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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Privateering Vs the Commons

Klepto Policies

George Lakoff recommended using the word Privateering to describe klepto political policies like privatization. That term turns out to be extremely appropriate for understanding the modern confidence scheme movement that calls itself "conservative." They like to say they are for "Capitalism" and against "Socialism" but privateering is a bait and switch operation where fake capitalists acquire rents and usurp property they can use to extract loot. It is not what most people think of when they think of "free enterprise."

The Sea Dog Tradition

The term "privateer" ought to push buttons and make alarms go off for people who are paying attention. Our US mob always wants to be legal, so it buys politicians to legalize what would be criminal anywhere else. It turns out our own Mafia is the inheritors of the "Brotherhood of the Coast" and a tradition of piracy (Sea Dogs) that still infects our politics and business. it truly can be seen as an ideology that masques itself as "capitalism."

An Ideology of Privateering

This ideology embraces the following basic principles:

FDR called these the principles of “economic royalism” & hinges on the following beliefs:

The notions that:

  1. that all things, including people, are property that can be owned.
  2. that contracts, even coerced contracts, are sacred.
  3. that people, or their labor, can be owned by a person or corporation thru the power of contract.
  4. that a corporation can usurp personhood.
  5. that private government is superior to public government.
  6. that public government doesn't invest & can't have a positive role in economic or social progress.
  7. that profits come before any notions of public good or responsibility.

Privateering As titles of nobility

The Far Right calls a government that provides basic services "socialism", but they practice the privatization of anything that nature provides all of us and its placement into private hands. Land, minerals, water resources, all traditionally belong to “the commons” and yet we give them to private persons or privately owned companies to manage and extract wealth from. If someone by an accident of birth comes to own a part of nature's bounty, that is privilege not effort, labor or merit.

Enclosing the Commons

A privateering ideology is also an ideology of nobility. The constitution says that no titles of nobility should be granted. But it seems that granting property to self appointed nobility, that they can extract rents from, is fine.

When what was previously run for the common good, is enclosed, turned out for profit. The term for that is "enclosing the commons." It is analogous to when land barons started stringing barbed wire across the plains and killing wandering cattlemen (free rangers). It is analogous to giving people "titles of nobility", except it usually is laundered through legal processes.

Titles of Nobility

We give titles of nobility to Owners of;

  • Sports Team Owners
  • Communications, energy and transport companies.
  • Monopolies, copyrights and patents.
  • Insurance, Health Care.

Extracting Rents from monopoly

And these owners extract profits from profiteering in medicines, health care products, and by overcharging everyone. They don't invest in new medicines or technologies so much as extract rents from existing products. When they do invest in new products they mark up the products so high very little of the investment is actual investment.

A rentier doesn't care if the building, corporation or land he owns is kept in good order, or if people eat or survive. All they care about is extracting their rents.

Criminal Contracts

At the basis of oppression is the enforcement of criminal, unjust or oppressive contracts. US law has always treated criminal contracts as unenforceable. But when government is corrupt, it legalizes what would have been considered criminal in the past. Thus people are saddled with huge debt, with interest, for attending college; with criminal loans for their homes. With unconscionable rents. And have no recourse. This is privateering. It is legalized looting.

Contracts as a Vehicle of Slavery

Our country outlawed slavery, but it comes back to life through abusive contracts and abusive use of the law. Those who can't pay debts used to get put in debtor prisons. The system is trying to bring those back. The government outlawed the use of bankruptcy for dealing with education debts, and people are losing everything to debt for healthcare. Getting an education is a public good, not only for the student, but for society. Health care is a "non-refusable" public good where people will die if they can't get what they are unable to afford. Extracting profits and using debt to enslave people who need those services is engaging in modern slavery. Privateers used to have to grab and smuggle people from Africa. All they have to do now is print money through a bank and loan it to someone in our days.This is legal piracy, loan sharking and enslaving people.

Usurping Personhood

The Federal Government, thru, corrupt legislators and judges gave rights to corporations as artificial persons, in the 1880s, at the very same time they were taking it from the persons that the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments were intended to protect. Privateers, as economic royalists, love the Royal "we." The Corporation as a "person" asserts the rights to having a religious belief, to telling its employees what to do, and the right to enslave employees, take their labor and stiffing them on promised compensation. Many a CEO claims to speak for all his employees, they often claim to own their labor, innovations and enterprise. And they take a cut of everything.

And thanks to corrupt SCOTUS, they claim a right to bribe and extort politicians into doing their bidding with unlimited corporate money. Monopolies and centralized power are putting pirates in charge of the country.

Government and Investment

A Convincing case has been made that without public investment, there would be little private wealth and it would be so poorly distributed that there would no longer be what we now think of as a middle class. The argument of con artists is that public investment doesn't improve society. This was a Reagan Era trope and is patently false. But it is also an excuse for privateering. The fact is that without public investment; no electrical grid, oil, canals, railroads, roads and highways. In fact no real civilization. The government is not allowed to treat its capital investment as capital due to accounting tricks perpetuated by pirates over a period of centuries. Even our money is privatized by legal pirates. Since the beginning of the country the absurdity of issuing private notes based on treasury notes has been obvious to critics. Yet, we depreciate direct treasury notes and let the Federal Reserve serve as a tongue louse on our financial system.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/distribution-wealth-little-productivity-everything-power/

