Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 30, 2009

Where Is The Left?

In the fourth quarter U.S. sunk more than 5% annualized. (The headline number is smaller because it counts build up of inventory as positive) Unemployment is increasing rapidly and house prices are still in free fall.

But there is also good news. Exxon Mobile made $45 billion in profits last year and Obama may give another $2 to $4 trillion to insolvent bank owners and a tax cut to Exxon share owners.

The stimulus bill will include too little stimulus but lots of useless tax cuts and pork. Obama "compromised" with the Republicans over it so well that no Republican voted for it. The few liberals who understand that they got played hate it.

As Sterling Newberry points out

Obama isn't a Democrat giving things up to get Republican votes, he's a conservative mugging liberals for a conservative agenda that includes:

1. War in Afghanistan
2. Paulson's version of TARP where taxpayers buy all bad assets.
3. Slash social security and Medicare
4. Tax Cuts
5. No Comprehensive Health Care, but huge subsidies for Health Insurance companies instead.

Taken as a whole, Obama is offering small concessions to the left, in return for trillions of dollars that are coming directly out of the pockets and veins, of ordinary people.

In France the people at least go on strike and take to the streets. What goes as the "left" in the U.S. seems to stay bent over just waiting to get screwed again.

It's amazing.

Posted by b on January 30, 2009 at 16:05 UTC | Permalink


Where is the left? Alas, in the US the distinction between liberals and progressives, between centrists and a real left, is still not understood. The country is so habituated to right wing thinking that 99% of Americans think liberals and progressives are the same thing. In real terms there is virtually no left, but rather a sizeable body of liberals who think imperialism is fine and still buy into US exceptionalism and accept a corporate ruling class without complaint. Triumph of media propaganda or failure of the educational system?

Posted by: satchmo | Jan 30 2009 16:43 utc | 1

I ask myself the very same question and then I reflect. The left is getting or has gotten everything it wants, abortion ebryo cell research, gay "marriage", uniformity of the genders, what else could the left want? The left is purchased in exactly the same way as the right is, corporations dole out money. Through advertising the "left" bloggers are paralyzed. etc etc.
We will be surprised when the coming revolution turns out to be extremely "reactionary".

Posted by: jlcg | Jan 30 2009 16:46 utc | 2

Where is the left? Hhhmmmm...what do sheep normally do this time of day?

In all seriousness, b, there is no left in this country. The guys on counterpunch, the guys who post here, and a handful of Ron Paul style conservatives who would agree with them on the biggest issues.

That's about it. Rarely will you see any of their views on TV.

Its not that nobody on the left knows that Obama might be a fraud. Read some of the comments on booman tribune and you will see plenty of disillusion. But they are wrapped up in the "hey we got rid of Bush!"

It will be another 2 years before it becomes "meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Of course, even then nothing will happen. Most people read absolutely nothing on blogs, particularly lefty blogs. The very idea of protest and dissent is considered too radical by most. It has been tremendously delegitimized. Did you think there were good Germans in Germany? Ha!! We have the best Germans ever here at home.

The government is stationing troops here at home to deal with civil unrest. Honestly, though, I think they are giving the public too much credit.

Anyway, sorry for ranting.

Posted by: Lysander | Jan 30 2009 16:54 utc | 3

The French are the only "true left" left in modern western society, but heck retirement ages in the French Public system are obscene, maybe that was because they beheaded all the bastards back then.

So much for stereotypes.

What will play out in coming days, weeks and months and Years will be the xenophobia.

To the stereotypes.

The first cut is the problem. Which was to kill the banks and nationalose (deliberate spelling) them.

Back to French Unions, they know this and are pissed.

The UK strikes are too late, Bliar and Thatcher have done what Sarkozy's advisors are screaming at him to do now.

Carla Bruni?

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jan 30 2009 17:47 utc | 4

Obama, Prozac, Dalai Lama, Facebook, iShit, Prius, office-pooling the 2010 elections, watching Keith and Rachel. I used to think it skipped generations but maybe it's more like leap-generations. If so, it might be here or coming soon, if we can just bin the liberals.

Posted by: biklett | Jan 30 2009 18:11 utc | 5

Yes, but at least Obama is black and he is not loony ultraconservative like Clarence that's good enough for the liberals, right?

(Back in the serious mode)

Honestly, the problem of race in US is rather like Israel and Holocaust. Your creditials as a "liberal" are not questioned if you belong to a certain group that automatically grants them "liberal" cred--even if you are not. It operated both against and for Obama in the campaign--the Republicans (and the Clintonistas) tried to paint him as a "liberal" (in various guises) by invoking his race and seeming foreignness; while the liberals bought the story hook, line, and sinker especially because Republicans were doing it too, for different reasons--all these despite Obama's substantial (although not quite overwhelming, yet) record (in words and deeds) that he was hardly a liberal in his worldview.

While there is no question that Obama's presidency does represent a historic change, that's not really the change many who voted for him voted for: it's the long overdue change from the 19th century to the 20th, a corrective for an old historical wrong that has long burdened the American consccience, but has relatively little to do with its present. It is not the transition from the 20th to the 21st that people thought/still think they were getting.

Posted by: kao_hsien_chih | Jan 30 2009 18:16 utc | 6

"Left" is just another team name for the masses to cheer. Comparing the mainstream lefties to mainstream righties is almost the same as comparing football teams. When you compare football teams, you're only making comparisons between names and their positions. You're still talking about football and everyone is playing the same game, right?

Obama has everyone excited because he appears to be reversing some of bush's worst legislative blunders, but as Lysander wrote, "meet the new boss, same as the old boss..."

Maybe we'll get five-minutes of breathing space while internal power struggles within government decide who will eat and who will serve. Then it will be back to the oars or down on all fours, for the rest of us louts.

American is populated by fearful, weak, insecure humans with guilty consciences weighing them down. Americans know that we sold ourselves, our freedoms and our souls all for a few extra worthless pennies to jingle in our pocket and a house of straw to protect us.

These days it's left, right, same shit – different piles.

Posted by: David | Jan 30 2009 18:24 utc | 7


I know you have a very strong anti-abortion stance and I do not fault you for that. My personal opinion is that abortions will happen whether they are legal or not so therefore it is better to let women have them in a sterile and competent environment. Clinton said it best, abortions should be legal and rare. As for homosexual marriage, how on earth can this be a left wing issue? the right has cleverly accused the so called left of this but that hardly makes it true. If indeed the so called left has made this a priority or a plank in their platform it is exceedingly stupid. All it does is alienate the vast majority of democratic voters in an attempt to make some and I doubt even a majority of homosexuals happy that they can be married. and this for a very small percentage of the population...what is it? 2 percent? There are probably more people who would be polygamists than that.

I remain convinced that these so called issues were dictated by the Republicans and they seem to have stuck.

what about health care? that is a left or democratic plank. what about the arts? infrastructure? higher education? work conditions? pensions? regulating banks. these are only discussed on the left and dismissed mightily by the right.

as others point out and as you surely know, there is very little left in the US. the conditioning has been very effective and the teevee does not allow for this kind of debate. I watched George Galloway this morning on PressTV which is Iranian by the way and thought to myself that such a program would simply not exist in the US. If it were not shut down by whatever authority there is to regulate that sort of thing, no one would watch it because they would be afraid of getting caught.

there is really nothing left to do in my opinion. Obama will finish the work of w and become even more hated than the boy king because both the dems and repubs will despise him. the house's stimulus package is packed with pork and tax cuts, and this is his big plan. the murder continues in Iraq and is set to increase in Afghanistan. this latest episode with the German general ratting out the US NATO commander is yet another glaring example that Obama is merely Black Bush as he surely should have immediately fired that general if he did not agree with his policy. I mean, what would you do if you found out someone who works for you had just declared thousands of farmers be killed on sight?

It is true that he has only been in office for a few days and the challenges he faces are huge. He has thrown us a few scraps yet the main thrust is a continuation of every adminstration since reagan.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 30 2009 18:48 utc | 8

The left still exists in the Happy Little Kingdom, but is under attack -- the present right wing gov't would like to (even more) revoke the tax credit workers have for their payments to unions and unemployed worker compensation.

It is hard for Europeans to comprehend the manner in which unions in the US have had their balls cut off,but it is a fact and if Pete Seeger wasn't still (god bless him!) still alive, he would be rolling over in his grave with an RPM a Formel 1 racer might envy

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Jan 30 2009 18:54 utc | 9

Where is the Left? Good question B. Badger in his latest post is wondering the same:

why is it that American liberals, progressives, center-leftists and what have you are taking such an aggressive position against attacking the problem at its base and at its root cause?
The apathy and blind consumerism the US society is based on makes it difficult to engage the wider population in any subject matter requiring compassion and focus. Over the last half a century, a significant section of the workforce in western nations was able to obtain living conditions better than what their parents had, simultaneously and conveniently adopting the conviction that the shameless capitalism they are surrounded by is the source and provider of their modest affluence. Not realising that their/our gains are largely fuelled by ill-gotten third world resources and flagrant environmental destruction, many of our brothers and sisters have started believing in the existence of “Free Markets”, an oxymoron if ever I’ve heard one. People have grown inconsiderate in their regard for fellow humans; have forgotten the struggles our forefathers had to lead in order for us to have the cushy conditions we are living in now.

David over in another thread put it this way:
the gears of the world are shifting/shifted, more and more "urban" americans are comfortable with the idea of globalism, or should I say, comfortable with any idea proposed to "fix" what is unfixable. Us hicks in the sticks, look at what's happening and don't like it, because some of us know where it leads, others because it means change and they hate ANY change, even if it were out of wet shorts.
Change, there is this word again, like a woodpecker it is trying to nail the message home, but who actually wants to hear it in their coconut head? People voted for Ochangerbama without actually wanting change, same with Rudd here in Australia. Many people are afraid of real change, as it would mean to stop the overindulgence we are so accustomed to. Judging by the last election, what the majority wants is someone who keeps promising them heaven and then delivers hell. And congratulations, that’s exactly what we got.

Apart from the indifference to our fellow humans suffering and the fear of change, there is a third reason the almost non-existing "Left" comes across as a toothless tiger - it has no idea on how to organise effectively without splintering and infighting. Too much fractionalising and arguing about petty issues. And on top of that, the love of power and money corrupts their leaders.

Take the apparent left, the Democratic Party if you will, or Unions for that matter, just as good an example. Too many layers between the grass roots and the upper echelons, bureaucracy starts taking over, easy to infiltrate with trolls and apparatchiks, easy to predict their every move, buy out their leaders. Give them government grands and they are hooked on the drip – don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Jan 30 2009 18:57 utc | 10

Juan Moment-

One thing I hear a lot is about the scarcity of resources, how americans need to adjust themselves to doing with less and I couldn't Disagree more.

The big problem with resources is that they are miss-managed and wasted. There is more than enough for the humans on the planet now, as long as we don't all strive to be Bill Gates, or worse, become Bill Gates.

Business takes all sorts of money saving shortcuts to increase profits for investors and more importantly, increase their bonuses. This helps nobody but those who get a piece of the pie. Workers and consumers both lose.

I think we probably agree more than disagree about this. I feel it is an important point, in trying to win public opinion, to not paint a picture of scarcity, not to make the average guy feel like he's got to lose so some other poor guy can win. I don't feel this is helpful or even valid, because the average guy in america is getting shafted (not like the many of the world's people, but that doesn't matter in his mind) and he is quick to blame the people even poorer than him for his problems rather than look at who is hoarding all the sweetmeats. To get the average joe on our side, he needs to see there is plenty for him, his family and more than enough resources leftover to share with the rest of the planet.

