The content is rather scattered as it’s a collection of his partial writings and is not one body of work. He wrote this in prison being monitored by fascist prison guards. But there is a critical point that is brought up, that being his concept of cultural hegemony. Which, is “the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society” – Wikipedia. This is tied to the concept of Marxist dialectical materialism. Which is generally the idea that history is controlled by a superstructure, or the government and culture. Which upholds the economic base of capitalism. Hegemony is how the capitalist class creates the ‘norm’ of capitalism and which is also an early Marxist explanation of the rise of fascism.Like (0)
Last week, while millions of students were busy studying for final exams, millionaire Tim Gurner sat in one of his 5,700 properties and explained how millennials are at fault for their current struggles. Insisting that we cannot afford homes because of our own irresponsible spending, one of the wealthiest men in the world unironically named overspending on avocado toast as a culprit in the current housing crisis.
As many have noted, Mr. Gurner was only able to begin his real estate empire thanks to $35,000 gifted to him by his grandfather. While Gurner claims that this money was used to secure a much larger loan of $120,000, it is clear that he is anything but a “self made man” whose accomplishments could be achieved by just any hard-working individual. Today, the average American owes more than $100,000 in total debt. The fact that Gurner started above water at all shows his privilege. A girl I went to highschool with is currently working three jobs, in an effort to save enough for university, and still barely managing to cover her cost of living. That is what being self-made looks like. To equate Gurner’s blind luck with her desperate climb is frankly disgusting.
Gurner is a lottery winner standing atop an ivory tower and shouting blindly that anyone can win, if only they would buy more tickets.
Most egregiously, he chooses to target a disadvantaged generation with his tone deaf attacks. Millennials face more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. Even the most fortunate students are likely to spend their adult lives paying off loans for an education they were forced to purchase. Further, we are likely to die younger than our parents, breaking a trend which goes back to the foundation of our country. A startup launched this year in California preys on that desperation, offering “text book money” in exchange for the blood of millennials — blood which will not go to hospitals for emergency use, but rather will be injected into wealthy boomers as an “anti-aging” treatment.
I am incredibly fortunate by all accounts, and even still, I will graduate with just under $100,000 in debt, even before graduate studies. Growing up, I watched the older millennials enter into an economy which was ravaged by moguls like Gurner, and can look forward to one which has only recovered for the rich. Three years ago, one of my friends hung himself in his dorm room at MIT. He was the victim of a system which worked him to death while accusing him of laziness. I have trouble naming even one peer who has not suffered anxiety or depression thanks to that double standard. For Mr. Gurner to sit on his throne and label my peers as irresponsible freeloaders is not only grossly unjust, but homicidal. The blood of our generation is on his hands, and he has the audacity to blame us for bleeding.
Worst of all, I am confident that neither ignorance nor incompetence lead to Gurner’s murderous idiocy. He knows how unfair the system is, and is quite aware that our struggles are not caused by trendy meals. He attempts to mislead us because, if we recognize that the system is rigged against us, then we will try to change it. That would mean forcing men like Gurner to earn their keep without exploitation, and he knows that. So he tries to blame us, desperately hoping that we will continue working ourselves to death for his benefit.
Gurner represents a much larger problem facing our modern world. Today, a group of incredibly wealthy oligarchs wages war against the young for the crime of wanting justice. Facing economic stagnation, global environmental disaster, and ever growing inequality, we must not allow ourselves to be duped into apathy.
We deserve a better world, and we don’t have to give up avocado toast to build it.Like (0)
When contemporary thinkers critique consumerism, it is all too often done in the abstract. With notable exceptions, the immense waste and inefficiency of a world economy driven by absurd desires rather than essential needs is attacked with anecdotes or theory, rather than exhaustive exploration. Bearing this in mind, let’s dissect one particularly ludicrous product, and the cost that such a product exacts on our world.
Any parent, babysitter, or unfortunate family member can tell you the wonder of the disposable diaper. This product liberated generations of caretakers from the unenviable task of washing soiled diapers. Notable about these products, however, is the wide array of art and embellishment they bare. Even the most generic brands of diaper feature some kind of artistic flare.
Making diapers prettier seems innocent enough at first glance; however, considering their purpose, the fact that most every brand of disposable diaper features colorful patterns and images is nothing short of obscene.
The images themselves only exist to sell more product. They don’t improve the lives of the child, nor do they particularly benefit the care taker. A clear counter to the age old fable of the “rational actor” in economics, putting patterns and images on diapers is inarguably and indefensibly wasteful. To be blunt, we are expending resources and exploiting laborers so that we can make our toddler’s defecation-receptacles more visually appealing.
While on its surface the wastefulness of these images might seem insignificant, closer examination reveals the disturbingly large impact of these needlessly colorful fecal-vehicles.
