Friday, June 2, 2017

God's Death Rattle



Several days before the orange-utan announced that the United States would leave the Paris Accords, the Great Barrier Reef off Australia was pronounced officially and irreversibly dead.  Another article at the same time described the complete ecological devastation of Borneo whose once rich and vibrant tropical forest, habitat to thousands of species, was now a strip mined, factory farmed garbage dump.  As dismaying as the pictures was the note that the human denizens seemed oblivious to the squalid, fetid, hell they were living in.




The news of Borneo and the Barrier Reef are just the latest funereal tolls of what has been obvious (at least to chipsters) for the past 20 years: the human race is destroying its one and only home.  The Paris Accords do not and will not change anything.  They are but a cynically small palliative designed to keep the environment at something just under an unlivable oven.  To anyone who understands even the rudiments of what   "ecology" means, since the word was first coined in 1866 by Ernst Haeckel, that approach is fundamentally flawed.

But the death of the Great Barrier Reef raises an even more fundamental and theological question:  How can God negate Himself?

How is that possible?

God looked upon HIS Creation and saw that every unfolding part of it was "good".  He separated day from night and saw that it was good.  He parted the waters from the land and saw that they were good.  He created fruits and seeds according to their kinds and say that they were good. He created great creatures of the sea, teeming fish and flocks of birds vaulting across the skies, and blessed them all.  He then created insects and wild animals and saw that they too were good.  He then created mankind in his own image and gave them dominion over His Work.  He did not, however, say that  it was good. 

And so it came to pass that His image, acting with His authority is undoing all of His handiwork.  How is that possible?  Is God a cosmic, childish tantarum?

Now there are those, no doubt, who will contemptuously smile and say "There is no God" and "It is just a foolish tale for children."  But the foolishness, Oh rationalist one, lies in understanding Genesis in the manner of a child.  The account of a demiurge is clearly a metaphor for the more complex truth that what we call God inheres in and vivifies that which we call Creation.  God is not separate from Creation. He is its life-force or "breath" and the question becomes how can he also become its death-rattle.

In the Grundrisse, Marx points out that the "kernel" of capitalism lies in the "primitive hand that picks the fruit."  It is human labour that commodifies and kills; that turns a living tree into a dead plank of wood for use and sale.  But that hand is God's image. 

Does God cancel himself out?   It would seem so.



©WCG 2017

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

An Elephant and Integral Human Development



[Ed. Note - The following letters were sent to two prelates in the Catholic Church]

 
1 May 2017

Rev. Msgr. Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso
Secretary Delegate
Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
Piazza San Callisto 16, 00153 Roma, Italy

Dear Monsignor,

Enclosed is a copy of a letter I have sent to His Eminence, Luis Antonio Tagle Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, concerning an elephant. I think the letter speaks for itself but would like to add a few remarks.

Article 2415 of the Catechism states, “The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of ... humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”

I believe this articulation is inadequate, as it focuses too much on use for the benefit of Man and fails to draw the necessary connection between love of creation and man's own integral human development.

As you know, the word dominion is a derivative of domus and primordially refers not simply to the power of the paterfamilias but to his love, solicitude and responsibility for the beings within his household and, indeed, for the oikos as a whole. It is in this sense, I believe, that Genesis 1:28, gives Man dominion (heb. radah) over Creation. By focusing on use, the Catechism obscures that the essence of dominion is neither power nor benefit but love.

I have in mind Hans Urs von Balthasar who reminds us that "when the whole of worldly being falls under the dominion of 'knowledge', then the springs and forces of love immanent in the world are overpowered and finally suffocated by science..." (Love Alone.)

When we treat other creatures as material objects, we close ourselves to the forces of love immanent in them and, to that extent, we progressively deaden ourselves; for it is the nature of death to be inanimate and insentient.  What this means is that “integral human development” necessitates that we ourselves refrain from descending to the material level and that we treat our fellow creatures not only with respect but with the affection of the fatherhood over them which was granted to us.

As I know you know, this becomes a matter of habitus and praxis. Studies have shown that materialism – that is, deadness of heart – begins in small things, often in childhood, and entrenches itself as man inures and accustoms himself to view the world “objectively.” More than a personal failing, the indifference of the soldiers on Calvary was the product of a culture.

Our present culture is the most materialistic of all; not just on account of the fact that it has “the appearance of a vast warehouse of commodities,” but because what we call knowledge is actually a lower faculty whose focus and practice is on things as such. We have become too used to executing tasks, so that the awesomeness of our technological progress stands in inverse proportion to our ability to stand in awe of the Creation we manipulate.

To quote von Balthasar again, “whoever sneers at Beauty... whether he admits it or not — can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love" (The Glory of the Lord.) We see symptoms of our technological alienation everywhere.

Of course, this gives rise to paradox. As a species, we could opt to live as simple savages without all the techno-material benefits we have discovered and created. (And Mother Nature might very well punish us with just that after we have killed her off. ) Or we could develop a scintilla conscientiae equal in strength to our knowledge and serving to remind us, as through an aperture, of our original, savage righteousness in paradise. I do not conceive of this as a question of morals (itself a mere form of mathesis) but of vivification.

This task of reanimation falls heavily upon the Church. In fact, is that not her primary task? And as with bringing anything back to life, back to mobility, the habit and progress begins with small things and small exercises, daily.

Some might say that an archbishop has more serious and more important things to do than to worry about an elephant. I say not. It was Jesus who reminded us that as unto the least so unto Him. In fact, I would submit that the more we focus on systems for delivering charities, on institutional projects and programs for development, the more we distance ourselves from immanence and fall back into the materialism of knowledge.

The Church has been remiss in this regard. Its bishops focus to much on management and too little on sparked response. When they do speak out it is all too often on a small menu of issues that have become, frankly, moral fetishes. To be fully alive to the world is to be alive to all of it. One does not smell a tree and not hear the bird or feel the sun or bask in the breeze.

Our Holy Father, has spoken out on environmental issues. It was long overdue. But he cannot – and should not – speak out on everything, daily. His authority would be diminished by over-use and eventually be ignored as just another voice in the increasingly competitive global cacophony. It is therefore up to cardinals, bishops and priests to lift the burden from the Pope's shoulder's and to assist in the work that must be done.

Mali's suffering is heart-wrenching to anyone who is alive to Creation. It is as pitiable as the suffering of any child because, for all her grandeur and size, she is, before us, as helpless as any child in the house over which we have dominion. For our sake – for the integral development of our humanity – she deserves a cry of mercy from the memory of paradise. And so, I have sent my letter.

I am sending this letter to you so that you may call attention to the fact that the Church's catechesis in this area is inadequate for the reasons I have discussed. That is my opinion at any rate; and I believe it is a good one. If I have addressed this issue to the wrong person, please be so kind as to forwarded it to the right one.


Sincerely yours,




18 April 2017
His Eminence Luis Antonio Tagle
Cardinal Archbishop of Manila
121 Arzobispo St., Intramuros,
1099 Manila, Philippines

Your Eminence,

I read with deep dismay about Mali, the captive elephant in the Manila zoo who has been kept confined for 40 years in complete isolation without the company and consolation of her own kind. This is barbarism. I quote to you Saint Aelred of Rievaulx,

What forest bears but a single tree? Even in inanimate nature a certain love of companionship, so to speak, is apparent and thrives in society with its own kind. And surely in animate life who cannot easily see how clearly the picture of friendship is, and the image of society and love? For, although in other respects animals are rated irrational, yet they imitate man in this regard to such an extent that we believe they act with reason. How they run after one another, play with one another and betray their love by sound and movement. So eagerly do they enjoy their mutual company, that they seem to prize nothing else so much as they do whatever pertains to friendship.” (De Spirituali Amicitia 1164-67.)

