Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Lost Art...

1....of staring blankly into space

Everywhere.  And everyone.  Smartphones.  Everybody's staring at his or her smartphone.  Some are staring at their smartphones, multi-multi-tasking I suppose.  Or just showing off, as if one flat screen can't possibly make him or her available enough to all those out there dying to connect. Multiple smartphones.  On the first day of Christmas, the true love offers one Blackberry.  On the second day, two Samsung Galaxy 4s.  On the third, three Iphones.  But nobody's giving anybody Nokias, that's for sure.  There is no Christmas for Finland.

Everywhere. Even in Nice.  On the Avenue Jean Médecin.  Even on the Promenade where being out of touch, disconnected were more than virtues; were full time jobs, they're staring at their smartphones.

OK, maybe not everyone. But lots.  Lots and lots.  Especially the young people.  This being France, they have to have something to do with their hands.  This being the 21st century, they have to have more than one thing to do with their hands.  Smoke cigarettes, access the apps on their smartphones... 

Me, personally?  I could find better things to do with my hands.  I know I did at their age. I still do.

OK, almost everyone.  I mean when parliamentarians and ministers tweet their latest actions, doesn't that tell you something?

Me, personally?  It tells me that this is a Donald Trump world, a world of short-fingered posing blowhards whose hands are too small too reach anything, and anywhere, other than a virtual keyboard and into everybody else's pockets.

Short-fingered, self-advertising, combed-over blowhards.  With an audience.  With audiences of other short-fingered, self-advertising, combed-over blowhards.

That's  what it's all about; life oscillating between tweeter and tweetees, between being the tweeter and being the tweetee.  Life is a play, tweeted in messages up to 140 characters.  I take the stage and broadcast my very own short-fingered, self-serving, self-advertising, combed-over self back at ya.

"Back at Ya' "

OK, so almost everybody, especially the young people ignoring the Mediterranean blue sky.  Almost everyone ignoring the sky blue and turquoise blue Mediterranean sea;  almost everyone looking at their smartphones..

..when across the ether, wave and particle, the broadcast message appears on all their screens and almost at once:

Schäuble@wolfsschanze: Reichlich Krokodilstränen am Wolfsschanze. Sie sind verschraubt und in Ewigkeit. Siehe #anglotapes.

Copious crocodile tears at the wolf's lair.  You are screwed and forever.  See #anglotapes. 

2. If only...

On May 29,  Schäuble was reported in the press to "fear 'revolution' if Europe fails to preserve welfare model."

France and Germany had unveiled a supposed job program, called a "New Deal for Europe" that would authorize the European Investment Bank to provide billions in loans to companies that would create jobs for young people, but the rest of the EU was a bit slow out of the blocks.   

The European Union had agreed in February 2013 on a €6 billion scheme to fund a "Youth Employment Initiative," with an operational date of January 1, 2014.  Youth unemployment in the EU is about 23 percent.  In the Eurozone, it's approximately 25 percent.  That worries  Schäuble because as  Schäuble knows first hand unemployed young people with too much time on their hands might put down that smartphone and pickup a different sort of application.  Said Wolfgang, from his wolf's lair: "We need to be more successful in our fight against youth unemployment, otherwise we will lose the battle for Europe's unity."  This from the man who has served capital so dutifully in the liquidation of Greece.

Six billion?  Six billion?  Are you kidding me?  Greece's GDP alone has declined some 30 percent.  And then there's Spain.  And Portugal.  And Ireland.  And Italy.  And Britain (for the time being).  And all the EU can manage is €6 billion?

Continued our Wolf, a bit sheepishly:  (if US welfare standards were introduced in Europe), "we would have a revolution, not tomorrow, but on the very same day."   If only........ Best justification I've heard in a while for sending the US Congress, Supreme Court, and President to the EU, lock, stock and barrels, no returns accepted. 

So our Wolf, strapped into his wheelchair, gas mask, helmet and  polizeiknüppel properly affixed, fears a revolution by young people, if "US standards" are imposed, while the class he represents, the class for which he does due diligence, dreams of imposing US standards, particularly that standard that has US labor costs declining quarter after quarter, while EU labor costs remain "stubbornly high."

