Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Case For Anarchy

The Democratic Activist
Until recently, I'd always regarded anarchism as unworkable "pie in the sky" Polyanna-ism. Nice in theory, but come on ... no laws, no government, no judges, no jails? People would be at each other's throats all the time. Obviously.

Now, after reading a short piece by a good friend of mine, James F. Holwell ... well ... I'm not quite so sure.

My main bone of contention with the entire notion of anarchism, one that inevitably comes up in the course of discussing it's viability as a social model (or even when discussing something far less radical, like democratic socialism), has always been the following:

"From each according to his ability; to each according to his need." In such an ideal society, wouldn't some people "only take and give back nothing?"

Holwell's telling of the true story of his life-changing interaction with Ammon Hennacy (Christian anarchist, Wobbly, and associate editor of The Catholic Worker) on the streets of Manhattan in 1958 has finally provided a satisfactory answer to this question for me.

Here's the story in Holwell's own words:

As a teenager in a Roman Catholic prep school for boys, I learned in some depth about the anti-communist, pro-capitalist culture into which I was born. After prep school I entered a seminary to study for the priesthood in a missionary society. At age 22, having been told I did not have a vocation, I settled into an entry level job at a bank on Wall Street.

It was then that I met Ammon Hennacy.

He came every Tuesday afternoon to the corner outside the bank, selling copies of The Catholic Worker for one cent. I remember sharing with him some of my earliest beliefs; for example, that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg deserved to die in the electric chair because they tried to help those evil Russian Communists. I remember telling him that is is time to bomb Moscow, because peaceful coexistence was a trick, intended to deceive us into nonresistance.

One day I asked Ammon if he and the others with him are "practicing" Catholics; that is, whether they go to Mass and receive Holy Communion. He said Yes, and on a daily basis! With that I judged him guilty of gross desecration of the Sacred Species. I told him he was nothing but a filthy Communist and therefore against God. I grabbed him by the coat collar and was about to punch him out, when he asked me if I would let him put down the papers, so that "After you finish beating me, I'll still be able to sell them."

So what could I do? I let him go. He patiently explained to me that he was far to the left of Communist, because they believe in government and laws. In contrast, he stated that he was an Anarchist, believing that God's laws are "engraved in the hearts of men" [St. Paul] and therefore human laws, and police and soldiers and judges, are all unnecessary and have nothing to do with real justice!

Ammon helped me to see that the traditional churches have supported war as a way to dominate others. The reasons for war are always the same -- to free the money changers to benefit and the weapons makers to amass fortunes based on the blood of others. Ammon saw that the American government and military had turned around from the ideals in the Declaration of Independence. We have become the new King George the 3rd, and people everywhere are asserting their independence from the American Empire.

The corporate leaders, spurred on by their shareholders, put massive profits first, needs of people last. So it is fine that the lives of the working class are destroyed as long as the result is a fatter bottom line.

Regarding the events of 9/11/2001, there is no doubt in my mind that Ammon would have seen through and realized that Muslim hijackers could have been in no way responsible for the demolition of these buildings with about 3000 human beings still trapped inside. It was the usual false-flag tactic that leaders have used for time immemorial to provoke the population into a warlike frenzy.

[Ammon] spoke with reverence about the Sermon on the Mount. He reminded me of the life style of the 1st Century Christians, which he declared to be the only example of true communism that ever existed.

He spoke strongly: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." I asked him whether, in this ideal state, some people would only take and give back nothing. To that he pointed out that it is only when people are not taught to discover their gifts that this can happen. Children would be educated to discover their gifts, not channeled into a packaged curriculum that emphasizes money and de-emphasizes the idea of service. This system compares one with another, rating students according to 'academic excellence.' It is a system whose real aim is ... to turn free spirited children into passive acquiescence and acceptance of the requirements of the corporations and the military establishments.

There is more, and I am ready to be involved with others to look at how these ideals can be practiced in the world of today and tomorrow.

-- James F Holwell

Wouldn't the lazy and greedy take unfair advantage of the freedom inherent in anarchy, rising to positions of dominance and superiority? Doesn't this mean that anarchism is inherently self-destructive and therefore a non-viable pipe dream?

From Holwell's story, above:

... it is only when people are not taught to discover their gifts that this can happen. Children would be educated to discover their gifts, not channeled into a packaged curriculum that emphasizes money and de-emphasizes the idea of service.

"Educated to discover their gifts ..."

We could actually do that. Couldn't we?

If St. Paul is correct that God's laws are engraved in the hearts of men (Romans 2:14-15), then isn't the assertion that "... human laws, and police and soldiers and judges, are all unnecessary and have nothing to do with real justice!" merely the logical extension of that fact, and shouldn't it be possible to actually do that?

