Friday, July 21, 2017

Gorilla War

"War for the Planet of the Apes," 2017, directed by Matt Reeves

The deep ecologists will like this film.  The apes – chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, bonobos - live with fire and in log huts, use spears and commune with nature.  In this film they survive the humans, who are shown as uniformly militaristic, cruel and unreliable, even with their remaining technology.  Nature itself, in the form of an avalanche, seems to agree. 

More War?
The plot is that the simian virus, which killed many humans,  is now making humans unable to talk too (humanities’ defining characteristic is talking, according to the filmmakers…)  As a result, ‘Humanity,’ in the form of soldiers following a modern Colonel Kurtz (Woody Harrelson, also called ‘The Colonel’) will kill any ape or human who opposes them or who exhibits the virus.  The rationale is that this will ‘save humanity.’  Co-existing with apes is off the table, though there is no evidence that this ‘virus’ is coming from apes themselves.  The Colonel’s slogan on their prison camp is “The Only Good Kong is a Dead Kong” – which might remind viewers of similar ideas about the Viet Cong or native Americans.  

The logic in this scenario is that this ‘flu’ was not something humans brought on themselves – unlike something like the actual swine or bird flu, which are produced by animal overcrowding in factory farms.  It may be similar to Ebola, which was originally transmitted from fruit bats or monkeys – even from domesticated pigs or dogs - to humans.  So the cause of this dystopia is nature itself, animals themselves, and not directly connected to how human society was functioning.  It is nature playing out, like the Black Plague.  So the film reflects a fear of nature – also reflected in the fear of animal intelligence as exhibited by the talking apes.  It is really a film about the war between man and nature.

A somewhat shacked-up moral subtext of the film is that Ceasar, the bonobo leader played by Andy Serkis, has so much anger that he might kill people he shouldn’t.  This is ostensibly following Koba’s methods from the prior film, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” (reviewed below).  Ceasar does, somewhat accidentally, smother a traitorous ape Winter in order to keep him from crying out for the human soldiers for help.  This scene reminds one of a similar situation from “Native Son," but that is not what the filmmaker wants you to think about.  However, Koba was not killed by Cesar in the prior film because he was a violent war leader, but because he started attacking and jailing his own people – the apes.

The apes ultimately show more ‘humanity’ and mercy than the humans by far. Like the aliens in ‘District 9’ or in ‘Avatar,’ or the animals in “Tarzan” or the classic ape in “King Kong” - our sympathies lie with them.  Their emotional character is evident, especially in the characters of Maurice and a chimpanzee they come across, Bad Ape. They even adopt a young human girl who has lost her voice.  At one point, Ceasar is crucified like a simian Christ for his sin of attempting to relieve the suffering of his fellow apes .  One human soldier released in a show of mercy by Ceasar ultimately fails to show his ‘humanity’ in return.  In contrast, a traitorous gorilla who had followed Koba and was now working for the humans at least helps the apes in a penultimate scene. 
Is there another sequel?  The apes leave the forests and mountains of California to settle away from any humans, arriving at a somewhat desolate lake that looks like Crater Lake in southern Oregon. They bring the young girl, who may grow up to be a female “Tarzan.’  Do we need more senseless warfare between ape and man? Well for one, you certainly won’t see a mass conversion to vegetarianism among the reviewers or viewers of this film.  Unless this series develops some kind of more advanced political or environmental content, I think it can be put out of its dark misery. 
Red Frog July 21, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I'm Too Sexy for my Veil

“Lipstick Jihad," by Azadeh Moaveni, 2005

This is ‘diaspora’ literature.  Populations are moving all over the world and ‘diaspora’ memoirs are the logical result.  Whether through war, famine, environmental collapse, political upheaval, pogroms, poverty, unemployment, alienation or just plain wander-lust, millions are on the move.  We no longer live in a world of exclusively ‘national’ states and the proof is all around us in human sub-communities the world over.  You do not have to understand imperialism and ‘globalism’ to see this.

Cultural Subversion
Stories of other countries are exotic tales for many U.S. readers and this book fits.  Moaveni is a young woman born in Iran, but whose upper-middle class family moved from Tehran to San Jose, California after the 1979 Iranian coup by the mullahs.  She insists that the majority of that whole class left the country, and many of them jointed the million Iranians in Los Angeles.  She spends the memoir trying to figure out her identity - if she’s Iranian enough or too American, and finally decides she is both.  Even when she’s not in Iran, she carries Iran with her in her family and friends.  She spent two years in Tehran has a reporter for Time Magazine, but decides to leave after George Bush declares Iran part of the “axis of evil’ – a stupid phrase only a Christian Texan could think up. 

Moaveni is irritatingly naïve, neurotic, petit-bourgeois and conventional, but she is also an astute observer.  Her intense interest in her homeland leads her back to Tehran and there she gives us a picture of what Iranians actually think about the theocratic regime.  She improves her Farsi tremendously and becomes more Iranian by the day.  Her specific focus is naturally on conditions for Iranian women, which she also has to live through.  But as a result, sort of borrowing the logic of CLR James, Moaveni shows how Iranian women try to subvert the cultural and legal domination of the clerics all the time.  This is where the phrase ‘lipstick jihad” comes from – jihad in this case meaning ‘struggle.’  Moaveni's perspective will undermine those clueless liberal multi-culturalists who think that every ‘cultural practice’ is worth respecting – even when it results in oppression and misery for women or working class people.  She shows that Iranian society is not a simple version of Arab desert, village or tribal politics, but complex, sophisticated and urban too.

Being a reporter for Time Magazine in 2000 might tip you off to the fact that Moaveni is not a radical.  She has almost no understanding of ‘blowback’ resulting from American war-making.  Her method of changing Iran is to give tepid support to the ‘reformers’ – the liberal wing of the very same religious people who took over after the Shah left Iran.  She red-baits by comparing the clerical methods to ‘Soviet-style’ society – but the comparison fails.  She makes absolutely no mention of the Iranian working class - unless you include taxi drivers - or any subterranean Iranian Marxist movement.  Only one mention is made of the fake opposition represented by the cultish and Islamic MEK, which is treasured by U.S. government figures across our limited political spectrum.  Her family has servants and they are invisible.  Her mother back in California is a conventionally religious woman while she describes her father as an atheist and Marxist.