I sound like a friggin' communist saying this, but there needs to be some redistribution of wealth, from the pockets of the ten-thousand robber-barons who've connived, conspired and with calculated callousness, created the current crisis, and put it back into the pockets of people whose land and labors have been stolen. That's about 650 billion of us.

Posted by: David | Jan 30 2009 19:35 utc | 11

That's a lot of money, but you have to consider Exxon-Mobil's net income dropped by 33% this last quarter. They are catching some of the economic losses just like other types of companies. I read a few days ago that Shell Oil also has had a big drop in income.

I guess that's something to be cheered.

Posted by: Ensley | Jan 30 2009 19:51 utc | 12

If you believe that Obama is "giving things up to get Republican votes" then consider that (1) He didn't get any Republican votes, and (2) The Repubs claim to be more to the left than Obama.

Peggy Noonan: Consider the moment. House Republicans had conceded that dramatic action was needed and had grown utterly supportive of the idea of federal jobs creation on a large scale. All that was needed was a sober, seriously focused piece of legislation that honestly tried to meet the need, one that everyone could tinker with a little and claim as their own. Instead, as Rep. Mike Pence is reported to have said to the president, "Know that we're praying for you. . . . But know that there has been no negotiation [with Republicans] on the bill—we had absolutely no say." The final bill was privately agreed by most and publicly conceded by many to be a big, messy, largely off-point and philosophically chaotic piece of legislation. The Congressional Budget Office says only 25% of the money will even go out in the first year. This newspaper [Wall Street Journal], in its analysis, argues that only 12 cents of every dollar is for something that could plausibly be called stimulus.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 30 2009 20:29 utc | 13

Dan of Steel @8

Thank you for noticing my contribution. At bottom my belief is that Nature trumps philosophy sociology biology religion politics. What I call the left includes a lot of gals and guys from the right. It is a mental framework that supposes that to interfere with Nature is a good without realizing or without being able to know all the effects of a given act. Therefore we may indicate that when an act is being done without knowledge of consequences it is neither a rational or an irrational act it is simply mindless. Our present predicament seems to be the fruit of ideologies derived more or less from the French Revolution though it has many precedents. Because the effects of those thoughts have reached such extremes, as I mentioned in my contribution, the reaction will not be more of the same but on the contrary a complete break with the present lax ideology. Is it extreme to think that Muslims are showing us the beginning of reaction against Western values or non values for that matter?
Our society seems to be a moral void and within it some ideologies, for ourselves strange, will fill it.
The aim of activity should not be to change anything but become as one with the flow of history, though history is made by the deluded ones that assume that they can direct it.
For me there is no better illustration of reality than keeping a garden, perpetual fight, occasional victory, eventual Winter.

Posted by: jlcg | Jan 30 2009 20:29 utc | 14

@8 Dan of Steel.
Thank you for your attention to my contribution.
The left has won, no question about that. So it follows that a revolution will be against those advances. Whether one likes the result or not is immaterial because it will be reality. It will be no less real than the Himalaya or the Nile. I am a partisan of the dialectic, a void is a void while there are walls, solid ones, that surround it and perhaps those walls will crumble and fill the void.

Posted by: jlcg | Jan 30 2009 20:40 utc | 15

I sound like a friggin' communist saying this, but there needs to be some redistribution of wealth,

i watched some little blurb that made the rounds on the internet w/the editor of salon and some republican senator, about how he made some misogynist remark. the topic they were arguing was the tax cuts and she said we needed distribution of wealth so i think this idea is well saturated even if its not happening.

speaking of keith and rachael, i caught a segment of his program last night and he was saying since the republicans were crowing about all sticking together and voting no, why the hell should we make any concessions for them at all if it doesn't move them one iota and some of the dems were talking about stripping the concessions from the bill because why should we give an inch if they don't.

that was on the msm so i think people are not blind idiots, only some of them.

regarding the 'left'. hear me out. monday night i went to a meeting of marin peace and justice group regarding gaza. i stayed 3 hrs and as i left one of the organizers followed me out to the parking lot to ask me why i was leaving. 3 hrs of listening to so many voices (about 3/4 of which were jews)was making my head spin and we were no where near a plan (for some awareness event). but everyone there was pro palestine and vehemently so. but this i was meeting w/ a woman to plaster the downtown area w/fliers about an upcoming event (israeli activist shachaf polakow is coming to town and the flier screams out 'anarchists against the wall!') my poster mate informed me only !/2 the MPJ group was represented at the meeting the other night because apparently the local anti war group is split down the middle! she said they other 1/2 is against war for everybody EXCEPT israel/palestine if you can believe that! the entire jewish community os having it out w/eachother. some people at the meeting were saying they attended this event at the synagoge in tiburon (supper rich mostly conservative enclave) attended by our rep lyn woosley (she DID sign the letter of our cynthia mcKInney/mCdurmott type progreessive rep at the house to end the occupation) which was SUPPOSED to be about dialouge and peace and they(gaza meeting people) errupted w/seething remarks about this completely one sided event where they passed out pro israel talking pts and didn't let the other side EVEN SPEAK, not only that they had the place surrounded by cops and made people go thru this electronic check stuff to get in!!!!!!!!

but, the good news. during my 2 hr poster plastering of the down town either stores/shops restaurants had a policy of no posters (bank of america corp stors) or they asked to see the poster and guess how many people were not supportive? one. only one. there are about 100 posters up one one street. everyone received us very warmly w/gratefulness! all the tai manicure ladies and falafel guys and persian rug guys and cafes and the shoe store and all the resyaurants pizza parlors and mexican food and nary a soul except the one guy in the electronics store said 'no' when he read the poster.

ok, i have been going on too long. i don't think most people are paying attention to congress. i think people are getting laid off left and right and people just no we are screwed. i don't know if any stimulus package is going to make any difference. i also think until americans are really suffering are they going to wake up and look at what our policies are doing to us and the world.

what kind of 'anti war left' approves of war to protect israel? jesus christ.

Posted by: annie | Jan 30 2009 20:50 utc | 16

oh heavens!

Survivalist: Left of center now joining our 'growing' movement

One-time preserve of anti-establishment loners, cultists and gun nuts has gone mainstream

Sick of worrying about the future? Then spare a thought for Jim Rawles.

Rawles, 48, is one of a rising number of "survivalists" -- Americans hunkering down for what they predict will be a nightmare of economic failure, mass terrorism, pandemics and social chaos.

"The movement's definitely growing," Rawles, manager of the site, told AFP by telephone from what he described as a survival-ready ranch "somewhere west of the Rocky Mountains."

Survivalists have a long history in the United States. But what used to be the preserve of anti-establishment loners, cultists and gun nuts has gone mainstream.

Government agencies are encouraging citizens to prepare evacuation plans and food supplies in case of myriad disasters.

Firearms, gold pieces, and long-storage food are reportedly flying off the shelves, and the Internet is flooded with sites like, where the like-minded exchange tips on everything from marksmanship to cheese making.

"We're seeing three times the number of readers we had just nine months ago," Rawles said.

"The cross section of the readership is changing too. Before, most of my readership was conservative Christians. We're seeing a lot more left of center."

Experts say sparks for this phenomenon include the 9/11 attacks of 2001, government incompetence during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and now recession: people are more afraid and less trusting in government.

The more radical survivalists are getting ready for what they call EOTWAA, the End-Of-The-World-Armageddon-Apocalypse, or the niftier SHTF, as in Shit Hits The Fan.

more at the link..

Posted by: annie | Jan 30 2009 21:04 utc | 17

The Left is, as far as I can tell, fragmented into thousands if not hundreds of thousands of personal vanity projects. These can be loosely stitched together to form an approximation of a ‘leftist’ quilt if and when things become so bloody ridiculous that some unity of voice and action is required. I was massively discouraged by the pro-Gaza rally in Burlington VT the other weekend – Burlington supposedly a hot-bed of red fervour, of course – in which a weak turn-out was distracted by SWP hacks selling their mags and chanting which didn’t really confront the issue at hand. It was, basically, a third-rate made-for-tv movie vision of ‘activism’ and as such, very depressing.

The same thing plays out in the pages of Kos and Huffington. So much satisfaction at the election of Obama, who for half these people could apparently been a dog on a unicycle as long as he wasn't GWB. Great division and moral outrage over Gaza, but a good percentage, possibly the majority, slanted towards Israel's side. An apparent disconnect between the concepts of activism and action.

I don’t have the answers. I’m at best a bad leftist and in any case others would no doubt label me an anarchist, which is fine by me. But with all respect to jclg and DoS above I was shocked but not surprised to find a discussion, on this thread and under the rubric of leftism, disapproving views on abortion and gay marriage. These are things that we on the left should not be haggling over. They should be taken for granted. These are extremely basic human rights and, as inherently Judeo-Christian issues are nothing to do with left-wing debate. The left in America seems fatally trapped by their urgent need to assemble, special issue by single issue, a completely inoffensive consensus. It’s probably old-fashioned and European of me, but my heart leaps when I see ordinary people on the streets of Paris, in their millions, UNITED in their disgust for the system. We in America seem to be dogs drunk on the taste of our own vomit: nothing so vile that it can’t be lapped up and called fois gras. If that can’t breed an honest, angry opposition, then I can’t imagine what can.

Posted by: Tantalus | Jan 30 2009 21:51 utc | 18

how about there is no "left" nor "right", not even a center.

the is "have" and "have not", and those that are slowly but surly falling into the "have not" category.

there is not even "antiwar" or "anti-police abuse" etc.,there is only protect me, don't war on me, and if you have to keep it far away.

in rural bavaria, farmhouses are often painted with patron saints. one of my favorite is St. Florian, patron saint of the fire dept. His prayer: Dear St. Florian, protect our house, burn the other one.
This is today's attitude of left, right and center.

By keeping the public busy discussing and fighting about pet issues like abortion (can't get pregnant? stfu), gay marriage (who gives a dime about who my neighbor is married to - haven't got anything else to do?), moral values (yours, mine, theirs? wtf), people forget about the larger issues, the outright theft of public money, corruption and abuse by state and police ,the official dumming down of their children etc. This is not left versus right, it is cynical play to keep the masses busy, and anyone with a braincell or two should be able to see it.

Look shiny object, and everyone goes ahhhhhhhhhh.
TV, Radio, Print, all show us what they want to sell us, not what is going to kill us. By keeping us in separate boxes, we will never unite. And that is the desired outcome.
There is nothing the selected elite scares more than a united populace.

so keep on looking for the left, the right, and the center, you won't be finding it. You just find "have" and "have not".

Posted by: sabine | Jan 30 2009 22:05 utc | 19

what is most incredible to me is that many palces are in a quasi insurrectionary state or ought to be & the left - the so-called vanguard left is doing everything but being a vanguard. it seems at a loss every bit as much as the ruling class

i linked the other day here to a site - a maoist site - & i thought it was a joke - or at least a conceptual art piece & i relaised it wasn't - so i wandered through just the maoist sites in america & what they lack for in a mass base they make up for with the refinement of their sites. i read of a split within what must be an infintismally samm grouplet by another & the documentation - like the 20th congress of the c p s u. i mean these extraordinary fantasies while outside the window we are living in one way or another something worse than the great depression

& i go back to the fiim of the coup against the bolivarian revolution & chavez - you could see how powerless were the comrades before such a crisis & you saw rqually the power of the people awakened - & what a beautiful force.

the highest beauty

i believe this crisis to be so great & so deep that there will be many many opportunities for the people to take control of their circumstance but at the same time there is an equal threat of fascism

(b real did you see that film)

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 30 2009 23:06 utc | 20

Oh god I wasn't gonna post on this because even here ar MoA we have the same disconnect between those who are leftists by experience and those who are leftists by some sort of intellectual process. On the surface nothing wrong with the method that takes you there, but in reality the 'intellectual' left have a poor or no understanding of a basic leftist tenet. SOLIDARITY.
That means that when a groups decides something you may be vehemently opposed to, you must become a vehement supporter of that which you previously opposed. Not because the left is centrist or that it is dictatorial, but because if you don't support the decision, one more schism is created for the rich and their lackeys who make up the enemy, to exploit.

