Showing posts with label Marxism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marxism. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Seattle Days

I spent a long weekend in Seattle. That brought back memories of the Left, when the left in the United States still consisted of socialists, communists, and anarchists. True, these types can still be found here and there in tiny numbers, but in 1983 and 1984 there were some twenty coherent leftist organizations in Seattle. If nothing else, this provided a lot of political cover for the "left of center" politics that pose as the left today. Except the center has itself moved far to the right. Most of the leftists I knew then were five to thirty years older than I was, so most of them are probably retired or dead now. Events never produced a new generation of such leftists in the United States. Marxism has largely gone out of style since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Anarchism has fared better, but is largely a self-serve fringe phenomena, not an organized movement capable of laying and executing plans.

In 1984 it never occured to me that 25 years or so later we would be fighting what amounts to religious wars. They are also wars of imperialism. I guess if you grew up while the Cold War was on, you thought imperialism was always opposed by national liberation movements with essentially Marxist theology.

If I had been more perceptive I might have realized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would some day split the world in a new way. I had a conversation with two young Palestinians who were Maoists at the time. They told me they saw Maoism as the best alternative for getting justice for the Palestinian people. They were not really committed to Maoism. The did not like the PLO, which you might recall at least pretended to be a Marxist organization, Soviet camp. But they were open to joining up with a Moslem group (Hamas would not be founded until 1987) if that was what would mobilize their country to fight for their freedom. I never saw them after that. Since they were students in the U.S., probably they just grew up, got jobs, and never joined any fighting organization.

Hamas, of course, won elections in Palestine in 2006. The U.S. promptly decided Democracy was not such a good idea. So it came down to fighting again, and Hamas ended up with Gaza and the PLO ended up being West Bank jailors for Israel and the U.S. Situations do not get much sadder.

In the U.S. the Democratic Party has again proven that it is just as much a front for the capitalist, ruling class as the Republican Party ever was. The war against the people of Afghanistan goes on, and we constantly threaten Iran, Somalia, and everyone else who disagrees with America's idea of how the world should be run.

I am still deeply anti-religious, but that does not make me want to join up with ruthless bitches like Hilary Clinton to kill Taliban sympathisers. If I were an Afghan, I might not let the Taliban push me around. Just like I don't want Christians bossing me around with their lifestyle legislation in the U.S. But what goes on inside Afghanistan is not my business, and it is not the business of the United States government. Every politicians who votes for the war in Afghanistan is a war criminal, and both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are war crimes organizations, whatever else they might be.

On the whole, things are a whole lot worse than they were in 1984. It is hard to believe that a government, and a bunch of hard-nosed capitalists, could run an economy even worse than they were doing in 1984, but apparently they can. While destroying what is left of the environment at the same time, and involving just about everyone in the stupidist global war in human history.

I looked for a couple of buildings I where I worked in Seattle. They were still there, though obscurred by new skyscrapers. I spent a considerable amount of time learning about just how dangerous nuclear power plants were, working on the mess left by the Washington Public Power Supply System's attempt to build five of them.

Now Obama wants to start building nuclear power plants again. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe there is a devil. Maybe everyone who wants to be President has to sell his (or her) soul to the Devil. Certainly Obama had his crossroads, probably back when he saw how shitty the pay was for "community organizers." Maybe the Devil is a metaphor. But I don't think Obama would be making such horrendously bad decissions if he had worked some real jobs before seeking political office. The kind where the bosses treat you like dog leavings, so you get to smell the reality really, really good. It is a smell you should never forget.

I'm not betting on it, but what with the budget deficit the way it is, and Californians tired of being bossed around by a bunch of demented halfwits in the Old South, I would not be very surprised if some day the United States became the Untied States of America.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sad End to a Marxist Experiment in Palestine: The PLO

Today by all reports Hamas has, at least temporarily, eliminated the Palestinian Liberation Organization from power in the Gaza Strip. The PLO still dominates in the West Bank of Palestine and PLO member Mahmoud Abas is still President of the territorial (not national) government, but its dominance is shaky.