The book is rich in the issues facing Iranians, like the cruel violence of the Basij street thugs used by the regime.  Or how woman deal with the legally-prescribed head-covering hijab and cloak-like roopoosh – their version of a chador.   Or the legal rules related to various forms of gender segregation.  Or the social barriers against fraternization with men that women are not married to. Or the bans on street gatherings, alcohol, dancing, bikinis, ‘western’ movies and music, even poodles. Instead, the citizens are treated to occasional public whippings.  Or how the Tehranis ignore the prohibition against not eating, smoking or drinking during the daylight hours of the month-long religious holiday of Ramadan.  Or how Iranian Islamic repression of sexuality resulted in an overly sexualized environment as a response.  Exceptions?  If you do want to have sex with someone you are not married to, the law allows you to have a legal Sharia ‘temporary’ marriage to justify it. (!)   And you can marry 9 year old girls if needed, or more than one woman if you treat them equally. What Moaveni’s memoir shows is that the ruling clerics in Qom (called the “Mullah Factory” in fun) are alienating a great mass of the Iranian population from Islam, or their interpretation of Islam.   That is the dialectic playing out in Moaveni’s book.

The Iranian clerics are allies of the petit-bourgeois bazaaris and also made a block with the Iranian big capitalists.  They use religion as a sort of totalitarian ideology to control the Iranian population. The Shia clerics have morphed into a religious elite that controls some state economic entities through the ‘bonyad’ funds, are corrupt through graft and bribery, womanize and secretly – like their Sunni un-brothers in Saudi Arabia – revel in various  other ’western’ vices.  They control the army, the Revolutionary Guard, the paramilitary Ansar-e-Hezbollah and ‘civilian’ Basaji, the state media and are legally superior to the executive and parliament. 

This is not to say that the perpetual war drive by U.S. Democrats and Republicans against Iran is some kind of solution.  It is, in fact, the opposite, as it gives more authority to the mullahs, driving the population into their arms.  The clerics and the U.S. government are allied in this sense.  U.S. support for Saadam Hussein’s war against Iran had hugely damaging consequences to this day. Imperialism has it sights set on control of Iran, as it does on any country that opposes it, for any reason.

Moaveni finalizes her Iranian-American identity, a cross-cultural complexity, at the end of the book.  Her book is funny and revealing, especially about the odd lives various women in Tehran lead.  Yoga, lipstick, cosmetic surgery, glamorous American fast food joints, jewelry smuggling, fake exercise clubs, veil issues, attempts to jog, designer roopooshs, co-ed hiking in the mountains, wife shopping by ex-pats, the necessity of marriage in a country with many more women than men due to the long war with Iraq - the issues cover the range of exclusively urban life.   The book is great about women’s issues but politically weak at the same time.  But then, she is a journalist, not an activist.

And I got it at Eat My Words books.
Red Frog
July 15, 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

Mayday Volunteer and Peace/Labor Activist

Thomas R Dooley, born January 20, 1926, died July 4, 2017

Comrade Tom died at the age of 91 of unknown causes in a nursing home or hospice in St. Paul, after a short stay, having transferred from United Hospital subsequent to colon surgery for colon cancer.  His mother died on July 4th too when he was 6 months old, so Tom grew up without a mother for nearly all of his life. 

Tom Tabling for May Day in his Traditional Suspenders
Tom grew up around Loring Park in Minneapolis.  He went to Catholic schools for awhile and was an alter boy at the Basilica during the Father Couglin period.  In his youthful enthusiasm then, he threw snowballs at the nearby Communist Party headquarters.  But his views changed.

Tom went to a bomber gunner school in Texas during WWII, but the war ended before he was deployed.  He became radicalized as an anti-war activist by opposing the tragic war in Vietnam.  He was a member of Veterans For Peace, joining when he retired and writing a column for the Veterans for Peace newsletter.  Tom was also a long-time member of the DeLeonist New Union Party, supporting ‘one big union’ and various labor causes.  Tom also did a funny and well-written column for them, titled “My Fellow Commodity” in the local New Unionist paper, which was one of its high points.  He used ‘myfellowcommodity’ after that in his e-mail address.  He was a long-time volunteer at Mayday Books and the most dedicated book-tabler Mayday Books had, always volunteering to sell books for the non-profit store.  He was a consistent letter and e-mail writer for progressive causes and very generous with his donations to every left group.  He designed a unique saw-horse mostly for wood-working, and donated them to many Women Against Military Madness auctions and friends.  He attended Minnesota Atheist meetings and believed in ‘no gods, no masters.’ As part of that, he crossed out the word “God” on nearly every bit of U.S. currency he was going to spend.  Really.

Several people have remarked that Tom was a 'Jimmy Higgins.' They are the people on the left who do the 'grunt' work - a labor activist 'everyman' rank and filer, as celebrated in the Socialist Labor Party play, "Jimmy Higgins."  There can be no left without "Jimmy Higginses."   Tom believed in 'No master, no slave...' and he might agree.  However, from my perspective, those who do the ground work are leaders too.

Tom sold appliances for Admiral in his younger days as a traveling salesman, then worked for the Minnesota Highway Department on the maintenance crew, from which he retired.   He married once and had 5 children.  After his marriage ended, he met Lenore Burgard, a local political activist and they formed a liaison.  In his later years he lived in the basement of his daughter Mary Kay Edward’s home in St. Paul.

Tom’s major interest was in protesting the endless wars the U.S. pursued over the years.  He was a class conscious pacifist and always wore a button against war. He had a great sense of humor, and was one of the kindest and most giving persons on the left in the metro area.  He stickered junk mail with anti-war messages or cartoons and sent it back to the poor souls who would receive the mail.  He spent time in Twin City bars from the old Stand Up Franks to the new hipster Red Cow with his friends, and left anti-war buttons with his tips.  He always liked a good beer and food to relax – though he didn’t like the Irish bars, in spite of his Irish background.  Even at the end, he was making perceptive comments and jokes about the ways of the hospital. 

Tom’s death reminds us that another generation of activists is passing from the scene.  He will be greatly missed. But as Tom would have it, the struggle continues. 

Greg, Kristen, Doug, Don, Craig & Morgan

Friday, July 7, 2017

Guess Who Shouldn't Come To Dinner

“Get Out,” film by Jordan Peele, 2017

This is the modern version of the film, “Guess Whose Coming to Dinner,” except now, 50 years later, black people are no longer sure they want to be invited.  This is how ‘race relations’ are progressing many years later – going nowhere or worse. Of course, there are no such thing as different human races, but we reference the vernacular used by unscientific journalists, liberals and conservatives.