What's this all about?  Second thoughts by our Dr. Strangelove of the fiscal policy?  Look, the bourgeoisie oscillate between fear and greed; they cycle between fear and greed, and sometimes the cycles are so close, of such frequency, that they overlap.  In this case, fear is nothing other than greed made self-conscious.  "Yes, I'm a ripper," says Jack the Ripper. "If something isn't done soon to control the supply of razors, I might get hurt."  

If only........

3. A bridge too far...


Finally, someone has explained the theory and practice of finance capital in everyday language.  On  June 25, 2013, the Financial Times newspaper reported "Dublin reels over bank crisis tape."  It seems two executives at the dying Ango-Irish Bank, John Bowe head of capital markets, and Peter Fitzgerald director of retail banking, were determined to avoid the fate of Lehman Bros.  They also were recorded in flagrante delicto:
Bowe: Yeah and that number is seven [ €billion] but the reality is that actually we need more than that.  But you know the strategy here is you pull them in, you get them to write a big cheque and they have to keep--they have to support their money.
Bowe: If they saw the enormity of it upfront...they might decide, they have a choice.  They might say the cost to the taxpayer is too high. 
Fitzgerald asks how the  €7 billion figure was arrived at.
Bowe: Just, as Drummer [former CEO] would say, picked it out of my arse.  This is a  €7 billion bridging loan.  So you know it is bridged until we can pay you back  which is never.
Later, Bowe is recorded singing "Deutschland über Alles."

Outcry in the Dail.  "We were had," say Fianna Fail and the Sinn Fein.

"We pretend to dupe you. You pretend to be fooled.  What's the problem?" responds Bowe.

The Anglo-Irish debacle cost 35 billion.

Wolfgang is not amused.

4.  Of numbers and asses...

After years and tears, in 2012 the European Union finally established its European Stability Mechanism (ESM), providing a cool €500 billion to defend the euro and to "bailout" the governments bailing out the banks and bankers who had spent so many years with their heads up their asses looking for numbers to be pulled out. 

Now in the negotiations to establish the ESM, several issue were not addressed: like could, and should, the ESM provide resources directly to failing financial institutions rather than through the governments "overseeing" (nominally) those institutions, thus reducing the burden on the government budget and perhaps saving a member country or two from the fate of... Greece, Ireland (see above) Portugal, and____________ (fill in the blank).  Also, if it was agreed that the ESM could lend directly to financial institutions, could such action be taken retroactively, thus alleviating say the governments of Greece, Portugal, Ireland (see above) from the burden of this fine art of bridging.  

Important questions, no? Well just days after Wolfgang got all teary-eyed about the dismal prospects for the young people of the EU, and just days before transcripts of certain phone calls had Wolfgang seeing, you should pardon the expression "red,"  the Eurozone finance ministers met to consider and resolve these problems.  

Motivated, as always by his concern for the young people of the EU, and the destructive impact when governments collateralize the lives of those young people to secure the terms of the bailouts, Wolfgang and the FMs decided that the ESM could provide direction injections to financial institutions not to exceed 60 billion.  So of its 500 billion largesse, the ESM could contribute about 12 percent directly to financial institutions, thus sparing a national government, its taxpayers, and its young people.  Or not...because the home government of the financial institution being so aided would still be required to  1) assume responsibility for the bank meeting minimum capital requirements and 2) commit itself to underwrite at least 20 percent of any recapitalization.

Still... 60 billion is serious money, certainly more serious than the 6 billion, the EU FMs (also known as the EU MFs) committed to their "New Deal" for the youth of the union.  "Serious" is a measure; all measures are relations, so what does that 60 billion in direct financial assistance relate to? First, it relates to the non-performing debt of the moribund, bad, zombie, dying banks, an amount that exceeds 1 trillion.  So the direct injections might relieve governments of  1/16th of the mountain of non-performing debt that weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

Wait, there's more, or actually, there's less, because the so-called healthy, good banks of the EU are estimated to hold another 1 trillion in non-performing debt.  So the generosity of Wolfgang and the FMs is half of what it even appears to be, if it ever appears at all.

As for making this big-heartedness, this compassion, this kindness chance.  

5.  No deal.....

What is not now needed is what was not needed then.  No New Deal is needed.  No ESM.  No TARP. No QE 1 or 2.  No nationalization of banks by governments, "workers" or otherwise.  No peoples' banks financing expanded investments.  No public works managed by those committed to doing for capitalism what capital is committed to not doing.  No "investment programs."  No retooling of the living and accumulated components of capital so that the liquidation of assets appears as the accumulation of capital.  None of that.  No deal.

