The shutdown: Day two

Norman Pollack’s recent description of the impasse rings true:

The “shutdown issue,” presently mired in the political-ideological battle between the Far Right and the Less-Far Right (House Republicans and Administration Democrats), has little to do with the social welfare of the American people, and instead reveals discernible differences only on the degrees of sophistication informing the programs of each in their determined assistance to corporate capitalism. Republicans in this tableau (a staged presentation going back decades in the roles assumed by each side) are the visceral fascists, striking out at government without realizing how much it helps, assists, and protects business and banking, while Democrats actively, yet with becoming liberal rhetoric to hide from themselves their delusions and treachery, take help, assistance, and protection to a higher level of systemic interpenetration between business and government by means of a regulatory framework written by the affected interests.

Pollack considers the shutdown to be an opportunity:

Shutdown, ideally, equals wake-up, an exposure of widespread impoverishment on one hand, widespread waste, corruption of democratic institutions, and military aggression pure-and-simple on the other. If nothing more, scaring the folks at Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs until the legislative conflict is papered over, is worth the candle, considering that nothing will be done for the poor in any case.

But it should prove to be an opportunity missed by those who need to act to bring Superpower to heel:

Sequestration will ensure the lifeblood of the current American polity and economy, militarism attached to the continuing program of global hegemony, so that neither Republicans nor Democrats find urgency in resolving the present stalemate—and in fact, holding the bottom one-fourth of the people hostage to the utter good will of the political system and the consolidated wealth standing behind it, as the source for a solution, is a good lesson in proper obedience, deportment, citizenship. Dangle just enough social- welfare anticipated goodies before the people to ensure quiescence while simultaneously magnifying ideological differences that hardly exist, and one has the perfect formula keeping the masses distracted from the main show—not shutdowns or debt ceilings, but a foreign policy of global capitalist expansion geared to US-defined financial, monetary, and trade advantages, coupled with necessary regime change for their realization, all wrapped in a framework of massive surveillance at home and the quickening paces for demanding patriotism and conformity.

Today, political accountability originates in the streets. Democracy also. Both originate in the streets because America’s electoral mechanism, its judicial practices and its Congress have proved themselves incapable of protecting the citizenry from the government and, of course, the world from America’s empire. But public action of this kind is now risky and even mortally dangerous. Nevertheless the appearance of anti-system social movements and public protest motivated by a system-critical political culture appear to be necessary conditions for the country if it is to move beyond the current situation.

Solidarity during the austere age

Aditya Chakrabortty, writing for the Guardian, considered Sweden’s recent and surprising troubles:

More than 20 cars torched in one night. School classrooms gutted by fire. Fifty far-right extremists chasing immigrants around a suburb.

You probably haven’t seen much about it in the papers, but for the past week Sweden has been racked by rioting. The violence began in a suburb of Stockholm, Husby, and spread around the capital’s edge before other cities went up in flames. Police have been pelted with stones; neighbourhoods have turned into no-go areas, even for ambulances. Such prolonged unrest is remarkable for Stockholm, as those few reporters sent to cover it have observed. Naturally enough, each article has wound up asking: why here?

It’s a good question. Don’t surveys repeatedly show Sweden as one of the happiest countries (certainly a damn sight cheerier than Britain)? Isn’t it famous for its equality, its warm welcome to immigrants? Whatever happened to Stockholm, capital of progressivism, the Mecca towards which Guardianistas face for their daily five minutes of mindfulness?

We all know the cliches, but the reality is they no longer fit the country so well. Whether it’s on the wealth gap, or welfare, or public services, Sweden is less “Swedish” than it has ever been. As in other continental capitals, the Stockholm version of the “European social model” is an increasingly tattered thing, albeit still appealed to by the political elites and still resonant in the popular culture. But the country seized by turbulence last week is becoming polarised, and is surrendering more of its public services over to private businesses (sometimes with disastrous effects). Those riot-scene correspondents ought not to be asking: why here? A better question, surely, is: if such instability can happen here, what might unfold elsewhere — including Britain?

Rioting has occurred in other OECD countries. Most notably, they took place in Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Spain and Turkey since the onset of the Great Recession. The United States also produced the peaceful Occupy Movement, which the various governmental bodies suppressed with rioting police forces. The causes of unrest are the same across Europe and in the United States: Growing inequality, social polarization, austerity and, in some instances, economic stagnation. Sweden is a special case, as Chakrabortty avers. Its welfare state was notable for its commitment to collective security and to economic growth. The Swedish economy continues to grow. But the Swedes are slowly jettisoning their commitment to collective security, to solidarity. This is when the authorities need the police to keep order. This is when the democratic class struggle becomes class warfare.