Nice White People
An upper-middle class and clueless young white woman romances a young black photographer, Chris, and invites him to meet her parents at their upstate and upscale New York home.   This event would be fraught, even if both partners were white.  She doesn’t tell the parents he’s black and he’s bothered by this omission.  But ‘it’s all good’ he says a number of times – a phrase that is perhaps too optimistic for the circumstances.   

From a romance to a comedy to a horror show, this film progresses into the predictable depths.  The parents are odd – a neuro-surgeon that can’t quit with over-familiar comments; a psychologist mother that practices hypnotism related to cigarette-smoking; a nasty drunk brother that physically challenges Chris.  Oddest of all are two black servants that work for the parents – a cook and a gardener, who both seem like hypnotized robots.  Yeah, you know what is coming.

Mary Shelley’s socialist parable “Frankenstein” was about a human monster composed of body parts from other people.  As detailed in the book, “Monster of the Market,” working class relatives of hung or dead people during Shelley’s time had to fight the hospitals and the state for their husbands’ or brothers’ bodies.  Doctors were using the bodies for various purposes, including dissection in medical colleges.  Present African parables describe kidnapped children abducted by the rich for their body parts.  Current vampire tales borrow the same psychology.  In many parts of the modern world like India, body parts from exploited populations like the Dalits are part of a brisk trade.  Kidneys for sale! Vulnerable working-class bodies have been turned into commodities by capitalism - they are not merely flesh machines worn-out during the production process, but useful beyond that.   

Partial Spoiler Alert

This film brings that story home to the U.S.  The mother meets Chris as he wanders around late at night for a smoke, and hypnotizes him with a clinking tea cup. He is shaken by this, but tries to discount it.  Chris observes one black man who is a companion to a much older white woman during a suspiciously unsuspected lawn party full of creepy white suburbanites. The black man seems oddly familiar, but he’s also robotic.  Chris takes a flash picture of him and the flash of the camera seems to shake the man out of a stupor.  The man physically attacks Chris in what might be a warning, yelling “Get Out.” 

Chris sends the picture to his buddy Lil Rel, who works for TSA, and his buddy recognizes the man as a guy from the old neighborhood in the Bronx who disappeared.  Over the phone, Lil Rel conjectures that the white folks are kidnapping black people and turning them into sex slaves or some other kind of slaves.  Chris doesn’t buy this absurd story.  Lit Rel brings this story to the police after Chris won’t answer his phone.  The cops laugh at him too.  I won’t tell you the rest.

What is striking about this film is that liberal white Obama supporters have been turned into their opposite.  They are not Klansman or Republicans or any of the other stock racists.  And only the most cynical black attitude actually reflects reality.  Even cute, monied white girls come in for suspicion – as they should.  The film reflects black distrust writ large, through a funhouse horror mirror.  It was written by a black comedian.  Is it a comedy?  Not quite. 

Monsters of the Market,” reviewed below.

Red Frog
July 7, 2017   

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Cerebral Play and the Red Domino

‘Petersburg,” by Andrei Biely, written 1916, re-written1922, published 1928 and 1935

To continue our celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, this is a review of another lost classic of Russian literature.  It focuses on 5 days in 1905, September 30 through October 4 in the city of St. Petersburg, a year of revolution in Russia.  Vladimir Nabokov thought this novel was one of the great books of the 20th Century, along with ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Remembrance of Things Past’.  Of course, that is Nabokov, a son of the Russian nobility.  Virtually unknown in the ‘West’ and only published in English in 1959, it is a modernist blend between traditional Russian literature and a symbolist approach that reminds one of surrealism or James Joyce.  Biely himself became a supporter of the Russian revolution, working on the Organizational Committee of the Union of Soviet Writers.  He died in Moscow in 1934 at the age of 53, prior to the majority of Stalinist purges.

The Bronze Horseman is After You
The plot is slight but a bit tense.  A wealthy and absurd son of a high Czarist official promises the “Party” that he will kill his father.  Like ‘Ulysses,’ and Dublin, the city of St. Petersburg plays a central role as a virtual character.   Psychological portraits of various Gogol-like citizens – the green-eared Czarist official, a ridiculous society woman, a repressed Czarist officer, a sinister anarchist revolutionary, his sick or mentally disturbed compatriot, the trivial son who dresses in a mask and red cape (and is called ‘the red domino’ by the yellow press, as ‘domino’ means mask), and marginal servants (called ‘lackeys’) or apartment dwellers populate the book.  For Russian literature connoisseurs, there are quotes or references to other Russian writers like Pushkin and Bulgakov. There is a Tolstoyan ball that degenerates into a creepy farce.  Flying over it all is the metal statute of the ‘Horseman” that stands along the Neva – Peter the Great, the spirit that haunts this corrupt city built on a swamp.  The Russian steppes surround that swamp and frighten the Czarist official.

Politically, this is an odd book.  Working class characters are almost invisible.  Factories that ring St. Petersburg are occasionally mentioned.  The working-class ‘islands’ surrounding central St. Petersburg – Vyborg, Vasilyevsky, Petrograd, Narva and the others – are where the unwashed masses lives, while the Nevsky Prospect carries a constant stream of the bowler-hatted middle class.  The 1905 Revolution plays an almost invisible background role, though it started in December 1904 and went for a whole year.  Bloody Sunday predated the book, as it was in January 1905 when the Imperial Guard shot demonstrators before the Winter Palace.  

 The character of the anarchist bomber(s), as in Turgenev, Dostoevsky and Chernyshevsky, play a central and negative role. The ‘red domino’ represents the coming bloodshed, and you could even interpret this symbol as a foreshadowing of the later November 1917 revolution.  The clash between “Asian’ and ‘European” cultures that meet in St. Petersburg is another non-class theme (much as the Sokurov film “Russian Ark” dwelled on it in relation to the Winter Palace/Hermitage), with mentions of the 1905 Japan-Russia war and various insults involving "mongols."  The “Party,” which is frequently mentioned, does not seem to be the working-class and Marxist ‘Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party’ (which united Bolsheviks and Mensheviks at the time), but something more like the anarchist Narodniks or peasant-based Socialist Revolutionaries.  The 'educated classes' and the Czarists are depicted as weak, useless and odd, which is probably its most important political point.

