War, Morality, and How to Get There From Here

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By Marina Bart (formerly aab)  a writer and former public relations consultant, who thinks and writes about many things, including political economy, culture and communication

eactions to Yves’ piece suggesting the best pathway to reduce American military imperialism might involve a more oblique approach were…lively.  In it, she hoisted a long comment of mine written a few days earlier arguing along similar lines. Some readers, rather focusing their analytic energy on the proposal itself, chose instead to attack me as being insufficiently peace-loving and virtuous. I might have taken that a tad personally.

The linchpin of much of the opposition to this proposed strategy was that war is immoral, advocating for and implementing war is immoral, and therefore supporting any politician who advocates for or implements war is immoral. I agree. We are not proposing to support warmongers in any way. We are not proposing to support establishment politicians. We are proposing that at this stage of the process, the left emphasize universal direct material benefits, and not require that candidates overtly and aggressively campaign against the military industrial complex. The goal is to build a large enough coalition for the left to take power and, among other important objectives, shut down all these wars.

As I mentioned in my response, I’ve been participating in anti-war activity since my mother pushed me in a stroller for one of the earliest marches against the Vietnam War. I door knocked for Eugene McCarthy in elementary school; I was banned from Brownies for wearing a McCarthy button. I helped Obama get elected in part because I thought he would at least dial the warmongering back compared to Clinton or McCain. But that didn’t happen did it?

One of the notable aspects was that some objecting to the proposed approach misunderstood it.  Given how much trolling occurs on the Internet generally, and particularly in political forums, it’s easy to assume that personal insults and distortions  are deliberate trolling. But it is equally true that real, mutual communication is hard. Developing consensus is hard, especially if you’re trying to create something new that materially and intimately effects those involved. So online trolling has systemic downstream currents, conditioning people to treat one another as nefarious opponents, rather than as potential allies with shared goals.

The essential problem remains unsolved. The majority of United States citizens would benefit from a government focused on citizen needs over elite desires. They neither want nor benefit from our military adventurism. Neither do the people everywhere else on Earth. There is already a electoral majority for a number of important policies and legislative initiatives that would move the country’s governance in that direction. Those policies and initiatives remain unimplemented not because people don’t want them, but because the United States is not functionally a democracy. The economic elite controls all the levers of government, as well as all the pathways into government. We have a deeply corrupted electoral system, which the ruling elite uses to engage in empty democracy theater as a means of social control.

So, is there any way to get from here to a country with broadly shared prosperity, a healthy and happy citizenry, and a more peaceful mode of governmental operation both at home and abroad? One that does not require increased bloodshed or waiting until the entire system collapses (which would involve tremendous suffering, particularly for the billions already being exploited by the global ruling elite)?

I think there is. Yves and Lambert agree with me. We’re not the only ones. The idea is to build such a massive, energized coalition, organized around a nurturing, peaceful vision of what American government and community can and should be, that we can overwhelm the electoral, media and other entrenched obstacles that stand in the way of real change.

Yves and I were both arguing that there’s an opening now to do this. There are challenges. Nothing is guaranteed. But the times they are a-changing, and this offers the left a real opportunity it hasn’t had in decades. A key goal would be a significantly reduced military. We are not advocating assisting current Democratic Party leadership in any way. In fact, the objective is to remove them from power, inside the party as well as in government. All we are saying is give universal direct material benefits a chance to build the coalition and teach Americans what a government that serves them can and should do. There’s more to the strategy. Coming up next will be a post laying out the whole plan – there’s more to it than “vote” + “magic” = Utopia!  But first, since this is a grassroots strategy aimed at creating a more egalitarian society, I thought it might be useful to hear from other members of the commentariat. As some old dude once said, “It’s not me. It’s us.”

My inspiration for this piece, which will also inform how I handle the next one, comes from reader jrs, whose response began,

I read it several times trying to understand the full of the argument, but all of it is such a stretch from anything we have now that it’s hard to even imagine how it would play out.

Yes. We are advocating a paradigm shift. (I didn’t realize until I read the reactions just how big a one it apparently is.) As with other dramatically new ways of thinking, such as Modern Monetary Theory (or heliocentrism), it can be very challenging both to advocate for it and to absorb it. Our past, our culture and our terminology all fight against it. It’s difficult to avoid reflexively retreating to familiar categories, language and positions even when you are consciously trying to avoid them. I want to find a way around that problem.

Cujo359, after saying my argument was unpersuasive, continued,

To start with, I don’t come at this from a political operative’s point of view, but from a citizen’s. I want my country to be a better place, and specifically, I want it to be a better place by giving all of us access to medical care and the opportunity to find a job or make a decent living (in short, a full employment policy of some sort). Any politician who doesn’t support those policies won’t get my vote or support, no matter what his position on other matters, because to me without those principles in mind any politician is going to take us in the wrong direction as a country. Right now, most major party politicians don’t have either my vote or support.

I fundamentally agree with all of this. The reason to address political strategy here is reach and persuade citizens to help build the coalition. It’s for exactly these kinds of discussions. Solidarity on the left has been fractured into a thousand tiny pieces.  An important goal of any winning strategy that could move the country left is to rebuild that solidarity. Given that Cujo and I are so closely aligned on desired outcomes, my challenge is persuade Cujo to work with me strategically. I’d like to believe I can. I am going to try in my next piece, which will cover all the different elements of this approach, not just the policy prioritization issue. It will not require anyone to vote against their interests or for what they perceive to be immoral people or policies. Ever.

PlutoniumKun framed it this way:

I agree with Yves and Marina on this, but I do think that at a minimum a candidate, no matter how good they are on single payer should at least not be an overt ‘bomb first and then ask questions’ imperialist.

Yes. In fact, I think the minimum should be several notches further left. All we’re suggesting is that the people and platform we support should not be required to be overtly, aggressively anti-war right now, while the left is still to weak to do anything about it. As Kalen wrote,

[Being vehemently anti-war] is more or less position of R.Luxemburg who was condemned for it and died abandoned by her fellow comrades and labeled a traitor by her compatriots.

This is the price that many righteous leftists like Malcolm X had finally become had to pay sometimes even from hands of their comrades in the struggle.

While Kalen mentioned this in a comment arguing against our proposed approach, this tragic history could be considered a point in its favor. I would like to find a way to keep our current and future Rosa Luxemburgs and Malcolm Xs (and Martin Luther Kings, for that matter) alive and working for social justice as well as achieving an end to our Imperial warmongering. The goal is to end profit-driven state violence, with as little additional death and suffering as possible. That’s why we propose trying a slightly different means to achieve the exact same goal as Rosa Luxemburg, Malcolm X, and presumably Kalen.

As to why we are proposing an emphasis on universal benefits at this stage, dcblogger reported:

I went to an anti war march the day after the strikes on Syria. Code Pink was there, the DC Statehood/Green party and a few other die hards there. Mebbe 100 demonstrators. The anti-war movement is far too week at this moment to be a driver of anything.

giantsquid added,

Along these lines, the list of economic benefits that could be successfully promoted by the left (i.e. become law) is long, popular, and potentially unifying. A governing coalition built upon this kind of program is possible, even in the relatively near future. Unfortunately, a similar coalition that sought to undo the MIC could not be built in the U.S. anytime soon. I do think that those supporting this kind of universal benefits program would generally be open to restraining military spending and adventurism. After all, Bernie Sanders voted against both Iraq wars. He was also one of only three senators who voted against the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 and one of seven who voted against the 2017 bill.

Like many, I am not happy about Bernie Sanders’ conciliatory statements towards our military and surveillance regime. But he is still the furthest left national political figure in the country. He refused to board the bus to the White House to be part of Trump’s “let’s bomb North Korea” dog and pony show. He was the only Senator who refused. The goal here is to make Sanders’ current operational position the right flank of U.S. foreign policy, not its shriveled, disempowered left flank.

Cat Burglar pointed out another way focusing on universal benefits now gets us to an anti-war government sooner rather than later.

I remember a friend who held back from joining a large demonstration in Paris that was being violently harassed by police; he told me, “I didn’t have national health care like the Parisians did.” I know more than a few people working in businesses they find morally objectionable who would quit, except for the medical benefits…Looked at this way, from the bottom up, getting universal benefits is a way to allow people the free space in their lives to overcome the military-industrial-congressional complex.

Just as an army travels on its stomach, a protest movement will struggle if its members are too sick, exhausted, or hungry to protest. Focusing on universal benefits now would both demonstrate why and how a different kind of government is worth fighting for, and give the people support they need to keep fighting.

While the full game plan does not require every member of the coalition to ever cast a vote for a Democrat or even vote at all, it does hinge on purging corporatist Democrats from the party. Not just as elected officials, but within the party machinery at the state and local level. Among other advantages, that means we won’t get McGoverned this time. We’re not asking any leftist to help any corporatist ever, just as we are not asking anyone to support any warmongering candidate ever.  As per Sluggeaux,

Federal, State, and Local campaign laws favor the so-called “two-party system” and it is quite impossible for a third-party solution at the ballot box. At this moment the Democrat party is completely out of power in any branch of government and in most states, so there is indeed no reason for the Military-Industrial Complex to direct graft the way of the Democrat establishment. This creates an opportunity to push the agents of the Washington-Wall Street axis out of the party.

The two major parties have been working for over a century to guarantee that no national third party can take power. This is intended to trap the left, stranding it in the wilderness with no path to power. Even if your preferred outcome is a new party, weakening the corporate hold over the Democratic Party is a necessary condition for success. It’s their job to stop us. We have a unique opportunity to instead oust them. Universal material benefits are the key that unlocks the door of our cell.

As a precursor to the next post explaining the overall strategy, here’s Kurt Sperry:

I like Marina’s argument and mostly agree but it’s important to remember that there is no incentive for the DP to reform as long as they have have political influence to sell. They must first be weakened and starved of resources–and political power–before reform efforts will find any traction. I think that means in the near term that we cannot give any aid to the party where that aid is administered by the party, and that we should vote Republican (or at the least withhold our votes) when there are no reformist Dems on the ballot to vote for. To reform the DP, it must mostly be torn down first, and that in practice necessarily means allowing Republicans to win any contests where there are no reformers to vote for.