Solidarity is the only thing that prevents divide and rule and yet it is breached almost daily, with a casual nonchalance "oh whatthefuck Bernard's wrong there - I'm gonna show him".
The classic example being when B gets subjected to attack from an outsider, someone unknown to the mass of the posters. Sure often it is something quite minor but that doesn't detract from the principle, and anyway we have seen these issues get blown up often enough to know that even the smallest things count.

It doesn't matter if the new poster is genuine or a troll, if you don't agree with b's opinion you can shut the fuck up, but sadly, the fact that some regulars in here will join with the outsider, even against the bloke who is making the talkspace available, tells me that too many people have no real experience of leftist action.

We can see amerika turn shia against sunni in Iraq or cracker against african-american in amerika and say "see divide and rule why do the silly fuckers let it happen", yet time and time again we enable exactly the same situation in here.

As far as the social issues - abortion, stem cell, gay marriage etc goes, most leftists I know support those positions, but not at the expense of a true change to society.

That is if the foundations of a new society have been properly built, all of the social issues which, some who hang on the left regard as "the most important' will come to pass eventually, but if a few of those issues are introduced without the underlying social change required to ensure that everyone gets a fair shake, then that cosmetic change should not be supported. Why?

Because in many cases these seeming sops to interest groups haven't been granted to advance ther cause anyhow.

All that has really happened is the current mob of crooks and greedheads have nodded to stem cells or gay marriage or whatever, precisely because they know it will divide their opposition.
Plus they get the added bonus of 'energising their base' getting even more people duped into going against their own best interests and spreading strauss's noble lie. Look how the half assed cosmetic changes of the last 25 years or so, introduced by 'liberals' not leftists, has enervated the enemy and created a new generation of the duped prepared to sell their future to win an irrelevance.

Many of these issues aren't just leftist issues, they are also the domain of liberal dilettantes, who the opposition is only to happy to carve off and turn against their former comrades.

Until leftists can comprehend that true change requires dedication and the sort of sacrifice that may require refusing something that feels like a personal victory, it will remain divided and leaderless.

But don't be fooled by the corporate media, there are still many leftists about. Take a look at Counterpunch subscriptions and its circulation and you'll see that it has a big following, primarily in amerika, but also around the planet. Counterpunch has survived chiefly, IMO, because it isn't a blog, Cockburn and St Clair have been careful not to provide a venue for the destruction of any residual solidarity.

Yet they still carry opposing views! That type of forum is something that few other leftist publications have managed to pull off for a long long time.

I betcha they cop heaps over the Palestinian issue, especially from the 'peaceniks everywhere but israel' faction, but have mostly stood firm without the sort of nasty vituperation that has come to characterise division on the left.

Myself, I would prefer it if they didn't carry articles from the israeli apologists like Uri Avnery, because deep down he still argues for a state of israel, and even if that state is far smaller and more benign that most of the other zionist models, by definition it would still be a racist state built on stolen land. However I know that arguing with Cockburn and st Clair on that issue would be futile and ultimately destructive. The likes of Uri Avnery is the price that Counterpunch must pay to ensure that Counterpunch cannot successfully be classed as 'anti-semitic' or Nazi or any of the other cliched pejoratives favoured by the jewish imperialists.

And destructive, because to attack Counterpunch on an editorial decision like that, would breach solidarity and be more of the usual - putting one's personal views ahead of the interests of the group.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jan 30 2009 23:36 utc | 21

Most professed leftists don't know anything about Marx and instinctively reject socialism.

There aren't many leftists, even among the ones who read Counterpunch.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 30 2009 23:43 utc | 22>Reading Marx's Capital with David Harvey.

Go for it!

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 30 2009 23:46 utc | 23

Given that the notion of 'left wing' preceded marx's old books by a couple of centuries why is that self-professed 'marxists' claim to have a monopoly on leftist thought? ie In their eyes if you're not an adherent of Karl Marx you can't be a leftist? Or even worse - not a 'real' leftist.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Jan 31 2009 1:17 utc | 24


i wouldn't worry about old sloth

he wouldn't know a peasant rebellion even if they rolled him up in a banner, i suspect he has no understanding of the agricultural revolts that preceded karl & frederich - marx for sloth - is stuck somewhere between the last moments in the dark cell of gramsci & the overlit seminar room of frederic jamieson - sloth's 'marxism' has as much to do with marx as the supreme court in the us has tp do with justice

that is to say, somewhere he flies solo - scribbling this & that treatise - on matters that are very far removed from the crimes of capital or the means to undo them - solidarity

when slothrop can speak openly of the crimes of capital as easily as he merges quite different & disparate contradictions within imperialism itself - then perhaps he can be given a fair hearing

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 31 2009 1:37 utc | 25

Having reread The Good Book with Harvey's lectures recently, I'm astounded how useful the text is in understanding the present collapse: the contradictions between financial sphere ("universal money") and the production of value in the economic sphere; the saliency of the quantity of labor theory of value (the proletariat has expanded twofold since 1990); the inequities of the limitless accumulation of capital and the limits on the expansion of the production of use-values; the tendential fall of the rate of profit (actually, vol. III); the inherent contradictions in the inflation of credit, and on & on.

Marx is not the epitome of leftist practice. There's not much normative stuff in Marx. But he's the best guide to understand Capital. Still.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 31 2009 1:45 utc | 26

And you have a leaky heart bleeding really shitty poetry.

That's about it.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 31 2009 1:49 utc | 27


from you, an honour

you would not know a poem from the rhetorical riddles you call theory but what i'd call aphasia - that is to say you remember very llittle & what you do remember is wrong

perhaps we will meet within the clinic's walls

all along the watchtower

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 31 2009 2:11 utc | 28

[ot: off troll]
sloth thing, you have been promoted to resident evil, if that may be...

Posted by: rudolf | Jan 31 2009 2:12 utc | 29

It has been literally months since I've heard you say anything other than ridicule or a maudlin selfpraise of your ineffable intelligence. Whatever, dude.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 31 2009 2:21 utc | 30

Oh. And the pain you suffer as you bear the weight of all suffering.

Oh! Whawahwah.

You hear that? Your mailman has arrived with your check. Cash it!

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 31 2009 2:40 utc | 31


what you might understand from even the most basic study of rhetoric - which my be beyond your ken - is that mimicr is a self defeating talent. i would try real analysis for a change - if i was you

even the scantiest readings of debs posts would tell you that even on one level alone(though there are many others), labour relations - that what he knows in practice you have never quite understood in theory. you are supposed to be a scholar but i never see a close reading on your part. never & it matters a great deal

you do not listen & you never have - that you conceive of dscourse within the terms of battle says a great deal about what arguing means to you

& as i've said here & to you in emails in the past - i do not feel insulted by you even when it is your obvious intention. i live in the world. perhaps you don't

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 31 2009 2:42 utc | 32

i, the poodle
by rememberinggiap

the checque will arrive, signed in the insatiable shit of our
\clemeseaus who sung like zarathustras stabbing their way through the sonne finding the kaiser dead in the terenches and the inimitable shtetls there and wandering further

to the east

ploushares of your dreams

conquest imperium the minotaur the golden thread

Intifada intifada. bloodfast in a womb not my mother
but the waxen idols of brittain, stain of brecht in the oblivion of the sonjg 'politician' i heardi heard in the flowershop on lsd. the broken pots. fortitude of clay. and i dreamed of doris day jamming among the touregs and a little of mitterand's brave poodle snapping at the broken monarch.

and then awake again. as to dream again. and exchange my check for the sustenance of my furies.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 31 2009 2:58 utc | 33

your 'rhetoric' slothrop is that of an orangutan & not a particularly intelligent specimen at that - but i suppose it will get you tenure & after all that is your primary aim after all is said & done

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 31 2009 3:10 utc | 34

And fuck you for your constant ridicule. And fuck your little sissy redoubt: "but but you never offer analysis'

fuck you. you goat.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 31 2009 3:50 utc | 35

Actually I'd quite like to engage in an informed (and informative, for me) debate about the place of Marx in Leftism, and more specifically his relevance in a post-industrial context, but out of interest, not for practical reasons.

But the question was, where's the Left? Apparently still counting angels dancing on pinheads.

Posted by: Tantalus | Jan 31 2009 4:02 utc | 36

I would too.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 31 2009 4:04 utc | 37

I have done alot of thinking about the 'left' lately. Going to make it short and sweet, my url is above for further discussion.

There are two ways to be more powerful: diminish your enemy or build your strength. I chose to build a greater 'left': that is, people before profits.

Revolution has to come from the people themselves. My 'left' is the point at which I can rehabilitate some consumer zombie who is just waking up - because scarcity has burst the bubble.

A halfway house for consumer zombies. But all talents are necessary to swing the balance the 'left' way. We must learn to work together.

Together we are stronger.

Thanks for the great blog.

Posted by: sheilanagig | Jan 31 2009 4:34 utc | 38


you two have the funniest war of words I've read in quite some time. I have to say I need a big dictionary to get any of what you two are saying, but is sure is fun seeing all those GRE words put to use.

I don't have a clue about you, but I can't help thinking of Felix and Oscar from the Odd Couple...

I think the left/right/up/down label shit has gotten carried away. The Chinese are humans, the French are humans even us americans are humans, in fact last time I checked, the whole damn planet had humans everywhere. And other than geography and color I think most of 'um eat, sleep, shit, piss, sweat, love, hate and experience most of the same highs and lows in life. Why the constant "us vs them", label, label, label, label, label, libel, light bulb, lalalalala...

Posted by: David | Jan 31 2009 4:50 utc | 39

Ok, there's about 5 distinct voices in here, that go in concert with each other at times, and AT each other, at times.

I'm thinkin, it's the same person, with the 5 voices.

You people just don't know when to back off. You've now outed yerself.


And yer all fuckin nutz, too, You. Not a LICK of sense in all your pseudo hipness of politics, class, or history.

What a crock of learned reality YOU profess.

Brendan, you don't write all this shit yerself, do ya? *G*

Posted by: | Jan 31 2009 4:55 utc | 40

Solidarity is important. You won't hear republicans making a reference to gays and lesbians as our brothers and sisters. There is a harsh purist tone used to describe Uri Averny as an apologist for Israel when he has called his own country a "blood-stained monster" or words to that effect and damns all extant leaders of that country. But his opposition to injustice is not considered sufficient unless he would willingly think his whole country under the cornfield, and undo its very existence. Well perhaps soon the Sioux will receive a deed for the Black Hills and the whitefellas will give NZ back to the Maori and at the same time unthink their country as well.

If we're just going to launch into these thought experiments, why not take it to its logical conclusion? But I digress.

We can't take for granted that the small changes, the rescinding of Bush's presidential orders, the new diplomatic openness will bring about a shift in the imperial process, if new policy signals a true downshift from the catastrophic to the merely awful; or as many here believe, it is nothing other than an ongoing manipulation or a ruse to hypnotize all who cannot live without some shred of hope.

