Yes, you have biases, I have biases, we all have biases. There is no such thing as objectivity in our world. Every thought and idea, every word and sentence serves some purpose—even if it appears to be nothing more than gobbledygook. I aim to make my words and sentences as clear as possible to serve the class that I have chosen to align with. I serve the class that I have been a part of for my entire life—the working class. But nobody is perfect, nobody is super-human. We are flawed characters with skeletons or ambitions of putting skeletons in our closets. We must recognize that we can only try our best and hope that history will be forgiving—and Facebook, despite what many people believe, is not going to destroy historical praise or ridicule, it will only magnify it.
More than biases, we are suffering from bourgeois ideology. Bourgeois ideology raises us through the tender words of our parents and friends, through Sesame Street and Saturday morning cartoons, to CNN, the New York Times, Fox News, State of the Union addresses from the US President, non profits like Amnesty International and PETA and Green Peace. We are bombarded by bourgeois ideology and the product of this input is bourgeois prejudice. One might call this brainwashing, but I think its far less obvious than the Kool-Aid drinkers at Jonestown. We are prejudiced by ideas, opinions, slogans etc. which serve our ruling class. Hedges writes about this in the piece you cited (although I do not think he understands the gravity of what he quoted by Marx),
““The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships,” Marx wrote, “the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.”-Marx, quoted by Hedges.
It is very difficult to un-prejudice yourself. This re-education won’t be done effectively by North Korea or China, but it can be done by the most independent core of an independent movement and organization. This core I believe in a manner of speaking will have to raise the consciousness of over 170million Americans. They have nothing to gain for themselves really, everything to lose—they accept this duty out of an unconditional love for the masses of humanity.
So where was I?
Ahh yes, Hedges. In Politics, it takes a special kind of person to convince others of sincerity. Have you ever seen the film Lawrence of Arabia? The ending is fitting for a film on this subject. I’ll spoil it for you. King Feisal is sitting across the negotiating table from the British. The King says something that in essence suggests that Lawence was always insincere and was a loyal British servant—the British representative corrected Feisal, suggesting that Lawrence was sincere and that Britian could have never won such a coup without him as a dope. The two ask Lawrence to leave the room while they talk about how they will carve up the spoils in the colonization of the Middle East.
Why am I bringing up this little story? It doesn’t matter if Hedges is sincere or not, just like it doesn’t matter if Obama is sincere. In politics we don’t judge our allies and opponents by their intentions. The road to hell is paved with them. Instead, we judge carefully based on their allegiances and interests. Hedges has given his allegiance to our ruling class. I understand its difficult to see sometimes, especially when Hedges is given enough slack to mouth off against the ruling class like in the article you posted (“Let’s get this Class War Started”), but Hedges has shown in many previous articles just where he stands in the battlefield. The most recent article that reveals this is his endorsement of Kshama Sawant as “The Most Dangerous Woman in America,” but before that he flirted with the so called Anarchist and Marxist trends as one of them until he came out with a loathed article called “The Cancer of Occupy” where he basically denounced them as a “cancer.” This wasn’t too much of a surprise to anyone familiar with Hedges however, before that in 2009 he wrote about how Ralph Nader and the progressives were right, and of course there’s his history with one of the most notorious newspapers of the ruling class, the New York Times.
Andrew, I’d love to explain why violence against women requires something as “simple as overthrowing the elite (The greatest challenge our class presently faces).”
Hedges article, and articles like it are only given this degree of slack because there is a very serious danger by an independent movement that is real—a danger for the bourgeoisie of losing EVERYTHING. All of the horrible problems of capitalism, problems used by the ruling class to keep the other classes divided and weak are being used as FUEL by an independent movement to overthrow bourgeois rule—and they will continue to be used as fuel by an independent movement because they have been used as fuel throughout history by revolutionaries. The Democratic Party only bends towards women’s rights because those rights were being championed by revolutionaries, and if the bourgeoisie didn’t champion them it would be clear to more than half the population that they were the enemy of those rights! The same goes for Race and Sexuality and Gender and every other sub-theme in identity politics.
Yes, we can champion women—but we can only do so with an independent movement. If we ignore that need the bourgeoisie will be the sole champion of those rights, and when the independent energy is crushed, guess what!? Those rights and concessions will be taken away faster than you can say “Oh Fuck.” There’s no need for the ruling class to make concessions when it’s overwhelmingly victorious. Concessions are things you make when you’re in trouble, when you’re on the ropes, when you’re being threatened—when a thief has a knife to your throat.
The demands for women’s rights and dignity must come with a purpose—to raise the consciousness of the masses to the need to overthrow bourgeois rule in order to control society. And this principle of using partial demands as fuel for the historic mission of the working class is applicable to all of the fights for partial demands. A protest of 12 women against the closure of a Planned Parenthood will do nothing to save an abortion clinic. Just take a look at the roll backs in the deep south. 120Million women, striking and preparing to fight the class enemy in mortal combat, will make attempts to buy off the female demographic fall on us like rain. It will be the equivalent of the garage rock band that promises to never sell out, only to be promised a $10 million contract by an A&R executive in a sharkskin suit.
History is my witness.
