May 1, 2018

Crisis: On Marx, The Koreas, Central Bankers, On Fascism 1, On Fascism 2


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 1, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, May 1, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from May 1, 2018
1. Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!
2. On North Korea Nuclear Deal: Will the U.S. Drop Sanctions & Economic

3. 'Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World'
4. Unfashionable Fascism: Mainstream Politicians Switching Sides Under
     Trump’s Regime of Barbarism

5. Fascists Compete To Own America
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Happy Birthday, Karl Marx. You Were Right!

This article is by Jason Baker on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
On May 5, 1818, in the southern German town of Trier, in the picturesque wine-growing region of the Moselle Valley, Karl Marx was born.
As we reach the bicentennial of Marx’s birth, what lessons might we draw from his dangerous and delirious philosophical legacy? What precisely is Marx’s lasting contribution?

Today the legacy would appear to be alive and well. Since the turn of the millennium countless books have appeared, from scholarly works to popular biographies, broadly endorsing Marx’s reading of capitalism and its enduring relevance to our neoliberal age.
I say, which I do because my parents were intelligent and courageous Marxists for 45 years; because I know Marx (and Engels and Lenin) quite well; and because the above bit, like the rest of this article, makes very little sense to me.

Then again, I ceased to be a Marxist 48 years ago (when I was 20), basically because - while I still was a radical and an anti-capitalist, both of which I still am - I had come to disagree on intellectual grounds with Marx's historical materialism, with his dialectical materialism, and with his economy. (See the last link for more.)

In case you are interested in my ideas, this long letter from 1976 (!!) gives rather clear and comprehensive reasons why I thought so (and mostly still think so, although a few of my arguments have changed some in the intervening 45 years).

In contrast with me, Jason Barker very probably misses my radical family background, and seems to be considerably younger than my 68 years. He also is "an associate professor of philosophy", which once was to be my next careerstep, but then I am ill for forty years now with ME/CFS, that was only this year (!!!)
admitted to be "a serious and chronic disease", and also I studied at a quasi-Marxist university that - quite illegally - denied me the right to take my - excellent - M.A. in philosophy because I had offended my - extremely incompetent, only in money and status interested - "teachers" of philosophy, who had taught me exactly nothing.

Finally, I selected this article because I am quite aware that Marx has been born 200 years ago, and wanted to write some about him and Marxism and Soviet socialism, and this was the first article that made the point
that Marx has been born 200 years ago, but I am sorry: it is a bad article.

I will review it. But I do hope for something better than the present article to commemorate Marx. Here is the first bit:
(..) Marx’s basic thesis — that capitalism is driven by a deeply divisive class struggle in which the ruling-class minority appropriates the surplus labor of the working-class majority as profit — is correct. Even liberal economists such as Nouriel Roubini agree that Marx’s conviction that capitalism has an inbuilt tendency to destroy itself remains as prescient as ever. But this is where the unanimity abruptly ends.
No, it is simply false that "Marx's basic thesis (...) is correct". In fact, I think most non-Marxists (which are in vast majority in the West) agree with me that (i) the concept of class struggle either is mistaken or is not well stated; that (ii) the idea that "the ruling-class minority appropriates the surplus labor of the working-class majority" is mistaken and not well stated; and finally, while it is true that Marx thought that "capitalism has an inbuilt tendency to destroy itself" many others (anarchists, socialists) thought something similar (and many non-socialists and non-anarchists would agree that capitalism is, for various reasons, a temporary and not an eternal feature of human societies).

Then there is this:
First, let’s be clear: Marx arrives at no magic formula for exiting the enormous social and economic contradictions that global capitalism entails (according to Oxfam, 82 percent of the global wealth generated in 2017 went to the world’s richest 1 percent). What Marx did achieve, however, through his self-styled materialist thought, were the critical weapons for undermining capitalism’s ideological claim to be the only game in town.
Well... what is a "magic formula"? Why believe Marx ever believed in any "magic formula"? (I think he did not, and certainly not consciously.)