Our Church has many times spoke out against materialism. But is it not a materialism of the cruelest sort to debase living, sentient creatures, lovingly made by our Common to Creator, to the level of inanimate objects, which yet remain alive if only to feel anguish? Mali is reportedly so lonely she tries to hug and caress her own tail.

Animal rights groups are willing to take Mali to a sanctuary where she can live the remainder of her days among her own kind and taste, if only for a short while, the joys God intended for her. But zoo officials refuse to release her. In naked contravention of Art. VII, § 2415 of the Catechism, they want their "object" for people to gawk at for a fee.

We are commanded to revere the least among us and to rescue the helpless. I implore you to speak out on Mali's behalf. It would be such a small thing for you to do that could have a saving impact.

Sincerely,
 


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Editorial Endorsement: The Role of Beauty in the Electoral Decision


The law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to contribute personally, or through their representatives, to its formation.   -- J.J. Roussean



It is that quadrennial season again and, as usual, the Woodchip Editorial Board is divided; in particular, over whether one should vote at all.  Although we have not editorialized on it previously, a majority of the Board do not believe in democracy; and there is, after all, no point participating in something one does not believe in — certainly not the electoral farce that prevails in the United States.

Fact is, all government is oligarchy, for the simple reason that not everyone can join in stirring the soup. No monarch rules by himself but only with and through a curia regis.  Even in the direct democracy of the Athenian Assembly, specific tasks were delegated to deputised nominees and their assistants.  

“Governance” and “Government” are comprised of a hierarchy of causes: final policy causes, effective managerial causes, driving material causes.  At each level, government is of and by a few. The real task in any given form of government is to insure that it is an aristos-cracy operating for the justly apportioned good of all. Moctezuma and his court come to mind.

What is meant by “democracy” is that, at periodic intervals, the mass of uninterested and usually uninformed (or worse yet, partially informed) people are given a choice in selecting final causes; i.e., the “direction” in which they want their country to move.  Apart from referenda and the devices of initiative and recall, this selection is accomplished by choosing representatives to sit in a national assembly or parliament.

U.S. elections are a farce because the constitutional system is structured to so as to nullify popular choice and initiative.  This malign purpose has been decked out with rhetorical tissues about “checks and balances” and “protecting the rights of minority.”  As is the case with all good brainwashing, Americans repeat these mantras as if they were self evident explanations and justifications of whatever point is being made.

James Madison, one of the leading architects of the U.S. Constitution, was very clear as to which minority he had in mind.  In Federalist Paper No. Ten, after describing the various acrimonious issues which divide people and the partisan factions which agitate society, Madison admits

"But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. ...  The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.   ...  The inference to which we are brought is, that the causes of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects.  ... To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of [a majoritarian] faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed."

God forbid the 99% should rule!!!

The Great American Invention of 1789 was actually a conservative (“Federalist”) coup d’etat by monied interests aimed at stifling Jacobin democratic tendencies.   They wanted to reassemble  the British Monarchy in a way that suited their interests (as distinct from the interests of the Tories whom they ran into Canada).  But, of course, to fool the demos, it had to be a monarchy dressed in a republican toga, a la Caesar Augustus.

Lest anyone think we are exaggerating, hearken to Gibbon,

"The obvious definition of a monarchy seems to be that of a state, in which a single person, by whatsoever name he may be distinguished, is entrusted with the execution of the laws, the management of the revenue, and the command of the army.  ... A martial nobility and stubborn commons, possessed of arms, tenacious of property, and collected into constitutional assemblies, form the only balance capable of preserving a free constitution against enterprises of an aspiring prince."  (Decline and Fall, Ch. III. (1776).)
That was obviously the gist which the Framers had in mind; only, as we have said, they preferred to stubborn the commons into as much impotence as possible. They gave every branch a veto except the popular assembly. The essential feature of Roman republicanism, the tribunician power, was omitted from the scheme. 

In parliamentary systems, tribunician vetoes are unnecessary because the general will of the whole people is directly expressed in “commanding majorities” which then constitute the government. In fact, under the English constitutional reforms of 1911, a species of tribunician power was vested in the House of Lords which was given the power to delay legislation while being deprived of the power to initiate or veto laws. 

In contrast, under American monarchical republicanism, what exists is a contrived deadlock that enables effectual and often invisible oligarchies to run the show.  Not surprisingly, U.S. presidential elections are colossal clown acts in which a person who can stand for much but can accomplish little legislatively is indirectly elected on the basis of an anti-democratic weighting of votes.  

This is not to say that the American monarch is powerless. The prerogative to deal with foreign nations, the power to dispatch the army and the choice and manner of executing the affairs of government are not inconsiderable powers. But, in contrast to parliamentary systems, in which the ministers who oversee the various functions of government are themselves democratically chosen, in the United States, the president, like a true monarch, chooses his own ministers (called “secretaries”) at will. The result is not a popularly chosen governing oligarchy but an insulated oligarchy irresponsible to the people for a term of four years.

The reason U.S. elections are so acrimonious is that, in inverse proportion to his actual power, each voter has an overweening sense of her self importance.  Each voter acts as if the election depended on his or her vote alone.  Conversely, when things do not turn out as desired, they blame the next nearest neighbour who voted the wrong way for ruining the country.

This idiocy is not entirely self-sprung. It is cultivated by the puppet masters of the show who urge voters to exercise their vote responsibly, (which is to say pragmatically),  by choosing the best of the two lesser evils they are presented with after the system (including a manipulative press) has been gamed to weed out other alternatives.

At face value, the civic moralising is nonsense.  To whom are people responsible seeing as the People are themselves Sovereign?  The result of the nonsense is that the People are trapped in practical sameness by a fostered sense of guilt -- a kind of political shaming in the name of pragmatism. The  intended result is that they never truly raise up their voices (and say what they really want) which is the true essence of democracy.

The law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to contribute personally, or through their representatives, to its formation.

There is some learned dispute as to exactly what Rousseau meant by general will.  Reading the context in which the term appears, he might have meant something along the lines of what the Germans a little later would call the organic gemeinschaft of a nation.  Sort of the “sum total of us.” 

However, the term has been usually interpreted more functionally, as referring the the “net result of us”  — the averaging out, the central tendency, of public sentiment.  Tolstoy hearkened to this usage in his Calculus of History which, he said, was driven by confluence of millions of imperceptible human impulses each operating in their idiosyncratic sphere.  It is in this latter sense that the concept of the general will is the cornerstone of any avowed democracy.

As everyone knows, republican governments are all founded on a principle of divided authority (Montesquieu).  There is a legislature (which passes laws), a judiciary (which unravel the contradictions and unclarity), an executive (which bungles their implementation)... and then there is le Peuple Souverain, whose obligation it is solely to say what they want. 

This is what elections are about. They are not really about choosing candidates but rather a polling occasion for the People to manifest their general will as to what they want for and from their country.

Let us suppose one is asked to state what one would like to eat for lunch — a taco, a pizza, a burger or some esoteric French morsel.  You don’t choose a burger because you think the majority of people are going to vote for a burger. You don’t select a burger even though you detest them because voting for some French delicacy is not a “practical option.”  The fact remains that it is an option.  It is the option you are asked to express when you are asked “what do you want?”  U.S. “practicality” nullifies the very idea of democracy.  If each voter does not say what he wants how can the general will of the people be calculated?

The difference between a direct and an indirect democracy is that, in the latter, the expression of distinct wants is represented by individual candidates.  But what matters is what the candidate “stands for”  — or as is said whether he or she “best reflects your views.” 