For most disposable diapers, the patterns and images are added through an adhesive plastic film on which the images are printed before being applied to the diaper itself. This film makes up roughly 3% of each diaper by weight. Excluding the coloring and adhesive, this means that each diaper requires .84 grams of polyethylene plastic to be fashionable.
Once again, this doesn’t seem like a significant amount of waste. But with the United States using twenty-seven billion (yes billion) disposable diapers in 2008, that waste of .84 grams of plastic/diaper becomes twenty-three billion grams, or fifty million pounds of wasted plastic.
That’s fifty million pounds of non biodegradable, virtually everlasting, ocean polluting, fossil-fuel supporting polyethylene, all so our babies can have visually appealing soil-sacks.
But the waste doesn’t end there.
In order for the paintings we put on our poop-pouches to really stand out, disposable diaper manufacturers use liquid chlorine to bleach the diaper-fiber white. Environmental concerns aside (including the fact that many chlorine plants still use mercury to this day), the electrolyzation of chlorine gas requires three-thousand kWh of electricity per metric tonne of chlorine in ideal conditions. Assuming the absolute best figures available (with each diaper using only .05 grams of chlorine to bleach its fiber white), we are still using around four million kWh of electricity to dye dung-drawers in the United States every year. That is enough electricity to power one hundred and thirty four thousand homes for a day.
At this point, the cost of consumerism should be painfully clear. Looking at only two of the resources needlessly expended on diapers, it is obvious that our consumer based economy has not produced innovation and efficiency, but rather crippling waste. Without even discussing the workers who spend their lives putting cartoons on crap-catchers, or questioning the necessity of disposable diapers in the first place, the egregious distribution of resources that capitalism begets is plain to see.
Instead of dedicating our labor and resources towards preventing the starvation of three million children every year, instead of striving for advances in science and technology, and instead of working towards protecting our future, consumerism has driven us to trade these utopian dreams for fashionable fart-fluffers.
While we waste billions of dollars making shit sacks pretty, 13 million American children live in hunger. We are responsible for that suffering, and only dramatic reform, and an abandonment of our grossly opulent lifestyles, can end it.
So, rather than continuing to describe the horrors of consumerism through abstract ideas and theoretically based argumentation, let us instead simply remember the cost of a colorful diaper.Like (0)
On Sunday, March 1st of 2015, a friend of mine hanged himself in his dorm at MIT. The year before he died, we had worked together to change Colorado state law. He was soft spoken, but brilliant; while his peers squabbled over politics, he developed policy. With his death, the world lost an invaluable and incredible human being.
My friend, whose name I am intentionally obscuring, is just one of thousands of young people who took their lives that year — victims of a system which accused them of laziness while working them to death. We live in a world where more working millennials are depressed than any generation in recorded history. In 2015, suicide was the third leading cause of death amongst young people.
He deserved better. They deserved better. We deserve better.
While my generation works unpaid internships (aka indentured servitude), sells their blood to the vampiric wealthy as an anti-aging treatment, dies sooner than our parents, is encouraged to work beyond the point of exhaustion, and faces more debt than any other generation in history, we are hated, accused of laziness, and blamed for our own suffering.
Yesterday, Business Insider published an article accusing millennials of killing casual dining. While we face challenge after tragedy after trial, the media reports on our inability to eat out more than a few times a month. It would be humorous if it weren’t so depressing.
To make matters worse, we will inherit a dying world. As I noted in my last article, we will see the world warm more than 3.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels before the end of the century. This warming will displace hundreds of millions of people, and create dozens of regional conflicts, as refugees flee flooding cities and thirsty farmlands. And if our plight was not enough, we will be forced to clean up the 8 million tons of plastic which are dumped in our oceans every year.
A few days ago, a young woman from Vietnam messaged me and asked for my organization’s help ending pollution in her area. Recently thousands of fish washed up dead on shores near her home, all thanks to a chemical factory which places profit over people. She will spend her whole life cleaning up a mess she had no part in making. How can there be justice when any person faces such a fate?
Now, we will defeat these horrors in stride, and fix this world as best we can. I have no doubt in my generation’s ability to unite against and eradicate the evils we have endured. But we won’t do so out of virtue or wisdom — we will save the world out of fear for extinction. And we will pay dearly for salvation.
If we cannot be driven by love or solidarity, then at least let us be motivated by sheer force of rage. We were given a broken world, and now find ourselves slave to it. And as we sell our blood, watch our oceans die, and work ourselves to death to survive, we must not lose sight of this great injustice. For if we are to leave a better world for those who come after, we need more than hope. If we are to preserve liberty, justice, and life, we must demonstrate the audacity of our rage.Like (0)
In 1682, the Palace of Versailles became the seat of power in France, where King Louis XIV remained blissfully safe from the riots of his starving subjects. Louis built this chateau with exactly this purpose in mind, alongside the convenient bonus of distracting the nobles with gardens, art, gossip, and wine — leaving Louis free to rule without obstruction.