Anarchism/pacifism may in fact be the only morally consistent, truly ethical social model. And if that's the case, and if it has any potential at all for viability, shouldn't that then be our goal?

Odd, but true, that if one goes as far left as possible on the political continuum, one gets to the same place as one who goes as far right as possible: no government (decentralized power).

Could it be that the "continuum" of political ideology is non-linear? Circular? Spherical?

In any case, Holwell's story has finally allowed me to view pacifism/anarchism as a potentially viable political alternative, not just a hopelessly naive, delusional, and dangerous exercise in irrational thinking.

Nevertheless, it's hard to picture the pacifism and anarchism advocated by Hennacy and others actually coming to pass in today's world.

But in tomorrow's?

Thank you.

Pass it on.

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Update:

Click here for an excellent video examining the case for anarchy from anarchists' own mouths.
The Democratic Activist

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Remember the American "middle class?"

The Democratic Activist
John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune, 1/25/10

Remember "middle class?" A home of your own? Health care? College for your kids? Vacations? Sick leave? Retirement with a pension at 65?

Forget it.

In the news today:

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On Tuesday night's Daily Show, bailout watchdog and financial reform advocate Elizabeth Warren told Jon Stewart that "this is really the moment" that will determine the future of America's middle class -- the system must be fixed or "the game really is over."

Warren, who chairs the Congressional Oversight Panel created to monitor TARP, said: "It is simple. This is America's middle class. We've hacked at it and chipped at it and pulled on it for 30 years now. And now there's no more to do. Either we fix this problem going forward or the game really is over."

In recent months, Warren has repeatedly warned that America's middle class is on the verge of collapse. In an essay for the Huffington Post last December, she raised the possibility: "America without a strong middle class? Unthinkable, but the once-solid foundation is shaking." A few days later, she told MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski "We are at serious risk in America of having 'middle class' no longer synonymous with the old notions of security and solid, but instead meaning living one paycheck to the next, living one bad diagnosis or pink slip away from financial collapse."

Warren has been the TARP oversight chair since November 2008, and Stewart asked her why the system hasn't been fixed yet.

"Well, these guys really do get it." Warren told Stewart -- the CEOs, bankers, and people in power -- "They get it. And they work best behind closed doors." If the decisions are in their hands, she said, "Nothing, nothing will change. You know, I want to turn to these guys sometimes, and I want to say: what part of 'we bailed you out' do you not get? These are people who would not have their jobs because they would not have their companies."

"The chips are all on the table," Warren added. "We are going to write what the American economy looks like for 50 years going forward. And right now the CEOs have any real change bottled up in the Senate."

(Click here to go to the original article.)

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"Middle class?" How quaint!

Don't be silly. This is America 3.0, the United Corporate States of America.

In this version, new features include: two stratified classes ... one tiny upper class, and one huge lower class for everyone else (the large middle class developed during the 1930's and included in the previous version has been removed); free speech and free elections only for giant corporations and a few billionaires; foreign purchase of U.S. elections and ownership of federal and state offices by terrorists and other enemy nationals (any wealthy individual or group that owns or controls a corporation with a U.S. subsidiary); having to be "nice" and "appropriately deferential" to people just because they're a lot richer than you are (this was borrowed from an earlier program called "Aristocracy" that had fallen out of favor during the last 80 years but was has now returned in the new edition of America 3.0).

Get your copy today!

Actually, OCCOWB (Our Conservative Corporate Overlords and Wealthy Betters) will be mailing you a copy every week (like those pesky AOL disks) for generations to come, quite possibly forever. So don't worry about getting a copy ... you won't be able to avoid it.

You liked America version 2.0 better? 

Sorry, that version is longer available ... and besides, anyone possessing a copy will be detained without charges as an "enemy combatant," disappeared, and waterboarded (which is not torture, because -- as we keep saying -- OCCOWB does not torture) for as long as OCCOWB likes. Check the Terms of Use document; it's in there.

"But ... the Bill of Rights" prohibits such treatment!" you say.

What "Bill of Rights?" THAT was version 1.0. FDR's preservation and expansion of those freedoms, his creation of the conditions in which the American middle class could be born and would prosper, was 2.0. 

THIS is 3.0. Shut up (loud smack across the face). Mind your betters. Now, go to your room ... and you won't be coming out, little mister, until you learn the error of your ways. NO HEALTHCARE for you! Yes, you have to share your bedroom with three other inferior peasant families just like yourselves. And no, you may NOT have a crust of bread.

Thank you.

Pass it on.