The book itself is an enclosed symbolic and dream space, where the choral repetition of colors, shapes like circles, spheres and rectangles, musical sounds, architectural details, dialog and ugly physical characteristics attempt to forge some kind of literary unity.  Biely was called a ‘symbolist’ and the novel really centers on the psychological developments of his odd and somewhat worthless characters.  For what it is worth, ‘symbolism’ seems to be a dead style, but the book is interesting in how it attempts to do what a modernist symphony does – create some kind of artistic whole, but through non-linear or dissonant methods.  Nothing like it was produced in the U.S. at this time, so it shows how literary Russian culture was more advanced at the time, much like Irish or French literature.

What to make of the book?  It is a hard, wandering 300-page read, given it is mostly a dream fugue.  If you are a fan of Russian literature, it should be a part of your readings, as it has ties to many other Russian works.  If you like modernism mostly divorced from politics, this is the book for you.  If you want a feel for the foggy, sad culture of St. Petersburg and the ‘green’ Neva at the time, it might be interesting. But if you are interested in Russian politics as reworked by literature, this will be a disappointment.  

Prior review of “What Is To Be Done,” below.  Use blog search box, upper left.

Red Frog
July 1, 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Punk Never Dies

“Subculture – the Meaning of Style,” by Dick Hebdige, 1979

Most people are vaguely aware that sub-cultures exist in many countries, and that they pose somewhat subversive issues to the main-stream culture – whatever that may be.  Hebdige, a British cultural studies intellectual influenced by Marxism, concentrates in this seminal book on UK sub-cultures like the Teddy Boys, Rastas, mods and punks as examples of how ‘style’ issues become translated into a certain political attitude.  “The Personal Is the Political” is an old slogan, but as the majority wake up to how politics infects everything, it has become pertinent again.

Are you in a sub-culture?
Hebdige ignores hippies in his analysis, but of course hippies were the classic and even world-wide phenomenon of an oppositional sub-culture within developed capitalist societies.  Bikers, queer culture, rabid Christian cults, survivalists – and plenty of others – all exist at certain levels in the U.S. and can be both conservative or liberal.  Hebdige concentrates on working-class sub-cultures in the U.K. and their social meanings – many times connected to music and clothes.  His touchstones are Roland Barthes “Mythologies,’ Antonio Gramsci’s idea of ‘hegemony’ and gay French novelist Jean Genet’s writings from prison.  ‘Culture’ as defined here means the whole range of social being, not just ‘high culture.’  Hebdige ultimately gets himself and the reader tied in verbal intellectual knots as he attempts to understand these subcultures through post-modernist theory, but ultimately returns to his Birmingham-school Marxism. 

Ideology operates as ‘common sense’ in most societies.  Hebdige partly uses semiotics to translate the social impact of hairstyles, or even the architectural layout of a college campus, to decipher unsaid meanings.   Every sub-culture has an internally consistent logic that covers many aspects of life.  He first focuses on the role of West Indian / Caribbean black culture, which impacted the white working class in England, especially the youth.  White punks adopted reggae for instance, showing that ‘identity’ can transfer across ethnicities.  As we know from Thomas Frank’s “The Conquest of Cool,” nearly any cultural rebellion can be commodified by capital. For instance, punk fashion found its way onto the high-fashion runways through people like Jean Paul Gaultier.  In a way, the dominant culture has a vampiric relation to sub-cultures, borrowing bits of their vitality for its own commercial and artistic uses.  But this process is never immediate or complete. 

1976 in Britain saw that hot summer explode into riots and punk.  Hebdon looks at the development of many music forms in this period which paralleled the growth of sub-cultures – northern soul, punk, reggae, ska – and how ‘blackness’ became the ultimate subterranean identity, which white youth either embraced or rejected in a dialectical process.  This also happened in the U.S. beginning with hipsters and beatniks back in the 1950s.  Teds and skinheads rejected black culture, while mods and punks embraced parts of it.  Rock Against Racism grew out of this fusion.  The glam and glitter rockers – Bowie led!- actually are identified by Hebdon as those who moved the the focus from class and politics to sexuality and identity.   Bowie represented a more middle-class ‘sub-culture.'  

Hebdon points out that sub-cultures are always historically specific – and not just based on some generalization like ‘youth.’  Many of these working-class subcultures were responses to the economics of England after WWII, and the severe changes in working-class life.  The world of the ‘home, pub and working-mans club’ was disappearing in the face of austerity and the cultural politics of the bourgeois media.  Punk was the primary ‘spectacle’ that arose in response to the degeneration of working-class life, and Hebdon digs into it deeply.  Even language, as we know, is part of a sub-culture, and punk had its own verbalisms, including much swearing. Hebdon thinks that punk ultimately had elements of nihilism, not just rebellion. Shock became the point of some; punk became modern Dada.  Because of this, the hegemonic cultural system tried to turn punk into a clown show, which is one way sub-cultures can be undermined by the dominant culture. To this day, punk still exists -  just visit the crusties in Kensington Street in Toronto.

Jean Genet actually wrote an introduction to “Soledad Brother,” a book of letters by George Jackson, a Black Panther murdered by the state back in the 1960s.  This odd pairing actually implies that parts of black culture in the U.S. are also part of a very large ‘sub-culture’ subversive to corporate culture or capitalist ‘normality,’ just as gay culture once was.  Latino culture represents another strain. This is an odd thought to have.  But as someone who has been a hippie, a motorcylist and a leftist – three subcultures in the U.S. - many of us belong to something out of the mainstream.  Ethnicities form massive sub-cultures and this point is often ignored.  Hebon’s point about West Indians in the U.K. is also relevant to the U.S. black, native and Latino populations.  The former was the basis, at one time, for the proposal for a ‘black nation’ in the ‘black belt’ across the South – a black belt which no longer really exists geographically, but still exists culturally.

Other books on "Chavs," British motorcycling gangs and British soccer 'hooligans,' reviewed below.  Use blog search box, upper left.

Red Frog
June 25, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Something's Happenin' Here ...What It Is Ain't Exactly Clear...

“The People’s Summit,”

I did not attend this conference, which took place in Chicago on the weekend of June 9-11.  But clearly something is still going on in the wider world of the U.S. left.

All the ‘superstar’ left-liberals were there – Sanders, Greenwald, Klein, Sirota, Van Jones, Goodman, Piven, McGibben, Glover, Van Heuvel, Frank, Zirin, Jealous, Zogby.  OOOH! There were a high proportion of actors and actresses too, oddly enough, but given the weight Hollywood has in the Democratic Party, that would be expected.  We on the ‘hard left’ call these people the ‘soft left,’ as they straddle the fence between anti-capitalism and pro-capitalism.  Their careers would be in the toilet if they adopted the former, but they can’t help themselves going part of the way.  I critically review many of their books because the intent of this blog is to move normal working-class people beyond comfortable left-liberalism.  But you can’t do that without ‘intersecting’ with the liberal-left, which does have valuable things to say.

