Radicalism 101
June 6, 2018 6:35 AM   Subscribe

The Chicago DSA and Midwest Socialist presents Primer Red, introductions to the basics of radical thought and history. Dialectical Materialism (“What are the forces of history?) - Alienation (“The cheaper each worker is, the more they have to work to survive.”) - Class (“What do you sell in order to live?”) - Value (“Why does surplus abundance go to the people who need it least?”) - Praxis (“How do you do things?”)
posted by The Whelk (20 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is great! Also great: if we could not derail the thread at the very start with dismissive nonsense.

I'm reading Capital & A Companion to Marx's capital currently, thanks to this post.

Thanks for the post The Whelk!
posted by durandal at 6:57 AM on June 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


There was a great half-hour talk (+ half-hour Q&A) at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington DC held by Yanis Varoufakis the other day (there to present his two recent books Adults in the Room and Talking to my Daughter about the Economy) - audio here, video here. He makes a succinct excursus through the ages to tease out how capitalism arises, and its relationship to power and to the concept of democracy; in his typical manner, it's an illuminating whirlwind tour. Part of his current concern is for people to regain literacy in the fundamentals of the economy, so as to better see through/resist the obfuscations of those in power.
posted by progosk at 7:22 AM on June 6, 2018 [5 favorites]


I listened to a podcast about... six months ago now, by a Marxist speaker, who talked about the sorts of praxis that Marxists, in his view, have settled on. It was interesting, because the pop cultural view of communism is that the goal is a Glorious Communist Revolution, and the podcast speaker suggested that this is actually a really bad idea, because of the praxis/theory cycle talked about in the link: with the experience of the 20th century, where smashing capitalism mostly opened the door for autocrats and fascists, smashing capitalism is clearly not a workable praxis. It then went on to discuss ways that capitalism could be subverted, like co-ops, or libraries.
posted by Merus at 7:49 AM on June 6, 2018 [11 favorites]


The cheaper each worker is, the more they have to work to survive.

My dream is to get to the point where I am making enough to survive in reasonable comfort and with a reasonable amount of security for the future and against unforeseen emergencies, and then gradually take steps to work less and less while maintaining that same standard of living. I don't want stuff or status or power, I just want time to pursue what actually interests me in life.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:47 AM on June 6, 2018 [8 favorites]


Yesterday on NPR Tim Cook said how great it will be if tech advances let everyone work say 1 less hour a week. The host said "as long as they still get paid" or something and then they moved on. Perfect blindness about how progress can make things worse for those without capital .
posted by freecellwizard at 8:51 AM on June 6, 2018 [2 favorites]


Merus, you might find syndicalism / anarcho-syndicalism or anarcho-communism / libertarian communism interesting. Both are much more focused on direct democracy and how process (the means) can shape ends.
posted by eviemath at 8:52 AM on June 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


smashing capitalism is clearly not a workable praxis.
Honestly, I'm not concerned with anyone here on the left smashing capitalism. "Capitalism" is Humpty Dumpty with a bottle of potent moonshine, and you know he's going to fall and shatter in the ground, because last time he did that, all the kings' horses and all the kings' men put him back together at great expense and gave him a fresh new bottle. And this is what concerns me.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:02 AM on June 6, 2018 [12 favorites]


> smashing capitalism is clearly not a workable praxis.

> > "Capitalism" is Humpty Dumpty with a bottle of potent moonshine, and you know he's going to fall and shatter in the ground, because last time he did that, all the kings' horses and all the kings' men put him back together at great expense

Talk of "smashing capitalism" and (from the article) "revolution" reminds me of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine in which she exposes "disaster capitalism". I am so very sorry to invoke the dreaded horseshoe theory, but I believe this right here is a legitimate example of it. The fantasy of remaking a despised system only after razing it to the ground and creating a blank slate is not something I could ever get behind. The people who are destroyed during revolutions and manufactured disasters alike, in the service of Marxist goals and capitalism alike, are real people who do not deserve to be destroyed.

I'm sad that Humpty Dumpty was given a new bottle but I'm grateful he was put back together. This wish that the nation should have been allowed to descend into an economic disaster zone frankly makes me scared.
posted by MiraK at 11:31 AM on June 6, 2018 [5 favorites]


Socialism as a Set of Principles - Nathan J. Robinson

I've posted this article to MeFi before, but for me it really sums up a practical approach to gradually replacing capitalism with socialism that I like a lot and feel is pretty viable. Rather than swapping out the engine of Capitalism for the engine of Socialism with a bloody revolution or a sudden social engineering project, Robinson describes the process more like writing a book:

We have, in our hands, a badly-written manuscript and are trying to edit it into a well-written manuscript. But there’s no blueprint for the well-written manuscript. We create it through a process. Delete a passage here, insert one there, move this around, move that around. And in doing this, we follow a set of principles: we want it to flow well, we want the reader not to get confused, we want all our sentences to be forceful and precise. Those principles aren’t handed down from on high, and there are lots of different ways we could write the book that would produce something satisfactory. But asking at the beginning of the process “Well, what will the finished product look like?” makes no sense. If we could present a blueprint for the finished book, we wouldn’t need a blueprint because we would already have finished the book.

Socialism can be conceived of similarly: socialists are trying to make society better, so that its operations meet a particular set of ideal criteria.

posted by One Second Before Awakening at 11:41 AM on June 6, 2018 [15 favorites]


The fantasy of remaking a despised system only after razing it to the ground and creating a blank slate is not something I could ever get behind.