In fact, Marx is not very specific about socialism and communism, and also not on how these would emerge from capitalism, but he was rather specific that "the working class" had to organize itself politically, and that it would do so in the best way when they joined communist (or partially communist) associations Marx belonged to or supported. And this in turn led to the rise of socialist, social-democratic and communist parties in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century.

Also, while I am willing to agree that Marx forged quite a few "critical weapons", there were very many leftist (and also non-leftist) critics who did the same, without being Marxists or communists.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:
The idea of the classless and stateless society would come to define both Marx’s and Engels’s idea of communism, and of course the subsequent and troubled history of the Communist “states” (ironically enough!) that materialized during the 20th century. There is still a great deal to be learned from their disasters, but their philosophical relevance remains doubtful, to say the least.
No. A "classless and stateless society" was also the end of most anarchists and most (radical) socialists, and was not specifically Marxist. Next, while I think it is a mistake to blame Marx or Engels for "Soviet socialism", I think "Soviet socialism" was a very serious mistake, for it was not socialist in any sense I - and very many others - would agree to. It was pretended to be socialist by its leaders, but in fact was a dictatorship.

Finally, I would also say that if one's teachings do lead to major socialist and communist parties, (and Marx's writing did lead to these) and inspired at least one revolution (in Russia) that failed, then this failure is "relevant" to understanding Marx.

But basically this is just a vague and misleading article.

2. On North Korea Nuclear Deal: Will the U.S. Drop Sanctions & Economic Embargo?

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has pledged to abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States agrees to formally end the Korean War and promises not to invade his country. The announcement came after a historic meeting Friday between Kim and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in in the truce village of Panmunjom. Then, on Sunday, North Korea’s state media said Kim had vowed to immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests, and would dismantle its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site. We discuss the potentially historic developments with Tim Shorrock, correspondent for The Nation and the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism in Seoul.
I say, for I think these are rather important and rather big changes. Here is more by Tim Shorrock:

TIM SHORROCK: (..) It was an amazing sight to see Kim Jong-un step over that border and shake hands with Moon Jae-in. This is, of course—you know, he’s the highest level—he’s the only leader from North Korea to ever step into South Korea. And that was a symbolic step, him coming to the South.

And their declaration, the Panmunjom Declaration, that was just mentioned, it’s quite an amazing document, and I really urge our listeners to download it and read it very carefully, because, you know, they come out very clearly for a, you know, complete peace process. They talk about the complete denuclearization. They’re committed to denuclearization. They talk about reconnecting the blood relations of the people, determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord. They set out very important steps for reconciliation, such as setting up a joint liaison office, reconnecting railroads and roads that have been cut off in the past, and moving towards, you know, a peace regime that involves the United States and China and settles the Korean War once and for all. And it’s really quite a document. And I think the South Korean people, you know, were very impressed with what Kim Jong-un said and what other members of the North Korean delegation said. And the whole atmosphere of it was very conducive. And I note, you know, that Moon Jae-in, the president, his popularity is up to 85 percent now, precisely because of this.

I say, once again, for I did not know most of this and it is important (first for the Koreans, and indirectly for the rest of the world, because that risks being blown up ny atomic weapons over Korea).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

TIM SHORROCK: It’s just amazing to me to see the Washington consensus. I mean, people here in Washington, in the press and in the pundit class, they make fun of North Korea for being this totalitarian state where everyone thinks the same and has to do what the leader says. Well, the lockstep groupthink here in Washington is very similar. It’s just they all say the same thing. You can read the same analysis that you just heard from Brookings, that you just saw in The New York Times, you can see that, you know, in Post, in all these hot takes that appear in the Post, The Atlantic, The New Yorker. Everybody thinks the same way in this pundit class here in Washington.

Nobody takes Korea, South Korea, seriously, nobody takes North Korea seriously, that South Korea and North Korea mapped out a procedure, a plan, to denuclearize and to decompress and to move toward a peace regime and decrease the tensions.
I think this is mostly correct as well (although I hope the non-American world takes both Koreas - which both risk being blown up by atomic weapons - a bit more seriously than the Americans).