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Wage Slavery & Taxes

In a paper published by Edward J. McCaffery titled "The Death of the Income Tax" he explains how the income tax became a wage tax & was suberted by generations of work by armies of lawyers, lobbyists & paid pseudo-schollars.
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3242314#.W5DxjAm3U4g.facebook
When the income tax was first proposed, its target was to recoup some of the money created by the use of private money$ (currently Federal Reserve Notes & accounting money$ loaned into existence by banks), Corporate privilege, & Land Ownership.
All of these income was derived from paper (notational) money and the interest on that money. This was unearned income "a.k.a. economic rent, passive income, land values"), from privileges granted by government to a self selected few & mostly earned jointly by the privateers & a crew of commoners from common property; but not shared with the crew, i.e. privateering.
Anyway the income tax made sure financial capitalism generated profit for everyone while moderating the tyrannical impulses of the private separate interests who otherwise would have continued to build massive forces on the backs of labor. It's gradual demise reflects the efforts of those powerful interests & their avatars over a period of more than 70 years.
It was never intended to be a tax on labor. Income from labor is earned, compensation for energy expended & little is net income after food, transport, housing & other taxes (economic rent is a form of private tax).  Taxing labor compensation violates basic principles of fairness and is thus unjust oppression, especially when it was never the original purpose of the income tax! But anyway,
Read the article so you'll see for yourself:
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3242314#.W5DxjAm3U4g.facebook

I'm publishing now, as this is a small piece of a longer argument.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

How We Democrats Inadvertently set ourselves back

In an Article in the Atlantic, Matt Stoller describes how we Democrats inadvertently let our party's guard down, through our blindness towards Banking and Finance. He describes how young reformers in the Watergate fueled Democratic Revolution of the early 70s took down important new Dealers, like Wright Patman, who had been resisting the power of banking and finance. The successes of the labor movement, reform movement, populism, seemed to have tamed banking and finance to the point where many Democrats were blind to its threat enough to feel free to take down the "older generation." Thus unleashing them again. Matt writes:


Article in the Atlantic:
How Democrats killed their Populist Soul

We had, more or less, tamed the Trusts in the 30s through the modernization and articulation of basic rights arguments that applied equally to the laborer and the wealthy. FDR had established a progressive ideology formed on the fusion of progressive, basic rights theory and populist ideas:

“Underpinning the political transformation of the New Deal was an intellectual revolution, a new understanding of property rights. In a 1932 campaign speech known as the Commonwealth Club Address, FDR defined private property as the savings of a family, a Jeffersonian yeoman-farmer notion updated for the 20th century. By contrast, the corporation was not property. Concentrated private economic power was “a public trust,” with public obligations, and the continued “enjoyment of that power by any individual or group must depend upon the fulfillment of that trust.”[Stoller]

The titans of the day were not businessmen:

“but “princes of property,” and they had to accept responsibility for their power or be restrained by democratic forces. The corporation had to be fit into the constitutional order.” [Stoller]

But most of them had grown up in a world where progressive/populist ideas were the status quo, and no one seriously challenged them. They had forgotten the history of the movement and the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices that had gotten them access to college, to good jobs:

“Remember, it was the great bankers and managers of the “money trusts,” such as J.P. Morgan, who sat astride wide swaths of corporate America through their investment and lending power, membership on boards of directors, and influence over industrial titans. Among other things, they maintained a sufficient concentration of power to keep prices up, workers disorganized, and politics firmly within their grasp.” [Stoller]

And they had let their guard down. Thus Trump has a three fingered thing going. Taft Hartley had killed he labor movement by defenestrating it's major popular tools (general strike, power to bind employers into closed shops, etc.....). And now Democrats had shifted their focus to the Environment, to Anti-War issues, and to civil rights, all good,

But at the very moment they were reforming the Country on so many levels, the Trusts were gathering their forces, rallying big business (example is the Powell Memo), & buying influence, University Chairs, Think Tanks and "libertarian" or "Supply side" academics. Ronald Reagan, for example, having been a new dealer, fashioned an entire ideology aimed at replacing every single New Deal idea, including “public trust” with something different and darker. He replaced Public Trust with a joke; “Government is not the solution, Government is the Enemy.” He went after labor. He went after access to College for the middle class (to end “permissiveness!”), and nobody in our Party saw it coming because we'd missed a key point of what FDR and Wright Patman had been focused on. And that is that:

“The essence of populist politics is that political and economic freedom are deeply intertwined—that real democracy requires not just an opportunity to vote but an opportunity to compete in an open marketplace. This was the kind of politics that the Watergate Babies accidentally overthrew.” [Stoller]

We Enabled Trickle down Economics by being blind to the power of money and its influence. Our failure to continue to focus equally on protecting genuine free markets and fighting monopoly, let the Financial Industrialists start to move their operations south (in more ways than one) and abroad, use State Law and Taft Hartley to prevent Unions following them, and to undermine the ideology of the New Deal. By the end of the 70s, the counter attack was in full motion and US Democrats never saw it coming. Many in Labor, having, seemingly, been abandoned by progressive politicians, even embraced the Reagan Counter revolution and its overt propaganda promoting the virtues of extreme wealth, selfish property rights theories, Randian "libertarianism" and Friedman's Trickle Down economic ideas. Those coupled with increasing demagoguery on minorities set us back dearly.

We Democrats need to get that spirit back. Government either serves the people or it is tyranny. If "Government is the enemy" it is because that government is behaving in a tyrannical manner. But Patman's generation understood this. Matt writes:

“To get a sense of how rural Democrats used to relate to voters, one need only pick up an old flyer from the Patman archives in Texas:”
“Here Is What Our Democratic Party Has Given Us” was the title. [Stoller]

And the title spoke for itself.

