31 December, 2009

Tiresome Nonsense

There's a pretty good article on Ayn Rand and the moral bankruptcy of "Objectivism" in the 23 September 2009 issue of the New Republic.

Is income really a measure of productivity? Of course not. Consider your own profession. Do your colleagues who demonstrate the greatest skill unfailingly earn the most money, and those with the most meager skill the least money? I certainly cannot say that of my profession. Nor do I know anybody who would say that of his own line of work. Most of us perceive a world with its share of overpaid incompetents and underpaid talents. Which is to say, we rightly reject the notion of the market as the perfect gauge of social value.

Now assume that this principle were to apply not only within a profession--that a dentist earning $200,000 a year must be contributing exactly twice as much to society as a dentist earning $100,000 a year--but also between professions. Then you are left with the assertion that Donald Trump contributes more to society than a thousand teachers, nurses, or police officers. It is Wall Street, of course, that offers the ultimate rebuttal of the assumption that the market determines social value. An enormous proportion of upper-income growth over the last twenty-five years accrued to an industry that created massive negative social value--enriching itself through the creation of a massive bubble, the deflation of which has brought about worldwide suffering.

If one’s income reflects one’s contribution to society, then why has the distribution of income changed so radically over the last three decades?

14 December, 2009

It can't be repeated often enough.

"America has arisen to a position where she is respected and admired by the entire world. She did it by minding her own business."
— Senator William Borah
1919 speech in Brooklyn

04 November, 2009

Thoughts about the Tasks of the Future

"It is not enough to change a system, to replace one economic system by another— necessary above all is a CHANGE OF SPIRIT! The spirit which is to be overcome is the SPIRIT OF MATERIALISM! We must achieve an entirely new kind of economic thinking, a kind of thinking which frees itself from the present conceptions rooted in money, in property, in profit and false success ! It is an indication of the Marxist, the false Socialism, that its way of thinking is exactly that of capitalism. For this reason I have said for years that the two form a spiritual unity, only with reversed signals!"

An Old Lesson, Seldom Learned

"Making war upon rebellion was messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife."
T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

03 September, 2009

07 August, 2009

Ernst Niekisch: National Bolshevik

Ernst Niekisch (May 23, 1889 – May 27, 1967) was born in Trebnitz (Silesia), and brought up in Nördlingen, he became a school teacher by profession. He joined the SPD (socialist party) in 1917 and was instrumental in the setting up of a short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919. He left the SPD soon after and joined the USPD (leftist "Independent Socialists") for a time, before returning.

During the 1920s he stressed the importance of nationalism and attempted to turn the SPD in that direction. He was vehemently opposed to the Dawes Plan, the Locarno Treaties and the general pacifism of the SPD, so much so that he was expelled from the party in 1926.

Upon his expulsion Niekisch joined and took control of the insignificant Old Socialist Party of Saxony which he converted to his own nationalist form of socialism, launching his own journal Widerstand (Resistance). Niekisch and his followers adopted the name of "National Bolsheviks" and looked to the Soviet Union as a continuation of both Russian nationalism and the old state of Prussia. The movement took the slogan of "Sparta-Potsdam-Moscow." He was a member of ARPLAN - the Association for the Study of Russian Planned Economy - along with Ernst Jünger, Georg Lukacs, Karl Wittfogel and Friedrich Hielscher, under whose auspices he visited the Soviet Union in 1932. He reacted favorably to Jünger's publication Die Arbeiter which he saw as a blueprint for a National Bolshevik Germany.

When Niekisch’s circle gained new members from Beppo Römer’s nationalist paramilitary organization Bund Oberland around 1930, the “Widerstand movement” became more organized. It had contacts with Social Democrats, Communists, and trade unionists, but also to oppositional members of the military, police force and clergy. After the National Socialists took power, Widerstand became a magnet for national revolutionary opposition to Hitler, with Niekisch as its intellectual leader. An attempt to form a national revolutionary anti-Hitler front through contacts with Römer and the Reichswehr officer Scheringer, who had gone over to the KPD (German Communist Party), failed. Niekisch was arrested on 22 March 1937, because of his untiringly published observations on the “Third Reich.” He was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment by the People’s Court in January 1939, along with Joseph Drexel and Karl Tröger. Released from Brandenburg-Görden penitentiary in ill health in 1945, by which time he was blind.