Heh!

The FBI considered the Occupy Movement a terrorist threat

From a PCJF news release:

FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) pursuant to the PCJF’s Freedom of Information Act demands reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did “not condone the use of violence” at occupy protests.

The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.

In other words, according to Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, the Executive Director of the PCJF:

“These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity. These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

It is always good to have allies in high places….

Along with the thugs they authorize….

Failure?

Recently, political conformists in the United States celebrated the diminished presence of the Occupy Movement. To be sure, the lack of standing, active occupations — mostly due to the repression of such by America’s local militarized police forces — promoted a sense of relief among the conformists. The system worked! The Occupation failed; America remains intact; the natural aristocrats are still in charge. And their relief makes sense (to them) since the Occupy Movement was the first significant social challenge to America’s capitalist democracy and the austerity-minded political culture which emerged after the Recession of 2008. It is, after all, to this capitalist democracy that the conformists wish to conform. Failure, irrelevance ludicrousness of the Occupy Movement — these are the beliefs about the movement that pass muster among the corporate media.

Yet, we ought to ask, “Did the Occupy Movement fail?” The obvious answer: No! As Michael Niman points out:

The [corporate] media always held the Occupy movement to high standards, demanding nothing short of revolution, then calling the movement a failure when it failed to transform society in its first few months. But the pundits could only envision their own notion of revolution — replacing one set of leaders with another, all within the confines of our two-party system. Occupy, however, never aspired to being an electoral party or player, like the Tea Party, which, once organized, was co-opted by corporate interests in a matter of minutes. Occupy instead wanted to transform the debate — to shift the zeitgeist. To a punditocracy reduced to quantifying electoral battles as horse races, reporting on electoral tactics rather than substance, Occupy made no sense.

The Occupy Movement was and is a social movement, not an embryonic political party or new faction within the Democratic Party. Its goal: Radical change. Revolutions are instances of radical change. They are also improbable events just as radical change is improbable. It is because such change is improbable that demanding it from the Occupy Movement is tantamount to creating a pretext for judging the Movement a failure. Yet popular dissatisfaction remains intact, has real world motives and therefore must be considered a politically relevant variable in any analysis of America’s capitalist democracy that wants to be both sober and supported by evidence. The expression of this popular dissatisfaction only awaits an occasion which calls its name.

V.J. Prashad interview on the Occupy Movement’s first anniversary

Quote of the day

Charles M. Young made me laugh with this celebration of OWS’ first birthday:

Is there anything less threatening than a morbidly obese cop on motor scooter?

Okay, 25 morbidly obese cops on motor scooters — that’s even more unthreatening. When I’m out in the streets chanting, “Show me what a police state looks like! THIS is what a police state looks like!” I think I have a right to be oppressed by proper storm troopers who have spent enough time at the gym to bristle instead of sag. They don’t have to be television actors or anything, but as a taxpayer, am I getting my money’s worth when I’m being beaten and arrested by a parade of fried dumplings?

I’m going to be fair here and admit that I did see a morbidly obese cop on a motor scooter run over somebody’s foot last fall. That was moderately threatening until the ambulance arrived.

Note to Mayor Bloomberg: Is this why you banned the 32 oz. Big Gulps? All the guards at your cement bunker on East 79th Street were getting diabetes?

Note to Commissioner Kelly: Make your cops get off the motor scooters and chase those anarchists on foot. It’s good exercise. You might lose some anarchists, but think how much less embarrassing it will be to display fewer bulges in blue uniforms the next time Obama ties up midtown for a fundraiser.

At least 60% of the NYPD looks like the governor of New Jersey. Where is your pride?

It must be uncomfortable to have a hundred pounds of potbelly squeezing like toothpaste out the edges of those bullet-proof vests. They aren’t fooling anyone, using those vests like girdles.

It’s probably even more uncomfortable to work for a mayor who is cutting your pension while claiming you as a soldier in his “personal army.” That would be the same mayor who was worth $5 billion in 2002 when he was first elected mayor and promised to work full time in office. Now he’s worth $23 billion. How many cops on scooters made $18 billion while working full-time for the city?

No comment

The student’s name: Joe Diaz. His account of his arrest and the assault he suffered can be read here. The event occurred last December and was publicized by Kevin Carson on his blog.

