clinton, meanwhile, also gets the state’s four superdelegates — who had already pledged their allegiance to her in January. So despite ‘losing,’ she triumphs 11-7 in the delegate tally.”

Even media pundits on MSNBC openly called the process rigged:

The superdelegate process is complicated, as we’ve noted before, but they have one essential function: to prevent candidates like Bernie Sanders from winning the Democratic nomination.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a video of Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz explaining superdelegates:

Adding insult to injury, even when Sanders does win states (despite Hillary’s advantage in superdelegates), the media can be reliably counted on to discount Sanders’s wins asnothing more than prolonging the electoral process, which will inevitably elect the presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. This pervasive commentary continues despite the fact Sanders only trails her by several hundred pledged delegates.

Meanwhile, according to the same media, the non-establishment Trump campaign is threatened every time Ted Cruz beats him — even though Trump leads by a larger percentage of pledged delegates than Clinton does. When Clinton loses, it doesn’t matter because she already has the nomination locked up. When Trump loses, his campaign is in big trouble. Starting to see the problem with the media coverage?

When you examine these media narratives, a troubling pattern emerges that goes beyond the political establishment’s self-interest. You begin to see that American corporate media also functions as an arm of the political machine, protecting establishment candidates while attacking — or dismissing — candidates who seem non-establishment.

This brings us to the events that transpired during the Republican nomination process in Colorado on Saturday. The Republican Party of Colorado didn’t even bother letting people vote before using arcane rules to strip the democratic process of its democracy. According to the Denver Post:

“Colorado GOP leaders canceled the party’s presidential straw poll in August to avoid binding its delegates to a candidate who may not survive until the Republican National Convention in July.

“Instead, Republicans selected national delegates through the caucus process, a move that put the election of national delegates in the hands of party insiders and activists — leaving roughly 90 percent of the more than 1 million Republican voters on the sidelines.”

Unsurprisingly, Trump’s non-establishment campaign walked away with zero delegates. They were all “awarded” to Ted Cruz.

“How is it possible that the people of the great State of Colorado never got to vote in the Republican Primary? Great anger — totally unfair!” Trump said on Twitter. “The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians. Biggest story in politics. This will not be allowed!”

In an interview on Monday, Trump was even more frank. “The system is rigged, it’s crooked,” he said.

The Colorado GOP didn’t even bother hiding its intentions, tweeting — then quickly removing — what was possibly the most honest insight into the back-door dealing so far this election season:

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The Republican party chooses the nominee, not the voting public. Still in disbelief? Watch a Republican National Committee member explain it better than I can:

What we are witnessing — for the first time on a large scale — is the political establishment’s true role in selecting the president of the United States. The illusion of choice has become apparent. The establishment anoints their two picks for president, and the country proceeds to argue vehemently over the two candidates they are spoon-fed. This dynamic is reminiscent of a prophetic 1998 quote from philosopher Noam Chomsky:

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”

Ahh, the illusion of choice. Sure, in reality there are third party candidates who should be given a fair shake, but in our mainstream media-augmented reality, third parties do not exist. They aren’t mentioned. They aren’t even included in presidential debates. This is another way the media stifles healthy debate, stamps out dissenting opinions, and preserves the status-quo.

We The People don’t choose our presidents; they are hand-picked by a powerful group of political party insiders — parties that have long since sold out to the highest bidders. What we have on our hands in America is a rigged oligarchy, and that’s not a conspiracy theory — it’s fact. Now, however, millions of Americans are becoming aware of it thanks to the populist campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. America’s elections are controlled by a big club, but unfortunately, “you ain’t in it!”

Laughing at Democracy May 9, 2016

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: this wonderfully aesthetic and humorous piece mocks the common illusion that we live in a democracy in the sense that government reflects popular or majority will. Politics and economics are inseparable, and capitalist economy is INHERENTLY undemocratic.  There is a simple, yet profound, dictum: there can be no political democracy without economic democracy.  No one has described this reality with with more precision that Karl Marx, and that was over 150 years ago.  As the song goes, “When will they ever learn?”  

The R word stands for revolution, not reform; you cannot reform cancer.

 

Courtesy of systemhumanity.com, May 3, 2016 / Fantelius

 

 

Kiwook_2577

 

 

I can’t stop laughing when I hear someone talking about democracy, which, in case you don’t know, means the will or the rule of the majority. It seems that the majority (90%-95%) wants to get poorer and have fewer social services so that the minority can get richer. Hahahaa! Hilarious.

The government is composed of rich, very rich and extremely rich people and their decisions take from the majority and give to the rich minority who get richer and richer. They do this as representatives of the majority, as the officials of democracy.

Haa haha hoohaa ho… stop! Stop, please. I’m going to split my sides laughing.

 

 

“We are free to praise the democratic robe on the naked ruler.”
Dartwill Aquila

The Verb: To Netanyahu May 3, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Hillary Clinton.
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THE VERB TO NETANYAHU: SAY ONE THING ONE DAY AND THE OPPOSITE THE NEXT IN ORDER TO WIN AN ELECTION

THE STARRY EYED DREAMERS WELCOME BERNIE SANDERS INTO THE RACE BELIEVING THAT IT WILL MOVE HILLARY CLINTON TO THE PROGRESSIVE POPULIST LEFT.

