Friday, October 30, 2015

Reading Herman Daly

This may be disjointed- perhaps I'll tweak it in time, but here are my notes on reading Herman Daly.

Daly piece

Economics goes through four stages of evolution- barter, currency for goods or service, investment or speculation- money for goods for money, and finally financial investment- money invested in money to beget money. As this last stage, in which we are living, creates value without creating goods or services, it increases the share of wealth controlled by the elite. The ability to get money just for having money- control of the means of production- means inequality will continue to grow worse. Daly also


There is an optimum scale for everything in economics, but economists don't acknowledge the finite nature of the resources we put through our system and turn into waste before depositing into what remains of the ecosystem. The entire system of our environment also has an optimum scale for the economy that forms part of it.

Most economists refer to economics and the market as a closed loop- value is created, transformed, moved around, remade, etc., but this only reflects value, not the finite resources that are consumed in the process. We can manipulate value- not the cold hard facts.

Growth (an increase in scale, where scale is population x per capita consumption) is touted as the solution to problems of the rich and poor alike, when we need to control our population and get more out of the resources we already consume, not consume more.

Our ecosystem regenerates the raw material inputs and absorbs the high entropy, unusable waste outputs of our economy, which is a subset of the ecosystem, not an independent entity.

Daly endorses the tradeable permit form of regulation, which forces businessmen to consider at least some of the value cost of polluting in making their decisions, but he is concerned about how these permits are to be distributed, as this system is more prone to speculation than is a carbon tax. If they are given ahead of time to existing polluters, the impact will be minimized and actually protect preexisting offenders, and if they are sold off to enrich the public coffers a la privatization, that opens the door to speculation. That said, we can set the maximum scale, and decide at least the original distribution, while the market allocates the remaining decisions. Personally I prefer carbon and methane taxes, but Daly makes a good case for this, and it could conceivably be less regressive.

But how does scale matter if the price is right, you ask? (And in the free market the price is always right). Well, in 1986 we were already using some 40% of the planet's surplus energy just to sustain ourselves. Our population has increased by half since that time. That's all available energy after plants sustain their own lives- we have extremely limited potential for growth left, yet that's all we want to do!

Most conventional economic models assume we are consuming value- which is more or less infinite, being created by human labor- but is only really meaningful if it is attached to material goods or services, which are more dependent on existing commodities.

Basic proposals: stop counting growth/consumption of natural capital as a positive- the GNP and GDP need to be seriously revised if not done away with

Tax resource throughput more than capital or income- how do we redistribute this?

The free flow of labor and goods, in addition to consuming more transportation actually limits our ability to solve the environmental crises we have created. In the absence of a binding international government, the only tools we have remotely equal to the task at hand are nationstates. We need to stop externalizing environmental costs through cheaper products, and actually pay the full cost of what is being consumed, i.e. an environmental tariff

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Explanation of missed post

Hallo, Genossinnen und Genossen!

Sorry for missing the regular post yesterday- I still intend to post the promised review of Herman Daly's theories tomorrow- but something came up: I've got a new job which has been very exciting over the past few days, and will tip the coverage here more towards local politics...  I'll say more later- right now I just struggled for 90 minutes to get my email to stop spontaneously switching to Spanish and refusing to switch back.  It's a personal failing, but I speak only English and German.  I think we've reached an uneasy ceasefire though, and the email account seems to be respecting it.  See you all tomorrow!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Review: Rosa Luxemburg- "Marxism or Leninism", and "The Russian Revolution"

Hallo, Genossinnen und Genossen!

I've been reading Rosa Luxemburg, and thought I'd prepare a bit of a piece discussing her points.

     Let's start with her critique of Lenin- Luxemburg values the spontaneity of the oppressed, saying that the existence of an oppressive structure inspires all needed leadership, and that a mass movement- the only kind she feels can succeed- cannot depend on centralized leadership, especially that of bourgeois-born failures like me, which is sort of the model Lenin advocates.

      In some ways we can see that her method may work- the 1918 revolution in Germany seems to have been pretty spontaneous, for all the groundwork she and Liebknecht laid or it- can anyone recommend a good comprehensive work on it? It's also worth noting that the only party leadership she had experience with, that of the German Social Democrats, was, shall we say, past its prime. Luxemburg's own party betrayed her and their principles both in endorsing the launch of World War I and in their refusal to participate in the 1918 revolution, which was spontaneously launched by revolutionary sailors and workers. Had the country's largest political party used their emergency powers granted by the military government before its abdication to establish a government of unions and soviets, history would look very different. Come to think of it, Luxemburg herself would have survived the revolution had the SPD done their duty. Though I wonder if she was cognizant of the irony that their (stated) reason for abstaining- the need to build democracy before Socialism, as if such a thing can really be done- was also her main critique of Lenin's agenda 13 years before!

