Volcanoes, Airlines, and Poetic Injustice

Schadenfreude isn’t anything to be particularly proud of, I suppose, but it’s hard not to look with bemused satisfaction at the quiet ash-filled skies above Europe.

Every time a volcano erupts I think: “Well what did you expect? Mother Nature is bound to vomit now and then, given the way we keep house.”

The problem is that She doesn’t really think about us.

For example, The New York Times reports today on the jet-loads of money the airline industry is losing right now due to all the flights grounded by an Icelandic volcano with an inscrutable name.

How much money?

One billion dollars so far, $80 million for US carriers.

“‘It is clear that this is not sustainable,’ the European Union’s transport commissioner, Siim Kallas, told reporters in Brussels. ‘We cannot just wait until this ash cloud dissipates.’”

Someday we should have a serious talk about what is and what is not sustainable in the airline industry, which (as the article reports) suffered first from 9/11, then from SARS, then from the 2008 oil-price spike, and now from a goddamned volcano impertinent enough to erupt.

Don’t terrorists, diseases, and natural limits know we’re trying to “grow” an economy here?

This is a job for the Byronic Man.

Lord Byron, that is, who in his grim poem, “Darkness” (1816), did a little thought experiment after Mount Tambora, a volcano in the East Indies, puked enough ash into the sky to wipe from the calendar an entire summer.

55 comments on this post.
  1. polistra:

    Frankly, I’ve never understood why everyone has to be hopping on airplanes all the time. 90% of this activity has been totally unnecessary since the invention of the telephone, and with newer phones and computers capable of carrying video, text, etc, it’s even more unnecessary. Air freight makes sense, though…..

  2. Groby:

    “Schadenfreude isn’t anything to be particularly proud of, I suppose, but it’s hard not to look with bemused satisfaction at the quiet ash-filled skies above Europe.”

    Your posts here give the impression that there isn’t anything about yourself of which you aren’t proud.

    Your message here seems to be that “technological modernity is fine for me but not for thee” — with “thee” being anyone who faces any adverse consequence at all from the volcanic ash.

    Let’s hope that others are less filled with “bemused satisfaction” than you yourself are right now if the internet ever goes down and you yourself are robbed with this particular means to broadcast your pride.

  3. D.W. Sabin:

    Yes, you schadenfreudean reprobate, in Vermont after the Indonesian volcano blew, it snowed every month of the year and crop failures were legion. The Yankees referred to it as: “The Year of eighteen hundred and froze to death”. Inasmuch as we just had a protracted evenly freezing winter on the heels of a cold and wet previous summer, I hope Vulcan aint making a new play on our picnic season. The Crab Apples and Lilac are blooming at the same time as the Spicebush and Shadblow. I taint never seen this afore.

  4. Jason Peters:

    Whew! It’s good to see that Roby / Arthur MacInness is still lurking about, missing the point, and throwing stones from the glass house of anonymity.

    Tell me, Roby / Arthur MacInness: were you born a humorless yonder socket, or do you practice in front of the mirror every morning?

  5. Cecelia:

    We cannot just wait until this ash cloud dissipates.’”

    I loved that – okay Mr. Minister – go tell that volcano it must stop right now.

    This reminds me of Cheney’s famous remark about the American way of life being non negotiable. Someone needed to tell him that nature doesn’t negotiate.

  6. Groby:

    And nice to know, Mr. Peters — though it comes as no surprise — that you’re less good at taking the kind of thing you dish than you are at dishing it yourself.

    As for me of anyone else here “lurking” in “the glass house of anonymity” — who’s fault is that?

    Your own website’s comment function stipulates that e-mail addresses will not be published.

    Perhaps that promise should be amended, if it isn’t going to be kept.

    Or perhaps the stipulation should be that e-mail addresses will not be published, save in the event that one’s comments wound Jason Peters’s pride — apparently an easy thing to do.

    Please excuse me for being less amused by you, Mr. Peters, than you are by yourself — and please don’t take me as implying that a blog-post comment that wounds your pride, however unintentionally, is anything other than a far, far less morally-commendable thing than your “bemused satisfaction” at many millions of people being inconvenienced by volcanic ash.

  7. Robert:

    This, I think, would seem a most apt time to reflect upon and ask ourselves a few pertinent questions about the sustainability of the modern world. You know, questions such as, is it really a good thing that around sixty percent (I have seen numbers all over the place, so this one could be wrong)of the food Americans eat on a daily basis comes from, or has some components that come from other countries. Or, is the fact that a large percentage of the global economy is seemingly tied to cheap transportation, and thus easily disrupted a positive thing.

    I mean maybe I’m dense, my wife has branded me as such on an occassion or two, but to me these don’t seem like trivial matters. Yet, for some reason, I expect this opportunity for thinking will be passed up as we rush to the next gate. Afterall, it’s almost vacation season, and there’s money to be made. We got to get those darned planes back in the sky.

  8. Jason Peters:

    Roby / Arthur MacInness:

    Out of respect for your cowardice, which is impressive, I’ve removed your email address. But someone should tell you plainly that you are a witless nether eye. Robert here can teach you a thing or two about getting to the heart of what you read. Study deserving. I’m done with you.

  9. JP:

    I know driving is not exactly a favored activity of many FPR types – even though some cars now have very low emissions and the majority of oil does not go towards gas but plastics.

    Nevertheless, I always favor driving to a vacation spot than flying. Flying is impersonal and does not give you the opportunity to experience the region(s) you fly over. Driving, especially if willing to leave the main highways, allows you to experience new communities and different approaches to living. Nowhere is this more true than when travelling abroad. In some cases, planes are the only practical modern solutions (NYC-Auckland). In many cases, a few extra days in the car provides immeasurable satisfaction.

    I have many private examples, but do not wish to take more time. Currently living abroad, the rural community I reside is less affected than the big cities by this temporary downturn. Why? Simply, most of the food is locally produced and farm goods are abundant. The bigger cities rely on places like Kenya to import their specialty veggies and/or flowers and are already starting to worry about empty shelves and not being able to sell sell sell. My local butcher is supplied by local farmers as are those who sell at the weekly market. Life is good.

    All to say, I can only imagine the frustration of those running out of money unable to return from long planned vacation. If this makes people, especially those residing in big urban centers, realize how dependent they are on far away places to provide their most basic necessities, then perhaps some good will come out of it. All the while realizing that those far away places, because of the way the global supply chain has been wired, are among the first to suffer and least able to bear the brunt of the downturn.

    I am rambling so will finish with this: We worry about the “I” with little consideration for those we depend on for a variety of goods and services. Perhaps it is time we pay a little more attention to those processes our choices have created.

    Peace and Grace,
    -jp

  10. Mark Perkins:

    Groby writes, “Your message here seems to be that ‘technological modernity is fine for me but not for thee.’”

    When I first read this I thought it said, “Technological modernity is fine for me but not for free,” in which case I’d say that’s a pretty good understanding of things. I like my laptop and especially my iPod, but I am aware that costs of such things may be more than the price tag.

  11. Carl Scott:

    Silly. Irrational. Willfully blind to the myriad of dependencies subtle and overt almost every last one of us has to the technological grid we live in. Speaks of Nature as if it/she is some kind of god.

    If you want to speak of God trying to talk to or punish us, or of our general susceptibility to denying/bracketing the unpredictability of natural forces, I might enjoy having a chat. And undoubtedly, this whole Egjutulloiykgyllp or whatever volcano is indeed grandly funny and humility-encouraging, despite the real harm to real lives that comes with it.

    But towards this Gaia poetic justice stuff, put me (momentarily) in the camp of Voltaire. It’s gross superstition. And it’s kinda shameful. Very human, but still.

  12. Jason Peters:

    Carl Scott: I’m dull, it is true. Just ask “Groby.” But I have gone over this piece a few times now and I can’t find any mention of nature as god. I can’t find Gaia. And I can’t find poetic justice. When you get a moment, help a brother out.