I have a daughter. When she was about the same age I was when my mother pushed me in that stroller, I pushed her in a stroller through the Los Angeles Zoo on September 11th, 2001. A friend had called and suggested we get the kids out of the house so they wouldn’t be around much television, to give us time to figure out what to tell them. I don’t want her to also have to push her daughter in a stroller over another American war or blowback from the last one. I want to be a citizen of a peaceful nation. Doing the same thing again and again yet expecting a different result is famously considered to be…unuseful. Perhaps a paradigm shift can get us where so many of us have been trying to go for so very, very long.

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  1. Tim

    Agreed. And I’d add one more thing.

    You want to invigorate the anti-militarist movement?

    Instate a draft. No exceptions. Everyone owes a commitment to do 1.5 years, at any time up to age 40.

    1. shinola


      I posted a similar suggestion in the comments section of the April 27th article. NC reader “Waking Up” posted a reply that is worth quoting:

      “shinola: I agree that reinstating the draft (including women) would jolt people out of their apathy. However, it won’t happen. A major lesson learned from the Vietnam War was to avoid a draft at almost any cost (far more difficult to promote war when people aren’t willing to die for imperialism). It is “easier” for those with money and power to keep the majority of people compromised economically. That way they get “troops” who lack other options AND they can profit handsomely from military arms and weapons sales. A win-win for imperialists, neo-cons, and neo-liberals.”

      Unfortunately, I am inclined to agree. All these years I thought the PTB had learned nothing from the Vietnam debacle.

      I was wrong.

      1. Huey Long


        They definitely learned plenty from Vietnam!

        1. Immiserate the proles so that soldiering becomes an attractive, well paid, career.

        2. Drones and bombs are cheaper than hueys and F-105’s. The US lost a staggering amount of expensive brand new aircraft over Vietnam.

        3. Censor the press’s war coverage via embedded reporters and press pools. Any reporters not toeing the DoD line get their access revoked.

        4. Deploy the NG and reserve components to bolster active duty recruiting, and to discourage those on active duty from transferring to the reserves en masse.

      2. Eureka Springs

        Great, just great thinking. At minimum in our even more crowded world you are saying throw at least these many people into a meat grinder to relearn/ get back to where we are now, with no draft?
        Arguably the only victory the anti-war movement of that time gained.

        Total number of U.S. soldiers / personnel deployed to South Vietnam 2,594,000
        Total number of U.S. casualties in the Vietnam War 58,220
        Total number of U.S. soldiers wounded in the Vietnam War 303,644

        I cannot begin to imagine the horrors had the U.S. maintained a draft these past 40 years.. under any of our presidents and congress.

        1. Anon

          The estimates (vary widely) of the number of real live people (of any kind) who died from the Vietnam War is ~ 4 million.

    2. Darius

      Historically, the way to get power in America’s two party system is for the other side to preside over a stagnating economy. The way to keep it is to preside over broad-based prosperity. Basically, almost everyone has a job and feels economically secure. If your party has that, they have a lot of leeway on foreign and military policy, as well as social and environmental policy.

      This is what the Clintonites don’t want to get. Focusing on identity politics instead of economics just perpetuates identity grievances and stymies everything else. I suppose that’s the whole idea.

      An anti war agenda will have to come from a position of strength. Broad-based prosperity is the only way to get there. A full-employment agenda is vital for achieving prosperity. Only the left can do it because the neoliberal way won’t ever improve on current conditions.

      If everyone is working, the left can do all the other anti war and justice stuff. Under current conditions, there’s no traction for any of it.

      1. Lambert Strether

        > An anti war agenda will have to come from a position of strength. Broad-based prosperity is the only way to get there. A full-employment agenda is vital for achieving prosperity. Only the left can do it because the neoliberal way won’t ever improve on current conditions.

        Yep. You can’t do anything unless you fill the potholes and clear the snow. Democrats have been coasting on “bread and butter” issues for a long time, but the patience of important parts of their former base has run out. Their response is to double down by intensifying their appeal to the base they still have, “sharpening the contradictions.” *Opportunity! (Sorry to deploy a string of cliches…. but a lot of political language is like that!)

        * For example, the wealthy Republican suburbs the Clintonites want to appeal to. How will they feel about the tax cuts that (presumably) benefit them under AHCA? Are the Democrats really capable of making them understand that “the Hamptons are not a defensible position”? I doubt it.

    3. Code Name D

      FAIL!!! Reformer’s Paradox.
      The Reformer’s Paradox is the expectation that a corrupt system will seek to its own reform, or enable its reform to take place. Thus any “solution” that uses this paradox is bound to fail.

      Instituting the draft as an anti-war strategy is nothing new. Hell, this was proposed to stop, or at least slow down Bush I Iraq War. But there are two major problem with this strategy.

      One, the establishment is already aware of this approach. Thus they will never institute the draft for the specific reason that it could harden public discontent. (Keep in mind, as the article already noted, the endless wars are already unpopular.) Besides, they don’t need the draft with poverty and social mobility such as it is.

      Two: Voters are not stupid. When the anti-war movement is the one PROMOTING the draft, then its the anti-war movement that rightful gets the BLAME for trying to institute the draft. There is a contradiction at work here in that the anti-war faction is promoting the mandatory recruiting of soldiers to fight a war, When you mess around with contradictions, unintended consequences tend to be the result. Some results I can foresee is generous enlistment bonuses (which help to lift minorities out of poverty) get gutted. Poor people now have to server for the equivalent of a minimum wage and few benefits, And as we also saw from the Vietnam War, the draft becomes its own form of discrimination as the wealthy kids get to pay for draft deferments or can pick their post, while the poor have few options and get sent to the front lines.

      1. bob mcmanus


        currently reading Fredric Jameson’s latest book “An American Utopia: Dual Power and the Universal Army” A long essay, with supporting articles by the likes of Kathi Weeks, Kojin Karatani, Jodi Dean, Slavoj Zizek. Jameson calls for universal conscription from 18-70, including the disabled. This is as left as it gets. Think of it as the democratization and full socialization of the military (largely on a local, militia, National Guard level) and the application of military organization and ethos to education, public works, etc. Employer of Last Resort program on steroids.

        Jameson cites a future scenario where the President uses emergency powers to conscript 228 million people discharges them the next day, and declares them eligible for Veteran Health Care…single payer.

        The military is maybe the last (mostly) admired, bipartisan, uncorrupted institution left. The Left should take it over.

  2. Michael Fiorillo

    Incredible to think that the Left demanding universal benefits is a paradigm shift, but such are the times we live in. Identitarian politics has played a huge role in enervating and misdirecting people away from those demands.

    I think the writer’s strategic analysis is fundamentally sound: people have to re-learn that the government can be a positive, and not just coercive, force in their lives, and universal benefits and job guarantees (not a Soylent Green-providing Universal Basic Income) are the way to do so.

  3. Jim Haygood

    To generalize a particular statement for future reference:

    “I helped XXXXX get elected in part because I thought (s)he would at least dial the warmongering back compared to YYYYYYY or ZZZZZZ. But that didn’t happen did it?”

    As Sluggeaux said in different words, “There is only one War Party.

  4. sid_finster

    Losing wars (or pouring blood and treasure down a rathole) has a hell of a way of growing an antiwar movement.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Look around — Apparently not. Marines back to Helmand Province, to “push the Talibisisans out” and “allow government to gain control.”

      Protest in my little area is about how MArco Rubio is hiding from his constituents (ignoring who those actually are — the ones with the money) and “resisting Trump,” and LGBTQA rights, and the other “issues” that have been discussed here as core values (sic) of all those people dedicated to electing “more and better Democrats.”

      And we have the CENTCOM command right here, a “target rich environment” for “protest” if ever there was one, at what I guess is now called “Joint Base MacDill,” as the framing within the War Thing has changed from inter-service rivalries to “fusion” and “concentration on the mission,” which is More Of The Same, And Worse, All The TIme (MOTSAWATT).

      From MacDill, a steady stream of funeral cortèges used to emanate — the dismangled corpses of “our boys,” to be paraded down Main Street to the home town they grew up in, with lots of US Flags waving, and people lined up along the route to sorrow for the futile dead and cheer the futile living who will go forth to “drone” and kick in doors and facilitate the vast corruption that ensures that it all will continue, up to and through catastrophic climate-change-driven “events” that the Pentagram has plans to control all the responses to, and business opportunities presented by, such dislocations. A peek into the planning and thinking of the War Department: https://fas.org/irp/agency/dod/dsb/climate.pdf

      Maybe it’s my small horizon, but having done a bit of war, and then a lot of “protest,” and seeing the one grow and the other fizzle, my bet is sadly that the former will overcome the latter.

  5. JEHR

    Very interesting ideas in this article. I can visualize a small (very small) group of people beginning to request universal health care (in many different ways and means), something almost everyone agrees should be a given in a democracy. Just promoting, protesting and amplifying this one policy could grow into a very large group of people who are invigorated with the same idea. A core group would have to work at the project as if it were a life-long job and would have to be willing to travel wherever people showed interest. I could see this working very well. Another way to promote the idea of healthcare-for-all is to have a energetic and charismatic leader inside the process. Having just one goal at first on which to built is a very powerful idea.

    You would know how successful the group is at first by the amount of resistance to the idea: more resistance=more success!

    1. Lambert Strether

      > promoting, protesting and amplifying this one policy… more resistance=more success!

      Yes. Why do you think the Democrat establishment is so anxious to suppress it? There are a lot of people doing this life-time work! PNHP, HCAN, the occasional Senator, even some humble bloggers!

  6. diptherio

    I posted this yesterday, and I’ll do it again here, as it seems especially apropos. Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson, based on their experiences of successful political and economic organizing in Mississippi, is of the opinion now that economic organizing (i.e. helping create/convert worker-owned businesses) needs to precede electoral organizing.


    My question for Marina, Yves, Lambert and anybody else who thinks this strategy might be effective is this: is there any historical precedent? Has any other empire ever been transformed into a benevolent government of, by and for the people in this way? I survey the history of the US and of nation-states in general going back to the Assyrians and all I see is systems of social control and wealth extraction that are run for the benefit of the elites who create and maintain these systems. Any benefits for the masses are purely coincidental. Do we have any good reason to think that maybe a nation-state could be used for some other purpose? Do we have any examples? Apologies for being so skeptical, but the pessimist in me refuses to die.

    1. jrs

      “My question for Marina, Yves, Lambert and anybody else who thinks this strategy might be effective is this: is there any historical precedent? Has any other empire ever been transformed into a benevolent government of, by and for the people in this way?”