     Her admonition to adhere to Marxist principles and not try to bring about socialism before the full development of European class relations seems somewhat flawed- not least because of the example of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, which would never have been countenanced from the strict reading she advocates.

     The reason of hers for opposing a vanguard party that strikes me as the most compelling is her contention that such a party is incapable of planning for change in circumstances, though useful in maximizing use and stability of the current situation- she hypothetically ponders a Germany where suffrage is rescinded, as effectively happened once the Nazi government passed its enabling acts, and the prescience is chilling. Both the SPD and the Communists- which grew out of the Spartacist Movement she helped to found – were purged by the Nazi government with tens of thousands of their members murdered, and were clearly poorly prepared to face down total repression. So the question is: could they have done differently? The SPD probably could have, while the KPD was nearly totally repressed by the Weimar authorities anyway- the Rot Front militia was pretty much wiped out by the 1932 presidential campaign from what I've read. So, does anyone have ideas? How could the SPD have saved the German Workers from Nazism after Luxemburg's death? If they were guilty of no more than a failure to unite, then Luxemburg's hairsplitting is indeed counterproductive.

     None of this is to excuse the conduct of the SPD during the war, or to belittle Genossin Luxemburg's antiwar activism. She remains a true heroine of our movement for defying militarism and fascism with her very life, and for her concern for human rights. I'm just not entirely sold on her theories yet. It's also telling that these were the writings of hers I was able to find in the public library of an American city- the focus on her in the west would  naturally be preoccupied with her criticism of the Soviet Union, to further marginalize that alternative to capitalism, so I intend to look for other writings of hers and let you know what I find!

Solidarität, Genossinnen und Genossen
Next up- Herman Daly!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bernie's Excellent Debate Performance

Hallo, Genossinnen und Genossen!

Before this week's post, I wanted to let you know about a new project- I'm trying to add in a brief piece dedicated to theory every Friday for a month, and see what that does to readership. This Friday you'll see my reflections on Rosa Luxemburg's “Leninism or Marxism” and “The Russian Revolution”.! We'll see if more discussion of ideas rather than events gets us back on the awesome track we enjoyed from April-September.

My apologies for not putting this up in a more timely manner, but it turned out to be a good thing I didn't- it meant I got to read CNN's poll from yesterday, which provides some much needed contextual good news!

Well, first, I'm transcribing my notes-

Webb: bomb Iran, not Syria or Libya, and China is mean and scary we should get ready to bomb them too. He also went out of his way to insult the BLM movement by saying “All Lives Matter”- as if whites like him and me face any of the same dangers our Black comrades do. He then went on to explain why we should let China and India make the first move on stopping world-threatening pollution. Seriously, if they allow him in the next debate it should only be to the podium rigged with a trap door below it. (Glad to hear he's dropping out- heheheh)

Clinton: Criticizing me for supporting our attack on Iraq is criticizing the president who picked me as Secretary of State! This seemed to be a refrain throughout the night- she's running as the heir apparent to Obama, which is reason enough to want Biden in the race

When it came to foreign policy, pretty much all O'Malley and Chafee could say was that they agree with Bernie- wars need to be a product of multilateral agreement, not adventurism.

There was a concerted effort to paint Sanders as a gun-lover, and he responded pretty gracefully I thought, calling for a partnership on issues of reform of gun laws, but that wasn't enough to stop a significant media backlash, unfortunately. Honestly, as long as we keep letting rural voters have 70 times the say of urban voters as the constitution requires, the “any gun, anywhere for any reason” dogma seems pretty firmly entrenched. Some BBC journalist wrote that the gun control debate ended after Sandy Hook: when we as a country decided that letting men play with guns was more important than protecting children's lives, the debate was over. I'm optimistic that if the Dems get one more term they can give the Supreme Court a shove though- after Heller there's not much cities or states can do to keep their people safe from the gun violence enthusiasts.

Sanders also presented himself successfully as the dove, and even managed to shake off mention of his application as a conscientious objector to the US occupation of southern Vietnam without betraying any principles- that really signals a passing of the torch to me- that candidates can be antiwar in their youth without being shamed.

