• What is the pseudo left?

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 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-01 08:10 PM

I should have addressed my last posting to Comrade Arthur, not Comrade David. Sorry about that.

I should also just say,  that to have to make that the point that democracy doesn't work in countries where the voting is almost exclusivley along sectarian lines gives me absolutely no pleasure at all.  Again that's an argument which is neither left, right nor pseudo-left.  On matters of religion, which is often a much greater divisive force than either nationality or race, and does represent the big fault line in Iraqi society,  I'm very much with Richard Dawkins.  But the painful reality is that it's there and the US should have been astute enough to realise the potential problems. They weren't.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by keza at 2007-06-01 08:55 PM
This thread is called "what is the pseudo left?" so responses need to keep that to the forefront.

Claiming that there are "pragmatic arguments" against the success of democracy in Iraq is clearly right wing and conservative, therefore anyone claiming to be left wing and yet pushing such a line must be taking a pseudo-left position.

Sectarian violence in Iraq is rife only because a minority of the Sunni population along with various Al Quaeda elements decided that instigating a campaign of mass murder against the Shia majority might destabilise things sufficiently to bring down Iraq's first  democratically elected government.  The Shia were in fact remarkably restrained until the bombing of the Samarra Mosque in February 2006. Then they began to strike back.

The reality in Iraq is not  that ethic/religious/sectarian differences mean that democracy is impossible.  Once the Sunni population comes to accept that it is no longer born to rule over the Shia majority, democracy will work just fine.   And this has to happen.  It makes no sense for the Sunnis to continue their barbarous campaign.  If the Americans had withdrawn and the neighboring Sunni regimes had intervened on their behalf then they may have had a chance of regaining power.  But that isn't going to happen.  They've only succeeded in unleashing Shia death squads and increasing their own misery.   Right now they need the USA to protect them.

The idea that democracy can't work in places that are divided along sectarian/ethnic  lines just isn't true.  The best way to diminish these divisions is to establish democracy and the rule of law.

The barbarity of what we are seeing in Iraq indicates not that democracy is impossible, but how necessary it is.  This is the result of decades of fascism there, tolerated and propped up by the USA. 

Anyone who is a genuine left winger would be appalled by  the position that the toppling of Saddam, followed by democratic elections which empowered the majority (ie the Shia +the Kurds) should not have happened because those originally in power would fight back murderously, rather than accept  being a  minority within a democratic system.

I see some similarities between the stance taken by Cyberman and that of Edward Luttwak who  works with the likes of Kissinger and  Brezinski at the "Centre for Strategic and International Studies".   Luttwak just spells it out in a more direct manner:


"The third and greatest error repeated by middle east experts of all persuasions, by Arabophiles and Arabophobes alike, by Turcologists and by Iranists, is also the simplest to define. It is the very odd belief that these ancient nations are highly malleable. Hardliners keep suggesting that with a bit of well-aimed violence ("the Arabs only understand force") compliance will be obtained. But what happens every time is an increase in hostility; defeat is followed not by collaboration, but by sullen non-cooperation and active resistance too. It is not hard to defeat Arab countries, but it is mostly useless.


The operational mistake that middle east experts keep making is the failure to recognise that backward societies must be left alone, as the French now wisely leave Corsica to its own devices, as the Italians quietly learned to do in Sicily, once they recognised that maxi-trials merely handed over control to a newer and smarter mafia of doctors and lawyers. With neither invasions nor friendly engagements, the peoples of the middle east should finally be allowed to have their own history—the one thing that middle east experts of all stripes seem determined to deny them.


We devote far too much attention to the middle east, a mostly stagnant region where almost nothing is created in science or the arts—excluding Israel, per capita patent production of countries in the middle east is one fifth that of sub-Saharan Africa. The people of the middle east (only about five per cent of the world's population) are remarkably unproductive, with a high proportion not in the labour force at all."

Lutwak is an openly right wing "pragmatist" and Cyberman is a pseudo-left pragmatist.  Both agree that the people of the Middle East  should  remain a swamp.  In the end it doesn't matter too much whether people with cyberman's views believe that they are motivated by "caring" about the people of the region (whereas Luttwak makes not even the pretence of doing this). 

In the real world what matters is which side you are on.  By contributing to the misinformed clamour for US troops to withdraw and suggesting that democracy is impossible for the Iraqis, these views make the situation worse for the Iraqis and give heart to those who continue to engage in monstrous acts of mass murder.  How can that be left wing?????

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by arthur at 2007-06-01 09:01 PM
Fine, you favour allowing fascism to be imposed by a minority from the inside (knowing perfectly well that it came to power assisted by US imperialism in the first place).

There is no way to pretend there is anything left about your position.

If it had been up to you Sadaam would never have been removed from power and free elections would never have been held.

If it was up to you a deal would be done with what remains of the fascist regime to put them back in power. You said it and you've argued for it as best you can.

If the topic  was  "Should societies divided by religion be ruled by fascists?" then one might bother to answer your arguments.

But since the topic is "What is the pseudo left?" your own statements adequately clarify the issue posed.

There could not be a better illustration of dressing up an openly right wing position with anti-imperialist leftist phrasemongering.


