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Activism and Revolution: Thoughts On Hong Kong and The PRC Part Two
August 16, 2019
This is a continuation/ update of my previous post Activism and Revolution: Thoughts On Hong Kong and The PRC. This is my commentary on the events of the current protest movement in Hong Kong as a Libertarian Marxist in the United States, my thoughts and ideas as to what is happening today and what is next for the people of Hong Kong fearlessly fighting for their freedom. I stand in solidarity with the protesters of Hong Kong. This piece is both a general analysis of what is happening as well as an attempt to say what I think is in the people’s best interests if the situation continues to worsen and the government does not meet the people’s demands. In that, the latter half of this article may be regarded as a social alarmist/ worst case scenario piece. Here I must stress above all that human rights are non-negotiable, and that unnecessary bloodshed should be avoided at all costs.
As a libertarian socialist my aspirations stem far beyond what I consider to be the inherent undemocracy of the economic aspects of the capitalist system, the authoritarianism of the bourgeois democracy of the present order (that stems largely from this lack of economic democracy), and the restrictions on both positive and negative liberty, etc. But ultimately I recognize the right of the people to self-determination, even and especially when they do not agree with me. I can only publish my thoughts and hope that reasonable people take them to heart, consider them according to the present facts and past history, and do with them what they will, even rejecting them altogether if they see fit. After all, they are there on the ground and I am here in the United States. What do I know? Consider all possible options and opinions and act in accordance with reason and conscience, this is all I can realistically ask.
What Is Happening Now
As the stubborn government of Hong Kong refuses to listen to the demands of the people, the methods embodied by the people’s struggle against tyranny necessarily becomes more severe. The people are right to target the economic base of Hong Kong, to forcibly interrupt business as usual. It is the correct place to apply pressure where ordinary non-violent civil disobedience has failed. But the Hong Kong people do not need to be told this, they know it instinctively.
There is a monumental difference between indefinite suspension of the proposed extradition bill and its complete withdraw. When the masses quiet down and “law and order” returns, who is to say the extradition bill, months or years down the road, will not be passed silently behind closed doors? Here the people must strike while the iron is hot. A government that does not derive legitimacy from the consent of the governed has none. Therefore the Hong Kong government has no legitimacy. It is up to that government to reform itself in accordance with the will of the people or it must be abolished. There is no middle ground here. There must be a complete withdraw, a complete rejection and renunciation of the extradition bill. The rule-book must be re-written if necessary. Or the government must be abolished. The people want democracy, it is their right to have it and to determine the forms which it will take. The people want the community to control the police, not to have the police control the community. In this their demands mirror those of the great Paris Commune. The people want all jailed protesters (political prisoners to be sure) released, to have their protests rightfully called what they are, and not riots. In short, the people want liberty, and this is non-negotiable. Furthermore, whatever the people want, it is their right to have.
It is precisely at this stage of mass civil disobedience that the hitherto existing alliance between the super-rich ruling class (bourgeoisie) and the common citizenry begins to crack. Increasingly the ruling class has become disgruntled by the protests since they have targeted the economic base of Hong Kong (i.e. the foundational structure of their social power). With the threat of life imprisonment for the masses from the PRC, the people of Hong Kong have nothing to lose but their chains; the ruling class, their property, which increasingly we are seeing is to them is worth more than the rights of the common people, the 99%.
The headlines of the capitalist press read “One of the richest people in Hong Kong has lost $1 billion over the course of the 10-week protests, and now he’s joining the chorus of wealthy citizens calling for the protests to end”. Peter Woo who has lost the equivalent of 1 billion US dollars out of the 12 billion he owns has declared with Hong Kong’s wealthiest citizens: “enough!” Woo has called for the restoration of “law and order”, condemned the “illegal activities and violent behavior” of the people of Hong Kong fighting for their freedom. Freedom for Mr. Woo means freedom for himself and for billionaires like him to own what should be social wealth. Dare we say that Mr. Woo cares more about his own social wealth than about the rights of the people? Mr. Woo and those like him have sided with the bastard cops, cronies of the PRC who violently attack innocent protestors, for increasingly we are seeing that their interests are one in the same. Make no mistake, Mr. Woo and the cronies like him are enemies of liberty. Isn’t that too harsh? Not in the least. Human rights are non-negotiable. Until the demands of the people are met in full, there is no real safe-guard on concessions won. Let the people in this moment tip the table, let them strike while the iron is hot!
The people of Hong Kong take truly to heart the saying “Liberty or Death”! The ruling class at this point in time tolerates freedom for the common people only insofar as its individual members can hold safely to their billions which stem from the poverty of the poor. The people of Hong Kong do not derive legitimacy from the “respect” or “endorsement” of Mr. Woo and billionaire cronies like him. The people of Hong Kong, honest hard-working people, the common citizens, they alone give legitimacy to the struggle for freedom and human dignity. The people of Hong Kong should welcome the support of what progressive billionaires are left who support their struggle for freedom unconditionally, after all this is a struggle against institutions and not individuals. But to those rich and powerful who renounce this support, they should declare war. For powerful men like Mr. Woo, the withdraw of support for the protesters and the declaration of support for the bastard cops, cronies of the PRC, is itself a declaration of war against the people of Hong Kong, courageous people fighting for their rights, for their freedoms. As the super-wealthy increasingly withdraw support from the protest movement, the movement itself should hold the pressure and not let up an inch. If the government gives them an inch in concessions, they should take a yard!
The PRC is not going to listen to reason without pressure, inside or outside. The PRC, I think, is too important an economic ally of the West for serious outside pressure to emerge. At most there will be “strong verbal condemnations” of innocent bloodshed, “thoughts and prayers” and the like. Internally it is another matter, here the people have real power if they unite together as one, and if they are organized.
If Things Continue To Worsen
But what if the stubborn government and its increasingly stubborn ruling class refuses to grant the protesters their demands in full? These are my thoughts on the matter. The people should not let up an inch. They should only grow more severe and inflexible in their methods and aims. Once again I stress that human rights are non-negotiable. This is not something up for debate. If crippling the economy is insufficient, the people of Hong Kong should look to more uncompromising methods of dissent, as is their right as citizens whose consent all government is derived from. If the government refuses to meet their demands when non-violent pressure is exerted to the maximum possible extent, the government should be overthrown. Let that be the threat to the ruling order! The people are not weak, they love peace and seek to avoid bloodshed at all costs. But the people are not weak. If necessary, they will arise and will strike down the present order like lightning bolts from heaven! The threat alone should be sufficient. Perhaps then they will be apt to listen! If not, let them perish by the people’s will!
Let me not under-emphasize the fact that there is a real danger here. Another Tienanmen Square massacre must be avoided at all costs. Should the situation continue to worsen and should real violent retaliation on the part of the state look inevitable, the people should organize to arm themselves in collective self-defense. At such a point, any attempts to disarm the people should be frustrated by force if necessary. Perhaps I am an alarmist here for saying that the people should organize themselves now in preparation, a kind of citizens national guard to be called in an emergency situation, should worst come to worst. If the police and military alone are armed, it is likely at such a point that the people will be slaughtered. The people should be ready to defend themselves by force if necessary. Learn from the lessons of ’89! This time the people ought not be unarmed when Stalinist tanks roll in. The people in their millions should be ready and willing to push tyranny out of Hong Kong blow for blow, to be ready to pay the price themselves in order to decide their own fate as free people, to govern themselves. I truly hope such a thing does not come to pass. I hope the government falls to its knees and bows before the people’s will. If the people persist and the government is not as hard-headed as it appears, I think it will, and this ought to be celebrated.
If such a terrible day comes to pass that PRC tanks are rumored approaching the city of Hong Kong, the people must summon courage from within themselves. Recall that it was Thomas Jefferson himself who said, “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” As the situation in Hong Kong grows increasingly intense, the people should ask themselves today “how can we defend our rights and stop innocent bloodshed at the same time?” If tomorrow PRC tanks roll into Hong Kong, whose blood will be shed? That of an unarmed people fighting for their freedom, or that of the tyrants cronies who invade the city seeking to harm the innocent? Only an armed people are even in a position to answer the question for themselves, for an unarmed people the answer is decided for them. Remember that truly everything is at stake here!
My hope here is that the government ceases in its idiocy and bows before the people’s will. But should the government persist in its stubbornness, the presence of an armed and organized people alone should be enough to stop the cronies of the PRC from giving the order to send in the tanks, that this will lead to victory of the protesters without unnecessary bloodshed. But should things go from bad to worse the people should be prepared, and this calls for military organization and strict discipline from below, the formation of citizen’s guards as a grassroots alternative to the police and military, loyal not to the government but to the people themselves. These are my recommendations for emergency measures should emergency situations come to pass. Should the government not let up, people’s militias can form the foundation of a new legitimate force from below.
With sword in hand and ready to defend themselves, the people of Hong Kong can strike while the iron is hot, write the rule-book themselves, and dare to dream dangerously. Let them do so now without bloodshed, let the government bow before the people’s will for this is right. Let them do this now or tomorrow! The people cannot be stopped! People of Hong Kong, the city belongs to you and to you alone! There is no authority but that which derives from yourselves! Freedom loving people the world over stand with you! You are not alone!
These are my thoughts on the matter. Take them as you will.
LONG LIVE HONG KONG STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM!
FULFILLMENT OF THE PEOPLE’S DEMANDS IS NON-NEGOTIABLE!
HUMAN RIGHTS ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE!
SOCIALISM OR BARBARISM, LIBERTY OR DEATH!
Mass Media In The Modern Age: Big Problems, Big Solutions
July 22, 2019
This began as a rant on how I really hate Fox News, but then it turned into something more; an argument for the return of a kind of fairness doctrine on a libertarian basis, a critical analysis of Fox News and how it is similar to Stalinism, and an analysis on political religions, extremism, and how people get indoctrinated, among other things. The other day flipping through the channels I decided to watch Fox News (I try to stay informed on what conservatives are talking about). They were hammering on about the “dems radical socialist agenda” and how “we have to fight back”. Just the raw absurdity of such a statement shocked me, so I thought it was time for a hot-take on Red Liberty. My initial rant was thus:
Yeah, your news anchor (entertainer) personalities with hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate and property holdings are so concerned about you, ordinary working Americans and certainly not about keeping their own social wealth. The sad thing is people actually buy this nonsense. Worse than that, old people have this intellectual garbage heap running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Bless their hearts, they aren’t bad people and they do mean well. The real bad people are the ones filling their heads with this garbage 24/7. I’m not kidding about this when it comes to the elderly, for many of them the channel never changes. The volume goes down but like Orwell’s Telescreen in Oceania the TV doesn’t appear to be capable of turning off. Now I’m a Marxist, I know from first-hand experience that most socialists refuse to join the Democratic party because it is a corrupt party of wall street in the hands of the billionaire class. This “radical agenda” they speak of has nothing to do with socialism (i.e. public ownership and democratic control of industry), but rather it relates to a few center-left democratic socialists (really social democrats as the term was used in mid to late 20th century Western Europe) who are only reluctantly welcomed by the party when they crushed party hard-liners in the elections and won. The sad thing is, this “radical socialist agenda” is no more “radical” than the moderate social welfare policies of virtually every social democratic Western (not Eastern) European country maybe even as far back as 1950– and those countries were fervently anti-socialist. You want radical? How about democratizing big corporations and tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple by making them directly responsible in policy and decision making to acknowledged representatives of the general public, instantly recallable at all times. Farewell boards of directors with your payouts to media organizations such as Fox News and to large political parties! That means, with unlimited individual liberty, a political democracy in the hands of the common citizen. We’ll have the Free Software Foundation dictate the practices of Facebook. You want socialism? I’ll give you socialism!
I think we need to restore laws like fairness doctrine that require big media organizations to actually present both sides objectively (or the illusion of doing so by attempting to do so). Fox News isn’t “fair and balanced”– what a load of garbage! It’s better at holding people in their place without thinking for themselves and questioning authority than religion was in the middle ages! The revolution will not be televised.
Now I posted the above (at least in part) on the Freenet Message System (FMS, sort of like Reddit/ Usenet for discussions on the Freenet Network) and a commenter by the name of FreedomForever had a very spot-on reply:
“The only problem with the Fairness Doctrine is that there is no ‘both’ sides. If TV news wants to discuss why a terror attack just happened, in addition to a speaker on gun rights and another on gun control, they’ll have to add someone to claim it was staged by crisis actors and someone else to blame the Jews for it.”
Here I must stress caution with what I have said. I will paste my slightly modified reply here:
This is why I think we need a certain amount of social dogmatism. I remember a talk where Slavoj Zizek was talking about how he didn’t want to live in a society where we have to argue why raping a woman or murdering a child is wrong, and I completely agree. I don’t think it was always this bad. I mean you had conspiracy nuts and all but my God you don’t let them hold political power. This is precisely what we are seeing today. Without this sort of zero level understanding that some things like rape, racism, the shape of the earth, whether or not vaccines cause autism, etc. should not be debated you have a serious problem. The side of reason here is self-evident to one who investigates it, and those not convinced simply cannot be convinced even by the most compelling evidence, thus it is not something to be debated. You have to draw the line somewhere though, and that’s the tough question. I think bigotry, unfounded conspiracy theories, and authoritarianism are all things to be watched out for.
People have a habit of taking themselves too seriously. I mean, I have a libertarian socialist/ Marxist blog mirrored on 4 censorship resistant networks. I’m reasonably radical in my views. I like to think I am in the right, that I have investigated the arguments for the things I am against and against the things I am for (it’s necessarily a never ending process) but some of my political opponents think the same thing and come to radically different conclusions. Who is to say? You can’t take yourself too seriously, that’s the only approach that is morally acceptable if objective truth (insofar as it exists) says that you are wrong about this or that thing. Maybe it’s all the acid I used to take but I can’t seriously be a dogmatist. I mean, my God do you see some of these people? Alex Jones is nuts but did you see the van of the person who tried to mail poisons to Hillary Clinton and other democratic party leaders? It’s like their whole political manifesto was in the form of thousands of bumper stickers on their car praising Trump and slamming “the dems”. People get indoctrinated but I think a part of them likes it, I think they lose reason and embrace their ideology as a part of themselves to the point that reason which illuminates the wrongfulness of their ideas is seen as an attack on them personally. You cannot debate such people. And it’s not just the right-wing either. I’ve known people just as irrational and crazy on the left (looking mainly at the Stalin/DPRK apologists and historical negationists). For me I can only say that my views are constantly changing. Just a year ago I didn’t even know who Murray Bookchin was and since then many of my views have effectively turned on their head. In some ways I have become less serious and in the name of the pursuit of reason, wisdom and truth, I welcome this. This was more or less my reply on FMS.
Now, onward with the critique of Fox News, among other things. For me, if Fox News was open to it’s own conservative bias it would be a different matter. But no! Their motto is “fair and balanced”. Of course everyone sort of knows this is not the case, even Fox viewers, but for whatever reason it is absolutely crucial that this is never openly acknowledged. The real danger here is for Fox itself to admit that Fox News is owned by the same people who own the Republican Party, that it is a far-right news source. In this way Fox News functions in a way very similar to a Stalinist country. What did we have under Stalinism? Of course a country in the hands of the working class majority is one that is fair and democratic, otherwise you risk admitting that socialism is farcical– at least to a degree. I don’t want to fall into this trap of saying “oh this wasn’t X because of Y”, even if it is largely logical you still have idiots on the “other side” who say China isn’t capitalist because it’s authoritarian. By socialism here I mean industrial democracy, plausible with central control by the state insofar as the workers state is genuinely democratic as Stalin claims. Thus the challenge is of Stalin’s own claim here, not that socialism cannot by definition be authoritarian because democracy certainly can be. So I am saying “yes Stalin you say you have socialist democracy, and you admit democracy is fundamental to socialism, but really that democracy was a farce so what then?” This is what I mean here.
I don’t know why I like this speech by Stalin so much because there are so many like it, but there is one where he says (of the Soviet Union under him): “This is what we call socialism in daily life, this is what we call a free, socialist life. It is on this basis that our really free and really democratic elections have arisen, elections which have no precedent in the history of mankind.” See it’s not just that in the Soviet Union people are really free and the elections are really free and democratic, but the Soviet Union has so much freedom and real democracy that there is no precedent in the history of mankind! In the midst of totalitarian state terror you have the leader of it all formally proclaiming freedom, and nothing is more dangerous than for these institutions than for them to admit it’s all a farce, it cannot even tolerate individuals making such claims. This to me is as grandiose and absurd as Fox News’ claim that it is “fair and balanced”. It’s really sort of the same thing isn’t it? “The (somehow socialist/ radical leftist) democrats are a threat to America and ordinary Americans but God emperor Trump can build the wall and save us” and suddenly between it all this official announcement by this propaganda station proclaiming itself “fair and balanced”. Not “we try to present what we perceive to be the truth” but “fair and balanced”. Aha! It’s a Stalinist notion really. Not even I would make such a claim of Red Liberty.
I think the facts speak for themselves when it comes to the distortions and fabrications carried on by Fox News. Really its a kind of wonderful institution for mass manipulation and control, and in a twisted way I kind of admire this (in the same way that one admires a horror film). I really like it when they bring the “democrat party idiot” on to debate. The person is a hack who always loses the arguments, they’re always an idiot or at least it’s edited to make them look like an idiot. I really admire (in a twisted way) this sort of farcical debate in which “the dems” always lose. Have you seen the (unaired/ leaked) video of Tucker Carlson telling a leftist historian who calls him out to go fuck himself? It’s fabulous. My favorite part is:
“You are a millionaire funded by billionaires, that’s what you are,” Bregman said, when Carlson tried to “jump on the bandwagon” of his Davos intervention. “You’re not part of the solution, Mr. Carlson, you’re part of the problem, actually.” Even just reading his replies you can tell Tucker is fuming, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself, you tiny-brain? Because you’re a moron.” (taken from: Media Mole’s article on the video on New Statesman). When there is nothing more to say, that’s it, that zero level confrontation. That’s the Stalinist equivalent of asking where the Party member who criticized Comrade Stalin the night before went, because no one has seen him since the Party meeting where he criticized Comrade Stalin. That’s it, the zero level confrontation. It’s a huge no-no. Zizek claims in a Stalinist society the party member who criticizes Comrade Stalin at a party meeting would disappear the next day, but if someone stood up right after him and said “What are you mad? You can’t criticize Comrade Stalin they’ll kill you!”, then that person would probably disappear that night! It simply cannot be tolerated. Tito after liberating Yugoslavia from fascist occupation defied Stalin’s notion of proclaiming a free and democratic “people’s democracy” in favor of openly acknowledging Yugoslavia as a one-party totalitarian Stalinist state. I think this is part of the reason Stalin tried to kill Tito so many times, you can’t admit to something like that, it’s expressly forbidden. This is the unspoken rule. You admit to the farce and you give up the illusion. There is no “big other” as Zizek would say. There is no socialism or people’s democracy, there is no “fair and balanced”.
Radicals who know what they are talking about and who hold opposing views are very occasionally brought on air and usually given no more than 30 seconds of air time, and it actually works to help the news organizations’ cause. Really I think this is how the media in an authoritarian country should function. During the Vietnam war you could have BBC bring on Chomsky raving on about East Timor for 30 seconds, yes he’s right but he looks like an idiot because you don’t even give him enough time to really prove the things he is saying are true. If Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin move at all towards liberalization this is how they should do it, allow the opposition 30 or so seconds (make them think they have more time) of air time to ensure they make a fool of themselves. Chomsky mentions something similar in his book ‘Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies‘.
I think Chomsky’s notions of a democratic press are likewise worthy of investigation. The abolition of corporate media and the introduction of a democratic, adversarial, confederation of journalists and journalist organizations fully respectful of individual liberty could usher in an era of trust for the media, and an end to the stigma of sensationalism and data capitalism so common with mainstream for-profit mass media. With this we could take the bullets out of the gun that Trump aims at the free press. When liberty finally triumphs over tyranny and when industrial democracy triumphs over capitalism, reporters for Fox News insofar as they are liked by even a single person, and insofar as they gain sympathy of their own merits rather than by self-promotion via their own pools of wealth, will naturally find no hindrance in joining and forming their own media syndicates or publishing on their own. Print journalism is going out the window, cyberspace offers the possibility of real freedom of the press, of thought, and of religion in ways that are both privacy respecting and resistant to censorship. This is what we need.
I actually tend to have little issue with conservatism insofar as its social expression is a genuine manifestation of individual will illuminated by reason according to their own understanding. For me, my opposition stems from my love of liberty and equality, a belief that consenting adults have a right to do and think and act as they please and that everyone should have an equal chance to succeed in life, but this opposition is political, not personal, and it remains so insofar as their opposition to my own ideas does not seek to infringe upon the rights of any other person. In fact it matters not if I take issue with it or not, for freedom dictates that a person has every right to find their own path and to speak freely without hindrance. I loudly say that while I do not agree with what they say, I will fight to the death for their right to say it. Here I think Bookchin was right when he critiqued the immorality of the left (saying precisely the same thing, which is not as some would allege a purely liberal notion). Referring to Bookchin’s point on this matter, I point to a historical example during World War 2 when the (Stalinist) Communist Party USA applauded the arrest of their political opponents, Trotskyists arrested under the Smith Act by the United States, saying that they “would have been shot” in the Soviet Union. Naturally when the same law was used against them after the war, hardly anyone was there to defend them. Thus it’s an entirely self-destructive process. You break up someones meetings and they break up yours, where does it end? You reap what you sow, and it’s high time for the left to sow that which will bear good fruit, and no fruit is richer than that of unlimited individual and political liberty.
Yes, I believe in freedom of speech and thought and conscience and I regard it as being of the highest forms of human liberty. But with the mass media the problem is one of institutional power; capital is the source of mass media as it has hitherto manifested itself. The problem is one of capital, and that’s the same for pretty much every major news network, even the liberal ones (not just Fox News). It is therefore a struggle against the power of the ruling few to dictate the lives of the many. Until we address the problems of mass media in our society we’ll have idiots on “both sides”, and even after we certainly will as well though I hope to a lesser extent (only idiots seriously think socialism will magically solve all the problems of the world, and I say this as a socialist). Let them rave on about the “dems socialist agenda”. Every socialist knows they are morons. Let the ultra-left rave on about how conservatives are basically Nazi’s, every conservative knows they are morons. I think the restoration of the fairness doctrine in a modified form (i.e. on a libertarian basis) is a good concrete demand. The best way to do that is a serious question that I don’t have the answer to. At the very least I think it should be applicable mainly if not exclusively to any mainstream media corporation that claims to be “fair and balanced”. No, you should have to declare your slant one way or another! Maybe this is what we need.
You know years ago, as Zizek has pointed out, this idea that, “oh George Soros is giving anfifa protesters checks to show up to rallies and break windows” is something you might hear someone very mentally ill and deeply disturbed mumbling at a sketchy bar at 4 in the morning several years ago. I mean a billionaire capitalist paying anti-capitalist anarchists to violently protest against people like him is like King Louis paying the Jacobins or the Tsar paying the Bolsheviks. But now this is somehow common place among sections of the right wing. I think the lack of a fairness doctrine is partially to blame for this but of course the problem is much more complex. Do you remember awhile back when those lunatic “United Constitutional Patriots” stopped people crossing the US border in search of a better life and held them at gunpoint? Of course they promoted conspiracy theories that the “deep state” was infecting people with contagious diseases and paying them to cross the border, but on top of this was this insane notion that Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros were radical leftists (I wish) that were a part of “ANTIFA” (in the minds of the far-right a centralized, shadowy and powerful organization, we capitalize it here for effect because they do). Had any of these people heard even the most basic explanations of the political positions of the antifa collective from someone actually in antifa (as opposed to from third party sources such as Fox News and InfoWars), they would have realized that the anti-fascists are actually intrinsically opposed to the political positions and ideas of figures such as Obama, Clinton, and Soros, and that antifa taken seriously is actually a grave threat to people like Obama, Clinton, and Soros. Naturally as we can expect, such people are not the brightest, and they are but a consequence of the near total lack of really fair and balanced, non-corporate political discourse in this country on an institutional level. Of course such crazies would come about even in a society with something like fairness doctrine, but I think perhaps to a much lesser extent.
Here the issue stems from the fact that people are informed about things their social group (in this case political) are opposed to from within that social group. This is part of the reason why I try to read opposing view points from the opposition and not from fellow leftists explaining why those positions are right or wrong. This always reminds me of the Cultural Revolution in the PRC (People’s Republic of China) where every person was raving the little red book and renouncing “Soviet revisionism” and “Trotskyism”. When this comes to memory I also recall what Mao himself said in ‘Oppose Book Worship‘: “Unless you have investigated a problem, you will be deprived of the right to speak on it. Isn’t that too harsh? Not in the least. When you have not probed into a problem, into the present facts and its past history, and know nothing of its essentials, whatever you say about it will undoubtedly be nonsense.” Here I like to use Mao’s own quotes against him. I’d bet not a single “revolutionary student” in those mobs of millions in the height of the Cultural Revolution had ever read an unredacted word from Khrushchev of Trotsky in their lives. If any of them had done so, they had not done so legally as such writings and materials were illegal to even posses let alone read (except maybe in the case of Mao himself or the Central Committee, the ‘only thinking element’ as Rosa Luxemburg warned of in her bleak ‘worst case scenario’ portrait of the future in her work 1918 work ‘The Russian Revolution’). Of course this is an example of a totalitarian regime, but the principle still stands in a relatively free society. In a relatively free society censorship is usually a form of negative (in relation to learning not speaking) self-censorship. People who are indoctrinated or even remotely sympathetic to “one side” have a tendency to self-censor in regards to where they get their information, and centrists tend to lack the moral fiber or informed opinions present on either side. I think this is an evolutionary trait, people accept sources of information that seem to be correct and reject those that aren’t. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be, and when it is this calls for self-discipline.
When you remove something like fairness doctrine you only make this worse, and political camps self-isolate figuratively and institutionally. Intellectuals will always seek to investigate the radical thoughts and opinions of other thinkers, coming to their own conclusions. But the average person will more or less think in a manner and pattern proscribed by the forces of society (I say this not in an arrogant way but in the spirit of historical materialism, and you know intellectuals are just as idiotic as average people).
But when ‘society’, more specifically the modes of information inherent to mass media become fractured, the average person, usually ignorant and unwilling to go to the effort to investigate all possible sides– a consumer to be sure, is swept away into the polarized dogma of political religion. Keep in mind I say this as a Marxist, making a note that Marxism itself is not necessarily a political religion, but that the manifestation of political religion is something that happens first on an individual level, when one abandons reason and skepticism for faith and unquestioning loyalty to doctrine in the face of all evidence to the contrary. I would argue that perhaps anti-revisionist Marxism-Leninism falls under this category, but Marxism itself certainly does not. This conversion to political religion happens without the underlying social contradictions inherent to revolutionary social change, though such contradictions serve only to agitate the fracturing of a civilization. When such contradictions happen in a society where some sort of fairness doctrine is maintained you more or less have a more clear revolutionary upheaval at least in regards to class. In the modern day I think Bookchin’s notions of class struggle have merit (see ‘Listen, Marxist!’) so the class dimensions of such a struggle become more nuanced than your typical Marxian notion (and perhaps Jordan Peterson has a point in comparing some Marxian notions with post-modernist thinking even if both schools of thought are opposed to one another). What I mean is that it should manifest itself more as a healthy struggle of individual (cross-class) ‘revolutionaries’ against bourgeois institutions than as a bloody civil and class war as would have been the case in early 20th century Russia. But when you have this lack of something like fairness doctrine such social contradictions can and likely will, lead only to a bloody civil war– its class dimensions likewise muddied given the nature of modern industrial society, but nonetheless apparent. Thus the removal of ‘fairness doctrine’ like legislation does serve to preserve the status quo in the worst way possible, in that, should such contradictions arise, the revolutionary overthrow of the prevailing socioeconomic and political order would be less a matter of a “mass movement of the 99%” to transcend capitalism with a libertarian-democratic alternative towards a kind of free communism, and more a matter of bloody civil war with a chance for the reaction to win and turn back the clock of progress. Anyone who says “the worst things are the better things are” is an idiot, such needless bloodshed ought to be avoided at all costs and anyone who says otherwise should never hold any real power. Institutionally I think we need some sort of restoration of fairness doctrine, individually one must be open minded and willing to read the ideas of the opposition from the opposition itself.
You have to do the same thing with the media as well. As such, in addition to more socially acceptable conservative and liberal treatises I also read the so-called “sacred texts” of totalitarian regimes and extremist political movements as they exist, in addition to the first-hand accounts of people on the ground so as to remain objective (or to at least try to do so). Here is another issue of censorship. I am against political censorship for a variety of reasons, but I do understand that even though my own personal ownership of texts such as ‘Mein Kampf’ and ‘The Myth Of The Twentieth Century’ is for investigative purposes only– not out of any sympathy for Nazism, I understand that this is not always the case, that in addition to out-right fascists buying such books to propagate, ill-informed or ignorant people may be apt to purchase such books, read them, and take them seriously. Here too the situation is complex.
I think more than fairness doctrine is the fact that news media has more and more become a form of entertainment. In and of itself this is not a bad thing, for it is better to inform the people and entertain them at the same time than to keep them ignorant. But look at places like InfoWars. Now, I recently wrote an article against Facebook’s corporate censorship of InfoWars and I stand by that. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think InfoWars and the emergence of organizations like it aren’t a problem. Most people who listen to InfoWars do so not to be informed but for entertainment, everyone sort of knows Alex Jones is insane or is at the very least pretending to act insane. But then they say, “Oh but he has a point about X or Y” and they start to believe the things he says, or they are naive enough to believe it anyways. They watch primarily to be entertained. But then you have forms of entertainment that primarily aim to inform about things that are real problems, like John Oliver’s show. John Oliver is more rooted in reason, he seeks more (and primarily) to inform than to entertain. I think there is nonetheless a real danger here of treating the people you are talking to not like thinking individuals but like consumers and I don’t see that changing any time soon, especially under capitalism. And then when people argue with one another and the other person speaks, they listen to reply, they don’t listen to understand. You know what debate I like? The Jordan Peterson vs. Slavoj Zizek debate. It didn’t get too crazy because both people were intelligent men who meant well and who honestly wanted to pick the brain of the other person first before really debating them, and in the end it was this beautiful exchange of ideas and a kind of mutual investigation more so than a debate. Peterson’s initial comments against Marx led to this realization that “Oh wait this Marxist thinker actually agrees with my criticisms of Marx let me talk to this guy” later on after Zizek replied. I would actually buy a book co-authored by Peterson and Zizek. Here there was radical honesty. I consider myself a student of Zizek but I now have a new kind of respect for Peterson and some of his ideas too. While I don’t agree with him entirely (at all), I think he is right about some things. This is what we need more of today. If I can take Peterson’s ideas seriously, you can take the ideas of your own political opponent seriously. To refuse to do so is childish and a sign of intellectual weakness and moral cowardice.
