May 31, 2009

Oregon School for The Blind: A Bad Vote, Apologies & More

I just got my e-mailed apology from Representative Vicki Berger for her vote to close the Oregon School for the Blind (OSB). Berger says, "Sadly, I voted today to close the School for the Blind. I have heard from many former students of this venerable school who are upset that it would be closed. But the fact remains that the time has come."

There is something about an e-mailed apology and crocodile tears which lacks sincerity and depth. Berger is just one of many legislators making their apologies after the fact of the bad vote. The oft-repeated arguments usually go as follows after the shallow apologies have been made: the School houses only 31 students on a 9 building campus; the School has not been an accredited school with an academic curriculum for 20 years; the School doesn't fit into Oregon's current educational model; OSB students will be provided with extra funding in their new settings and the closure will help fund education for other blind students in Oregon; the state cannot retrofit OSB's buildings; and there is still the Commission for the Blind to help out.

I hope that Art Stevenson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, will address some of these arguments in his KBOO interview tomorrow morning (Monday) at 11:30 AM. We have posted a great deal on OSB and the struggle to keep it open and readers can look back for more details. Media attention and letters to the editor have also been strong in answering these arguments. Still, a few points need to be repeated.

If the School houses a relatively small number of students and programs, and if buildings are in disrepair, these problems should be properly laid at the feet of the legislature and the Oregon Department of Education. It is their job, after all, to see to it that educational needs are met and state property preserved and protected. Holding visually impaired students and their families hostage to problems created by the legislature and ODE is unfair and illogical.

If Oregon can't afford schools and key social and state services, how can we then afford sending Guard troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and shouldering some share of the costs of the wars there? If the costs of retrofitting certain School buildings are prohibitive, is it not fair to ask when these deficiencies were uncovered and why repairs weren't made earlier? Will the new occupants of the School not have to retrofit the buildings at the same or higher costs?

And why do we only have one "educational model" in Oregon? It would seem that a lack of diversity in models and programs puts any special need at risk and creates or enables cyclical swings which surely costs the state more money and resources in the long run. Do we create the model or does the model rule our lives without empathy?

We doubt that the promised funds will make it safely to the school districts and then be spent on visually impaired students. What seems more likely is that funds will be raided by cash-strapped or poorly-run districts, parents will be unable to properly oversee how money is received and spent, ODE and the legislature may eventually clash over programs and funding and the community of visually impaired students and their families will be broken up. Future legislatures and ODE will have a hard time restoring the services now being cut, even if the will and the funding to do so are there. We also doubt that the Commission will survive this legislative session.

The House vote to close the School came with support and opposition gathered from both parties. Brian Clem did an outstanding job of defending the public's interest. Some key Republicans opportunistically used the moment to suddenly appear in a new guise of defending education and public services, no doubt a new and uncomfortable position for them to be in. Somewhere in House Districts 22 and 16 there must be genuinely progressive potential candidates capable of unseating Betty Komp and Sara Gelser. Woodburn and Salem can do better, can't we? Folding in the face of the economic crisis and budget cuts may be understandable, but what is unforgivable is this lack of principles and vision on the part of two allegedly liberal legislators. I suspect that Gelser and Komp were chosen to carry the water on closing the School just because of their liberal and educational credentials. They should have refused.

The much-discussed lawsuits by parents based on how School land was deeded in the 19th century seem unlikely to restore the School, even if they move forward. I want to be wrong about this, of course, but land use issues in Oregon are hot-button topics and it will be easier for the courts to split the differences between the state and parents taking legal action than to make a definitive ruling. Republicans no doubt see an opportunity here to use the School struggle to accomplish some of their aims regarding land use and property rights. It is indeed difficult to reverse damage done and restore programs after they have been cut.

May 30, 2009

Forced Fluoride

I've discovered some rather disconcerting information and thought I'd pass it along for those who are also disturbed by such things. While recently researching the municipal fluoride policy of cities around Oregon I came across some garbage being tossed about our Legislature. From what I can tell it was last attempted in 2007 and failed. And for some industrious reasoning it keeps popping up again,.. and has since the 1950s.

For those who don't know, fluoride was once considered one of the most prevalent, and dangerous, pollutants of the industrial age. The largest emitters of fluoride were industries such as aluminum manufacturing (ALCOA), other metals and smelting operations, fertilizer production, and the nuclear power and weapons industry.

When all the trouble fluoride was causing for people, livestock, and plant life threatened to curtail economic "progress" and slow the rolling wheels of the new "military industrial complex", the industries organized an all-out campaign to turn a pollutant into our friend. It was a fantastic success, and now an unrefined industrial waste is sold as a commodity instead of controlled as a pollutant. In the 1950s fluoride went from rat poison to a necessary part of human ingestion. What a deal for the corporate powers. Instead of paying to pollute, they could now actually sell the stuff!

Then there's always the fun surrounding the use of fluoride during the Second World War in prison camps around the world to keep prisoners "submissive and obedient"... among other things.

Anyway, below are the summaries of two House Bills taken straight from the Oregon Legislature's web page. I've highlighted in blue those sections I find disturbing for various, usually obvious, reasons. There are parts that will be added {+} or omitted {-} throughout both bills, and if I've highlighted and area to be omitted I've noted that.

The more you read, the better it gets. My favorite part is... "for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is declared to exist."
Happy reading!
House Bill 3156
75th OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY--2009 Regular Session
NOTE: Matter within { + braces and plus signs + } in an amended section is new. Matter within { - braces and minus signs - } is existing law to be omitted. New sections are within { + braces and plus signs + } .
LC 1041
House Bill 3156
The following summary is not prepared by the sponsors of the measure and is not a part of the body thereof subject to consideration by the Legislative Assembly. It is an editor's brief statement of the essential features of the measure as introduced.
Clarifies responsibility of Department of Human Services relating to drinking water. Requires that water suppliers serving more than 10,000 persons add fluoride to water. Delays implementation until water suppliers have sufficient capital to purchase fluoridation equipment. Preempts local government regulations that prohibit or restrict use of fluoride.

Relating to safe drinking water; creating new provisions; and amending ORS 448.131 and 448.175.
Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:
SECTION 1. ORS 448.131 is amended to read: 448.131. (1) The Department of Human Services shall adopt water quality standards that are necessary { - to protect the public health through insuring safe drinking water within a water system - } <>to be omitted{ + to implement the department's responsibilities relating to drinking water and to ensure public health + }.
(2) In order to { - insure - } { + ensure + } safe drinking water, the department shall prescribe:
(a) Construction standards governing the performance of a water system insofar as { - they - } { + the standards + } relate to the safety of drinking water.
(b) Standards for the operation of water systems { - in so far as they - } { + insofar as the standards + } relate to the delivery of safe drinking water.
(c) Other standards and requirements considered necessary by the department to { - insure safe drinking water - } { + ensure that drinking water is safe, healthy and beneficial for human consumption + }.
(3) The department shall require that construction and installation plans be submitted and approved before construction begins on new systems or substantial improvements are made to old systems. The department may adopt rules exempting certain water systems from the plan review process.
(4) The department may impose and collect a fee from a water supplier for reviewing construction and installation plans.
(5) Nothing in this section authorizes the department to require alterations of existing facilities unless alterations are necessary to { - insure - } { + ensure + } safe drinking water.
SECTION 2. ORS 448.175 is amended to read: 448.175. Subject to ORS chapter 183, the Department of Human Services:
(1) Shall require that the water suppliers give public notice of violations in the water system.
(2) May refuse to allow expansion of or additional connections to a water system until the water system meets water quality standards and requirements.
(3) May enter an order requiring a water supplier to acquire or construct a water system that provides water meeting department standards. When the order requires a city to acquire a water system, the system must have the majority of its facilities within the city's adopted urban growth boundary. When the order is entered upon a city, the procedure described in ORS 454.235 to 454.255 shall be followed.
(4) May enter an order requiring a water supplier that fails to comply with the schedule prescribed under ORS 448.140 to cease operation of the water system.
{ + (5) Shall require that water suppliers serving more than 10,000 persons add fluoride, in the amount and manner prescribed by the department, to drinking water.
(6) Notwithstanding subsection (5) of this section, may temporarily exempt a water supplier serving more than 10,000 persons from adding fluoride to drinking water until the department determines that the water supplier has funds, sufficient to purchase the fluoridation equipment, from a source other than fees, taxes or charges by the water supplier to the supplier's ratepayers, shareholders, local taxpayers or bondholders. + }
SECTION 3. { + A city, county or other local government may not enact or enforce any ordinance, resolution or other provision that prohibits or restricts the use of fluoride in drinking water except as permitted in rules adopted by the Department of Human Services. + }
House Bill 3228