I AM SURE THAT IT WILL, DURING THE CAMPAIGN, THEN, ONCE ELECTED SHE WILL NETANYAHU AND GO BACK TO HER GENUINE CORPORATE TOADYING WARMONGERING SELF.

AMERICAN DEMOCRACY IN ACTION; OR, AS MY ANARCHIST FRIENDS SAY: DON’T VOTE, THE GOVERNMENT ALWAYS WINS.

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

Mark Twain

 

 

 

FAST TRACK and TPP: OBAMA PREPARES FOR HISTORIC BETRAYAL OF AMERICAN PEOPLE April 9, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Democracy, Economic Crisis, Environment, Imperialism, Labor, Trade Agreements.
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Roger’s note: A critical element of fascism, with Nazi Germany as the most dramatic example, has to do with the merging of corporate wealth (capital) and government.  Since the beginnings of industrial capitalism, the influence of Enlightenment philosophy has mitigated the most oppressive consequences of capitalism with degrees of democratic institutions and occasional economic reform.  However, as economic crises deepen and competition for markets intensifies, democracy and economic justice become a luxury that the world capital cannot afford.  We thereby see the need for a greater degree and a more tyrannical manifestation of political and economic repression.  In other words,  degrees of influence and control governments once had over expansive, rapacious, and sometimes violent capital are rapidly shrinking.  Apart from actual armed conflicts, primarily in the oil sodden Middle East, trans-national trade agreements become a means of enforcing the will of capital over that of human need, most particularly in terms of environmental, human rights, and labor protection, and the destruction of social programs.  In short, the laws of nations become such that corporations (capital) can rule over the laws of nations.  This happens as such trade agreements are made into law by “democratically” elected governments.  Note: Hitler and the Nazi Party did not come into power in German in the 1930s via a coup d’etat, rather via democratic election.

 

Posted on March 8, 2015 by doctom2010
Posted by Thomas Baldwin, March 9, 2015

Biloxi, MS

This is an important collection of web posts and blogs on the critical nature of the Fast Track and TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) trade agreements about to be considered in Congress and being strongly supported by Barack Obama. If one reads the critiques of what is known about these “secret” agreements, the net impact upon the U.S. is disastrous in numerous instances. The article included here give details of those huge defects. TPP is often referred to as NAFTA on steroids and the results of the latter show that about 1,000,000 jobs in the U.S. have been lost since its enaction under Clinton in 1993. These agreements are always represented as “creating” large numbers of jobs and improving the worsening trade deficit. Both in the case of NAFTA and the Korean Trade Agreement exactly the reverse has occurred.

It is imperative that Congress and especially Obama be stopped! These articles show ways you can be involved both my supporting these organizations fighting these agreements and by contacting Congress and the Obama administration in large numbers with petitions, calls and letters. STOP FAST TRACK AND STOP THE TPP.

TPP: THE DIRTIEST TRADE DEAL YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF!

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Newsletter: At A Critical Juncture, Rise Up!

Excerpted from: POPULAR RESISTANCE NEWSLETTER

March 7, 2015

https://www.popularresistance.org/newsletter-at-a-critical-juncture-rise-up/

NEWSLETTER CIVIL RIGHTS, CLIMATE CRISIS, CORPORATISM, FAST TRACK, POLICE BRUTALITY, RACISM,TPP

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, http://www.popularresistance.org
March 7th, 2015

Fast Track is a Game Changer

The struggle that we are putting most of our energy towards for the next few months is to stop Congress from giving the president fast track trade promotion authority. This would allow the president for the next seven years to negotiate deals in secret and sign them before they go to Congress for limited review, no amendments and an up-or-down vote. We can’t emphasize enough how dangerous this is!

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which is nearly completed, goes way beyond typical trade deals. Most of the chapters are on issues not related to trade but that would instead enhance corporate rights and power. Although the TPP has been negotiated in secret, it will require that all of our laws, down to the local level, be ‘harmonized’ with the agreement. It would allow multinational corporations to challenge our laws to protect our communities and the planet through an extrajudicial trade tribunal run in part by corporate lawyers. This is called Investor State Dispute Settlement and Sen. Warren wrote about it in the Washington Post.

Corporations are writing laws that enhance their profits even though they harm our health and safety. Alison Rose Levy describes how this affects the food we eat. And leaks of text from the European version, called TTIP, show how the agreement will destroy the National Health System in the UK.

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The President is currently putting tremendous pressure on Congress for fast track in order to complete negotiations of and sign the TPP. The administration went so far as to lie about fast track after the day that Sen Warren’s article was published and eight Senators spoke out on the senate floor.

We have been very focused on Sen. Wyden, who is the key person in the Senate, and have been sitting-in at his DC office. Thousands of people are calling his office and jamming his lines and it’s having an effect (His number is 202 224 5244). The President wanted fast track legislation on his desk by the end of March, but it won’t be introduced in the Senate until mid-April. This gives us more time to ramp up the public pressure and we need to do that because the Chamber of Commerce is getting ready to launch a $160 million ad campaign.