Our Genosse also got in terrific lines on the naivete of those like Clinton who think they can motivate Wall Street Speculators to be kinder without changing the incentive structure. I generally think he did well at drawing some contrast without leaving himself open to charges of attacking Clinton, though I thought he should have pushed harder. Spoiler alert- according to CNN's polling, I was very wrong and Genosse Bernie's course of action was exactly right.

Finally, what I perceived as his best moment came when asked to name the greatest national security threat. Genosse Sanders was the only candidate to lead his answer with “Climate Change”. O'Malley listed it third I think. Sanders' focus on environmental safety isthe best reason I can think of to support him!

CNN polling reports that Sanders received a 5% boost in support since the debate, and that over 30% of Democrats watched at least part of it. Also critical is that while Clinton still holds leads on all issues they polled for among the general public and among Democrats, among those who watched the debate Bernie draws even with her on Climate Change and holds a commanding 15 point lead on income inequality. This is vital- so it looks like 1 in 5 of debate viewers switched to Bernie, (bringing us within 15 points of Clinton nationally for the first time), and that Sanders' commitment to breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and reinstating Glass-Steagal is better received than Clinton's nuanced attempts to prop up the vultures while posturing as their enemy. In a sentence: when people actually hear Bernie and Clinton side by side, Bernie starts to win!

Solidarität, Genossinnen und Genossen

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Practicing some good Red songs

Hallo, Genossinnen und Genossen.  It was inevitable, but today my vanity strikes at us all from Hell's heart.

By this I mean I'm posting videos of me practicing, recordings of my poor quality bassistship, poorer quality webcam, and even poorer quality voice

But I rather enjoy doing this and wanted to share it with you-viewership is down anyway so maybe this won't scare too many of you off.

The first one up there is a Puhdys song called "An den Ufern der Nacht"- on the shores of the night- it's actually apolitical (except for the leftists who wrote it and the Communist government who paid for it), but I haven't managed to master their political magnum opus (Frei wie die Geier) yet.

The lyrics translate as follows

When the evening draws silent and the day is at peace, I put aside the haste that almost burned me out
When you take some of the hours for yourself, then there's happily a lot to learn anew

On the shores of the night, the day stops pulling on me
Was it good, was it bad, did I really live?  Did it hold a dream for me?

When the evening draws silent and when I'm here with you
Light and shadow each have their own space
When the truth rises out of fog, and brings such tenderness with it,
For just a few hours time stops for us.

On the shores of the night, the day stops pulling on us
And we rest ourselves before we go farther on
Newly going further on.

These next two should be much more explicitly political:)


That one- second- Thälmann Battalion- was first recorded by Ernst Busch during a bombing raid as a show of defiance against the fascists, and exported around the world as a fundraiser for the Republic's cause.

Here's one in English, about the Americans who went to fight for the Republic in Spain.

Solidarität, Genossinnen und Genossen


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What this forum can be

Hello, Genossinnen und Genossen.

In September we set yet another record for webtraffic (over 500 reads), and I wanted to thank each of you for the time you take to read this little blog.  It means a lot to see people in twenty countries or more finding our thoughts interesting, and I want to welcome everyone from the United States (like me), the UK, Canada, Portugal- a fast growing sector for us!-, the Ukraine, Australia, Spain, Morocco, Croatia, Israel, France, Romania, Malaysia, the Phillipines, Japan, Singapore, Mexico, Russia, and die Bundesrepublik Deutschland to this site.

Over the last few months we've quadrupled our readership, and welcomed pieces from two dear friends of mine, broadening the topics and even the perspectives we bring to our dim light here.  I want to promise each of you that I'll keep a quality post coming every Wednesday until Socialism is achieved, but I'm not sure I'll be able to keep it.  Rest assured though, that every Wednesday until I run out of ideas- and as John Hodgman says, there is still some future and always more of the past left, I will post something.

Which brings me to today's topic- I know I like writing about politics and analyzing history and media through my distinctive lens.  Like it says in the tagline- it's a lens of the Old Left, as much as a feminist transwoman can be part of the Old Anything.  I know and you know I'm a Socialist and something of a Marxist, and I've written about what that means to me
 ( )

I may even be a Communist- I must confess that even after all my political science education I'm still unsure of a few things :), and even if I am, I remain uncertain if I'm a Trotskyist, a Leninist, or something else-maybe even a bit Peronist.  (Reasonably sure I'm not a Narodnik, Bakuninite, or Maoist, and I'm not cool enough to be a Luxemburgian).  Trying to read more theory and talk to Genosse Sam more to get those questions (and others) answered.  At the least I can tell you that I'm as Red as this post's background.

