So How Many Times Have You Heard These Tired, Rehashed Arguments Against Socialism?

If you’ve tossed your hat, and or bandanna (sorry visors aren’t acceptable) into the leftist ring, and share your views publicly, then chances are you’ve had more than a few arguments with folks, over said views. Often these debates unfold via social media, but if you’re not a shy leftist, then you’ve probably got into it at a pub, coffee shop or, sigh, even the dinner table of a relative…

Yup. Whether you’re a social democrat, democratic socialist, or hard left booster, then you’ve probably encountered the tired / rehashed arguments below…far, far, far too many times. But, hey, if you’re only now coming around to the merits of having a sustainable socioeconomic system that benefits the majority, you might pick up some good, counterpoints.

“But, Socialism and Communism Have Been Tried. It Doesn’t Work. My Buddy Knows a Guy Who Lived in the Soviet Union…”

Ah yes. The good ole, ‘humans have tried socialism many times, and it always failed’ argument. This is one of the standard tropes that get tossed out by the right, or even centrists when you express any type of support for redistributive policies. Sometimes you’ll get this one thrown at you if you even say anything positive about social democratic parties or policies.

This argument overlooks the many advances that have been made, on account of socialist ideals, or are sustained as a result of communal funding. You know, silly things like single-payer health care, publicly funded education, worker’s rights (not having to work 7 days a week, 14 hours a day, empowerment in the workplace via unions, holiday pay), civic agencies like police and fire departments, and modern infrastructure etc. It also glosses over the fact, that the authoritarian systems which were ultimately entrenched in the Soviet Union and China etc, were not representative of the communal, egalitarian and worker based model, Karl Marx and others called for. To say nothing of the fact that Marx argued socialism had to develop out of fully industrialized, capitalist nations, which neither the Soviet Union or China initially were.

Further, and this argument may be too much of a deep dive into the weeds, depending on who you’re debating, creating and sustaining socialist systems is never going to be easy when capital continues to run the world. In other words, capital, via corporate interests or the judicial, economic or military arms of the state, wields enormous power. So, implementing a socioeconomic model that fundamentally challenges the status quo, isn’t going to be a walk in the park. You know, as folks who challenged the supremacy of monarchs for hundreds and hundreds of years found out.

Capitalism’s record isn’t all rainbows and sunshine either. In fact, capitalism has undergone several, severe crises due to its contradictions, and the citizenry has had to bail out the system with public funds. See 2007 – 2008 for just one example.

The Binary Socialism vs. Capitalism Argument: “How Can You Not Credit Capitalism For Anything Good?”

This is another standard, go-to argument that you’ve likely had to meet with a sigh at some point. If you support any type of left-leaning, socialist system, then obviously, you’re arguing that capitalism has been nothing but an abysmal failure…Typically, before you have a chance to counter, you’ll hear something about China’s ‘transformation’, or what’s happened around the world on account of ‘globalization’.

As anyone who’s spent a wee bit of time reading Marx or other leftist materials knows, the argument isn’t that capitalism can’t, or hasn’t, helped create new products and technologies that have bettered humanity. Or that capitalism hasn’t played a role in raising the standard of living of people.

The argument is that we can, and must, do better as a civilization. That while capitalism has helped populations rise out of poverty, its inherent contradictions, via the necessity of profit, has also driven down the standard of living in other nations. Further, if you truly believe in democracy and equality, then we must move to a system where capital cannot exercise so much influence and power, through the hands of such a small minority. Case in point, as a result of the neoliberal paradigm, and ‘globalization’, we’ve returned to a status-quo that mirrors the early 20th Century. Right, whereby, an absurdly small percentage of the population owns a ridiculous amount of wealth. So, if we really believe that the majority should determine humanity’s future, in a system where capital runs the show, how can we stick with the status-quo?

Then, there’s also the issue of environmental sustainability and the fact that we’re kind of trashing the only ecosystem we have, in a relentless pursuit of economic growth. If we’re not all buying shit we don’t need (vanity commodities, mansions, more than one mansion, multiple cars, excess food, enough clothes for several small towns) then the circuit of capital halts, and things go south in a hurry.

“You’re a monster. Don’t You Know Socialism and Communism Killed Millions of People?”

Yes. Authoritarian regimes, while claiming to be communist, committed many unspeakable atrocities. Structures that are designed to empower a ruling elite often do this. This is why millions of people have also been killed by capitalist nations, or in imperialist, profit-driven conflicts. This doesn’t even take into consideration, the innumerable deaths that have occurred as a result of greed, and the primacy of money in modern society. Whether it’s been as a result of for-profit healthcare, a lack of public housing, privation/starvation, etc, etc, etc. And let’s not forget all the striking workers and union organizers who have died while fighting for better working conditions and wages. Or, the environmental activists who have been murdered by corporate interests and oligarchs, while attempting to halt ecological devastation that mining and industrial companies have been responsible for.

