Sunday, August 31, 2008

Alasdair MacIntyre & Holistic Marxism

by Thomas Riggins

One of the more interesting establishment philosophers, MacIntyre has recently had two volumes of his essays and articles published: "The Tasks of Philosophy" and "Ethics and Politics." These observations are based on Constantine Sandis' review of these volumes ("Torn away from sureness") in the TLS of August 15, 2008. Some of MacIntyre's work has relevance to Marxist thought. He says for instance, as Sandis points out, that the concepts that are used to delineate an ideology (and this includes Marxism) cannot be understood free of their original contexts from which they derive their meaning. Treating them outside of this context makes them appear unwarranted or nonsensical. If we, for example, decide to adopt Marxism as a guiding light but lack the requisite background contextual knowledge regarding the origin of its concepts and doctrines, we run the risk of mixing up the ideological statements of Marxism with the ideological statements of other points of view (Liberalism, Buddhism, etc.)and we could end up with an incoherent mishmash of different points of views which will prevent us from having a proper understanding of reality.

It is the job of philosophy to prevent this from happening. We must, as Sandis says, engage "in socio-linguistic palaeontology aimed at unearthing previously hidden meanings and connections." We can then see how our concepts are related to our own tradition and to that of others. Marx, for instance, was influenced by Hegel and some of Hegel's concepts have come over into Marxism. The concept of "Reason", for example, reappears in Marxism as the concept of "Scientific Method." Lenin tends to rule out all theories that are not capable of scientific treatment (all religious explanations of reality, for instance). But, Sandis says, "MacIntyre rejects Hegel's faith in reason's ability to grasp absolute reality, substituting in its place a critical blend of Imre Lakatos, Thomas Kuhn and W.V. Quine's more pragmatic approaches." This rejection of Hegel, as we will see, has led MacIntyre to abandon Marxism and convert to Roman Catholicism. This is always, to my way of thinking, an unhealthy sign. It does not however, negate, his contention that an ideology must be contextually understood.

Sandis reproduces a quote from the British philosopher Frank Ramsey: "it is a heuristic maxim that the truth lies not in one of the two disputed views but in some third possibility which has not yet been thought of, which we can only discover by rejecting something assumed as obvious by both disputants." This looks suspiciously like the Hegelian dialectic heuristically applied. Ramsey, along with the physicist Heinrich Hertz and Ludwig Wittgenstein have all influenced MacIntyre. He. for instance, applies Ramsey's dictum to resolve conceptual problems between competing ideologies by rejecting some of the premises of both, and especially the idea that one is "right" and the other "wrong." His application of this method is not too bright.

He rejected voting in the 2004 election seeing the difference between Bush's policies (war and more war) and those of Kerry as insignificant. He said that "when offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives." MacIntyre is completely divorced from reality here. The choice between Bush and Kerry was not "false." Only propositions can be false. It was the historic choice that our history presented to us at that time. There were also other choices: Nader, the Greens, etc. To advocate simply sitting out an election that would determine the lives and deaths of thousands of people over a four year period may not be the most ethical behavior for a philosopher to engage in.

In the early 1980s MacIntyre converted to Roman Catholicism because, Sandis suggests, he no longer thought he could make philosophical progress within a Marxist framework.The reason for this was has adoption of a view called "confirmation holism." This view says that an ideology, say Marxism, can only be understood holistically. This means its doctrines have to accepted completely and made to harmonize with one another and cannot be taken more or less generally and supplemented with doctrines from other traditions or ideologies. Sandis says, "Rationality may consequently require us to readily abandon our commitment to any world-view that comes to face an overbearing obstacle." Sandis doesn't tell us what the "overbearing obstacle" was that mandated a switch from the Marxist world-view to that of Roman Catholicism. Non Marxists, I am sure, can think of many just as non Catholics can think of the "overbearing obstacles" that prevent the adoption of that world-view. This looks like relativism, but Sandis tells us MacIntyre is trying to forge an anti-relativist philosophy.

Here is what MacIntyre says about the language used to explain an ideology:
"the languages-in-use of some social and cultural orders are more adequate than those of some others in this and that respect." He also says, "the existence of continuing disagreement, even between highly intelligent people, should not lead us to suppose that there are not adequate resources available for the rational resolution of such disagreement." This is supposed to escape from relativism. But a Marxist will judge Catholic positions from the point of view of Marxism, and vice versa. So I don't see how relativism is overcome.

Sandis says that the "holistic answer is simply that some practices are pragmatically far more attractive than others...." That "attraction", however, will be in the eye of the beholder. Sandis then quotes MacIntyre's "famous" definition of a "practice"-- viz., "any coherent and complex form of socially established co-operative human activity through which goods internal to that form of activity are realized in the course of trying to achieve those standards of excellence which are appropriate to, and partially definitive of, that form of activity, with the result that human powers to achieve excellence, and human conceptions of the ends and goods involved are systematically extended." Whew! And we must keep in mind that any given practice, say Nazism, can be replaced by one that is better. That's encouraging.

Since a better practice may always be available any particular practice I hold to must be justified probabilistically. If I think Marxism is "true" [since only propositions can be "true" this is not a good word to use]or rather the most useful theoretical system for describing social reality, then I must realize, as Sandis points out, "one must aim for truth by aiming for justification, and the latter is in principle always open to revision."

MacIntyre's ethical system is cast in a Kantian mould rather that a utilitarian one (i.e., a consequentialist one). He thinks there are some moral rules that we can never be justified in breaking. Against this view stand those who contend "the moral polarity of any act [is] (at least partly) determined by the circumstances in which it was performed." That is that there is no universal ban on any act but each must be judged either by its results and/or motives and the context surrounding it taken into consideration.

Marx in his day didn't think much of utilitarianism, nor did Lenin of Kantianism. How sould a Marxist react to this choice? Sandis indicates that MacIntyre's position is not ironclad and plausible exceptions to it have been suggested. Sandis suggests that morality may be a disposition. To paraphrase him, we might say that if "fragility" is a disposition to break at certain times and not to break at others, so morality is a disposition to act in a certain way in certain cases and not in others. He gives as an example that "an act of intentionally not telling the truth need not be vicious, for there might always be circumstances where one virtuous disposition (say that of kindness) can only be manifested if another (say that of honesty, or of justice) is not."

Marxists can learn something from MacIntyre. I think his views on holism are useful, as are his remarks on the coherence of our ideas and their need for justification as well as his attempt to avoid relativism. A Marxist proposition should be part of a system of coherent (non contradictory)co-propositions which can be justified by an appeal to practice and that serve the interests, broadly defined, of the working class in its efforts to abolish the capitalist system. The construction of this holistic system is the task of 21st century Marxists.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin faces state probe for misconduct

Palin is caught in a probe of her official conduct. Questions have now arisen over whether Palin used her office to try and fire her ex -brother-in-law from a state trooper's position. The Alaska Senate approved the hiring of an independent investigator to look into the allegations.

read all about it...

Oops. Palin is very Much a Right-wing Repubican by Norman Markowitz

In my last blog post I succumbed to a danger that historians often
succumb to--I repeated conventional wisdom that Palin was not
"especially" a right-wing Republican. But she is a paladin(no pun
intended) of the religious "new right" who likes to cultivate the
image of a "maverick" that John McCain has embraced. For McCain, she
is both a female Dan Quayle(a non entity to be brought on the ticket
to attract specific groups of voters) and also a sort of rightwing
Republican "unity" candidate, combining the secular rightwing with the
religious rightwing.
Like McCain, Palin cultivates the image of an "anti-corruption"
reformer. Like McCain she in her two years as Governor of Alaska has
supported uncritically the oil companies and other big businesses who
see Alaska the way prospectors saw it in the gold rush. Her
environmental record is lousy. Like McCain's anti-corruption
posturing and record of support for figures like Charles Keating, the
major figure in the multi-billion dollar Savings and Loan Scandal of
the Reagan era, Palin has led a party in Alaska which this week
renominated Ted Stevens, the U.S. Senator under federal indictment,
for the Senate.

But Palin's major plus for McCain is that she is an anti-reproductive
rights woman, who the clerical right will turn into a heroine.
Reproductive rights, including the right to terminate pregnancies, was
and is a major issue of the women's rights movement. Palin, who in
her first address to the press, sought to piggy back off Hillary
Clinton, is as much an example of the advance of women's rights as
Clarence Thomas is of Civil Rights.

Without the gains made by the movements, Palin, like Thomas, would not
be where she is. But Palin, like Thomas on civil rights, has nothing
to do with the ideals and policies which motivated the women who
fought for and gained a presidential commission chaired by Eleanor
Roosevelt on the status of women in the Kennedy years, fought for and
gained inclusion in the civil rights legislation of the Johnson years,
fought for and gained through organizations like the National
Organization for Women, state and federal protections for women's
rights under law, in employment, and in education, along with the
legal right to choose to have an abortion.
As is often true in history, Palin is a product of partial but
significance progressive change who stands as both a road block to
continued progressive change and an instrument of those who have
sought to reverse progressive change in women's rights over the last
thirty years.
I hope someone asks Palin where she stands on the Equal Rights
Amendment. On Affirmative Action protections for women. I can
imagine her positions, but they should be put on the record.