The PLO might serve as textbook example of how not to run a national liberation organization. The PLO's record, or course, is mixed by whatever reasonable standards you judge by. Formed in 1964 out of a convention of the Palestinian National Council, the PLO faced a strong Israel with conflicting support from Arab nations. While its ideology was clearly nationalistic, most of its factions were also Marxist, in the socialist-to-communist spectrum. In the mid-1960's and into the 1980's the strength of the Soviet Union and China and the success of Marxist and nationalist wars of national liberation against the U.S. and European empires made the PLO's embracement of Marxism seem rational.

Rather than my repeating more PLO history, please see the Wikipedia article Palestinian Liberation Organization or one of the PLO's own web sites.

The key point is: the PLO engaged in a multi-faceted political and military war to regain Palestine from the Israeli occupation. The did it with very little help from non-Palestinian Arabs. They made enormous sacrifices; many of those who were not killed spent long periods in prisons. They put the plight of the Palestinian people back on the world's agenda. So how did they lose the support of the people in Gaza and the West Bank?

It is only fair to state that failure is always a political problem. With the U.S. supplying and shielding Israel, with the strength the Israeli economy and military, and with little meaningful support from Saudi Arabia, the PLO program of driving off the Israelis had no chance of success. Any organization would have failed given those odds. You can always count on people for blaming the PLO for not doing the impossible; Palestinians, to some extent, blamed the PLO for its failures.

But in other areas the PLO failed when it might have succeeded. They failed to find a way to build an economy. They allowed their leadership structure to become a house of economic corruption. And they failed to provide a workable philosophy for the Palestinians in refuge camps.

Marxism competed quite successfully with the organized, traditional religions between about 1850 and about 1990. It promised pie on a plate rather than pie in the sky. It promised equality for working people and equality for all ethnic groups; it led the world in establishing the equality of women on a large scale. The social-democratic (as opposed to Leninist-dictatorial) style of Marxism is still going strong in some nations. But in the Palestinian towns and refuge camps it began to sound as hollow as Catholicism sounded to many Europeans during the Protestant Reformation in the 1500's.

I did not believe this when I first heard it. I met at political meetings (in Berkeley, of course) two Palestinian students who were Marxists of the Leninist variety. But one day they told me that they were considering switching to supporting an Islamic organization. This was back around 1983. Why would educated, rational people embrace an irrational religion? Because they already knew, way back then, that the PLO was a failure. That its Marxism was a shell; that it had become an organization devoted to fleecing the people rather than leading them to a utopia.
Over the years I have thought back to that conversation many times. I don't care much for organized religion (see my Religion pages). I believe that religious people are just as apt to be hypocritical and corrupt as atheists. But I have observed, in history and in current times, that some times an organization comes together that is not corrupt, and the people in the organization maintain that character for a considerable period of time.

Most of the time most of the people find it easier to put up with corruption than to do something about it. Corrupt organizations usually have the power to punish honest people. But some times situations become so bad that ordinary people will reject corruption and even fight it.
That is what happened in Palestine, and the organization that embodied the purity of spirit necessary to fight corruption just happened to be Islamic. This is not to say that Islam was not founded primarily as a moral and ethical organization; its history clearly shows that it was. But Islam was also corrupted early; for many of its adherents the seizure of booty became its primary attraction even before The Prophet died.

While Hamas's aim of destroying the state of Israel (See Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement) has motivated its most militant members, I suspect that is not the main reason it has such widespread popular support in Gaza.

Nor do I think the PLO lost support because of its godless Marxism. I don't think many Palestinians have either a free-market capitalist or an anarchist critique of Marxist state-socialism. I don't think they hated Yasser Arafat on a personal level.

It is all about honesty versus corruption.

This is an important lesson for all political organizations. Party leaderships that are filled with parasites, as in the Democratic and Republican Parties in the U.S.A., can survive during periods of moral decay and economic prosperity. But new parties can be built based on honesty and justice, and when times are rough these organizations may grow at surprisingly rapid rates.