“This is That Cultural Marxist Stuff: a Conspiracy to Destroy Western Civilization”

You probably won’t hear this one unless the person you’re interacting with is either an alt-righter, or someone who spends a lot of time digesting conservative materials about ‘political correctness.’ 20 years ago or so, you were more likely to hear the ole’ Cultural Marxism is some sort of master, socialist/atheist plan to destroy Western / Christian civilization in white supremacist circles. But, today, Cultural Marxism is often cited by conservatives and anti-post modernists as to why their world no longer tolerates ideas and words that belong in the 1950’s….

Now, ‘Cultural Marxism’s’ actual roots come from various, leftist thinkers, who were considering why capitalism continued to be so pervasive and influential throughout society, despite its inherent contradictions. For example, why did, or do, people still want to buy say a t-shirt that costs say $100 when it costs $10 to make, and you’re making $12 an hour, can hardly make rent and will never retire. Why aren’t you up in arms and calling for a more just and equal social order, alongside millions of other folks?

Now, there has been no shortage of ideas and theories put forth by socialists and Marxists, as to why capitalism has endured, and why rampant consumerism continues. There’s been various arguments made about how our values and social practices are impacted by capitalist ideology, and further, how the oppression of women and visible minorities is tied to this.

But, according to the anti-postmodernist folk and hard right boosters, “Cultural Marxism” is really all about dismantling “liberal values” and “Western” institutions. In other words, Cultural Marxism is really about discrediting all the great and grand things that made the West “number one”…As a result of this “red” movement, the argument goes, it’s no longer acceptable to celebrate the fact you’re European, Christian, straight, and a free market capitalist. In fact, depending on the dude or dudette you’re talking to, they may believe that Cultural Marxism is really about setting up a society where all those things will no longer exist. That’s right, because, naturally, if you’re a socialist, you’re also a communist, who is hoping to assume power and lock up every freedom loving, Christian Anglo-Saxon. You’re not, in fact, someone who wants to help create a more equitable, just and sustainable world.

The ridiculousness of this aforementioned argument doesn’t end there. In fact, there are leftists who believe that post-modernity has been an aid to the neoliberal order we now live in. According to that view, post-modernism doesn’t present a real alternative to capitalism, since it doesn’t call for sweeping socioeconomic changes, via the working majority and institutions of the citizenry. Further, since postmodernism questions the primacy of one concept or narrative, neoliberal machinations haven’t been met with a unified movement from the left.

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More Goodness From Russell Brand: Watch His Talk With David Harvey

David Harvey has long been considered one of the preeminent minds when it comes to leftist economics and Marxism. But, since folks like him don’t typically wind up on corporate platforms, chances are most progressives haven’t heard of the Professor.

Thus, this is is why it was awesome to see that Russell Brand had Doctor Harvey on his Under the Skin show. Sure, it’s not like Brand’s program is watched by millions and millions of people, but it does have 1.3 million subscribers on YouTube alone. So, ya, seeing Harvey on the show was pretty damn sweet, and here’s hoping it might lead to his inclusion on other, more mainstream programs.

Now, it was a bit unfortunate that the talk with Brand didn’t really dive deep into some of the fundamental concepts of Marx (baby steps right?) But, the two did cover some intriguing ground including the contradictions of capitalism, the differences between socialism and communism, and some of the commonly cited and tired critiques of leftist ideas.

If you’re not familiar with some of Harvey’s most respected and cited works, check out Social Justice and the City, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change , A Brief History of Neoliberalism  and  A Companion to Marx’s Capital. 

If doing a ton of reading isn’t really your bag, then Harvey’s video series on “Capital” might be more up your alley.

Must Listening These Days: Billy Bragg’s “Between The Wars”

In recent weeks, I’ve found myself particularly drawn to articles, discussions, and songs, pertaining to class struggle and the labour movement…Yes, more than the usual.

Why’s that? Well, as we watch Donnie’s horror show unfold in the U.S., a lot of intelligent folks have been arguing, and rightfully so, that the left has not been focusing enough on issues tied to the working class. Well, Bernie did, and did so quite well, but the corporate Dems wanted no part of that.