When I visited Versailles myself, I was struck by its gross opulence. Entire rooms covered in gold leaf, with furnishings of extravagant beauty and complexity. I am told that, within its painted walls, no noble would drink from the same glass twice. Each goblet would be disposed of after a single sip, or so the legend goes.
But this blissful luxury came at a cost. Not to Louis or his spoiled nobles, but to all those forced to subsist beyond the palace walls. While the royals enjoyed unspoilt goblets and unending scandals, French citizens were banned from emigrating beyond their nation’s borders. More than 100,000 protestants were stripped of their freedom, their possessions, and their lives. A shift in climate caused crop failures and famine, leaving hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen without food or income. While Louis ate croissant and drank wine, his people faced subjugation, famine, and discrimination.
Had Louis remained in Paris, such affluence in the face of such suffering would have never occurred. It was only his separation from those he exploited that allowed such egregious inequity. Even if his heart was not softened by the faces of his broken people, his walls would have been when they rose against him. But instead, he sat miles away, behind golden gates and enormous gardens, feasting while they starved.
Today, Versailles is looked upon by many as a monument to brutal authoritarianism. The thought of some few enjoying extravagant luxuries while so many suffer is truly horrifying. And yet, we condemn this inequality while sitting behind the walls of our own, modern Versailles.
Consider the smartphone. A piece of technology more powerful than the computers which took men to the moon, and small enough to fit in our pocket. Opulent beyond belief. Immoral beyond expression.
Cobalt, used in nearly every phone battery, comes primarily from mines in Central Africa. It is mined in horrible conditions by those paid barely enough to survive. Child labor is so common that, in 2012, IPS concluded that some cellular phones come at the cost of two children’s lives.
And if this isn’t disturbing enough, consider the frequency with which we replace our technology. A modern equivalent to the unspoilt goblet, the average American replaces her phone every two years. The abuse and exploitation of children is fueled by our need for the newest design, and continues even when that newest product is worse than its predecessor.
We condemn the opulence of Versailles while killing children and polluting the earth, all so we can play candy crush on the newest, fastest miniature supercomputer.
To further the comparison, those of us in the western world are so distracted by petty gossip and extravagant lifestyles that it is difficult to see beyond our palace gates. If you were unaware of the children sacrificed to the gods of Apple and Samsung, it’s likely not your fault. We are fed stories about multicolored dresses (yes, that was the New York Times), told to idolize the wealthy solely for their wealth, and get 24 hour news coverage of a misspelled tweet. Just as Louis distracted his nobles, so the elite distract us.
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World tells the story of a dystopia forged in the flames of diversion. His people are drugged, loved, and amused into submission. They ignore the horrors of their world in favor of the luxury of their palaces, all the while billions suffer enslavement and censorship. Today, Huxley’s world reads like prophecy.
If we truly aspire to liberty and justice for all, if we truly believe that all men are created equal, then we must acknowledge the self evident truth of our own gross opulence. Our futuristic world is built on the backs of men, women, and children who suffer far beyond its walls. Like Louis’ subjects, they endure subjugation, famine, and discrimination. And if we are to offer them salvation, we must escape our own, modern Versailles.Like (0)
Vietnamese Reckoning: How A Corporation Got Away With Murder
If you approached the beaches of Ha Tinh, Vietnam last April, they might have seemed silver at first, reflecting the light of the midday sun. But as you drew near, a much more gruesome image would have taken shape. Meters and meters of dead fish, heaped along the shoreline in piles of decaying white and grey. In total, nearly one hundred tons of marine life sat rotting along 200 km of coast.
On viewing this ghastly landscape, one might imagine it was the work of an angry god, or some more pervasive evil. And an evil god it may well have been, but not one which hides in the heavens. This god is called Formosa, and she demands sacrifice.
The pollution which poisoned Vietnam’s oceans was traced back to a Formosa steel plant, the largest of its kind, which is still operating in Ha Tinh. One of the divers who swam to investigate the sewage died on his way to the hospital, showing signs of heavy metal poisoning. This pollution was illegal, horrific, and intentional. It was pure, unadulterated greed that took the life of Le Van Ngay — an evil so pervasive that neither law nor humanity could contain it.
After the spill, unemployment ravaged coastal communities. The government was forced to ban fishing near the shore for months, while some areas saw tourism drop to 10% of what it had been before the spill. Without fish to catch or tourists to entertain, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homeland in search of work. Those that stayed, starved.
In the words of one fisherman, interviewed by a contact in Vietnam, “The catastrophe caused the complete failure of my family’s business.”
“The catastrophe caused the complete failure of my family’s business.”