      +1 Where is the history of turning swords into plowshares? There seem instances where this followed the collapse of empire (the U.K. got it’s N.H.S. for sure, but it wasn’t an empire by that point).

      I’d think that the problem with worker-owned businesses is that for most workers starting one is a high-risk strategy (not all that much different than entrepreneurship – it’s riskier than some kind of paycheck – but entrepreneurship appeals more to non-idealistic types as there is the lure of a big win just for oneself there). Worker owned businesses seem rare even where there are lots of struggling small businesses. And this may be true even for the gig economy workers as they too cling to what they have (even if it’s not very good).

      1. jrs

        one might even speculate if we are more likely to see a welfare state when the empire collapses. But even if so, that doesn’t mean there is always much one can do to make it collapse.

      2. diptherio

        Mitigating risk for worker co-op start-ups is definitely a big issue. That’s one reason why there’s a lot of action right now around helping retiring boomers transition their small businesses to worker co-ops. Much easier to do when you’re starting out as a viable business.

        Groups like Working World and Shared Capital have been doing innovative work in non-extractive finance methods that place most of the risk on the funders. Both of those groups have superb track-records.

        And Cooperation Jackson just notched another victory:


        1. Left in Wisconsin

          Certainly citizen-based single-payer health care would be the single biggest boon to alternative employment. Providing benefits is a non-starter for lots of small coops, or providing minimal crappy benefits is the best they can do.

    2. Darius

      I’d say the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as Medicare, were the result of the prosperity of 1964-1965. The New Deal resulted in 12-percent growth in 1936 and the FDR landslide.

      Unfortunately, the Democrats failed to follow through in both instances and these advances didn’t result in durable fundamental change.

    3. witters

      I hope it is truly pessimism, not realism; but I can’t find many examples, and I’ve been trying. One thing I have found is that there are often people around who think that such immanent change is a goer.

      My quest is to find an actual representative liberal democracy that enacted policies in the real and explicit interests of the poorer in society when that society’s elites were not under some fear of violence from those people, or from other peoples. In Australia we did have Gough Whitlam, but that – in part, thanks to US interference – didn’t last long. This would seem to be a case of Sheldon Wolin’s “fugitive democracy” (“an evanescent and momentary political experience”). Perhaps this is how best to think of the now falling “pink tide” in Latin America.

      Can you help me?

      1. Grebo

        The closest examples I can think of are Norway in the 30s and the UK in 1945, but they are not very close. Norway’s workers made it quite clear that violence would be met with violence. In the UK there was a timely election just as a million war veterans were returning home. In both places the parasites were merely hobbled and have made quite a comeback since.

        1. Anon

          Exactly. Change starts and lasts exactly as long as the reformers are broadly willing to fight the forces of oligarchy. Even where the oligarchy is exterminated and utterly discredited, it regenerates and the people become complacent until the entire battle must be repeated.

          Fight against oligarchy or you will lose. Advocate complacency, hopey-changey, persuasion by reason, and magic internal reforms, and you are allied with oligarchy and will defeat your own people.

    4. Lambert Strether

      > The pessimist in me refuses to die.

      I’m not sure that the framing is correct. I think that great changes for the good in social relations are possible, “with a level of effort,” as we say in software engineering. For example, the Assyrians assumed slavery as a given. So did the thankfully defeated-in-war Confederacy. That’s an enormous improvement. I focus on universal direct material benefits exactly to remove the focus from “transforming an empire into a benevolent government,” which I don’t think can be defined operationally. And if in the coming decades, the lives of millions of working people can be improved, then that’s a victory no matter the structural changes. If that makes me a meliorist, then so be it.

      I think the wild card in looking for historical precedent is that the United States is an imperial center of world-historical scope and scale. We’re at the center of it all….

  7. Byron the Light Bulb

    The Nation-State emerged for the purpose of fielding large armies by filling the ranks with soldiers across multiple ethnic identities, as opposed to tribal clan warfare. Colonial arrangements are made to support massive troop concentrations. I don’t believe American Imperialists or Lockheed invented bloodshed. But without the need for the means to cave-in the skull of the other poor bastard tasked with doing the same for his leaders, people would prefer small localized government. I’m sure nobody would choose of their own free will to be ruled by the Dems or Repubs unless under threat of incineration.

    Peacenik movements are ineffectual counter-forces at best, and co-opted belligerent parties at worst. Historically bands of humans have avoided bloodshed by ritualizing [most of] the warfare and sublimating the death drive. Pantomime the battles across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

  8. voteforno6

    Victory has a momentum all its own…enacting something like Medicare-for-all would be significant, and make the next victory just a little bit easier. Change doesn’t happen incrementally; it comes in waves. It’s getting that first one that’s the hardest.

    1. Tim

      The term “political capital” disagrees with your assessment. Politics is a pendulum. The bigger the victory for the left or the right, the more likely it is the pendulum is going to start swinging back the other way.

      1. Darius

        That’s Obama thinking. The left just needs an agenda and an aggressive attitude. Shock and awe.

        1. Anon

          The Left has its agenda, but not the courage. Because suffering is not sufficiently common, and the tools of resistance and organization, and understanding of oligarchy control of mass media and elections, are too rare.

  9. grizziz

    I support what you are doing and would like to make a few observations. Contra Lambert, I don’t think material benefits alone will provide the motivation to overtake the Democrat Party despite the amassed corpus of Marxist literature. I would point you to work done by Scott Atran showing the need to fuse a sacred value with an identity to motivate a group. (I am not linking to Atran to avoid Skynet.)
    Referring to yesterday’s inclusion in the Water Cooler was a tweet from Ms Magazine’s editor wanting to bury Bernie.
    This may be metaphorical, but literally a potent remark This and a few other signals points to my conclusion that the Feminist and likely the LQBTQ movements are in competition with the Left/Labor to control the Democrat Party. Of course, alliances should be pursued, but the iron law of oligarchy will cement the eventual leaders and their particular interests.
    All in all, I wish you good fortune.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Regarding the conflict you posit between Feminist/LBGT and Labor/Left factions in the Democratic Party, I can only imagine that Betty Friedan, who, before writing ” The Feminine Mystique” and becoming a founder of Second Wave feminism, was editor-in-chief of the UE News, publication of the most left wing union in the US (the United Electrical Workers Union, or UE) is spinning, or sobbing, in her grave.

    2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Nothing personal, but it seems to me that Stopping The War gets conflated with everybody’s pet issue or pet take on what needs to happen to reform the parties. No. Stop The War should be the only message. It’s simple. It’s easy for everybody to understand. It’s universal. The numbers support it. It cuts across parties and religions and geographies and ethnicities and genders and age groups:

      All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance

      Litmus test every politician from local to national on this (like the anti-abortion people do).


    I believe my criticism of both Bernie Sanders and Elisabeth Warren as being too accepting of the U.S. Empire and ignoring how the drain of finances to fund the Empire’s wars and global expansion would prevent their commendable domestic social/economic policies from being funded precipitated Marina Bart’s original essay and its comments, so I appreciate this follow-up by Marina, as well as the comments to it.

    As a conscientious objector since 1970, and no longer a registered Democrat, I look forward to Marina’s full exposition of her strategy.

    1. Marina Bart

      What a gracious comment. Thank you, REDPILLED.

      I look forward to your thoughts on it, as it unfolds.

        1. Marina Bart

          Absolutely. One of the points Lambert was hammering on in our preparations for all this is that the left needs a win. I think that’s really important. A big part of TINA is training the population in learned helplessless and passivity.

          People need tangible things to fight for that will better their lives now, for a whole bunch of reasons. And they need to see and experience winning, to fuel the massive effort it will take to successfully purge the corporate neoliberals out of the Democratic Party completely and then take on the rest of the government (like the CIA and its little tricks) and get control of that. This is a big process. Taking power is hard. Taking power for the people and not for capital in a capitalist system is even harder. I get that people feel like it’s too hard. But I don’t see any point in giving up and not trying to fix the system — not by asking the existing ruling class to change, but by taking power away from them. That’s why we’re trying to construct a plan that solidifies the left without forcing everyone into one party or one path of action, where every element has multiplier effects and forcing mechanisms.

          1. Media Critic

            Marina has a well thought-out strategy. Being anti-war is not enough, especially in today’s corporate take-over. I was an anti-Viet Nam activist and this century sponsored several buses to DC for anti-war. Today’s demonstrations are not even a distraction for our dear leaders. I look forward to Marina’s ideas.

  11. David

    “War is immoral, advocating for and implementing war is immoral, and therefore supporting any politician who advocates for or implements war is immoral. I agree.”
    This is the classic pacifist position, the refusal to accept violence as a solution under any circumstances. It is a coherent position, though not, I suspect, one that most of us would actually adopt. (Incidentally, Rosa Luxemburg was imprisoned for opposition to the War, but died during the violent Spartacist uprising in Germany that followed it: she was no pacifist.)
    Seen from across the Atlantic then, and without wishing to pronounce on US politics, the real issue is whether you can have an à la carte approach to war. Luxemburg opposed WW1, as did many on the Left, because she thought it was an internecine capitalist struggle. She supported the Russian Revolution, and the Reds in the Civil War, because she believed in their cause. Effectively the same arguments were used by many on the Left in Europe and the US in the 1930s, that any war with Hitler would be a struggle for supremacy among capitalist nations, and so the Left’s duty was to oppose it. More did so at the time than they would later want to remember.
    Being a little older than some readers, I remember the Vietnam War, and I remember the very confused reaction to it among my contemporaries. A few were pacifists, but the majority simply wanted the other side to win: they were “against the war” in the sense that they hoped the side supported by their government would lose, which was a reasonable position with historical analogues (Spain, for example) but it’s very different from a blanket opposition to war as such.
    You won’t convince people to be “against war” until you sort out in your own minds what you are against. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many who are “against war” in Afghanistan, for example, were fervent interventionists throughout the whole parade of humanitarian causes from the 90s onwards: Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Darfur, Libya, Syria …. Indeed, militarism has tended to migrate in a curious fashion from the Right to the Left in the last couple of decades (Albright, Power, Clinton etc. etc.)
    I know what I think: war is never a good solution but sometimes it’s the least bad. Sometimes it’s necessary, but I hope I have enough moral sense to distinguish good cases from bad ones, and, more importantly, explain my reasoning to others. What about the rest of you?

    1. Kalen

      Luxemburg opposed WW1, as did many on the Left, because she thought it was an internecine capitalist struggle. She supported the Russian Revolution, and the Reds in the Civil War, because she believed in their cause.