75th OREGON LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY--2009 Regular Session
NOTE: Matter within { + braces and plus signs + } in an amended section is new. Matter within { - braces and minus signs - } is existing law to be omitted. New sections are within { + braces and plus signs + } .
LC 2689
House Bill 3228
Ordered by the House May 5
Including House Amendments dated May 5
The following summary is not prepared by the sponsors of the measure and is not a part of the body thereof subject to consideration by the Legislative Assembly. It is an editor's brief statement of the essential features of the measure.
{ - Directs Department of Human Services to implement program for training and certification of certain teachers, counselors and health assistants to apply fluoride varnishes to children's teeth. Appropriates moneys from General Fund for employees to train teachers, counselors and health assistants in fluoride varnish application. - } <
to be omitted

{ - Declares emergency, effective July 1, 2009. - } <>to be omitted
{ + Directs Department of Human Services to implement program to distribute funds to school districts to provide preventive oral health care to students. Establishes Oregon Oral Health Care Fund. Continuously appropriates moneys in fund to department for purpose of implementing program. Declares emergency, effective on passage. + }
Relating to dental hygiene; appropriating money; and declaring an emergency.
Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:
SECTION 1. { + (1) Subject to the availability of funds, the Department of Human Services shall adopt rules to implement a program to distribute funds to school districts to provide preventive oral health care to students. Under the program, the department may provide funds for:
(a) Training for school administrators on techniques of fluoride varnish application;
(b) Reimbursement of the cost of employing or contracting with a limited access permit dental hygienist or other qualified health professional to provide preventive oral health care to students; and
(c) The cost of medications used in providing preventive oral health care to students.
(2) The department may accept moneys from any public or private source for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this section. The department shall deposit moneys accepted under this subsection in the Oregon Oral Health Care Fund established under section 2 of this 2009 Act. + }
SECTION 2. { + The Oregon Oral Health Care Fund is established in the State Treasury, separate and distinct from the General Fund. The Oregon Oral Health Care Fund consists of moneys deposited in the fund under section 1 of this 2009 Act. Interest earned by the fund shall be credited to the fund. Moneys in the fund are continuously appropriated to the Department of Human Services for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of section 1 of this 2009 Act. + }
SECTION 3. { + This 2009 Act being necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is declared to exist, and this 2009 Act takes effect on its passage. + }

May 29, 2009

Basic Marxism---Thirteen

From Lenin in 1917:

...Socialism cannot be decreed from above. Its spirit rejects the mechanical bureaucratic approach; living, creative socialism is the product of the masses themselves.

And from Lenin in 1919:

Communism is the higher productivity of labour—compared with that existing under capitalism—of voluntary, class-conscious and united workers employing advanced techniques. Communist subbotniks are extraordinarily valuable as the actual beginning of communism; and this is a very rare thing, because we are in a stage when "only the first steps in the transition from capitalism to communism are being taken” (as our Party Programme quite rightly says).

Communism begins when the rank-and-file workers display an enthusiastic concern that is undaunted by arduous toil to increase the productivity of labour, husband every pood of grain, coal, iron and other products, which do not accrue to the workers personally or to their "close” kith and kin, but to their "distant” kith and kin, i.e., to society as a whole, to tens and hundreds of millions of people united first in one socialist state, and then in a union of Soviet republics.

In Capital, Karl Marx ridicules the pompous and grandiloquent bourgeois-democratic great charter of liberty and the rights of man, ridicules all this phrase-mongering about liberty equality and fraternity in general, which dazzles the petty bourgeois and philistines of all countries, including the present despicable heroes of the despicable Berne International. Marx contrasts these pompous declarations of rights to the plain, modest, practical, simple manner in which the question is presented by the proletariat—the legislative enactment of a shorter working day is a typical example of such treatment. The aptness and profundity of Marx’s observation become the clearer and more obvious to us the more the content of the proletarian revolution unfolds. The "formulas” of genuine communism differ from the pompous, intricate, and solemn phraseology of the Kautskys, the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries and their beloved "brethren” of Berne in that they reduce everything to the conditions of labour. Less chatter about "labour democracy", about "liberty, equality and fraternity", about "government by the people", and all such stuff; the class-conscious workers and peasants of our day see through these pompous phrases of the bourgeois intellectual and discern the trickery as easily as a person of ordinary common sense and experience, when glancing at the irreproachably "polished” features and immaculate appearance of the "fain fellow, dontcher know", immediately and unerringly puts him down as "in all probability, a scoundrel".

Fewer pompous phrases, more plain, everyday work, concern for the pood of grain and the pood of coal! More concern about providing this pood of grain and pood of coal needed by the hungry workers and ragged and barefoot peasants not by haggling, not in a capitalist manner, but by the conscious, voluntary, boundlessly heroic labour of plain working men like the unskilled labourers and railwaymen of the Moscow-Kazan line.

We must all admit that vestiges of the bourgeois-intellectual phrase-mongering approach to questions of the revolution are in evidence at every step, everywhere, even in our own ranks. Our press, for example, does little to fight these rotten survivals of the rotten, bourgeois-democratic past; it does little to foster the simple, modest, ordinary but viable shoots of genuine communism.

Take the position of women. In this field, not a single democratic party in the world, not even in the most advanced bourgeois republic, has done in decades so much as a hundredth part of what we did in our very first year in power. We really razed to the ground the infamous laws placing women in a position of inequality, restricting divorce and surrounding it with disgusting formalities, denying recognition to children born out of wedlock, enforcing a search for their fathers, etc., laws numerous survivals of which, to the shame of the bourgeoisie and of capitalism, are to be found in all civilised countries. We have a thousand times the right to be proud of what we have done in this field. But the more thoroughly we have cleared the ground of the lumber of the old, bourgeois laws and institutions, the clearer it is to us that we have only cleared the ground to build on but are not yet building.

Notwithstanding all the laws emancipating woman, she continues to be a domestic slave, because petty housework crushes, strangles, stultifies and degrades her, chains her to the kitchen and the nursery, and she wastes her labour on barbarously unproductive, petty, nerve-racking, stultifying and crushing drudgery. The real emancipation of women, real communism, will begin only where and when an all-out struggle begins (led by the proletariat wielding the state power) against this petty housekeeping, or rather when its wholesale transformation into a large-scale socialist economy begins.

Do we in practice pay sufficient attention to this question, which in theory every Communist considers indisputable? Of course not. Do we take proper care of the shoots of communism which already exist in this sphere? Again the answer is no. Public catering establishments, nurseries, kindergartens -- here we have examples of these shoots, here we have the simple, everyday means, involving nothing pompous, grandiloquent or ceremonial, which can really emancipate women, really lessen and abolish their inequality with men as regards their role in social production and public life. These means are not new, they (like all the material prerequisites for socialism) were created by large-scale capitalism. But under capitalism they remained, first, a rarity, and secondly—which is particularly important —either profitmaking enterprises, with all the worst features of speculation, profiteering, cheating and fraud, or "acrobatics of bourgeois charity", which the best workers rightly hated and despised.

There is no doubt that the number of these institutions in our country has increased enormously and that they are beginning to change in character. There is no doubt that we have far more organising talent among the working and peasant women than we are aware of, that we have far more people than we know of who can organise practical work, with the co-operation of large numbers of workers and of still larger numbers of consumers, without that abundance of talk, fuss, squabbling and chatter about plans, systems, etc., with which our big-headed "intellectuals” or half-baked "Communists” are "affected". But we do not nurse these shoots of the new as we should.