The only inner reflection you must be concerned about is your own. Where will you stand on the battlefield? What will you fight for—or better yet as yourself, do you have the stomach to fight? Is it better to look good like Hedges? Or is there something more worthy of your life’s energy? Will you be able to look at yourself every day in the mirror with the decisions you make?
You can wait your entire life for some spiritual awakening of the masses. Maybe they’ll all find Jesus. Maybe we only have to wait for a meteor to threaten the Earth before they “wake up.” I am not going to wait for such spontaneous combustion. A fire doesn’t appear out of nowhere. It requires fuel, oxygen, heat. When I go out into the woods, I don’t wait for a lightning strike to make me a fire, I don’t wait for the fire to spontaneously spark alight in the rain. I build it carefully with care as soon as I realize I need one. Likewise when I construct a building, We don’t wait for everyone to spontaneously know what’s going on—we figure out what we need to do and we don’t waste a minute. How can we expect the masses to awaken to smell the coffee that we neglect to make?
If we want to fight, we must first understand what we’re fighting. We must understand the class enemy, the bourgeoisie. We must understand its tricks, strategies, tactics. We must understand that people like Hedges, myself, you—we’re not exempt from the ideal expressions of the dominant material relationships. Our politics will serve one of two sides here: The side of the ruling class, or the side of the working class and masses. There is no in-between.
Believe it or not , this has been weighing on my mind heavily for the last few weeks. It really hits the nail on the head on where my thoughts are lately. So, before I expand on my answer Art, could you give me your thoughts on a couple of topics. First, do you think violence or property destruction is ok in our struggle? What I am really wondering here is, how far should we be willing to go to overcome the ruling class in order for it to be sustained?
I’ve been quite busy lately and found some time this weekend to respond. I think you have replied with some good questions. To your second question, the working class must go all the way in taking power, replacing the present state with a workers controlled state accountable to the working class.
The question of violence and sabotage is a good question, but it is not so black and white. For the most part in our present situation I think we should keep our work legal and nonviolent. The question that you raised is a question of what actions to take, how, where and when. I believe that there are two principles that are key here:
A) Activists should not substitute themselves for an independent workers movement
B) The role of political activists is to raise the consciousness of the workers to the contradictions between labor and capital, the workers and masses will have a better idea than activists regarding what actions to take, how and when.
I think that a movement should avoid escalating a situation to that degree for as long as possible, and I think that most of the workers are in tune with this. I don’t advocate for the masses to turn the other cheek when they are being beaten or slaughtered and I certainly won’t hold it against them if they don’t want to, but self defense is a reaction to unbearable aggression. If protests begin to be targeted by the rifles of cops and paramilitaries (Like in Syria, Libya or Egypt), then the situation has been escalated by the bourgeoisie to a violent one. This turbulent situation is not something that revolutionaries should be in a hurry to get into since it will be very chaotic, difficult to do work in, and there will be a high degree of uncertainty. The longer that we can do our work legally, organize legally, theorize legally without fear of repression, the better and stronger position we will be in if the situation ever escalates to that. We want to minimize the length of time and the degree of pain during such a potential period.
Spontaneous violence by the masses
vs Substitutional violence & sabotage by primitive activists:
Also, I will not condemn the rioters in Ferguson or Baltimore. These I consider to be mass actions, and while they may or not be tactically mature or the best actions to take—I do not feel that there is enough of a reason to denounce them. These are actions where frustration and anger is directed toward either the state or the ruling class, and raising consciousness towards the class enemy is a good thing. They did bring plenty of national attention to the issue of police brutality directed disproportionately towards young black men. I don’t particularly encourage rioting since I think that there are usually better ways to make use of our time and energy, but I see rioting as generally spontaneous and an expression of social frustration by immature consciousness. If we want to see something organized, mature, and focused, then it will be up to us to help that along.
Communal rioting like that in India is often of a very different character and is a bit alien to us in the west. It has a reactionary character to it and it should be condemned since it is used by the ruling class to direct frustration and anger not towards it or the state but towards another section of the proletariat.
I think both sabotage and vandalism are tactics that are popular with the activists who label themselves as Anarchists. I’m not a fan of these tactics, but occasionally I think that they may have merit. I think that we as activists should avoid participating in sabotage and vandalism. There is a simple reason for this, we want to stay out of jail and we don’t want to substitute ourselves for a real movement. If however there is a mass movement that opposes the government for example like in Mexico, and the masses take it upon themselves to graffiti every wall and barricade the streets, then I certainly won’t stand in their way.
Lastly, I think I’ll just touch on adventurism. I denounce the tactic completely. It is used by those activists who substitute themselves for a real movement because they are clueless as to how to build a movement that is real. It is a tactic that is condescending to the workers and by its nature it neglects their role and historical mission. I wouldn’t expect the workers to support this tactic based on its history and it’s possible that they will even cheer on the state in punishing the perpetrators. I would warn all activists to stay away from this tactic if they want to overthrow capital.
Regarding what actions to take and what actions to avoid, I just want to add something pretty basic that I should have included in how we are to decide this: We come to our decisions based on what best serves the movement and what doesn’t. What is most decisive?