“There were no fancy slogans or focus-grouped logos. Each item listed is a solid thing that was relevant to the lives of conservative white Southern voters in rural Texas: Electricity. Telephone. Roads. Social Security. Soil conservation. Price supports. Foreclosure prevention.” [Stoller]

And he notes:

“Foreclosures protected homes against bankers. Farm-to-market roads allowed communities to organize around markets. Social Security protected one’s livelihood in the form of unemployment insurance and old-age benefits. Price supports for family farms protected them from speculators. And rural electrification and telephones shielded communities from the predations of monopolistic utilities.” [Stoller]

This was the "deliver the bacon" pragmatic heart of Populism. Nobody likes "Obamacare" but everyone wants affordable health care. More importantly, these kinds of service represent empowerment of local communities and the people living in them. That Generation understood the principles of Democracy and Commonwealth. Matt writes:

“Packaged together, these measures epitomized the idea that citizens must be able to govern themselves through their own community structures, or as Walt Whitman put it: “train communities through all their grades, beginning with individuals and ending there again, to rule themselves.” Patman’s ideals represented a deep understanding that sovereign citizens governing sovereign communities were the only protection against demagoguery.” [Stoller]

We need to get that spirit back!

PS -- Not Neoliberals

And note, This narrative is why the far left labels the Democratic Party as “neoliberal” but that is a pejorative, stretch and misuse of the term. We may have been collaborators with the pirates, but that is because they are cons and they were promising us all the things we were trying to accomplish; equity before the law, equal opportunity, decent wages and benefits, etc... That once they had rebuilt their monopoly power they discarded all those promises and put on their pirate king regalia, doesn't mean we were with them all the way.

We were had. We were duped.

That is a much more severe judgment, and most of those who are adamant about "neoliberalism" now, were once just as duped as we were. People would rather concoct conspiracy theories than face the truth head on.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/how-democrats-killed-their-populist-soul/504710/

Saturday, September 15, 2018

When We Practiced Democratic Republicanism

Democratic Principles Under Assault

Subverting Democracy One Organization at a Time Part I

Our Democracy is being subverted at all levels. In my most recent post "Syndicalism Lives" I was looking at the notion of Syndicalism and how it was used, first to help the labor movement get some representation for the people who work for a living, and then the concept hijacked by Fascists in Europe. While reading and ruminating on this in an article in the Atlantic, Losing the Democratic Habit, by Yoni Applebaum. While reading it I remembered that Democratic Syndicalism originated in the United States. It grew out of habits of Democracy that our forebears practiced. Specifically it was a form of "voluntary association" made necessary by the oppression of businessmen on laborers. We used to practice Democracy in our associations and communities.

The Practices of Democratic Republicanism

The Democratic principles behind the second amendment, volunteerism and Republican forms, were once things that were engrained in our society. In the days of our Grandparents and their forebears, they were habits.

The writer Yoni Applebaum writes in the Atlantic recently that:

“In the early years of the United States, Europeans made pilgrimages to the young republic to study its success. How could such a diverse and sprawling nation flourish under a system of government that originated in small, homogeneous city-states?” Yoni Applebaum: Losing the Democratic Habit

The Answer was that we practiced democracy habitually. In the Atlantic article, Yoni Applebaum asserts that the answer was:

“To almost every challenge in their lives, Americans applied a common solution. They voluntarily bound themselves together, adopting written rules, electing officers, and making decisions by majority vote.”

This was such a habit, that when an organization didn't follow these principles, people would get wary and upset.

Replicating Republican Principles to Children Games

He notes that this way of life started early.

“Children in their games are wont to submit to rules which they have themselves established, and to punish misdemeanors which they have themselves defined,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. “The same spirit pervades every act of social life.” Atlantic

I remember those sorts of games when we were kids. I didn't realize that they were less common among my own children's generation.

Basic Principles of Democracy Taught on the Playground

I've been saying that "without local democracy" there is no democracy in our Republic. Formal democracy at the local level may have been stronger in New England than in the South at the founding of our country. But it's replication locally nationwide in the form of volunteer associations kept it strong nationwide by exerting pressure on businesses and other groups to respect democratic values. Democracy wasn't only taught in civics class it was practiced on the playground and in back yards.

Well Constituted Republican Forms

If one is going to take an "originalist" approach to the Constitution, then one has to understand the principles that underlay it. The bedrock principles of our Democratic, Federated, Republic, include:

  1. Volunteerism and participatory associations.
  2. Separation of powers, Executive, Judicial and Legislative bodies.
  3. That all people have a right to say in all their governing bodies.
  4. Respect for Majoritarian, rules based and democratic processes.
  5. Republican principles of representation that bind people together bottom up.
  6. Checks and Balances that moderate tendencies to centralize power and resource control.

These are bedrock principles necessary to a well constituted Federated Republican Democracy.

From Obvious to Obscure

If I'd been writing about this, as late as 50 years ago, these principles would have seemed "tautologies." People would have been calling me "Mr Obviousman." That this is no longer obvious is a deliberate result. But first let's use the Wayback machine and look at the past. Yoni's article demonstrates how Democracy was once replicated nearly everywhere. This was true for generations.

Basic Democratic Principles as Bedrock

Not that long ago, people practiced parliamentary procedure, a replication of our Republican forms, as a matter of course. At one time the majority of organizations people participated in were organized on the well constituted principles of Republican Democracy.

Participatory Associations

Yoni Applebaum describes that most voluntary organizations organized on a model similar to that of the USA government:

“Local chapters elected representatives to state-level gatherings, which sent delegates to national assemblies.” Atlantic

Yoni notes that:

“Associations are created, extended, and worked in the United States more quickly and effectively than in any other country,” marveled the British statesman James Bryce in 1888. These groups had their own systems of checks and balances. Executive officers were accountable to legislative assemblies; independent judiciaries ensured that both complied with the rules. One typical 19th-century legal guide, published by the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal order, compiled 2,827 binding precedents for use in its tribunals.” Atlantic

Democratic Associations Win

Organizations as diverse as the KKK, NAACP, or the laborers of the Workers of the World, organized on these principles. For Labor, organizing on these principles gave workers power over otherwise hostile forces. Concepts like the General Strike, Closed Shop, got their power from democracy. A Trade Union, only representing one skill-set had no chance against the combined forces of judicial, law enforcement and private security. But the ability to assert themselves en-mass and achieve common goals like minimum wages, 8 hour work days, and other basic rights. Democracy rules, autocracy drools.