Click here for a link to information about how you can get involved. Here are the basics:
1. Join the weekly “Fast Track Resistance” National Calls – starting on Wednesday, March 11 at 9 pm Eastern/6 pm Pacific, we’ll host weekly education and organizing calls to teach about Fast Track and the TPP, provide legislative updates and organize specific actions. We’ll have activists on hand to facilitate break-out groups where you’ll learn how to organize teach-ins, do visibility actions, use social media to have an impact and reach legislators with your message. You must register for the call. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.
2. March 13 is the National Day to ‘Drop in and Hang Out’– Representatives will be in their home districts on recess so people across the country will hold rolling sit-ins like we’ve been doing for the past 2 weeks in Senator Ron Wyden’s office. It’s easy to do. Just go to your member’s local office during office hours and hold a sign urging them to oppose Fast Track. Bring your friends. Take pictures and share them on social media. Urge those who can’t join you to call in to the office. CLICK HERE TO FIND OR POST AN ACTION.
3. Join the Rapid Response Team– you’ve probably seen some of us ‘dropping in and hanging out’ in Sen. Wyden’s office over the past 2 weeks. It has had an effect but we understand that Sen. Wyden is trying to make a deal with Sen. Hatch to support Fast Track legislation. We’ve got to stop him from from doing that.

We have plans for a larger action and we need you. Please let us know if you can join us in DC on Thursday, March 19. Contact Mackenzie@PopularResistance.org.

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The End of the Nation-State?

We are at a critical juncture in world history. We live in a globalized world. That is the reality. But at present, it is a world that is increasingly dominated by multi-national corporations and big finance capital that controls national policies. The result of this system is exploitation of people and the planet and the use of the security state to oppress those who resist or to gather resources.

William Dalrymple reminds us of the serious consequences that can result from such an arrangement in his article about the East India Company.

It is up to us to rise together and fight back, to resist the expansion of corporate power and to build new systems that are more democratic, just and sustainable. We are with you in this struggle. People power, applied strategically, can succeed.

We also need your financial support to do this work. Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation.

https://www.popularresistance.org/newsletter-at-a-critical-juncture-rise-up/

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Flush the TPP!

Stop the Global Corporate Coup!

http://www.flushthetpp.org/

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Colorado Students Employ Civil Disobedience School Board Sought to Censor November 8, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Democracy, Education, Youth.
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Roger’s note: How encouraging to see young (white and apparently middle class) students giving a lesson in democracy to the Neanderthal cristofascists who de facto govern their (the students’) formal education.  That this kind of action is taking place in Colorado and not Berkeley is also a hopeful sign.  Watch the video.

 

Published on
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‘Do not pretend that patriotism is turning a blind eye and a passive mind to the changing world around us,’ student organizer says

An image from one of the student protests in September. (Photo: John Lebya/Denver Post)

Protesting the conservative school board’s efforts to censor their history curriculum, more than a dozen students were escorted out of a Jefferson County Board of Education meeting in Colorado on Thursday night after disrupting proceedings by reading from their history textbooks and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

The students employed one of the very tactics that school board member Julie Williams was seeking to downplay through a proposed curriculum review committee: civil disobedience. In late September, Williams’ proposal—to establish a committee to ensure that the district’s history texts promoted positive aspects of the United States and avoided encouragement of “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law”—prompted mass student walk-outs and teacher ‘sick-outs.’

“You want to limit what we learn so you can push your own political opinion. Our problem is that the nation you want to build consists of people who cannot think critically.”
—Ashlyn Maher, JeffCo Student Network for Change

Many of the students involved in Thursday evening’s action were organizers of the September protests.

According to Chicago Public Radio, “the disruptions started when board members refused to let students speak, after they didn’t speak in the order they were called. A few minutes later, one student after another stood up in the public meeting, reciting historic acts of civil disobedience from history textbooks.”

The report continues:

When asked to leave the room, students at the podium left or were escorted out peacefully. After another group of students read aloud from history books and were escorted out, about a dozen students stood up in the packed meeting to read the Pledge of Allegiance. They then filed out.

Along with the students were “legal consultants,” law students taking descriptive notes of the scene. That didn’t please one security guard who lobbed several insults at the law students.

Standing in a circle outside the education building, a set of sprinklers suddenly came on. When the students moved out of the way, those sprinklers came on. The pattern repeated until all the sprinklers were on but the students didn’t leave. A security officer came out and informed the group that they were trespassing.

Student organizer Ashlyn Maher, a member of the recently formed JeffCo Student Network for Change, didn’t get a chance to speak at Thursday’s meeting. She posted her speech on Facebook.

“Our problem is that you, the board majority, passed a redundant, and highly opposed curriculum review committee because you have other motives,” Maher said. “You want to limit what we learn so you can push your own political opinion. Our problem is that the nation you want to build consists of people who cannot think critically. We as students want to develop our minds. Critical thinking is our ticket to the future. Do not limit what we learn…Do not try to fool us…Do not pretend that patriotism is turning a blind eye and a passive mind to the changing world around us.”

