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Tag Archives: Socialism

Socialism is NOT a bad word!

Capitalism means money (specifically investment, not wages) is society’s primary consideration. Socialism means people (workers, humans) are society’s primary consideration. I know what I prefer. How about you?

Sure . . . there are thorny issues of ownership and incentivization, what deserves to be nationalized and what can remain in the private sector, but they will be addressed with people, not capital, foremost in mind. And don’t come at me with that tired old trope that socialism has been tried and it’s failed. That’s not even close to the truth. Most examples given are usually of a country that attempted to go straight from feudalism to socialism, without experiencing capitalism at all.

If Karl Marx was correct, and I believe he was, economies need to develop and evolve through various stages, and attempting to circumvent one of those developmental stages isn’t a good idea. This is why I believe the U.S. economy is ripe for becoming socialist; it already is to some extent. Our economy is, if not the most advanced, one of the more advanced capitalist economies in the world. Yet, many of its sectors are—or have been—treated as worthy of receiving benefits in the form of subsidies, grants, and tax breaks that are tantamount to them being socialized.

Most importantly, many larger sectors of the economy are highly developed, with a few being in nearly monopolistic control of their market. This is what Marx called late-stage, monopoly capitalism. It suggests that larger industries, which have become monolithic, are ripe for worker ownership and a more equitable distribution of their profits to the people who actually make those profits happen.

Let’s stop treating the concept, let alone the word, of socialism as if it’s still some sort of disease or bogeyman. The forces of reaction and fascism have long told us to be afraid . . . be very afraid . . . of socialism, but they’re crying wolf and their arguments are dishonest and disingenuous. That is to say, they’re fucking liars and can’t be trusted. They don’t care about you and me. Don’t expect them to be helpful, unless they’re helping themselves.

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Santa Claus is Definitely No Republican

One of the, shall we say, more charming practices of my Rotary Club is that of having someone play the role of “Ratfink” at most meetings. The Ratfink usually resembles either a stand up comedy routine or a roast. Either way, members of the club are generally involved, though when the roast format is used it can get a little snarky . . . to say the least.

My club’s last meeting was treated to a bit of a roast and, for the first time in the slightly over two years I’ve been a member, I was the butt of the routine. The presenter was a gentleman who is a political operative for a local, Conservative Republican of some stature and I know him reasonably well. He and his wife recently celebrated the arrival of their second child and I believe he is a good, devoted husband and father. We are Facebook “friends”.

Let me say something about Rotary International, in general, and my club, The Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise, in particular. Without getting into too much detail, I have come to see Rotary as a challenging, useful organization with goals I have no trouble agreeing with. The motto “Service above self” has always been dear to me, though my experience with it was mostly exhibited in how I performed my job and in my willingness and ability to help others around me. The Four Way Test is also a statement of principle I am in complete agreement with, to wit:

Of the things we think, say, or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOOD WILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Now, I truly have a hard time arguing with these principles, yet have no trouble recognizing there are some for whom they are merely words and the reason they are involved in Rotary is either because they’re looking for business or social connections or because it’s a way to be “charitable” without too much effort. I do believe those people are a small minority, though. But, I digress.

I live in what I believe is a reasonably conservative city; the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. My Rotary Club consists of some very (did I say “very”?) politically conservative individuals. I make no secret of my political proclivities, which tend to lean far to the left and many of my fellow Rotarians, like last meeting’s Ratfink, are Facebook “friends” who, since I am pretty prolific in my postings, must see some of the stuff (sometimes rants) I post. I do fret a little about upsetting them too much, as I believe we all want the best for our City, though we may disagree on how to get there. I do not question the motives of most, while reserving judgment on some who I believe are either horribly misguided or total assholes.

Santa's a Socialist

That Fat Bastard is at it Again!

The man who served as Ratfink, however, is not one of the latter. He had me stand up, which is customary during a roast-like rendition of the role, and pointed out that one of the “drawbacks” of being as vocal and public as I am on Facebook is that others who might not agree with me can see who I really am (or something like that). I should point out, at this stage of my life I don’t much care. In the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” I have had to spend the vast majority of my life being very careful what I said in order to avoid being ostracized. I don’t plan on going to my grave without showing my “true colors”, so to speak.

He then went on to point out to me that Santa is a Republican, evidenced by the fact he wears red. Now I’m quite certain there were many watching who relished this bit of roasting I was “receiving”, though I couldn’t see as I was at a table closest to the front and I was facing forward toward the speaker. I quietly took my medicine and, when he was finished with me and moved on to the next person, I sat down. However, when he was finished and was returning to his seat, which was only a table away from mine, I audibly pointed out my conclusion that Santa was actually a socialist, as he gives toys to children everywhere in the world. Never mind that red is in most of the world considered a color of revolution and that the old Soviet Union’s and the current People’s Republic of China’s flags are mostly red.