One year after the spill, the same man reported his business has “only been worse.” He also claimed that the Formosa plant has been continuously dumping sewage for months, in spite of both a law banning pollution and an empty promise made to follow it. Another coastal worker claimed that “fish carcasses painted the sea white” just a few weeks before my source spoke with him, suggesting that pollution and death have become facts of life within the realm of Formosa. To this day the water smells foul, and the natives dare not wade into it.
But even if pollution has indeed been halted, it will still take a decade for the coast to recover. That means a decade of poverty, starvation, and suffering for coastal communities. We may not know for certain whether the pollution continues; however, Formosa has shown her willingness to throw away lives in the name of profit, and there is no reason to believe that this cruel deity, in all her corporate horror, would not strike again.
“Fish carcasses painted the sea white.”
In return for this blood sacrifice, Formosa paid a $500 million fine. While this may seem impressive, it amounts to less than 1% of Formosa’s U.S. profits alone. To make matters worse, most of this money was never given to those affected, or even to the cleanup effort. At best, the Vietnamese government has been grossly negligent. At worst, it has been incredibly corrupt. One man said frankly, “We suspect that our money has gone into someone else’s pocket.”
What hellscape do we inhabit where hundreds of thousands of lives can be ruined in the name of capital? Even with the fines and supposed new regulations, Formosa remains incredibly profitable. For this deity of unmatched cruelty, $500,000,000, one life, and decades of degradation are merely operating costs, expended in the name of further, cancerous growth.
The only reason I am even aware of this ongoing catastrophe is because an incredibly brave young woman contacted my organization and asked for our help. She lives under a government which regularly suppresses its citizens, and faced a very real danger coming to us. And she will willingly face those dangers again, and again, and again until the Formosa plant is closed and her nation’s beauty restored.
Those of us in the west may be unable to press the Vietnamese government into responsible legislation, or force Taiwan to regulate its native industries humanely. But we can rise against Formosa’s holdings in the United States. Here is a link to Formosa’s website. In the name of justice, in the name of equity, and in the name of Le Van Ngay, we must not back down. We must call, write, vote, scream, and protest until this god, this idol, this disgrace, ceases to exist.Like (0)
An Inescapable Dystopia
By Matthew Barad, Jul 8, 2017
Ninety-six years ago, 13,000 miners joined an armed rebellion against their employer over mistreatment, lacking pay, and child labor. The largest rebellion of its kind in our nation’s history, this was the peak of a decades-long battle against corporate oppression. After the federal government joined forces with mercenaries hired by the company, the uprising came to an end. These miners had endured bombings from private planes, betrayal from a corporatized government, and accusations of treason from their communities, all for the belief that a better future was possible.
Nearly a century later, the great grandchildren of these revolutionaries vote almost exclusively for candidates who promise to roll back the very regulations that their ancestors fought and died for. Desperation, brought on by the shadow of progress, has drained them of their pride and their sense of justice.
Our world is filled with stories like this. Over the last twenty years, as workers have become more productive, and automation has become ubiquitous, wages have stagnated and communities have decayed. One glimpse at the once-opulent Detroit tells this story. And it is fear of collapse, seemingly caused by progress, that drives workers to demand lower wages and quicker deaths.
But it is not automation, nor higher productivity which is at fault for our decline. Rather, it is greed and a disturbing lack of empathy which has allowed for this dystopia.
Automation should not be a boogieman to be avoided at all costs. Freeing humanity from menial labor, be it in agriculture or fast food, should be a revolution in quality of life. Without the need for humans to waste their skills on such tasks, we could see a renaissance, where every day is spent on education, art, and enjoyment. Where the purpose of life is not labor, but living. Where mankind is finally free.
Even now, I can hear the arguments of those who find this future appalling. They would insist that full automation is impossible, and that it would be unfair for some to work while others have no obligations. They hold the capacity for labor as the source of life’s value, and cannot even imagine a world where the end is happiness, rather than “progress.” So afraid are we of a reality without universal labor that we create useless jobs — forcing people to put pictures on diapers, or manufacture beads which will be discarded after one use — and threatening those who refuse them with starvation, hatred, and suffering. In our fear of inequity in labor, we have created inequity in all.
Our adoration of industry is so pervasive that employment has become a means to its own end. We force billions to work not because there is no other option, nor because what they produce is essential. We force them to work because labor is life. Our very self worth is tied to what we produce, causing unemployment to be a leading cause for depression. We’ve been so indoctrinated to the religion of employment that we hate ourselves when left without work, no matter how menial.
It is this false idol, this blasphemy against the humane, that causes us to fear automation. Because, in our inescapable dystopia, automation will not free humanity from the chains of labor; it will condemn us to starvation, exploitation, and death.