And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. 'Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World'

This article is by Nomi Prins on Truthdig. I wrote about her before, lately (here and here), and the article is in fact a quotation from her new book "Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World".

Also, I open with the following introductory bit by the Editor of Truthdig. I do so because Nomi Prins seems to have a somewhat similar view as I do of the crisis:
Editor’s note: Truthdig columnist and best-selling author Nomi Prins examines how the 2007-2008 financial crisis triggered a massive shift in the global order in her new book, “Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World” (...)
I agree - more or less - with Nomi Prins, although I would reconstruct four moments in the last 50 years that produced the present mess:

(1) 1972: The exhortations of Lewis F. Powell Jr. to the rich men to organize themselves
(2) 1979/1980: The elections of Thatcher and Reagan
(3) 2001/2002: The start of the war against Iraq
(4) 2008: The crisis of 2007/8.

I merely list them here (but add that my reason to keep speaking of the crisis for 10 years is simply that everyone who is not rich has been growing poorer since 2008, while the few rich have become very much richer).

Then there is this on the Chinese currency:
On October 1, 2016, the IMF, historically imbedded in Western monetary protocol, moved to include China’s currency, the renminbi (RMB), in its special drawing rights basket of major reserve currencies. IMF leader Christine Lagarde characterized the decision as a “historical milestone” for the “international monetary system” and the “ongoing evolution of the global economy.”
Well... I suppose that one additional reason is that the USA is much in debt to China. Here is more - and Zhou is the man who led China's economy for several decades:
On April 22, 2017, Zhou addressed the annual spring meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC. In his speech, he noted that “China’s economic growth has stabilized” and its “GDP growth in 2016 reached 6.7 per cent, contributing 30 per cent of the global growth.” That figure can be compared to the US GDP growth of 1.6 percent and EU GDP growth of 1.8 percent.

He used the platform to reinforce the threat he saw in asset bubbles and the need for prudent monetary and, implicitly, bank regulation policy. “Going forward,” Zhou said, “the Chinese government will continue to maintain the soundness and consistency of macroeconomic policies. Monetary policy will remain prudent and neutral, striking a better balance between stabilizing growth and the task of deleveraging, preventing asset bubbles, and containing the accumulation of systemic risks.”

I note that, at least as stated (which is not the same as: practised) this is in fundamental conflict with the policies the USA has used since the late 1990ies, at least.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

China was pragmatic. Its leaders understood Trump’s role for his four years as president, and, in a way, his isolationist stance drove it to enhance its targeting of US allies for trade. Thus, China approached former US strategic partners like Germany and Saudi Arabia and forged more alliances with Russia. Russian president Vladimir Putin in turn began tending more toward agreements with Germany and China than with the United States. The world was becoming China-Russia-Germany-centric and would continue on that path.

What began as a US bank-instigated financial crisis at the hands of an enabling Federal Reserve manifested in a super power realignment further fueled by the election of “outsider” Donald Trump as US president. Those events catalyzed a major shift in the prevailing monetary system and superpower hierarchy, propelling China to a leadership role and Xi to epochal status. Trump’s isolationist and protectionist policies only accelerated China’s positioning. It will take decades to realize this shift completely, but looking back from the future, we will one day see clearly how those monetary and financial forces irrevocably altered world order.

