Nomophobia—A Wet Noodle of a Word Signifying Your Culture is in the Dumpster.



“What is Nomophobia? Nomophobia represents the irrational fear of being without a mobile phone. The term was coined in 2009 in the UK and comes from the anglicism “nomophobia” (“no-mobile-phone-phobia”).


Sounds like illiteracy, to me. But then again, I’m a bit Anglophobic, so I might be biased here. And there. But still.

I admit that when I first encountered “nomophobia” a few minutes ago, I didn’t know what it meant. So, naturally I focused on the “root” (nomo) which I knew was from Greek or Latin and pertained to the law. But, no. No help whatsoever. I guess I need a teenage wanker from the UK to decode this and the cacology that went into it. That same wanker will probably emerge as the automaton that secretly animates Bard, ChatGPT, and all the other AI insanity currently being unleashed by the Lords of Bitsphere. Now that’s a neologism worth keeping. Not wanker, silly goose, the other word.

Cacology = to both mispronounce and misuse a word. Takes some skill, that one.

And what say the crusty, but eternally proper, OED? The editors added “nomophobia” along with “Jedi” back in 2019. Perfect symmetry there. God I hate Star Wars. Fucking hell. Another sign of Anglophone “culture” going insane and dragging everything else along with it into the dumpster of history.

Thanks for stumbling into my Ted Talk.

Lastly, because I don’t want to be re-traumatized by having to look it up, can you whisper who is/was the eponymous asshole who started that cringe fest for bloviating turd blossoms? 🤷‍♂️ Anyone? Or is TED not a name, but a new word, also?


Calling All Anti-Fascists!



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A22 2021 this Sunday in Portland is a deliberate Chud provocation and cynical attempt at rebranding. Their “Summer of Love” is scheduled on the one-year anniversary of the brawl they instigated outside of the JC that featured the PPD openly collaborating with the far-right.

This Sunday numbers are critical for our safety. While not every anti-fascist can take a physical stand against fascists in the streets, every anti-fascist should support those who can and do. The time-honored Anti-Racist Action slogan of yore still applies: We go where they go.

In addition to the historical parallel with A22 (2020) where Chuds faced fierce opposition from anti-fascists, there is what transpired on August 29, 2020 to consider. That was the day of the Trump caravan that left from the Clackamas Mall and headed to downtown Portland. 

As the miles-long convoy approached the city, some of those cars and trailer trucks—overflowing with far-right militants—began peeling off I-5 onto the Morrison Bridge offramp directly into downtown Portland. I have a fond memory of “Trumpet Man” and a small number of anti-fascists blocking the off ramp and trying to halt their ingress. 

And they succeeded for a time.

I also recall in the days immediately prior the caravan some comrades expressing indecision as to whether to mobilize against the onslaught. As I recall there was no main counter rally organized. Instead of a unified front in the downtown area, it was left to a frighteningly small number of comrades to hold the line, until later in the evening when reinforcements arrived and Patriot Prayerist Aaron Danielson met his ignominious demise and Joey Gibson was forced to walk a gauntlet. That series of events could have easily gone the other way. Numbers are life in this situation. Thankfully there is an anti-fascist action organized for A22 2021. 

Anyone who self-describes as an anti-fascist should be supporting those comrades who choose to hold the line. That support can take many forms—direct action, money, legal aid, equipment, boosting, or platters of brownies. What’s important is that we build public support for them. We should show our deepest solidarity with resistance ground crews, many of whom will be people of color and other targeted communities. Those “anti-fascists” who equivocate or decry the principled choice of some to risk all in the defense of us don’t deserve to be called anti-fascists. Their failure amounts to hanging comrades out to dry. 

And fuck Ted Wheeler.

We are many, they are few. Be Safe. Be Dangerous.

Defend Portland on A22!

Portland Anti-fascist Archives Project 2.0 — Volksfront



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From the Coalition for Human Dignity’s Northwest Update, November 1, 1997.

From the Coalition for Human Dignity’s Dignity Report (“Dig Rep”).


Portland Anti-fascist Archives Project 2.0 CHD Timeline of Events—The Oregon Witness. January–April, 1991.



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More snippets from my personal archives. 

January 1991–Anti-war mobilizing (Gulf War).

February, 1991–Coalition for Human Dignity produces first issue of The Oregon Witness, Vol. 1, Nos. 2 and 3. (Still looking for # 1+).

June 1991–Coalition for Human Dignity The Oregon Witness, Vol. 1, No. 3 May-June, 1991.

Portland Anti-fascist Archives Project 2.0. CHD Timeline of Events June, 1989 — November, 1990.



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June, 1989. “The New Skinhead Assault” by Christopher Phelps published in the Portland Alliance . See also his article in Against The Current, Pretty good socialist analysis of the far-right.

July, 1989–I write “Fascist Skinheads: An Update and Analysis” for CHD. This was an early effort to get a handle on both the number of hate crimes and types of groups active in the Portland Metro area. Statistics on bias violence and intimidation were a hit-or-miss proposition; where there was even a law to collect such data there was insufficient awareness on the part of cops to collect it. As usual, community groups had to do it for ourselves. A similar project was carried out by the Lesbian Community Project, called the Homophobic Documentation Line, which took reports of homophobic violence from the community.

July 1989–the Matrix at 333 see 3rd Street becomes a base for anti-racists. The first Hon 8 x 1/2 by 14 filing cabinets are used to store info on racists and the repressive state apparatus.

August 1989–I write “Fascist Violence: Establishment Program and Response” for The Portland Free Press, a critique of weak efforts by authorities to understand, document and confront the far-right. Examples include no subpoena power for the Metropolitan Human Rights Commission and very limited funding.

August 24, 1989–Letter to my Mom after I drop out of college.

September 11, 1989–Tarso Ramos writes “Hate Crime in Portland” for the Reed College Quest wherein he manages to work in a reference to the Dukes of Hazard in an anti-racist manner. Quite the peculiar feat!

September 22-23, 1989. CHD organizes a Rock Against Racism benefit held at Pine Street Theater. “Fight Racism” posters are going up in neighborhoods. We cribbed from the great anti-fascist artist John Heartfield — Excavating the past so as to reveal the future.

This poster and t-shirt created by comrades in the Coalition for Human Dignity in Summer 1989 in Portland, Oregon is being produced and distributed there again, for obvious reasons. The original design was cribbed from the great anti-fascist artist John Heartfield. The translation from German: “Whether black or white – united in battle. We only know one race. We all know only one enemy – the exploiting class.” Please forgive us for compressing those outstretched arms and fists! All solidarity to comrades in Little Beirut!

October 2, 1989–Black student Robbie Robinson becomes first in the nation victim of a school board injunction against his enrollment at Eugene High School for gang affiliations in Portland. …

Principal Don Jackson suspended Robinson. A week later, in the first such action in the nation, the school board sought an injunction in Lane County Circuit Court to bar the student permanently from the city’s schools, not on the basis of any specific actions, but because “his mere presence at the school in clothing associated with gang membership constitutes a danger to the health and safety of students” (Jeff Wright 1989). On November 8, the injunction was granted.

Some citizens expressed concern about the constitutionality of the ruling, but members of the local chapter of the NAACP and of the Community Coalition for the Prevention of Gangs applauded the action.

All this while racist skinhead groups are flourishing.

CHD Flyer, “Past and Current Activities”

October 16, 1989–Little Beirut I

“The first Little Beirut protest took place when Vice President Quayle came to Portland to defend the Bush administration’s inaction during a failed Panamanian coup and to make it harder for victims of statutory rape to access federal funding for rape victims. Unsurprisingly, he was greeted by 150 protesters. 

“Out of respect for the office of vice president, there should have been at least 500,” Quayle reportedly joked.

Where other protests had a singular goal, these protests were over a grab bag of issues ranging from the U.S. government’s despicable policy in Latin America to abortion to the government’s despicable handling of the AIDS crisis. The crowds were a healthy mix of political protesters and good, old-fashioned anarchists. 

It was the largest protest Quayle had encountered during his first nine months in office, and the only one to disrupt his schedule as protesters blocked his way to the Hilton downtown. Over 20 protesters were arrested and a police van transporting several protesters crashed into a pickup truck on its way to the precinct—this appears to have been an honest error and not a rough ride.” —Willamette Week “Big Trouble in Little Beirut” May 4, 2016.

October 1989–PFP publishes “Behind the Scenes”. I interview the Portland FBI SAC, Danny Coulson. I focus on FBI surveillance and disruption of solidarity movements. I can’t write for shit. I won’t even include the article here.

CHD address is 333 SE 3rd, “The Matrix.”

October 25, 1989–M Treloar’s “Rock Against Racism” article in the Guardian. “The coalition, which was originally sponsored by the city of Portland, has developed into a community-based alternative to the ineffectual Metropolitan Human Relations Commission and the Coors/Honeywell-funded Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harrassment.”

Above: CDR Monitor October 1989 announces joining forces with international anti-racist groups, especially Searchlight.

November 6, 1989–CHD applies to MRG for a grant.

Above: Journalist Patrick Mazza teases out principles first articulated by Anti-Racist Action and Baldies members I met in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mazza was a keen observer of the Portland scene and his writing was unique. He’s also writing for Portland’s only Black newspaper at the time. I’m trying to apply what I learned from comrades in Minnesota and elsewhere to the situation in Portland.

November 8, 1989–Letter to my mom.

November 9, 1989–Fall of the Berlin Wall. The Cold War anti-communist consensus will increasingly include neo-fascists within it.

January 4, 1990–Partial Mass Direct Action discussion document circulated in Portland, Oregon.

March 3, 1990–the ATF raid homes of activists (including mine) searching for “evidence to commit arson and arson.” Agent John Comey heads up the investigation. No charges filed. I received an anonymous warning of the raid by phone. Portland Free Press article.

From Portland Free Press event listings:

April 23, 1990–Bell Hooks at Lewis and Clark College.

April 28, 1990–Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz at L&C.

April 23-28, 1990–Ben Linder Memorial Week in Portland ; construction brigade meetings.


May 9, 1990–arson attempt at Lovejoy Surgicenter.

May 16, 1990–Alan Rausch’s “Police distorted incident at park; media added to it” a must read example of activist journalism from that era. Pulitzer Prize in letters to the editor should have been awarded here. Sly dig at journalists who “when in doubt call the sheriff ” and dead possums, from when Portland cops dropped them at a Black business, are devastating. We would get back at the cops only days later at Little Beirut II.

Portland Free Press article, “Newberg police Inform Convicted Felon Drew Davis of Free Press Inquiry About secret Service Papers.” Davis was a former Republican Oregon House rep. and then President of the Sun Myung Moon-connected Oregon chapter of the American Freedom Coalition. Davis was convicted of forging drug prescriptions.

May 18, 1990–CHD, the Lesbian Community Project and SHARP represented by Donna Redwing, Scott Nakagawa, and Dave Lamb, respectively, hold a press conference denouncing police harrassment of anti-racists. CHD releases “Report on the Community Defence Project on Organized neo-fascists in Portland, Oregon.” In the early days CHD would sometimes use the term “fascism” as a general descriptor. The report was a collective effort and fourteen contributors are listed. It’s an important documentation of the rancid role of the PPB in protecting boneheads and a great snapshot of CHD beginning to do action-oriented research.


May 21, 1990Little Beirut II

“The following May, President George H.W. Bush himself came to town to help raise funds for then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Dave Frohnmayer. Three hundred protesters greeted the well-heeled Republicans with eggs, fruit, spit and purportedly some explosive devices, along with burning American flags. The protest ended in a brawl as 75 police officers in riot gear descended on the crowd. Twenty-five were arrested.” I may be mistaken, but I think this was the protest that featured anti-racist skins, punks and other radicals, some of whom adopted Teenage mutant Ninja Turtle costumes to greet the pigs–those on the streets and those at the trough.

Mohammad Hassan (above) at PSU protesting less than five percent faculty of color at Portland State University. Check out those Apple prices!

May 24, 1990–Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney are victims of a car bomb in Oakland, California just prior to the start of Redwood Summer. Leonard Zeskind and I would later travel to Willits to meet with the two activists. We were invited to research any far-right/state involvement in the assassination attempt. We could never establish who did it, and neither could anyone else. Cointelpro? “Lord’s Avenger?” Still unanswered. RIP Judi.

June 1990–The irreverent “Class War” is being published.

July 16, 1990. Elinor Langer’s “American Neo-Nazi Movement Today” article in The Nation appears.

September, 1990–CHD releases “Organized White Supremacists in Oregon” 

September 1990, Little Beirut III

“Quayle returned in September of 1990 to help raise funds for Oregon Republican candidates and to support an education bill. (This was two years before the American public found out the incumbent vice president couldn’t spell “potato.”) As if hearing his taunt from the year before, there were twice as many protesters outside the Hilton this time. A group of 24 Reed students, including Igor Vamos of the Yes Men fame, dubbed themselves the Guerrilla Theater of the Absurd. They put on their finest suits and ties, swallowed food coloring and ipecac to vomit up red, white and blue—their plan was thwarted because their stomach acid turned the blue food coloring green. This agitprop art display was dubbed the Reverse Peristalsis Painters.

Fifty-one were arrested at this protest, including art gallery and coffee shop owner Anne Hughes, who wound up winning a $25,000 settlement from the city due to her treatment at the hands of the Portland Police Bureau. This event led to Mayor Bud Clark writing a strongly worded letter to the police department.”–WW

I attended the first three Little Beiruts, but not the fourth in 1991 as I had just moved to The Shop and was otherwise occupied. 

1990–Lenny Zeskind from the Center for Democratic Renewal and Gerry Gable from Searchlight Magazine in England are hosted at an event at Portland State University.

October, 1990–CHD publishes address of Bob Heick in Portland.

October 7, 1990–2500 people come out for the “March and Rally for Dignity and Diversity” on the day before the SPLC vs. Metzger civil suit begins. Jury came back October 22, 1988. John Trudell and Stew Albert speak, among others.

I begin writing a column in the Portland New Jewish Agenda newsletter, shepherded by Stew Albert.
My column for Portland New Jewish Agenda. Our Radio show on KBOO, “Boneheads and Bigots” has been going for awhile. Bonehead of the Month winners include: Andrew Dice Clay, Tom Metzger and an Oregonian columnist.


Portland Anti-fascist Archives Project 2.0 CHD Timeline of Events February 1988–May 1989



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The following timeline is pieced together from primary and secondary sources I’ve recently dug up. Many of these entries come directly from my personal journals. As such they tend to be rather focused on me. Don’t be misled by that focus, help me supplement it! This is one lens through which to understand the time period immediately preceding the murder of Mulugeta Seraw. I welcome other contributions to the timeline. These contributions can be used as a supplement to the fantastic KBOO podcast It Did Happen Here.

February 4, 1988–racist and anti-racist skinheads make their initial appearances on the Oprah Windfrey Show. 

March 10, 1988–Portland, Oregon Racist skinheads attack “…Hock-Seng “Sam” Chin, a 27-year-old Singapore native who now lives in Portland. On March 10, after leaving the Siamese Princess Restaurant at 1231 SW Washington St., Chin and his family were confronted by three male skinheads who taunted them with remarks such as “Go back to Hong Kong” and “Get out of the country.” When Chin stood his ground, he was struck repeatedly by the skinheads, who knocked him to the ground and kicked him with their combat-style boots.” Willamette Week 10/31/18.

May 1, 1988–American Front stages May 1 “White Workers Day” March down Haight Street in San Francisco. 65 attend. They also attack the anarchist bookstore Bound Together Books.

May 12, 1988–Willamette Week publishes Jim Redden’s “Young Nazis: Portland’s new breed of Racists.” This would establish Redden as an authority on the far-right in Portland, although anti-fascists constantly battled with him in print. Redden practiced a hip, transgressiveform of fascism denial and constantly attacked anti-fascists through many, many equivocation formulas. These were the days when irony was king. For a contemporary version of his garbage think Quillette written by someone in your neighborhood about shit in your neighborhood. He would later found the insipid PDXS. A 2018 Willamette Week article reprinted excerpts from Redden’s orginal article which does not appear to be accessible anywhere.

June 1988–I obtain a copy of William Pierce’s neo-Nazi novel, The Turner Diaries from Amok Books in Los Angeles, a creepy outlet that also sells — I shit you not — original clown paintings by John Wayne Gacy. I’m also reading Project Censored stories, the UTNE reader, Edward F. Herman’s The Real Terror Network, and Guy Dubord’s Society of the Spectacle. 

June 23, 1988–The Christic Institute’s sprawling $24 million civil suit is thrown out of court. Many of us thought the amount of resources being consumed by the case was also a crime. Likewise there was a conspiratorial framework used by Daniel Sheehan, their counsel, most spectacularly represented by the institute’s motto and logo, “Stop the Shadow Government.”


I’m working with the Portland Central American Solidarity Committee (PCASC) and Ace Hayes, a local leftist conspiracy theorist. Ace has a substantial collection of files and a specialized library at his home in Southeast Portland. There are half a dozen younger leftists who have been working with Ace. Ace’s “origin story” bonafides include supplying weapons to the Sandinistas prior to their July, 1979 successful overthrow of the dictator Somoza, and a period working with the Black Panthers in Oakland, California. Within a year, however, most of us would distance ourselves from Ace and his “Secret Government Seminar” at least in part because it began to attract “patriots.” Ace’s “constitutionalism” and “secret government” framework was always problematic.

February, 1988–Gus Van Sant premiers his short film Ken Death Gets Out of Jail which features Ken Mieske only a few months before he would murder Mulugeta Seraw. I watch it at a Portland premier together with his feature, “Mala Noche.”

The film is noteworthy for three reasons. First, because Ken Death would murder Muligeta Seraw a few months later. Second, because Van Sant, Chris Monlux and Jack Yost (PSU peace studies–I took a class with him, hopelessly naive liberal) all knew Mieske quite well as he was a fixture in the local alternative music scene. Many people knew him, Steve Strasser and Kyle Brewster. Chris Monlux’s Monqui Presents, which ran venues in the alternative music scene, long ignored fascists organizing there, although they weren’t the only ones to do so. Third, by the time CHD hosted two “Rock Against Racism” shows in September, 1989, the struggle to drive out Portland boneheads would prove to be a protracted one. Getting them out of the music scene sometimes required working with promoters who had allowed them to be there in the first place. We worked the bands–Wehrmacht to change their name and disavow boneheads; Poison Idea to denounce boneheads at their shows, etc. The Deprived were largely anarchist as I recall and comrades, while Hitting Birth (who played the shopping cart as an instrument?), and others played a part, too.

July 9, 1988–I am transcribing the “Aryan Nations” segment on “Radio Free America(later “For the Record” and “Anti-fascist Archives”) radio show. Emory is an “American talk radio host and conspiracy theorist, born in New York City, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is known for his radio show which purports to uncover neo-fascism and neo-Nazism; among his more notable claims is that the Bush family was connected to the Third Reich.” Wikipedia “Dave Emory” retrieved 2.14.21. A leftish conspiracy theorist exposing far-right conspiracy theorists.

July 13, 1988–William S. Burroughs introduced by Walt Curtis at the Northwest Service Center. If you hung around cafes in Portland during the late 1980s Curtis was a fixture. I remember him holding court on NW 21st street — filthy, drunk, loud and totally mesmerizing. He stole the show with his indelible poem about lying naked under a tree in a field on a hot, summer day and the ensuing pleasure he received from a black lab. Again, I shit you not. Uproariously funny. 

Ace Hayes at Laughing Horse Books. This is about the time Ward Churchill began making appearances, too.

Summer 1988–Town Hall Portland on skinheads. This was an important appearance on a local television show by racist skinheads before the murder of Mulugeta Seraw. The group POWAR (Preservation of the White American Race) were present and faced off against anti-racists. I recorded the show and may have attended. The video is in the ever illusive CHD files.

From my journal: Ace Hayes on affirmative action. We are beginning to have arguments here. Ace considers programs like affirmative action to be elite projects designed to split the working class. Most of us disagree. Cringe.

September 25, 1988–Correspondence with Ken Lawrence and Chip Berlet on LaRouche, skinheads, and NAP.

Ken Lawrence (L).


September 25, 1988–I cold call Stew Albert, co-founder of the Yippies and ally to the Black Panther Party, to complain about his maligning of Black revolutionaries in his Oregonian article about his book, The Sixties Papers. Sometime later invites me to his home and I realize my stupidity. Stew became an important mentor to anti-fascists, and sat on the board of the Coalition for Human Dignity for more than a decade. Sometime later I am present for a packet of FOIA responses Stew received about fed spying on him and John Lennon. 

September 29, 1988. My appendix ruptures, my sister gets me to the hospital just in time. I spend 9 days at Good Samaritan Hospital in recovery. 

Maximum Rock n Roll has a “Behind the News Round up” where scene reports on skinheads are listed. 

I co-write an article for the Portland Alliance about the New Alliance Party — it is deliberately weak to allow further access to their party leaders and because I can’t quite get a handle on it. I also write about fascism.

Red Rose School forum on electoral politics (election year). DSA, Rainbow Coalition, Solidarity, Earth First! 

October 9, 1988–I receive Russ Bellant’s Old Nazis, the New Right and the Reagan Administration an important example of anti-fascist journalism from that era. Third request for documentation on “Clouds Blur the Rainbow” from Chip Berlet…

October 11, 1988–phone call with Ken Lawrence about NAP. I have tapes of some of these calls (with permission).

I’m working with KBOO about War On Drugs stuff. Linda Shirley mocks me for listening to “cock rock”, she was another important KBOO figure from that era. 

October 12, 1988–1hour interview by phone with Fred Newman of NAP. 

September 1988–1000 union workers protest George H.W. Bush when he visits the Northwest Marine Iron Works on Swan Island. It was an angry crowd and the most militant opposition he faced on his campaign tour that year. Little Beirut is coming…

October 13, 1988–First “Secret Government Seminar” by Ace Hayes convened. Gender gap: 20 men, 3 women. 

Ace Hayes, like his contemporary Alexander Cockburn, would probably have found his way to supporting Trump by 2016. Just saying.

October 1988–Farrakhan links to NAP, then to Metzger and Klan, as shown by a Searchlight network chart are upsetting. I’m trying to figure out the context. Ken Lawrence later explains the shared anti-Semitism.

October 20, 1988–Second “Secret Government Seminar” with improved gender ratio: 13 men, 5 women. 

October 1988–correspondence with M. Treloar on skinheads, NAP. He’s moving to Portland in December. Also Fred Goff at the Data Center, Russ Bellant of Political Research Associates, and Searchlight Magazine issues. I’m working part-time at KBOO. 

October 20, 1988–I get Portland Alliance press credentials to cover a Cult Awareness Network conference. I get in some trouble with security, but record the keynote speaker, Bill Wassmuth, who I describe as “a very good, sincere, progressive Catholic.” I am disturbed by the “cult lens” being employed to understand the far-right. It’s limited, and goofy.

October 31, 1988. “October Surprise” action at Multnomah County Republican Party HQ. 

Work started at Besaws Cafe in NW Portland as a graveyard fry cook. 

Listening to Chumbawamba.

October 24, 1988–Together with a few comrades we begin moving Ace Hayes’ machine shop and library to his newly acquired “Box in the Woods” in Sheridan, Oregon. Not a few odd anecdotes could be added here, especially his often tense relations with the local building department. And planning department. And cops.  

November 8, 1988–Oregon Citizens Alliance passes Measure 8: 52.7% — 47.3% legally enshrining anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the executive branch. While it will eventually be ruled unconstitutional, this is the beginning of the “no special rights” bullshit. This is also only five days before the Seraw murder.

November 13, 1988–Murder of Mulugeta Seraw by racist boneheads with ESWP. 

Mulugeta Seraw

November 15, 1988. AFAP meets at Ace Hayes home, where we discuss the Seraw murder and a public letter Ace wrote to city commissioner Mike Lindberg about the threat of racist skinheads and the far-right sometime previous the murder. Where is that letter? Ace’s letter was at least in part based on research we were doing on boneheads. I write an article in the Portland Alliance about U.S. support for Nazi emigres following WWII, probably from Bellant’s report.

November, 1988. Coalition for Human Dignity forms from a city sponsored community meeting. Early meetings move from City Hall to the Metroplitan Community Church (MCC), King Community Center and the cafe Cup and Saucer. I am assembling and distributing “skinhead” packets. 

There is a protest against bigotry at City Hall. 

November 27, 1988. I am viewing Metzger’s “Race and Reason” television show, taking names and increasing subscriptions to area far-right publications. 

December 8, 1988–I travel to Whidbey Island Washington to cover the neo-Nazi Bob Mathews commemorative. Mathews was the titular head of the neo-Nazi terrorist group, The Order. He died in a shoot out with cops on Whidbey Island. Metzger and Butler are there. I hate on the RCP, cuz, well, they’re the RCP.


Comrades and I are looking for warehouse space for our “Anti-Fascist Archives Project.” 

I have part-time work at UPS and Besaws.

I read Andy Oakley’s book “88”. I review it. Thought it valuable. “These questions cannot be addressed with a view of fascism in America that equates the Metzgers with the Bushes, the Moonies with the Rockefellers.”–me. 

December 21, 1988–Reading Ward Churchill’s “Pacifism as Pathology.” 

January 1989–I file FOIA requests with FBI, CIA, etc. on myself and am later disappointed that no one considers me a threat. Sigh.

Coast Starlight train to Oakland. I interview skins and punks at Gilman Street Theater in Berkeley. One female punker from Portland references the ASA (Anti-Skin Alliance) there and Eric Lamon (Was this China from IDHH?).

“Two wrongs don’t make a right. But three do.” –Unofficial motto of U.S. forces in Vietnam.

January 14, 1989–I obtain The Muckrakers Manual!

Frequent trips to Powell’s Books. 

January 27, 1989–Ben E. Factory was an anarchist IWW organizer then involved in tenants rights and building occupations. I recall long debates between us around the Spanish Civil War and contemporary socialism vs. anarchism. I get arrested on this date at a building occupation in Seattle. My job, as it so often was, involved cutting a chain link fence with bolt cutters (always in my trunk) in advance of the march. I did so, but got arrested by a nearby undercover vice cop. The NLG represented me and the charges dropped. The cop shoved a gun in my chest and was rough.

February 18, 1989–David Duke wins Louisiana legislative seat.

March 11, 1989–Aryan Woodstock Napa, CA.

April 25, 1989–Walk for Racial Equality in Hayden Lake, Idaho protesting the annual Aryan Nations Congress attracts 1000 marchers. ADL and NWCAMH refuse to back it; effectively disavow it. I attend a press conference convened by Richard Butler on the Aryan Nations compound using press credentials from KBOO. I also write and distribute “Understanding and Confronting…” an essay at the protest event. Highlights: group listed as phone contact is “Parapolitical Research Center”, not CHD which was only beginning to get off the ground. More than 100 people from Portland travel. The NWCAMH is getting flack for receiving $ from Coors while also not including sexual orientation in their definition of hate crimes. There is still only scattered data collection on hate crimes in PNW.

Kinda the liberal version of “Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” 😂

May 10, 1989–With Ben E. Factory I interview members of Anti-Racist Action (ARA), The Baldies and the Revolutionary Anarchist Bowling League (RABL) in Minneapolis, MN. I took detailed notes and brought them back for comrades in Portland. While in no way did I start ARA in Portland, I was around and trying to communicate what the folks in Minnesota had been up to; what worked for them and what didn’t. We later visit the Chicago IWW office and meet with an old Weather Underground member.

May 20, 1989 colorblind and ARA/Syndicate flyer from Chicago for Rock Against Racism.


Portland Anti-Fascist Archives Project 2.0



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Centenary of the Arditi Del Popolo 1921–2021. Coalition for Human Dignity activists had one foot in militant anti-fascism and another in the struggle for a Third Reconstruction.

From “The Matrix” to “The Shop”.

“The Matrix” collective at 333 SE 3rd Street in Portland, Oregon.

“Back in the late 1980s, in the embryonic days of the Coalition for Human Dignity, together with a small group of student radicals I cobbled together something called the Antifascist Archives Project. It amounted to little more than a poster featuring a bundle of sticks with the blade of an axe protruding from the top being broken in half. The symbol is that of the fasces, the Latin term from which fascism derives. We pulled our logo from the militant Italian anti-fascist movement of the 1920s, the Arditi Del Popolo. Together with our fanatic hearts and a pile of research files to inspire the breaking, we began ferreting out fascists wherever they might be, in whatever stage of development they had progressed, at whatever cost to ourselves. We operated from the second floor of a warehouse space located at 333 SE 3rd Street in Portland, Oregon known as “The Matrix.” From the beginning, my antifascism always involved no small amount of rebellion.

Below our second-story ramshackle office was a tortilla chip factory where (in my mind’s olfactory eye) I can still smell those fresh tortillas cooking. After being cut into chips, they would slowly make their way down a small conveyor belt where they would be bagged and often consumed, hot and fresh, by yours truly. My memories of this collective space are bound up with the smell of those tortilla chips and that of another: the fresh ink that emanated from the giant offset printing press which periodically disgorged finished broadsheets for distribution by wild-eyed radicals such as myself.”–—Back to Little Beirut.

“The Matrix” housed many radical political groups, but frequent armed attacks by neo-Nazis throughout 1990-91 had anti-fascists patrolling with rifles from the rooftop. The only entrance to our offices on the second floor was through a steel-reinforced door on a warehouse loading dock. This afforded us some protection. Regardless, our presence endangered activists not accustomed to facing down boneheads. We had to relocate.

“The Shop” in NE Portland at the North Coast Seed Studios building. CHD moved there around February, 1991 and made it our home until 1997.

“In winter the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest wind finds its way through split bricks and cracked beams. It is fended off with wood stove and blankets, occasionally the warmth of a kindred spirit. From my office in this ramshackle warehouse, set next to a railroad crossing busy with jostling container cars and the occasional furtive hobo, surrounded by artists, counterculture types, and a few working-class intellectuals (some of whom work at Powell’s Books, a temple for what remains of the graphosphere) I engage in my phantom labor: interrogating the past so as to excavate the future.” —The Trumpen Proletariat Goes to Mars.

Comrades who have been following the “It Did Happen Here” Podcast and KBOO Radio show ( know that there was a network of anti-racist groups that fought the far-right in the Pacific Northwest (especially Portland, Oregon) from 1988 into the early 2000s. I was a founding member and sometime staffer for the one of the groups profiled, the Coalition for Human Dignity (CHD). CHD was known for cutting-edge research and intelligence that targeted the far-right, together with grassroots community defense efforts. For about ten-years comrades and I waded through newspaper clippings, files, primary documents, databases, videotapes, books and cassette tapes with an eye toward operationalizing our findings. Put another way: Unlike most academics, who often craft elaborate postmortems on this or that element of the far-right, comrades with the Coalition for Human Dignity created our own “facts on the ground.” CHD activists didn’t collect data for posterity; we gathered intelligence to attack the far-right and fascists. In many ways, we were more effective at this than any of our contemporaries.

We also made mistakes, some of which will become apparent throughout these archival posts. That said, beware critics who either knowingly or naïvely wring their hands about this or that tactic wielded by comrades in the fight against the far-right. Too often they forget (if they ever knew) that the far-right and fascism are always present within the United States body politic; regardless of what stage of development such bigoted movements may be in, they must be fought using methodologies unique to those threats. Remember: fighting fascism means fighting fascists.

Today, the far-right and fascist threat is worse than at any time in my 54 years, so too the need to fight back. Trump’s ignominious departure from the White House should provide only cold comfort; the social base and political economy of fascism remain intact.