Embittered against nationalism by his war-time experiences he turned to orthodox Marxism and lectured in sociology in Humboldt University in East Germany until 1953 when, disillusioned by the brutal suppression of the workers' uprising, he moved to West Berlin, where he later died.

01 August, 2009

Take the Class Consciousness Test!

Are you a Class Conscious cadre, ready for the revolution? Or are you an oppressed mope, the hod-man of the bourgeoisie? Back when I was a communist we were often asked to analyze popular culture and give a Class Conscious interpretation. Here's a sample test. Just view the video, form an opinion, and check to see what the Party Line is!

You could be a dedicated revolutionary
and not even know it!!!

Wow, that clever Jack Nicholson really put it to The Man there, didn't he? He's not bound by any bourgeois conventions, is he? He's no mindless conformist! The system wants to grind him down, but he was clever enough to get around their arbitrary rules, wasn't he? The fact that he didn't get his toast just shows you that, even if you play by the rules, The Man won't!

Well — wrong!

Here's some rich boy, who thinks his money entitles him to anything, crying like a baby the very first time his every whim cannot be satisfied. Instead of accepting the limited hospitality of the restaurant he throws a tantrum leaving a huge mess for the worker girl to clean up.

That's right — the proletarian waitress is the real hero of the scene! Pity the poor, overworked waitress, her options rigidly constrained by a system that tries to control her every action, facing a snotty wiseacre like Nicholson. Her bunions hurt, she's stuck in this dreadful job, she smells of grease when she gets home, and then she has to deal with shit-heels like him.

Let's stand in solidarity with the worker girl!

Andy Thayer: agent provocateur?

“Is World Peace Possible?”

A cabled reply to an American poll by Oswald Spengler, first published in Cosmopolitan, January, 1936

The question whether world peace will ever be possible can only be answered by someone familiar with world history. To be familiar with world history means, however, to know human beings as they have been and always will be. There is a vast difference, which most people will never comprehend, between viewing future history as it will be and viewing it as one might like it to be. Peace is a desire, war is a fact; and history has never paid heed to human desires and ideals.

Life is a struggle involving plants, animals, and humans. It is a struggle between individuals, social classes, peoples, and nations, and it can take the form of economic, social, political, and military competition. It is a struggle for the power to make one’s will prevail, to exploit one’s advantage, or to advance one’s opinion of what is just or expedient. When other means fail, recourse will be taken time and again to the ultimate means: violence. An individual who uses violence can be branded a criminal, a class can be called revolutionary or traitorous, a people bloodthirsty. But that does not alter the facts. Modern world-communism calls its wars “uprisings,” imperialist nations describe theirs as “pacification of foreign peoples.” And if the world existed as a unified state, wars would likewise be referred to as “uprisings.” The distinctions here are purely verbal.

Talk of world peace is heard today only among the white peoples, and not among the much more numerous colored races. This is a perilous state of affairs. When individual thinkers and idealists talk of peace, as they have done since time immemorial, the effect is always negligible. But when whole peoples become pacifistic it is a symptom of senility. Strong and unspent races are not pacifistic. To adopt such a position is to abandon the future, for the pacifist ideal is a static, terminal condition that is contrary to the basic facts of existence.

As long as man continues to evolve there will be wars. Should the white peoples ever become so tired of war that their governments can no longer incite them to wage it, the earth will inevitably fall a victim to the colored men, just as the Roman Empire succumbed to the Teutons. Pacifism means yielding power to the inveterate nonpacifists. Among the latter there will always be white men — adventurers, conquerors, leader-types — whose following increases with every success. If a revolt against the whites were to occur today in Asia, countless whites would join the rebels simply because they are tired of peaceful living.