  13. Carl Scott:

    “Every time a volcano erupts I think: “Well what did you expect? Mother Nature is bound to vomit now and then, given the way we keep house.””

    So, if we “kept house,” “She,” that is, nature, would not have her volcanoes erupt into our flight paths or her hurricanes roll into our cities?

    No, you didn’t use the word Gaia. And you add that “she doesn’t care.”

    Of course you and I, not being “poetic” constructs, do care. You find “it’s hard not to look with bemused satisfaction at the quiet ash-filled skies above Europe.”

    I’m also bemused at and glad to be reminded of the smallness of man exhibited by this event, but somehow “satisfaction” (a word often, connected to “justice,” no?) doesn’t enter into it for me. I can’t seem to forget the actual distresses of actual people here. Mothers and fathers unable to return to their children and ten-thousand other private privations and even disasters. I guess I should assume your attitude towards these is no different, but I think that those currently afflicted by them would find the words you chose to be rather smug and unfeeling ones. Even today, on Earth Day.

    I mentioned God, BTW, simply because I am not totally closed, as I understand Voltaire was, to trying to discern his messages and purposes in natural disasters. Difficult issues there–and while I suppose it is natural for modern humans to unthinkingly substitute “nature” for the absent (to them) gods or God, so that every event under the sun can have a reason assigned to it, I do find it to be a smug sort of silliness when connected to the eco-agenda, or alas, Front Porch sentiments.

  14. Jason Peters:

    Now I’m looking back through the post for “she doesn’t care.” I’m not finding that either. This makes me think the problem is not with the writing but with the reading.

  15. Jimmy Higgins:

    As a petty bourgeois intellectual it seems entirely of your place to talk of “Schadenfreude” and look on in “bemused satisfaction” at an event that has serious consequences for millions of people. You perhaps would be just as bemused to see millions wiped out by some cataclysmic natural event: that’ll show them for living in the modern world! Told them so! Down they go!

    Such corrosive humor and contempt smacks of Malthusian misanthropy. Of course, Malthus was a hack as William Cobbett and others pointed out long ago. Reactionaries fail to understand that it is not that modern human life is inherently incapable of being in a proper dynamic with nature, but that the nature of social relations of a decaying capitalism prevent a proper, rational response to such natural and environmental problems.

    In a properly socialized modern world, based on a mass working class political movement, we can realize a more rational metabolic relation to nature than such provincial idiocy proffered at the Front Porch Republic–much of which will never get off the ground beyond remaining on the fringe of contemporary capitalist life. And, no, your anachronistic and reactionary provincial outlook here isn’t any freer of abstractions than the modern capitalist. It is thoroughly soaked with them. It has more in common with the Völkisch anxiety of yesteryear, which provided the soil for fascist movements.

    Worse, such ideological abstractions (viz., “localism” &c.) are glorified petty bourgeois pipe dreams with no capacity for mass realization–capitalism is a global phenomenon after all requiring a mass global response. The petty bourgeois suffers most of all from political inertia and talks instead of “private life” because he is largely inefficacious within the modern world and would rather carve out a safe little hole to hide himself in, fantasies (and what after all is less concrete than the petty bourgeois fantasy?) and all. The petty bourgeois has no concrete, rigorous and historical understanding of capitalism–and thus he resorts to abstract, incoherent and ignorant responses as typically evidenced here, post after post.

    At any rate, I’ll quote, in full, from a piece offering more sober commentary on the flight disruptions than the Malthusian contempt proffered above:

    The European air traffic crisis (WSWS)
    22 April 2010

    In the course of history it is often an unexpected event which exposes the real nature of social relations. Such is the case with the eruption of a remote volcano situated on an island on the northern perimeter of Europe.

    A century ago, the emissions from such a volcano would have concerned local inhabitants and perhaps a number of foreign scientists. If the plumes were sufficiently big, vulcanologists might have been motivated to send a ship to investigate the phenomenon.

    Today, it is impossible to pick up a newspaper anywhere in the world which does not report at length about the clouds of ash emitted by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. For nearly a week, the volcanic activity has paralysed air traffic in Europe, with huge knock-on effects on trade and travel around the world.

    The consequences of the shutdown of European airspace are staggering and already exceed the dislocations which followed the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. According to the air traffic body Eurocontrol, around 7 million passengers have been directly affected by the cancellation of 95,000 flights across Europe.

    Behind this bald statistic lies the plight of millions of individuals whose travel, holiday and work plans have been disrupted, often with severe consequences. Stranded at airports across the globe, passengers—including entire families, the elderly and the infirm—have been forced to pay out thousands of euros for emergency hotel accommodation or alternate forms of travel to companies charging extortionate rates.

    The loss in income for airline companies is already estimated at one billion euros. The ability of highly indebted European economies such as Greece, Portugal and Spain to avert default has been damaged by the impact on their tourism industries.

    In Kenya, 5,000 day labourers were laid off because the ash cloud stopped air freight traffic and prevented the crops they pick—vegetables and flowers—from reaching European households. The Japanese carmaker Nissan declared it will be forced to suspend production at two of its plants because it cannot import tyre pressure sensors from Ireland.

    In Germany, carmaker BMW announced its assembly lines could come to a halt if it is unable to find alternatives to air cargo for transporting transmissions and other components.

    The disruption resulting from the volcanic ash has underscored the enormous degree to which economic life is globally integrated. Billions of individuals around the world are united in a complex social process of production and distribution and dependent on the most rapid and effective forms of international transportation and communication. The breakdown of one major cog in this vast social mechanism has immense global consequences.

    Modern society is mass society. Provincialism is almost a complete thing of the past. But under capitalism, it is impossible to mobilize social resources collectively and internationally to rationally and effectively respond to a volcanic eruption—or to address great social problems such as poverty, illiteracy, disease, hunger. Instead, the social infrastructure stagnates and deteriorates.

    Why? First, because all considerations are subordinated under capitalism to profit and private ownership of the means of production. In this case, an effective and humane response is blocked by the profit interests of competing airlines and other corporate interests.

    Second, because capitalism is based on the historically outmoded division of the world into competing nation states, which makes impossible a rational and coordinated international response to problems that are global in character—whether they be natural disasters, global warming or the social scourges of poverty and disease.

    The current crisis has highlighted, in particular, the contradiction of a globalized air traffic system that consists of nationally based and privately owned airlines.

    The governments and political establishments have shown themselves to be utterly unprepared for a crisis of this scope and indifferent to the fate of millions of people. After decades of worshipping the market, dismantling public services, glorifying individual enrichment and serving the predatory appetites of the financial elite, they refuse to acknowledge any responsibility for society as a whole.

    Virtually no preparations had been made for this type of occurrence, which was not entirely unexpected even if its timing and extent could not have been predicted. No adequate equipment was available to measure the exact location and density of the ash clouds.

    Having failed to take adequate precautions for such an event, European governments sat on their hands when it happened.

    When the banks were at risk following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, heads of government moved heaven and earth to bail them out. Emergency cabinet meetings were held, special commissions established and parliamentary sessions called on short notice to free up billions of euros of taxpayer funds to provide massive no-strings-attached bailout packages for the banks.

    The reaction of European governments to the social consequences of the current crisis was quite different. No efforts were made to establish a central European task force or corresponding national bodies to deal with the impact of the ash cloud on air traffic.

    There have been no special sittings of cabinets or parliaments and no funds have been freed up to help passengers in distress. As the crisis was escalating, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on her way back from the United States, was enjoying a winding motor tour through southern Europe, accompanied by an entourage of journalists.

    In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called a meeting of his emergency planning committee which decided to send three Royal Navy ships to southern Europe. Brown’s decision to evoke the spirit of Dunkirk has far more to do with the current general election campaign than concern for 150,000 stranded British travelers. One of the three warships picked up 500 soldiers who had completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan and a mere 150 ordinary people stranded in Spain.