All that is need is the expropriation of capital.  The abolition of the class of capitalists and their agents, ministers, mediators.  The expropriation of their property.  The liquidation of that social relationship called capital.  The razor's in the street.

June 26, 2013


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

There is No Joy in Mudville.....

..but there is a bit of honor and integrity, which counts for a lot.  The League for a Revolutionary Party, the Marxist-Humanist Initiative, and the Internationalist Group all challenged the presence of Garcia Linera at the forum previously know as the Socialist Squalor Conference (trademark Loren Goldner, all rights reserved) and soon to be known as the Cluster Fucks in the Dustbin of History Conference (trademark a friend).

LRP distributed a leaflet (see )at the SSC-LF-CFDH conference; Marxist-Humanist Initiative opened the workshops it conducted with a statement of opposition to both the occupation of Haiti and any endorsement of the MAS government (although why a Marxist group would conduct workshops of any sort at a conference sponsored by NYU, an entity that regards its own workforce and the neighborhood in which it is located as prey ,  is beyond my comprehension); and it looks like the Internationalist Group pulled off the maneuver so near and dear to my heart, actually intervening in the"closing plenary" (see, interrupting Linera, and demanding a discussion of the issues, er... actually the issue Left Forum has avoided ever since it was and will be:  class struggle.

Others might have raised similar, or distinct, challenges, but these are the three I know about, and this time three's both the charm and not nearly enough of  a crowd. 

June 11, 2013


Sunday, June 09, 2013

Less Than Zero

Received from a friend of longstanding: 

Never would have thought to attend the Left Forum but then got your messages, looked at the website and schedule, and so went this morning. It was nothing like you thought. It was much, much worse.

One good thing was that (as you would have learned if you’d braved the Park Row traffic), next year the name will be changed. It won’t be called the Left Forum. Truth in packaging. The plan is to call it Cluster Fucks in the Dustbin of History: CFDH 2014.  Stanley Aronowitz will remain on the board but Pussy Riot will run the show.

But that’s next year. I couldn’t resist because you mentioned Grover Furr, the the Montclair Fury, the medievalist-cum-unreconstructed Stalinist I’m now destined to miss tomorrow because the idea of going back is more than I can bear. But I saw him anyway because this morning he chose to attend the same colloquium as me, on Babeuf and Guy Endore. (Guy Endore BTW wrote a left-wing novel about the Haitian revolution, so much for your charge of neglect.) There were six of us.

Furr’s students, I think, gave the talk. Grover corrected their pronunciation and exhorted them to improve their French. It was nothing like you thought. It was much, much worse.

For the afternoon had planned to go to the Mass Incarceration Forum but turned out it was run by Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Call me an opportunist but I walked out without sitting down. Then stopped down into the Raya Dunayevskaya/Herbert Marcuse/Erich Fromm classroom. Long enough to hear Bertram Wolfe booed. “Has anyone heard of Bertram Wolfe?” (“Boo!” “We’ve all heard of that rat. Boo!”) Ugh! What did I tell you?

On the way out the building after a turn at the Greek crisis (“Thank you American Left for being you”) I stopped into the Court of Miracles, where a Health Policy Discussion was under way with three dozen of our best antiquities. Principal demand as Revolutionaries: healthcare should be considered not a commodity but a service. No co-pay no way. Tell that to the Defibrillator.

Best of all overheard was passing a forum on targeted killings. A sweet young thing of sixty summers and sixty-one falls took to the podium. “We’re revolutionaries,” she said. “We need to learn to be human beings.”

Much worse.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Walking Distance

 Here's what I would distribute at the entry/exit to the "Left Forum."  No pride of ownership is involved.  Feel free to edit, amend, alter, plagiarize, disregard if and as you develop your own response to the disgrace that is in reality the Socialist Scab Conference.
Every year, we get another iteration of the recurring red Groundhog’s Day nightmare that is called "Left Forum.”  This time the Left Forum occupies a weekend, at a  university, the space and time as defined by capitalism, available to those who have the cash; credit, given the current economic predicament of capital not being quite good enough  to secure an auditorium, a moment, the bandwidth necessary to preservation of capital, much less its expanded reproduction.

Make no mistake, this “Left Forum” is about nothing so much as it is about the preservation of the existing social relations of production—as it is about accommodating to the existing social relations of production of by and through raising an umbrella which says “critique” on the outside, but  says co-sponsored by the World Bank and the UN Mission to Haiti on the inside. 