Chalkbeat Colorado reports that “as part of their demonstration, the students said they had four demands: a public apology from the school board’s conservative majority for referring to students as ‘union pawns;’ a reversal of an earlier decision to amend content review policies; proof from the board that they listen and act on community input instead of what students called an ‘ideological’ agenda; and more resources for classroom instruction.”

Watch security guards take books away from the students in the video of the action below:

WHAT ‘DEMOCRACY’ REALLY MEANS IN U.S. AND NEW YORK TIMES JARGON: LATIN AMERICA EDITION October 19, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Democracy, Foreign Policy, Imperialism, Latin America, Media, Venezuela.
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Roger’s note: I read the New York Times (it is the most right wing site I go to online; and, when asked how I keep up with the “other side,” I reply that one absorbs it by osmosis), there is often good reporting and feature articles; but on U.S. foreign policy, the Times is as Neanderthal as Bush/Obama/Clintons.

 

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BY GLENN GREENWALD

One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of “democracy” in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition – a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president – the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:

With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.

Thankfully, said the NYT, democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger . . . because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-U.S. “business leader.” The Champions of Democracy at the NYT then demanded a ruler more to their liking: “Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy.”

More amazingly still, the Times editors told their readers that Chávez’s “removal was a purely Venezuelan affair,” even though it was quickly and predictably revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a central role. Eleven years later, upon Chávez’s death, the Times editors admitted that “the Bush administration badly damaged Washington’s reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chávez” [the paper forgot to mention that it, too, blessed (and misled its readers about) that coup]. The editors then also acknowledged the rather significant facts that Chávez’s “redistributionist policies brought better living conditions to millions of poor Venezuelans” and “there is no denying his popularity among Venezuela’s impoverished majority.”

If you think The New York Times editorial page has learned any lessons from that debacle, you’d be mistaken. Today they published an editorialexpressing grave concern about the state of democracy in Latin America generally and Bolivia specifically. The proximate cause of this concern? The overwhelming election victory of Bolivian President Evo Morales (pictured above), who, as The Guardian put it, “is widely popular at home for a pragmatic economic stewardship that spread Bolivia’s natural gas and mineral wealth among the masses.”

The Times editors nonetheless see Morales’ election to a third term not as a vindication of democracy but as a threat to it, linking his election victory to the way in which “the strength of democratic values in the region has been undermined in past years by coups and electoral irregularities.” Even as they admit that “it is easy to see why many Bolivians would want to see Mr. Morales, the country’s first president with indigenous roots, remain at the helm” – because “during his tenure, the economy of the country, one of the least developed in the hemisphere, grew at a healthy rate, the level of inequality shrank and the number of people living in poverty dropped significantly” – they nonetheless chide Bolivia’s neighbors for endorsing his ongoing rule: “it is troubling that the stronger democracies in Latin America seem happy to condone it.”

The Editors depict their concern as grounded in the lengthy tenure of Morales as well as the democratically elected leaders of Ecuador and Venezuela: “perhaps the most disquieting trend is that protégés of Mr. Chávez seem inclined to emulate his reluctance to cede power.” But the real reason the NYT so vehemently dislikes these elected leaders and ironically views them as threats to “democracy” becomes crystal clear toward the end of the editorial (emphasis added):

This regional dynamic has been dismal for Washington’s influence in the region. In Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, the new generation of caudillos [sic] have staked out anti-American policies and limited the scope of engagement on developmentmilitary cooperation and drug enforcement efforts. This has damaged the prospects for trade and security cooperation.

You can’t get much more blatant than that. The democratically elected leaders of these sovereign countries fail to submit to U.S. dictates, impede American imperialism, and subvert U.S. industry’s neoliberal designs on the region’s resources. Therefore, despite how popular they are with their own citizens and how much they’ve improved the lives of millions of their nations’ long-oppressed and impoverished minorities, they are depicted as grave threats to “democracy.”

It is, of course, true that democratically elected leaders are capable of authoritarian measures. It is, for instance, democratically elected U.S. leaders who imprison people without charges for years, build secret domestic spying systems, and even assert the power to assassinate their own citizens without due process. Elections are no guarantee against tyranny. There are legitimate criticisms to be made of each of these leaders with regard to domestic measures and civic freedoms, as there is for virtually every government on the planet.

But the very idea that the U.S. government and its media allies are motivated by those flaws is nothing short of laughable. Many of the U.S. government’s closest allies are the world’s worst regimes, beginning with the uniquely oppressive Saudi kingdom (which just yesterday sentenced a popular Shiite dissident to death) and the brutal military coup regime in Egypt, which, as my colleague Murtaza Hussain reports today, gets more popular in Washington as it becomes even more oppressive. And, of course, the U.S. supports Israel in every way imaginable even as its Secretary of State expressly recognizes the “apartheid” nature of its policy path.