    It took five days after the flight ban had been imposed for European transport ministers to even meet via video conference for consultation on the crisis. Besides Europe’s 27 transport ministers, another 180 individuals representing special interests took part in the conference.

    Only when major airlines and business interests began publicly demanding that the flight ban be lifted, regardless of safety concerns, did European governments stand to attention. Overnight, German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer gave in to the pressure from the corporate and airline lobbies. He agreed to open up German air space on a “flight by sight” basis, whereby pilots attempt to steer around the dangerous ash clouds.

    Other countries have also eased restrictions on their air space, despite the fact that experts and pilots have expressed fears that a premature resumption of service could endanger passenger safety.
    In its own way, the European air traffic crisis has exposed the backward and destructive character of capitalist social relations and the ruling classes whose wealth and power are based on these relations.

    Stefan Steinberg

    (Also, for a more sane, anti-capitalist & modernist response to the environmental crisis, see this article by Nick Beams of the WSWS.)

  16. Mark Perkins:

    How many people have died as a result of the volcano so far? I’m legitimately ignorant of the answer, though I suppose there must be at least a few deaths or horrific injuries given some of the comments here.

    Jimmy Higgins, a class-based revolution? Really? Is it still the 19th century where you are? I’m pretty sure class-based internationalism perished in 1914, and not all the “globalization” (Americanization) of the last half-century has done a thing to change that.

    By the way, Hitler and Mussolini moved from fringe figures to the wave of the future when they dropped the “inter” from their international socialism schtick… not when they started farming and supporting their local parish. Just think: if you’d only drop this archaic class-based international nonsense and becomes a nationalist, you’d have something going there.

  17. Mark Perkins:

    Before someone calls me a fascist or a Nazi, I should point out that by “wave of the future” I mean the fears (or hopes, depending) of Westerners in the 1930′s. And being, yes Jimmy Higgins, a little reactionary myself, “wave of the future” holds little approbation when I use it anyway.

  18. D.W. Sabin:

    Aw heck, Carl Scott has got me so peevish over his most intemperate assault on my pagan soft-spot that I’m going to have to unleash upon the good Mr. Perkins and call him a FASCIST NAZI….or a NAZI FASCIST or maybe even a Gall durned FASCIST NAZI ELITIST .

    The best part of this entire episode was the scene I espied on one of the nightly opinion shows when they were filming an interview of a feller trapped in Heathrow and while he solemnly recited the sad tale of his trying travels, some young loutish Brit jumped up behind him in frame and wearing a Hooters Sweatshirt and started pogoing while chanting “I HATE ICELAND, I HATE ICELAND…I (pronounced “OI”) HATE OICELAND”. He must have been thwarted on his Prague Bachelors Drunken Weekend.

  19. JD Salyer:

    “How many people have died as a result of the volcano so far?”

    Good question, Mr. Perkins.

    I’d guess fewer than those who’ve died at the hands of hubris-drunk ideologues who feel important by quacking words like “reactionaries” and “petty bourgeois” over and over and over again.

  20. Jimmy Higgins:

    Salyer: It has nothing to do with hubris. It’s a very accurate portrayal of the trajectory of the FPR. Thousands of people’s lives have been affected by this: including having to pay enormous amounts of money that they’re just not capable of and jobs lost because of the consequences of capitalist private property and its divisions in Europe. The consequences here aren’t “natural” through and through: they’re social–and connected to the global decay of capitalism. The article above that I quoted has pointed this out in succinct detail. If such a disaster is something to gloat and be “bemused” at as if it were all “natural”, I’m not sure how such an orientation isn’t misanthropic and disconnected from the world around you.

    Perkins: you could use some historical concreteness in your useless generalizations. Hitler and Mussolini were deep, conservative reactionaries. Mussolini betrayed his initial orientation with international socialism and working class resistance at the onset of WWI to eventually moving to the extreme right wing–being a part of the national petty bourgeois movement in Italy, much of which shared affinities with the fascistic Völkisch ideologies in Germany (as evidenced in Giovanni Gentile’s speeches for Mussolini). Both figures were a part of a massive, coordinated capitalist attack on mass, independent working class resistance and mobilization.

    That the working class movement was betrayed and crushed by fascism in Germany (and Italy, Spain and elsewhere) says nothing about the objective nature of capitalism and its only global, historical and logical gravedigger as its contradictions are heightened: the world’s working class tout court. If you want to rest on fantasy and historical falsifications, Mr. Perkins, please feel free: you only do yourself a disservice. Only a Glenn Beck-stooge can conflate national socialism with a revolutionary, international socialism. Also, a working-class based revolution isn’t archaic in the slightest. It’s very real today (as it has always been since the maturing of industrial capitalism in its progressive phase). And the onset of the global financial crisis provides the dress rehearsal to even more explosive capitalist crises which will mobilize masses by necessity.

  21. Mark Perkins:

    Jimmy,

    For some who decries “useless generalizations,” you are doing a wonderful job of toeing the Party line.

    You speak of Italian Fascism, “much of which shared affinities with the fascistic Völkisch ideologies in Germany.”

    I’m amused that you refer to the Germans as fascist and imply that the Italians adopted fascism from the Germans. Amused because Mussolini invented Fascism, which is a distinctly Italian idea and predates Hitler’s National Socialism. Mussolini Fascism was, if anything, a version of national socialism–not the other way around. And Hitler did not become a Fascist, though Mussolini’s Fascism became by the late 30′s and 40′s more national socialist and less Fascist (though always Italian, which is perhaps why the cruelties and wickedness of Mussolini’s regime was always slightly less barbaric than Hitler’s).

    I’m not surprised you call all “right-wing” totalitarianism fascist. It’s a common misnomer, and pretty much Party-line thinking for international socialists and Commies. Stalin was the first one to stop calling Hitler a Nazi. He demanded that it be Hitlerism and Hitlerites–probably because his own brand of socialism was more national than international. Communists and the far-left followed suit, only the right post-WW2 became fascists rather than Hitlerites.

    You also toe the Party line on Hitler and Mussolini being “deep, conservative reactionaries.”

    Mussolini was always a radical, always a revolutionary, though he was also a hardcore nationalist, which in his very Italian case made him amiable to certain forms of traditionalism. That’s why he was willing to stop his revolution without eliminating the monarchy or the Catholic Church (Hitler admired Mussolini in the 1920′s but felt that Mussolini made a terrible error by not overthrowing the monarchy and assaulting the Church more vigorously). You say he moved to the “extreme right wing” from what you consider the polar opposite. What you’re failing to see is how easy it is to move from international to national socialism, and how close those two are in reality, no matter how much theoretical distance you try to put between them. (Another example of the easy swing from supposed left to supposed right is the neo-conservative movement… for example, Irving Kristol’s persistent admiration for his Trotskyite youth).

    Glen Beck is a doofus. His Obama = socialist = Hitler thing is amusing because Hitler’s real danger was always rabid nationalism, not his socialism… and Glen Beck is very much a nationalist. It would be like attacking the Humane Society because Hitler loved dogs… well, yeah, but that’s beside the point. Which is not to say that Hitler was no socialist at all. He was something of a socialist though much more of a nationalist. Of course he betrayed the Communists and Social Democrats, and the speech by Otto Wels condemning the Enabling Act remains one of the great moments of resistance in the history of the Third Reich. But did he betray the working class? They certainly didn’t think so. He said on repeated occasions that his main enemies, alongside Communists and Jews, were the bourgeoisie and reactionaries–because he stood for a radical break with everything before him, certainly with Weimar but also with Wilhelmine Germany.

    And, like any good Communist, you are a partisan of conspiracy theories which run roughshod over the difficulties of historical work. Instead of examining the contingencies and conditions through which various nationalist movements rose in Europe, you can simply posit “a massive, coordinated capitalist attack on mass, independent working class resistance and mobilization.” How easy.