Pacifism will remain an ideal, war a fact. If the white races are resolved never to wage war again, the colored will act differently and be rulers of the world.

30 July, 2009

The End of Western Civilization

This is a continuing effort to document the mile-posts along the way from civilization to utter dissolution:

January 2008: Sales of "lite" beer surpass those of actual beer.

March 2008: Over-the-counter "prozac treats" for dogs become available.

The unique Poyz Proprietary Blend is made up of all-natural herbs & ingredients to help calm and soothe your hyperactive dog safe [sic] and effectively. These herbs have traditionally been used to help reduce:
• Irritability
• Depression
• Nervous Exhaustion,
As well as help obsessive-compulsive behaviors, such as:
• Acral Lick Dermatitis
• Aggression
• Owner Separation

April 2008: Emergency vehicles now must be fitted out with special bariatric stretchers to accommodate the growing numbers of the morbidly obese.

September 2008: National Recovery Month is created to promote the societal benefits of alcohol and drug use disorder treatment, laud the contributions of treatment providers and promote the message that recovery from alcohol and drug disorders in all its forms is possible.

November 2008: Wal-Mart Employee Killed in Shopper Stampede

January 2009: When a 5-foot, 275-pound woman found out she had a tumor on her spine, she was told by her local hospital to go the Kansas City Zoo to have a MRI because a regular MRI machine could not hold her weight.

February 2009: Obese Americans, commonly defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or higher, now out-number over-weight Americans, those a BMI of 25-29.

4 March 2009: Mattel Introduces Totally Stylin Tattoo Barbie.
This is the second try for Mattel and the ‘Tattoo Barbie’ . They released “Butterfly Art Barbie” back in 1999. She also came with tattoos for children and had a large butterfly tattoo covering her belly area. She was pulled from shelves after four months of being on the market do to a large amount of complaints by parents.

30 July 2009 Spotted hanging from the back of a van on Franklin Street.

3 February 2010 Our technical expertise and innovation are applied to the ever-daunting problem of how to keep a beer between your titties.

14 July, 2009

A Mentor of Sorts

Friday night, my son and I were hanging out at the monthly open house they have at the Fine Arts Building. After viewing all the galleries and studios, we ended up at Selected Works, a used bookstore, where there was something of a reunion going on. Ron, the proprietor of what had been the largest used bookstore on the Northside in the 70’s and 80’s, was there with one of his former employees, and they were reminiscing about the old days in the book trade with Keith, the owner of Selected Works. For a year or so, I had been in the book trade, working for Roe and Sons, and I also had friends who worked for Chandler, Bookman’s Alley, and Bookseller’s Row, so I immediately joined the discussion. Mostly it was gossip about who was working where these days, how the internet was a real opportunity for increased sales, but how it also drove down prices and made keeping a store-front ever more difficult. We each knew of three stores that had shut down in the last year, though all three proprietors were still selling on-line.

Though the others there were about ten years older than me, it turned out that, having grown up in Chicago, I had the longest memory of the book trade in this town.

None of us remember the the name of it, but we all remembered the first used book store on North Lincoln Avenue. I had been a patron in the early 1970’s, and the fellow that ran it (I never knew his name) was a real curiosity. He was working class, self-educated, very widely read, full of unpopular opinions and unorthodox views. My father used to say that he “epitomizes the genius and ignorance of the self-educated.” He was unlike anyone else I had ever met and most Saturday afternoons would find me hanging out at his bookstore. The fellow was always recommending things for me to read and, for about two years, he pretty much determined the books that shaped my world-view. He was full of advice, and these are the things I learned from him.