I offer this archival material so that we might compare and contrast methodologies for fighting the far-right and fascists and thereby improve our fighting capacity. Obviously, the information ecology during the 1980s-1990s was in many ways quite different from that of today — slower, less complex, more centralized, labor intensive, and analog, or pre-digital. I have long argued that the formation of “The Shop” as the intelligence wing of the Coalition for Human Dignity was necessary in order to obtain a comprehensive overview of various far-right formations then active throughout the Pacific Northwest. That overview could not be achieved without the labor-intensive work carried out by staffers and volunteers in the research wing of CHD. It was absolutely essential. In order to aid communities under attack by the far-right — in real-time — one had to operationalize research. One could not possibly coordinate efforts to fight the far-right and defend communities without the most up-to-date research and intelligence. Journalists couldn’t do it, cops were a part of it, politicians were afraid of it and academics were too busy with their post-mortems. At that time there was only one way to do it: “The Shop.”

Some of the archival material I will be posting here I’ve managed to preserve, some I’ve more recently dug up. I left the CHD around 1999 after having transferred the many filing cabinets, videos, databases, and a highly specialized library, to offices in Seattle. Sometime thereafter the group imploded but not before sending the CHD files to a kindred organization in Chicago called the Center for New Community, which also collapsed. Somewhere in these transitions the CHD files were lost or stolen; the activists who are responsible for this shocking neglect of basic movement security and respect for research deserve to be met with the harshest of criticism. You know who you are, and you should be held accountable. Anti-fascists with integrity should revisit this sordid chapter in our history, if for no other reason so as to prevent perhaps some of the same people from doing it again. And again. What happened to the files?

“The Shop” refers to the semi-secret office space maintained by CHD for about six years through a sub-lease from two professional photographers. Thanks to their generosity we were able to file our reports, stuff our filing cabinets, organize our databases, and destabilize and destroy organized bigots. The boneheads never found us, either.

CHD researchers set out to create a hybrid of library science and spycraft to fight the far-right menace. We had some limited success, for a time.

For all those older anti-fascists who have continued doing salt-of-the-earth work, I commend you and offer my sincere appreciation and support. Younger anti-fascists today operate with a sophistication, breadth and effectiveness we could only dream of. Groups like Rose City Antifa and the Pacific Northwest Anti-fascist Workers Collective continue the anti-fascist tradition. But they also face a far more dangerous menace. They need our unwavering support.

As I am no longer technically literate in any 21st-century sense, please excuse in advance what are sure to be many frustrating oversights and discombobulations. If you dig or ask me questions, I’ll do my best to clarify.

In Solidarity—Jonathan.

Allen’s Press Clipping Bureau (Established 1888!)

Allen’s Press Clipping Bureau was an important addition to CHD’s toolbox. Allen’s clipped articles from hundreds of newspapers across the Pacific Northwest according to keywords we provided like “racism”, “Measure 9”, and “white supremacist” then stuffed them into envelopes and mailed them to us. We would index these articles according to names, organizations and issues, then enter that information into databases that linked to the clippings, which were in turn photocopied and stored in wire-frame, legal size folders that hung inside Hon brand filing cabinets. Always Hon, always legal size (rather than letter) because there’s nothing like getting 8 1/2 x 14 size documents and trying to fit them in 8 1/2 x 11 folders—it just doesn’t work. This process was expensive and time consuming. Today, such information is generally available to anyone with a cell phone and a search engine. But not then. Did I mention it was expensive? Also, if you try Googling “David Irving 1992 Portland, Oregon” you won’t find much. Like so much of our work it was pre-internet, and has been buried. Let’s dig it up.


Video Game Socialism



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Asteroid 2


I hereby stake a claim to the world’s quickest solution to the video game Asteroids. That’s right, I should be in the Guinness Book of World Records. I solved the cabinet version of Asteroids at the tender age of Fourteen. I don’t stake a claim to the highest score of Asteroids, because that’s an absurd achievement. Far more important is the discovery of a solution to the game, which allowed for that ridiculous feat of physical endurance otherwise known as a “high score.” I was certainly one of, if not the, earliest human being to hack Asteroids. I discovered a way to exploit an unforeseen loophole in its design, to be able to play in perpetuity on one quarter. Allow me to explain.

With a black and white, low resolution, and highly pixilated screen, Asteroids was one of the earliest cabinet video games that joined pinball, air hockey, and foosball at bowling alleys and arcades across the United States beginning in 1979. I was fourteen-years-old then and along with some junior high school chums, we frequented a bowling alley in Ashland, Oregon. There we would flirt, cause mischief, and play our favorite games. Everyone had a three-letter digital signature used to immortalize our achievements until they were superseded by ourselves or someone else. My signature was MOZ.

Unlike other early video games and those since Asteroids was solvable. What I mean by that is not that one could achieve a high score that ended the game, or exceeded the numerical capacity of the game to record, or that there was an exit to a maze that one could discover, but that given the way the game was constructed it was possible to play on one quarter in perpetuity for as long as one could stand there. To illustrate this I need to describe the game and what my successful strategy was for solving it.

At the beginning of a game one quarter purchases the obligatory three ships or “lives” that are initially allotted to a player. An additional ship can be earned every 10,000 points. To get 10,000 points a player must shoot asteroids that come in sizes from large to medium to small. If you shoot a large one it breaks into two, then those two, if shot, each split again. The smallest asteroid, if shot, disappears. Each size of asteroid has a corresponding point value, the smaller the asteroid the more points. When a screen is cleared a new level is accessed characterized by a greater number of asteroids on the screen that travel at higher speeds. The screen is open-ended on all four sides such that if you fly your craft through one side you will appear coming out the other. It is a two-dimensional field, no depth. The asteroids follow the same logic. In addition to these asteroids flying around in a seemingly random way, a space ship will appear at various intervals and attempt to shoot your ship.

A player’s ship is rendered as a triangle that shoots from the apex and is controlled by five buttons: left and right rotation, thrust, shoot, and a hyperspace button that makes your ship disappear and reappear instantly at a random spot elsewhere. The new spot might be safe or directly in the path of an asteroid.

These then are the essential elements of the game.

I remember the day I solved Asteroids because I played on one quarter from 10 AM until 11 PM (thirteen hours) at one point peeing into a bottle. I had to stop when the bowling alley closed; I could have played longer. I did this in 1980 or 1981. I could play forever and therefore solved the game.

I had three advantages over my classmates:

First, I managed to secure lots of quarters. Not all kids my age had access to enough money to play the game as much as I did. In this sense, I just played the game more than most, and thereby became a better player.

Second, I was built for video games: I had razor-sharp reflexes, Olympic level reaction time, superior pattern recognition skills, and strong hand-eye coordination. My brain was wired tight. 

Lastly, I hit upon an approach to successful play that was somewhat counterintuitive and very difficult to master. Move! Instead of being cautious and moving slowly to avoid being hit by asteroids, I would almost immediately begin flying through screens — usually up through the ceiling to emerge from the equivalent spot through the bottom of the floor. I would hold the thrust down and fly at near maximum speed. This maneuver was very difficult to master and took hours of practice, but once perfected something odd happened. Asteroids began to “slow down” much like the frequency of a siren shifts downward as it passes away from you, producing the Doppler Effect. Objects on the screen appear to slow as a thrown football does in mid-air if you are running in the same direction as it is traveling. Finally, patterns began to emerge in the way the asteroids were released at different levels together with how they behaved once struck by a shot from my ship.

There is a similar principle at work in today’s First Person Shooter (FPS) games. All things being equal it is better to be moving among enemies rather than stationary and having them move to you. This is behind what is arguably the most hated insult a player can be on the receiving end of in a FPS game, being called a “camper,” someone who just sits in a spot waiting to kill other players. This approach to play can yield results — for instance, if you are a sniper — but again, all things being equal, “movement is life.” 

Aside from these three advantages, there were two structural elements incorporated by developers into the game of Asteroids that made a solution possible. First, there was no cap on the number of ships a player could have in reserve, so if a player was good enough at staying alive through multiple rounds that player could continue to accumulate ships. I would often fill the entire screen with extra ships — thirty, forty, even fifty — which allowed for hours of play. 

Second, there was a cap to the complexity of asteroids released at successive levels. At some point the number of asteroids that appeared for a new level did not breach the threshold for my effective play; the complexity was daunting, with asteroids all around and a small spaceship that would quickly appear and attack my ship followed by another in rapid succession, but it didn’t keep increasing. It plateaued. It was difficult, but with enough of the right kind of play, I could handle it.

Was this a flaw in the design of the game? Probably. I think programmers either didn’t anticipate players would be able to function at that level of complexity or they wagered only a very small number would and that that was not a barrier to the game making money. The game did make money, with some 60,000 units sold by the early 1980s, but at some point the company recognized the flaw in their design. The Wikipedia entry for Asteroids notes that arcade owners began complaining to Atari about players (like me) costing them money. Atari released Asteroids Deluxe soon after as a fix. On the other hand, perhaps the very fact kids like me were able to solve asteroids after (but only after) hundreds, perhaps thousands, of quarters also contributed to making the game a hit. Whatever the case, I don’t think any subsequent cabinet video games allowed for players to dominate them such that one could play them for hours on one quarter. 

I glean two lessons from playing Asteroids as a kid: First, Big Tech can be beaten. There is always a hack, always a way around their code. Second, beating Big Tech is a pyrrhic victory unless one shares the spoils of that victory. Soon after I was able to accumulate ships I began sharing them with friends so we could all save quarters. I would like to think I was a budding socialist even at the tender age of fourteen. 


Liberals Lean In, But Don’t Go Anywhere.



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The contemporary Amerikan liberal is a specimen of political animal whose greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The roly-poly toy Weebles captures perfectly the broad but shallow political tradition that narrowly defeated Donald Trump in the recent presidential elections: “Tipping an egg-shaped Weeble causes a weight located at the bottom-center to be lifted off the ground. Once released, gravity brings the Weeble back into an upright position.” (Weeble–Wikipedia Retrieved 11/10/20). The weight is fidelity to private property and markets as the sine-qua-non of democracy; the “wobble” constitutes repeated attempts to solve the intractable and recurring crises that this unstable marriage of democracy and capitalism produces. The key here is that Weebles are very kinetic, but only over a very limited terrain. They move a lot, but not very far nor very quickly. They are remarkably stable, but also inflexible. To stop fascism and replace capitalism with a political economy that serves the many and not the few, we need to move. Weebles only move slowly, in a haphazard manner, and never in a predetermined direction. Push a Weeble one way, and it will lean the other, while its fulcrum will shift in an altogether different direction. Kinda frustrating. Indeed, they don’t fall over, but we should not mistake such leaning to and fro as movement toward any destination other than where they already reside.

Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive and faux feminist, is generally credited with popularizing the term “lean in” as a meta concept for contemporary progressives. The core operating principle behind “lean in” Democrats is the Weeble wobble. If one is standing still, to lean in is to initiate a deviation from a perpendicular position; it is to begin an inclination as one tips the body into a slope. Above all it signals a state of readiness to move in a particular direction. Such a maneuver does not, however, fully commit one to moving in that direction. When one leans there is always an element of hedging; always an aspect of waiting, of anticipating, and therefore the possibility of staying put or even reversing the lean and heading off in another, even opposite, direction. To lean is also by definition to be a bit off balance. Bill Clinton was the consummate practitioner of the political maneuver known as triangulation, something similar to the Weeble wobble, but with one major difference. Clinton’s triangulating was always a form of political calculation; the Weeble wobble is a function of the limits of the liberal philosophical horizon.

This Weeble wobble is almost always well-meaning but also ineffectual; it is earnest and committed waffling, passionate virtue signaling and much celebrated but empty representational politics. Hence, its popularity amongst liberal ideologues. They lean a great deal, but go nowhere. They are perpetually “leaning” towards justice, yet never actually moving to it. Everything is about intention, not results; opportunity, not equality. It’s no wonder so many people hate them. Conservatives, by the way, practice much the same politics. In times of social quiescence such middle-of-the-road centrism anchors capitalism by bracketing out radical solutions to systemic problems.

These are not those times.

Liberals always link political freedom to private property and markets; economic opportunity to the capitalist ship of state. This means they necessarily undermine struggles for economic equality, anti-racism, gender liberation and anti-fascism. To uphold the universalism and exceptionalism claimed by the United States of Amerika involves punching downward in an effort to thwart popular revolutionary struggles. When the political center no longer offers solutions to the recurring crises endemic to capitalism, people look elsewhere for an exit. They will look to fascism or socialism. The first is a door that opens to a cliff. The second must not be a door that binds us to more of the Weeble wobble. Our class solidarity and mutual aide is the only guarantee of a different future. That means we must break decisively with liberalism in the direction of radical democracy and equality.


Left Woos Right: Glenn Greenwald’s Pink-Brown “Populist” Alliance



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This is a deliberately splenetic critique of an Intercept Podcast hosted by Glenn Greenwald that aired on June 25, 2020, entitled “Should the Populist Left Work With the Populist Right Where They Have Common Ground or Shun Them?” Along with Greenwald as a not-so-disinterested-host, the podcast features Krystal Ball and Nathan Robinson. Since 2018 Ball has promoted a left-right “populist” convergence through the television show Rising, which she co-hosts with right-winger Saagar Enjeti. The two debate topical fare “Crossfire” style (arch-paleoconservative Pat Buchanan was an original “Crossfire” host in the 1980s, a noteworthy historical reference here). Ball and Enjeti also co-authored The Populist’s Guide to 2020: A New Right and New Left Are Rising, released in February 2020. Robinson is the editor-in-chief of the socialist magazine Current Affairs, arguably the most unfortunately named socialist magazine in the history of socialist magazines, but a socialist magazine nonetheless. He wears funny outfits but is an articulate reform-minded socialist.

This debate was ostensibly prompted by Robinson’s article in Current Affairs “Isn’t Right-Wing Populism Just Fascism?” but has been ongoing ever since Greenwald first appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight a few years ago. Given Carlson’s growing status as a more authentic neo-fascist alternative to Trump, it’s of no small importance that we try and understand how efforts to engage with him are utter folly. I think both Greenwald and Ball argue for what amounts to a ‘pink-brown’ alliance, a potentially disastrous response to the ongoing collapse of the center in American politics. Robinson’s critique of Greenwald and Ball is largely correct, although because he upholds much of the language and theoretical framework of “populism” rather than discarding it altogether, his response is somewhat misguided. I think there is an alternative to all three of these pundits, but it can only be conceptualized by challenging the basis from which Greenwald and Ball base their politics. Robinson doesn’t quite do this; hence the need for this essay.

To Robinson’s question “Isn’t right-wing populism just fascism?” the short answer is: Fascism is fascism; populism isn’t anything at all (at least not in 2020). That means the short answer to Greenwald’s question “Should we work with or shun them?” should be: We should crush them.

But I’m fond of long answers.

Glenn Greenwald is a litigation attorney; his worldview is steeped in laws, constitutionalism, and abstract theories of rights. This bourgeois legalism can provide powerful critiques of the political economy of capitalism, but too often in America it is also blind in the white eye. For instance, Greenwald the activist helped found and lead The Intercept, an important investigative journalism project. But, Greenwald the attorney has also represented in court neo-Nazis such as Mathew Hale. Anti-fascists understandably have a problem with this. Greenwald thinks such professional conduct is a testament to his fidelity to equal access under the law. We think it’s collaboration. This contradiction is not unique to Greenwald, it is the case with all celebrity intellectuals, entertainers, and liberal idealists. On principle we should figuratively hammer those who would sacrifice lives on an altar of abstract rights.

Greenwald is also preternaturally clever. If one accepts his premises (sometimes unstated) it’s difficult to argue his conclusions. Therefore, we need to challenge the foundation of his framework to show why the coalition-building he and Ball are proposing involves a disastrous politics of the pink and brown.

It’s important to note that “pink” here means blue-dog, liberal or social Democrat, not LGBTQ+. “Brown” means far-right, white nationalist, and fascist. Red is far-left (not Republican) and denotes revolutionary socialist, communist, and anarchist politics. With me? The dangerous overlap here is not “red-brown” but “pink-brown”; between disaffected (white) Democrats, and far-rightists. In terms of historical precedence think George Wallace or Reagan Democrats. Greenwald and Ball want to break out the beer and bratwurst and discuss “legitimate grievances”; I want to destroy their organizations, from the top down, and thereby their capacity to organize, even function. By doing so we can also make space for a good many of their rank and file to become anti-racists, anti-fascists, even raging leftists.

Part of what Greenwald will not accept is that many radical conservatives have moved into a more revolutionary camp and prefer an eliminationist form of actually existing capitalism. Such a radical turn means that when they inveigle against “elites” or “foreign wars” they are not reinvigorating “populist” democracy or helping constrain American imperialism. This is not an opportunity for cross-class coalition building, nor is it a component of a “popular front” against fascism. It is one important aspect of a burgeoning 21st-century fascism in formation. It must be fought, not finagled.

Greenwald’s TINA (There Is No Alternative) 

Greenwald introduces the podcast exchange as follows:

“For me, the starting point has to be the current state of left-wing populism. I don’t think that it can be reasonably disputed that left-wing politics in the United States does not claim a majority of people which support it. By which I don’t mean that left-wing populism has no views which garner the support of a majority of people. Left-wing populism does have key views, such as medicare for all and raising the minimum wage and even to some extent universal healthcare that garner substantial support among the entire U.S. population if not a majority which means it has broad appeal beyond its left-wing precepts. But, left-wing populism as a movement, as an ideology, as a philosophy, does not claim anywhere close to a majority–nowhere near a majority among people in the United States claim to be leftists or left-wing populists…That means in order for it to implement its policy goals–which has to be the ultimate objective of politics, otherwise, politics is like art or poetry, something one does for the art of it, or the purity of it, or the self-enjoyment of it, but not actually to change the world for the better in meaningful ways through legislation and reform. If that is the goal (which it has to be) it means that left-wing populists have to form coalitions and alliances with other people in order to form majorities. And the question becomes, in those numerous instances where left-wing populists can’t form a majority with democratic corporatists and democratic imperialists and democratic centrists–and oftentimes they can’t, which is why there is such a cleavage…the fact that there are so many instances where there is no way to form a coalition or a majority with democratic centrists because they oppose the agenda of left-wing populism prompts the question: With whom are left-wing populists going to form coalitions and alliances on an issue-by-issue basis–not permanently, not for every issue, but on an issue-by-issue basis where there is common ground, if there is a prohibition, as Robinson argues there should be, in that article at least, where he said: “the left should have nothing to do with that movement?” With whom is the left-wing going to form alliances and coalitions if not right-wing populism?”

This is a clever, but fatuous, elevation of congressional politics at the expense of other forms of political struggle. Social movements like Black Lives Matter are expected to reach their apex of development when politicians are all in Kente cloths; anarchist mutual aid networks, worker militancy, housing occupations, teacher and health care worker strikes, and much more are completely ignored here. Nothing exists outside “serious politics.” Greenwald is trying to defend a sweeping claim about how power functions in a capitalist society by reducing that power to a very narrow expression of it: legislation in the congress between donkeys and elephants. Furthermore, the American political spectrum is notoriously tilted to the right, at least in part because there has never been a labor party here; just two capitalist parties. That’s a long-term, built-in, structural disadvantage to working-class, multi-racial, movements that must be overcome. We can overcome it, but not through elections. Social movements often drive and move beyond electoral politics, as is now the case with the uprising following the murder of George Floyd. Greenwald and Ball seem to think the best response to cops murdering Black people is making tactical alliances with Rand Paul and Josh Hawley.

So Greenwald’s first premise is that electoral politics is the only form of politics; everything else is just art or self-expression. Notice also that throughout this debate so-called ‘left-wing populists’ are limited to two choices: pacts with corporate democrats or those with right-wing populists.

Anti-fascists refuse both options.

My central argument is that one cannot practice what Greenwald and Ball are proposing and expect to defeat fascism and build an alternative to capitalism. Of course, if one’s goal is majority control of both chambers of Congress, then none of this applies. If you accept his premise here, it’s hard to reject his conclusion. Don’t accept the premise. Greenwald and Ball inhabit a thought world with self-limiting horizons. Our politics are excluded from their world of “There Is No Alternative”; what is hardly ever acknowledged is that this engenders a built-in preference for and susceptibility to the siren songs of the far-right. When the center of what is acceptable debate between the two capitalist parties has moved so far to the right that it includes fascist ideas, the solution is not to accommodate such ideas, but to reject them. Fascist ideas have moved from the margins to the mainstream of that electoral consensus precisely because the “dead center” of liberalism and conservatism is bereft of solutions to today’s crises. They fear the Black-led uprising more than they do fascism.

One of the strongest arguments to be made against cooperating with the far-right is this: forging alliances with them — tactical or otherwise — precludes movement building that is genuinely multi-racial, working-class, and that promotes left-unity.  The far-right is so steeped in eliminationist and accelerationist politics as to make the tactical alliances Greenwald and Ball so cherish a fool’s errand. To court allies among fascists is to court disaster for people in their crosshairs.

Elsewhere in the podcast, Greenwald poses a hypothetical union member who believes in workers over management, medicare for all, raising the minimum wage, and is against free trade agreements because of offshoring. On the other hand, this worker is also a social conservative — pro-life, not LGBTQ positive, and favors restrictive immigration policy. Are they to be shunned? Greenwald doesn’t mention anti-Black racism, police brutality, or the carceral state in his convenient equation. He doesn’t mention this hypothetical (white) worker’s support for “law and order” expressed through “Back The Blue” bumper stickers. I think the omission is instructive. This podcast aired on June 25, 2020, while protests were still ongoing (as they are now) across the United States. While statues to confederate generals and colonialist masters were being hauled down throughout the country, Greenwald and Ball persisted with their fantasy of building a multi-racial, working-class movement without confronting racism and white supremacy while one was underway all around them. Instead of turning to that movement, they mistook a phantom constituency for a new “agent of history.”

Greenwald’s Exemplar of Right-Wing Populism

But Greenwald isn’t just talking about breaking bread with regular white workers; he’s got something very particular in mind when he uses the term ‘right-wing populist’:

“For this discussion to be profitable we need to have an understanding of what right-wing populism is…To me, the most vivid and comprehensive expression of right-wing populism in the United States is the rhetoric and the branding of the 2016 Trump campaign. Not the reality of the Trump presidency, which deviated radically and abruptly from what the rhetoric and branding of what the campaign was, but the campaign itself. What did the campaign in 2016 say that it stood for, particularly when engineered by Steve Bannon in order to attract enough voters, particularly in the industrial Midwest, in order to win the election…?”

What it stood for then, as now, is “America First”: a reinvigorated racist nationalism that is the core of a 21st-century fascism-in-formation. Greenwald argues that Trump “deviated radically and abruptly” from Bannon’s authentic populist program. This amounts to a distinction without a difference. Here, both the thing he is trying to measure and evaluate together with the ruler and criteria which he uses to measure it, are both flawed. Bannon and his ilk engineered Trump’s campaign from largely the same template Trump is now governing, setting aside the wild card of the global impact of COVID-19. In other words, there has been no substantive break between promises and results that don’t always occur when either capitalist party secures the executive. Far more important is the continuity that persisted from campaign to governing regime: building the wall and ICE raids, vicious anti-Black racism, organized misogyny, hyper-nationalism, more advanced forms of kleptocracy and cronyism, together with an iron-fisted fidelity to the economic imperatives of Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and corporate America. Even if one were to hold that there is a meaningful difference between Bannon’s “populism” and that of Trump, the proposition that the former offers viable terrain for cooperation is reprehensible.

There should be no need for a quote here from Bannon to demonstrate his moorings in the white nationalist, alt-right political universe.

The question becomes, what are Greenwald and Ball up to?

Greenwald’s Pink-Brown Alliance

Many leftists are accustomed to hearing about “red-brown” alliances, the most dreadful example captured in the slogan “After Hitler, Our Turn,” popularized by the Stalinized communist left in 1930s Germany. There was, of course, no “turn” for the left “after Hitler” because the left, then everyone else, was obliterated, literally; this being perhaps the single most important lesson learned for what happens after fascism attains state power. That slogan flowed from the equally disastrous Stalinist slogans of “socialism in one country” and “social fascism,” the former a betrayal of proletarian internationalism and the latter a refusal to distinguish between routine capitalist rule and that of a fascist dictatorship. Today there are numerous examples of some radical leftists adopting a political framework that involves much overlap with far-right and even neo-fascist movements. One has only to look at the degenerated publication of the U.S. Socialist Worker’s Party organ The Militant, or the bizarre syncretic monstrosities like Spiked Magazine and Russian “National Bolsheviks” to see such overlap. When anti-racism and anti-fascism are discarded as central principles that should guide revolutionary praxis, such alliances become possible. The term ”campist” comes to mind here, a largely anarchist critique of socialists and communists who allow their political praxis to be overly influenced by states, many of which are not on the left (e.g., Russia, Syria). Geopolitical priorities become over-determined by conflicts with the United States; “anti-imperialism” devolves into a reflexive “anti-Americanism” itself enmeshed within the priorities of those reactionary states, where they risk becoming nothing but a creature of them. Max Blumenthal and The Greyzone come to mind here. This political tendency on the left is real and needs to be countered, but what we are addressing here is different.

Together with vigilance against such developments, we need to be equally aware of “pink-brown” alliances. After all, it was the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) that carried out the assassinations of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Leibnicht in 1919. From then on the leadership of Germany’s largest worker’s party would periodically forge its own alliances with right-wing reaction which also contributed to a failure of the left to unite against Nazism. The leadership of the social democrats considered there to be no appreciable difference between Nazis and communists, a political stupidity that was epitomized in posters from the Iron Front that featured three arrows targeting the Conservative Franz von Papen, NSDAP leader Adolph Hitler and Ernst Thälmann, leader of the German Communist Party (KPD). The Iron Front was demobilized by the SPD leadership in the run-up to the Nazi ascension to power while at the same time the communists considered there to be no appreciable difference between social democrats and Nazis. Any front against Nazism — popular, united, or otherwise — became impossible.

Today’s purveyors of the “populism” thesis for understanding political power have learned nothing from history. Their attempts to forge an impossible unity between fascists and social democrats will only demobilize constituencies that cannot possibly benefit from such a project.

Greenwald thinks there is a realignment underway within the American body politic that has permanently rejiggered the familiar right-left spectrum. This realignment now pits “populists” of the right and left against the “establishment” or “insiders” of the center. Such claims are not new. They are, in fact, stock and trade of the far-right. While Greenwald doesn’t argue that all politics is now “populists” vs. “elites”, he does argue that many things can be grasped through this lens and that now is the time for leftists to forge alliances with what amount to fascists on the right. He’s wrong.

The Dead Center

For all his radicalism, Greenwald is committed to liberal, constitutional, democracy as he understands it. The problem he faces, and it is the same for everyone in the “dead center,” is that the ground underneath him is shifting, although not in the ways he thinks. Greenwald outlines what he thinks has changed in American politics over the past few years and how his political analysis accounts for that change:

“What all of this illustrates to me is that while there are some political debates that are still best understood by Republican vs. Democrat, or left vs. right — things like social issues, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ rights, crucial political issues to be sure–and more substantive policies such as the environment and climate where there are still differences (meaningful ones) that are understood best by the division between Republican vs. Democrat, there are numerous issues where the establishment wings of the Democrat and Republican parties have more in common with one another than they do with the populist wings of either party; where left-wing populists have more in common with right-wing populists than they do with what has long appeared to be their closer allies in each party. And what this illustrates is that while some politics is still best understood and Republican vs. Democrat, much of it is not. Much of it is better understood as pro-establishment vs. anti-establishment, insider vs. outsider.”

Here Greenwald doesn’t use a race-class-gender framework to guide his analysis of political struggle, and it shows. This leaves him susceptible to pitchfork and torch rightists like Tucker Carlson. The American far-right has always framed their politics as “anti-establishment” and “outsider vs insider” but there should be an unbridgeable gulf between what they mean and what we mean by those terms. Greenwald thinks otherwise.

“… Is it the case that the views of right-wing populists on immigration, on race, and on other issues that are so pernicious and odious and anathema to left-wing populists that working with them ought to be morally impermissible? If that is the case, the question becomes: Number one, how is the left-wing ever going to implement its agenda or even attract converts if it refuses to engage constructively with [them and instead] scream at them and call them Nazis and fascists and racists but actually engage with them and try and find common ground? And it leads to the [second] question: Why is it that the pernicious views of the populist right render them off-limits for engaging with them in any kind of constructive or issue by issue alliances or coalition but that the hideous and horrendous views of the corporatist and imperialist democrats doing regime change wars in other countries, serving the interests of Wall Street and Silicon Valley at the expense of workers–why are those hideous views that so many Democrats have [not off limits]?”

No. 1: These “populist” Republicans Greenwald is so enamored with are pockmarked by pathological fetishes for private property, racism, and fascism. If it waddles like a pig, oinks like a pig, and roots like a pig, it is probably a pig. Stop calling it a duck.

No. 2 The left will never implement its agenda through congress. We fight for a revolution, not a bill.

No. 3. Both fascists and capitalists are our mortal enemies. Greenwald is trying to render what is a structural deformation of the American political system into a moral failure practiced by progressives: a double standard for which he offers the opposite as a solution. The corporate Democrats are worse! It’s lesser evilism in reverse. But Greenwald knows the Democratic Party is a capitalist party and therefore prefers to make alliances with the business class. Only someone who doesn’t understand this would be vexed by the altogether routine and inflexible pro-corporate policies and legislation favored by Democratic party elites. Congressional politics is generally limited to disagreements among capitalists that are structured to exclude arguments put forward by movements that challenge this. See: Sanders Campaign for president 2016, 2020. The only question is why someone would continue to try and make a “dirty break” with the Democratic Party so as to smuggle in democratic socialism. That will have to wait for another time.

It is also important to point out that what Greenwald calls “right-wing populism” is really an American hybrid of libertarianism and Christian nationalism. It is the worship of private property and the Cross wrapped up in the American flag. These two ideologies constitute the most important pipelines that convey raw political material to a more toxic refinery called 21st Century fascism. The most dynamic center of gravity for this emerging fascism is precisely what Greenwald thinks is “right-wing populism”. It is right-wing, but it is in no sense an expression of “the people.” For example, Peter Thiel is by no stretch of the imagination a “populist”; he’s a powerful tech billionaire inspired by ubermensch, dark enlightenment elitism. He believes capitalism and democracy are antithetical, and that the former should vanquish the latter. Yet Thiel is an important, even central, figure within the “populist” firmament. If that’s the case, then how can one argue for tactical alliances with that political tendency? So too with Rand Paul, the Senator who has repeatedly opposed anti-lynching legislation. Paul is a tea party libertarian — a crypto-fascist by any other name. Wouldn’t such an alliance be predicated on a rupture with other constituencies (immigrants, Black people, undocumented workers) because their very existence is at stake? Yes, it would.

Greenwald always uses the term “populism” in ways to favorably contrast it with “establishment” centrism. What he won’t acknowledge is that the term has its roots, and not a small amount of limbs and branches, within Cold War sociology and political science and the singular contention that all politics can be understood as an eternal contest between democracy, on the one hand, and totalitarianism, on the other. This political tradition argues that democracy is fundamentally compatible with capitalism; fascism, anarchism, and communism are not. There is no anti-capitalist option according to these precepts, only a defense of liberal democracy (capitalist democracy) through a never-ending war against “extremism.” A major problem with that framework is that by excluding left options to capitalism, the “anti-totalitarians” will often turn to right-wing authoritarians or outright fascists to solve the recurring problems that capitalism generates. They routinely sacrifice democracy and equality in favor of private property and inequality. While Jeanne Kirkpatrick articulated this best from the conservative right as a distinction between “totalitarian regimes” vs. “authoritarian regimes” and a marked preference for the latter, most Democrats sing the same song, if in a different key. When Greenwald argues that right and left “populists” need to work together he’s arguing against that long political tradition of corporate centrism, but in favor of alliances with fascism. His break with centrist orthodoxy, with the iron-clad hold of the two all-but indistinguishable parties run by and for the ruling class, is to appease the far-right in the interests of strengthening the liberal center. His alternative to the domination of the two capitalist parties is to empower the most reactionary, noxious elements of one in the hopes of stabilizing the ship of state. It won’t work and besides, we want to sink it.