      It is true but must be qualified.

      While Luxemburg was no pacifist, she was still vehemently against WWI, not only because it was motivated by colonial interest of ruling European aristocracies, nothing to do with peoples’ interest only profit for elites but most of all because she was internationalist believing that working class has no country and that stirring nationalist fervor, that war propaganda did, would lead to divisions in international workers movement as well as mere fact that most of dead and injured would have been working people killing other working people, again war would have weaken workers movement.

      Her anti-war stance was pragmatic not principal in a word she represented working class morality based judgment (to counter ruling class morality judgment) about the war and not pacifism based on general morality judgment.

      As far as Russian Revolution she was for it, but criticized Lenin for how he led it and what actually he was able to accomplished.

      It is an important distinction between what Lenin in the end did (in aftermath of Bolshevik and Menshevik revolution and civil war) and what Luxemburg saw as a way of true revolution of class consciousnesses , as she tried to accomplish during Spartacist revolt, namely to build new parallel structures of power while German Emporium was collapsing instead of taking over existing structures of power as Lenin and later Stalin did from hands of weak few months old, bourgeois government.

      In a sense Luxemburg revolution was by nature of not taking over the government directly, nonviolent except for self-defense, and not unexpectedly it was what exactly happened during Spartacist revolt and similarly in Hungarian revolution 1918 both failed while aggressive and violent Russian revolution in the end “succeeded” ironically by Stalin resurrecting Russian empire under new label of Soviet Union using German bankers money.

    2. CanCyn

      Maybe what we’re really against is the profit that comes from making war? In principle there are is probably some violence that I could support …In the immortal words of Omar from The Wire, “Some people need to get got”. I guess I’m not really a pacifist but I’d still call myself anti-war. I’d aruge that none of our current global strife is really about saving anyone from anything. Further, I’d argue that it is about making rich people even richer at the expense of many millions of peoples’ lives and homelands and I’m firmly against that.

      1. jrs

        I don’t think war (aggression against another country) is really the same thing as revolution (internal aggression against the existing power structure). Nor do I think defense of one’s own country is the same as aggressive war.

        Now do I think revolution against the belly of the beast in the U.S. is possible? Noone wants it anyway, and noone can agree on what a good result would be anyway. But also no, I don’t. But in some less colonized countries it might possibly be viable (but there are so many external players with their own agendas, it’s hard to say, beware of color revolutions!).

        What the U.S. does the overwhelming majority of the time is aggressive war. It also more covertly supports reactionary elements (even to the point of ISIS). And I know enough to oppose that! And it really does serve larger economic interests, even if occasionally another (usually not virtuous either!) motive gets mixed in, it’s about profits and economic dominance. I know to oppose this unequivocally, without reservations, even if I can’t single-handedly stop it.

    3. Marina Bart

      I know what I think: war is never a good solution but sometimes it’s the least bad. Sometimes it’s necessary, but I hope I have enough moral sense to distinguish good cases from bad ones, and, more importantly, explain my reasoning to others.

      I used to hold your position, until, like, ten minutes ago.

      Seriously, I thought about that statement that you referenced for a while before I wrote it. It wasn’t in the first draft. Here’s my personal current thinking on this: war and violence are not identical acts. War is an act of aggression, and as such, it is always about taking something, some resource by force, is it not? The slippery slope the American century and neoliberalism put us on is to keep redefining what wars are and what defense is until both terms are meaningless. The American military is currently overseeing and protecting poppy production in Afghanistan, while waging a “war on drugs” in other parts of the empire. It’s all nonsense. You can’t “wage war” on drug use, as the United States has proven every day for over forty years. And the United States isn’t even trying to stop drug use and production, in reality, just monetize it in a favorable way for war and havoc-making branches and affiliates of the government.

      I had a teacher who had been a conscious objector in World War II, which was practically designed in a lab to be the ultimate “good war.” It’s basically the permanent excuse for sending young people outside the country’s borders to die in the service of some projected, often fantasized threat. Consider 9/11. That actually WAS an attack on our soil. Did the two wars launched overseas to supposedly protect us here actually do that?

      Meanwhile, Germany is basically waging war on Greece, very successfully, using economic means. The citizens of Greece are starving and dying, as their lands and goods are sold off against their will to private entities. They are now ruled by outside powers, for the benefit of those outside powers. Sounds like they lost a war, to me.

      War is immoral. Perhaps an argument might be made for some situation like World War II in the future, whereby providing an assistance to an allied country overseas makes some sense. But even if that ever occurs again, it would not make war a moral choice ever. Murder is immoral. This is drummed into all our heads. Sometimes, our society deems that killing another person — in self-defense, for example — is morally justified, in which case, it is deemed not to be murder. But we set a societally high bar for determining this. We operate from a position that when one person kills another, it is treated as an immoral murder unless a specific, stringent set of facts is demonstrated to prove otherwise. (What’s going on with sanctioned police violence is an erosion of that principle, and a great deal of effort is put forth by the state when these murders are revealed to prove that they are not what they appear. At no point do they ever say, “murder is fine.”) I think we have to embrace and accept as a society that war is innately immoral, if we’re ever to have any chance to create a system where the need for protective defense can’t and won’t once again be twisted into immoral empire-building.

      1. Antifa

        Sadly, Marina, no — war is not unjustified aggression while violent self defense is a rational response. There is no escape in semantics from the cold fact that war is an innate, natural part of our primate nature. Humans organize for, and opt for war the same as a band of chimpanzees occasionally will. It’s done for territory, plunder, or for the most common impulse — because we can. Behold — we have the strength and power to deal out death. We can be gods for a little while.

        In chimps it’s usually the males who go for it, but they have the full approval of the females, who enjoy the booty and expanded territory afterwards. Who doesn’t like a little lebensraum?

        Chimpanzee and homo sapiens males find war exhilarating, and the most totally engaging emotional and psychological peak experience they can ever have because war is when it’s down to your existential survival, and the only rules are tooth and claw. You are never so alive as when you’re struggling against death. There’s no guarantee for anyone locked in the melee of group combat that this is not their last, best effort to live on, if only for another minute.

        Humans, with our much bigger intellects, don’t talk ourselves out of aggression. Quite the opposite. We celebrate and honor it. What’s the Wall Street phrase for a rising market — animal spirits. We do business as war, we do politics as winner take all war, and to hell with any women and children in the way. Collateral damage.

        We play football as war. We play it as war quite religiously.

        So war is loose in the human psyche, and it’s not going away while our DNA encodes it. And war will find each of us. It will come right to us.

        When the wolves come for your children and you, the rational choices are to hide, to get gone, or to surrender by paying their price. Some of you might live to fight another day. Slavery is better than death.

        It makes no difference if the wolves are four-legged, or are grown men in crisp business suits, or in military uniforms, or wearing ISIS hoods. They are all creatures come to exercise total power over you. War has come right to your front door.

        It’s also a rational choice to engage in violent self-defense. Shoot back, pour boiling oil from the ramparts, load the trebuchets, launch the ICBM’s before they can launch theirs. All of which presupposes that you prepared for war, knowing that it will come. Which makes you a war-maker, a warrior when the need arises.

        Wherever human populations exist, it will always be possible for sociopaths to divide the group. Color of eyes, shoe size, choice of music, whether you like or hate broccoli, anything will do. Once tribes divide, identity politics works to deepen and spread the division, like ice splitting granite mountains. This is the seed of war.

        The seed is seeing that the Other is not with us. If it comes down to tooth and nail, we must survive, not the Other. We must exercise power over Them, not Them over us.

        Individual humans can renounce and forswear war. But our species shows no ability to overcome our innate insanity, which is to destroy anyone or anything that thwarts our desire to walk the earth like gods.

        That’s our crazy. That’s where war lives within us.

        1. HollyGuild

          Antifa, you can believe whatever you want about the innate nature of humans, but evolutionary psychology and genetics has changed a lot in the last 20 years and these ideas of complex behavioural traits being encoded in our DNA is very outdated. People continue to repeat them, however, because they confirm our bias towards feeling our current social situation is inevitable and therefore right. I think Marina is really trying to break us out of this kind of thinking here.

          Not only are human attitudes towards war very mutable and change hugely across time and space, primate attitudes towards war are very different even *within* species depending on the culture of a specific group. Unfortunately a lot of the sources on this are locked up in academic research, but if you wish to do some reading look for Paleofantasy by Marlene Zuk and Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You by Augustin Fuentes. They are more general, but get at the fundamental issues involved with misusing evolutionary biology as evidence for our beliefs about ourselves.

  12. John

    Today I pointed my history class toward an article about plastic debris piling up on the beaches in Kau district on the Big Island of Hawaii. I had previously urged them to eliminate or at least reduce their use of plastics. In an ideal world we could banish plastics entirely with a stroke of the pen. That is not happening but if my students and their parents and their friends and their friends parents and so forth stop using plastics and remind its producers and users that they are passing along the externalities of plastics to all of us and if the heat is turned up high enough, then change can and will happen.

    The same thing can be done to slow down and then shut down the war machine.

    1. UserFriendly

      In an ideal world we could banish plastics entirely with a stroke of the pen

      Really? A ballpark estimate of the ;lives saved by plastic is pushing a billion. Go walk around a hospital and look at all the plastics there and start trying to tell me how you would replace them with alternatives. How much CO2 do you think it takes to make an aluminum can or a glass bottle compared to a plastic one? I could go on.

      There are lots of downsides to the status quo use of plastics but your efforts would be much better directed at pushing to limit the production of non recyclable plastics and to find better ways of mandating that all products get recycled.

      1. JEHR

        I can remember living in a world where plastics were not being used at all. It can be done. There were hospitals then too and probably did a respectable job saving lives. We often say how ingenious and creative men and women are so this intelligence could be put to good use again. (Rubber plants would be where I would start my research.)

        1. optimader

          I think the issue is the life cycle of the plastic disposable. Certainly I would not want hospitals to ban the use of plastic. OTOH the use of plastic as a disposable consumer convenience is over the top, and the economics don’t embrace a whole cost that includes recycling.

          I attended the Vienna film Fest a couple years ago when we happened to be there.. It is an outdoor festival in a park infront of the City Hall. All the (fantastic food) served on ceramic dinnerware with metal utensils. People politely move there used dishes and utensils to busboy stations. Its not that complicated if you have a society with some threshold of courtesy (not withstanding their midcentury 20th century ..lets say lapse..).

