Sunday, February 9, 2014
Skewering 'Muricans' Myths About "Commies"
Brainwashing anti-Commie card for kids, from 1952 TOPPS collection.
With the first ever Winter Olympics held in Russia, Russian history is also a topic - as it was on the Bill Maher show - taking pot shots (along with P.J. O'Rourke) at the Russians and Communism - again revealing that most Americans don't know diddly about it. Hell, Bill Maher actually went so far as to compare current Russian citizens to "abused children" - after having lived under communism. Really, Bill? And you don't think Americans aren't abused children too, but it is ongoing, as corporate capitalism has gained ever more traction?
If anyone doubts the extent to which we're manipulated to be laboring pawns for the corporate capitalist empire they need to read Douglas Rushkoff's "Life, Inc." Rushkoff documents how Americans' minds have been manipulated to become puppets for the capitalist speculator and war state since the advent of Edward Bernays, and his work, 'Propaganda', describing how the non-elites can be manipulated by the right PR. Most of us have been dumb, compliant zombies ever since- starting with Woodrow Wilson's use of Bernays' works to get us involved in WWI.
But I get ahead of myself. Commie hysteria probably began in the late 1940s after the Russians also got the A-bomb. The 1950s then became a decade of runaway paranoia which most of those who didn't live then can't even begin to imagine. One marker is shown above, in the ""Know Your Communists" trading cards produced by TOPPS. The aim was to inculcate ‘Communist Recognition’ in children and get them to hate this system even before they knew what it was about. The garish depictions, such as that shown of Mao Tse-Tung with ghoulish green face - helped to reinforce the propaganda. Hysteria grew as an admixture as grade schoolers - like I was in 1952- had to duck under our desks in regular drills to "escape the fallout from Communist atomic bombs". Air raid sirens screamed as whole cities underwent "emergency drills" and CONELRAD broadcast its ominous messages and beeps.
Then there were the House Un-American Activities Committee sessions convened by rabid, anti-commie ideologue, Sen. Joseph McCarthy - who makes Ted Cruz look like a wienie or wimp. McCarthy's insane crusade ended up tarring thousands of innocent Americans with the "commie" brush, because too many lame brains were caught up in his nonsense and never approached his hearings analytically until the very end.
So, by the time of the ascent of Reagan, commie myths and hatreds were well entrenched and this pop-eyed fool who once asked a Naval commander if cruise missiles could be "recalled" could get away with calling the USSR the "Evil Empire". Never mind this "evil empire" saved the West's living ass as it turned back Hitler's troops in World War II, at the cost of losing 20 million of their people. Think about that! How do you think America would have handled a vicious aggressor actually invading the nation and laying waste to major cities as the Hitlerites did to Russia? And losing 20 million? (For some insight, google: "Battle of Stalingrad")
So if nothing else, Americans owe the Russians big time. And all the put downs and lip merely serve to show we have no clue. Not even that our own national security state was incepted using Nazis who had served Hitler in a spy capacity. But we wanted them for our own, to engineer an anti-Soviet spy state.
Now, what myths have sprung up about commies over all these decades?
1) Communist economies rely on state violence
Americans here get hung up on account of their failure to distinguish personal-private and public property. They also fail, because of capitalist blinders, to see how their own country exercises violence against THEIR property. For sure, Communism necessarily distributes PUBLIC property universally, but, at least as far as the communist is concerned, you can still keep your smartphone.
Americans will yelp, 'See, told ya!' But not so fast! As Douglas Rushkoff points out (op. cit. p. 54) the very construction of the federal highway system (to serve the automobile manufacturers) "didn't bother to consider the effects of their constructions on the people around them. Huge swaths of territory were considered only for their value as rights of way not places in themselves."
"Neighborhoods were uprooted, divided and demolished. Local governments that attempted to resist were quickly neutralized in the courts."
I can cite also the case of my own grandfather, whose beloved corner grocery at N. 27th St.. and Meinecke in Milwaukee was seized by "eminent domain". He was paid only a fraction of its worth. All this to make way for a new expressway which ended up never being built. Don't think he experienced state violence at the literal seizure of his property? Think again!
2) Communist economies aren't based on free exchange, Capitalist economies are
In fact, barter and 'black markets' have always been part of communist economies, as they are in the capitalist ones. The reason is to get around state-centrally controlled markets in the former, and capitalist Neoliberal controlled markets in the latter. Rushkoff again, shows how we are all puppets in the capitalist market system as well as victims, from gentrification of neighborhoods - with long time residents (usually less wealthy displaced, as is now occurring in San Francisco) to make way for new condos or Starbucks, to fracking polluting air and water - to make way for drilling gas or shale oil, to the toxic polluting of water supplies, as just happened in WVa.