“Populism” here is a term used by centrists as a cudgel against “extremists” of any political stripe. The term has no claim whatsoever to any analytical legitimacy and wherever one observes its use, be wary. There was, of course, a “populist movement” during the late 19th Century, but it has little if anything to do with either contemporary scholars who use the term as a weapon in defense of capitalist democracy, and even less with that vast cornucopia of political groups that have adopted it worldwide. The seminal text on the term is by Marco D’Eramo, in New Left Review (July-August 2013, No. 82) “Populism and the New Oligarchy.”

The Pitchfork and Torch Crowd

In discussing Tucker Carlson, Greenwald makes the laughable claim that it is often only Carlson who is willing to attack corporate Democrats.   Greenwald plays an excerpt of a Carlson show where he rails against “banking” and “foreign wars,” “the private equity model” and “a ruling class”. This Greenwald believes to be a “questioning the fundamentals of capitalism” one can’t find elsewhere. But white nationalists and Christian Patriots would agree with these descriptions of ruling class power; they just believe such power is Jewish and arrayed against white people. Greenwald is too smart to be unaware of this fact; therefore he just dismisses it. He doesn’t think it’s relevant. But it is. His appearances on Carlson’s show are loathsome. Greenwald deliberately misrepresents Carlson’s “populism” by white-washing it; downplaying or disregarding altogether the vicious anti-Black racism that is a core value of all white nationalists. Greenwald also describes Carlson as an important voice against “regime change” in Syria, Iran and Venezuela. He apparently regards Carlson as an anti-imperialist, a complete denigration of the term Lenin developed a century ago. Of course all of this debate about American power abroad amounts to nothing more than counterposing the boots on the ground option vs. the Qassem Suleimani option; it is an argument among capitalists about how best to exercise that power abroad, not dismantle it. What Carlson articulates flows from the perceived interests of the one unit of analysis that for him rises above all else: the (white) nation. Carlson is best understood within this political tradition, and as such his brand of politics is beyond the pale because it implies the jettisoning of any meaningful antiracist praxis.

Robinson correctly points out that both Greenwald and Ball exaggerate areas of agreement between “populisms” to suit their argument, noting that in actuality such overlap is virtually non-existent. Greenwald, ever the attorney, then tries to pigeon-hold Robinson into supporting “cooperation on principle.” Robinson responds that on principle, yes, there can be cooperation; but it doesn’t matter because they are “on principle” too radically different. Our principles don’t overlap enough with theirs to justify cooperation. Rand Paul, Robinson correctly asserts, is not a “populist” but a “tea party libertarian”.

I find it remarkable that at this juncture of the podcast there is only mention of Black Lives Matter in relation to right-wing calls to invoke the Insurrection Act to crush the rebellion. Libertarians might well signal opposition to the state using the military to quell dissent, only to prefer cops, III Percent militias, and Oath Keepers do it instead. The three podcast presenters here evince no real apprehension of what is happening on the streets; they seem disconnected from the powerful protests underway and the attendant reinterpretations of social reality that go with them. This powerful multi-racial, poor and working class social movement is a threat to both traditional capitalist political control (liberal and conservative) as well as far-right alternatives to that consensus. A pink-brown alliance would serve to short-circuit our most advanced revolutionary forces and assist the capitalist state as it faces what could be a genuine existential crisis.

Greenwald gives Trump’s anti-NAFTA and anti-WTO political stances both too much and too little weight. He ascribes far too much importance for these policy stances as somehow “pro-union” or “pro-worker” and not near enough to the core constituencies Trump seeks to mobilize through them: white workers (Steel workers, cops, prison guards, etc.) For example, with prison and cop unions, Trump is not trying to gut them; he counts on them for support. Trump’s pro-union bonafides always run through his anti-Black racism, which is as a central a precept within his worldview. When we are crying for defunding and abolition, he is doubling down on Back the Blue. Our problem is with the existence of those unions and their role in anti-Black racism and generalized repression. Those white workers are not “duped” into supporting Trump, he is fighting for their real interests as they understand them. We have to dismantle those interests, not find ways to accommodate them. It will do us no good to deny agency to right-wingers; they know who butters their bread.

Greenwald cites Missouri Senator Josh Hawley as someone ‘genuinely’ committed to challenging corporate power. This hagiography of Hawley is only possible by stripping his right-wing, libertarian, Christian worldview from the individual legislation that he does or doesn’t support and ignoring the pipeline to fascism within which it all flows. Greenwald is intent on distinguishing between authentic and ersatz populists, then between right-wing populism and (classical) fascism. Robinson chimes in on the distortion of Rand Paul:

“Wait. If Rand Paul is a part of this…[then] the whole premise that…right-wing populism is a kind of combination of left economics and social conservatism just falls apart completely, because Rand Paul is a radical free market libertarian.” In other words there is no “economic populism” to work with there. As usual, one needs to add that he’s a fucking racist.

Greenwald believes that this “right-wing populism” represents a “serious ideological rift” within the Republican Party and conservatism in general and that this division can be capitalized on. Robinson thinks it is politics as usual — both are wrong. There is a rift within the Republican Party between corporate conservatives and a growing fascist wing. That divide can be capitalized on by attacking both and developing our movement but no element should be opportunistically engaged with. At least not without dire consequences for a revolutionary movement of the left.

Krystal Ball’s contribution to the debate revolves around more distinctions without differences: between leaders and a base, racists and non-racists, left economics and right culture. Ball states she is in favor of a multi-racial, working class coalition and is a social democrat. I take her at her word, and therein lies the problem.

Ball argues that too many Democrats are influenced by neo-liberalism and “identity” politics and hold up “representation” alone to keep their coalition active. The policies and legislation they support do not offer substantive change. For corporate and imperialist Democrats it is most important to keep the multi-racial working class in line following the dictates of Wall street and Silicon Valley. You will get no argument from me here, either.

Likewise her description of Trump deliberately fanning “white racial anxiety” as a continuation of the Southern Strategy from the Nixon years, geared toward keeping large segments of the white working class in the GOP tent where it does the bidding of their corporate masters, is also spot on.

It is in her prescription for addressing that division where we find the same intractable problem as that of Greenwald. How do we get them together? They ask. Why the fuck is that even a question? I respond. I don’t want to find common ground. To Ball there is the approach of the traditional, socialist left which she describes as “shunning and condemning” vs. that exemplified by her program, which is “debating and engaging.” Then she conflates our opposition to working with the far-right with that of Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment. Ball makes the argument that the flip-side to leftist dismissal of poor whites is Mitt Romney’s “47% of the people will never support Republicans” elitist gotcha audible. Ball is arguing that there is a virtuous, populist (white) middle caught in between a crafty and comfortable corporate elite on the one hand and an out of touch, elitist, Bernie-bro group of professors who harbor disdain for poor whites on the other. The elitist leftists dupe people into hating racists and not capitalists. This, combined with platitudinous appeals to “honest dialogue” and straw-man denunciations of claims that all Trump supporters are Nazis, dovetails quite nicely with what I describe as the motor of fascism: that eternal struggle against ungrateful, cosmopolitan elites above and unworthy, racialized, parasitic masses below. The fire they are playing with here is the MARS (Middle American Radicals); it will burn all of us we don’t put it out. It is presently white hot and smoldering, even flaring up in places. Greenwald and Ball are playing directly into it.


At the very end of the podcast there is a brief discussion between Greenwald and Ball about “race.” Greenwald seeks to draw an analogy between Black civil rights and LGBTQ struggles. The passage, both breathtaking in its liberal naiveté and cringe-worthy in its historical illiteracy is worth quoting in full:

“As you mentioned, this is an amazing moment. Some incredibly significant shifts [are underway]: rapid, radical shifts in how people think about policing, how people think about race…One of the things I would compare it to is the very radical and abrupt and positive progress that was made in the course of a couple decades on how people think about same sex couples and gay rights and [how] that happened not because people were called bigots and homophobes enough times or because their churches were invaded violently enough but because just through humanitarian interaction; of people seeing that gay men and gay women weren’t these predators outside playgrounds but were their neighbors and their teachers and their relatives and their children did they start to break down those barriers that had been erected for them about how to think of their fellow gay citizens and that made them much more accepting and I think that that kind of human interaction and human engagement is always a prerequisite for finding common ground.”

He actually said “radical and abrupt and positive progress…in the course of a couple decades”. This is the pink-washing pablum issued forth by HR departments and the Human Rights Campaign as applied to Black liberation. Here, Greenwald does a triple disservice. First, his notion of LGBTQ+ rights having been won through increments accumulated over time as a feature of a generalized “progress” is an affront to all those radical activists in ACT-UP, among many others, who died for those rights in very militant ways. Secondly, the notion that such incremental progress is analogous to what is underway with the current Black uprising is painfully off base. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Greenwald does not believe it possible that those same rights “incrementally” won could be summarily stripped away.  Like most liberals Greenwald believes such rights, once won as a matter of capitalist modernity, are not subject to a radical and abrupt reversal. They are.

Making common cause with fascists is precisely the kind of political suicide that makes such a catastrophic reversal of rights not only possible, but probable.


Information Deserts



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Oregon Fire

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In addition to those geographical areas we call “food deserts” because they lack access to affordable and nutritious food, we need to consider the growth of “information deserts,” areas that lack affordable and informative news. I’ve been trying to follow the #Almedafire in Southern Oregon for the past 24-hours, only to repeatedly return to raw emergency feeds from first responders in the hopes of piecing together what’s happening on the ground. Traditional news outlets are practically useless–the Medford Mail Tribune, together with all other print media, took their usual ten-hour sabbatical last night right as the fire was raging through four Southern Oregon cities. The combined power of all network television managed to stream one stationary camera from atop a hill until it too disappeared due to a loss of power. Radio stations kept to their regularly featured programs of commercial advertising, interspersed with soft-rock, shock jock, and QAnon-talk; often the two were indistinguishable. Social media was only somewhat more useful. Facebook was wildly uneven. Instant live streamers captured flames devouring houses and gas stations, occasionally providing the “who, what, when, where, how and why” of basic reporting but more often than not cutting away for long segments about their shoelaces or pets. Facebook commentary, often the only source of news on any given live video feed, skewed toward that of a sewer spewing conspiracy theories that mostly blamed Antifa for fires from San Diego to Washington state. Twitter, while marginally better at providing on-the-ground breaking news, was also rife with whacky speculation and short on useful information.
What is clear is that print, television, and radio are dead. It’s not clear, however, what, if anything, is going to replace them.

A basket-of-deplorables liberal or an ivory tower radical might attribute all this to a reactionary environment peculiar to Southern Oregon, but I don’t think that’s the case. The preponderance of Antifa conspiracy theories mixed with frantic calls to evacuate animal shelters and department stores is not unique to Southern Oregon; neither is the almost complete disregard for the wholesale destruction of mobile home parks and the health and safety of undocumented populations, the houseless, and other vulnerable populations. Such reactionary hand-wringing for the estates of the wealthy and vineyards of the well-to-do, together with a corresponding disdain for working people is not unique to Southern Oregon. It may be more pronounced in such liberal cradles of opulence as Malibu and Marin; Lake Oswego and Mercer Island, somewhat less so in timber towns.

Much like the new citizen streamers who cover BLM protests for platforms like Twitch, Periscope, and Facebook, alternative forms of ”news” are welcome, but also deeply problematic. Where such streamers are not advocacy journalists clearly on the side of Black Lives Matter and anti-fascism, they often provide footage authorities can use to prosecute comrades. Even when they are on our side, their quest for clout, clicks, and followers ($) inadvertently aids the powers that be. In their frequent attempts to emulate uncritically received notions of “unbiased” reporting, “fair and balanced” coverage, and a misbegotten heroic pursuit of the “Truth” they trammel on all of these values, and many more besides. But we need them; otherwise, we would be left with the corporate press and the underfunded and out-of-touch “old left” media.

In the case of local emergencies, like the firestorms raging out here in the west, our principles of solidarity and mutual aid demand that we find ways to fill the gap between the tendency of traditional forms of media to misinform us, and the emergence of new forms of (social) media for which it is hard to distinguish between information, misinformation, and disinformation. The reason both new and old forms of media are hapless in the face of local emergencies and disasters is due, of course, to the same trends that have left us so vulnerable to COVID-19: privatization, austerity, JIT logistics, and crumbling public infrastructures, especially health and welfare. Following the tenets of disaster capitalism, the predictable carnage that results is quickly followed by the savage depredations Wall Street and Silicon Valley engineer for profit.

We need a new “citizen” reporter network with the politics of Unicorn Riot but with the reach of Fox News; we need but without the “Black Conservative Preacher” and anti-Semitic feeds it features. This will only happen if we take our cues from the decentralized, horizontal, anti-authoritarian BLM and anti-fascist demonstrations underway across cities small and large. If we focus on maximizing what’s great about new social media as a news provider, together with minimizing what’s rotten, we might be able to provide nutritious and delicious information for the masses and thereby fertilize these information deserts so that something beautiful can bloom.

Bookchin, Cockburn and Libertarianism.



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Anarchists are often at their best when they critique communists for unhealthy admiration of order and authority. This tradition is captured in the term of abuse “tankie”, which is anarchist shorthand for a communist who does not shy from bringing out the tanks to crush rebellion, like those deployed during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 and the Prague Spring of 1968 in then Czechoslovakia. Murray Bookchin, a social ecologist, and philosopher of libertarian municipalism whose writings continue to animate leftists from Rojava to Seattle, often wrote with a profound contempt for the more authoritarian traditions found in various expressions of Marxism and socialism. If he were alive today, he would not be a “tankie”. As an anarcho-communist, I am sympathetic to many of his views. For instance, the quote below is an effective broadside against the kind of Marxism that needs cops, commissars, and soldiers to keep everyone in line.




That’s great stuff. But there is another Murray Bookchin, a writer who, for whatever misbegotten reason, was a featured speaker at the 1978 national convention of the Libertarian Party USA in Boston, Massachusetts. The following year the party nominated the billionaire David H. Koch for Vice President. You can look up Bookchin’s presentation online. It is not his finest hour. He also contributed this to a right-wing journal.

“There was a period of time, indubitably, in Jefferson’s time, when the farmer, the yeoman—the American yeoman, standing on his land with his musket—represented a forward step for individuality. But today the millions that flow in and out of New York anonymously, through mass transportation, through the tunnels and over the bridges that lead into and out of the suburbs—these are among the most de-individualized people I’ve encountered in 57 years of living. Most of them are organization men and women and have become denuded of all personality and uniqueness. They’re figments; they’re creatures, in fact. They’re creatures of the mass media and of the corporate world that has rendered them totally homogenized and anonymous. Now already the attempt to preserve what we in America would call private property, the rights of US Steel and the rights of General Motors, has become literally a step in the direction of the de-individualization of the American people and their reduction to masses.” (Interview with Murray Bookchin Reason Magazine 1979.)

I have long maintained that libertarianism in the United States constitutes a deep reservoir of reaction completely antithetical to anti-fascist praxis. Together with Christian nationalism, American libertarianism functions as a political pipeline that transports the raw material of white reaction to the toxic refineries of 21st-century fascism. It has always had its center of gravity in the American South, where fetishes for private property and “individual liberty” run through so-called “states rights.” The entire philosophy and praxis of libertarianism are anathema to revolutionary anti-fascism. There is no bargaining with it, cozying up to it, or riding alongside it that doesn’t involve the wholesale betrayal of our principles.

Fuck libertarians.

That yeoman farmer was also a white settler, a slaveholder, a nascent bourgeois individualist, and a colonialist monster. This abstract individual is favorably contrasted with a de-individualized, homogenized, and anonymous “creature.” This contrast between the agrarian individual and the urban masses –New Yorkers in particular — between the inherent worth of the individual and the mind-numbing, worthlessness of the masses is not a part of any anarchist tradition I am very fond of. In fact, I find it repulsive. I am familiar enough with Bookchin’s later work, when he attempted reconciliation between Marxism and anarchism, to know this is not representative of his entire corpus. Perhaps he clarified such comments elsewhere? In any case, I think efforts on the part of leftists to find “common ground” with organized libertarianism are at best misguided and at worst potentially fatal to our revolution. Our time is better spent reconciling anarchism and communism, a project I think possible and worthwhile.

My problem with Bookchin is similar to my problem(s) with the late Alexander Cockburn. While Louis Proyect, the “Unrepentant Marxist” has posthumously conferred upon him secular sainthood, I’m less inclined to exalt Cockburn. His frequent attacks on the anti-racist liberal/left are now a matter of historical record; so too his veneration of the tea party as a welcome riposte to liberal identity politics. But he was blind in the white eye; he couldn’t see the bigotry at the heart of the Tea Party as anything other than unfortunate, and irrelevant, a holdover from another era. How wrong he was. As someone once noted: The past isn’t dead; it’s not even past.

One can find much in the vast body of work of Bookchin and Cockburn that is important to uphold today; there’s also a great deal there that was crap in the 1980s and 1990s and has only gotten stinkier with time. Had he lived to see the election of Trump in 2016 to the U.S. presidency, can anyone seriously doubt where Cockburn would now stand on the so-called ‘populist right’? I’m pretty sure that his anti-anti-racism and warm feelings for the so-called right-wing populists of the Tea Party era would have propelled him to make arguments similar to those now being made by Crystal Ball and Glenn Greenwald about the desirability of a right-left realignment across “populist” lines. That’s a fool’s errand.

Cockburn and his ilk could not grasp racism as anything other than labor market competition and a cynical ploy foisted on the white working class by clever elites. But racism has always been more than that, and always at the center of ruling class command and control in the United States, a structural feature of American capitalism and empire. It is a fundamental pillar of inequality, not a vestige of a bygone era.

All socialists, anarchists, and communists, whether of the “tankie” or “insurrectionist” varieties, are simultaneously anti-racists and anti-fascists; or should be. Any fundamental, lasting, and desirable change must run through Black liberation. That’s partly why we chant, “Black Lives Matter!” The other reason being, of course, that for so many people, Black lives so obviously matter so little, if at all.


Calling out People of Faith



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Dear people of faith,

Ever since the murder of George Floyd and the uprising that commenced shortly thereafter I half expected a groundswell of people of faith to begin non-violent civil disobedience and direct action in defense of Black lives. I thought that the video of Floyd’s murder was so horrific that the collective conscience of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others could not help but be moved to disrupt police departments from carrying out repression-as-usual. I thought it was clear that all previous attempts to stop the metastasizing growth of these militarized bunkers called “police stations” that squat in every major city throughout the United States had failed and that the uprising was a popular indictment of those failures. I thought it was beyond question that radical action was needed. But I was wrong — not about the failure of previous attempts to rein in police brutality or the popular uprising as an indictment of those failures. I was wrong to think people of faith would be moved enough to do something about it.

From the beginning of the uprising most civic, political, and religious leaders wanted us off the streets, preferring our activity to be limited to waving signs from sidewalks or parks. If they supported protest it was always confined to the uplift of voices rather than taking action. They pleaded, as they always do, for a tolerance of the intolerable. But their pleas for peaceful protest strike more and more people as scolding, and prescriptions for pointless protest. Increasingly no one is listening to their promises of pie in the sky if we will only get back to normalcy. Meanwhile, we break our teeth and soul against absolutely earthly truncheons.

So we took to the streets. Many of us have remained in the streets.

While there have been thousands of Black Lives Matter protests and marches across the United States, it seems civil disobedience has been generally confined to those of us who are ungovernable; those of us disobedient by default. We need some help. If one is serious about disrupting institutions that systematically kill Black people, there comes a time when raised voices are not enough; when a protest becomes but a parade; when a march merely follows the leader with the bullhorn to nowhere.

That time is now.

Recall that in Minneapolis, during a night of righteous fury, a police station was burned to the ground. Note that in Seattle a police station and adjoining streets were occupied for weeks. Now, in Portland, thousands are putting their bodies on the line between agents of repression and the Black people they target. Multiple cop shops have faced waves of demonstrators for seventy-five straight nights. The determination and bravery of protesters should be beyond question; so too the exposure of those institutions as the wasteful, reactionary, and unaccountable fraternities of extreme violence that they are.

The missing constituency of our rebellion is people of faith — especially white people of faith. Portland’s Wall of Moms gets it right when they risk arrest to protect protesters and use their bodies as shields. But where are those religious witnesses chaining themselves to entrances, blocking arrests, and shutting those buildings down? People of faith should lead with these tactics and perhaps link them to a bolder strategy of transformation: “No cops, no prisons, total abolition.”

While I am no longer a pacifist, I owe much of my political awakening to pacificism. My first action of non-violent civil disobedience and direct action took place in a Portland suburb in the mid-1980s. A tech company called FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) was providing their then cutting edge technology to the government of El Salvador which was, in turn, using that technology to expand their vicious aerial bombing campaign of campesinos and guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) from daylight-only hours to nighttime as well. A couple dozen of us physically blocked the entrance of the company to stop their normal functioning and were arrested. We directly stopped that company from delivering its technology to a repressive regime, if only for a time.

I bring this up because it occurred to me that if more people of faith were willing to join militant comrades in the streets and use their bodies to shut down bunkers of repression, perhaps we could extend our rebellion to a 24-hour affair and concretely begin to make Black Lives Matter.

Indeed, if this is the civil rights movement of our era, where are those tried and true, militant tactics that we know are effective? John Lewis didn’t just protest — he and other activists occupied buses, lunch counters and schools in defiance of the law and de jure segregation and spent countless hours in hellish jails and prisons. Our unfinished civil rights revolution runs through the abolition of those institutions that are beyond reform and redemption.

As the saying goes, those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

Many comrades who root their activism in more secular traditions are already out in the streets risking their bodies, building barricades, getting arrested, and more.

Where are you?

In struggle,

Jonathan Mozzochi

Tatterdemalion: The Antidote to the Horror of Stephen King



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Tatt 3



Tatterdemalion (aka Lost Child) is a 2018 horror film directed by Ramaa Mosley from a screenplay by Mosley and Tim Macy. The film stars Leven Rambin and Jim Parrack. It is a welcome addition to horror films that consciously or unconsciously break with the reigning patriarch of horror, Stephen King. 

I’ve written at length about my disdain for the novels of Stephen King. (See my King vs. Kubrick January 22, 2019 and Why I Hate Stephen King and Love Stanley Kubrick December 19, 2018 both available at where I blog as There is no single author more responsible for the infantilization of horror in literature and film than King. From the standpoint of a radical socialist his oeuvre is a cringe-worthy monument to bourgeois sentimentality and an unbearable whiteness of being. His book The Shining stands in sharp contrast to the Stanley Kubrick-directed movie of the same name. The movie, which King famously hates, is a work of art painstakingly crafted from the raw material of a serial typist. King’s approach to horror often involves a gratuitous use of racialized tropes that would shame a klansman, the ‘magical negro’ foremost among them. While we defenestrate confederate and colonialist monuments we should consider much of King’s work as fit for a toss, beginning with all those that anthropomorphize seemingly every object within the ersatz town of ‘Castle Rock’, satirized by the Family Guy cut-out below.



Thankfully, there is something of a cinematic movement afoot that is finally emerging from the dark, all enveloping shadow of Stephen King. It may be inchoate, but it is there. I’m not talking about the no-talent ass clowns Eli Roth and Rob Zombie, nor the talented Jordan Peele or Ari Aster, both of whom unfortunately have more in common with King than most of us would care to admit. No, not there. As is usually the case we have to ignore the big budget productions with all their shock and awe and turn toward the fringes, to a more punk rock -style of film making to find lasting value.

As a socialist, I am also interested in the capacity for such work to theorize proletarian collectivity — the only actually existing threat to our ruling classes, that force which sends a shiver up their spine, the one thing they really fear. Unfortunately, contemporary horror cannot do such a thing without first making a definitive break with the oppressive legacy of Stephen King. After a long, interminable wait, such a break is now underway.

That, and remember, we are always the zombies, they are the superheroes. 

Horror Film Genres

Tatterdemalion is a film that moves in the direction outlined above, even if it is not self conscious about doing so. The film sits at the crossroads of four sub genres of horror:

Folk Horror–Often set in rural or de-industrialized hellscapes with poor whites as protagonists. We see abandoned, dilapidated, backwoods anthropologies here. They can be period pieces, like Robert Eggers’s 2015 The Witch, or, like Tom DeNucci’s Almost Mercy of the same year, more contemporary. The first film indulges in supernatural tropes with some finesse while the latter locates the horror humans face within traditionalist bigotries and economic dislocation.

Supernatural Horror–The threats our characters face and therefore the source of the fear and terror they express and we vicariously feel is of supernatural origins. Often these films have a religious element (The Exorcist, The Ring). In the Stephen King thought world it is precisely the reliance on the rational, in the form of a doctor, cop, social worker or politician that is the driving force of the drama, or the MacGuffin. The protagonist must reject conventional authority figures (not necessarily a bad thing) for something else. And here is where the wheels come off. The protagonist often has special powers of perception or a special capacity for violence that must engage with what is most often some form of absolute evil. The social here is reduced to the exceptional individual, a thoroughly bourgeois concept. 

Psychological Horror–Here the reliability of the narrator and/or protagonist is questioned; frequently their sanity is suspect. Two excellent examples of this are Donnie Darko and Jacob’s Ladder. Part of the enduring value of both these films lies with the ambiguity of that question: Is it real or are they insane? As an aside, if you ever want to understand the value of a film editor, view the original theatrical release of Donnie Darko, then watch Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut. The editor of the original film essentially saved the director from himself by deftly maintaining the ambiguity of the psychological state of the protagonist; the director’s cut removes this ambiguity and (worse) inserts some dialogue about god, thereby completely ruining the film. 

Horror Realism– We can identify the following elements of realism in literature and film and think about how Tatterdemalion stands within this tradition.

  • A focus on every-day-life, on the quotidian details of a community that lends an authenticity to the narrative.
  • The use of simple, transparent language, often local dialects.
  • The use of non-professional actors and scenes to emphasize the lived experiences of characters. A good non-horror example of this is my favorite revolutionary/anti-war film, The Battle of Algiers directed by Gillo Pontecorvo. 
  • A social critique that eschews supernatural or psychological explanations for inequality and oppression yet still enjoys a good scare.
  • Realism is often closely related to ‘naturalism’, here meaning “the philosophical belief that everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.” (Wikipedia. Retrieved 6.9.20). There is a sub genre of horror films call “naturalist horror” which involves real animals (dogs, bees, ants, what have you) attacking humans, but that is not this. 

WhileTatterdemalion blends aspects of all the sub genres above, it specifically mobilizes standard conventions of supernatural horror only to subvert those same conventions at the end of the film. There will be a plot twist. And because this film plays with those iconic supernatural tropes popularized by King, only to upend those tropes at the end, this makes it an anti-Stephen King film.

Taterdemalion, scene by scene with commentary.

1:00 A young female in army fatigues wakes up with a start from a bad dream/memory — we’re not sure which — on a bus in a rural area of West Plains, Missouri (Ozarks). She gets off the bus as a freight train roars by a crossroads near grain silos and warehouses. 

She is white, about twenty-five years old, with red hair, wearing fatigues and carrying nothing but a duffle bag. Her name is Janella “Fern” Sreaves (pronounced “Shreaves”). Fern sees a woman across the street standing beside a run-down Ford truck. She is Florine, a family friend there to meet her.

Fern is coming back to this town after 15 years. We don’t know why she’s back, only that she is looking for her younger brother. Florine doesn’t say where he might be, but about the run down little house where she deposits Fern, she remarks, “Your daddy lived a hard life. Paid for it in the end.” So presumably her father has passed away, probably the occasion for her homecoming.

Florine warns her about the people who live nearby. Fern doesn’t “believe in guns” and has “no plans to ever use one again.” This suggests PTSD, a common trope of the psychological horror genre, where we are made to doubt the reliability and motivations of the main character, even question their state of mind. 

The next day is a service for her deceased father. Fern and Florine are the only two people in attendance. As the pastor begins a prayer, Fern walks away. This further cements our protagonist as a skeptic who will presumably have their awakening later in the film. The director is deliberately leaning into familiar supernatural horror conventions here. 

There is a tense encounter between Fern and a neighbor with a shotgun.

Fern is dressed in old jeans, boots, a white t-shirt under a flannel shirt. (Few costume changes for the female protagonist is appreciated here.) Later on at a local bar she drinks a Jack and ginger then hooks up with the bartender for casual, emotionally distant sex.  She leaves in the morning, saying only “see ya.”

Through a local cop we find out that her brother is troubled (drugs, assault, stealing) and living on his own. Soon thereafter Fern glimpses a young boy (ten-years-old or so) in the woods near her house, but he runs away. Investigating further Fern finds an abandoned vehicle with a doll and plastic army soldiers inside, as though a kid had been living there. She has a memory of leaving her brother as a child.

14:34 In the middle of the night a man appears with a gas can (hereinafter Gas Can Man) and threatens to burn the house down. He asks if Fern is “Sreaves kin” and explains that “fire’s the only way to get rid of a demon.” Fern convinces him to go away.

The next morning Florine says that if Fern won’t get a gun for protection, then she should at least get a dog.

Fern visits a kennel where a worker asks her if the dog is “for protection against the living or the dead?” Fern says, dismissively, “the living.”

Back at home she opens her dad’s copy of The Living Bible. This is good attention to detail as this particular 1971 rendition of the Christian bible is a favorite among evangelicals and often considered by mainline protestants to be a ‘dumbing down’ of the King James. When Fern opens the bible she finds her dad’s flask in a hollowed out recess of its pages. 

The next morning Florine is there with soup. She comments, “Ain’t exactly Little House on the Prairie, is it?” Fern is exasperated with Florine’s mothering and tells her to leave. Florine responds that “it’s bad luck to ask a person to leave before they’re finished eating. I’m doing you a favor by staying.” 

The dog runs away. She pursues it to no avail, then while walking in the forest a timid voice says, “Hello.” It’s the boy from yesterday. He is dirty, dressed in rags and very skittish. His name is Cecil. 

Fern asks him if he wants to “come over here.” He just looks. Then she says, “Do you want me to go over there?” He nods. She convinces him to allow her to bring him to her home. 

20:00 Gas Can Man sees the two of them walking home and yells at Fern, “where’d you get that boy?” She and Cecil ignore him and continue to the house.

Fern tells Cecil the house was her Daddy’s. Cecil asks if a “Howler” got him. Fern says no, “unless it poured liquor down his throat.”

Fern calls social services. They can’t get there until tomorrow. Cecil picks some local flowers as a thanks to Fern for letting him stay.

23:00 Fern starts coughing that night. Cecil wakes Fern up holding two small birds he has caught saying, “I’ve got breakfast.” Fern replies, “What am I supposed to do with those?” Cecil responds, “I’ll show ya.” Cecil de-feathers and cooks the tiny birds in an iron skillet.

Fern does not feel well. She asks the boy if he has ever gone to school? He replies that he would like to. Can he read? “No ma’am,” he sheepishly replies. 

A pickup truck pulls into the dirt yard. It’s the bartender from the other night, Mike, whose other job is as a social worker.

“Hey, Cecil. How is it you came to live in these woods all by yourself?” he queries the boy. Cecil doesn’t answer and physically recoils as Mike takes his picture. Mike shows him it is okay by lending him the phone.

Mike tries to convince Fern to keep Cecil awhile longer so as to avoid immediate foster placement. We learn that Fern knows all about foster care, because she was in it herself from ten to eighteen years of age. But she says Cecil is “a survivor” and besides, Fern describes herself as unfit to care for the boy. Mike says she is fit. He leaves Cecil in her care and says he will straighten out who Cecil’s kin are. Fern is not happy keeping him there. There is some tension between Fern and the boy.