    You do a very good job of advocating scientific socialism, what with objective nature of capitalism and the inevitability of its demise at the hands of the working class. Only Marx was wrong about that 150 years ago because he failed to understand that nationality is far more powerful–and dangerous–than class. Class-based internationalism was proved a hilarious joke in 1914 when every single socialist party in Europe quickly abandoned their internationalism and became good, war-fighting patriots (same thing happened with progressive internationalists in America too). And internationalism has had barely a thing to say since then. The existence of the Soviet Union in 1917 and its empire after 1945 were direct results of nationalist wars and had nothing to do with the power of internationalism. I suppose you’ve got Hugo Chavez running around today. And, no doubt, he is very much a socialist. But he is absolutely a nationalist as well, and a million Castro handshakes won’t change that.

    But none of that matters, right? A class-based revolution will happened because it must. Because it is scientifically determined.

  22. Mark Perkins:

    PS: I’m currently unemployed (damn you Capitalism!) and can afford (pun) to write 750-word essays three times a day on the Interwebs… this may not be worth your time.

  23. Jimmy Higgins:

    “I’m amused that you refer to the Germans as fascist and imply that the Italians adopted fascism from the Germans.”

    I didn’t suggest anything chronologically, just ideologically. I’d suggest you read what I wrote. I know fascism was first adopted en masse in Italy. You keep exaggerating differences between fascists and fascists. That’s great. I’m not going to quibble.

    “I’m not surprised you call all “right-wing” totalitarianism fascist.”

    I didn’t. I’m not sure where you’re divining all this.

    “Stalin was the first one to stop calling Hitler a Nazi.”

    Yeah, Stalin was also a bureaucratic reactionary who quickly started to betray the revolutionary workers-state of Russia and the international movement for socialism as early as 1924. Trotsky and the Left Opposition constantly pointed that out and tried to combat it. By 1929, the counterrevolution with Stalin at the helm was in full sway. By 1939, the Hitler-Stalin pact bankrupted any possibility for the Comintern to do anything but betray the international working class by urging workers to capitulate to liberal or right-wing politicians.

    “You also toe the Party line on Hitler and Mussolini being “deep, conservative reactionaries.””

    Functionally, they were once they brought about fascism in their respective states. Fascism as Trotsky has repeatedly and clearly pointed out is merely an extreme right-wing movement of the capitalist nation state with the aid of the petty bourgeois against working-class resistance to the decay of global capitalism–followed by the crushing of liberal democratic organs of state and working class organs as well (unions, neighborhood committees, socialist organizations, many of which included Jewish members., anarchist organizations, etc.).

    “Hitler admired Mussolini in the 1920’s but felt that Mussolini made a terrible error by not overthrowing the monarchy and assaulting the Church more vigorously”

    Hitler also frequently sought the blessing of Catholics.

    “What you’re failing to see is how easy it is to move from international to national socialism, and how close those two are in reality, no matter how much theoretical distance you try to put between them.”

    Yeah, no. Try again. That’s really really stupid. Stop engaging in useless canards and historical falsification of the worst sort.

    “Another example of the easy swing from supposed left to supposed right is the neo-conservative movement”

    Iron clad necessity.

    “Which is not to say that Hitler was no socialist at all. He was something of a socialist though much more of a nationalist.”

    You’re just blathering now.

    “But did he betray the working class? They certainly didn’t think so. He said on repeated occasions that his main enemies, alongside Communists and Jews, were the bourgeoisie and reactionaries.”

    Yeah, in other words, he spoke a fiery petty bourgeois rhetoric (speaking to the anxieties of small capitalists against monopoly capitalists and international finance capital), which is nothing more than national chauvinism of the worst kind, rhetoric shared in part by people as varying as Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul these days. But you don’t judge politicians by their rhetoric alone. You judge them by their class, broader historical forces and their own actions: which ended up largely being a capitulation to German national capital and the crushing of organs of working class action (despite making concessions to sections of the population). If you’d like more elaboration, I’d suggest you read <a href="http://wsws.org/articles/2005/oct2005/le91-o11.shtml"this.

    “And, like any good Communist, you are a partisan of conspiracy theories which run roughshod over the difficulties of historical work. Instead of examining the contingencies and conditions through which various nationalist movements rose in Europe, you can simply posit “a massive, coordinated capitalist attack on mass, independent working class resistance and mobilization.””

    I mentioned Italy, Spain, and Germany where fascism dominated. And these fascistic movements were movements of last resort by national capital to crush independent class resistance. The details are very complicated and each case has their own uniqueness, but the overall functionality of fascism has been to crush working class movement (as it occurred in Chile with Pinochet under Milton Friedman’s tutelage). It’s not convenient or a “conspiracy theory”–there is extensive documentation of such matters and historical perspicacity that is much needed against such obscurantists as yourself.

    “Only Marx was wrong about that 150 years ago because he failed to understand that nationality is far more powerful–and dangerous–than class”

    Yeah, you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

    “Class-based internationalism was proved a hilarious joke in 1914 when every single socialist party in Europe quickly abandoned their internationalism and became good, war-fighting patriots”

    Oh, this is funny now? I see. It wasn’t such an easy joke to millions who died as a result–nor the complicated nature of trade union conservatism that enabled numerous betrayals in various countries. But such concreteness of historical detail has no place except in reactionary humor and other such nonsense.

    “I suppose you’ve got Hugo Chavez running around today. And, no doubt, he is very much a socialist. But he is absolutely a nationalist as well, and a million Castro handshakes won’t change that.”

    Yeah, he’s not a socialist. He’s a left bougeois nationalist. Do you have anything of worth to contribute other than to denigrate the bloodshed of millions of workers around the world who sought to realize a better world but saw one betrayal after another? Of course, none of this implies the class struggle has vanished to “nationalism”, but it is reasserting itself on levels unheard of before. Income inequality charts today are in full step with the 20′s and 30′s. This is going to explode whether you like it or not; I’m not a voluntarist like many here.

  24. Mark Perkins:

    Jimmy,

    If my response was a little snide or dismissive, I apologize. Your own response suggests that most of this isn’t worth pursuing for either of us. “That’s stupid,” “You’re blathering,” and “You don’t know what you’re talking about” doesn’t allow for or prompt any discussion, so I’ll let those particular issues lie.

    You did provoke a few thoughts and ask for a few clarifications.

    “Oh, this is funny now? I see. It wasn’t such an easy joke to millions who died as a result.”

    -I think you missed the tongue-in-cheek satire of my sentence. When I said “good, war-fighting patriots,” there was no approbation (though I do admire Léon Blum in some ways). What’s sad, but also darkly humorous, is how the boisterous pacifism of internationalists evaporated in a frenzy of nationalism in 1914.

    -You say fascism dominated in Italy, Germany, and Spain. This is simply not true. Fascism only existed in Italy. The two other distinct national movements, while allied in many ways, were not Fascist. Lumping them together into one coordinated movement is the classic tactic of the left.

    -Incidentally, Stalin is another example of an international socialist who became a reactionary monster in your mind by simply dropping the “inter.” Again, as much theoretical distance as there may be between international and national socialism, in reality many Communists and social democrats have found it all too easy to shift from the former to the latter.

    -Hugo Chavez seems to think that he is a socialist. He is, after all, nationalizing industries left and right and doing a good job of sticking it to the rich. But I suppose you decide who is ideological enough to earn the title?

  25. Mark Perkins:

    *Fascism only *dominated* in Italy.

  26. Jimmy Higgins:

    “Fascism only existed in Italy. The two other distinct national movements, while allied in many ways, were not Fascist. Lumping them together into one coordinated movement is the classic tactic of the left.”

    Are you kidding me? A tactic of the left? Now you’re wandering in gobbledygook territory. Most bourgeois historians fully acknowledge that Germany pace 1933 was a fascist takeover functionally–rhetorical and particular differences notwithstanding. This not a “tactic of the left.” What nonsense.

    “Stalin is another example of an international socialist who became a reactionary monster in your mind by simply dropping the “inter.”:

    Just like that! Drop a letter or two and you turn into the opposite of anything!