There’s farce, as in the bourgeoisie’s equivocation, wavering in 1830; there’s tragedy as in the working classes and poor subordinating themselves to the bourgeoisie’s equivocation and wavering in 1848… and then there’s disgrace… as in so-called socialists supporting their so-called governments in World War 1; as in the so-called socialists of the Left Forum advertising, selling, promoting its closing keynote speaker one Alvaro Garcia Linera, current vice-president of the current government of Bolivia, which is currently, and has for several years, been providing military troops to the United States/Nations occupation of Haiti.  

This Left Forum trumpets Linera as one of the “foremost Marxist intellectuals” of the current era in Latin America… which says all we need to know about the current era, the current Marxists, the current intellectuals.  

Linera, supposedly, has written extensively about “value form versus community form” and all we can say to that is “who cares?”  Or more appropriately, this being New York, "who gives a flying fuck?" His job, his relation to capital, is to provide troops in exchange for a certain renumeration from the international coordinating council of the bourgeoisie. 

Pay no attention to that island in the Caribbean, populated with people poorer than poorer, poorer even than those of Bolivia; those people darker even than the people of Bolivia.  It’s entertainment.

So come one, come all:  step right up.  See the same and different clowns performing in the once and future circus of not one, not two, but three left rings.  They call it the "Left Forum."  We call it the Socialist Scabs Conference.

Open Letter to the Left Forum from the Friends of Haiti

Left Forum:

va te faire foutre, poseurs


Monday, June 03, 2013

Variation and Theme, Cynics and Fools, Despair and Absurdity, Shock and Awe

Ambiguity is the signature characteristic of human beings, more or less, yes and no, maybe?  That should be perfectly clear to all, or most, or many.... or at least some?  

But there's a moment, a point, maybe an event where the conflicts, the mutual oppositions, are rendered as a loss of recognition of conflicts and mutual oppositions.  And then we move from ambiguity to pathology.  That point embodies  an actual disavowal of reality.  Distance, reflection, synthesis, become detachment, dis-affection, loss.  We get the reconciliation of the irreconcilable as type of moving, ambulatory, pathology.  Nothing is changed; transformed; overcome in the process.  Rather the ambulatory pathology recapitulates the terms of its own origin- the loss of meaning, of affect-- with every step.  We walk and talk as if we're making sense, or as if there's sense to be made, when all that is produced is dissonance.

Like the Left Forum. 

In between bottles, I perused the ten pages of the Left Forum's schedule of panels, panelists and topics.  This is no easy task, I assure you, and I do not recommend it to you, unless you have access to various palliatives, as I do, some of which I carry with me in a very chic hip flask with a spill proof screw top (available at Astor Wines).

Thus fortified, I paged forward and backward astounded by what I read-- something I should at least be somewhat thankful for to the Left Forum, as my ability to be astounded has somewhat weakened with age. 

Like for example, the Left Forum has scheduled a panel discussion entitled:  "In the Eye of the Storm:  Haiti, Battle for National Sovereignty."  Alvaro Garcia Linera is not listed as a participant on this panel,but that was probably just an oversight.  So here's the moment when ambiguity, conflict becomes reconciled and resolved through a loss of reality, a disavowal the actual conditions of human existence.

Haiti has been subjected to centuries of exploitation, destruction, occupation... all those things so essential to nation-building.  So now the Left Forum has a nation-builder give its closing keynote address, while the army from his nation occupies Haiti.  Meanwhile, the Left Forum proposes and sponsors a panel that thinks the issue in Haiti is....national sovereignty.  Good-bye reality; good-bye history.

The struggle in Haiti, the struggle of the producers in Haiti, has never been a struggle for national sovereignty.  The struggle in Haiti has failed precisely because it has been cast by those agencies engaged in maintaining the exploitation of Haiti as an issue of national sovereignty and not the emancipation of the labor of the producers.  The latest iteration of the pathology, this pathology that ambulates through and against history, is embodied in the presence of the officials of the Bolivian government who embody the presence of the United Nations, an international committee of nation-builders if there ever was one.

 But wait, there's more.  Pathology-creep is a veritable mission of the Left Forum.   There's a panel  based on "Taking Socialism Seriously," which panel could not of course find any organization or journal to sponsor it.  Delicious, no?

