Subject: ON CLASSS CONSCIOUSNESS, AND 'ESPRIT DE CORPS,' AND THE LIMITS OF SOLIDARITY.
18 March 2012
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Most university teachers in the United States do not have tenure. It is what the French call la précarité, employees with limited-term contracts, usually a few months, sometimes a couple of years. These are the material conditions of the great majority of university teachers in America, and it is coming to Europe. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand what effect this relationship has on the quality of classroom teaching. Insecurity dampers creativity and initiative, and breads servility; for the few courageous pécaire it often ends in abrupt unemployment.
The scientific understanding on the part of the ruling class must be obvious to anyone who cares to look: if you control the environment, you control the behavior of the populations living in that environment. . . . The indirect bourgeois control over people is what we are actually living in this late capitalist period; this is the prize real socialists want in our own hands. The goal, in addition to promoting genuine humanist values, must incorporate the seizure of political power to take control of the important institutions within our environment. This must be done democratically and on the local level, because it is at the local level that ordinary people are in constant contact with the increasingly violent forms of social control. If we do not act locally, our strategies become empty abstractions –fantasies with no real connection to reality, with no tactics to make them come true.
The analogy of a classic experiment in animal psychology is well know :
A group of rats is placed on an electric grid and the
voltage is slowly increased. After a while the rats feel
the burning tingle in their feet. The experimenters up
the voltage somemore, and watch the rats dance and bite
The experimenters are seeking knowledge, and the rat's
pain is presumably worth it. The experimenters don't blame
the rats for fighting each other, or punish the more
aggressive ones. They know that individuals react to pain
in different ways.
Now picture the economic terrain as a different kind of pain
grid. Instead of electric shocks,the inhabitants experience
job loss, higher prices, less pay, overwork, polluted
neighborhoods and so no. ontrolling the grid are not
psychologists, but CEOs and bankers. Instead of knowledge,
they are seeking profit. And so they up the pain, but not
because they want to hurt people. They are really trying
to up their profits, and the pain is a side effect.
After a while people on the grid do nasty things to each
other, everything from domestic violence to immigrant-bashing
to crime. Unlike the rats, people get blamed for their misbehavior.
We are told to point our fingers at the victims on the grid,
instead of at the economic rulers who keep increasing the pain.
You'd think that the CEOs and bankers would ease up on the pain,
but think again. They continue to demand more sacrifice from
the poor, knowing full well how they react.
Would you call this a big conspiracy? Or the sum of many
small conspiracies? Maybe it doesn't matter that much. I'm
not a mind reader. The point is, the economic rulers pursue
their profits and they know the consequences.
So to that extent, they are choosing to inflict pain.
-cited by William Blum in Killing Hope.
Rats may have fantasies, but they do not have class consciousness; they do not understand that there exists a class of animals which is controlling the temperature of their cage from the outside and studying the results by carefully observing the irrational responses inside the cage, for their own very rational objectives, i.e. academic promotions and prestige. The relationships within the cage might become comparable to the creation of an esprit de corps, if the rats go collectively wild, chasing after those stigmatized rats that began early to receive abuse; by ganging up on a victim the rats can temproarily create a bond; this "solidarity" in going after the scape goat might momentarily serve some advantage, like relief from feeling their own pain. In this case what develops is not exactly a “pecking order,” but rather a “gang bang,” one rat after another is mutilated and destroyed by acts of canabalism as the “body” of rats seek emotional relief without ever thinking of changing their objective situation, which is beyond their reach.
An alternative to such distructive and superficial behavior, in human society, is creating a Planned Economy, where the old power elite is kept at bay by force, and political and economic power is in the hands of ordinary people who have regained their faculty of reason, and have learned the skills of working together democratically for the benefit of all, and not solely for their own individual advantage or for the approval of some privileged master in whose interests they are employed.
The 7 items below should inform CEIMSA readers about the new levels of class struggle that can be observed around us. Without such notions and concepts, without these categories and words describing social class relations, we are left like the rats depicted above, in a cage helplessly dancing on an electric grid and mindlessly going after a designated scapegoat for momentary relief, all the time knowing in some part of our brain that our turn will come, that we, too, can be used to relieve the pain of others. A perverse form of solidarity, indeed . . . !
Item A., from San Diego community organizer, Monty Kroopkin, is a short article in preparation for the May Fist Demonstration in San Diego, California.
Item B., from TruthOut, is a report by Barbara Ehrenreich on “How We Cured ‘the Culture of Poverty,’ Not Poverty Itself.”
Item C., from TruthOut, is an article by Nomi Prins on Greg Smith's resignation from Goldman Sachs.
Item D., from Reader Supported News, is an article by Matt Taibbi on “J.P. Morgan Chase's Ugly Family Secrets . . . .”
Item E., from Reader Supported News, is an article by Benjamin Busch discussing Afghanistan and murders within the massacres: Who Is The Guilty Party?
Item F., from Jim O’Brien is a list of suggested readings from Historians Against War.
Item G., sent to us by George Kenney, founder of ElectricPolitics, is his podcast interview with Winslow Wheeler on “Dishonest Pentagon Budget Numbers.”
And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers a short video from the March 16 broadcast of Democracy Now!, describing the positivist science of psychology at war . . .