Certainly the new political language in the White House is not centered in the Manichean construct that "you're either with us or you're against us". There are signals of investigation if not prosecution of the criminals of the previous administration. There's been testimony of the NSA spying on American reporters. The White House is an advocate for transparency and a strong singal has been sent that the Freedom of Information Act pipeline is going to be unclogged, which will open up vast areas for legal processes of discovery, so that normal jurisprudence can proceed.

I think it ought to be conceeded as to who qualifies as a member of the Left in this country. This is not France or Greece of course. But where an American frame of reference is concerned, someone who is not a corporatist or a corporate sympathizer, or who is not in their heart of hearts a fascist, or a Luddite, or a Luddite fascist, or a theocratic fascist, --anyone of that sort-- needs must be a card carrying member of the American Left.

I know that almost everyone here who writes on this subject, discounts where it's possible to discount, the cultural shift, the displacement of the Southern Strategy and emerging demographic realities, the public shift of temperment, which can be perceived in this country. But a model of being and an ugly political project was rejected by the American public in the recent election. This does not necessarily preclude the nation going to hell, but a least we have a shot at redeeming the society.

Posted by: Copeland | Jan 31 2009 5:14 utc | 41

from the catastrophic to the merely awful
we can't take for granted the small changes
this is not France or Greece of course
The White House is an advocate for transparency
why not take it to its logical conclusion?
solidarity is important
this does not necessarily preclude the nation going to hell

Posted by: Lizard | Jan 31 2009 5:35 utc | 42

from the catastrophic to the merely awful
we can't take for granted the small changes
this is not France or Greece of course
The White House is an advocate for transparency
why not take it to its logical conclusion?
solidarity is important
this does not necessarily preclude the nation going to hell

Posted by: Lizard | Jan 31 2009 5:36 utc | 43

And your point Lizard?

My point is that we don't know how this will end, that it is in our hands. This is not France or Greece, but there is evidence of progress, building an environment where solidarity can grow. Have you descended to ridicule , like sloth?

Posted by: Copeland | Jan 31 2009 5:49 utc | 44

the leftists in the usa right now are in the business class, for they are the only ones daily waging class struggle and reaping the benefits from socialism

the leftists in the usa right now are the neocons, engaging revolutions to topple powers throughout the world

the leftists in the usa right now are the neoliberals, constantly striving to materialize their own utopianism across spatial & geographic boundaries

of the likes of f fukuyama and his hegelian telos

Posted by: b real | Jan 31 2009 5:51 utc | 45

r'giap - i did not have the patience to watch memories of rain on babelgum. i searched elsewhere, but only found it pay-per-view. i'll try again this w/e

Posted by: b real | Jan 31 2009 5:55 utc | 46

And the right are the cultural gestapo, itching to inflict hideous conformity and legalize crime. Telos for them, the end and the outcome, are represented by sadism, and the assassination of people in their beds. Whores, wars, and the gulag.

Posted by: Copeland | Jan 31 2009 6:09 utc | 47

Oh Debs,

I surely must have not understood what you wrote about solidarity. my very short you was that in order to succeed the left must be exactly like the right and march in lockstep. the left is not to question the knowledge of it's leaders. to do otherwise means continually losing.

well, you lost me. I have no intentions of being a blind follower.

I want equal rights, equal access to basic human needs and some not so basic ones as well such as education and healthcare. I believe I have the right to own firearms. I believe I have the right to worship or not worship anyone I choose. I believe I need to take responsibility for my own actions. I do not put the needs of the elite over mine. I do not believe any people has the right to use the force of arms or economic might to cause others to behave differently. When ever I take those political compass tests I fall in the same quadrantas and very near to Ghandi. How can I believe all this and still not be a worthy leftist?

I do hope you will take the time to explain this to me, I have followed your writing for a couple of years now and am always taken by your insight and passion. but you really got me confused now.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 31 2009 10:42 utc | 48


Since when are education and healthcare not 'basic human rights?' And what do firearms have to do with anything? Especially Gandhi?

If you're saying you're a libertarian, just say it.

Posted by: Tantalus | Jan 31 2009 13:07 utc | 49


a close reading of marx is essential but slothrop's necessarily rather rudimentary understanding is not much help

finally it helps because it makes clear what is happening both at work & outside our windows

france has the fortune of having a relatively strong union movement & an asssociative life that means people are active at a local & often a specific level sometimes too specific

thatcher destroued the union movement once & for all - the left of the masses is more associative than organised

the left will have to win the trust of the people in this time & it can only do that by understanding well what is happening & leading the response to it

this crisis will be long - there is time for that to develop anew because it has to

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 31 2009 14:14 utc | 50

I find basic human rights to be those of, shelter, and safety from wolves. there are plenty of people who do not enjoy those things. you can only have health-care after those things are satisfied. nowhere in our constitution nor any state charter that I know of are citizens guaranteed free on-demand health-care and the same goes for education. education has always been reserved for the elites and I reject the idea of elites.

I said that I fell in the political compass near Gandhi. My opinion about owning guns may be against your ideals but i find it very troubling that anyone would turn over control of their lives to some other poorly defined authority. the first thing a totalitarian government does is take away the citizen's weapons.

I find many things about libertarianism conducive, I do not want government interference in my life. I do not want them to read my mail, listen to my phone calls, film me as I am walking on the street or driving on the road. If those are things you are comfortable with than apparently I have been hanging around the wrong bunch of people. I reject the libertarian ideals of no government as that simply means mob rule or some other chieftain who will seize power. there will always be leaders and followers, I think the better choice is for the followers to choose their leaders rather than the other way around.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 31 2009 15:54 utc | 51

Copeland 41, i agree we have a shot at redeeming the society. when you mentioned where an American frame of reference is concerned, someone who is not a corporatist or a corporate sympathizer, or who is not in their heart of hearts a fascist... reminds me of what sabine @47 on the hamas thread points out

solidarity - will happen if people stop stereotyping others into boxes of left/right, black/white, poor/rich and instead discover humanity and start recognizing themselves and others as menschen.

Posted by: annie | Jan 31 2009 16:30 utc | 52

speaking of menschen Rachel Maddow Show - Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld

gitmo prosecutor who resigned.

Posted by: annie | Jan 31 2009 17:02 utc | 53

The left is also moving in times of militarism and military adventures toward a peace movement that aims at radically transforming the priorities of the nation. Our peace movement is temporarily demoralized, but America has seen its real achievement before, won with blood and talented political organization, even though it may come unglued from time to time.

A movement of reconcilliation, along with union strength are in a fragmented condition, but bearing seeds of organization that have blossomed in the past and can be restored. Solidarity is not dead, and I don't see how the current administration has been elected without it. Everyone saw the huge, historic crowds present for the inauguration.

Whatever criticism I offer here for a failure of some to constructively engage with the new US administration, is not, and should not be interpreted as a means of justifying the new president. If the bar of conduct is set higher for the incoming government, this is to suggest that we should aim at challenging the new office holders, with the expectation that adjustments will be made, and that a give and take with public opinion can go forward.

I am not inclined toward reasons why Obama should be praised, but rather in compelling him and his people to live up to the higher expectations to which he's committed his presidency. I don't think it does a damn bit of good to simply hurl brickbats that are identical in every way to the ones hurled at the monstrous administation of Bush/Cheney.

The new president should be prepared for domestic political crisis to come at him in waves, and he will quickly discover that lofty rhetoric and "charm offensives" (as someone in the MSM put it) won't hold up to scrutiny.

The crisis headed his way over General Craddock's illegal order for Afghanistan, to kill everyone who might be growing opium poppies, reflects the larger crisis of Bush's holdover military appointments, and the cadre of Neanderthals who have migrated up the chain of command, and mirror Pentagon objectives, which are wired up to those Generals and other high brass, and the routine approval of operations that kill civilians.

Some military figures should be relieved of command or retired or reassigned to duty posts where they can do no harm. This is shaping up to be Obama's first real crisis, and the first crucial test of his judgment under pressure. If he doesn't assert leadership here, he will never put his stamp of tenure on the office of president, and the administration cannot truly become his own.

Posted by: Copeland | Jan 31 2009 17:13 utc | 54


If you believe that your personal rights to absolute freedom (presumably within some sort of self-imposed moral framework) transcend all other considerations and most particularly the common good, then you are not on the left. If you believe that education is only for the elites then you are not on the left. If you believe that universal access to free or universally affordable health care is not a basic right you are not on the left. If you believe that gun control and abortion trump health care and education you are not on the left.

This does relate to b's question, as many who place themselves on the left do so because they see it as the flimsy rubric under which they can have their ideological cake and eat it, as long as it's just in theory.

Posted by: Tantalus | Jan 31 2009 18:15 utc | 55


u s imperialism is the primary enemy of a living humanity. it is being defeated militarily, economically & politically. we are living in a historic moment. the dominance of us imperialism has caught all its akkies, lackeys & servants with their pants down & i imagine we will see more of what has been happening in iceland. because the organised left has deserted the people in the west - the people themselves will have to create the formations which meet the needs & that will be both complex & full of contradiction. there will be the constant threat of facism & war & while the struggle is continuing there will be the attempts to concentrate wealth in fewer & fewer hands

as a person you must be exemplary in such circumstances & to be able to create initiative but there must be a profound listening to the people

the crisis is only going to deepen so the transformative possibilities are open but i sense they will always be outside the parliamentary process. in our time the parliamentary process will be comprimised by its mostly public corruption

on the military front - contrary to the myth & the new myths of obama - imperialism & its allies are suffering inconceivable defeats. i cannot see how they can get from under that unless we enter a generalised war. the rapidity of events both weaken capital & strengthen the people but there are constant dangers

reformism will not be up to fulfilling even the minimum of people's demands & i believe historically that is the first time that has happened. it is not the great depression. it is worse & public programmes will not even take in the surface turbulence of the people

it needs to be seen in context that in the west - the people have been constantly vanquished in their real desires & demands. they have literally been under attack constantly & the reforms that were made possible by the popular will after the 2nd world war have been stripped away daily

i am optimistc because the situation is irrevocable & implacable & there have been the possibilities shown to us by latin america & they are applicable, more than applicable - they seem the only way to keep 'society' intact

i hear the commentaries coming out of davos & they are talking about 2010-11 - they are either liars or out of the cotton pickin' minds because it is clear the most stupid of us that we are at the very, very beginning. in europ - the youth are mobilised & it is no surprise as they are watching their possible future disintegrating before their very eyes

these events we are living through are terrifying but it is a privilege to be living through this history

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 31 2009 19:20 utc | 56

[email protected]

I'll try and answer this for you simply, at least how it relates to me. DoS sounds like he and I think a bit alike (not to insult you DoS) and so this may be what he's writing.

It's hard, as a self-regulated human being, to buy into all the beliefs espoused by either, right or left. Life is too complicated to split into two sides and blindly say, these beliefs are the only proper beliefs to have.

If you believe that your personal rights to absolute freedom (presumably within some sort of self-imposed moral framework) transcend all other considerations and most particularly the common good, then you are not on the left. What does this mean?

What and who defines common good? Does the head lemming decide it's for the "common good" to start leaping to ones death? This is the sort of statement that worrys me about all political groups. All repression against individuals is done for the "common good." Walmarts have city councils change laws that benefit walmart because walmart is able to prove it benefits more consumers than someone whose property it condemns, and hence is done for the "common good"

Thomas Jefferson said it simply, "as long as it doesn't break my arm or pick my pocket, do what you will. " With this statement he americanized a gnostic way of thinking which was around before Jesus. All political debate can begin with the two sides contemplating his words before arguing the merits of their case vs their neighbors.