Anyways, one of the songs that has been receiving a lot of play in my household is Billy Bragg’s “Between the Wars”. If you’re not familiar with the song, then check out the lyrics below, and you’ll understand why:

I was a miner
I was a docker
I was a railway man
Between the wars
I raised a family
In times of austerity
With sweat at the foundry
Between the wars

I paid the union and as times got harder
I looked to the government to help the working man
And they brought prosperity down at the armory
We’re arming for peace, me boys
Between the wars

I kept the faith and I kept voting
Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand
For theirs is a land with a wall around it
And mine is a faith in my fellow man
Theirs is a land of hope and glory
Mine is the green field and the factory floor
Theirs are the skies all dark with bombers
And mine is the peace we know
Between the wars

Call up the craftsmen
Bring me the draftsmen
Build me a path from cradle to grave
And I’ll give my consent
To any government
That does not deny a man a living wage

Photo credit above: Kris Krug / Wikipedia

So if You Think CNN is “Communist”, You Might be a Moron…

In recent weeks, I’ve tried to do a better job of reading and watching more content outside my “leftist” bubble. In the past, I used to do so quite often, as 1) it’s important to consider other opinions, 2) yes, you could learn something new, and 3) let’s face it, bias knows no boundaries on the political spectrum (I also should give a tip of the hat here to Adam Curtis’s “Hypernormalisation” documentary, which dives deep into the problem of digital bubbles).

Now, as anyone who has a steady diet of news is aware of, the media, namely the corporate media, has been relentlessly attacked by ole Donnie boy and his crew in recent months. The attacks on the media stepped up when multiple women came forth with their well documented accusations, and have continued as a result of  Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. All this has prompted the ‘fake news’bit, which the Tan has been spewing, ad nauseam.

But, if your media diet is restricted to independent or corporate outlets, not of the really right variety, then you might not be aware of some of the current rhetoric regarding THE media…Some folks over yonder, are arguing that CNN, yes, get ready for it, is communist…

Yes, one of the planet’s biggest corporate media outlets, is in fact, not interested about making profits. Nope, they’re actually trying to destroy Trump and the Republican Party, in an effort to finally make the U.S. go red. As in commie red.

Now, unless I missed it, Wolf Blitzer hasn’t called for the abolition of private property, and Anderson Cooper hasn’t been pontificating about the differences between use value and exchange value. Jake Tapper hasn’t been explaining to viewers the finer points of historical materialism, although, it would be pretty awesome if he did.

The reality is that yes, many of the talking heads on CNN have been critical of Trump, and there’s good reason to believe that a lot of the folks at the outlet, are in fact liberal. But, and it’s a big BUT, they’re liberal in the contemporary sense. You know, people who believe in global warming, who have empathy for refugees, and don’t think the plight of America’s working class is the fault of immigrants. In addition, the company’s probably staffed with a lot of people who have gone all in on political correctness.

But, CNN certainly isn’t falling over itself to run stories on how we can end the neoliberal status-quo, by returning power to the citizenry, and establishing democracy in the workplace. By all measurements, CNN is a centrist, and many intellectuals would say, right of center outlet, particularly when it comes to economics. The CNN brass almost certainly isn’t interested in pushing for a world where, say, their compensation drops to just four times that of the average worker…

But the commie line is a tired, very, very played out shot from the right, which speaks more to the stunning ignorance those folks have about socialist theory and the left. Are there any sizeable groups on the left calling for Soviet or Maoist like, authoritarian regimes? Are there any notable, leftist intellectuals doing so? Nope. Quite the opposite. By applying this same logic, one could argue that all pro-capitalists are down with human rights atrocities, imperialism and fascism, since you know, capitalist nations have been guilty of all those.

The sad reality is that the political spectrum has shifted so right, as a result of the neoliberal age, that traditional leftist ideas rarely even enter the conversation. Bernie was a big exception, of course, and the corporate friendly, Democratic powers that be, did their best to shut that down.

So, when some far right clown tells his audience that CNN and global “elites” have a “socialist agenda”, sadly, far too many of them have no idea if its ‘fake news’ or not…

Why The Working Class? Vivek Chibber Hits HR

So, it’s February 12th…and this is the first post for the Pinko Rag in quite a while…Yup. Following the U.S. election, some of us, and that includes moi, elected to put their heads in figurative sand, with the help of booze, pointless television shows and a steady stream of sports.

But, thankfully, many, many progressives haven’t gone that route, and have been busy resisting; fighting for a socially just and environmentally sustainable future. In recent weeks, there’s also been a lot of discussion, debate and even hostility within the left, in respect to how we go about doing this.

Since Donnie took the American throne, there’s been no shortage of talk about 1) how that happened and 2) if the left has been focusing on too many issues, or just the wrong issues.

