Subject: ON WHY THE RULING CLASS TOLERATES NATIONAL ELECTIONS.
20 April 2012
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
To rule and to govern are not identical activities. The ruling class rules by establishing inviolable rules, and “governors” govern by operating within the constraints of these rules. It is the job of the police and the military; the law-makers and judges to govern society, and they do so within the framework imposed on society by the ruling class. If the “governors” (including the lawmakers) fail to follow the constraints created by the ruling class, they are soon displaced. In his four-volume work, Science in History (1954), J.D. Bernal points out convincingly that as a practice used to stabilize social relationships in a class-divided society (i.e. to assure the social continuity of economic and political inequalities), religious dogma replaced the use of magic in antiquity, and the social sciences replaced the function of religious institutions in the bourgeois era.
The stability of the ruling class can be seen today in the election process. To vote in national elections is an activity wholly inside the rules of capitalist-class-controlled society. Voting is an individual expression of preference –“one man, one vote”—and as such, it does not represent a threat to ruling class power over the social structure: some “governors” may be replaced, but new ones will continue to function within the framework of the capitalist political economy, reading the rules correctly and obeying them as if their life depended on it, which it does. The laws and the courts; the police and the military --all will continue to embody these invisible rules within the framework imposed by the ruling class, rules which are quite consistent according to the situations which arise. Social class formations, in contrast to individual voting behaviors, are another matter; any challenge to ruling class hegemony by one or more social classes would be a challenge to the existing rules and would have to be met as such. It is a struggle for social survival.
I’m old enough to remember, the US presidential elections of 1972, when George McGovern (Senator from South Dakota) ran against the incumbent Richard Nixon. McGovern, the Democratic Party candidate, campaigned for (among other reforms) a “negative income tax,” by which he meant a simplified, and super-efficient progressive tax which would redistribute wealth in the United States by taxing the rich and transferring this money directly to low-income families. A direct cash transfer from rich families to poor families would assure a minimum income for all Americans and at the same time eliminate the cost of Welfare bureaucracies. In 1972, the ruling class was insufficiently unified to oppose such a measure, and the proposal made a national appearance for the first time in a presidential campaign. McGovern lost miserably, and several months later Nixon was forced out of office. Despite the failure of this confrontation we can see from it that the concept of “negative income tax” was not perceived by all members of the ruling class to be incompatible with capitalism. The understanding that by putting more cash in the hands of the poor consumer activity would increase was evident to any capitalist not blinded by a “Social Darwinism.”
Elections lost, stolen and strayed is the political history of the United States. A small ruling class can be expected to do anything necessary to keep power and maintain control their “governors” over society –unobtrusively, if possible, by setting the agenda and framing the rules and regulations; violently, if it is necessary, by strategic assassinations and psychological warfare.
Arnold Hauser discusses the social influences of art in his study, The Social History of Art(1951). Romanticism, for example, had a strong influence on the populations of Central and Western Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. “[A] distinction was made, in accordance with the real situation, between an early and a later phase both in German and French and in English romanticism,”
a romanticism of the first and another of the second generation. It was ascertained that the development followed different directions in Germany and Western Europe and that German romanticism proceeded from its originally revolutionary attitude to a reactionary standpoint, whereas Western romanticism proceeded from a monarchist-conservative point of view to liberalism. This account of the situation was intrinsically correct, but it did not prove to be particularly fruitful for the task of defining romanticism. The characteristic feature of the romantic movement was not that it stood for a revolutionary or an anti-revolutionary, a progressive or a reactionary ideology, but that it reached both positions by a fanciful, irrational and undialectical route. Its evolutionary enthusiasm was based just as much on ignorance of the ways of the world as its conservatism, its enthusiasm for the “Revolution, Fichte, and Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister” was just as ingenuous, just as remote from an appreciation of the real motives behind the historical issues, as its frenzied devotion to the Church and the Crown, to chivalry and feudalism. . . . .
