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Jun-02-2010 14:52printcomments

A Few Good Communists?

As long as our society is divided into false political factions, we will never have the social consensus that gives rise to a just rule of law.


(EUGENE, Ore.) - Chris Hedges is an author and journalist whose work is in many cases intelligent and provocative. His latest column published at truthdig is entitled This Country Needs a Few Good Communists.

This piece demonstrates, if Chris Hedges is the “conscience” of the “authentic” liberal elite, just how flawed and failed “left”/”liberal”/”progressive” thought is amongst that group.

Hedges asserts and builds his article around the idea that “hope in this age of bankrupt capitalism will come with the return of the language of class conflict.”

To the contrary, both the language and practice of class conflict are very much alive and well in this country, and it is in fact this ideology of class conflict that is at the root of many of our society’s pressing problems.

The use of class conflict and anti-capitalist propaganda and ideology has been effective as a political tool in the past, but it has been massively ineffective in delivering any demonstrable results in terms of improved social conditions.

Historically, the typical outcome of inciting people to violence on the basis of class conflict has been that once society is destabilized, the mass of the population organizes itself into classes based not on wealth or property ownership, but on race and ethnicity.

This outcome is obvious in retrospect, because while money and property ownership are intangible and ephemeral ideas, race as broadly defined by culture, heritage, and group identity is something that people can relate to in a physical and tangible way, and it is reinforced by family relationships, which are the most powerful social bond to begin with.

Racism and nationalism, closely tied to each other, are by far the most effective ideologies for political organization based on class. Both are rooted in human nature, and attempt to channel the natural human instinct to form tribes based on family relationships into a larger social organization.

Political organization based on economic class can never compete with organization based on nationalism and race because the former is contrary to basic human nature, while the latter is reinforced by basic human nature.

Simply observe the legacy of “communist” organizing in the United States, Russia, and Germany. Each country had very effective campaigns of propaganda and political organization based on economic class conflict, and each ended up with a racist/nationalist fascist state.

Now that the fascist governmental and corporate elite in this country are beginning to lose their grip, is it time, as Hedges suggests, to up the ante and go all in on communism and economic class warfare?

I think not. Not unless you want social collapse followed by the triumphant resurgence of fascism.

At this point I should clarify what I mean by “fascism,” a loaded term if ever there were one.

The pivotal feature of all fascist governments is the union between private industry and government. In Russia, a group of government partisans took over the private sector. In the U.S. a group of corporate partisans took over the government. The outcome however is the same.

The focus of a fascist government/corporate state is maximizing industrial production and private profit, which necessarily implies lowering wages, eliminating individual rights, and eliminating competition by creating state enforced monopolies.

People have a natural tendency to resist being forced into poverty. Consequently, in order for the racist/nationalist political organization used by fascist states to work, a condition of permanent warfare is usually required.

Permanent war is, in economic terms, compulsory consumption. Compulsory consumption goes hand in hand with maximizing production. By the fact that it is compulsory, it forces consumption of goods produced by state sponsored monopolies, thus eliminating the potential for free economic activity and competition.

Forced consumption of health care, roads, bridges, schools, universities, etc, is in economic terms, not substantially different than forced consumption of weapons. The putative rationale put forward by the so called “left” is that education and health care are of greater social benefit than war, which is true on its face.

The flaw in the thinking of liberal fascists is that people need a fascist state in order to force them to do what is in their own best interests, and that the fascist state needs an elite class in order to decide what the best interests of the people are.

Chris Hedges is firmly in the liberal fascist camp. Personally, I tend to think that people like Hedges have a bit more conscience and integrity than their right counterparts, but that conscience and integrity is based on the self delusion that they are not serving the same government/corporate power structure, which naturally makes them less effective as social and political organizers.

I say social and political organizers because social and political organization are two different things.

Political organization is the process of building groups based on divisions and factions (class, race, nationality, etc) for the purpose of stealing from opposing factions, which frequently involves killing people.

Social organization is the process of building groups based on shared values and common goals for the purpose of engaging in productive activity and trade.

When Hedges advocates a return to the “language of class conflict” he is advocating political organization, as defined above.

What Hedges fails to perceive is that if capitalism is bankrupt, then surely the politics of division and conflict that facilitate capitalism are just as bankrupt, if not more so.

In point of fact, the idea that you should hate somebody because they are a “capitalist” or because they own shares in a corporations is just as absurd as hating somebody because of their perceived race.

There is a crucial difference between judging people based on their conduct, and judging people based upon an arbitrary label. Judging people based on an arbitrary label is always irrational, because it has no basis in reality.