If we are to do the impossible, and build a world where happiness and knowledge are the goals of our existence, we must cast aside our infatuation with labor in favor of a dedication to humanity. We must build a civilization which embraces automation and distributes its fruits equally. We must dedicate ourselves fully to the belief that all of humanity deserves happiness.
Ninety-seven years ago, 300 miners died for the dream of less work and better lives. In memory of their sacrifice, and out of an unrelenting love for humanity, it is my sincerest hope that we dare to dream again.Like (0)
Life in the Gig Economy, or The Economics of Desperation
By Matthew Barad, Jul 12, 2017
A few weeks ago, I was grabbing coffee with a friend, when I saw an acquaintance from high school working behind the counter. We exchanged the usual pleasantries, after which I asked his plans for the future. He proudly described how he was working three part time jobs, one of which for no pay, in hopes of saving enough to attend the local business school. From there, he expressed his dream of becoming a stockbroker, who makes millions while sitting on a beach in the Bahamas.
On its face, that story seems innocent enough. Admirable even. If I had a nickel for every time a boomer has offered bootstraps as a solution to my generation’s woes, I would be able to pay for his college.
But when examined more closely, this tale becomes more disturbing. This young man, with ambition and an obviously impressive work ethic, is working more than 60 hours a week without benefits or decent wages, just so he can strive for an education. Whatsmore, his life’s goal is not to help cure disease or give aid to the less fortunate; his dream is financial gain without contribution.
He is the exploited, and his greatest hope is to become the exploiter.
While frustrating, I can’t blame him for that ambition. We are all slave to a system which encourages exactly that behavior. As Steinbeck put it, we Americans see ourselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. We support the mechanisms of our own oppression because of a religious belief that we will one day do the oppressing. The greater our desperation, the more we worship that dream.
The further into the cave we fall, the more we hate the light.
Today, nearly 20% of Americans work part time jobs. We lead the developed world in part time workers per capita. Services like Uber and Lyft, whose recent profitability is only matched by their cruelty towards their workforce, have exploded in this freshly coined “gig” economy.
The newest tool of exploitation is weaponized desperation. For the belief that they will one day rise to the ruling class, workers shed their rights to health, happiness, and dignity.
As a college grad in my Facebook feed recently put it:
Unfortunately for us, the extent to which corporations are willing to exploit that raw desperation knows no bounds. As I regularly mention, last year a startup launched which sells the blood of millennials to the vampiric wealthy as an anti aging treatment. Worse still, they advertise as being a source of textbook money.
Our culture has become so enamored with the bootstrap fable that we not only work for low pay, few benefits, and token experience, but we sacrifice our own vitality in hopes of one day being able to survive. Meanwhile, our debt continues to grow, our lifespans continue to shorten, and our public institutions continue to erode.
The “gig” economy is nothing more than a farce which exploits the suffering it creates to suck a bit more blood out of an already zombified generation. It baits us with the dream of royalty, while sentencing us to servitude.
For this reason, I demand that we shed the cutesy facade, and call our market what it really is: the economy of desperation.Like (0)
Harvey’s Shadow: Titanic Inequality
By Matthew Barad, Sep 4, 2017
On April 15th of 1912, the Titanic collided with an iceberg in the Atlantic, taking the lives of more than 1,500 people. Aboard this ship, all were not equal. The wealthy were saved and the poor condemned to painful, restless deaths.
Survivors recall the crew guiding the wealthy to life boats, while hundreds lay beneath them, unaware that a disaster had even occurred. Humanity, as it turns out, comes at a premium. Among the first class passengers, more than half lived to be interviewed by papers and congratulated by royalty. In the third class, just 24% survived — only to return to that same society which had measured their lives as expendable.
Aged it may be, this tragedy teaches an important lesson about the true cost of disaster. While we like to imagine it as a blind horror, whose hand ruins lives without regard to class or color, such is not the case. Simply put, we live in a world where some lives are valued over others. The poor drown, the rich survive. And in spite of a century’s worth of progress, very little has changed.
As the United States reels from the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, the lesson of the Titanic should be remembered. In spite of our morbidly egalitarian hopes, the reality is that disaster ravages the poor while inconveniencing the wealthy.
In the past few days price gouging in the Huston area has become near universal. Cases of bottled water have been marked up to nearly $100, all the while gun-toting klan affiliates have formed “anti-looting militias” to guarantee suffering and prevent the crime of survival.
For Houston’s elite, Harvey’s flooding will mean a stressful insurance claim and an awkward reliance on family and friends while their homes are rebuilt. For the 80% of Houston natives without flood insurance, it will mean incurring lifelong debts just to escape homelessness. And while the elite are expected to recoup rapidly, the rest can expect decades of economic desolation.