Maybe in closing to provoke conservatives I’ll say that conservatives are afraid of fairness doctrine because they are afraid ordinary people will side against them when reporting really is “fair and balanced”. Maybe to provoke liberals I will say the same thing (though I am more apt to take the former seriously). The worst thing, I think, would be for MSNBC and Fox News to unite against any sort of legislation that requires more objective reporting for mass media. The best thing, as a matter of fact, would be for mass media institutions to be subject to a kind of “fairness doctrine” that at the very least forces them to declare their political slant, giving up any notion of being “fair and balanced”. I am less eager to accept such legislation for alternative, grassroots media and organizations, thus I am for a more libertarian form of fairness doctrine. Though I know a lot (but certainly not all) of these “alternative media” organizations are fake so the situation is quite complicated. Regardless, the situation remains complex and I, as a Libertarian Marxist, hope to have contributed something useful to the broader discussion, while at the same time bashing that organization I really hate, Fox News.
Activism and Revolution: Thoughts On Hong Kong and The PRC
July 9, 2019
Hong Kong and the Old Left
Here in America the news that Hong Kong protesters stormed the main Legislature’s building struck me with a rush of hope and excitement. As a student of history it is easy to understand how my minds conception of what was happening leaped to titanic proportions. I was hoping for a new storming of the Bastille, in actuality the protesters defaced some portraits and sprayed some graffiti. In many ways it reminded me of the chaotic London Riots or the general confusion of the Occupy movement. The commentary on the event was even more more depressing. The BBC World News Podcast featured guests raving on about how “shameful” this “vandalism” was, but in my mind this reaction embodies a faux morality in defense of the preservation of “sacred” bourgeois parliamentary procedures and customs. To me it is necessary to speak in class terms here since Hong Kong parliamentarism is bourgeois to its core. If anything they should have sprayed more “graffiti”.
In France the storming of the Bastille marked the end of the monarchy and the feudal order that had dominated France for thousands of years. In Russia the storming of the Winter Palace marked the end of bourgeois rule and the immediate seizure of power by the Bolsheviks. But today in Hong Kong the storming of the Legislature’s building marked what exactly? I am not here to say “oh they should have taken power” or to offer my “enlightened” advice on the situation in a city I have never visited before. My fear here is much more cynical, that even if things really did collapse, people would be too afraid to take power and upon taking it they would not know what to do with it.
One must remember how in 1871 the working class of Paris led a literal revolution when government arms fell into their hands through conditions of chance and war. “Proletarians arise!” such words rained down like thunder on the ears of the ruling class. Such a thing exists today only in the fantastical mind of the orthodox Marxist who, still ascribing to old “formulas”, thinks people are actually going to do such a thing today. It is a collective delusion brought about by a lack of critical thinking and the conversion of Marxism into ideology, into a political religion that in actuality betrays the very premise of Marxist thought. Bookchin in his day noticed this total decline of real radicalism among the working class, from the 30’s when tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of factory workers would march in the streets with red flags to the 60’s and beyond where such groupings were found almost exclusively among the middle class intelligentsia. His essay ‘Listen, Marxist!’ attempts (though in my mind does not entirely succeed) to in many ways to reconcile leftist politics with this new world, and as such I highly recommend people read it. At the same time the “industrial proletariat” has, thanks to imperialism, moved largely to the third world where labor is much cheaper for the capitalist to exploit than at home. So in Hong Kong and China it is a bit more nuanced. Regardless, today I would have to give the diagnosis of “revolutionary erectile dysfunction”, not just in Hong Kong but practically everywhere. Perhaps conditions are not right, but the ecological imperative says they need to be.
Jordan Peterson in his debate (really more of a discussion) with Slavoj Zizek openly admitted to the oxymoron of his babbling on about “post-modernist Marxists”, since post-modernism and Marxism are in almost every instance, irreconcilably opposed to one another. Peterson explained that he used this comparison because both schools of thought have a tendency to group people and things together in such a way that the individual is swallowed up into the group identity, and one group is automatically good and the other bad. In many ways I think Bookchin’s critique of orthodox Marxism is an attempt to transcend this aspect of Marxism and Bolshevism specifically. It becomes not so much a question of unity and conflict on the basis of class but more and more a question of individuals against institutions vis-à-vis people of good will regardless of class who recognize radical social change to be in the interests of the species. It is partly for this reason that I speak on here less in class terms and more in general terms. In many ways I have used “the people”, “citizens”, and so forth as opposed to “the proletariat”, “the working class”, etc. This is not to say that I do not think the proletariat as it exists in our society has a role to play, but it is to say that not only has the formula changed, the whole drawing board has changed as well. Yet I still consider myself a Marxist. I do not have all the answers here, mostly just questions.
Revolutions: Hong Kong and the PRC
Great revolutions do not and never have begun with their most radical demands at the forefront of social upheaval from its outset. A revolution begins when a grave social ill, systemic and institutionalized, is confronted suddenly and at once by a conscious people. But social revolution does not stop there, it becomes more and more radical with time, and rightfully so. Here let me quote from a man whose dreams were too big for a world too young and immature to hear them, a man of many mistakes but in many ways, a man worth listening to insofar as one takes into account historical context, in times like these. Lenin once said that “Politics begin where the masses are, not where there are thousands, but where there are millions, that is where serious politics begin.”
What of the political struggle in Hong Kong today? Here, certainly there is real politics. The liberal ruling class of the prevailing socioeconomic order shares an interest with the common people of Hong Kong insofar as the opposition of the extradition bill is concerned. In this a United Front against the totalitarianism of the PRC has been rightfully made. But when demands are met the interests of the ruling class and the interests of the ordinary working people are not and cannot be the same. Should all be resolved then, the movement will be over. But should the iron still be hot, the people must strike then and there. This in and of itself is a peculiar situation given the historical context of the struggle. Understand I am not so naive to break out old Marxist formulas here or the traditional Marxist conception of class struggle. Here too I am a pessimist. I think Bookchin’s idea here on class struggle have merit.
We must remember that the modern People’s Republic of China is itself born of the Cold War. It is one of history’s greatest irony’s that “People’s Democracies” historically embodied and in China today do embody the will of a small, privileged ruling bureaucracy while liberal democracies that began as entirely bourgeois evolved into a form of bourgeois democracy that recognizes, more or less, that freedom is always the freedom of the dissenters, of the one who thinks differently (Luxemburg). Popular rule naturally means the rule of the people as they actually exist, not as they according to myth “will exist” in some far-off future, not as they “officially” exist according to some complex and esoteric social theory. Popular rule moreover can take either a reactionary and authoritarian form or libertarian and progressive form– the institutions by which democracy is enacted determine the course of a nation and a people and the forms by which the people rule. At the same time, people are lazy and stupid. A certain amount of bureaucracy is necessary to keep the water running and you want boring experts to be in control of things that require specialized knowledge. At the same time, radical change is needed.
The modern Hong Kong protests remind one of the East German uprising of 1953, a popular uprising against a system where the “People’s” government subdued by terror the masses in their millions, or the Prague Spring when the will of the people (at that time largely for a genuinely democratic form of socialism) was violently subdued by Moscow tanks, or more recently of the 1989 Tienanmen Square massacres by which the “People’s Republic” slaughtered thousands of students and workers, so-called vanguard of the “Communist” Party, whose only crime was the call for the realization in actuality of what rights and freedoms formally “already existed” and “currently exists” according to the Stalinist government and its constitution.
In all the above instances the “People’s” government refused to listen to the actually existing will of the people, opting instead to repress all social expressions of that will, claiming itself as the sole interpreter and guardian of it. Here the nail in the coffin should come from Marxism itself. Historical materialism would posit, naturally, that under such conditions social contradictions would inevitably erupt like a pressure cooker bringing forth the revolutionary overthrow of all existing social conditions and the abolition of the Stalinist order. These eruptions in 1989 were fast and irrevocable where politics had mostly stagnated years before. In other words as Lenin once said, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” Now in many of these instances change only happened when the regime slipped up in some way. The USSR sneezed (legislatively speaking) and Eastern Europe threw off that faux red flag. An Eastern European politician made a mistake and people misinterpreted it so people flocked to the Berlin Wall. An order wasn’t sent by a lesser official, perhaps a wire didn’t function or someone was sick that day, and the police did not suppress the popular struggle. Hard-line Stalinists had enough of Gorbachev and told the world he was “sick” in his dacha while Stalinist hardliners tried hastily to take power. Yeltsin led the resistance and the USSR collapsed. Revolution happens when power is crippled, even if only for a moment, but such incidents are nonetheless inevitable, a statistical certainty. No social system is so pristine and stable as to suppress popular discontent forever, the PRC included. Today Hong Kong too has lost its grip.
Freedom and Communism
The irony of quoting Lenin does not escape me here, and naturally I must point to Rosa Luxemburg’s pamphlet ‘The Russian Revolution’ as the single most accurate historical foreshadowing during the early years of the Russian Revolution (later surpassed by Trotsky’s writings on the future of the USSR). Luxemburg understood the importance of unlimited individual liberty to any legitimate socialist society, “On the other hand, it is a well-known and indisputable fact that without a free and untrammeled press, without the unlimited right of association and assemblage, the rule of the broad masses of the people is entirely unthinkable.” Her writings here, are and should be used as an exorcism against what today transpires in the People’s Republic of China and other post-USSR Stalinist states. It is not the sayings of an “anti-communist”, but of a woman who gave her life defending the communist ideal.
"Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party however numerous they may be is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of “justice” but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when “freedom” becomes a special privilege…
Public control is indispensably necessary. Otherwise the exchange of experiences remains only with the closed circle of the officials of the new regime. Corruption becomes inevitable. (Lenin’s words, Bulletin No.29) Socialism in life demands a complete spiritual transformation in the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois rule. Social instincts in place of egotistical ones, mass initiative in place of inertia, idealism which conquers all suffering, etc., etc. No one knows this better, describes it more penetratingly; repeats it more stubbornly than Lenin. But he is completely mistaken in the means he employs. Decree, dictatorial force of the factory overseer, draconian penalties, rule by terror all these things are but palliatives. The only way to a rebirth is the school of public life itself, the most unlimited, the broadest democracy and public opinion. It is rule by terror which demoralizes.
Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously at bottom, then, a clique affair a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins."
It is necessary to beat such words and their historical context into the collective consciousness of a people fighting for a better world if they are to dare to create it. Such words seek not to exonerate the totalitarian experiments of the past but to condemn them with the very words of their earliest, most fervent advocates showing the degree of the totalitarian distortion and tragedy undergone. I quote Mao here because Mao knew how to lead a revolution, though not a country. In the context of world history he is like Sun Tzu and his writings will be studied for millennia.
Revolutionary Unity of The People of Hong Kong with The Chinese People: Its Social Necessity And The Future
The people of Hong Kong today must realize that their interests are no different than the interests of the people of mainland China. It is neither the government of Hong Kong that speaks for the people of Hong Kong nor the PRC government that speaks for the people of mainland China. In either instance the powerful speak for those they govern by neither popular consent nor the truly righteous invocation of the common interest. The people of Hong Kong should unite with the people of mainland China in the struggle for genuine freedom and a truly just, democratic society. This unity must aim far beyond the confines of liberal democracy or European social democracy, and far beyond Leninist styles of government as well. It must ignite the dreams of millions, forging ahead a new society entirely unlike the old. The abuses the Chinese people have suffered, both in mainland China and Hong Kong, are quite self-evident. Here we should evoke one of the founding documents of the American revolution to cast some light on the implications of such facts.
"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
Chinese state capitalism is far more efficient than any other form of modern capitalism. Its efficiency is rooted in its brutality, and its brutality is rooted in its efficiency. Still prone to the same economic crises as the Western world, its centralized nature allows for a certain degree of resiliency hitherto unknown to the Western world. The future of capitalism the world over is today found in China. That is why even if Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China today abolish their present governments and found a liberal democratic republic in 20 or 30 years it will once again resort to methods both political and economic that are dictatorial and ruthlessly efficient, together with the rest of the world. Like the classical Judeo-Christian rite of exorcism, the exorcism of one demon will inevitably lead to the return of seven more demons lest the soul of the victim accepts Christ and is saved from perdition. By creating a liberal democratic regime the people of the PRC cast out one demon for a little while, but an even more terrible return of tyranny is inevitable down the road. Only a radical break with the existing socioeconomic and political order, chiefly in the form of a radically anti-authoritarian, libertarian, and democratic, ecological, socialist revolution, can ensure that such devils of tyranny never return. It is a practical, but also an ecological and thereby an existential imperative for the people of today and all future generations.
To The Vanguard of The Movement
While it is possible that such barbarism can take on a human face, becoming less tyrannical and oppressive over time, the risk to human freedom and to the planet is still far too great. For the sake of Liberty alone the Chinese people are just in taking up arms. But the ecological imperative is an even greater motivator. In ‘Remaking Society’ Bookchin makes the ecological case against capitalism quite clear:
"To speak of ‘limits to growth’ under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society. The moral pieties, that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists, are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative. Capitalism can no more be ‘persuaded’ to limit growth than a human being can be ‘persuaded’ to stop breathing. Attempts to ‘green’ capitalism, to make it ‘ecological’, are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth."
The people of Hong Kong should dare to dream dangerously, far beyond the confines of mere autonomy or liberal democracy. Activists should read the “other” radicals, Luxemburg, Connolly, Bookchin, Zizek, Trotsky, Kropotkin, Tolstoy, Wolff, etc.
The experiment of Leninist methods in creating a society in the hands of the common people, the “workers and peasants” had its initial application in a society of material scarcity and extreme poverty and backwardness. But socialism in the minds of its chief exponents was never a social system to be applied to such societies, its initial and inevitable dictatorial methods a side effect of the infertile soil such ideas were planted in. But the Russian experiment did not end in Russia. It became crystallized into ideology, into Marxist-Leninist (a term coined by Stalin after Lenin’s death) political theory. The dream of a truly free society democratically controlled by the common people became the reality when seen through the rose colored glasses of the leader and the party. The brutal honesty of the early Bolsheviks was replaced by official declarations that the dream had been achieved by means of terror, never open or acknowledged as was the case under Lenin and Trotsky a radical break from Bolshevism to be sure. The Soviet people were free so long as they did not step out of line, and when they stepped out of line it was never acknowledged that they disappeared or why. Such freedom of course is nothing more than a profound unfreedom, a grotesque and unspeakable tyranny. The fact that Gorbachev reconciled the early hopes of the revolution with the reality makes him a hero in my book. “Mao Tse-Tung thought” is no different in this respect, nor later developments of Deng Xiaoping Thought or Xi Jinping Thought. It was as if Jefferson himself crowned himself King and declared the abolition of monarchism and tyranny, killing anyone who pointed out the fact that those who criticized Jefferson disappeared as it contradicted the official narrative. In this sense there is a dark comedy in the horrors of the later half of the 20th century. “The people are in power”, proclaimed the tyrant.
What of these Hong Kong protests? Either the demands of the protestors will be met or a revolution will be had. A much more terrifying thought is that the masses, confused and tired, will merely give up any and all notions of a better future, but I am quite skeptical such a thing will come to pass, and perhaps the iron will be so hot when concessions are given that the people will demand more, more, more– and rightfully so. Here there is no alternative. The people of Hong Kong love their freedom, limited as it is in regards to what is possible, in regards to what ought to be. More than this they hope for their future and the future of their children that the tree of Liberty may grow, and that it may bear much fruit. If revolution transpires it may mean autonomy, it may mean a mere liberal democracy. But revolutions have a tendency of going to A to Z with exponential ferocity, growing more and more radical with the passage of time, the most radical sections of the movement taking the lead. Such a movement can act as a catalyst to building a better, freer, more democratic and just world if the lessons of history are taken to heart. Or it can mean a new tyranny no different from the old. Perhaps the most important lesson of history is that people do not learn the lessons of history, and in that a very real and conscious exception must be made in the hearts and minds of the Chinese people. Bookchin speaks of a “Third Revolution”, something I advise people to research if they are interested in the inner dynamics of revolutionary upheavals. After the Jacobins in the French revolution and the Bolsheviks in the Russian revolution came to power, there arose spontaneous movements from below for local autonomy and self-governance. Of course such anarchist ideals under such conditions were futile given the era of material scarcity of revolutionary France and Russia, but today in our era of material abundance such events should be read with an open mind. With a backbone of material abundance people can try pretty much anything, even a weird monarchy if they so desired it. If people are to progress beyond the status quo they must not be paralyzed from the fear that past horrors will be repeated, nor should they be too eager to act without keeping the lessons of history in mind. If history is worth a damn revolution must exclaim as Rosa Luxemburg once said that, “freedom is always the freedom of the dissenters”.
In the movie Reds there is a rather interesting dialogue between Zinoviev and Jack Reed aboard a train just before it is attacked by the White Army. I will quote it here.
"Jack Reed: Zinoviev, you don’t think a man can be an individual and be true to the collective, or speak for his own country and the International at the same time, or love his wife and still be faithful to the revolution, you don’t have a self to give! Would you ever be willing to give yourself to this revolution? When you separate a man from what he loves the most, what you do is purge what’s unique in him. And when you purge what’s unique in him, – you purge dissent.
Zinoviev: – Comrade Reed.
Jack Reed: And when you purge dissent, you kill the revolution! Revolution is dissent!"
Of course Jack Reed here was right, but the situation was, because of the poverty and material scarcity of Russia, more complicated. I claim that the Russian revolution was the last revolution that needed Jacobinism to function. Today we should take Reed’s warning to heart. In our era of material abundance, for socialist revolution (not civil war, which is a far worse thing) not to embody the spirit of individual liberty and dissent over terror and repression is to essentially give up on any hope of a better tomorrow. Revolution is dissent! The methods a revolution embodies must reflect its goals. You cannot have this Stalinist “we will subdue freedom in the name of a better tomorrow where there will be real freedom under communism”. It simply does not work. You cannot rely on a Lenin-like figure not dying as a safeguard against a Stalin. A revolution seeking to increase liberty must be libertarian. It must begin in the community and spread outward and upward.
What is the lesson to be had by the radical vanguard of protestors on the streets today who are looking to build a better world? A break has to be made, a criticism from the left of its own historic experiments far more ruthless and severe than Marx’s own critiques of Capital. The results of such a criticism should be in part, strikingly similar to Rosa Luxemburg’s own criticisms of the Bolsheviks, yet it must transcend this altogether. It is also an affirmation of Bakunin’s saying that “Freedom without socialism is privilege and injustice; socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality”. Bookchin also offers excellent critiques of mainstream Marxist thought. Without such a criticism there can be no such thing as “scientific” socialism, only the rotting corpse of a political religion artificially revived in a comatose state by people who cannot let the ghosts of the past die, the very kind of thing Marx criticized in his own day. Marxism has always regarded the state as harmful and unnecessary, but this recognition must extend to all forms of government that are overly centralized regardless of formal recognitions as to the “correctness” of Marxist theory and the often farcical declaration that the state is in “the hands of the proletariat”. Without freedom of dissent, without freedom to oppose the state, the social order, the government, the nation, the leaders, the prevailing social norms and laws there is no freedom, and a society is not and cannot be in the hands of the majority, of the common people, the “workers and peasants”. Apparently all a country has to do is make its flag red and have intellectuals and theoreticians formally declare it to be a “dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry” and leftists the world over will flock to support it regardless of its actual political, social, and economic system, regardless of if it embodies Orwell’s Oceania or Franco’s Spain. If a movement does not ascribe upon its banner the words of Liberty with those of Socialism, all will be for naught. Socialism cannot be a closed society, it must be more open, free, and democratic than the old order. Such is the lesson of 20th century socialism. There are no ideas more toxic to the current PRC government than these.
What of those in the mainland PRC? Dare to dream dangerously. Take the hypocritical proclamations of the powers that be, insofar as they are just, too seriously. The constitution says you have a right to freedom of press, speech, protest, religion, etc. Publish papers, speak loudly but anonymously, protest in the streets, advocate real freedom of religion in China and pray for those who persecute you. Perhaps the best contribution to world politics by the American legal school is the institutional subjugation of power to the written letter and spirit of the law (along with, naturally, trial by a jury of ones peers, the presumption of innocence, the right to remain silent, the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and so forth). China has no such system in place, no means for itself to take its own laws seriously. Laws are followed only insofar as they are deemed acceptable to those in power. Is this not true in the United States? Only to a certain extent. Without our constitutional safe-guards the United States would be a tyranny far more severe than that of the PRC. But laws exist regardless of their unjust implementation. The constitution allows for political repression do not forget, but the rights of the people can and should transcend such totalitarian declarations. If the People’s Republic is not really an expression of the will of the People as they actually exist, then it itself has no right to exist.
A Question of Violence
Violence should be avoided at all costs, here I am more willing to quote Gandhi than Lenin. But at the same time one shouldn’t give into this naive notion that all social problems can be solved without even the threat of violence from below. Remember in our country that the Civil Rights movement was not as peaceful as it appeared, without however many hundreds of riots Martin Luther King’s movement likely would not have been so accepted by the liberal elites as a concession. The question is one of strategic acceptability and morality. I am in every instance opposed to terrorism, but a people have a right to revolution. The liberal sanctification of non-violent protest is just up to a point, beyond which the people must invoke their right to collective self-defense through force of arms if necessary. This is not advocacy of violence, but a mere statement of the facts. Jefferson himself said that the tree of Liberty had to be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Mao Tse-Tung understood this fact quite well (though he did not understand how effective non-violent forms of action could be), and so should the people of Hong Kong and the PRC today (while keeping in mind the usefulness of non-violent protest). This point, however must be understood cautiously. Violence should be used as a last resort, better the threat of violence than violence itself, and violence ought to come from below spontaneously, not organized by a small clique of intellectuals outside of mainstream society– that is how you get terrorist groups and the nightmare of a bloody civil war. Mao once said that when there is great disorder under heaven, the situation is excellent. While this is true, it is not at all the case that “the worst things are the better it is”. This nonsense belongs in the dustbin of history. These “zero level” situations are precisely how you get another Mao or Stalin.
“War can only be abolished through war”, said Mao. Sometimes police clubs can only be rendered powerless by the power of a mob. Had only the people in Tienanmen Square understood this in 1989! Understand that this is what I mean by violence, self-defense against the violence of the state, not the addition of violence to a peaceful society. Violence is deplorable but at times indispensably necessary. The state is a weapon of the ruling class with a sole legal monopoly on violence, but the masses carry the sole legitimacy in deciding when and how to use violence in the true self-defense of life, limb, and liberty. For if the state gains legitimacy from the will of the people and the consent of the governed, and it acts neither with the people’s will nor consent, then the people are right to overthrow it by force if necessary. For the armed weapon of the state gains legitimacy from the people, and none are more right in wielding it than the people themselves provided the forms by which they wield it are just. Here I am advocating the opposite of gun control, the people should be armed.
The Digital World: Erasing The Digital Footprint
Hong Kong citizens are reportedly “terrified” of leaving a digital footprint. If they fail in their goals, the PRC will know everything they have ever done, including their activities on the streets. Here I advocate the use of censorship resistant, anonymous networks and encryption. I am talking mainly about Tor, I2P, Freenet, and ZeroNet. These are darknets designed for such purposes. Look them up, install them, use them. For activists I would have to recommend Tor with bridges and Freenet in darknet mode, ZeroNet can run on top of Tor as well and I2P is potentially viable as well though it is not difficult to tell you are connecting to it. Do not use Google, do not use WeChat to organize protests. Encrypt your communications. Privacytools.io has excellent resources. Encrypt everything without exception. If you clean up your digital life, help 5 more activists to clean up theirs, and get those 5 people to help 5 more people. Turn Hong Kong into a digital fortress, a bastion of Liberty surrounded by tyranny on all sides. Mask up when you take to the streets if you are concerned about your privacy. Cover your ears as well as ears are as unique as fingerprints. It is better to show up anonymously than to sit at home.
Some Final Thoughts On The Future
What does democracy mean? What does Liberty mean? What does socialism mean? A people need community, and politics should not be mere statecraft but local autonomy and self-governance. Sun Tzu said that “all warfare is based on deception” and Mao said that “politics (really statecraft) is war by other means”. People should be in control of their own lives, they should have political democracy but also industrial democracy (democracy at work). This industrial democracy, or socialism, is a prerequisite to real political democracy in the hands of the common people and not merely a ruling oligarchy. But what of coordination and cooperation and united action? What of centralization? Certainly what is needed today is the subjugation of the nation state in its arrogance to the general interest. But the expansion of the range of coordination must at the same time come with the abolition of centralized authority. The worst thing would be a global superstate, the goal here should be a stateless society. How can the general interest be defined? There is no such thing, but I think we should look after love of Liberty, self-rule (in the political and economic sphere) and the long term survival of the species. The nation state cannot be the highest power. Let me cite one example of this: Brazil’s Bolsonaro thinks it is his “right” to tear down the Amazon rainforest, favoring short-term profit over preservation. Naturally environmental scientists and climatologists are being silenced. This is the far-right in power, but do not forget that the far-right is in power precisely because of the catastrophic failure of the left. For such issues united action is necessary, transnational united action with real power. But without such power being decentralized, applying only to the bare minimum of what is absolutely necessary (ecological preservation, chemical weapons, bio-genetics, etc.), then there is a real risk of a nightmare. But what balance can there be between centralization and decentralization? I do not have the answers, but if the people of the world remain paralyzed, then all is lost. The most radical thing today is the belief that we can keep going the way we are going. A break has to be made. Are the people of Hong Kong brave enough to make that leap? To go in the name of peace for all mankind? Dare to dream dangerously.
DOWN WITH THE EXTRADITION LAW!
DOWN WITH THE PUPPET GOVERNMENT OF HONG KONG!
LONG LIVE LIBERTY, DEMOCRACY, THE FIGHT FOR SOCIALISM!
The Tor Hidden Service Mirror of Red Liberty is Back Online!
June 30, 2019
Years ago when I first put Red Liberty (then known as Thought Foundry Blog) up onto the censorship resistant internet (A.K.A. "darknet") I configured a Tor Hidden Service running an nginx webserver on an old Raspberry Pi I had laying around. As the blog grew so did the diversity of my readers. It alarmed me from time to time to see that I would get a ping from an IP in China or Russia or some other country whose civil liberties are not so guaranteed as in the (mostly) free world. I had till then been a long time Tor user, in fact I'd wager that nearly all of my web browsing was over the Tor network. This is just how I operated, the Snowden leaks to me were a wake up call that privacy (and later I thought, freedom because of it) were making their way out the door and this idea terrified me. The solution here was obvious: I had to put Red Liberty up as a Tor hidden service to make it safer for people in authoritarian countries to visit. I investigated other anonymous networks as well: Freenet, ZeroNet, and I2P. At first it was to solve a problem but over time I fell in love with the technology and became an active contributor to the I2P Project in my spare time, promoting the software, improving the documentation, helping to test new software, and so forth. All the while things happened as they often do in the game of life and my little Raspberry Pi found other uses. Red Liberty remained on ZeroNet and Freenet as those networks were designed to serve websites without a centralized server staying on 24/7, and naturally my I2P mirror was functioning (along with my mirror of Marxists Internet Archive on I2P which you should check out), but Tor, the most widely used censorship resistant network out there lacked a fresh mirror of Red Liberty. Well, no longer! Red Liberty is back Tor users, and better than ever! As a version 3 Tor hidden service, Red Liberty welcomes (friendly) access to its Tor Hidden Service!
The glorious onion for Red Liberty is: http://redlib23tokwmp5r2xjpz6uw64j6gvz3ppsv7agdbb3fj3gn2cnm3lid.onion
If you want to tip us a little crypto you can find our XMR address under contact us. You can also find the entire list of censorship resistant (darknet) mirrors of Red Liberty under Alt Links. If you are already on one of them, welcome! If not, see you on the other side!
The Seeds of An Idea: All Men Are Brothers
June 12, 2019
There is this thing I've had for a long time now, the seed of an idea not yet fully formed. When I try to put it on paper it comes out all wrong. When I try to connect the dots in the way my spirit understands, it comes out all wrong. It's something deep inside me, this I know. It's intangible, indescribable, a knowledge of a universal brotherhood and kinship of all humankind, as cheesy as it sounds. It's like a fire that in spite of whatever happens to me, whatever I feel or think or experience, cannot be extinguished. And put here now, not even death can put it out. I know of many things both good and evil, and the darkness of the human soul is not able to deter my beliefs. It's an amalgam of radically different, often seemingly contradictory aims and ideals that, when put together, form something, or begin to form something beautiful. It's a raw selection from different books, movies, essays, and TV shows. Now, I am putting this here to elaborate on later. For a post on Red Liberty I am aware it is quite disorganized.
Describing Jack Reed: "He took a tremendous jump forward from there on. He became a revolutionist on the workers' side, and he had no more illusions about people like Wilson. We all have problems. You can't escape having problems, don't you know? But to take on the problem of all humanity, to save all humanity, my God, that was too big even for Jesus Christ. Don't you know he got himself crucified? How the hell do we expect to do those things?"
Eugene V. Debs
A hard-bitten socialist told me once, "Gene Debs is the only one who can get away with the sentimental flummery that's been tied onto Socialism in this country. Pretty nearly always it gives me a swift pain to go around to meetings and have people call me 'comrade.' That's a lot of bunk. But the funny part of it is that when Debs says 'comrade' it is all right. He means it. That old man with the burning eyes actually believes that there can be such a thing as the brotherhood of man. And that's not the funniest part of it. As long as he's around I believe it myself." -Heywood Broun, quoting an unnamed socialist in It Seems To Me, 1925-1935 (1935), p. 38
Star Trek: The Original Series (Bread and Circuses, S02E25)
(Spock and McCoy carry Flavius into a cell.)
KIRK: Tell Merikus I'd like to see him.
MAXIMUS: The first citizen? Why would he bother with arena bait like you?
KIRK: Tell him it's Jim Kirk. Perhaps a friend.
KIRK: Well, if I am a friend and you don't tell him, do you really want to risk that?(They are locked in and left alone. McCoy tends to Flavius's head wound.)
KIRK: But if there have been slaves for over 2,000 years, hasn't there always been discontent, runaways?
FLAVIUS: Long ago there were rebellions, but they were suppressed. And with each century, the slaves acquired more rights under the law. They received rights to medicine, the right to government payments in their old age, and they slowly learned to be content.
SPOCK: Even more fascinating. Slavery evolving into an institution with guaranteed medical payments, old-age pensions.
MCCOY: Quite logical, I'd say, Mister Spock. Just as it's logical that twentieth-century Rome would use television to show its gladiator contests or name a new car the Jupiter Eight.
SPOCK: Doctor, if I were able to show emotion, your new infatuation with that term would begin to annoy me.
MCCOY: What term? Logic? Medical men are trained in logic, Mister Spock.
SPOCK: Really, Doctor, I had no idea they were trained. Watching you, I assumed it was trial and error.
FLAVIUS: Are they enemies, Captain?
KIRK: I'm not sure they're sure. When the slaves began to worship the sun, they became discontent again. When did all this happen?