 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-01 10:20 PM

This ridiculous. Comrades Keza and Arthur,  continue to misrepresent and twist arguments. To suggest that the only way the Americans could have got out of Iraq with anything like their dignity intact was to do a deal with the Iraqi army is not the same thing as advocating it. No way. If I'd had my way there would have been no invasion anyway. Going back further, there would have been no US support for Saddam Hussein. Going back even further than that, and if I'd been alive at the time,   Iraq as the country that we know now would not have existed at all.  

The Americans will have to leave Iraq, totally defeated, shortly. It will be tempting for the left to gloat. Many will. I don't care if you think this is a left, right or pseudo-left argument but the reality is that it won't be the case of an Imperialist invader, having been heroically defeated by a unified resistance led by the vanguard of the working class. I wish it were the case but, sadly, not. At worst the country will be left in state of sectarian chaos, for which the Americans must accept complete responsibility. The hope must be that the sectarian leaders will draw back from total civil war and negotiate a compromise. We'll see. Democracy isn't impossible for Iraq. But, when it happens it will have to come from within and the under such conditions as to end sectarian voting. That does require a fair bit of optimism, but again , we'll see.

As I see it, you've defined three major issues which are tests for pseudo-leftism. We must have done Iraq to death by now. What about the points I raised regarding globalisation and the environment? Particularly globalisation because there is no current thread on that.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by keza at 2007-06-02 02:02 AM
 Cyberman writes:

If I'd had my way there would have been no invasion anyway. Going back further, there would have been no US support for Saddam Hussein. Going back even further than that, and if I'd been alive at the time,   Iraq as the country that we know now would not have existed at all. 

Not being able to see the irrationality of this is an example of real psuedo-leftist incoherence.

Abstract stances as encaptualted in the phrase "if I had my way"  are not what left wing politics is about.   Left wingers  start by taking the world as it is and working out what is possible given that reality. 

You say "if I had my way there would have been no invasion" which can only mean  that you think Saddam should still be in power.   And then you say  that if the world events had gone in the way you wanted them to the US would never have supported Saddam.  Somehow that stance is supposed to make you progressive.  You wash your hands of responsibility for having come down on the side of leaving Saddam in power by saying that  you wish events in the past had been different! 

Well they weren't different!  Iraq was a fascist swamp (in large part due to previous US policy as you say)  but eventually  they went in there, toppled him, held free elections  and stayed around to prevent the Sunni minority from seizing power again. 

Why would you not support that? I suppose it's because "if you had your way" history would have been different and that part of the world wouldn't have been a fascist swamp.  


This sort of unreal, wishful thinking also leads you  to  say that democracy  would "have to come from within and the under such conditions as to end sectarian voting" - please elaborate.  As far as I can see this is just correct-sounding waffle.  What was the possibility of the Iraqis overthrowing fascism in some sort of nice, home-grown way?  The current barbarous  backlash from the Sunni Baathists and various ALQuaeda groups speaks for itself - not to mention the likely intervention from neighboring States.

What you have written  is  typical of the  unreal  way in which the pseudo- left thinks.  Changing the world has nothing to do with abstract proclamations about how you want it to be or what should/should not have happened historically. It  has  everything to do with analysing reality and seizing real opportunities to push things forward.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-03 07:13 PM

What the LS comrades have defined as the pseudo left can be better understood as the conventional left.

The LS position is very unusual. They claim to be 'left wing' and Marxist but this is not in the normal accepted sense. A better name would perhaps be "progressive modernites". Modernity , as we know it today, has very much been defined by the events of the 20th century, during which time the world's population increased from 1.5 billion  to  6 billion and the GNP  per capita by a factor of nine ( Admittedly, this is figure is debatable. see http://econ161.berkeley.edu/TCEH/2000/TCEH_2.html). The LS vision of the the 21st century is very much a continuation and extrapolation of the 20th century as outlined in David Mc 's book  "Bright future" . If this increase in GNP continues, at similar rates, so the argument goes, there would be little or no poverty by the end of the 21st century.

Progressive modernity can almost be defined as being unconditionally pro-capitalism in its purest form of neo-liberalism. Anything that gets in the way of the free operation of capitalism, such as fascism, environmentalism, trade unionism, religion, colonialism  is treated as reactionary and is therefore to be opposed. This list would include socialism and communism as actually practiced in the 20th century, either in the form of European capitalist mixed economies or the state socialist models of the Soviet Union, China or Cuba. Most of LS's political positioning can be understood with this in mind. What is slightly more curious is their claimed adherence to Marxism. It could be an unwillingness to abandon a previous political position to which they are still emotionally attached. There is some justification in  a Hegelian, later Marxist, tradition of 'thesis', 'antithesis' and 'synthesis'. If capitalism is the 'thesis', Marxism is the 'antithesis' and what we have is the synthesis of the two opposites. LS are quite unique in claiming to be left wing. If you want a quick and easy example of the more straightforward right wing version , just switch on Fox TV! Although they are the most right wing of the US cable channels they are also the least religious.

Their Marxism is very selective. LS are lukewarm, to say the least, on any notions of actively pursuing or assisting in any form of class struggle or the redistribution of wealth. If they do have any ideas at all on the concept of socialist revolution, but which they do say  they in favour of,  they are so undeveloped, and it's so far down their list of priorities, that they may as well be openly against the idea.  Marx is at times very complimentary of the progressive nature of capitalism and that's OK , of course. At other times he advocates such inconveniences as highly progressive income taxes and the nationalisation of the means of production. That's not too good, and they will remind you that Marx lived over a hundred years ago when you come to mention these parts! Although they probably wouldn't admit it, Marx himself is in many ways 'pseudo left' in LS terminology.