Of course, those who would seek to undermine the fundamental principle of democracy are more than delighted to shift the question from policy to personality; to urge voting for a candidate on the basis of some personal quality, such as stalwartness, sagacity, experience. Such a shift reduces democracy to mush.  “I vote for a sagacious Republic” is as pointless as Alexander Pope’s famous line “that government is best which governs best.”  Yeah... we know that...

Today, the menu of personal irrelevancies is much expanded to include things like voting for a person because he is black or she is a she.  “It’s time we had a woman in the White House” is not a policy choice. It doesn’t affect anything beyond the circumstance of there being a black or a woman in the House.  Its value is purely symbolic. One is free to vote for symbols but to do so (in our opinion) is as immaterial to anything as Mexican insurrectionists designating the Virgen de Guadalupe to be Captain General of their “army.”  (They did.)

Putting aside personality and symbolism, it is usually the case that during any given election there is more than one issue on the table and any given candidate stands for more than one thing.  Here, the individual voter has to calculate his own “general will” — that is,  he must take the average of his wants. 

The first step is to calculate what percentage of an individual’s positions a given candidate reflects (A = 40%  B= 60%  C = 80%.)

The second step is to weight the issues in terms of importance.  If the  20% over 60% that C represents includes a whole bunch of secondary or tertiary issues which are “nice and desirable” but not critical, in that case B and C stand effectively on par.

The calculus at this stage includes factoring in the fact that B might stand of something one opposes.  Here one has to go into a calculus of negatives.

Once the voter numbers his desires as seen reflected in the candidates, he or she can then factor in the practical chances of B wining over C or A over either.

In other words, the practical outcome of a vote is never entirely irrelevant.  But it must always be the last and the least factor of all.  The ballast in the decision must always be whether a candidate affirmatively reflects what the individual voter himself wants.  Once that primary issue is ignored or subordinated to other considerations, the voter ceases to discharge what his constitutional function actually he is.  He is simply running with the herd rather than bleating his point of view.

With this calculus in mind, the Woodchip Gazette endorses JILL STEIN for president.  We do so because on 95% of all issues she reflects what Editorial Board believes is necessary and critical to the country and the world.  What the general will of the American People is will be known on election day, but our contribution to that netting out is to state (and vote for) what we want see done.  That, as we have explained, is the primary and fundamental purpose of a democratic election.

As a practical matter, it is somewhat predictable that Stein will not command a majority of Electoral College votes.  But that is of no consequence to us because as an equally practical matter, neither of the other two candidates bring gifts we are interested in.

As Woodchip has written elsewhere, the single most important issue facing the U.S. electorate and the world at large is the looming ecological catastrophe.  We are witnessing a man-made event never before seen or dreamt of — the extermination and annihilation of life as we know it.


If we continue on the path we are on what existence is left will be an environmental dystopia of  orange skies, stagnant oceans, parched earth, dust-bowls, torrential floods and daily scrambles for recycled water and reconstituted edibles. When life itself is reduced to a scramble for existence, it is already half dead.  Everything beyond the scramble ceases to be of concern and, failing that, ceases to exist. 

We quote the Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar,

"We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. 
“Whenever the relationship between nature and grace is severed (as happens... where 'faith' and 'knowledge' are constructed as opposites), then the whole of worldly being falls under the dominion of 'knowledge', and the springs and forces of love immanent in the world are overpowered and finally suffocated by science, technology and cybernetics. The result is a world without women, without children, without reverence for love in poverty and humiliation — a world in which power and the profit-margin are the sole criteria, where the disinterested, the useless, the purposeless is despised, persecuted and in the end exterminated ...”
And yet, as clear evidence of mankind’s depravity, nations are fighting over who gets to pump more oil and people are wrangling over immigration, college debt, health care, abortion rights, cultural identity and gender pronouns. 

NONE of these issues will be worth a damn; all of them will be moot if we do not have an earth to live on or if life is reduced to the most desperate and primitive fight for physiological survival.  At this juncture in history, the ultimate issue in America’s depraved election is actually theological and existential.

Neither of the majority party candidates address this preeminent issue.   Trump doesn’t believe in anthropogenic climate change; Hillary peddles toxic nostrums like “clean coal” and “safe fracking” while she takes money from the polluting industry. Both pander to all that subsidiary and  trivial. 

After the environment, the most pressing issue is the misnamed “trade” treaties which are as we have discussed, a global coup d’etat by trans-national capital aimed at installing a supra-national, unaccountable corporate dictatorship of no recourse.  The fundamental problem with that is that the dictatorship is not motivated any concept of public good but rather is driven by the imperative of profit — that is the same imperative of plunder, rapine and exploitation that is destroying the world in the first place.

Again, neither candidate stands up for democratic self-determination guided by principles of sustainability and public welfare over and above and to the preemption of private profit.  Trump avows to block or renegotiate the trade treaties but only in order to unleash an unrestrained grab for profit on a national level.  Hillary, just bullshits the issue as we have discussed elsewhere.   Despite her misleading innuendos, she will back the trade treaties regardless of whether they have environmental and labor safeguards.

Corporate rule and environmental survival are a dual-first issue.  The “trade” treaties exterminate the polis and render utterly pointless the calculation of the general will.  The treaties exterminate the polis so that corporations and investors can pursue economies which are at this moment destroying God’s beautiful creation.

Neither major party candidate has spoken out on behalf of elephants.  If any reader thinks this is “silly” then he or she has severed the relationship between nature and grace, and has subscribed to a stunted and suffocating understanding that abets extermination.

Von Balthasar

Pope Francis is no stranger to von Balthasar and when he said “Capitalism is dung” he is telling you that both Trump and Hillary are shovelling very vile shit.

On all the subsidiary issues, the candidates serve up popcorn and toys for tots.  In fact, the entire boasted  premise of the Hillary campaign is her so-called ability to make “small incremental” changes. Being a “practical progressive” as she shamelessly calls it.  We have written about this as well. Needless to say, to speak of small incremental steps to avoid catastrophic ecollapse is an obscenity.  But even on the subsidiary issues, these small incremental changes — aka chicken feed — do nothing to address senior poverty, student debt, usurious but ineffective health care, affordable and secure housing or the right to remunerative employment. 

On the issue of war and peace, both candidates call for more military spending, squandering the national wealth on implements of death and destruction.   Trump offers the better prospect of only  bombing the hell out ISIS while avoiding confrontation with Russia and China.  Hillary, on the other hand, has acquiesced in Saudi Arabia’s support for ISIS while going out of her way to look for confrontation with Russia.  Hillary is a war-hawk.  She is and is supported by the entire neocon establishment, except for Zbigniew Brzezinski', who has actually recanted his erstwhile anti-Russian confrontationalism and has, this year, denounced the direction of Hillary’s foreign policy.

In short, what the Establishment has by hook and by crook  connived to offer a public that is lulled and whipped up at the same time is a choice of miserables.  Both the major party candidates would take the country in horrible directions in opposite ways, but horrible nonetheless.

It is true that politics is the art of the possible.  But that is the job of politicians.  Assuming for the sake of argument that U.S. politicians actually listen to the people, they cannot work the magic of the possible unless they know what the general will sets out as desirable.

It is the collective duty of the people to tell their representatives what they want (not what they think is possible) and that cannot be done unless and until every individual voter says — absolutely and unconditionally — what he or she wants.
 
The typical answer to this simple and forthright stance is to whine and cavil that “we can’t let the [fill in name of greater evil] win because [fill in list of subsidiary causes and obsessions au gout.]