At the Summit, Sanders excoriated the Democratic Party for losing so many elections and he also refrained from promising to bring millions into the Democratic fold.  Democrats only have their positions of 'power' and winning to cite, so this hits particularly hard for the junior party of the ruling class.  However the basic intent of this conference is to prepare new candidates to run as ‘left’ Democrats, so a level of sheep-herding is still the basic plan.  Several prospective candidates or winners were on hand.  Activity on the left of the Democratic Party is inevitable in the run up to the formation of an independent, class-based party, so this turmoil is indicative.  It is possible that a ‘left’ section of the Democrats will split off at some point.

People’s Party
There was a counter-trend at the ‘Summit’, as a section of the conference campaigned for a “People’s Party” by drafting Bernie Sanders as its leader.  This effort was led by a former Sanders staffer, Nick Brana.  The head of National Nurses United (NNU), Roseann Demoro, endorsed the independent “Draft Bernie” idea, and asked Sanders from the podium if he would support it.  No answer from Sanders of course. NNU had 1,000 nurses attending out of the 4,000 total attendees.   Brana has said that even if Sanders doesn’t get on-board, they will go ahead to form a populist People’s Party.  What that will look like is unknown at present, but it certainly is a step to some kind of mass opposition party.  However, if it follows Sanders’ program exclusively, it will be born with deformations.

Sanders is problematic at this point.  He is the most popular politician in the U.S. (admittedly a low bar) and also the most prominent ‘in-house’ critic of the Democrats, even though he’s not an official Democrat…!  Sanders has a standard social-democratic domestic policy with many progressive features, though he seems to be backsliding on socialized medicine right now.  He does not support nationalization of rogue industries or essential public industries.  Sanders’ foreign policy is an endorsement of imperial and military actions by the U.S. - a symptom of social-patriotism.  As anyone politically aware knows, there is a deep economic, social and political connection between U.S. foreign and domestic policy.   Without an attack on both, not artificial walling off of one from the other, no progress can be made domestically or internationally. 
Social Patriotism
Sanders’ roots are in social-democratic practice, which is social-patriotic in essence.  This schizophrenic bifurcation allows Sanders to become popular more easily, but ultimately bars the road to any significant social progress in the U.S. - not to mention the rest of the world.  Jeremy Corbyn of the British Labour Party understands the links between foreign and domestic policy, as does Jean-Luc Melenchon of the French “Unbowed France” Party (which was endorsed by nearly all of the French left.)  Given left socialism is strong in both organizations, it shows lazy comparisons between Sanders and Corbyn or Melenchon only go so far.  The European left is far ahead of the U.S. left in this and other respects – as it has always been.

At any rate, one of the other dividing lines between the soft left and the hard left is the issue of the Democrats.  They are the ‘donkey’ in the room.  People bitch about this being a ‘focus’ all the time, like they are tired of the debate.  However, the reason the debate does not go away is because the Democrats are a failure for workers no matter their ethnicity, and have been for many, many years.  As the call from the People’s Party advocates went:   “…corporate money is not a distinct, corrupted organ of the (Democratic) party that can be surgically removed from an otherwise healthy body. Corporate money is the party.”

The Labor Party
I’ve pointed out to people in the labor movement and leftists who want a ‘labor party’ that the main impulse for independent  political action right now will probably come from outside of the official labor movement.   The AFL-CIO is still deeply in the pocket of the Democrats unfortunately, but they can be lured away, bit by bit.  The Sander’s campaign was part of the ferment for actual political change in this country – not the Democratic Party Potemkin Village of ‘change’ and ‘hope,’ but something a bit more real.  As the involvement of unions and now the NNU shows, labor is a key component in this ferment.  They ultimately are THE key component to any revived class struggle against the rich white male billionaires who control this country now and founded this country 243 years ago.

“Intersectionality’ – an academic phrase that left-liberals adore – is a concept that only goes part way to understanding how to move forward.  The reason is that class is not just ‘one among many’ in this mixture, but the primary intersection.  I’ll show you why.  Let us take the “$15 Now” campaign.  Ostensibly only an ‘economic demand,’ if it is won it benefits low-paid workers the most.  Those would mostly be black, Latino and immigrants from Africa primarily.  But as anyone knows, many white workers also labor for pittances.   So it unites the ‘class’ on an ostensibly economic issue, but actually attacks the material foundation of racism the most.  

The problem with ‘intersectionality’ is that it is not a materialist approach, and assumes the oppression of women, gays, black, Latino, indigenous and African labor to be independent of economics.  It assumes that, instead of the deep profiteering generated by the super-oppression of non-whites or women, that that oppression is just the result of white people’ s ‘bad ideas’ or meanness  or stupidity.  All of this is idealist claptrap ultimately.    Yes, there are plenty of bad ideas, meanness and stupidity to go around, but racism and sexism are institutionalized in the U.S. – by the economy, the courts, the schools, the police, the state – for economic purposes.   It is part of the foundation of this ‘great Republic” since the beginning. So these bigoted ‘ideas’ ultimately serve the profit system.   “Intersectionality’ as conventionally presented ignores the whole capitalist profit system and ultimately fails as a way of understanding how to move forward.  

The other failure of intersectionality is strategic.  For instance, Black oppression cannot be solved by black people alone.  It is actually part of the way the whole class is divided and weakened.   White workers MATERIALLY lose because of black super-oppression.   Just look at conditions in the South or any industry where cheap labor is employed or where communities are treated brutally by police or through environmental racism.  Police violence is ultimately a form of labor control, for instance. Instead of appealing to white guilt (something white upper-class liberals love), appeals to white workers on a grounded MATERIAL basis will be more successful in fighting racism.  Unions, the most integrated organizations in this country, understand this.  The greatest unity and strength is to understand that racism hurts everyone but the capitalists.  That may be a cliché, but it has definitely been ignored.  It doesn’t ignore super-oppression of non-whites, it only shows how the whole society is affected.  And that should be the real goal of ‘intersectionality’ instead of burying economics.