Their major problem would seem to be dealing with the advice of the scientific community. This cannot be easily dismissed as non-rational reactionary thought. After all, science underpins all of the technological advances of the 20th century. It must be a major inconvenience to hear that things can't go on as they have been, that we may be running out of oil and other natural resources, and that we may be emitting so much atmospheric pollution that the climate of the world may radically and catastrophically change.

Their argument that an increase of production will automatically eliminate poverty also doesn't correspond with reality . At the end of the the 20th century there were more people living in abject poverty , defined as having an income of close to $1 per day, than there were actually living at the start of the century! If this were to be repeated again in this century,  this figure would rise to over 6 billion -all living in abject poverty. The conventional left position that an elimination of poverty can only be achieved through a redistribution of wealth is as valid now as it ever was.

 

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-06-04 06:37 AM
Well, Cyberman has issued his battle cry - the revolutionary left must rely on tradition and convention!

 Defining Last Superpower as being "unconditionally pro-capitalism in its purest form of neo-liberalism" is one of the most thoroughly dishonest things that our critics have said in quite a while.

A look at DavidMc's thread about 'The economics of collective ownership' is well worth a look. This thread actually attempts to work out how a revolutionary economy without price signals would be run. I'm not sure why people who are 'unconditionally pro-capitalist' would waste their time in technical discussions about how to run an entire economy after a revolution. And since the thread has been prominent in the main forum, I have no idea how someone could not see it - and realise that this site does not have an 'unconditionally pro-capitalist' agenda.

Cyberman also says:

At other times he advocates such inconveniences as highly progressive income taxes and the nationalisation of the means of production. That's not too good, and they will remind you that Marx lived over a hundred years ago when you come to mention these parts!

This point has been answered here, as Cyberman well knows, but chooses to ignore - it was pointed out to Cyberman that Marx himself said that the 10-point program he advanced in 1848 (where he talked about a highly progressive income tax) was outdated in 1872. This is a perfect example of Cyberman relying on dead tradition and convention instead of daring to think for himself. Cyberman has offered no argument for a highly progressive income tax except for the 'argument from authority' that Marx once said it was a good idea.

Perhaps if Cyberman could advance an argument to show how a 'highly progressive income tax' would be likely to lead to a revolutionary situation, then we could actually argue for or against that. If one is intending to advance such an argument, one would need to address the obvious fact that the working class in advanced Western countries generally resents high taxes and would oppose them unless it was convinced they were necessary.

We live in 2007, not 1848 or even 1946, when social-democracy was dominant in most of the advanced Western world. If Cyberman wishes to argue we are mistaken, perhaps some ideas about how the working class of today's world could be inspired to revolt against their masters would be useful.

I have no idea where Cyberman gets his figures on global poverty from, and will not address the argument until I get a link to some sort of checkable study from him. However, I note that the 'if this trend continues, then...' argument is shallow and utterly useless for making predictions.

To the arguments about impending catastrophe, I repeat a point that arthur made here:

If a leftist believed that we face an impending catastrophe unless we shift rapidly from the use of carbon based fuels for electricity and transportation then they would, like anybody else serious about science and politics propose that there should be a massive diversion of resources to deal with the problem so that we can continue economic growth and development. A natural "leftist" approach would be to advocate huge budgets for accelerated R&D to introduce replacement fuels more rapidly than would otherwise be necessary or to develop new technology for removing carbon based emissions or their consequences. This would be very different from pseudo-leftists advocating that we should restrict economic growth and development so as to adapt to what the planet can afford. Rightists might be more inclined towards diverting resources into mitigation or adaptation.

I'd like to see Cyberman take a stand on this - does he support economic expansion or economic contraction? He doesn't seem particularly keen on increasing production:

Their argument that an increase of production will automatically eliminate poverty also doesn't correspond with reality.

I'd love to see, just once, Cyberman backing up one of his assertions about what we say with just one piece of evidence. He was challenged to do so earlier in this thread, and dodged the request entirely.


So, perhaps Cyberman can stop dodging, and provide a quote that demonstrates that someone advocating the broad positions supported by Last Superpower has said an increase of production will automatically eliminate poverty?

And if Cyberman thinks that increasing production is NOT a vital part of eliminating poverty, he should say so.

The conventional left position that an elimination of poverty can only be achieved through a redistribution of wealth is as valid now as it ever was.
Again, Cyberman wraps up with a facile, useless platitude. Perhaps he might want to also remind the working class that they need oxygen to breathe, just in case they forget?

The only way, in my opinion, that such redistribution will happen is if the working classes of the world take over and run the world themselves.

Where we are failing at the moment is that, in part because of the fact that we are few, and we are busy with other things, and all have problems in our own lives, we have not come up with enough ideas that would lead to a working class that has enough optimism and confidence in itself to desire a revolution, and the skill to carry it off. The more we can do this, the more successful we are likely to be.