1] Read original sources. Studying the Second World War? Start with a good general history and then, once you have the lay of it in your head, go right to memoirs, journalism, and books by the participants. At the time I was interested in WW2, and the fellow steered me to memoirs by Speer, von Melenthin, and Saburō Sakai, a Japanese Zero pilot, he threw Bill Mauldin’s “Up Front” at me but advised that I avoid “Crusade in Europe.” He got me a copy of the Army Officer’s Manual from 1941 and a re-print of the last pre-war edition of Jane’s All the World's Fighting Ships. I didn’t just learn a lot about it, I learned how to research a subject.

2] Read the other guy’s stuff. You’re a communist? Go read Mein Kampf. Read National Review and Worker’s Vanguard. Read Marx and Hayek. Read Mill and Burke. Sure, some of it will turn out to be a lot of long-winded nonsense (e.g. Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind”) but some of it has insights that you will never get from the fellows on your own side (e.g. Burnham’s "Suicide of the West”). Read it all.

3] If you want to know what a fellow thinks, read his essays, if you want to know how he thinks, read his memoirs. Bill Buckley and Whitaker Chambers sound a lot alike in the pages of National Review, but “God & Man at Yale” shows Buckley to be a first class jerk, while “Witness” is actually rather touching.

4] Read books. Reading periodicals is like watching the second hand of a clock. Journalism is ephemeral, just has to make a single impression, but a book has to be though out, consistent, complete. You might pick up an idea or two from magazines or newspapers, but you really learn things from books.

5] Old men know a thing or two. Most things have been tried before and have failed, and old men have been around long enough to know what doesn’t work. The New Left was such an unmitigated catastrophe because everything the old men of the Left knew was lost and forgotten.

6] Don’t fall for false linkages. Everybody has an agenda and the best way of putting their agenda across is by linking something they want to something everybody wants, or linking something bad to the agenda of their opponents. Saying that only an anti-Semite would oppose the State of Israel is a false linkage. Saying that only a racist would oppose Affirmative Action is a false linkage. Calling gay marriage “marriage equality” is a false linkage.

I learned a lot from that guy but, as I say, I never knew his name. Imagine my surprise Friday when I found out that he was known in the book trade as “Bigot John.”

03 July, 2009

Patriot, Communist, Catholic

In October, 1942, film star Cesar Romero voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and served in the Pacific Theatre. He reported aboard the Coast Guard-manned assault transport USS Cavalier (APA-37) in November, 1943 and saw action at Tinian and Saipan. He preferred to be a regular part of the crew and was eventually promoted to the rank of chief Boatswain's Mate.

More Spengler

Liberalism, in its German form, has always stood for mental sterility, for the ignorance and incomprehension of historical necessities. It has meant the inability to cooperate with others or to make sacrifices for others. Its position has always been one of entirely negative criticism, though not as an expression of an indomitable will to change society—as manifested by Bebel’s Socialists—but simply out of the desire to "be different." While our liberals have never been at a loss for "standpoints" to adopt, they have lacked the inner vitality and discipline, the confidence and purposeful vigor that are so characteristic of the English form of liberalism.

The meaning of socialism is that life is dominated not by the contrast of rich and poor but by rank as determined by achievement and ability. That is our kind of freedom: freedom from the economic capriciousness of the individual. My fervent hope is that no one will remain hidden who was born with the ability to command, and that no one is given the responsibility for commanding who lacks the inborn talent for doing so. Socialism means ability, not desire. Not the quality of intentions but the quality of accomplishments is decisive. I turn to our youth. I call upon all who have marrow in their bones and blood in their veins. Train yourselves! Become men! We need no more ideologists, no more chatter about Bildung and cosmopolitanism and Germany’s intellectual mission. We need hardness, we need a courageous skepticism, we need a class of socialistic mastertypes. Once again: Socialism means power, power, and more power. Thoughts and schemes are nothing without power. The path to power has already been mapped: the valuable elements of German labor in union with the best representatives of the Old Prussian state idea, both groups determined to build a strictly socialist state to democratize our nation in the Prussian manner; both forged into a unit by the same sense of duty, by the awareness of a great obligation, by the will to obey in order to rule, to die in order to win, by the strength to make immense sacrifices in order to accomplish what we were born for, what we are, what could not be without us. We are socialists. Let us hope that it will not have been in vain.