Look at the bourgeoisie. How very well they know how to advertise what they need! See how millions of copies of their newspapers extol what the capitalists regard as "model” enterprises, and how "model” bourgeois institutions are made an object of national pride! Our press does not take the trouble, or hardly ever, to describe the best catering establishments or nurseries, in order, by daily insistence, to get some of them turned into models of their kind. It does not give them enough publicity, does not describe in detail the saving in human labour, the conveniences for the consumer, the economy of products, the emancipation of women from domestic slavery, the improvement in sanitary conditions, that can be achieved with exemplary communist work and extended to the whole of society, to all working people.

Exemplary production, exemplary communist subbotniks, exemplary care and conscientiousness in procuring and distributing every pood of grain, exemplary catering establishments, exemplary cleanliness in such-and-such a workers’ house, in such-and-such a block, should all receive ten times more attention and care from our press, as well as from every workers’ and peasants’ organisation, than they receive now. All these are shoots of communism, and it is our common and primary duty to nurse them. Difficult as our food and production situation is, in the year and a half of Bolshevik rule there has been undoubted progress all along the line: grain procurements have increased from 30 million poods (from August 1, 1917 to August 1, 1918) to 100 million poods (from August 1, 1918 to May 1, 1919); vegetable gardening has expanded, the margin of unsown land has diminished, railway transport has begun to improve despite the enormous fuel difficulties, and so on. Against this general background, and with the support of the proletarian state power, the shoots of communism will not- wither; they will grow and blossom into complete communism.

May 28, 2009

Basic Marxism---Twelve

From Engels in 1890:

To my mind, the so-called "socialist society" is not anything immutable. Like all other social formations, it should be conceived in a state of constant flux and change. It's crucial difference from the present order consists naturally in production organized on the basis of common ownership by the nation of all means of production. To begin this reorganization tomorrow, but performing it gradually, seems to me quite feasible. That our workers are capable of it is borne out by their many producer and consumer cooperatives which, whenever they're not deliberately ruined by the police, are equally well and far more honestly run than the bourgeois stock companies...

May 27, 2009

Basic Marxism--Eleven

We are once more indebted to Marxist Internet Archive for this posting. The following comes from an interview H.G. Wells did with Stalin in 1934.

Stalin: The United States is pursuing a different aim from that which we are pursuing in the U.S.S.R.

The aim which the Americans are pursuing, arose out of the economic troubles, out of the economic crisis. The Americans want to rid themselves of the crisis on the basis of private capitalist activity, without changing the economic basis. They are trying to reduce to a minimum the ruin, the losses caused by the existing economic system. Here, however, as you know, in place of the old, destroyed economic basis, an entirely different, a new economic basis has been created. Even if the Americans you mention partly achieve their aim, i.e., reduce these losses to a minimum, they will not destroy the roots of the anarchy which is inherent in the existing capitalist system. They are preserving the economic system which must inevitably lead, and cannot but lead, to anarchy in production. Thus, at best, it will be a matter, not of the reorganisation of society, not of abolishing the old social system which gives rise to anarchy and crises, but of restricting certain of its excesses. Subjectively, perhaps, these Americans think they are reorganising society; objectively, however, they are preserving the present basis of society.

That is why, objectively, there will be no reorganisation of society.

Nor will there be planned economy. What is planned economy? What are some of its attributes? Planned economy tries to abolish unemployment. Let us suppose it is possible, while preserving the capitalist system, to reduce unemployment to a certain minimum.

But surely, no capitalist would ever agree to the complete abolition of unemployment, to the abolition of the reserve army of unemployed, the purpose of which is to bring pressure on the labour market, to ensure a supply of cheap labour. Here you have one of the rents in the "planned economy" of bourgeois society. Furthermore, planned economy presupposes increased output in those branches of industry which produce goods that the masses of the people need particularly. But you know that the expansion of production under capitalism takes place for entirely different motives, that capital flows into those branches of economy in which the rate of profit is highest. You will never compel a capitalist to incur loss to himself and agree to a lower rate of profit for the sake of satisfying the needs of the people. Without getting rid of the capitalists, without abolishing the principle of private property in the means of production, it is impossible to create planned economy.

Wells: I agree with much of what you have said.

But I would like to stress the point that if a country as a whole adopts the principle of planned economy, if the government, gradually, step by step, begins consistently to apply this principle, the financial oligarchy will at last be abolished and socialism, in the Anglo-Saxon meaning of the word, will be brought about. The effect of the ideas of Roosevelt's "New Deal" is most powerful, and in my opinion they are socialist ideas. It seems to me that instead of stressing the antagonism between the two worlds, we should, in the present circumstances, strive to establish a common tongue for all the constructive forces.

Stalin: In speaking of the impossibility of realising the principles of planned economy while preserving the economic basis of capitalism, I do not in the least desire to belittle the outstanding personal qualities of Roosevelt, his initiative, courage and determination. Undoubtedly, Roosevelt stands out as one of the strongest figures among all the captains of the contemporary capitalist world. That is why I would like, once again, to emphasize the point that my conviction that planned economy is impossible under the conditions of capitalism, does not mean that I have any doubts about the personal abilities, talent and courage of President Roosevelt. But if the circumstances are unfavourable, the most talented captain cannot reach the goal you refer to. .

Theoretically, of course, the possibility of marching gradually, step by step, under the conditions of capitalism, towards the goal which you call socialism in the Anglo-Saxon meaning of the word, is not precluded. .

But what will this "socialism" be? At best, bridling to some extent, the most unbridled of individual representatives of capitalist profit, some increase in the application of the principle of regulation in national economy. That is all very well. But as soon as Roosevelt, or any other captain in the contemporary bourgeois world, proceeds to undertake something serious against the foundation of capitalism, he will inevitably suffer utter defeat. The banks, the industries, the large enterprises, the large farms are not in Roosevelt's hands. All these are private property. The railroads, the mercantile fleet, all these belong to private owners. And, finally, the army of skilled workers, the engineers, the technicians, these too are not at Roosevelt's command, they are at the command of the private owners; they all work for the private owners. We must not forget the functions of the State in the bourgeois world.

The State is an institution that organises the defence of the country, organises the maintenance of "order"; it is an apparatus for collecting taxes. The capitalist State does not deal much with economy in the strict sense of the word; the latter is not in the hands of the State. On the contrary, the State is in the hands of capitalist economy. That is why I fear that in spite of all his energies and abilities, Roosevelt will not achieve the goal you mention, if indeed that is his goal. Perhaps, in the course of several generations it will be possible to approach this goal somewhat; but I personally think that even this is not very probable. .

Wells: Perhaps, I believe more strongly in the economic interpretation of politics than you do. Huge forces driving towards better organisation, for the better functioning of the community, that is, for socialism, have been brought into action by invention and modern science. Organisation, and the regulation of individual action, have become mechanical necessities, irrespective of social theories. If we begin with the State control of the banks and then follow with the control of transport, of the heavy industries of industry in general, of commerce, etc., such an all-embracing control will be equivalent to the State ownership of all branches of national economy. This will be the process of socialisation. Socialism and individualism are not opposites like black and white. .

There are many intermediate stages between them.

There is individualism that borders on brigandage, and there is discipline and organisation that are the equivalent of socialism. The introduction of planned economy depends, to a large degree, upon the organisers of economy, upon the skilled technical intelligentsia, who, step by step, can be converted to the socialist principles of organisation. And this is the most important thing. Because organisation comes before socialism. It is the more important fact.

Without organisation the socialist idea is a mere idea.

Stalin: There is no, nor should there be, irreconcilable contrast between the individual and the collective, between the interests of the individual person and the interests of the collective. There should be no such contrast, because collectivism, socialism, does not deny, but combines individual interests with the interests of the collective. Socialism cannot abstract itself from individual interests. Socialist society alone can most fully satisfy these personal interests. More than that; socialist society alone can firmly safeguard the interests of the individual. In this sense there is no irreconcilable contrast between "individualism" and socialism. But can we deny the contrast between classes, between the propertied class, the capitalist class, and the toiling class, the proletarian class?