FLAVIUS: Long ago. Perhaps as long ago as the beginning of the empire. The message of the sun, that all men are brothers, was kept from us. Perhaps I'm a fool to believe it. It does often seem that man must fight to live.
KIRK: You go on believing it, Flavius. All men are brothers.
(The guards return.)...
KIRK: And strong personal feelings, he obeyed the Prime Directive. His temporary blackout of the city below resulted in no interference with the society and yet saved the lives of myself and the landing party.
SCOTT: Thank you, Captain.
(Scott leaves as McCoy and Spock enter the Bridge.)
MCCOY: Captain, I see on your report Flavius was killed. I am sorry. I liked that huge sun worshiper.
SPOCK: I wish we could have examined that belief of his more closely. It seems illogical for a sun worshiper to develop a philosophy of total brotherhood. Sun worship is usually a primitive superstition religion.
UHURA: I'm afraid you have it all wrong, Mister Spock, all of you. I've been monitoring some of their old-style radio waves, the empire spokesman trying to ridicule their religion. But he couldn't. Don't you understand? It's not the sun up in the sky. It's the Son of God.
KIRK: Caesar and Christ. They had them both. And the word is spreading only now.
MCCOY: A philosophy of total love and total brotherhood.
SPOCK: It will replace their imperial Rome, but it will happen in their twentieth century.
KIRK: Wouldn't it be something to watch, to be a part of? To see it happen all over again? Mister Chekov, take us out of orbit. Ahead warp factor one.
CHEKOV: Aye, sir.
The Sunshine Makers (2015)
"I went to Billy Hitchcock and asked him whether he had ideas for a distribution channel. Because Billy had all kinds of social contacts, all over the psychedelic scene. And he introduced me to the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, also known as the Hippie Mafia."
"The mafia rules by fear. The Brotherhood ruled by love. LSD made freethinkers out of people. The grip that all governments have on people was going to probably end. I know it sounds ridiculously naive. But if you've ever sat and really seen the golden light, and really went deep inside yourself... it ain't all that far out."
"They were actually stickup men. And they all dropped acid. And they threw their pistols away. And they said, we're going to form the Brotherhood of Love. And we'll be working with psychedelics and we won't be sticking up people anymore. Our aim was to turn the world on."
God is Love
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8
Patriotism A Menace to Liberty, an essay by Emma Goldman (http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/goldman/aando/patriotism.html)
Getting From Zero To Hero With I2P and Tor Browser on Debian/Ubuntu: A How To
June 9, 2019
This post is released under the GNU Free Documentation License Version 1.3
Usually this blog is about social issues, activism, politics, and so forth. But this post is a little different.
You may be asking yourself, "What is I2P? Why is Red Liberty (a political blog) suddenly giving tech tutorials?" Well, I will explain what I2P is in a minute, but in my spare time I, a computer nerd, like to contribute to the I2P project. Now, my interest in the I2P project is not entirely apolitical, but unlike most of the posts on this blog the politics of it are not necessarily left-wing, and they are not necessarily right-wing either. If anything they are merely anti-authoritarian. It's something for everyone regardless of political views, with the exception of those who hold the totalitarian view that such technologies should not exist at all. If anything, it is pro-freedom, something I hope everyone can agree with regardless of their own opinions on my own political activities over the past few years.
At the very bottom of this post is a condensed "no explanations, humor, or chit-chat" version of this guide for the I2P installer in a hurry.
Now what is I2P? You may be asking. According to the project website, "The I2P network provides strong privacy protections for communication over the Internet. Many activities that would risk your privacy on the public Internet can be conducted anonymously inside I2P." I2P is a lot like Tor, where Tor is better for anonymizing ordinary (clearnet) internet connections and I2P is better for location hidden services, but both networks do a bit of both. Now what is Tor? Tor's website says "Browse Privately. Explore Freely. Defend yourself against tracking and surveillance. Circumvent censorship." I hope you are starting to get the idea. I2P is like the internet, but it's privacy respecting and anonymous by default. You can access websites on the I2P network (called eepsites) and you don't know where geographically the eepsite (location hidden service) is located, and the website doesn't know who you are or where you are (unless you tell them). Outside observers likewise don't know what you are doing on the network, all they know is you are running I2P. Naturally I advise looking into the I2P threat model for more info as to what a powerful adversary can see, but generally it's just encrypted traffic. Unlike with Tor, pretty much every I2P user routes traffic for other users in order to make tracing the whole path of a communication extremely difficult, which in my opinion is how the internet should be.
In the United States and Europe people might call this a "darknet", and they aren't wrong. But in my view I2P and Tor, darknets though they are, get an unnecessarily bad rep. A darknet is like a hammer, it's a tool. You can use a hammer to build your neighbor a house or to bash their brains in. The tool is not good or bad on its own, it depends on how it is used. Though I would argue the tool in question must exist for free society as such, to exist. In authoritarian countries the "darknet" isn't given a bad rep at all, it's a place where people can think and speak and read freely without the government knowing who they are or what they are doing. To whistleblowers, even to law enforcement and the intelligence community, to journalists, dissidents, activists, students, oppressed minorities (like LGBT+ youths and religious minorities), and ordinary people the world over, these tools are vital in protecting their privacy, anonymity, and personal safety. I have written previously on my own views, how I believe that privacy in the digital age is one of the only real prerequisites to the very existence of civil liberty in our era because as Rosa Luxemburg once said, "freedom is always the freedom of the dissenters, of the one who thinks differently", and one cannot possibly be free if they are being observed and recorded by the powers that be at all times (looking at you NSA). Freedom depends on privacy, and without privacy, we are lost. Tools like I2P I consider to be a safe-guard to the preservation of the fourth amendment in practice, and the rights it embodies in the digital age. Regardless of the reasons, ideological or otherwise, a diverse group of people use these technologies and I personally prefer I2P.
If you like privacy, you'll like I2P. I don't have time to deconstruct the bullshit arguments of "I have nothing to hide so I have nothing to fear" (actually from Mussolini's famous quote "if you have nothing you hide you have nothing to fear") or the other arguments against privacy. You should check I2P out even if you are skeptical of my arguments, even if you don't think you have any use for it. Even if you are using Windows or a Mac (though not fully applicable to this tutorial) you should still check it out. Activists especially (who read my blog more than the previously mentioned groups) would benefit from I2P. I have used all the "darknets" that are often used today and I2P is by far my favorite.
BEFORE WE BEGIN
It's recently occurred to me, as a contributor to the Invisible Internet Project (I2P), that getting from zero to hero in I2P isn't as easy for others as it was for me. See, I read the technical documents before installing I2P, for the average person installing I2P and setting it up to work flawlessly may seem a bit like solving a rubix cube. I2P has great documentation, but not everyone takes the time to read this documentation. But fear not! Installing and configuring I2P is actually quite simple and straightforward. That is why I decided to write this guide for installing and configuring I2P on Debian based GNU/Linux distributions (that includes Ubuntu and Whonix). This should work on other GNU/Linux distributions as well, though keep in mind 'apt' is not the default package manager on many non-Debian based GNU/Linux distributions and packages may have different names.
Naturally we are going to be using Tor Browser with I2P for this guide as it is a hardened version of Firefox already configured to address numerous security vulnerabilities capable of compromising your anonymity (something important when we are using an anonymous network). This tutorial does work with Whonix-workstation (see https://www.whonix.org/wiki/I2P) however more hops does not necessarily mean greater anonymity/ security and I2P will be very slow, not to mention the fact that you will be leeching off of the network which is generally bad. If you really do want to use I2P over Tor because you are THAT paranoid, check out the above link as the following steps are applicable to most Debian based GNU/Linux distributions, but not to Whonix specifically.
This guide assumes:
-You are running Linux (not Windows or macOS)
-You have the latest version of Java installed
(You can get this from Oracle's website or you can get an older but still supported version of Java with 'apt-get install default-jdk' as root)
-You have Tor Browser Bundle installed or existing as an executable in a directory
(You can get this from https://torproject.org, Whonix-workstation comes with Tor Browser installed)
There are two ways to install I2P in Debian, the first is to use the Java executable file (found here: https://geti2p.org/en/download) available on the website which should work for all Linux distributions (not just Debian based ones), the second is to add the I2P repository to sources.list.d automatically by following the on-site instructions (found here: https://geti2p.net/en/download/debian) and to install it that way. This will work for Debian and Ubuntu and their derivative distributions (including Whonix-workstation). It really doesn't matter HOW you install them but for the sake of simplicity we are going to be using the regular .jar installer in this tutorial.
You can download the necessary .jar file for I2P from https://geti2p.org/en/download Be sure to verify the checksum. The latest version of I2P as of writing is 0.9.40 and the file is i2pinstall_0.9.40.jar with a SHA256 of: b5dac73d1683ebfa9b58475c2dddc6ffc40efa6622278d133688af73db428381. You can check the checksum by typing into terminal:
and pressing enter (after you have downloaded the file, of course). The string of letters and numbers should be identical to the string posted above (the same one on the I2P website). For the insanely paranoid you should also grab the signing key for zzz (found under the Help menu under Verify I2P here: https://geti2p.net/_static/zzz.key.asc) from another source (like a different computer/connection) to ensure your copy of I2P is genuine with a tin-foil hat on. All versions are signed with this key. You can also freely examine the source code for I2P, which is always reassuring.
If you opt for a straight Debian/Ubuntu package follow the instructions here (https://geti2p.net/en/download/debian) otherwise we will continue with the Java install (once I2P is installed it really doesn't matter which method was used unless you plan on running I2P as a daemon in which case the Debian/Ubuntu package is preferable).
To run the .jar file all you have to do is open up a terminal and type:
java -jar /path/to/i2pinstall_0.9.40.jar
and it should take you through a graphical installer. Remember where you installed it as we will use this later. Do not do this as root unless you know what you are doing as I2P doesn't require escalated privileges to run.
CONFIGURING TOR BROWSER
To get I2P to run inside Tor Browser a number of default browser plugins have to be disabled. There is a way to get Tor Browser to run over both I2P and the Tor network interchangeably using FoxyProxy however since installing additional add-ons to Tor Browser alters the browser fingerprint this is inadvisable as it makes you stand out. I personally haven't used FoxyProxy so I cannot vouch for it. The I2P Laboratory (https://geti2p.net/en/download/lab) also boasts an experimental "I2P Browser" based on Tor Browser however this is still "proof-of-concept" alpha software and likewise inadvisable for use where security is critical. This is why we are tweaking classic Tor Browser for this tutorial, we are assuming your threat model is higher than that of the average consumer.
With Tor fired up head over to the browser configuration guide on the I2P website which you can find here (https://geti2p.net/en/about/browser-config). The initial changes we will be making to Tor Browser's proxy settings are identical to the changes mentioned in the documentation for Firefox's proxy settings (since Tor Browser is based on Firefox), so follow the guide and change those settings!
Note: The one caveat of this setup is Tor Browser updates. Updating the browser is possible, but requires resetting the proxy settings to their defaults and re-enabling the disabled plugins. Naturally updating is highly advisable as this minimizes the possibility of browser exploits being executed on your machine. It is, nonetheless, quite annoying, a necessary trade-off of convenience for security. The same is true on Whonix however the 'Tor Browser Downloader' application should mitigate some of this annoyance, it will however reset what browser modifications you have made replacing your tweaked Tor Browser with a fresh one.
FIRING IT UP AND GETTING I2P READY TO GO
If you opted to install I2P through the Debian/Ubuntu package, all you have to do is run 'i2prouter start' in a terminal. Though please do not run this as root! Otherwise head over to where your I2P folder is and look for a file called 'i2prouter'. Okay now this is really complicated, you ready? Drag that file into a terminal window or paste it's path and type ' start' after it, press enter. Usually it looks something like this:
This is high tech hacker stuff, I know. I2P should start and open up in your default browser which USUALLY isn't Tor Browser, and that's okay! Copy the address it opened, by default that's 127.0.0.1:7657/home into Tor Browser and hit enter. Now you can browse the Invisible Internet. But wait, we're not done yet!
Do you really want to copy and paste that EVERY TIME you start I2P? I didn't think so. Copy that address and press those 3 little bars again, this time go into preferences (or type about:preferences into the address bar). The default Home page is usually set to about:tor (BORING!) so paste that address into that text box and hit enter. Now the I2P router console is your home page! Congrats!
"So that's it then? I can just go to thesiteineed.i2p and that's that?"
No! Similar to the clearnet (normal internet), I2P uses DNS (domain name services) to associate IP addresses (essentially public keys in I2P, not IP addresses so don't worry) with human readable .i2p domain names. But if all those fancynames.i2p were centralized all an attacker would have to do is take over that part of the network and the whole thing would be in shambles! That's why I2P DNS services are decentralized! The bad news is you have to "subscribe" to DNS service providers, the good news is this is pretty straight-forward. I have provided here a list of popular I2P DNS providers. This is straight from my personal list that I have added to over the years so enjoy. You can get to the "add subscriptions" part of the I2P router console by going to 127.0.0.1:7657/susidns/subscriptions or you can do what I like to do and type some random giberish294ieiefjeifj.i2p and then click "add some subscriptions" and go over to "subscriptions" to get to the list (a quick hack to get to this page).
By default you should have:
Now, we want to add to that list so we can get ALL the eepsites and not just a hand-picked few. Just copy and paste what I have down here into that box and hit "save".
Now the first 4 are the standard "you really want these to work" providers, the latter 2 are optional. Once you have that your fancyname.i2p (obviously not a real eepsite) address should work. Now the hostnames.i2p are one way to access a site, but base32 (B32) addresses (longrandomstrings.b32.i2p) also work. There are also address helper links (ADH) that you can click to associate a B32 address with a readable_name.i2p for your addressbook (personal DNS accumulated through various DNS providers or super secret groups you are a part of) and those are helpful, and there are also "jump services" offered by identiguy.i2p and inr.i2p among others, basically a "I know the name of a website.i2p but don't have it in my addressbook so please help me find it". Let's say you want to find totallynotdrugs.i2p (these aren't real eepsites) but you don't have it in your addressbook and you want to get to the website associated publicly with that domain name. inr.i2p offers such a service, and you can go to inr.i2p to use it or just type inr.i2p/?q=totallynotdrugs.i2p and hit enter to find it. The same is true of identiguy.i2p where you can go to the site to use the service or just type identiguy.i2p/cgi-bin/query?hostname=totallynotdrugs.i2p and hit enter.
Unlike Tor, Freenet, or ZeroNet, I2P is a pretty safe place content-wise (in my experience). Like the normal internet it is possible to stumble upon bad stuff, but generally I'd say it's about as prevalent on I2P as it is in the normal internet, and this is not something I can say about Tor hidden services, Freenet's Freesites, or ZeroNet's Zite's. There is only one active drug market to date on I2P called Libertas (I will not give the link here for legal reasons) and from what I have seen of it, it's actually a pretty ethical darknet market with a good Terms of Service. Actually I think it looks like what I hope your local head shop should/ hopefully will look like in 20 years, offering (actually) regulated substances from reliable sellers to consenting adults and-- whoa hey! I'm getting into politics now and contrary to most posts on my blog here, this isn't an explicitly political post. Libertas might be bringing a little more people to the network than usual as of late, but that's actually probably not why you are using I2P anyways. I2P has a whole bunch of uses not pertaining to that one eepsite, and I should know as I've been using it for several years now and the shiny new drug market is quite recent! Now that we're back on track, what else do you need to do?
To adjust bandwidth settings just clicking 'BANDWIDTH IN/OUT" under the I2P logo in the top-left of the router console and adjusting your bandwidth settings accordingly.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO WITH I2P?
Anything, literally! If you're a developer I2P has a ton of options. "But what if I'm a normal person and not a developer?" That too!
Do you like Torrents? I2P has a ton of good torrent trackers I can't post here for the same legal reasons I can't give you the link to The Pirate Bay. But fear not law abiding citizen! Plenty of torrent files are perfectly legal! Latest Debian release anyone? I2P comes with I2PSnark, an in-browser BitTorrent application which you can find under 'torrents' in the home page. The only thing better than a good torrent file is one that is anonymous by default, am I right? When downloading copyright-questionable torrents in I2P, you don't even need a VPN for privacy (though don't hold me accountable for your own actions)! That will save you a few bucks on a good VPN service if you don't mind waiting a bit longer than usual for a file to download.
Do you like email? You can get your own firstname.lastname@example.org, which can also be an email@example.com for I2P-to-Clearnet_emailing. How's that for next-level privacy? There is also an I2P Plugin called I2P-bote which you can get from bote.i2p that is similar to regular email but is end-to-end encrypted by default. IRC? Sure, just fire up HexChat or your favorite IRC chat application and follow the directions documented on the official I2P website that I am too lazy to post here. You will meet a lot of cool people on Irc2P and it's a great place to go for questions/ support. Fun fact: I2P actually started out as an IRC only project! You can even access an I2P XMPP server offered by Crypthost at xmpp.crypthost.i2p, throw on an OTR like end-to-end encrypted XMPP client add-on and have truly private conversations!
There are plenty of pastebin services and even a "Deep Web Radio" available over I2P. Someone even managed to configure a RDP server to run over I2P for truly private remote desktop access. Encrypted file sharing? Sure, that too provided your files aren't too big. Social networking? I thought you'd never ask. There is Visibility.i2p, among others (I'll let you find the rest on your own) and a few experimental not-yet-working Mastadon and Diaspora instances. Applications such as RetroShare also work with I2P, and in my mind this has serious practical applications for activists. Remember LimeWire? A developer named zab recently released a piece of software called MuWire that's a sort of similar to LimeWire but made for I2P, and keep in mind P2P applications have plenty of legitimate uses outside of copyright infringement! This blog? A full mirror of the 400GB+ Marxists Internet Archive? Okay, those my eepsites, but yes it's up there! Marxists.org took me literally over a month to fully mirror so I hope you guys enjoy that.
Zero knowledge pastebins? Yep, just don't paste the things the owner says not to paste even though they cannot check you didn't paste the things they said not to paste because it is a zero knowledge pastebin, but seriously don't. Whisteblowers could definitely use such services.
What else? Cryptocurrencies? Absolutely. GOSTcoin is an I2P-centered cryptocurrency with an I2P mining pool, exchange, and a while bunch of other tools and Monero also is working with I2P to increase it's own privacy (see Korvi). GOSTcoin is based on Russian Federation standard cryptography, and oh yeah, I2P has a HUGE Russian community as well so you're in luck if you speak Russian. There's also eepsites for anoncoin and zcash. Host your own site? That's really easy too as I2P comes configured with a hardened Jetty webserver ready to roll. If you have a good idea for a website and a computer that's on 24/7 consider installing I2P on it and running a hidden service on it!
Read the news? io.i2p has (copyright questionable I'll admit) news from The Guardian, The Intercept, BBC, etc. all safely ported onto I2P for your anonymous viewing pleasure. This has valid applications for those living in places where uncensored news is hard to come by. For more info on all the cool stuff you can do check out the I2P wiki linked by default in the I2P router console. The possibilities are endless!
BEING A GOOD ITOOPIETIAN
Proper shutdowns and Routing traffic
So you're done with I2P, time to just immediately shut down I2P right? Wrong! On the I2P router console home page when you "power off" it sometimes asks you to wait for routing commitments to expire, with an option to "shutdown immediately". Those "routing commitments" are actually encrypted tunnels between a computer, your computer, and another computer. You are essentially routing encrypted traffic for other people when it says that (that's how garlic routing works). So what happens if you shutdown immediately? They get disconnected. It's a crappy thing to do, so don't do it unless it's an actual emergency. If you're literally the next Edward Snowden and you're about to get rendered by the CIA I think those other people would understand, otherwise don't do it. You can choose to share 0% of bandwidth with the network but this is essentially leeching and this is something that actually harms your own anonymity. You might have a good reason and that's okay but otherwise please don't do it.
Contributing good content to the Network
I2P is a pretty clean network and we generally like to keep it that way. You can do what you want, sure, but if you want your own domain name the DNS providers have to be willing to agree to give you one, and many of the decentralized DNS providers rightfully reject blatantly immoral websites and thus (in my view) actively discourage really bad people from using the network. This is one of the reasons I prefer I2P to other anonymous networks. I agree with the hacker philosophy that "information should be free" but the architecture through which information is distributed should be organized, not blatantly assuming that all content is the same even if for the sake of the preservation of a free society, anonymous networks have to assume this to a certain extent. I think I2P has struck the right balance here, but that is another discussion entirely.
Now, does anyone REALLY care about copyright laws/ the occasional drug market? I don't really think so. There is breaking the written law and there is breaking the law of morality and my personal philosophy is "information should be free" and "consenting adults want what they want". The world can be a cruel, sick, twisted place and sometimes really bad people abuse networks such as I2P, Tor, Freenet or ZeroNet in order to hide their own immorality behind them, and this actually makes everybody's civil liberties weaker. Now, this is much less so (if at all) with I2P, but I still wanted to say it. Ever heard of the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse? The old Cypherpunks Mailing list contains a snippet of the demented logic used by the enemies of liberty against tools such as I2P. We'll assume the "thing" here is I2P:
"How to get what you want in 4 easy stages:Now when the "thing" isn't being used by the bad guys, it can still be used by the enemies of liberty to their advantage, but especially when it is true, even doubly so. On top of being immoral, the bad guys on the network, though there aren't a lot of them (comparable in my view to the normal internet, though stigma assumes more hence this section), give people who are afraid of tools like I2P a good enough excuse to cause a moral panic and scare people into giving up their civil liberties. In most countries this is unthinkable, but don't forget the European Police Congress just recently called for the banning of Tor! Now, you want to share a pirated movie or buy/sell some drugs? You're not who I'm talking about here. In my humble opinion the really bad guys, the Nazi-pedo-terrorists of the world, should take their filth elsewhere. Let the haters hate, my stand on the issue is clear and in my view, just. Though I speak for myself and no one else.
1. Have a target "thing" you wish to stop, yet lack any moral, or practical reasons for doing so?
2. Pick a fear common to lots of people, something that will evoke a gut reaction: terrorists, pedophiles, serial killers.
3. Scream loudly to the media that "thing" is being used by perpetrators. (Don't worry if this is true, or common to all other things, or less common with "thing" than with other long established systemspayphones, paper mail, private hotel rooms, lack of bugs in all houses etc.)
4. Say that the only way to stop perpetrators is to close down "thing", or to regulate it to death, or to have laws forcing en masse tapability of all private communications on "thing". Don't worry if communicating on "thing" is a constitutionally protected right, if you have done a good job in choosing and publicising the horsemen in 2, no one will notice, they will be too busy clamouring for you to save them from the supposed evils.
The four supposed threats may be used all at once or individually, depending on the circumstances: aj"
If you think I2P is cool, bring good content to the network! Have a cool website and a computer that's always on? Mirror it over I2P! Have some cool files you want to share? Put them on a popular torrent tracker and seed them or put them onto MuWire! See someone struggling to install I2P on Linux? You know how now, so show them! Have a nerdy friend? Show them I2P! In an activist organization? Have your activist friends look into I2P! RetroShare over I2P is far better for privacy/security than Slack for organizing protests, just saying!
Read the docs
I2P can be a great tool, but it helps if you actually understand what it is and how it works. What is the threat model of the network? Can I use it in China? What vulnerabilities exist? How does I2P compare with Tor? These are all good things to know. I2P is not Tor, it's threat model and safety profile is not that of Tor's. I personally wouldn't use I2P on its own in China, but I think technologies designed to help people circumvent state-level censorship are on the agenda for future discussion and possible integration (but don't take my word on that). Read the technical documents. Understand, evaluate, decide. Is I2P for you? I hope the answer you come to is yes. For most people reading this, it will be yes.
If your freedom is actually really at risk, obviously combine digital privacy/security with physical privacy/security. This is true of Tor as well. Always have more than one fail-safe if you're literally Edward Snowden. This should be a no-brainer. I2P sadly is no longer a part of Tails (though you can change that if you know how/ have the time) but the above directions can still be applied to an encrypted Debian install or a virtual machine stored only on an encrypted disk. You could connect to I2P using only public Wi-Fi. You could install I2P onto a remote server you paid for with Monero and access it through Tor using SSH. The possibilities are endless. I do not mean to alarm you though, I2P is generally pretty safe. The above warnings are only for those whose lives are literally on the line.
Contributing to the Project
Now I'm just a normal person, barely even a developer, maybe a bit of an idealist (not in the Marxian sense of the term so relax all you dialectical materialists). In my spare time I have contributed to the I2P project by improving documentation, posting guides (like this one), doing research, teaching other people the ropes, testing new software, and promoting the network to my friends. You can do that too! If you're an actual developer you can really help out the network, but get to know it first! An I2P maintainer in Tails is highly desired by people in both communities, which often overlap. If you can actually do this, please do it. It's above my head, but perhaps those greater skilled than myself will look at this issue with the same interest I have.
Take a look at the Dev Forum for I2P to see what some of the actual developers are doing. You have people like zzz working their asses off to make this network the best it can be and for what? Did you pay to use I2P? Is their an I2P Foundation? I'd argue there should be, but no. Not to guilt you, but I2P relies on donations. Sometimes they don't accept donations, but a lot of times they do. Look around and explore, if you like what you see consider donating to the I2P project, if you donate with PayPal you can even get stickers if you ask for them, and that's pretty damned cool!
CONDENSED VERSION (TL;DR)
If you're in a hurry, this is the condensed version of the above tutorial. We'll do everything we did up there a little faster (no chit-chat) and start our I2P router before configuring Tor Browser to get it integrated into the network so it'll be ready to run once everything is configured (this should be as safe as starting it after configuring Tor Browser insofar as you don't start doing stuff immediately in your default browser and just let it sit there).
Prerequisites: Have the latest version of Java installed. This can be found on Oracle's website or you can grab the default supported Debian version by running:
apt-get install default-jdk
You should also grab a copy of Tor Browser Bundle from https://torproject.org/.
We are going to be using the .jar file to install I2P. You can also follow the instructions on the I2P website to install it via a custom Debian/Ubuntu package available here: https://geti2p.net/en/download/debian. This is good if you want to run I2P as a daemon but otherwise isn't necessary. The configuration steps for Tor Browser and initial settings in the I2P router console still apply if you want to go this route.
Download the Linux .jar file from https://geti2p.org/en/download. The latest version of I2P as of writing is 0.9.40.
With the file downloaded type into terminal and execute:
The output for 0.9.40 should be b5dac73d1683ebfa9b58475c2dddc6ffc40efa6622278d133688af73db428381.
Optional: Grab zzz's public key (found here: https://geti2p.net/_static/zzz.key.asc) preferably from a different computer/ connection and use it to further verify your I2P install with GPG. You can also freely examine the source code for I2P, which is always reassuring.
Start up the I2P Java installer by executing:
java -jar /path/to/i2pinstall_0.9.40.jar
in a terminal. Generally you should not run this as root! Run through the GUI as usual and install somewhere you'll remember. I recommend your home folder.
Once that is done go into the i2p folder the installer created and find a file named i2prouter. Either drag that file into terminal or copy/paste it's file path into terminal and type 'start' after it. Once again we are not running as root:
This should open the default I2P router console page (your future Home Page) up in your default browser, which usually isn't Tor Browser. Not to worry! Just leave that window alone for now or copy the address and close it out while your I2P router starts up as it takes a few minutes to get going.
Open Tor Browser and go into add-ons (about:addons). Disable HTTPS everywhere, Torbutton and Torlauncher. Go ahead and restart the browser.
Next go to Preferences (about:preferences#general) and scroll down to Network Proxy. Click settings. Now you want the proxy settings to be identical to those used for Firefox in the I2P documentation (found here: https://geti2p.net/en/about/browser-config). So go ahead and do that.
Remember the default browser that opened when you ran the command to start I2P? Copy the address it opened and paste it into Tor Browser. You should see the I2P router console. Go into Preferences again (about:preferences#general) and set that address you just pasted to your Home Page.
Hit enter. Now the I2P router console is your home page.
Go to 127.0.0.1:7657/susidns/subscriptions and paste the following (do not remove the default entry):
You can also optionally add these too:
These are DNS (domain name service) providers that associate base32 string addresses with human readable .i2p domain names. Their 'addressbooks' are added to your 'addressbook', or your private list of .i2p domain names. Click save.
I2P takes a bit of time to start up, so it may be slow at first (this is why we started I2P before configuring Tor Browser). But this may not be the only reason for a really slow connection. Default bandwidth settings are very low, to adjust bandwidth settings just clicking 'BANDWIDTH IN/OUT" under the I2P logo in the top-left of the router console (your Home Page) and adjusting your bandwidth settings accordingly. It should test your connection automatically on first install, if not open an online internet speed test in a private window. and adjust your bandwidth settings to match those of your internet connection.
That's it! Welcome to I2P!
-To update Tor Browser you need to reset proxy settings and re-enable the disabled add-ons, this is a necessary evil to stay safe so keep up to date on the latest Tor Browser updates.
-When shutting down your router wait for routing complements to expire, shutting down immediately means someone else gets disconnected.
-Sharing bandwidth is actually good for your anonymity, plus it's good not to leech off the network.
-Don't forget to check out all the cool stuff you can do with I2P!
-It's best to keep your router running, and if you're computer is on 24/7 consider running a hidden service to add good content to the network! I2P comes bundled with a hardened Jetty webserver to make setting up your own personal eepsite simple and fast.
FINAL THOUGHTS: CONCLUSION AND FURTHER SUPPORT
Now, you can jailbreak an IOS device, root an android, homebrew a Nintendo Device, and J-tag an Xbox 360. Hacking stuff is fun. What about I2P? Well, there is a community maintained, "enhanced" version of I2P you can check out called I2P+. I won't cover how to install it here but I'll give you the link if you want to check it out. The I2P link is: skank.i2p/static/i2p+.html. Now, for security I recommend using just the default I2P install, but for the adventurous you can check out I2P+. I've used it in the past and I can vouch for it, it is pretty cool.
Now that your I2P installation is properly setup let me be the first to welcome you to our Darknet! I2P for me has been a little "home away from home" in the world of cyberspace and I hope it can be yours as well. It's where I go when I'm tired of the normal internet and want to talk to cool people from around the world anonymously, see cool new stuff, help people troubleshoot problems, and do something that I think is good for humanity. If you have more questions or concerns, I2P has it's own user forum inside and outside of the network, and it's own subreddit at https://reddit.com/r/I2P. Right now my Reddit username is /u/removable_muon so be sure to say hi. So have fun, be safe, and be a good Itoopietian! See you on the other side!
Copyright (C) 2019 red, red liberty Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".
An Open Letter To The Youth: To Prevent Future Regrets and Save The World
April 26, 2019
How I was shy in the days of High School! I was the kid who was known to say nothing at all. I sat with people at lunch who did not really know me and who I did not really know. Only in the last year or so, or perhaps the second to last year did I find fleeting friendship, and a few kindled flames who I still today know. But the regrets! So many missed opportunities, how I hated the unfreedom of that place in life. I wanted to move ever forward, to independence as one naturally does. But in my eagerness to transcend that place I forgot to live.