A sane person does not go about their life asking others: are you a capitalist? Are you a communist? Are you a Democrat? Are you a Republican? Such conduct would be absurd in everyday life. To the extent that societies have actually conducted themselves in such a way, the results have always been disastrous.

In point of fact what we need in our society is far less conflict based on false divisions, not more.

It is only with social organization and social consensus on shared values that it is possible to establish a rule of law that facilitates a just, peaceful, and productive society.

There are indeed crooks and thieves in high places in our society, but the answer to this is to enforce our laws, not to declare war on “capitalists.” Individuals must be judged on the basis of their actions according to a just rule of law, not on the basis of some invented label.

Corporations may be home to some corrupt actors, but they are also home to some of the most ingenious and productive people in our society. You can argue that some wealthy people may have more than they deserve, but it is equally clear that there are wealthy people who are highly productive contributors to society.

As a society, we need unity and consensus on shared values between all people that ignores false divisions based on political factions.

The only legitimate basis for excluding people from a broad social consensus is criminality, which can only be judged based on individual actions, and never on the basis of a political label. Furthermore, it is only with broad social consensus that a just rule of law can be established.

As long as our society is divided into false political factions, we will never have the social consensus that gives rise to a just rule of law. Business/Economy Reporter Ersun Warncke is a native Oregonian. He has a degree in Economics from Portland State University and studied Law at University of Oregon. At a young age, his career spans a wide variety of fields, from fast food, to union labor, to computer programming. He has published works concerning economics, business, government, and media on blogs for several years. He currently works as an independent software designer specializing in web based applications, open source software, and peer-to-peer (P2P) applications.

Ersun describes his writing as being "in the language of the boardroom from the perspective of the shop floor." He adds that "he has no education in journalism other than reading Hunter S. Thompson." But along with life comes the real experience that indeed creates quality writers. Right now, every detail that can help the general public get ahead in life financially, is of paramount importance.

You can write to Ersun at:

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Zooey June 15, 2010 10:51 am (Pacific time)

Fascinating take on the language of 'class warfare'. As a ruddy socialist I've always been in hypothetical favour of overthrow of the ruling classes but this is a provocative argument as to why that is just as short-sighted as any other divisive social policy. I do, however, think socialism/communism can perform a useful function in making people conscious of their potential to act outside the government/citizen, corporation/consumer paradigm.

gp June 3, 2010 11:55 am (Pacific time)

Again, I urge everyone to read Hedges well written and interesting article which is distorted by Ersun's article. He may have read the article but I don't think he understood it.

Ersun Warncke June 3, 2010 8:40 am (Pacific time)

Why blaming "corporations" is meaningless: Hedges is in the vein of many on the left who blame corporations and corporate management for all of their problems. This is a mirror image of the right, which blames government for all of its problems. These are actually identical ideologies because the government and large corporations are very close to being a single unitary institutional structure. Reviling one and begging the other for salvation is a bit absurd. More to the point, the vast majority of the people in this country live on money borrowed from corporate banks, work at corporate jobs, eat corporate produced food, drive in a corporate produced car, etc, etc, etc. If you are blaming the corporations, you better look in the mirror and take a serious inventory of to what extent your life is devoted to supporting them and making them profitable. If you say that corporations are corrupt and evil, then how much more corrupt does this make you? You knowingly support corrupt and evil organizations out of a mere desire for comfort and convenience. If you say politicians are corrupt, and that they have accepted bribes and been bought by corporations, then ask, for how much less does the average American sell themselves out? A politician at least is asking a higher price for their soul. I am quite able to describe the amorality of the corporate state, but unlike Hedges I do not see "capitalists" as being the primary problem here. In sheer numbers, the couple of thousand top managers are an easy problem to solve. The hundreds of millions of people who have allowed themselves to become dependent on this corrupt system and can't function without it are a much bigger problem.

Ersun Warncke June 3, 2010 8:19 am (Pacific time)

gp and Kyle, I do not see how there is any misrepresentation in my piece. Hedges is saying that we need to return to the language of class warfare, with specific reference to Marx and communism, and I am saying that is a terrible idea, and pointing out why political organization based on communism failed, and how historically it resulted in the rise of fascism. I don't disagree with Hedges that their are corporate bad actors, but the problem with these people is not that they are "capitalists" but that they are criminals. We don't need to resort to the language of class warfare, we need to resort to the laws we already have on the books, and enforce them. Hedges identifies problems that I agree with him on, but what he proposes as a solution has been tried before, and failed. I am presenting a theory on why that is, and presenting an alternative viewpoint.