I'm certain that idolising the European capitalist social-democratic consensus that has now been all but destroyed by neo-liberalism, the defeated revolutions of China and the Soviet Union (both taken over by greedy, oppressive capitalists claiming to be communists) or the police state of Cuba is not how we are going to find the answers.

But maybe I'm just not conventional or traditional enough.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-04 05:01 PM

Comrade Young Marxist,

Well I thought the sentence about being unconditionally pro-capitalist might get a reaction. It's all very well to have a vague idea that, at some undefined time in the future, society may find a better alternative to capitalism, but where is your opposition here and now? I can't see any evidence on your website that there is any at all. One of the previous points that's been made, is that some  political activity is considered to be left merely because it is actively anti-capitalist. That's fair enough and you do have a point,of course. But if being actively anti-capitalist isn't a sufficient condition for being considered to be left, I would argue that it is a necessary one.

The figures on poverty were obtained form Wiki. "The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$ 1 per day, and moderate poverty as less than $2 a day. It has been estimated that in 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measuring_poverty

The figures on world population were also from Wiki. It was around 1.5 billion on 1900 and 6 billion in the year 2000. So I think that my point about there being more people living in abject poverty at the end of the century than were actually living at the start of it is valid. In fact it is probably an understatement. This has happened despite the enormous technical progress and increases in production that occurred in the 20th century. David Mc in his book  " Bright future" presents a vision of the 21st century which is a continuation of the 20th century. He's not explained in his book why the same thing isn't going to happen all over again, but which it will unless wealth is actively redistributed.

Have you read his book, Bright future? The first half is "unconditionally pro-capitalist". Or if it isn't maybe you could point out the critical bits to me?  The idea is that material goods become so plentiful and easy to manufacture that poverty just dwindles away naturally. Instead of bothering about  things like profits and money any more, the conditions are just right for the transition away from capitalism. Sounds marvellous!  But, until David Mc explains how the 21st century is going to be different from the 20th century, even without factoring in the likely environmental problems that we'll have to face,  it's scarcely credible.

"The only way, in my opinion, that such redistribution will happen is if the working classes of the world take over and run the world themselves."

How? I've asked that question before and I know I won't get an answer.  You think the capitalist classes are moribund but the workers organisations aren't much better. 30 years ago it could have happened given the right conditions. But so much ground has been lost since then,  that even if the capitalist class just walked away, ( as if ! ),   then its debatable as to whether we'd be capable of taking over.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-06-04 05:24 PM
Cyberman says:

 Well I thought the sentence about being unconditionally pro-capitalist might get a reaction

 Yes, lying about what people believe generally does get a reaction.

The Wikipedia article has no figures whatsover for world poverty as of 1900. I don't regard Wikipedia as a useful source in itself unless the figures quoted can be verified elsewhere, by references at the bottom of the article. Therefore, Cyberman's points cannot be demonstrated to be valid or useful at all.

I don't know how the revolution will happen. As I said,

we have not come up with enough ideas that would lead to a working class that has enough optimism and confidence in itself to desire a revolution, and the skill to carry it off. The more we can do this, the more successful we are likely to be.

It's time to start throwing all sorts of ideas into the pot and seeing what might be likely to work. I do know that appealing to tradition, convention, and defeated revolutions that have no appeal whatsoever to the Western working class won't do it. If Cyberman actually comes up with an idea that might excite or interest people, then perhaps his poor imitation of 'debate' might be useful.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by GuruJane at 2007-06-05 05:27 PM

Cyberman asks for an example of where democracy works in countries where the population votes overwhelmingly on ethnic or sectarian grounds.

South Africa and Indonesia for eg, Cyberman.  Iraq's electoral system - proportional representation via party lists  - is actually modelled on the system chosen by post apartheid South Africa, as was post Suharto Indonesia's, precisely to ensure fair representation for substantial ethnic, racial or sectarian groups, encourage power sharing, compromise and consensus and put constitutional brakes on the potential for abuse of majority power.

Is there any more democratic system available? Perhaps Cyberman can thumb further through the conventional left hymn book and provide an example of his own? Then we can wonder why Nelson Mandela did not adopt it.

btw The proportionally representative system will almost certainly become the electoral system of choice as democracy eventually spreads through the ME.

 

   

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-06 06:28 AM

Comrade Youngmarxist,

You seem to have some objection to my use of the phrase "unconditional support for capitalism". In reply you say "I'm not sure why people who are 'unconditionally pro-capitalist' would waste their time in technical discussions about how to run an entire economy after a revolution." Really? I wouldn't have thought that the capitalist ruling class are going to get too upset about your 'technical discussions'. I'd say that you are quite unlikely  to have your phones tapped by ASIO or internet traffic monitored. I'm not sure, though, how this represents a 'condition' ? Have you got any others?  David Mc says in his book that when capitalism reaches a certain level people will decide that they no longer will need a ruling class to boss them about or make them work and we can then have a fairly peaceful revolution and a transition to a socialist society. So, you are helping the capitalists get there as fast as possible? The flaw in this line of argument is that while we might not need them, they certainly do need us. When the time comes to remove them, they aren't going to be too happy about it. Peaceful revolution? I don't think so.