"High school will be the best days of your life", my days are far better now, but it pains me to know what could have been. For me High School was hell, yet still I find that I would sell my soul to go back and to do it all over again as I was, but am, knowing then what I know now. Why, I do not know. I long for those days unfulfilled and untreasured, how many people did I long to know whose fire I never saw kindled. How many missed opportunities, how misunderstood I was to others and to myself! It is childish to wish to not be so constrained to this present form, bound by time and space and to the physical seat of consciousness, itself bound to laws that dictate it can only go forward, never backwards. Life, said Kierkegaard, can only be lived forwards, but it can only be understood backwards.
I read about some crazy 20-something lady who pretended to be in high school again. I think its the pain of regret that leads to people doing such things, clearly a regret far surpassing my own. Like the suicide bomber, we can understand the pain they feel, often in losing large sections of their family to American drone strikes, while despising the irrational ways by which they respond to their pain. Like the suicide the bomber, the "crazy lady" tries to ease her pain by doing something so false, deceptive, and childish instead of confronting her feelings and acting on them in a rational way. My aim here is to lay out my regrets so that you may learn from them and, if you are lucky, have none at all. Perhaps, in this, there may be some social utility in my own regretful years, and those years will not be so wasted. For me what I long for is the days of the past, with the people of the past who today, like me, are grown. It is those missed opportunities that I impossibly long to rekindle. But the feeling of general pain and regret, that is something I share with so many sad souls. It is not so much regret of this or that thing but a large, innumerable accumulation of missed opportunities. That is not something you want any part of.
The later years of High School were those in which I embraced the present, were those in which I kindled great friendships and had wondrous experiences that I will cherish until the day I die. You must remember to embrace the present, the future is not going anywhere, do not forget to live.
My story in reminiscing of those days is one of caution to those of you who are today as I once was. You, young people, who are misunderstood, shy, and who are so paralyzed by the infinite possibilities of life that you choose to stay where you are without acting, to not hang out with that person, to not ask that person out, to not go to this or that social gathering. For most of my High School years I was horribly depressed, but there is a light in this. Today I no longer worry about the things I worried about then, the problems of High School today, in spite of painful regrets, seem so trivial to me. Had you told me this then I would not have believed you. There is naturally a truth in looking forward to the future. The freedom that comes with adulthood is real and truly liberating, but you must never forget to live now in favor of a more favorable future. I cannot stress this point enough.
There is another jewel of wisdom I must share with you, and that is this: Do not let that inner fire that burns within you die. I mean not only the fire of life but the fire of a youthful, mindful, rebellious spirit. To grow accustomed to the status quo is not a sign of maturity but of profound immaturity. It is not a transcendence into adulthood but a regression into childhood. Authority figures so necessary in the days of youth are replaced by the authority of the prevailing forms of society-- and by the status quo itself. It is claimed that the restrictions placed upon you by society are for your own protection. Naturally, the youth are far more reckless and willing to put themselves in danger than fully mature adults, so there is of course a substantial grain of truth in this claim.
But the youth, having undergone substantial indoctrination into the prevailing culture, ideology, and superstructure of society, are only just finding their own independence of thought and introspection. Often with this is a profound realization that something intangible in the world is fundamentally wrong, immoral, absurd, authoritarian, and unnecessary. While this criticism is still embryonic, lacking the necessary ruthless criticism of all that exists and and the ruthless self-criticism of its own methods and conclusions, lacking the necessary analysis and objective understanding of scientific criticism, it is a necessary first step towards serious critical theory and social consciousness. Rebellion must be just rather than unjust, but in the final analysis, regardless of forms, we have to say that it is right to rebel. Do not let authority tell you that this is but a sign of immaturity merely because it is so often a symptom of youth. Instead of listening to authority and getting rid of such thoughts as you grow older you ought to embrace them and expand on them, not only in the days of youth but all the way into the time of old age.
The UN panel on climate change says we have 12 years to implement radical change to our global socioeconomic system to avoid a serious and permanent ecological catastrophe. It need not be said that your generation, and the generation of your children and grandchildren are placed in serious danger due to the recklessness of the former generations and an economic system based on a system of endless growth and expansion. Your generation will be the deciding factor in the struggle. It is a struggle not only for your very survival but necessarily a struggle to build a freer, more democratic, just and humane world.
For me this means socialism, a word so often spoken by those who do not understand what it really means. As a socialist I define socialism as nothing more than industrial democracy (the broad definition is social ownership and democratic control of the means of production), where political democracy stems not from a domination of the owners of the world, through undemocratic corporations and vast wealth syndicates, but from the people themselves having real control over their own lives, from the workplace to the ballot box, a politics separated from money, and individual wealth that never stems from the hard work of another. In such a world the existence of homelessness in the richest country in the world will rightfully be condemned as a crime against humanity. Listen, it was as absurd to speak of a right to healthcare in 1774 as it was to speak of freedom of the press in preliterate society. Part of the responsibility of your generation is to fight for positive liberties while preserving the negative liberties we have today, for a right to healthcare, higher education, housing, and a dignified life for all. You, the children of the internet, the future is in your hands and you must begin to forge it yesterday. You have to make the adults act on your behalf, the future of the human race is at once your future, and the current rulers of the earth in their old age, will not live to see your peril.
But this fight is inseparable from learning the ideas of those who came before you, from other people with real criticisms of the way things are it is inseparable from a greater struggle to create a better world. Google Murray Bookchin, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, or better yet, switch to DuckDuckGo. You have to learn the things they don't teach you in school. The ruling ideas of each age have only ever been the prevailing ideas of that ages' ruling class. You will not learn in school the knowledge needed to adequately question and criticize social injustice that stems from the prevailing base and superstructure of our socioeconomic and political system, but rather you will only find such knowledge only on the bookshelf. In spite of all you learn and know, you have to be open to the possibility that everything you know is wrong. That is what separates a scientist from a dogmatist. The modern education system does not so much kindle a love of learning as it does a hatred of it. Do not be surprised when you actually read the books you were supposed to read in High School after you graduate, freely and of your own volition. To learn truly important things on your own without trivial rewards or recognition, that is something more valuable than gold.
In short, youthful rebellion can and should be transcended into a mature critique of the status quo, but far too often it is squandered in a social regression of the individual into childhood, replacing the authority over youth with the authority of an unjust society itself.
Mine is a cautionary tale, yet one of great hope and potential peril at the same time. Be smart and learn from my mistakes. Be not so eager for the next stage of life that you forget to live in this one. The next stage of life will still be there waiting for you. Be mindful and don't give into social anxiety or be paralyzed by the infinite possibilities of life that you forget to go anywhere at all. I feel it necessary to quote a favorite poem by a Dylan Thomas. If my words have not moved you, perhaps those of Mr. Thomas will, That is what I have to say to you.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Bicycle Day: The Psychedelic Experience, God, and the Future of LSD
April 19, 2019
What's all this got to do with LSD? I'll get to that in a minute.
Men have forgotten GodThe old anti-communist Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn said of the Russian Revolution,
"Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.' Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: 'Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.'"
Of course as a Libertarian Marxist I do not share Solzhenitsyn's crude anti-communism, but I nonetheless agree wholeheartedly with his general sentiment that "Men have forgotten god". Nietzsche was right when he prophesied the death of God and the horrific effect it would have on our collective civilization. His famous quote on the "death of god" is quite well known:
"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?"
More people are atheists today than ever before in all human history, and religious fundamentalism I claim is as much to blame for this as the largely progressive secularization of society. People's conception of God today is as bourgeois as it was feudal in the middle ages. Those who claim to worship and adhere to the ideas of a man who said "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven" today openly promote the "virtues" of capitalist decadence and defend the leadership of a billionaire President whose actions and words stand intrinsically opposed to the entire doctrine of Christianity. Instead of opposing the excesses of bourgeois society they embrace them, opposing rather what aspects of modern society are antagonistic to their own socially conservative views. This to me is an utter betrayal of Christianity, a bastion of hypocrisy and conscious or unconscious submission to the ways of the world, in truth the opposite should be true!
Rosa Luxemburg's condemnation of Christian capitalism is as valid today as it was in hers:
"But it is in vain that you put yourselves about, you degenerate servants of Christianity who have become the servants of Nero. It is in vain that you help our murderers and our killers, in vain that you protect the exploiters of the proletariat under the sign of the cross. Your cruelties and your calumnies in former times could not prevent the victory of the Christian idea, the idea which you have sacrificed to the Golden Calf; today your efforts will raise no obstacle to the coming of Socialism. Today it is you, in your lies and your teachings, who are pagans, and it is we who bring to the poor, to the exploited the tidings of fraternity and equality. It is we who are marching to the conquest of the world as he did formerly who proclaimed that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven."
Secular society and the technological, cultural, and social progress it has brought about is one of the best things to happen in the world. The issue here is something else entirely. I have to agree with Dr. Cornel West who claimed that "if my conception of God was what I found in so many modern churches, I would probably be an atheist". Today as Christian fundamentalism stands in such strong opposition to scientific fact, no one more undermines the existence of the Christian faith than Christian Fundamentalists themselves. No one is better at turning people away from God than those who claim their God dictates that the earth and the universe at large is only 6000 years old, that evolution and the Big Bang are "fake", that dinosaurs were placed in the ground by Satan to turn people from their faith. The Devil does not need to sway people from God, your modern bourgeois Christianity does that for him. As the radical theologian Thomas Müntzer identified the Catholic Church and the feudal order it endorsed in his day as the Beast of Revelation in his illustrated translation of the scriptures, so too must we today identify the actions of the Devil with modern Christianity's fervent apologism for the Kingdom of Mammon.
In my mind so many horrors of the past 250 some odd years since the French revolution can be boiled down to the simple fact that "people have forgotten God". But the prognosis is far worse than this, the cynical saying of the deposed French clergy in 1793. I mean this in a much more fundamental way, that the ethics of Christianity has been subjugated to, and been used as weapons of subjugation by, unjust social systems of coercion, class domination, hierarchy, oppression and exploitation for the past 1600 years. I say this not in the sense that we ought to return to feudal despotism or some late pre-capitalist notion of Christianity but rather that we should transcend capitalist Christianity altogether. The practices of the early Apostles as described in the Book of Acts were ardently communistic. If they had to embrace any social order it would have to be a state of free communism, the opposite of our modern bourgeois society, rejecting both what is often the dogmatic atheism of traditional Marxism and the totalitarianism of Stalinist despotism at the same time. In my mind only a genuinely open society in the form of a free and democratic socialism can do this. Once again the burning question, "yes you're rambling on about religion but what the hell does this have to do with LSD?
Several years ago I considered myself like so many young people an ardent atheist, that is, until I took a particularly strong LSD trip that shook the foundations of my atheistic convictions (I have written about this previously). I saw, heard, and felt things of an entirely other dimension. The experience alone was not enough to sway me, it was the impossible things I learned and later confirmed that swayed me. I encountered mysterious entities of another plane of existence and learned things about them, their appearances, functions, names, and essences, information that I later found in an obscure, esoteric medieval grimoire I had never heard of or read called the Ars Goetia, a book allegedly written by King Solomon as a manual for the control and conjuration of demons. The ascertainment of this impossible knowledge propelled me to research this book and ultimately led to the rekindling of my faith in God. To this day I am convinced that God used the Devil for his own aims in restoring my faith in him. Of course there are varying interpretation of such an experience, did I merely conjure up some personified part of the collective unconscious? Was this really real? I do not know, but it was enough to kick me off my high horse and accept the possibility that everything I thought I knew was wrong. Isn't that, after all, why Terence McKenna said psychedelics were illegal in the first place?
“Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”
I also believed that what happened to me can happen to other people, as it often does in far less infernal forms. I am convinced that without this experience, without seeing something impossible or at the very least extremely difficult to rationally explain, without something making me question everything, I would still be an atheist to this day. I accredit this to God, but moreover I feel that LSD and psychedelics in general truly are a substance capable of opening the doors of perception to a greater reality. Whether that reality is something out there or merely a truly logical and objective point of view I cannot say. But in my mind the psychedelic experience has the ability to restore people's faith in God, religion, and spirituality in a progressive, anti-dogmatic, open-minded way. Nothing, I claim, is needed more in our world than this today.
Bicycle Day and the Psychedelic Experience
On this day, April 19th, I make this most startling prediction: that in 40 years Bicycle Day will be recognized almost universally as an official holiday. That in those days, it will be a custom for a minority of those comfortable and of sound mind and with safe set and setting, to publicly declare their intention and aim of freely going out into the natural world to trip on low, moderate, and even large quantities of LSD.
Bicycle Day isn't as well-known as the holiday that immediately follows it: 4/20. But 4/19 is also a drug holiday, a commemorative holiday where people the world over take LSD and ride on bicycles as the inventor of the drug Albert Hoffman did, accidentally, for the first time on April 19, 1945.
It is a stereotypical "druggie" notion that psychedelic drugs "like, (cough) expand your mind dude". Of course, the origins of this claim go back thousands of years, and more recently lie in the claims of scientists, neurologists, and psychologists who do indeed support the notion that the filter placed on the conscious mind by the subconscious mind is removed by these substances. LSD is known for its use by the hippies, but originally its use was more confined to researchers and scientists. It was originally a drug for people with PhD's rather than for stereotypical stoners. The "Harvard Psychedelic Club" is a famous example of such use.
The psychedelic experience, and LSD specifically, has been accredited by great minds for countless incredible scientific and technological achievements the world over. From discovering the shape of the double helix as the shape of human DNA in an afternoon after countless months of mental crunching and dead-ends, to the personally accredited successes Bill Gates and Steve Jobs attribute to the substance, and to the countless other contributions to the cybernetic revolution, LSD was there to lift the psychological filters we humans place on our everyday reality, to show the mind a larger piece of the unfiltered thing. As anyone who has taken psychedelic drugs knows, there in that warm, bright, awestruck, electrical substance we call enhanced reality, genius finds expression.
Having experienced this for myself, I have to say that it is my firm belief that the many advances brought about by the psychedelic era of yesterday still hold merit today, and that a new era necessitates the use of these substances yet again. As for potential of these substances, not only medicinally but recreationally, socially and culturally, I claim society has seen but the faintest tip of the iceberg.
On the day the use of these drugs are, in the not too distant future, accepted into our culture, legalized and regulated, on that day innovation and revelation, enlightened evolution and revolution, will overtake all parts of our society with a force hitherto unseen in all human history. Timothy Leary was right in this regard. The emancipation of labor from capital on a libertarian basis will undoubtedly see an explosion of individual innovation and culture, but with the emancipation of the human mind from the fetters of the subconscious filter I say this will be doubly so.
I predict that many of the problems our species faces, indeed perhaps even the enigma of cold fusion and the energy crisis, "faster than light" rocket propulsion, the levels of plastic in our oceans, the still unknown cure for cancer, and the very problems of society itself, I claim, will potentially be solved in the span of a decade, or at the very least the progress of such research will be substantially accelerated when LSD is accepted again and used as a tool by those who dedicate their lives to trying to understand and fix these problems. The scientists and researchers who toil away trying to solve these great problems and others, will find that what they needed all along was a fresh pair of eyes capable of seeing complex patterns where the sober mind only sees static, and better yet an informed pair of eyes unlimited by the confines of traditional thought. LSD provides exactly that. The callouses we form around our existence are, for those who trip, peeled away from time to time. Such a thing can be equally marvelous and terrifying, though necessary for a society to heal itself of its wounds and really progress into the future. Even something as simple as a color is seen as if through a child's eyes for the first time, but in an even more profound way with all the knowledge an adult carries with them from the long gone cradle of childhood.
The psychedelic experience is not to be taken lightly, it is not like any other drug induced experience. Conventional drugs intoxicate, whereas psychedelics do the exact opposite-- though the nature of the question of "intoxication" in regards to the psychedelic experience is itself, riddled with contradictions. Hallucinations, certainly, are common. Such a state of mind can of course bring profound hallucinations. But the hallucinations are often not mere fictitious constructs of the mind but rather a means for it to reveal a deeply hidden truth, to reveal patterns and greater truths not really yet understood in full by the conscious mind. Patterns never seen before become apparent, one is awestruck at the complexity of the simplest of objects, colors too are as a profound revelation.
On low to moderate doses, I would argue that while the psychic defenses usually up for our own evolutionary survival are down, so too are the filters our subconscious minds places on reality. In many ways, I think those filters are survival mechanisms inherited from our distant past, for the terrain the mind treads in those 12 hours cannot be permanent if one is to live and breathe as a sane modern man. But those 12 hours can be, if one is prepared, wonderful and life changing.
The nature of humanity is not transfixed, but ever changing and evolving into a higher form. This affirmation of evolution I believe, does not contradict my faith in God but rather it affirms it. From our ape-like ancestors to modern man, and from modern man to an entirely new being that I hope will take with it the best of us, while negating the worst aspect of our nature. But it is at the same time, for us today, a state of being trapped halfway between apes and angels. Man's self-domestication and his construction of a society created in his own image (i.e. civilization) is a step away from barbarism and away from the primal nature of the past, it is a step towards the next phase of human evolution. The psychedelic experience lifts man's consciousness to a higher level, beyond the confines of traditional human consciousness. I claim that this higher level of being will be, to a certain extent, how our distant descendants perceive reality. Without the filters our primitive minds place on reality, our future children may find a way to perceive reality in much the same way as one on psychedelic drugs, perhaps even more so, without sacrificing one's own sanity or experiencing overwhelming emotions and such fragile states of mind.
For us, we are allotted a mere 12 hours, and that 12 hours for anyone who has taken this miraculous substance is often life-changing. The mechanisms that allow the psychedelic experience to happen are written into the human brain itself. I believe it is not a sinful intoxication as is often the case with alcohol, but a sacred enlightenment that is the nature of the psychedelic experience. Alcohol suppresses the human soul. Spiritually as well as physically, it is toxic. Alcohol suppresses reality and one's own inner thoughts. Psychedelics on the other hand are reality-affirming and thought-affirming in such a profound way that they seem to transcend the limitations of the conscious mind.
Language and thought, if you are lucky enough to experience it, lose their marriage to one another, and pure thought, divorced from what one finds to be the constricting, limiting vestiges of language, expresses itself wonderfully and in such a way that challenges many of the conceptions of orthodox Kantianism. Such an effect for me has not been confined to this one trip, but I find when my mind wanders that I now have learned from this trip, the ability to do so whenever I like, even whilst fully sober (this effect I gained from psilocybin as opposed to LSD, but note that I have found a somewhat involuntary effect several days after such a trip, where written and spoken language appears alien and more difficult to comprehend than under normal circumstances). This sort of "skill", I have found, allows the human brain to think in a way much faster and more efficiently than traditional thought.
Reason takes entirely different forms during the psychedelic experience. Whereas the sober mind goes from A to B to C, the psychedelic mind can easily and in a seemingly miraculous yet logical way go from A to B to Z, or from A to Z to B. In some cases, abstract thought can be delusional in nature, as the mind is not used to such a state of consciousness. But through altered neural pathways the mind can, because parts of the brain that don't normally talk to each other are talking to each other, reach phenomenally logical and reasonable epiphany and "eureka" like realizations at the same time, such realizations and ideas flow unconstrained from the subconscious mind to the conscious mind like a river, sometimes thousands in the course of a few seconds. I remember such moments with extreme clarity, and many of these realizations have been life changing and life-affirming.
A thousand brilliant ideas flow through the conscious mind in a single moment. Riddles and enigmas so complex and unsolvable are in such a state, seemingly solved in the blink of an eye. Space, time, and even one's own ego becomes meaningless. But the psychedelic experience magnifies ones own inner feelings, be they of harmony or turmoil. For that reason one should not take such a substance without much understanding and thought. One does not take LSD to escape their problems as one takes alcohol, should one do this LSD will magnify the psychological extent of their problems and force them to confront it. That alone moves the status of LSD from being a so-called "recreational drug" to a sacrament. In my view, the world today needs one big Bicycle Day. If everyone of sound mind and without a family history of psychosis or mental illness, for one day took 150ug of LSD, I claim the world would change overnight. All this of course must sound completely absurd to someone who has never taken a psychedelic drug. "What nonsense is all this!" they might say. To such a person I would encourage that they cast aside their preconceived notions, do their research, talk to their doctor, and take a few grams of mushrooms or a tab or two of the real thing, and then come back to me.
What else is there to say of LSD? The military stopped testing its soldiers with the drug because nearly all of them came to their senses and quit the army after taking it! What other drug can make pacifists out of battle-ready soldiers? Religion certainly can, but even that today is distorted to serve the powers that be, war-ready and all. "Think for yourself and question authority", Leary liked to say. Maybe this is what society needs today.
But the psychedelic experience can likewise plunge those already miserable or in terrifying places into a literal hell, this is especially the case when one ingests a substance sold as LSD that was not, in actuality, LSD. The prohibitionist (I say ridiculous) "coalition for a drug free world" makes the truly absurd claim of LSD that "When things go wrong, which often happens, it is called a 'bad trip,' another name for a living hell." The issue I have here is the term "which often happens". When one has a good set and setting and is adequately prepared for the experience psychologically, the odds of a bad trip are generally astronomical. Generally I would say that at most bad trips are one in a thousand, and even those who have had the misfortune of experiencing one (myself included) often claim that they learned something valuable from the experience and are better people for it. LSD itself is a remarkably safe chemical. There have been no reported fatalities attributed directly to LSD, and the LD50 for the substance is truly astronomical. The same is true of cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms. A simple look at aggregated research from the Lancet and other sources confirms this fact.
(See: https://thoughtfoundryblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/drugchart2.gif and https://thoughtfoundryblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/drug-chart.png")
Make Sure It's The Real Deal: A Cautionary TalePsychedelics are at the same time, extremely powerful substances. Years ago I had the misfortune of taking a drug I thought was LSD that turned out to be something else entirely. It was the only time I had not preformed a test-kit on the blotter to make sure that it was LSD. I trusted my source, and that was a mistake. What I took was not LSD. After 3 hours, I assumed I had been ripped off (I never hold a grudge), so I continued on with my day, not leaving the house or driving to be safe. LSD usually kicks in within 45 minutes to an hour, but this was not LSD.
After 3 hours of sobriety colors suddenly appeared exceptionally vibrant, and I knew at once that I was tripping on something I had not intended to take. The trip was like LSD but unpleasantly different, my muscles were tight and I grew increasingly anxious and sad. The trip lasted almost 24 hours and I fell asleep while tripping (something you can never do on LSD). Knowing I had taken what was likely a DOx compound (I suspect DOB) with no real established safety profile, panic and terror set in. I can only describe it as the "raw energy of terror", and a period of 24 hours felt like weeks. In hindsight I grew from the experience and decided to wait 10 years before attempting another trip, but in those early months after the trip I required psychiatric intervention as the after-effects of the drug had destroyed my perception of conscious reality. Nothing felt real, like I was watching myself in a movie. It was absolutely terrifying. Anxiety let to this derealization, and the anxiety caused by the experience only amplified it in self-perpetuating panic attack. While not an LSD trip, I can say that the psychedelic experience itself is as wondrous as it is dangerous. I am convinced that LSD would not have given my such an experience that day. Having read the horror stories of people who had ingested these "research chemicals" I understood the dangers only all too well. The lesson here is simple: 100% sure that what you are taking is the real thing, pay the 100$ to send it into a lab, or at the very least buy a 20$ test-kit. To not do so in an era of prohibition is reckless in the extreme. For real LSD if one has a good set and setting, and a trusted trip-sitter to be sure, they have practically speaking, nothing to worry about.
Prohibition 2: "This Time It Will Work"
The ill-informed media likes to report on "fatal LSD overdoses" from time to time. Of course, like cannabis, the LD50 for LSD is millions of times higher than a recreational dose, and as such, such a large quantity of the stuff must belong only to those who synthesize it or their immediate colleges. No one "accidentally" takes a gram of LSD. Since that is the case, it's hard to believe a 19 year old kid took a gram of pure LSD crystals (a truly priceless amount) before dying, especially when it is reported they took "tabs". In nearly all cases, the poor kid took, knowingly or most often unknowingly, what is called a "research chemical", something with a chemical composition similar to another psychedelic drug such as 1P-LSD, or different altogether such as 25i-NBOMx or DOx, that was sold as LSD. Such deaths then, are not the result of LSD but of its prohibition. Contrary to popular belief LSD, like cannabis, is a non-addictive substance (see above image). Not only is it non-addictive, but in many ways it is even anti-addictive. Alcoholics Anonymous in fact, used to use LSD as part of the twelve-step program when the substance was legal! Addicts in the United States and Canada often travel to Peru to participate in Ibogaine and Ayahuasca ceremonies that boast an exponentially higher success rate for treating addiction than the traditional 12 step program alone. Like the MDMA trip that one should take only once every 3 months at most (for serotonin levels to return to normal), a very high LSD tolerance builds up rapidly after a single dose. One has to wait 2 weeks for the same dose to have the same effect. If one even could take multiple doses consecutively I do not envy them, the mind is much too fragile an object to do something so reckless.
Having described the subjective effects of the psychedelic experience and the extreme harm of prohibition I must plea for Liberty in our own era. What business is it to authority what substance a free and informed person chooses to put into their body? It is none at all! The war on drugs has been a disaster since the day it was started. It has created a death toll for substances that are impossible to overdose on, all because there is no regulation or laws ensuring that what people buy is what they get. It has destroyed lives and families by locking people up for non-violent crimes, turning honest citizens into criminals by putting them into prisons- the universities of crime. It has shut down any attempt on the part of drug users to self-regulate the exchange of drugs, reduce violence and enforce the quality control of psychoactive drugs by shutting down and arresting the people who run darknet markets such as the Silk Road. It has deprived the individual of their liberty and hindered the pursuit of happiness. It has perpetually destabilized the South American continent, concentrating what should be social wealth into vast crime syndicates that know no morals or social utility. It has led to far greater rates of addiction, death, disease, and use rates among both adults and minors than if it were legal and strictly regulated. It has led to the social popularity of truly destructive drugs such as alcohol and tobacco while much safer alternatives remain illegal. The addict not only cannot often afford treatment, but is afraid to seek it. What good is incarceration for getting sober when one finds more drugs inside of prison than outside of it?
The only way out of this crisis is the inevitable future legalization and strict regulation of all psychoactive drugs, public harm-reduction initiatives and free universal healthcare and addiction treatment. Decriminalization is a necessary first step, but decriminalization without universal healthcare is heartless. While LSD is not an addictive substance, or one nearly as harmful as most other drugs, I claim that the only solution lies in legalizing and regulating all drugs. Inevitably less harmful drugs will become commonplace over more harmful ones. I predict that cannabis will work to gradually replace the widespread use rates of both alcohol, tobacco, and opiates, and such a replacement will be long overdue.
As for psychedelic I have to reiterate my agreement with what Terence McKenna once said of psychedelic prohibition:
“Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down models of behaviour and information processing. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.”
My dream is that in 40 years time Bicycle day will cease to be a social taboo, and will become something worthy of that great chemical compound Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).
Legal disclaimer: I am, of course, saying "take a few grams" of portobello "mushrooms" and "tabs" of drug-free blotter paper. I totally wouldn't encourage people to break what are fundamentally unjust laws or anything like that.
A Review of The Russian TV Series Троцкий (Trotsky): Historical Negationism At Its Finest
March 26, 2019
I waited a very long time to see the TV series Russian TV Series Троцкий (Trotsky), created by Russia's Channel One (a large share of the company being owned by the Russian government). The series is a biographical drama dedicated to co-leader of the Russian Revolution, Soviet exile, and founder of the Fourth International; Leon Trotsky, on the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution. I subscribed to a sketchy Russian Netflix like site shortly after it was released in hopes of seeing it to no avail. I bought the DVD with English Subtitles only to find it full of errors before finally finding a version uploaded to YouTube with an option to translate to English subtitles. I watched the 7 part TV series in full before writing this review.
After seeing it in full I have to say that the Criticism section of it's Wikipedia page does not go nearly far enough. Wikipedia's recorded "Criticisms" are as follows:
The series has been criticized for numerous historical inaccuracies in its depiction of Trotsky as a megalomaniacal leader who masterminded the revolution, invoking many of the antisemitic tropes used by the White Guard during the Russian Civil War. Amongst the many historical falsehoods are that Trotsky personally ordered the execution of the Russian royal family (currently the subject of a Federal Investigation for "ritual murder") and that he knew his assassin to be a Stalinist and invited him to write his biography for him. The important (and final) episode of Trotsky's assassination by Ramon Mercader, the NKVD agent, ordered by Josef Stalin, and the role of his lover Sylvia, who facilitated his admission to Trotsky's household, are totally misconstrued or downplayed. Facing the criticism, Konstantin Ernst, the general producer of the series, insisted that they were aiming to weave a fictionalized narrative around the basic facts of Trotsky's biography rather than making a documentary.
The series has also been criticized by RFE/RL journalist Luke Johnson for "taking contemporary Russia’s anti-revolutionary ideology global" and for being a vehicle for Russian state propaganda, "unmistakably align[ed] with the Kremlin worldview", critical of "Western decadence" and foreign "interference" in Russian domestic affairs.
Konstantin Ernst may say "oh this is fiction" but this is not at all how the film appears, it appears as a reenactment of a man's life, as one aiming for historical accuracy. He only insists there is a "fictional narrative" employed when attacked on all sides by historians who said "what is this nonsense?" In the end I have to say that I was extremely disappointed with the TV series Троцкий (Trotsky). The expected conservatism and historical negationism of Channel One Russia was far worse than I thought it would be. What exactly do I mean by this?
During the entire series, not a single political difference between Trotsky and Stalin was brought up. Not a single mention was made of the Fourth International, of Trotsky's struggle for democracy within the Soviet Union, of his call for a political revolution to restore genuine workers' democracy and civil liberties for the Soviet people, of the political reasons for Trotsky's exile. In the film, Trotsky and Stalin were essentially the same, with no real differences in political opinion whatsoever. The popular support of the revolution by the workers and peasants was completely glossed over. Trotsky, according to the series, was a bloodthirsty tyrant who was just looking for an excuse to start his "reign of terror".
Let us set the record clear: The initial Russian Revolution was the one of the most peaceful social revolutions in all of human history. Violence came from the reaction, and it was answered in kind by the Bolsheviks. White terror was met in kind with Red terror. The wretched poor, the workers and peasants, had taken power for themselves for the first time in all of human history on a national scale, in one of the poorest, most backward countries in the world that was in the middle of a famine, a World War, and had just gone through a revolution.As if this wasn't enough, in came an armed invasion of 14 of the most powerful armies in the world to aid the White Army, a brutal war on 22 fronts with anti-Jewish pogroms and a White terror designed to strangle Bolshevism in it's cradle. This was what compelled the Red Army into taking extreme measures, victory hinged on the international revolution that never came.