I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with him since, as we had a wonderful program of carolers provide us with entertainment and, afterward, everyone scurried off to their jobs or whatever it was their day was going to bring them. We also won’t have our next meeting for another two weeks as both Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Thursdays, which is the day we meet. However, I know I will be speaking with him. In fact, he has offered to help introduce me to the right people within our City government so I can introduce my concepts regarding the future of work, the collaborative economy, and the use of social media to facilitate the governance and conduct the business of the City and its inhabitants. I’m looking forward to it.

I trust everyone has had a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus (for the rest of us) or whatever (if any) holiday you might observe. We also just experienced the Winter solstice; the shortest day of the year and many have celebrated the beginning of a new cycle in which the days will now begin getting longer until the end of June. Truly a festive time of the year. Now we have New Year’s revelry before us and I have a lot of work to do for the first time in quite a while. I wish everyone who comes to my little slice of the blogosphere much joy and happiness. With those two, prosperity is a relative thing and, of course, I wish for your health and well-being as well.


Not So Tough Now, Are We?

Cuban Palm Trees

An Early Spring Morning Outside Havana

Mornings in the fields outside of Havana were something special. I had been arising before the Sun since I became a teenager, largely because any day there was a school holiday I would have to work with my father. My Bar Mitzvah coincided with him leaving his job at Faber’s Ham Shop in the Grand Central Market to strike out on his own as a peddler of luncheon meat. Every check I received for my thirteenth birthday was immediately signed over to him so he could purchase the truck he needed in his new venture. Until I graduated High School and moved on, I was his “swamper” whenever I wasn’t required to be in school.

At first I hated getting up that early, but I eventually learned to love and appreciate being awake before sunrise. I still enjoy the sights and the smell of the early morning, though I don’t see – or stop to see – it as frequently as I did earlier in my life. But outside Havana, in the campo, seeing the sun rise in mid spring surrounded by tall, swaying palm trees was a sight to behold.

The year was 1973 and I was a member of el sexto contingente de la Brigada Venceremos (the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade). Me and 99 of my best friends from the U.S. and Canada, traveling to Cuba to deliver books and medical supplies, working construction (with one-half day cutting sugar cane – whew!), and attending numerous cultural, historical, and political presentations.

Most every morning we were there, the day would begin quite some time before sunrise, when we would awaken to a breakfast of cafe con leche and pan. After eating, as we filed out of the mess tent, there would be three bowls on a table. One bowl contained candy (sugar!) and the other two cigarettes. The only names I can recall for the cigarettes were suaves and fuertes (mild and strong). The suaves were stronger than any cigarette I ever smoked in the states and, needless to say, I didn’t even bother with the fuertes. The tobacco was kind of coarsely chopped and in almost every pack there was at least one cigarette that would “flower” when the heat reached a piece of tobacco that was tightly compacted. It was mildly entertaining – mostly annoying.

This one morning came at the tail end of a couple of days in which one of my fellow brigadistas had been riding me hard. I couldn’t figure out what was bothering him, and didn’t have a clue how to deal with it. Although the group of people I was with ranged from members of the Democratic Party to card-carrying Communists, we were all there to show our support for the Cuban people, to protest the economic blockade of Cuba, and to learn what we could of their economy and politics. A large part of what we did was to provide labor, mostly for construction of some small homes and an elementary school.

So there I was, standing out in the middle of the countryside on the outskirts of Havana, getting ready for the workday to begin. I was enjoying the fresh air, made palpable by a slight breeze, and taking in the effects of the rising sun on the slightly swaying palm trees. It was refreshing and I was very content.

I heard a noise that didn’t sound familiar and looked in its direction to see what it was. To my chagrin, it was my so-called camarada, charging at me with his arms flailing. Now this guy was a Pinto, an ex-con and – as I said – he had been messing with me for days. He outweighed me by about twenty pounds, which didn’t make him all that big since I only weighed about 170 at the time.

Part of the reason I was in Cuba with the Brigade had to do with my political activity for the past few years, most of which was within the anti-Vietnam War movement, though some was in the general Peace & Justice movement as well. I had been studying Hapkido with a group of people who became the premier providers of security for most demonstrations, concerts, and other politico-cultural events in the Los Angeles area.

I had done everything from bomb searches to building security to armed bodyguard work. I had been the lead for organizing all of the security for Jane Fonda’s Southern California swing during the run-up to the 1972 Presidential election, including a couple of stints as her personal bodyguard. I was not quite 26 years old and in my prime. I guess he took my silence in dealing with him over the previous few days as intimidation. He was wrong.

As he got close I stepped toward him and placed a side thrust kick into the middle of his chest . . . hard. It drove him back and he fell to the ground, muttering after he hit “What’d you do that for?” There was no answer for so silly a question so I remained quietly in a ready stance. I had seen his friend standing nearby and knew he was a black belt in some form of the martial arts. I had no idea what was going to happen next.