On the one hand we have the propertied class which owns the banks, the factories, the mines, transport, the plantations in colonies. These people see nothing but their own interests, their striving after profits.

They do not submit to the will of the collective; they strive to subordinate every collective to their will. On the other hand we have the class of the poor, the exploited class, which owns neither factories nor works, nor banks, which is compelled to live by selling its labour power to the capitalists which lacks the opportunity to satisfy its most elementary requirements. How can such opposite interests and strivings be reconciled? As far as I know, Roosevelt has not succeeded in finding the path of conciliation between these interests. And it is impossible, as experience has shown. Incidentally, you know the situation in the United States better than I do as I have never been there and I watch American affairs mainly from literature. But I have some experience in fighting for socialism, and this experience tells me that if Roosevelt makes a real attempt to satisfy the interests of the proletarian class at the expense of the capitalist class, the latter will put another president in his place. The capitalists will say : Presidents come and presidents go, but we go on forever; if this or that president does not protect our interests, we shall find another. What can the president oppose to the will of the capitalist class?

Wells: I object to this simplified classification of mankind into poor and rich. Of course there is a category of people which strive only for profit. But are not these people regarded as nuisances in the West just as much as here? Are there not plenty of people in the West for whom profit is not an end, who own a certain amount of wealth, who want to invest and obtain a profit from this investment, but who do not regard this as the main object? They regard investment as an inconvenient necessity. Are there not plenty of capable and devoted engineers, organisers of economy, whose activities are stimulated by something other than profit? In my opinion there is a numerous class of capable people who admit that the present system is unsatisfactory and who are destined to play a great role in future socialist society. During the past few years I have been much engaged in and have thought of the need for conducting propaganda in favour of socialism and cosmopolitanism among wide circles of engineers, airmen, military technical people, etc. It is useless to approach these circles with two-track class war propaganda. These people understand the condition of the world. They understand that it is a bloody muddle, but they regard your simple class-war antagonism as nonsense.

Stalin: You object to the simplified classification of mankind into rich and poor. Of course there is a middle stratum, there is the technical intelligentsia that you have mentioned and among which there are very good and very honest people. Among them there are also dishonest and wicked people, there are all sorts of people among them, But first of all mankind is divided into rich and poor, into property owners and exploited; and to abstract oneself from this fundamental division and from the antagonism between poor and rich means abstracting oneself from the fundamental fact. I do not deny the existence of intermediate middle strata, which either take the side of one or the other of these two conflicting classes, or else take up a neutral or semi-neutral position in this struggle. But, I repeat, to abstract oneself from this fundamental division in society and from the fundamental struggle between the two main classes means ignoring facts. The struggle is going on and will continue. The outcome will be determined by the proletarian class, the working class.

Salem on Chickens,.. Council lays an Egg

A fantastic evening was had by all last night at the Salem City Council public hearing on the keeping of urban chickens. Although, if you were hoping for some resolution on this sluggish matter you left sorely disappointed. Hours of public testimony led to hours of Council back-and-forth, and in the end, a decision to move the issue on to the Planning Commission.

The citizenry in attendance was overwhelmingly pro-chicken. Of the more than thirty speakers, only three spoke in opposition (one woman twice, totalling four arguments). With all evidence easily pointing in favor of allowing chickens within city limits, it was very disheartening to exit with no conclusion on the matter. It seems that once again, the people are way ahead of their government on an issue.

A mountain of information on the benefits of urban chickens was presented by scientists, farmers, gardeners, and people of all walks of life from our community. Arguments of those opposed to chickens in Salem were smothered in fear and ignorance.

As perturbed as I was at the outcome, I would like to give some words of praise to a few of our city councilors. Councilor Nanke, of Ward 3, appeared to be our most vocal proponent on the issue. He also seemed to actually understand the issue with the clarity of common sense that we should expect of our representatives. Councilors Tesler and Dickey, Ward 2 and Ward 5 respectively, were less vocal but also very supportive.

Councilor Nanke offered a very good amendment concerning the main issues of debate for the evening. He proposed to drop the lot square-footage requirement altogether, as well as reducing the set-back from the property line to ten feet, and twenty feet from a neighboring dwelling. This was the best option proposed last night, and it went nowhere. After some impassioned words on the freedoms of the public (you know, pursuit of happiness, etc) he actually changed the Mayor's mind on the matter, and accordingly, her vote.

I rarely agree with the Mayor on issues around this town, but I thought she was very open-minded and deliberate last night. Thank you, Madam Mayor.

As for the other five councilors... good lord!

Councilor Bennett of Ward 1 was against it from the beginning, and will be at the end. Supposedly the Neighborhood Associations in his ward are opposed, which I find peculiar given that the north end of downtown and the section of northeast that he represents could really use the benefits that come with urban chickens.

Councilor Rogers of Ward 6 asked tons of questions, none of which seemed to really matter in the long run. He appears to be against the proposal and will doubtful move far on the subject. Ward 6, demographically similar to Ward 1, would appear to benefit from a change in the law.

Councilor Cannon is a riot. You have to love a guy with principles. Speak little, say much. His only idea for the evening was the Libertarian Utopia of Land-Use Free-For-All. The government can kiss off. If you can afford it, build a nuclear reactor on your damn property (Those are my words, not his. He did say, however, that people were free to sleep with their chickens for all he cared... so, have a blast Salem, nuclear or otherwise.)

I won't belabor much of a point on Councilor Sullivan. He seemed very afraid of the avian flu and other Biblical plagues. After listening to numerous testimonials concerning the lack of a health hazard that chickens pose, siting research from OSU and elsewhere, it was a little annoying to keep revisiting the risk of poultry Armageddon.

Councilor Clem was tired, I believe, as he voted "no" on a time extension at 10 o'clock, regardless of a resolution.

That's my basic breakdown on the evening. Democracy in action. What we all realize sooner or later is that this is representative government. You can't outnumber your opposition's voice ninety percent to ten and expect progress without the vote of your reps. The anti-urban chicken folks paint us as a vocal minority attempting to push our will on a silent majority. I think that is far from true, and I think that Salem is ready to join the likes of Portland, Eugene, Corvallis, Lake Oswego, and other cities across the country.

Our reps do need to be pressured. We appear to have three councilors and the Mayor on our side. However, the next move will likely be through the Planning Commission... and more hearings.

I'll close by paraphrasing Councilor Dickey when she said that we should trust the citizens of Salem with the same rights and responsibilities that are granted to our fellow Oregonians. I think she's right, and I think we can handle it.

Basic Marxism--Ten

From Engels in 1883:

Marx and I, ever since 1845, have held the view that one of the final results of the future proletarian revolution will be the gradual dissolution and ultimate disappearance of that political organization called the State; an organization the main object of which has ever been to secure, by armed force, the economical subjection of the working majority to the wealthy minority. With the disappearance of a wealthy minority the necessity for an armed repressive State-force disappears also. At the same time we have always held, that in order to arrive at this and the other, far more important ends of the social revolution of the future, the proletarian class will first have to possess itself of the organized political force of the State and with this aid stamp out the resistance to the Capitalist class and re-organize society.

May 26, 2009

What now for the left?

What now for the left?

Everyone seems to be asking this question.

A Willamette Reds comrade has provided a link to an interesting article by Bill Fletcher, Jr. on this topic. You can read that article here.

You can contrast that with a speech recently given by Sam Webb here.

I'm looking forward to the debate these articles inspire and bring forward.

Basic Marxism---Nine

The following is from Lenin. I took considerable liberty in selecting paragraphs from Lenin's The State and Revolution. Please follow this link to the original and read the entire text for yourself.

Engel's words regarding the “withering away” of the state are so widely known, they are often quoted, and so clearly reveal the essence of the customary adaptation of Marxism to opportunism that we must deal with them in detail. We shall quote the whole argument from which they are taken.