I do not wish to apologize for or justify the atrocities committed on either side, merely to provide necessary context for what took place. You will not find this context at all in Троцкий. The White army isn't even really shown in the film, nor the White Terror. Trotsky is a true Machiavellian who fabricates plots in order to make the situation worse, to make revolutionary violence more severe. There is in actuality, no real contradiction between Trotsky's views in 1920 and his views in 1940. Anyone familiar with Trotsky's works and political life will tell you this. The Bolsheviks were compelled to suspend their own democratic principles to win the war, they understood only all too well what was necessary to fight against a full counter-revolution. But at no point did they seek to glorify or crystallize the emergency measures of the early Soviet Republic as some form of ideal political ideology, as Stalin did in later years. In Троцкий, the Bolsheviks are murderous, bloodthirsty fiends and Trotsky is a heartless Machiavellian with no real differences or antagonistic views in comparison with Stalin.
In the show, Jackson asks Trotsky, "Name one difference between you and Stalin". And what does Trotsky say? He says he "gave himself entirely to the cause" whereas Stalin "only cared about power". This blatant historical negationism is almost as bad as that of the historical negationism found principled defenders of Stalin and Stalinism. The political differences between Trotsky and Stalin are enough to fill over 14 volumes of books. I know this because I personally own 14 volumes of the writings of Leon Trotsky after his expulsion from the USSR, the political struggle of the Opposition for internal democracy from 1923 until his final expulsion from the Soviet Union could likewise fill another 14 volumes. Anyone with internet access can go to the Trotskyist Internet Archive at marxists.org and see this for themselves. Apparently while the writers at Channel One are familiar with Trotsky's biography, they are completely ignorant, or arrogantly dismissive of his political views, of the very thing that makes Trotsky who he is, and why he's worth mentioning in the first place. For a television show about a political figure, such a dismissal of his political views is completely outrageous and inexcusable.
Do I mean to respond to conservative historical negationism with Trotskyist historical negationism? Not in the least. Atrocities were committed on both sides, that is a matter of fact. To what degree they were or were not justified, or to what degree they were necessary, is a matter of personal and political opinion. But as Trotsky himself said, "A slaveholder who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning and violence breaks the chains-- let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are equals before a court of morality!" It is moral cowardice to equate those who react to violence with those who initiated the violence of their own right, and to not even portray the White Terror at all in order to demonize the Red in a "historical" reenactment, is criminal.
Of course, it wasn't until Stalin took power that the idea of murdering a dissident Party member ceased to be truly unthinkable, this even after the Bolsheviks had taken power. When hearing of the exiled Martov's (leader of the Mensheviks) ill health and poor condition in Berlin; Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin all discussed indirectly helping the exiled Menshivik. In spite of their obvious political differences, they did not wish to see a socialist revolutionist who had done so much for their movement suffer needlessly. Stalin's response was a cold: "Who cares? Let him croak". (The Life and Death of Leon Trotsky, Victor Serge and Natalia Sedova Trotsky, p. 116). You will, of course, not hear of such things in Троцкий.
In the film, the petty disagreements of Lenin and Trotsky far before the revolution are fictitiously dramatized to show how "evil" Lenin really is. Lenin, on a rooftop with Trotsky, grabs him by the collar and holds him over the edge of the roof threatening to kill him. Such a thing, of course, never actually happened. There isn't even a single historical allegation of such a thing happening in this regard. It is yet another attempt on the part of Channel One to rewrite history.
Even Trotsky's murder by Jackson is fictionalized in order to demonize Trotsky. Even in Trotsky's final moments he is demonized by the conservatives of Channel One. The "kind and empathetic" Stalinist Jackson asks, "And your children, father, friends, comrades, millions of dead?" To which the evil Trotsky replies, "You do not understand anything. I changed the world." The kind, benevolent Jackson then takes the moral high ground and, not obeying the orders of Stalin to assassinate Trotsky, says "Goodbye, Trotsky" as if to leave. Trotsky, knowing Jackson was sent to kill him, locks the door and begins calling Jackson a "weak coward" and starts whacking Jackson with a cane very violently (no, sadly I am not joking). During this he says, among other things, "The only thing I regret was that I was not sufficiently fierce and terrible. I showed the softness where it was supposed to be..." and then he talks about not counting victims, letting the world burn in the flames of a terrible war, and all other things you would expect from an "evil" Bolshevik. All the while, Trotsky continues beating Jackson fiercely with his cane. At the end of it, Jackson kills Trotsky in what most courts would call self-defense, and the brutality of the murder itself is dramatized for the cameras. Trotsky, according to the film, is dead.
Let us set the record straight again: Trotsky did not know Jackson was a Stalinist agent, and he did not know Jackson was sent to kill him until it was too late. Trotsky's brutal murder was not provoked, nor was it an act of self-defense. Trotsky was reading a paper written by Jackson while Jackson, from behind, swung an ice-pick into Trotsky's skull. It was cold-blooded murder, not something in the least bit provoked by Trotsky. He didn't even die from the attack for over a day.
But do not take my word for it, Wikipedia once again sets the record straight:
"On 20 August 1940, Mercader (Jackson) was alone with Trotsky in the exiled Russian's study, under the pretext of showing him a document. Mercader struck from behind and fatally wounded Trotsky on the head with an ice axe while the exiled Russian was looking at the document.
The blow failed to kill Trotsky, and he got up and grappled with Mercader. Hearing the commotion, Trotsky's guards burst into the room and beat Mercader nearly to death, but Trotsky, heavily wounded but still conscious, ordered them to spare his attacker's life and let him speak.
Caridad and Eitingon were waiting outside the compound in separate cars to provide a getaway; but when Mercader did not return they left and fled the country.
Trotsky was taken to a hospital in the city and operated on but died the next day, as a result of severe brain injuries."
So you see, far from assaulting his assassin, trapping him, and forcing him to act, Trotsky was a victim of a heinous crime who, in his final moments, ordered that the life of his murderer be spared. Such a history the conservatives of Channel One seem to deem "unfavorable" to their version of history.
Ramon Mercader's last words are said to have been, "I hear it always. I hear the scream. I know he's waiting for me on the other side." Such are the words not of one who is innocent, but of one who is guilty.
As if to add insult to injury, the TV series dedicated to the life of a self-described "irreconcilable atheist" ends with a quote from the scriptures; Proverbs 4:19, "The way of the wicked is like gloomy darkness; they do not know what they stumble over." I have of course as a follower of Liberation Theology, written extensively as to why I believe the Bolsheviks position on religion is wrong, and even harmful to their movement. But I cannot and I will not stand for such a blatantly disrespectful end to an already disrespectful TV show. The last moments of the TV show only add insult to injury.
Part of me thinks the hesitancy to show Trotsky's dedication to freedom and democracy for the Soviet people is due to the current political situation in Russia, where talk of freedom and democracy is a touchy subject. The ideology of Russia today is "all this talk of freedom and democracy never really works, the Americans are just as bad as we are, and so forth". In this one could possibly forgive the writers of Channel One. But in the final analysis, if history is not to be presented as accurately as possible, if it is to be shown with all the relevant details omitted, then it is best not to be shown at all. The show should be scrapped in its entirety and re-made, its writers replaced with a coalition of historians of various political views who are dedicated to accurately portraying the life and death of Leon Trotsky.
I will say that the cinematography, acting, and directing of the TV series was phenomenal. For this I can only congratulate those who worked so hard to make the show a reality on a job well done. My anger resides not in the director, actors, cinematographers, editors, makeup artists, etc. but with the writers who while studying enough to know Trotsky's biographical details, omitted entirely his real political convictions, the entirety of the reasons for what he did what he did, and explicitly went out of their way to portray him as a monster.
In all the political currents of the 20th century, I will say that the views espoused by Trotskyism were by far among the most honorable. It was the Trotskyists more than anyone else who never betrayed their principles. They wanted a world free from every possible form of oppression or exploitation, despotism or totalitarianism. Without fear of persecution or personal safety, they called for political revolution, for genuine workers democracy and unrestricted personal and political freedom in the Soviet Union and other so-called socialist states. They called for socialist revolution within the capitalist nations at the same time. And for this, they were hunted to the ends of the earth by McArthyist's and Stalinists alike. Trotsky committed many mistakes as I will be the first to admit. But none of them warranted such a perversion in the portrayal of a human life as embodied in Троцкий (Trotsky).
A life such as Trotsky's deserves a real obituary, not a disrespectful, historically negationist work of Russian conservatives, but one that tells it as Trotsky himself saw it, and more importantly as those around him saw it. For that, I will leave here the obituary of Trotsky written by James P. Cannon for all who are curious to read (https://www.marxists.org/archive/cannon/works/1940mom.htm). To the millions of people in Russia who saw this show, I say you have learned virtually nothing at all about the man, besides the basic geological locations of Trotsky throughout his life, and some of the historical negationist falsifications of modern Russian conservatives who have an interest in not showing who Trotsky really was and what he really believed in and fought for. What truths there are have blood and sin added to them to make Trotsky a villain. Perhaps this is precisely the aim of the show, to show a demonized version of Trotsky's life in such a way that any hint of the Soviet past that "there might have been another way, one without totalitarianism, repression, and bureaucratic dictatorship but with actual freedom and Soviet democracy" is completely dismissed outright. This is precisely how the ideology of Putin's dictatorship functions. Maybe instead of scriptures aimed to demonize him we should end with a quote by Trotsky himself:
“Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full.”
― Leon Trotsky
Why I Changed the Name of The Blog to Red Liberty
March 20, 2019
A few months ago we changed the name of our blog from Thought Foundry Blog to Red Liberty, though we never really gave an explanation as to why. In my view such an explanation is long overdue.
When I started this project it was mainly just a source to write about my interests: Astronomy, Egyptology, Philosophy, Economics, various Social Issues, etc. I don't recall how I came up with the name Thought Foundry Blog but after a time I understood it no longer reflected the nature of the website as it had taken a largely political turn. Why did it take such a political turn, you may ask. The answer is somewhat complicated.
I had seen the poverty ravished towns near where I live after taking a wrong turn on the interstate one day. Everywhere it seemed was poverty, homelessness, and social desolation. Yet only a few miles away was one of the richest cities in the country, while this other town seemed more a distant third-world concept than a reality. As a Christian this was a wake-up call for me, what kind of a society allegedly based on Christian ideals would allow such suffering amidst such material abundance? It was only later that I read Marx and other socialist thinkers.
When I first started reading economics, I eventually stumbled upon what I thought were the "fringe" writings of Karl Marx. Having been familiar with more "mainstream" economists and political thinkers, I consider my mindset at this time to be that of the typical American. "It works good on paper but not in reality", I would say, not sure how the idea, an idea that seems to be everyone's first response to the advocacy of Marxist ideals, even got there since I had never read a page of what the man himself had to say in my life. To my mind, the ideas of Marx were thus associated with totalitarianism and a failed Utopian social system, that is-- until I read what he had to say rather than what other people said about him. Reading Marx was like a revelation to me, it articulated something already so self-evident that I had yet to put into words. Such is the experience for many people. It took a lot of reading and critical thinking before I called myself a Marxist. I was looking here at Marx himself rather than at Cold War history, which naturally was a second step in the mind of the typical American I, in so many ways, was.
Like most people who agree with so many of Marx's ideas, I looked to historical movements that were based on Marx's critiques of capitalism. This led naturally to the Russian Revolution and subsequent Cold War. I was so naive then, taken aback by the astounding progress many of these countries made, wholly ignorant of the other side of it. Cold hard statistics can paint a lovely picture, but that picture is almost always devoid of what things were like on the ground.
To see that Stalin had done in a decade what took the west 150 years, to see China's life expectancy go from the mid-30's, to see illiteracy rates go from 80% when Mao took power, to a life expectancy comparable to the west and the abolition of illiteracy when Mao died, all these things shocked me. Certainly the gains in regards to industrialization and improvements of people's standards of living in the initial process of rapid modernization, positive liberties and the like, are under-emphasized in most history books, but I somehow overlooked the totalitarianism of it all, how its very undemocracy, its very unfreedom was a contradiction to its "official" claim of having been a really free, really democratic, socialist society, as Stalin called it. The initial enthusiasm of it all wore off when I mentioned that I considered myself a Christian in a Marxist-Leninist (a term coined by Stalin) online group. The people in that group seemed to be far more anti-religious than any self-proclaimed Marxist I have known since then, but it made me start to question my own nativity in my studying of this history. One of them, a dissident in the group, claimed one could be a religious Marxist-Leninist as long as they didn't go to Church or try to spread their faith! What madness! It wasn't long before I read more critical sources, most of which were mainstream, but among them the writings of Leon Trotsky.
I eventually saw after much reading that the initial ideas of socialist democracy, of a truly free, truly democratic society were not realized in Stalinist countries (as I began to call them). I had joined Socialist Alternative (an American Trotskyist organization) and began seriously studying Trotsky's collected works (which I got for a steal on eBay) on my own initiative. For years I considered myself a Trotskyist. Even today I claim many ideas of this political philosophy are valid, but as I continued my research I grew even more critical of these social movements. I began to be more critical of the early Bolsheviks, always and especially in regards to their hostility towards religion. I began looking to other socialists such as Rosa Luxemburg and James Connolly, Eugene Debs and even the ex-Trotskyist, ex-Anarchist Murry Bookchin.
I read about anarchism from anarchists, and not from Marxists trying to prove that it was wrong. I read the accounts of other early 20th century socialists and gradually I came to realize that not only was Stalinism an authoritarian distortion of Leninism, but Leninism was an authoritarian outgrowth of Marxism. But even in this revelation comes naturally a kind of profound naivety when one merely dismisses an entire social movement as "not socialist". What really shook me were the writings of the German Marxist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg on the Russian Revolution, and her early polemics with Lenin's "dangerous" ideas on Jacobinism and the party (something Trotsky initially was against also). For me Trotsky was a prophet in predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union, but Rosa Luxemburg even more so.
Having been familiar with a wide range of leftist activists and intellectuals, I was shocked at the fact that so many of them were Marxists towards everything but the historical attempts at realizing their own ideas. They ruthlessly criticized all that existed, that is, everything but "actually existing socialism", and the history of the countries that collapsed with the end of the Cold War. For them this was the ultimate taboo, some of them even regarded criticism of the North Korean personality cult as a form of racism! Engels once said that "an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory", and here we found "Marxists" that were more concerned with 150 year old political theory than the results of its application to real societies. They read history to be sure, but the historical accounts they read were whitewashed accounts of history by people like Grover Furr who make it their life-long mission to exonerate figures like Stalin and the social systems they constructed. This historical revisionism in my mind, came to be one of the biggest menaces to the political left in modern history. It was our modern predicament, our inability to transcend, and brutally criticize the history of the Cold War. Needless to say I was completely disillusioned with totalitarian attempts to build socialism.
I found reason in the ideas of Hegelian Marxist Slavoj Zizek, who argued that if anything liberal or "bourgeois" accounts of Cold War history are not critical enough. I saw his analysis of Stalinism as something profound, he argued that only Marxists could really expose how terrible and tragic the 20th century socialist experiment really was. Only the dead can truly bury their dead, so to speak.
But in this analysis almost inevitably comes the conclusion that if it wasn't a genuine democracy where working people held all political power, then it could not really be a socialist society. The claim "not real communism" and "not real socialism" seems to anger a lot of "typical Americans" who don't really understand what those words actually mean according to their adherents. Of course, no society claimed itself to have achieved communism (a stateless, classless, perhaps moneyless society), socialism however was claimed. But can it really be so simple? In his book Trouble in Paradise, Slavoj Zizek recalls an interesting conversation:
"The mistake to be avoided is the one best exemplified by the story (apocryphal, maybe) about the Left-Keynesian economist John Galbraith. Before a trip to the USSR in the late 1950's, he wrote to his anti-Communist friend Sidney Hook: 'Don't worry, I will not be seduced by the Soviets and return home claiming they have socialism!' Hook answered him promptly: 'But that's not what worries me-- that you will return claiming the USSR is NOT socialist!' What worried Hook was the naive defense of the purity of the concept: if things go wrong with building a socialist society, this does not invalidate the idea itself, it just means we didn't implement it properly. Do we not detect the same naivety in today's free market fundamentalists? When, during a recent TV debate in France, Guy Sorman claimed that democracy and capitalism necessarily go together, I couldn't resist asking him the obvious question: 'But what about China today?' He snapped back: 'In China there is no capitalism!' For the fanatically pro-capitalist Sorman, if a country is non-democratic, it simply means it is not truly capitalist but practices capitalism's disfigured version, in exactly the same way that, for a democratic Communist, Stalinism was simply not an authentic form of Communism. The underlying mistake is not difficult to identify. It is the same as the well-known joke: 'My fiance is never late for an appointment, because the moment she is late she is no longer my fiance!' This is how today's free-market apologist explains the crisis of 2008: it was not the failure of the free market that caused the crisis but excessive state regulation, i.e. the fact that our market economy clutches to the welfare state. When we stick to such a purity of market capitalism, dismissing its failures as accidental mishaps, we end up in a naive progressivism that ignores the mad dance of opposites."
At the same time, Zizek calls himself a Marxist. He said to protestors at Occupy Wall Street, "If by communism it is meant the social systems that collapsed in 1989, then we are not communists". Zizek also holds that "Stalinism is not to be rejected because it was immoral or murderous (he does argue that this is a reason for it to be rejected -Red Liberty), but because it failed on its own terms, because it betrayed its own premises." The idea of socialism went from one applicable only to the most technologically advanced capitalist countries first, to the most backward first (Russia). The idea then went from "we have to support socialist revolution abroad at all costs as socialism cannot exist in one country alone" to "we can and must construct socialism in one country". It went from a first world Eurocentric movement, to a third world movement. When this failed miserably (as one might expect), it failed on its own terms. Fundamental to its legitimacy was the claim that "in X country, here the workers have real power, here there are the same Civil Liberties as in the west but to an even greater extent! We have provided the means to realize the liberties you proclaim 'formally', and we have expanded them with the positive liberties socialism promises. We have real socialist democracy, popular democracy, genuinely free elections, etc." In this sense we can say it betrayed its own premises, because the whole thing was a mad contradiction.
To say "ah this is not really socialism" may have credence if we judge what "socialism" is by standards that country gives us, i.e. you say you have a genuinely popular socialist democracy that depends on "wild, lively debates at the local level, the free thrashing out of opinions", but we know this is not the case in actuality, and so on. If you do not judge such a country by its own standards there is a tendency to avoid its vehement social contradictions by siding with one of many factionalist tendencies which dismiss other tendencies at worst as "revisionist" or "anti-Marxist" without exploring the issue any further. You can also use the dictionary definition of socialism as "social ownership and democratic control of the means of production" to argue that without really democratic control, it doesn't qualify as socialism. But to dismiss the entire thing as "not really socialist" can a mistake in many ways. What do I mean by this?
I say I am a socialist, a Libertarian Marxist, I mean that in the sense of James Connolly and Rosa Luxemburg. That is a very different thing from being a socialist in the sense of Lenin and Trotsky, or Stalin and Mao, or Khrushchev and Brezhnev, or Dubcek and Gorbachev, or Goldman and Kropotkin, or Tito and Bukharin, etc. The Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha spent his entire life's rule denouncing the "anti-Marxist stand" of Soviet "Khrushchevite revisionism", "Yugoslav revisionism", and later the "anti-Marxist stand" of "Mao Tse-Tung Thought". By 1985 little Stalinist Albania declared itself the "only socialist country in the world" (remember the Berlin wall didn't fall until 1989). At the same time, in 1978, Soviet propaganda was pumping out anti-Maoist literature from its official "Novosti Press Agency Publishing House" such as Maoism: Slogans and Practice which aimed to show how "fundamentally Maoism is at variance with the principles of scientific communism and proletarian internationalism." Maoist China, of course, said precisely the same thing about the Soviet Union. Trotskyists called for political revolution in all the "degenerated and deformed workers states" in order to realize real workers democracy and the civil liberties formally proclaimed under such regimes, also claiming they weren't genuinely socialist either. I will touch on Luxemburg's view later on, as it is very interesting. But one can clearly see here the trend for socialists to say "we have real socialism" or "we are the real Marxists" and "those guys aren't".
Perhaps it is only Dubcek and Gorbachev who really attempted to reconcile the "mad dance of opposites" in these "socialist societies". It is an irony that today they are so vehemently hated on the political left. You can address these contradictions and address this "mad dance of opposites" this by either admitting openly "this is a totalitarian one-party state" (something Tito initially did in early years that really infuriated Stalin and confronted his idea of "People's Democracy"), or you can attempt to reconcile the contradiction by making the "workers democracy" (and perhaps socialism by extension of you share this view) along with the formally proclaimed constitutional rights to freedom of press, speech, assembly, and so forth, something that actually exists. The Prague Spring and the Gorbachev era aimed at precisely this. People on the ground abandoned their "public opinions" in favor of the party and their "private opinions" that were often for socialism, but against what the society had become. They quite openly said what they meant, and press censorship was entirely abolished. The issues with traditional Eastern Bloc economics were openly criticized and alternatives were put forth, most of which were against a return to capitalism (something that didn't happen again until it was too late). It truly was a "spring" of sorts. The open abolition of the (never before admitted to) press censorship, secret police, rigged elections, etc. was an attempt to say "we fucked up, now we the people are fixing it". Glasnost basically said "we're opening all the old archives and state secrets, to show you exactly how we fucked up so you, the free people, can figure out how to fix it." In Czechoslovakia this led to the invasion of Warsaw member nations for the "restoration of socialism (Brezhnev's interpretation of it anyways)". In the Soviet Union this led to the August Coup by party hard-liners, a coup that led to the disillusion of the whole country (so don't blame Gorbachev). In this sense, Gorbachev and Dubcek are similar to Lenin and Trotsky in that they never hid from public view what was really going on, but rather they confronted it head on. In revolutionary Russia, Red terror was openly called what it was in Trotsky's Terrorism and Communism: A Reply to Karl Kautsky. They did not claim to have a democracy of any sort, it was a period of revolution and there was no freedom on either side. Such a thing under Stalin where "genuinely free elections" and "really free" socialism was officially proclaimed, was unthinkable, even during that period of Soviet history known as the "Great Terror". In this sense perhaps, maybe Dubcek and Gorbachev really were Bolsheviks in the classical sense of the word. Maybe, I say, they were onto something.
As for Rosa Luxemburg, her criticism of the Bolsheviks was rooted in her Marxist ideals. Her main fear was, in spite of supporting the revolution, that the openly anti-socialist measures taken by the early Bolsheviks to support revolution abroad would continue on into a post-revolutionary period. The idea that they would be crystallized into a concrete political theory and proclaimed fundamental precepts of socialism was unthinkable at that time! Her pamphlet The Russian Revolution is startling. In it she said:
"On the other hand, it is a well-known and indisputable fact that without a free and untrammeled press, without the unlimited right of association and assemblage, the rule of the broad masses of the people is entirely unthinkable"
This was, at the time of writing, a fact shared by virtually every socialist in the world. Sadly today this seems to be somehow "controversial" among some socialist circles today, a sign of how far we have fallen. She continues:
"Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party however numerous they may be is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of “justice” but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when “freedom” becomes a special privilege."
Once again we find a startling contradiction between this view, one shared by nearly all of the early socialists of the 20th century, and even by Lenin himself before the revolution, and between the views of Stalin and later "Marxist-Leninists". She continues:
The tacit assumption underlying the Lenin-Trotsky theory of dictatorship is this: that the socialist transformation is something for which a ready-made formula lies completed in the pocket of the revolutionary party, which needs only to be carried out energetically in practice. This is, unfortunately or perhaps fortunately not the case. Far from being a sum of ready-made prescriptions which have only to be applied, the practical realization of socialism as an economic, social and juridical system is something which lies completely hidden in the mists of the future. What we possess in our program is nothing but a few main signposts which indicate the general direction in which to look for the necessary measures, and the indications are mainly negative in character at that. Thus we know more or less what we must eliminate at the outset in order to free the road for a socialist economy. But when it comes to the nature of the thousand concrete, practical measures, large and small, necessary to introduce socialist principles into economy, law and all social relationships, there is no key in any socialist party program or textbook. That is not a shortcoming but rather the very thing that makes scientific socialism superior to the utopian varieties.
The socialist system of society should only be, and can only be, an historical product, born out of the school of its own experiences, born in the course of its realization, as a result of the developments of living history, which just like organic nature of which, in the last analysis, it forms a part has the fine habit of always producing along with any real social need the means to its satisfaction, along with the task simultaneously the solution. However, if such is the case, then it is clear that socialism by its very nature cannot be decreed or introduced by ukase. It has as its prerequisite a number of measures of force against property, etc. The negative, the tearing down, can be decreed; the building up, the positive, cannot. New Territory. A thousand problems. Only experience is capable of correcting and opening new ways. Only unobstructed, effervescing life falls into a thousand new forms and improvisations, brings to light creative new force, itself corrects all mistaken attempts. The public life of countries with limited freedom is so poverty-stricken, so miserable, so rigid, so unfruitful, precisely because, through the exclusion of democracy, it cuts off the living sources of all spiritual riches and progress. (Proof: the year 1905 and the months from February to October 1917.) There it was political in character; the same thing applies to economic and social life also. The whole mass of the people must take part in it. Otherwise, socialism will be decreed from behind a few official desks by a dozen intellectuals.
Public control is indispensably necessary. Otherwise the exchange of experiences remains only with the closed circle of the officials of the new regime. Corruption becomes inevitable. (Lenin’s words, Bulletin No.29) Socialism in life demands a complete spiritual transformation in the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois rule. Social instincts in place of egotistical ones, mass initiative in place of inertia, idealism which conquers all suffering, etc., etc. No one knows this better, describes it more penetratingly; repeats it more stubbornly than Lenin. But he is completely mistaken in the means he employs. Decree, dictatorial force of the factory overseer, draconian penalties, rule by terror all these things are but palliatives. The only way to a rebirth is the school of public life itself, the most unlimited, the broadest democracy and public opinion. It is rule by terror which demoralizes."
Interestingly enough, her criticism of terrorism was initially shared by Trotsky, who in 1903, according to Trotsky's wife and Victor Serge in their book The Life and Death of Leon Trotsky, was vehemently opposed to the idea of "proletarian Jacobinism". In it, Trotsky is recounted as having:
...showed the incompatibility of Jacobinism with socialism, and contended that any 'dictatorship of the proletariat' along such lines would soon degenerate into a 'dictatorship over the proletariat'. Lenin's authoritarianism appalled him. 'But that's dictatorship you're advocating,' he said to him one day. 'There is no other way,' Lenin replied. (Serge, Sedova, 14).
This idea that "socialism cannot be decreed from above" was likewise shared by many early socialists, a stark contrast to North Korea today where everything good that happens is thanks to the wisdom of "the leader". The real prophetic crux of Luxemburg's work is in the next section, where she says:
When all this is eliminated, what really remains? In place of the representative bodies created by general, popular elections, Lenin and Trotsky have laid down the soviets as the only true representation of political life in the land as a whole, life in the soviets must also become more and more crippled. Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously at bottom, then, a clique affair a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month periods!) Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc. (Lenin’s speech on discipline and corruption.)
For the above section, perhaps nothing better describes the 20th century socialist experiment, and nothing better denounces it as "not the dictatorship of the proletariat" than the words of Rosa Luxemburg herself. It is a grand irony that Rosa's face was ironically plastered on East German currency and statues where this, her most penetrating work, was censored. If you look at footage of old East German Party congresses, everyone claps and approves resolutions by Honecker unanimously, with pictures of Rosa Luxemburg on the walls, completely ignorant to the irony of such a thing. But such is history. Thus to say "I really don't think these countries had the dictatorship of the proletariat they claimed to have, or a socialist society by extension" from a Luxemburgist perspective, when that is your premise as to what socialism is, is completely valid. The danger here lies in the nativity of saying "they were anti-Marxists". The leaders of these Stalinist regimes were communists. Much to people's surprise, they really were true believers behind closed doors. They were Marxists, though I argue, revisionists of Marxism, and having said that, I also say that even the so-called "purity" of the Marxist concept ought to be challenged.
I say they were revisionists but by this I mean at the same time that I don't want Orthodox Marxism, even the Orthodox Marxism of Rosa Luxemburg, to be revived in its entirety. I want revisionism, yes! But I want good revisionism, I want things that are outdated or inaccurate to be revised, not good things distorted or abandoned to justify Stalinist atrocities. The solution comes only from addressing openly, ruthlessly, and without fear, the mistakes of the past. That means having a brutally honest historical analysis, not embracing a more favorable historical revisionism that justifies my own views. That means sweeping away what needs to be swept away, no sanctimonious reverence for Marx, Engels, Lenin, or Luxemburg whatsoever. For me, the Marxist views of Rosa Luxemburg, views that see the principled defense of human rights and the belief that unlimited individual civil and political liberty is an indispensable prerequisite and fundamental part of socialism, need to be revived. The resurrection of Luxemburg herself is necessary in modern times only to show to the "typical American" who is wholly ignorant of what Marxism even is, who when hearing "Libertarian Marxism" proclaims that "You can put any two things together that doesn't mean they make sense", that Luxemburg herself, an Orthodox Marxist in her time or a Libertarian one in ours, held such views. We need to see more of this attitude, a ruthless criticism not only of Stalinism but of Leninism and Trotskyism, even of Marxism, all the -isms (not in the post-modernist of the word either).
Of course, in saying I am a socialist in the sense of James Connolly puts forward a modernized vision of a radically Libertarian socialist republic or federation, different though quite similar to Luxemburg's. It is however, radically different from what most Americans think of when they hear "socialist republic". Many a "typical American" would be shocked to see that Connolly advocated the abolition of the same conditions of capitalism that "typical Americans" accredit to socialism:
"In short, social democracy, as its name implies, is the application to industry, or to the social life of the nation, of the fundamental principles of democracy. Such application will necessarily have to begin in the workshop, and proceed logically and consecutively upward through all the grades of industrial organization until it reaches the culminating point of national executive power and direction. In other words, social democracy must proceed from the bottom upward, whereas capitalist political society is organized from above downward...
It will be seen that this conception of Socialism destroys at one blow all the fears of a bureaucratic State, ruling and ordering the lives of every individual from above, and thus gives assurance that the social order of the future will be an extension of the freedom of the individual, and not the suppression of it. In short, it blends the fullest democratic control with the most absolute expert supervision, something unthinkable of any society built upon the political State...
Under Socialism, States, territories, or provinces will exist only as geographical expressions, and have no existence as sources of governmental power, though they may be seats of administrative bodies."
I have also not been hesitant to emphasize the correctness of many views espoused by Murray Bookchin in his polemics against Marxism. This blog is part of an attempt to get us out of our current predicament, to do what is necessary if we want to build a society that is truly liberating, that expands individual liberty instead of squandering it, that brings about a fuller, more complete democracy rather than its abolition. If that's not our goal, then we have to ask what Bookchin did in his day: "What the hell are we trying to make a revolution for?" If we aren't for the real democratization of society, if we aren't for growing the tree of liberty, what the hell are we trying to make a revolution for? It is impossible to speak of an abolition of oppression and exploitation without talking about real individual freedom at the same time. If we don't take socialism back to its roots in this sense, and perhaps only in this sense, then all is lost, our current predicament lasts forever.