As a final point, Palin is the wife of an army sniper who received the
Purple Heart for wounds he suffered from a roadside bomb in Iraq.
McCain, whatever the issue, somehow finds a way to get back to combat.
Norman Markowitz

Obama Hits A Home Run While McCain Goes North to Alaska

by Norman Markowitz

The Democratic Convention ended yesterday and without doing unpaid PR work for the Democrats, I would say it was as these things go a huge success. Hillary Clinton's unity speech was much much better than her campaign and much more in tune with the thinking of the core constituencies of the Democratic party. Joe Biden stuck it to the Republicans as traditional liberal Democrats have since the first convention that saw in TV in 1952, when Stevenson was the candidate and the Democrats were trapped with the unpopular Korean War which had infected sections of the country with the reactionary political virus called McCarthyism.

Michelle Obama spoke clearly and eloquently about what it meant to be an American women of African-American heritage in the 21st century.

And Barack Obama addressed a crowd of eighty thousand forcefully, separating himself from John McCain without resorting to polemics, drawing the line clearly between the two candidates on major issues and talking like a serious leader, much more so tthan Bush or McCain or for that matter the recent candidates of both parties.

I was struck by the faces of the delegates and the interviews with them. The majority were progressive people, humanist people, people supporting Barack Obama because they saw their hopes and dreams in his insights, understanding, and leadership potential. The convention was more than an infomercial as recent conventions have been. It was or rather can and should be a mobilizing tool for this crucial election.

Meanwhile, McCain has surprised many people by choosing Governor Palin of Alaska as his running mate. My first response was that this was an attempt to reach out to female voters who supported Hillary Clinton. While Palin from what I know of her is not especially a rightwing Republican, she is also an unknown in the party from a state that is geographically and politically distant from what used to be called the "lower forty eight." Unlike Joe Biden, who brings a long political career in national politics and a leadership role as a legislator on foreign policy issues, she brings nothing to the ticket but her gender.

As someone who has studied and written about the choice of Vice Presidents in U.S. history, it appears to me that McCain has gone back to the machine politics tradition of choosing a non-entity from a specific region or faction of the party to "balance the ticket" and
appeal to alienated voters. Rarely was the defeated opposition leader chosen because he would be too much of a rival for the victorious candidate. For these reasons, the Vice Presidency until the post World War II era was seen as a political dead end, a final political resting place from which the Vice President could only advance through the demise of the president.

The only innovation here is that McCain has created a balanced ticket based on gender. There is no regional balance unless he has designs on Siberia (which, given his statements about the continuing Russia-Georgia crisis some Russians might take seriously).

While Senator Obama goes forward, Senator McCain celebrates his 72nd birthday by going, as the song of that old tacky Hollywood movie went, "North to Alaska, North to Russia's Door" to find a running mate. I don't think the ploy will work with female voters, and it may even backfire with rightwing Republicans who don't think a woman's place is to be presiding officer of the Senate, even if that is mostly a ceremonial job.

Support the Employee Free Choice Act

From Jobs with Justice:

As this Labor Day approaches, quality employment opportunities and paychecks are shrinking, the cost of fuel and health care continue to skyrocket, and working families are struggling to make ends meet. In these tough times, workers and our communities need fair opportunities to get ahead.

It's no coincidence that as union membership has declined, the gap between rich and poor has widened. Workers in unions earn 28% higher wages, and are 62 percent more likely to have employer-covered health coverage, and they are 386% more likely to have guaranteed pensions. Allowing more workers to freely join unions and bargain with their employers will help rebuild
the middle class by expanding health care, improving retirement security, and raising the standard of living for all working families.

Sign up to support the Employee Free Choice Act:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Confessions of a post-Cold War communist

by Joel Wendland

[Spoiler alert: this post is sharp and may be viewed as somewhat unkind.]

I have followed Joe Sims' recent theoretical forays into some of "Marxism's" worst and best moments with interest, some laughter, some chagrin, and some perplexity [see here, here, here, and here]. Things that make you go, "who the heck came up with that one." While I do not agree 100% with him, I appreciate and applaud his efforts to elevate and broaden our thinking. I do have to say, however, that I do not view any of his statements as too controversial or outrageous.

Specifically, concepts like "dictatorship of the proletariat," "socialism in one country," "art as a weapon," single-party states, vanguard party, and the naming of ideas and political movements after men have all seemed outrageous and more or less irrelevant to me – indeed a little anti-communist. For crying out loud, who would spread this silly nonsense as serious communist ideas unless they wanted the rest of the world to view us as out of date, ridiculous, and obsessed with ideas only about 12 people are trying to prove as correct based on their religious reading of something Karl Marx or V.I. Lenin once said.

Both Marx and Lenin would laugh at and mock, as we know, this type of fundamentalism-exchanged-for-political-analysis.

I have followed some of the discussion that Joe's comments have aroused. Most of it has seemed rather defensive and angry and lodged in the past instead of being thoughtful and innovative, which I always viewed as a hallmark of the men and women who have built and changed and developed the ideas of the communist movements.

I have to profess that I am happy that I am a post-Cold War communist. I missed the little Lenin readers, the ABC's of whatever, inculcations in the mistaken and irresponsible claims about vanguardism, religious references to famous Marxists as evidence of righteousness and correctness, and indoctrinations in stalinism (one-model socialism, single-partyism, ends justifies means, USSR above all, kill anyone who is wrong), frankly.

I managed to avoid dogmatic recitations about democratic centralism, professed out of one side of the mouth while those who profess it to be a foundational principle support and work with factionalists who launch Web sites and publications designed specifically to attack the Communist Party, who are quoted by the right-wing media, and are privately proud of it every step of the way.

I mostly missed being trained in or associated with a style of meaningless attack politics done behind the scenes, behind the back, behind secret names, through secret networks, and without any link to real working-class people or movements that have and will create meaningful change.

I am also glad I missed the conspiratorial style of political action based in ill-advised and silly ideas about a revolutionary core of really radical revolutionaries who hold secret meetings and who really know what's going on, etc....really.

I prefer, and I think some of this I learned from Joe S., being a part of a communist movement that is embedded in the realities of my life, my neighbors' lives, and in the lives of real working people. I prefer a communist movement that stands openly with working people for change that is real, and not the fantasies of middle-class professionals and business owners who seem to have a hitch in the hum-drum of their day to day, or who once read about change in a book.

I prefer a communist movement that doesn't make a habit of attacking other working-class people, activists, and leaders over the minutiae of what the "real revolutionaries" consider true "revolutionary marxism." Ultra leftism makes little sense to me. Going on in the imaginary world about the left being a vanguard or needing to be one makes little sense. Maybe only in any meaningful way to the same chosen 12, one has to guess.

Personally – and feel free to chew on this to your heart's content, cuz I am sure it will end up in someone's e-mail – I prefer the slogan "ordinary people can do extraordinary things" to the non(anti)-communist and rather silly "dictatorship of the proletariat" as a slogan.

I apologize for being a bit sharp. But I think it is time to move on. It is time to change this thing we call our movement and be real. If you prefer to wear a clown mask and bring your extremist, confused politics to the table pretending that it means anything to any real body, please reconsider. This is too serious and means too much to real people to mess with phony, divisive politics of the past.

Dennis Kucinich Wakes America Up

Film Review: Tell No One [French with English Subtitles]

Film Review: Tell No One [2006]
[French with English Subtitles]

by Eric Green

"Tell No One" is a French mystery thriller that does not disappoint, IN ANY WAY.

The centerpiece of film is a French aristocrat billionaire, horse breeder, Gilbert Neuville, played by the great film actor, Jean Rochefort, whose power at affecting events via political and economic control of government and policy leaders runs up against his arrogance and abuse of the same power. Clearly, Guillaume Canet, screenwriter and film director, had the billionaire's power in mind by formulating a mystery thriller that is complex and deceptive a new higher level than almost all other similar films. You have to pay close attention and its worth it. Neuville's estate is in Versailles.

Alex Beck, played expertly by Francois Cluzet, is the husband whose wife dies during a summer romp in a lake outside Paris. The film jumps ahead 8 years, but when new events force a re-look at that death, the flash back and forwards tell a story that keeps you on the edge of your seats.

Great acting performances are delivered by Kristin Scott Thomas, an English actor, who plays a close friend of Beck and Nathalie Baye who plays Beck's attorney, Elysabeth Feldman.

The film title, "Tell No One" refers to the secrets and lies which pervade practically all of the main characters of the film.

An added feature of the film is the chase and car scenes around Paris, which give the viewers an insight into the full range of Parisians that are in Paris. Given the decidedly upper middle class nature of the film, these on-the-ground views of the Paris working classes are expertly done by Canet. Immigrant populations are expertly interwoven into the plots of the film.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sign of the Times: Park Slope Food Coop Growing

by Eric Green

Brooklyn's Park Slope Food Coop, a touch of socialism in our country, has once again responded to the economic times and welcomed new members and be in a position to respond to the ever growing demand for quality food at decent, low, prices.

This Coop is the largest in the United States. In the current period, the membership has grown to 13,768, up 20% from the previous year. And, in terms of Gross Sales, the numbers are equally impressive. Gross sales were $35 million a year, up from $30 million.

There are a number of reasons given for this increase. The Coop's newsletter, Linewaters' Gazette credits a new system of debit utilization that made the check far easier. That is definitely true; and it wasn't easy.

The Coop expanded its premises a few years ago to accommodate the growing demands for membership.

The unique feature of this Coop is that every, yes, every member must work 2 hours and 45 minutes each month to fulfill their commitment. This system works amazingly smoothly. There is a child care center that also works perfectly.

But, the great aspect of the Coop is that members can buy quality ORGANIC foods at prices that cannot be equaled anywhere. With the growing understanding of need for foods without dangerous additives, this Coop makes them available at reasonable prices.