gp June 3, 2010 6:22 am (Pacific time)

page 2Posted on May 31, 2010 AP / Elizabeth Dalziel By Chris Hedges (Page 2) The robber barons of the late 19th century used goons and thugs to beat up workers and retain control. The corporations, employing the science of public relations, have used actors, artists, writers, scholars and filmmakers to manipulate and shape public opinion. Corporations employ the college-educated, liberal elite to saturate the culture with lies. The liberal class should have defied the emasculation of radical organizations, including the Communist Party. Instead, it was lured into the corporate embrace. It became a class of collaborators. National cohesion, because our intellectual life has become so impoverished, revolves around the empty pursuits of mass culture, brands, consumption, status and the bland uniformity of opinions disseminated by corporate-friendly courtiers. We speak and think in the empty slogans and clichés we are given. And they are given to us by the liberal class. The “idea of the intellectual vocation,” as Irving Howe pointed out in his essay “The Age of Conformity,” “the idea of a life dedicated to values that cannot possibly be realized by a commercial civilization—has gradually lost its allure. And, it is this, rather than the abandonment of a particular program, which constitutes our rout.” The belief that capitalism is the unassailable engine of human progress, Howe added, “is trumpeted through every medium of communication: official propaganda, institutional advertising and scholarly writings of people who, until a few years ago, were its major opponents.” “The truly powerless people are those intellectuals—the new realists—who attach themselves to the seats of power, where they surrender their freedom of expression without gaining any significance as political figures,” Howe wrote. “For it is crucial to the history of the American intellectuals in the past few decades—as well as to the relationship between ‘wealth’ and ‘intellect’—that whenever they become absorbed into the accredited institutions of society they not only lose their traditional rebelliousness but to one extent or another they cease to function as intellectuals. The institutional world needs intellectuals because they are intellectuals but it does not want them as intellectuals. It beckons to them because of what they are but it will not allow them, at least within its sphere of articulation, either to remain or entirely cease being what they are. It needs them for their knowledge, their talent, their inclinations and passions; it insists that they retain a measure of these endowments, which it means to employ for its own ends, and without which the intellectuals would be of no use to it whatever. A simplified but useful equation suggests itself: the relation of the institutional world to the intellectuals is as the relation of middlebrow culture to serious culture, the one battens on the other, absorbs and raids it with increasing frequency and skill, subsidizes and encourages it enough to make further raids possible—at times the parasite will support its victim. Surely this relationship must be one reason for the high incidence of neurosis that is supposed to prevail among intellectuals. A total estrangement from the sources of power and prestige, even a blind unreasoning rejection of every aspect of our culture, would be far healthier if only because it would permit a free discharge of aggression.” The liberal class prefers comfort to confrontation. It will not challenge the decaying structures of the corporate state. It is intolerant within its ranks of those who do. It clings pathetically to the carcass of the Obama presidency. It has been exposed as a dead force in American politics. We must find our way back to the old radicals, to the discredited Marxists, socialists and anarchists, including Dwight Macdonald and Dorothy Day. Language is our first step toward salvation. We cannot fight what we cannot describe.

eddie zawaski June 3, 2010 6:20 am (Pacific time)

Ersun, I'd like to echo Kyle's comment by saying you should refrain from writing about things you don't really understand. Not only do you misrepresent Hedge's views, but you present some of your own ideas about how society is organized that are quite confused and a-historical. The good thing about your article is that it may get others interested in reading the Hedges piece as I think he had some very important things to say about the need to bring an end to corporate culture. I would urge you to read this article again, this time with an open mind.

gp June 3, 2010 6:19 am (Pacific time)