          There is NO comparison to the dumpsters full of single use plastic products at a typical Fair here in Chicago

        2. UserFriendly

          I am well aware of the history of rubber and why it wasn’t enough.

          How much has the average life expectancy gone up since then? Obviously not all due to plastics, but being able to sterilize things and seal them in plastic has been a huge part of that,

  13. Wyoming

    “….So, is there any way to get from here to a country with broadly shared prosperity, a healthy and happy citizenry, and a more peaceful mode of governmental operation both at home and abroad? One that does not require increased bloodshed or waiting until the entire system collapses (which would involve tremendous suffering, particularly for the billions already being exploited by the global ruling elite)?….”

    This is a strong candidate for an application of Betteridge’s Law.

    I personally am a committed Socialist in political terms. But I try really hard to also to take into account the reality of the situation we find ourselves in. I also acknowledge that I have evolved from the young idealist I once was (I participated in the 1st Earth Day demonstrations as well as others against the Vietnam War) into an undeniable cynic.

    To wit: All proposed solutions to governing structures, financial structures and procedures, alternative energy policies, developing the economies of the 3rd world, feeding the starving, etc, etc, and so on have to be evaluated in light of the global situation we find ourselves in.

    The world is swiftly entering into the effects of a rapidly changing climate due to our emissions of greenhouse gases, we are continuing to pollute the world at a rapid pace, the global carrying capacity is rapidly shrinking due to these things as well as due to the worsening impact of having a rapidly growing global population. These are the critical issues we face as a global human population. If we do not take drastic measures to reduce the rate at which this situation is deteriorating the declining carrying capacity curve and the rising consumption curves are going to race past each other very soon. The rational part of me does not see much likelyhood we are capable of making the really hard decisions on a global basis to address these macro problems and the cynic in me thinks that those who really do have the power to address them are far more likely to use the situation to further their personal interests at the expense of everyone else.

    We are heading into a situation where there is very likely no way out other than collapse and rebuilding and we have made no meaningful progress on any other possible outcome in the last 30 years.

    My socialist interests and moral positions are not likely to be addressed in this declining world and they would in fact not have a measurable effect on solving our existential problems I am sad to say.

    We have big problems to deal with but we spend all of our time on political and financial ideology and pretending that green solutions (a marketing tactic mostly) are actually meaningful and will lead us somewhere useful. There is simply no time left for this type of activity unless it is done in concert and as part of a package of dealing with our vast overpopulation and the crushing effects of climate change.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      We are heading into a situation where there is very likely no way out other than collapse and rebuilding and we have made no meaningful progress on any other possible outcome in the last 30 years.

      My socialist interests and moral positions are not likely to be addressed in this declining world and they would in fact not have a measurable effect on solving our existential problems I am sad to say.

      I like your comment very much. But I take issue with the notion that “collapse” or any other similar outcome is a singular event we are powerless to affect. There are, and will continue to be, different kinds and degrees of “collapse,” and the more unequal our society is at the time of “collapse,” the more unequal and ugly that collapse will be.

      For many people, in the U.S. and elsewhere, it is not at all clear that society has not “collapsed” already. That doesn’t mean that there is nothing to do or nothing that can be done. Nor does it mean that things have to get worse before they get better, or will get better just because they got worse. I’m not attributing any or all of these sentiments to you. But I do think it is important for all of us not to fall into the trap of saying, “That’s it, there is nothing that we can do,” or “nothing we can do that makes a difference.”

      My socialist interests and moral positions are not likely to be addressed in this declining world and they would in fact not have a measurable effect on solving our existential problems I am sad to say.

      Maybe. Probably. But not necessarily. My thing is, if it’s going to be ugly when things collapse, they there is nothing wrong with making things ugly right now for those that are most intent on bringing about the (predicted) collapse. No need to worry about social niceties!

  14. davidly

    On the other hand, I think you misunderstand some of the objection to your previous entry. I for one do not find you or Yves or Lambert to be insufficiently antiwar. It is the suggested approach which I find ultimately so, and I believe much of the hostility you correctly perceive is because the approach involves what many find to be a myopic interpretation of the implications of “not require[ing] that candidates overtly and aggressively campaign against” America’s military machine.

    Foremost, I staunchly believe that allowing representatives to ignore this issue is, even as we speak, to the ongoing detriment of the American psyche, the manifest national illness of which is in my opinion too massive for me to state here and be taken seriously. This fact itself is also part of that problem. The US is so gravely ill that there is no medical coverage that can fix it. And we cannot expect to have some kind of two-pronged approach wherein all the grass roots are out campaigning about something for which the people they’re supposed to elect have nothing more than, at best, milquetoast patriotic electoral boilerplate if they cannot avoid the topic altogether.

    Now, while it may be true that many Americans on balance do not benefit from the MIC, insofar as that money could be spent much on what your approach advocates several times over, there is a very tangible benefit to the American economy that serves the interests of not just the upper 10 percent. I don’t want to put too fine a point on this, but it’s a big reason there isn’t the anti-war coalition that can break thru the mainstream press or politics. The war economy is huge. If Americans were to win universal healthcare tomorrow or next year or four to eight years from now, that would not change the national mindset in this regard, and most certainly not the politicians known as “viable” who we allow to skirt the issue. In short: you cannot just chalk the pushback to your previous entry down to misreading. We disagree and it has nothing to do with you not being purely anti-war. However: I do find the “let’s get material benefits for us first” to be a little bit troubling.

    So you say you thought Obama would be a lesser war-wager and, bravo, admit that he wasn’t. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that those of us who knew better and didn’t lend him any support could smell this tidbit between the lines of the previous entry. How? The argument you’re making is the same one his more sober supporters were making eight years ago. The only difference I read is that your suggesting we shift the purity line on some things and ignore, at least on some level, one other critical issue — so that we can get people elected.

    You cannot tell me that you were around to work for McCarthy yet have not heard your argument before. I do wonder myself who all the non-corporate Dems are and how they’d fare, assuming they really aren’t corporate Dems at heart. America needs a complete conversation change. The Warrens and Sanders of the world are the gatekeepers before the gatekeepers named Schumer, Pelosi, and Feinstein, whose default function is to stop this conversation change. There’s an Ellison before every Perez. A Booker before every… you get the point I hope. So how are we gonna oust these people while our list of enemies grows to numbers unspoken?

    1. Marina Bart

      This is not the same as the Obama phenomenon. For one thing, our strategy focuses on specific policies, not vague nostrums like “Hope and Change.” That anchors the discussion in ways that are difficult to evade and elide, which is why the Democrats are working so diligently to shut this kind of thing down.

      I don’t want to take over the discussion here, because this is not about me. But under this strategy, I would never have voted for Obama. I wouldn’t have had to be savvy enough to know to read Glen Ford. I would have be able to reason, “He was given a speaking slot by the Democrats at the convention, so he’s a favored insider. That means he has already been corrupted.” Or I might have thought, “Hope and Change is fine, but he’s not promoting universal direct material benefits, so he’s not worth backing.” Obama got in because he exploited signifiers he in no way deserved and people like me had not yet accepted that the Democratic Party (and the rest of the ruling elite, like the corporate media) had been corrupted root and branch.

      If you take the focus off personality and “values,” it’s easier to cut through the piles of ripe manure the Democrats offer up. Shifting the purity line away from personal identity (both citizen and politician) to policy that can be enacted is a bigger change, with a series of multiplier effects, than you seem to realize. For example, right now, the most extreme “position” corporate Democrats take is being “pro-choice.” But what do they mean by that? What policy do they advocate to achieve this goal? They never say. It’s just expressed as a value. Whereas “I’m in favor of universal health care via expanded and improved Medicare for All, and opposed to the president applying the Hyde Amendment to it affirmatively via executive order. Since abortion is a legal medical procedure, done and done.” Obviously, there would still be a vociferous pushback. But notice how significantly this shifts the playing field. The best possible way to get past abortion as a wedge issue is to embed it in some universal program that benefits EVERYBODY. And it pins politicians down. They can’t slither around as much as they like. It’s easier to hold them accountable.

      Corruption will always be with us. Whatever politicians the left might install would be liable to the same phenomenon over time. But focusing on concrete policies with concrete benefits is different that what’s been going on. This approach doesn’t rely on Bernie or any other politician being noble and pure. That’s part of the point.

      It may or may not work, and you may or may not ever agree with me. But it is NOT the same.

      1. davidly

        But it is the same. It’s been the same for a century. If we were to begin with Eugene McCarthy as a measuring stick: In retrospect, would you say the strategy then should have been the same, say, move Viet Nam to the back burner (oh the unfortunate irony)? If not, why not? “Our boys”?

        No, I’m sorry, you’re right. It’s actually worse. The expansion of war and the profiteering that goes along with it, that serves congressional districts from sea to shining sea, is not the same, but growing so broadly that most people you say don’t want it, don’t even know how many countries and with which dictators we’re allied. No one who does not put those most egregious human rights violations in the name of what they admit is a nation governed by an intrinsically corrupted body politic deserves the material benefits you propose to make central focus. The whole world is watching.

        1. jrs

          don’t deserve is too extreme, because it’s not necessarily the people you think it is, people without decent healthcare in the U.S. is very broad and includes people whose ancestors were brought over here as slaves, who were red-lined, Jim Crowed, new Jim Crowed, generation after generation. Of course they have a harder time being American $uce$$ $tories. Your beef is probably more with a particular form of privileged American blindness that will never see the U.S. as anything but basically good and the questions only whether or not we can “save the whole world” (though bombing them) or not.

          1. davidly

            The premise of the OP is that these material benefits, once bestowed upon a downtrodden populace, eventually enabling egalitarian conditions across the board, will somehow lead to a more aware, informed, and empathetic citizenry thereby equipped to take on the war machine. In fact, this is not the case. What it does is increase the resolve to keep what you got and not rock the boat. If you don’t like “don’t deserve“, consider “would not ultimately be served well by”.

        2. Darius

          You’re really trying hard not to get this. Material benefits providers that also are anti war become the people who ensured I have a job, healthcare and old-age security, and my kids aren’t dying in some Middle East quagmire. Anti war without material benefits is just a bunch of annoying longhairs, if not traitors. My life sucks but at least I can hate on those people.

          1. jrs

            historically wasn’t it often unionized workers (and I support unionization don’t get me wrong) who opposed the longhairs over say Vietnam, certainly that’s the stereotype. They already had good benefits, the longhairs weren’t offering them anything they didn’t already have it is true, but on the other hand it wasn’t their desperation driving them either. It was possibly cultural issues driving them.