    “But I suppose you decide who is ideological enough to earn the title?”

    Uh, the objective world around us and the class forces that shape our social world–despite rhetoric. Nationalization does not entail socialism any more than bailouts entail socialism. You believe whatever people tell you about themselves?

  27. Mark Perkins:

    Jimmy,

    “Most bourgeois historians fully acknowledge that Germany pace 1933 was a fascist takeover functionally”

    Most might, depending on what they and you mean by fascist, because most people nowadays use fascism in an entirely loose sense. If you look at the comments over at the “Connecticut Yankee” article about Nader, you’ll see me and Dr. Willson going at it over what was, in my opinion, a much too loose use of the word communism. As I said there, it’s all communists and fascists if you want to make it us and them.

    Now if, by fascist, you only mean anti-Semitic nationalist dictatorship, then, sure, whatever, Hitler was a fascist, Communist means nationalized health care, Nazi means right-wing blogger, blablabla. But if you actually want to talk about Fascism the Italian movement invented by Benito Mussolini, not fascism the stock word for trendy leftists, then, no, Hitler was not a Fascist.

    As for Stalin, my whole point is that they aren’t opposites at all, evidenced by the easy slide of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin from international socialism into nationalism. International socialists who lose faith in internationalism tend to become national socialists.

    The objective world declares who is and is not a socialist? How does it do that? Do rocks spell it out in the desert? Do stars align to say who is a socialist?

    I think this all got started because you said that FPR–what with its emphasis on place, the local, the land–was the soil from which fascism came… which is pretty false. Hitler’s movement didn’t spring from the peasantry or the local parish.

  28. Carl Scott:

    Mr. Peters, you said “the problem is she doesn’t think about us.” I translated that into “she doesn’t care.” Major misreading? Major mischaracterization? Not unless you want to hold that nature thinks about us and what we do, but does not care about us. I was/am too charitable to assume you could hold that. And do note from the perspective of my objection to you making nature seem to punish us for our eco-sins, that this part of my reading was AN ADMISSION THAT PARTS OF YOUR PIECE DID NOT FIT THE CHARGE. It was a characterization in your FAVOR.

    And do you answer the charge? No. Do you deny that you implied that our environmental degradations caused the eruption? No. Do you try to CLARIFY what you meant? No. Instead, you accuse me of being a bad reader.

    Mr. Sabin, as usual you have found one of the funniest things about this whole thing. I hate OICELAND! I hate OICELAND! Priceless.

  29. Jason Peters:

    Is it just me, or is irony not as effective as it used to be?

    I thought I was saying something about how nice and quiet a jetless sky is. I thought I was implying that when in our modern arrangements we are “inconvenienced” by such natural eruptions as eruptions, we should think a bit about those arrangements. I thought I was suggesting that sitting in a chair and watching a movie in the sky might be unnatural, that maybe we don’t belong in the air in the first place.

    I thought I was saying that on the lips of the EU’s transport commissioner “sustainability” has, in this context, a strange inscrutable ring about it—which it does, even (perhaps especially) to those who aren’t petit bourgeois intellectuals.

    Does anyone really believe that an erupting volcano is actually a kind of geological emesis? Your Attention Please: That’s just a way of saying something else.

    In our cultural tradition Nature has been characterized (rightly, for she nourishes us) as our Mother. She has also been characterized (rightly, for she pardons no mistakes) as our Judge. You will find this in Edmund Spenser, for example. You can dispense with Spenser, of course. You can dispense with tradition altogether. But then you’re left with an uninformed and untutored judgment and no reliable way of saying who we are or what our place in the world is. You are left with the grim world Mr. Higgins inhabits, cut off, apparently, from charity, and living in a future that never quite manages to arrive.

    I’ve always thought irony preferable to cant, but maybe I should start using such words and phrases as “trajectory” and “rational metabolic relation to nature.” No doubt I’d soon be on my way to saying that anxiety provides soil (I know: it’s just a way of saying something else)—even though most of us petit bourgeois provincials tend to think that organic matter decaying over time provides soil, which then, even in a “properly socialized modern world,” makes eating possible.

    Nah. That’s just völkische longing.

    Friends and enemas: the proper place for a pissing contest is the woods, not the keyboard. Let us avail ourselves of whatever goodness remains. Mr. Scott: I hope I have clarified what you want clarified. Mr. Higgins: I happen to agree that the world is going to detonate soon. (Did I not mention Byron?) I only wish you could speak of this eruption without relying on a prepared language. Mr. Perkins, it’s been interesting having you around (that’s a way of saying something). Do stay—at least until employment drags you down to her level.

  30. D.W. Sabin:

    Peters, it is just you. You sir, are a cad.

    Irony is no longer ironic, it is somehow transformed by the screamocracy into a state of normally accepted logic, hence the general lack of humor prevailing.

    We do so belong in the air. The Earth Goddess placed our thick blocky heads to wagging atop a skinny neck somewhere around 5′ to 7′ up from the ground. Some nitwits, of course, bend back around and stick their narrowing crania up dark musky precincts but I can’t help this kind of unnatural behavior. As my Grandpappy P.C. used to say :”son, the reason you have such a shitty outlook is you’re always looking at the world through the hole in yer ass.”

    He cooked a mean rabbit.

    I love a good class warfare, the raznochintsy are always the first to be thrown directly into the maw while the leadership sits back and eats confiscated delicacies in their confiscated private rail car.

  31. Mark Perkins:

    A day later and perhaps I was wrong to suggest it wasn’t worth Higgins’ time. Probably not worth my time. And yet, one last note.

    “Jimmy Higgins” is, the Internets have informed my ignorant self, a sort of composite ideal American Communist (should I have known this? Did everyone else know this?). Amusingly enough, there’s a book with that title by Aileen Kraditor who is… an ex-Communist neo-conservative.

    Dr. Peters,

    I’ve always found three-legged dogs, ugly babies, and Christian Scientists interesting. Still, I’ll stick around post-employment. Thanks be to God, in smaller doses.

  32. Jimmy Higgins:

    “The objective world declares who is and is not a socialist? How does it do that? Do rocks spell it out in the desert? Do stars align to say who is a socialist?”

    You look at the basic class structure of a state. That’s something quite objective. Has Hugo Chavez overthrown the capitalist class in Venezuela? Is it a working class and peasant controlled state? No, it’s not, neither formally nor materially. It’s merely a left-nationalist bourgeois state. Was Russia a socialist state by 1917? Yes. Unlike you, I don’t draw the notion of “socialism” out of thin air: it has a strong basis in class structure, orientation and international relations.

    “I think this all got started because you said that FPR–what with its emphasis on place, the local, the land–was the soil from which fascism came… which is pretty false. Hitler’s movement didn’t spring from the peasantry or the local parish.”

    Firstly, I never said FPR was the soil from which fascism sprung from. That’s really bizarre. I was pointing out to ideological similarities even if the current conditions for fascism don’t hold. Fascism is only a threat by capital with the aid of the petty bourgeois when there’s a communist and working-class threat. They’re dialectically related. That was the case in Italy, Germany, and Spain. By the way, Perkins, your discussion on Stalin and fascism are total nonsense and have no basis in objective reality or in the important historical details. But I’m not going to rehash that.

    Secondly, pace 1848 the forces of reaction in Germany occupied numerous stations, including the local parish and amongst richer peasantry. Nietzsche’s background, for instance, speaks volumes of that reactionary background. Heidegger is another example of a person who rose from such a Weltanschaaung. Both served the interests of the Nazi party quite fruitfully in their own unique ways (Nietzsche’s reactionary anti-bourgeois, anti-egalitarian, pro-aristocrat ideology served it in its own way, posthumously of course, despite his attacks on Christianity).

    “I thought I was suggesting that sitting in a chair and watching a movie in the sky might be unnatural, that maybe we don’t belong in the air in the first place.”

    That’s perfectly clear in your orientation. But it’s just reactionary nonsense. It has no bearing on the flight crisis in Europe, which has everything to do with the breakdown in capitalism in Europe. I suggest you read that article I quoted above again.