page 1 Reports Chris Hedges' Columns This Country Needs a Few Good Communists Email this item Email Print this item Print Share this item... Share x RSS Feed Digg this item Digg Facebook this item Facebook TwitThis this item TwitThis StumbleUpon this item StumbleUpon Reddit this item Reddit YahooBuzz this item YahooBuzz Email this item Email BlinkList this item BlinkList this item Fark this item Fark Furl this item Furl Google this item Google LinkedIn this item LinkedIn Mixx this item Mixx MyShare this item MyShare NewsVine this item NewsVine Propeller this item Propeller SphereIt this item SphereIt Technorati this item Technorati YahooMyWeb this item YahooMyWeb Share 22 Posted on May 31, 2010 AP / Elizabeth Dalziel By Chris Hedges The witch hunts against communists in the United States were used to silence socialists, anarchists, pacifists and all those who defied the abuses of capitalism. Those “anti-Red” actions were devastating blows to the political health of the country. The communists spoke the language of class war. They understood that Wall Street, along with corporations such as British Petroleum, is the enemy. They offered a broad social vision which allowed even the non-communist left to employ a vocabulary that made sense of the destructive impulses of capitalism. But once the Communist Party, along with other radical movements, was eradicated as a social and political force, once the liberal class took government-imposed loyalty oaths and collaborated in the witch hunts for phantom communist agents, we were robbed of the ability to make sense of our struggle. We became fearful, timid and ineffectual. We lost our voice and became part of the corporate structure we should have been dismantling. Hope in this age of bankrupt capitalism will come with the return of the language of class conflict. It does not mean we have to agree with Karl Marx, who advocated violence and whose worship of the state as a utopian mechanism led to another form of enslavement of the working class, but we have to speak in the vocabulary Marx employed. We have to grasp, as Marx did, that corporations are not concerned with the common good. They exploit, pollute, impoverish, repress, kill and lie to make money. They throw poor families out of homes, let the uninsured die, wage useless wars to make profits, poison and pollute the ecosystem, slash social assistance programs, gut public education, trash the global economy, loot the U.S. Treasury and crush all popular movements that seek justice for working men and women. They worship only money and power. And, as Marx knew, unfettered capitalism is a revolutionary force that consumes greater and greater numbers of human lives until it finally consumes itself. The nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect metaphor for the corporate state. It is the same nightmare seen in postindustrial pockets from the old mill towns in New England to the abandoned steel mills in Ohio. It is a nightmare that Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghans, mourning their dead, live each day. Capitalism was once viewed in America as a system that had to be fought. But capitalism is no longer challenged. And so, even as Wall Street steals billions of taxpayer dollars and the Gulf of Mexico is turned into a toxic swamp, we do not know what to do or say. We decry the excesses of capitalism without demanding a dismantling of the corporate state. The liberal class has a misguided loyalty, illustrated by environmental groups that have refused to excoriate the Obama White House over the ecological catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Liberals bow before a Democratic Party that ignores them and does the bidding of corporations. The reflexive deference to the Democrats by the liberal class is the result of cowardice and fear. It is also the result of an infantile understanding of the mechanisms of power. The divide is not between Republican and Democrat. It is a divide between the corporate state and the citizen. It is a divide between capitalists and workers. And, for all the failings of the communists, they got it. Unions, organizations formerly steeped in the doctrine of class warfare and filled with those who sought broad social and political rights for the working class, have been transformed into domesticated partners of the capitalist class. They have been reduced to simple bartering tools. The social demands of unions early in the 20th century that gave the working class weekends off, the right to strike, the eight-hour day and Social Security have been abandoned. Universities, especially in political science and economics departments, parrot the discredited ideology of unregulated capitalism and have no new ideas. Artistic expression, along with most religious worship, is largely self-absorbed narcissism. The Democratic Party and the press have become corporate servants. The loss of radicals within the labor movement, the Democratic Party, the arts, the church and the universities has obliterated one of the most important counterweights to the corporate state. And the purging of those radicals has left us unable to make sense of what is happening to us. The fear of communism, like the fear of Islamic terrorism, has resulted in the steady suspension of civil liberties, including freedom of speech, habeas corpus and the right to organize, values the liberal class claims to support. It was the orchestration of fear that permitted the capitalist class to ram through the Taft-Hartley Act in 1948 in the name of anti-communism, the most destructive legislative blow to the working class until the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It was fear that created the Patriot Act, extraordinary rendition, offshore penal colonies where we torture and the endless wars in the Middle East. And it was fear that was used to see us fleeced by Wall Street. If we do not stop being afraid and name our enemy we will continue toward a state of neofeudalism.

Kyle June 3, 2010 2:47 am (Pacific time)

I can only assume that you did not actually Hedges' column or that you're deliberately misrepresenting what he wrote in order to make some other point about liberal "fascists". Hedges' column was not a call for division or hate. It was a critique of American liberals who are unable to speak with moral clarity and conviction about the issues they claim to champion. Your inability to describe amorality of the corporate state is exactly the kind of moral bankruptcy that Hedges is criticizing.

gp June 2, 2010 7:28 pm (Pacific time)

Ersun, I disagree with you about your inventive interpretation of Hedges piece. He is not the conscience of the liberal elite, that is what he is indicting. He is indicting all those who continue to give away their power to the a president, congress and senate which are in the pocket of the corporations who rule the world. What he is saying is that we need many parties in order not to have only one party in effect. He is not advocating violence. He is not advocating divisiveness, he is advocating kicking the corporations out of power and regaining our own power to govern ourselves. I urge everyone to read Hedges article for themselves. You really put the spin on this one Ersun.

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