In a new film, psychologist and filmmaker Jan Haaken embeds with military therapists in Afghanistan and at their training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord — where the alleged U.S. shooter of Afghan civilians is from. . . . "The military has relied quite extensively on therapists to kind of help hold people together psychologically in war zones," Haaken says. "But they have to show that they are efficiency multipliers, force multipliers — in other words, that they can help the military get more out of their fatigued assets."
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Monty Kroopkin :
Date: 15 March 2012
Subject: In Preparation for the May First Demonstrations in San Diego, California.
The article is also posted at the Occupy San Diego Labor Solidarity Committee website at
Please forward widely to co-workers, family and friends.
from TruthOut :
Date: 9 March 2012
Subject: Making money the easy way.
Fifty years later, a new discovery of poverty is long overdue. This time, we'll have to take account not only of stereotypical Skid Row residents and Appalachians, but of foreclosed-upon suburbanites, laid-off tech workers, and America's ever-growing army of the working poor. And if we look closely enough, we'll have to conclude that poverty is not, after all, a cultural aberration or a character flaw. Poverty is a shortage of money.
"How We Cured 'the Culture of Poverty,' Not Poverty Itself"
by Barbara Ehrenreichm
from TruthOut :
Date: 14 March 2012
Subject: The New Goldman Sachs Scandale.
Today, I have received dozens of media requests and hundreds of emails regarding former Goldman Sachs executive Greg Smith's gutsy, and internationally resonating, public resignation. I applaud Smith's decision to bring the nature of Goldman's profit-making strategies to the forefront of the global population's discourse, as so many others have been doing through books, investigative journalism, and the Occupy movements over the past decade since my book, Other People's Money, was written after I resigned from Goldman.
"Nomi Prins Responds to Greg Smith's Goldman Resignation"
by Nomi Prins
From Reader Supported News :
Date: 14 March 2012
Subject: J.P. Morgan Chase's Ugly Family Secrets Revealed.
In a story that should be getting lots of attention, American Banker has released an excellent and disturbing expose of J.P. Morgan Chase's credit card services division, relying on multiple current and former Chase employees. One of them, Linda Almonte, is a whistleblower whom I've known since last September.
From Reader Supported News :
Date: 16 March 2012
Subject: Murder Within the Massacres: Who Is The Guilty Party?
Sixteen Afghan civilians have been killed, in their homes, under our protection. One man acting alone we are quick to say. And it's probably true. An Army of one. But that one man is one of us.
WE SENT HIM
by Benjamin Busch
from Jim O’Brien :
firstname.lastname@example.org; on behalf of; Jim O'Brien [email@example.com] :
Date: 8 March 2012
Subject: Suggested readings from Historians Against War.
Links to Recent Articles of Interest :
"Iran in the Crosshairs Again"
By Phyllis Bennis, Portside.org, posted March 5
"Are We Headed for a Bay of Pigs in Iran?"
By Gary Sick, CNN Opinion, posted March 5
The author served on the National Security Council staff in the Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations
"How Empires Fall (Including the American One"
Interview with Jonathan Schell, TomDispatch.com, posted March 1
"We Can Live with a Nuclear Iran"
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/marchapril_2012/features/we_can_live_with_a_nuclear_ira035772.php By Paul Pillar, Washington Monthly, March-April issue
The author was the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005
"Blown Away: How the U.S. Fanned the Flames in Afghanistan"
By Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse, TomDispatch.com, posted February 28
"A Letter to Other Occupiers: What is to be Done Next"
By Staughton Lynd, ZNet, posted February 28
"The Mossad Has Long Given Marching Orders to AIPAC"
By Grant Smith, antiwar.com, posted February 28
"North Korea's Dynastic Succession"
By Bruce Cumings, Asia-Pacific Journal, posted February 27
The author teaches history at the University of Chicago
"The Untold War Story - Then and Now: Going Beyond the Story of a Boy and His Horse"
By Adam Hochschild, TomDispatch.com, posted February 26
"The American Century Is Over - Good Riddance"
By Andrew Bacevich, History News Network, posted February 20
Thanks to Rosalyn Baxandall, Sam Lowe, and Mim Jackson for suggesting articles that are included in the above list. Suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
from George Kenney :
Date: 16 March 2012
Subject: Podcast interview re dishonest Pentagon budget numbers w/ Winslow Wheeler.
The Pentagon recently released its proposed 2013 budget. The problem is, as usual, that the Pentagon doesn't count large categories of spending which, conceptually, should be counted within the military budget. Things like the cost of building nuclear bombs. Or military health care. Reputable foreign organizations that track world military spending -- like IISS or SIPRI -- aren't fooled. Their estimates run about 50% higher than what the U.S. officially declares. But, to be fair, the real level of U.S. military spending is actually much higher still: about twice what the Pentagon and the White House say it is, or about one trillion dollars. Trillion, with a "t." That's about 7% of GDP, or four to five times what other industrial states spend. It's mind-boggling. It's outrageous… What's even worse is that the Pentagon budget is deliberately intended to fool Americans into assuming our spending is unobjectionable…
To talk about this situation I turned once again to Winslow Wheeler, who had worked on U.S. military budgets for over thirty years within government and who for the past ten years has been a critical voice of conscience outside government. Very few people know these numbers as well as Winslow does. And as he says, the first step in deciding what we want is to be informed.
If you like the podcast please forward the link.
Thanks for listening!
"Dishonest Pentagon Budget Numbers: An Interview with Wislow Wheeler"