To be honest, you'd see a lot less people wanting to burn it all to the ground if Humpty Dumpty after being put back together again had his face slapped silly and said "Remember this anytime you even think of a bottle, you rotten egg" instead of consider giving him another bottle so it might act as a counter-weight as a solution.

The signs are there, centrist pro-market politicians ignore them, and then act surprised and concerned when fascists are on the rise and Marx is suddenly popular again. If their political system clearly seems to favour the rich, who get fines worth one week of "work" as they destroy the lives of millions, it's hard for me (who stopped thinking about the future because it always resets to "hope I'm dead by in three years") to fault people who are one accident away of losing everything of believing we should eat the rich or already lost it all, even if the outcome would be shittier for all.

I too don't want to see everything razed down. I still think unless things changes, it's exactly what is going to happen.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:30 PM on June 6, 2018 [4 favorites]


Also: linked in OSBA's N.J. Robinson article is Jacobin Mag's very 101-ish ABC's of Socialism (pdf).
posted by progosk at 1:48 PM on June 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


If one good thing comes out of these last few dark years, I sure hope it's the successful reclaiming of not only liberal but also socialist from the list of forbidden words in US politics.

Small recompense, I know, but I'll take what I can get.
posted by rokusan at 3:54 PM on June 6, 2018


The signs are there, centrist pro-market politicians ignore them, and then act surprised and concerned when fascists are on the rise and Marx is suddenly popular again.

Right, I agree we should not be surprised, and this sentence is the point I was trying to make: that "burn it to the ground and rebuild the 'right' way" is a dangerous and reactionary response to our flawed system.

However, something about your overall comment seems to be saying, "We *deserve* to have this system burned down, be it by fascists or by Marxists, if we let the rich keep getting richer," and that's something I deeply reject. As abhorrent and unconscionable as it is for the rich stash their wealth away and impoverish, sicken, frustrate, and murder the masses, it is objectively worse for any group to bring on a bloody tabula rasa in response. It's like cutting off not our nose but our head to spite our face!
posted by MiraK at 3:59 PM on June 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


How do these abolitionists propose to run the Southern economy without slavery? Wiping out an entire economy is deeply wrong and dangerous
posted by Space Coyote at 7:03 AM on June 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


"We *deserve* to have this system burned down, be it by fascists or by Marxists, if we let the rich keep getting richer,"

That might be reading it a bit too much into it. I believe first and foremost that governments should have the care of its people as their primary concern, commenting on the inevitability that the political system right now seems incapable or unwilling (and often both at once) to address inequality isn't saying we deserve it because most of the mainstream political class are cowards caring more for their speeches and decorative VP positions at companies they helped at the expense of the people after their "public" service is over.
In a way, yes, we are responsible for the democracy we have. But at the same time, we also have limited power over it.
posted by lmfsilva at 8:04 AM on June 7, 2018 [1 favorite]


How do these abolitionists propose to run the Southern economy without slavery?

On the other hand, at about the same time on the other side of the world we had a system collapsing in the form of Qing Dynasty China, which only took a century to unwind itself after a foreign invasion by another Imperial power AND a civil war between Marxists and Fascists (oh, and warlords, we can't forget the warlords).

So, I think America got off easy on that one.
posted by FJT at 8:19 AM on June 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


To be honest, you'd see a lot less people wanting to burn it all to the ground if Humpty Dumpty after being put back together again had his face slapped silly and said "Remember this anytime you even think of a bottle, you rotten egg" instead of consider giving him another bottle so it might act as a counter-weight as a solution.

That doesn't change the fact that disabled and other vulnerable people will die unnecessarily in any kind of "burn it all down and start over" scenario.

Are you mad enough that Humpty Dumpty hasn't gotten slapped to your satisfaction to be willing to knowingly condemn people to death? Because that is what happens to disabled people when systems and civilization break down.

If your revolution doesn't include and account for the people in wheelchairs and on ventilation, I want nothing to do with it.
posted by Lexica at 5:08 PM on June 7, 2018 [3 favorites]


If your revolution doesn't include and account for the people in wheelchairs and on ventilation, I want nothing to do with it.

I actually used this line (thanks Lexica) in a speech yesterday talking about what the future we’re going for should look like - dont t talk about overthrowing or smashing the system or of upheavals and revolutions, but erosion of the current order while building the insutuations and visions we want to exist in the world. We must be like the tide.
posted by The Whelk at 8:01 PM on June 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Are you mad enough that Humpty Dumpty hasn't gotten slapped to your satisfaction to be willing to knowingly condemn people to death? Because that is what happens to disabled people when systems and civilization break down.

What

Enforcing some sort of control over horrible banking practices that feed bubbles that eventually burst is breaking down civilization? So now any sort of non-centrism is the equivalent of fucking Pol Pot?

Fucks sake, this place sometimes.
posted by lmfsilva at 2:13 AM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Enforcing some sort of control over horrible banking practices that feed bubbles that eventually burst is breaking down civilization? So now any sort of non-centrism is the equivalent of fucking Pol Pot?

In my comment to which you are responding, I literally quoted somebody advocating "burn it to the ground". If you have any doubt that disabled people die when the system has been rendered nonfunctional, just look at Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria.

If you don't want to bother looking up the information, here are some references:posted by Lexica at 8:54 AM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


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