Who are the members: Just about every nationality, religion, race and anyone else who you normally see on the streets of Brooklyn and NYC shops and works at the COOP.

Why the great increase? Clearly, the economic crisis that working people are facing is one of the main reasons for these dramatic increases. Fortunately, the Coop is available and it will probably continue to grow.

For more information on how these kinds of Coops can be constructed go to the Coop website:

Obama Nominated By Acclamation, Accepts Nomination (VIDEO)

Hillary Clinton moved to suspend the roll call vote and nominate Barack Obama by acclamation. The motion was passed, and Nancy Pelosi formally extended the nomination to Obama. Obama accepted the nomination, becoming the first African-American to represent a major party for president.

read the whole story here...

Watch the video:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

PA Gets Broader and Better In the 21st Century

by Norman Markowitz

Now for the final installment of our PA retrospective, as we struggle against the "back to the future" policies of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld administration/autocracy/ cabal/ imperialist war machine (and those are some of the milder comments that one can make about them).

The CPUSA's evaluation was that the ultra-right was in decline after its impeachment debacle in 1998. And this was accurate, or as they said generations ago before the New Left turned it into a joke and the not so new Right picked it up as a put down, "politically correct." But reactionary forces are often most dangerous, more likely to launch political coups, when they are losing mass support. In Germany for example, the Nazi party vote actually dropped in late 1932 and the Communist vote increased before the German ruling class brokered a deal brought Hitler initially to power. In Chile, President Salvador Allende's Popular Unity Coalition had significantly increased its vote in off year congressional elections, which became a major reason for the U.S. supported fascist coup against the Allende government.

Al Gore was the Democratic candidate in 2000 and ran a campaign which did not in significant ways deviate from the Clinton policies (Gore had been a conspicuous NAFT supporter in 1994). George Bush, son of the former President and rightwing governor of Texas, ran a campaign de-emphasizing his rightwing record in Texas, portraying himself as a "compassionate conservative," as he mixed traditional pro business Republican boiler plate rhetoric with folksy personal appeals in the Clinton tradition. Ralph Nader was the Green party candidate, campaigning on the issues as a militant pro labor, pro environment progressive.

I supported Ralph Nader, wrote articles for his campaign which were reposted on the internet on pro Nader websites and as an individual campaigned for him. The CPUSA of course didn't support this course on any level. But the CPUSA doesn't formally endorse candidates and I took the position that I under the principles of Democratic centralism had the right to support Nader if there was no formal endorsement. This was wholly accepted and, while there was private friendly criticism from comrades (friendlier and less extensive than the criticisms I received from friends who are liberal Democrats) I did not experience anything personally negative from these actions from anyone in the CPUSA.

I write this for two reasons. The first because it should show everyone that the CPUSA is a party which accepts political differences on issues among its members and operates on a comradely and fraternal level toward its members, not on the bureaucratic "command" policies and purges that anti-Communists assert over and over again, regardless of the facts.

My second reason is to admit as I have for years now that this was the worst mistake I made of any vote that I cast in all of the elections that I have voted in since I was old enough to vote (the 1965 New York mayoralty election). The nearly three million Nader votes made it possible for The Bush campaign to steal the election by stealing Florida. Had Nader not run, I and no one else have any doubt that the majority of his votes would have gone to Gore and virtually none to Bush. In New Hampshire, this would have given Gore the state and the presidency without the Florida struggle. In Florida, the nearly 100,000 Nader votes would have made it impossible for the Florida Republicans to initiate the outrages which prevented a full recount and gave Bush the presidency. The Democrats made many mistakes in these battles and then refused to seriously challenge the Supreme Court's unprecedented and indefensible decision on behalf of Bush. But Ralph Nader and those like me who voted for him should accept some of the blame for the disasters that were to follow. Not to see this, not to grasp the specific far reaching disasters of the Bush administration and to assert dogmatically that it would have all been the same under Gore because the Democrats are no different than the Republicans in class terms is to enter into the hermetically sealed world of political sectarianism.

Although Bush had lost the popular vote by 500,000 and gained the presidency only because a 5-4 Supreme Court vote ended the Florida recount, his administration acted as if it had a huge mandate. From the beginning "compassionate conservatism" was transformed into a virulent revival of the worst of the Reagan reactionary policies a revival and expansion of what Gus Hall in 1984 had called "a whiff of fascism."

The anti-democratic nature of the administration, even by the most conservative definitions of representative government, was visible from the beginning. Through U.S. history, Vice Presidential candidates have been chosen to "balance" tickets based on regional representation and sometimes different factions of parties. Dick Cheney, a former presidential aid, Wyoming Congressman and Secretary of Defense in the George HW Bush administration, was the CE0 of the Texas based military industrial complex corporation, Halliburton, with all sorts of Middle East connections. When George W Bush choose him as a running mate.

Two Texas residents on the same ticket were unprecedented. Nor was Cheney in any way an attractive candidate for mass media. Rather his function in the campaign was to be the rightwing "bad cop" of the ticket as against Bush's "compassionate conservative" good cop. In the new administration, Cheney moved rapidly with either the support or the indifference of the President, to develop a White House based shadow organization to supersede on foreign policy questions especially traditional departments of government. In this his ally or co-conspirator was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, with whom Cheney had worked and been closely allied since they were aides in the Ford administration acting to undermine the Kissinger "détente" policy toward the Soviet Union in the mid 1970s.

So –called "neo conservative" policy planners, who had come together on a cold war revival platform in the 1970s, flourished in the Reagan years, then declined under George HW Bush only to be largely frozen out of direct power under Clinton, were now more influential then they had been in the Reagan years, both shaping White House policy and funneling false intelligence data to buttress policy. With Rumsfeld's support, traditional Defense Department sub-agencies were either told to follow the policy line or ignored when they didn't. The CIA leadership at best was manipulated into supporting outrageous falsehoods internally for policy purposes (they had always of course used such falsehoods externally for propaganda purposes). All of this was well under way before the September 11 attacks, which became for the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld administration what the Reichstag fire was for Hitler, a crisis used to foment hysteria and force through their policies.

I am not saying that the administration was behind the attacks or that it created an open terroristic dictatorship, a fascist regime, so the analogy to the Reichstag Fire is meant to be taken loosely. The September 11 attacks enabled the administration to push through the "Patriot Act" which gave the president the power to direct warrantless searches and seizures, indefinite imprisonment without habeas corpus, and other traditional aspects of open dictatorship. The attacks also provided the basis for the administration proclaim a "war on terrorism" and double military spending over the next seven years, giving the Military Industrial Complex an open-ended substitute for the cold war, since a "war against terrorism" is a not a "war" against a specific country or alliance system or even a "war" against revolutionary movements in various places, but a "war against what is essentially a tactic which is and can be used by small groups or groups of any size representing anything at any time anywhere in the world.

PA was both changing itself and alerting its readers to the dangers of the administration before the September 11 attacks. In the June, 2001 issue, the central theme was the battle for the press and the administration campaign to repress left media. The cover showed liberty in bondage to Wall Street against the caption "free the press." The cover also contained the ad "Coming Soon….www. Political

The stories dealt with the attack on free speech that the administration had begun to intensify. First an editorial condemned an FBI court order demanding that the Seattle Independent Media Center turn over all "user connection logs" to the FBI for the dates April 21 and April 22(aimed it gathering information against anti-globalization protect groups for future attacks) and also an accompanying "gag order" baring IMC workers from publicizing the warrant in an effort to defend themselves.

Matt Dimick had a fine albeit not so grammatical article "First Amendment Shakedown: Free Speech for Who [sic] which analyzed conservative Supreme Court decisions elevating commercial speech over political speech and the failure of the ACLU, the nation's best known civil liberties defense group, to distinguish between the two, thus making its role ineffective. There were other articles, including Terrie Albano's pre convention discussion article on the importance of Communist media and an article by Roy Rydell, "Free the Charleston Five" , on South Carolina's brutal arrest of five members of an International Longshoreman's Association local. The incident, which was covered up in mainstream media, was a scene out of the pre 1930s labor history. When local 1422 members picketed a Danish ship using scab labor, an army of 600 police, using helicopters and police dogs, viciously attacked the pickets, targeting especially union leader Ken Riley. The issue, unlike earlier PA issues, had many photographs both historical and contemporary. This was to become the norm in subsequent PA issues.

PA also greatly expanded its scope, with more book reviews on a variety of issues, a poetry section, even interviews with non Communist left and progressive people. There were more historical articles on CPUSA and other leaders and events. As a contributing editor, a wrote a number of these articles and in 2003 took over a new feature, "Marxist IQ" which was to become very popular with readers(even though some occasionally took issue with my right answers).
In 2003, also, PA for the first time took on a conventional "glossy" magazine cover, with outstanding cover drawings that were and have been often head and shoulders above the heavily financed "mainstream " magazines.

Some felt that PA was moving away from its role as the "theoretical" journal of the CPUSA. I didn't. I saw the new PA as combining a lot of the old New Masses of the 1930s and the accessible writing on contemporary political issues that also characterized CPUSA publications in that period. It also contained theoretical articles which were usually more engaged than earlier ones, which, in all honesty, were most often statements of CPUSA leaders and leaders of other Communist parties restating Communist positions on a variety of major issues (informative and very valuable, especially in the U.S. where such positions were either omitted or often crudely distorted) but not raising major theoretical questions in a way that would engage readers who were not already supporters of Marxism-Leninism. The "new" PA fitted the time perfectly and could much more than hold its own against a wide variety of broad left publications which, whatever their strengths, lacked its focus and insights.