Again Fern isn’t feeling well. Cecil says, “Maybe you’ve got a ghost. You oughta burn your daddy’s dress shirts. If that doesn’t work I’ll catch you a rattler and give you a bit to eat.”  Fern says, “I don’t believe in ghosts.”

Mike canvasses the local homeless population trying to find someone who knows Cecil. This is one of a number of scenes where the director does not use professional actors; instead the camera slowly pans across the faces of local inhabitants. It reminded me of the anthropological technique of ‘participant observation’, used in a good way. When he looks for the picture on his phone to show someone, it is gone. Cecil did have the phone for a few minutes, so it’s plausible that he erased it. Or, if he’s a ghost, perhaps his image cannot be captured by modern technology? Again, the director is playing with these tropes.

That night Cecil asks Fern if she believes in monsters. She says no. 

The next morning Florine picks the two up so a local ‘country doctor’ can check Fern out. Upon meeting Fern the old doctor immediately says, “You’re a Shreaves.”

“How could you tell?” responds Fern.

“It’s in the eyes,” he says matter of factly. “Shame about your folks. Drugs sure have a way of hollowing people out.” An oblique, yet devastating comment. 

Fern describes her symptoms: Headaches, can’t sleep, coughs, etc. adding that she can’t rest because she recently took in a kid. The doctor asks, with alarm, “You took in a boy? From where?”

“Found him in the woods,” Fern says.

The country doctor goes out to the waiting room and interrogates Cecil: “Who’s your lord and creator?” Cecil looks at him bewildered.

“Where’d you come from boy?” Cecil doesn’t respond. The doctor shakes his head. 

Fern says, “What was that about?”

Doctor: “Old stories around these parts. Some lies, many true. You’ve got to take that boy back to the forest, Miss Sreaves…There are some sicknesses that medicine just cannot cure.” He gives her a slip of paper with the word “Tatterdemalion” written on it.  

Later, back home, Fern asks Florine about the Tatterdemalion. Florine says, “that’s an old one” and tells a story about a boy banished to the trees who cannot come out unless someone carries him across a supernatural divide. “He’ll make you love him. The whole time stealing your health, life, years ahead. They say that’s how he stays young forever.”

“And you believe that?” asks Fern.

“This place is built on stories,” says Fern “some of them true, most of them horse shit. Folktales come from necessity. Kids like me was gettin’ lost in the woods; so they made up the ‘Howler.’ You know: they tell kids stories to scare ’em into staying out of trouble. Works, too.”

Fern responds: “Yeah, but why would anybody need a story about a Tatterdemalion?” Florine doesn’t answer.

This exchange is an important key to the film, and demonstrates the ability of the writers and director to transcend the limitations of this genre by providing effective social criticism. We find out the answer to this casual question near the end of the film.

Florine proceeds to tell Cecil to go to the bathroom and wash his hands, then pours salt on his chair. When Cecil returns he sees the salt and rather than sit on the chair with the salt or clear the salt from the chair, he chooses to sit on another chair altogether — further ‘evidence’ that he is a Tatterdemalion. 

The next day Fern returns to the woods where she first encountered Cecil. She finds a crude hut made from tree branches and rags. Inside there is an old Life magazine with a mailing address on Old Hickock Road. 

Fern is still not breathing well. She tries to trick Cecil into telling her the name of his mother. But he won’t say. He only reveals that, “Momma died when the baby came out. They both died.” Cecil adds that he can’t tell her why he was living in the woods because she doesn’t believe in monsters. 

Fern’s hair is falling out.

She decides to go out to a bar and proceeds to get hammered. Inside a young tough asks Fern to go outside and she tells him, “No.” He then grabs her by the hair and drags her out the door, yelling at patrons, “this is family shit, alright!” Once outside we discover that it is her little brother, Billy. He pushes Fern, then knees her in the stomach while screaming that she ripped their family apart. Fern says she was just a kid. He says he doesn’t want anything to do with her. Social worker Mike intervenes, drawing a gun on Billy, who leaves. 


Fern is drunk as shit, throwing up outside the house. She tells Mike he has two more days to find another home for Cecil. Cecil, overhearing this, throws a tantrum, runs out of the house and stops at the edge of the woods. He then turns and asks why Fern doesn’t want him. She says it’s complicated. 

“I step in there [the woods] you’ll never see me again. Is that what you want?”

“I just want your family to know you are okay,” replies Fern.

“I don’t have any family anymore. I told you that.” Then he runs off. 

Fern pursues him and convinces him to come home.

Later that night she visits the Gas Can Man at a makeshift campfire nearby. He’s burning a Pawpaw tree and talks at length to Fern about the devil and how fire is necessary to cleanse evil. He says, “Yer gonna keep getting sicker…We got a saying around here. If they ain’t yer kin, don’t let ’em in.”

Fern: “Have you actually seen a Tatterdemalion?”

Gas Can Man: “I ain’t never seen Australia either, but that don’t mean it ain’t there!”

This last is a delicious bit of logical fallacy. The Gas Can Man, a sorcerer figure, subtly shifts the burden of proof from the claimant back to the skeptic by asserting that a proposition (the boy is a Taterdemalion) is true simply because it has not yet been proven false (Australia exists even though he’s never been there). Then, this argument from ignorance is extended when Gas Can Man asks Fern, “Need a little proof?” He gives Fern three nails to place in a triangle above the doorway of her house. “A Tatterdemalion is a demon,” he says, “and a demon is a witch. There ain’t no witch that can enter when he sees this in the shape of a triangle. No ghost, no demon, nothin’ not of this earth.”

Here instead of Occam’s Razor we get Occam’s Broom.

60:20 The next morning Billy comes up the road.

Fern tries to express her regret to Billy. But he is still enraged and blames her for the dissolution of their family. Cecil physically protects her from Billy, who runs off when Cecil says “I needs her.” The director is milking the supernatural horror tradition here.

Fern asks Florine why she didn’t take the kids when their parents abandoned them. “My Red had a real taste for drinking. Beating on me. He would have been real nasty to kids. Besides, I didn’t want to sacrifice my life for someone else’s kids.”

Fern puts the nails above the doorway in a triangle. She tries to have Cecil go into the house but he stops at the doorway, looks at the triangle and, enraged, starts punching Fern and asking why she put the nails there. “Because I need to know what you are. You think I can’t see that my hair is going gray; that I’m sick?”

Cecil says, “You shouldn’t have done that,” and runs off.

66:00 Mike returns and dismisses Fern’s superstitions, telling her, “you got scared and tried to find another way out of it.” Fern responds, “Just take him away.” Mike takes Cecil to a foster home with other kids. Cecil is heartbroken.

Fern finds Billy in a homeless encampment down by a river and they talk about the night they were abandoned by their father. Fern, Billy and their mother were waiting for their father in a car. The father left and never came back. Their mother died, presumably of an overdose, in Billy’s arms. Fern tried to get Billy to leave with her, but he wouldn’t. They were both young children. Fern tries to give Billy the key to the house.

Billy asks, “What about that boy?”

Fern states, “I know what he was.”

“What was he?” asks Billy.

“Don’t act like you don’t know. I saw the way you ran off when you saw him.”

“I ain’t run from him. I ran from what he stirred up inside of me.”

Fern states, “That kid’s a Tatterdemalion.”

Billy explodes: “No! That’s a bullshit story made up so folks can justify not taking care of kids like me.” He adds, with complete assurance, “I used to visit our daddy now and then. You know he hated this time of year, when the Pawpaws are blooming [pointing to the same type of flower that Cecil brought Fern as a gift earlier in the movie]. Terrible allergic. He said it felt like they were stealing his breath.” The wheels in Fern’s head are now turning.

About the house, Billy, exasperated, tells Fern, “Four walls and a roof ain’t gonna fix what’s wrong with me. Someone should make a home of it. Start new… Go save someone worth saving…Get out of here!”

Fern goes home and throws the flowers and the vase they are in out into the yard.

Fern asks an old timer about “Old Hickock Road”. He says, “You’ve got to cross the river” to get there. The symbolism here is of the ferryman crossing the River Styx. Fern is crossing from the world of the living to the world of the dead. And indeed it is the world of the dead — we discover this is where Cecil’s family lived and there are wooden and nail triangles all over the place. It is a squalid and ramshackle collection of plywood and chicken wire hovels. Fern discovers a shack with the same old Life magazines she found in the woods along with some iron shackles, presumably where Cecil was confined. Going into the main structure she knocks, but no answer. She enters and finds a decomposing body inside. It is that of Cecil’s father.

The police are summoned. Fern goes to get Mike, telling him she made a terrible mistake. They both go to get Cecil. At the foster home Fern calls him by his full name: Cecil Philmont. Cecil says his dad was right to punish him, and that if he exposes “the family business” the ‘Howler’ would come for him. Fern says she will protect him from now on. Together they go back to his father’s house and burn it to the ground. (Cleansing).

At home, Cecil sings Fern a plaintive, heart wrenching song:

“I am a poor, wayfaring stranger

traveling through this world alone

there is no sickness, toils or danger

to that good world to which I go

I’m going there to meet my father

I’m going there no more to roam

I am just going over Jordan

I am just going over home.”

Later Mike tells Fern about the Killdeer bird and how the mother bird will fake an injury to its wing in order to lead predators away from her eggs, “babies she hasn’t even seen yet.” Protecting children is an instinct that everybody has, he says, but sometimes you just have to wake it up.

The penultimate scene is of Fern, Cecil and Mike at a community dinner. Lots of suspicious looks, including from the country doctor. Cecil, visibly uncomfortable, wants to leave.

At home that night Gas Can Man breaks into the home and drags Cecil out into the woods. Fern must decide whether to use her father’s pistol to get him back (background noise of helicopters and gunfire, again the PTSD trope). She takes the gun and runs into the woods after Cecil. Fern finds Gas Can Man at his fire, puts the gun to him and asks where he took Cecil. He points east. Off she goes. Fern finds Cecil in the woods, but Cecil firmly believes what everyone is saying. “You thought I was a demon. Other people think I am. My momma and daddy both died. I think there’s something really wrong with me. I’ll go away. Far away from here. Keep you safe.” The wind comes up.

“It’s the Howler!” cries Cecil.

Fern shoots repeatedly into the woods (at the Howler) then tells Cecil she’s got him. The Howler is gone forever, so too the Taterdemalion. They embrace.

End of film.


Fern’s younger brother, Billy, becomes the unlikely, heart-wrenching and tragic source of Fern’s redemption. Her moral clarity is achieved only through the recognition of the lost child that is her little brother; her correct course of action can only be embraced when she frees herself of the self-loathing she feels for not having been able to save her brother as a child.

Tatterdemalion is a set up, brilliantly and deftly executed. The film holds that superstition and the supernatural often serve to obscure social evils. But, that’s not all. The film also insists that much folklore is born from necessity, that is real lived-in communities with real life problems, and have logics that can be understood and overcome.

Tatterdemalion is also effective at executing thrills and chills without creating caricatures of poor people, nor glorifying rural poverty and superstition as the key to defeating evil. There is at least the outlines of a collective protagonist sketched here. This is something the Stephen King thought world can never supply. 

Fern strikes me as from a region where fundamentalism is woven into folklore. Such passion and fanaticism can have both positive and negative aspects. For instance, both the Ku Klux Klan and the radical abolitionist John Brown were influential in these parts. These Scots-Irish, working class, close knit communities have long been subject to the vicissitudes of rural displacement and brutal poverty. It would have been easy for this director to disparage these people, as so many other film makers do, as ignorant and left behind, lumpenproletariat refuse who are unfortunate victims of dangerous superstitions. Thankfully, that’s not what takes place here. 

Instead, Tatterdemalion works within supernatural horror conventions so as to subvert  — through a plot twist at the end — those same conventions. We think we are watching a standard treatment of a Stephen King novel, only to find out that we are not, although we must wait until the end to discover how and why this is the case. 

What about that key question Fern asks? Why would a community need to invent the story of the Taterdemalion? What necessity, what purpose would such a morality tale serve? Such a tale rationalizes child abuse and neglect. How do we go about preventing child abuse and neglect? The film answers this question through its participant observation, which is to say social, approach to poverty and addiction. The answer, the film seems to say, is altruistic service. Fern is in the military and while she suffered from her tour of duty she eventually uses the skills she learns there to protect Cecil. The other major institution that plays a positive role here is social welfare through the character of Mike. Add to these two institutions (the military, the welfare state) the family-in-formation that Mike and Fern represent and we have an answer as to how to overcome the obstacles Cecil faces. Pretty bourgeois, but still better than the crap on offer by King.

So the bit about how folktales come from necessity is crucial here, and wonderfully nuanced. The film reminds us that folk tales have many dimensions. They can serve to protect us from real danger, e.g. discourage children from wandering off into the woods; yet also injure us by walling off ‘outsiders’ who are not ‘kin’, and thereby justify child neglect. 

I was waiting for the obligatory Native American trope, the dream catcher moment, but thankfully it never came. Unlike King, this director has a rootedness that is admirable; a respect for people, if you will, that feels real. The conflict that eventually comes into focus is that between those folktales of necessity rooted in an unjust social system that rationalize leaving orphans to the tender mercies of the Ozark woods and the real world efforts on the part of wounded soldiers and social workers to care for such abandoned human beings. Note also that the trope of the CPS social worker sent to separate a family is not present here; just the opposite. Would this film be as effective if set within a commensurate Black community? If not, why?


In a way, the Stephen King antihero horror movie has been born, a necessary precursor to the larger project of building proletarian collectivity. While Tatterdemalion does not offer us the only force which can offer true liberation, not least because there is no working class self organization and collectivity here, it does offer a break with a set of presumptions that are, in a sense, killing us. Of course, there can be no such thing within the Stephen King thought world (now, with Hulu’s Castle Rock, a thought universe like that of Marvel or DC Comics). First, one must break with that world. Then, one can begin to conceptualize proletarian collectivity. Tatterdemalion helps us do the former and, unlike much elsewhere, at least suggests the latter.

All that said, we should be mindful of this aphorism: ‘When you strike at the king, you must kill him.’

I’m trying.














Toppling the Stephen King Monument into ‘Castle Rock River’.



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Stephen King and Racism


Last January Stephen King was criticized for comments he made about voting for the Academy Awards, something he is apparently entitled to do as a member of that august body. “For me, the diversity issue — as it applies to individual actors and directors, anyway — did not come up…That said, I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong” he tweeted.

Well, Stephen King is anything if not consistent. From what I can gather his literary output reflects no concern whatsoever with ‘diversity’ other than as a license to express forms of racism so extreme they might shame a klansman.

Ava DuVernay, director of the 2015 film Selma (not nominated by the Academy for best director) described King’s comments above as “backward and ignorant.” I think that’s being charitable. Even by the standards of the 1970s and 1980s King’s novels have always trafficked in what can only be described as gratuitous bigotry. So why have his works always been so popular? How is it that so much of King’s work challenges even the Urban Dictionary in depravity and yet still rakes in millions of avid readers and millions of dollars? Why does he leaven so much of his writing with grotesque stereotypes?

The common defense takes the form of a non-denial denial, insisting that because what King writes is horror it should shock and sicken; nothing shocks and sickens like racism so that’s why there is so much of it in his novels. Implied here is that he uses such bigotries in a constructive manner; they serve a larger, more edifying purpose, or so the argument goes. But this is really the Tarantino defense: it’s just plot and character development, nothing more. The problem here is that so much bigotry in King’s novels so obviously serves no purpose. It is gratuitous; which is to say unneeded and unwarranted, therefore casual bigotries that do not forward plot or character development, or, at least go far beyond such development. There is just no way to excuse or explain away the naked racism peppered throughout King’s oeuvre (we will get to examples below).


So as to undermine the Tarantino defense, I’m going to quote a couple characters from a Tarantino film. Upholding King’s legacy sans his bigotry amounts to the position that John Travolta stakes out regarding eating bacon in Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction. You know the scene. Samuel L. Jackson holds that “Pigs sleep and root in shit. That’s a filthy animal. I don’t eat nothing that ain’t got sense enough to disregard its own feces.” Travolta counters, “How about a dog? A dog eats its own feces.”  Jackson quips, “I don’t eat dog either.” To which Travolta asks whether Jackson considers dogs a filthy animal. Jackson says a dog’s “got personality. Personality goes a long way.” Travolta counters, “by that rationale if a pig had a better personality it would cease to be a filthy animal.” Jackson famously responds, “We would have to be talking about one charming motherfucking pig!”

King’s writing is as that pig wallowing in its own shit; don’t eat the bacon.

Regardless of how one answers these questions, King’s comments should come as no surprise, as his output betrays an unbearable whiteness of being, something that remains pervasive within elite and popular culture. And in this sense, no matter how charming it may be, a pig is still a filthy animal. (That there is a literary device. For what it’s worth, I consider pigs adorable).

Do you need some evidence as to rank racism in Stephen King novels? In the unfortunately titled “Stephen King Needs More Black Friends” (Scott Woods, Medium, January 15, 2020) the image of Black people in the ‘Stephen King Universe’ is made clear. And mind you, this recounting is from a fan:

King writes almost all of his Black characters, magical or otherwise, in problematic ways. When they are not magical they are horrendous stereotypes: dope fiends and brutes (The Stand), jive-talking thugs (End of Watch), and worse (the short story “Dedication”). More, King’s characters never happen to be Black; he intentionally makes it clear that they are Black from the outset, usually with jaw-droppingly offensive descriptions: Mother Abigail in The Stand is “coal-black” and further described as looking like an “old black Everglades alligator.” The Black junta of The Stand are also Black, “huge,” nude (save for a loincloth, so sexualized to boot) and actively murdering White people with intent. The chief villain in The Running Man is a game show producer named Dan Killian who is “minstrel show” Black. The Green Mile’s John Coffey is hit with a litany of racist descriptors, including “monkey,” “big mutt,” and “big boy.” Some of these are character embellishments, insults provided through the mouths of virulently racist characters — aka the Tarantino Defense. But some of them come from the universal narrator of a given story.

Getting a bit more granular, this is from my essay “King vs. Kubrick” (, January 22, 2019) where I compare King’s The Shining to Kubrick’s The Shining:

What the Ghosts Represent:

Book: All the ghosts are evil; all desire to continue their evil deeds–marital infidelity, gangsterism, murder, as a manifestation of their “single group intelligence”. The source of this evil is not institutional, structural, historical, political or otherwise outside of the individual. It is located within us, in our denial of the possessive individualism at the heart of the bourgeois family.

Movie: The source of evil is the hotel itself, which cannot be separated from its history, in part erected on the bones of indigenous peoples. It is rabidly racist and demands absolute servility on the part of inferiors, most pointedly workers and their families.

Racist, Homophobic, Classist or Misogynist Scenes That Contribute To Plot Or Character Development.

Book: None

Movie: Grady calls Dick Hallorran a “nigger” in the all important restroom scene. Elsewhere Jack says, “just a little problem with the old sperm bank upstairs. Nothing I can’t handle, though.” That’s about it. Sparing, short and devastating. But Kubrick doesn’t wallow in it as King does–as a teenager expressing unfiltered repressed emotions.

Gratuitous Racist, Homophobic, Classist or Misogynist Scenes That Don’t Contribute To Plot Or Character Development.

Book: an endless parade of cringe worthy and vicarious bigotries apparently pleasurable for some people to read. Emblematic is where King has a young Dick Hallorran fire a “Nigger Chaser” firework (bottle rocket) at a wasps nest. This makes no sense even on its own terms.

Movie: None

From Ben Goldstein, “Stephen King’s The Stand is Bloated, Racist and (Somehow) Still a Masterpiece” (Medium, May 10, 2015). Again, this is from a fan:

King didn’t invent the Magical Negro literary trope, but he’s spent much of his career coasting on it. Consider the psychic hotel caretaker Dick Hallorann in The Shining, who comes back to rescue Danny Torrance when Jack loses his mind. Or the hulking and simple-minded John Coffey of The Green Mile, who heals the innocent by absorbing their pain, and dies as a savior figure.

In The Stand, we’re presented with Mother Abigail Freemantle, a religiously devout beacon of benevolence…” Within the entire Boulder Free Zone community — which eventually numbers in the thousands — Mother Abigail is the only person who is described as black. That’s right, kids: Stephen King’s utopic Free Zone society contains exactly one (1) black person. Other than that, the Free Zone is a diverse tapestry, featuring white people from Maine, white people from Texas, white people from New York, and white people from Ohio.

Of course there are other black people in The Stand. You’ve got the jive-talkin’ Rat Man, who’s so creepy that even the nymphomaniac Julie Lawry wont fuck him. There’s Richard Hoggins, the young black drug addict from Detroit mentioned in the “second epidemic” section. (“He had been addicted to the fine white powder he called ‘hehrawn’ for the last five years.”) Hoggins breaks into a drug dealer’s house after the Captain Trips virus kills everyone and OD’s on the stash he discovers there. “No great loss,” King writes directly afterwards. But wait, it gets worse. I regretfully present the beginning of the aforementioned “black junta” scene:

Huge black men wearing loincloths! “Amazingly even and white teeth in his coal-black face”! Oh man, Steve, what are you doing here? And let’s not forget the “brown, smooth skinned” band of spear-carrying natives that Flagg encounters at the very end of the book. Savages. They don’t speak jive, but that’s only because they don’t speak English at all.”

…Every notable black character in King’s novels — Hallorann, Coffey, Mother Abigail, Mike Hanlon in It, Susannah Dean in The Dark Tower: Song of Susannah, Nan Melda in Duma Key, etc. — is referred to as a “nigger” at some point by another character. Usually, this is meant to signify villainy or ignorance in the character using the word. But you’d think a writer with as expansive an imagination as King would find different ways to make that point.”

No, I wouldn’t. It’s the liberal version of the unfiltered bile Trump spews. And again, the above is from Stephen King fandom. I’m not a fan of Stephen King. But I am a fan of tearing down monuments that glorify inequality, racism and reaction.

King’s comments about diversity and the Academy Awards above are classic meritocratic nonsense–the real ‘virtue signaling’ we hear so much about–that practiced by business elites, cultural influencers and celebrities designed to remind us how talented they are and how in awe we should be of that talent and the money and power it commands. Much of this ‘race blind’ and ‘post-racial’ narrative nonsense gets packaged with brutal class war attacks against the poor and vulnerable.

King stands in this artistic and political tradition, one that is thankfully under assault by antiracists everywhere. See that Robert E. Lee statue being taken down? How about the confederate flag being banned at NASCAR? Remarkable. But such atrocity exhibitions extend beyond statues and flags, to art and entertainment and government policy that goes from The Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind through The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (aka The Moynihan Report) onwards through King’s The Stand and The Shining and Game of Thrones, which I have described elsewhere as a “blood and soil zombie soap opera that utilizes medieval fantasy conventions.”

This tradition needs to be hog-tied, pulled down and tossed into a river, just like those confederate statues.

King is not exceptional in this regard; but he is an exceptionally rich and prolific scribbler whose work should be a focus of criticism during this amazing period of resistance, rebellion and (dare we say it) revolution. Might we be in the midst of a Third Reconstruction in America? If we are, I expect this sacred cow to be sacrificed forthwith. For if we are in a Third Reconstruction, then how could we ever accept as penance King’s frequent twitter attacks on the psychotic flaming Cheeto? Or anyone’s, for that matter? That’s a bar set so low that a hedge fund vampire like Mitt Romney can step over it and march in a protest for George Floyd without a public shaming such as that endured the mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey. That just won’t do.

Isn’t it past time we chucked the Stephen King monument into the Castle Rock River?



Reporter or Emoter?



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Reporter of Emoter?


As protests over the murder of George Floyd continue across the country there are fresh debates among radicals about the best methods for social protest. I am in favor of a concept known as “diversity of tactics”, a set of ideas that accepts a wide range of activity from non violent civil disobedience to militant, and sometimes violent, direct action. Different situations require different means of resistance, rebellion and hopefully, revolution. When it comes to getting the knee off of the neck of Black people, ‘by whatever means necessary’ means all of those tactics. Over the past few days I’ve been fortunate enough to have been present at very militant actions in the San Francisco bay area. Like you, I’m sure, I’ve also been watching other protests across the country. And, like you, I’ve noticed that news coverage of these protests, be they passive or aggressive, tends to be somewhat frustrating. No, that’s not quite right. News coverage is abominable, a disgrace to the fourth estate. That’s better.

Now we all know that the mainstream media–fake and real news included–promotes unquestioning sycophants and only occasionally breaks free from self-imposed blinders to actually report on anything of value. So we don’t expect much coverage of militant resistance to the murder of Black people to be very accurate or informative. But still, even Noam Chomsky will argue that there is a nominally free press in the United States, however much this fourth estate is also complicit in manufacturing consent. But I’ve got to tell you, I’m not sure how free that free press is anymore. When covering these uprisings virtually every mainstream (and not a few alternative) reporters somehow feel it a necessary and good thing to whinge. You know what that is–when someone’s mouth is moving and they are complaining in a persistent and peevish or irritating way such that they end up not really saying anything of value at all. To this whinging is inevitably added moralizing. These guardians of the intolerable status quo not only complain about the inconvenience of their beloved Whole Foods being emptied of merchandise, they describe such activity as inherently wrong, even evil. You know what I’m talking about. In this case such reporters aren’t reporting so much as emoting.

This raises a question. Isn’t a basic function of the fourth estate to report? Shouldn’t that reporting include, if not be limited to, Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? How is it that every dip-shit with a microphone suddenly feels empowered to tell us, in cringeworthy and excruciating detail, how they feel about everything? What their opinion is? Perhaps an answer lies in the fact that reporters have become celebrities and thereby entitled to inflict their singular pathologies on us. Oh, I know. I can just choose not to watch and listen. But that’s not true, is it? If I want actual reporting that informs I have no real choice but to watch and listen to these narcissists because between Unicorn Riot, Redfish, and Democracy Now! there isn’t enough reporting. Our alternative media can’t get everywhere all the time. And whinging even intrudes on these platforms.

One can debate the effectiveness of marching in the streets and fighting cops at barricades so as to hold those streets, but we should all agree that plaintive cries for state and corporate power to “do better” are absurd. We need something more, and different. And look here! When comparing and contrasting previous uprisings (1969, 1992, 2014-15) with todays rebellions, isn’t it rather remarkable that so much direct expropriation is now centered not in ghettos and barrios, but on Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills (LA), Union Square and Emeryville (Bay Area)? To me there seems to be a clear break with the dominant narrative about ‘senseless rage’ and self defeating masochism that poor and working people inflict upon themselves when they ‘riot’ and ‘loot’. But you wouldn’t know it from most reporters–they are too busy crying about people blocking traffic and how ‘mom and pop’ businesses like Target and Chase Bank are being needlessly attacked.

I haven’t found a single television report that isn’t saturated with these disgusting displays of shock and awe larded with denunciations of property damage and resistance to cops in our streets. A recent example is instructive here. I just watched a reporter and camera person covering some people engaged in expropriation at a Whole Foods in Santa Monica, California. The reporter was whinging ad nauseam and speculating wildly about how the “looters” must be “outsiders”. Then, the camera person purposefully focused on the license plate of a car being used to load liberated merchandise. The crowd noticed this and chased these “emoters” off. When one of these august members of the fourth estate gets killed, we will remember that they took sides and joined the battle–on the wrong side. They won’t be whinging then, because they weren’t actually reporting–they were being cops with press credentials.


The Dogs of (Class) War



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He completed two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan that included work as a grunt and later as a bomb technician, the latter earning him the nickname ‘Blood’, short for Bloodhound, in recognition of his superior bomb detection skills. After almost a decade of service, and as a result of his many physical and psychic wounds, his productivity declined. Finally he was honorably discharged, Purple Heart in hand. Subsequent his discharge his PTSD got worse, as did his many other physical ailments, and he slowly developed a debilitating addiction to OxyContin. Blood found it unconscionable that recent legislation made it difficult for him to obtain the medicine he needed to function. While no longer on the battlefield, he nonetheless understood that he had brought it home with him only to be denied the very thing he needed most to make it go away, if only temporarily. His family life deteriorated, punctuated by a divorce and homelessness. He wandered through a series of short term, menial jobs and omnipresent, terrifying loneliness. The most routine social interactions found him bewildered and often inexplicably angry. When he read an advert for a company that specialized in hiring vets (and convicts) for ‘elite’ canine care, he jumped at the chance to find some peace and affection with ‘man’s best friend’. But instead of a way out of his situation, that of a character wrongly condemned to some circle or another of Dante’s Hell, his introduction into the gig economy only plunged him deeper into the abyss. As is so often the case it all began innocently–even optimistically–enough.

The canine care gig was a quintessentially San Francisco startup– an ‘app based’ on-demand concoction that paired ‘charity’ with luxury. Blood was to be the primary ‘on-call’ guardian for three Bloodhounds housed on an estate in the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco. Blood was from another neighborhood of San Francisco, Hunters Point, a mere three miles from Sea Cliff, but a world away. The mansion, a sprawling architectural hate crime of dubious English Tudor pedigree covering four acres was equipped with a vast surveillance system–a state of the art panopticon. It even had a capacious lawn, a super premium in that dense cradle of plutocracy, where the Bloodhounds could ‘do their doody’. As an independent contractor Blood was responsible for his own taxes, insurance, time off, etc. What he gave up in pay he could reap with flexibility. He could always say ‘no’, although the longer he worked as a contractor for the company, the narrower his flexibility became. And the money was terrible.

His time spent with the dogs began with walks on the beach, bathing, games and even social outings where the dogs could frolic with their own kind. His undoing, later to be covered breathlessly by a media slavering for sensationalism, was not at all the dogs per se, but their owner: a billionaire dowager who insisted that her “precious ones” receive three outfit changes a day, individual hand feeding and a meticulous monitoring and analysis of their bowel movements such that the animals, while pampered, were also in a constant state of anxiety. Blood did what he could to assuage their pain.

Whenever the dowager was away, usually at a philanthropic event centered on (you guessed it) rescuing dogs, her disembodied voice would pierce every room, from one to another. She needed instant empirical confirmation that the outfits were arranged and on the dogs, their dietary regime intact, their stool samples evidence of good gastrointestinal health. There was always a ‘dog whisperer’ or another at the ready whenever one or more of the dogs was sick or disturbed–which, given the depraved regime of ‘care’ insisted upon by the dowager, was often. Always exasperated the dowager ordered her many servants about as a boot camp sergeant might harangue new recruits. In this Blood found familiarity; later contempt. Whenever the voice of the master erupted around them he and the dogs would jump, as if at the crack of a rifle shot, to rapt attention.

At charity and business events, no matter the urgency of the issue at hand, the dowager was not to be interrupted while she was barking instructions to the help on her cell phone. She was regarded by her peers as eccentric, but a real champion of the underdog. A gilded philanthropist and influencer who routinely made or spade political careers. Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsome knew her well. And a feminist! The dowager would outlive her husband by more than thirty-years and grow their fortune more than five-fold. The origins of the family fortune were somewhat obscure, having roots in antebellum Mississippi. The family patriarch, a Southern lawyer and savvy investor, had always been associated with Bloodhounds. Blood thought it odd that someone would insist on outfits for a breed of dog such as Bloodhounds until he began to notice a recurring theme to the costumes. There was the Sherlock outfit, the Prisoner outfit, the Beauregard, the Kentucky Derby and finally the Birth of a Nation outfit, at least that’s how the dowager described it.

This routine continued for a few months before Blood came to the terrifying realization, as with so much in this world, that he could neither protect the dogs from their owner nor steal them away. He, and the dogs, were trapped.

After about six months into the gig, having found a breach not yet made ‘suicide proof’ on the deck of the Golden Gate Bridge, he plunged off, making sure the three Bloodhounds went with him, an act he considered a mercy killing. The dogs, like himself, were too damaged to go on.