Volunteerism and Participatory Associations

The founders may have argued about who should be a citizen, and didn't always take their own words seriously that "all men are created equally. But the elites who founded the country were not allowed to backslide. The founders included the tens of thousands of citizens who took Jefferson's words seriously. Indeed Jefferson staged an electoral revolution in 1799 that changed the country based on using democratic principles to organize his followers.

Bottom up Democracy

The founding generation of Americans took those principles seriously and asserted that they applied to all of our ancestors equally. Even where the founders ignored their own principles, such as with black people and slavery, the people so ignored refused to be silenced and struggled for, and eventually achieved a place in our republic.

Volunteerism Equals Stepping up

Washington, Jefferson and Adams based their ideas on an engaged and participating citizenry, where ordinary people would step up and take a role in governing themselves. Washington so valued this concept he modeled himself on Cincinnatus, who left the plow to be a General for Rome and returned for it when his duty was done. A fundamental equality is based on everyone stepping up where necessary, and nobody letting tyrants run rough shod over them.

Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances

Separation of powers is the principle that "no man can be his own judge" and that power tends to be corrupt, so it needs to be distributed in a manner that prevents any one person from arrogating it. This is the principle behind "checks and balances". We not only need to separate powers, but people need a place to appeal when power is abused.

Americans practiced separation of powers at all levels not merely the Federal Level, out of respect for these vital principles. If a town had a magistrate who was also the Police chief or Sheriff and also the Mayor, a fundamental wrong was sensed. It is part of our literature of corrupt officials and resistance. And the purpose of democracy is to prevent such corruption. We Knew:

Corruption is bad government.

The Right to A Say

Related to Checks and Balances is the notion that everyone should have a right to a say in the places where he/she lives, labors and participates. This is also a principle of good government. Without the right to appeal inequity, the people who are engaging in unjust behavior assert impunity. People with impunity bully others. This leads to resources being hoarded, misallocated and abused. Moreover, good decision making requires input from everyone who has knowledge of what is going on. The basic right to a say, can prevent bad decision making. History is full of people, like the Greek Cassandra, who spoke truth, were ignored, with tragic consequences. In Germany, which practices our lost principles of democracy, workers help guide management to more efficient and better processes because they have a say in the operations of the companies they work for.

Genuine Rule of Law = Consent of the Governed

When people have a say in government, understand process, then they understand majority rule. Even if they don't agree with the majority, they'll go along with them until they can change their minds. This makes 51% or 60% decisions into 100% peaceful decisions and allows actions even when people don't completely agree.

Respect for Process

Respecting process is the basis of lawfulness. If everyone respects the law, then there isn't as much need for police and coercion. There will always be disagreement and disaffection. But a healthy polity, having a say in the decision making learns to respect rule of law too. People used to understand this better.

Bottom up Representation

Bottom up representation is essential to organizing masses. people who all live in the same place might be able to practice direct democracy, but when people have separate functions and locations they need to come together through representation and organize their demands through local democracy. Successful organizations establish chapters and subchapters recursively and each is run on democratic principles and involves representations from its parts. Our Ancestors understood this. In the modern age we confuse mass opinion with democracy, but successful democracy involves bottom up discussions, legislation and inputs to decisions. Leaders lead better if they have to convince more people than a simple 51% majority of the whole.

Even Corporations were once more Democratic

When I was younger I remember successful minority stockholder challenges of giant corporations via stockholder meetings. As a student of Democracy I remember how FDR supported the right of people to join unions and have a say in their government. People used to experience local democracy not only in Union membership but in various mutual assistance organizations like Moose Lodges and the like. I barely remembered practicing democracy as a child til I saw Yoni Applebaum's reference to Alexis De Toqueville. But I remember endless votes on the rules of the games we played.

Democratic versus Autocratic Institutions

Yoni Applebaum notes that “Volunteerism” alone doesn't teach Self Government. At least not the way we practice it today. But that was not always the case. Yoni may not know that Militia and even Continental Army Members used to select their own non-commissioned officers. Volunteer organizations used to practice republican democracy too, at least in auxiliary decision making.

He also claims:

“church attendance, and social-media participation are [also] not schools for self-government; they do not inculcate the habits and rituals of democracy.” Atlantic

Yoni probably doesn't know that many early Americans were Presbyterians or Quakers, and many church members practiced democratic forms in their churches, if not in their church management in its social groups. Social media started as news groups where anyone could say pretty much anything. Moderators were found to be necessary because it wasn't constituted with republican principles in mind. It is not the Volunteering, Church participation or social media participation that is stopping the inculcation of democratic principles, it is the disregard for those constitutional principles by the owners, operators, preachers and officers of those institutions that is subverting them. In some of the social groups I was in we used surveys and votes to decide issues. It can be done. That it isn't is intentional. Which makes what is happening subversion.