            Of course it is a different historical time now than then.

      2. davidly

        But it is the same. It’s been the same for a century, with the caveat that the sixties brought about both civil rights and the anti-war movement. If we were to begin with your bona fides, with Eugene McCarthy as a measuring stick: In retrospect, would you say the strategy then should have been the same, say, move Viet Nam to the back burner (oh the unfortunate irony)? If not, why not? Not enough of “our boys” coming home in bags with heroin in ’em?

        No, I’m sorry, you’re right. It’s actually worse. The expansion of war and the profiteering that goes along with it, that serves congressional districts from sea to shining sea, is not the same, but growing so broadly that most people you say don’t want it, don’t even know how many countries and with which dictators we’re allied. No one who does not put those most egregious human rights violations in the name of what they admit is a nation governed by an intrinsically corrupted body politic deserves the material benefits you propose to make central focus. The whole world is watching.

  15. Marco

    This from Cat Burgler deserves repeating again and again!

    “…universal benefits is a way to allow people the free space in their lives to overcome the military-industrial-congressional complex”

    Not to be too harsh but the twin purity tests of Identity Politics and Anti-War-ism would logically appeal to those higher up the Maslow Hierarchy no? Widespread civic engagement starts when basic needs are met. Otherwise there is no solidarity but just a low trust society where everyone is screwing over everybody else.

    Thanks Marina for spelling out the obvious!!

  16. Disturbed Voter

    Is the Left of use to anyone besides the anti-status-quo and as captured opposition to serve the status quo?

    What is the purpose of humanity? I don’t see any good secular answers to that. And spiritually I am thinking o of … “There is a time for war and a time for peace”.

  17. John

    Morals with an economic system withOUT morals?

    But, how can an economic system have morals if it can create money from nothing without consequences? Even the Magic Money Tree can create money from nothing.

    Looks like some “economists” will have to create a “Morals Variable” in their economic models.

    (Good luck with that one…)

  18. Susan the other

    I think we should all incorporate. Maybe create the first diffuse political corporation via the internet. We all buy shares, for some cheap price so that we can get tens of millions of shareholders. We write up a corporate constitution for our goals. One of them, the first one, could be universal health care, funded of course by our share purchases into a pool of money – a war chest – that can serve among other things to be a mutual insurance organization. Recruit those medical professionals who would like to participate, indeed take their experience into consideration. Buy into medical facilities, hospitals, drug companies. A takeover of the medical industry. Because politics doesn’t work anymore.

    1. HopeLB

      I second that from CanCyn, great idea!!And then, if that secret TPP meeting in Canada leads to its enactment, we sue using ISDS claiming low wages and war spending are depriving us of investors.

    2. Sam F

      Of course, even a nonprofit corporation has its own politics, and can be taken over by a selfish oligarchy, so a “political corporation” must have better political institutions than the US to become a better government.

      That requires that it protect its own mass media and election and debate processes from economic power including that of members. It must have better checks and balances, operating within its functional divisions rather than between them. It must have better moral standards for producers relative to consumers and employees.

      It also must be isolationist in the sense of discouraging members from using external providers of goods and services, while being integrationist in the sense of being a political party for the reform of the external government. When successful in politics it merges or reforms the external government in the form of its own institutions.

      But the economy is limited to that which can be better cost/benefit on its smaller scale.

      1. Sam F

        I would much appreciate Yves’ insight into the prospects of such a political corporation within a city or state, running its own insurance, schools, health facilities, distribution, and local services, with employment guarantees, and a favorable balance of trade. Gradually purchasing most other businesses, and discouraging use of external providers of all kinds.

        Perhaps there are works on such political corporate efforts at the state and municipal level. Excluding those limited to a religious sect or specific political views.

  19. James Griffin

    Your words – “Believe me. I have directly and personally confronted Democratic trust fund scions on this and faced immediate, life-threatening blowback. ”
    Both the public awareness and appreciation of the consequences of real corruption remain low. In fact, I find few in my own circle of contacts who even care, at best dismissing it as normal or inevitable. There is a reason for this apathy. There is a reason we, as a nation, fought corrupt practices and it is well presented in Zephyr Teachout’s book on the topic. There is also a reason that ways of catching and punishing criminals operating at the highest levels of business and government have diminished over the last several decades. Not only has the threat of punishment diminished, the possibility of even discovering the facts has shrunk concomitantly. I suggest that there is a direct relation between the ability to effect change and the efficacy of punishments for the powerful.
    It is clear the elites don’t want effective heath care for the underlings and until the methods and reasons are clearly exposed it will not happen. Alternative sources of information exist and still confusion can be maintained by mainstream, corporate owned, media propaganda. But what if we can push through this first barrier? Will the leaders of any such movement be able to stand firm in the face of the next?
    I started this post with your own words. I don’t know the method you used to confront these people but I would suggest that the response you got is even less dangerous than that you might have experienced had you represented a real and functional threat to the status quo.

  20. jrs

    I think some of the pushback was just how people prioritize issues. If one was both anti-war and for expanding benefits but prioritized benefits (NOT for a pragmatic reason of them being perceived as more politically feasible but just as a priority for rational, emotional, value, or even personal reasons) then of course they might be in total agreement. If for some reason they were both entirely equal in one’s eyes then one might agree. But if one actually deeply cares about opposing the wars, if anti-war is a primary (if far from the only) issue, it’s hard not to prioritize, and to agree to let it take a backburner until “after the revolution”. Especially if one is not sure it will even happen even “after the revolution”. It might actually be a values disagreement at some level among people who might nominally seem to agree and yet prioritize things differently.

    My reaction to Trump bombing Syria was absolute horror (whether Trump intends to escalate that war I honestly don’t know at this point, I think Trump is a disaster, but I don’t know the end game there), but it sure seemed so at the time, that he wanted to overthrow Assad period. It’s a visceral reaction, but it’s not irrational, not wanting the horror of another regime change and all the death, the endless death it entails is not irrational, even if rationally one ought to care just as much about some other issue they don’t quite care as much about.

    1. jrs

      As for what issues will draw the masses into action, nationally that might be economics. But around here it seems racial issues get FAR more traction than economic issues EVER do. More protests, etc. And it’s not because there isn’t economic desperation, because there is!

      I just think people are USED TO things sucking economically and don’t even see the possibility of change there but only of adaptation, whereas they do see the possibility of resisting I.C.E., of protesting police brutality, etc.. Of course environmental and peace movements get even less traction.

      1. jrs

        So maybe what I’m saying is what moves the masses is not always what they see as most urgent, but what they see as changeable. Politics is the art of what is perceived as possible. And the CA Dem party has probably conditioned many a Californian into real economic change not being one of those things (I can’t even get my state reps to respond to me when I email them demanding state single payer. This does not really say anything particularly good about it’s possible passage, although I can hope).

        Now there are real objective reasons why ending the empire and the war machine are nearly impossible, the forces against it just being too strong, but to do something it not ONLY has to be possible, but also it has to be seen as possible. Otherwise people just adapt to whatever the situation is (“accept the things they cannot change” etc.), even when things are pretty bad.

  21. Alex Morfesis

    Solomon Stanwood Menken…about 100 years ago today, he went from being the executive director of to president of some little organization he founded called…the national security league…menken was one of jp (the jp) morgans lawyers…to study him and the national security league is to understand the genesis of the oft bantered and whispered meme when one gets too close to the burning coals…

    and if one wants to understand how from then we get to today…study mary bancroft…our own little mata hari…yes the wsj bancrofts…she was good friends with one ruth forbes paine young…whose son…

    As to the notion of stepping into the democratic party…there certainly is an opening since the party depends on surfz and other unpaid or underpaid volunteers…the reality is the system might sniff out so many volunteers and will cleave off any moves to consolidate unapproved or inappropriate power grabs from the uninvited…verily it will certainly be a challenge…could be done…but many lives will be crushed in the making…tis why the notion those over 65 need to be volunteered for the front lines…currently tis a bit difficult to remove those monthly checks from arriving, however small they might appear to be…everyone else can have their lives disrupted….

      1. alex morfesis

        that did not seem to last too long…she has not mentioned it since and in her mentioning she had explained she had already begun the process of “correcting” the record…although the rule is not arbitrary in and of itself but that if you are in jail for more than 30 days your social security check can be voided for the time in jail…

        wright wrote a piece on her ordeal at drudgeleft but have seen nothing more on her issue…guessing she goterfyxd…


        and yes, I am fully aware of how easy it is to have some guvdrone type in the wrong info in a database…

        “by accidented”

        been there, done that, bought the teeshirt and mug…teeshirt fell apart, mug broke…got me another…

        freedom vs freedumb…

        you pay a price, one way or another…

  22. CanCyn

    In Canada, Naomi Klein and some others are championing the LEAP Manifesto as a way forward: https://leapmanifesto.org/en/the-leap-manifesto/#manifesto-content
    I’ve signed on but it has never really felt like exactly the right thing. I could never quite put my finger on what it is missing … having read this post, I know what it is. Just like championing anti-war above all other things (in spite of the rightness of the idea of no war and all of the good consequences that would follow) won’t work as a first step, championing the environment and indigenous rights and perspective (in spite of it being right and the many good things would follow) is just not the way to get a majority of people on board and to lead change. People want healthcare, decent jobs, and decent lives – let’s get together on that. Then talk about how to stop the corporatization & privatization of EVERYTHING. Clean out the swamp for real. I believe that, at its heart, that’s what Occupy wanted.
    I would love to hope and I do see the glimmer of opportunity – people are talking and asking questions. But, like Diptherio, the pessimist in me is strong. Where is Occupy now? Was is simply the right movement at the wrong time? Or is there just too little support? Are people just too defeated?

    1. marym

      People want healthcare, decent jobs, and decent lives – let’s get together on that. Then talk about how to stop the corporatization & privatization of EVERYTHING.

      Corporatization and privatization should be part of the discussion, whatever the prioritization of specific demands, to contrast with demands for systems, services, and institutions that serve the common good.

      1. Marina Bart

        Absolutely. Also monopoly and corruption. I’m not advocating for universal benefits to the exclusion of everything else. I just want to make that the tip of the wedge. Between the tip and the base would be a lot of other important stuff — both specific policies, and different ways of thinking about community and government.