(But first, click here, here, and here and take action as if our future depends on it, as it well may.)
The Democratic Activist

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Join me in leaving the abusive, dysfunctional Dumb-o-cratic Party!

The Democratic Activist
Today I did what was for me, just a short while ago, unthinkable. I stopped being a Democrat. Today, I re-registered as a Green.

Like an abused, beaten, tortured spouse, the Left refuses to leave its abuser, fearing for "what might happen." And like the abused spouse, only when she realizes that the risk of NOT leaving is greater than the risk of leaving will she come to her senses and do the only rational, healthy, intelligent thing: leave the person who is beating and bruising her, despite promises and assurances, time after time, that he'll "reform his ways" and "never do it again," that the abuser really loves the beaten spouse, and has her best interest at heart.

I'm gone. The thought of staying has finally become scarier than the thought of leaving.

Isn't it obvious by now? The Democratic Party HATES the Left with a passion, as Rahm Emanuel and so many other Dem leaders have made no real attempt to hide. They sell us liberals and other ordinary Americans out every time: the Patriot Act, The Bankruptcy Bill, The Military Commissions Act, the end of Habeas Corpus in America, torture, no impeachment of war criminals, continuation and expansion of stupid, wasteful military exercises, warrantless wiretapping, executive secrecy and an unaccountable executive branch, the demise of the public option and with it any hope of health care reform, the gutting of climate change legislation that could well mean the unnecessary deaths of billions of people and a functionally dead planet in 50 short years, no real support for dying unions, the list goes on and on – ALL of these things directly enabled (or even wholeheartedly embraced) ... by Democrats!

A great article in today's Huffington Post says it all:

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The President's steadfast refusal to acknowledge that we have a two-party system, his insistence on making destructive concessions to the same party voters he had sent packing twice in a row in the name of "bipartisanship," and his refusal ever to utter the words "I am a Democrat" and to articulate what that means, are not among his virtues. We have competing ideas in a democracy -- and hence competing parties -- for a reason. To paper them over and pretend they do not exist, particularly when the ideology of one of the parties has proven so devastating to the lives of everyday Americans, is not a virtue. It is an abdication of responsibility.

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Yes, a civil war within the Dumb-o-cratic Party would probably help Republicans come to power. Unless their own Tea Party faction were to succeed in similarly splitting the Publican Party. And what would be the ultimate result? An ultra-far-right party (the Tea Partiers), a right-wing party (the Republicans), a centrist party (the Democrats), and an actual, honest-to-goodness left-wing party made up of disillusioned liberals no longer willing to be treated like cheap Tuesday night whores by disloyal, lying Dems. Certainly, that wouldn't be so bad ... in fact, I think anyone would agree that such a four party system would be a HUGE, QUANTUM IMPROVEMENT over what we've got now.

The alternative is to continue to allow the corrupt, conservative culture of cruelty, selfishness, self-centeredness, and greed continue to destroy this country. The problem now is not Republicans, not conservative Democrats, but LIBERAL DEMOCRATS who are too afraid to speak the truth (i.e. that the Democratic Party is utterly useless, regards liberals and liberal ideas and policies with disdain and contempt, and will sell us and them out every single time) and act on it (i.e. leave the party, stretch the Overton Window hard to the left, and in so doing open up a shred of hope that this nation might be saved from the threat of corporate plutocracy).

Let the split within the Democratic Party begin. May the recent defeat in Massachusetts of conservative, terminally cautious, faux-Democratic, Obama/Emanuel wishy-washyness be the start of it.

Are you involved in an unhealthy, addictive relationship with the Democratic Party?

Go ahead. You can do this. You've been wanting to do it for a LONG time. 

Just waltz right up to the counter at your local Post Office, and re-register as a member of the Green Party (of some other liberal party ... NOT as an Independent, which would push Dumb-o-crats even further to the right).

Then contact the Democratic National Committee, and tell them, in no uncertain terms, why you did it.

I think you know it's the right thing to do. And I can say from personal experience, just earlier today ... it feels real, real good.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Little guy gets heard, in a big way

he Democratic Activist
People: I'm in USAToday!

A week or so ago, I was interviewed by USAToday Washington Bureau correspondent Mimi Hall last week, representing the liberal blogosphere alongside top national political figures and groups like David Swanson, Frank Luntz, Donna Brazile, Friends of the Earth, and the ACLU.

From Obama's liberal base 'disengaged' – by Mimi Hall, USAToday, 3/10/10:

Regardless, a growing number of liberal groups and activists say they've had enough of Democrats who break their promises or cater to conservatives.