Fortunately, that was the end of it. He got up, dusted himself off, and I never heard about it again. He did stop talking to me, which brought no objection on my part. I had learned long before that just because someone professes to have the same political goals you do, it’s quite conceivable their methodology won’t mesh well with what you think is proper. It’s also possible they won’t respect you based on their perception of you. This was surely reinforcement of those lessons. It’s been nearly forty years and I remember it well.

Aside from the time I had to take out a rooster who was threatening me and, more importantly, the two-year-old boy on my shoulders I was walking with around a farm in Morro Bay, this episode is the only time I have ever used what I learned in the martial arts in seriousness against a living being. The greatest lesson I have ever learned from my studies is that once you actually have to touch someone you’ve lost. I would have preferred it had never reached the point it did. In this case I felt I had no choice. Perhaps he learned something out of it. I doubt I’ll ever know and I’ve not lost any sleep over it.


Atlas Slugged

The Republican Candidates

Republican Primary Candidates Pose

This is a wonderful analysis of the competing approaches and philosophies of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. You can read the entire article, but I find the final paragraph says volumes about what this year’s election means, and the direction our country is going in. Click on the link at the bottom for the entire article. Here’s that final paragraph:

“We’ll find out this election whether the Republican vision of an unfettered capitalism—one that redefines ‘socialism’ as not state ownership of the means of mass production but any government involvement whatsoever in the social and economic life of the country (including saving the auto industry)—is one that the public accepts anymore. Pundits have argued that the central question of the campaign is how much government we want. It’s more profound than that. The question of this election is what it means to be a country—whether we’re 300 million free agents who happen to be roaming the same piece of real estate or if any of us is ever bound by a social compact.”

via Atlas Slugged.


Where’s the Anger?

Listening to only minor excerpts (and some exceptional analysis on KPFK Pacifica Radio) I find myself absolutely incensed at the arrogance of the people who caused the financial meltdown and who gladly took our tax dollars, ostensibly to keep the economy afloat, and are now proceeding to pay themselves handsomely for their indiscretions.

Listen . . . I’m doing OK. I didn’t get caught up – at least not directly – in the mortgage fiasco and I’m lucky enough to have a job that probably isn’t going anywhere, but what about all the people who’ve lost so much? Even if they were a bit greedy (or where they just reacting logically to a society that preaches the ethos of looking out for oneself and the hell with everyone else?), I don’t think they deserve this kind of disrespect and the uncertainty that so many face right now . . . with no end in sight.

But I have to ask, where’s the anger? Why aren’t people really paying attention to how we’re being played. Though I think Phil Angelides probably has the best of intentions, I think his commission is going to end up toothless and, once again, the high-rollers of Wall Street are going to scoop their ill-gained winnings off the table and we’re going to be left wondering what happened? Where are the pitchforks? Why aren’t more people demanding accountability? Where’s the call for bringing back the guillotine?


Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends

Blogging is an interesting occupation or, in my case, avocation. For me it has allowed mostly venting, though I started with a blog about my family that was anything but. I finally gave up on that, believing it really wasn’t my place to put out our personal details for everyone to see. I am considering doing just that in a book, which requires some personal investment and input (like moolah) from the reader; something to salve my family’s wounds for having made our foibles public. That, however, is another venue I will explore. For now we are about blogging.

I propose, for this blog, to explore the symmetries, similarities, and synergies of the philosophy of the Dialectic and the teachings of Systems Theory. I propose to explore the writings of people like Karl Marx, W. Edwards Demming, and Russell Ackoff, as well as others who have studied and written on either of the subjects. As far as I can tell, this is a novel approach; some may say strange or even dangerous. Nonetheless, I find it interesting and quite valid, i.e. the juxtaposition of the two seemingly disparate concepts.

I say disparate because the philosophy of the Dialectic (actually Dialectical Materialism) espoused by Karl Marx, Fredrich Engels, and (yes, even) V.I. Lenin is irrevocably and inextricably entertwined with the Soviet Revolution and State no longer extant in Eastern Europe, while the teachings of Systems Thinking took root in post-war Japan and have flourished in the deeply entrenched Capitalism of the United States and elsewhere.

I don’t expect my analysis to proceed quickly, nor do I expect to be able to post all that frequently. The exigencies of my real job, coupled with my attendance in an online Masters program at CSUN – not to mention the fact I have two quite young daughters who demand a lot of my attention – will make it difficult to attend to this blog. Regardless, I think it a worthy objective and, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’m hopeful it will be the precursor to either a Doctoral Thesis, or – at the least – a serviceable essay on the subject. Who knows? I guess that’s one of the beauties of blogging. I can put forth ideas and, if I’m lucky, I’ll even get some feedback. At the very least I get the opportunity to blather on about something that interests at least one person in this world.


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