He also left a deftly constructed IED at the dowager’s manse. In order to ‘sniff out’ and defuse bombs one must be intimately familiar with their construction. Blood hacked facial and voice recognition software programs so his C-4 device, planted under the dowager’s bed, would only detonate if she, and she alone, was in the room. The explosion took out most of the third floor of the mansion along with the octogenarian meat sack who owned it. Because the explosion occurred early in the evening there were neighbors walking their dogs in the vicinity. One You Tube video captured a King Charles Spaniel licking up brains from off the front lawn. It went viral.

In Dante’s hell the sin of suicide always resulted in irrevocable condemnation and therefore instant admittance to hell. In a hell constructed by communists (forgive such an absurd thought) Blood would undoubtedly receive a pass for having taken an oligarch with him.

Capitalism will not willingly fall into the grave it digs for itself; nor will it likely stumble in. It must be pushed, or in this case, dragged in by someone willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

In case you are wondering, all dogs go to heaven.

See you in heaven, Blood!


The Presidential Election



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When we vote for anyone or anything, we should always do so with our head, heart, hands and feet.

Chileans who enthusiastically expropriated more than 60 (!) Walmart-owned department stores just last week voted with their hands.

The tens of thousands of Chicago teachers who defied yet another mayoral boss to go on strike for worker dignity and the kids they teach voted with their hearts.

When Carola Rackete captained the Sea Watch 3 to escort international workers and refugees to safe havens across the walls of fortress Europe, she voted with her feet.

Before being run out of town, Gregory Stevens, the queer First Baptist Church of Palo Alto pastor voted with his head when he declared: “The tech industry is motivated by endless profit, elite status, rampant greed, and the myth that their technologies are somehow always improving the world”

When we engage in multifarious forms of direct action, we are voting without ballots. What we do in our daily lives to strengthen revolutionary movements is our preferred form of voting.

In short, when we vote through direct action we demand nothing of our ruling class; on the contrary, we act so as to achieve everything. We say to them: everything we want is in the end of you.

In a capitalist democracy we also may vote as a ‘citizen’, but begrudgingly and with the full knowledge that this routinized, bought and paid for and largely symbolic act is still an act of will, however much it is diluted through representation. Then, if a particular candidate might be assessed as furthering our more important votes for direct democracy, then we vote in these bourgeois elections, for something greater than democracy many times removed.

In this presidential election there is only one candidate who passes such a litmus test: Bernie Sanders. It seems to me that the only presidential candidate worthy of our ‘vote’ is the one who has been leading a ‘political revolution’ within a political party (Democratic) that is itself quite at odds with such a revolution. One can criticize the Sanders campaign on a variety of fronts from the left and below, but we should bear three things in mind.

First, the Democratic Socialists of America is a member in good standing of our larger political family. Their strategy of organizing within the Democratic Party is Quixotic, but it is bearing fruit. It should garner our tactical support.

Sanders has been making the same speech for forty-years, a source of both consternation, because it hasn’t changed, but also consistency and reliability, as we know full well what his political philosophy and program are. He’s a known quantity. Sanders is no neophyte to the struggle against inequality, nor is he a triangulator or schemer. He is, for better or worse, a democratic socialist within the American tradition–what most elsewhere we might more accurately describe as a social democrat. We can reason from here what a Sanders presidency might look like, warts and all. And such a thing would be a political revolution of sorts.

Second, and of more importance is the DSA itself, and the 50,000 or so new members that have recently signed up. It is instructive to note that during its convention in August, 2017 the DSA withdrew from the so-called ‘Socialist International’. The SI has long counted such august ‘socialist’ parties as the PRI in Mexico, the French Socialist Party, and the SPD in Germany. As such it is neither socialist nor internationalist. While the DSA’s withdrawal was a positive development, it remains to be seen whether the Sanders Presidential campaign will amount to a net positive or negative for our movement. Has his campaign, replete with ad nauseam funding pleas and other trappings of capitalist electoral politics, inadvertently stalled the growth of membership and development of the DSA? Is the Sanders campaign both a source of growth for socialism but also a limit to its horizons? We can influence the answers to these questions.

Third, all other candidates are outspoken defenders of the capitalist order; they do not have a place within our political traditions. They cannot be trusted nor supported, at least not so long as an obvious better alternative is available.

Vote often, vote everywhere, vote as though our lives depended on it. Vote Sanders for President–at least while he represents a move towards our more full-throated revolution. But above all continue to vote in all the ways that will truly make a difference. Remember–direct action gets the goods.


An Antifascist Army



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As a ghost of antifascism I sometimes take the liberty to be somewhat controversial. I will now take that liberty.

I despise professional sports. The more popular the sport, the more I hate it. The larger the audience, the louder the crowd, the brighter the fireworks, the faster the jets–the more I want to throw up.

Even the term ‘professional sports’ is offensive, seemingly calculated to help us forget that these ‘professionals’ are skilled workers engaged in labor within a capitalist enterprise. That enterprise rakes in considerable profits from the surplus value created by those workers. These corporations are for profit, and share the same means of enforcing exploitation and domination as an oil company, weapons manufacturer or, for that matter, a charitable foundation.

Furthermore, the non-millionaire workers who park cars, cook hotdogs, clean bathrooms and stitch hats are invisible. As with all corporations, it is from the least powerful that the lions share of value is created and then stolen by others; then that process is hidden from us. In coliseums and arenas it seems our otherwise sharp ‘critical criticism’ is set aside to allow for unbridled support for a team or competitor. There is also a certain fidelity to white settler state militarism often aptly represented by mascots, e.g., cowboys and Indians.

Professional sports are also prime vectors for the reproduction of the pathological male gaze: men, beer and hot dog in hand and mouth watching men, balls in hand in combat with one another; meanwhile women busy themselves watching those men watching men and imagine how they look to those men. Ugh. This is the male supremacy algorithm that dominates professional sports, and why there is still no out gay (American) football player who hasn’t faced organized and violent opposition of one form or another. Give it time, you might say, by the turn of the next century I’m sure there will be an out gay quarterback, or perhaps even a transgender one. But that’s precisely my point–there is no point to this short of transforming the very nature of competition by obliterating that which upholds it all–private property. Capitalism has proven itself to be the most efficient means by which to organize a form of ‘free time’ that is misogyny masquerading as sport. Big fucking deal. What an accomplishment. Oh, and don’t get me started about the grotesque enslavement that is ‘college sports’ and its cannibalism practiced on higher education, two things that should never be spoken of in the same breath. Finally, it seems that within the American tradition of professional sports ‘politics’ is verboten. If you ask me, not much to recommend here. Since when did a radical cheer on a corporation?

Remember, corporations are legalized dictatorships–they practice a form of economic totalitarianism fundamentally at odds with democracy and equality. This is what Milton Friedman meant by making the economic realm supreme, where the profit motive can replace democracy altogether. That’s the neoliberal agenda and it is not necessarily at odds with a white nationalist and male supremacist one. They can function hand and glove. Get it?

Not all sports are subject to my scorn; just those that are capitalist enterprises. Amateur sports, especially kids sports, are another matter entirely. Here, as with all facets of social life that have managed to remain at least partially outside ‘the economic’ one can find healthy and wholesome competition. Some of my most precious memories are of amateur sports. Sporting competition outside private markets and organized capitalist insanity used to be enshrined in the Olympics. Remember when it was for amateurs only? Friendly competition between nations? Remember when those scrubs from the beer league bested the Soviet hockey team? Now it is a loathsome spectacle of corporate corruption, preening celebrities and vicious gentrification programs that vacuum up the wealth of entire cities.

So it is with such disdain in mind that I turn to the Portland Timbers, a professional sports corporation no different from those discussed above, but with a fan club, the Timbers Army, unlike any other, except perhaps one: FC St. Pauli Hamburg (Germany).

First some bona fides. I have been an antifascist for more than 30 years and spent a good part of the 1980s and 1990s making that a full time occupation. During 1996 I visited 15 cities throughout Germany on a speaking tour in a concerted effort to meet and better coordinate with comrades fighting the far right there. In the United States the Oklahoma City bombing had recently taken place while Germany was in the throes of an insurgent mass-based racist anti immigrant movement. My speaking tour was hosted by radical antifascists, autonomists, ‘refoundation’ communists, squatters, anarchists and trade unionists. In Hamburg (my favorite venue of the tour) I was given the t-shirt pictured above by antifascist supporters of FC St. Pauli.

The far left, antifascist credentials of the FC St. Pauli club go back to the 1980s, which is when the Antifa began to be revived in Europe and North America. There are other European football clubs with one foot in socialism, but few that are as militant as FC St. Pauli. There are many more fan clubs with both feet in fascism.

The Timbers Army antifascism owes much to this left wing political tradition, and it is a welcome development. The Timbers Army are to antifascism in the United States what FC St. Pauli are to German and European antifascism. But the Timbers Army is also a creature of its social milieu and therefore a football fan club. I don’t live in Portland or follow any sort of football. But so long as a sports club is antifascist, I’m interested in what they mean by that and what they do about it.

Now, I am partial to the original antifascist symbol, that of the red and black flag, but I can accept others.

Also, I might chafe at Timbers Army supporters using one of three iconic arrows to target ‘communism’, or other ‘Iron Front’ antifascists distancing themselves from groups self identified as ‘antifa’, or the distinction without a difference made between ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’, but I will uphold their rightful place within the larger antifascist movement. I would expect the same in return.

If the Timbers Army were to reach its full potential, what might that look like? Here the limits of a fan club become a bind. But there is a way forward: don’t just bite the hand that feeds you, take the whole arm and use it to beat the living shit out of your master. And you do have a master.

The Timbers football team is owned by Hank Paulsonthe guy who helped orchestrate the bailout of America’s plutocrats and ensure the continued immiseration of the rest of us after the global shitting of the bed that was the ‘financial crisis’ of 2007-2009. During a recent match where Timbers Army supporters observed 33 minutes of silence to protest a ban on their antifascist symbols, Paulson, together with his son, also an owner, is said to have blamed the loss of that match on this vocal antifascism. It seems to me that what should be done here is pretty clear.

Radicals within the Timbers Army should agitate for the obvious next step in political development, a step that should exacerbate contradictions and divisions within the enemy camp and reinforce solidarity and unity within ours: It’s time for a community-owned Portland Timbers. The decommodification of our leisure time is an antifascist action and goal, or should be.

At issue here is not whether the owners are antifascist enough, but why anyone should own our leisure time? Here is a political movement on a platter: a loathsome dictator (every CEO is that) who is also shoving nepotism down the throats of supporters all the while undermining popular antifascism. This is also an issue all antifascists–antifa and social Democrat’s alike–could agree on. Some, however will undoubtedly cry in their beer: the defense of private property, rather than its abolition, is antifascist. Such nonsense presents itself as an opportunity to separate the antifascist wheat from chafe and reclaim that which belongs to the commons.

In any case I will always hate professional sports, perhaps not as much as corporations that manufacture cluster bombs, but not much less, either. What’s important is that there is an alternative that is possible and that we are willing to fight for it.


The Worst Crimes of the Wealthy are Legal.


The world we live in is indelibly marked by organized and systematic theft and violence, facilitated by the dual fictions of Law and Order. The worst crimes of capitalism, perpetrated by capitalists, are legal, and therefore hidden in plain sight.

The crimes of Jeffrey Epstein, of which we know of only a few, took place over decades and were also never really hidden, only dissembled. Through the sophistry of a Law and Order beholden to money and influence, and a ruling class that loves the smell of its own shit, this particular atrocity exhibition was, in a word, enabled by that scatalogical fixation. If our ruling class can be said to have a culture, this is it. But, however despicable Epstein’s predations undoubtedly were, in terms of sheer injury they pale in comparison to, say, the crime of a luxury condominium development and the homelessness that results therefrom. While shocking and outrageous, its important to place Epstein’s organized rape along a continuum where it can be viewed alongside the daily violations of wage labor, gender inequality, racism and the general plunder that characterizes the world we live in. So when considering Jeffery Epstein, we would do well to do so in light of the ongoing evisceration of women’s reproductive health services, especially abortion rights, and the hundreds of miles and dollars a woman must often travel and spend to try and secure what should belong to her as an inalienable human right. Epstein’s crimes were illegal, after a fashion, while these other outrages are legal. But I insist: they are different not in kind, only degree.

When treated exclusively as a form of extreme pathology allowed to fester because of cracks in that edifice of Law and Order, Epstein’s crimes are diminished. On the contrary: Epstein’s crimes are the plaster and glue that hold that edifice together. He is not an outlier; he is emblematic. Their moral reasoning was sound according to the depraved precepts it follows. Refusing to say as much sets the crimes of the rich aside, in relief, where they can continue to be repackaged as progress. The ‘Epstein affair’ becomes spectacle when it is ripped from the only context that can explain it: The crimes of our ruling classes.

Showing how Epstein’s crimes are symptomatic of, rather than exceptions to, elite domination is one task of the radical. This must involve a refocusing from the spectacular to the quotidian, from the retail to the wholesale, from the individual to the political economy, and from there to an examination of what the Epstein criminal syndicate tells us about capitalism and its ruling classes. What do his predations share in common with other forms of oppression? How were they different? Then, finally, what do they tell us about ending their rule?

The toxic masculinity Epstein practiced for decades, out in the open and with the full support of his peers is inconceivable without those international pleasure palaces. It is from such a position of invulnerability that those heinous assaults on women were organized again and again. They are inseparable–the palaces and the pimping–and work well together. Private property and the theft it is based on is also an expression of illegitimate power; that this is currently legal in our society doesn’t change that universal human truth.

Just as there is no moral equivalence between neo Nazi violence and antifascist resistance, there is no analogy to be drawn between the depravity of the rich and the violence of the poor. The rich are the grand heavy weight champions of exploitation and domination; we are the only social force that can end their rule.

Capitalism and justice are mutually exclusive terms, as are capitalism and feminism.

A socialism of the 21st century must by definition be a feminist one. Where there is gross inequality, mass predation, and immeasurable suffering, one will always find the powerful justifying it all through Law and Order. That means we will never be rid of the Jeffrey Epsteins of the world, or for that matter the Elizabeth Holmes, until we are rid of the rich.


Occam’s Razor Applied–Part Two



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21st century socialism must recognize that one of the most earth shattering, horizon expanding, revolutionary developments in human history is hidden in plain view: money, once the great elixir of progress, the indispensable lubricant of trade, the sine qua non of exchange, the sinew of capitalism, the lifeblood of state socialism, is now an impediment to progress. The question of money is no longer that of more or less, public or private, sovereign or dependent, supply or demand, ‘classical’, ‘Keynesian’, or ‘modern monetary theory’, but how soon we can get rid of it, how quickly we can usher in a world where there is no longer a need for it.

Consider that it is entirely possible to measure, weigh, track, render, monitor, surveil, coordinate, network, and evaluate in real time any unit of capital or labor, all manner of goods and services, such that one knows their precise physical state everywhere and at every moment of existence, from production to distribution, consumption to disposal and/or recycling. If that is the case, we need only establish the use value of a commodity (its utility) and forego the fictitious accounting associated with its ‘stored value’ such that a commodity can be truly ‘decommodified’, becoming the ‘thing for us’. If time and space has been so utterly transformed that trust and risk (competition) no longer provide an organizing principle for our economy, what is the purpose of money? Without a need for storing value, why do we need money? Why must we store value when its use can be determined by and immediately available to all? What would be the purpose of wage labor? Of private property? Of banks? Of insurance? Of advertising? Isn’t this the whole point of a truly communist economy–to do away with these things? Isn’t this what we anarchists and communists all agree we want to rid ourselves of? For the first time in human history it may be possible to achieve this, but it won’t happen because of some inexorable law of economics, or because capitalism will collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. It will only happen if we will it to happen.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

The above was popularized by the philosopher William Rapaport in the early 1970s. The period is there at the end because it is a grammatically correct sentence. Deceptively simple, Rapaport’s word-play requires a key to unlock the logic at work. The word ‘buffalo’ conveys three distinct meanings: as a proper noun it is a city, as a common noun it is an animal (aka bison) and as a verb it means to bamboozle. These nouns and verbs conspire with one another to transform an absurd list into an entirely reasonable thought. The sentence diagram above helps, if you are into that sort of thing, or just substitute the word ‘bamboozle’ for the verb ‘buffalo’ and the sentence can be understood as ‘buffalo from the city of Buffalo are bamboozled by other buffalo from Buffalo and in turn bamboozle still other buffalo from the city of Buffalo’.

That’s a lot of crafty buffalo.

Much later Rapaport, in his book Great Insights of Computer Science, makes another observation about a seemingly mundane matter, yet one that he shows has complex and far reaching implications. The first great leap in the theory of computer science was “Gottfired Wilhelm Leibniz’s, George Boole’s, Alan Turing’s, Claude Shannon’s, and Samuel Morse’s insight: there are only two objects that a computer has to deal with in order to represent ‘anything.’ All information about any computable problem can be represented using only 0 and 1 (or any other bistable pair that can flip-flop between two easily distinguishable states, such as ‘on/off’, ‘magnetized/de-magnetized’, ‘high-voltage/low-voltage’, etc.).”

Huh. All of the most spectacular advances in computer science can be reduced to such humble origins–the binary digit, or Bit. What a relief! For someone who is mathematics illiterate, such as myself, this is comforting. All that rarified knowledge has been constructed upon a foundation that is so simple an eight-year-old can understand it. Cool. What can we do with that?

To answer this question Rapaport identifies a second great insight that belongs to Turing alone:

“…there are only five actions that a computer has to perform in order to do ‘anything’. Every algorithm can be expressed in a language for a computer consisting of only five basic instructions:

  • move left one location;
  • move right one location;
  • read symbol at current location;
  • print 0 at current location;
  • print 1 at current location.”

From this the modern electronic computer was born.

Turing, a gay man in mid-twentieth century England, is also largely credited with solving the cipher to the Enigma machine that encrypted and thereby safeguarded Germany’s most secret communications during WWII. Cracking the code facilitated an Allied victory. But what of Turing, the man? How was this singularly brilliant individual treated by the British state? He was hounded and incarcerated then subjected to chemical castration and psychological torture so as to ‘cure’ him of homosexuality. His signature contribution to solving Enigma was kept a state secret until long after his death, itself perhaps directly at the hands of that state.

The British state (as all states) pillaged the insights and innovations of its brightest ‘deviants’ then wrapped them up in the Union Jack and called it progress. The contrast between Turing’s contributions to science and the manner in which he was treated is emblematic of the difference between those insights and the political and economic system that claims them for itself. The film The Imitation Game acknowledges the injustices suffered Turing, but upholds the right of the state to pillage that which belongs to it by sovereign right. Anarchists and communists refuse to uphold that right, because all capital and labor, and the science and technology that drives inventions and innovations, belong to us, not bureaucrats or capitalists, innovators or influencers. They steal it from us. Our task, as always, is to take it back.

From the two insights above the Information Age has evolved. There are, of course, other insights and innovations, but few, it seems, are as fundamental as these two. The scaling up of Bit logic, and its service to capitalist political economy is reshaping the biosphere we call earth and our relationship to it. The so-called ‘Information Age’ with its computerized networking power, artificial intelligence and machine learning, genetic engineering, robotics and automation, are ‘disrupting’ concepts once considered fundamental to capitalist and state-socialist economics, such as trust and risk, space and time. However one assesses what are undeniably monumental, deep, broad and fast changes one thing should be crystal clear: In the hands of bosses and bureaucrats such power will only further our collective immiseration. There is no ‘progress’ here without attendant forms of domination. We must find a way to create a rupture with this process.


Marx wrote something about ‘value’ that might be of some use here (pardon the pun).

Capitalism has always been characterized by an effort to instrumentalize the trust and risk intrinsic to trade so as to guarantee profits for the property owner. This presupposes the prior existence of private property owners and workers–the former with the power to compel the latter to sell the only thing that ensures their continued mutual existence: the labor power of the worker. That labor power is the basis for all value. Yet for those economists who believe that something other than labor produces value, its easy to formulate trade in an abstract, ‘pure’ form and construct what I call the Santa Claus theory of economics: Someone needs something they don’t have, so they trade something in order to obtain it. Goods and services intermingle through the magic of competition and pricing and everyone is happy. Everyone gets what they deserve in the form of presents under the tree; only the lazy and undeserving get a lump of coal in their stocking. In this way inequality is justified and reproduced.

“But ‘profit-making’ is just capitalist exploitation. Its secret gave rise to the study of political economy; and since Marx disclosed it orthodox economics has been devoted to covering it up again…Capitalism is unique in hiding its method of exploitation behind the process of exchange, thus making the study of the economic process of society a requirement for its transcendence.” (A Dictionary of Marxist Thought. Tom Bottomore, Eds., 1983).

In order to overcome great distances and long periods of time associated with much trade, money served as a fungible representation of the value such goods and services contained. While this now seems natural, and no doubt was in many ways superior to other forms of storing value associated with earlier modes of production, it was never, and can never be, a definitive and accurate accounting of that value; it can only ever be a social construction of that value. Stamp that coin with a number, print currency with heads of state and corresponding digits, watch the stock market hit 26,000, it is still constructed by human beings in relation with one another. It does not have an existence independent of that social reality. Marx wrote that money in each of its moments mediates a social relation and has a dual nature:

“Commodities come into the world in the shape of use values, articles, or goods, such as iron, linen, corn, &c. This is their plain, homely, bodily form. They are, however, commodities, only because they are something two-fold, both objects of utility, and, at the same time, depositories of value. They manifest themselves therefore as commodities, or have the form of commodities, only in so far as they have two forms, a physical or natural form, and a value form.” (Capital. Volume 1. Part 1. Section 3).

Neither the physical form nor the value form can ever be captured through a number, only approximated. Such “depositories of value” are encoded in money, be it precious metal, fiat or digital. Here, I think, a conceit is indulged, or if you prefer, a sleight of hand is performed. This sleight of hand has proven more efficient, more powerful and most of all more fungible than competing forms of valuation. Private property, capital accumulation and markets organize trade–rationalize it–and facilitate the speeding up and expansion of the forms of monetary endcoding of exchange value necessary to overcome the long periods of time and often great distances involved in buying and selling labor and capital in the form of goods and services. But, regardless of its ability to outperform competitors, it was still an imprecise and arbitrary operation that also codified relations of exploitation and domination that are intrinsic to it. This operation appears to us as naturalized, by which I mean represented as an authentic and eternal, just and good, embodiment of the value of that good or service. When economists employ mathematical formulas and assert ‘laws’, it is as though the realm of capitalism is eternal. While some of these formulas can be helpful in understanding the nature of capitalism, such as Thomas Picketty’s R > G, they are only applicable within the narrow field of economics. However many econometricians may don white lab coats to assert their empirical knowledge, what they practice is still, at best, numerical anthropology or mathematical sociology. Value in a Marxist sense is always, everywhere and throughout all of history, something human beings determine. These laws and the numbers that make them appear so solid do not stand outside of time, outside of history. This misrepresentation, (conceit, sleight of hand) lies at the heart of capitalist, and much socialist, political economy: that part of the value of a good or service can be ‘stored’ and rendered as an amount expressed by the numerical symbols of whatever currency is deemed legitimate.

Non Marxist economists believe that ‘stored’ or ‘deposited’ value can be calculated one way, through pricing signals and monetary mechanisms toward that ever elusive market equilibrium, or the cosmic balance between supply and demand; Marxist economists, through the labor theory of value, another. Both economic theories, on paper and in practice, rely on a pricing mechanism and a monetary system together with banks, private or public, as institutions necessary to facilitate trade and the meeting of human needs, however imperfect. Socialist states sought to quantify the exchange value of labor and capital in monetary forms–every socialist state has had a currency, banks, an insurance industry, etc.,–no less than capitalist states.

With the public realm of the state it was possible to socialize (usually ‘nationalize’) values, to one degree or another; with the private the goal was, and is, to privatize them. Both approaches sought to expand and speed up economic growth and thereby social development. Socializing surplus value, on the one hand, or lifting all boats by expanding the pie, on the other. Private property and ‘free’ markets have proven to be more adept at this. All things being equal the military and economic might to command large armies of labor from which super profits and surplus value can be extracted, especially from the global South, has been a constant advantage throughout the recent history of capitalism. But how that growth and development is distributed is, of course, its Achilles heal. With the public and private, everyone is fixated on monetizing labor and capital, then dividing the fruits according to the logic of either system. Both only considered communism as an economic system free from private property and wage labor, money and exploitation, as a distant utopia or an ever present threatening dystopia but not, in any case, realizable in the here and now.

Bit Logic and a Communist Future

The explosion in computing power that Bit logic has unleashed threatens to upend this by potentially making the public/private binary obsolete because it is rapidly transforming the space and time involved in trade. It is simultaneously opening up a heretofore impossible communist future while also enabling a more exploitive and domineering state and corporate nexus. The gig economy and Bitcoin are responses to this change in the fundamentals of classical economics–both represent an intensification of private capital accumulation and control. That intensification is proceeding at a frenetic pace. Well meaning politicians who bemoan workers having to live ‘paycheck to paycheck’ are missing the fact that in our increasingly informal and digitized economy workers live from gig to gig, which is to say hour to hour, in their cars or cars they rent, while corporations continue to slough off the social costs of doing business onto the backs of those workers. As the gig economy grows–and it will grow unless we strangle it–other better paying, more secure, safe and fulfilling jobs disappear. But the freedom to set a work schedule of our own desire, or to take breaks when we need them, or not have a boss up in our face is greatly diminished when we must work 12-14 hour days and the only other options to this digital treadmill are prison or homelessness. Fully half of Google’s workers are now gidgets (my word, which is a portmanteau of widget and gig), i.e., contract workers with all the flexibility of someone unemployed but none of the benefits of an employee. Dismissing or applauding the growth of the gig economy ignores the inescapable logic inherent to its spread: capital is able to massively socialize costs while increasing accumulation. What allows for this is the increase in digital networking power, the massive disenfranchisement of the masses that accompanies the privatization of electoral politics and the general speeding up of the circulation of money. Workers have no choice but to work these jobs because, as a comrade once noted, labor always follows capital, as it doesn’t wish to starve or be imprisoned. The key here, much like the key to Rapaport’s sentence above, is understanding that this power belongs to us and must be returned to us and in order to bring that about we must fight for all of it. We must wrest that power from them, not enable it. No half-measures such as increased taxes, higher wages, a reclassification of workers or more democrats in office will do. Nothing less than everything will do.

Did you know that bluetooth beacons in grocery stores track cell phones to within centimeters and can send push notifications to nearby ‘shoppers’? These changes are not coming; they are already here. The good news is that many of them prefigure an anarcho-communist future. That future will not come about by its own volition; it must be won.

Developments in Bit logic and networking power, especially during the past 10 years, expose the increasingly unnecessary and wasteful aspects of capitalism while laying the groundwork to make it possible to forego these operations altogether. Some untethered radicals and discombobulated libertarians believe that ‘data’ will supplant ‘pricing’ in the near future, a signature development of a ‘post-capitalist’ future. Call it what you may, it will be worthless without a massive redistribution of wealth.

What is different today, or at least since 2010 is that whereas at one time such advances in technology facilitated trade and the meeting of human needs, now they hamper them. This is what continues to be misunderstood about the Great Recession of 2007-09: The upheaval was less about housing bubbles or asset overvaluations per se than about a balance that needed to be re-calibrated. An explosion of value was being unleashed through technological changes and that value had to be captured–privatized–by corporations and the state. But the velocity and breadth of these changes are outstripping the ability of the modern nation state to corral it. Bitcoin and the gig economy are efforts to intensify the privatization of these advances.

Instant and Inevitable Communism

Two recent articles, one a fluff piece the other more serious fare, address something similar. Aaron Bastani’s concept of “Fully Automated Luxury Communism” first made the pages of the New York Times on June 11, 2019, but it has been around for awhile. The nut of his argument, which is equal parts preposterous and loathsome, not least because it serves as a bridge between the affluent and entitled left and the soulless libertarian right, is as follows: “The case of cultured food and drink, far from a curiosity, is a template for a better, freer and more affluent world, a world where we provide for the needs of everyone–in style.” The article reads as if it was written by a 40-something neurotic boy-man channeling Lenin as a ‘salesman’, rather than he who gave the order to put the Romanovs in the ground. The breathless prose comes off as a promotional pitch for an inevitable technological revolution–no molotov cocktails or general strikes needed. As despicable as his article is and forthcoming book will be, Bastani highlights something of importance: automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and other advances in science are transforming the world, in particular the nature of work and workers. Most radicals know this, but it is an open question as to whether our theory has changed accordingly. The problem, which most radicals also understand, and that is left entirely unaddressed by Bastani, is in whose hands this transformational power resides. The answer, of course, is theirs. The struggle to reclaim that power will not be a cake walk. It will be brutal, and of necessity lightening fast and global, while hopefully successful. But it will not come about because Sergey Brin has decided to fund another vanity tech start up that produces genetically engineered meat. The significance of the article is in the fact that intellectual elites have taken notice of such changes and are planning accordingly. Some, full of dystopian dread, are buying land in New Zealand while others believe the Bolsheviks will never come for their Doggy Hotels because the rough edges of capitalism will be smoothed over through the invention of a better mousetrap delivered to their door by a drone.

The other article of interest, with more heft to it, is that by Evgeny Morozov in New Left Review (No. 116. June 2019). “Digital Socialism? The Calculation Debate in the Age of Big Data” is concerned with similar developments in science and technology. But where Bastani laps up genetically engineered hamburgers made of petri dish grown cellular matter with squirts of commodity fetishism to sweeten the taste, Morozov is more concerned with whether Silicon Valley can cough up fresh “legitimating narratives” and “regenerative mythologies” to buttress actually existing capitalism. The most important aspect of this requires revisiting the “socialist calculation debate” and something called the “New Deal on Data” a concept that derives from a paper presented to the 2009 Davos forum. Morozov writes:

“I will go on to suggest ways in which the development of digital ‘feedback infrastructure’ offers opportunities for the left to propose better processes of discovery, better solutions for the hyper-complexity of social organization in fast-changing environments, and better matches of production and consumption than Hayek’s solution—market competition and the price system—could provide.”

Here is the whole weight of the material determining our political possibilities–sort of a reiteration of the base and superstructure debate. Mozorov is essentially arguing for a more sophisticated ‘Fully Automated Luxury Communism’ with a tweak from Picketty and perhaps Hayek. Both articles are largely non-starters because of where they begin. For Morozov a compelling argument has been made by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger through his works Big Data and Reinventing Capitalism in the Era of Big Data (or, provocatively titled in the original German Das Digital) that data will replace the pricing mechanism as the guarantee of the internal logic of capitalism.

Morozov writes:

“Das Kapital, they argue, is out of date: once it is efficiently utilized throughout the economy, Big Data will not just reinvent capitalism—the English title is too modest on this point—but end it. ‘It may be time to close the door on history and officially eliminate the term “capitalism”’, they proclaim. In place of finance capital and firms, data-rich markets will empower humans to work directly with each other. More dramatically, data will supplant the price system as the economy’s chief organizing principle.”

While Morozov does not buy this argument, he does seem to relax his critical faculties when it comes to the proliferation of feedback mechanisms associated with the big data of Amazon and related Gig economy ‘disrupters’. His casual mention of Bla Bla Car, a rideshare startup in France that allows a rider to set a ‘chattiness’ level of a driver neglects to note that this is a form of labor discipline exercised by capitalists. This feature of new data as it intersects with the gig economy is left unexplored, which is a shame because it is the nexus for the anti-labor, anti-human character of this emerging economy. Morozov forgets that the very notion of a ‘consumer’ is bound up with enforcing labor discipline as much as it is about limiting rat feces in bologna. For Marxists, there is no such thing as a consumer, only my labor power and the assholes who steal the surplus value from it. Mozorov evinces no recognition of this fact about the new gig economy.