Quote of the day

Here’s yet another analysis of the Recall Debacle in Wisconsin:

Much ink has been spilt and punditry hot air vented in explaining the failure to recall Scott Walker in this week’s election. Yet nearly all of it fails to address the appeal of Scott Walker and his policies for much of Wisconsin’s working and middle class. Walker was able to capitalize on the frustration over the continued erosion of living standards and insecurity felt by most Wisconsinites. Walker provided a false empowerment to the electorate by transforming them from victims to owners of the system. His campaign rebranded the electorate as “the taxpayer” or veritable stockowners of a company they owned: government. The people would take charge of their lives through a Walker-led movement against government waste by union and bureaucratic “elites.” Walker’s campaign thus took on the hue of a libratory project.

While the conventional explanations for Walker’s victory have some merit, they fail to explain the nature of victory or the true threat his strategy presents. To be sure, Walker and his billionaires were able to massively outspend their opponents. The peculiarities of the recall election laws and the US Supreme Court’s Citizen Action case permitted him to rain down endless weapons against the Democrats. The Republican National Committee deployed the full weight of their resources on Wisconsin; while the Democratic National Committee was largely AWOL, appearing only at the end to witness Walker deliver the coup de grace to his opponents. It was a historic betrayal of Wisconsin progressives they will not soon forget.

On strategy, Walker’s campaign was a fairly typical deployment of the Powell Doctrine (itself taken from Harry G. Summer’s musings on strategy following the US’s Vietnam debacle) to use overwhelming force against an opponent. Walker’s campaign carpet-bombed media with non-stop television and radio commercials for a half-year. Meanwhile, they positioned what seems to be an army of professional bloggers to control comment forums in the local press. In effect, they crowded out the public and often aggressively spread outright falsehoods on these sites, thus moving the Internet from a place of democratic dissent to use as a tool for reactionary power. This itself represents a major turn in the management of public opinion.

Ultimately, however, the bottom line is that Walker was able to capitalize on the very crisis and long-term economic decline Republicans helped engineer over the past thirty years–with no small help from the Democrats.

The “Walker won because of his money” claim is surely true, but Walker’s money was not the sufficient condition and efficient cause of his victory. As Sommers argues, Walker won because 1) of the economic distress caused by the reactionary economics practiced in the United States since the late 1970s and because 2) he created a right populist message that found a willing constituency. Sommers thus concludes:

In short, Walker has given voice to the working and middle classes so much hurt by the Reagan Revolution. The people have found their voice in Walker who skillfully and honestly, to his mind, articulates a narrative that resonates with Midwestern sensibilities of hard work and fairness. These concepts may have been distorted beyond all recognition to many observers, but to Wisconsin’s suburban and rural working class they have found their voice in Scott Walker. A ride through their neighborhoods reveals a veritable sea of blue yard signs declaring “I Stand With Walker!” Walker is a formidable candidate and better communicator than Reagan ever was. Analysts and pundits that dismiss his victory as one of simply money over the people do so at their and our peril.

Trumka put lipstick on a pig

 

English: AFL-CIO portrait of .

Richard Trumka, leader of that political black hole the AFL-CIO, had this to say about Scott Walker’s decisive victory in the recent Wisconsin recall election:

We wanted a different outcome, but Wisconsin forced the governor to answer for his efforts to divide the state and punish hard-working people.

Their resolve has inspired a nation to follow their lead and stand up for the values of hard work, unity, and decency that we believe in. We hope Scott Walker heard Wisconsin: Nobody wants divisive policies.

Yes, Trumka wanted to elect the Democrat in this election. We know this because the AFL-CIO always wants to elect Democrats. The Democratic Party and ‘big labor‘ have a special relationship. Trumka wanted ‘big labor’ to have a seat at the table. After all, AFL-CIO unions would need to be at the table in order to ‘negotiate’ the concessions the political and economic elite want unions to make. What Trumka did not want was the elimination of that furniture which never includes the majority of Americans. He thus wanted ‘big labor’ to have more political power than it now has, but not so much political power that that power would threaten to eliminate its seat at the table.

Actually, the election and the campaign beforehand hardly made Walker answer for his class politics. In fact, the outcome legitimized Walker’s class politics. Wisconsin voters affirmed a victory by the political reactionaries in America’s class war. Moreover, Walker’s easy victory made it clear to anyone with eyes that the left cannot challenge the party duopoly that governs America. The labor movement in America lost this election. Left populists lost this election. The system ‘worked.’

Finally, despite Trumka’s claim to the contrary, many Americans want divisive politics. The left especially wants divisive politics. The left wants to improve the lot of the poor, the working and middle classes; it wants to increase political accountability and democratic participation. These goals are inevitably divisive in the United States today. The Trumkas of the world do not want a divisive politics. They are, in a word, complacent. Gomperism lives. Complacency, unfortunately, produces system affirmative outcomes such as we have recently seen in Wisconsin and saw in 2008.

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