The one saving grace for victims of Harvey comes in the form of government relief, namely FEMA. And in what can only be described as a tragically unsurprising move, Trump’s most recent budget proposal drastically cuts that very program, trapping future victims beneath the deck of a slowly sinking ship.
With two more hurricanes in the Atlantic, and wildfires along the entire western coast, more disaster is a certainty. As we prepare, let us drop the farce of equality. It is obvious that this nation has decided how much each life is worth — decided that the suffering of millions is an acceptable cost for the opulence of the elite. And unless you are at the top, this is quite literally a fight for survival.
I know whose side I’m on.
Alarmism isn’t alarmist anymore.
By Matthew Barad, June 26, 2018
On August 12th, the anniversary of the fascist attack in Charlottesville which killed Heather Heyer, Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer will hold another fascist rally in front of the White House. This year, eight fascists are openly running for office in the United States. All of them are running as Republicans. Last week, America finally awakened to the horror of American police separating families and putting children in cages. Last week, America discovered these plans were laid more than a year ago. This morning, the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s travel ban on Muslim nations.
Facing such a gruesome reality, comparisons to Nazism have been rampant. In response, the same Republicans who once distanced themselves from Trump are distancing themselves from outspoken white supremacists. But if 2016 taught us anything, all it will take is the election of one such fascist, and conservatives will line up to offer their allegiance.
For the last year, I have warned about the rise of American fascism. Organizations like Turning Point USA speak openly about defending “white Christian America,” and even publish lists of suspected leftists online. My name has been published in one such list, and I have endured death threats as a result. Charlie Kirk’s tweets can be cataloged (as they are above) to check off the Holocaust Museum’s entire list of “warning signs of fascism.” And yet, in spite of it all, American media and the American people continue to treat these organizations as legitimate, and continue to defend their right to organize. Even in leftist circles, equating the “Alt-Right” with fascism is still decried as unfair and inaccurate. Cautioning against “alarmism,” many wish to protect the poignancy of the term Fascist.
In April, well before the news of family separations broke, Holocaust survivor Stephen A. Jacobs told Newsweek that “Trump’s America feels like Germany before Nazis took over.” Here is a man who has endured unspeakable horrors, and who has personal experience with fascism — and yet, his warning was largely ignored. America waited until families were ripped apart to speak out. And though the outcry has been great, I worry that our fear of alarmism will once against muzzle the voices of caution. If we wait for news coverage before fighting the tide of injustice, we will not stop fascism’s rise, but simply teach America’s Nazis to hide their aims until it is too late.
In my own home town, protests against family separation were met with arrests and death threats from “patriots” online. Indeed, all across the internet today, there are unabashed proponents of fascism. Even well known communities like r/The_Donald (a subreddit for the President’s supporters) are full of calls for violence against immigrants, the left, and anyone deemed “lesser.” And while Facebook and Reddit are quick to ban leftists for condemning rapists, they continue to defend the speech rights of those actively promoting genocide.
As many have noted, fascism is not new to the United States. Shrouded in white cloth and waving a confederate flags, America’s Nazis have escaped history’s condemnation. As they carried on this morning, the Supreme Court has a tradition of protecting unambiguously racist policies. Whether black families or native tribes, the American Empire has committed crimes that can never be forgiven. So my great fear is not that America will become fascist — in many ways, it has been cycling in and out of fascism since its induction. My fear is that we will learn nothing from that past, and allow these newest waves of white nationalism to erode whatever progress we have made.
America has struggled too long under the yokes of racism, theocracy, and fascism. Instead of allowing the poor to starve and the innocent to be caged, we must break these historical bonds and build a better world. Lead by the marginalized and unhindered by the timid, we must not surrender, we must not falter, and we must not fail.Like (0)
The Centrist and the Fascist
A tale of gambling, compromise, and surrender.
By Matthew Barad, October 30, 2018
On Sunday night, Brazil elected a fascist. This is a man who has joked about rape, called for indigenous peoples to be killed, promoted the deforestation of the Amazon, and demanded that leftists be purged.
55% of Brazilians voted for him.
Balsonaro’s election has reignited fears about the global rise of fascism. I myself have written several pieces about Trump’s fascist tendencies and likely agenda. And though there is plenty of room to consider the causes behind fascism’s recent rise, and why right wing populism continues to gain traction, we need to understand that fascism doesn’t take power suddenly and without warning — rather, it is allowed to fester, and is even spurred on by those who have the power to stop it.
In Brazil, Balsonaro’s rise was made possible by a decades-long centrist war against the left. MBD (the largest centrist party in Brazil) allied itself with the nationalist right in order to indict the leaders of PT (democratic socialist party) on charges of corruption. Former PT President Luiz Lula, a metal worker who dedicated his life to the fight for justice, is sitting in prison after being convicted of corruption. Whether innocent or guilty, Lula remains the most popular politician in Brazil, and was clearly targeted by the center and right in order to weaken Brazil’s left.
