An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Activism and Organization

The primary weakness in most of the current movements for social change is their inability to form a coherent systematic analysis of the fundamental causes of the injustices we fight. This weakness is telegraphed in the very word "activist". Mark Rudd just published an excellent article in CounterPunch where he characterized the difference between "activism" and "organizing" as follows: "'...activists are individuals who dedicate their time and energy to various efforts they hope will contribute to social, political, or economic change. Organizers are activists who, in addition to their own participation, work to move other people to take action and help them develop skills, political analysis and confidence within the context of organizations. Organizing is a process – creating long-term campaigns that mobilize a certain constituency to press for specific demands from a particular target, using a defined strategy and escalating tactics.' In other words, it's not enough for punks to continually express their contempt for mainstream values through their alternate identity; they've got to move toward 'organizing masses of people.'

Aha! Activism = self-expression; organizing = movement-building."

Aha - exactly. Raj Jayadev in his article "A New Decade of Youth Activism" contrasts the new left ideologues with the spontaneous practicality of the new movements: "This generation didn't get in squabbles over who was more revolutionary, didn't pull all-night, Marx-Engel study sessions, didn't try to bring back the beret, and as it turned out, could care less about being called 'activists.'" The message is that they could care less about ideological squabbles or trying to understand the roots of the crisis in a systematic way. Their action springs directly from the situation, "The great irony of this generation was that they had been called self-involved and apathetic, a generation that lived in isolated iPod worlds. Yet when their loved ones were being threatened, they erupted. No national coalition, no 10-point plan, just a raw flexing of organizing power." And, unfortunately, no strategy to address the roots the problem either.

In no way do I wish to belittle the real accomplishments which Jayadev describes. The Youtube posting of Oscar Grant's murder is a case in point. Jayadev locates his generation's activism in its ability to communicate electronically. What he ignores is the moral culture that must underlie responses to that video. Without an understanding of the culture that makes Oscar Grant's murder possible, the murders will go on. If posting on Youtube becomes too inconvenient to the authorities, they will simply shut it down.

Each "movement" he describes was an immediate response to an existing situation of injustice and each had a positive effect. But spontaneous movements tend to die as soon as their immediate demands are met because their activists do not see beyond the immediate injustice.

Impatience with "ideology" often hides a mental laziness that prefers the satisfactions of immediate action to the hard work of understanding the fundamental nature of the system we confront. One could argue that it was precisely this impatience with systematic thought that made most of the revolutionary fervor of the sixties so effervescent. The examples cited by Jayadev are classic examples of attacking the symptoms while letting the disease rage unchecked and undiagnosed.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Obama's Praise of War


"For myself, I have come in my time in college to an understanding of the beauty of MLK's philosophy of world peace. That violent force cannot ever be justified --that two wrongs don't make a right-- seems like second nature now. Obama's twisted pseudo-intellectual rationalization of war-mongering stands in strict opposition to the teachings of Jesus Christ (love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, blessed are the peacemakers, thou shalt not kill, et cetera) and make this veteran sick. I would not feign to argue with the leader of the free world, but then again I have seen war from the ground up, and he has not. I know that I speak for the young anti-war movement when I say that Obama has betrayed us. I also speak for the anti-war youth when I say that we won't forget it." - Evan Knappenberger, "The Betrayal of Generation Hope", Common Dreams, Dec. 13, 2009

This is one of most passionate and clear-sighted articles I've yet seen in the progressive press. The key question is "Why doesn't Obama get it?" and the answer is that he sees with different eyes than the generation he inspired and then so quickly betrayed. As many of Evan's generation are beginning to perceive, Marxist analysis has the tools to understand this enigma.

Despite a firm commitment to nonviolence, I must acknowledge the reality of class warfare. This is not a war chosen by the exploited, but by those who repress them and then accuse resisters of "violence", as did Obama in his speech. Though major media constantly strive to suppress awareness of this struggle, it continues with the same intensity as before. Obama is a member of the ruling class and he strives, very successfully up to now, to advance the interests of his class.