My point is- I think I know what I want to do here, but I really, really, really want your input on what you want to see here!  If just ten of you send in a message or a comment talking about what issues you want to see discussed, it would help so much in knowing where to go from here, what we should examine next, and how we can best serve the interests of our international and expanding readership.

I'm thrilled I've done such a good job of guessing your interests so far, but I'd like to do more than guess!- I want to hear what's important to some of you, and make this little red propaganda rag respond to your interests as well as mine!  Who's in?  Who wants me to write something in particular?

One-way communication isn't everything: if I'm to keep discussing these ideas, then please please please, comrades, please participate with us anyway you can!  (Though do keep reading too!)

Golidarität, Genossinnen und Genossen

Genossin Elise

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bobfest 2015: Two Missed Opportunities of Solidarity

Hello, Genossinnen und Genossen.

The weekend of the 19th, I (along with Genossin Jessie and Genosse Sam) attended Fighting Bobfest 2015- I've written extensively about the sorts of presentations there and how awesome the speeches are, even when we know we're in trouble.

Well, in some ways, this year was a really strong showing- Once and Future Senator Russ Feingold headlined, and made an excellent argument for his signature issue: ending the Citizens United regime of legalized bribery which is poisoning the frail remains of American Democracy.  Even knowing how high the money is piled against our efforts, it's obvious that Russ loves talking about it, and everything else- he really is fun to watch, and I look forward to seeing more of him.

It was also great to see Secretary of State Doug La Follette and Professor Nancy Unger again-

Professor Unger gave a great presentation on Belle La Follette and her Peace and Equal Rights work, still carried on by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, which she helped to found.  I highly encourage you to check both Unger and the WILPF out.  I'll post a more detailed analysis once I read Unger's new book.

Doug pointed out how alienated the working class tea partiers and evangelicals are from benefiting by the supply side cult they support, a classic example of what he has technically termed "bamboozlement", which has operated in this country for centuries.  It's been expressed in a variety of artful phrasings- Walker's own "Divide and Conquer", the villain's mantra from Gangs of New York- "You can always hire half of the poor to kill the other half" and deployed in so many situations, none more visibly than in race relations and social policy.

While depressing, this should encourage us in that the evil system of capitalism seems to require a divided society- achieved with  those tools of the ruling class: religion, racism and revision of the facts- to sustain itself.  

Of course, other systems of oppression have been tried and have been able to work with less reliance on any particular of these tools: for example, fascism, by reducing reliance on religion and pursuing economic policies less transparent in their hostility to workers, compensated for by increased central control and heightened racism, is rather different in its functioning but no less horrific, and this is precisely the menace of the Trump campaign.  But I digress.  (If you want me to explain why Trump is a fascist, let me know in the comments- for now I'd rather not discuss him further unless you want to see it).

This brings me to a sad point I want to document- this is the fourth consecutive year I've attended Fighting Bob Fest, and it keeps getting whiter and less diverse both in speakers and audience.  It's gone from having Wisconsin's two leading Black Progressive Politicians as featured speakers in 2012 to having one of them in 2013 to having a single speaker dedicated to the BLM movement in 2014 to... a bone white morning lineup with police brutality issues mentioned in passing by some speakers but mostly relegated to breakout sessions.  This is a gross failure of representation and solidarity.  Our comrades at the Progressive Magazine/FBF need to make sure Bobfest 2016 takes steps to reach out to all communities, both for the audience and for the lineup.  Moving the festival back to a major city (Madison) was a good but clearly insufficient step- if we are serious about rebuilding a leftist movement we need to work on all leftist concerns, and nothing is more leftist than equal dignity and safety under the law.  Why was there no special attention paid (at least in the first half of the day- I didn't stay for everything I admit) to the 6 Black men killed by the police every week?  This seems to be a growing blindspot for our comrades at FBF- we need to address that quickly.

Finally, South Korea's sex workers, endangered and cut off from social services by a decade of criminalization, are marching for legal recognition, allowing them to win better working conditions, increased safety and independence, and the full benefits of the law to protect them, not persecute them.  This is a tremendously important step- whether or not the practice is legal, prosecuting the prostitutes themselves can have no effect but to hurt the most vulnerable person involved and enable greater violence by johns and pimps.  Yet, according to Aljazeera, no other unions in the RoK have joined their march or even expressed support.

These two problems are clear examples of failures of our leftist movement: we cannot ignore the struggles of those who are different from us, or else we will continue to be divided and conquered.  All Workers and Allies must welcome all Workers into an inclusive United Front to have any chance of beating the Right and establishing a just society.

Genossin Elise