In joining ranks with the nationalists and against Lula’s party, the MBD was making a simple bet. They believed that, by using the courts to take the PT out of power, they could secure themselves a position to implement a decidedly neoliberal agenda. They were wrong. In forcing the left out of power, and in preventing Lula from running for office, the MBD opened the doors to fascism.
Disgruntled by the inaction of their government and disheartened by gross political injustice, the people of Brazil had to choose between a malignant status quo or a drastic, terrifying change. MBD, like so many others, gambled everything on the assumption that fascism could never win. And as I said, they were terribly mistaken.
This is not only the story of Brazil, but of fascism everywhere. Every time an ultra-nationalist party manages to seize control, it is not because of the ignorance of the poor, nor the incompetence of the left. It is because the center sided with the fascist to defeat the left, and then surrendered to the monster they fostered.
In Germany, the rise of the Nazi party occurred because the centrist parties conspired to eliminate the socialist SDP. The small business owners (Burghers) in particular sided with the Nazis, not because they agreed with them on any specific policy positions, but because socialism threatened their property, whereas fascism only threatened their ethics. The conservative “old guard” of Weimar believed, like the MBD, that they could take power and rebuild the pre-war status quo, if only those damn leftists would disappear.
In Spain, the international community watched passively while the elected government of Spain was overthrown in a fascist coup. And though the fascist powers were quick to send troops and weapons to Franco and his forces, the “democratic” west looked unfavorably upon the leftism of the Republicans, and simply allowed their massacre. While American leftists died in trenches in Spain, American fascists sent tons of supplies to support Franco’s coup.
The international center, like in every other case, was more afraid of a leftist Spain than a fascist Spain. And so they compromised on their support for democracy and free determination, dooming Spain to half a century of brutal oppression.
And then came 2016, and America’s center made the same, age-old gamble. Facing a challenge from the left, Hillary Clinton and the DNC opted to double down on the centrist position, even attacking leftist ideas like single payer healthcare and universal college education in hopes of preventing Bernie’s rise. Though Sanders can hardly be called “far left,” through the warped hellscape of American politics, anyone opting against the starvation and suffering of the majority appears radical.
So the DNC did everything it could to not only defeat the challenge from the left, but to force that left out of politics all together. In what can only be described as a depressingly apt parallel to the Brazilian elections, this meant joining with the right to attack the most popular politician in America. And just as in Brazil, removing the left from politics did not hand the center four more years of status quo — it handed the country over to Donald Trump and his white nationalist supporters.
Whatever the reason, whether in defense of the ruling class, or out of a hidden hatred for the poor and nonwhite, the center always veers right — and it almost always backfires. Though the victories of Troudeau and Macron show that this strategy does sometimes work, the fates of Germany, of Spain, of America, and now of Brazil, tell us the cost of centrist gambling.
So if you’re a leftist, don’t trust the center. And if you’re a centrist, make peace with the fascism you beget.
This is a simple list of beginner leftist political theory. I would actually start with the youngest of these works, Capitalist Realism than to go to the oldest ones by Marx. The rest just talk about different ideologies in leftism. So you can kind of pick and chose who you want to read. 3 are Marxist after Marx, 4 are Anarchist, and 5 are Syndicalists.
So my recommendation list’s order is:
1. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher
2. Wage, Labour, and Capital AND Value, Price, and Profit by Karl Marx
3. State and Revolution by Vladimir Lenin AND Reform or Revolution by Rosa Luxemburg
4. Anarchism and Other Essays by Emma Goldman AND Mutual Aid by Peter Kropotkin
5. Anarcho-Syndicalism Theory and Practice by Rudolf Rocker AND Socialist Reconstruction of Society by Daniel De LeonLike (1)
Nick Land is an English philosopher, short-story horror writer, blogger, and “the father of accelerationism”.
His writing is credited with pioneering the genre known as “theory-fiction”. A co-founder of the 1990s collective Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU), his work has been tied to the development of accelerationism and speculative realism.
If you haven’t read this book yet then you should. It’s probably one of the most comparable modern leftist work. It covers a lot of topics from depression to Deluze and hauntology, but in a way that most people unfamiliar with these topics can understand.Like (0)
The Cost of Privatization
July 29, 2018
Architecture of Odessa
In 1762, Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote in his treatise The Social Contract, “The first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe him was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars, murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared, had someone pulled up the stakes or filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men!” Today, more than two centuries after they were first penned, Rousseau’s words ring in the air of a privatized world. Faced with that world, looking to the states of the former Soviet Union can help us understand what privatization truly means for a nation — and why Rousseau opposed it.