In this development, Joel Wendland, first as managing editor, editor of the online edition, and now is editor, played an indispensible role, as a writer, editor of others writing, broadcaster (when PA began to podcast) and interviewer. In the February, 2003 issue (PA now began to devote issues to specific themes and February, "Black History Month" dealt with the struggle against racism and for African-American liberation) Wendland had a fine article: "Worlds Apart: An essay on the sources of Global Inequality" which dealt with racism's role in the contemporary capitalist world.

The interviews and the exciting and centered diversity continued. This was not diversity for diversity's sake, as it would be in liberal journals (something left opponents of the CPUSA don't understand) but diversity with political purposes, striking similar themes in different ways, broadening consciousness instead of deadening it with repetition.

While 2004 issues were filled with mobilizing against the Bush re-election campaign, the June issue had international and historical articles that helped readers understand where this administration had come from and was going. Wadi'h Halabi "Wal-mart Workers of the World Unite" on the "Walmartization" of labor born in capitalist crisis and the escalating resistance of workers everywhere. David Eisenhower's "Empire of Oil" related the Bush invasion of Iraq directly to the drive to control oil. Anna Bates also had a fine historical article "Axis for Progress" on the Kennedy administration attempt to both defeat any extension of the Cuban revolution and consolidate capitalist development and corporate power in Latin America through the 1960s "alliance for progress."

There were reviews of books dealing with the hidden history of the 9/11 attacks, biotechnology, the environmental crisis and a poem by Michael Shepler which had intimations of Langston Hughes and Allen Ginsberg, "Iraq, 2003; Mars, 2004."

Also there were major interviews with Doug Henwood on economic policy and Rahul Mahajan of Peace Action on Regime Change, leaders of the broad left. Photographs were very useful and multi-media collages were sometimes brilliant.

The July, 2004 issue was centered on sports and capitalism, with wonderful interview with old Daily Worker sports columnist Lester Rodney (who played an important role in the struggle to integrate baseball) an interview with basketball star Toni Smith and an article by me "Stepping up to the Plate: How the Reds Helped to Integrate Baseball." PA contributing Editor Gerald Horne had a fine analytical article on the potential dangers of fascism in and around the Bush administration.

It would be impossible to deal with the relevance, richness and centered diversity of PA over the last four years, as its online edition took off to reach tens of thousands of readers monthly and its internet articles were reposted and commented on many websites through the world More and more accessible book reviews, organized by review editor, philosopher, and frequent contributor Tom Riggins graced the publication. Articles on rap or hip hop (a music genre which I confess to be largely unsympathetic to) appeared in PA, helping me to modify my dogmatic opposition to the music.

So, let me conclude these forays into Pay's history by looking at some of the remarkable covers.
The August, 2005 issue "Labor vs. Globalization" had a cover of third world women garment workers which reminded me of the sad lonely faces on Edward Hopper depression paintings. February 2006, highlighting the "intelligent design issue under the heading "war on reason, had a cover of a priest pulling up his tunic and holding his heart as he talked to a female scientist pointing to a skull. The September-October, 2006 issue had too masked "superheroes" down on their luck at a bar as one said to the other "so what's your super power. The other replied, "Surviving on the minimum wage."

The November issue, "Election 2006: Doomsday for the GOP Agenda" portrayed a Republican elephant with a suit and tie and a crown on his head, wringing his hands in graveyard as a bird with(to me) seemed to be cross between an American Eagle and vulture said, "end of the line buddy."

The December 2006 issue highlighting "Crooks xR US, How the GOP played Medicare Seniors" had a devil offering a subscription to a senior citizen (the GOP "reform" prescription drugs) as a sinister salesman tells the senior, "no worries friend. If you can't afford the meds we have other forms of payment."

The best cover from 2007 (and there were many excellent ones) showed a smiling Barack Obama in bade with a big bad wolf as a Republican Little Red Riding Hood stood by." The Caption, Whose Afraid of Barck Obama was also the title of a fine analytical article by PA editor Joe Sims, which pointed to the historic importance of Obama's candidacy at a time that establishment media were largely belittling on ignoring it and concluded with these prophetic words" Who's afraid of Barack Obama? Why, all of them are."

The last issue that I will look at is the April-May, 2008 issue. The cover shows an old Uncle Sam holding a crumbling country with broken houses and oil cans in his hands. The cover article, "Things Fall Apart, Wall Street and the Decline of U.S. imperialism" by Joe Sims and Joel Wendlend, deals empirically with the scope of the present moment in the capitalist crisis. But there are many other articles that capture the "new" PA. David Scondras and Gary Dotterman have clear and very valuable article on AIDS prevention, "Ending AIDS: Yes We Can," dealing with what can and must be done to fight the health menace that the Bush administration has refused to seriously fight with preventive health care programs Anna Bates has a valuable historical article "Women Peace Activists and the Cold War. Eric Green's article "A New Moment in Film and Music" connect progressive U.S. and international work in both of these genres, ranging from an Iranian animated film Persepolis dealing intelligently with post WWII Iranian history to new technology duets in music (Natalie Cole singing a duet with her late father, Nat King Cole of his classic, Unforgettable) to Michael Moore's Sicko on U.S. health care and Charles Ferguson's and Audrey Marr' No End in Sight on the Iraq occupation.

And there was a serious and nuanced theoretical article by Marxist physicist-philosopher-activist Erwin Marquit, "Overcoming Unscientific concepts of working class" which sought to adjust traditional definitions of the working class to new realities in a Marxist framework. The article was part of the problems of Marxism feature of PA which seeks to explore important theoretical questions. There was also an interview with CPUSA leader Jarvis Tyner on "The legacy of Henry Winston, a commentary piece by Gregory Esteven "Homelessness, Hurricanes and Race" which connected in the Marxist tradition empirical evidence on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita with an understanding of what this means to the class-race dialectic of U.S. society. Gerald Horne had a short analytical article, "Africa looks East" on the development of Chinese African relations and I had an article, "The Real John McCain," dealing with McCain's real background as a militarist and stalwart of the Republican right as against the myths manufactured around him. There are also a few fascinating book reviews, and Lost and Found Man," a moving poem by Jim Finnegan about the sick and homeless people we see and don't see.

Finally, the back cover of the issue shows someone running from a bayonet as it reads, "Americans Don't Trade With Death Squads" and calls upon readers to protest the Bush administration's Columbia Free Trade Agreement.

The issue breathes. Political understand and activism on every page and in every picture. As the print edition of PA ends this year, the online edition will hopefully expand upon the strengths and achievement of this people's journal quantitatively and qualitatively as it reaches many new readers.

Social Security Strong as Ever

by Joel Wendland

John McCain and the Republicans like to say that Social Security needs to be privatized because its on its last legs. McCain even recently insisted that workers paying into the system to fund retirement benefits for seniors – how the system has worked for the last 73 years – is an "absolute disgrace" that has to be fixed.

But McCain either lied to his audience or he is confused about how Social Security works and how well it is working.

According to new data released by the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security Trust Fund surpluses will continue for the next 41 years, and at current economic growth rates, the ongoing revenues into the program will pay at least 81% of the existing retirement and disability benefits for 75 years. And the reason this projection isn't longer is because the CBO won't project farther into the future.

These projections are improvements over past projections.

The CBO report, “future Social Security beneficiaries will receive larger benefits in retirement … than current beneficiaries do, even after adjustments have been made for inflation.”

In other words, McCain's specific claim that Social Security won't be here for my generations' retirement is simply false (unless he or his survivors succeed in killing the program).

In addition to providing higher Social Security benefits than what are promised now, even with no changes to the program, according to a policy memo from the Economic Policy Institute, "The trust fund will cushion the large baby boom retirement, as it was designed to do, but most benefits will continue to be funded by direct transfers from workers to retirees, as they are now."

But if you're still worried about it, why not lift or end the income cap on contributions to the Social security system. Right now, people who earn more than roughly $100,000 do not pay Social Security payroll taxes on the income over that amount. But they get full benefits when they retire or pass the retirement age: like John McCain, who currently gets almost $2,000 a month.

Barack Obama is talking about raising this cap to help ensure the program's future financial stability.

Right now, the earnings cap is pegged to income averages and rises on its as earnings rise, which of course, means that George W. Bush and previous presidents have presided over tax increases since 1982. But is this system fair?

I say completely eliminate the cap to make the system fair. For once, let's have a "flat tax" on Social Security contributions.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Worst and Best of Marxism #4

By Joe Sims


1. White privilege. Theorized by elements of the independent Marxist left, the concept is informed at least in part by a formulation by W.E. B. Du Bois that spoke of a “psychological wage,” workers accrue from racism. Used as an attempt to understanding motivation of sections of white workers who voted Republican. While having several trends, the concept tends to be classless and falsely posits that white workers benefit from racism, that racism is in their self-interest. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

2. Labor Aristocracy. Postulated by Marx and Engels, a labor aristocracy arose in several developed capitalist countries bought off by their respective ruling classes to support the interests of capital. Used to explain right-wing trends in the labor movement. A phenomenon present in early capitalism, the stratum disappeared in the mid-20th century. The concept however persisted in both Soviet Marxist texts – one which postulated that the US working class as a whole constituted a labor aristocracy in relation to the rest of the world – and among independent Marxists and middle-class left groups, some of who argue that white male workers constitute a “labor aristocracy” in relation to the rest of the US working class. Wrong, divisive, and wrong again!