I didn't give any figures for poverty at the start of the 20th century. I'm not sure what it would have been as a % of the population.  The levels of production were relatively low then so it was probably quite high. You must have missed the point I was making though. I'll explain it another way: If you'd been around in 1900 and known just how much progress was in store in the coming century you'd have surely thought that poverty would be completely eliminated by the end of it. Maybe you'd even have thought that capitalism would just dwindle away naturally. Instead, capitalism was as alive and well as ever in the year 2000 and more people were living on close to a $1 per day  than were all that were alive in the year 1900.  Had Comrade David McMullen been alive himself in 1900, he could have  written almost the same book "Bright Future (1900)".

Comrade Gurujane,

I'm optimistic about the future of South Africa. It's still early days in their democratic process; there are problems but they are solvable. I would argue that what appears to be ethnic voting at first sight is actually voting more along class lines, which is quite a healthy sign. Class and race issues in South Africa are almost impossible to disentangle. I'd be much less optimistic if religious differences were the main issue.

Indonesia is emerging slowly from overt military dicatorship. The nature of Indonesian society is very complex and would warrant a thread of its own. It's much too soon to come to any positive conclusions. I'd just say that it's stretching credibilty somewhat if you are holding up Indonesia as an example of a successful democracy at this very early stage. 

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-08 04:52 PM

Comrade Dr Barry,
Without taking the trouble to answer the posting where I used the phrase "making the best of what we have" you chose to use it against me in another posting. Fair enough I can take that.

Would I be correct in thinking that you are Dr Barry York? Of Maltese history fame? Would I be be correct in thinking that, in the 60s and 70s,  you received your education, including your PhD,  for free or little cost? No Hex or loans for us in those days! In fact if you were like me you'd have even had a small grant. Not a repayable loan.

The free education, that many of our generation made good personal use of,  didn't just happen. It was fought for and set up by the sort of people you seem to despise. The Dr Brendon Nelsons of this world don't have any problem with this of course. They are quite happy to take what is on offer from the system for themselves and deny it to the generation that follow. By refusing to get involved in the sort of everyday politics, that you arrogantly class as reformist, you are helping the most reactionary government that Australia has seen in a very long time.

The title of this thread is "pseudo left". I was leading up to making the charge against you of exactly that. On second thoughts,  that's being a bit too kind. Reactionary is a more accurate adjective.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by keza at 2007-06-10 09:37 AM

Cyberman,  it seems to me that you keep  missing the point of what people on this site have been arguing.

Have you read the page where we describe our general stance? (We call it a "stance" because that's all it is so far - it's a starting point , a brief outline of a world view which we are well aware falls far short of anything which could be called a program.)

With regard to the question of capitalism,  this is our stance:

capitalism:   On the one hand capitalism is vastly superior to tribalism, feudalism and fascism.   The achievements of advanced capitalism really are quite spectatcular.  Nevertheless it holds back development and progress because it is based on  wage slavery and  is therefore incapable of fully unleashing  human potential. So from the perspective of the past it is progressive  - but from the perspective of the future it is reactionary and deserves to perish!

We have never argued that capitalism is good enough.  Our position is that it is a fetter on development and that the abolition of wage labour is essential to human liberation. 

However we are also pro-development and oppose the pseudo-left position that "everything is getting worse"  because this is just not true! 

In general,  global  rates of (absolute) poverty have not been increasing.  You need to look at the statistics on this.

From 1965 - 1998 the poorest 1/5 of the world  doubled its income ( both in terms of purchasing power and in fixed money terms).  The reality is that world poverty has fallen more during the past 50 years than during the preceding 500.  The World Bank forecast is that if development continues at the present rate then the percentage of those defined as poor will be halved by 2015.

Reduction in poverty has not been uniform  of course - it is most pronounced in Asia. The situation in sub-Saharan Africa is far worse because development there has been much slower.

But nevertheless it's just not true to say that the trend is for things to get worse.

The same trend is  true on all measures. Where there is economic development  we have seen continual drops in infant mortality and increases in life expectancy, level of literacy, access to clean water, electrification, the rights of women -  and so on.

In saying this I am not arguing that things aren't also extremely bad.  I'm fully aware that  hundreds of millions of people live under appalling conditions and that progress is agonizingly slow.   However it's just bullshit to argue  that the spread of capitalism is  leading  to greater absolute poverty and suffering.

A genuine revolutionary movement will never grow out of a movement which sees industrialisation and development as things to oppose and argues falsely that caplitalism is making everyone poorer.   It just aint true. We need to start with reality.

If you are a "socialist" or a "communist"  because you believe that capitalism just  reduces the global standard of living then you don't have an argument, you will be defeated by arguments from the Right every time!

Communists want to get rid of capitalism because it exploits and oppresses people and develops the world too slowly.   We will never side with those people who oppose capitalism from a reactionary perspective and argue for less development and for the preservation (or return to)  a more backward (and repressive) mode of production.   And we will quite often side with those on the Right who oppose the same forces of reaction that we do.

You write:

David Mc says in his book that when capitalism reaches a certain level people will decide that they no longer will need a ruling class to boss them about or make them work and we can then have a fairly peaceful revolution and a transition to a socialist society. So, you are helping the capitalists get there as fast as possible? The flaw in this line of argument is that while we might not need them, they certainly do need us. When the time comes to remove them, they aren't going to be too happy about it. Peaceful revolution? I don't think so.