The idea that we’re all going around in the US of A making free choices in an abundant market where everyone’s needs get met is patently belied by the lived experience of hundreds of millions of people. Most of us find ourselves constantly stuck between competing pressures and therefore stressed out, exhausted, lonely, and in search of meaning. — as though we’re not in control of our lives. From the type of isolated subdivisions we inhabit, to the jobs we can get, to the restrictions placed on us by banks and the Fed, and even the way the stock market is rigged against us (some small niche getting info on companies in advance) we are all living in a fool's paradise where we think we're exercising enormous freedoms - but are merely doing what our capitalist overseers expect.
By comparison in the old Soviet Union, at least every Russian really had a job if he wanted it, even it was filing cards, being a teacher assistant, or road works. The state truly supported the citizen. No, it wasn't nirvana - hell no, but economic security and having food on the table - even if only Borscht and bread- was a given. No Soviet kid would go hungry because of cuts to food stamps, or cuts to his parents' unemployment benefits.
The origin of capitalism was depriving British peasants of their access to land (seizure of property, you might call it), and therefore their means of subsistence, making them dependent on the market for their survival. Once propertyless, they were forced to flock to the dreck, drink and disease of slum-ridden cities to sell the only thing they had – their capacity to use their brains and muscles to work – or die. Just like them, the vast majority of people today are deprived of access to the resources we need to flourish, though they exist in abundant quantities, so as to force us to work for a boss who is trying to get rich by paying us less and working us harder.
Recall here that according to surplus value theory of labor proposed by Karl Marx in his work, Kapital, if the labor value sold as a product or service is L, and V is the labor value embodied in the production of the item or service then the surplus value S is:
S = L - V
If an employee then earns $36,000 a year for generating a service or whatever other labor, and yields 6.2 days of his vacation time to the Boss Man, this translates to roughly $150 per working day assuming 20 such days per month. Then 6.2 days given up per year on average amounts to $930.
Then, by this reckoning V is the yearly paid labor or $36,000 and S is the unpaid labor or $930 per year. . The amount of labor expropriated per year is therefore equal to $930. Now, add in possible employee extra costs of $1,000 - say for health care or unpaid sick days - and you have $1,930 worth of labor exploited.
3) Communism Is Brutal, having killed 110 million people for resisting dispossession.
Alas, this trope and fairy tale has become entrenched in the Densan portion of the Populace. It was repeated recently by resident FOX moron Greg Gutfeld, one of the hosts of Fox News’ “The Five'. He claimed hat “only the threat of death can prop up a left-wing dream, because no one in their right mind would volunteer for this crap. Hence, 110 million dead.”
If this nitwit actually KNEW history, at least of Russia- Soviet Union, he'd have been aware of the fact that the greater number of the people killed under Soviet communism weren’t the ordinary people everyone pretends to care about but themselves communists. Stalin, in his paranoid cruelty, not only had Russian revolutionary leaders assassinated and executed, but indeed exterminated entire communist parties. For example, Stalin noted that Leon Trotsky and his followers were most outspoken against him. He therefore ordered “Trotskyites” to be butchered remorselessly. Estimates from released former Soviet archives show more than 44 million Trotskyites were butchered.
What does this all mean? It means it wasn't communism responsible for the slaughter and butchery, but individual megalomania! It also means it wasn't atheism responsible for the slaughter. Neither communism nor atheism created the single-minded dictators, like Stalin, Pol Pot or Mao (in China) who brooked no competition and used the levers of state power to exterminate opponents.
By the same token, capitalism is not some white -as -driven snow system without blood on its hands. Indeed, most of the wars of the last century - since the end of WW II- and leading into the current one, have been fought for the extension of Neoliberal global capital and market share, with the biggest interest being Oil. Why do you think the biggest ones to gain in the Iraq war were the likes of Halliburton, Bechtel, etc.? Do you think that nation gained by our interference? Look at it now, and tell me! Do you think our troops, with their shattered bones and brains gained? All of that was done for Wall Street's benefit! Afghanistan? Hell, the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia! The Afghan invasion and occupation began as a way to edge the Taliban out of control of oil pipelines!
It should be intuitive that capitalism, which glorifies rapid growth amidst ruthless competition, would produce great acts of violence and deprivation, but somehow its blinkered defenders are convinced that it is always and everywhere a force for righteousness and liberation. Let them try to convince the tens of millions of people who die of malnutrition every year because the free market is incapable of engineering a situation in which less than half of the world’s food is thrown away. Let them tell it to the tens of thousands of kids that now will face more hunger with the recent $9b cut in food stamps.
Lastly, since the pro-capitalist set cares so fervently about the disposition of the Russian and Chinese masses, mayhap they'd like to tell us how they account for the tens of millions of deaths that ensued in the transition to capitalism, in Russia and China.