Whether it be pricing or data, there is no way to definitively quantify the value of capital and labor, goods and services through money, although this is precisely what capitalist and socialist states and their theorists have argued over for the past two hundred years–not if it could or should be done, only how it could or should be done. That’s what the great ‘Calculation Debate’ should have been about. To suggest that it needn’t have taken place at all is not necessarily a fools errand that romanticizes ‘primitive’ modes of production, such as bartering, ‘pre-capitalist’ economies or those such as that practiced by the Zapatistas for more than twenty years throughout the region of Chiapas. We must relentlessly interrogate the notion that there are ironclad stages of development that define and constrain our ability to realize a communist future, aka the stage theory of socialism. We are constantly told that we can eventually overcome this, but to push for too much too soon is to court disaster because it is impossible. The elimination of work, of money, of private property and the state is something that must come about, but can only come about in the distant future. So we have been told. But if capitalism is experiencing a crisis of confidence, so too is the guiding logic of state socialism. Something is different from then and now. Why? Big data, with or without flexible and recursive mechanisms for ‘bringing people together’, will always trend toward monopoly and dictatorship because the dna of the modern corporation is that of domination and exploitation. They are by definition totalitarian regimes. This is not addressed by Mozorov. Small or large, if the corporation remains, our future is bleak. Right now the modern corporation is in almost complete control of all the most important advances in science and technology, not to mention the erasure of politics and culture. To theorize the state as a vector of opposition to ‘globalization’ is to miss the fact that it has been largely captured by capitalists, be they national or ‘international’ in outlook. It just doesn’t make much of a difference.

What is fundamentally different about our situation today is that if we wait, it will be too late. We court disaster by not pushing for everything now, because only everything will stave off total disaster of one type or another. Whether that imminent threat be climate change, fascism, species collapse and pandemics, or just the continuation of neoliberal digital dictatorships wobbling about as a hollowed out and emaciated liberal democracy, is irrelevant. Any one or more of these threats will end the dream of an equalitarian and democratic future. Organized human societies and the democracy and equality that give them meaning are increasingly at risk of collapse. While one could argue that making a leap toward an anarcho-communist future risks destabilizing liberal democratic alternatives, it is becoming more apparent than ever that the risks associated with not making such a leap outweigh those of attempting it.

All Accounting is Fictitious.

All ‘costs’ could be socialized without a monetary system, banks, loans, insurance, or any type of symbolic semiotic absurdity mediating the lifespan and use of a given good or service. Strip from that rutabaga plant or taxi ride, domicile or space shuttle every aspect of pricing and markets, money, buying and selling, wages and ownership, advertising and insurance–what do you have? The thing in itself which we make the thing for us, that which belongs to the commons. If we weren’t spending our time and energy fixated on monetizing exchange value, what could we spend our energy and ‘cognitive capital’ doing? All of those things above that define a good or service sans the elaborate and wasteful exercise in fictitious accounting. In other words, all accounting is fictitious. The operation, while undoubtedly surreal, is not without real world consequences, but it is and can only ever be a misrepresentation of the value it is said to embody. We arrive at that value through our collective control of the process, or it is imposed on us.

Another way of looking at this: What an extraordinary waste of human energy! If there is no longer a need for assurances of trust necessary for the taking of risk, because that trust and risk has been socialized in the commons, for what does one need money? If those great distances and long periods of time have been effectively overcome, what is the point of money? The answer is to maintain inequality. Today it is increasingly only that. It is a system that has lost its ability to project a future worth projecting so it resorts to the doctrine of TINA–There Is No Alternative. The very forces it has unleashed have become fetters on further development, as someone once said, so it forecloses on any future other than that of its continued domination.

Bit Logic ≠ Money

Consider the difference between Bit logic and money. Bit logic is perfectly logical, its operations by definition must solve an equation, complete an algorithm. It’s an arrangement of zeros and ones. This is behind that annoying statement that coders and software engineers are fond of quipping: a computer program can never be wrong; it can only be programmed (by a human) incorrectly. Exchange value, on the other hand, is not strictly logical in the above sense; it is a social construction that employs a certain logic in its execution, but can only ape bit logic. It always reflects whatever values a ruling class is able to impose on subordinated classes, something decidedly social in nature. That value is mediated by the class struggle, not independent from it. There is no ‘value’ apart from this. In this sense the value of money lies in the ability of a ruling class to live in a manse, impose a border, enforce a regime of labor, and organize all of this from its computerized citadels. It has no existence independent from this.

Try and imagine a world without finance, debt, deficits and loans, without corporations and governments, without advertising and without wage labor, without work. It is difficult because it cannot be done without an understanding of the functional and structural basis of capitalism and the state together with a theory of what can replace them, and how to bring that about. It’s also the case that such a dream of the future cannot be piecemeal, because it is always subject to the death of a thousand cuts. You want open borders? What about the chaos that would ensue? And so on. Additionally there is a dynamic to capitalism such that whatever we are able to wrest from one hand they will take back (and more) with the other. This is what we radicals mean by a ‘systemic’ analysis, or “the system”. Bit technology can help facilitate this transformation–it can be used to help us replace capitalism because it is different from it.

Now, it should be clear that I am not a Luddite. But I am also not a futurist nor a technological determinist. This technology which exists on a world-changing scale must be controlled and shaped by the commons for the common good. We ought not hide from, organize around, ignore or destroy it. We must make it serve the common good. We can only accomplish this through political struggle. Left in their hands it will bring us nothing but more misery. What we yearn for, the prize that we must always keep our eyes on, is what is meant by this quote from Marx, altered for gender clarity:

“For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each woman has a particular exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon her and from which she cannot escape. She is a hunter, a fisherwoman, a shepherd, or a critical critic and must remain so if she does not wish to lose her means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch she wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherwoman, shepherd or critic.” (The German Ideology). 

This year the British state will adorn a 50 pound note with a visage of Alan Turing. Such a conflation of the scientific genius of Turing with that of the unscientific power of money is obscene, and perfectly in keeping with the odious nature of the United Kingdom.

This is not our future, much less the only possible future; it’s no fucking future at all. I will have none of it. Let’s bring something different into existence. Let’s take a leap toward a 21st Century socialism, in a word Anarcho-Communism.



If You Insist on Driving in San Francisco



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If you are a tourist, just don’t drive in the city. Don’t even consider it. This is the most unforgiving and forbidding, bat shit crazy city to drive in throughout the entire United States. Oakland is a close second, with the crappiest roads in the country, but nothing beats San Francisco’s hybrid transportation hell with its one-way, dilapidated streets, steep, winding hills, constant construction, horrific traffic and the most aggressive pedestrians and bicycle riders on the planet.  If you must travel to San Francisco–and we prefer you did not–don’t drive a car. If, however you insist on doing so, here are some vehicular pastimes that beat the crushing stupidity and corporate mendacity of those tourist traps like Fisherman’s Wharf and The Embarcadero. You might as well learn something from your intransigence.

If you are not above indulging in a bit of schadenfreude proceed to Washington and Jefferson streets where they cross Snob Hill east-west and west-east. Both streets are one way and are cable car equipped. The cable cars, long since abandoned as a means of proletarian conveyance, now cater exclusively to that most despicable of social creatures, the tourist.  Get your video ready. Note that in place of four-stop-sign intersections the cable car is granted the right-of-way, making for two-stop-sign intersections, something unexpected and counterintuitive to anyone unfamiliar with San Franscisco’s insane transportation environment. You will watch as driver after driver stops when they ought not to stop, and do not stop when they should. This, despite the prominently posted signs north and south that read Cross Traffic Does Not Stop. It makes no difference, as no-one reads a sign posted below a stop sign, unless it is for a yard sale; but it does make for constant near catastrophes, and the occasional full-on crash. Hours of enjoyment here, much superior to those creepy mobs lined up outside the Full House house, which is not the house at all, merely the exterior that formed a shot for the show. Besides, sitcoms with laugh tracks are the television equivalent of easy listening muzak.

Americans are congenitally allergic to Round-a-bouts. San Francisco is no exception. The Round-a-bout at 8th and Townsend is a shit show worthy of a Three Stooges skit. The physical comedy of vehicles, bicycles, scoots and scooters, skateboarders and pedestrians all aggressively competing for the right-of-way through a circle whose logic escapes everyone is perfectly emblematic of the future Big Tech has in store for us. And this is ground zero of Big Tech in San Francisco, with the offices of Adobe and Air BnB yards from the chaos. They have figured it all out, you see, because an algorithm can never be wrong (only the person who programmed it) therefore everything that derives from the algorithm is right and good. Now comes the pesky Round-a-bout and the many nuanced social cues and codes and all that other stuff that escapes the ironclad logic of the Bit. The logic of the Round-a-bout is straight forward and simple, yet flouted by practically everyone: if you are in, you have the right of way. If you are out, watch out. Exceptions, as always, are pedestrians and bicycles. The point system is always in effect, which is my way of saying Big Tech is Big Stupid.

Set aside time in your itinerary for the onramp to the Bay Bridge at 1st and Harrison and the neighborhood known as SoMa (South of Market). Deeply ensconced within this cradle of plutocracy is the leaning Millennium Tower (fall over already) and the worlds most posh freeway entrance. While you are there let them know we are coming with pitchforks and molotov cocktails, and a particular emphasis on those $5,000-a-month doggy day cares. During rush hour (5am-10pm everyday) watch for Lamborghinis with a right-of-way my Toyota just doesn’t have. They will cheat through that bike lane while pretending to ignore horns blaring around them then park right in the middle of the fucking intersection, stopping traffic in all directions. Taking their time, they will pretend to have misinterpreted the giant sign that reads “Do Not Block Intersection” and the civil code cited below it. Milkshakes are in order.

While not particular to San Francisco, the mantra Look, Signal, (then) Pull out should always apply. Don’t do the opposite–pull out, signal and look as an after thought. Doing the opposite means you will ram your vehicle into mine and I will be forced to exit my vehicle and beat you about the head with a copy of Das Kapital. This elementary principle, so simple and unambiguous, so very difficult to misinterpret, is unobserved everywhere. There is a phrase for doing otherwise: aggressive stupidity.

Don’t stick your phone, much less your iPad, into the middle of your front windshield. Are you daft? You will not be able to take out that Salesforce executive without backing up to finish the job. Furthermore, while you may be able to track your progress through that gps navigation program, you won’t get wherever it is you are going because you will have hit something you ought not to have hit along the way. Those large spaces at the front and sides of your vehicle called windows are transparent for a reason–so you can see through them.

Autonomous vehicles in training are legitimate targets for milkshaking and the old Issac Asimov I Robot conundrum: roll a baby carriage from one direction and an elderly person from another directly in front of the Waymo vehicle and force it to make a decision, thereby exposing bias at work in the algorithm. If it chooses to run over the baby, autonomous vehicles are baby killers; if it chooses the elderly person, it is guilty of geronticide. If it stops altogether, get your milkshake ready.

Two noteworthy tidbits of trivia to keep in mind about the Golden Gate Bridge. First, is that it was Iron workers who died building it and should be honored for it. Architects and engineers can fuck off. Second, the suicide deterrent system currently being installed on both sides of the bridge to the tune of $240 million is emblematic of the priorities of San Francisco’s city leaders. It is far more important to obstruct people trying to die with dignity, and perhaps a bit of notoriety, than do anything about the homeless crisis–which is not a crisis of too few homes available for too many people, but that of the 100,000 empty homes that the wealthy indolent and real estate industry purposefully leave uninhabited. That’s right 100,000 empty fucking homes. Occupation and expropriation are the only solution here.

The Tenderloin District is the last bastion of lumpen proletariat resistance in the entire city. Drive careful through there because God’s children are selling the dope all those Big Tech twits need to make it through their twenty-hour work days while they pray to the crack in the wallet of a Tech billionaire. That’s right, San Francisco’s African-American population has contracted by almost half in the past twenty years, which makes driving through The Tenderloin, Bayview and Hunter’s Point neighborhoods the rough equivalent of visiting a concentration camp or Indian reservation. You are witnessing a program of urban genocide carried out under the banner of Big Tech. So remember, with every  floor of a shiny new office building, a tent city is erected in its shadow.

Welcome to the City on the Hill.


Occam’s Razor Applied



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Here’s something you have probably heard before: As we grow older we become more conservative in our politics because maturation implies moderation. Within every young anarchist or communist is a reactionary just waiting to emerge.

This assertion is often presented as a value-neutral descriptive that merely reflects a principle of human sociality beyond all politics. Quite the opposite is true, as the assertion contains within it a hidden prescriptive: implied is that one should become more reasonable with advanced age and ‘grow up’ by tossing aside youthful excesses, like political radicalism, in favor of capital accumulation, the responsibilities of ‘raising’ a family, and the moderation in all things that this apparently entails. This is often framed as natural, something that just happens because that’s just the way the world is. This is almost always the way this concept is wielded. There are endless variations of this meaningless mantra and they often begin with a red diaper baby and end up with someone like Norman Podhoretz. The trajectory is everything–one doesn’t ever go from right to left, always from left to right.

Together with that other old canard, history repeats itself, these two maxims serve to paralyze thought and action.

Using Occam’s Razor we can make a very different assertion: Older people appear more conservative not because they mature in their beliefs, nor because reactionary values are ‘natural’ or inevitable, but because rich assholes live longer–much longer–than the rest of us.

Furthermore most rich people have more conservative values than the rest of us because they began with wealth and power they want to conserve; then, when they get older, they are proportionately more of any given population than when they began their incessant exploitation of us. As inequality kills us quicker, their social footprint–financial, electoral, golf–becomes that much greater. As we die in greater numbers more quickly than they do, they accumulate more wealth and power as they grow older. They don’t become wise with old age; they defend that which they have stolen with greater zeal. It just appears to be the case that the older people get the more right wing they become, when in fact there are just more right wing assholes because they live longer.

What a shame.

It would seem a simple corrective to begin reversing this trend; if need be by taking some of them with us.

Willem Van Spronsen, the 69-year young anarchist who went down fighting ICE with firearms and molotov cocktails is living proof of my argument. Honor his contribution accordingly.


The Tyranny of Adverbs and Twits.



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Literally used now more than ever.



Way back in 2012, Joe Biden was criticized for using the adverb ‘literally’ nine times in one speech. How quaint. I recently listened to a level 5 Google engineer use it nine times in the space of two minutes.

This particular soulless quant had another annoying habit: He would begin every other sentence by restating my name, “Jonathan, I understand what you are saying…” If such feigned familiarity is coupled with a light touch on the arm, I feel free to reach for a knife. Most people who do this are trying to overcome skepticism and inculcate credulity. As a mnemonic device, it is annoying at best; more often it is cloying and insincere and a sure sign to distrust, even despise someone.

Honestly? Like. Literally. Actually.

While I don’t miss Obama much, I do miss his particular elocution, that patient, preternaturally calm, baritone voice and the halting ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ that stitched together his verbal output. By today’s standards, those pauses are pleasant by comparison. They don’t have any pretense; they are space fillers that allow him to think. While I have many disagreements with what he said, I could always understand it. He was thoughtful and nuanced to a fault; dithering on the golf course while fascism made a comeback. But in this he was not alone, nor particularly exceptional. Plenty of socialists, for instance practically the entire seven-year history of Jacobin Magazine and Blog, join him in this regard. But back to those adverbs.

With Trump, it is as though every wealthy, entitled, and neurotic teenager has suddenly been given carte blanche to release their own unfiltered insanity. While I think the parallels here can be overstated (Trump as a teenager) there is still something to it. Will Trump bomb Iran or just berate the housekeeper? Will he begin in earnest the rounding up of undocumented families or just do a stint in rehab?

His verbal diarrhea is pockmarked with superlatives such as ‘winner’, ‘terrific’, ‘tremendous’ and of course, ‘great’ and ‘greatest’. It’s as though his mother, or au pair, never stopped telling him how special he was, even when he was caught eviscerating the neighbor’s cat. Good boy.

If Trump were a pornography category it would be ass-to-mouth, mouth-to-ass, with all those A-list ruling class enablers from both political parties, across every imaginable capitalist enterprise, sucking and fucking to form one giant, unending, gangrenous human centipede, just like the horror film. Jeffrey Epstein is in there somewhere.

Today it seems that adverbs, and certain nasty ones, in particular, have mounted an attack upon the nonviolence of ums and ahs, completing a scorched earth assault on the quiet dignity of anodyne place fillers so as to replace them with crutch words that, whether used correctly or incorrectly, amount to obfuscation and disorganization–i.e., bullshit. These lexical tics impulsively resorted to by the verbally disabled add emphasis where none is needed, assert drama where there is only triviality, state the obvious rather than the nuanced, and (my favorite) suggest strongly that everything said beforehand was a lie (honestly?…). The standard Trump teenage verbal diarrhea disaster asserts a recklessness with meaning that can only be regarded as aggressive stupidity. This is the hallmark of the powerful, the invulnerable, the masters of the universe who say and do as they please without repercussions, and is the hidden in plain view secret behind Trump’s attraction to some people. We have heard it again and again: Trump ‘says out loud what we can only think to ourselves’. My own take on this is that Trump says out loud, in ways some people would never even hazard, the despicable ideas that belong in the basement. They generally stay there because someone will kick your fucking ass if you say them out loud elsewhere, which is as it should be, but, alas is no longer.

The terrifying ephemeral nature of Twitter is the dominant mode of communication for this viral and noxious hate speech. But together with the sheer hatred and assault of such verbiage, there is something else underway: where everything is equally dramatic, nothing is important. Aside from links to longer written work, this platform, like instagag and snapcrap is useless for leftists. The ‘twit’ in Twitter is there for a reason. Those who are prolific in these mediums are the same shallow dipshits who prosecute juvenile intra-leftist fights. Tankies vs. insurrectionists, statists vs. anarchists, etc.

No complex thoughts or arguments are possible here, only half-ass hashtags, silly memes, and depraved gossip. Chomsky once remarked that in order to engage an audience about ideas which break with orthodoxy one must spend some time setting the groundwork to do so–you need at least 15-30 minutes to tear down presumptions that prohibit ‘out of the box’ thinking. If you are not afforded the opportunity to do this you sound insane. This fact alone means the instant ambush culture of social media and the talking heads that wallow in cultish Marxisant Zizekian nonsense ensures no such thinking is possible within such a format. Zizek and his ilk thrive there because they are full of shit. That’s why Chomsky didn’t go on cable news programs or engage in celebrity debates. Chomsky has all the more integrity because of that. More leftists, certain antifascists, in particular, need a reminder on this point. Otherwise, you are just engaging in a debate on their terms. The only corrective to this sorry state of affairs is aptly provided in the wonderful allegory of revolution that is the film Snowpiercer, by Bong Joon-Ho. If you get to the front of the train, don’t listen to the conductor, don’t even allow him to talk–cut his tongue out and remember: Kronole is a bomb, you idiot!

This is why it is largely pointless to troll celebrities and engage in the shadow boxing preferred liberals and conservatives. The questions determine the parameters of possible answers. Liberals and conservatives, establishment types, and pols consumed with issues and policies are congenitally allergic to our thinking and action. Are they concentration camps? Is Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite? Was Brett Kavanaugh qualified for the Supreme Court? Is there a U.S. presidential candidate other than Bernie Sanders worth two shits? Did Jeffrey Epstein receive preferential treatment for his predations? If you debate these questions, you have lost before you begin because there is no debate. To debate what is obvious is the death of debate. It is to die a dithering death, full of thoughtfulness and nuance, that amounts to nothing. It won’t stop fascism or overcome capitalism. Enough already. Try a long-form essay, FFS, and mind your adverbs


Here Fascism, There Fascism, Everywhere Fascism


To Fight Against This Age: On Fascism and Humanism. By Rob Riemen. W.W. Norton and Company. 2018

Just because a verbose twit decries ‘fascism’ doesn’t mean said scribbler is onto something. If, while pointing at a chair, someone screams ‘fascism!’ we would look askance and wonder about their mental state.

So it is with this pulp fiction.

The problem appears immediately, in the opening sentences. Having ‘courageously’ announced the return of fascism way back in 2010, Riemen, all too comfortable writing about himself, assumes the role of reluctant soothsayer, only to be dismissed by his fellow patrician academics.

He told you, but you refused to listen. ‘You’ are that most reasonable and cautious of thinkers, steeped in the eternal values of liberal democracy, perhaps a fellow at The Nexus Institute or the Templeton Foundation, which seems to mine similar philosophical terrain. A liberal, a conservative, a neo-this or neo-that, perhaps even a ‘progressive’.

Of course what Reimen considers to be fascism is so elastic and untethered from reality as to be an hallucination. If a brute of any political persuasion were to vomit in his precious ivory tower, staining the parchment rolls of wisdom poured over by so many serious thinkers, the sulphur pits could not be far behind. But he was ignored not because his colleagues failed to grasp the reemergence of fascism in the 21st century–an indisputable fact about which there is now little argument–but because they didn’t give a shit. Riemen’s account of fascism is so preposterous as to lend credence to their dismissal, which says a lot, I suppose.

This bit of nauseating self congratulation is quickly followed by laughable cautionary tales about why ‘civilizations’ self destruct. In short: Elites fall prey to their own hubris, their aggressive stupidity opening the door to the passions and naïveté of the masses, which is the real problem here, and far worse than ruling class shortsightedness.

Ruling elites get too greedy and self absorbed–go all Caligula–mindlessly following the pagan shock and awe of an amoral capitalism, and thereby undermine the natural order of things, which depends upon the endless interpretations of philosophers such as Reimen. Not change that order of things, mind you, but explain it. The problem is in the style of elite rule, rather than the rule itself. Here fascism is just another variant of anything that challenges the status quo, which is eternal.

Artists and philosophers are seen as repositories of the values that humanize capitalism, and are counterposed to technocrats and economists.

But capitalism cannot be humanized, only overthrown.

Besides, the fight against fascism proceeds not through the words and ideas of so many scholars and celebrities, but through the class struggle, the true motive force of history.

Elite rule, in today’s world, as that of old, involves brutal and unrelenting exploitation and domination. This is the hidden source of the reappearance of fascism as an exit strategy from the contradictions of capitalism. To ignore this means misunderstanding fascism and thereby being helpless to thwart it.

This is why the philosopher above, and many of his colleagues alike, will end up aiding it. Most of these sophisticates will find their way back to supporting this 21st century fascism (still in early development) precisely because they cannot see their own ideas and the institutions that sustain them as enablers of that same actually existing fascism–to use a turn of phrase. They are faux antifascists, their ideas, floating in a rarified atmosphere of abstract metaphysical absurdity, should be ridiculed, their institutions allowed to rot from within so we can immolate their edifices and warm ourselves by the embers. If your idea of a popular front is so anemic as to include such monstrous stupidities in its theoretical formulation, you have already surrendered.

What’s at stake here is, again, the definition of fascism, so important to the task of defeating it.

I haven’t included any direct quotes from To Fight Against…I don’t want to imply that there is something there with which one should engage. There isn’t.


Wine Country



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Such a strange mixture: Eucalyptus, palm and pine trees. This blending of old and new worlds, south and north, afforded by a most temperate clime, is a theme of Northern California wine country.

We can develop this theme well beyond flora.

The precise, computer rationalized and seemingly endless matrices of grape vines suggest progress, only to be disrupted by the altogether incongruous appearance of desperately poor and exploited farm workers, their bent backs evoking the cotton fields of the antebellum South, the rice paddies of Asia, the banana and coffee plantations of Central America, and the corporations and death squads that still rule so many of them. Little distinguishes this agricultural-industrial abomination, at least in its effects upon the poorest among us, from its obvious precursors.

The huddled port-a-potties an unintended admonition of the condition of the wage laborers that prop up the political economy of wine country.

Soon the grapes will make some room for endless rows of marijuana plants. The crops may vary; the port-a-potties are eternal.

Likewise the segregation between rich and poor, dark and white, so omnipresent as to be invisible, is a remarkable testimony to the continuity in forms of domination. There is virtually no mixing of social classes in Sonoma or Napa, and less upward mobility, only a seamless segregation reigns, the material base of a faux diversity no less a myth than those proffered the benevolent despotisms of yesterday.

So too the lavish estates of today, with names like Domaine Carneros and Chateau St. Jean, call to mind the landed aristocracy of France. This nod to the old world is found throughout the language of wine country. ‘Meritage’, a neologism coined by a plantation master with the name of Mondavi, is a clever linguistic transversal of the two worlds. To the novice it is pronounced “mer-i-tahzshe”, as a word of French origin might be. But it is not pronounced that way, rather as the word “heritage”. The confusion is by design, I think, so as to elicit a correction by an enthusiastic initiate, enhancing the prestige of the brand by way of deeper discussion.

However the wine is pronounced, farm workers can’t afford it.

In wine country the Kentucky Derby is celebrated without an ounce of irony, single vine varietals next to Mint Julip’s, parasols and wide brimmed hats flapping in the breeze, white leisure suits tended by servants at beck and call. All invited to the party wax nostalgic and are enthralled with that other breeding they are so in love with, that of an equestrian nature.

No surprise then that the ‘industry’ of grape cultivation also cultivates the most despicable values and social mores of an aristocracy, or Slaveocracy, even if they think of themselves as ‘cosmopolitan’ or celebrating the ‘modern South’.

But their ‘global culture’ is the damnable culture of a ruling class that steals everything, then forces us to reassemble it as a pastiche of conspicuous consumptions flaunted as the spoils of the class warfare it relentlessly prosecutes, yet denies.

Farm workers eat mangos and flavored ice from humble roadside stands, bittersweet reminders of how far away lie their homes and loved ones.

Wealthy oenophiles line up by the thousands at spittoons–a sure sign of a ‘healthy’ economy.

I agree, if we want economic development, let’s line them up.


Counterintuitives—Gun Control



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Counterintuitives–Gun Control

For many radicals firearms have no place in the home, nor the streets. They will not have a meaningful role in the revolution, either. For these radicals if revolution is even possible it cannot have a violent component because the state has an overwhelming monopoly on all forms of violence. They are just too powerful. Revolutionaries stand no chance with firearms, much less any other forms of direct action. Besides, we are making great headway in the ‘hegemonic’ struggle, and have but a few more key institutions to capture before the discursive discourse discussed divides the ruling class and we flow into the vacuum that results. We ease into the state, after a long period of leaning into it, until it warms up to our embrace. Or something like that.

There is also the fact that guns are used within poor Black and Brown communities to kill poor Black and Brown people, too often at the hands of other poor Black and Brown people. So guns need to be restricted, more heavily regulated, so as to save lives. That’s a persuasive argument, and makes sense, in a narrow sort of way, as bourgeois policies and the ‘issues’ they reflect so often do. The reactionary character of the firearms industry is also obvious. So guns and gun violence are reprehensible. They are morally and strategically a dead end.

The David Hogg approach, with a focus on the spectacle of school massacres, is a politically vacuous and celebrity centered mess that has no place in our movement. Democrats excel at this nonsense, with endless proposals about reduced gun capacities, background checks and regulation–and lots of tears.

We socialists point to the social and economic conditions that drive the use of guns–poverty, exploitation, domination–and the importance of the violence of everyday life in conditioning the violence of the gun in the streets. This context makes gun use perfectly reasonable. It follows a logic that is inescapable. It is impossible to understand gun violence without an understsnding of capitalism and its antipode, socialism. Allow me to explain.

Within poor communities the informal (illegal) economy is by definition outside of and stands in opposition to the legal system. It’s illegality is enforced by cops and courts. If you are engaged in the purchase, sale, distribution or consumption of illegal goods and services there is no way to safeguard your activity by recourse to the ‘protection’ offered cops, nor the ‘justice’ of the judicial system, save the ‘corruption’ of each, which amounts to a distinction without a difference. One must rely on other means, e.g., superior force, to ensure the safe and successful completion of a transaction. A gun is first and foremost a weapon that extends deadly force beyond arms length. It is, in its basic form, a radical extension of an arm and the fist at the end of that arm. It is a form of potentially lethal violence, small in size, easy to use, and in most respects superior to comparable forms of protection and assault. Hence, ‘you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight’.

So here’s the thing: To argue for the elimination of guns from poor people who make their living in the so-called ‘black market’ is to also effectively call for disarming those economic actors and leaving them to the tender mercies of their armed trading partners. Without addressing this aspect of gun control, all policies to restrict gun rights risk raising the costs of securing that protection and prescribing behavior that is irrational, even suicidal.

Of course if you are a patrician socialist, the ‘lumpen proletariat’ is by definition reactionary, and probably all wife beaters, so this is a non starter. They are all ‘criminals’ rather than ‘citizens’.

If you are a wild-eyed lunatic fringe socialist, like me, being down with the homies is a prerequisite to being a socialist. The two are inseparable.

While not specifically about gun control Louis Proyect, the Unrepentant Marxist, with whom I frequently disagree, gets it right when he writes the following:

“The mounting assaults against working-class interests will inevitably lead to neighborhoods or entire cities forming their own self-sustaining institutions and defending them by force of arms. By then, parliamentary style elections will have outlived their usefulness. It will be the hour of the American socialist revolution. I understand that for most people used to the meaningless bourgeois election circus this will sound like science-fiction. Maybe so but history has a way of sharpening the contradictions that make all this very real.(From “Left Strategy for the 2020 Elections and Beyond: a Critique” April 29, 2019).

Following Proyect above, the logical extension of his argument, with which I wholeheartedly agree, is best exemplified in the Socialist Rifle Association, to which I proudly belong.

In this sense the solution to gun violence is the Socialist Rifle Association and their motto, ‘Arm the Working Class!’

Parenthetically, the homies are workers, in and outside the formal economy.

That and those “neighborhoods” and “self-sustaining institutions” that Proyect wants us to defend must include the fabulous homes and workplaces of the rich, which must be occupied by us, because they belong to us, always and everywhere. After all, if our revolution only involves defending our shitty neighborhoods and the scraps we are forced to subsist on, what’s the point?


Counterintuitives—Hate The Good Hate



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An old comrade would often remind young antifascists of two sayings.

Nazis are people too.

Fighting Nazis can be fun.

The first I always understood as a reminder that even the most vile and violent fascists have all too human motivations at work, often quite pedestrian. In order to fight them effectively, one must understand them on their own terms. Not empathize with them, but understand them so as to defeat them.

I don’t agree, but I understand.

This, rather than a variation on what I gather to be the original saying, “kids are people too”. It was never meant to mean ‘don’t punch Nazis’, allow them platforms or that doxing is mean.

Which leads us to the second saying, ‘fighting Nazis can be fun’. Antifascist action, especially that work undertaken in the shadows, can be painstaking and laborious, with results that don’t yield immediate benefits. Rewards and plaudits will not be forthcoming, because Antifa activists, by definition, are anonymous. Some comrades will attack your work as adventurist or so much tilting at windmills. So what’s to recommend? Anti fascists fight fascists and uphold the red and the black. That, and at the end of the day, dance once in awhile, then do what LKJ said, so as to dance on their graves. Did you get that?

To these fine recommendations I offer a third that on first glance may appear cheeky, even disingenuous. But I mean it sincerely.

Hate the good hate.

Hate is a strong word. We have come to associate it with the foulest expressions of bigotry, as we should. But there is a flip side to this emotion and the language that expresses it that, if left only to the bigots, can render us monolingual. We should speak from love, but not always. Too often the language of love renders as false hope rather than daring audacity; surrender and victimhood are misrepresented as progress; tolerating that which is intolerable is upheld as a virtue.

We love our enemies, it is true, but that love must insist on our own common humanity, precisely that which they deny. When they deny even our basic human dignity, the bile will rise up in your throat. So as not to choke on it, you must spit it out.

Spit it back at them.