The Consequences of Subversion

The Destruction of our Democracy by people who's primary interest is personal gain at the expense of others, is an intentional thing. The goal of Exploitive, Manipulative, Amoral and Dishonest managers and owners, is usually a continuance of their dominance and exploitation of the resources they control. It is no accident that:

“as young people participate less in democratically run organizations, they show less faith in democracy itself.” Atlantic

That “The golden age of the voluntary association” is not over, “thanks to the automobile, the television, and the two-income household”, but is under assault by people who saw democracy as a threat to their personal power and influences. Henry Ford envisioned networks of highways depopulating cities. The Television started as a place that provided public services and paid for them with entertainment and advertising. The other institutions and services which are no longer truly representative or run on democratic principles all have the common attribute of being run by and driven by private separate profit motive and people who benefit from an authoritarian population. If Americans are “no longer inclined to leave the comforts and amusements of home for the lodge hall or meeting room.” that doesn't mean they don't long for the sense of comity and community of being involved with others. It is more the fact that these institutions are no longer available, denied to them, or relevant to their current situation. The “revival of participatory democracy” isn't built on “fraternal orders and clubs. &rduqo; [Quotes from Atlantic article]

One thing that is certain is that once power is lost to centralization and hierarchy, it is difficult for people to reacquire it. It will probably take legislation & legal enforcement to take back our voluntary associations from top down hierarchical and profiteering institutions. We have thousands of "Associations" that are essentially subscription services with little voice from the rank and file. But the AARP, AAA, etc... are voluntary associations that would meet the needs of their members better if the members had an actual say in their function.

The real culprits are the spread of authoritarian religion, privateering corporations and just plain authoritarianism in general. When there are 10 TV stations owned by the same monopolists, that is subversion. When people are told what to think and not given an opportunity to discuss the facts, that is authoritarianism.

Yoni is right here:

“Young Americans of all backgrounds deserve the chance to write charters, elect officers, and work through the messy and frustrating process of self-governance. They need the opportunity to make mistakes, and resolve them, without advisers intervening. Such activities shouldn’t be seen as extracurricular, but as the basic curriculum of democracy. In that respect, what students are doing—club sports, student council, the robotics team—matters less than how they’re doing it and what they’re gaining in the process: an appreciation for the role of rules and procedures in managing disputes.” Atlantic

It's not just young Americans, it is working Americans in all walks of life. It is apartment dwellers. It is people living in sprawling developments with no mayor, city council or say over water, sewer, cable or power supply decision making at a local level. School Children need to judge miscreants instead of sending 12 year olds to prison. Class Presidents need to be more involved in School than simply being the prettiest or most popular kids. Democracy is a right not a mere privilege. And Authoritarianism is not an alternative, but a curse. The “the cult of efficiency” is a con.

To be Continued.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/10/losing-the-democratic-habit/568336/

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Syndicalism Lives

Syndicates and syndicalism

Syndicalism was a movement, originated by labor, to organize workers so they could defend themselves against workplace oppression and exploitation. The term derived from the word syndicate.

Syndicate, noun: ˈsindikət'
1. a group of individuals or organizations combined to promote some common interest.
"large-scale buyouts involving a syndicate of financial institutions"
verb: ˈsindəˌkāt
1. control or manage by a syndicate.
"the loans are syndicated to a group of banks"

Syndicalism and the Labor Movement

The labor movement used the concept of syndication to organize themselves into general labor groups that worked together rather than against each other. They used various tools to win concessions from business & employers. These tools include The General Strike. Unfortunately, principles that work objectively for one, work for all. Fascists, Organized Crime, and Business all hijacked the concept of Syndicate.

Syndicalism

In the 1930s the Fascists took an idea, syndicalism, that had been a tool intended for the labor movement, even Marxism, and turned it into a tool of repression. After the 30s the tool passed out of the vocabulary of both the left and the right. Why? Because the left saw it as no longer a tool that helped them. The right didn't like the name "Syndicalism" because, even though it had become their tool, it still echoed memories of the labor movement. The term "syndicate" lived on as a description for organized crime. Organized crime had also found syndicalism as a powerful tool. Business and organized crime continued to practice it's principles. But they no longer used the term. A few fanatic "anarcho syndicalists" use the term. You can hear them state what their version of the principles of syndicalism are, but their arguments make no sense (see example here: http://www.politicalsciencenotes.com/articles/top-10-principles-of-syndicalism-explained/394) for an example.

Taft Hartley

In the United States the tool of the General Strike was outlawed in the United States in 1947.

The Taft–Hartley Act prohibited
jurisdictional strikes,
wildcat strikes,
solidarity or political strikes,
secondary boycotts, and mass picketing,
closed shops,
and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns.

Taft Hartley didn't kill Unions right away. It simply defenestred them so that they'd whither away over the next years. Meanwhile Businesses organized, and used syndication to gain the power they'd gotten congress to take from power, for themselves.

Syndication for Dictatorship

The core notion of syndicalism; is that people are stronger together. The lesson of syndicalism, is that when people divide, those with the most resources and best organization, prevail. The corporate world used those principles to get control over academia, create think tanks, and mostly to organize themselves. Organizations like the Conservative National Policy group, ALEC, and etc..., exert massive power over our country. Business leaders thought long term. They created the Federalist Society years ago in order to prepare a generation of lawyers to take over our legal system and change our laws. Citizens United removed limits on what businessmen could donate (bribe) but did nothing to rescind Taft Hartley. Hence the imbalance of forces.