Personally, I don't think they could tell us dick or diddly. They need to have instead read Naomi Klein's book, 'The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism' (2007). As Klein describes, the shock doctrine's basis of "disaster capitalism" was to deliberately use assorted confected crises - whether military or economic- to justify subverting the will of many other nations and their citizens to make the world "safe" for global capital. In one chapter where Klein coins the term "disaster capitalism" she analogizes it to the electric shocks delivered via certain tortures, say to a person's head & genitals. The shocked victims became so mentally incoherent, terrified - that they were ready to accept just about anything demanded of them.
In the case of Russians, following the fall of the Soviet Union (who Maher describes as abused children), Klein notes that after only a year of Neoliberal thuggery and "market therapy" millions of had lost their life savings when the ruble lost nearly all its value. Adding insult to injury, abrupt cuts in government subsidies meant that millions of workers had not been paid in months. Consumption? The average Russian consumed 40 percent less in 1992 than 1991 - and they weren't even consuming that much in '91! Basically, to survive, the Russian middle class was forced to sell all or most of their belongings - setting up card tables on the streets to do so. As Klein describes this travesty:
"Desperate acts, that the Chicago School of Economics praised as 'entrepreneurial' and proof that a capitalist renaissance was indeed under way."
Wonder why the Russians of today are deeply skeptical and affronted by the Neoliberal rogues and puppets of the G20? Look no further than recent Russian history and how the uber - capitalists twisted and perverted the country's whole economic foundation in order to force it into a globalized capital new world order.
4) Communism fosters uniformity.
This myth has its roots in the fact that too many Americans are unable to distinguish equality from homogeneity. Perhaps this derives from the tendency of people in capitalist societies to view themselves primarily as consumers. Is being a U.S. Consumer better than anything? George Carlin in one of his skits: "Yeah, you can get your pick of 110 boxes of cereal in a supermarket. But can you pick a President from more than two parties?"
In other words, we inhabit a world of false choice. We have all the choices we want in the material realm but not in the realm it counts, in economics or politics.
Meanwhile, to the American, the residing dystopic fantasy is a supermarket wherein one state-owned brand of food is available for all items, and it’s all in red packaging with yellow letters. An exaggeration cleverly confected and spread by who else.....capitalists! In fact, Americans are now paralyzed by over choice, and there are actually tomes out there on the "paradox of choice" and how too much paralyzes us. Personally, I'd rather go into a store - as in Barbados or Guyana- and see one brand and type of Catsup - as opposed to being confronted with 23! That over-choice wastes time, just as the incessant emails all begging for one thing or other....a "nation of salesmen" - each with his own pitch!
But people do a lot more than consume. One thing we do a huge amount of is work in capitalist society, and as Rushkoff shows (pp. 50-51) the capitalist system is set up to keep workers on an never ending work-spend treadmill. The very act of using credit sets one up for more debt and hence more work. The act of getting a car loan or home loan, puts one even further in the hole, requiring more intensive labor to keep each of those symbols of the American Dream. The greater the debt, the more work needed to support it. In this way the capitalist elites could keep people in line, and prevent them from getting too insightful about the system in which they were enmeshed - such that they might challenge it. They remained good little dutiful do-bes with time only to labor, and maybe catch some TV at night, in between zzzzzzzs.
And if capitalists would dangle their multiple baubles in front of these working masses, they might actually get them to spend more than they earn - and thereby commit even more intensively to drone-hood. If capitalists could also get the masses to become "share holders" in the stock and bond markets they controlled, so much the better. Then any major correction or crash could wipe out their paper wealth to the capitalists' benefit - while the poor schmuck who lost his market bet would have to work on indefinitely. Hmmmmm....cat food and kibbles while working til 90?
And so Friedrich Engels, the co-author of The Communist Manifesto was right when he wrote that this indebtedness, sought or unsought, is just the yoke the capitalists needed to keep labor in line. Add the over-reproduction of people, and you put them in an endless trap of labor surplus, with the employer able to call every shot to the point of being outright abusive. What's the drone to do? Quit? there are twenty people waiting to take his job, thanks to the labor surplus.
Think capitalism is the greatest thing ever and vastly superior to communism? Hold strain until its "lease" on this nation (and planet) has finally expired then render your verdict! Wait until all our water is befouled from fracking and whole communities are soiled from Keystone XL pipeline leaks, even as cancers soar from all the toxic chemicals in our foods and air. And we won't even get into the nasty cancers awaiting in our corporate-supplied GMO foods! Wait until the climate change catastrophe hits the massive heat wave level, and there's no turning back from the runaway greenhouse - because oil, fossil fuels were excavated by greedy capital beyond the critical threshold the Earth can bear (2200 gT). Oh, and wait until we now have to go into Iran and yes, start another war ....for oil!