There's a panel called "2,3 Many Transitions to Socialism in Latin America"  which has as a panelist another official of the Bolivian government who might, or might not, speak on the importance of military aid from the advanced capitalist network in securing one or more of those "transitions."

It gets even better:  In a double-reverse twist that would surely tickle the funnybone of every ultra-leftist,  the Left Forum is sponsoring a panel entitled "Are the Situationist Ideas Still Relevant?" which of course the very existence of the panel proves, since we can now enjoy the dissonance of a panel on situationist ideas.  Everything is spectacle.

And finally, or not, there's a panel with a very special panelist, one Grover Furr-- a Stalinist with a purpose, who believes he has significant evidence that Trotsky, and other oppositionists to Stalin, were indeed agents of Imperial Japan, and Nazi Germany. 

So totally appropriate, why I can't believe the Left Forum passed on the chance to have Furr give its closing keynote.  Maybe next year......yes and no.

June 3, 2013

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Don't Cry for Me Alvaro Garcia Linera

I'm just an old-fashioned guy, with the milk of human kindness flowing through my body, although sometimes in undetectable amounts given the quantity of wine that said body regards as its mothers milk (no, this is not going to be a commentary on Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy).  But old-fashioned nonetheless.  So when some organization anoints itself as a "left forum" or the left forum, and then sponsors, advertises, promotes and otherwise sells the views of officials of governments busy renting its military to some capitalist organization, say the United Nations, or some mission of the United Nations, like...oh, pick one at random, MINUSTAH... well, that makes me angry.

Pissed.  Pissed enough, to stop getting pissed, to put down the Bandol, temporarily, push away the pissaladiere, boot-up the old lap top, and really have at it, as I am having at it right now.

The so-called Left Forum will be having its annual left forum next weekend (June 7-9) at Pace University in New York.  It will be attended by thousands, I'm sure.  Academics, book vendors, Marxists of all stripes from humanists to non-species specifics, professional self-aggrandizing interventionist twerps sensitive to heckling (you know who you are, Proyect), socialists, ecologists, blahblahblahblah, ad infinitum.

Atop this pyramid of composting table scraps from the all you can grab buffet of left capitalism is a featured speaker, one Alvaro Garcia Linera, vice-president of Morales' administration in Bolivia.

Tres charmant, non?  A real representative of a real leftist government that really proclaims their protection of mother earth.

Real indeed.  One can only imagine the deafening ovation, the stamping feet, the shouts of hurray that will greet Alvaro and interrupt his presentation.  ("Stormy applause. Cheering from the delegates" is what the record would show, if the record was being kept in Bolshevik form).

And the fact the Alvaro represents a government that rents its military to the United States/United Nations for its occupation of Haiti?  Mere technicality?  Not at all.  As we all know, objecting to a poor dark-hued 3rd world developing nation pimping out its military for the occupation of an even poorer more third world darker-hued less developing nation is but another manifestation of the eurocentrism of white first world ossified orthodox Marxists (and some of their anarchist friends).

Self-determination of nations demands that we defend such occupation from those arguing for self-determination of nations.  Just remember, Haiti is too black to qualify for self-determination.

To be sure, the government of Bolivia is not alone in this exercise of nation-building.  The "global south" has undertaken this almost as a group project.  The official contributors to the occupying forces are:

Military personnel

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guatemala, Indonesia, Jordan, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, United States and Uruguay.

Police personnel

Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Mali, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sri Lanka, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, United States, Uruguay and Yemen.

I won't be at the left forum, and for good reason; I'll be spending the weekend eating and drinking, conversing, conferring, and otherwise hobnobbing with my friends in Paris.  I am a self-indulgent, self-centered, petty-bourgeois who could never tolerate the discipline and commitment required by official Marxist parties; who never could subordinate myself to the sectarian and non-sectarian activities of the real Marxists, the real socialists, the real revolutionists, the real vanguard--like those who will be attending and participating in a conference that finds its keynote in the speech of the  representative of the ecologically sensitive occupying government of Bolivia.

So it is with great pleasure that I recommend to my brother and sister self-centered, dilettantish, individualists that they not ask Alvaro why Bolivia has troops in Haiti.  We know the answer to that-- money.  Rather, ask the left forum why it has Alvaro speaking?  And we know that the answer to that will be exactly the same.  Money.  That's what the left is all about.  Same-same.  Money.

S. Artesian
June 2, 2013