A realist is man who knows he is fighting for his own interests and when he is making concessions to those of others; and a dialectician is one who is aware that the historical situation at any given moment consists of a complex of different irreducible motives and tasks. Despite all his appreciation of the past, the romantic judges his own time unhistorically, undialectically; he does not grasp that it stands midway between the past and the future and represents an indissoluble conflict of static and dynamic elements.
Goethe’s definition, according to which romanticism embodies the principle of disease . . . gains a new significance and a new confirmation in the light of modern psychology. For, if romanticism, in fact sees only one side of a total situation fraught with tension and conflict, if it always considers only one factor in the dialectic of history and stresses this at the expense of the other, if, finally, such a one-sidedness, such an exaggerated, over-compensating reaction, betrays a lack of spiritual balance, then romanticism can rightly be called ‘diseased.’ Why should one exaggerate and distort things, if one does not feel disturbed and frightened by them? ‘Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be; why then should we wish to be deceived”’ says Bishop Butler, and thereby gives the best description of the serene and ‘healthy’ eighteenth-century sense of reality with its aversion to all illusion. From this realistic point of view, romanticism always seems a lie, a self-deception, which, as Nietzsche says in reference to Wagner, ‘does not want to conceive antitheses as antitheses,’ and shouts the loudest about what it doubts the most profoundly. The escape to the past is only one form of romantic unreality and illusionism –there is also as escape into the future, into Utopia. What the romantic clings to is, in the final analysis, of no consequence, the essential thing is his fear of the present and of the end of the world.
Romanticism was not only of epoch-making importance, it was also aware of its importance. It represented one of the most decisive turning points in the history of the European mind, and it was perfectly conscious of its historical role. . . . The rationalism that had been steadily progressing since the Renaissance, and was given a position of dominating importance in the whole civilized world by the enlightenment, suffered the most painful setback in its history. Never since the dissolution of the supernaturalism and traditionalism of the Middle Ages has reason, alertness and sobriety of mind, the will to and the capacity for self-control, been spoken of with such contempt. ‘Those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained’ –as is said even by Blake ….
Rationalism as a principle of science and practical affairs, soon recovered from the romantic onslaught, but European art has remained ‘romantic.’ Romanticism was not merely a universal European movement, seizing one nation after another and creating a universal literary language which was finally just as intelligible in Russia and Poland as in England and France, it also proved to be one of those trends which, like the naturalism of the Gothic or the classicism of the Renaissance, have remained a lasting factor in the development of art. There is, in fact, no product of modern art, no emotional impulse, no impression or mood of the modern man, which does not owe its delicacy and variety to the sensitiveness which developed out of romanticism. The whole exuberance, anarchy and violence of modern art, its drunken, stammering lyricism, its unrestricted, unsparing exhibitionism, is derived from it. And its subjective, egocentric attitude has become so much a matter of course for us, so absolutely inevitable, that we find it impossible to reproduce even an abstract train of thought without talking about our feelings. The intellectual passion, the fervor of reason, the artistic productivity of rationalism have been so completely forgotten that we are only able to understand classical art itself as the expression of romantic feeling. . . . .