Before Taft Hartley made these things illegal, they'd been illegal before and labor had simply ignored them. The General Strike is still powerful. People working together works. Syndicalist principles live on.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Bipedal swagger, Apes and Machiavelli


From Video

Just a quick commentary on the text and subtext of the following humorous TED talk by Frans De Waal from November 2017:

https://youtu.be/BPsSKKL8N0s

The author of that talk, is a leading scientist in the subject of our Great Ape Cousins. He deftly points out the similarity in behavior between Alpha males among them and among them. But he also draws out points about authoritarianism and human bullying that are worth considering. Like Machiavelli, when folks read his earlier works, they took his works as a primer on successful tyranny and bullying. He notes how Newt Gringrich made his book on Alpha Males required reading among Republicans, to their eternal detriment and shame. But more importantly he talks about how the most successful Alpha males use Strategy, not brute force. This was the same lesson Machiavelli was trying to impart:

Strategy = making alliances, being (or at least seeming to be) kind and generous to the downtrodden. That sometimes two alphas can beat a hated bully alpha. That respecting former alpha's is as much in our nature as bullying. That kindness is as much a feature of Great Ape, and human, nature, as cruelty.”

Anyway, watch the video, it's entertaining and informative.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Authoritarian versus Totalitarian

Left or Right, Authoritarian or Totalitarian?

The Fascist movements were totalitarian movements. In office they were always authoritarian but not always totalitarian. The difference is a matter of degree not intent. Both totalitarian and authoritarian movements and governments are extreme and have certain common characteristics, left or right. The difference is in the word "total." My source here is "Origins of Totalitarianism" [Hannah Arendt], Altemeyer and other scholars.

Totalitarian Attributes

  • Total power to rule by a mob like party obedient to the movement and its leadership.
  • Absolute power residing in the head of State
  • Enforcement of ideological conformity via State and extralegal power.
  • Total control of the military.
  • Controlled Communication, enforced by police, party members & spies
  • Arbitrary use of police power to enforce obedience
  • Centralization of both economic and political power

Authoritarian Attributes

There is overlap between totalitarian and Authoritarian Attributes. But the defining word here is "authoritarian".

  • Authoritarian movements create mythical narratives of an idealized future, look back on an idealized past, offer easy solutions to current problems but for the behavior of some enemy.
  • Authoritarian movements create heroes and expect people to worship and follow the leader.
  • They find and setup Scapegoats, teach grievience & demonize "enemies."
  • They require obedience, faith and respect for the authority of people and doctrines deemed "authorized."
  • They expect obedience and outward expression of faith in that Dogma.
  • Their Dogma is always conflictive towards heretics, non-movement members & scapegoats.
  • Their followers put faith over reality and therefore engage in pretzel thinking to maintain their deification of their leaders. They depend on exaggerated cognitive dissonance, compartmentalization, fantasy. This creates a deep hypocrisy, & self blindness, in members of the movement.

Dichotomy between Attributes of Leaders and Followers

Authoritarian movements, in power, may or may not achieve totalitarian power. But the movements are almost always totalitarian whether or not they act that way in power. Authoritarian movements are based on fandom. They are cults, political or religious become political. The fearless leader (alive or from some past mythical figure) is like a God to the followers. His infallibility is often in inverse proportion to the actual capability, decency or wisdom of current leaders. The followers have one set of characteristics. The leaders range from Authoritarian follower attributes to similar Exploitive, Manipulative, Amoral and Dishonest [EMAD] traits of the top leadership.

Related posts:
Fighting Authoritarianism
Review of Altemeyer

EMAD leaders

I've been writing an extended review of the Falangists in connection to what started as highly personal reading about the playwrite Federico Garcia Lorca and his death at the hands of the Falangists. The fearless leader of the Falangists was initially Jose Antonio Primo De Rivera, who set the agenda but died before he got into power. General Francisco Franco took his place. Franco was more authoritarian in power than totalitarian. But it was still deadly to be a democratic republican or a critic of the Falangists once he was in power. I wanted to put a post out to explain the distinction between authoritarian power and totalitarian power. Authoritarian is Catholic and Orthodox but usually lawful. Totalitarian is radical.

Left or Right do not refer to Economics

The word "right wing" if it refers to economics, is misleading. In France in the 1790s when the term was first invented, the left was "on the side of the people" literally, and the "right" were the hierarchs of prelates, landlords/nobility and powerful interests of the ancient regime. Over time the terms came to be applied to economic dogmas. However, the right was authoritarian in France. It wanted to keep power and privilege over the people. Eventually the leaders of the revolution emerged as equally EMAD and their followers as continuing to be authoritarian followers.

Authoritarian Followers

Therefore in the case of talking about Authoritarian followers "right wing" refers to the original definition of the right as being that on the side of authority and hierarchy. Compared to the modern USA right wing, the Falange, Italian Fascistas and even the Nazis, seem economically "socialist" and "left wing" by comparison to the aspirations and totalitarian dreams of the far right in our country. This is a diversion. An example of Totalitarian propaganda is the use of deceptive gray propaganda, "white propaganda" which is at least somewhat accurate, and

Black Propaganda Against Democracy

Conserving Praxis while adapting propaganda to the Times

There are major similarities between the American Hard right and the 1930s Falangist Parties in Spain. There are also differences between the content of their propaganda and modern propaganda, but the same underlying method (praxis) is the same. The similarities and differences between the Falange 26 points, the Nazi agenda and the USA planks of our own Hard right reflect underlying common desires for power and accommodations to the conditions of the country they are using propaganda to try to win over. Fascist movements are ruthless and machiavellian their leaders have a defined agenda, but don't really care about facts in order to get their. They adopt and discard doctrines expediently. This reflects the EMAD traits of the leadership. The Falange were Catholic, their followers authoritarian Catholic. In Germany the country was evenly divided between Catholics and Protestants, so the Nazis modified their plank to accommodate both. Similar behavior is observed in fascist movements around the country. They all have the traits I describe. Most Fascist movements dream of empire of some kind. All three planks said similar things when it came to basic fascist traits. Similar traits go with left fascists. Both give lip service to freedom, improvement, etc... but their core goals are xenophobic, imperial, authoritarian and about controlling the people not giving them an independent voice.