Just as the NYT did with the Venezuelan coup regime of 2002, the U.S. government hails the Egyptian coup regime as saviors of democracy. That’s because “democracy” in U.S. discourse means: “serving U.S. interests” and “obeying U.S. dictates,” regardless how how the leaders gain and maintain power. Conversely, “tyranny” means “opposing the U.S. agenda” and “refusing U.S. commands,” no matter how fair and free the elections are that empower the government. The most tyrannical regimes are celebrated as long as they remain subservient, while the most popular and democratic governments are condemned as despots to the extent that they exercise independence.

To see how true that is, just imagine the orgies of denunciation that would rain down if a U.S. adversary (say, Iran, or Venezuela) rather than a key U.S. ally like Saudi Arabia had just sentenced a popular dissident to death. Instead, the NYT just weeks ago uncritically quotes an Emirates ambassador lauding Saudi Arabia as one of the region’s “moderate” allies because of its service to the U.S. bombing campaign in Syria. Meanwhile, the very popular, democratically elected leader of Bolivia is a grave menace to democratic values – because he’s “dismal for Washington’s influence in the region.”

Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

A Thousand Words April 25, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Political Commentary.
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Roger’s note: This photo taken at a BBQ in 1983 shows these Three Amigos: racist Alabama governor George Wallace; point man for the MIC and CIA, G.W.H. Bush; and future President and destroyer of what little was left of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton.  Notice the smirk on Clinton’s face and the all around bonhomie.  They’re having a great time (at whose expense?).  It’s all one big happy family of Republicrats, united to screw ordinary Americans and the peoples of nations around the globe.  American democracy in action.  Eat up!

 

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Here we see Bill having a belly-splitting laugh with his good friend and mentor, Egyptian Dictator Mubarak:

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Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot’s Prison Letters to Slavoj Žižek November 16, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Revolution, Russia.
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Roger’s note: I hope you find this correspondence as fascinating as I did.  The left/progressive blogosphere these days is publishing more anti-capitalism analyses than ever.  I am a life-long Marxist Humanist, so the notion of capitalism is something I have been thinking about for years (decades, actually).  What I find troubling is that very few writers either attempt or demonstrate a precise understanding of exactly what capitalism is.  Capitalism is not simply an ideology, although there are more than enough capitalist ideologues; and capitalism is not primarily about so-called free markets, nor is state ownership anything less than pure genuine capitalism (prime example: China).  To understand what a genuine transformation of society will be, it is important to have a historical understanding of how capitalist economic relations developed.  More important is the need to understand exactly what capitalist economic relationships ARE, and that has to do with the basic structure under which goods and services are PRODUCED (again, not marketed).  Karl Marx discovered an entire new continent of thought that takes us into the heart of notions of human freedom and exploitation via capitalist economic relations.  Much too complex for me to go into here; I just want to point out that being anti-capitalist is necessary but not sufficient.  The dialogue below is a good example of revolutionary activist thinking, striving to understand in order to transform.

 

 

Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is currently in a prison hospital in Siberia; here she and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek meet in an extraordinary exchange of letters

 

‘We are the children of Dionysus, sailing in a barrel and not ­recognising any authority’ … Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot writing to Slavoj Žižek. (David Levene/AFP)

2 January 2013

Dear Nadezhda,

I hope you have been able to organise your life in prison around small rituals that make it tolerable, and that you have time to read. Here are my thoughts on your predicament.

John Jay Chapman, an American political essayist, wrote this about radicals in 1900: “They are really always saying the same thing. They don’t change; everybody else changes. They are accused of the most incompatible crimes, of egoism and a mania for power, indifference to the fate of their cause, fanaticism, triviality, lack of humour, buffoonery and irreverence. But they sound a certain note. Hence the great practical power of persistent radicals. To all appearance, nobody follows them, yet everyone believes them. They hold a tuning-fork and sound A, and everybody knows it really is A, though the time-honoured pitch is G flat.” Isn’t this a good description of the effect of Pussy Riot performances? In spite of all accusations, you sound a certain note. It may appear that people do not follow you, but secretly, they believe you, they know you are telling the truth, or, even more, you are standing for truth.

But what is this truth? Why are the reactions to Pussy Riot performances so violent, not only in Russia? All hearts were beating for you as long as you were perceived as just another version of the liberal-democratic protest against the authoritarian state. The moment it became clear that you rejected global capitalism, reporting on Pussy Riot became much more ambiguous. What is so disturbing about Pussy Riot to the liberal gaze is that you make visible the hidden continuity between Stalinism and contemporary global capitalism.

[Žižek then explores what he sees as a global trend towards limiting democracy.] Since the 2008 crisis, this distrust of democracy, once limited to third-world or post-Communist developing economies, is gaining ground in western countries. But what if this distrust is justified? What if only experts can save us?

But the crisis provided proof that it is these experts who don’t know what they are doing, rather than the people. In western Europe, we are seeing that the ruling elite know less and less how to rule. Look at how Europe is dealing with Greece.