As for the comments on MoA, I find them neither weighted to the left or the right, but from people asking and seeking honest questions about the political realities we live in. There are days a particular writer post something to the left of left and by their next post, writes like rush limpdick on an Oxycotin high.

All political people want their cake and eat it too. If you want to have some fun, attend a big libertarian function in your area. A libertarian functions is a family reunion of all the political black sheep.

The parking lot will have survivalist trucks, hippy VW buses, BMWs and several nondescript american-made cars. Inside there will be Knife Guy (big long one on his belt), Gun Guy (big powerful one on his belt), Hippy Guy (big phat one in his wallet), Business Guy (big PDA on his belt) as well as several other kooks, crazies and oddballs present.

What is striking is how these humans, who would seem to have very different viewpoints, are able to come together to find a common ground, a starting place to define what a government's roll should be. And the only argument that seems to satisfy the most people is to reduce government's size – "I'll quit asking the government to help me get an abortion, if you quit asking it to help you kill foreign adults."

The state may sometimes protect the weak from the powerful, something I doubt; but if the state is powerful enough to fight power, who's there to protect an individual from a powerful state?

Posted by: David | Jan 31 2009 19:21 utc | 57

I think Tantalus is trying to pick a fight with me. not sure why. In my comment to Debs asking if he indeed expects "leftists" to be bleating sheep I stated I want equal rights, equal access to basic human needs and some not so basic ones as well such as education and healthcare, does that allow me to be in the leftist camp? I stated quite clearly that I also believe abortion should be legal though rare as a little planning can remove the majority of the oops abortions. trying to clarify why education and healthcare are not basic rights (see Maslow's hierarchy of needs) it all gets twisted around.

I call foul. four legs good, two legs bad.

no offense taken whatsoever David, thanks for saying what I would have if I could write.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 31 2009 20:17 utc | 58

and BTW Tantalus, you seem to fit the description of red family.

how do you like them apples!

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 31 2009 20:21 utc | 59

"in fact last time I checked, the whole damn planet had humans everywhere."
Therein lies the major problem facing humanity for the foreseeable future...which isn't all that foreseeable anymore.

"Why the constant "us vs them""
That would be the worthless, soulless ruling class keeping the populace at large confused, frazzled, suspicious, self-centered, amnesiac, unable to connect the dots, seeing spots in front of their eyes, unhealthy, given to low self-esteem, divided along all sorts of lines...that is the plan, the plan is working, the population will be begging to be saved by the "government" who will be only to obliging to save us all from ourselves. People we can't stand. Our own worst enemy.

Posted by: James Crow | Jan 31 2009 20:54 utc | 60

Yes, yes, of course I meant "too obliging"...geez lay off you MPDs.

Posted by: James Crow | Jan 31 2009 20:55 utc | 61

re the subject of identifying rights, since david harvey has come up in this thread, here is his "preferred short-list of universal rights worthy of attention" "as meaningful ideals upon which to let our imaginations roam as we go to work as insurgent architects of our future":

1. The right to life chances

This entails a basic right to sustenance and to elemental economic securities. Food security would be the most basic manifestation of such rights, but a general system of entitlements -- as Sen (1982) would call them -- is also fundamental. This re-affirms the UN Declaration (Article 23, Section 3) that 'everyone has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.' The universal right to a 'living wage' and to adequate social security is one way to both demand and problematize such a universal package of rights.

2. The right to political association and 'good' governance

Individuals must have the right to associate in order to shape and control political institutions and cultural forms at a variety of scales (cf. Articles 20 and 21 of the UN Declaration). The presumption is that some adequate definition can be found for properly democratic procedures of association and that collective forms of action must offer reasonable protections to minority opinions. The presumption also exists that some definition of 'good' governance can be found, from the local to the global level. Here, too, the demand highlights problems and diferences (the definition of 'good governance' is far from homogeneous) at the same time as it takes up universalizing claims. But individuals plainly should have rights to produce their own spaces of community and inscribe their own rules therein, even as limitations on such rights become critical to restrict the narrow exclusions and the internal repressions to which communitarianism always tends.

3. The rights of the direct laborers in the process of production

The rights of those who labor to exercise some level of individual and collective control over labor processes (over what is produced as well as over how it shall be produced) is crucial to any conception of democracy and freedom. Long-standing concerns over the condition of labor and the right of redress in the event of unreasonable burdens or sufferings (such as those that result in shortened life expectancy) need to be reinforced on a more global scale. This entails a demand for the radical empowerment of the laborer in relation to the production system in general (no matter whether it is capitalist, communist, socialist, anarchist, or whatever). It also highlights respect for the dignity of labor and of the laborer within the global system of production, exchange, and consumption (on this point, at least, a variety of Papal Encyclicals as well as the UN Declaration provide supportive materials).

4. The right to the inviolability and integrity of the human body

The UN Declaration (Articles 1 to 10) insists on the rights to the dignity and integrity of the body and the political person. This presumes rights to be free from the tortures, incarcerations, killings, and other physical coercions that have so often been deployed in the past to accomplish narrow political objectives. The right of women to control their own reproductive functions and to live free of coercions and violence (domestic, cultural, and institutionalized) must also lie at the core of this conception. Violence against women and the subservience of women to patriarchal and paternalistic systems of domination has become a major issue for which universal rights claims have become deeply plausible and compelling.

5. Immunity/destabilization rights

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, according to the UN Declaration (Articles 18 and 19). On this point the Declaration is definitive and clear. But I here think Unger's (1987b, 524-34) argument for a system of immunity rights that connects to a citizen's rights to destabilize that which exists is even stronger, for it insists on the right to critical commentary and dispute without fear of retaliation or other loss. Is is only through the exercise of such rights that society can be both re-imagined and re-made (Unger's arguments on this point are persuasive).

6. The right to a decent and healthy living environment

From time to time legislation in particular countries has predicated on the right of everyone to live in a decent and healthy living environment, one that is reasonably free from threats and dangers and from unnecessary hazards (particularly those produced through human activities, such as toxic wastes, dirty air, and polluted waters). The spreading cancers of environmental injustice throughout the world and the innumerable consequences for human health and well-being that flow from environmental degradations (both physical and social) indicate a terrain where the proper establishment of universal rights is imperative, even if it is surely evident that the meaning, interpretation, and application of such rights will be difficult to achieve.

7. The right to collective control of common property resources

The system of property rights by which capitalism has typically asserted its universalizing claims (actively supported in Article 17 of the UN Declaration) is widely understood as both defective and in some instances destructive with respect to our physical and social world. This is nowhere more apparent than in instances of common property resources (everything from genetic materials in tropical rain forests to air, water, and other environmental qualities including, incidentally, the rights to control built environments for historical, cultural, or aesthetic reasons). The definition of such resources and the determination of who is the 'collective' in whose name rights of control will be vested are all deeply controversial issues. But there are widespread arguments now for alternative systems of property rights to those implied in a narrowly self-serving and myopic structure of private property rights that fail to acknowledge any other form of public or collective interest to that given through a pervasive market (and corporation-dominated) individualism.

8. The rights of those yet unborn

Future generations have a claim upon us, preferably to live in a world of open possibilities rather than of foreclosed options. The whole rhetoric of sustainable environmental development rests on some sense (however vague and undefined) of responsibilities and obligations that stretch beyond the ken of our own immediate interests. In extremis, this right also recognizes our volitional role in the evolutionary process and our responsibilities not only to our own species but also to the innumerable others whose prospects for survival depend upon our actions (see Item 11).

9. The right to the production of space

The ability of individuals and collectivities to 'vote with their feet' and perpetually seek the fulfillments of their needs and desires elsewhere is probably the most radical of all proposals. Yet without it there is nothing to stop the relative incarceration of captive populations within particular territories. If, for example, labor had the same right of mobility as capital, if political persecution could be resisted (as the affluent and privileged have proven) by geographical movement, and if individuals and collectivites had the right to change their locations at will, then the kind of world we live in would change dramatically (this principle is stated in Article 14 of the UN Declaration). But the production of space means more than merely the ability to circulate within a pre-ordained spatially structured world. Is also means the right to reconstruct spatial relations (territorial forms, communicative capacities, and rules) in ways that turn space from an absolute framework of action into a more malleable relative and relational aspect of social life.

10. The right to difference including that of uneven geographical development

The UN Declaration (Articles 22 and 27) states that everyone should be accorded 'the economic, social and cultural rights indispensible for his dignity and free development of his personality' while also pointing to the importance of the right 'freely to participate in the cultural life of the community' and the receive protection of 'the moral and material interests resulting from scientific, literary or artistic production.' This implies the right to be different, to explore differnces in the realms of culture, sexuality, religious beliefs, and the like. But it also implies the right for different group or collective explorations of such differences and, as a consequence, the right to pursue development on some territorial and collective basis that departs from established norms. Uneven geographical development should also be thought of as a right rather than as a capitalistically imposed necessity that diminishes life chances in one place in order to enhance them elsewhere. Again, the application of such a principle in such a way that it does not infringe upon others in negative ways will have to be fought over, but the statement of such a principle, like that of a living wage, provides a clear basis for argument. The recent UN extension of cultural rights (particularly those specified in Article 27 of the original UN Declaration) to encompass those of minorities (cf. Phillips and Rosas, 1995) provides an initial opening in this direction.

11. Our rights as species beings

This is, perhaps, the vaguest and least easily specifiable of all rights. Yet it is perhaps the most important of them all. It must become central to debate. If we review our position in the long history of biological and social evolution, then plainly we have been and continue to be powerful evolutionary agents. If we are now entering a phase of volitional and conscious interventions in evolutionary processes (interventions that carry with them enormous risks and dangers), then we must necessarily construe certain universals to both promote and regulate the way we might engage upon such interventions. We all should have the right to freely explore the relation to nature and the transformative possibilites inherent in our species being in creative ways. This means the right to explore the possibility of different combinations of our evolutionary repertoire -- the powers of cooperation, diversification, competition, the production of nature and of different dimesionalities to space and time. But that right to free experimentation (made much of by Unger) must also be tempered by duties, responsibilities, and obligations to others, both human and non-human, and it most certainly must accord strong protections against the potential powers of a non-democratic elite (or a capitalist class) to push us down technological, social, and evolutionary pathways that represent narrow class interests rather than human interests in general. Any concept of 'species interests' will inevitably be riven by rampant divisions of class, gender, religion, culture, and geography. But without some sense of where our common interests as species might lie, it becomes impossible to construct any 'family of meanings' to connect or ground the incredible variety of partial claims and demands that make our social world such an interestingly divided place. On this point Naess and Rothenberg (1989, 164-70) have much to offer, by insisting that 'the universal right to self-unfolding' is related to the recognition of that same right across all species, and that 'the unfolding of life' in general is as important as the unfolding of our own personal trajectories of self-discovery and development.

from spaces of hope, 2000, pp. 248-52

Posted by: b real | Jan 31 2009 21:13 utc | 62

corrected -> spaces of hope

Posted by: b real | Jan 31 2009 21:21 utc | 63

I wasn't trying to pick a fight with you, DoS - you're one of this place's assets. I was trying to get into a debate about what constitutes 'the Left,' and as you brought up issues that are inherently conservative I challenged you on them. I think it's interesting that you and David both see this thing in terms of libertarianism. Perhaps that's where the Left is - it isn't for me, and personally I find my own concepts of personal freedom threatened by libertarian ideals, but, you know, horses for courses. If you libertarians think you're on the Left, I guess the terrain needs some re-examination.

Re 'red family/blue family,' nothing could be further from the truth, by the way, though on a cursory reading I disagreed with his entire premise.