Resistance & Revolution
The People’s Summit was sponsored by NNU, “Our Revolution,” DSA, UE, Move-On, Presente, Our Walmart and others.  These are groups that claim to be part of the “Resistance” to Trump.  Perhaps they include that other ‘resistor’ Hillary Clinton and perhaps they don’t.  But if they work in the Democratic Party, she and her allies are unfortunate comrades. The term ‘Resistance’ comes from the French Resistance in WW2 – which was led by Communists in opposition to Petain and fascism.  It should be noted that there are no reds running this new ‘resistance’.  Instead it is a ‘resistance’ mostly directed at the Republicans, not the whole system. Sanders’ group ‘Our Revolution” is also committed to the Democratic Party at this point.  No matter how many times they excoriate the Democratic top donors, corporate base, neo-liberal politics and top officials, they are also still ‘comrades.’  And this makes a mockery of the term “revolution” too.  A real political revolution in the U.S. would involve the replacement of the capitalist parties in power, not by working within one capitalist party to promote it.  A social revolution would involve the overthrow of the private property system in favor of a collectively owned and controlled economy, not by pushing illusions that capital will become ‘nice.’

Neither is the goal of “Our Revolution” at present.  As you can see, both of these terms have been co-opted. 

The more proletarian elements in the People’s Congress – and I do not include the listed hot-shot super-stars – could be moving in the direction of political independence, as shown by the support for the People’s Party.   UE has always been for a Labor Party, and now NNU is moving in that direction. The left should keep a good eye on what is going on in this grouping, as part of a real Resistance could emerge from it.

Unity Around Jentzen
 Ginger Jentzen
Locally, leftists and unionists finally got together to support a socialist and anti-capitalist program – without the Democratic Party.  A large fundraiser was held for Ginger Jentzen at Mayday Books on Thursday, June 16.  She is running for the 3rd Ward council seat in Minneapolis, MN, USA as a socialist, as a prime mover of “$15 Now” in the city and as an advocate for rent control and fighting the capitalists who run Minneapolis.  May Day Books, Socialist Action (SA), the local Democratic Socialists of America (DSA-M), International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Socialist Alternative (SA) have all endorsed her.  More importantly, Minnesota Nurses United (MNU), the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the United Transportation Union (UTU) have all endorsed Jentzen too.  What Minneapolis needs is a socialist in the city council once again.  If she wins, politics in Minneapolis will radically change in favor of working-class people.

Red Frog
June 18, 2017

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I Come From the American Empire

Cornell West in Toronto, Canada

A public event last week at the 86th Canadian Humanities Congress at Ryerson University featured Cornel West, probably one of the best public speakers in the U.S.  The organizers were not prepared for the overflow crowds, budgeting a room holding only 500 people.  Given the present political situation, more and more people are coming out of their isolation to grapple with issues like racism and classism, and they caught the academics unaware in Toronto.

“I Come from the American Empire.” were his first words...
Uncle Cornel Wants You
West is the fiery preacher, the verbal jazzman, the learned academic, the prodigious memory bank, the concise analyst, the person who is not afraid to target liberal shibboleths.  You might call him a Christian socialist, or you might not, but he’s definitely one of the speakers you should hear in your life.  His speeches are punctuated by a wide array of quotations from writers, activists and philosophers.  He praised the Humanities Congress, while pointing out that words like ‘diversity’ (which were highlighted in his introduction) are merely stale euphemisms for dealing with issues like racism, sexism and homophobia.  He took questions from the audience and handled odd interjections and bad politics well.  He did not agree with a speaker who insisted that his religion (Islam) was never violent.  West indicated, as a Christian, that Christianity and every religion include many who are full of violent hatred.  He pointed out to a young student that thinking white academics can never be allies or ‘know’ anything is a failing position.   

West is the ‘love’ man, after all, and not a black nationalist.  He has a position that without a united front of all ethnicities against Wall Street and the “1%,” based on principled demands, no peaceful revolution or even resistance can occur.  This is similar to the policies of Bernie Sanders, who West supported in the Democratic primaries.  It is similar to the combined class and ethnicity position of Marxists, but in a somewhat less class conscious manner.

West loves music and references blues, jazz or R&B constantly.  At one point he said he could sit down and play Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and not talk, because that album says it all for him.  (Of course it IS one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.)  His speechifying is not purely logical, but plays ‘riffs’ that return, improvising in a flow, with ‘choruses’ that appear at an end.  Jokes abound.  He insulted Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party by calling him a ‘smart Trump.’  He remarked that every black person should get a ‘standing ovation’ for not deciding to resort to constant violence.  Most of the Toronto press, as would be predicted, did not cover his speech, except for one snarky corporate site. 

West repeated his opposition to the corporate politics of Barack Obama, but said he would ‘give his life to save the brother’ from the police. He recently got into a yelling match with Democratic Party blowhard Bill Maher over this.  In his speech in Toronto he even pointed out that Malcolm X had some sexist positions.  WEB Dubois was the ‘exemplar’ that he structured the speech around, in the process giving ‘exemplars’ like Beyonce short shrift.  He highlighted Gandhi’s support of the Hindu caste system, and approvingly name-checked Gandhi’s opponent on this issue, Ambedkar.  He praised Canada’s health care system, calling for it in the U.S.  He referenced the incarceration state in the U.S. and this brought out a flood of African, West Indian and black speakers at question time who discussed the racist treatment of black people by police, schools, the welfare state and the government in Toronto.  All this in the supposedly enlightened, but still capitalist, country of Canada. This was the main ideological contribution of the audience. For the most part the audience did not approach things on a higher level, but only coming from their various silos. 

West repeated his condemnation of Wall Street and capitalism, and noted that black poverty was ignored by Obama and is now worse than when he was a young man in Sacramento, California.  In that vein, I first heard West talk at a convention of the Labor Party in Pittsburgh in 1998, but his speech there was a bit different.  Given the date and the large crowd of left-wing union activists who had come together to oppose corporate capitalist methods like NAFTA and the Democrats, West emphasized economics.  He is what you might call a left social-democrat, but he does consort with Canadian Marxists like Henry Giraux. The book “The Jungle” illustrated the role of Christian socialists at the turn of the 20th century, who castigated the rich and the uncaring capitalist system through Jesus’s eyes.  West seems to be part of that tradition, with all its pluses and minuses.

The main problem with West is that, while he tells everyone to ‘take action’ and ‘speak truth to power’ he (like Chomsky and other academic radicals) has no real organizational solution to what ails those who live under capital.   West himself is still preparatory to the real revolutionary movement that could arise.   

Some books mentioned by West, reviewed below:  Michelle Alexander: “The New Jim Crow;”  Ambedkar: “Annihilation of Caste;” Henry Giraux: “The Violence of Organized Forgetting.”  Use blog search box, upper left.