“The proletariat seizes from state power and turns the means of production into state property to begin with. But thereby it abolishes itself as the proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, and abolishes also the state as state. Society thus far, operating amid class antagonisms, needed the state, that is, an organization of the particular exploiting class, for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, and, therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited class in the conditions of oppression determined by the given mode of production (slavery, serfdom or bondage, wage-labor). The state was the official representative of society as a whole, its concentration in a visible corporation. But it was this only insofar as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for its own time, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, of the feudal nobility; in our own time, of the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection, as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon the present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from this struggle, are removed, nothing more remains to be held in subjection — nothing necessitating a special coercive force, a state. The first act by which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — is also its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies down of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not 'abolished'. It withers away. This gives the measure of the value of the phrase 'a free people's state', both as to its justifiable use for a long time from an agitational point of view, and as to its ultimate scientific insufficiency; and also of the so-called anarchists' demand that the state be abolished overnight." (Herr Eugen Duhring's Revolution in Science [Anti-Duhring], pp.301-03, third German edition.)...

...(A)t the very outset of his argument, Engels says that, in seizing state power, the proletariat thereby “abolishes the state as state". It is not done to ponder over over the meaning of this. Generally, it is either ignored altogether, or is considered to be something in the nature of “Hegelian weakness” on Engels' part. As a matter of fact, however, these words briefly express the experience of one of the greatest proletarian revolutions, the Paris Commune of 1871...Engels speaks here of the proletariat revolution “abolishing” the bourgeois state, while the words about the state withering away refer to the remnants of the proletarian state after the socialist revolution. According to Engels, the bourgeois state does not “wither away", but is “abolished” by the proletariat in the course of the revolution. What withers away after this revolution is the proletarian state or semi-state.

...(T)he state is a “special coercive force". Engels gives this splendid and extremely profound definition here with the utmost lucidity. And from it follows that the “special coercive force” for the suppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, of millions of working people by handfuls of the rich, must be replaced by a “special coercive force” for the suppression of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat (the dictatorship of the proletariat). This is precisely what is meant by “abolition of the state as state". This is precisely the “act” of taking possession of the means of production in the name of society. And it is self-evident that such a replacement of one (bourgeois) “special force” by another (proletarian) “special force” cannot possibly take place in the form of “withering away".

...(I)n speaking of the state “withering away", and the even more graphic and colorful “dying down of itself", Engels refers quite clearly and definitely to the period after “the state has taken possession of the means of production in the name of the whole of society", that is, after the socialist revolution. We all know that the political form of the “state” at that time is the most complete democracy... Engels is consequently speaking here of democracy “dying down of itself", or “withering away". This seems very strange at first sight. But it is “incomprehensible” only to those who have not thought about democracy also being a state and, consequently, also disappearing when the state disappears. Revolution alone can “abolish” the bourgeois state. The state in general, i.e., the most complete democracy, can only “wither away".

...(A)fter formulating his famous proposition that “the state withers away", Engels at once explains specifically that this proposition is directed against both the opportunists and the anarchists. In doing this, Engels puts in the forefront that conclusion, drawn from the proposition that “the state withers away", which is directed against the opportunists...

...The “free people's state” was a programme demand and a catchword current among the German Social-Democrats in the seventies. This catchword is devoid of all political content except that it describes the concept of democracy in a pompous philistine fashion. Insofar as it hinted in a legally permissible manner at a democratic republic, Engels was prepared to “justify” its use “for a time” from an agitational point of view. But it was an opportunist catchword, for it amounted to something more than prettifying bourgeois democracy, and was also failure to understand the socialist criticism of the state in general. We are in favor of a democratic republic as the best form of state for the proletariat under capitalism. But we have no right to forget that wage slavery is the lot of the people even in the most democratic bourgeois republic. Furthermore, every state is a “special force” for the suppression of the oppressed class. Consequently, every state is not “free” and not a “people's state". Marx and Engels explained this repeatedly to their party comrades in the seventies.

...(T)he same work of Engels', whose arguments about the withering away of the state everyone remembers, also contains an argument of the significance of violent revolution. Engels' historical analysis of its role becomes a veritable panegyric on violent revolution. This, “no one remembers". It is not done in modern socialist parties to talk or even think about the significance of this idea, and it plays no part whatever in their daily propaganda and agitation among the people. And yet it is inseparably bound up with the 'withering away" of the state into one harmonious whole...

...This letter (from Marx in 1852--ed.), among other things, contains the following remarkable observation:

"And now as to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists, the economic anatomy of classes. What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with the particular, historical phases in the development of production, (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society."

In these words, Marx succeeded in expressing with striking clarity, first, the chief and radical difference between his theory and that of the foremost and most profound thinkers of the bourgeoisie; and, secondly, the essence of his theory of the state.

It is often said and written that the main point in Marx's theory is the class struggle. But this is wrong. And this wrong notion very often results in an opportunist distortion of Marxism and its falsification in a spirit acceptable to the bourgeoisie. For the theory of the class struggle was created not by Marx, but by the bourgeoisie before Marx, and, generally speaking, it is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Those who recognize only the class struggle are not yet Marxists; they may be found to be still within the bounds of bourgeois thinking and bourgeois politics. To confine Marxism to the theory of the class struggle means curtailing Marxism, distorting it, reducing it to something acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. That is what constitutes the most profound distinction between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeois. This is the touchstone on which the real understanding and recognition of Marxism should be tested. And it is not surprising that when the history of Europe brought the working class face to face with this question as a practical issue, not only all the opportunists and reformists, but all the Kautskyites (people who vacillate between reformism and Marxism) proved to be miserable philistines and petty-bourgeois democrats repudiating the dictatorship of the proletariat...

Opportunism today, as represented by its principal spokesman, the ex-Marxist Karl Kautsky, fits in completely with Marx's characterization of the bourgeois position quoted above, for this opportunism limits recognition of the class struggle to the sphere of bourgeois relations. (Within this sphere, within its framework, not a single educated liberal will refuse to recognize the class struggle "in principle"!) Opportunism does not extend recognition of the class struggle to the cardinal point, to the period of transition from capitalism to communism, of the overthrow and the complete abolition of the bourgeoisie. In reality, this period inevitably is a period of an unprecedently violent class struggle in unprecedentedly acute forms, and, consequently, during this period the state must inevitably be a state that is democratic in a new way (for the proletariat and the propertyless in general) and dictatorial in a new way (against the bourgeoisie).

Further. The essence of Marx's theory of the state has been mastered only by those who realize that the dictatorship of a single class is necessary not only for every class society in general, not only for the proletariat which has overthrown the bourgeoisie, but also for the entire historical period which separates capitalism from "classless society", from communism. Bourgeois states are most varied in form, but their essence is the same: all these states, whatever their form, in the final analysis are inevitably the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The transition from capitalism to communism is certainly bound to yield a tremendous abundance and variety of political forms, but the essence will inevitably be the same: the dictatorship of the proletariat.

May 25, 2009

A Worker Looks At Memorial Day...

My godfather was an American ambulance driver during the First World War. I have a few letters that he saved from the mother of a young soldier who died in his care during that war. She lived in Indiana and apparently wanted some details on how her son had died. The young soldier was drinking tea at a campfire on a rainy and cold day when a shell hit, another victim of that extended royal family feud we call World War One. He was her only son and she wrote almost poetically of her loss.

An uncle of mine was killed during the so-called Battle of the Bulge and is buried in Belgium. His grave was tended for many years by an anti-fascist Belgian couple who saw doing that as their duty. Somehow our families connected briefly. There are only a couple of people still living who remember him. My father was nearly killed in that war as well.

My father and my uncle grew up in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania and carried with them into the Army the community and work ethic of their time and place: no one worked alone, no one died alone if that could be helped and everyone had some responsibility for the group and a place in the group.