"The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is now in shock," says longtime Democratic activist-turned-blogger Chris Bowland, 52, of Santa Rosa, Calif. "It's very clear the party hates us and has no respect for its base."

Bowland, who this month changed his party registration to the Green Party, says the Democrats are going to pay for it at the polls in November.

"Who is it that shows up to man your phone banks and who goes knocking on your doors? Unions and left-wing activists like me," he says. But Obama has broken his campaign promises and now, "we've had it. I'm done."

Actually, I got six lines in the article, the greatest number devoted to any person interviewed (Brazile also got six lines).

Although Hall misspelled my name (Chris "Bowland"), my statements and point of view on this important issue were accurately reported and got VERY wide coverage, which is what counts (the article attracted 3650 online comments!). It's an excellent short article, and I hope you'll be able to take the time to read it in it's entirety.

Not bad for a random citizen like me ... just a regular guy with a laptop, an opinion, and a commitment.

Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lynn Woolsey Sells Out

The Democratic Activist
As a former cheerleader for Ms. Woolsey and the Democrats, it hurts deeply to have to say this. But by now, it couldn't be more clear: Lynn Woolsey and the vast, overwhelming majority of Democrats in congress are just NOT committed to liberal principles. Her chief commitment, and theirs, is to currying favor with the corrupt, cowardly, conservative, thumb-sucking leadership of the Dumb-0-cratic Party.

The text of a letter I'm sending today to Congresswoman Woolsey:

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Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey
263 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515

1/15/2010

Dear Congresswoman Woolsey,

I am a liberal activist, one of many liberal activists in your constituency and throughout American who is appalled by your and the Congressional "Progressive" Caucus's selling out of liberal ideas and policies in order to curry favor with the pro-corporate, conservative leadership of the Democratic Party.

The attached email message I just forwarded supporting Democratic primary challenger Marcy Winograd went out to my list of over 300 liberal activists throughout the country. We are keenly and painfully aware of your betrayal and of the betrayal by other so-called progressive Democrats in Congress of core liberal principles and policies. We are particularly incensed by your and Mr. Grijalva’s jaw-dropping, inexcusable decision as leaders of the “progressive” CPC to abandon your promise to vote against any health care reform bill without a robust public option for health insurance. Selling out one’s base is no way to win elections, Ms. Woolsey. I hope that you realize the terrible damage your behavior might do, not only to America and to Americans, but to the standing of the Democratic Party in the minds of party activists and workers and to your own reelection prospects.

Who’s side are you really on, Ms. Woolsey? The time has come for you and other “progressive” Democrats to decide. Who will it be: will you side with ordinary everyday Americans or with the conservative Democratic Party establishment?

Actions speak louder than words, and although your words are lovely and progressive, your actions and those of other key “liberal” Democrats in congress are, regrettably, regressive and cowardly. We need leaders in the Democratic Party who will respect the liberal base upon which they stand, not turncoats who will say one thing but then lose their spine and principles at the drop of a hat, bowing to conservative pressure as soon as Rahm or Barack or some other party leader tells you to stick it to the Left.

We will not take your betrayal lying down. Many are leaving the party. Those who can stomach remaining as Democrats are supporting liberal challengers and are determined to oppose those faux liberals in congress who say one thing but then do just the opposite -- as you, Ms. Woolsey have done, to your great shame and our great disappointment.

I write a blog called The Democratic Activist (http://thedemocraticactivist.blogspot.com/) and will do my best to publicize your betrayal and fight against you in any election in which you run, unless you come to your senses and decide to remain true to your promises to us (particularly and most urgently to your promise to vote against any health care reform bill without a strong public option). I and other like-minded, outraged liberal activists are committed to removing wimpy, faux-progressive Democrats from office -- including yourself and President Obama, if necessary -- who show by their actions that they despise the liberal activist base largely responsible for their election to office. But is it wise, Ms. Woolsey, for a political party to regard its own base with contempt and disdain? Without our strong and enthusiastic support, who will man the phone banks? Who will knock on doors for weeks on end? Who will send the viral email blasts? Who will get out the vote on election day?

The whole country is watching the disgraceful Democratic capitulation to corporate interests now coming to full fruition, Ms. Woolsey. As I’m sure you’re aware, the American people as a whole, and the liberal base of the Democratic Party in particular, are terribly disappointed in the performance (or lack thereof) of President Obama and of the party recently brought to power on a much ballyhooed promise of “real change.” As a member of the new media, and as a constituent of yours, I would be happy to speak with you personally or with a member of your staff about this, if you would like to arrange a meeting so that we may do so.

Thank you.

Chris Borland
Publisher: The Democratic Activist

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Thank you.

Pass it on.
The Democratic Activist