3. “Socialism in one country.” Stalin’s slogan aimed at securing national and international support for the attempt to construct socialism in the USSR, after the “revolutionary wave” at the end of World War one was in part suppressed or failed to materialize. As it turned out, "socialism in one country" was neither “socialist” nor in one country (the USSR was composed of many countries with differing levels of economic and social development).

4. Ultra-Imperialism. Formulated by Karl Kautsky to argue that capitalism was moving to one world trust that would mitigate national class contradictions. Now didn’t that turn out to be a bunch of baloney (notwithstanding certain trends among the theorists of empire and globalization.)

5. Theory of collapse. Postulated in the late 19th and early 20th century, advocated in the early writings of Lenin (see Marxism and Revisionism) and others, contending that capitalism would collapse. Ok guys. Yes there was the Great Depression, and yes there have been lesser catastrophes in the US and the around the world and yes we are on the verge of something big now, but, don’t you think it was a bit of an overstatement that may have led to a few misadventures?

6. “Theory of offensive.” and “permanent revolution.” Articulated by Bela Kuhn and Leon Trotsky respectively, both were leftist voluntarist ideas that sought to push the envelope in adventurist directions. Arguably they could be separate points, but in light of point two above I better include it. My reputation is tattered enough. Joe Sims what were you thinking?

7. Centrality of the African American people. Theorized in the 1970s and 1980s by Communist theoreticians of the national question, African American centrality had different interpretations, but tended to place the national question over and above the class question. At its best it stressed the central role of fighting racism as part of the struggle for class and national unity, the importance of which can be seen in the Obama candidacy. At its worst it placed undue emphasis on working in the African American community (by whites) and to give up fighting racism among whites. Oh, it seems really difficult to get the “special questions” in Marxism right.

8. Two-third, one-third thesis. Advocated in the 1970s and 1980s by sections of the academic Marxist left stressing that late stage capitalism had created a “two-third” “one-third” society where capital had mitigated tensions with or incorporated sections of the “middle-class” leaving out “one-third” who were women and minorities.

9. Lumpen-proletariat vanguard theory. Another species of middle-class radical thought that crops up now and again, it is the idea that only those who do not work will rise up in rebellion.

10. “Forward ever backward, never.” Slogan advocated by the heroic New Jewel Movement of Grenada before the tragic events there. Comrades! You cannot keep marching forward forever! For one your feet will get tired! And Dr. Soles won’t help. Inspiring but ultimately wrong, wrong, wrong! Even slogans, must have a scientific foundation.


1. “The traditions of the dead generation’s weights like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” Marx. This is true, true, true. And also you can include some of the living generations. And don’t think that this doesn’t include some of the traditions of the communist left, because it Does!

2. Bill of rights socialism. Formulated by Gus Hall and the Communist Party leadership in the 1980s. Perfect. Speaks for itself. Will remain a scientific foundation US socialism for at least 100 years!

3. Concept of working-class intellectuals. Posited by Antonio Gramsci in the 1920s, originally expressed as “organic” intellectuals, attacked in first top 10. A sound, sterling concept, one of the gems of the Marxist intellectual tradition, the concept of working-class intellectual, speaks to historic events. First the victory of public education in the developed capitalist countries and second, creation of communist parties. Both point to ending the separation between workers and the intelligentsia, with workers now developing and create our own theory. With the labor movement engendering its own theoreticians, the end of capitalism draws near.

4. Anti-racist majority. Formulated by Henry Winston and Gus Hall in the early 1980s, it represented the first attempt to interpret the ideological victory represented by the civil rights and freedom movement of the 1960 and early 1970s.

5. “The young generation comes to socialism in its own way, not in the way of their fathers and mothers.” Another gem of Marxism, this paraphrase of Lenin is one of the foundations of Marxist organizational principles regarding the youth. It recognizes the ongoing “newness” of the youth movement, its independent character and the needs for measures to attend to it.

6. “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken wing bird that cannot fly.” Langston Hughes. I don’t know if Hughes was a still a Marxist when he wrote this (not that it matters). But just in case, here’s another song from Langston: “Lenin walks around the world, the sun sets like a scar, between the darkness and the dawn there rises a red star.”

7. “Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Goethe. I don’t know if Marx liked this one, but I do! Ps. I hear that this is really not Goethe, but rather William Hutchinson Murray.

Here is Goethe in context: "The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decisions, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now." Isn’t that beautiful!! See point ten below!

8. Special questions in Marxism. One of the outstanding contributions of the communist tradition in socialist theory, as distinct from other left traditions, is its postulation of what are called “special questions.” Special questions recognize that non-class as well as class issues have a huge impact in monopoly capitalist society. Importantly, it recognizes the “all-class character” of several important movement and issues, including, the national question, women, youth and seniors. At the same time it stressed that Marxists are most concerned with the working class elements of these groups. Special questions drive right winger and dogmatists crazy. I love them.

9. "Freedom is the recognition of necessity." This quote is often attributed to Engels who uses it in Anti-Duhring. Actually, I think it belongs to Spinoza. Is there nothing new in this world?

10. "Nothing human is alien to me." This quote is often attributed to Marx. Actually it comes from Terrence. I used to hate it. (I thought it was really weird thing to say). But now I love it! You see people can change. But still is there nothing ever new in this world?

Ps. Gus Hall used to say that in reality there is no such thing as plagiarism. The playwright Charles Mee says something similar, not about plagiarism, but about there being nothing new. It’s all been done before. Kinda like Lauryn Hill singing Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly. They both did such a great job!

Cheney, Sarkozy, and the Russia-Georgia Conflict

by Norman Markowitz

As the Democratic convention opens, the administration is announcing that Vice President Dick Cheney will be going to former Soviet Georgia next week. Cheney, former Halliburton CEO and backstage orchestrator of the unilateralist foreign policy associated with the Bush administration, has been shouting "Russian aggression" and U.S. NATO flag waving since the crisis began. But he is not alone by any means. Nicholas Sarkozy, the opportunistic right-wing President of France (who reminds me a bit of Richard Nixon) has jumped in too, trying to build his own reputation as the NATO bloc leader who will, in old early postwar language (a year before the term "cold war"was coined) "get tough with the Russians," accusing them of not honoring their withdrawal commitment.

This may be, to paraphrase one of Karl Marx's most famous statements about history, tragedy repeating itself as farce, but it is a dangerous and sinister farce.

So far no one has said that if Georgia "falls," Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan might fall like a row of dominoes and the road to either Paris or Perth Amboy would be opened. No one has accused the Moscow government yet of "exporting revolution," since no sane person believes they have any revolutionary ideology to support(although that didn't stop Bush when it came to Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. No one is accusing the Moscow government of seeking to control the oil of the region, since it is mostly their oil and it is the NATO bloc countries that are committed to controlling it.

If Sarkozy and Cheney think they can score political points with their electorates (with whom they are not so popular) by "getting tough with the Russians" they should remember a bit of sound advice given to the Truman administration in 1946 by one of its members, former Vice President Henry A. Wallace: "The tougher we get the tougher the Russians will get" (that statement along with others cost Wallace his position in the administration). Using the UN to resolve the conflict, not as the political arm of NATO to support Georgia against Russia a la North and South Korea (Sarkozy's present maneuvering) is the only serious policy which the U.S. should support.

Saakashvili's authoritarian rightwing government, echoing Republican party "free market" ideology, deserves no support from any progressive liberal or labor grouping in any of the NATO bloc countries. The separatist regions that Saakashvili has pledged to reconquer have, as I see it, as much or as little right to exist independently as his government or the other governments of the former Soviet Republics, all of which were created without the clear consent of their people.

Russia, whatever else it has endured since 1991, remains not only a nuclear power but, in the language of the cold war, one of the two nuclear "superpowers." What the left in the U.S. and all the NATO bloc countries should be thinking about is a serious questioning of NATO's role in the world, now that the Soviet Union has been out of existence since 1991. Rather than expanding NATO to former Soviet Republics and sending it to places where it was never remotely supposed to have anything to do with, now is the time to begin to look at a post NATO world, which a post cold war world demands--the creation of new security relationships and protections outside of one military alliance, whose whole existence was to represent the interests of a group of advanced capitalist countries, led by the U.S., in opposition to the Soviet Union.

Sarkozy may have delusions about making himself the "strong man" of the NATO bloc, reviving French imperialism and making France the defender of "the West" Christianity and civilization, as its old imperialists liked to think, but those are comical delusions. Cheney may have hopes of bringing Halliburton to Tbilisi, which would serve the interests of profit but not of peace.

The emerging progressive majority in the U.S. should begin to rethink and call upon those it is supporting, especially Barack Obama, to rethink the U.S. relationship to NAT0, leadership role in NATO, and NATO's role in the world today. As I see it, that role is dysfunctional to and for any progressive international policy.

The American Dream

In my humble view, the American Dream is summed up in the poem quoted below.

It is not about "wealth", per se. It is about freedom of oppression and freedom to choose your own path. It is about the Right to be treated decently and fairly... and with respect. Priceless! Material wealth is a by-product of the capitalist system which, as much as I hated to admit it, is founded and sustained upon the backs of slaves.

And, Baby, that ain't freedom!

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's Time for Obama to Come Out fighting

by Norman Markowitz

There is a fine article by progressive critic Frank Rich in today's New York Times calling for Senator Obama to begin to go after John McCain.

That should be a no brainer. McCain represents an administration that even centrist analysts have put on the short list of the very worst in U.S. history. His militarism is unabashed. He hasn't a clue to the way a large majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck on the installment plan. He is still "Johnny McCain" trying to prove to everyone that he is right and they are wrong and he can beat them in any game of chicken whoever they are, the Iranians, the North Koreans, the Russians.