The whole nineteenth century was artistically dependent on romanticism, but romanticism itself was still a product of the eighteenth century and never lost the consciousness of its transitional and historically problematical character. . . . It is unmistakable that the romantic experience of history gives expression to a psychotic fear of the present and an attempt to escape into the past. But no psychosis has ever been more fruitful. Romanticism owes its historical sensitivity and clairvoyance, its feeling for relationship, however remote and however difficult to interpret. Without this hypersensitiveness, it would hardly have succeeded in restoring the great historical continuities of culture, in marking the boundary between modern culture and classical antiquity, in recognizing in Christianity the great dividing line in the history of the West and discovering the common ‘romantic’ nature of all the individualistic, reflective, problematical cultures derived from Christianity.(Vol. 3, pp. 164-168)
Until the romantic movement movement the concept of culture had been dependent on the idea of the subordinate rôle of the human mind; no matter whether the world-view of the moment happened to be of an ecclesiastical-ascetic, a secular-heroic, or an aristocratic-absolutist nature, the mind had always been considered a means to an end and had never seemed to pursue immanent aims of its own. It was only after the dissolution of the earlier ties, after the disappearance of the feeling of the absolute nullity of the mind in relation to the divine order and its relative nullity in relation to the ecclesiastical and secular hierarchy, that is, after the individual had been referred back to himself, that the idea of intellectual autonomy became conceivable. It was in harmony with the philosophy of economic and political liberalism, and remained current until socialism created the idea of anew obligation and historical materialism again abolished the autonomy of the mind. This autonomy was, therefore, like the individualism of romanticism, the result and not the cause of the conflict which shook the foundations of eighteenth century society. Neither of these ideas was absolutely new, but this was the first time that the individual had been incited to revolt against society and against everything that stood between him and his happiness.(Vol. 3, pp178-179)
If one describes romanticism as ‘hospital-poetry,’ as Goethe did, that is certainly to do it a great injustice, but a revealing injustice . . . . For the romantic disease is again only an escape from the rational mastery of the problems of life, and being ill only a pretext for withdrawing from the duties of daily routine. If one maintains that the romantics were ‘diseased,’ one has not said very much; but the statement that the philosophy of disease constituted an essential element of their world-view implies a good deal more. For them disease represented the negation of the ordinary, the normal, the reasonable and contained the dualism of life and death, nature and non-nature, continuance and dissolution, which dominated their whole conception of life. It meant the depreciation of everything sharply defined and abiding, and was in accordance with their hatred for all limitations, all solid and definite form.
The political conversion of romanticism in Germany from liberalism to the monarchist-conservative point of view, the opposite trend of development in France and in England . . . was possible only because romanticism had an equivocal relationship to the Revolution and was at all time ready to change over to the opposite of its previous attitude. . . . It was only during the Napoleonic Wars that the ruling classes succeeded in winning over the romantics to the side of reaction. . . . The poets thought of the Revolution as a great philosophical discussion, the holders of power regarded it as a mere play that, in their opinion, could never become a reality in Germany. This lack of understanding explains the complete change that comes over the whole nation after the Wars of Liberation. . . . The initial romanticization of the Revolution only brings about an all the more violent repudiation and results in the identification of romanticism with the Restoration. At the time when the romantic movement reached its really creative and revolutionary phase in the West, there was no longer a single romantic in Germany who had not transferred his allegiance to the conservative and monarchist camp. Vol. 3, pp.182-185)
All European artists by the 19th century were expected to have a political opinion, which would place them in a protective camp. « Les royalistes sont romantiques, les libéraux classiques . . . . Si vous êtes éclectiques vous n’aurez personne pour vous. » observed Balzac in Illusion Perdues (1836-1843).
The 10 items below should help CEIMSA readers to differentiate “governors” from “rulers,” and, while by all means voting against the “lesser evil,” to understand at the same time the structural limitations to radical change in any political economy. From such an understanding strategies, tactics and logistics should evolve . . . .
Item A., from Jim Hightower, is a short article on the dictatorship of finance capitalists in America and around the world.
Item B., from George Kenney, the founder of Electric Politics, is an interview with Dr. Ralph E. Gomory on the fallacy of “free trade.”
Item C., from The Nation magazine is a report by Matt Stroud on US prisoners committing suicide.
Item D., from Truth Out, is an article by Danny Weil on private school fraud in the United States.
Item E., from AVAAZ, is an article on the Uzbekistan's President’s policy of sterilizing women.
Item F., from Reader Supported News, is an article by Henry Banta on class struggle in the United States today.
Item G., from Jim O’Brien is a list of suggested readings from Historians Against War.
Item H., from The Nation magazine, is a video interview with Jeremy Scahill on the continuation of political assassinations by US drones.
Item I., from Madhu Benoit, is a grim synopsis of the political record of the “Old Regime” on the eve of the first round of national elections in France.
Item J., from If Americans Knew, is a call to responsible political action in reply to the 64th anniversary of Israel.
And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers a short video from Paul on “urban homesteading" in Los Angeles county today :
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Jim Hightower :
Date: 13 April 2012
Subject: In Preparation for the May First Demonstrations in San Diego, California.