27 April, 2009

What must daily life under totalitarian rule have been like?

Ever wonder what it must have been like to live in Fascist Italy, Maoist China, Falangist Spain, or even Oceania? I've read some histories, memoirs, seen films of the period, and I've got some notion.

For instance, the state would constantly be telling you what was best for you, where your interest lay, what you should support. There would always be the nagging notion in the back of your mind that something about the message was being left out, that there was an hidden agenda, that some other interest were being served.

The effort to control the thoughts of the people would have to be unceasing. Every medium would be used: radio, television, newspapers. Huge rallies would be held. The issue would never be discussed, only boosted. Film stars would stand next to leaders endorsing this benevolent program. Sports stars would make visits to schools to tell your children to support the measure. Businessmen would harangue you about how this or that measure was absolutely necessary for continued prosperity. Straw-man arguments would be set up and demolished in sham debates. Slogans would be repeated until they numbed the ears.

Posters would appear overnight in a coördinated campaign. A new symbol would suddenly be everywhere. On each street, on ever block, on each lamp-post.

There would simply be no getting away from it.

27 February, 2009

Mrs. Peabody: Always Correct

On March 30, 1964, a mixed group of Whites and Negroes was arrested by Saint John County sheriff L.O. Davis at a sit-in demonstration at the Ponce De Leon Motel, in St. Augustine, Florida. When they were taken off for booking, the negro women looked to Catherine Twine, a postman's wife, for leadership, but she thought to defer to one of the Northern white women who had come down especially for the demonstration. She was quite impressed by one elderly woman, every inch the aristocrat in her sensible shoes and pale pink suit, and Mrs. Twine remarked, "My — but you look just like Mrs. Elanor Roosevelt."

Taking this as a complement, the woman nodded, "We're cousins."

The woman was Mary Parkman Peabody, wife of retired Episcopal Bishop of New York, the Rev. Malcolm Peabody, and 72-year old mother of Massachusetts Governor Endicott Peabody. Upon being arrested, she became an instant celebrity. When CBS offered to make her bail in order to get an exclusive interview with her, she refused, saying, "I'd rather stay in jail with my new friends."

Where are the aristocrats of today?

19 January, 2009

Better Days Ahead

In 1940, in response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America", which Guthrie considered unrealistic and complacent, Woody Guthrie wrote "This Land Is Your Land." At the time he, along with Lee Hays and Pete Seeger were with the Almanac Singers, a group of folk singers who sang peace songs wherever they could, from Greenwich Village cafes to Northwest logger's camps.

Hays and Seeger later went on to considerable success in the late forties with the Weavers, before being black-listed in the early 1950's. Guthrie, whose health began deteriorating in the late 1940's, never enjoyed anything like the fame or success of the Weavers.

In 1944, Guthrie met Moses "Moe" Asch of Folkways Records, for whom he recorded "This Land Is Your Land." It wasn't until the folk revival of the late 1950's however, that this recording gained any notice. Pretty soon the song became a standard with folk singers and was even put into music books for school children to sing. Hearing this on his death bed, in the mid-1960's, Guthrie told his son Arlo to make sure that all of the lyrics were sung, "even the Communist lyrics."

Here are the lyrics. The "Communist lyrics" are highlighted in red:

words and music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Chorus (2x)

When I was a child we sang this song in grade school. We didn't sing the Communist lyrics. (Though sometimes we did sing: "I saw baloney, a big salami …") I was in my early thirties before I even found out about the Communist lyrics.

On 18 January 2009 song was sung by Pete Seeger, and his grandson, Tao Rodríguez-Seeger, at We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.

The song was restored to the original lyrics for this performance at Pete Seeger's request.