Americans are a boastful and timid people.  They are afraid to stand up for what they believe in.  They back down from confrontation from fear of the immediate and transient consequences...  But one doesn’t back down from a fight because he might get punched in the nose.  If the people don’t tell their rulers what they want on what basis should rulers give them what they want?  If people do not manifest the courage of their convictions why should rulers feel constrained to give them anything?

The Woodchip Gazette refuses to endorse dung.  It votes for genuine democracy, social justice, sustainable economy and most of all for beauty, for elephants and for all creatures everywhere.
 



©WCG





















Monday, October 24, 2016

American Pertinax



The Deceit and Betrayal of Bernie Sanders

In April 2015, after much prodding and hesitation, Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. Although he claimed he was "running to win," it was more likely he was running to put issues on the table.  No one, not even his early supporters, expected the reserve of popular discontent that turned his campaign into a spontaneous democratic tsunami.   For all of their paid-for media events and contrived angle-shots, none of the corporocracy's candidates could draw such crowds as Bernie did. 



As much as Bernie's campaign revealed the scope and depth of popular discontent, it also revealed the scope and sordid depths of the aparatchik network that operates the political machinery, the press, and the sceptic tanks of policy. Taken aback, the Democratic National Committee's operatives and presstitutes desperately tried to snuff out the dangerous democratic enthusiasm.   At first they tried the censorship of news blackouts. Then they resorted to belittlement, contempt and ridicule.  But the crowds kept swelling.



Forced to confront the unpopularity of their appointed nominee, the D.N.C. contrived Hillary do-overs, stone-walling and passive-aggressive attacks. Hillary was painted as a pragmatic progressive, a victim of discrimination and a lover of the common man, whose career in a corporate law firm was a a "public service" and whose  private, paid-for speeches to banks and fracking companies were no business of the public's whose demand for release of the texts reflected (it was indignantly said) "Hillary hate" and misogyny.   The gambits fooled no one.



Panicked at the thought that democracy might work despite political mechanisms designed to insure that it would not work, High Pooh Bahs of Opinion were enlisted to instruct upper middle class readers on how intelligent, informed, considered people ought to think about important non-issues while lesser niebelungen flooded social media, chat channels and the internet with false narratives, excuses, spins and fevered accusations that Berniecrats we're actually sabotaging progressive change by aiding and abetting the country's right wing.   

When none of the smearing and manipulation worked, the D.N.C. resorted to electoral skullduggery and outright fraud, news of which was duly suppressed by the establishment press.   When the desired and contrived result was achieved, all heads of the hydra announced that democracy had been done and that it was now time for Bernie's supporters to join forces with Hillary the Progressive to defeat the Total Evil of Donald Trump.

Angered Berniecrats were not fooled.  They demanded that Bernie sabotage the system that had sabotaged him, by endorsing --- or better yet joining -- the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein who actually offered to let Bernie assume the number one slot on her ticket.   Bernie declined, urging instead his followers to work within the Party System to further the "significant concessions" that had been wrested from the D.N.C. in the party's toothless platform.   In so declining, Bernie Sanders betrayed  the democratic movement he had claimed to represent.

This (regrettably long) article seeks to explain why Bernie's betrayal flows from the underlying deceit of his campaign. 

Deceit

Viewed from the left, Sanders was not very.  Like many Sixties liberals he liked to don the mantle of radicalism (Viva Che!) but he was no sub-comandante Marcos.  In fact, he was hardly a Lassalle.

Ferdinand Lasalle
Who?  Ferdinand Lassale was one of the co-founders of what is today the German Social Democratic party. The SDAP (as it was initially called) diverged from the Socialist International in that it espoused a program of incremental amelioration of working class conditions, as distinct from overthrow of the capitalist political-economy. 

The party’s Gotha Program began with a salvo of heroic proletarianism,

Labour is the source of all wealth and all culture, and since universal productive labour is possible only through society, therefore to society, that is to all its members, belongs the collective product of labour.” (art I.)


But it quickly descended into pure mousiness,

"Proceeding from this principle the Socialist Worker Party of Germany seeks through all legal means ...the destruction of the iron law of wages, the overthrow of exploitation in all forms and the abolition of all social and political inequality." (art II)
It then proceeded, to list its present demands, including universal suffrage, the “common right to bear arms,” an uncensored press, “universal and equal popular education,” a “progressive income tax,” “shortening of the working day,” abolition of child labour, work injurious to women and  “protective laws for the life and health of the worker.”



Lassale was more important than his colleagues because it was he who got Bismarck to co-opt his program.  In fact, in some respects, Bismarck went further, instituting unemployment insurance, health insurance and pensions.  Marx was disdainful and Lenin was furious.


Marx immediately critiqued the fallacy of trying to fundamentally alter society “through all legal means.”   This palaver made as much sense as taking over the reins of a horse and buggy, promising to turn it into a motor car.  (Chip’s metaphor; not Marx’s.) The law is not neutral.  It exists to support and protect the fundamental political and economic tenets of a society.



Lenin lambasted the Social Democrats as “social chauvinists,” saying that when push came to shove they would march to Kaiser’s orders to slaughter their class comrades on the other side of the national divide.

Bismarck put it somewhat differently.  Speaking of Lassale, the Chancellor said (1878), “He was very much a nationalist and a monarchist. His ideal was the German Empire, and here was our point of contact.”  When Bismarck and Lenin agree on a point it is more infallibly true than word from Rome.

Youth Regiment at Langemarck
One needn’t have waited for the word.  Come 1914, the Social Democrats in parliament threw their weight behind the national war effort. Nor did they stop at voting for war credits.  They gave up on internationalist rhetoric altogether. Instead of the class struggle they proclaimed the struggle of a people. In doing so they developed key rhetorical themes later used by Nazi propaganda (e.g. “Volksgemeinschaft” and Arbeit Macht Frei.)  To all intents, the SDAP had become a national SDAP, although by then they had rather tellingly dropped the “Arbeiter” or “worker” part.

During the post-war period, the SDP built on and improved the Bismarckian welfare state pushing through a wide range of social welfare programs which the Nazis themselves built upon and which remain today part of the German social compact.



It is fair to say that neither the Communists, the Social Democrats nor the Nazis disagreed much about “benefits packages.”  None would have dissented from Bismarck’s famous remark, “Why should not the Labour Soldier have a pension as much as the Veteran?



But then as now (or at least until Maastricht), Europe’s social democratic parties were national in basis and orientation.  In fact, after the World War, even the Communist parties in Europe became de facto nationalist.   Just as significantly, they tacitly accepted the capitalist system.   They confused the distribution of wealth with how wealth is created in the first place.   As a result they became abettors of a system which international socialists insisted was not only unjust but unworkable. 



Thus when Bernie called himself a “socialist” the statement was about as ridiculous as watching a seven year marching about with stick in hand calling himself “Napoleon.”  The whole point of socialism is to vest control of resources and the means of production with the working class.  It goes beyond and deeper than "demanding benefits."


It didn’t take long before Bernie back-pedalled from his Viva Che! posturing and declared himself a democratic socialist...you know, like the kinda stuff they do in (the Kingdom of) Denmark.  It was too pathetic for words.



Bernie was a warmed over New Dealer, which is to say he was a pseudo-social democrat, which is to say a pseudo, pseudo socialist.


Well...that is perhaps a tad unfair.  In some respects, Bernie’s program bullet points approached those of the pseudo-socialist SDP in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  He even included a socialistic sounding program “to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives.”   Taken at face value, such a program inched toward the cooperativist policies of the 1920’s SDP, the Italian Fascists or the Syndicalist Falange (del JONS) all of which (in one form or another) called for “cross-class” co-management of communal/municipal  units of production.
 