Tony Herbert, who served as a highly decorated Marine in both Korea and Vietnam, also came from a Pennsylvania mining family and wrote about this in his book Soldier. Herbert credits his own coal mining background in part for his later heroism. His book can be read as an insider's account of what happens to the military when capitalist logic takes over. I believe that Herbert was framed and defamed by people in the Nixon administration or in the media when he came forward with accounts of the Phoenix Program and war atrocities in Vietnam.

I don't have a picture of my uncle--I'm not sure that anyone does now. Way back in the hills of Pennsylvania's anthracite region there is a little cemetery with a memorial for him. The picture on the stone there shows a smiling young man, dark and muscular, in a suit that doesn't quite fit. The closest photo I can come up with is of the mine the family worked in. People also died for America in that mine.

Without romanticizing their times or consciousness, it is important to remember that masses of Americans went to war during the Second World War as anti-fascists and because their experiences during the 1930s had instilled in them an idea or instinct that was essentially democratic and progressive. My father, and many more like him, certainly returned from the war with a heightened sense of equality and entitlement: they had beaten back fascism and expected good jobs, education, equality, peace and some new level of prosperity. It took the cold war and the red scare, the purge of progressives under McCarthy, two recessions, the Korean misadventure, a short-lived strike wave stopped dead by sell-out union leaders and a massive propaganda campaign by government and industry to put them back in their place. Even still, a new civil rights movement emerged to challenge what looked like a racist social consensus and many of the leaders of that movement were veterans, union activists and leftists.

The anti-fascist front that existed in the US during the Second World War brought many key unions into cooperation with the government. This cooperation gave people a reasonable hope that the New Deal could continue on and be extended after the war. My parents were among the millions of people who shared this hope. Instead, eleven of the best unions which took leadership during the war years were purged by CIO as part of the red scare and as a precondition for a weak "labor unity" that survived until recently. Among the victims of this purge were also thousands war heroes and at least three veterans' organizations--the Union of New York Veterans, Veterans Against Discrimination (part of the Civil Rights Congress) and the United Negro and Allied Veterans of America. (The relatively liberal American Veterans Committee, formed during the war, was also attacked during the postwar red scare but managed to survive until recently.)

Patriotism for us remains an ambiguous legacy. We have much to be proud of as we reflect upon what it means to be a working class American. This country has a set of revolutionary traditions extending back to its founding days which still affect us today. This may have found its best expression in the book Out of This Furnace by Thomas Bell. Had the above-mentioned veterans' organizations and unions survived the red scare intact we would be telling a much different story and have a different legacy and context to locate ourselves within. On the other hand, we look with dismay on a country built from conquest and by slave and bonded labor which has yet to fulfill its republican and democratic promises of liberty, life, the pursuit of happiness and equality for all. There are unfinished American tasks within reach.

...And Let's Not Forget The Memorial Day Massacre

Memorial Day, 1937: at least ten steel workers killed and over one hundred wounded by police and thugs at Republic Steel in Chicago as they marched for unionization. Read an account of the massacre here.

May 24, 2009

Repubilcans & Socialism--They Should Read Our Blog

How bizarre is the story below? The Republicans should read our blog postings on basic marxism and learn something about what it is they're attacking. We have yet to hear a prominent Republican take up the challenge, study marxism and be willing to debate with a competent marxist. And it would be great if the Democrats would stand on principle, fully reject red-baiting and at least signal that some Democrats are free to move leftwards.

From The New York Times:

"The Republican National Committee backed away Wednesday from a resolution that officially called Democrats the “Democrat Socialist Party,” but instead voted to condemn Democrats for what it called a “march toward socialism.”

Read more here.

Basic Marxism--Eight

To view our entire series, please click on the "Basic Marxism" label below. In order to read complete texts on the internet, go to the Marxist Internet Archive--surely the best project of its kind on the internet. If you're in the Salem area and wish to study marxism, please contact us through this blog.

This is from Engels:

With men we enter history. Animals also have a history, that of their derivation and gradual evolution to their present position. This history, however, is made for them, and in so far as they themselves take part in it, this occurs without their knowledge or desire. On the other hand, the more that human beings become removed from animals in the narrower sense of the word, the more they make their own history consciously, the less becomes the influence of unforeseen effects and uncontrolled forces of this history, and the more accurately does the historical result correspond to the aim laid down in advance. If, however, we apply this measure to human history, to that of even the most developed peoples of the present day, we find that there still exists here a colossal disproportion between the proposed aims and the results arrived at, that unforeseen effects predominate, and that the uncontrolled forces are far more powerful than those set into motion according to plan. And this cannot be otherwise as long as the most essential historical activity of men, the one which has raised them from bestiality to humanity and which forms the material foundation of all their other activities, namely the production of their requirements of life, that is to-day social production, is above all subject to the interplay of unintended effects from uncontrolled forces and achieves its desired end only by way of exception and, much more frequently, the exact opposite. In the most advanced industrial countries we have subdued the forces of nature and pressed them into the service of mankind; we have thereby infinitely multiplied production, so that a child now produces more than a hundred adults previously did. And what is the result? Increasing overwork and increasing misery of the masses, and every ten years a great collapse. Darwin did not know what a bitter satire he wrote on mankind, and especially on his countrymen, when he showed that free competition, the struggle for existence, which the economists celebrate as the highest historical achievement, is the normal state of the animal kingdom. Only conscious organisation of social production, in which production and distribution are carried on in a planned way, can lift mankind above the rest of the animal world as regards the social aspect, in the same way that production in general has done this for men in their aspect as species. Historical evolution makes such an organisation daily more indispensable, but also with every day more possible. From it will date a new epoch of history, in which mankind itself, and with mankind all branches of its activity, and especially natural science, will experience an advance that will put everything preceding it in the deepest shade.

May 23, 2009

Basic Marxism--Seven

Readers who are interested in this series can click on the "Basic Marxism" label below and get our entire series in order. I'm trying to present the most basic concepts of marxism is short shots, although nothing really substitutes for reading entire texts in a group and in light of our lived experience. Most people reading this will not have the opportunity to do the readings in a group. If you're in our Salem area and would like to study marxism in a group, please contact us.

The following comes from Engels.

Active social forces work exactly like natural forces: blindly, forcibly, destructively, so long as we do not understand, and reckon with, them. But when once we understand them, when once we grasp their action, their direction, their effects, it depends only upon ourselves to subject them more and more to our own will, and by means of them to reach our own ends. And this holds quite especially of the mighty productive forces of today. As long as we obstinately refuse to understand the nature and the character of these social means of action — and this understanding goes against the grain of the capitalist mode of production and its defenders — so long these forces are at work in spite of us, in opposition to us, so long they master us, as we have shown above in detail. But when once their nature is understood, they can, in the hands of the producers working together, be transformed from master demons into willing servants. The difference is as that between the destructive force of electricity in the lightning of the storm, and electricity under command in the telegraph and the voltaic arc; the difference between a conflagration, and fire working in the service of man. With this recognition, at last, of the real nature of the productive forces of today, the social anarchy of production gives place to a social regulation of production upon a definite plan, according to the needs of the community and of each individual. Then the capitalist mode of appropriation, in which the product enslaves first the producer and then the appropriator, is replaced by the mode of appropriation of the products that is based upon the nature of the modern means of production: upon the one hand, direct social appropriation, as means to the maintenance and extension of production — on the other, direct individual appropriation, as means of subsistence and of enjoyment.

Whilst the capitalist mode of production more and more completely transforms the great majority of the population into proletarians, it creates the power which, under penalty of its own destruction, is forced to accomplish this revolution. Whilst it forces on more and more the transformation of the vast means of production, already socialised, into state property, it shows itself the way to accomplishing this revolution. The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production in the first instance into state property. But, in doing this, it abolishes itself as proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, abolishes also the state as state. Society thus far, based upon class antagonisms, had need of the state, that is, of an organisation of the particular class, which was pro tempore the exploiting class, for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, and, therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited classes in the condition of oppression corresponding with the given mode of production (slavery, serfdom, wage-labour). The state was the official representative of society as a whole; the gathering of it together into a visible embodiment. But it was this only in so far as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for the time being, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, the feudal lords; in our own time, the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a state, is no longer necessary. The first act by virtue of which the state really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not "abolished". It dies out. This gives the measure of the value of the phrase "a free people's state", both as to its justifiable use at times by agitators, and as to its ultimate scientific insufficiency; and also of the demands of the so-called anarchists for the abolition of the state out of hand.