I believe in community. That means, I suppose, that I'm in favour of government, and having gone that far, a government that is effective at providing, in return for my labour or other contributions, the means for me to live a fulfilled, safe and healthy life. Is that government a national thing? Local? The community itself? I don't know. I'm trying to answer these questions for myself. But as r'giap points out, association is vital, and solidarity even more so. You can't build a community, much less a society, if its based on nothing more significant than mediating between individuals' pet wants and desires.

Posted by: Tantalus | Jan 31 2009 22:03 utc | 64

I suppose you should know my origins. I was born and raised on a small farm in North Dakota. we were quite poor yet we ate and were warm and dry. we never wanted handouts from the government and kind of felt sorry for those who really needed them. when people were in trouble because of accidents or bad health, everyone would pitch in and help the guy out, whether it was milking the cows so they could attend a funeral or putting up a barn because theirs caught fire.

Where I come from a man's word is something you can take to the bank. Since then of course I have had the misfortune of meeting all kinds of slime but have also met many really great people, some of the greatest right here at Moon of Alabama.

the one thing that has dominated my life and caused me a lot of grief is my reluctance to be bossed around. If that means I am a libertarian then I guess I have to wear that label.

I thought that I believed in community too. I think that laws and rules should apply equally to everyone and privilege might only be afforded to the old.

You can't build a community, much less a society, if its based on nothing more significant than mediating between individuals' pet wants and desires.

seems to me that is exactly what you do. that would be life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All you need is a glue to hold those folks together. there are many glues; religion, nationalism, sport, bread and circuses, and of course fear. I submit we have all of those things with a lot of emphasis on the fear part.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 31 2009 22:59 utc | 65

DoS-the one thing that has dominated my life and caused me a lot of grief is my reluctance to be bossed around. If that means I am a libertarian then I guess I have to wear that label.

You don't have to wear the libertarian label if you don't want to either:) I certainly don't wear it or any label. I try to go out into the world as naked of labels as I can. When I was younger I was firmer in my convictions because they had never been tested. Those days, I wore so many labels, I thought I was a race car driver.

I've slowly been trying to find the labels on me and peel them off. They're like gauze covering a mummy and they are too restrictive for expanding my thinking.

There are too many people looking to wear other people's labels, these poor folks, impoverished for their own original ideas, go and find second-hand ones to wrap around their beliefs, never minding if the fit is poor or threadbare of substance.

A strong community is created from strong individuals. Damn there's the doorbell. I'll try and finish this in a bit. sorry.

Posted by: David | Jan 31 2009 23:32 utc | 66

A couple of points

'1. War in Afghanistan' - I really don't like this possibility.
'2. Paulson's version of TARP where taxpayers buy all bad assets
3. Slash social security and Medicare
4. Tax Cuts
5. No Comprehensive Health Care, but huge subsidies for Health Insurance companies instead.'

So this has all been finalised eh? No? Then it's supposition, right? A worst case scenario made real in someone's mind by imaginings of how scary it all is.

The left in America has to compete with an insidious propaganda campaign that started many decades ago. Say Communism, socialism, taxes or regulation in the US and you will produce (not funny) hysterical reactions i.e. Left = totalitarian control. The picture of 'communism' as practised in Russia and it's satelites is infinitely horrifying to Americans because they see how savagely brutal the 'authorities' (police, courts)in their own country are already.

Those of us who see the left as humane, community minded, ecologically aware etc are confronted by this anxiety every time we suggest a proposal to address a problem e.g. 'peace not war?' "Shut up you communist! You're a terrorist sympathiser."

Everybody here knows of the bail out banks meeting where "Donations of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to Republican senatorial campaigns were needed, they argued, to prevent America from turning "into France." The incident is one small aspect of the Machiavellian efforts of the right/capitalist faction.

So, the myriad of insanely complicated problems faced by president Obama require sweeping, subtle and arcanely effective political manoueverings that I suggest cannot be properly analysed here as of yet. Commenters who are willing to condemn this administration to failure within the first week or so of its tenure are obviously willing it to fail so as to reinforce their cynical world view. This also applies to those constructing lists of false conclusions with one likely element.

Oh and Annie ...Q -"what kind of 'anti war left' approves of war to protect israel?" A -None. This has been another episode of simple answers....

Posted by: waldo | Feb 1 2009 0:31 utc | 67

I went away from here yesterday precisely because I didn't want to get involved in the usual stuff but I was disturbed to see that DoS interpreted solidarity to mean 'being a blind follower' when I said "when a group decides something you may be vehemently opposed to, you must become a vehement supporter of that which you previously opposed. I also went on to say that the group wasn't centrist or dictatorial, hoping I guess, that most would infer that a leftist group in the tradition of most leftist groups, ranging from some of the great trade unions to the smallest most pedantic collection of trotskyists, use democratic practises to arrive at their decisions.

My statement was that once the decison has been arrived at, solidarity proscribes that all members of the group should follow the decision, even if they voted against it.

Now this to me seems to be so self-evident as to require no explanation, for this is exactly the model that most societies require. I have a lot of issues with the way that most democratic nation states have perverted democratic practises, but the fact remains most societies depend on people following rules they don't always agree with.

Until leftists can demonstrate that same self discipline, they are effectively little more than dilettantes.
If one joins an organisation voluntarily, reaps whatever benefits accrue with belonging, then one should be prepared to abide by the organisation's decisions, yet I have wasted many hours of my life which I will never get back, explaining to people that just as they would have expected others to support their position had it got up, they must support decisions they don't like.

If there is one issue that has wrecked the labour movement it is this. The trouble can start with the fact that 'intellectual leftists' who often have little real experience of deprivation end up in the professional positions in a union and they sometimes create a divisive atmosphere when workplaces who are roused about a particular issue are causing them difficulties with some other 'big picture' issue such as a union merger or industry wide settlement.

This divisiveness, corrupts solidarity and creates a feeling within some workplaces particularly bourgois ones, that majority decisions need not be supported, for example that one can choose not to withdraw one's labour if a mortgage payment is due.

The notion of bourgeois organised workplaces appears contradictory but let's face facts, few members of the working class still have active and strong unions in 'western democracies' any more - unionised workplaces are the province of nurses, teachers, or other technically skilled workers. Unfortunately the notion of solidarity appears an anathema to many bourgeois members. Yet every time humanity has 'won' - made an advance against the oppressor it has been precisely because they have all stuck together.

There is nothing sheeplike in agreeing to work together to achieve common goals and yet so many seem to think there is.

I used the example of b. because there are issues b and I don't see eye to eye on, and if there is no danger to the underlying solidarity of the site I do engage with b about those issues. On the other hand if b has just put a mob of work into a post, has put it up for us to discuss, but before we do some passing anon, troll or newbie to MoA, drops an invective filled response at the top of the comments section, there is only one thing to do - whether or not I agree with b.

That is to climb into that poster boots and all. I will do the same if I find other regulars under attack although not perhaps with the same energy.

Yet there are others who sometimes seem to me, to regard these threads as being about 'winning' some long running competition over who is the most right or something. I don't know, what I do know is that joining in with a stranger on often personal attacks against someone that is known, if only virtually, does not indicate that the poster would be able to stand firm if there was a real struggle.

We all have our moments where passion overtakes civility, but solidarity isn't about civility, it is about survival, that means basic no go areas have to be fixed in the minds of anyone who really wants to effect change.

This exact same issue used to occur at the Whisky bar and there were many more differences in my opijnion and billmon's but that didn't give me the right to flame him, yet others seem to believe they had that right. They put their need to 'win' even if it meant using personal attacks, ahead of the group's need for a forum to develop and express ideas.

I have tried not to make this post seem like it is directed at any individual, because it isn't. From time to time I noticed that a range of different posters allowed their views to become more important than they should have, probably myself included and that is despite a conscious effort for that not to happen.

I'm not surprised that some cannot agree on the need for solidarity because so many have had their minds filled with pap about individuality being the most important attribute of humanity.

Yet those who exploit that culture of individuality they have helped inculcate, never baulk at subsuming personal goals if it advances their cause long term. If I say cartels or monopolies many will let the cliche fly past unconsidered. How about this then?

Yesterday afternoon I decided to read up on the machinations that went on amongst the bankers of amerika and europe in order to found the amerikan Federal Reserve, as I read, I learned about the two week meeting of the 7 or 8 people who at the time, owned at least 20% of the assets of the entire planet. Many will be more familiar with this than I. These powers met at Jekyll Island, which is off the coast of Georgia, I think.

Google and read up on that yourself. Discover how it was that some of the leading spruikers of individuality such as the Rockerfellers, Warbergs and Rothschilds have stuck together in great solidarity, from 1911 until today.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 1 2009 1:18 utc | 68

@ Copeland nobody said anything about all israelis having to up sticks and leave Palestine, but the state of Israel has been founded on the basis of one religion and cannot be supported,
But his opposition to injustice is not considered sufficient unless he would willingly think his whole country under the cornfield, and undo its very existence.

Why introduce some irrelevant and emotive term such as 'unthink'? When the entire Jordan Valley returns to one single state the same process of decolonisation which has occurred in many other states where the majority regain control, will occur in Palestine.

As far as Aotearoa or NZ goes I don't know about unthink but I have been an activist for and a passionate supporter of the process NZ has been going through,(albeit too slowly for my taste) where the foundations of the nation are being changed to better reflect Tangata Whenua rights.

Interestingly the staunchest opponents to getting rid of the english monarchy as NZ's head of state (in reality the head of state is the king or queen's representative, the governor general who is appointed by NZ's elected govt, but theoretically the english monarch could over rule) are Maori who don't want that change to be made yet lest it weaken the power of the Treaty of Waitangi signed in 1840 between most Tangata Whenua tribes and the english crown.

Although Maori aren't in the majority at the moment, the MMP political structure makes it virtually impossible for any party to hold power without the support of Maori. As well as Maori members of parliament in the 'general' electorates, there are also a number of seats directly proportional to the percentage of Tangata Whenua in the population, 'reserved' for Maori to ensure that the treaty signatories are always represented.

I'm sure the new tory governments supporters hate this but since that government depends upon the Maori party for support and the tory MPs are politicians, they have put their power over the interests of their voters. So good to see the boot on the other foot for a change.

Land and other assets wrongfully taken are being returned although thus far the emphasis has been on publicly owned assets (of which there is a huge amount - this is not tokenistic stuff).

The unjustly acquired private holdings, most of which stem from a very ugly period of NZ's history from about 1860 to 1900, are taking longer to be returned but I have no doubt they eventually will be.

I have always taken considerable effort to ensure anything I have bought in NZ was obtained fair and square as have many others, the same should be true in the Jordan Valley, where the acquisitions occurred far more recently and the information is much easier to access.

People should always check this stuff out before purchase, no matter where they live, because even if their ethical obligation doesn't get them, the law may eventually do so.

Surely that basic rule of law ie that a thief cannot sell what he doesn't own, since the thief didn't own the legal title in the first place, the new purchaser doesn't have title to the land either, should apply to land in the temporary state of Israel as it does everywhere else?

I'm not going to pretend that all these injustices have been ironed out in NZ or that they all will be, but what has happened thus far demonstrates that the obstacles to a just return are not insurmountable, even where they go back over a century, and that eventually peaceful settlement can be made.

In fact this should be even easier in Palestine since the Palestinians will be in the majority in the eventual single state so pols will have the power to make doing the right thing quickly much easier.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 1 2009 1:20 utc | 69

@debs is dead

I appreciate your response #69. I find myself in agreement with you about solidarity being related to survival (as you describe in #68), and solidarity is more than an intellectual construct or the political convenience of the moment. Thanks for explaining about the power sharing in NZ. The Israelis could have a one state solution or that two state solution so many people talk about; and I think the Palestinians would agree to either model, if they ended up with political rights and representation in some government they could call their own.