Obama must lead in bringing the fight to McCain and the Republican right, throwing them back on their heels by making it clear over and over again that this election is about a chasm of inequality obscured by a mountain of public and consumer debt, a government which has literally sold out the American people to transnational corporations, banks and insurance companies, and military contractors--a government that has fought wars for oil and profit and is now putting up as its presidential candidate a man who is likely to fight wars for the hell of it.

This is the best way that Obama can challenge the racism that remains the Republicans ace in the hole--by pledging to the people that he is much closer in his values and aspirations, in the struggles that he has experienced in his life, than Bush or McCain or Cheney.

The nomination of Joe Biden, a traditional liberal Democrat is a good start. But Obama cannot make the mistake that John Kerry made four years--that is, letting the convention become an infomercial, and then waiting while Bush and the Republican Right took the initiative. He should use the convention to showcase the campaign, to appeal to the "righteous anger" of the millions who supported him in the primaries, win over the Clinton supporters who share much of that anger against the Republican Right, and go on the offensive until election day, regardless of media criticisms. Rich cites a study that 72% of media coverage of Obama has been negative, only 28% of the coverage positive, continuing a very old tradition, going back to the late 19th century, where the great majority of the press at first and when it came into existence the electronic media supported Republican presidential candidates over Democratic ones (with Roosevelt it was over 80 percent) and usually the more conservative of the candidates in primaries.

This is Obama's election to win; labor's election to win; all progressive groups election to win. But militancy along with flexibility is the path to victory, not compromise and consensus with a right wing political machine that has no respect for either and which views politics as search and destroy military exercises.

Argentina 1, Nigeria 0

Argentina Wins Soccer Gold Over Nigeria: 1 to 0

Mike Tolochko

In the 58th minutes Argentinian Angel di Maria scored the only goal of the gold medal soccer match. Argentina repeated its 2004 Gold medal. Nigeria was attempting to repeat its 1996 gold medal victory. They earned the silver medal.

The game was stopped twice due to extremely hot conditions: 107 F.

89,000 watched at the birds nest.

Now its on to the World Cup for these two soccer teams. Brazil was on the podium collecting the bronze medal.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cracks in the Neoliberal “Consensus”: The Meaning of the Nepali Revolution

by Gregory Esteven

For some time I have been following developments in Nepal just as I have followed developments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries experiencing dramatic political shifts in Latin America. Like countless other leftists, I am trying to orient myself to the realities of the 21st Century, to find out where we are, to understand the meaning of the changes underway in these and other parts of the globe. Sometimes I feel like the more I find out, the less I really know. But I’d like to think that I have at least something of a grip on South American politics, and have some understanding of the amazing cultures of that continent, having spent some time there. Nepal, on the other hand, couldn’t be further removed from both my political and cultural frames of reference. I feel like I understand the incredible complexity of its history and current situation even less.

And yet I can’t let this moment pass without at least commenting on the astonishing changes taking place in that mountainous country. News from Kathmandu is riveting.

Incredible as it is, a week has already passed since Pushpa Kamal Dahal (or “Prachanda”), the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, was elected as the first prime minister of the new republic by the Constituent Assembly, garnering 80% of the vote. This has surprised some analysts, just as the elections for the Constituent Assembly brought its own surprise last April when the CPN-M got 38.10% of the vote – a popular vote, no less.

What all this means for the future of Nepal, no one can tell. Cautiously, however, I think we must conclude that these developments represent a major crack in the neoliberal consensus that has dominated world politics since the end of the Cold War. Flying in the faces of Fukuyamists everywhere, what greater sign could there be that history is not, in fact, over; that the battle of ideologies will continue for a long time to come? It is undeniably significant when, nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a communist-led movement is defining the politics of a country, even if that country is as small as Nepal.

Of course I have reservations about the Nepali Maoists (hence much of the hesitating tenor of this little commentary). There are disturbing allegations about the party circulating around. The United Nations Mission in Nepal, for instance, alleged that during the lead up to the elections in April, they were intimidating officials. The European Union maintains that they used child soldiers in their “people’s war” against the theocratic monarchy. And Hugo Chávez has recently stated that “guerrilla warfare is over,” calling into question the very propriety of using violence to advance “progressive” goals. (Though to put things in perspective, it should be noted that of the 12,800 people who were killed in the conflict since 1996, 8,200 – or the vast majority – were killed by the autocratic monarchial government, with significant aid from the U.S.)

But let’s put aside the character of the CPN-M for a moment. It is not the most amazing, and promising, aspect of Nepal’s current situation. The people are what’s most important. Whatever we think about the tactics of the CPN-M, nothing changes the fact that the people of Nepal have taken a sharp left turn, shirking the so-called wisdom of Washington and the forces of global capital. Let’s do a little math. In the April elections for the Constituent Assembly, 38.10% of the delegates voted into office were from the ranks of the CPN-M, as stated earlier. 17.97% came from the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), the second largest communist party in the country. These alone constitute over 56% of the seats. When you add up the seats that went to other communist parties (there are six others represented), the percentage is 61.55! Overwhelmingly, the Assembly is dominated by communists, and when you consider that a social democratic party, the Nepali Congress, received the second greatest number of seats (19.13%), a picture of left-center hegemony in Nepali politics emerges. Only a small number of seats went to right-wing and monarchist parties. The people of Nepal, clearly, want a brighter future than either feudalism or neoliberal capitalism can offer.

What I find truly promising about the development of this left-center movement in Nepal is that it is not controlled by a single political party, or a single ideological tendency. Certainly, the CPN-M seems to be at the top for the moment, but it is nothing like what happened in Russia, for instance, where the Bolshevik Party emerged as the only political entity with any real power (this happened in many countries, actually, leading to the grave mistake known as the single-party state). As Joe Sims said in the third edition of his “Ten Worst and Best Ideas of Marxism” series in the Political Affairs Editor’s Blog, “The existence of two or more working-class parties in a number of countries – in some cases – for several decades raises basic questions as to whether single structures in the long run are desirable or achievable.” I suspect that the concentration of power in single political organizations has been largely responsible for the bureaucratic and authoritarian deformations that prevented the establishment of true worker’s states following socialist revolutions in the 20th century. Without the checks and balances offered by a genuinely pluralistic left (or left-center) hegemony – a bona fide people’s power – what is to prevent such deformations from occurring? In Nepal, if one party gets out of line (like the CPN-M’s militia committing acts of violence), the other parties can pressure them to correct their behavior. And if one party falls out of favor, it doesn’t necessarily take the whole left with it. In the USSR, when the CPSU fell out of power, there was no organized left alternative to counter the onslaught of capitalist restoration in the form of economic “shock therapy.” The CPSU was the left, pure and simple.

We should all regard Nepal as significant for a number of reasons. One is that the consolidation of people’s power in that country, should it happen, would offer a great deal of hope to neighboring India, a nation of over one billion people and thriving communist movements, especially in the states of Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura. Strategically, I think, this is quite important. Moreover, along with the Bolivarian revolutions underway in Latin America, though with vastly different circumstances, it represents – as I said earlier – a crack in the capitalist world order that defenders of the status quo should find both troubling and shocking. Hopefully it will have rippling effects, inspiring all of us in the world communist movement and increasing the possibility of real people’s power worldwide. I remain guardedly skeptical, as usual, but I am holding my breath.

Political Affairs After the Deluge

I continue my history through its pages of PA. This next to the last installment will probably lead to some recriminations, but this is the way I see it.

The 1980s represented a period of far-reaching political reaction on the world scene where the great victories won against fascism and colonialism during and after WW II, which saw the Chinese revolution and the expansion of varieties of socialist and anti-imperialist oriented states and movements throughout the world, especially in among the non-aligned nations of former colonial regions now called the "third world," were severely undermined.

The former Hollywood B movie actor and television personality RonaldReagan was, as president of the U.S, the "star" of this real lifeversion of "the empire strikes back", but his supporting cast among theleading capitalist states included Thatcher in the UK, Kohl in theFederal Republic of Germany, Craxi in Italy, and Nakasone in Japan.

In the capitalist world reactionary ideology served as the armor of reactionary policy, each defining the other as "new" and"revolutionary." The IMF-World Bank-WT0 led advance of "free market"ideologies and the substitution of monetary policies associated with economist Milton Friedman (managing capitalist crisis by regulating the flow of capital through manipulation of interest rates) for the fiscal policies associated with economist John Maynard Keynes (the use
government spending and taxation to sustain employment and mass purchasing power) affected rich countries and poor countries a negatively, except for small elite groups in the poor countries and at most the upper fifth of income earners in rich ones.

In India for example, the largest poor country on earth, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi moved sharply away from the socialist oriented policies of his mother, Indira Gandhi, and his grandfather, Nehru, leaders of postwar non-aligned and socialist oriented India in advancing
privatization and market development.

In China, Deng Shao-p'ing's "modernization" policies rejected the admittedly failed policies of the Great Leap Forward and the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" for a mixed economy approach which opened China to foreign capitalists and encouraged the creation of domestic ones. While this policy over the last three decades has seen unprecedented industrial economic group, leading many to see China at the dawn of the 21st century the way the U.S. was seen at the dawn of the 20th, it made China in the 1980s into a de facto strategy ally of the U.S. and the Reagan leadership. It should also be remembered that China's previous advances in education and agricultural reform prepared it to make the positive achievements of this genuine "great leap forward," and that the Chinese course of development was routed in mixed economy and planning, not on any level "free market" ideology and policies.