Since the historical appearance of the capitalist mode of production, the appropriation by society of all the means of production has often been dreamed of, more or less vaguely, by individuals, as well as by sects, as the ideal of the future. But it could become possible, could become a historical necessity, only when the actual conditions for its realisation were there. Like every other social advance, it becomes practicable, not by men understanding that the existence of classes is in contradiction to justice, equality, etc., not by the mere willingness to abolish these classes, but by virtue of certain new economic conditions. The separation of society into an exploiting and an exploited class, a ruling and an oppressed class, was the necessary consequence of the deficient and restricted development of production in former times. So long as the total social labour only yields a produce which but slightly exceeds that barely necessary for the existence of all; so long, therefore, as labour engages all or almost all the time of the great majority of the members of society — so long, of necessity, this society is divided into classes. Side by side with the great majority, exclusively bond slaves to labour, arises a class freed from directly productive labour, which looks after the general affairs of society: the direction of labour, state business, law, science, art, etc. It is, therefore, the law of division of labour that lies at the basis of the division into classes. But this does not prevent this division into classes from being carried out by means of violence and robbery, trickery and fraud. It does not prevent the ruling class, once having the upper hand, from consolidating its power at the expense of the working class, from turning its social leadership into an exploitation of the masses.

But if, upon this showing, division into classes has a certain historical justification, it has this only for a given period, only under given social conditions. It was based upon the insufficiency of production. It will be swept away by the complete development of modern productive forces. And, in fact, the abolition of classes in society presupposes a degree of historical evolution at which the existence, not simply of this or that particular ruling class, but of any ruling class at all, and, therefore, the existence of class distinction itself has become an obsolete anachronism. It presupposes, therefore, the development of production carried out to a degree at which appropriation of the means of production and of the products, and, with this, of political domination, of the monopoly of culture, and of intellectual leadership by a particular class of society, has become not only superfluous but economically, politically, intellectually a hindrance to development. This point is now reached. Their political and intellectual bankruptcy is scarcely any longer a secret to the bourgeoisie themselves. Their economic bankruptcy recurs regularly every ten years. In every crisis, society is suffocated beneath the weight of its own productive forces and products, which it cannot use, and stands helpless face to face with the absurd contradiction that the producers have nothing to consume, because consumers are wanting. The expansive force of the means of production bursts the bonds that the capitalist mode of production had imposed upon them. Their deliverance from these bonds is the one precondition for an unbroken, constantly accelerated development of the productive forces, and therewith for a practically unlimited increase of production itself. Nor is this all. The socialised appropriation of the means of production does away, not only with the present artificial restrictions upon production, but also with the positive waste and devastation of productive forces and products that are at the present time the inevitable concomitants of production, and that reach their height in the crises. Further, it sets free for the community at large a mass of means of production and of products, by doing away with the senseless extravagance of the ruling classes of today and their political representatives. The possibility of securing for every member of society, by means of socialised production, an existence not only fully sufficient materially, and becoming day by day more full, but an existence guaranteeing to all the free development and exercise of their physical and mental faculties — this possibility is now for the first time here, but it is here. *11

With the seizing of the means of production by society production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The struggle for individual existence disappears. Then for the first time man, in a certain sense, is finally marked off from the rest of the animal kingdom, and emerges from mere animal conditions of existence into really human ones. The whole sphere of the conditions of life which environ man, and which have hitherto ruled man, now comes under the dominion and control of man who for the first time becomes the real, conscious lord of nature because he has now become master of his own social organisation. The laws of his own social action, hitherto standing face to face with man as laws of nature foreign to, and dominating him, will then be used with full understanding, and so mastered by him. Man's own social organisation, hitherto confronting him as a necessity imposed by nature and history, now becomes the result of his own free action. The extraneous objective forces that have hitherto governed history pass under the control of man himself. Only from that time will man himself, with full consciousness, make his own history — only from that time will the social causes set in movement by him have, in the main and in a constantly growing measure, the results intended by him. It is the humanity's leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.

To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. To thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions and thus the very nature of this act, to impart to the now oppressed class a full knowledge of the conditions and of the meaning of the momentous act it is called upon to accomplish, this is the task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, scientific socialism.

May 22, 2009

A Proposal From An OSB Activist

My two cents: I think we should quickly build a war chest via outreach to neighborhood assn's; blind and deaf advocacy groups; OSB and OSD alumni and families; our supporters, etc., and start two lawsuits, one for land use issues and one for civil rights issues.

It would also be great if all current OSB parents could file Civil Rights complaints with the Dept of Ed Office of Civil Rights in Washington. That office was gutted under Bush, but I understand it is being restaffed and beefed up. This weekend, I will try to send info re how to file the Complaint, and a sample filed for a PPS student.

Article by Betsy Hammond today:

A Voice In Support Of Oregon School For The Blind

Link to blog:

Friday, May 22, 2009

"He's Always So Angry"!

by DAWG Oregon/disability advocate David McDonald

Ok; I admit it... I'm well beyond disappointed that they are going to close the Oregon School for the Blind, suspend the Oregon Commission for the Blind, and remove Vision Services from the Oregon Health Plan. I am PISSED OFF! What is to come for the people with visual impairments in Oregon??

In all the newspaper articles I've read over the past few weeks, they keep on mentioning "the advocates" who are behind this whole thing, without naming them. Why?

I'll tell you why. It's because the "advocates" don't want their actual names connected to this BLATANT discrimination. Once again they are demonstrating their absolute fear of anything and everything.

One person who I put on record of being in support of this foolishness is Bob Joondeph, Executive Director of Disability Rights Oregon. I'm quite certain Bob would have preferred his name not be associated with closing the school, but as I've written before, the school's been around for over 100 years, and it took a legislative bill for him to weigh in on how the school violates the IDEA and the Olmstead Decision. Why was he so silent about it until April, '09? Either he's ignorant or incompetent. He gets to choose.

Stop Rush!

We have given over a lot of blogspace to attacking right-wing hate radio. As the social crisis deepens, five intertwined trends emerge: the left and progressive forces move forward as people look for human solutions and as people's capacity to organize and protest deepens; the far-right marshalls its forces and responds to the crisis and to the advances from the left with its own historic racism, sexism, anti-labor and anti-communist drives; a struggle develops over democratic rights and the substance and viability of democracy itself; the dangers posed by wars and environmental destruction grow as the right and the corporations look to divert social progress and solve economic problems through imperialist designs; right-wing forces, backed by corporations and monopolies, use the media to stoke fear and racism at home and justify wars abroad. The following post just came in from a comrade and it demonstrates how these trends work out:

You won't believe what Rush Limbaugh just said. He accused President Obama of intentionally trying to wreck the economy, saying that Obama wants to put more people on welfare and food stamps, and implying that he wants to redistribute the country's wealth to Black people.[1]

This is not just an ugly attack on President Obama from Rush Limbaugh -- these are words from the man who is being held up as the face of the Republican Party. Virtually no Republican leaders have been willing to denounce his divisive rhetoric, or even disagree with him.[2] Instead, they say he's an important part of their party, and a friend.

When Republican leaders refuse to denounce this kind of race-baiting from someone they call a leader, the message they send is that they embrace it. It's time to force Republican officials to say where they stand. I've joined in publicly confronting them--will you join me?