The name change to Red Liberty is a change to reflect the present nature of the blog. Socialism if it is to advocated, ought to aspire to transcend the historical limitations of the past. It ought to reconcile itself with its own mistakes through ruthless criticism of its own social movements and ascribe once again the word of Liberty upon its banner, as was almost universally the case in the early 20th century. In this sense, and perhaps only in this sense, we find ghosts from the past that need not be exorcised, but called forth.
European Police Congress Calls For Banning of Tor! Democracy Dies in Darkness!
March 18, 2019
According to the German news source Heise, the European Police Congress (the largest conference for internal security in the European Union) recently called for the banning of the darknet (Tor) in "liberal democratic states". This should, as I will explain, terrify practically anyone who claims to want a free and democratic society.
According to DeepDotWeb:
"During this 22nd Congress meeting, it was agreed that dark web activities should be banned in member states of the European Union. This action, they say, will help prevent online related criminal offenses which have been rising alarmingly since the advent of the dark web. These include drug trafficking, human trafficking, human smuggling, smuggling of weapons, identity theft, credit and debit card theft, cyber-attacks, and murders. Some of these illicit businesses have become so big that they form cartels or massively organized drug rings...
Günter Krings, the Parliamentary State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, demanded during the opening ceremony that the use of the Tor browser be forbidden in the union. This is because it forms a platform for illegal activities and makes it harder for law enforcement to track offenders."
According to Heise, the parliamentary State Secretary Günter Krings said at the congress:
"I understand why the Darknet can have a benefit in autocratic systems. But in my opinion there are no legitimate benefits in a free, open democracy. Those who use the darknet are usually up to no good. This simple insight should also be reflected in our legal order."
It gets worse.
"Krings was followed in the opening ceremony by Wolfgang Sobotka, President of the Austrian National Council. He praised China for not having any inhibitions and successfully ignoring data protection laws when analyzing citizens. His statement that there is a human right to political asylum, but no human right to asylum for economic or social reasons, fit into the picture he drew."
On the one hand, the European Police Congress claims there is no legitimate use for a darknet in "liberal democratic states", in a "free and open democracy", on the other hand, at the same congress, these "champions of national security and public safety" praise the Chinese police state for systematically violating the rights of its own people, for being unbound by the law or public accountability in spying on and scrupulously analyzing ordinary Chinese citizens. Here Krings refutes himself and his own friends. We are quite open in our view that the threat to freedom and democracy comes not from individuals on the "darknet" but from people like Krings himself!
It need not be said that the overwhelming majority of people who use Tor, who use darknets, even in "liberal democratic states", are not criminals. We at Red Liberty host our platform not only on WordPress, but on Tor, I2P, Freenet and ZeroNet (practically all of the widely used "darknets") because we have a minority of readers in authoritarian countries, and because some of our readers, the freedom loving people they are, don't think it's anybodies business what they say, read, think and do.
What can be said of this European Police Congress? It is perhaps the most fascist minded thing to happen in Europe since the Second World War. We can have only absolute disgust of such absolute blatant ignorance as this, that is the only just response to what these authoritarians have said. What ignorant, frightful, fear-mongering jackals! Do they not realize that a free and open darknet is one of the reasons they don't have an "autocratic system"? Such a thing keeps people like Krings in check! It is the load-bearing pillar of a genuinely free society in our current epoch. Remove it and you open up the possibility for free society itself to collapse. A free society has to allow for extralegal natural liberty to exist in order to genuinely protect civil liberty, in spite of the well known and universally hated abuses of that freedom. While the two do contradict one another in some ways, you have to be able to go around the legal system when one's own individual conscience, mightier than all the written laws in the world, bounds it to do so in the overall interests of a free society. No one can or should be able to determine the legitimacy of one's own conscience, that is precisely what's so laudable about it.
If the member of a European intelligence agency or military finds out the organization he works for is breaking the law, acting unethically, violating human rights, or acting contrary to the will of the people, and at the same time such a person is bound by oath or sworn to secrecy on pain of extreme punishment, what mechanism is there for us to report such happenings to the public without serious jeopardy to life and limb? Outside of the "darknet", we find in our present society that there are practically none. I cannot fathom a greater danger to the existence of free society, apart from turning the key to tyranny itself, than this appalling proposal to "ban the darknet".
People, be vigilant! Anonymity is the ultimate expression of freedom, the ultimate means to even speak of truly free speech, free thought, free opinion. What better prerequisite to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of thought is there than privacy, than the right to be anonymous? In light of this danger we must sound the alarm bells. Hackers of the world, Unite! The light of liberty is waning, we shall not see it dim without a fight! Till the restless scourge of power unjust is upon us, and even then we shall not go quietly into the night!
The Small Increase In US Military Budget Between 2015 and 2019 Alone Was Enough To Abolish World Hunger AND Homelessness in The US
March 13, 2019
Another horrifying statistic: The incremental increase in the US military budget from 2015 to 2019 was enough to abolish world hunger AND homelessness in the United States!
Donald Trump, the US President, has increased the current military budget of the United States to 686 billion dollars annually. That’s $686,074,048,000. So often today when the social ills that face humanity are brought to the table of political action, we are told that addressing them is simply “impractical”; firstly it is said that it “cannot be afforded”, then it is said to be merely “impractical”, without much more of a reason given beyond the already implied logic of capitalist decision making.
The United States could afford, without any real issue, to raise the military budget from 637 billion in 2015 to the present 686 billion in 2019. That is nearly 50 billion dollars. Why do I bring this up? I bring this up because it is estimated that it would cost about $20 billion for the government to effectively eliminate homelessness in the United States. It is estimated to cost $30 billion dollars annually to completely abolish world hunger from the face of the earth. Together that is 50 billion dollars, or, the equivalent of the small percentage increase our military budget saw between the years 2015 and 2019. In other words, the 7 percent increase on the US military budget between 2015 and 2019 was enough to abolish world hunger and homelessness within the United States. To actually do this? Unthinkable for a capitalist politician. In the minds of the powers that be, this money was better spent going to the military than to meeting human needs and abolishing these grave social ills that we have more than enough power to abolish. This is yet another reason why we as socialists speak of politics as revolutionaries.
From the draft of an upcoming Manifesto of Red Liberty.
Cost of Ending US Homelessness: https://thinkprogress.org/infographic-we-could-end-homelessness-with-the-money-americans-spend-on-christmas-decorations-6b49b415668c/
Cost of Ending World Hunger: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/news/04iht-04food.13446176.html and https://borgenproject.org/cost-to-end-world-hunger/
US Military Budget: https://dod.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/1438798/dod-releases-fiscal-year-2019-budget-proposal/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_budget_of_the_United_States
To "Break up" Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple? No! To Democratize Them? Yes! A Reply To Elizabeth Warren
March 10, 2019
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has, in true Keynesian spirit, recently unveiled her plan to "break up" the big tech monopolies of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, among others. The critics are accusing Warren of socialism, but in fact, this policy misses the mark entirely and is anything but socialist in nature. The socialists here at Red Liberty would like to reply to these accusations and propose our alternative to Warren's "solution" to this problem.
To the accusers of "socialism", we can recall when Warren quite explicitly stated "I am not a democratic socialist". Indeed, such a plan to "break up" the tech giants which hold a virtual monopoly over our lives is but a temporary fix. Contrary to the ideals of socialism, this "solution" finds its roots not in the ideas of industrial democracy (socialism) but in Keynesian reformism. As socialists, we feel that these measures do not go far enough.
In her blog post Warren said,
"Today’s big tech companies have too much power too much power over our economy, our society and our democracy... They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. ... That’s why my Administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition including breaking up Amazon, Facebook and Google."
We at Red Liberty have hardly anything good to say about these tech giants in regards to ethics. We know that Facebook and Google are champions of the business model of data capitalism, a business model that sells people's private data, stores it indefinitely and uses it in order to further the aims of mass surveillance. Such a business model is wholly contrary to the people's right to privacy, a right that many users do not even realize they are giving up. We know that Apple is a King of proprietary "closed source" software, a form of software that deprives the user of their freedom to really own and control their own devices and digital lives. Not to mention the Chinese sweatshops by which iPhones are manufactured and the Ugandan mines in which the rare earth elements used in iPhones are extracted. Amazon's de facto monopoly is quite self-evident, and working conditions are equally deplorable.
Warren is completely correct when she says "Today’s big tech companies have too much power too much power over our economy, our society and our democracy". These companies are indispensably necessary in day to day life. They are almost universally used by everyone, and yet we find that they are under the near absolute control of a very small minority- a small minority that sits in a board room and is not held accountable to the interests of the workers or the public at large. Such a minority in a traditional capitalist enterprise, we know, is elected by wealthy shareholders under the principle of "one share, one vote", giving a monopoly to the richest and thus, working almost entirely in the interests of profit alone. Surplus wealth (i.e. profits) produced by the working people in a traditional capitalist enterprise, or more specifically, by the business model itself which uses data indiscriminately as a commodity, belongs solely to the owners of the industry. The goal of capitalism is thus the enrichment of the owners of industry, even though and often do we find, that it is to the detriment of society as a whole. Wealth inequality is inevitable under such a model, as is the concentration of power into the hands of a few rich men and women. The perpetual threat such a model poses to society and to democracy is quite self-evident.
We socialists look at this inherently undemocratic, anti-social business model, and at these giant companies that are public in nearly every sphere of social life but on paper, and claim that the solution to this problem, this excess of power in the hands of an extremely small, extremely wealthy minority, this threat to our society and to our albeit limited political democracy, is precisely the democratization of the enterprise. Warren, in true capitalist spirit, does not see this as a viable solution. For her the solution is, in accordance with the ideas of Keynesianism, the "breaking up" the big tech companies. But history, as we know, tells us that the severing of one of these great heads by the state will, over time, lead to many more to come in its place. Such wounds to a big company will inevitably heal like a Hydra, and the problem Warren is attempting to fix will inevitably rear its head up once again. In time, more monopolies will spring up from this severed head, and the cycle will continue. The lack of democracy in industry will not improve, and neither will the threat the owners of big business pose to "our democracy". That is, after all, the problem Warren seems to have with these tech giants.
The so-called "platform utilities" model to be applied to these businesses is not industrial democracy or public ownership, but, as Warren explains it,
"These companies would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform. Platform utilities would be required to meet a standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users. Platform utilities would not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties."
We can recall how AT&T was broken up in 1982 for precisely the same reason that Warren today proposes the breaking up of these tech giants. If we are honest in our analysis of history, anyone can see how within a period of 37 years AT&T (the new version), Verizon, and Century Link (all companies of nearly the same stature as the original AT&T bell system) came to the place they now occupy. The head was cut 37 years ago, and in its place 3 new heads of the Hydra of big business were born. Warren seems to not mention this when she refers to America's long standing tradition of breaking up companies when they become too big, even when she mentions the case of AT&T by name. Perhaps we need only more of Warren's Keynesian tactics. Shall we break up AT&T, Verizon, and Century Link again? Should we break up Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook only to have this cycle of undemocracy and the concentration of power over social life in the hands of a small minority of the ruling class continue? This seems to be what Warren is advocating.
The democratization of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and co. would mean these companies served the public interest, were operated for the people and by the people, as opposed to operating for the private interest of a handful of capitalists. The social good of these tech giants would be the primary focus, not a side effect of their business model whose goal was profit alone. This would mean the end of big data capitalism, the end of selling people's private information. It would be a massive blow to mass surveillance, to shady business practices, and to the control the billionaire class has over our society, to political and social life. Google and Facebook would work in the public interest, would operate as representatives of the public interest through genuinely democratic mechanisms. Trade secrets would be abolished, and transparency would prevail. These companies would not hire teams of lawyers to dismiss and dodge allegations of unethical or illegal activity, for this would be a thing of the past!
Such a democratization would further the birth of new enterprises operating in accordance with the principles of industrial democracy and eventually perhaps, lead to the democratic planning of large sectors of the economy. Innovation will spring from competition as it always does, we socialists have no intention to rid the world of incentives to further innovation but on the contrary, to expand them. But innovation will also spring forth from openness, the abolition of trade secrets, cooperation, coordination, and democracy itself. Those who did not innovate would be removed from their positions, and those innovations which did not satisfy the public need would likewise be removed, as is the tradition already. Business efficiency would increase, the ecological impact of these companies be substantially reduced. Democratization would be a blow to the monopoly proprietary software giants hold over the lives of billions of tech users. The News would read of the "opening" of closed source, proprietary programs and operating systems. Democratization would put an end forever to the dangers Warren brings up, and not merely fix it for a few decades as Warren's plan would inevitably do. Democratic control would mean power to the people, for the tree of liberty in the modern age can either expand or die. The ruling class is fiercely against breaking up these tech giants, but it is even more horrified by the idea democratization. This, we feel, is the only viable solution.
This is what the socialists at Red Liberty have to say about the things Warren has said.
Shameless Utopia: Wild Speculations On The Year 3019
February 28, 2019
In 1919 if you were to ask an average person, even in the most advanced nations, what the world would look like in 100 years, not even the wildest dreamers could have imagined the year 2019. A smartphone connecting instantly over the World Wide Web to a person on the other side of the globe for a video conference with the entirety of human knowledge just seconds away. Mans footprint on the moon, images of distant worlds and plans to send microprobes to our nearest star! Even now there is a talk of landing man on Mars to set up a colony! We live in a society of material abundance with the capacity to abolish world hunger and extreme poverty on a global scale ten times over!
What then is all this talk of Utopia? Marx used the term to describe socialists who often had valid critiques of society, albeit came to by unscientific analyses, but whose "prescriptions" for the future were ungrounded in logic or were grounded in unrealistic, often wild assumptions. We speak of utopia not in the Marxian sense of the word here. It is important to note that social problems and contradictions will always exist, that's life. But the problems of yesterday are more and more we are finding, solved today, and more problems thus present themselves to be solved on a higher technical and social level than before.
We are radicals for insisting that the unnecessary social ills that face us today from world hunger to global poverty, from homelessness to the need for human beings to work 40 hours a week, can be solved under present conditions. Anything, it is granted, is seemingly possible today. Men can become women, and women can become men. You can choose the eye color of your baby, go from New York to Beijing in less than a day. But to solve these problems? Problems that financially cost but a drop in the bucket of global wealth? For advocating this we are called utopians! And rightfully so, we demand utopia! Any guess as to what the future would or should look like is utterly utopian by modern standards precisely because the modern world is already utopia by 19th or early 20th century standards, in spite of the many social ills of today. The guessing itself is utopian, to say this will be the future-- and that is not our intent here. But the forms a more advanced society will almost inevitably take, certainly will be utopian by our modern standards of the year 2019. Let the reader understand the difference here.
I wish to give to you here a fanatical piece of writing, full of wild and unfounded speculations; a rosy eyed, only a somewhat educated guess as to our common future. Utopian, certainly by modern standards, but such a society no matter how wondrous it appears would doubtlessly have its own problems that its generation would have to struggle to remedy in the broadest democratic forms of action. I am looking not a hundred, but a thousand years to the future, to the year 3019 by our current calendar. Perhaps such progress will come hundreds of years sooner, or even later! Who is to say? The problems of the future, as are the problems of today, largely regarding questions of liberty and equality. Ideally, everyone would be given an equal chance to succeed in live, equal opportunities, positive liberties, etc. Ideally everyone would have absolute unlimited individual, political, and religious liberty. These are principles everyone ought to aspire towards, principles that in my speculation are woven into the bedrock of the free social institutions of the year 3019.
Utopia and Terror went together quite well in the 20th century. But with our level of technology, we can hope that humanity will find its way without it, for there is a great danger here that cannot be understated. I use the term man and human interchangeably here. Needless to say a revolution in language too, will have likely done away with this linguistic sexism in the year 3019. A word of caution to the reader; in spite of rosy eyed optimism, here too there be monsters!
Leaping into our proverbial time machine, let us look at humanity in the year 3019.
A thousand years into the future on a mostly terraformed Communist Mars, Christian Priests in conformity with the will of biological parents, will baptize infants as they are born from birthing machines and deliverer to them healthily straight to their homes through instant teleportation. On Earth man will live in harmony with nature, having outgrown his childish desire to conquer it. But at the same time the whole human civilization will be different! Between vast expanses of untouched nature, islands will be made from nothing, grand hills and mountains moved at a whim! Man will design his community as a video game developer today creates wondrous fantasy worlds! Every community will have its own personality, it’s own culture, the will of its own people put into action.
State society found its source of strength in unity, in the disillusionment of social and cultural diversity, it sought to purge that which made man unique. In the social base and superstructure of the year 3019, diversity will be seen as richness. The free association of producers through democratic confederalist and communistic ideals, radically libertarian to be sure, will thrive on diversity of culture, people’s, and ideas. The great civilizations of antiquity will be overshadowed a thousand times by true civilization of a liberated humanity. It will be a front for a new renaissance, of a new moral and spiritual rebirth we can aspire to build the bedrock for even today. Psychedelic drugs will undoubtedly play a part in this new culture, and rivers of ideas will flow through liberated minds in the state of the sacred psychedelic experience. On our moon and other astronomical bodies, the largest craters will act as the dishes of massive radio telescopes, far more powerful than anything humankind has yet to construct. With the help of the divine hand which made such craters, we will look deeper into the heavens than ever before. The moon will almost certainly act as an exchange point between the earth and the stars.
Labor, on earth at least if not on other planets and astronomical bodies, will be largely automated, freeing mankind from the million year old curse of hunger and toil. In the process of automation, artificial intelligence will come into being, and in spite of inevitable mistakes and catastrophic incidents of our millennium (or even our century), will come to be recognized as sentient beings with all the rights of man. For a time those aged 20 to 35 will be conscripted to do that which has yet to be automated, then the gap will lesson to 20 to 30, and then to 20 to 25. Still some communities will cherish traditional values, and their right to self-determination will be respected. Even in the year 3019 I predict the Amish will continue to exist!
People will come together to form vast communities and impossible worlds with virtual reality and cybernetics, our internet will be but a predecessor to theirs. Liberty through its prerequisite of privacy, and privacy through its prerequisite of freedom of speech, will be ensured in this new internet by design, and local democracy with an emphasis on respecting the rights of the minority will be the mechanism by which free information passes. This internet will span worlds, connecting men on earth to those on Mars and other celestial bodies instantly through elaborate technologies utilizing quantum entanglement to bypass the limitations of the speed of light!
Some people will refuse cybernetic and genetic modifications of the mind and body, and their right to do so will be respected without question or coercion of any form; locally or centrally, socially or culturally. Cybernetics will be crafted not to bypass individual will or to masquerade as individual will, but to be bound by it (referring to some alarming recent studies on cybernetics and free will). The elderly will be given the option to have new android bodies so they can be young forever, bone marrow transplants and other operations we cannot even dream of will allow for the perpetual healthy state of the human brain, and even purely organic methods of expanding its faculties will undoubtedly come about. Micro-surgeries implanting cybernetic materials into the brain will over time replace biological brain tissue without at all disrupting consciousness, giving humanity the ability to be amortal (to have theoretical immortality). But some humans in albeit different forms, born in this time will outlive our own Sun and Earth as they roam the galaxy. Perhaps in hundreds of thousands or even millions of years they will think back to us!
Buddhist monks, whose minds are contained within machines attached to rockets exhausting a near unlimited source of fuel, utilizing hitherto unknown methods of propulsion, will orbit the planet Neptune in a state of perpetual meditation and psychedelic enlightenment, free to explore the solar system and beyond without the limits of biological bodies or conventional rocketry. Artificial intelligence and flesh and blood human beings seeking new frontiers of discovery and knowledge will be launched into the heavens, to our nearest star Alpha Centauri and beyond. Thus humanity will be assured survival regardless of what happens in our own solar system. Perhaps in this time extraterrestrial civilizations will find us, assuming they haven't already, and we will find them. Perhaps once we have outgrown our infancy, our wars and hunger, we will join an intergalactic or perhaps even multi-galactic community as a species, and greet a widely diverse universe cautiously, but with open arms. Let us hope they can forgive our primitive nature!
The term "person" already expanding to artificial intelligence, will be expanded to extraterrestrial intelligence too, just as the word for person in ancient Egypt, which was once the same word for 'Egyptian', came to mean the whole of humanity in their time too. Mind and thought sharing, through dreams and conscious connection, will become a social trend, assuming its nature is voluntary. The internet will allow thought and consciousness to intermingle with the thoughts and consciousness of an entire civilization, yet I predict conventional HTML will still be used, perhaps HTML 194 to our HTML 5! It will be possible for minds to paint, write, and create entire worlds just as dreams do today, instantly and without the use of hands! Such a time it will be, when one can freely explore the elaborate frontiers, fictional worlds created in the minds of individuals and collectives! Near unlimited sources of energy through cold fusion and other hitherto unknown methods, will by future technologies allow for the near unlimited creation of matter from energy. Those worlds that today exist only in the mind, may be translated into matter through such machines! Perhaps those cryogenically frozen today may wake up in such a time, and oh how I envy them!
I believe marriage will continue to exist, and monogamy will likely still be quite popular. But there will be those who forego marriage and monogamy. The family unit will not merely be nuclear in many instances. Genetic engineering will produce individuals who are intellectually and physically superior to the present man. Insofar as this is voluntary, it will be but a symptom of a free humanity.
On The Road To 3019; Bumps, Bombs, Broken Bridges, and Roadblocks.
This will not come at all peacefully in spite of our best wishes. Social conflicts are inevitable, and before us and them may be many catastrophes, perhaps on a global scale. The chaotic emergence of artificial intelligence, cybernetics, and bio-genetics will undoubtedly bring great risk and conflict. Climate change and the possibility of nuclear war will further endanger the odds of reaching such a state of society. There are other dangers not even mentioned here. Perhaps there will emerge a form of totalitarianism far more severe in its scope and technical ability than anything 20th century fascism or Stalinism ever produced. Here there is a very real danger too, and a great responsibility rests on the shoulders of we radicals who are the vanguard of future civilization.
Even in the worst case scenario, even if we or our great grandchildren, in the wake of ecological or nuclear catastrophe brought about by the present order are relegated for a time to underground bunkers-- the only place that food can grow when the next great extinction event passes over us, even then will mankind-- years, decades, or centuries later-- stick its head up once again to greet a new world. And if man finds that world is still decimated, by horrors we cannot even yet fathom, they will use science to breathe life into it anew. One way or another we will prevail. Long ago what was the entirety of what was to be the modern homo sapiens were huddled together through a terrible freezing storm, the survival of our species hanged by a thread, yet we prevailed. Nothing will change this time too.
Unless an unforeseen asteroid or gamma ray burst is able to wipe us off the face of the earth, or unless we are invaded or obliterated by a hostile extraterrestrial force, we will prevail. One mustn't take this idea as a joke. It would be foolish not to question why the heavens are so silent of any voices like our own. Perhaps the use of radio for communication in most civilizations only lasts for a brief period, or such a period is when most civilizations destroy themselves. Perhaps beyond the nuclear age is another age, relying on a single experiment like the detonation of the first atom bomb, that obliterates any world it is used on. There are still hurdles to be leaped over that we may or may not survive. But there is yet an even more terrible thought, worse even than the possibility of our cosmic loneliness. This is the idea that there was life on other stars near to us, but when it reached our point of development and it began broadcasting its radio waves into the heavens it had already signed its death warrant-- for minds far superior to our own, cold and heartless, with unsympathetic ears, were listening against the cold, empty vastness of space for worlds to destroy. We do not know what is out there, and this mystery inflames the minds of countless men and women. Could it be as wondrous as Star Trek? Or as terrible as War of The Worlds? We simply do not know.
I believe that if we are cautious and have a bit of luck, even in the aftermath of the worst catastrophes, out of the caverns and bunkers we will emerge with all the essential knowledge we have hitherto accumulated. Yet we must stress the ever present necessity of addressing the ills that face us now before some catastrophe "relegates mankind to caverns and bunkers".
It is fun to have dreams and nightmares, imagining what the future may hold. But here we have a great power in our actions of today to determine the course of future events. Let us not be foolish, selfish, or cowardly, for a great responsibility rests upon our shoulders. We must address the crisis of climate change now. We must address the issue of nuclear war now. We must address artificial intelligence, cybernetics, and human genetic engineering now. It was said by Slavoj Zizek that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but for us that light is an oncoming train. So frightful! But we need not fear death by a thousand cuts! Even still, if our species dies out, in millions or billions of years, new intelligences rivaling our own may emerge on this very planet! In digging through the earth, they may find evidence of what once was the old homo sapiens, and perhaps with it great wells of knowledge digitally etched into storage mediums made to last so long. Even if our entire planet was destroyed, we can have faith that somewhere out there is another planet teeming with intelligent life. Even billions of years after we are gone, remnants of the radio waves we have sent out may have been captured by other races. Even then, Voyager 1 and 2 with their golden records will serve as a memorial to us. How can one not understand the beauty of this? Earth is but a small, marvelous piece of God's craftiwork, which transcends the boundless limits of time and space!
An Open Letter To The Cuban People On The New Constitution
February 26, 2019
Originally I intended to post this much sooner in opposition to passing the new constitution on the grounds that it legalizes private property. It is much too late now though, as the constitution has already been passed. The spirit of the letter today can be interpreted as a plea for an alternative both to the undemocracy of the continuation of Stalinist planning and the undemocracy of capitalist private property. Needless to say we fully supported other progressive reforms such as LGBT+ marriage, anti-discrimination legislation, the presumption of innocence, etc. I am posting it regardless because the alternative is still viable to the Cuban people. The party leadership said those who vote against it are "counter-revolutionary", but in actuality the opposite is true! While many reforms were necessary, the legalization of private property is a potential grave digger of the gains of the revolution. The letter may be regarded as a piece of social alarmism. In the face of history I accept this verdict, for it is better to be cautious in these dangerous times. I write in the interests of Liberty. I hope that this letter will have some small impact on the minds of even one Cuban citizen. If I can do just that, I consider my mission accomplished.
Citizens of Cuba! You are voting on the approval or disapproval of a recently drafted constitution, a first of its kind in 40 years. Change is undeniable necessary, but in what direction? What will be best for the Cuban people? What will improve their own lives both materially and spiritually? Should the Cuban people support or fight the passing of the new constitution? There are two provisions of concern here to the general public:
-The recognition of private property
-The legalization of LGBT+ marriage
Our view is that the constitution should be fought against. We are against the constitution because we are against the legalization of private property on the premise that we are also against the continuation of Stalinist central planning. Naturally it would be absurd to advocate immediate change, what we do advocate is a gradual transition to real industrial democracy (another word for socialism). We are for the legalization of LGBT+ marriage insofar as it forces no church to perform any ceremony contrary to the religious conscience of the believers-- and there are many churches in favor of having LGBT+ weddings. But as for the economy, how can we be against both the legalization of private property and the continuation of the current model? To answer this question, historical context is needed.
On the 26th of July, 1953, Cuba was liberated from the former dictatorship, and a new popular government was put in its place. This new government espoused the principles of socialism, albeit while modeling itself after the largely totalitarian, bonapartist, model of Stalin's Soviet Union. In spite of its Stalinist character and the inflexible rigidity of a state-capitalist, undemocratic, centrally planned economy in a de facto undemocratic state, the ruling Party along with the Cuban people rightfully recognized the dangers of world imperialism and global capitalism.
Legalizing private property today is but a first step towards a return to the days of Batista when Cuba was no more to the west than a Sugar Plantation, a source of dirt cheap labor, a brothel, and a place for the rich to go to party and gamble. Cuba's stagnant economy doubtlessly needs revitalization, the question is how? Is such a grand capitulation to capitalism necessary to attain this end? Or is it in fact, contrary to this end. Some think anything better than the current system is preferable. We say that the best path is the road less traveled-- neither capitulation to capitalism nor a continuation of the current model! Has Cuba not taken steps in the direction of capitalism? Necessarily, it has, and in many ways this move towards capitalism has brought with it much of the corruption of the old regime. Are the down-trodden people of Cuba not tired? Indeed they are, and many workers inside the country support the new constitution. Unfortunately, the new constitution if passed, will not alleviate the burning desires of the Cuban people for freedom and prosperity. Even if multi-party democracy was instituted, it would not alleviate this burning desire. An alternative is needed, but that alternative lies neither in the Stalinist model of undemocratic, centralized state planning nor in the undemocracy of "free" market capitalism where private property is recognized. What then is the alternative?
State capitalism in Cuba, up until the collapse of the Soviet Union, was a primarily progressive force in Cuban society. Anyone old enough remembers what life was like for the people under Batista knows this, the positive liberties (in regards to healthcare, education, housing, child care, workers rights, etc.) won under Castro would be done away with under the capitalist system. A path different to either Stalinist planning or "free market" capitalism could maintain the positive liberties of Cuba today and bring about the negative liberties so treasured by the "free world" (real freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, etc.) while maintaining social and political stability. In these frustrating times it is all the more necessary to put the Cuban revolution into historical perspective.
The Cuban revolution, while nobly aspiring to the highest ideals of humanity, was nonetheless a Stalinist revolution. Genuine revolutionaries and intellectuals whose hearts trembled at every injustice, seriously looked to Stalin and the social system he embodied as a viable alternative to the misery of the capitalist order. Stalinism of course, attempted to legitimize itself as the "rightful heirs" of the October revolution under Lenin and Trotsky (while of course, erasing the latter figure from history). Furthermore, Stalinism called itself socialist in this spirit to gain popular support of the laboring masses all over the world whose liberty loving hearts longed for socialist democracy. Stalinism claimed to embody the socialism and socialist democracy that workers and oppressed people's all over the world longed for. Stalinism also, necessarily in the same sentence, claimed to embody genuine political democracy. For it is a well-known fact, at least up to that point, that socialism could not exist without genuine democracy. Today it seems absurd to think of Stalin as a democrat. Speaking of the social system in Stalinist Russia, Stalin is quoting as having said,
"This is what we call socialism in daily life, this is what we call a free, socialist life. It is on this basis that our really free and really democratic elections have arisen, elections which have no precedent in the history of mankind."
Che Guevara, a hero for all progressive people's throughout the world, grew up in this confusing time. He was nonetheless a hero, embodying the virtue of a saint and the burning justice of liberty herself. "The life of a single human being", said Che, "is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth." Che had traveled Latin America in the course of his life and seen with his own eyes the horrors of US imperialism and the world capitalist system. In this time, it is not surprising and, for us, forgiving that Che looked to Stalin as a figure diametrically opposed to this system of oppression and exploitation. Che is quoted as having said, after seeing the horrors of Guatemala under the domination of foreign capital, "I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won't rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated." In hindsight we can say that Che believed Stalin's lies, but the ideals Che stood for unquestionably bypass Stalin and the Stalinist system he stood for. Stalin was a fraud who used socialism as a shield to deflect criticisms against himself and the totalitarian system he had constructed in its name. Capitalism happily gave Stalin this victory, for if this was the "socialism" workers were always making trouble about, it would be good to call it precisely that-- so that when people saw the horrors of Stalinism they could say, "oh but this here in the Soviet Union is socialism", and thus, they would not want it. As Chomsky correctly argues time and time again, it is very hard to convince people that the one thing two historic world superpowers agreed on was actually wrong. The victims of Stalin are both those he terrorized, the people under him, and those men and women, as virtuous as saints, who took up arms against capitalist oppression while falling for Stalin's deception that his road had the answers they were looking for. There are some who argue that Che understood this towards the end. He is said to have been carrying books by Leon Trotsky towards the end of his life. Whether or not he ascribed to Trotsky's ideas at the very end remains unclear. What is clear however, is that the Cuban revolution emerged as a vestige of Stalinism, its political and social system still takes Stalinist forms.