The CPUSA fought through this period to build the party under what were strange new conditions. There was much less formal repression than there had been in the period 1947-1960 against Communists and the broad left, but much more direct attacks on working class living standards and institutions, particularly the trade unions, was objectively far greater, since the Reagan administration actively supported employers in a way not seen since the 1920s.

My last PA piece ended with 1984, as the Reagan reelection campaign gave new meaning to the term Orwellian.

Whatever long-term damage Reagan did to the U.S. economy and U.S. society, we must realize that his administration won major victories for the capitalist class against the working class and all progressive forces as it exploited long-term weaknesses of the cold war era and the "new left" of the 1960s, the deep weakness of the Meany-Kirkland conservative AFL-CIO leadership, the interest group "let's make a deal" policies of the Democrats, and the lack of coordination and unity of the mass organizations building coalitions to fight defensive battles.

It was the absence of a strong and influential Communist party of the size and strength that existed in the 1930s not any fantasies about Stalinism or Soviet influence, which enabled Reagan to mop up remnants of New Left radical groups centered in community organizations and push
back civil rights and women's rights groups tied to a retreating Democratic party establishment.

Reagan's second term resulted in major domestic defeats, but events in the Soviet Union assured that this did progressive forces in the U.S. or globally little good. In 1985, the capitalist world achieved a victory worth hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending, all the CIA
plots to oust leaders of governments in the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary of the CPSU.

The CPUSA initially supported Gorbachev and praised his policies, particularly his attempts to end the cold war, as did Communist, left, and progressive organizations through the world. But, as Margaret Thatcher said to Reagan in 1985, "we can deal with this man," meaning that what George Kennan had put forward as one of the twin goals of containment, (something that had never happened under Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, or Brezhnev and his immediate successors), namely a Soviet leadership that would negotiate with the imperialist countries on their
terms, in was about to come into existence.

The Gorbachev policies in the USSR divided Communist parties in power in Socialist countries, Communist parties both large and small in capitalist countries and non Communist left forces throughout the world I do not wish to open up old wounds in the CPUSA or anywhere else, or
make invidious comments about what people in this period did. I will try to understand and forgive honest frustrations and errors, but I will not forget.

The Gorbachev policies in what had been from its birth the most influential socialist state on earth, developing in the context of the far-reaching Reagan reaction (which followed the whole cold war history which had subjected the CPUSA to repression and in the high cold war
period, outright persecution) touched off a conflict within the CPUSA's leadership cadre. By leadership cadre I mean its group of functionaries or "full-timers" who had worked in close proximity with and to each other in the CPUSA headquarters building on 23rd street in NYC, traveling through the country and the world as representatives of the party.

As someone who was never in leadership but visited 23rd street often, my own judgment now is that long suppressed personality conflicts, frustrations on a wide variety of issues, led some in leadership to use what Gorbachev was doing to launch an attack on Gus Hall personally and those who supported the leadership and policies associated with him. For them, Gus Hall, who had been General Secretary for three decades, became the symbol and the scapegoat for all of the CPUSA's unfulfilled hopes. As the Soviet leadership imbibed anti-Communist and ultimately anti-Soviet ideology to advance Gorbachev's goals, so these leadership cadre ironically turned to the Gorbachev Soviet leadership to advance similar ideologies and policies.

Although I had seen Gus Hall say both very smart (the great majority of times) and some pretty dumb things since the late 1970s, I never saw him and those who support him in those terms. I also found the attempt to portray Gus as a surrogate Stalin, the center of a "great personality cult." to be frankly absurd. Gus's corny jokes and friendly open manner in his relationship to comrades was not what personality cults are made of. The fact also that this leadership fight was finding its way into the capitalist media on the side of the opposition, as had been true in the 1956 struggle (which Cointelpro documents later showed the FBI regarded as a major opportunity to go beyond simple repression to create division and defections in the CPUSA) also disturbed me as an historian.

Although, today I believe that anyone in political leadership of and party or movement over a long period of time will build up resentments and hostility, which may suggest a broadening of leadership and perhaps even term limits of some kind (these are merely suggestions).

I rejected totally on ideological grounds the opposition that some leaders mobilized, although I knew and respected them as comrades. At a time when the main task was "recovery" from the ravages of Reaganism, I saw this internal conflict as both unnecessary and tragic.

Sadly, the conflict engulfed the CPUSA as the Bush I administration, with Gorbachev's tacit support, launched the first Gulf War in 1991. By the time the 25th National Convention of the CPUSA took place in Cleveland at the end of 1991, both the Warsaw Treaty states and the Soviet Union itself had been destroyed, the CPSU "outlawed" by the signed decree of its last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. The group which supported the Gorbachev policies had also been decisively defeated nationally in the selection of delegates to the convention and was crying fraud and foul in its defeat.

The atmosphere at the convention was tense and the majority (of which I was a member) went to great lengths not to provoke the minority verbally or respond to their repeated provocations in order to prevent a split. Some, myself included were both angry and bitter then at the ugly
anti-Communist statements which emerged from the minority—crude name-calling, comparisons of the CPUSA leadership with Stalin, even Pol Pot, the dusting off of traditional anti-Marxist, anti-Communist shibboleths to denounce the party leadership and convention majority.

There were even statements from the minority that the destruction of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Treaty allies was the result of their own "anti-democratic policies," not the trillions in cold war military spending against them and the history of capitalist encirclement that began with the Russian Revolution and never in reality ended, even through the weapons systems and specific tactics changed over the generations.

But we kept our cool. The minority didn't though, engaging in childish tantrums on the convention floor (I am sorry if that offends former members of the minority but I don't know what else they can be called) and walking out not found a new party or even something like Browder's 1944 Communist Political Association, but a group they called the Committees of Correspondence.

The original Committees of Correspondence were formed in the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party and British colonial repression. They were an important transition group leading toward the Continental Congress and the revolution. The Committees of Correspondence, while they received positive commentary in various liberal media, because they were anti-Communist party, have been a transition to nothing except themselves. While a number have returned to the CPUSA, they over the last 16 years have merged into various liberal and left-liberal organizations of the post New Left era, with no real connection to Marxism, much less Marxism-Leninism, or any definition as I see it of socialism.

The CPUSA moved on as parties did throughout the world, seeking to understand what had happened in the world and how it affected the conflict here.

Joe Sims was now the new editor of PA. Phil Bonosky, Judith LeBlanc, Norman Goldberg, Tony Monteiro, Victor Perlo, and Roy Rydell were members of the editorial board.

The August, 1992 issue, showed the effects both positively and negatively of the Gorbachev deluge.

The lead article was an interview with Gus Hall, conducted by Bahman Azad, an American of Iranian background, who later wrote an outstanding book on the defeat of the Soviet Union. Azad started the interview by asking Hall directly to weigh the factors that led to the Soviet downfall, external, internal, the specific role of Gorbachev.

Hall responded that the internal factor "opportunism," played the decisive role. Hall made trenchant and I believe accurate criticisms of Gorbachev's failed policies, but he contended that the defeats were do entirely to the abandonment of Marxist-Leninist principles, which could in effect be revived as theory as if nothing had happened. Although Hall did see the separation of the party from the working class as a significant factor, he didn't try to deal with the specific internal events which produced Gorbachev nor, in my opinion, the external imperialist forces.

Hall did stress through the necessity of studying and learning from the abuses and failures of Communist states and movements, specifically including the those of Joseph Stalin, while stressing that what the capitalist world calls "Stalinism," was and is an attack on Lenin and Leninism, no the defining characteristic of Marxist-Leninist parties and governments but a particular series of events characterizing the history of the Soviet Union.

Other interviews and statement from Communist parties in Greece, Canada, Pakistan, and the embattled Yugoslav League of Communists asimilar in analysis to Hall's, were in the issue. Given the conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Chechen war, and the recent Russian-Georgian conflict, the statement of League of Yugoslav Communist Chair Dragan Antanasovski "Yugoslavia is only the training ground for what is planned for the former USSR. Everything that proves useful for smashing Yugoslavia will later be employed for smashing the USSR" was most prophetic.

Although the USSR had already been dissolved when the statement was made, the NAT0 intervention was to be central in the destruction of Yugoslavia and NAT0 today has absorbed former Warsaw Treaty states, threatens to absorb former Soviet Republics, and is making open threats to the Russian leadership.

The most interesting article concerning U.S. events in the issue as I see it was Mark Almberg's "The CoC Conference" on the Committees of Correspondence. Mark's article jogged my memory and I have already mentioned some of his points in my dealing with the Convention. Analyzing the CoC Conference held in UC-Berkeley in July, 1992, Mark contended that it followed the model of various radical scholars' conferences, that is presentations and workshops, a sort of supermarket of politics (having attended such conferences both before and after, I could only agree).

High sounding phrases like "we are Marxist and Pluralist" Mark contended, betray the absence of any real policy or sense of urgency about fighting capitalist exploitation. Almberg also compares the CoC with various rightwing revisionist groupings in socialist history, groupings that have ultimately dissolved and suggests that the CoC will end the same way.

There is also a forceful left article of post WWII culture, its corporate, escapist reactionary nature, in everything pretty much, by my artist friend and comrade, the late Norman Goldberg. Although Norman in this article has a tendency to throw out the baby with the bathwater
(there are many progressive exceptions that can be cited) he nevertheless captured what the culture of capitalism is about, commercial, dehumanizing, formalistic and escapist.