In a one state solution the Israelis would have to give up what they think of as their birthright, the entitlement they believe is implicit in their covenant with the God of Israel. This is heady stuff and in the one state model they would have to release deeply held religious convictions. In the two state solution they would only be releasing a modest parcel of real estate to the Palestinians, agreeing to mutual recognition and a peace pact between the two states.

The action of Israeli governments casts doubt upon their good faith in approaching either outcome. The one state model they reject because they would give up the idea of Israel, a people who struggle with God on land deeded to them by God. And in the two state solution they won't give up some of the land for peace either, because they are against giving up choice parts of that land to a contiguous Palestine. It would appear that the vastly stronger Israel prefers keeping the Palestinians as subjects or economic vassals, to deeding over any of the land to them, or giving them autonomy in their political affairs.

I'm sorry if I came on too strong over your comment about Uri Avnery; but I've been reading more of his posts lately and he doesn't strike me as an apologist for Israel, nor does it seem that Counterpunch is paying some kind of price for letting him come on side. I just thought the way you characterized him was unfair.

Posted by: Copeland | Feb 1 2009 2:59 utc | 70

Debs #68:

Yesterday afternoon I decided to read up on the machinations that went on amongst the bankers of amerika and europe in order to found the amerikan Federal Reserve, as I read, I learned about the two week meeting of the 7 or 8 people who at the time, owned at least 20% of the assets of the entire planet. Many will be more familiar with this than I. These powers met at Jekyll Island, which is off the coast of Georgia, I think.

Google and read up on that yourself. Discover how it was that some of the leading spruikers of individuality such as the Rockerfellers, Warbergs and Rothschilds have stuck together in great solidarity, from 1911 until today.

and # 69

that basic rule of law ie that a thief cannot sell what he doesn't own, since the thief didn't own the legal title in the first place, the new purchaser doesn't have title to the land either, should apply to land in the temporary state of Israel as it does everywhere else?


Posted by: plushtown | Feb 1 2009 3:07 utc | 71

Thanks Debs (@68). The whole theme of individuality trumping solidarity, and the whole notion of individual responsibility and self-reliance, of the pulling oneself up by the bootstraps kind, reminds me much too sharply of the first years under Maggie Thatcher, as she destroyed socialism in the UK in the name of 'freedom of choice.'

Also Waldo, great post except for the bit about putting complete trust in Obama, so I'll just ignore that bit, if that's OK with you.

David, I'm not sure where gnosticism fits in with all of this. The whole premise of the gnostic religions was that material existence is an illusion, best endured by morally directed communal living.

DoS, thanks for your story. I also grew up poor, but in a socialist (until Thatcher came along) country. Most of my family were/are socialists. Ditto my teachers and the majority of my friends and acquaintances. I don't suppose we were in any important way different from you, except that we didn't pay for doctors' visits. And as for state control, I suggest you check out social unrest in the UK in the 1970s. The heavy state control only came in with the bunch who made the most noise about small government, ie the Tories, who as they privatized infrastructure and industry so that we could have 'choice,' nationalized our private lives with things like Section 28. Nowadays socialism is so systemically misunderstood in the US that, as Waldo points out, it has become virtually impossible to explain it to most people.

Posted by: Tantalus | Feb 1 2009 3:34 utc | 72

Tantalus, Contrary to your comment about Gnostics being into communal living, many were and are solitary thinkers, more into a "live and let live belief system." You can check it out for yourself;Gnostics

A question that needs to be answered when talking about land rights is; which culture is the eventual proto-culture that should inherit a particular chunk of dirt? At what distant generation do you stop?

In america, we pretty much did away with the local natives. There are still a few tucked into corners of the country where they were pushed generations ago. Back then, the invaders could never have dreamed of the mineral wealth contained under some of the god forsaken dirt they expected the natives to quietly die on.

There are a mess of messy questions we can raise regarding native rights. How about the way our wonderful government can't account for where all the money is from the trust fund set-up to distribute royalties from mineral leases on native land? I can get as angry as anyone regarding native rights... but there does come that confusing question of who owns any land? And at what generation, which tribe, do you favor with that starting point of ownership?

As a final thought, does anyone still believe the government can solve all the world's problems? The world right now has the biggest damn governments it's ever seen. They have the most resources available to use; Armies and weapons and parliaments, senates, leaders and ambassadors...Money, enough to do what ever the powerful need doing. Where has this led?

Honestly, I'd love honest socialism. Unfortunately I'm too pessimistic about human nature to expect it to work. So instead, I go the route of political anarchy, my reason being is that most problems in the world are created at the institutional level and not the personal level.

As much as we like to think we humans have evolved away from animals, most of our actions are still done from an animal's perspective, regardless of how bourgeois we may think we are.

I guess to make this fit the thread, I'd sum this up and say, there never really was a "true" left in america. The have been moments where workers or youth have forced change, but mostly in scattered pockets around the country. There has never been a national movement of socialism that stuck around very long before the two parties shut it down.

Left isn't much different than Patagonia or Prius as far as labels go. They are all trying to sell a product by associating it with a lifestyle choice, as opposed to actual action.

Actions that bring change don't begin with any one group, but happen when everyone can see an injustice and demand it needs to be changed. Unfortunately, to get people to see the problem, they need a charismatic leader to put the words into an idea the population can understand in their hearts. Guys who can do this usually sell out for money.

You can't really blame them, the Jesus gig never seems to end all that well.

Posted by: David | Feb 1 2009 5:10 utc | 73

David, I appreciate your lines,">">lines, and I think I know where you are coming from. I even agree with you on many of your stated opinions, this being one of them:

The big problem with resources is that they are miss-managed and wasted.
But from where I am standing, in order for this miss-management of resources to come to an end, we the consumers in the west must be prepared to do our bit, which includes readjusting our expectations.

A pound of coffee at fair trade value would cost more than what we currently get it for. If we care about the people breaking their backs in the plantations, wish for them to have the same standards of education, healthcare and big screen TVs as we claim for our days work, then brother we have to pay for the goods they produce a decent amount of money, enough to generate the revenue for those third and second world communities to eventually reach our levels (if they so desire, but that’s beside the point).

Exploitation means that someone is gaining unfairly at the loss of someone else, and I am afraid to tell you, but that’s what is happening every time we go shopping or fill up our cars. I am not sure how much you are earning an hour, but imagine for a second the child working in Ecuador’s banana fields getting as much. How much would we have to pay for a bunch?

I feel it is an important point, in trying to win public opinion, to not paint a picture of scarcity, not to make the average guy feel like he's got to lose so some other poor guy can win.

If we want to address the global imbalance of wealth in a meaningful way, the average guy you’re referring to, the one you reckon ought not to be scared with notions of him having to tighten the belt somewhat to help his poor cousin in the developing world, will have to pay more, and do so willingly. And it’s not the scarcity of resources that would cause the price increase; it is the fair value that must be paid for human labour and the compensation for loss of land and people’s environment.

The western Left is largely up in arms (if only :) about how the rich in their own country exploit them, the workers and taxpayers. But it is us, us who feel we are getting shafted, who are the rich, at least compared to the 90% or so of the rest of this world who live in squalor and hopelessness.

Every time we are calling on our filthy rich elites to share their spoils more fairly with the rest of us, every time we create pressure for the rort in our countries to stop, we better not forget that for someone else, somewhere else, it is you and I that are the rich bastards benefiting from their suffering, clinging to our treasures and don’t want to share.

Please don’t get me wrong David, I know that we are on the same side of the fence, but to bring about a fairer world, it is not just the CEOs and wealthy magnates that need to redistribute their wealth, in the scheme of things its us as well.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Feb 1 2009 9:38 utc | 74

@ Copeland I'm afraid I have developed a very uncompromising attitude over israel and israelis since late december 08. I used Avenery as an example precisely because he is obviously a kindly old man whose point of view has been deemed irrelevant by most of the rest of israel. In the end though he posits some sort of utopian situation where there is a homeland for jews and palestinians live contented un-oppressed lives

I suppose having some small corner of the Jordan Valley as an independant Israel may have been a viable ideal up until December 08 but considering the other crimes such as the assassination of Arafat, the IDF brutality of the intifadas or the refusal to allow the arab members of the Knesset to run for re-election in 09, I have to say that option probably became unthinkable some time before the gaza massacres. The israelis have demonstrated that they have developed a culture that is so brutish that they cannot be trusted to safeguard the rights of any minority in their midst. It is the way that societies protect minorities that really defines the societies 'goodness'.
Since practically, it is impossible to create even a small jewish state that has a population that is solely jewish, it is also impossible to have a jewish state, the buggers just can't be trusted. This is one instance where parallels with nazi germany or another fascist state don't work, because the german state which was created after 1945 wasn't a recreation of the third reich, but an israeli state set up as a jewish homeland would be a recreation albeit on a smaller scale, of the israel that committed these horrors.

Copeland I'm also aware, since I have just been searching for a post I made sometime early in the new year which I didn't find, but I did find a post from you which referred to a scathing post from me, that I hopped into you in the heat of the gaza horror and for that I apologise.

I don't think I have ever been filled with such a sense of impotent rage as I was during that massacre.
Normally there is something to be done which in it's own small way can help amerliorate whatever this week's horror is, but this time the situation was so awful and the possible actions so anaemic that I became a bit unreasonable.

When you reach the conclusion that there is nothing reasonable that can be be done to ameliorate such depravity as the IDF was committing, that leaves only the unreasonable stuff.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 1 2009 9:51 utc | 75


You can't really blame them, the Jesus gig never seems to end all that well

hear hear!

that is what I see as being wrong with the "left" in the US. The issues that seem to be important are way varied and sometimes even at odds with each other. whereas the "right" focuses on highly charged issues such as partial birth abortions and homosexual marriage and can call forth their followers on these single issue movements because those followers are perfectly content to accept everything else, no matter how detrimental it is to their own lives in order to possibly have their way with "their" issue. it appears to me that the right has built up quite an alliance of anti-choice groups who nonetheless have strong emotions about abortion or members of the same sex being joined in holy matrimony. these are joined by the well-to-do who do not want to pay for "free-loaders" and could care less about the other crap as it does not affect them in the least. Throw in a few bigots and fraidy cats who want to have manly men in charge and you got yourself a party that can win elections. Of course owning the media helps in a significant way.

what do you have on the left? I would submit that you have everything else. Trying to bring all of these people with all of their diverse issues is really like herding cats. I think it really is doomed to failure as long as it is so large. If absolute obedience is required to a big tent platform it is most likely going to fail as well, how on earth can someone who really is a socialist at heart and really truly wants the best for his fellow humans but has strong ethical and moral beliefs in the sanctity of all human life be an enthusiastic supporter of abortion on demand? If I believe I have a right to own a firearm, my leftist status is immediately in doubt.

so, in that sense I am still confused by just how a single party can be all things to everyone. I fear that it can not and suspect that the only way out is to fight hard for a change to the political system and break the stranglehold that our current two party system has on government. With several small parties you can have your single issue groups who will then form coalitions to pass laws and govern in a way that is agreeable to much more than just 51% of the population. though they can seem hectic and unruly such as the constant turmoil in Italian governments, I see them as the closest you can get to democracy.

so in closing, and my sincere apologies to everyone for the incoherent rant, I have to admit that I am not a leftist. though I agree with nearly everything they do and vehemently oppose right wing authoritarians I have not sufficient loyalty to the cause to be a card carrying member.