I don't know how you slide from the argument  that as capitalism reaches a certain level  people will realise that they no longer need a ruling class,  to the idea that this argument implies that we believe in  "peaceful revolution".  The two things are not connected.   I haven't heard anyone here argue that capitalism will just morph peacefully into a new system based on collective ownership and the abolition of wage labour - so don't make things up. 

What we've been saying is that  a movement based on untruths about capitalism and development won't get anywhere - and even worse, that such a "movement" can only hold things back.   A truly revolutionary movement will have to be  based on people's desire for the sort of rapid and exciting  development that would be possible if they took power and ran things themselves.  This means taking an ideological stance that empowers people to see what is possible rather than just tells them that everything is getting worse and  that those who run the place are getting stronger rather than  becoming  progressively  more moribund and less able to do just what they like. It's  still deeply true that capitalism is creating the conditions for its own demise. 

PS  As far as education in Australia is concerned... once again your remarks don't make a lot of sense.  I'm not happy about the education system here either.  But I would deny that it has actually gone backwards. As far as I know the number (and proportion)  of Australians gaining tertiary qualifications has increased since the 1970's. And  I don't see the Howard government as being "the most reactionary government Australia has seen in a long time".  It's  a complete diversion to frame things in this way.  On what basis would you see the ALP (or the Greens)  as less reactionary?

As you correctly say, we don't have  a program.   But how can it be preferable to have a "program" which misleads people and is based on untruths about the way the world is?

In order to develop a program we need to defeat ideas which confuse people and hold them back.














 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-11 03:33 AM

Comrade Keza,

I'm not making it up. "Hopefully, this process of transition will not be as protracted and painful as the one from backward agricultural societies to capitalism."

David Mc doesn't go into much detail about the transition from capitalism to socialism. he talks about murky crystal balls but nothing much at all about class struggle. The above quote is probably one that I could agree with as well. We all can hope but is it realistic to expect, as David Mc seems to, for a peaceful transition? You'd have to read the whole book , as I have, to appreciate the nuances and full meaning of what he is saying. If David Mc thinks that I have paraphrased him incorrectly, I'm sure that he is capable of saying so himself. Maybe he can clarify his views for us all and incorporate them in a future edition of his book.

................

It's all very well to say that there is something better than capitalism but if, as Arthur says, you don't have the first idea of how to achieve the transition, what's the point? You may as well say that there is a delightful little planet in the orbit of the star alpha centaurus and we'd all be better off moving there.

Incidentally, I don't share the "murky crystal ball" argument. There is a way. Its not easy,there's no short cuts,  we have to build up socialism and the working class movement. Initially the first steps will have to be under capitalism. They have to be. Arguing for nationalised industries, free health care, free education, more workplace democracy not just parliamentary democracy. There is no need to scarifice the environment to achieve socialism. In fact we can genuinely argue that environmental degredation is largely caused by the capitalist sytem putting profits before everything else,  and thereby win over many people who are concerned about green issues but have little experience of Marx or more usual class based issues.  
............ 

Are you saying that fascism is not a deviant form of capitalism? If you look at the history of the 1930s there is plenty of evidence that German and Italian Capitalism backed the nazis and fascists as a defence against a socialist revolution.

........................

I didn't say that capitalism makes everyone poorer. It's certainly not made Bill Gates poorer! It does make people more unequal though. You mention infant mortality. In North America Canada comes out with the best figures. Cuba is next. I'll leave it at that.
..........

PS I'll leave any further comment on education until Comrade Dr Barry has had a chance to reply.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by owenss at 2007-06-11 04:26 AM

Cyberman, Keza is correct. The working class has not been impoverised. However the theory that the working class would be immiserated by Capitalism was a theory promulgated by Communist parties for several decades.

I suggest that you investigate Marxes so called immiseration theory.

 

PS I know you didnt say that Capitalism makes everyone poorer but I think that the idea that Capitalism drives the conditions of the working class down is worth discussing as it is wrong but has an interesting history.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-11 02:39 PM

Comrade Owenss,

I didn't say that the working classes had been impoverished either. In fact, in the successful capitalist countries of Asia, Europe and America, they have done so well that socialist revolution hasn't been on the agenda for a long time.

Let's get it right. What I did write was an alternative view to the 'rising tide lifts all boats' argument that David Mc uses in his book. In 1900 the world population was approximately 1.5 billion. In the year 2000 there were 2.7 billion people living on less than $2 per day and 1.1 billion on less than $1 per day. Figures from Wiki.

To be fair to the capitalist system, many of these people are suffering from not being part of it. Nevertheless, the figures do show that capitalism is much better at creating wealth than distributing it in an equitable manner. And, that huge increases in production , as were achieved in the 20th century,  cannot be assumed  to reduce levels of world poverty.

 

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-06-11 07:58 PM

Post by Cyberman moved to this thread, where it belongs, instead of here, where it was posted.