I think Nomi Prins is correct (if there is a future), but she knows considerably more than I do. In any case, this is a recommended article, and I like Nomi Prins.
4. Unfashionable Fascism: Mainstream Politicians Switching Sides Under Trump’s Regime of Barbarism

This article is by Henry Giroux on Truthdig and originally on CounterPunch. It starts as follows (and I have deleted the footnotes in my quotations):
Madeleine Albright, without irony, has written a book on resisting Fascism. She has also published an op-ed in the New York Times pushing the same argument. Albright is alarmed and wants to warn the public to stop the fascism emerging under the Trump regime before it is too late. Unfortunately, moralism on the part of the infamous and notorious is often the enemy of both historical memory and the truth, in spite of their newly discovered opposition to tyranny.  It is hard to believe that a woman who defended the killing of 500,00 children as a result of the imposed US sanctions on Iraq can take up the cause of fighting Fascism while positioning herself (or being positioned by the mainstream media) as being on the forefront of resistance to US authoritarianism.
In fact, I think I dislike Henry Giroux, and do so mostly because he reminds me far too much of the academic quasi-socialist or quasi-Marxist intellectuals I met in the "University" of Amsterdam (although I grant he is probably more honest than these totally dishonest liars and cheats), and also because I do not like his very academic writing style (of which I will give an example below).

Then again, I am interested in fascism and neofascism, and also know a considerable amount about them, and it is this that made me review the present article.

But the above quoted start is an example of what I mean:

I also do not like Albright, but I do not see why someone like her might not oppose (what she thinks is) fascism, simply because there were many opponents of fascism, who also may have done horrible things or contributed to them, who at the same time still lie(d) about various things. But they may be opposed to fascism although they are themselves bad.

And I think that is Albright's position (apart from the badness). Here is more about Hilary Clinton:
Hilary Clinton, known more politically as a former war monger and an unabashed ally of the financial elite, has also resurrected herself as a crusader in fighting the creeping fascism that now marks the Trump regime. Speaking with Ngozi Adichie at the PEN World Voices Festival, Clinton appears to have completely removed herself from her notorious past as a supporter of the Iraqi war and the military-industrial-financial complex in order to sound the alarm “that freedom of speech and expression is under attack here in our own country” while further calling for numerous voices to make visible the creeping authoritarianism in America. This is an odd flight from memory into the sphere of moral outrage given her own role in supporting domestic and foreign policies both as a former first lady and as Secretary of State that refused to punish CIA torturers, lavished funds on the military war machine, shredded the federal safety net for poor people, and endorsed neoliberal policies that offered no hope and prosperity “for neighborhoods devastated by deindustrialization, globalization, and the disappearance of work.” No irony here. Just the opposite.
Again, I strongly dislike Hilary Clinton, but I think she may be against (what she believes) fascism is (and if you say no, check my definition of fascism under the last link).

Also, for both Albright and Clinton it is true that they are not leftists (as I would define them), and also that they are not rightists in the style of Trump (and are opposed to Trump).

Then there is this in the article:
The U.S. and its Vichy Republican Party has drifted so far to the fascist right that people such as Albright and Clinton come across as the heroic vanguard of a political and ethical resistance to fascism. Under such circumstances, even some outspoken Republicans, again without irony, such as Flake, Corker and McCain are viewed in the mainstream press as principled heroes in spite of the fact that they have supported Trump’s domestic and foreign policies, including his tax reform bill and his cruel and obscene budget, which not only offers $700 billion to the military but condemns millions of people to a life of misery and suffering.
Well... "Albright and Clinton come across": To whom? I'd say: in some of the mainstream media, that themselves are notable liars. Again, "Flake, Corker and McCain are viewed in the mainstream press as principled heroes": Yes, but again "in the mainstream press".

Then there is this:
I am not simply condemning the hypocrisy of mainstream politicians who are now criticizing the emerging fascism in the United States. Nor am I proposing that only selective condemnations should be welcomed. What I am suggesting is that the seductions of power in high places often work to impose a silence upon people that allows them to not only benefit from and become complicit with authoritarian tendencies and anti-democratic policies and modes of governance, but also once such people are out of power their own histories of complicity are too often easily erased, especially in the mainstream media.
Here is my example of Giroux's style. Consider the last statement, where some matters of detail are replaced by variables by me, but no other changes have been made: "What I am suggesting is that the X often work to Y that allows them to not only benefit from and become complicit with Z and P and Q, but also once R their own histories of complicity are S, especially in T."