Well, recently Jacobin Magazine posted an essay by Vivek Chibber, which immediately sparked my leftist fire (the essay originally appeared in The ABCs of Socialism). In it, Chibber outlines why the working class is the focal point of socialist theory. The essay outlines in a very concise and compelling manner, why real, substantive change will only come from organizing the working class. Here is an excerpt:

So, in a society in which most people don’t have job security, or have jobs but can’t pay their bills, in which they have to submit to other people’s control, in which they don’t have a voice in how laws and regulations are made — it’s impossible to achieve social justice.

Capitalism is an economic system that depends on depriving the vast majority of people of these essential preconditions for a decent life. Workers show up for work every day knowing that they have little job security; they are paid what employers feel is consistent with their main priority, which is making profits, not the well-being of employees; they work at a pace and duration that is set by their bosses; and they submit to these conditions, not because they want to, but because for most of them, the alternative to accepting these conditions is not having a job at all. This is not some incidental or marginal aspect of capitalism. It is the defining feature of the system.

Economic and political power is in the hands of capitalists, whose only goal is to maximize profits, which means that the condition of workers is, at best, a secondary concern to them. And that means that the system is, at its very core, unjust.

A left that focuses on fundamentally changing the economic and political structures of power, through communal efforts and worker unity, isn’t dismissing gender issues, racial discrimination, environmental degradation etc. Rather, it understands that real, substantive change will only occur by empowering the masses and creating a society where capital accumulation isn’t paramount to everything else.

It’s certainly not a new idea for the left, but it’s one that unfortunately, has consistently been punted from so-called ‘leftist’ parties in the preceding decades. Funny how that happens when ‘progressive’ candidates are taking money from oligarchic interests.

Anyhoo, the essay mentioned above is definitely a must read, particularly at times like this.

Jill Stein vs. John Oliver….Ugh

Recently there’s been a ton of coverage tied to Hillary’s emails and the allegations brought against Donnie, and how they could could impact the U.S. Presidential election. But, if you’re on the progressive flank (the real one that is; not the neoliberal facade that’s being tugged around by the Clinton campaign) then you may have been following the beef between Jill Stein’s camp and the John Oliver show.

For folks on the left, it’s likely been hard to watch. While Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” doesn’t float social democratic remedies on a regular basis, and is far from radical, it produces funny, compelling segments, which expose troubling issues that need to be addressed. It’s definitely on my weekly, must see, viewing list.

Recently, however, Oliver took a shot at Green candidate Jill Stein, and if you’re like me, it was hard to watch. For many progressives, Stein’s platform is the only one that promises to challenge and change a grossly unjust and unsustainable status-quo. Particularly since Bernie didn’t win the Democratic nomination. So, when Oliver picked apart Stein’s plan to use quantitative easing to eliminate student debt, it left me, and likely many others, a wee bit uneasy.

Now, even the biggest Green boosters would likely agree that at times, Stein and the team haven’t effectively outlined how QE could be used to help students. In addition, there’s no question that the President would have a massive, political battle on their hands, trying to implement this plan. Especially since the Federal Reserve – an independent body – would need to go along.

But, as others have pointed out since Oliver’s segment (see below), Stein’s plan is possible. Certainly more possible than Donnie’s plans to build a wall across the American border, and have Mexico pay for it, which is the comparison Oliver made. Then, there’s the reality that freeing students of their debt, is precisely the type of progressive change we need to make. Yes, even if the debt would be redistributed throughout the American populace. But hell, no one seems to mind when bills for countless and pointless wars are assigned to the taxpayer right?  Or when corporations are allowed to offshore profits at the expense of the nation’s well being? Or when the public has to pony up for all the ‘externalities’ big industry and corporate interests create.

I’m not writing off Oliver or his show. I still absolutely respect the work he and his staff are doing. But am I disappointed? Ya. I am.  But, I don’t live in a nation where “The Tan” could become my next leader. So, it’s not surprising to see that in the frantic push to avoid this, some unfair smear jobs are taking place.

You can check out Jimmy Dore, and the award winning journalist Robert Scheer’s take on the segment below.

Must See Viewing: HyperNormalisation by Adam Curtis

Adam Curtis forged his reputation as a compelling and talented documentary producer years ago, and the British filmmaker has enhanced that status with his latest release, “HyperNormalisation.”

Now sure, not everyone is going to agree with the theories that are spun in the film, but Curtis presents a fascinating backstory to the machinations of neoliberalism, suicide bombings, and the corporatization of cyber reality. Oh, Curtis also has some interesting things to say about good ole Donnie ‘Sniff Sniff’ Trump…

You can check out a trailer for the film below.

Not only should should you check out “HyperNormalisation”, but other films from Curtis like “The Century of the Self”, “The Power of Nightmares”, and “The Mayfair Set” are must see viewing.