Here's what Rush said about President Obama's economic policies:

"The objective is unemployment. The objective is more food stamp benefits. The objective is more unemployment benefits. The objective is an expanding welfare state. And the objective is to take the nation's wealth and return to it to the nation's quote, "rightful owners." Think reparations. Think forced reparations here if you want to understand what actually is going on."[3]

It's a direct appeal to racial fear and paranoia, and it's deeply insulting to the President, to Black people, and to anyone who cares about the future of this country. We've seen this kind of thing from Rush before.[4,5] But now, Republican politicians are refusing to denounce what he says, or even disagree with him. When they do, they usually take it back the next day, begging Rush to forgive them.[6]

Colin Powell is perhaps the only prominent Republican who has consistently stood up to Limbaugh and urged other Republicans to turn away from his divisive rhetoric. Powell recently said this: "I think what Rush does as an entertainer diminishes the party and intrudes or inserts into our public life a kind of nastiness that we would be better to do without."[7]

The response from Limbaugh and other Republicans? Rush repeated an old attack on Powell, accusing him of supporting Obama during the election solely based on race.[8] Meanwhile, Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to attack Powell and make it clear that he stands with Rush Limbaugh when it comes to the future of the Republican Party.[9]

Rush speaks. Republicans in government do the work.

You might think Rush and Cheney merely represent the party's extremes, but that misses the larger context. The Republican Party has made it clear that they don't want Obama to succeed--even if it means further damage to the economy and to the lives of everyday Americans. It's evident in the 'no' votes Republican members of Congress cast against Obama's budget, the refusal of Republican governors to allow stimulus dollars to flow into their states, and their leadership's refusal to denounce the rhetoric coming from Rush and others. Rush has said clearly that he wants Obama to fail, and Republican elected officials have been clear in their actions.

Please join me in demanding that Republican leaders say publicly where they stand. Do they reject Rush Limbaugh's divisive fear-mongering, or do they stand with him? If they refuse to denounce what Rush said, they'll be making it perfectly clear what the Republican Party stands for. will work to make sure the media tells the story.



1. "Rush Limbaugh: 'The Niggers Are Coming for Their Reparations!'" Jack and Jill Politics, 05-13-09

2. "The Man Who Ate the G.O.P." Vanity Fair, May 2009

3. See reference 1.

4. "Limbaugh on Obama: 'Halfrican American'," Media Matters, 01-24-07

5. The Today Show, NBC News, 05-21-07

6. "Forgive Me Rush, For I have Sinned," Talking Points Memo,

7. "Cheney backs Limbaugh over Powell on GOP future," Associated Press, 05-10-09

8. See reference 7.

9. See reference 7.

Basic Marxism---Six

From The Communist Manifesto:

In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?

The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.

They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.

They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.

The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only:

1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.

2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.

The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer.

They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes. The abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of communism.

All property relations in the past have continually been subject to historical change consequent upon the change in historical conditions.

The French Revolution, for example, abolished feudal property in favour of bourgeois property.

The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.

In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence.

Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.

Or do you mean the modern bourgeois private property?

But does wage-labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labour, and which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage-labour for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labour. Let us examine both sides of this antagonism.

To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a social status in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion.

Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power.

When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character.

Let us now take wage-labour.

The average price of wage-labour is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the labourer in bare existence as a labourer. What, therefore, the wage-labourer appropriates by means of his labour, merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence. We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labour, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labour of others. All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the labourer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it.

In bourgeois society, living labour is but a means to increase accumulated labour. In Communist society, accumulated labour is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the labourer.

In bourgeois society, therefore, the past dominates the present; in Communist society, the present dominates the past. In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality.

And the abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! And rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at.

By freedom is meant, under the present bourgeois conditions of production, free trade, free selling and buying.

But if selling and buying disappears, free selling and buying disappears also. This talk about free selling and buying, and all the other “brave words” of our bourgeois about freedom in general, have a meaning, if any, only in contrast with restricted selling and buying, with the fettered traders of the Middle Ages, but have no meaning when opposed to the Communistic abolition of buying and selling, of the bourgeois conditions of production, and of the bourgeoisie itself.

You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.

In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.

From the moment when labour can no longer be converted into capital, money, or rent, into a social power capable of being monopolised, i.e., from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say, individuality vanishes.

You must, therefore, confess that by “individual” you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed, be swept out of the way, and made impossible.

Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriations.

It has been objected that upon the abolition of private property, all work will cease, and universal laziness will overtake us.

According to this, bourgeois society ought long ago to have gone to the dogs through sheer idleness; for those of its members who work, acquire nothing, and those who acquire anything do not work. The whole of this objection is but another expression of the tautology: that there can no longer be any wage-labour when there is no longer any capital.

All objections urged against the Communistic mode of producing and appropriating material products, have, in the same way, been urged against the Communistic mode of producing and appropriating intellectual products. Just as, to the bourgeois, the disappearance of class property is the disappearance of production itself, so the disappearance of class culture is to him identical with the disappearance of all culture.

That culture, the loss of which he laments, is, for the enormous majority, a mere training to act as a machine.

But don’t wrangle with us so long as you apply, to our intended abolition of bourgeois property, the standard of your bourgeois notions of freedom, culture, law, &c. Your very ideas are but the outgrowth of the conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your jurisprudence is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will whose essential character and direction are determined by the economical conditions of existence of your class.

The selfish misconception that induces you to transform into eternal laws of nature and of reason, the social forms springing from your present mode of production and form of property – historical relations that rise and disappear in the progress of production – this misconception you share with every ruling class that has preceded you. What you see clearly in the case of ancient property, what you admit in the case of feudal property, you are of course forbidden to admit in the case of your own bourgeois form of property.

Abolition [Aufhebung] of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.

On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form, this family exists only among the bourgeoisie. But this state of things finds its complement in the practical absence of the family among the proletarians, and in public prostitution.

The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital.

Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.

But, you say, we destroy the most hallowed of relations, when we replace home education by social.

And your education! Is not that also social, and determined by the social conditions under which you educate, by the intervention direct or indirect, of society, by means of schools, &c.? The Communists have not invented the intervention of society in education; they do but seek to alter the character of that intervention, and to rescue education from the influence of the ruling class.

The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour.

But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the bourgeoisie in chorus.

The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.

He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production.

For the rest, nothing is more ridiculous than the virtuous indignation of our bourgeois at the community of women which, they pretend, is to be openly and officially established by the Communists. The Communists have no need to introduce community of women; it has existed almost from time immemorial.

Our bourgeois, not content with having wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other’s wives.

Bourgeois marriage is, in reality, a system of wives in common and thus, at the most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalised community of women. For the rest, it is self-evident that the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of the community of women springing from that system, i.e., of prostitution both public and private.

The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality.

The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.

National differences and antagonism between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.

The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster. United action, of the leading civilised countries at least, is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat.

In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another will also be put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end.

The charges against Communism made from a religious, a philosophical and, generally, from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination.

Does it require deep intuition to comprehend that man’s ideas, views, and conception, in one word, man’s consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life?

What else does the history of ideas prove, than that intellectual production changes its character in proportion as material production is changed? The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.

When people speak of the ideas that revolutionise society, they do but express that fact that within the old society the elements of a new one have been created, and that the dissolution of the old ideas keeps even pace with the dissolution of the old conditions of existence.

When the ancient world was in its last throes, the ancient religions were overcome by Christianity. When Christian ideas succumbed in the 18th century to rationalist ideas, feudal society fought its death battle with the then revolutionary bourgeoisie. The ideas of religious liberty and freedom of conscience merely gave expression to the sway of free competition within the domain of knowledge.

“Undoubtedly,” it will be said, “religious, moral, philosophical, and juridical ideas have been modified in the course of historical development. But religion, morality, philosophy, political science, and law, constantly survived this change.”

“There are, besides, eternal truths, such as Freedom, Justice, etc., that are common to all states of society. But Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience.”

What does this accusation reduce itself to? The history of all past society has consisted in the development of class antagonisms, antagonisms that assumed different forms at different epochs.

But whatever form they may have taken, one fact is common to all past ages, viz., the exploitation of one part of society by the other. No wonder, then, that the social consciousness of past ages, despite all the multiplicity and variety it displays, moves within certain common forms, or general ideas, which cannot completely vanish except with the total disappearance of class antagonisms.

The Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with traditional property relations; no wonder that its development involved the most radical rupture with traditional ideas.

But let us have done with the bourgeois objections to Communism.

We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.

Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.

When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.