Toronto, Canada
Red Frog
June 7, 2017

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Green Fallacies

"Marx and the Earth – An Anti-Critique," by John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett, 2017

While JB Foster was swilling his celebratory beer at the conclusion of the Marx Symposium in Toronto, Canada, last weekend, we may ask ‘what use does an intense and detailed academic Marxist rebuttal of green ecologist philosophy have to do with an actual revolutionary movement’?  Well, a bit!  This book is a follow-up to the author's prior works on “Marx’ Ecology” and “The Ecological Revolution” (both reviewed below). Yet it’s point is not examine Marx’s perspective of the metabolic rift between humans and nature brought about by capital, but to challenge certain anti-Marxist stereotypes promulgated by Green ecology thinkers - while doing just that.

The Book Jacket
Now it’s supposedly not nice to polemicize against people who call themselves ‘eco-socialists.’  Yet I have found that ‘socialists’ who are against Marx – the most radical anti-capitalist in history – have a hidden agenda, which usually translates into some kind of compromised version of bourgeois socialism and anti-capitalism.  So there are eco-socialists and eco-socialists.  Foster/Burkett paraphrase Sartre to this point, saying that ‘Marx’s critique was so ruthless… that it is impossible to surpass it without surpassing bourgeois society itself.’

Here Foster and Burkett take on 6 main theories opposing Marx on the terrain of ecology.  They make quite effective work of them, using their voluminous knowledge of Marx and Engel’s writings, along with many later Marxists who followed in their footsteps. To do this, Foster and Burkett must have every written document done by Marx and Engels on a searchable database.  They reference many of the leading socialist and scientific thinkers in the field from the 1800s onward, which the reader will find valuable in filling in gaps in knowledge.

The sloppy mischaracterizations of Marx include thinking he was merely a ‘productionist’ who had no ecological perspective, but was only interested in putting more material goods on the table of the worker.  They take on John Clark who says that because Marx said that nature was ‘the inorganic body of man’ he demonstrated his anthropocentrism; Martinez-Alier, who insisted it was incorrect for Marx and Engels to criticize Sergei Podolinsky ‘energetic’ theory of labour; Martinez-Alier and Bensaid’s charge that Marx opposed the second law of thermodynamics; Herman Daly’s charge that Marx’s economics excluded material flows from nature; Tanuro’s claim that Marx ignored fossil fuels; and the claims of Kovel and Worster that Marx slighted the ‘intrinsic’ value of nature. 

If this sounds all really obscure, then remember that the class struggle is not just confined to the streets or neighborhoods or workplaces, but also happens in the realm of ideas and culture.
Briefly, Foster/Burkett’s response to these 6 main charges are this:

Clark was not familiar with the usage of the term ‘organic’ and ‘inorganic’ during this period in philosophy, especially through Hegel.  

Podolinsky’s theory of the ‘perfect human machine’, which was to create the perfect caloric retention of heat, was carefully examined by Marx and Engels.  It was found to be unworkable and in fact part of a reductionist ‘closed’ system analysis that did not incorporate many external inputs. 

Marx and Engels incorporated the early beginnings of thermodynamics in their writings, but opposed the extension of the second law (entropy) to the theory of the ‘heat death of the universe’ – an idea having more in common with Christianity, and which had no proof, and still doesn’t.  As anyone familiar with scientific laws know, they sometimes apply to one area, but not all.  Foster/Burkett however fail to follow up on this insight as to the flawed nature of the ‘Big Bang’ theory itself, which would have also been opposed by Marx and Engels.  The ‘big bang’ is the  theoretical equivalent - at the other end of the 'clock' - of the ‘heat death’ theory.  (Commentaries and reviews on the "Big Bang," below.)

Foster/Burkett point out that Marx and Engels, while describing the circulation of capital, always included ‘material’ inputs, and never left the system closed to the effects and attributions of nature – i.e. raw materials.  Indeed Marx said quite clearly in their criticism of the simplistic economics of the German Social-Democrats in the Critique of the Gotha Programme that value comes from both nature AND labour, not just labour. 
Tanuro a-historically blames them for not predicting global warming, which makes you think there is another agenda here.  Marx and Engels always paid close attention to sources of power at that time, like wood, wind, steam and later, coal, and even commented on the over-use or ‘squandering of our reserves of energy, our coal’ (Engels).  Foster/Burkett mention that Tanuro has no proof citations in his article as to their ignoring of power sources.  Marx & Engels are generally recognized as foundational to ecological economics, and saw the role of energy in historical, not neutral, terms.  But no, they did not predict global warming, though they kept very close attention to nearly all scientific developments.  The first scientific mention of the role of carbon and the greenhouse effect happened about the time of Marx’s death.

Kovel presents ‘eco-socialism’ of a certain type as a successor to Marxism by insisting that Marx did not recognize the human role in the alienation of nature.  Foster/Burkett point out the frequent parallels Marx and Engels drew between the alienation of and exploitation of labor AND also of nature. Marx’s description of the ‘metabolic rift’ is basic to them.  Both were aware of the various ecological crises of the 1800s – polluted water and air, destruction of the soil, unsustainability, deforestation, loss of biological diversity, natural resource shortages. Theirs, unlike capitalist economics, was an ‘open’ economics that took everything into account, not merely the circulation of products or ‘supply and demand’ or mystical processes like ‘the market.’

Lying beneath Foster and Burkett’s polemics with ‘green socialists’ is a general criticism of green ecology itself.  For instance, ‘deep ecology’ is an essentially anti-human and idealist response to the present situation.  The mere worship of nature is not a substitute for a dialectical response to the crisis we are in.  There is much mysticism in current Green theory. Instead, ‘there is an abstract, moral division between anthropocentric and ecocentric views,’ which basically slights the working class and human society.  Deep ecology is at bottom a romantic, pre-industrial idea that offers little to the working classes.

They quote Murray Bookchin regarding Deep Ecology:  ‘Mystical ecologists who dualize the natural and the social by contrasting ‘biocentricity’ with ‘anthropocentricity’ have increasingly diminished the importance of social theory in shaping ecological thinking.  Political action and education have given way to values of personal redemption, ritualistic behavior, the denigration of human will and the virtues of irrationality… mystical ecology has advanced a message of self-effacement, passivity, and obedience to the laws of nature that are held supreme over human activity and praxis.’