No wonder, then, that Pussy Riot make us all uneasy – you know very well what you don’t know, and you don’t pretend to have any quick or easy answers, but you are telling us that those in power don’t know either. Your message is that in Europe today the blind are leading the blind. This is why it is so important that you persist. In the same way that Hegel, after seeing Napoleon riding through Jena, wrote that it was as if he saw the World Spirit riding on a horse, you are nothing less than the critical awareness of us all, sitting in prison.

Comradely greetings, Slavoj

23 February 2013

Dear Slavoj,

Once, in the autumn of 2012, when I was still in the pre-trial prison in Moscow with other Pussy Riot activists, I visited you. In a dream, of course.

I see your argument about horses, the World Spirit, and about tomfoolery and disrespect, as well as why and how all these elements are so connected to each other.

Pussy Riot did turn out be a part of this force, the purpose of which is criticism, creativity and co-creation, experimentation and constantly provocative events. Borrowing Nietzsche’s definition, we are the children of Dionysus, sailing in a barrel and not recognising any authority.

We are a part of this force that has no final answers or absolute truths, for our mission is to question. There are architects of apollonian statics and there are (punk) singers of dynamics and transformation. One is not better than the other. But it is only together that we can ensure the world functions in the way Heraclitus defined it: “This world has been and will eternally be living on the rhythm of fire, inflaming according to the measure, and dying away according to the measure. This is the functioning of the eternal world breath.”

We are the rebels asking for the storm, and believing that truth is only to be found in an endless search. If the “World Spirit” touches you, do not expect that it will be painless.

Laurie Anderson sang: “Only an expert can deal with the problem.” It would have been nice if Laurie and I could cut these experts down to size and take care of our own problems. Because expert status by no means grants access to the kingdom of absolute truth.

Two years of prison for Pussy Riot is our tribute to a destiny that gave us sharp ears, allowing us to sound the note A when everyone else is used to hearing G flat.

At the right moment, there will always come a miracle in the lives of those who childishly believe in the triumph of truth over lies, of mutual assistance, of those who live according to the economics of the gift.

Nadia

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in a single confinement cell at a penal colony in Partza on 25 SeptemberNadezhda Tolokonnikova in a single confinement cell at a penal colony in Partza on 25 September 2013. (Ilya Shablinsky/AFP) 

4 April 2013

Dear Nadezhda,

I was so pleasantly surprised when your letter arrived – the delay made me fear that the authorities would prevent our communication. I was deeply honoured, flattered even, by my appearance in your dream.

You are right to question the idea that the “experts” close to power are competent to make decisions. Experts are, by definition, servants of those in power: they don’t really think, they just apply their knowledge to the problems defined by those in power (how to bring back stability? how to squash protests?). So are today’s capitalists, the so-called financial wizards, really experts? Are they not just stupid babies playing with our money and our fate? I remember a cruel joke from Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not to Be. When asked about the German concentration camps in occupied Poland, the Nazi officer snaps back: “We do the concentrating, and the Poles do the camping.” Does the same not hold for the Enron bankruptcy in 2002? The thousands of employees who lost their jobs were certainly exposed to risk, but with no true choice – for them the risk was like blind fate. But those who did have insight into the risks, and the ability to intervene (the top managers), minimised their risks by cashing in their stocks before the bankruptcy. So it is true that we live in a society of risky choices, but some people (the managers) do the choosing, while others (the common people) do the risking.

For me, the true task of radical emancipatory movements is not just to shake things out of their complacent inertia, but to change the very co-ordinates of social reality so that, when things return to normal, there will be a new, more satisfying, “apollonian statics”. And, even more crucially, how does today’s global capitalism enter this scheme?

The Deleuzian philosopher Brian Massumi tells how capitalism has already overcome the logic of totalising normality and adopted the logic of erratic excess: “The more varied, and even erratic, the better. Normality starts to lose its hold. The regularities start to loosen. This loosening is part of capitalism’s dynamic.”

But I feel guilty writing this: who am I to explode in such narcissistic theoretical outbursts when you are exposed to very real deprivations? So please, if you can and want, do let me know about your situation in prison: about your daily rhythm, about the little private rituals that make it easier to survive, about how much time you have to read and write, about how other prisoners and guards treat you, about your contact with your child … true heroism resides in these seemingly small ways of organising one’s life in order to survive in crazy times without losing dignity.

With love, respect and admiration, my thoughts are with you!

Slavoj

A Pussy Riot protest in Red Square in Moscow January 2012. A Pussy Riot protest in Red Square in Moscow in January 2012. (Denis Sinyakov/Reuters) 

16 April 2013

Dear Slavoj,

Has modern capitalism really overtaken the logic of totalising norms? Or is it willing to make us believe that it has overpassed the logic of hierarchical structures and normalisation?

As a child I wanted to go into advertising. I had a love affair with the advertising industry. And this is why I am in a position to judge its merits. The anti-hierarchical structures and rhizomes of late capitalism are its successful ad campaign. Modern capitalism has to manifest itself as flexible and even eccentric. Everything is geared towards gripping the emotion of the consumer. Modern capitalism seeks to assure us that it operates according to the principles of free creativity, endless development and diversity. It glosses over its other side in order to hide the reality that millions of people are enslaved by an all-powerful and fantastically stable norm of production. We want to reveal this lie.