    “I thought I was saying that on the lips of the EU’s transport commissioner “sustainability” ”

    The EU transport commissioner’s suggestion of a lack of sustainability has its immediate basis in the complete lack of unity of decision-making process in Europe. Again, this is covered quite well in the article I quoted above. But you don’t seem to get it. That’s not surprising. For you the real lack of sustainability has its basis in the modern world tout court, I’m sure. But that’s rather silly.

    “You are left with the grim world Mr. Higgins inhabits, cut off, apparently, from charity, and living in a future that never quite manages to arrive.”

    Actually, there’s nothing grim about it. It’s actually quite hopeful. It has its basis in the present, the past, and the future. It has its basis in objective reality and historical practice rather than in fantasy. It has its basis in the millions of people the world over who occupy the position of the working class. If you have any understanding of what socialism actually is, instead of merely repeating useless canards against what you think it is, it might be a strong antidote to your stale petty bourgeois outlook, which is pure fantasy and utopianism. What you accuse me of is exactly your position: your position is entirely stuck in a future which will never materialize. You have no capacity to realize your reactionary fantasies other than in negligible “private” victories on the fringe of capitalist social relations and in inert moralizing.

    And, yes, nature is the final judge. But we are also a part of nature. Human beings have found ways to understand its laws and its ways in numerous ways, and that includes the most sophisticated modes of modern science. Modern science is fully capable of diagnosing the deterioration of the soil in capitalist agriculture–and the only thing stopping the application of those scientific lessons is capitalism itself. Capitalism is an obvious fetter to good science. Indeed, Marx talked about the metabolic rift between man and nature in capitalist social relations as leading to the deterioration of the soil and the worker. Now, to cut the story very short, Marx also argued that the only class capable of ending this metabolic rift is the working class through a complete socialist revolution that ends the anarchy of capitalist production and its periodic crises of overproduction and obsolescence. Petty bourgeois fantasizing will do very little to change that. It rather aims at keeping capitalism in place while smoothing a few bumps here and there. That’s rather Pyrrhic.

  33. Jason Peters:

    Is it just me, or does Mr. “Higgins” think that, if only he types louder, people who found all this tedious blather unconvincing the first (and second and third) time around will at last find it interesting?

    Listen, Higgins. If you weren’t all mouth and no ears, you’d know that many of us here think that capitalism is pulling its lower lip over its head and preparing to swallow.

    But that isn’t the same thing as sharing your “hopeful” future, yet to arrive and bereft of charity, predicated on a bullshit anthropology, a superstitious view of science, and an idea of the state that, as Coleridge said of a certain kind of woman, thicks men’s blood with cold.

    Your condescending rhetoric is better suited to the car bumper, where all complexity disappears. Print it there.

    Or, to put it another way: Get a clue, Junior.

  34. Mark Perkins:

    Funniest parts of my day:

    “Peters, it is just you. You sir, are a cad.”

    “Listen, Higgins.”

    The latter mostly because I’m uncultured swine. (That link, for the record, is not profane. But it is uncultured.)

  35. Jimmy Higgins:

    “many of us here think that capitalism is pulling its lower lip over its head and preparing to swallow.”

    Of course, but this recognition is entirely from a petty bourgeois outlook, which therefore has a very limited perspective and an unscientific understanding of capitalism. All of this results in petty bourgeois fantasies and moralistic bluster–it rests on mysticism and offers a complete lack of ability in getting rid of capitalist socialist relations. So, yes, pipe dreams. Quixotic at best.

    And you deem Marxism predicated on a “bullshit anthropology” and a “superstitious view of science.” Wow. Have you looked again at the stuff you write here on FPR? It is chalk full of exactly that: a petty bourgeois bullshit anthropology based on one of many disputing Christian churches and all its attendant superstitions and metaphysical obfuscations. The good professor (like many of his ilk) is obviously disconnected from the millions of people the world over whose only chance of transforming capitalist social relations is through an offensive class conflict with a decaying capitalism. And, looking forward with the necessary foresight and imagination based on material reality, the initial skirmishes will entail a global socialist revolution of the international working class or complete barbarism. It can only be possible with good working-class leadership.

    We have already seen this very possibility before and the global hope it entailed in the initial stages of the Russian revolution of 1917 before it was betrayed and isolated by imperialist forces. We also saw the very real possibility of numerous revolutions in the 1930′s and the 1960′s in the developed industrial world. We are returning to very similar conditions, except global capitalism is unable to resolve its contradictions today (either with Keynesian solutions or monetarist ones) and will continue to promote bubble economies that collapse and force austerity the world over–which will be challenged by millions of working class people. Just as capitalism replaced feudalism and pre-modern modes of production through its own bourgeois revolutions, so will socialism provide a complete transformation of the capitalist mode of production based on the revolutionary working class’ shared association. The forces of reaction can only perpetuate the possibility of barbarism the world over and the accelerating consequences of global climate disasters. The imperative for the millions among the international working class (over 60-70% of world population by some accounts) remains: socialism or barbarism.

    Or we can listen to FPR’s practically inert prescriptions which will have no real consequence for millions of people–apart from petty bourgeois intellectuals somehow wishing that they can transform their world on a 25-160 acre Hobbit shire. Tolkien might be proud. But it still remains the stuff of reactionary and superstitious eschatological fantasy.

  36. James Matthew Wilson:

    Peters,

    I’m never inviting you to my town again. You clearly attract the biggest imbeciles in the friendless zones of the empty-sphere to “glom” on your writing and turn a bit of spittle into a an endless string of useless argument.

    I am at Virginia Tech, meeting with a bunch of Marxist graduate students, all of whom laughed when I mentioned someone was still calling Marxism a “science,” and who still used the phrase “petit bourgeois.” My initial sorrow that there are still Marxists in the world was soothed by discovering that there are Marxists who know an idiot when they see one.

    Now, incivility is beneath me like a sidewalk, but how did THIS post elicit such a moronic string of cliches? Is it really the case that the people who read this humble web magazine are this dumb?

    While I’m at it: Mark Perkins, you’re a good man, and preach the truth, but please expend your effort on a real Higgins and not on this pseudo-Higgens. I recommend the one who serves Master Robin.

    Carl Scott, you know I admire your provocations, but you’re making superstition out of schadenfreude.

    John Murphy, with all your intelligence, your time is wasted asking Mr. Peters to join in the therapeutic hand-wringing. Indeed, your time is wasted hand-wringing period.

  37. Mark Perkins:

    Duly noted. I’ll also try to stop hijacking comment threads into arguments about Hitler. It’s just that references to Hitler are ubiquitous and usually misdirected.

  38. Jimmy Higgins:

    “meeting with a bunch of Marxist graduate students, all of whom laughed when I mentioned someone was still calling Marxism a “science,” and who still used the phrase “petit bourgeois.” My initial sorrow that there are still Marxists in the world was soothed by discovering that there are Marxists who know an idiot when they see on”

    Goofy graduate students are a reference point now? Not well-respected scholars such as David Harvey, Chris Harman, John Bellamy Foster, Ernest Mandel, etc. who have argued forcefully that Marx provided modern socialism with the most advanced social science? And, yes, many of them have far more relevance today than a bunch of graduate students who laugh at the value of terms that Marx considered highly useful and descriptive–terms that that millions of people will find far more clarifying than the endless obscurantism that passes for here. What seems to be happening here is that these students are likely of the cultural “Marxist” bent–the fashionable Slavoj Zizek kind or the Frankfurt School type or the postmodern kind–the ones that aren’t really Marxists at all, just fashionable leftists who don’t have a clue.