Comrade Barry,

You say that I have been guilty of a deafening silence on answering Arthur's comment. I'm glad you said that, because, previously I'd got a bit of an impression that you were saying that  I had far too much to say for myself <img title=" title="smile!" longdesc="" height="20" width="20"> 

I don't want to dodge any issues. The link that Arthur gave showed that Marx had some additional comments about what he'd written in the Communist Manifesto previously, but you're saying that he completely repudiated his own arguments? It doesn't read that way to me. Your comments on Marxism are interesting, but puzzling. My more right wing friends say exactly the same thing to me, but you are supposed to be a man of the left! Marxists, at least the ones I know,  don't view the texts with Biblical reverence. For instance, if we are giving evidence in court, we don't put our hand of Vol 1 of Das Kapital and promise "to tell the truth , the whole truth etc..." . I'd say I was a Marxist, but I'm not sure about the bit about " Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture." I'd say there were better ways now.  Being a Marxist implies being in basic agreement with Marx's ideas not every little piece of detail.

The postings that Arthur and Youngmarxist seemed to object to were when we were discussing graduated and progressive income taxes and the nationalised industries. Marxists don't support these concepts just because Marx was in favour of them. Rather it's the other way around. We think that they are desirable too. We agree with Marx, at least generally,  and so we are happy to be known as Marxists.

Youngmarxist doesn't like the nationalised industries. If I understand him correctly, they can't be anything to do with socialism because the ticket inspectors on Queensland Rail fine him $150 when he gets caught not paying his fare! Maybe after the revolution the fares will be free or cheap enough for him. We'll have to see!

The Nationalised industries are not ideal but they are often a whole lot better than the privatised alternatives and they are well worth defending. For anyone who has the slightest interest in politics, even if its not left politics,  the Australian ABC, which is nationalised, must be a whole lot better than Channels 7, 9 and 10 or Foxtel. They run programs which the capitalist owned channels wouldn't touch with the proverbial bargepole. Can you imagine channel 9 giving two 45 min slots to Richard Dawkins as the ABC has just done? And, don't tell me, LS comrades, that you don't agree with Richard Dawkins! As far as I know, none of the American capitalist channels have dared show his programs. Also, can you imagine, any of the capitalist owned channels running comedy programs which openly take the piss out of politicians by ambushing them in the street. (as on Chaser's War on Everything?) Compared with programs like Four Corners, Lateline, Newsnight, and Media Watch the offerings of the capitalist channels, such as Today Tonight and A Current Affair are just banal in the extreme by comparison.

Maybe you don't agree and maybe you think I'm guilty of intellectual snobbery. OK fair enough. You've got the right to raise the issue wherever you like and complain that the programs aren't good enough and you'd like them improved. You'll never have this right with any of the commercial channels, of course, because they aren't ours to complain about. They are owned by the Packers and Murdochs of this world.

PS I'm not trying to dodge your points about democracy either. In capitalist societies, Parliamentary democracy can work, eg Australia but it can also fail eg Northern Ireland. Ther are other forms of democracy which I would like to argue could be more generally successful. Maybe a new thread?

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-06-11 08:40 PM
I think Cyberman has been using Marx in an exactly religious way.

No-one here claimed that Marx 'completely repudiated his own arguments'. This is an example of Cyberman's slippery arguments. Until it was pointed out to Cyberman that Marx had, in 1872, stated that the program of a quarter century before would no doubt be outmoded, Cyberman kept going back to that program to justify certain policy positions.

Once Cyberman has an error in his reasoning pointed out, he'll say something like "Well of course we all agree with that" and try and wriggle away. It's very frustrating trying to keep up with him.

The postings that Arthur and Youngmarxist seemed to object to were when we were discussing graduated and progressive income taxes and the nationalised industries. Marxists don't support these concepts just because Marx was in favour of them. Rather it's the other way around. We think that they are desirable too.

Try actually grasping the point I have been making.

Progresive taxes and nationalising certain industries may be useful as a pre-revolutionary tactic that we should advocate under capitalist society. Or they may actually get in the way of revolution. Perhaps the working class won't support the principles after all.

Cyberman's level of argument is exactly what Anita was describing in this post:

I disagree that the way forward for the left is in defining whether we support the principle of socialised medicine or not.   I saw what happened when the new left party NLP tried to adopt this approach and it was disastrous.  I think we need to start from the concrete not the ideal.  What exactly do you mean by socialised medicine?  I think it is rather cliche and that we need to drop these cliche's because what we really need to do is look at the system as it stands and see where change is required and what is possible.  When we use cliche we all think we are talking the same language and nod at all appropriate moments but the devil is in the detail so to speak.

Cyberman is offering us comforting "appropriate moments" to nod at but offers no argument to actually make his case.

Some more questions for Cyberman:

What is the working class attitude towards taxation at the moment?

Do the working class support or oppose higher taxation?

Why is nationalising industries useful under captalism?

Which is the most important industry to nationalise?
Why would doing so make a revolution more likely?

What about the fact that many abuses are still possible in bureucratic industries where the capital is held by the capitalist state (which is what 'nationalisation' means before a revolution)?

Will Cyberman be satisfied with 'nationalisation' without doing anything about the fact that public transport (for instance) is still restricted to people who have the cash for a ticket?

Cyberman is quite happy to advocate certain ideals. Now, if he wants to be taken seriously at all, it is time to start talking concrete proposals. Why is what Cyberman wants likely to lead to a revolution? Who will support it, who will oppose it?

Cyberman's arguments about the ABC seem to me to show the weaknesses in his argument. He keeps being more 'revolutionary than thou':

 "Marxists believe this, you don't believe this, therefore you are not Marxists"

but then says we should be greatful for the ABC because they have a formal structure to receive feedback from viewers - unlike the privately owned media!