        1. marym

          It needs to be part of the framing of the discussion of the demand for any particular benefit. Conservatives an neoliberals have created a framework in which everything not only has to be run like a for-profit business, but increasingly actually has to be a for profit business. We need a framework that says some things should be a public utility, or a non-profit, or a worker or community cooperative. For some things the best way to ensure them for each of us is to ensure them for all of us. Etc.

  23. Eureka Springs

    Is it not true the last president we had who seriously considered universal health care also faced the greatest anti-war movement?

  24. marym

    Not being killed, incarcerated, deported, banned, tortured by the armed power of the state is a material benefit. As an observer, it seems to me that people organizing around these issues domestically often do make connections to the international aspects (war, blowback, US alliances with despotic regimes).

  25. Gregory Hill

    How Can Our Fall Be Stopped?

    I also believe the Single Payer movement may be the best first step and most efficient approach to promoting the true progressive message, which could effectively
    marginalize and defeat, as I refer to them, the heartless “Condescenders.” I will use an example of a glaring problem within our current heartless and progressively demoralizing Healthcare System. The example below came as a result of my own developed understanding of the serious socio-economic issues currently faced by many struggling people, including those driven to bankruptcy, poverty and a myriad of other problems (e.g. substance abuse). As we know, poverty and falling incomes undeniably beget increasing problematic health issues for those affected by their struggles, whatever the cause. I should briefly mention here that I believe a Single Payer System should include the option for citizens to pursue certified naturopathic modalities (proper nutrition and other proven strategies that offer freedom from horrible pharmaceutical drugs hawked by Big Pharma and For Profit Medicine).

    How many people with life-long undiagnosed neurological/physiological disorders, have perpetually exacerbated physiological symptoms associated with their disorder, many times caused by triggers unknown to them, which becomes a negative feedback loop propelled by environmental, dietary and socio-economic factors, ad infinitum, as well as a lack of receiving proper care, let alone a proper diagnosis? They stumble though life, mis-labeled and misunderstood. Their lives are many times a life of varying economic or social poverty (and most likely both in some degree or another) caused by gross underachievement based on fleeting societal standards driven by the elites who control the narrative. They are stuck in the mire of life’s undesirable swamps where the Condescenders all-knowingly think they belong, because, well, “it is the ‘Losers’ fault for the messes they are in; therefore, why should we help them?” Is this not the prevalent attitude of the Ayn Rand’s, ahem, Paul Ryan’s and the filthy rich cohort Koch Brothers and other filthy rich bastards of the world, grubbing for more money and power over the majority of citizens they oppress (lower taxes via less government support for the middle and lower classes)?

    As former Reagan Republican, right-wing, and so-called Christian, I can effectively see right through their “mercy” horse hockey. My own move away from the Repugnants started in 2002-2003), so I also easily see the glaring problems with the elite establishment Democrats and their enablers. Yet, my faith has still grown, because I have now long seen the light. I cannot ignore the undeniable call to social democracy, justice and mercy found, for example, in the Book of James or the teachings of Jesus (you know, the guy who drove the money-changers out of the Temple). It just took a long process of reasoning and critical thinking over the years for me to be liberated. As an Independent, Green Party-type and part of the “Christian Left,” I am happy to be a part of the clarion cry for a paradigm shift on many social democratic fronts, starting with the Single Payer and then Anti-War movements, as well as other great causes. I have no interest in being associated with warmongering right wing or libertarian “Christians” who “hand their brother a stone” when they are in need a “loaf of bread,” who also have apparently forgotten that their God “is no respecter of persons.” I am truly ashamed to say, there is no “right” in the “Christian Right” supporting any of their arguments for their ungracious attitudes and merciless political positions on these issues.

    The first proper act toward even attempting to address this ungodly attitude toward our fellow citizens (and if they are not considered “fellow citizens,” then who are they?), would be to remove a large majority the Condescenders, who are unwilling to consider and change their heartless mindsets, marginalizing them in the national discussion of how we can keep this sinking ship afloat and get her to shore. I believe the first step would be the unmitigated nationalization of the healthcare system, you know, like Universal Health Care found in other CIVILIZED developed countries throughout the world.

    Sign me up!

    1. Bradley

      Hi Gregory,

      I understand that you are frustrated with the right, but Libertarians do share your anti-war and anti-interventionist positions. As one myself, I am concerned that Marina’s focus on universal benefits will splinter existing anti-war support, including the somewhat sizable portion of libertarian-minded voters (4.5 million in 2016).

      1. Gregory Hill

        Thank you Bradley! I definitely share common ground with you and many other libertarians, including friends of mine, regarding anti-war/anti-interventionist positions, as well as issues pertaining to civil liberties.

        1. JTMcPhee

          And libertarians, many of them, will happily make common cause with you on the war and intervention front. But remember that would only be a marriage of convenience, and as soon as “progress” would be achieved, they will be furthering the libertarian project so telllingly outlined by NC in this series: “Journey into a Libertarian Future,” http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-i-–the-vision.html

          Libertarians, many of them, often resemble Scientiologists. Always on message, always overcoming with blandishments and promises of future betterment and individual salvation. Or pick from this assortment, http://ritholtz.com/2010/07/24-types-of-libertarians/ And remember the gods the libertarians worship… It’s a good thing that they are so into argumentation and winning the fight over who defines terms — if they ever got together, Katie bar the door. But then a lot of the tenets they hold are already in place, under the cloak of neoliberalism…

          1. jrs

            what actual actions of sharing common ground with libertarians on war would lead to this? Certainly not protesting a war. Although neither does that appear to be particularly effective.

            Voting Ron Paul? Oh maybe. (Still not as bad as voting Trump though but then NOTHING IS in SOME ways including voting Hillary, Obama, Reagan – ok that comes closest, or Richard Nixon, so I suppose that’s really not a fair comparison with anything).

            Because if we’re not even talking about the level of concrete actions (protesting, voting, donating to anti-war.com, I don’t know) and what effects, side-effects, and even fallout they might have, which is at least something that can be evaluated although not perfectly, what are we really even talking about? Thought contagion, contamination, loss of purity?

  26. jfleni

    The solution is to FIGHT, and FIGHT again against the jumped up generalsimos and their enablers in the five-sided bughouse. The country really has no enemies except those we make for ourselves.

    These very same morons are extremely sensitive to the gross weakness of their position, and implacable oposition will only emphasize it; RESIST them always! Don’t let them catch their breath!

    The benefits are obvious to eveybody; when they paint gory pictures of millions of chinamen or russians against us, just give them your best belly-laugh!

  27. Greg Taylor

    I would have agreed that a universal material benefits (UMB) coalition-building strategy was better than an anti-war strategy until I campaigned for Bernie in the south. Too many potential coalition members buy into “meritocracy” and often find UMB threaten their identities by putting them at the bottom of the totem pole – a place they’ve fought hard to inch away from.

    While campaigning, I walked up to two guys on an electric cart working outdoor maintenance for the city – at the time I thought they would be making far less than the $15/hr UMB that Bernie supports. Figured we could find some common ground on a minimum wage. The older, 40ish, more experienced of the two, informed me that if Bernie got his way on the minimum wage, he’d be making $15, no better than someone just starting out. Turned out that one guy made $12/hr and the other $10. Wouldn’t the older guy be $3/hr better off? That just didn’t matter to him. What mattered was making 50% or so more than people at the bottom.

    I suspect that objections to some other UMBs will face similar identity-threatening objections from the masses who’ve bought into meritocracy. It will be difficult to “flip” the working class on meritocracy and I believe that is essential for a UMB-based strategy to succeed. Perhaps even more difficult than convincing the military and veterans to support an anti-war coalition.

    1. Big River Bandido

      When the minimum wage is raised, the entire scale adjusts. Supply and demand.

  28. UserFriendly

    The problem ultimately comes down to where are you willing to draw the line and vote for the lesser evil. This will always be a problem with our shitty first past the post election method. Of course there is little chance of fixing the problem because it suffers the same problem a JG does. It has an UBI, a proposal that is not threatening to the current power structure so all the reform energy that should be behind a JG gets syphoned off into something pointless. For voting reform all the energy is behind ranked choice because it won’t threaten the current power structure at all. 3-2-1 Voting or Score voting would be much better and actually change things. Here is a good discussion on voter satisfaction efficiency that explains what the different methods involve.
    Or a shorter summary that explains the results a bit better.
    Because if we had a better voting method than…..

    Of course I don’t see any hope for change in the future, at least not in the time scale we need to save the planet. Even if there was universal consensus to do everything possible to avoid climate change I don’t see us avoiding 2C. Short of people pouring a ton of money into safe nuclear I doubt this planet will be habitable in 150 years.

    1. Kenneth Heathly Simpson

      Greetings All, Thank you for this discussion. Back in the dark ages of the 1960’s and early 70’s, we were confronted with the same discussion. What I think I learned was that single issue based coalitions were very good organizing tools. Each had its own rallying cry: For example, “Bring the boys home now. Stop the War. Down with Imperialism”, organized and rallied the anti-war movement. A coalition around “Single payer Medicare for all” would act in the same way. However, meetings, demonstrations and organizations around single issues provided arena’s for discussing and organizing around other issues. Back in the day, it was impossible not to have Women’s Liberation people, for example, handing out women’s literature that was pro-abortion at the door of anti-war meetings and at anti-war rallies. It was often normal operating procedure to invite people into single issue coalition meetings to announce their separate issue meetings and demonstration as the last agenda point of the evening. They were invited in to the big “tent” and allowed to speak at the end as long as they were against the war. Demonstrations brought people into the movement and educated them. Meetings organized people for action. The Democratic Party’s elections took the air out of organizing the movements. The big anti-war demonstrations, every last one of them, were in non-election years: 1965, 1967, 1969 and 1971. We learned to hate the pro-capitalist Democratic Party and its Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC), including its leading members like Ted Kennedy and Bernie Sanders. They were after all pro-capitalist and committed to rigged pro-capitalist elections. Capitalism is war: Class war and imperialist war. They travel hand and glove. Capitalism will not end war or liberate people. It is an exploitive system. It does give concessions, when threatened. Concession and reform are here today and out the other. Look what happened to the New Deal and the UN etc. etc.
      Build single issue coalitions, for a starters, but educate people to unified struggle against all exploitation and oppression. There is no other way that I can see to win and secure the victory. As to war, I believe there is only one war that is supportable, class war. This is what Rosa Luxemborg and the Third Socialist International gave their lives to during World War One and the 1920’s.
      Please keep on discussing and organizing. Study and fight back. You have nothing to lose but your chains.
      Peace and love,

    2. Big River Bandido

      Lesser-evil thinking cannot be applied to campaigns formed around specific policy goals. Take the Georgia House race. John Ossoff has said he opposes Medicare For All. Therefore, I wouldn’t give him my vote. There’s no “greater” or “lesser” evil to choose between.