You should not worry that you are exposing theoretical fabrications while I am supposed to suffer the “real hardship”. I value the strict limits, and the challenge. I am genuinely curious: how will I cope with this? And how can I turn this into a productive experience for me and my comrades? I find sources of inspiration; it contributes to my own development. Not because of, but in spite of the system. And in my struggle, your thoughts, ideas and stories are helpful to me.

I am happy to correspond with you. I await your reply and I wish you good luck in our common cause.

Nadia

Link to video: Pussy Riot on Putin, ‘punk prayers’ and superheroes

10 June 2013

Dear Nadezhda,

I felt deeply ashamed after reading your reply. You wrote: “You should not worry about the fact that you are exposing theoretical fabrications while I am supposed to suffer the ‘real hardship’.” This simple sentence made me aware that the final sentiment in my last letter was false: my expression of sympathy with your plight basically meant, “I have the privilege of doing real theory and teaching you about it while you are good for reporting on your experience of hardship …” Your last letter demonstrates that you are much more than that, that you are an equal partner in a theoretical dialogue. So my sincere apologies for this proof of how deeply entrenched is male chauvinism, especially when it is masked as sympathy for the other’s suffering, and let me go on with our dialogue.

It is the crazy dynamics of global capitalism that make effective resistance to it so difficult and frustrating. Recall the great wave of protests that spilled all over Europe in 2011, from Greece and Spain to London and Paris. Even if there was no consistent political platform mobilising the protesters, the protests functioned as part of a large-scale educational process: the protesters’ misery and discontent were transformed into a great collective act of mobilisation – hundreds of thousands gathered in public squares, proclaiming that they had enough, that things could not go on like that. However, what these protests add up to is a purely negative gesture of angry rejection and an equally abstract demand for justice, lacking the ability to translate this demand into a concrete political programme.

What can be done in such a situation, where demonstrations and protests are of no use, where democratic elections are of no use? Can we convince the tired and manipulated crowds that we are not only ready to undermine the existing order, to engage in provocative acts of resistance, but also to offer the prospect of a new order?

The Pussy Riot performances cannot be reduced just to subversive provocations. Beneath the dynamics of their acts, there is the inner stability of a firm ethico-political attitude. In some deeper sense, it is today’s society that is caught in a crazy capitalist dynamic with no inner sense and measure, and it is Pussy Riot that de facto provides a stable ethico-political point. The very existence of Pussy Riot tells thousands that opportunist cynicism is not the only option, that we are not totally disoriented, that there still is a common cause worth fighting for.

So I also wish you good luck in our common cause. To be faithful to our common cause means to be brave, especially now, and, as the old saying goes, luck is on the side of the brave!

Yours, Slavoj

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova in court in April this yearNadezhda Tolokonnikova in court in April this year. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA  

13 July 2013

Dear Slavoj,

In my last letter, written in haste as I worked in the sewing shop, I was not as clear as I should have been about the distinction between how “global capitalism” functions in Europe and the US on the one hand, and in Russia on the other. However, recent events in Russia – the trial of Alexei Navalny, the passing of unconstitutional, anti-freedom laws – have infuriated me. I feel compelled to speak about the specific political and economic practices of my country. The last time I felt this angry was in 2011 when Putin declared he was running for the presidency for a third time. My anger and resolve led to the birth of Pussy Riot. What will happen now? Time will tell.

Here in Russia I have a strong sense of the cynicism of so-called first-world countries towards poorer nations. In my humble opinion, “developed” countries display an exaggerated loyalty towards governments that oppress their citizens and violate their rights. The European and US governments freely collaborate with Russia as it imposes laws from the middle ages and throws opposition politicians in jail. They collaborate with China, where oppression is so bad that my hair stands on end just to think about it. What are the limits of tolerance? And when does tolerance become collaboration, conformism and complicity?

To think, cynically, “let them do what they want in their own country”, doesn’t work any longer, because Russia and China and countries like them are now part of the global capitalist system.

Russia under Putin, with its dependence on raw materials, would have been massively weakened if those nations that import Russian oil and gas had shown the courage of their convictions and stopped buying. Even if Europe were to take as modest a step as passing a “Magnitsky law” [the Magnitsky Act in the US allows it to place sanctions on Russian officials believed to have taken part in human-rights violations], morally it would speak volumes. A boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 would be another ethical gesture. But the continued trade in raw materials constitutes a tacit approval of the Russian regime – not through words, but through money. It betrays the desire to protect the political and economic status quo and the division of labour that lies at the heart of the world economic system.

You quote Marx: “A social system that seizes up and rusts … cannot survive.” But here I am, working out my prison sentence in a country where the 10 people who control the biggest sectors of the economy are Vladimir Putin’s oldest friends. He studied or played sports with some, and served in the KGB with others. Isn’t this a social system that has seized up? Isn’t this a feudal system?

I thank you sincerely, Slavoj, for our correspondence and can hardly wait for your reply.