    Moreover, considering that Marx and Engels saw their work as one of the most developed methodologies of historical materialism, capable of fully grasping the essence of capitalism and all its contradictions, it’s rather remarkable that these “Marxists” you speak of don’t believe socialism ought to have a scientific basis. That’s news to me. Indeed Marx once was said to have remarked on such pseudo-Marxists that “if that’s a Marxist, then I’m not a Marxist.” Engels wrote a book to counter such notions called Socialism: Utopian and Scientific after all. Of course, all the canards against scientific socialism are coming from the report of a mystical obscurantist who also doesn’t really understand Marxism himself and rests on, yes, petty bourgeois fantasies. It must take a tremendous amount of scholastic sophistry to rest on mysticism and pseudo-science. Good to know how intellectually and practically bankrupt this place is.

    As the masses continue to move in greater numbers as the capitalist crisis accelerates, the millions of international working class making their struggles manifest in defense of their lives, the FPR petty bourgeois intelligentsia will remain largely irrelevant and useless. After all, capitalism is a global social relation, not a provincial one, and it will require a global movement and strategies to counter. It won’t take fatalistic Malthusian nonsense to do that. Capitalism by its own crises and its decaying impositions of global austerity and militarism force the international working class to strike back and organize the forces of production for need and not for profit. Indeed, Marx is more relevant today than he was in his own day; and the world is catching up to his remarkable foresight.

  39. JP:

    Amazing to see such a ‘throwback” to the 19th C. If anything, it would seem to me that the global ‘counter’ movement is less Marxist than Anarchist – collective anarchism, a la Bakunin, perhaps best suiting Comrade Higgins. Although I think a strong argument can that there is a lot of green-anarchism (Zerzan?) these days as well.

    As for the term “Petite Bourgeoisie,” a term that gets thrown around quite readily, how is it defined? Do you define in the classic Marxist sense, individuals who buy the labor power of others but do not own a controlling share of the means of production, or in the more modern derogatory sense referring to taste and consumption?

    Regardless, having spent more than my fair share of time in political science, I am not sure one can argue that there is much ‘science’ to it. Human relations and interactions are extremely hard to quantify and operationalizing concepts, agreeing to their measure, can be quite contested. I simply do not know if you can call Marxist thought ‘scientific;’ rigorous, perhaps.

    As an aside, even the most committed European communist parties have changed their approach and interpretation of Marx. The hard science seems rather malleable. Although his terms and definitions remain widely accepted, his approach is hotly contested. Perhaps something to do with the vanguard that has a hard time relinquishing power when not forcibly removing individuals from home and community into collectives – millions of dead a simple inconvenience towards the path of communal nirvana.

    In a modern consumer culture, an FPR approach (especially distributive economics) is much more revolutionary and daring than a tired political rallying cry that historically has done more harm than good to the common man. Of course, as the vanguard, life in a classless social hierarchy is pretty nice.

    Cheers,
    -jp

  40. Jason Peters:

    A Marxist had just finished wiping
    His arse with what he’d been typing.
    He stood, turned around,
    And there on the ground
    Was his supper all steamed hot and piping.

    He dined on his own fecal matter
    And grew intellectually fatter.
    “This diet of shit
    Resembles my wit:
    I eat and excrete the same splatter!”

    He opened Das Kapital up,
    Which he kept by his clay urine cup.
    “I do love the hiss
    And the taste of my piss,”
    He said with a prole-like hiccup.

    But deep down he harbored the fear
    That the future might never get here.
    “If only the masses
    Would get off their asses
    The Front Porch might just disappear.”

    [Next stanza anyone? You too, "Higgins." I mean, this thing devolved into farce so long ago there isn't any reason we shouldn't all crack a few beers--working class beers, long necks--and run with it.]

  41. D.W. Sabin:

    Point of Order,
    I may be bourgeois but I aint petty. If I were petty , I wouldn’t advocate for the sainted Communists what Mencken suggested for the American Democracy Utopians. He suggested that they get what they want and get it “good and hard”.

    That poem though Peters, it smells a bit redolent of Martin Luther’s Typically German Potty Fixations. Coprolithomania I believe is the term for it. De Sade had similar inclinations and kept laxatives on hand “for just such circumstances”…in the words of Foghorn Leghorn. Luther’s ribald declamations that he was going to bend and bare his ass and vigorously fart in the face of Satan makes me downright misty -eyed over our Protestant Friends.

    There is just nothing like a good old fashioned arse-salute.

  42. Carl Scott:

    Mr. Wilson, I accept your characterization and like its gracious manner.

    Now, Mr. Peters, you haven’t played very nice on this, but I know when I’m beat. But to make my defeat less ignomious, let me analyze what happened. Irony-deaf types like to do that, you know.

    Step 1: produce a poetically/ironically vague position, perhaps to provoke. It of course helps if the vaguely suggested position is very like one actually held by many. Step 2: when this is attacked, act as if only the dimmest reader could think this position was at all suggested. Step 3: grandly dismiss the text-quoting response to 2 as a specimen of not getting irony.

    Now maybe only the low blow of Step 3 was intentional, and I can see how you perhaps felt trapped into delivering it. But enough. Sometimes the threads do not play out as they should, and we get cornered by our previous moves/reactions. My initial hot reaction to your comfy schadenfreude is what got me into this mess. I go to lick my wounds (and worse, to grade my papers).

    I do understand how one could fall into such steps without entirely intending to, but I will pass on the extended beer of reconciliation. Another day, for now, I lick my wounds.

  43. Jimmy Higgins:

    “In a modern consumer culture, an FPR approach (especially distributive economics) is much more revolutionary and daring than a tired political rallying cry that historically has done more harm than good to the common man.”

    Two things.

    (1) Since you seem so adept at poorly characterizing the history of the 20th century revolutionary socialist struggles and all their betrayals, I take it that your dip into political theory and history has largely been perfunctory; it betrays a complete lack of understanding of the disastrous reversals and the reasons for the failures among the Stalinist oriented communist parties of Europe and elsewhere. Your assertions are just that–assertions–and vacuous as well.

    (2) Since the FPR crew seems to have such a high contempt for the millions of working class the world over–well fitting their academic or upper middle-class station–I still find it amusing that they have no mass political mechanism by which they might be more “revolutionary” than socialists as you suggest. Even “distributive economics”–a fancy notion to keep capitalist social relations intact and in place on a more “soulful” level like many “socially conscious” neoliberal projects. What mass means is there for FPR-types to realize their petty bourgeois fantasies? None. Apart from their usual cadre of elitist agrarian professors, they seem to have a very small fringe class basis–most likely amongst the upper middle class who can afford to buy a hobby farm or two to inflate their silly egos. A petty bourgeois fringe, if you will.

    Unfortunately, the vast majority of people can’t just buy land or property to properly attend to the deterioration of soil and the irrational anarchy of capitalist production. Nor can the vast majority of people do much to attend to many of the problems of the day without a complete transformation in social and property relations as they stand. That can only happen with the working class if at all–as they constitute the most unified mass class the world has ever seen–capable of overthrowing class-based societies once and for all. Moreover, many have already gotten “off their asses” out of sheer necessity–as they have in the past–and will continue to do so as the capitalist crisis accelerates over the coming years. As an aside, I’m willing to bet not one person here has managed to open, read and understand Das Kapital–it’s just a name for ornery intellectuals to drop and pretend they understand what they’re so sure is wrong (likely a very familiar routine for academic obscurantists of this sort, I’m sure, to just make shit up, a la Sokal).

  44. JP:

    Dear Comrade Higgins,

    One does not have time to write about the twisted history of the revolutionary struggle. Setbacks as thy may, the current outcome speaks volumes. One could (honestly) look at China for a possible outcome – of course, a historical study would require us to look at the force collectivization of those ‘masses’ the vanguard views as expendable, not as individuals.

    Importantly, you do not address a) the lack of empirical/quantifiable ‘science’ of which there is none and b) the fact that the majority of global anti-establishment movements today are anarchist, not socialist, in nature.

    As for your mass generalization of contempt of the working class, you obviously miss the respect for the worker and artisan that often is at the heart of FPR’ish thinking. The respect of individual dignity is at the center of such thinking.