Woody Guthrie wrote a song titled "Jolly Banker," a perfect-pitch parody of the propensity of Depression-era bankers to feel good about gouging their small borrowers.
From George Kenney :
Date: 20 April 2012
Subject: The fallacy of “Free Trade.”
from The Nation :
Date: 19 April 2012
Subject: US Prisoners committing suicide.
A DOJ probe into the mental health program at a medium security prison could put solitary confinement on trial.
Why Are Prisoners Committing Suicide in Pennsylvania?
by Matt Stroud
from TruthOut :
Date: 20 April 2012
Subject: Private Education fraud in the USA.
The only way to describe $89,000 for a four-year degree with non-transferable credits from a non-academic college is as a fraud and a swindle, and that characterization possibly fails to convey the frustration and downright victimization students like Washington must feel. Like subprime mortgages, for-profit colleges are a scam driven by payment of commissions to sales staff known as recruiters. The payment of commissions to high-pressure salespeople is so central to the scam that the umbrella trade group for for-profits, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), has sued the federal government to overturn its ban on incentive pay.
Bipartisan Political Elite Implicated in For-Profit Education Fraud
by Danny Weil
From AVAAZ :
Date: 20 April 2012
Subject: Attack on Women by US ally, Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan's President is forcing doctors to cut out women's uteruses without their knowledge or consent to promote "birth control" across the country. It’s a vile and bloody crime against women being orchestrated by an odious dictator, and now is the time for it to end.
Uzbekistan's Karimov is one of the world’s worst dictators, he’s even boiled opposition activists alive. Yet he’s propped up by millions of dollars from the US government who pay him for military transport across the country. This latest round of brutality, this time against his country’s women, has turned the global spotlight on this monster. Let’s use this awful moment to persuade his biggest backer to ditch him.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can cut him off. She has already publicly condemned Karimov for human rights abuses and this most recent assault on women's rights - a topic she champions - only ups the stakes. Sign the petition below calling on Clinton to end Karimov's reign and stop the brutal attack on women:
Activists estimate tens or even hundreds of thousands of women were sterilised secretly when they went into the hospital for a routine procedure or to give birth -- waking up with no idea that their uterus has just been removed. One Uzbek gynecologist admitted, 'Every doctor is told...how many women are to be sterilised ... my quota is four women a month'. The use of arbitrary arrest and torture is so widespread that women don’t speak out for fear of reprisals, and foreign journalists and human rights activists are routinely thrown out of the country.
It doesn’t have to be like this -- the US could play hardball with Karimov, who relies on the steady flow of money from transit to Afghanistan to fund his lavish lifestyle. The human rights horror show in Uzbekistan has gone under the radar for years -- but we have a real chance to break the silence now, using the explosive BBC report that details forced sterilisations, and stand with the brave Uzbek women who have dared to tell their stories in the face of stunning oppression.
The human rights horror show in Uzbekistan has gone under the radar for years -- but we have a real chance to break the silence now, using the explosive BBC report, and stand with the brave Uzbek women who have dared to tell their stories in the face of stunning oppression.
Join the call for a first victory for the good guys in the war on women -- sign the petition to Clinton and forward to everyone:
Time and again, Avaaz members have stood up for the rights of women around the world. Let’s join together now and remind the US that opting for human rights or national interest is a false choice -- and that we’ll continue the fight for women's rights wherever they are threatened.
With hope and determination,
Stephanie, Pedro, Morgan, David, Emma, Dennis, Lisa, Wissam and the rest of the Avaaz team
Uzbekistan's policy of secretly sterilising women, BBC:
Doctors in Uzbekistan Say Government Forcibly Sterilizing Women, PRI:
Uzbek crackdown on activists widens:
U.S. Suspends Ban On Military Assistance To Uzbekistan
Clinton criticizes Uzbekistan's human rights record, CNN:
From Reader Supported News :
Date: 19 April 2012
Subject: Class Struggle in the USA.