I mean, really. We want to take over all the damn media! Not be pathetically greatful because the ABC has to pretend to listen to us! The ABC isn't 'ours' anyway.

We live in a time where you can find your own audience via blogging, YouTube and so on. I would argue that it is far more revolutionary to be making attractive propaganda and spreading it through those channels than to be happy because we can write letters to the ABC.

Two examples (and chances to blow my own trumpet):

1) Here's a link to a report I did of an anti-war rally last year - called "How Pakistan Tortured My Brother".

This is far more technically advanced than any sort of report the ABC does - it mixes photos, writing and sound recordings into the one article. Even though the ABC is technically perfectly capable of doing this sort of thing, they don't - in fact, their reports on the internet don't even have links.

The point is that one person, working by himself, was able to technically surpass a major media corporation - even one that is in theory 'progressive' but actually feels the dead hand of a conservative bureacuracy everywhere.

2) When Senator Santo Santoro announced he was resigning from the Senate on March 20 2007, I happened to be recoding what he was saying - and I beat the mainstream media by 14 minutes with the announcement and by 4 minutes with a posting of the actual recording online.

We live in a time when exciting achievements like this are possible for millions of people. One of the things we need to be be doing is to spread this excitement, get people interested, and dare people to achieve greater and greater things.

Without that sort of sense of excitement and power, I think we will never have a working class capable of revolution - no matter how many letters they are allowed to write to nationalised industries.

Cyberman needs to show how his proposals are likely to lead to a society where people are similarly filled with a sense of power and achievement - or at least be an important part of getting there.

If Cyberman can't make that case, then we don't have any reason to listen to his suggestions.

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-06-11 11:04 PM

Comraded Youngmarxist,

Well I was just asking the question! I did go on a customer training course once and I was told that its impossible for anyone to be argumentitive with you if you just asked a question!

So, what I'd like to know is if you are saying Marx later repudiated the Manifesto or he didn't. You seem to be saying that he didn't and that is certainly my reading of his later comments, so its nice to agree for once. He did say that you can't just seize control of the levers of State power. I think that the lesson of Chile 1973 should underline that. However, there is no reason why nationalisation and graduated income taxes can't be part of a left platform if we bear the warnings in mind.

If the Howard government win the next election and maybe one or two of the States follow suit we can expect privatisation, of railways, electricity , water etc to be on the cards. In these circumstances I would say that you'd find good support in the working class against these measures. Nationalising the banks shouldn't be too unpopular. How about floating the idea and testing out the likely support?

Support for higher income taxes for the very rich shouldn't be a problem either. 75% on incomes over $500,000 shouldn't be too much of a hard sell. Marx didn't mention a wealth tax and just to show that I'm not religiously too attached to evrything that Marx said I'd go for one of these as well. 10% p.a. on all wealth over $10 million? Exact figures are debatable.

I'll refer you back to Marx for answers on your other questions. I'm not sure about free fares on the train though! You might want to read up on Utopian Socialism to avoid some disappointment on that one.

When you say " but then says we should be greatful for the ABC because they have a "formal structure to receive feedback from viewers - unlike the privately owned media!". I think you must be confusing my posting with something that you've read elsewhere ( a common problem with LS comrades) . I can accept it if you prefer "Big Brother" - many people do - but  I'm personally at a loss to explain why.

 

 

 • Re: What is the pseudo left?

Posted by youngmarxist at 2007-06-12 12:10 AM
After all the serious questions I have asked about strategy, Cyberman says:

      However, there is no reason why nationalisation and graduated income taxes can't be part of a left platform if we bear the warnings in mind.

 But once again makes no actual argument.

 Again:

 Why would nationalisation of industries, and/or a progressive income tax with very high rates on those with high incomes help society become more revolutionary?

Please start off by trying to answer that, and then you might actually be able to justify your stance. I'm not going to adopt a policy just because you say I have to. Start talking strategy instead of faith. I expect you to try and convince me with strategic arguments, not demand that I take your articles of faith on board.

Bear in mind that we have already seen, in the mid-to-late 20th century, societies that did have massive nationalisation, and huge tax rates on high incomes, but which were NOT revolutionary and did not become revolutionary. Why not? The answer may well have a lot to do with our strategy today.

High taxes on the rich and nationalisation are clearly not going to lead to a revolution in themselves. Cyberman needs to start talking about what his strategy is to provoke and lead revolutionary behaviour, and why he thinks it would work, if he wants to be taken seriously, at least by me.

Cyberman accuses me of:

    confusing my posting with something that you've read elsewhere ( a common problem with LS comrades) .

when I say:

    but thensays we should be greatful for the ABC because they have a formal structure to receive feedback from viewers - unlike the privately owned media!

Of course, I am referring to Cyberman's words about the ABC:

    You've got the right to raise the issue wherever you like and complain that the programs aren't good enough and you'd like them improved. You'll never have this right with any of the commercial channels, of course, because they aren't ours to complain about. They are owned by the Packers and Murdochs of this world.

I can't see why Cyberman thinks he has been misrepresented. He holds out the 'right to complain' as a reason why we should appreciate the ABC. Whatever. I'm not interested in politely complaining, I want to take all the media over so we can run it in our interests.