Socialism itself is defined as "a range of economic and social systems characterized by social ownership of the means of production and workers democratic self-management". A centrally planned economy is regarded as meeting the criteria for socialism only insofar as the mechanisms used to plan the economy (i.e. the state) are genuinely democratic. The legitimacy and healthiness of a democracy under a one-party Marxist-Leninist (Stalinist) state need not be mentioned here, for its nature is quite self-evident. An undemocratic centrally planned economy meets the criteria for state-capitalism, and that can sometimes still be a progressive force. Needless to say, the socialist mode of production, by its simplest definition, was not realized in the undemocratic, centrally planned economy of the past, precisely because they were in practice, undemocratic. Cuba's economy up until now has been largely state capitalist in nature, but it has been a form of state capitalism that has a largely progressive role in the lives of countless working people. In spite of the brutal imperialist embargo, the lives of the poorest Cubans are significantly better relative to the lives of the poorest people's of other Latin American countries under the yoke of foreign capital and imperialist domination, even in Latin American countries that are wealthier than Cuba.
It is widely accepted that the idea of "socialism in one country", as advocated by Stalin is impossible, or at the very least extremely impractical. History shows that such a model leads to economic stagnation (through lack of democracy and/or autarky) and eventually to economic and social collapse. The lives of working people may get better for a time, but stagnation is inevitable. Any notion that Cuba can continue under a centrally planned economy without substantial foreign aid or economic and political is utopian. Without a Soviet like superpower to help her, her economy will continue to decline under the present model.
But socialism is such a wide school of thought, socialist modes of production so diverse in possible applications, that the idea of "central planning vs. private property" seems absurd to anyone familiar with its diversity. The Marxist critique of capitalism has led to many schools of socialist thought. Modern Marxian economist Richard Wolff takes Marx's critique of capitalism (a very valid critique) as something that in the modern world could be addressed by Workers' Self-Directed Enterprises. Marx after all, never gave "prescriptions" as how to address the problems his critiques scientifically and empirically revealed beyond the general idea of the working people of the world uniting to democratically figure out how to transcend this predatory system of exploitation. Lenin attempted to do so, so did many anarchists. The diversity here in socialist thought is truly astounding.
Even within the framework of a market economy, Dr. Wolff looks to many examples, both modern and historic, of economic models whose primary feature is workers ownership and democratic management on the enterprise level. Under such a system, workers democratically control their own work-places, either directly at the local level or hierarchically by democratically electing (yes, electing!) their own CEO's and members of a company's Board of Directors, who in turn determine company policy in all its complexities, and are at all times re-callable and accountable to the workers and the public at large. Under the traditional capitalist model (which this constitution would endorse), such Board Members would be responsible only to a number of wealthy share-holders, most of whom are in the richest 1% of society. They would be responsible for determining how much they got paid, and how much the workers who produced the wealth got paid. They would work not in the interests of the workers or the public at large, but in the interests of their own bank accounts. Democracy at work would regard public companies as responsible to the public, it would bring power to the streets where the people live. This is not at all theoretical, all over the world, in Italy for instance, such Workers' Self-Directed Enterprises are coming into being. Italy even gives unemployed workers incentives for creating such (socialist) enterprises. When a worker in Italy is unemployed, they receive a check from the government every so often while they look for new work. But at the same time, the government gives them an alternative option to get 2 years worth of unemployment checks at one time if they, with 7 or so other unemployed workers, agree to start a workers self-directed enterprise. In this way, socialism is incentivized into a capitalist economy. A country such as Cuba could put forth even more radical policies in this regard. Perhaps a balance could be found between Workers Self-Directed Enterprises and open and democratic planning. This is but one possible example of socialism, an example of which that is viable even in a market economy.
The new Cuban constitution represents an almost complete counter-revolution, it foregoes all possible alternatives and surrenders the Cuban people to the domination of the capitalist system. At the same time, it opens the door to world imperialism. The revolution against capitalism was just, the forms it took in addressing the ills of the former society in many ways was not. Real industrial democracy would likely work towards the democratization and opening up of Cuban society as a whole, without the political and social destabilization that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bloodshed of Tienanmen Square. I am not here to give the specifics of what an ideal constitution would say, the new constitution is a question for the Cuban people themselves. But if such a question is not seriously asked and debated, then all is lost.
Do the Cuban people want to continue on the road of Stalinism? They unquestionably do not. Do the Cuban people want to go on the road of capitalism, opening the way for imperialism? The Cuban people are tired, and many may see this as a possible alternative, but many Cubans understand the danger here. If this constitution passes, it is my belief that the Cubans will regret it 10 or 15 years down the road just as the people of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union regretted not looking into alternatives to their own predicament. There are two examples that come to mind here when considering a capitulation to capitalism in Cuba: that of China and that of the Soviet Union. Capitalism in the Soviet Union destroyed Soviet society, its effects on life expectancy alone paint a broad enough picture as to the horrors such "reforms" can wrought upon a people. In many Eastern European countries, people say that life was better under Stalinism than it is now. Such statistics are less to paint a virtuous picture of the horrors of Stalinism than to show the very real horrors of capitalism and world imperialism. In China, many millions were brought out of extreme poverty by capitalism under the strict control of the Chinese State. But China is still a dictatorship, one of the most authoritarian in the world, it is even more authoritarian than the one the Cuban people are under today. This unfreedom too, is a vestige of Stalinism. It is absolutely absurd to speak of socialism without liberty, this too can be viably addressed if the Cuban people opt for a different road than the one they are on. As Marxist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg argued in her day,
"Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party however numerous they may be is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of “justice” but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when “freedom” becomes a special privilege...
Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously at bottom, then, a clique affair a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins."
Cuba is ripe for a spiritual and political rebirth, but that rebirth can take many different forms. It could be a spring of popular rule, a spiritual rebirth, a flowering of countless opinions and ideas. It could bring forth industrial democracy, real socialism as an alternative to Stalinist planning, and over time, it could bring forth real liberty for the Cuban people. Cuba could in time become a bastion of freedom and democracy in the world, an aspiring model for all people's. At the same time it could be a bastion of socialist democracy, a fortress against world imperialist domination. Perhaps in time, it could become the world's first successful example of revolutionary democratic socialism in practice. But today the opposite seems to be on the table. On the horizon there appears to be a spring of political and social counter-revolution in the highest echelons of the party bureaucracy. If the constitution passes, the party bureaucracy itself will almost certainly grow rich off the blood and sweat of the Cuban people. This could mean Cuba progresses down the Chinese model of brutally successful state-capitalism at the expense of even further diminished civil liberties, or the party bureaucracy could complete the counter-revolution even more totally and abandon it entirely-- in which case the Cuban people would suffer the same hardships as the people of the former Soviet Union suffered in the 1990's along with the imperialist domination of the country. Which do you prefer? Increased dictatorship and the further diminishing of civil liberties or exponentially worsened poverty, inequality, and the eventual installment of a new Batista-like dictator? These are two extremes, admittedly, but nonetheless the threat here is very real and it should be taken seriously. In popular discourse the "other option" (i.e. in not passing the constitution) is a continuation of the status quo, which to many seems equally deplorable. This "other option" however, is not the only "other option". Do you not realize that real socialism is on the table? We are not speaking of "socialism" as Stalin spoke of it, in the same way he spoke of his "genuinely free elections" and his "real democracy". We are speaking of socialism proper, albeit in a different form than the one Fidel or Che imagined. Where in Cuba are the capitalists to oppose you if you go down such a path? They are nothing to the capitalists faced by the Latin Americans of other nations under the yoke of US imperialism. Cuba longs to come into the 21st century, let the Cuban people freely discuss and debate all possible options!
In summation of our views:
-For the new constitution? No.
-The legalization of private property? Neither that nor a continuation of the Stalinist planning, let the Cuban people find their own way in order to reduce the inevitable human suffering both positions would bring. What alternatives are there? There are many. Perhaps, even in a market based economy, in the form of workers self-directed enterprises; where corporations are democratically run and boards of directors are responsible to the workers and the public at large. This is a viable alternative to both the undemocracy and rigidity of Stalinist planning and the undemocracy and inequality of the capitalist enterprise. Such a position would likely lead to a stable democratization and opening up of Cuban society. This is a path to genuine socialism and real liberty.
-The legalization of gay marriage? The constitution might not pass due to its legalization of gay marriage. The church leads the resistance of the new constitution on this basis alone. Do we support the legalization of gay marriage? Absolutely, but at the same time we respect the rights of each individual church and congregation to decide whether or not to have gay weddings in accordance with their own religious views and individual consciences. It is immoral for the state to forbid gay marriage, just as it is immoral for the state to force a church to perform it. Let those opposed be opposed, that is their right and such a right I will defend to the death, but let not those opposed force their opposition on the whole of society, that is in violation of the ideals of liberty which every socialist ought to aspire to embody. There are many churches and many congregations who would happily perform gay weddings and I for one applaud them. Our opposition to the new constitution is on the basis of private property alone. We fully endorse the rights of LGBT+ people's all over the world.
Needless to say we are in favor of the following provisions:
-The creation of a two consecutive five-year term limit imposed on the president;
-Extending the terms of municipal council delegates to five years;
-Banning discrimination based on gender, race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, (formerly included leading to the possible legalization of same-sex marriage)
-The restoration of a presumption of innocence in the justice system, last provided for in the 1940 constitution.
Cuban citizens! The future of your children is in your hands! The revolutionaries in the 20th century were radical and creative; be radical and creative yourselves!
Neither a continuation Stalinist planning nor the legalization of private property!
Down with the new constitution and its provision to legalize private property!
Defend the reforms advocated for, draft a new constitution that removes the provisions on private property!
Fight to create real Citizen's and Worker's democracy-- both politically and industrially!
¡Hasta la victoria siempre!
The Need For The People To Invoke Their Right To Amend or Rewrite The Constitution
January 28, 2019
"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them, like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well: I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading: and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know, also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors. It is this preposterous idea which has lately deluged Europe in blood. Their monarchs, instead of wisely yielding to the gradual changes of circumstances, of favoring progressive accommodation to progressive improvement, have clung to old abuses, entrenched themselves behind steady habits, and obliged their subjects to seek through blood and violence rash and ruinous innovations, which, had they been referred to the peaceful deliberations and collected wisdom of the nation, would have been put into acceptable and salutary forms. Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs. Let us, as our sister States have done, avail ourselves of our reason and experience, to correct the crude essays of our first and unexperienced, although wise, virtuous, and well-meaning councils. And, lastly, let us provide in our constitution for its revision at stated periods. What these periods should be, nature herself indicates. By the European tables of mortality, of the adults living at any one moment of time, a majority will be dead in about nineteen years. At the end of that period, then, a new majority is come into place; or, in other words, a new generation. Each generation is as independent of the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. It has, then, like them, a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness; consequently, to accommodate to the circumstances in which it finds itself, that received from its predecessors: and it is for the peace and good of mankind, that a solemn opportunity of doing this every nineteen or twenty years, should be provided by the constitution; so that it may be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time, if any thing human can so long endure. It is now forty years since the constitution of Virginia was formed. The same tables inform us, that, within that period, two thirds of the adults then living are now dead. Have then the remaining third, even if they had the wish, the right to hold in obedience to their will, and to laws heretofore made by them, the other two thirds, who, with themselves, compose the present mass of adults? If they have not, who has? The dead? But the dead have no rights. They are nothing; and nothing cannot own something. Where there is no substance, there can be no accident. This corporeal globe, and every thing upon it, belong to its present corporeal inhabitants, during their generation. They alone have a right to direct what is the concern of themselves alone, and to declare the law of that direction: and this declaration can only be made by their majority. That majority, then, has a right to depute representatives to a convention, and to make the constitution what they think will be best for themselves. But how collect their voice? This is the real difficulty. If invited by private authority to county or district meetings, these divisions are so large, that few will attend; and their voice will be imperfectly or falsely pronounced. Here, then, would be one of the advantages of the ward divisions I have proposed. The mayor of every ward, on a question like the present, would call his ward together, take the simple yea or nay of its members, convey these to the county court, who would hand on those of all its wards to the proper general authority; and the voice of the whole people would be thus fairly, fully, and peaceably expressed, discussed, and decided by the common reason of the society. If this avenue be shut to the call of sufferance, it will make itself heard through that of force, and we shall go on, as other nations are doing, in the endless circle of oppression, rebellion, reformation; and oppression, rebellion, reformation, again; and so on, for ever.
These, Sir, are my opinions of the governments we see among men, and of the principles by which alone we may prevent our own from falling into the same dreadful track. I have given them at greater length than your letter called for. But I cannot say things by halves; and I confide them to your honor, so to use them as to preserve me from the gridiron of the public papers. If you shall approve and enforce them, as you have done that of equal representation, they may do some good. If not, keep them to yourself as the effusions of withered age, and useless time. I shall, with not the Less truth, assure you of my great respect and consideration."-Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Samuel Kerchival - July 12, 1816
We at Red Liberty believe that in order to best represent the will of the people as they actually exist in American society, at a minimum, the kind of constitutional reform advocated by Thomas Jefferson in his private letters is necessary. Jefferson himself, over 200 years after the above excerpt was written, now exists in the mystical veil of sanctimonious reverence he himself criticized. A "founding father", we quote him at length here precisely because of the reverence so many fellow Americans hold for the ruling class of that generation. This idea, though it may seem radical in how it shatters the mystical, almost religious reverence so many hold of the nation's founding documents, was itself a believed necessity in the minds of those who founded the Republic. As the socialists we are, we are far more optimistic than Jefferson as to the emancipatory potential of humankind. This time, when the oppression and exploitation of the present day is reconciled with the free will of the informed people, in our society of material abundance, we believe a real possibility for the abolition of all institutional forms of oppression and exploitation presents itself. Furthermore, the internet provides the people with the possibility of a grassroots initiative of popular assemblies all over the nation, to be decentralized, that is, best representing the will of the people as they actually exist, while also being enormously wide in scope. The class implications here are also apparent, such a meeting of people's blocks out in form and execution, the corrupting influence the billionaire class has on existing institutions.
Today we find ourselves on the edge of oblivion. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that we have only 12 years to limit the catastrophic consequences of climate change, yet one of the two ruling parties of this country refuses to even admit that climate change is real. We the millennials, even when working full time, increasingly find ourselves unable to afford higher education, rent, and the basic necessities of life in the richest country in the world. Not making enough to survive, things have only gotten worse for us. And what, we must ask, of the generations to come? We are the children of cyberspace. The technically inclined among us use VPN's or Tor to connect to the internet because we know we are being watched illegally, and unethically by our own government and by the governments of the world. Nearly everyone informed on this issue is alarmed. We believe information should be free, cyberspace has no borders, regognizes no walls, no barriers, no outside authority. As the surveillance state grows stronger and stronger with less and less accountability, where here is the consent of the governed? Consent that is passive is granted, but true consent requires one to be informed, and even our own conservative courts when informed on the issue at hand deem these illegal programs, that have only accelerated in totality since we the people found out about them, to be "Orwellian in scope". When can we acknowledge that privacy in the digital age is a fundamental prerequisite to civil liberty? In the history books that describe the descent of the 21st century into despotism, or with our own voices today?
How is it that there are 5 empty homes for every homeless person in the richest country in the world? We already produce enough food to feed 10 billion people a year, yet world hunger still persists. We give to charities and then stop thinking about the issues at hand. Why? Trump wanted 5 billion dollars for a border wall. To end homelessness in the United States, what is the estimated cost? 20 billion dollars. To end world hunger, what is the estimated cost? 30 billion dollars. Neither party is talking about this, and for good reason. Such facts pose an existential threat to the capitalist system. What of the institutional racism of the American criminal injustice system? For an entire community to view the police as a menace to the community, yet to still be subjugated to them, that Citizens is a menace to democracy. America has more prisoners than any other nation. Prisoners are routinely subjected to solitary confinement, cruel and unusual punishment- torture by any other name to be sure, and used legally as slave labor. Trans women are sent to male prisons, and trans men are sent to female prisons. How many times do we hear of Trans women being raped 1000's of times in all male prisons? We know European prisons boast only 20% of inmates returning to prison, in America that number is well over 80%. People still want to "debate" the legitimacy of trans rights, but when such fundamental questions such as human rights are put up for debate, we have a serious problem. It is our own "War on Drugs", our own imperialistic foreign policy, our own imperialist socioeconomic system that is responsible for the rampant crime and poverty that affects Latin America. Those of us informed on the issues at hand know that prohibition does not work, we see clearly how Portugal's decriminalization of all drugs has led to drastic decreases in drug related deaths, addiction, use, and disease. Yet the prospect of drug decriminalization, legalization, and free treatment for addicts in our country is deemed "too radical" by both parties to be even considered.
Those of us who are informed understand the absurdity of the present socioeconomic and political system. As socialists, we advocate neither corporate dictatorship in the workplace nor dictatorial state management over the enterprise, but rather, we advocate industrial democracy for the worker and the public at large! To what degree this or that measure or policy is to be implemented? We have no "ready made plan" of action. We leave it to the free expression and debate of the people themselves. Before it's Stalinist degeneration, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the 1960's rightfully recognized that our present society was not a democracy. Just as the Greek city slave states were both a dictatorship of the slave owner and a democracy through the slave owner, our modern society is a democracy of the capitalist class and a dictatorship of that class at the same time. Jefferson to his lasting credit, knew this day would come. The founding fathers did not think their experiment would last this long, and to it's credit it has achieved miracles. Jefferson thought every 19 or so years the new generation should speak for itself in the name of democracy, amending the constitution or drafting a new one where necessary. By such logic, a radical change embodying the active consent of the people is 10 times overdue! Jefferson and his generation have no right to speak for us, Jefferson himself said so!
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
As democracy divorces itself more and more from capitalism, those in power expect us to stand idly by. We will not be a party to the death of liberty, to the death of democracy. If necessary we will preserve and expand liberty and democracy at the cost of our lives. As 12 years come down to 0, we are expected to beg for concession after concession so that our children might survive what they have wrought upon us. We are expected to blame climate change on the individual, to "stop using plastic bags and plastic straws", to "bike to work" and not to challenge the corporations that mercilessly plunder and pollute the earth, not to challenge those really responsible for our predicament. The present socioeconomic and political order, in it's nihilistic, anti-scientific, and reluctant attitude towards the scientific consensus, and in its unabashed corruption in this regard, is fundamentally destructive to the Life of humankind and all future generations. The unprecedented increase in far-right authoritarianism in the most "stable" democracies of the world, along with the emergence of Orwellian, illegal government mass surveillance programs and its violations of the people's right to privacy, fundamentally endangers one of the only prerequisites to the existence of civil Liberty in our age. Indeed we must say that it is destructive to Liberty itself. And what of the pursuit of Happiness? I will quote here from my friend and fellow writer Christian Chiakulas:
“In a world that produces enough food to feed each and every one of us, starvation is violence. In a society where vacant houses outnumber homeless people six to one, homelessness is violence. A country in which health insurance companies rake in billions in profits while leaving nearly thirty million people uninsured and unable to access medical care is a violent society. This is the everyday violence of capitalism if it is profitable to let somebody die, or languish in abject poverty, we do so. That is a violent society.”
More than violence, such a state of affairs are a menace to the pursuit of Happiness. We have established thusly, that the present socioeconomic order, and the government with it, has become destructive to the ends of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. We therefore must see it as justified to invoke the right of the people to alter or abolish the present government if we are to be true to reason and to ourselves. We must have no fear in saying this, for it is the right of the present generation to do so, a right recognized by the fundamental founding documents of the United States itself. We must cast aside the sanctimonious reverence so many of us have for the constitution, it is our duty to rewrite it if we the people deem it to be necessary. What power do I at Red Liberty have in this regard? I have no power, all political power rests solely with in the hands of the people themselves. I am one of them, but without them I am nothing. They will either dismiss me as some isolated radical or take the initiative themselves to forge their own futures, in time I think these measures will be seen as having been inevitable. What I propose is not some violent revolution, but that the people come together at the grassroots level, in popular assemblies, and discuss what kind of future they want, what kind of society they want to live in, what kind of government, if any, they desire. The people at such assemblies would not be ignorant of the issues at had, they would call in experts where necessary, to educate the people and themselves. Does this mean such things need be applied having been debated and drafted? Not necessarily. The act itself can be but a matter of future precedent, an experiment if not a revolution, though revolution itself is always an experiment of sorts, the greatest of all experiments. Experiments such as those of the recent Congress of People's Resistance organized of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) are promising in this regard, even if we condemn the PSL's Stalinist political line. The website for the Congress of People's Resistance puts it well when it says, "U.S. Congress is a Multi-Millionaires' Club. It's time to build a #PeoplesCongress". We cannot help but agree.
I would like to give here my predictions as to what would come of such a thing. Of course, many of these predictions are far more radical in scope than what would today be considered popular opinion. I make these speculations with an understanding that not only would the people would have to be informed on the issues at hand, but moreover I make these speculations keeping in mind the spirit of all revolutions and revolutionary movements. As the people become more involved in public life and are swept away in the turn of events, popular opinion and the vanguard movements of popular opinion become more and more radicalized. This, history tells us, is the general course of development in all the great historic social revolutions of modern history; the English Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution. It is the typical course of every first general reckoning of the revolutionary forces begotten within the womb of bourgeois society. Its development moves naturally in an ascending line: from moderate beginnings to ever-greater radicalization of aims and, parallel with that, from a coalition of classes and parties to the sole rule of the radical vanguard of the formerly oppressed people's (paraphrasing Rosa Luxemburg).
Not funded or corrupted by big business or corporate power, I believe the Bill of Rights would be radically expanded. New amendments would be passed by the people themselves that were just as, if not more radical than the first Bill of Rights was in its day. The biggest corporations would be socialized and democratized, made to work by and for the people themselves, with rights always guaranteed to the minority, and not for the profit of the few The media too, I believe, would be democratized and decentralized, becoming grassroots, ruthless adversarial journalism made to inform the people and not to profit off of them through flashy headlines and clickbait. The fourth amendment would be restored by the prohibition of mass surveillance and the architecture of the internet itself would be altered to make it decentralized, secure and privacy respecting by default. The government insofar as it exists, would be made to be 100% transparent. There would be transparency for the powerful and privacy for everyone else. Perhaps most importantly to the future of humankind, the people, not corrupted by lobbying and misinformation from the fossil fuel industry and the billionaire class, but thoroughly informed on the scientific consensus, would advocate the immediate and emergency rapid divergence from fossil fuels and its replacement with 100% green, renewable energy. Plastics and other polluting industries would be replaced with ecological ones or allowed only under strict conditions. There would be mass reforestation initiatives and a serious focus on preparedness for the impending consequences of climate change for the generations to come, even for "worse than the worst case scenario". The current Bill of Rights rightfully recognizes negative liberty, but as far as positive liberty goes, there is none. It was as absurd to speak of a right to healthcare in 1774 as it was to speak of freedom of the press in pre-agricultural society. There is no reason anyone in our society should be homeless, hungry, or in a state of material poverty. We have the ability to sustainably abolish forever these grave social ills 20 times over, and many times more so! Such conditions are a menace to liberty. The world of material scarcity that produced our Constitution and Bill of Rights no longer exists. Today in our world of material abundance, it is our right and our duty to actively decide for ourselves what kind of a world, if any, we want for our children. Inaction is to let a generation that knew not our world to govern it. Inaction here is to declare the future of humankind as good as dead in the name of profit. The people would in time, realize that they had far more in common with the citizens and working people of every other country than with their own ruling class, and the people's of the world would increasingly come to the same conclusion. As Anarchist Emma Goldman said in 1908,
"Thinking men and women the world over are beginning to realize that patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the necessities of our time. The centralization of power has brought into being an international feeling of solidarity among the oppressed nations of the world; a solidarity which represents a greater harmony of interests between the workingman of America and his brothers abroad than between the American miner and his exploiting compatriot; a solidarity which fears not foreign invasion, because it is bringing all the workers to the point when they will say to their masters, "Go and do your own killing. We have done it long enough for you."
The military would serve to be a purely defensive apparatus of the people. It would not invade other countries, it would not intimidate the people's of the world, it would respect the right to national self-determination of other nation, viewing it as a prerequisite to its own freedom and sovereignty.
We do not believe it is possible to adequately address the climate crisis under capitalism. Green social-democrats often look to Norway as an staple of Green capitalism, a model to the rest of the world. But in spite of Norway having moved to 100% Green energy, it's top exports are still all in the polluting industries. The top exports of Norway are Crude Petroleum($45.1B) Petroleum Gas ($43.6B), and Refined Petroleum ($6.56B), all of which are fossil fuels. This is a prime example of the impossibility to fully address this issue under capitalism. But at least it is a step in the right direction. We should mention here that as of late, while fossil fuels are still Norway's top exports, its second top export is fish in the midst of global excesses in regards to ocean fishing! Norway has created a fortress of ecology within its own national borders, it has merely ‘exported’ the crisis of climate change to other countries! In the alternatives we look towards, a country (Norway, for instance) could stop fossil fuel exports and resource exploitation entirely without a serious hit to its economy as other countries would provide it with needed material aid. As Murray Bookchin said,
"To speak of 'limits to growth' under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society. The moral pieties, that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists, are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative. Capitalism can no more be 'persuaded' to limit growth than a human being can be 'persuaded' to stop breathing. Attempts to 'green' capitalism, to make it 'ecological', are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth."
While an authoritarian state-capitalist model such as that of the present day People's Republic of China has the potential to begin addressing the climate crisis in a serious way, it can do so only at the expense of the freedom and democracy of the people. This to us is unacceptable. The Chinese model is by far the most successful model of capitalist economics today. If one wishes to see the future of capitalism, they need look no further than China. No other school of economics to date comes close in terms of success and stability. Yet in spite of this, we think the advent of popular political democracy at the local level with the emergence of genuine industrial democracy has the potential to blow the Chinese state-capitalist model out of the water. Its focus would not merely be production for the sake of production, with no regard whatsoever to the social and ecological consequences of its actions, but on meeting human needs and to expand the state of human liberty and the dignity and quality of life. It would replace the feudal, dictatorial methods with which modern day corporations are managed, with the principles all Americans claim to aspire to embody- democracy. Do we as Americans, not claim to love liberty and democracy? The current order endangers the very foundations of all Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It is a menace to democracy itself.
Citizens, our generation will have none of it! It's high time the American people come together to create a socioeconomic and political system that embodies their active, not their passive consent. A system that embodies the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and values of the people as they exist today, not as they existed in 1774. I tip my hat to Mr. Jefferson, who recognized our right to do this. Citizens, it's high time our generation said for itself what kind of a world it wants. If we care at all for liberty, for democracy, if they are more than empty words for us, then we must act now. For if we do not act now, the generations of tomorrow will not forgive us!
What Can Rojava Learn From The Hacker Community?
I decided to write this post after reading on the Internationalist Commune website (Rojava), "If you have ideas for new projects to contribute to our work we are happy to hear from you." I decided to write this post because I do have ideas that I believe may greatly increase the freedom of the people of Rojava in regards to the digital world. Perhaps I am shamelessly utopian in my dreaming of a truly liberated world, in my enthusiasm for what is happening in Rojava today, for a truly free and democratic world. Regardless, I do hope the reader will take my views seriously, for I say that anything is possible today. As a disclaimer it should be noted that the word "Hacker" is subjected to as much misuse as the words "Socialism", "Anarchism", and "Communism". We are not here referring to criminality. A hacker is someone who writes code, a cracker (a more specific form of hacker) is someone who specializes in breaking into computer systems, both with permission (white hats) and without permission (black hats), and those who break the written law whilst still a biding by the law of morality (grey hats). Though generally there is some overlay, we are referring primarily here to the former and not the latter.
The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava) is actively striving for total liberation of the Kurdish people from every possible form of institutionalized oppression and exploitation, including and especially the oppression that comes from the nation state. When thinking of institutions, the Internet naturally comes to mind, and Syria's Internet is anything but free. I am not talking here of state censorship which is another matter, but of surveillance.
On 29 November 2012, almost all Internet connectivity between Syria and the outside world was cut off. In the midst of the civil war, one side blamed the other, and the fighting intensified. It was not until 2014, two years later, that the world learned of the real culprit thanks to the heroic act of a Mr. Edward Snowden: it was the American government, the NSA. You see, by that time the surveillance of the Syrian nation by the National Security Agency of the United States was so intense that it had managed to "filter" the entirety of Syria's Internet through NSA owned servers. The "blackout" happened due to a catastrophic failure at an NSA owned data center. This surveillance almost certainly continues to this day, and in all likelihood is far more intense. If the Americans can do it, what of Turkey, America's so-called ally? What of the government of Iraq? The Russian government? ISIS? What about the companies that provide the people of Rojava their Internet connections and phone data? Can they be trusted not to spy on the people of Rojava?
I would not call myself an anarchist, but I agree with Proudhon when he said this of authority:
“To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so."In Rojava the people are effectively learning to govern themselves thanks to the principles of Democratic Confederalism, but insofar as they are being watched, even by a foreign power, they cannot be truly free. In the spirit of the fact that "Freedom is always the freedom of dissent" (a paraphrase of a quote by Rosa Luxemburg), I wrote recently in a post titled "Why Every Activist Should Use a VPN/Tor and Oppose Mass Surveillance" the following:
"Privacy in the digital age is the only real prerequisite to civil liberty. One is not truly free to dissent if one is being watched at every moment, (it is a well known and independently verifiable fact that people alter their behaviors when they are being watched, especially by authorities, and especially when these authorities retain everything a person said or thought or did indefinitely) and if one is being watched at every moment, one is not free at all. One doesn’t even have to wield this power to the fullest extent possible to destroy human liberty, its very existence is a terminal illness to every form of human freedom. In light of the horrendous abuses of power by NSA, GCHQ, and its accomplices, the Marxist left is bound by its principles to fight against mass surveillance, for the preservation of human freedom. We are bound by our principles to fight against these abuses of power in the political realm, but it is also necessary to protect ourselves and our communities at the individual level as well."The people of Rojava are more capable of reaching a greater state of real freedom and democracy than any other people on the face of the earth. I have stated previously that it is my firm belief that the Greek democracies of antiquity are to our modern society, what Rojava is to the world of tomorrow. In the midst of such revolutionary potential, I believe it necessary for the people of Rojava to look towards ensuring and maintaining freedom in the digital world as well as in the physical. We used to say that a woman's home is her castle, now it is a woman's phone that is her castle.