Modern Fascist/Authoritarians Are extremist

The reason modern propagandists and ideologues, like Dinesh D'Souza, can claim that they aren't doing the same thing as other 1930s hyper-nationalist movements is that in the 1930s the nationalists had to give at least lip service to labor. Since World War II incipient fascist movements, fearing labor, actual liberty and actual democracy, spent time demonizing the basic ideas of the labor movement so that modern fascists wouldn't have to pay lip service to them. They succeeded so well that many workers no longer even realize they've been stripped of rights and freedoms. The original red necks wore red kerchiefs and supported the labor movement. If Franco had had a 80 year base of proto-fascist propaganda to build on he would have done pretty much the same as he did do, except with no pretense that his top down Syndicates were for the sake of labor.

More Extremist than the extremes of the 30s

For at least 40 years, since the major protoganists of World War II started fading into the winds, the fascist strategy has been to try to hide their more racist and violent tropes behind abstraction and dog whistles and to focus on recruiting people using narratives that prey on fear, anxiety, and the very fact that labor has been stripped of power and a future.

Therefore the Falange 26 point program, Hitlers Nazi Program, of course, have even more points of similarity than modern fascists. People like Dinesh D'Souza can misrepresent such planks, because they express the exigencies of politicians and their followers, and so some elements sound superficially like the programs that any party might make. But they are very different documents from the kinds of planks a traditional party like the Democrats, or the pre-Trump Republicans, might have put forth.

Fear Myths

As discussed in the post, Right Wing Imperialism and Myth, the Right Wing uses the tools of interpretation and narrative to build images of how the universe is, should be, and could be, and then manipulates that myth to indoctrinate people with fear, anger and the idea that they are entitled to redress grievances. It is hard to fight myths, except with other myths that are more fundamentally true. Myths boil down complex realities to easy to understand slogans, concepts, tied to images of bravery and heroes. It is no accident that Mussolini, Trump, Hitler and other dictators throughout history, strike similar poses. Napoleon with his hand in his jacket is trying to pose as brave, mighty, heroic. If Trump sometimes looks like Mussolini with a hair piece, it's not an accident.

Hijacking Myths

For Sorel, concepts like "General Strike", "syndicalism" were supposed to be positive myths, that he wanted to use to counter the propaganda used by authoritarian and business opponents to labor aspirations. Unfortunately myths are powerful, and once people are entranced by a powerful myth coupled with fear and anger, they can be mobilized to war, to genocide to overthrow systems that actually were benefiting them. Myths that were originally designed to move people to fight for the general good become a tool for the ambition of EMAD leaders and their flying monkey EMAD senior followers.

The falangists in Spain hijacked the concept of syndicalism, which had originally been associated with democratic principles and "leftist" economic thinking, and harnesed it to a movement that was anti-democratic, violent and right wing. They used sophisticated arguments to advocate for an authoritarian state. The Website that carries the Falange platform quotes Thierry Maulnier:

“Democracy and Capitalism are one and the same evil: they can only be overthrown together. A regenerated nation, a better future a flourishing peace can only spring up on their ruins.” RW Page: [blackshirts page]
-Thierry Maulnier

The Party Program is at this webpage:

https://www.americanblackshirts.com/single-post/2015/03/04/The-Twenty-Six-Point-Program-of-the-Falange

Seeking Power Keeping power

EMAD maps to the attributes of Narcissism. The leaders all exhibit the "Dark Triad" of Narcissist, Sociopathic and machiavelian leaders and authoritarian followers. In power they seek totalitarian control, not only to realize their dark utopian dreams, but to force people to believe in their leaders and act like they are realizing them. While seeking power they often spell out goals that are at odds with their more inward goals, or that state them in language that obfuscates their true intent. This is the case with the 26 Point Program, less to a certain extent than other Fascist movements.

Authoritarian is ultimately Royalist

The Falange Party used the myth of royal and imperial Spain to build up the myth of Royal Spain as the end state of Fascist Spain. The Falange party merged with the Royalist "Carlists" in 1937 after Franco took over generalship of the movement because Fascism is ultimately about a return to the past. It goes beyond conservatism to reifying a glorious past, that usually never was. Franco would name the single party state the "Traditionalist Spanish Phalanx and of the Councils of the National Syndicalist Offensive" and make it the sole legal party of the Francoist State in Spain. Franco also purged any remaining "leftist" [code for pro-worker] factions of the Falange movement.

Militarism is part of Selling the Myths

Sorel had written:

““…..Men who are participating in a great social movement always picture their coming action as a battle in which their cause is certain to triumph. These constructions, knowledge of which is so important for historians,”

The myth of a grandiose mythic utopias of a glorious, now threatened past, a mythic future, is designed to get people dreaming. Amway style salesmen read "the power of positive thinking." It is all about constructing a potential future in ones' mind and then finding a way to make it reality. One can architect from the same bricks a cathedral or a prison. Unfortunately, those who build on faulty myths tend to create their own prisons. Sorel had seen the reality at the beginning of the 20th century:

“I propose to call myths; the syndicalist “general strike” and Marx’s catastrophic revolution are such myths. As remarkable examples of such myths, I have given those which were constructed by primitive Christianity, by the Reformation, by the Revolution and by the followers of Mazzini.”