    It is not worth continuing the discussion as to how socialism tends to de-humanize the individual. Personally, I think most who share FPR tendencies would vigorously oppose anything contrary to the intrinsic dignity of man and woman.

    I would go into greater detail but I already know your retort: petty bourgeois unable to grasp that hard science that is “Das Kapital.” I need more calculus, I’m sure. Ok, I jest, more chemistry and hypothesis testing will bring me closer to the science that is the communist blueprint for healthy living.

    I’ve spent more time than I care but reading such a ‘throwback’ is rather entertaining. Your arguments are as petty as they are bourgeois – keep reading http://wsws.org/ and dream of that scientific end-state.

    Best of luck in your struggles. I hear Mugabe is looking for some stalwarts; check out the son of Sam (Nujoma), he might be looking for your kind of forward thinking.

    Cheers,
    -jp

  45. John Willson:

    I do think this thread is schlubbishious.

  46. Jimmy Higgins:

    Right, China was a form of socialist collectivization; Mugabe was a socialist; socialism is mere bourgeois theory and praxis;and socialism by default dehumanizes individuals; science is something purely quantifiable. Your implications are quite correct, JP. You know exactly what you’re talking about. As far socialism’s inherent tendencies to dehumanize individuals go, I’m sure that’s why Oscar Wilde wrote in his famous essay, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” that:

    Socialism itself will be of value simply because it will lead to Individualism. Socialism, Communism, or whatever one chooses to call it, by converting private property into public wealth, and substituting co-operation for competition, will restore society to its proper condition of a thoroughly healthy organism, and insure the material wellbeing of each member of the community.”

    Actually, JP, you don’t seem to have a clue. You write: “One does not have time to write about the twisted history of the revolutionary struggle.” Perhaps you meant to say you haven’t bothered to do your homework in the slightest. And that you prefer to indulge in the worst of sophistry and obfuscation. That’s okay too. I’d suggest looking up the Sokal hoax just for your self-edification.

  47. D.W. Sabin:

    “FPR has a high contempt for the millions of working class the world over”

    Do tell.

    I don’t think Oscar spent much time with the likes of Uncle Joe.

  48. Jimmy Higgins:

    “I don’t think Oscar spent much time with the likes of Uncle Joe.”

    And? I didn’t personally spend time in the trenches of numerous wars since WWI to know how futile and disastrous they have been. Neither did Oscar Wilde’s “street cred” have much to do with what he argues. That he didn’t spend time with Uncle Fred and Joe doesn’t indicate anything about his humane and democratic orientation to thousands of working-class and poor people, just like Byron and Shelley and Blake bravely did in an earlier, less-developed stage of capitalism. Nor does it nullify the argument he makes one bit. Worse, you don’t deny the basic anti-social contempt that passes amongst the group-think fringe following here, where you scratch each other’s backs in approval, or twiddle thumbs and whine about the times and the mores–many of them mores of working-class people. You come across as useless curmudgeons with little to offer to working-class people who have real struggles they face daily. Instead you dream up private fantasies for white-bread fringe groups and the cookshops of the future. You can cocoon yourselves in your private fantasies–but at least be honest about it.

  49. Jordan Smith:

    Peters:

    Sorry to be awfully late to your most recent Porch blowout, but I don’t drop by as often as I used to. (I’m sure many of you are thankful.) Considering the late hour and the quality of the discussion you are probably drunker than Cooter Brown and howling at the moon, but I do have a sincere question.

    I have noticed that the matter of the name attached to a comment seems to be of great importance to some Front Porchers. Why seems it so particular with thee? Willson was making a similar complaint back when he was nominating himself for “The LJAA for The Grown Man Behaving Like a Child Because Someone He Doesn’t Know (and Who Isn’t Using His Real Name) Wrote Something Really Mean!”.

    What does it really matter? Whether someone calls themselves “Anonymous” or “Mr. Ernest Worthing” they are still effectively anonymous. (Mr. Ernest Worthing might not even be a fellow’s real name!) Is it a question of honour? And if it is, does the question of honour really enter into online discussions? It’s not like I can realistically challenge someone who insults my honour on FPR to a duel. I’m not as clever as you, but there has got to be some irony here somewhere… something connecting the notions of honour and “Place, Limits and Liberty” in a “virtual place” where there are no tangible consequences for anyone anyways.

    Please help this poor plebian who once “cowardly” masqueraded under a nickname because he thought it better expressed his outlook and character. I am earnest in saying that the answer to this question is of vital importance to me.

  50. Mark Perkins:

    Jordan,

    I am not Peters, but the reason why I like using your name is that it seems *in some small way* to reduce the regrettable freedoms of anonymity. Even if I never meet any of these writers (I have actually briefly talked with two of them, though they undoubtedly do not remember) or have any contact with them, there is a sense that by writing as “Mark Perkins” I am staking my reputation on the line. It at least requires the courage to write with your real name appended.

  51. Jordan Smith:

    Hi Mark,

    I appreciate your thoughts. They do make sense to me, but mostly it seems a bit overreactive to label someone cowardly because they call themselves “Wessexman” or “Groby”. Maybe I have no honour to offend, but it doesn’t bother me if “Anonymous” slags me off or says something I think wrong-headed or silly. I just don’t get it. Other than it provides me an excuse to stick my chin in the air and avoid engaging someone directly, and a cheap opportunity to hurl the insult You sir are a coward!… which hardly seems honourable.

    Maybe it’s a generational thing. Nowadays people choose names for their kids that sound cool or hip. The meaning of a name doesn’t seem to enter into the decision to call someone “Brooklyn” or “Tiffany” or “Finn” or “Shaquille”, and thus what does it really matter what someone is called?

    Anyways, I am watching the collapse of the American tower of Babel with as much bemused satisfaction as Peters derived from the ash-filled skies of Europe.

  52. Jason Peters:

    Messrs Smith and Perkins: There was some talk when we started up here (where is “here”?) that all commenters be required to use their real names. Of course there’s no way to monitor that, is there? The medium conduces to anonymity, which only adds one more layer of abstraction to an already abstract form.

    Civility is not improved by abstraction; almost all things are made worse by abstraction. This whole cyber porch, which I have agreed with some reluctance to “sit” on, conduces–because it is abstract–to abuse. There’s no getting around that; in some instances there’s no getting around the inevitability of it.

    I think it’s pretty clear that hiding behind anonymity (or “throwing stones from the glass house of anonymity,” as I put it elsewhere) is as cowardly as shooting a man in the back. Of course anonymity has its place, as when an informant’s life or safety is at stake (and maybe mine are–I put my name and face on everything I write here, and anyone can find me), but mostly it just gives us license to be assholes.

    What is concrete, on the other hand, what is particular and proximate is far more likely to increase care, affection, compassion, and civility. Easier to soar in the blue serene, push a button, and drop a load on a village from which you are abstracted than to put a bayonette into the guts of a girl whose eyes you can see the color of.

    And no avatar can show a tongue in a cheek or a wry grin.

  53. James Matthew Wilson:

    I believe, my friends, that mere mention of John Milton’s having defended anonymous publishing should serve as conclusive evidence that it MUST be a bad idea. If the individualistic pamphleteer, regicide, and would-be-divorce was for anonymity, what person of good will could not be against it?

    . . . I’m sorry, this probably belongs as a comment on one of the Krustianity posts in order to get Caleb angry . . .

  54. Jordan Smith:

    Well I am not sure you answered my question, but I do appreciate your trying. I understand what is cowardly about shooting a man in the back, but the principle doesn’t translate “equally” to conversation for me. I guess it’s the old “sticks and stones” proverb, but I will concede that using one’s name is probably more noble and brings with it some measure of accountability, however minute.

    Carry on.

  55. Mark Perkins:

    Another thought in the reverse direction: it’s easier to insult or be uncharitable towards an abstraction than a real human being. I may not care that a “Rgulakfan48″ says something stupid, but I might be less likely to think about the nature of my response.

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