Before going further, I felt it necessary to quote in part, Julian Assange's introduction to his book Cypherpunks, titled Introduction: A Cryptographic Call To Arms. I highly recommend anyone interested in internet freedom to go out and read the book itself, as it is a very interesting read:
"The platonic nature of the internet, ideas and information flows, is debased by its physical origins. Its foundations are fiber optic cable lines stretching across the ocean floors, satellites spinning above our heads, computer servers housed in buildings in cities from New York to Nairobi. Like the soldier who slew Archimedes with a mere sword, so too could an armed militia take control of the peak development of Western civilization, our platonic realm.As an activist and a self-proclaimed computer nerd, I have found myself drawn to the Free Software community, which advocates the exclusive use of free (as in freedom) software that respects the users freedom to know what the software is doing, to change the software, and to redistribute modified versions of the software. That freedom is not abstract but real. Only when software is free can a user have control over the software, and not the other way around. The Free Software Foundation views the issue of free vs. proprietary software not as a matter of personal preference, but of individual and social liberty, and I cannot help but agree. In addition to this I have been an avid GNU/Linux enthusiast, favoring the free and democratic, community driven initiatives behind the Linux world over the proprietary corporate monopolies of Microsoft and Apple. It's no secret that Microsoft tells the NSA about security vulnerabilities in its software (including Windows) before patching them, and Apple along with other tech giants were most prominently featured on leaked NSA PRISM slides. I have also been a supporter of efforts to restore privacy and build individual liberty in the digital age. One of the projects I actively contribute to is called I2P (The Invisible Internet Project). The featured image is of Itoopie (the I2P mascot) standing with the International Freedom Batallion while waving the flag of Rojava. When explaining the need for such technologies, I often find myself quoting what American founding father John Adams once wrote to Thomas Jefferson,
The new world of the internet, abstracted from the old world of brute atoms, longed for independence. But states and their friends moved to control our new worldby controlling its physical underpinnings. The state, like an army around an oil well, or a customs agent extracting bribes at the border, would soon learn to leverage its control of physical space to gain control over our platonic realm. It would prevent the independence we had dreamed of, and then, squatting on fiber optic lines and around satellite ground stations, it would go on to mass intercept the information flow of our new worldits very essenceeven as every human, economic, and political relationship embraced it. The state would leech into the veins and arteries of our new societies, gobbling up every relationship expressed or communicated, every web page read, every message sent and every thought googled, and then store this knowledge, billions of interceptions a day, undreamed of power, in vast top secret warehouses, forever. It would go on to mine and mine again this treasure, the collective private intellectual output of humanity, with ever more sophisticated search and pattern finding algorithms, enriching the treasure and maximizing the power imbalance between interceptors and the world of interceptees. And then the state would reflect what it had learned back into the physicalworld, to start wars, to target drones, to manipulate UN committees and trade deals, and to do favors for its vast connected network of industries, insiders and cronies.
But we discovered something. Our one hope against total domination. A hope that with courage, insight and solidarity we could use to resist. A strange property of the physical universe that we live in.
The universe believes in encryption.
It is easier to encrypt information than it is to decrypt it.
We saw we could use this strange property to create the laws of a new world. To abstract away our new platonic realm from its base underpinnings of satellites, undersea cables and their controllers. To fortify our space behind a cryptographic veil. To create new lands barred to those who control physical reality, because to follow us into them would require infinite resources.
And in this manner to declare independence.
Scientists in the Manhattan Project discovered that the universe permitted the construction of a nuclear bomb. This was not an obvious conclusion. Perhaps nuclear weapons were not within the laws of physics. However, the universe believes in atomic bombs and nuclear reactors. They are a phenomenon the universe blesses, like salt, sea or stars.
Similarly, the universe, our physical universe, has that property that makes it possible for an individual or a group of individuals to reliably, automatically, even without knowing, encipher something, so that all the resources and all the political will of the strongest superpower on earth may not decipher it. And the paths of encipherment between people can mesh together to create regions free from the coercive force of the outer state. Free from mass interception. Free from state control.
In this way, people can oppose their will to that of a fully mobilized superpower and win. Encryption is an embodiment of the laws of physics, and it does not listen to the bluster of states, even transnational surveillance dystopias.
It isn’t obvious that the world had to work this way. But somehow the universe smiles on encryption.
Cryptography is the ultimate form of non-violent direct action."
“When people talk of the Freedom of Writing, Speaking, or thinking, I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.” (15 July 1817)Technologies such as I2P actively seek to bring about in practice the genuine and unfettered expression of individual liberty in the digital age, of real freedom of writing, freedom of speech, freedom of thought. Their mission is to do precisely what Adams and Jefferson dreamed of. It is ironic that in contributing to the development this technology, I actively hamper the American NSA in its mission statement to "know everything". Truly it is a sad world we live in. But for a liberated people and for a people struggling day by day for liberation, such as the people of Rojava, real freedom is on the table, not as an abstract idea but as a potential reality. We must of course, still be practical. What can the people of Rojava do today in this regard?
I have not yet been able to find a GNU/Linux distribution that supports Kurmanci (the main language used in Rojava) natively. The I2P project also lacks sufficient translation to Kurmanci, as does the Tor Project from what I can tell. For the people of Rojava, protecting the existence of individual liberty is paramount, and having access to the tools that do just that, in their own language, is paramount. I would highly recommend the people of Rojava use Linux as opposed to Windows or MacOS in their daily computing. For this to become practical, someone fluent in the language needs to help translate! Debian I think would be the best Linux distribution to translate since many other Linux distributions are based on it, and its generally a good distribution that uses all free software by default. You can find out how to translate for the Debian project here. Furthermore I would highly recommend the people of Rojava become adept in using Tor to protect their privacy online, for this to be practical, translators are needed yet again. I also would recommend those enthusiastic about this kind of thing to look into I2P, translators are needed here too! Unlike Tor, I2P is focused primarily on location hidden services (rather than anonymizing regular internet usage).
I favor I2P over other censorship resistant networks such as Tor, Freenet, and ZeroNet because they have a stronger focus on community, as well as having a better way to implement democratic principles while still respecting individual liberty. As far as "darknets" go, the content found on I2P is generally of a remarkably good nature. I attribute this precisely to the community oriented model embraced by the I2P project. Anyone can do anything they like, but things that reflect badly on the community or on I2P generally are not shown to the user by default, and as a result are of less quantity than other censorship resistant networks. With other censorship resistant networks, bad people see links to bad things almost immediately out of the naivety of the developers in taking the phrase "information is neutral" too seriously , or hear about abuses from the media, and bring more bad people to the network and before you know it the whole thing becomes a swamp. Sadly this is happening to tools like Freenet and ZeroNet, where ethical users must actively avoid key parts of the network, even if Freenet and ZeroNet have mainly legitimate, benevolent uses (Chinese citizens for instance openly talk on ZeroNet about state repression, and make up a substantial part of the network). I2P has thus far been largely immune to these problems, and that is why I am most enthusiastic in my endorsement of this particular piece of software. Here I dream of the practical uses of I2P in a liberated society.
What could the people of Rojava do with I2P? Anything! The people of Rojava could set up their own DNS servers (called addressbook services), that were democratically run by the community itself. Every computer user could set up their own website free of charge and put it onto I2P with the in-built Jetty webserver. If someone set up a website, they could get a domain from the community run addressbook provider, and no one else would know who ran it or where (geographically) it was located. If someone posted something immoral or illegal, the community would have the power to remove the domain name (without actually taking down the server) with the popular consent of the people. Thus if something really bad ever was happening in Rojava in regards to authoritarianism (itself unlikely), or if someone wanted to anonymously post a complaint or report an abuse, the people would have a safe space to freely voice their concerns without fear of retribution. There is hardly any better safeguard against authoritarianism than this, and because freedom is always the freedom of dissent, there is hardly a greater assurance of individual liberty in the digital age. The people of Rojava could also set up their own email servers and configure them to run over I2P, or use I2P-bote (an end-to-end encrypted, decentralized email like platform). The entirety of Rojava could email one another, talk to one another, and share things with one another inside the I2P network where no external power, no matter how strong, could ever spy on the people of Rojava or threaten their individual liberty. Why should one person in Rojava ever email another in Rojava when the email (itself unencrypted by default) was sent far outside of Syria, through the NSA's massive net, and then back into Syria to the intended recipient? Does such a scenario not limit the intellectual pursuits, the freedom of speech and thought of the person writing the email?
Children growing up in such a society would learn the importance of free software. They would learn to code and hack without limits, understanding that innovation is greatest when they share with one another. As the society progressed, they could contribute to these projects, actively securing and safeguarding the freedom of the people. The future generations would learn the values of privacy and the values of a society that did not give up its liberties to state power in the false name of "security", of a society that saw privacy as a fundamental prerequisite to civil liberty in the digital age.
For more general uses of the world wide web (a priceless tool that ought to be safeguarded), it is my view that the public's telecommunication infrastructure should be democratically run by the community itself, by neither state nor corporation. Those who manage it should be democratically elected, at all times instantly re-callable by the community by popular petition. ISP's should not log the activities of the people or store their search histories, perhaps community run VPN services would help to obfuscate internet traffic as an extra safeguard. In America, our congress made it legal in 2017 for ISP's to sell the American people's internet history to the highest bidder. Your ISP's should be nothing more than dumb pipes, infrastructure that gets messages from point A to point B without violating the rights of the people by spying on them or collecting their personal information. In that regard, you can progress far beyond the United States or any nation state in regards to individual liberty. There are other technologies too, that may be of interest to a liberated people, I would recommend fostering the use of PGP encryption for all email communications, using apps like Signal instead of texting, and the widespread use of privacy respecting services such as those found at PrivacyTools.io as a social norm (a translation of PrivacyTools here is also needed). Once mastered, two parties can communicate with one another safely without the prying eyes of any third party. I would recommend hackers look into projects such as Hyperboria that seek to create community run meshnets, that in theory would replace the centralized power of an ISP with 100% community infrastructure run by the people themselves. In spite of my numerous criticisms of the market and the existence of money as a currency of exchange, certain cryptocurrencies such as Monero (XMR) have the key benefit over the use of credit cards of being as or even more anonymous than cash. Tools such as Matrix can be used as a replacement for phone calls and texting. I would recommend the people of Rojava to look into these technologies.
As Glenn Greenwald said, "We all need places where we can go to explore without the judgmental eyes of other people being cast upon us, only in a realm where we're not being watched can we really test the limits of who we want to be. It's really in the private realm where dissent, creativity and personal exploration lie." Perhaps there is no better place in the world to put this into practice than Rojava. In conclusion, I think the people of Rojava could benefit greatly from the free software, Linux, and hacker community, and from projects such as I2P and Tor.
It is my highest hope that Rojava may continue to become a bastion of liberation, that it might climb to new frontiers in regards to digital resistance too, frontiers not dreamed of within the confines the nation state! Long live liberty! Long live the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria! Long live Rojava! May it last a thousand years!
Thoughts On “The Media” and “Fake News”
At the dawn of 2019, what can we really say about “the media”? It is a thing that, like “the people”, often embodies a meaningless abstraction to be used or abused as the powers that be see fit. But “the media” is a real, tangible, complicated thing just as “the people” consists of countless individuals each with their own biases, opinions, and backgrounds. One side in half-truth and often hypocrisy, proclaims the evils of the “mainstream media” and “fake news”. The other side also sometimes uses the term “fake news” in relation to foreign powers, but moreover goes on to uncritically defend the “integrity” of the billionaire owned and run corporate media. In that light, I thought it would be acceptable, since this is my blog, to voice my own views on the matter.
The media in all its varying forms, no longer required to attempt to present both sides of an issue objectively, has been turned into an outlet of specific political propaganda. Under capitalism one can expect that the media, no matter how “objective” it tries to be, will always come to the defense of capitalist society directly or indirectly; ideology permeates especially through so-called “apolitical” journalism just as it permeates through “liberal” and “conservative” journalism. Today however, the fragmentation of even the believable illusion of objectivity within the nomenclature of formal declarations, has led to a rampant increase in political tribalism. The media seeks not to inform, leaving the individual to come to their own conclusions having been informed to the best of their ability, of both sides within the limitations imposed by the ideology of bourgeois society– but rather, it seeks to indoctrinate the viewer into a political tribe which, while fervently opposed to the “other side”, in actuality has far more in common with the “other side” when compared to the objective diversity of global politics. That which is agreed upon by both positions, both parties, is never debated or discussed except by “radicals” who are occasionally given 3 minutes of air time without enough time to really prove or adequately defend their “impossible” positions. Those agreements matter, and often are just as if not more important than the immediate issues at hand.
Those who cry “fake news” are often those most susceptible to it. Everything they do not agree with (i.e. the “liberal media”) is “fake news”, while their preferred conservative media outlet, usually the billionaire owned Fox News, which plays 24/7 on the television of almost everyone over 60, is somehow “real news”. Right-wing conspiracy theorists such as those found on InfoWars are the “real news” while CNN, in spite of its obvious liberal biases, is “fake news”. In fact, the conservatives do not lie when they call CNN “fake news”, they merely do not go far enough. Fox News, one of the biggest mainstream media sources in existence, likes to pretend it is special when it speaks of “the media”, “the mainstream media”, etc. Any billionaire owned television station will be slanted towards the views and attitudes of the prevailing society, and moreover towards the views of the ruling class of that society.
If objectivity is the goal, legislation ensuring fair and unbiased journalism (to the best of the ability of the journalist) is necessary. Furthermore, what is needed is radical decentralization and democratization of the media itself. The corporate media of course, will proclaim a violation of its “right to a free press”, even if such action is actually necessary for the freedom of the press to survive. The primary purpose of the media is to hold power accountable. In actuality we find that one side is hypocritical in its criticism for 4 years, and uncritical in its praise for the other 4. People like to listen to what affirms their own biases, and avoid what contradicts them. Ignoring the issues of the relative subjectivity of attempted objectivity, and the seriously overlooked issues of agreement between “both sides”, it is highly unusual for someone to watch Fox News under Obama, and then to switch to MSNBC under Trump. Because of this, truly adversarial journalism ought to be encouraged embodying “the ruthless criticism of all that exists: ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.”
Both sides have of course, been more and more radicalized since the early 2000’s. Not only in the sense that the left is moving further to the left, the right is moving further to the right (in comparison with the American norm), but rather both sides are increasing in their authoritarianism. More and more we find that one side would have it that the other is silenced, and vice versa. Often we find that the media today is less “journalism” than stations of indoctrination. Anyone who cannot see this today is blind to what is happening. As long as serious, though often petty differences between both sides are fervently debated, the similarities between them embodying the gross injustices found within very base of society itself will be ignored and overlooked. There is no simple solution to this problem, but support for ceaselessly adversarial and principled journalism, legislation requiring both sides to be fairly reported, and the broad decentralization and democratization of the media are a good start as we try to look for both short and long-term solutions to this issue. In a world of ever increasing authoritarianism and mass surveillance, we should also look to support censorship resistant and privacy respecting platforms of communication that journalists may need to rely on in the future. In short, these are my views on the matter.
Don’t Let Rojava Become Another Yemen! Contact Your Representatives To Defend Our Kurdish Allies!
December 24, 2018
Trump’s announcement of his plan to withdraw US troops from Syria has struck terror into the hearts of the Kurdish people of Northern Syria. It is genocide they fear– not from ISIS but from Turkey. The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (Rojava) is a staple of democracy in the Middle East. It is however to Turkey, as America was to Great Britain in 1774. Moreover, the people of Rojava were our allies in the fight against ISIS, and it is our moral responsibility to help protect them now. True, the relationship between the Kurdish independence movement and the United States is a complicated one, but the Syrian Civil War has de facto and resolutely proclaimed that the people of Rojava are in fact our allies.
I personally am not shy on this issue, I fully support the Kurdish people’s struggle for independence, their aspirations of a real and working stateless democracy of the common people in the Middle East, and their commitment to ecology, social justice, feminism, and libertarian socialism. As a socialist and a supporter of the ideas of Murray Bookchin, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Every honest socialist ought to support Rojava, but in my opinion it is not only the leftists that should support Rojava, but everyone.
Anyone who cares at all about democracy, human freedom, and the future of human civilization ought to support Rojava. It is my firm belief that the Greek democracies of antiquity are to our modern civilization, as Rojava is to the world of tomorrow. It is not only leftists but liberals and conservatives, and even right-wing libertarians who ought to support Rojava. Yes Rojava is a left wing, democratic confederalist experiment, but even centrist news outlets admit that it’s the only real hope for democracy in the Middle East. In the midst of a bloody civil war it has emerged in impossible conditions as bastion of democracy, freedom and equality surrounded by unfreedom and despotism. The heroism and selflessness of the YPG and YPJ in their fight against ISIS is known throughout the world, and the last thing the United States, a nation that sees itself as a “defender of democracy”, a nation that invades sovereign nations on the basis of “defending democracy”, ought to do is leave democracy for the slaughter.
Trump has decided, seemingly on a whim, to withdraw all US forces from Syria. Under normal circumstances I would applaud this act, and before pondering the implications for Rojava, I initially did– bringing US troops home from the Middle East is long overdue– but these are not ordinary circumstances. Conservative TV pundits seem to be more concerned with exposing the hypocrisy of once “anti-war” liberals in their “horror” over Trump’s decision of withdraw from Syria than with the actual potential consequences of these events. Liberal TV pundits seem more concerned with Russia and the imperial interests of the United States than with the actual consequences of these events. The Kurdish people are friends of the people of the United States. The US government and the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria have until now been on mostly good terms and proven allies in the fight against ISIS. Moreover, the United States has a responsibility to protect and defend it’s allies, the Kurdish people and the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, who valiantly fought on the ground against ISIS. There can be no excuse for the moral cowardice involved if the United States refuses to come to the aid of its Kurdish allies.
No people, no matter how well natured, could ever forgive the United States, if after using the Kurdish people for its own ends as cannon fodder, left them to die in the wake of an aggressive Turkish invasion that recent history tells us would amount to genocide. Is that what the Kurdish people are to the United States? Cannon fodder? Or are they allies and heroes in the fight against ISIS? The actions of the United States in the next few weeks will tell us one way or another. To the American people they are heroes and allies, will the government act in accordance with the will of the people who are informed on these events? Will it stand idly by amid genocidal Turkish aggression against an innocent people who demand nothing than their rights? Against a people who demanded no more than what George Washington demanded from Great Britain at the dawn of this nation?
In closing I will leave the reader with a Press Release titled “Urgent Statement From The Emergency Committee For Rojava” titled “Don’t Let Rojava Become Another Yemen”, and I plea as they do, that every US citizen contact their local representative on this issue, and furthermore I ask that you be prepared to protest if urgent action is not taken:
With reports of the Trump administration planning to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, along with disturbing new documentation released today about Turkey’s war crimes in Afrin, we are writing to alert our elected representatives and the public to the dire consequences should Turkey attack Rojava (the Kurdish majority region in northeastern Syria) east of the Euphrates, as it has promised. Turkey appears poised to attack whether or not American troops are stationed there. On Dec. 12, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a speech saying a Turkish offensive is imminent. The Pentagon command responded that such a “unilateral action” would be “unacceptable,” but the US has warned Turkey similarly in the past with no real consequences. Turkey has already been signaling its intentions by sniping at civilians across the border and bombing Kurdish areas in Iraq including the Makhmour refugee camp and Mount Shingal, home to the Yazidis.
A year ago, without any provocation, Turkey crossed the border into Syria to invade and occupy Afrin, driving out its Kurdish citizens, looting and confiscating their property, taking hostages, and repopulating the area with jihadis and Arabs from other parts of Syria in a demographic change that amounts to ethnic cleansing. The U.S. ignored Kurdish appeals for help despite the coalition’s reliance on Rojava and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to defeat ISIS. Now the Trump Administration says it will withdraw troops from Syria.
We call on Congress and the American people to make sure this betrayal is not repeated and that Rojava’s extraordinary but fragile democracy is not endangered. It is critical that the U.S. take this stand because:
Rojava is the only democratically-run part of Syria based on secular, feminist, and ecological principles.
Its values oppose both fundamentalism and dictatorship.
Its pluralism and federalist vision of the future of Syria are a model for the entire region, as is the Kurds’ integration of other ethnicities and women into positions of power throughout society.
The SDF have consistently proven to be the only reliable US ally in the war against ISIS. Now that they have almost finished the job, and taken immense losses, it is essential that we honor our moral obligation to the people who fought ISIS by helping them realize a peaceful co-existence with all regional powers.
Rather than deserting Rojava, the U.S. must commit to giving the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (the official name of Rojava), economic and political as well as military assistance, and should put all possible pressure on Turkey to reopen peace negotiations with its own Kurds. As Aliza Marcus said recently in the New York Times, “The only way to build an alternative to the chaos and repressive dictatorship in the rest of Syria is through recognition of the Kurdish-led administration and active political engagement.”
The U.S. has faltered in Syria too many times in the past. It can prevent a bloodbath and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, if it demands Erdogan stand down. It can press Turkey to reopen peace negotiations with its own Kurdish population, stopping the endless cycle of violence. We urge the Trump Administration and Congress to act to defend Rojava before it is too late.
In Defense of Positive Liberty
November 11, 2018
Every so-called right today was once in olden times, or perhaps in times not so long ago, nothing more than a privilege for the few, a dream for the many. To say on the one hand “freedom is not free” and to ask on the other hand “who will pay for it?” is an irreconcilable contradiction. History teaches us that rights are not given, they are taken. Freedom is never free. Here the words of Proudhon ring ever true today, “We are convinced that freedom without socialism is privilege and injustice; socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality”. Liberty and equality do not contradict one another but on the contrary, they complement one another. The contradiction between liberty and equality that has allegedly plagued human society since 1789 is only a contradiction in capitalist society. Rights are not absolute and eternal even if society ought to recognize rights already won as such. Liberty is a dialectical process of constant expansion throughout human history. The privileges, even dreams of today become the rights of tomorrow. No one now has any right to deny this.
Even the American Founding Fathers understood that centralized private property was incompatible with their “vision” of bourgeois democracy. One can of course dream of going back to an “uncorrupted” American democracy rooted in decentralized ownership of private property if one can ignore the slavery, sexism, open racism, and genocide. Or one can naively believe in bourgeois democracy and the “willingness” of the ruling class to work together in the name of class harmony and utilitarianism for the common good. The assuredly revolutionary implications of the only other option available are too dangerous to even contemplate in mainstream politics. In the world where everything is possible; positive liberty, social democracy (in the classical sense of the word), and a fundamental social change that according to most climatologists deem necessary for humanity’s long term survival, is by some alchemy “impossible”.
I have provided a brief explanation of Positive Liberty by the encyclopedia at Marxists.org for those unfamiliar with the term:
“Negative freedom means the lack of forces which prevent an individual from doing whatever they want; Positive freedom is the capacity of a person to determine the best course of action and the existence of opportunities for them to realise their full potential.
The overwhelmingly dominant tendency in the history of bourgeois society has been to open up negative freedom, by removing feudal and other reactionary constraints on freedom of action. Free trade and wage-labour are the most characteristic bourgeois freedoms which have resulted from this history: free trade being the freedom of a capitalist to make a profit without restriction, and wage-labour being the freedom of a worker from any means of livelihood other than being able to sell their labour power to the highest bidder. Thus this negative bourgeois freedom is a kind of freedom which is real only for those who own the means of production.
Positive freedom has been built up almost exclusively as a result of the struggle of the working class: initially the legislation limiting hours of work, child labour and so on, later the creation of free compulsory education, public health systems, right to form trade unions, and so forth, freedoms which explicitly limit the freedom of the capitalists to exploit workers, but give worker the opportunity to develop as human beings.
The freedom people have is determined by the ethical system of the society they are born into, which is fundamentally based on the economic relations that society is based on: for example in capitalistic society a person is free to exploit wage, but labourers are not free to receive things like an education and health care in accordance to what they need; only in accordance to what they have to pay. In socialist society, a person is not free to exploit labourers (i.e. restrict the freedoms of labourers), but are free to own a more or less equal portion of the means of production in accordance to their own need and ability.
In hitherto existing Socialist states, like the Soviet Union and China, “negative freedoms” were severely restricted, while “positive freedoms” were advanced. All people had universal access to health care, full university education, etc, but people could only use those things they had in a particular way – in support of the government. In the most advanced capitalist governments, this relationship is the other way around: “positive freedoms” are restricted or do not exist all together, while “negative freedoms” are more advanced than ever before. A worker in capitalist society has the freedom to say whatever she believes, but she does not have the freedom to live if crippled by a disease regardless of how much money she has. A socialist society that has been established from a capitalist society will strengthen “negative freedoms”, while ushering in real “positive freedoms” across the board, ensuring equal and free access to social services by all.
The fullest development of positive freedom is impossible however without a further development of negative freedom – people cannot be forced to be free”
Entitlement and The myth of the “Self-Made Man”.
One of the staunchest criticisms of positive liberty is that its emergence is but another symptom of a deeply rooted affliction affecting America’s youth: entitlement. Traditional capitalist ethics are of course deeply rooted in the foundational documents and principles of the bourgeois-democratic republic itself. The Constitution with its Bill of Rights, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, and so forth are hailed as the highest of ideals. The very notion that we can transcend even them is to many conservatives, offensive, even if they’ll call it by any other name. Historical attempts rooted in the very valid criticism of the limitations of capitalism and bourgeois society have, albeit in extremely backward nations, brought forth extreme forms of despotism that no genuine socialist or libertarian ought to idolize. The memory of Stalinism weighs like a nightmare upon all who dream of a better world. But the conditions of today are not remotely similar to the conditions of pre-revolutionary France or colonial America, nor are they for that matter even remotely similar to the conditions of 1917 Russia. They have transcended their earlier forms of barbarism not in spite of the revolutionaries of 1774 and 1789, but because of them. Their ethical, political, social, and economic system is a product of their own time, of an era rooted not in material abundance, but material scarcity. Today for the first time in human history we find ourselves in a society rooted in material abundance. The contradiction between our hitherto existing ethical, social, political, and economic systems rooted in material scarcity and the world we find ourselves in today, will almost certainly lead to the biggest social revolution in all of human history. It is up to us, the people of the world, to determine what our future will look like and by what means it will be brought forth. It is not only logic, but Liberty herself that demands we take from them that which exists that is good and move beyond that which is not. For Liberty today cannot stagnate, she can either expand or die.
It was as absurd to speak of a right to healthcare in 1774 as it was to speak of a right to a free press in pre-agricultural society. That which society does not have the means to provide cannot be guaranteed to all as a right but on paper, and a society that does not take its proclaimed rights seriously often has none (as we see under Stalinism). But when a society is productive enough to provide something deemed a necessary attribute of social existence by most members of society, to all members of society, it is obligated to do so– not as a privilege, but as a right. Once again it must be stressed that freedoms are not given, they are taken.
It is impractical to speak of any real positive liberty under capitalism. Here we must speak in explicitly class terminology. Bourgeois democracy, insofar as it remains bourgeois, by design can and will in every possible instance, ceaselessly attempt to retract those positive liberties won by the common people precisely because the instruments of power are in the hands of the bourgeoisie. In spite of constant pressure from below to keep what concessions are won, the bourgeoisie will always try to restore society to its “rightful” equilibrium– negative liberty without positive liberty. In the United Kingdom, the wealthy proclaim universal healthcare to be a “total failure” while the poor see it as a blessing. The rich man who pays more taxes to society, who can no longer get better treatment because he can pay more, has every reason to complain. But the poor man who under American-style capitalism could barely afford a mere Doctor’s visit, has little fundamental in regards to healthcare to complain about. He or she who declares universal healthcare, or any positive liberty for that matter, to be a “resounding success” or a “total disaster” without taking into account the class implications misses the mark entirely. This is the essence of positive liberty: it already exists as a privilege to the rich in a society productive enough to provide it to all. As such, it ceases to be a privilege but a right. Reaction to such declarations by those in power, and by those indoctrinated into the prevailing ideology of bourgeois society, is inevitable. It is precisely that reaction which this essay seeks to usurp.
Still people go on about positive liberty being nothing more than “entitlements”, “handouts”! What then is considered a handout? Is the entire existing human species not arrogantly “entitled” to the historical and technological progress earned by the blood of countless generations past? Yet we ourselves shed no blood. What right then do we have? Should we not return to caves so we can through blood and sweat “earn” what we currently enjoy without a second thought? Or is it of the same nature the socialists and left libertarians attribute to the concept of positive liberty— a birthright in any society technologically capable of recognizing it as such?
The question here is not at all an innocent one. Violence, like liberty, comes in many different forms. He who murders his neighbor commits an act of violence just as he who refuses to shelter his neighbor who is freezing to death out in the cold with no place to stay. To quote my fried, comrade, and fellow blogger Christian Chiakulas:
“In a world that produces enough food to feed each and every one of us, starvation is violence. In a society where vacant houses outnumber homeless people six to one, homelessness is violence. A country in which health insurance companies rake in billions in profits while leaving nearly thirty million people uninsured and unable to access medical care is a violent society.
This is the everyday violence of capitalism – if it is profitable to let somebody die, or languish in abject poverty, we do so. That is a violent society.”
Sympathy With The Super-Villains
October 19, 2018
In superhero movies, the protagonist often “saves the world”. This rarely of course means saving the structural integrity of the planet we live on, but rather “the world” symbolizes the status quo. The “bad guy” is demonized to the extreme and holds no coherent theoretical or scientific basis for their critique of the status quo, much less a solution. In Blacklist, the anti-capitalist antagonist is “General Ludd” (referring to the luddites of early capitalism who destroyed the means of production in an effort to stifle the industrial revolution, rather than seizing and democratizing the means of production). They are not Marxists with a coherent idea of how capitalism works, they are Luddites. In The Dark Knight Rises, we never see on the ground what “the people” do when given real political power. We see demonizations, but never what actually happens. This I believe is intentional. Black Panther’s Killmonger holds a mostly valid critique of world imperialism and institutional racism, but his solution is the substitution of one form of oppression and exploitation with another, something no real anti-imperialist or historic member of the Black Panther Party would ever advocate. In Mission Impossible the “evil anarchists” also do not hold a remotely sensical world-view. The critique of institutional forms of oppression, exploitation, and domination present in actual, logical anarchist thought is replaced with the slogan, seemingly invented for the film “the greater the suffering, the greater the peace”. This too is intentional.
Bat Man and Iron Man are both billionaires (in fact we find this to be the case in many superhero movies, tv shows, and comics from Blacklist to Archer). If we take off the rosy eyed glasses that portray these superheroes in a purely benevolent light, do we not find that our sympathies lie with the villains who are opposed to the systems that require a “homeless man to be given a nice coat from a kind billionaire” to begin with? Naturally, the super-villains as they are presented to us are hardly admirable. But we should not be so quick to dismiss their aims either. As Trotsky once said, “A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains – let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are equals before a court of morality!”