      1. UserFriendly

        If there is no downside to voting for someone who offers single payer because they aren’t taking votes away from someone who is more ‘viable’ (like under 3-2-1 or score voting) than those kind of candidates will have a lot more success everywhere and will start showing up in every district.

        3-2-1 and score both eliminate the need for a costly primary and make strategic voting less advantageous (as in it doesn’t make any sense to vote for who can win, it just makes sense to vote for who best represents you). So while it may take a while for this to sink in; it would make it much more likely that candidates offer things that people want and will improve their lives rather than just running as the lesser evil. There may not have been a good candidate in GA 06, but if the voting method were different there might have been.

  29. VietnamVet

    This is an excellent start. It is not enough to be anti-war. The Reagan-Thatcher counter-coup and globalization have been extremely efficient at atomizing 80% of the population who’ve been marginalized and forgotten. War today is simply a mechanism to extract wealth from the western middle class who still have jobs and pay taxes. If human beings are to survive, a new form of government must arise that puts people and the earth first; controls man’s mortal sin of hording power and puts rich criminals in jail.

  30. jrs

    What issue a politician should focus on to get elected is a concern of politicians. If one isn’t literally running for office and vying for popular appeal this isn’t them! I don’t think it’s the duty of the citizens to “think like politicians” (and yes it’s commendable when concerned citizens decide to run for office, and it would be a good idea if more did etc., but I’m talking about if one isn’t running for office …)

    So maybe people should really just focus on whatever issues appeal to their heart, true alone this does not make a movement, but how many movements are built in a day anyway? Even if we leave out all focusing on wars which really is a very hard battle, what speaks to people isn’t ever going to be only economic issues for everyone but things like police brutality for instance.

    Now certain issues may be more or less timely at the moment, so there is perhaps some duty to seize the moment when it is right (ie when issues may actually be before governing bodies for instance) but that’s not the whole of everything and many issues take years to get there.

    As for the politicians whether their compromises are good enough to vote for them is a judgement call (since there is no purity anyway) but it is a lot of complex interactions (for instance Trump is a disaster but neoliberalism may be the root cause of Trump. so so is it)

    1. juliania

      I like your comment, jrs, because it seems to me this is the effective attitude when it comes to a revolutionary movement in general, which any change of government of the people has to adopt. I like your two points in this comment, the first being to focus on the issues which appeal to the heart, and the second being seize the moment when it is right.

      It was good to have this discussion come up. My first instinct was to say, this isn’t a ‘left’ issue. Morality doesn’t have a party, it has a place in the conscience of the nation. The classical foe when change is imperative is empire. Guerilla warfare, as this war of ideas and ideals has to be, involves small groups of partisans, not large fundraising entities with names. Each of us has things we can do: back in the day, Mollie Ivins suggested banging pots, and my daughter has enjoyed doing that. Some change their own lifestyles out of passive resistance; I’ve done that. I’m that old lady in bright clothes with a trundler folk speed by in their SUV’s – I’m not homeless but I look homeless and I am glad of it. I’m usually the only one out there, but I did meet another lady similarly adventuring forth into the roaring jungle the other day – we connected like the soldiers of fortune we assuredly were. My son, who makes a bare living at a hotel for the rich and famous, volunteers every Sunday at a food kitchen. And I am proud to say none of my children, who have had to struggle for a living, have been in the military, though I can’t say my grandchildren will be able to avoid it. I say that as the daughter of a military man and the neice of a cherished uncle who died precipitously in war. War is hell. You want to protest that, I love you for it.

      Saint Paul says, each of us have our gift – that which we have been given, and that which we give. I think Malcolm X was too rich for our blood when he first arrived on the scene, but he’s still there, isn’t he? Hard to co-opt the message of someone like that. Our blessed Martin Luther King now, if he hadn’t come out against the war of his time, what would have happened to his message? Thank God he did, even though it tragically shortened his life. You have to seize the moment when it is right. And for each of us it is a different moment.

      E pluribus unum.

  31. Tyler

    An excerpt from a classic Howard Zinn article:

    “The unprecedented policies of the New Deal—Social Security, unemployment insurance, job creation, minimum wage, subsidized housing—were not simply the result of FDR’s progressivism. The Roosevelt Administration, coming into office, faced a nation in turmoil. The last year of the Hoover Administration had experienced the rebellion of the Bonus Army—thousands of veterans of the First World War descending on Washington to demand help from Congress as their families were going hungry. There were disturbances of the unemployed in Detroit, Chicago, Boston, New York, Seattle.”

  32. EoinW

    There is one word I keep seeing in the comment section which i believe dooms the cause. That word is LEFT. Average Americans will never take their country back so long as they remain divided. People need to banish the left/right narrative from their thoughts. I fear that will never come until 99% of Americans have become so impoverished that they’ll discover unity in misery. Even then, they’ll likely still find reasons to hate each other.

    1. jrs

      would a better word be something explicitly class based like labor (ok but labor parties have tended to give that a bit of a bad name), working people’s movement, working class party or etc..

      It doesn’t encompass every important cause (environment, criminal justice, nor anti-war, the unemployed might think it leaves them out but they ARE would be working people just unable to find work imo) and it’s focus at times might even be issues that don’t get a lot of play (mandatory paid sick leave and working conditions for example) but … almost noone who works for a living, and that’s the vast majority of the population whether or not they fall in to more narrow working class definitions, has all that much representation right now.

      1. EoinW

        Quite the exercise in semantics. I guess, in such a superficial society, it’s unavoidable. Makes me wonder if the main target of our revolt should be the mainstream media. It controls the narrative for the people needed to be converted to make any change possible. Can the MSM not be discredited and put out of business. If we can’t change how people think we’ll never overcome the conditioning which turns them into willing victims.

        1. Paul Greenwood

          You mean MSM is “not” discredited ? I would abandon hope if you hope to persuade brain-dead people that still cannot see it for what it is……….

    2. citizendave

      In Wisconsin we have Mike McCabe, who suggests that the familiar Left-Right horizontal polarity should be rotated a quarter turn to a vertical alignment. In that view, the differentiating factor becomes wealth disparity, and the majority of us at or near the bottom can easily see that most of us are in the same boat. The left-right horizontal alignment lends itself to those who would divide us by tricking us into accusing each other, thus distracting us from looking up at the real culprits, who take our wealth away from us and then use it against us.

      We still need to sort out the basic issues, such as the proper roles of the public and private sectors, personal wealth versus common wealth, and the rest. But we need to return to what we had four decades ago, always seeking consensus, instead of the winner-takes-all attitude we have been enduring since 1975 or so.

    3. Paul Greenwood

      Americans will submit – life is too comfortable. You always keep the livestock fattened and immobile until you need to slaughter it, then you select a Judas goat and they follow.

  33. Sluggeaux

    What isn’t well-discussed here is Marina Bart’s central point of contention: the alternative is bloody revolution and civil war.

    I live in a university town, and since my recent retirement from civil service, have taken on a few mentoring opportunities for students who come from backgrounds which have given them challenges. They report that the anger and violence that we have seen exploited at Berkeley and elsewhere is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Young people feel precarious and lied-to and thanks to the instant-gratification of the internet and television, feel that their only alternative is to violently smash “the other side,” which to each individual is anyone who disagrees with them or has some unshared benefit in what they have come to see as a zero-sum game. It can come down to students who don’t have financial aid hating on students who do, while those with aid hate on those who don’t. The unifying principle driving their anger is a perception of “unfairness” perpetuated by winner-take-all neoliberalism, an ideology in which everything and everyone is commodified, and under which the oppressed are blamed for their oppression, while the oppressors see their rents as the spoils of their innate virtue.

    We’re going to suffer even more senseless violence if we don’t expose the lies at the heart of neoliberalism and provide a more just distribution of wealth and health. Then ending war will take care of itself…

    1. Marina Bart

      I’m also seeing criticism (on other sites) that continues to strawman my argument to try to frame it that I’m okay with warmongering and the existing Democratic Party. Those same guys seem to be asserting that it’s better to wait until society falls apart than risk entering the fray and failing. That seems like a stunningly privileged and selfish position to me. I completely understand that someone might prefer to direct their energies non-electorally; this strategy encompasses that kind of activism. But this notion that it’s okay — or even superior — to just wait the warmongering oligarchy out leads me to think, “okay for who?” I honestly do not understand what good faith reason there could be to argue from a moral perspective against helping exploited, suffering people get their basic needs met, as an way to possibly avoid a complete breakdown of society.

      1. Sluggeaux

        Word. I’m with you: anarchy is a recipe for suffering on a vast scale. Once the social contract breaks down, there aren’t any “safe spaces.”

        Compassion for exploited, suffering people must be at the core of our moral system, because its absence is at the core of the Ayn Rand/Ronnie Reagan crazy-pants neoliberalism that has captured the Clinton wing, the Obama wing, and the Pelosi/Feinstein wing of the Democrat party. Enough is enough, but I don’t want to live under the Terror, be it Robespierre, Dzerzhinsky, Pol Pot. They all meant well; they murdered in good faith; if you want to make an omelette, you’ve got to break a few eggs, etc. Yeah, right…

  34. Paul Greenwood

    1) Entire US Federal Income Tax is spent on Pentagon

    2) US Executive borrows to circumvent need for raising taxes

    The basis of Democratic Accountability is absent. No longer can the Legislature control Executive by rejecting taxes and spending since the Executive simply borrows and creates credit – $20 Trillion

    Everyone paying US Federal Income Tax is paying effectively an Hypothecated War Tax

    You don’t need rallies, protests, placards in the playground if the grown-ups are still indoors preparing your lesson plan.

    You are in a system which is a War Machine accruing more and more GDP and will take what you do not give it.

  35. ChiGal in Carolina

    Amazing conversation, which led me back to the antecedent. Having logistical difficulty commenting now and have nothing to add to everything already said anyway, beyond I agree with Marina — but THIS is why we all come to NC.

    Thanks so much all, and esp Y&L+++++

Comments are closed.