Do you think that is clear? Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

What is often unrecognized in the celebrated denunciations of fascism by celebrity politicians is that neoliberalism is the new fascism. And what becomes invisible in the fog of such celebration is neoliberalism’s legacy and deadly mix of market fundamentalism, anti-intellectualism, rabid individualism, white supremacy, toxic masculinity, and all embracing quest for profits. The new and more racist, violent and brutalizing form of neoliberalism under Trump, has produced both a savage politics in the US and a corrupt financial elite that now controls all the commanding institutions of American society including the state.
In fact, I am willing to mostly agree with this - except that (i) it is not true of "neoliberalism" as such, but of some - indeed dominant - forms of "neoliberalism", and also in part because (ii) "neoliberalism" is pretty vague on many issues (and not all neoliberals are fascists or neofascists).

Then again, if Trump is a fascist (which I think he cannot escape in Giroux's judgement) why not say so?

In brief: I have reviewed this, but I still don't like Giroux.

5. Fascists Compete To Own America

This article is by Thom Hartmann on Common Dreams. It starts as follows - and (in case you are interested that way) deserves comparison with Henry Giroux's previous article:

Given how reactive hard right snowflakes have gotten in response to a few truth-based jokes from Michelle Wolf, and that Mick Mulvaney has confessed to running a pay-for-play operation out of his congressional office, and Trump is daily breaking the Constitution’s emoluments clause, now might be a really good time to examine the origins and nature of the whole right-wing business/government model known as “fascism.”

I agree, although I do not think that "the origins and nature of (..) fascism" can be fully clarified in one article (and in fact there are at least 20 more or less serious definitions of "fascism", which I listed and treated in On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions)

But this is a decent article, and is so in part because of the way it is argued:

In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?”

Vice President Wallace's answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.

“The really dangerous American fascists,” Wallace wrote, “are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information.”

And continued, “With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word “fascist”—the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)

As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this. In a 1923 pamphlet titled “The Doctrine of Fascism” he wrote, “If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government.” But not a government of, by, and for We The People — instead, it would be a government of, by, and for the most powerful corporate interests in the nation.

I like the above, even though I do not believe fascism is well defined in it. But some valid points are made, and indeed I find it striking (and did not know) that Gentile's definition of "fascism" - "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power" - may be close to my definition of neofascism.

Then again, as the last paragraph in the above quotation shows, Mussolini reverted to what I call fascism (which gives the supreme power to the state), rather than neofascism (which gives the supreme power to the corporations).

Also in passing I remark that the last but one paragraph of the above quotation is a decent though brief definition of fascism.

Back to the article. Here is more on Vice President Wallace:

Vice President Wallace bluntly laid out in his 1944 Times article his concern about the same happening here in America:

If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful.

In fact, fascists and neofascists do put "money and power ahead of" most "human beings" but do like to rule themselves (or at least their party), and like to do so in a very authoritarian fashion.

Then there is this:

Fascists have an agenda that is primarily economic. As the Free Dictionary notes, fascism/corporatism is “an attempt to create a 'modern' version of feudalism by merging the 'corporate' interests with those of the state.”

Feudalism, of course, is one of the most stable of the three historic tyrannies (kingdoms, theocracies, feudalism) that Thomas Jefferson identified as the ones that ruled nations prior to the rise of American republican democracy, and can be roughly defined as “rule by the rich.”

I think that the definition of the Free Dictionary probably is misleading (as also is indicated by its use of quoted terms, which means that the term differs - somehow - in meaning from the unquoted term) because most socialists (of various kinds, including most Marxists) seem to believe that history has a direction e.g. because of the growths in technology and science, which means that - given that belief - going back to feudalism is not really possible.

But this is merely an interpretative remark. Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:

“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact,” Wallace wrote. “Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy.”

In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism the Vice President of the United States saw rising in America, he added:

They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection. (emphasis added)

Yes, I think Wallace was mostly quite correct in both points, and this is a strongly recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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