Project of the PNC (Mexican National Cooperativist Party)1923


The difficulty with such supposedly “retro-red” (or retro-black) policies today is that the corporate-capitalist class is now impermeable to nationalist demands. Up through even the 1980’s corporate “citizens” could be reined in and held to account by nationally promulgated policies, presumably flowing from the will of the electorate.  But the entire point of “globalism” was to put the corporation beyond the reach of popular demands.  A series of articles in Le Monde Diplomatique in 1994 — I repeat 1994 — made the point that, to all intents and purposes, the nation state had had become irrelevant as a determinant of policy.  Of course it remained very relevant as an agency of the players beyond reach, which is to say that after NAFTA and Maastricht political economy was directed from an invisible top down.  Government was merely the “user interface” of a corporate operating system.

To the extent that Bernie’s program approached pseudo-socialism it was too late. In the United States, the chance at worker-co-management of enterprises on any scale greater than that of a milk farm, passed with the collapse of the Flynt Michigan strike in 1946 when Walter Reuther allowed his union to be bought of with a basket of benefits.

 

The U.A.W. was probably the closest the U.S. came to having a true, pseudo-socialist party.   In 1936, after a very hard (and violent) battle, Walter Reuther led the U.A.W to victory; the U.S. auto-industry became a union shop.   Reuther was a member of the Socialist Party and until 1939 paid dues to the Communist Party.   In the early 1930's he worked at a Ford plant in the Soviet Union, where he was inspired by "the atmosphere of freedom and security, shop meetings with their proletarian industrial democracy."  He returned, he said, "reeducated."

But his "re-education" in proletarian industrial democracy did not prevent him from enlisting the union in the national war effort, squelching wild-cat strikes, rooting out communists and collaborating with the War Production Board.   In the end, Reuther too, became a social chauvinist.  After the war, he made a passing feint toward a proletarian industrial democracy before settling for a basket of capitalist largess.

So much for handshakes

The nationalist cant is always the same: "This time it's serious! The enemy is too horrible for words! help us fight them now and then we can talk about benefit-baskets."  A real socialist would have replied: "No! First give us an industrial democracy worth fighting for then we'll fight your enemy if indeed he still needs fighting."   As always the social chauvinist gets it backward and sells out. 
 
In the end, Bernie’s program was an empty basket hoping to be filled.  His message was hardly different from the Falange’s,

Las riquezas tienen como primer destino -y así lo afirmará el nuevo Estado- mejorar las condiciones de vida de cuantos integran el pueblo. No es tolerable que masas enormes vivan miserablemente mientras unos cuantos disfrutan de todos los lujos."

“The wealth of a country has as its first aim the betterment of the quality of life of the many who comprise the country.  It is not tolerable that enormous masses should live miserably while but a few enjoy all manner of luxuries.”
But, so long as society has owners and non-owners, whether the basket gets filled depends on the both the ability and the willingness of the Owner Class to fill it.

This was particularly true in the United States where Roosevelt and Truman’s national capitalism shifted the burden of providing social benefits onto the corporation which (instead of government) became the entity responsible for pensions and health care.

 

The plain historical facts are beyond dispute. Data from the U.S. Department of Commerce showed that “U.S. multinational corporations, the big brand-name companies that employ a fifth of all American workers… cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million.”

Manufacturing employment collapsed from a high of 19.5 million workers in June 1979 to 11.5 workers in December 2009, a drop of 8 million workers over 30 years. Between August 2000 and February 2004, manufacturing jobs were lost for a stunning 43 consecutive months—the longest such stretch since the Great Depression.” Manufacturing plants have also declined sharply in the last decade, shrinking by more than 51,000 plants, or 12.5 percent, between 1998 and 2008. These stable, middle-class jobs have been the driving force of the U.S. economy for decades and theses losses have done considerable damage to communities across the country

 

In responding to these symptoms, none of the social democrats or democratic socialists squarely confront the fundamentals of how goods are produced in a capitalist system, whether viewed nationally or globally. Their “benefits packages” end up being forms of displacement which run upstream to the system from which they are demanding more trickle-down.  They are eventually overridden by the greater current they depend upon.

At bottom, Marxist analysis is straightforward.  In order to get from something more than you put into it (i.e. in order to make a “profit”), the extra has to come from somewhere.  Justifying your profit as the “fair compensation of one’s own labour neither explains nor alters where that compensation comes from.  Justified or not, no one pays himself -- no one gets from himself more than he put in.

This Marxist premise is not disputed by anyone in actual practice.  The primary purpose of NAFTA — and of its precursor, the maquiladora program — was to shift production to Mexico where the cost of labor was lower.   Why?  Because U.S. corporations could not extract a profit from domestic production if they had to pay out a whole basket of benefits to the worker.  And by 1970, the “compensation packages” were rather hefty, including pensions and health care.

Obviously if production were shifted to other countries that would necessitate “trade” to bring the finished goods back.  But the purpose of “enhancing trade” was simply a consequential concomitant of lowering production costs.  Lowering costs is what corporations mean when they complain about “regulations”.


It was telling that for all his bitching about NAFTA, Sanders never once mentioned the Mexican worker.  The mantra everyone north of the Rio Bravo accepts was that NAFTA shifted jobs to Mexico. Eduardo Porter — the token Latino on the New York Slime’s editorial board — even went so far as to say that NAFTA “benefited the Mexican farmer.”  If NAFTA benefited the Mexican campesino and if it shifted all those good paying American jobs to Mexico, how come illegal immigration into the U.S. doubled (4.3 to 9.8 millions) almost immediately upon NAFTA’s ratification?  “They got our jobs, ergo they are coming here to take our jobs” is a logic that could only succeed in the depraved vaudeville of American politics.

What Porter did not tell his readers was that by “Mexican farmer” he meant Tyson de Mexico Inc. S.A. de C.V.  What the New York Slimes never mentions is that NAFTA forbade the Mexican government from providing price supports to its own agricultural sector.   As a result the true Mexican agricultural sector of campesinos collapsed. 



The so called Four Freedoms underlying the European Union and corporate globalist polices are: free movement of capital, goods, services and persons.  It all sounds so free-floaty and “liberal.”  What it means in practice is that investors get to buy up what they want while workers get to scramble for work wherever they can find it.   That is exactly what happened under NAFTA, which is why that treaty was the paradigm and cornerstone of the global corporate world order.

Costs of Scrambling
A true socialist would have pointed out that the real us-and-them was workers everywhere (including Mexico) versus capital everywhere (including the U.S.). In contrast Bernie’s pseudo socialism demanded an end to the “ill-effects” of capitalism (in the U.S.) without demanding removal of the cause of those effects.  Instead it attributed the ill-effects to pseudo causes (mis-management, greed, or just plain “bad policies”) while acquiescing in the underlying disease.

Tyson Chicken Workers
As bad as pseudo causes are phony justifications.  The canard of “Clintonomics” was that by shifting the cost of producing goods “over there” to some-out-of-sight slave economy, the U.S. worker could be “retooled” into “good paying” paper pushing and byte-compiling jobs over here.


Mexican Trucks headed to U.S.

The “by” insinuated a connection that does not exist.  The retooling of the work force did not require the export of jobs.  Buggy making was not exported to China in order for Ford to make Model T’s.  Buggy craftsmen in the United States were simply retooled and rehired as Ford assembly workers in the United States.    Clinton's retooling was a rapacious lie.

Reschooling in Ohio

Of course, “good paying” is only relative to the cheapened price of goods. The result of Clintonomics was a form of economic-genocide, in which an entire working class segment in the United States was simply “sacrificed out” of the system so that cheap slave-produced products could support lower paying “good paying jobs” for a smaller number of employed.