Since the fall of the USSR, Ukraine has been the principle case study for westerners looking to understand the realities of transitioning out of the communist world. Already in 1993, Central European University Press had published John Earle’s report: “The Privatization process in Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltic States.” As his paper reflects, it was widely believed that Ukraine would lead the post-communist world in “modernizing” its economic and political systems. Further, the assumption was that marketization would be a primary force in the democratization of Ukraine — an assumption largely founded in liberal philosophies which tie liberty to property.
John Earle in particular argued in his report that the privatization process would undermine party elites, as the leveling of economic power would surely topple their state sponsored oligarchy. Though the sheer magnitude of corruption in Ukraine was recognized at the time, it was overlooked in favor of this narrative — that privatization was liberaliziation. Even after then-president Kuchma allegedly ordered the killing of Georgiy Gongadze, an anti-establishment reporter who was covering corruption during privatization, the West largely ignored the incident and remained focused on questions like “Does privatization raise productivity?”
In spite of the slew of pro-western and globalist perspectives on privatization, contemporary researches did achieve some scholarship on its harms. In 1995, The National Council for Soviet and East European Research put together a report cynically titled, “PRIVATIZATION AND CRIME: THE POST-SOVIET EXPERIENCE.” The report summarized: “The old bureaucrats dominate much of the privatization process, for example, often deciding who gets what at what price. Whereas the Party elite only enjoyed control of the state’s resources, they can now appropriate the state’s property.”
This story, of privatization used to simply subvert state resources and enrich individual elites, was ubiquitous throughout Ukraine. However, in spite of Ukraine’s long running and deep ties to Russia, this privatization process was used to pad the wallets of oligarchs worldwide. The same report later notes, “Ukrainian oil reserves were embezzled and sold at market prices. Most of this money was not returned to the former USSR but placed on deposit in foreign bank accounts.” Just one year after this report was published, its warnings read as prophetic. Radio Free Europe reported in May of 1996 that Ukraine’s largest auto plant was set to be privatized. This example is especially poignant, as even its legal framework was built to the benefit of existing elites: “41 percent of the shares will be offered to Ukrainian investment companies and joint ventures; 12 percent will be offered to foreign buyers; and Ukrainian citizens will be able to purchase five percent of the plant with privatization vouchers.”
This was the largest auto plant in the country. It produced 60,000 vehicles every year and employed thousands. And yet, citizens were only allowed 5 percent ownership. As comforting as Earle’s supposition may have been, the evidence pointed to privatization by the oligarch and for the oligarch. Far from the first step to liberal democracy, it merely entrenched and expanded the power of existing elites. It should be no surprise that both President Poroshenko and former President Yanukovych were captains of industry well before they became politicians.
Privatization in Ukraine resulted not only in small scale corruption and inefficiency, but systemic stratification in the economy itself. In 2012, the European Sociological Review published an article tellingly titled, “New Inequalities Through Privatization and Marketization? An Analysis of Labour Market Entry of Higher Education Graduates in Poland and Ukraine,” which suggests Ukraine’s privatization of tertiary education especially stratified the population and stifled the economy, resulting in low university attendance among blue collar students. Further, the study noted, “the share of graduates from private HEI quadrupled in Ukraine from 2.8 percent in 2001– 2003 to 12.8 percent in 2004–2006. Whereas privatization is already widespread in Poland at the beginning of the millennium (17 percent in 2001–2003), marketization is a more predominant phenomenon in Ukraine, where 38.8 percent of graduates paid fees at public universities during the period 2004–2006.”
What this shows is that the privatization of Ukrainian universities directly contributed to class divides in education. The formation of private universities split the population between those who could afford tuition and those left with decaying public universities as their only option. This divide left Ukraine less prepared than its neighbors for an increasingly service-based global economy, as fewer and fewer Ukrainians received quality higher education.
It should come as no surprise, then, that in March of 2012 the Carnegie Institute published an article outlining Ukraine’s lackluster growth after the Soviet Era. The article was titled, “The Underachiever: Ukraine’s Economy Since 1991.” However, this piece also highlights the flaws in the Western understanding of privatization’s real effects. Rather than centering the causes of Ukraine’s civil and economic stagnation around its relatively rapid privatization, Sutela argues, “As nation building came to dominate the first years following Ukraine’s independence, politics were in continued turmoil and centered around jockeying for power. Economics therefore suffered.” Here we see political “turmoil” named as the cause of economic decline — a conclusion that both fails to account for the effect privatization had in catalyzing and entrenching those political disputes, and willfully ignores how privatization caused much of that stagnation and decline.
So it is clear that privatization in Ukraine did little to provide the freedom and liberalization that Western neoliberals had promised. Instead, it merely entrenched the power of a few elites, and stratified and already desperate people. Though that reality confounded western predictions and liberal hopes, to Rousseau, the evils of property have always been, and will always remain the natural conclusion.