Consider Glenn Greenwald's description of the elite reaction to the speech, "Yesterday's speech and the odd, extremely bipartisan reaction to it underscored one of the real dangers of the Obama presidency: taking what had been ideas previously discredited as Republican or right-wing dogma and transforming them into bipartisan consensus." The "danger" here is actually stronger than he characterizes it. The crude destruction of constitutional rights under the previous administration now has the stamp of progressive approval added to it. But this approval of militarism and its consequent degradation of human dignity is far from "odd". It is the natural consequence of their philosophy of dominance.

This is precisely the point of the Obama administration - "...Obama has actually done more to legitimize Bush/Cheney 'counter-terrorism' policies than Bush and Cheney themselves -- because he made them bipartisan." Once we understand his actions from the viewpoint of class warfare, many otherwise inexplicable betrayals begin to fall into place. His role is to legitimize the instruments of exploitation which are now necessary in order to continue imperial domination. That he can do this with the blessing of the Nobel Committee adds the stamp of moral idealism to his brutal policies in the Middle East.

Once we lay aside liberal prejudices about "class warfare" and our ingrained taboos about "socialism", the realities of power finally stand out stark and clear. And the nonviolent battle plan can be made with confidence when we see the real enemy and throw off his yoke, no matter what moralistic flowers he decorates it with.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Perpetual War




Over and over, we hear the same bemusement from liberal writers over the hypocrisy and sheer irrationality of Obama's war strategy. And their analysis is often devastatingly accurate. But they rarely examine the material motivations for this deception, preferring psychological explanations. As in this quote: "...this is 'the way we prefer to see ourselves and, therefore, the narrative that we use to justify all that we do in the world.'" - Andre Bacevich.

The problem is that such articles usually end utterly devoid of any answer as to why anyone would pursue such an obviously self-destructive course, no matter what one might say about the hypocrisy of his rhetorical pose. We are left with a sense of impotent frustration, a sense of powerlessness in the face of irrational self immolation.

And, in a way, that's what defines liberalism - the inability to ask the decisive question and seek a genuine answer to it.

What liberals don't understand is that the goal of the war against Afghanistan and Pakistan is not to create "stability" - it is to create sufficient numbers of enemies so that we can perpetuate war and the profits that ensue from it.

In the words of George Orwell: "The war is not supposed to be winnable, it is supposed to be continuous...all for the hierarchy of society...The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent..it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. War… is now a purely internal affair."

The purpose of the war in Afghanistan is to maintain a permanent state of war. This state is necessary for the national security apparatus to flourish, as well as to ensure the subjection of the majority. Obama, the smiling liberal, is well-chosen as executor of this totalitarian strategy because he can pull off the crime while keeping his progressive credentials intact. Liberals wish to live in the illusion that we are "resistors of oppression" "who never seek to occupy other countries." How noble and lawful we are compared to our manufactured "enemies".

A secondary goal of the war is the control of Central Asian energy resources in a game the U.S. cannot afford to cede to the Russians and Chinese. But principally, war in Afghanistan helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. Liberals play an essential role in the maintenance of this state through the proliferation of their illusions about "democracy" which mask the realities of power. That is their role and in that they serve the security state well.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Unwinnable Wars




"The war is not supposed to be winnable, it is supposed to be continuous… all for the hierarchy of society… The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent… it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. War… is now a purely internal affair." — George Orwell

The purpose of the war in Afghanistan is to maintain a permanent state of war. This state is necessary for the national security state to flourish, as well as to ensure the subjection of the majority. Obama, the smiling liberal, is the well-chosen executor of this totalitarian, utopian strategy.

"Such a perfect democracy constructs its own inconceivable foe, terrorism. Its wish is to be judged by its enemies rather than by its results."

– Guy DeBord, Comments On the Society of the Spectacle, 1988

The purpose of the war in Afghanistan is to manufacture enemies that can be used to fuel further profit opportunities for the military/energy complex. In addition, the control of Central Asian energy resources is a game that the U.S. cannot afford to leave to the Russians and Chinese. But principally, war in Afghanistan helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. This war is being fought to ensure the proper mental climate for the enslavement of the middle class to debt bondage, a servitude to Wall Street that will probably last centuries.