Nor did the export of jobs improve labour conditions or living standards in Mexico.  Since NAFTA unemployment in Mexico has remained at the same level despite an exodus of 11 million.   Global capitalism is not interested in raising living standards anywhere; it is interested in exploiting poverty and under-development wherever it can.



There is no question that Bernie understood the basic phenomenon,

“Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.”
But his demand reflects a disconnect from the cause. To create decent paying jobs here means to raise the price of goods manufactured here which in turn demands even higher wages which in turn again raises the prices of goods.  Blaming "corporate greed" displaces the problem onto an irrelevant personal and moral level.  It is an inverted Calvinist Cant against the undeserving rich.  There is no doubt greed in the corporate world; plenty of it.  But the race to the bottom occurred for a structural reason; namely, the way things are produced -- and how "value" is generated -- in a capitalist economy.  The notion that capitalism can be permuted out of itself has been repeatedly disproved by history.



The problem with nationalist “socialists” is not that they don’t understand fundamentals; it is that they refuse to confront them.   To accept benefits from a system is to accept where the system gets its wealth from. If the engine of production is not extracting wealth from the national labour soldier, it must extract it from somebody else, either stealing their resources or turning them into  serfs on gigantic organic strawberry farms. But the paradigm it operates under remains the same.  Any displacement of the ill effects of the paradigm only shifts the burden —not onto the wealthy- but onto the back of some other exploited person or country.

THREE year old Peruvian Brick Labourer
Bernie’s approach seems to have been that his programs could be paid for by expropriating wealth from the bankers.  But although that expropriation ought to be done on principle, hedge fund profits are not the reason wages in the U.S. are low.  The financial sector is engaged in a different economic universe from the economies of trade and production. 

There are multiple reasons for the economic gutting of the United States, the most notorious being the leveraged buy out (LBO) where a company is acquired by loans collateralized by the company’s assets itself which are then “cut back” or sold off to pay off the loan. This form of economic pillage is driven by greed and nothing else.     Romney’s Baine capital was an example.

Next to LBO’s, corporate inversions are the next most anti-social economic practices.  Inversions are a hat-switching economic vaudeville in which an American company acquires or merges with a foreign company in order to shift its tax base abroad.  This does not necessarily result in a loss of jobs in the United States, but it does result in a loss of public revenues.  Apple Computer inverted itself out of 13 billion euros in taxes by pretending to be an Irish company.

Apple's (i-Avoidance) European Headquarters in Cork, Ir.
LBO’s and CI’s “escape” Marxist analysis because they are no more an economic activity than an armed robbery is an economic activity.  LBO’s and CI are simply legalized pillage and fraud. Thus, to the extent that Bernie (or Hillary or Elizabeth) cries out to “end loopholes” he is no more revolutionary than a person denouncing theft.

The true economic issue concerns the reason why corporations shift production overseas. They do so, for the straightforward purpose of cutting labor costs — not only high salaries, but health care and pensions which the FDR-Truman New Deal shifted onto their shoulders.  They cannot make a profit if they have to pay livable wages; lowering labour costs remains the prime mover behind the economic gutting of the United States.

The GOP’s liberal capitalist answer is (1) cut tax rates so that corporations will stop inverting out from paying taxes and (2) don’t require a decent, livable compensation package in the first place.

The pseudo-socialist answer is a determined spitting in the wind -- demanding that corporations do what they cannot sustainably do.  They cannot do it because their entire modus operandi is to make a profit; i.e. to get out more than put it.   Even if, by some fantastic turn of events, U.S. corporations were required to divert some of their overseas profits toward providing a guaranteed annual income for non working Americans, that benefit would still be derived from the sweat of exploited Third World labour.

A vote for Bernie was a cri de coeur — a vote for practical amelioration and relief.  He was worth voting for on that basis alone, but he did not confront the capitalist imperatives driving economic globalisation. 

In the end, Bernies’ cri was chauvinist.  Like Lasalle, like Bismarck, like TR and FDR, he demanded a better deal for the American worker without ever demanding an increase in the price of bananas to benefit the Honduran worker; for, to demand a better deal for the foreigner is to demand an end to the displacement of costs the system relies upon.  Bernie demanded mercy for some but not justice for all.

 Betrayal

Bernie's betrayal flowed from his deceit, repeating on the level of political strategies the Faustian appeasement of his ideology.  By asking his supporters to support the very party-establishment he excoriated, his endorsement of Hillary Clinton and his calls to defeat Donald Trump at all costs represent a betrayal of his ostensibly revolutionary principles.   Bernie's call to "fall in line" is -- at the partisan level -- precisely the chauvinism that Lenin excoriated as both deceitful and inevitable at that national level.

The argument Bernie makes is that his tee-shirt movement had wrung "significant concessions" on the Demorat Party platform and the goal now is to nudge the party "further" left.  One could do more than quibble with the words "significant" and "further."   But granting the mirage of running in place, the error of this subsidiary strategy flows from the error of pseudo-socialism’s very premise.  The idea that you can work significant change from within the party is no more solid than the idea that you can work fundamental change from within the system.  Just as the social democrats ended up towing the national line; Berniecrats will end up towing the party line.

As a matter of accidents it might be observed that there is no nudging a blob.  Hillary has spent a life time hedging, fudging, dodging and blaming. What she says on any given occasion is so shapeless and inconsistent as to be nonexistent.  The sum of zeroes is always zeroes.  But what she does behind the zeroes has been entirely consistent.  She has always sided with and worked for the military-corporate complex.  That she might do some  pro bono work here and there (the Children!) is stock-in-trade window dressing that ought not fool anyone.  What can be said of Hillary personally can equally be said about the Demorat Party institutionally.

Beginning with Reagan’s election, the  Demorat Party cowered in defeatism.  Even before Clinton, the mice were running away from the “L” word which Reagan had turned into the political equivalent of “Faggot!”  In the mid 80’s the party big-wigs switched from being appeasers to becoming outright quislings.  They disavowed their pseudo-social democracy, turned their backs on unions and hopped into bed with Wall Street and Harvard, the Vatican of Neo Liberal economic policy.  Bill Clinton was their man.

Clinton got Democrats to accept Reaganite social policies just as Obama would later get them to accept Bush’s abrogation of civil rights and perpetual war.

In order to maintain the illusion of a democratic contest, the Demorat party created causes and differences out of silly cultural and identity issues.  Most of these causes are utterly contrived; but, assuming some merit to some of them, they are not meritorious in any fundamental way.  The fate of the planet and the welfare of millions are not implicated by and do not depend on gay marriage, abortion or renaming Columbus Day.  Clinton’s famed “triangulation” consisted in double-talking, scapegoating and politically correct rabble rousing.  Hillary has taken the latter to new (and Orwellian) levels of synchronized frothing.

N.Y. Times Readers Frothing

The triangulation works because most people are moved by issues of immediate importance to themselves.  Whether that issue is of some actual importance or merely the projection of psychological discontents, in the judgement scale of the individual mind that issue is a one pound weight among other ounce-weight issues.   Unfortunately, a socialist judgement requires consciousness of things which are not of immediate individual importance.  

Capitalism works by displacing values --  displacement of costs, of tax burdens, of issues.  Just as costs are shifted abroad, attention and concern are shifted onto issues which have no real bearing on corporate profits but which do entail costs to some industrial victim out of sight elsewhere.

"Why should not a Peruvian Orphan-Labourer deserve as much as an American Single Mother?"

A tremendous amount of the Hillary/Party platform is simply cotton candy.   But all cotton candy has a stick.  Along with Republicans, the Demorat party has long supported a neoliberal, pro-globalisation strategy notwithstanding the concerns of its trade union bases.  The Demorat party represents a privileged class and no party gives away the privileges it exists to protect.