We jump ahead two years, Bill Clinton is president and the political "recovery" from the Reagan-Gorbachev debacles is very limited. The stock market is booming as Clinton's promises to establish national health care crash and burn and his administration takes a center-right stance
between rightwing Republicans and progressive Democrats. Like Gorbachev in the Soviet Union, who found himself dividing and fighting against Communists, Clinton finds himself dividing and fighting against liberal-labor Democrats in the New Deal-Great Society tradition. Clinton also strongly supported "new Russian" strongman. Boris Yeltsin in the suppression of the elected state Duma, an action which took many more lives than the pseudo coup of 1991 that served as the pretext for the dismemberment of the Soviet Union and the outlawing of the CPSU

PA remains very much in engaged in the struggles raging in the country. Its March, 1994 issue has a Norman Goldberg cover drawing of Black and White, male and female demonstrators pointing fingers and waving signs that read, "Universal Free Health Care," "No to NAFTA: Save Our Jobs," and "Vote Union" The issue, a series of reports from reports from the National Committee, reflects both continued effects of the internal conflict and the immediate struggles. There are sub reports by Judith Leblanc on the Jobs and Equality campaign. Tony Monteiro on
African-American Equality, Lorenzo Torrez on Mexican-American Equality, and present PA board member Elena Mora on Puerto Rican Equality.

Gus Hall's opening remarks were a clear and steady critique verging on a denunciation of Clinton. Hall reminds readers that Clinton talked of "progressive change" in during the 1992 campaign and is talking that way again before the 1994 elections. But his administration has not only produced nothing that is positive but in its support for NAFTA, its demagogic attacks on welfare, its support for crime bills that expand the death sentence and the trial of juveniles as adults are all evidence that Clinton's contentions that he represents in the U.S. a "third way" between left and right (meaning right Republicans and traditional liberal Democrats) is as empty as his smiling glad handing personality. "The reality," as Gus Hall noted prophetically, "is that everyone knows Clinton is taking giant steps to the right and that there is no such animal as a 'third way.'" The rest of Hall remarks are taken up with an analysis of the domestic and international scene, the internal work of the CPUSA, and angry attacks on the Committees of Correspondence for its failure to do anything except attack the CPUSA and attempt to gain some
of its assets, joining in reality other anti-Communists.

Sam Webb's report, "Labor After NAFTA," had a different tone but strongly supplemented Hall's analysis. It dealt with NAFTA's passage, seeing the huge organized labor movement which developed against it as a victory for labor. Webb was unrelenting in his criticism of both Clinton
and the AFL-CIO leadership without being overly polemical. Most of all, Webb cites examples of how "the anger towards the Clinton administration runs quite deep, even among sections of the top leadership of the trade union movement." Looking at the cyclical upturn in the economy, Webb mentions that "if we were bourgeois economists we would hail the cyclical upturn too" but the reality is that the structural crisis continues the privatization continues, the "dismantling of the public sector continues, and Clinton's response is essentially to do nothing but continue the Reagan Bush policies.

Answering the left opponents of the CPUSA's traditional contention that the party spread illusions about the Democrats, Webb contended that there were no illusions about "Slick Willie" and that the party had fought for a national labor March on Washington to pressure the administration in its first months—something that the top leadership of the trade union movement killed for fear that it would "embarrass" the new president.

Webb looked positively at the growing militancy in the labor movement, particularly among those looking toward a Labor Party. But his accurate analysis was to have a different political outcome.

Even with the cyclical upturn, the Republican Party won its greatest
congressional victory in the 1994 elections since 1946, gained control
of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1952, and
embarked upon an ultra-right policy, led particularly by House Speaker
Newt Gingrich. Clinton remained his old self, engaging in political
grandstanding while he appeased and on eliminating aid to Families with
Dependant Children, joined the Republican Right. Clinton was able to get
himself re-elected in 1996, but unlike Truman, whose Fair Deal campaign
in 1948 helped the Democrats regain Congress, the Republicans retained
their control over Congress, which they would hold until 2006 (the
longest period of Republican congressional control since the period,

The highlight of Clinton's second term was his impeachment, a bizarre
and sinister set of events which at best were examples of what New York
Congressman Nadler called "sexual McCarthyism" at worst a quasi coup by
the far right.

The defeat of the impeachment campaign and modest gains by the Democrats
in the 1998 elections encouraged the view that the ultra-right had in
effect shot itself in the foot and was now in decline. The January, 2000
issue of PA had articles by Gerald Horne on the growing
inter-imperialist rivalries in the World Trade Organization, Scott
Marshall on the global movement against "globalization," and a fine
short article' 'Springtime for Hitler' Revisited," by Don Sloan of
Patrick Buchanan's book portraying WWII the way Chamberlain and the
Vichy collaborators would, that is, one could and should do Business
with Hitler (Buchanan has very recently put forward a recycled version of
these arguments).

In the February issue, Juan Lopez continued the analysis of the
anti-Globalization movement, Gerald Horne in "Africa Must Unite" dealt
with the institutionalized racism of the World Trade Organization, the
need for African Unity and labor and anti-globalization solidarity with
the people of Africa.

Maxine Klein had a fine article "Speaking for the Environment," raising
questions that PA had not really raised before, but which would be a
model for the "new" and more diverse PA that would we would soon see in
the 21st century, both in print and online. Klein looked at the negative
effects of agribusiness genetic engineering of crops, the destruction of
both millions of family farms along with an enormous increase in soil
erosion and rainfall loss the increased danger from pesticides thirty
eight years after the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring,
Klein also focused rightly on the profoundly negative effects of the
U.S. heavy meat centered diet on the amount of land and water used for
livestock crops, the imperialist effects of such policies in destroying
rainforests in countries like Costa Rica in order to provide "cheap"
beef for the U.S. fast food industry. Finally, Klein looked at the
dangers of global warming and treated these questions as dialectically
inter-related, part of a sweeping ecological crisis that had to be

Ironically, Al Gore, who would have the 2000 presidential election
stolen from him, would later win a Nobel Prize articulating some of
these points. In our next and last installment, we will deal with PA in
the 21st Century. But, let me end with a few lines from Amina Baraka's
poem "To the Communist Party USA," in the March, 1999 issue as a
farewell to the 20th century before we go on to the 21st and fight
Bush's attempt to bring us back to the 19th:

"Oh How I Love
The Old Comrades
They Neither Die
Nor Fade Away
They Keep Coming
Giving Birth
To Revolution

"The Ayers Card"

By Lawrence Albright

Last night, CNN's "The Situation Room" hosted by Wolf Blitzer, featured a segment on what it called "The Ayers Card." This segment focused on the efforts of Senator John McCain's campaign to allege a Democratic-inspired "cover up" which, in turn, is based on the refusal of the University of Illinois to release records in its custody pertaining to the Woods Fund of Chicago, an offshoot of the Woods Charitable Trust, established in 1941. Its mission includes "issues that affected the area's least advantaged, including welfare reform, affordable housing" and "tax policy as a tool in reducing poverty."

The issue, such as it is, revolves around the fact that both Senator Barack Obama and the aforementioned Mr. Ayers served on the board of the Woods Fund. In itself, this wouldn't pass the yawn test except that between 1969 and 1980, Mr. Ayers was a leading member of a group called the "Weathermen," a faction of the 1960's Students for a Democratic Society that went "underground" and engaged in a campaign of bombings directed at US military-related targets.

The fact that this has nothing to do with Senator Obama's character or judgment is not of interest to the McCain campaign. As with other GOP campaigns, its interest is in generating fear, a negative buzz, and in attempting to dupe people into taking their attention off the critical issues that confront our nation: the economy, the ongoing war in Iraq, and the absolute contempt of the current Republican administration for anything other than extra-constitutional power and unbridled avarice at the expense of millions of working people.

"The Situation Room" broadcast gave prominence to Mr. Ayers, who was all of 25 years old when he joined with a number of SDSers in forming "Weathermen." While mentioning that Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, escaped prosecution on a technicality, the broadcast failed to mention the nature of that technicality; the widespread and wholesale abuses of legality by the FBI. Even had the FBI not crossed the line, let us remember the immortal words of Michael Mukasey, our current Attorney General, who said, "Not every wrong, or even violation of the law, is a crime." Perhaps when the Bush administration leaves office, Mr. Mukasey will find the time to go to law school. It almost makes me appreciate John Mitchell, who at least knew the law when he saw it -- or broke it. I didn't think that was possible.

Nor did the report mention that the only people ever killed in a Weathermen bombing were members of the group itself; several died when a bomb exploded in a Greenwich Village townhouse in 1970. I mention this not to excuse or condone the action of the Weathermen -- who later took the non-sexist moniker Weather Underground -- but to decry the fact that selective reporting in an age of soundbites borders on the worst sort of tabloidism.

Fact: Senator Obama had no influence in selecting the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago.

Fact: Senator Obama has strongly condemned the activities of the younger Ayers as "reprehensible." And Senator Obama was a minor child when these took place.

One of my neighbors was a bootlegger during prohibition. I knew him, I said hello, we exchanged pleasantries from time to time. Hell, I even (gasp!) shook his hand. Does that make me liable for his actions at a time when I wasn't even born? Does it make him a communist?

I struggled hard to find something that would match the level of irrelevance in the "Ayers Card." After intensive searching, I found it but had to go back to 1966. Did you know that one of the exhibits in the Warren Commission's voluminous investigation of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is a reproduction of dental x-rays of Jack Ruby's mother's teeth? His mother's teeth! I believe it was Mark Lane who commented that such an exhibit wouldn't be relevant even if Ruby had bitten Oswald to death.

If the McCain campaign believes the "Ayers card" gives them a straight, they're wrong. It and the innuendo connected with it needs to be.....flushed.