The struggle with the bourgeois corporate Greens – the ‘Big Greens’ - who are based on the capitalist market – or the anti-working class ‘deep greens’ – will decide whether the ecological crisis is solved through an actual socialist solution – or barbarism.  That is the choice we face.

While some of the debates are a bit obscure, this book is a valuable in-depth look at past scientific thinkers and discoveries and Marxist political and economic contributions to that science, showing their intimate and enduring relationship.

Prior reviews of “Marx’s Ecology” and “The Ecological Revolution,’ below.  Use blog search box, upper left.

Red Frog
June 4, 2017
Toronto, Canada

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I'm Lost in the Supermarket

Shopping World

What does capitalism do well? Well, it makes for a ‘great’ shopping experience.  You can get 200 varieties of breakfast cereal.  Tens of thousands of shoes.  Uncountable choices in clothing that you can throw away later. Many, many cable channels, some you don’t even watch.  Every conceivable type of furniture.  Drugs for every conceivable illness – even ones that you don’t have or that don’t work.  Hundreds and hundreds of car or scooter choices that only an expert can tell apart.  Toothpaste?  Soap?  Addictive fast food?  You got it baby!

Branded!  Woman Passing through Boutique
It is this very plethora of goods that is the end-point of capital.  It ultimately is the point of the whole system – that and that alone.  Really.  But without money you cannot buy anything, so even shopping is ultimately based on class and where you reside within which class strata.   This plethora is not for everyone.  The worker on a pinched budget will make the economical choice nearly every time. 

I put ‘great’ in quotes because there is a massive cost here.  Unplanned and profit-based consumer development creates waste, repetition, consumer fetishization, shoddy materials, environmental destruction, pollution, packaging nightmares, cheap wages (even virtual slavery), unhealthy or chemically destructive products, over-production, ‘under consumption’ and high prices due to monopolization or control of real estate.  Capital does not take anything but the profit cycle part of this 'circulation' into account.
But it is still in this consumer wonderland that shopping shines as the number one attribute of capitalism.  It is the Number One ‘hobby’ in the U.S.  It is what most people do to relax, even when they don’t buy anything.  For many it is retail therapy which justifies those long hours of work. 

Take a look at women’s clothing.  The men’s clothing area is about quarter of the women’s sections.  Women’s clothing dominates many brick and mortar locations.  Women of course must look ‘good’ or sexy or constantly diverse, either to other women or to men.  This is a reflection of the sexism in the society.   It is not such a burden on men.  Class is reflected in clothing choices, as is being ‘hip’ or projecting some other image, like health or sportiness or corporate ownership or manliness.  Clothing is also a ‘costume’ and we are all players on that stage.
A brick- and mortar woman’s clothing shop is full of young women attending to the needs of the shoppers. Serving them, waiting on them.  After all, everyone wants a servant...  Trying on clothes is a ritual in the dressing rooms.  The music is never disturbing or obtrusive - it is always light and poppy so that the shopper pulls out her purse.  Each store has an ‘atmosphere’ created by careful design.  There is sometimes a men’s chair, but mostly women shop alone so that they can spend as much time as possible.   A ‘shopping trip’ can take up a whole day, visiting both department and boutique stores and include a lunch.  Boutiques exist so that the shopper can get ‘individualized’ clothing, which enhances her individualization – a prime goal under capital.  The ‘hit’ only happens at the end – when the woman has to take out her wallet and pay for the overpriced item she just chose.  You can go to Wal-Mart, buy bespoke shoes in a chi-chi part of town or buy from a ‘craft fair’ – facilitating artisanal capitalism.  It only varies in price and quality.

Is her closet full?  Will she wear it? How long will it last?  Will it go ‘out’ of fashion?  With ‘fast fashion’ it certainly will.  Will it ultimately go to a second hand store, become a rag, be thrown in the garbage and landfill, given to someone else or molder in the closet until death?   Which at that time the children have to dispose of in some way.
We all know this cycle.  It is in fact so ‘normal’ that we do not notice how actually abnormal it is.  Commodification extends into our very psychology.   Normality is the mask capital wears.

Wealthy women used to start women’s clothing boutiques, perhaps with their husband’s money, but now it is an avenue for the petit-bourgeois strata of women to earn money.  It was one of the first ways that women became business ‘owners.’  Now many other avenues are open and these businesses are really the root of the petit-bourgeois part of the womens’ movement.  This extends to women-owned ethnic businesses too.    
What is interesting is that the shopper is ultimately a passive ‘consumer.’  There is no need in this system to sew your own clothes, or to add or subtract to clothes in various ways, to enhance them - to have any imagination or creativity.  Sewing is a dying skill at present.  All is ‘off the shelf’ – the work is done by someone else.  The shopper is not active or creative or even skilled – except as to where to get the best price for the best item.  Shopping itself becomes a skill of sorts, which used to involve lots of driving and some walking, but which now maybe comes down to being internet-saavy.  In a way, it is a procedure of infantilization. 

The recent mass closing of department stores is a sign that shopping is becoming even more ubiquitous.  Department stores were originally a signal of the ‘democratization’ of clothing, as a variety of mass-produced clothing items could be bought at lower prices in central locations.  Now with shopping moving into the computer robot, every home has a ‘store’ installed in it, open 24 hours a day.  Stores are becoming fronts only. 
In a capitalist society, the ‘consumer’ is king and queen.  The worker is forgotten.  The environment is forgotten. But the real issue is why is the diner superior to the cook?  The coffee drinker a buck above the Starbucks barista?  The clothing buyer more important than the hidden seamstress?  The skilled worker less important than the consumer?  The land beneath the chemical dyes? Is it because of the ownership of a credit card, in which the banks then collect interest?  Of course that is it.  The credit card and shopping are almost like the banking carrot before the donkey.  Many people have been forced to use credit cards for essentials, so then it also becomes extortion by criminal syndicates called banks.

Consumerism is routinely denounced, but few have yet to grapple with the changes that an environmentally sustainable and labour-friendly economy would bring to this shopping house of cards.  Essentials would be taken care of – education, shelter, food, health, clothing.  But the production of goods would be decided by democratic means instead of market and profit means, by the ‘associated producers’ in factories and assemblies.  As such, many useless products would disappear… the ‘pet rocks’ of consumption.  Many marginally ‘different’ products would also disappear.  In the realm of fashion, people would enhance clothing by their own creativity to create fashion items, much as was done in the past.   That is the future or the future will not be.
Review of a book on a Marxist analysis of fashion, "Stitched Up."  Use blog search box, upper left. 

Toronto, Canada
May 30, 2017
Red Frog