That class is trans-national investors and corporations.  It is a mistake to think in terms of “American” corporations and investors because these latter are meta-national.  They operate everywhere and pay taxes nowhere.


Once again, so-called “trade” is the fundamental issue of political economy on which there has been no concession.  Bernie says that "80% of the platform is progressive" and  this constitutes a victory to build upon in the forthcoming Battle of the Nudge.   What Bernie omits to say, is that the corporate oligarchy which Hillary represents absolutely and adamantly refused to  make any "concessions" on the pending  trade treaties.   They did not do so because they understand that the issue is fundamental to the political-economy they want and which they have pursued for near half a century.




In Woodchip's view, the most pressing and desperate issue is the looming ecological catastrophe.  This is not simply a matter of loving elephants (which we do).    It is a very simple and incontestable observation that without air, water, food nothing else is possible.   This or that benefit, this or that right, this or that validation are not possible in a Soylent Green  dystopia.

But immediately under the ecological crisis, are the so-called "trade treaties" because these seek to revise the political-economy within which all other issues are decided including the environmental gotterdamerung.   As we have explained, the misnomered "trade" treaties are 175 coup d'etats by global corporate capital.

While Hillary publicly backtracks and two-steps on the TPP, in private with corporate sponsors, she had no problem saying that she believes in an “hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, ... powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere."  (2013)  [WGC: Reading Hillary's Entrails. ]

Powering Opportunity in Mexico

In other words, despite tepid blather about NAFTA having been a “mistake” as implemented, Hillary supports an extended hemispheric NAFTA.  When it comes to the big notorious trade deals, Hillary abandons the even Demorat Party Platform and aligns herself with Obama.   The alignment is actually in black and white for anyone to see.



On trade, the party’s platform states: ”we will oppose trade agreements that (1) do not support good American jobs, raise wages, and improve our national security...(2) [that do not] include strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards, ... [or] (3) that prevent[] our government, or other governments, from putting in place rules that protect the environment, food safety, or ... health...”

In contrast, Clinton’s campaign platform states only that: “She will say no to trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that do not meet her high standard of (1) raising wages, creating good-paying jobs, and  (2) enhancing our national security.”

Powering Resource Development for Every Person in the Hemisphere
One has to laugh at the huge weasel of "her high standards" ... ? ? ? ...  which evidently do not  warrant mention of (2) "strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards."  But apart from "standards," the key word here is enforceable.    Clinton's own platform omits mention of the most fundamental objection to the treaties; namely, that they will create a supra-national corporate government of no resort, against which nothing is enforceable by mere nation states. 

Where, one might ask, did “national security” come from? It actually comes from Obama.  In an Atlantic interview, Bernie summed it up thus,

“He sees it as a geopolitical issue. He does not pretend, as previous presidents have, that this is going to create all kinds of jobs in America. His argument is that if you abandon the TPP, you’re gonna leave Asia open to Chinese influence.”
In other words, by Bernie’s own account, the palaver about good paying jobs is just bunk.  In private, Obama doesn’t embarrass himself with such bullshit.  (The bullshit is only part of his public tap dance.) The defining issue according to Obama and Hillary is really “improving our national security.”

Let's do the math:  item 1 (jobs and wages) is "bunk" = 0 + item 2 (nothing enforceable) = 0 + item 3 (national security) = 1, national security. 

How it might be asked does trade improve security?  Trade might improve national wealth but that is not the same as security.  “Security” refers to defense from armed attack and, by extension, proactive measures against de-stabilisation. The Spanish, British and now American navies always served the function of securing sea lanes for imperial trade; but since when did the Pentagon become an investment agent?



It didn't.   What exists is simply a global corporate policy with economic, diplomatic and military aspects in which extending corporate hegemony around the world is the commercial analog to the neocon doctrine of “securing and extending zones of democratic freedom. This is the real full spectrum doctrine.

Obama’s "argument" is simply a word-shift, a semantic juggle, another form of displacement, this time of meaning and focus.   As Bernie probably understands), the distinction between “domestic” and “foreign” policy is an anachronistic hold-over from the days of nationalism. It is no longer a 19th century question of promoting trade abroad of goods made in America by American workers earning good salaries correlative with increased trade.  If Obama no longer “pretends” such a thing it is because the corporations operate in a disconnect from any benefits accruing to the nation state whether in terms of tax revenues or jobs.  That doesn’t prevent Obama and Hillary or the Demorat Party from propagating the colossal oxymoron that the treaties will serve the national interest by promoting the bottom lines of supra-national corporations.  

What kind of progressive nudge is this so-called "platform concession"?  None.  

In his Atlantic interview, Bernie himself illustrated the paradigm that is at work, noting that as a consequence of Obama’s veto of Keystone, “the United States is now being sued for $15 billion by a TransCanada, the owner of the pipeline, because NAFTA bars governments from taking actions that limit the profits of a multinational corporation.”   Bernie himself called this “insanity”

Indeed it is insanity but an insanity Bernie necessarily supports when he supports the Demorat Party and its corporate nominee.   More than insanity, the Party's commitment to the trade treaties totally undercuts the premise of Bernie's movement, which was that "we" (Americans) can hold "them" (corporations) accountable.    Not if they can sue the People into impotence.   Not if economic regulation is transferred to some invisible court beyond public accountability.

 

The rest of the Demorat Party platform is like a bucket of buttered popcorn.  Each puff tastes good, the whole bucket is worthless calories.  At no point does the platform guarantee broad, universal rights to secure employment, housing, education, health or retirement.  In other words, at every point the platform utterly fails to be social democratic.

But we have focused on the trade deal because it is fundamental in a political-economic sense.   By "political-economy" we do not mean "social benefits."   The term political economy (which is used commonly everywhere else but seldom in exceptionalist America) refers to the commensurability between economic and political structures and modalities.   You can't have a global economy and any kind of authoritative national politics.  A global economy only has national political agencies. The party’s position on the trade deals tells you that it is a willing steppinfechit of the global corporate super-state.  It serves the interests of international capital, not the American worker not the worker anywhere.



One has to read Lenin’s “chauvinism” in historical context.   At the time he was writing, there still was such a thing as “national capital.”  Corporations and investors were mostly British, German, American, French and so on.   To refer to "social democratic chauvinism" was a short hand way of saying that the SDAP tacitly supported the economic interests of that capitalist class which was co-terminous with the nation state, even while it was pretending not to.   Today, national capital no longer exists (or more accurately it exists in diminishing degrees).  The “chauvinism” of the Demorat Party today consists in supporting the economic interests of a global capitalist class, of global capital.

Bernie’s betrayal is the long shadow of the betrayal of the working class by  SDAP.  His non revolutionary revolution  of necessity entailed a betrayal of his revolution by urging electoral support of a candidate and party who stand immovably opposed to the working man.

As Green candidate Jill Stein trenchantly observed, “It’s hard to have a revolutionary campaign inside of a counterrevolutionary political party,”   One would think that is obvious.   But in case it wasn't we have tried to show   Bernie’s betrayal flows from his deceit and the deceit of social-democracy is its Faustian bargain.  

A Revolutionary Thorn

Bernie himself confesses his betrayal.  What started out in April 2015 as a "political revolution" has now become, in the last stretch, being a promised "thorn in the side" to the party's corporate apparatus and its likely victorious nominee.

In so saying, Bernie tacitly acquiesces in the argument  that the Demorat Party and its candidates are at least committed to incremental improvements.  This is "ideological" thrust of Hillary's putative "pragmatic progressivism."  (WCG: Chicken Feed & Hypocrisy.)