Hate the good hate.

Just be mindful of whom you strike, how and why.

If you can, live to fight another day; if not, leave us, and them, something to remember you by.

But strike back, nonetheless.

Strike back with fury, precision and devastating effectiveness.

Strike back.

Hate the good hate.





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The Urban Dictionary strikes me as a lexical sewer, what to language that toilet featured in the film Trainspotting is to basic hygiene. It should come as no surprise that the alt right contributes to it with relish. I think it can fairly be characterized as their dictionary. That it is not, strictly speaking, a ‘dictionary’ at all nor a reliable representation of anything ‘urban’ but rather a Rorschach Test for emerging political pathologies is beside the point. Or perhaps that is the point.

Here’s a prominent and representative entry for xenophilia:
“A mental disorder where a person has an irrational attraction to foreign cultures, races and peoples. Often to the point of working against the best interest of their own family, race and nation for the benefit of hostile foreign groups.
“Did you hear that Sweden is now the rape capital of Europe?”

Here’s one for xenophobia:

“Taken to the extreme, an irrational fear of strangers or more broadly, a fear of those who are different. Taken in a more moderate way, a rational fear of those who are different in some significant way, such as race, ethnicity, culture, politics, religion. Since people live together in families and communities where blood ties and cultural similarities foster cooperation those who are different undermine this social solidarity…Since people are naturally selfish, they will lend aid and befriend those whom they see as similar to themselves….[I]t is rational to foster laws, social and economic policy, and attitudes that preserve one’s own kind in power. To do otherwise is to hand power over to those who will destroy one’s own way of life, culture, and political system…”

If you look up ‘racism’ or ‘socialism’ in the Urban Dictionary you will find equally noxious material mixed with the occasional, and more often than not, feeble, alternative.

As a corrective some comrades valorize xenophilia as an antonym to xenophobia. This is surely an improvement over the alt right screeds above, which do the opposite. But here’s the thing. As a reference point for radicals it is useful, but limited. Much as the touchstone liberal shibboleths ‘diversity’, ‘equal opportunity’ or ‘race relations’, there is an element of bullshit here. Allow me to explain.

For working class peons in the tourism and service industries it is an inescapable fact that the overwhelming majority of interactions had with ‘diverse people’ is as their servants, their underlings, their step-and-fetch-its. The only people who take vacations to exotic lands are the well off with disposable income, or people without much disposable income who envy, and therefore emulate, those who have it. We poor and working people don’t travel much, so our interactions with ‘other people’ most often involve a power imbalance, summarized in that noxious imperative, “the customer is always right.” If you appreciate that phrase, you internalize your oppression, or enjoy inflicting it on others. I don’t. But that’s the nature of a tourist economy. The only thing I hate more than a tourist is a celebrity tourist.

I have therefore developed a very keen hatred. My stomach turns and churns when I hear the Queens English enunciated from a Hermès suit, the North Atlantic lockjaw pronounce ‘Maarthaa’s Vin-yaard’ from a Polo shirt, or perhaps an East Coast asshole snap their fingers for attention.

In this sense certain languages, dress, accessories, and behavior set me off. You could say I have become ‘prejudiced’ toward tourists–of all backgrounds. I know in a sense this is irrational; that I am ‘prejudging’ based on stereotypes. But in another sense it’s also a defense mechanism, one that is necessary for the preservation of my basic human dignity. So I own that prejudice by placing the burden of evidence to prove otherwise upon them. Is it possible then to have a positive prejudice?

My interactions with the globetrotting rich have been, on the whole, really distasteful. Wait, that’s not strong enough. They are scum and I hate them. That’s better.

These encounters then linger in my mind as dog shit I can’t scrape off the bottom of my shoe. I cannot begin to recount the number of times I’ve had a twit make a comment about the homeless, Asian drivers, Black kids with saggy pants, the lazy Latino road workers, the white opiate addict. They will often unthinkingly assume that because I am a white guy in my 50s, and at least not outwardly and obviously an opiate addict, I will laugh along with them and share their contempt and disgust. I must be a deplorable. So it is. I am a deplorable–just not their kind of deplorable.

If it’s a racist comment, what they get in return (when I’m feeling safe enough to do it, which is not often, because I am a coward) is as vehement a condemnation of their unfiltered ‘whitesplaining’ vitriol as I can muster. Sometimes I’ll cap it off with the phrase “I’m a race traitor”. That’s always a conversation starter.

I know that in spite of their wonderful diversity of languages, religions, cultures and identities they are also united by one singular difference from me: they have class power over me and my coworkers and wield that power, especially when on vacation, in a more unfiltered manner then they might otherwise. That’s another way of saying rich people are actually at their worst when enjoying their leisure time. What they say in private–and if I’m there serving them, it is private–has never really been adequately captured in film or novels, much less social science. The reality is a horror that changes even as it stays the same. But it’s always there, and I have no choice but to step in it again and again. That’s the important part to remember.

So here’s the rub. How does one inculcate an appreciation for different peoples from different cultures when all of ones experience is as degrading and dehumanizing as I’ve described above? Too often what is prescribed as an appreciation of difference is experienced as, and in a very real sense is, subservience and abject humiliation. That is not a deformity of the world we live in, an unfortunate and necessary by-product of progress; it is a constitutive element of the rule of the few over the many. So how to uphold the primacy of rebellion without collapsing into a destructive and pointless rage?

We must remember and point out, again and again, that we have more in common with that vast exploited and dominated humanity from all cultures than we could ever have with our masters, or their masters, whatever their language or ethnicity.

When my hate is pure it is sharpened by a critique informed by race, class and gender. Sounds kinda counterintuitive. So it is.

If you use frameworks of diversity and privilege, access and opportunity, xenophobia/xenophilia without social class, you are a liberal, or worse.

If you are forever fixated on rearranging the chairs at the table rather than upending the table, your politics amount to that of a banquet manager or event planner. If you think different faces in high places accomplishes anything other than cosmetic appeal, your politics are as that of United Colors of Benetton ads of yor. If you think philanthropic largess has any meaningful role in politics short of its extinction, you are a financial adviser, not a leftist, much less a revolutionary.

It’s all business. That fact must cease to exist. So long as it rests on the ill gotten gains stolen from us, which is, after all the foundation of all wage labor, it must be overthrown, in its entirety.

However much a philanthropic plutocrat spends down a fortune, however quickly it is spent, it won’t be enough and it won’t be fast enough. Why? Quite simply because it doesn’t belong to them in the first place.

It is not enough to argue for civility and safe places. One must affirm the right to righteous rebellion, and the uncivil, unsafe (for them) character of that rebellion. Then we can ask: Is that rebellion shaped by the power of a critique loaded with race, class and gender? Hopefully we can answer yes, always and everywhere. Then the right of all people exploited and dominated to be free can be upheld.

Our common circumstances should not be lost through a fixation on our differences, real and imagined, not least because it makes impossible the urgent task of theorizing an enemy. And there is an enemy, not just a ‘system’. That enemy is structural, institutional, and individual. They–the roles they play, the status they enjoy, the positions they occupy, the surplus value that accumulates to them, the mirrors they gaze longingly into–are also the meat-sacks we call our ruling class. If they are meat-sacks, they are mortal.

I’m getting some of that shit off my shoes, now. I feel better.

Anything less is sophistry, at best, delusion at worst; both thereby ensure our capitulation and defeat.

We’ve had enough of that; time for something different.

When I hear it, read it or watch it, I’ll let you know.


Fascism and Populism



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Fascism: A Very Short Introduction by Kevin Passmore

2002 Oxford University Press

As a primer on fascism this little book is useful. I’ll use it as a jumping off point for my arguments about fascism and populism. So don’t expect a thorough review.

Passmore opens with a series of historical vignettes set in France, Italy, Romania and Germany that illustrate the varied character of what have been called ‘fascist’ movements and regimes, their distinctiveness and specificity on display. He does this, however, with an eye toward upholding what is common between them, setting the stage for a later use of the term ‘fascism’ that has both general applicability and analytical clarity. This tension between the diversity of forms of fascism and what they all have in common and the seemingly contradictory nature of that relationship is an important problem Passmore identifies early on through a quote by the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset that opens the book.

“Fascism has an enigmatic countenance because in it appears the most counterpoised contents. It asserts authoritarianism and organises rebellion. It fights against contemporary democracy and, on the other hand, does not believe in the restoration of any past rule. It seems to pose itself as the forge of a strong State, and uses means most conducive to its dissolution, as if it were a destructive faction or a secret society. Whichever way we approach fascism we find that it is simultaneously one thing and the contrary, it is A and not A…” (Sobre el Fascismo, 1927).

Passmore restates this problem in a more contemporary fashion:

“In the 21st century interest in the history of fascism and its cries is perhaps greater than ever. Yet how can we make sense of an ideology that appeals to skinheads and intellectuals; denounces the bourgeoisie while forming alliances with conservatives; adopts a macho style yet attracts many women; calls for a return to tradition and is fascinated by technology; idealizes the people and is contemptuous of mass society; and preaches violence in the name of order?” (p. 11).

The short answer here is racism. We will get to that.

Passmore then poses this seeming conundrum as one that has vexed scholars of and activists against fascism as ‘the problem of definition’. To solve this he outlines three broad approaches to fascism: Marxist (1935 Comintern, Trotsky), Weberian (Max Weber), and Totalitarian-nationalism (Hannah Arendt).

All three approaches don’t adequately handle what W.E.B. DuBois succinctly called “the color line”. Passmore does a somewhat better job of this than most when he seeks to borrow useful aspects from all three traditions, while dispensing with their limitations, so as to formulate a synthesis. He makes some progress toward this end, but fails. That failure has a name: Ernesto Laclau. But more on that in a bit.

My own definition of fascism proceeds from a different premise than that of Passmore: a definition of fascism that is analytically sound must serve human liberation. Another way of saying this is that there is no ‘true’ definition of fascism possible because we formulate that through struggle. Ours will be different from theirs. That struggle is not only carried out in the ‘marketplace of ideas’. If we want to define fascism our dream of the future and our belief in the desirability and possibility of that future must inform our definition of ‘fascism’ within a historical framework that can facilitate its defeat and our triumph. As an Anarcho-Communist, I believe the struggle against fascism is inextricable from those struggles against capitalism and the state and the exploitation and domination that are their defining features. A more or less useful definition of fascism can only be constructed from a theoretical framework that derives from a hybrid of anarchist and communist philosophies. Part of doing as much requires a recognition that the use of terms such as ‘populism’, ‘liberal democracy’, and ‘race relations’ is incompatible with that project. These terms usually dispense with the notion of a political right or left. When there is no right or left arranged along a spectrum informed by inequality, there is no possibility of analytical clarity in regards fascism or of much else. But there is a left, distinguishable from a right. Even when there isn’t a viable left, there still exists that wellspring of ideas and actions that we call socialist, anarchist and communist. If your dream of the future is limited to liberal democracy, your understanding of fascism will be bound up with the presumptions that undergird that philosophy. As fascism thrives within conditions liberal democracy depends, one must theorize the end of that system as a solution to the problem of fascism. Liberals, conservatives, purveyors of the ‘populist’ thesis all are forced to imagine the end of the very institutions that give meaning to their lives. Unfortunately for them, this is a prerequisite for the defeat of fascism. This they will not do; so we shouldn’t expect it of them. So I don’t of Passmore. But he does have much to offer, nonetheless.

If one’s frame of reference is democracy vs authoritarianism as liberal, Weberian, and totalitarian approaches utilize, there is virtually no way to account for the continuity fascism has with modernity, progress and capitalist institutions. Fascism, on this reading, represents a discontinuity with capitalist progress. It is an outlier, a deviation, an anomaly. On the other hand, if one follows the 1935 Comintern definition of fascism as “the open, terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, the most chauvinistic, the most imperialistic elements of finance capitalism” the relatively independent nature of fascism is lost. It shares too much in common with capitalism and cannot be distinguished from it. So too the role of racism as a primary structuring feature of fascism and the particular form of that in anti-Semitism is obscured. One cannot really account for the wholesale destruction of European Jews at the hands of Nazis and fascists throughout Eastern Europe well past the point of Aryanizing businesses, to the point where such activity undermined the general war effort and had no benefit to fascist regimes. A failure to understand eliminationist racism as a central feature of fascist ideology risks a misunderstanding of fascism as solely a product of a crisis within capitalism. Much of this is tricky, but it is not splitting hairs, so much distinction without a difference. It is important.

Passmore does hold racism as central to fascism, but he doesn’t really flesh it out, not least in how it continues to occupy a central role in contemporary fascism. This is the case today as well as 2002 when he wrote this book.

Here’s another humdinger: Fascism is a constitutive feature of a particular type of capitalism, that found in Europe and North America. In writing this I am not arguing, much as Ta-Nahesi Coates does, for the existence of what amounts to a ‘primordial’ white supremacy, that fascism somehow attaches itself to ‘white’ genes or that whiteness is somehow eternal in the imagination of white people. I am arguing that fascism has a political geography that roughly corresponds to what I call the ‘white belt’. In this sense there is a fascist international in formation, a social and cultural process within such geo-political formations as the European Union that made its construction possible. Racism was baked into its cooking, regardless of the lofty humanitarian principles that animate its pronouncements. This process of fascistization underway throughout ‘the West’ seeks to rectify regional differences between fascist programs (Catholic here, Protestant there; urban vs rural, worker vs capitalist, etc.) in favor of a pan European whiteness that can only be conceptualized as against a dark, swarthy, foreign other. This is as fundamental to understanding anti immigrant racism as labor markets and competition over jobs. It cannot be understood apart from the larger divide between North and South, Core and Periphery. This is key to understanding the appeal of and prospects for 21st century fascism. In a frightening way, the ‘super fascism’ of Julius Evola, the ‘Imperium’ of Francis Parker Yockey and the snarky postmodern ‘race realism’ of Generation Identitaire foreshadow much worse to come. The future of fascism is there. If much worse is to come, it will ride this horse, and not that of the German donkey or the Italian mule.

In response our struggle cannot be limited to the terrain of the national, according to the rules of liberal democracy, within the suffocating possibilities of the here and now. We fight here, on this contested terrain of the national, but from an internationalist standpoint. Solidarity is a non-negotiable principle. We also should not pretend social democracy is up to the fight; the ‘populist’ leaders of France Insoumise and Podemos are social Democrats, but without a strong base within organized labor, so they cannot lead this fight. We must. If the broad struggle remains within the confines of the social-democracy, and we are unable to envision and fight for a communist future, we will be trampled, staring at a digital jackboot forever.

In his attempt to offer a redefinition of fascism Passmore gets much correct. But his effort lacks a grounding within a liberatory communism and will therefore be stuck within one or another of the schools of thought above. His observation that the strength of the Marxist approach, as he understands it, is that it illuminates the relationship between capitalism and fascism that other approaches either dismiss or ignore, allows us to make a more important argument, that fascism is constitutive of ‘progress’. Just as poverty and exploitation are essential components of economic development, rather than unfortunate errors of that development, so too does fascism necessarily exist, always and everywhere, within the general capitalist mode of production. It never left, most people just didn’t pay attention.

This informs my insistence that fascism never went away and that a primary problem scholars and activists have with defining and fighting fascism is that they tend to begin and end their efforts with classical fascism, giving short shrift to the subsequent eras of the movement. Rather than yet another dense scholarly work about Hitler’s relationship to his German Shepherds, how about a monograph on how fascism persisted in the war between South Africa and Angola? How about a close reading of that extraordinary experiment in anti racist communist organizing that was the Sojourner Truth Organization? How about a treatise on American white nationalism and fascism? Is American white nationalism a unique form of fascism? Or is it part of a generalized development of fascism that is trans national, the peculiarities of Trump an expression of something much larger? Perhaps it’s not fascism at all? I have offered up my opinions about all of these questions; most radicals appear fixated on Trump’s style of rule, the latest trade tariffs, or the coming national elections. They seem unable to formulate a useful question. Better questions help us reach better conclusions.

Over its 100-year history, through its now three distinct eras (Classical, Cold War and 21st century) fascism is as much a permanent feature of capitalist society as it is a threat to that society. It is both, but not in the sense that Arendt used it, as a fundamentally ‘revolutionary’ reorganization of society that is the doppelgänger of ‘communist totalitarianism’. Passmore, writing in 2002, gets an important part about the uses and abuses of ‘totalitarianism’ correct when he writes: “as a scholarly idea the term enjoyed its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, when anti-Marxist social scientists favoured a concept that discredited communism by linking it with fascism.” That link, by the way, is mostly bullshit and in any case not nearly as important as the link between capitalist democracy and fascism. That general academic project, always a political project in the sense it twists history to fit unsupported premises, is still operative today and informs virtually all non-Marxist interpretations of fascism. Most of that work, especially as it is rendered by journalists, is deeply flawed. Unfortunately, the Marxist rejoinder tends to remain stuck with scholarly work and frames of reference from the Classical period alone. Will the bourgeoisie fund the fascists? Will the fascists seek a red-brown alliance against monopoly capital? Yes, they are funding them. All capital is monopolistic. Meh. This will not do.

Passmore will end up articulating a ‘post-Marxist’ position on fascism, indebted to Ernesto Laclau’s theories of ‘populism’. My central problem with this is that Laclau’s theories are not transferable to the capitalist core–Europe, the United States, Canada, etc., because of the fascist element. Has anyone ever argued this? Someone should. One cannot construct a successful program for ‘populist hegemony’ on this terrain without dismantling the white supremacy, now expressed politically as white nationalism, within it. That demands a discrete fight that is not possible within the thought world of populism. Left wing hegemony cannot be achieved here through a program of populism because that program is both too reformist–it doesn’t offer anything to the most oppressed among us that addresses their particular forms of exploitation and domination (reparations, open borders,etc) yet is also too radical–it proposes universal programs that capitalist power will not accept. Furthermore the populist program is electoral, with a social movement component as an adjunct. Direct action movements must drive electoral politics, not the other way around. The discourse on discourse is too discursive, if you will, chasing public opinion and ideas as though the variability of their meanings float somewhere above and separate from the material conditions of existence. Sociotopes make the animal; the animal does not exist within conditions of its own making.

The limits of the ‘pink tide’ movements in Latin America, which ubdoubtedly owed much to this theory, are now evident everywhere. While acknowledging the contributions of Marxist theory Passmore seeks to articulate a theory beyond the centrality of class but he has picked a frame of reference that only applies, and in a limited way, to the global south.

I agree with Laclau and other ‘populists’ or ‘hegemonists’ however, that social class needs to be re-theorized beyond an industrial proletariat as the agent of history; beyond a peasantry that can surround the cities or a Black lumpenproletariat that can ignite an urban rebellion. Today, add or subtract however many agents of history to however many points of production however much one likes, it will amount to a pointless search for a vanguard that will never emerge. This then is what is different from then to now. What may have been possible in Russia of 1917 cannot be reproduced today. And it shouldn’t be. Something has changed. What is it?

My own unique contribution to this problem is to expand social class without diluting it; rather than an amorphous ‘people’ or ‘populism’ a new set of social actors could be theorized by examining the role of Border, Manse, Factory and Bit in our current mode of capitalist production. The fulcrum for these new social classes is the city, ground zero for insurrection. And, in what is surely to be regarded as a confusing twist, I think a central locus of rupture with capitalism is precisely where it is most wasteful–those centrally located, densely populated, impossibly tall, blindingly bright at night, giant penises we call skyscrapers. Here, where the most pointless of activity takes place in that utter waste of space called the office, by human beings so alienated from themselves and the products of their own labor they don’t even want a union because they prefer the taste of boot, under the watchful eyes of the permanent panopticon, is ground zero of the greatest insurrection in the history of humanity. Oh. That and our ruling class, holding their own dicks, are so blinded by hubris as to locate their primary loci of social reproduction in many of these same buildings. They live where their networking power is concentrated. It’s great that they have it all in one place. This fact will provide us with a wonderful teachable moment.

Today, borders and prisons create social class as much as a factory. So too the Manse is a point of social reproduction that shapes and conditions our existence. If social class is social, then it seems one locus of its reproduction is the home, where, apart from work, socialization takes place. Theirs and ours. While it is true that we live in the street, in a home much larger than theirs, we will take back that which is ours, which is everything.

Social Reproduction Theory is an essential tool for understanding this. The overarching theme here, and its the same one since 1968, is RCG–Race-Class-Gender.

The unification of anarchist and communist theory proceeds from here, where it must tackle the question of fascism.


Trump and the Ruling Class



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Marx and Trump

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States was an epic shitting-of-the-bed with no parallel in American election history. The first, most important point to be made about this is that our corporate and political elites made that bed; we need to make sure they must now lie in it. When they blather about Russians stealing the election or the deplorable nature of the white working class, force-feed them the truth. It was their hubris that fertilized a garden overrun with weeds that produced the superbug that is Trump.

According to virtually all prognosticators, once the Sanders ‘political revolution’ was dispatched the Unfiltered Orange Sociopath would surely lose, and the ship of state, with another captain Clinton at the helm, would continue on course. Only two newspapers with circulations above 100,000 endorsed Trump for President, while all other major media formats, excluding Fox News, and only after the primaries, either dismissed his candidacy with a shrug or actively campaigned against him. He was not from the establishment. He was not the first choice of the ‘smart money’. He wasn’t their 20th choice. He was not one of them. Trump arose from a social movement he did not create within conditions, not of his making. He is more an expression of those developments–riding the wave, so to speak–rather than the wave itself. What produced that wave is most certainly a generalized crisis within capitalism and its ruling ideology, neoliberalism. But the wave is now large enough that it drives that crisis as much as it is a product of it. It’s important to call that wave what it is: white nationalism or the American form of fascism.

If what happened on November 8, 2016, is best understood as a sharp departure from an otherwise healthy and democratic political culture, then the solution might plausibly be a restoration of democratic norms. But what took place was not a departure from the norm, but a logical outcome of that norm. What they call ‘progress’ will always invite the eternal return of fascism. What transpired was not a coup, a ‘stolen’ election, or an excess of American democracy that, if you listen closely, certain bloodless technocrats now argue requires an enlightened despotism as a corrective. This is, of course, how everyone from conservatives to progressives views things: Everything was more or less fine until–WHAM!–the impossible came to pass. The solution is to boot the bigot out of office, fix the damage and move on. But the problem is much more than that and much worse. Even Bernie Sanders can’t fix it now.

On this question of fascism and Trump, much of the socialist left is mistaken in other ways. For instance, a rendering of Trump’s triumph as the ‘rotten fruit of the ruling class’ correctly locates the general responsibility for the world of shit that we live in with the rich and powerful, but it cannot explain two things about that world: first, Trump’s contradictory relationship to that ruling class and, second, his ability to command support from millions of (white) people manifestly not from that ruling class.

To understand how what happened came about and what, more than two harrowing years later, can be done in response, requires an understanding of Trump’s appeal, especially that ‘authenticity’ so often associated with his “saying out loud what some people only dare to think”. Part of what that something amounts to is the genuinely contradictory relationship he has with established centers of economic and political power–what we anarchists and communists call the ruling class. He is from their family but in their eyes, he has always been and will always be something of an embarrassment. They will never fully accept him, something that is, oddly enough, part of his strength. Trump was always invited to the party, but the hosts secretly hoped he wouldn’t show up. If he did appear, everyone would cringe, but they would not kick him out. Why is that? What is it about Trump that makes him a social outcast, yet a fixture at the same time? And why do certain people turn to a billionaire in order to punish a ruling class?

Sometimes wisdom can be found in unlikely places. The nooks and crannies of oppositional subcultures sometimes become the interstices that make history. It took Marx’s body of work decades to marinate before becoming a set of ideas followed by millions across the planet; but those ideas started on the fringe, within spaces in between what is and what could be. If we want to understand Trump and fascism here’s a source from the recent past that sheds important light on a particular dynamic of Trump’s ascendency and its relationship to fascism. Set aside that academic article, that peer-reviewed journal, the latest tweet from that celebrity intellectual. For the moment dispense with those shopworn terms: ‘populism’, ‘authoritarianism’, ‘monopoly capital’, and ‘privilege’.

Listen to some rap and read the lyrics.

The Oakland-based Hip Hop band The Coup released an album in 1994 called Genocide and Juice. It is my favorite work of art in that musical genre and is to hip hop what Alan Ginsberg’s Howl is to poetry, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is to Jazz, or Marx’s Das Kapital is to socialist theory. It is remarkable in many ways and anticipates band member Boots Riley’s film, Sorry to Bother You, released to critical acclaim last year. I will focus on two songs, “Fat Cats, Bigga Fish” and “Free Stylin at the Fortune 500 Club”. If you can, listen to these two songs and follow along with the lyrics. And remember, all of this was created prior to 1994. Apologies in advance for any lyrics that are incorrect.

“Fat Cats, Bigga Fish”

Well, now haha, what have we here?

Come with it
Get down, get down, get down 2ce
Come with it
Get down, get down, get down 2ce

It’s almost ten o clock, see I got a ball of lint for property
So I slide my beenie hat on sloppily
And promenade out to take up a collection
I got game like I read the directions
I’m wishing that I had an automobile
As I feel the cold wind rush past
But let me state that I am a hustler for real
So you know I got the stolen bus pass

Just as the bus pulls up and I step to the rear
This ole lady looks like she drank a forty of fear
I see my old-school partner, said his brother got popped                                       pay my respects, “Can you ring the bell?” We came to my stop
The street light reflects off the piss on the ground
Which reflects off the hamburger sign as it turns round
Which reflects off the chrome of the BMW
Which reflects off the fact that I’m broke
Now, what the fuck is new?
I need loot, I spot the motherfucka in the tweed suit
And I’m on his ass quicker than a kick from a grease boot
Eased up slow and discreet
Could tell he was suspicious by the way he slid his feet
Didn’t wanna fuck up, the come on,
So I smiled with my eyes, said: “Hey, how’s it hanging guy?”
Bumped into his shoulder, but he passed with no reaction
Damn this motherfucka had hella of Andrew Jacksons!
I’m a thief or pickpocket, give a fuck what you call it
Used to call ’em fat cats, now I just call them wallets                                        Getting federal, ain’t just a klepto
Master card or visa? I gladly accept those Sneaky motherfucka with a scam, know how to pull it
Got a mirror in my pocket but that won’t stop no bullets
Story just begun but you already know
Ain’t no need to get down, shit, I’m already low

Come with it
Get down, get down, get down 2ce
Come with it
Get down, get down, get down 2ce

My footsteps echo in the darkness
My teeth clenched tight like a fist in the cold sharp mist
I look down and I hear my stomach growling
Step to Burger King to attack it like a Shaolin
I never pay for shit that I can get by doing dirt
Linger up to the girl cashier and start to flirt
All up in her face and her breath was like murder
Damn the shit I do for a free hamburger

“Well, you got my number, you gonna call me tonight?”
“It depends…is them burgers attached to a price?”                                                “Sorry, sorry, I’m just kidding, I’m a call you, write you love letters…”
“It’s all good…”                                                                                                           “Thanks for the burgers…um, hook me up with a Dr. Pepper?”
“That’s cool you want some ice?”
“Yeah, and some fries will be hella nice!”
“Damn, my manager’s coming, play it off, okay? Have a nice day!”
“I’m up outta here anyway”

I use peoples before they use me
‘Cuz you could get got by an Uzi over an OZ.
That’s what an OG told me
Gots to find someplace warm and cozy to eat the vittles that I just got
Came to an underground parking lot
This place is good as any, fuck, it’s all good
Walked in, found a car, hopped up on the hood

Ate my burger, threw back my cola
Somebody said, “Hey!” It was a rent-a-pig, I thought it was a roller
“Want me to call the cops?” I don’t want them to see me
Looked down and saw that I was sitting on a Lamborghini
It was Rolls, Ferraris and Jags by the dozen
A building door opened…Damn, it was my cousin!
Getting off a work, dressed up, no lie                                                     Tux, cumberbund, and a black bow tie
I was like hey, “Who is it?” “Me”
“Oh, what’s up man, I just quit this company
They hella racist and the pay was too low,”
I said, “Right, what’s was up in there though?”
“A party with rich motherfuckas, I don’t know the situation
I know they got cabbage, owning corporations
IBM, Chrysler, and shit is what they said”

Just then a light bulb went off in my head
They be thinking all black folks is resembling
“Gimme your tux and I’ll do some pocket swindling”
Fit to change in the bathroom and I freeze off my nuts
Let’s take a short break while I get into this tux
Alright, I’m ready

Come with it
Get down, get down, get down 2ce
Come with it
Get down, get down, get down 2ce

Fresh dressed like a million bucks
I be the fliest muthafucka in an afro and a tux
My arm is at a right angle, up, silver tray in my hand
“May I interest you in some caviar, ma’am?”
My eyes shoot ’round the room there and here
Noticing the diamonds in the chandelier
Background Barry Manilow, Copacabana
And a strong-ass scent of stogies from Havana

Wasn’t no place where a brother might’ve been
Snobby ole ladies drinking champagne with rich white men
All right, then let’s begin this
Nights like this is good for business
Five minutes in the mix, noticed several different cliques
Talking, giggling and shit
With one motherfucka in betwixt
And everybody else jacking it, throttling

Found out later he owns Coca Cola bottling
Talking to a black man whose confused
Looking hella bougie, ass all tight and seditty
Recognized him as the mayor of my city
Who treats young black man like frank nitty
Mr. Coke said to Mr. Mayor, “You know we got a process like
Ice-T’s hair, we put up the funds for your election campaign
And oh, um, waiter can you bring the champagne?”

“Our real estate firm says opportunity is arising
To make some condos out of low-income housing
Immediately, we need some media heat
To say the gangs run the street and then we bring in the police
harass and beat everybody till they look inebriated
When we buy the land, motherfuckas will appreciate it
Don’t worry about the Urban League or Jesse Jackson
My man that owns Marlboro, donated a fat sum”

That’s when I step back some to contemplate what few know
Sat down, wrestled with my thoughts like a Sumo
Ain’t no one player that could beat this lunacy
Ain’t no hustler on the street could do a whole community
This is how deep shit can get
It reads macaroni on my birth certificate
Puddin-Tang is my middle name but I can’t hang
I’m getting hustled only knowing half the game
Shit how the fuck do I get out of this place?


Our protagonist is broke, hungry, and without transportation, while also a poet, a pickpocket, a thief, and a flirt. He’s also not a worker, at least not in the formal economy but his epiphany is dependent on posing as a worker. In other words, understanding the deus ex machina of capitalism requires the vantage point of a worker. And yet when he poses as a worker he doesn’t so much as to gain access to a point of production, as to a locus of social reproduction, the leisure activities of the ruling class, where the ‘art of the deal’ really takes place out of the prying eyes of the public.

To rich white people, all Black people look the same (“resembling”) which gives our protagonist the opportunity to infiltrate their posh gathering so as to pick some pockets. But what he overhears is shocking, and I don’t think this guy is shocked by much. The hustler, knowing but “half the game” is being hustled. The analogy here, between the hustle of the street and the hustle of capitalist exploitation and domination, posits a world where there is no in-between–you are either a pimp, a John or a ho. There is no way to act ethically within a capitalist system short of overthrowing that system; no way to be right with the world until those categories are utterly obliterated.

That’s as profound and accurate a portrayal of the exploitation and domination of capitalism as I have ever read. Here, in searing terms is the carceral state and gentrification, racism and urban pacification, the two-party system and elite command and control together with a breathtaking cynicism. It also upholds the humanity of a petty thief without romanticizing it and demonstrates how it is possible, and desirable, for that person to become a radical. There is no direct or easy path from “using people before they use me” to “from each according to ability, to each according to need”. But the possibility is there, it just needs a kickstart and guidance.