Yours, Nadia

• The correspondence was organised by Philosophie magazine in cooperation with New Times. Longer versions can be found in German at philomag.de or in French at philomag.com. Tolokonnikova’s letters were translated from Russian by Galia Ackerman

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is a Russian performance artist, political activist, and member of the protest punk band Pussy Riot. On August 17, 2012, she and two other members of the group were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for a performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and sentenced to two years of hard labor in one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies.

Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek is international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

‘The Voice of Greek Radio Falls Silent’ November 7, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Greece, Media.
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Despite the police raid against the occupied offices of the ERT, Margaronis declares says the popular Greek opposition to austerity will continue. “Of course, people won’t be silenced, especially not now.” (Photo: Getty images)

Even words lose their meanings,” says the disembodied voice. It’s speaking to fill the space before the silence, to be present. “Are these your orders? Yes, those are my things…Somewhere here we close, dear listeners. The voice of Greek radio falls silent. Good luck to everyone. We’ll find each other, we’ll meet again. These microphones are shutting down. Deep soul.”

Early this morning riot police broke into the Athens headquarters of ERT, Greek Radio and Television, which was officially closed by ministerial decree on June 11th but whose journalists and technicians have continued to broadcast over the Internet. After dispersing protesters outside with teargas, armoured police cleared the building room by room. Union representative Nikos Tsimpidas was last at the microphone, calling for a “magnificent demonstration, not just for ERT, not for our jobs, but for democracy itself, against…this virulent repression, this rewind through decades, for all the things we should have stood up for but couldn’t …”

Even words lose their meanings. Increasingly, a mark of the Greek crisis (not so much a crisis now as a condition) is the fragmenting of perceived reality, along with a desperate struggle to control the story of what’s happening. I imagine it’s always like this with authoritarian regimes—for Greece is clearly now an authoritarian regime masquerading as a democracy—but I’ve never seen it from close up before. We’re living (as well as everything else) a war of words, a propaganda campaign designed to drown out dissenting voices—even moderate ones. Questions about whether ERT was wasteful, or padded with cronies, or captured by special interests—questions that might have been addressed in a functioning democracy—became irrelevant the day the broadcaster was shut down by fiat. This morning the other shoe dropped. The image is the message: platoons of armoured representatives of the state evicting a few dozen journalists and locking the doors with handcuffs.

As always in Greece, the message is two-faced, one visage for foreign consumption, the other for domestic. What it’s supposed to say to representatives of the Troika who are, once again, in Athens (if they’re stupid enough to buy it, or diplomats enough to pretend they have) is that everything’s under control: we’re meeting our obligations, turning around the economy, cracking down on lawlessness, breaking the unions. (The original shut-down of ERT was ostensibly designed to meet the Troika’s demand for public sector lay-offs.) The message to Greeks is this: You may see a government that’s scrambling to appease its creditors without upsetting its cronies, that’s lost control of the streets and its own half-tamed heavies, that has no idea how to get out of the maze; you may be jobless, hungry, disoriented and lost, looking ahead at a winter without heat or hope; you may think some kind of resistance is still possible. But the evidence of your senses is false, or at least irrelevant. Look! We’re installling free WiFi all across the country! Greece is a success story! And if you won’t line up behind our version of reality, we have the power to persuade you. Against the voice of a man in a room with a microphone, we play helmeted troops with teargas and batons.

Of course, people won’t be silenced, especially not now. (A few days ago, a bunch of Dogberries from the Greek police turned up at Radiobubble, a citizen radio station run out of a café in Athens, and threatened to prosecute because people were “talking too loudly” in the street outside. Perhaps they had read about it in the New York Times.) But (let them eat WiFi notwithstanding) most Greeks get their news from private television stations owned by politically well-connected oligarchs–which were given control of the digital airwaves by a vote in parliament hours before this morning’s raid on ERT. And the cacophony of unsourced hysteria and conspiracy theories that has longed filled much of the Greek media, across the political spectrum, doesn’t help the quest for a coherent, usable description of what’s happening.

The moment when stories fragment and words lose their meanings is also one of possibility, when different futures and arrangements might emerge. The nexus of oligarchs, financial interests and politicians ruling Greece (in symbiotic struggle with its creditors) now seems determined at all costs to close that down. The sense of repression is palpable; the scary thing is how quickly you get used to it. Two weeks ago I went out to dinner with friends in Athens. As we left the taverna—almost empty on a Friday night—a heavily armoured Delta police patrol roared by, eight or ten men in black, on motorbikes, two abreast. No one even turned to look.

On the other hand, as I write, the left party, Syriza—some of whose MPs were violently prevented from entering ERT’s headquarters this morning—is tabling a motion of no confidence in the  government, to be debated tomorrow. The ruling coalition has a majority of only five MPs, some of whom blocked a motion to impose a new property tax a few days ago; of course, the pressure on them to conform will be immense. The private channels will broadcast this–with dire predictions of catastrophe–as another “thriller.” Meanwhile, protesters have gathered outside ERT’s headquarters in Athens and Salonika; one banner reads, “Deep Soul.” And ERT journalists and musicians are still broadcasting on the internet, from the street.

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