But these “improvements” are on an unavoidable race to the bottom.  If you have been starved any crumb is an occasion for gratitude but that doesn’t turn the crumb into a meatloaf or even a loaf.   One need only compare the pseudo-social democrat platform of 2016 with the pseudo socialist programme of the 1920’s SDP to see how long the slide down has been.  Bernie’s current notion that somehow the Demorat party can be nudged and inched back up the decline to a position approximating European social democracy of the 1950’s and 1960’s is simply ludicrous.   It will not happen.


The only chance for change (and a tenuous one at that) was a takeover of the party machinery by the Berniecrats; for, that apparatus (and its adjunct in the media) operates as the ground-level branch or agency of corporate rule.  It is pointless to take over a party’s machinery just to have it operate as before. Economic control expresses itself in political control; seizing political control is the first step in reversing the process. 

Failing that  -- that is, failing Bernie winning the nomination -- the "revolution" required was not cooperation but destruction -- that is, to destroy the political mechanism of the one percent, in order to gut it out in defeat and then rebuild it.  That would  have required looking ahead at least four years.  It would require refusing to be enticed by a bucket of popcorn for a mere four yours.

Bernie was correct to emphasize the non-violent and lawful nature of his “political revolution.” Neither the Bolsheviks in 1917 nor the National Socialists in 1933 acquired power illegally. (Violence occurred after power itself was acquired.) In the United States, where the enactment of any program is institutionally embarrassed, fundamental change is very difficult.  Nevertheless, we grant that the first step in turning around is to -stop- walking on the path one is on.



On its face, Bernie’s program called for a stop, a turn and a slow walk back, undoing the damage of neo-liberalism piece by piece.  That was not a sufficient step but in the present circumstances it was a necessary one.  It was a step that offered a prospect of fundamental change  provided that the guiding objective was not lost sight of and not slacked off.

It is here that the tactical betrayal of supporting Clinton returns to the fundamental deceit of twice pseudo socialism.  What is the "guiding objective?"  If the Gotha Program is to be taken at its word, 

the destruction of the iron law of wages, the overthrow of exploitation in all forms and the abolition of all social and political inequality.
 
To abolish exploitation in all its forms is to abolish capitalism itself.  But, as we perhaps have shown, that primary goal got displaced by a policy focus of gradually abolishing forms of social and political inequality.   Revolution became marching with benefits in hand toward overthrow.   (Under Clintonian triangulation, the march triomphale was debased even further by reading "social inequality" to mean progress in "validating" various sub-group identity issues.) 

True revolution does not necessitate forgoing incremental benefits in hand. But it does require  focus and discipline on what is really necessary.  Without seeking a fundamental restructuring of the political economy there is no point in taking over the Demorat party

In defeat, Bernie claims victory.  We've put issues on the agenda, he says, which weren't there before! We will be a thorn in Hillary's side! One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry at the success of raising issues that were put on the agenda by Bismarck in 1880.  What he means is that he has gotten Americans to think about resuming the country's snail-paced march toward social-democracy by running backwards to catch up where the country was in 1970.

As for thorns, it is telling how strongly the forces of global corporatism aligned to defeat Bernie’s candidacy by news blackouts, by distracting propaganda and by electoral skullduggery.  Having gone to such lengths to defeat his candidacy can it reasonably be thought that, having defeated him, the same forces will now seriously let him alter policy by keeping issues on the agenda?

I read the New York Times!
Part of America’s farceocracy is to turn elections into personality contests.  But political personalities are no more important than the constituencies they represent.  Hillary’s grating, self-serving, duplicitous, passive aggression may be insufferable as such but they are ultimately unimportant.  What is important is who is supporting her.  The neocon network, the military establishment, the neoliberal academic establishment, banks and corporations are not supporting her because of her sterling qualities (quoth) but because she is willing to serve those who support her.  This is the bottom line truth behind all political figures.  That constituency will not let Bernie Sanders change Hillary’s mind or alter their global corporate game plan.  His only hope was to steal the party machinery from their grasp and put it in the hands of the constituency that was backing him.

At bottom, Bernie's argument is the one made by Uncle Toms, ghetto elders and quislings.  The issue is not reasonableness but will.   Political movements are like waves; once broken on a rock of defeat they simply dissipate with the receding tide.   "Go home and work on issues," never made a revolution.

When the nomination was stolen from him, Bernie ought to have done was to harnessed the energy of anger to launch a punishing counter-attack on the party establishment, punishing the party withan  electoral defeat.    Only then could he pick up the pieces for his movement and prove to Hillary's constituency that he was a force to be reckoned with.   Instead, he announced that he could be bought off with promises and pledged allegiance to the very people that had worked and will continue to work against him.   That was even less than Lasalle had done.


American Pertinax




It is hard to be harsh on Bernie; for, in the excrescent state of American politics, he was the best thing to come along since perhpas Samuel Gompers.   Being as charitable as possible, his betrayal could be characterized as a colossal error in judgement.   His attempt to stem the avalanche of catastrophes that global capitalism represents made us think of Pertinax.

By the end of the Second Century, the Roman Empire had become a military democracy.  The erstwhile popular tumult of the Forum & the Assembly were transferred to the camp of the Praetorian Guard which came to realize that if it guarded emperors it could also make and unmake them.  

In A.D. 192, the Emperor Commodus was murdered in bed by a robust wrestler hired by his wife. His reign of debauchery, repression and official rapine came to an end.    The Praetorian Guards disgusted by the emperor's depravity,  rampaged through Rome looking for a successor until they came upon on Pertinax, an aged senator of rank, whose personal merit had overcome the obscurity of his birth.
 
Reluctantly, Perinax accepted their acclaim and the Senate's due and necessary confirmation.  He thereupon set about to reform the state. He resigned his personal fortune,  he recalled exiles and released prisoners, and restored them to the full possession of their honours and fortunes.  He obliged the worthless favourites of the tyrant to resign a part of their ill-gotten wealth. He removed the oppressive restrictions which had been laid upon commerce, and granted all the uncultivated lands in Italy and the provinces to those who would improve them.  He remitted all the oppressive taxes invented by Commodus, and cancelled all the unjust claims of the treasury; declaring, in a decree of the senate,

"that he was better satisfied to administer a poor republic with innocence, than to acquire riches by the ways of tyranny and dishonour."

Amidst the general joy, the sullen and angry countenance of the Praetorian guards betrayed their inward dissatisfaction.  They dreaded the strictness of the ancient discipline which Pertinax was preparing to restore and they now regretted the licence of the former reign.

Again the Guard broke into Pertinax's house and dispatched him with a multitude of wounds. As Edward Gibbon writes, "His head separated from his body, and placed on a lance, was carried in triumph to the Praetorian camp, in the sight of a mournful and indignant people, who lamented the unworthy fate of that excellent prince, and the transient blessings of a reign, the memory of which could serve only to aggravate their approaching misfortunes."

Like Bernie, Pertinax had no designs to "restore the republic."   He was old enough, and perhaps wise enough, to realize that such designs were beyond what circumstances would allow.   Instead, Pertinax sought to moderate and ameliorate a system which had become repressive and destructive to civil society. But although the Guard had been disgusted by Commodus' depravities they were not adverse to a system which belonged to them and from which they profited.   Not only would they have not tolerated a restoration of the Republic, they were intolerant of any change that imposed the slightest loss or inconvenience to themselves.

The paradox of Pertinax was that if restoration of the republic was impossible mitigations  of empire were futile.  At such junctures in history, little is left to a mournful and indignant people but to apprehend their approaching misfortunes. 




©WCG.