Learning from Sorel

Sorel had put a psychological, sociological, pretty much scientific take on the architecturing of society and the myths that feed it. To Sorel these were historical forces:

“that we should not attempt to analyze such groups of images in the way that we analyze a thing into its elements, but that they must be taken as a whole, as historical forces, and that we should be especially careful not to make any comparison between accomplished fact and the picture people had formed for themselves before action.“

Myths motivate people whether they are achieved or not. There is a saying that we are "the wolf we feed." When the magicians who spin myths spin ugly myths, the results are ugly. When the results of a movement never quite measure up to the vision, scapegoats are found, lies are told, people are forced to continue believing "or else." That leads to Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism: STATE –INDIVIDUAL –LIBERTY

The Falanists were openly totalitarian. The Sixth Plank of their platform established them openly as a Totalitarian movement. They were:

  • openly revolutionary,
  • Openly Violently Militant, (Hence Falang (falange), Phalanx, which was an ancient Greek Military formation of armed men.
  • The State they sought as “a totalitarian instrument to defend the integrity of the fatherland.”

Royalism and Totalitarianism

Later, under Franco, they would merge the Carlist (royalist) factions with their own, and purge any elements that took their more "leftist" promises seriously. That too is a feature of totalitarian movements. They rest their politics on the power of propaganda and self interest. Hannah Arendt (Pg 347 of Origins of Totalitarianism), they rest their ruthless "positivism" on the notion that:

“on the evaluation that [self] interest as an all-pervasive force in history”

Totalitarian movements assume, similarly to normal ideologies, that “objective laws of power can be discovered” and that such [self] “interest makes governments live or die“. This “pragmatic” view that Ironically fascist followers often identify their own interest with the rulers, and this means that once in power fascist movements are rarely pragmatic or utilitarian in practice. Most other political ideologies assume that self interest identifies with common interest. They expect movements and governments to be pragmatic and utilitarian, and to look out for the common good. Fascists on the contrary, as Hannah Arendt notes:

“It is precisely because the utilitarian core of [normal] ideologies was taken for granted, that the anti-utilitarian behavior of Totalitarian governments, their complete indifferance to mass interest has been a shock.” [Arendt]

The Falangist party believed that they could use propaganda, indoctrination, repetition and the practice of the "big lie" to change people's perception of self interest. To provide them with "alternative facts" [current events] To the authoritarian mindset, there is no need for “political parties,” and of “a Parliament of the type that is all too well known.” [platform #6]

To be Free, One has to be Not Free

All of the Fascist movements, not just the Falange, see strength and hierarchy as more important than personal freedom. When in an Army of a mob on the street, the fascist felt free because he was totally giving himself over to the movement and supporting his fearless leader. Plank item 7 states a fundamental tenant of all fascist movements:

“7. Human dignity, integrity, and freedom are eternal, intangible values. But one is not really free unless he is a part of a strong and free nation.”
Alternative Facts

They could hang a sign saying "work makes you free" over the gates of a work-camp because the unity, destiny and "fate" of the fatherland was paramount and the fascist was to give him or herself over to it. This was anti the professed notions of anarchists and libertarians, that self-interest was paramount. But for authoritarians, self interest is what authority tells them it is. Anarchists and troubled youths found a comradeship and family identity coupled with the oceanic feeling of putting one's own ego into the ocean of a mob. Thus it is that people professing notions of individualism or "liberty" get sucked in. Those who don't get involved in fascist movements for the same reason a pick pocket works the crowd. Their own self interest meant inventing the lies that sustain the movement, manipulating the people who form the rank and file. Even the true believer leaders among them had no qualms about profiteering, privateering and outright bribery and theft, because lying about it was in their self interest.

If the Will Doesn't Triumph, Raw Power will

Indeed much of the ruthlessness of fascism, lay in the need to try to convince people that what they were doing, would result one day, in a paradise to the benefit of all true believers, ruthless leaders and fathers. They also believed in Nietzche's "Triumph of the Will." They thought that if they fought hard enough, they could change the facts. At the very least they could force people into a severe delusion where they'd say what the party or its leader told them; "2+2=5". If they couldn't make 5 soldiers out of 2+2 they'd draft 6 people and kill one.

This is enough for this post.

Sources and Further reading

The conscious misuse of Myth, Georges Sorel and Fascism
https://fraughtwithperil.com/cholte/2004/11/29/the-conscious-misuse-of-myth-georges-sorel-and-fascism/
Georges Sorel, the Power of Myth (Review)
https://fraughtwithperil.com/cholte/2006/09/10/georges-sorel-the-power-of-myth/
https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/falange

From My own writings

The conscious misuse of Myth, Georges Sorel and Fascism
https://fraughtwithperil.com/cholte/2004/11/29/the-conscious-misuse-of-myth-georges-sorel-and-fascism/
Georges Sorel, the Power of Myth (Review)
https://fraughtwithperil.com/cholte/2006/09/10/georges-sorel-the-power-of-myth/
https://fraughtwithperil.com/cholte/2006/12/14/strategy-and-tactics-myth-and-reality/
https://fraughtwithperil.com/cholte/2011/02/20/laying-down-the-gauntlet/

Used in this Post

https://www.americanblackshirts.com/single-post/2015/03/04/The-Twenty-Six-Point-Program-of-the-Falange
http://holtesthoughts.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-life-of-garcia-lorca-and-fascist.html quotes taken in August 2018. I also have them in several of my books and from other webpages.
https://www.amazon.com/Federico-Garcia-Lorca-Ian-Gibson/dp/0571142249
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falangism
Quote taken from book;
"National Identities and Socio-Political Changes in Latin America" By Antonio Gomez-Moriana, Mercedes Duran-Cogan page 112
https://books.google.com/books?id=PWjhAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA112&lpg=PA112&dq=One+Nation,+One+Faith,+One+people+Spain&source=bl&ots=wSBJa8Qato&sig=aEsGLSukCZr_2PQE8FwjahO-CKE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjp1YGT09XcAhVNx1kKHW6bC0kQ6AEwB3oECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=One%20Nation%2C%20One%20Faith%2C%20One%20people%20Spain&f=false