Banta writes: "The difference between the extremely rich - the top 0.1% - and all the rest of us has turned into something with the potential for destroying the fabric of our society and reducing our democracy to a hollow shell."
For Class Warfare, There's the 1%, and Then There's the 0.1%
by Henry Banta
from Jim O’Brien :
Date: 8 March 2012
Subject: Suggested readings from Historians Against War.
Links to Recent Articles of Interest
"Report on Iran's Nuclear Fatwa Distorts Its History"
By Gareth Porter, AntiWar.com, posted April 18
"A Black Indian March for Peace, 1861-1862"
By William Loren Katz, Portside.org, posted April 16
"Why Washington's Iran Policy Could Lead to Global Disaster: What History Should Teach Us about Blockading Iran"
By Juan Cole, TomDispatch.com, posted April 12
The author teaches history at the University of Michigan.
"The Afghan Syndrome: Vietnam Has Left Town, Say Hello to the New Syndrome on the Block"
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com, posted April 10
"U.S. Military Atrocities Abroad"
By Ambeth R. Ocampo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, posted April 10
Relates the U.S.-Philippine War to Vietnam and Afghanistan
"Heard the One about the Peace Activist on the Titanic?"
By David Swanson, War Is a Crime.org, posted April 9
"Left Behind: What We Lost in Iraq and Washington, 2009-2012"
By Peter Van Buren, TomDispatch.com, posted April 8
"Waist Deep in Big Muddy, Again?"
By Mark Solomon, Portside.org, posted April 7
"Thinking the Unthinkable on Iran"
By Jonathan Schell, The Nation, posted April 6
"Our Men in Iran?"
By Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker blog, posted April 6
Thanks to Jim Swarts, Rosalyn Baxandall, and Sam Lowe for suggesting articles included in the above list. Suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
from The Nation :
Date: 16 March 2012
Subject: Targeted killings by Drones.
Which is the scariest? Targeted assassinations, the fact that Congress can no longer prevent them, or the fact that Congress doesn't seem to care about the loss of oversight? In this episode from VideoNation, author and Nation writer Jeremy Scahill explains the steps taken by the Bush administration and extended by the Obama administration to circumvent Congress and carry out targeted killings.
Who Approves the Drones?
by Jeremy Scahill
From Madhu Benoit :
Date: 20 April 2012
Subject: The record of the “Old Regiem” in France on the eve of the national elections.
I'm sending you a 'bilan presidentiel' prepared by my husband (former Regional Director AFP) - I thought you might find it interesting on this election's eve.
En piochant ici et là dans la presse, en consultant les statistiques, on parvient tout de même à glaner quelques informations sur ce qui préoccupe le plus les Français : l’emploi et l’évolution du pouvoir d’achat , la santé et l’avenir des institutions (santé-éducation-retraite, par exemple). Et quelques éléments sur ce qui se passe.
Pour clarifier les choses donc :
VOICI LE BILAN POUR LE QUINQUENAT QUI SE TERMINE
(Source INSEE, articles des journaux, du Monde au Figaro, en passant par Libération et le Canard Enchaîné, et ce que l’on trouve sur internet.)
Depuis mai 2007
Voilà donc ce qu’à produit la politique qui devait libérer les forces vives de l’économie.
Sur un plan plus symbolique
Les atteintes à l’Etat républicain.
Le bilan du quinquennat est beaucoup plus positif sur le plan des atteintes à l’Etat républicain et aux institutions. Un ancien vice-président du Medef expliquait, il n’y a pas si longtemps, que le meilleur moyen de libérer l’économie française était d’en finir avec le programme du CNR (Conseil national de la résistance), élaboré pendant l’occupation par les organisations de résistants, qui représentaient tout l’éventail politique. En somme de se soumettre au libéralisme, au laisser faire, avec le moins d’Etat possible.
Adopté le 15 mars 1944, appliqué dès la libération du territoire, le programme comprend le rétablissement du suffrage universel et de la loi des quarante-heures, les nationalisations des compagnies de gaz et d’électricité, des compagnies d’assurance, la généralisation de la sécurité sociale et des retraites. En bref le modèle français, où le secteur public est puissant.