Posted by: dan of steele | Feb 1 2009 10:36 utc | 76

My statement was that once the decision has been arrived at, solidarity proscribes that all members of the group should follow the decision, even if they voted against it.

By inference, because the majority of people voted for George Bush, the entire nation should have supported him, even those who voted against him.

The same with the Democrats, if I am a member of the party and find the leadership sucks, and is allowed to suck because the majority of party members agrees, then I better be a good sport and hop along for the suck.

No can do. It’s not that I can’t compromise, or have problems accepting the results of a vote, but on matters of principle and elementary issues I am not willing to sing along for harmony sake. I understand that solidarity is paramount in people’s fight against injustice, all for one and one for all, but for me that means first of all solidarity with the victims, not a particular advocacy group. Stemming from that, I believe that should I get the impression the leadership of a group I belong to acts contraire to what I deep down feel is right, then I have no choice but to temporarily leave the organisation until such time when the leadership’s and my ideas are back on common ground.

I hope I am not misconstruing your argument Debs, as I feel we are not that far apart in our persuasions. Running the chance of being at odds with what I wrote in my earlier comment, that I do also see the Left’s weakness partially being due to splintering and needless infighting, I am firmly in the camp of believers who think that as potentially destabilizing this internal quarrelling can be, it’s also healthy to the democratic process and debate within and has kept us on our feet. From my largely frustrating experiences with parties and large scale political organisations, dissent and room for opting out of contributing must be allowed for the group to be worth supporting in the first place.

I reckon for any opposition to be effective it must be outer-parliamentary, free of organisational bureaucracy, and endorsed by its supporters not because they feel obligated to the group or are just following peer pressure, but because they want to support the cause. People need to put their hearts and money into it, supporting direct action wherever possible, which in the long run will only be possible if they feel they have a choice and say in the matter.

Let there be many causes, animal rights activists, anti-war protesters, people marching the streets for workers rights, anti-globalisation demonstrators, you name it. I’ve been saying this before, but if 3% of the US population, or roughly 10 million people, found the will and cash to donate a mere $100 to any prolific and fair dinkum group in the workers rights movement, than there is a one billion dollar fund to run campaigns. Now the next 3% might not identify with that particular cause, but see their purpose in looking out for the wellbeing of our animal friends and put their 100 bucks into organisations which aim at addressing our inhumanity in that department, and the next 3% fund the anti-war faction and activists, and so on. Never will we be able to unite all these people and causes under one party or group’s umbrella, and yet when all is said and done, they are all fighting the same dark philosophy and its proponents, like the ones which met at Jekyll Island.

By allowing every person to decide for themselves what’s worth fighting for, it is much easier to engage the population, but still confront the system. As dan of steele wrote, trying to bring all of these people with all of their diverse issues is really like herding cats.More likely than not none of the above percentage of people in my example would have joined some mega party, meaning a result of zero, while giving each of our potential allies in the fight against the shady fat cat oligarchs their own pet issue, allowing for identification with the goal and the consequent heartfelt support, would have mobilised 30 million people and contributed 3 billion to the badly needed revolution.

So the question in my eyes is less on how to unify the supposed Left behind a single powerful organisation, but how to get them to do something at all. And quite frankly, as much as I am leaving myself open for ridicule, we have to create a revolution with the population we have, not the one we want. This thread in itself made it pretty clear that in today’s western societies majorities are made up of people who cherish their individualism and right to choose. If we want to connect with our fellow lefties, we need to bring them out of the closet and with the justified cynicism in regards to party politics being as widespread as it is, political groups requiring absolute loyalty will not do so.

To sum up my spiel, I agree with you all that solidarity is required if we want to have a fighting chance, not as much with a particular organisation though, but the greater cause as such. And if people choose to do their bit via less organised channels and means, so be it, as long as we do something.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Feb 1 2009 12:30 utc | 77

Juan Moment-Thank for the nice words, and I we do agree, more than not, on this issue.

I'll still argue that there is plenty of resources for everyone to share. And yes, those of us in the west may need to give up a bit to help our fellow man, but I don't think so. Let me try and explain.

One reason westerners consume so much, is unhappiness and lack of direction (purpose) in their lives. There are so many mixed media messages about what brings happiness, it is hard for people to ever know what makes them truly happy. Often we are happiest engaged in some simple labor or hobby; a walk with a loved one; helping a neighbor with a project, ect. But media creates a feelings of need where it never was. I'm sure you can think of plenty of examples in your own life.

The only thing westerners need to give up is our unreasonable expectations of needs and wants. I need food to eat, I don't need a $100 plate to eat it off of.

As for the price of coffee, I think the fair-trade idea is a good one, but does it take into account the differences in the cultures? If I make a 100 pesos a day, I'd be screwed trying to live in the USA, but there are many places south of the boarder where that amount of money is considered quite a sum. There are so many differences in economies it is hard for me to decide what is fair and what isn't.

I read the above and I'm not making my point very well and probably pissing some of you off, so lets see if I can't salvage it... In the west we've created a need for money by creating a want for stuff. It is difficult to make it here if you fall through the cracks, but in a second or third world environment, it is simpler to just "get by" because the whole economy is depressed. $10 goes a lot further in a depressed economy than it does in our greed-fueled western economy.

Well, it ain't exactly what I was trying to say – I need a cup of coffee to think – is there something ironic in this?

Posted by: David | Feb 1 2009 13:59 utc | 78

Great thread. Not able to comment these days. It is good to see we need to think through "What is the left" in order to answer "Where is the Left?"

Posted by: Malooga | Feb 1 2009 14:17 utc | 79

And in the two state solution they won't give up some of the land for peace either, because they are against giving up choice parts of that land to a contiguous Palestine. It would appear that the vastly stronger Israel prefers keeping the Palestinians as subjects or economic vassals, to deeding over any of the land to them, or giving them autonomy in their political affairs.

copeland, there can't deed over the west bank to palestinians because they don't have the deed to it, it is already palestinian owned. the west bank doesn't belong to israel, they are expanding settlements on land that is not israels to begin with.

Secret Israeli database reveals full extent of illegal settlement

The official database, the most comprehensive one of its kind ever compiled in Israel about the territories, was recently obtained by Haaretz. Here, for the first time, information the state has been hiding for years is revealed. An analysis of the data reveals that, in the vast majority of the settlements - about 75 percent - construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.

Posted by: annie | Feb 1 2009 14:41 utc | 80

So, there is no left in the US, or: the left has been tricked into polarizing on BS cultural issues, identity politics - which in itself defines ppl as parts of groups and is divisive.

Beware of admiring France though.

There is some left left, if I may, in the form of Left political parties and movements, contrary to the US. They are, however, quite marginal. The French Socialists, particularly as incarnated by the Prez Candidate, the pretty, traditional authoritarian Segolène Royal, or even now, Head of Party Aubry (daughter of Jacques Delors), party mainstay, cadre, top bottle washer, are neo-liberals, through and through.

One might compare the oppo between the UMP (Sarkozy) and the Socialists to the team red - team blue in the US, but that wouldn’t be quite right. In F the positions taken are more ideologically grounded, and are judged as such; in the US, it is a vacuous show for the sheeples and simultaneously a true struggle for power - read money, influence, position, control, etc; the need for fake politics creates a simple struggle which leads to allegiance, loyalty; naive belief on the part of the spectators.

In F, slightly more subtle, complex. One of the reasons the Socialists hate Sarkozy is that he has revealed to the public that ideological differences are trivial (see Obama: “If it works”...) - the Sark nominated top ‘socialists’ (Kouchner, Strauss-Khan) stole the left’s mantra of diversité - nominating minority ppl in the form Rama Yade, Rachida Dati, etc. (Bush did better here than Obama,..) and took up some long standing left demands, such as publicity free TV, is also a traditional Gaullist, etc. The top of the State apparatus was exposed...and the Socialist opposition appeared dubious at best...

The demos, social strife, etc. in F stem from other forces: historical, etc. also from weak unions and hyper centralization, there is nowhere to negotiate, complain, etc. Add in an adversial culture, the most strongly so in the OECD for the work place.

Left? I think not. More than 2/3 of local Gvmts. in France are in the hands of the Socialist party.

Posted by: Tangerine | Feb 1 2009 15:11 utc | 81

Malooga, good to hear from you, your comments are sadly missed. I look forward to when whatever is holding you back at the moment will allow you to again share your thoughts with us.

David, I reckon we are on the same page the moment we agree that the $100 saved on the expensive plate are somehow used to aleviate the poverty and misery of people who compared to us have absolute nothing :)

Re how much is fair, hmm, hard to say. But as a guideline, lets create a fictional consumer basket with all the goodies in it the average guy in the west can afford with his weeks wages of $600, including going to the movies and splurging a few bucks on ice cream. Now an Ecuadorian plantation worker working a full time week should also be able to afford him or herself the same basket. But instead most of the services and goodies we take for granted are out of their reach, forever, as any penny earned goes into their meagre family budget, which is hardly enough to feed the family once a day, let alone to send the kids to school and buy them an mp3 player.

Posted by: Juan Moment | Feb 1 2009 15:16 utc | 82

Thanks for the gnostic link, David. It's a subject I've been researching for years and I'd love to explore it further, but not here. Food for thought, though: one of the Cathar (last real gnostic sect in Europe) strongholds was the Cevennes in the south of France, which later became a stronghold of the Camisards (protestand social revolutionaries who rose up around 1715 and influenced people like Rousseau, and even later became a centre of the communist maquis against the Nazis in WW2...

Posted by: Tantalus | Feb 1 2009 15:51 utc | 83


We're getting closer to figuring this out. I'd agree with you about the $100 plate, as far as that goes, give me my food on a tortilla and I don't need no stinkin' plate.

And I have to second your thoughts for Malooga – I too miss his post :(

Let's try and get the coffee issue hashed-out (though not too much hash, too hard to think)

The example you use above doesn't move me. The average guy making $600 a week in america, if he is supporting a family of equal size to our farm worker in Ecuador, doesn't have much left over after paying rent, fuel, food ect.

I think the difference is in what each culture has access too. Because of the consumer culture in america, we have access to many baubles not available to smaller, less "affluent" cultures. A person can go to the thrift store, in any american city, and buy a houseful of crap for under a $100. If you're smart you can get most of the same crap, for free, by dumpster diving in affluent (effluent) parts of town. The same is not true of Latin America, there just isn't enough crap to meet the demands of the culture.

I'm sure someone more literate in economics (and also english), could do a better job of explaining what I'm fumbling at. Mostly I'm saying comparing america to any second world culture is difficult.

Being poor and downtrodden in any culture is harsh, but I think more so in a country that appears to have so much. If I had to choose poverty, I think I'd prefer experiencing it with others in the same boat, as opposed to looking through the windows of five-star restaurants.

Another thought (damn I'm a scatter brain this morning) but I realize, because I live in a small town, that I tend to examine these issues from this point of view. This is pretty screwed-up, because I was trying to think of poverty I've witnessed and experienced, and it has mostly been rural... and on my way to the kitchen for a glass of water, I thought of the peasants digging through the garbage in the landfill near Mexico City... Or Haiti. Damn...

Ok, you win Juan!

Posted by: David | Feb 1 2009 16:14 utc | 84

Fuck labels, until humans learn 'general semantics' and 'precise speech', labels are useless.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Feb 2 2009 0:19 utc | 85

Retirement at 70 is an option, not an obligation.

You can retire in France at 65 just as before.

Some people complained they were forced to retire when they'd hapilly kept on working.

Old doesn't mean useless.

From France,

Posted by: Stephane | Feb 2 2009 13:20 utc | 86

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