Bilan du quinquennat (non exhaustif) :
- restauration des privilèges (bouclier fiscal et autres);
- attaques constantes contre le code de travail, pour retirer une à une toutes les protections qui garantissent un juste traitement de l'employé;
- réformes en rafales de la justice dans le but évident d'avoir une justice à la botte, impitoyable pour les petits, pleine de mansuétude pour les grands;
- démantèlement de l'université, pour confier ce secteur au privé, confessionnel de préférence, et accessoirement pour créer une éducation à deux vitesses; poubelle pour la majorité des citoyens, conduisant droit à l'emploi pour les fils et filles de nantis. Les premiers se retrouveront dans la catégorie main d'œuvre bon marché ou dans celle de chômeurs potentiels. Accessoirement encore, réduction à la portions congrue des humanités, le terreau de toute pensée nouvelle (1);
- réforme et désorganisation de l’Agence nationale pour l’emploi ;
- réforme à coups de mensonges et d'analyses biaisées de la sécurité sociale , qui fond comme peau de chagrin, dans le but de confier finalement ce secteur ultra-juteux aux puissances de l'argent;
- affaiblissement de secteur hospitalier ;
- réforme des retraites (même schéma que la sécurité sociale).
il s'agit de la plus dévastatrice attaque jamais montée contre la culture républicaine, contre la culture française, contre l'équité (égalité, fraternité - aujourd’hui on dirait ‘solidarité’). C'est une tentative de soumission, un retour à l'ancien régime.
D'autant qu'elle a été doublée, çà et là, à coups d'obscurs articulets de loi, dissimulés dans des masses de régulations qui leur sont étrangères, ouvrant la porte à l'autoritarisme et la chasse à toute déviance idéologique à l'ultralibéralisme.
La hausse de la TVA sur le livre, de 5,5 à 7% au 1er janvier 2012 procède de la même guerre contre la culture.
Le président n’avait aucun mandat pour mener ces attaques à la hussarde ; réélu il en aurait un de fait pour les poursuivre et les amplifier.
On voit donc qu’il s’agit moins de choisir un président de droite ou de gauche que de sauver la République.
Et les Français aurons bien besoin d’une république inébranlable dans les années à venir, car le loup est déjà dans la bergerie. Le loup, c’est le Fonds Monétaire International (FMI), qui, après avoir grandement contribué dans les dernières décennies au pillage du tiers monde, a désormais jeté son dévolu sur l’Europe. La Grèce ; l’Espagne et l’Italie sont déjà soumis aux règles d’airain de l’ultra libéralisme : démantèlement du secteur public, suppression du filet social. Le patronat, de tout temps s’est toujours plaint des règles sociales ; on le comprend, leur suppression profite aux plus riches comme on peut le voir dans le monde entier, des Etats-Unis à la Chine.
La France, sans son triple A et lourdement endettée va bientôt voir venir son tour. Reste que pour un temps encore les Français peuvent voter et choisir leur destin. Mais même en choisissant bien ils devront rester mobiliser et offrir une résistance résolue au démantèlement de la république.
Et souvenez-vous que 2012 est l’année du tricentenaire de la naissance de Jean-Jacques Rousseau. De son temps aussi, le règne des puissants semblait inébranlable et leurs mensonges étaient tout aussi grossiers que ceux qu’ils profèrent aujourd’hui. Nous lui devons la démocratie et la république, nous lui devons aussi de la conserver.
From If Americans Knew Action :
Date : 20 April 2012
Subject : The 64th Anniversary of the Imperialist conquest of Palestine.
With the founding of Israel on May 14, 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes, never to be allowed to return. Hundreds of towns were razed; villagers were massacred. Their very existence on the land was nearly wiped from history.
Commemorate that catastrophe by informing your communities about this core injustice that remains so central to the ongoing conflicts in Palestine/Israel and around the Middle East.
Order our "Nakba Pack" or "Nakba Pack Lite" to give people in your community the facts!