The revelation that corporate and political power is a hustle, but on a scale so vast as to be hidden in plain sight, forces us to “wrestle” with our thoughts. It challenges seemingly sacred convictions about the meritocratic principle, that competition leads to opportunity and the common good. But the reality is that a fair playing field is nowhere, to climb the ladder is to place one’s foot on a rung that is someone’s head. The song’s emphasis on an epiphany experienced by a member of the so-called ‘lumpenproletariat’, or Black underclass, challenges those sneering socialists who consider this consciousness-raising on the part of ‘criminal classes’ virtually impossible. I don’t. I think it’s essential to our collective struggle. In a world increasingly characterized by the deterritorialized nature of the gig economy, we need to theorize a terrain of rupture with capitalism at points other than those, strictly speaking, of production.

“Free Stylin at the Fortune 500 Club”

The first line of the next song is our protagonist leaving the party:
“Fuck no, I ain’t got no Grey Poupon!”
Our hero is replaced by the patter of a socialite in conversation with David Rockefeller.
[Socialite] Well anyway, I said, “That’s no burglar! That’s my butler!”
Mr. Rockefeller, let me in on the gossip
I heard you and Mr. Getty are getting into rap music or something?
[Rockefeller] Yes, we have this thing we do with our voices
We sing like authentic rappers.
[Socialite] Oh! David, you must do it for us!

[Rockefeller] Well if they could make this music more funky…
Let me see if I can get my voice like those rappers. Ahem. Ahem.
Here we go.

“Well, if you’re blind as Helen Keller
You could see I’m David Rockefeller
So much cash up in my bathroom it’s a Ready-Teller
I’m outrageous, I work in stages, like syphilis
But no need for prophylactics
I’ma up you on some mean old mac shit
Ain’t buff, but my green gots amino acid
Keep my hoes in check, no rebellions
If your ass occur, shit
It wouldn’t be the first time I done made a massacre
Nigga please, how you figure these
Motherfuckers like me got stocks bonds and securities
No impurities, straight Anglo-Saxon
When my family got they sex on
Don’t let me get my flex on, do some gangster shit
Make the army go to war for Exxon
Long as the money flow, I be making dough
Welcome to my little pimp school
How you gonna beat me at this game? I make the rules
Flash a little cash, make you think you got class
But you really selling ass and ho keep off my grass
Less you cutting it, see I’m running shit
Trick all y’all motherfuckas is simps
I’m just a pimp”
[Socialite] That is so cute! John Paul, why don’t you entertain us with something as well?
[Getty] Well, what should I do?
[Socialite] Why don’t you rap for us?
[Getty] No, I…
[Rockefeller] Come on, old boy, I did mine!
[Socialite] It’s so, tribal!
[Getty] Very well, then.
[Socialite] Oh goody!
[Getty] But, hold my martini, I have to do those hand gestures.
We will begin at the commencement of the next measure.
Now get ready, I’m J.P. Getty
I am tearing shit up like confetti
My money last longer than Eveready
Ain’t nothing petty about cash I never lose
This is just like the stroll
But the hoes don’t choose, I choose you
No voodoo can hoo-doo you
From getting treated like a piece of ol’ booboo who
Do you think want those niggas that don’t turn tricks?
The loco ho in ’94 is getting 86ed
And all about those rebellions, and riots and mishaps
I got the po po’s for their daily pimp slap
The motherfucker gangsta, rolling Fleetwood Caddy
I’m that mack ass already pimped his daddy
Lay you out like linoleum floors
I’m getting rich off petroleum wars
Controlling you whores, making you eat Top Ramen
While I eat shrimp, y’all motherfuckas is simps
I’m just a pimp
[Socialite] Oh no, here he comes! Oh, don’t look at him!
[Trump] Are you fellows rapping? I can do that Reggie, uh, ah reggae type of thing…You know, one, two, three…
[Socialite] Well actually, we were just leaving…
[Trump] I am Trump, Trump check out the cash in my trunk
Trump, Trump check out the cash in my trunk
I am Donald Trump me think you mighta heard about me
How me last wife Ivana come and catch me money
She want all, she want this, she want that, of fun
X amount of this like just like the gap hear me
Hol’ up your hand if you love the money
Hol’ up your hand if you love punanny
Gun pon mi side mi afi kill somebody
Because the money inna mi trunk dem wan fi come tek see.

Trump’s inside/outside status is captured perfectly by Riley through his representation as a reggae-rapper, something I gather was anathema to hip hop during the 1990s. The first two rappers in the song were meant to represent the then-emerging feud between east coast and west coast rap traditions,  memorialized through the mortal conflict between Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. Rockefeller is the east coast, J.P. Getty west coast. Trump is the outlier. There was no reggae-rap. That just wasn’t done. Perhaps this is still so today, I’m not an expert on hip-hop.

In any case, the rendering of corporate bosses and their political lackeys as pimps playing a cynical and profitable game is brilliant. ‘Punnany’, by the way, is slang for vagina, a further foreshadowing of Trump’s misogynistic ‘pussy-grabbing’.

Trump is clearly an embarrassment but he’s still at the party. Begrudging acceptance is still acceptance. We are never at the party unless we have a tray in our hands. At that time Trump was a millionaire, but not a member of the ruling class in good standing, just as the interloper in the song above is at the party, but not entirely welcome. So it is today. This dynamic, captured so well in the song above, also highlights a facet of fascism that is essential to understanding it and therefore fighting it effectively. Fascism, in its classical, Cold War and 21st-century versions always involves a fight above and below and from a relatively independent, or semi-autonomous, racist, and nationalist mobilization of large segments of a population. A fascist movement in formation cannot be understood exclusively through the prism of class, although it cannot be apprehended without it, either. Fascists fight ungrateful elites above and unworthy black and brown hordes below. That fight above is not disingenuous, either. All so-called ‘issues’ and ‘policies’ (trade wars, immigration, Supreme Court nominees, corporate power, etc.) need a theoretical framework that includes this element within the definition of fascism. Otherwise, it is lost.

As fascism contends for state power it becomes more than a product of capitalist crisis; it becomes the crisis itself.

The (often) missing element of socialist analyses of fascism is precisely a recognition of the relatively independent nature of fascism as a social movement. The second missing element is an understanding of an eliminationist form of racism that undergirds and binds together otherwise disparate factions into a social movement.

Trump follows, he doesn’t lead. Another way of stating this is that he is a symptom of a much deeper and entrenched problem: the slow, long term yet quickening growth of fascism throughout North America and Europe. Here, where I live, its particular expression is American white nationalism. It takes other forms elsewhere, but the family tree from which all variations descend can be identified and then fought.

The nature of fascism cannot be captured through attitudinal surveys, marketing pitches and polling preferences. Therefore, fascism can never be substantively defeated at the ballot box alone. Emasculate him through constitutional checks and balances, harass him with deep state democrats, impeach him, or defeat him during the 2020 elections–it will not be enough and will only serve to deepen the rot. Fascism is more than a form of authoritarianism counterposed to liberal democracy. If your frame of reference for fascism is bookended by these two concepts–authoritarianism and liberal democracy–as most conventional frameworks are, you will misunderstand it and be hapless to stop it. Only leftists have the theoretical framework to understand this, if only they would use it.

A defeat as epic as that of 2016 has produced precious little soul searching or self reflection. Instead, the tenuous and brittle state of neoliberal ideology has produced a default explanation for defeat that has settled on theft. Liberals and (neo) conservatives were predictably apoplectic about the Orange sociopath ‘stealing’ their election. Their wrath was directed outward, toward a mostly imagined conspiracy of a resurrected KGB that, whatever its influence on the 2016 Presidential election in no way whatsoever represented a significant deviation from the constant interference practiced by all states against one another as a matter of bourgeois routine since time immemorial. Besides, the United States is the undisputed world heavy weight grand champion of sovereign interference. Regime change is, after all, a particularly aggressive form of electoral interference that both Russia and the U.S. practice practically everywhere. The wrath of disenfranchised elites was directed internally, as well, at those ungrateful ‘deplorables’, a handful of utopian Jill Stein supporters, and of course the millions of us who said ‘fuck you’ to both parties. Their own complicity–either through deliberate policy, as with Obama’s deportation of 2.5 million souls and Clinton’s reminder that Honduran children may have crossed our border but they didn’t get to stay, or a whoopsie such as neglecting to campaign in Wisconsin–is always rendered as a mistake to be corrected, a flaw to be remedied, a wrinkle to be ironed out, rather than something irredeemable at the core of their rule and the values that justify it. But their rule is irredeemable. This ruling class sips champagne while gazing over infinity pools of conspicuous consumption. When they fuck up, it is by definition our fault. Everything is our fault. They are gods. We are mortals. So, what do we do with gods? Hold their heads underwater until the bubbles stop and be sure that there are fascists at the bottom of that pool drowning with them.


Spring Is Coming.


Spring Is Coming

“Trump and GOP Candidates Escalate Race and Fear as Election Ploys” New York Times, October 22, 2018.

The use of the term “ploy” in that headline is interesting. “A cunning plan or action designed to turn a situation to one’s own advantage.” Common synonyms for ploy include subterfuge, ruse, stratagem, contrivance, gambit and trick.

The implication here is that Trump and the GOP have an ulterior motive, an agenda that is cynically being foisted upon ignorant people for narrow electoral gains. He’s tricking them. The typical counter argument proceeds to expose the ploy to unveil the truth. The ploy is ‘the border crisis’, the truth is that there is no crisis. The counter argument, swaddled as always in statistics and eye candy, proceeds thusly: The border is strong. We are not letting in undesirables, the unworthy, the illegal. There is no crisis. Stop inventing one. Look! I’m a reporter at the border and everything is great! I’m eating a street taco. No national crisis. Trump is making up this nonsense to scare people into voting for Republicans.”

This engages the conspiracy theory on its own terrain, and thereby assists its growth. This is the overwhelming narrative fiction that poses as political analysis all around us.

Then there is the other assertion made in the headline, that of an escalation of fear and race. I can understand how Trump’s racist attacks on migrants escalate fear on the part of some people, however irrational that fear may be. But how, exactly, does one escalate race? This is a textbook example of using ‘race’ apart from the only concept that gives the term any meaning, namely ‘racism’. To use ‘race’ here without its prerequisite (racism) is to naturalize the former within that threadbare sociological construct ‘race relations’, something that brackets out racism and white supremacy in its very definition, together with class and gender.

My favorite delicious tidbit from this article:

“…Mr. Trump’s dystopian imagery has clearly left an impression with some. Carol Shields, 75, a Republican in northern Minnesota, said she was afraid that migrant gangs could take over people’s summer lake homes in the state.

“What’s to stop them?” said Ms. Shields, a retired accountant. “We have a lot of people who live on lakes in the summer and winter someplace else. When they come back in the spring, their house would be occupied.”

Spring is coming.

Just as Bill Maher, that sneering, smug, creepy jokester who locates the social base of bigotry within the consumer choice between “Chef Wolfgang Puck or Chef Boyardee”, liberals declaim ‘the wall’ but uphold the sanctity of the eternal border.

It is now March, 2019 and there is no let up with Trump’s ‘rhetoric’ on the border and immigration. Quite the opposite–he recently sent an additional 3,500 national guard troops there. But wait, there is no election. What about that cynical ploy? Why would Trump and the GOP persist with these policies if there isn’t a national election scheduled for almost two years? It must be the government shut down, a lazy liberal might say. But that’s over, too. What cannot be acknowledged is that the attacks are meaningful in and of themselves, and constitute a form of racism. Why is that so difficult to understand? Precisely because what Trump argues is not really any different from the actual function that the border serves; it differs not in kind, only degree. The border itself is a racist construct, a vast filter for the smooth accumulation of capital by the few.

What is it then that is so important to the far right that it pursues it, perhaps even to the detriment of electoral calculations? The answer is, quite simply, that they mean what they say. It is not a substitute for something else, nor a means to achieve something else. It is not a feint in one direction, so as to move in another. It is a project for a deepening of fascist tendencies within our economy, politics and culture. Increasingly that project resonates among elites within both major political parties. It was not too long ago that lazy leftists dismissed fascism in America on the grounds it had no base of support within the ruling class, no fraction of capital supported it against liberals or the left. Must I cite the stock market, Mercer and McGinnis, vast swaths of Europe and Brazil to drive home the folly of that position?

To Trump and Carol Shields it is an ongoing crisis irrespective of election politics. To understand this as principally a ‘ploy’ or as theatre is to say it is artificial, manufactured in a cynical fashion to accomplish other ends, to distract the gullible from the ‘real’ issue, which is the smooth functioning of that border. What does that look like? Perhaps the 2.5 million souls deported during the tenure of Obama is a good index to an answer. Obama is no fascist, but his policies and political philosophy seeded the terrain within which fascism grows. Liberals will cry for the popular front while they demolish the only force capable of giving it meaning, the left. Watch how low they go to undermine DSA and Sanders.

Spring is coming.

In order to understand what they say, one must understand the world view that informs what they say. At the center of that worldview is a picture of the United States of America, sometimes drawn with crayons, at other times rendered with more sophisticated instruments, but always clearly defined by borders.

Listening to liberal or conservative acolytes ‘debate’ immigration is the rough equivalent of a person standing on a street corner trying to decide between Uber or Lyft. The better choice would be a functioning public transportation system, something which ‘rideshare’ is hurriedly eviscerating. Your ‘choice’ is determined by the parameters set by someone else. That debate, between different styles of border is as that between McDonalds or Burger King, Pepsi or Coke.

The national crisis here is precisely how one understands ‘borders’.

These are not merely ploys that will disappear from right wing strategy just as soon as they win or lose an election. They will be back with a vengeance regardless of who wins.

It is a distinction without a difference–between raw, naked aggression that celebrates itself and the kind that is exercised quietly from a remote desk, using clever algorithms. The children of the undocumented have been and will continue to be housed in barbaric camps by both parties, then tossed aside as human refuse or put to work in their factories. Both accomplish the same thing: The regulation of the flow of humanity across borders so as to maintain the privileges and majesty of our ruling classes. However it is managed, the end result is largely the same, different only in degree, not kind.

The real crisis is the existence of those borders, in any form.

Spring is coming.

Liberals, conservatives and progressives will never say this; so we must. For to say otherwise is to tacitly accept that the accumulated wealth and power of elites has a legitimate place in organized human societies. It has no place. It is an abomination. Everything they have accumulated has been stolen from us. Therefore, we say to them: everything we want is in the end of you.

Besides, what these conspiracies take as their worst case scenario is, in many ways, our best case scenario. The values that inform the world we live in are upside down, almost entirely so. If that is the case, then a set of counter values cannot be found, much less articulated, within the language and assumptions that frame the world view of the dominant elite. Their values should never be our values; their utterances should strike our ears as so much gibberish. One does not debate the master; their tongues should be ripped from their mouths.

It is important to debunk these conspiracy theories, but in doing so one should not throw out the baby with the bath water.

One must be more than just right; one must have an impact apart from success in the circus that passes for reasoned debate. And it is a circus, dominated by clowns and jugglers who compete for our attention.

Don’t be a clown or juggler. Be a soothsayer by creating self fulfilling prophecies.

Spring is coming.

As fascism grows within any given society it can, if not properly checked, create its own facts on the ground such that its world view becomes dominant–however irrational it may be–and therefore normative. The conspiracy theory shapes the world to conform with its view. No amount of dispassionate, disinterested critique will change that awful reality, only a militant anti-fascism can do that.

Liberal antifascism, on the other hand, is based on a set of ideas that lead, quite expectantly, to a politics of centrism, a defense of capitalist authority from which no revolutionary politics is possible. The dream becomes anemic, and will quickly turn into a nightmare. Remember, popular frontism presumes a political alliance forged in response to a previous defeat of revolutionary left forces; its weakness is always to be found therein.

Some conspiracy theories need confirmation in resistance and rebellion. Let’s affirm that the nightmare about which they are terrified, is real.

For us, of course, it is a dream we work to bring about.

Antifascists must create our own facts on the ground, not shibboleths that render tribute to the powerful.

We are coming for your summer homes, but from much closer than Mexico. If necessary we will drag you from them, kicking and screaming. We just haven’t figured out how to effect this. We don’t deny it.

Spring is coming.



White Out



Within the Marxist library the bookshelf on fascism has always been somewhat neglected. Socialists in the Marxist tradition tend to understand fascism primarily through the lens of economics and the clash of classes. Following this fascism is often rendered as a political strategy resorted to by elements of a beleaguered ruling class so as to preserve their rule, and nothing but that. This presumes an insurgent left that poses a threat to that rule. No insurgent left, no fascism.

Anarchists problematize the state as a vector of fascism and capitalism and counterpose new social subjects as a way to ground their struggle within class by expanding the definition of class. Following lessons learned during the ‘premature antifascism’ of the Spanish Civil War, if your solution to fascism involves the dictatorship of the proletariat, it will be, at best, a temporary fix. Conversely, and perversely, once fascism gains a foothold, such a solution may become the only fix available.

Liberals tend to emphasize the emotional aspects of fascist rule, the personality traits and psychology of fascists and the difficulty of managing ‘race relations’ and promoting ‘cross-cultural’ tolerance. Antisemitism is understood as an accelerant to what is always considered the irrational kernel at the center of fascism, its rejection of capitalist democracy. Liberals are virtually incapable of theorizing a ‘field of compatibility’ between capitalism and fascism because they don’t understand history as a struggle between classes, however construed, but rather as a smooth unfolding of progress occasionally interrupted by the siren calls of extremism from the right or left. It’s preferred terms of reference are ‘populism’ and ‘liberal democracy’.

Conservatives focus on the similarities between communist and fascist totalitarianism, with an emphasis on the state, even going so far as to argue that classical fascism was a reaction to Soviet imperialism, a riff in another key on the orthodox Marxist approach.

From Trotsky and Gramsci, through Rajani Palme Dutt to Nicos Poulantzas, to Ernst Nolte and Jurgen Habermas and the ‘Historians Debate” through to Jonah Goldberg’s preposterous “liberal fascism” and Roger Griffin’s “palingenetic ultranationalism” of today, however one defines it, everyone agrees that fascism existed. What is more difficult to comprehend is that it also never left. It has always been with us. It is here with us today, stronger than yesterday. It must be fought.

Dylan Riley’s “What Is Trump?” (New Left Review no. 114, Nov./Dec. 2018) takes issue with analyses of fascism across the political spectrum, from conservative to “anarchist insurrectionist”. For Riley, who has a contribution or two on that Marxist bookshelf, the central problem common to all who ask and answer ‘the question of fascism’ today lies in flawed analogies drawn between classical fascism and various contemporary movements of the far right, in particular Trumpism.

“The typical rhetorical device they [analysts of fascism] deploy is to advance and protect the identification of Trump with fascism by way of nominal disclaimers of it.”

The effort to compare and contrast is valid, only “their analogies are rarely placed in a properly comparative and historical perspective,” he writes.

Riley attempts to correct this error by offering what I gather he thinks is a proper comparative and historical perspective on the question. After doing so, Riley wrongly concludes that fascism does not exist today as a discrete political threat. Unfortunately he has two problems with which he is ill equipped to deal.

First, as with most of the analysts he disagrees with, his operative definition of fascism, drawn exclusively from the classical era, is flawed. His definition omits key terms necessary for apprehending fascism in any era.

Second, and also in common with most of the analysts he disagrees with, he will proceed, flawed definition in hand, one hundred years ‘back to the future’, skipping everything in between, to wrongly conclude that fascism is not a threat in 2019; that whatever Trump and Trumpism are, the ‘fascist’ label obscures more than it reveals and rather than the further development of fascism within the American body politic, this latest iteration of the far right might just be “a shot of adrenaline” to it.

I think it’s a shot of crystal meth.

What Riley is arguing is that Trump and Trumpism don’t represent anything different from routine capitalist rule; therefore, the general socialist project can continue as is without significant adjustments made for a new threat.

“Move along,” Riley seems to say, “nothing new here”.

His conclusion is driven by the purpose he believes fascism must always serve, rather than the conditions from which it derives that shape its nature. Marxists used to critique this as a ‘teleological argument’ but I guess in regards fascism it is given a pass. After all, it’s a pretty small shelf.

In any case this whole project of drawing analogies between classical fascism and whatever it is one thinks we are confronted with today is itself wrong-headed.

The yardstick is the problem; so too what you think you are measuring.

First, that pesky definition.

Riley doesn’t offer a formal definition of fascism, but he does write this:

“In sum, the interwar fascist regimes were a product of inter-imperial warfare and capitalist crisis, combined with a revolutionary threat from the left.”

All of which begs the question: What then is that “product”? Riley uses four comparative axes to tease out an answer.

These are “…geopolitical context, economic crisis, relations of class and nation and, finally, the character of civil society and of political parties.”

Having explored the global conditions and comparative axes within which fascism first developed Riley then turns to the sociologist Max Weber and his three forms of rule (the charismatic, patrimonial and bureaucratic) for a more focused treatment of Trump. This is probably the best section of Riley’s article where the contradictions between Trump’s style of rule and the ‘legal-rational’ state are made clear, but it tells us next to nothing about fascism in any era.

Riley’s unfortunate use of the term “product” further suggests that fascism is assembled, as a toaster or automobile, rather than emerges within history as a political and social movement. Here he is again confusing the conditions that structure the nature and political horizons of classical fascism for classical fascism itself. Using only the conceptual framework and terms on offer by Riley, one cannot grasp the nature of fascism. This approach to the question of fascism has a long and inglorious history, best exemplified by a recent precursor with whom I’m sure Riley is familiar.

“The Sunkara Trap” is my term of reference for the intellectual cul-de-sac entered into when one accepts the framework for argument about fascism put forward in an article by Jacobin founder and editor Bhaskar Sunkara, first published in the socialist journal New Politics in June, 2011. Coming on the heals of the tea party rebellion and just prior the Occupy movement, “A Thousand Platitudes: Liberal Hysteria and the Tea Party” was essentially the inaugural long form essay for Jacobin Magazine and Blog.

Sunkara made his bones with it.

The key argument made by Sunkara regarding the Tea Party and the left is as follows:

“The American left’s response to grassroots activity on the right has historically been punctuated by hysteria, exaggeration, and appeals to the coercive power of the state….Furthermore, an alternative reading of the Tea Party will be offered, a movement that is not fascistic, racist, nor particularly novel, but rather a new expression of a venerable American right-wing populist tradition.”

Drawing on critics of left identity politics such as Walter Benn Michaels, Ken Silverstein and the late and hapless (on fascism) Alexander Cockburn, Sunkara blasts the antiracist liberal-left for engaging in electoral theatre that abandons class analysis, thereby leaving regimes of accumulation intact. Its antiracism is so cynical it helps prop up ‘the other capitalist party’ through the ‘antifascism of fools’.

Sunkara’s key argument on fascism is this:

“Though many of its shock-troops have come from lumpenproletarian elements, fascism has historically been a petit-bourgeois movement that can only be understood within the context of a militant left. German and Italian fascists disrupted strikes and physically attacked left-wing meetings. This historically specific brand of reaction implies that there was a vibrant workers’ movement challenging capitalist class rule, forcing elements of those on top to attempt to gamble on empowering the fascists in order to ultimately preserve the existing class structure. The American left is a marginalized and besieged political force, not exactly ready to storm the barricades.”

Sunkara’s dismissal of the tea party uprising of that time was met with some dissent, as the article in New Politics was accompanied by critiques from the late Marvin and Betty Mandell that, while spirited, unfortunately largely reinforced the dynamics of the trap.

Here’s an interesting thought experiment. What kind of definition of fascism could one construct without the use of the following terms?


white supremacy

white nationalism



the Antifa

Not a very useful or accurate one.

All of these terms should feature prominently in any discussion of fascism; none of them are discussed, much less developed by the two authors. Why?

For Sunkara this is fairly straightforward. All of those terms above no longer have any saliency within a form of 21st century capitalism (globalism) that embraces diversity of identities all the while enforcing class division. It does this without having to resort to the crass prejudices of bygone eras. Structural forms of discrimination exist, but they only serve to divide workers. They have no internal logic apart from this. Vigilante forms of racist violence, for instance, are also by definition a part of the past. The capable administrators of American capitalism are clever; they would never resort to such measures unless…you got it, there was an insurgent left. There is no insurgent left. Therefore there is no fascism. And so on.

Sunkara’s dismissal of the American racist right and his defense of the Tea Party are so blind that he ends up needlessly and callously impugning the integrity of civil rights icon John Lewis. In what should be regarded as his ‘Black Face Moment’, Sunkara treats insults hurled at Lewis by tea party militants as “alleged” expressions of “bigotry.” Now, I don’t care that Sunkara describes Lewis as a “doyen” of the liberal establishment, but if the veteran civil rights activist says Tea Party assholes were yelling “nigger” at him, I’ll take him at his word. Elsewhere in his article Sunkara uses the term “race relations”, a sure sign that he is out of his element here. He should stick to explications of the clever triangulating of Kautsky.

Nothing Sunkara has written in the past eight years remotely suggests he has changed this basic theoretical framework. The entire socialist project of Jacobin Magazaine and Blog has continued to reproduce this anemic debate; that project has been compromised as a result. For Sunkara, Trump and the Tea Party before him are merely excretions of capitalist rule and to fight them is to ignore “the true stakeholders of power.” It would seem to be a simple corrective to fight both, but the problem is deeper, more entrenched, and potentially disastrous. Moving from this set of presumptions about the nature of and prospects for contemptorary fascism directly to the democratic socialism of the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign means follies from the past, and those yet to be committed, will likely adversely effect the left.

For Riley these terms are subsumed within treatments of what he calls the inversion of nation/class relations, civil society and the interplay between economics and culture. Trump’s “racist messaging and general boorishness” is about as detailed a discussion of racism or white nationalism to be found here. They are addressed, in other words, through these larger conceptual constructs which actually have no room for them at all. For instance, after describing an American population that resembles that famous “sack of potatoes” described by Marx, and therefore ill suited for fascist mass mobilization, Riley then argues that if Americans are mobilized at all it will be “on the defensive basis of protectionist nationalism, rather than yet further imperial aggression.” Increasingly, in an era of neofascist mobilization, this is a distinction without a difference.

In a bizarre passage he also claims: “In the us today, a pro-globalist professional layer is pitted against a ‘nationalist’ white working class—a configuration that is almost the opposite to that of interwar fascism.” How to even untangle this? I think Riley is saying that professional layers during classical fascism tended to be nationalist as opposed to worker movements that were internationalist. This syllogism only works if by “globalist” one means “internationalist”. Globalism is not the equivalent, during any era, of socialist internationalism. What is the point of highlighting such a difference, manufactured though it may be, if not to accentuate his claim that fascism no longer exists in any meaninful way? What then is the logical conclusion from all of this? Do not fight fascism because it doesn’t exist.

Here is Riley again on Trump’s appeal: “Here it would be futile to separate ‘cultural’ from ‘economic’ issues: the two are inextricably linked. To the extent that Trump’s economic-nationalist agenda had a popular basis, it rested on workers and middle-class layers who had suffered from the offshoring of jobs and who feared competition from immigrants in employment, rather than welcoming them as a cheap source of labour.”

Notwithstanding his own disclaimer, notice how quickly the ‘cultural’ becomes the ‘economic’, entirely unrelated to that unending, unfiltered and noxious racist bile that has issued forth from ’45’ to his 56 million followers on Twitter.

What Sunkara and Riley both don’t understand is that when mobs of white people organize to attack migrants or scream racist epithets at Black people they are not only ‘protecting their jobs’ by responding to labor competition, they are engaging in activity that builds white identity and thereby fascism. When they attack George Soros it’s not just because he’s a billionaire, its because he’s a Jew. Soros can, of course, take care of himself, but we need to take care of the Nazis who hate him. Not for Soros, but for us.

There is a continuum along which this set of ideas ranges, blending into one another. From macro-economists who blather about ‘advanced economies’ to political scientists who wax nostalgic about the roots of democracy in ‘the west’; to neo-cons and their ‘western civilization’ to modern day culture warriors and their ‘christian west’; then onwards to what makes the west a civilization–whiteness–and the ‘organicism’ espoused by the neo-Nazis of Generation Identity. There is a political geography here within which whiteness embodies a key set of ideas that increasingly structures politics, economics and culture. It becomes the key reference point for many white people. It is no longer confined to the margins, it is transforming the mainstream.

Sunkara and Riley fail to theorize a relationship between capitalism and fascism that can account for the semi-independent nature of fascism as a mass movement. Riley hints at the fluid nature of fascism in its movement stages by alluding to a “field of compatibility” that existed between conservatism and classical fascism. But he quickly dispenses with this in his discussion of Trump. I prefer the term ‘semipermeable membrane’, something veteran antifascists have endeavored to monitor as an index to the development of fascism. Such political activity is not the same as routine expressions of racism, homophobia and sexism that undoubtedly characterize all forms of capitalism, even the most “advanced”. It represents something different.

Back to that pesky definition.

No definition of fascism that excludes the above referenced terms could possibly be cogent or complete; only misleading. Any definition of fascism that does include the above referenced terms is not, however, necessarily complete either; one needs a theoretical model that accounts for capitalism and fascism. Jacobin and New Left Review should be indispensable tools for doing as much. They have both largely abdicated this responsibility.

Here I will sketch out an alternative definition of fascism and periodize that definition so as to track it over time and space. I wrote ‘sketch’, so cut me some slack.

Fascism, in all its forms, across different continents and over the span of almost one-hundred years always involves an ideology rooted in racism and nationalism. Its most articulate exponents and most dedicated opponents know this. There is no point in engaging with any definition of fascism that excludes this remarkably simple observation.

Fascism has its vital center in a political geography located throughout the capitalist core. I call it the ‘white belt’. In order to understand this leftists must integrate the concepts of a ‘North/South’ divide and a core/periphery with that of a class analysis. Anti-immigrant racism has as much to do with expressions of whiteness as with labor competition. One cannot understand ‘white nationalism’ without untangling this and the tripartite concept of ‘Race-Class-Gender’, sometimes expressed through the term ‘intersectionalism’, should provide some answers. New Left Review, through its first editor, Stuart Hall, was founded in part to articulate a brand of Marxism that could do as much.

The social base of fascism is best captured through the metaphor of a marriage between the Christian Right and white nationalism which crosses class lines yet remains a mirror of the hierarchies that exist between those social classes. In other words there are fewer doctors and lawyers who are fascists principally because there are fewer doctors and lawyers in any given capitalist society. The social base of fascism cannot be counted, as beans in a jar, only understood in relation to the other aspects of its definition. But you can count on professionals and other fascists of means (Mercer, McInnes, Bannon, et. al.) accounting for an outsize share of their leadership.

Lastly fascism has a motor, what I call ‘the fight above and below.’ This motor must be engaged for a social movement to be reasonably characterized as fascist; this is what gives fascism it’s potentially popular, or mass basis. This ‘fight above and below’ is not a feint, or cynical ploy. It is real. While I agree with Riley that “fascist societies unquestionably remained capitalist societies” they also supercharged the racist, nationalist and imperialist elements of those capitalist societies. They do this in their movement and regime phases.

The last element of my definition involves periodizing it. Fascism has existed throughout three distinct eras. It can be characterized by what has ‘overdetermined’ its parameters, or political horizons, during each of these eras.

Classical Fascism (1921–1945)

Riley correctly identifies the major set of conditions that drove and shaped fascism in the classical era: capitalist crisis, inter-imperialist conflict, an insurgent left. But he misses the key concepts of racism, whiteness and the division between the global north and south.

Cold War Fascism (1945-1990)

Here fascism became the bastard step child of capitalism through the role it played in the anticommunist consensus. Christopher Simpson’s Blowback and Russ Bellant’s Old Nazis, the New Right and the Republican Party are required reading on this era. Where fascism thrived in Latin America, e.g., Argentina (1976-1983), Brazil (1964-1985; 2018-?) Guatemala (1954-1997) it is marked by a genocidal racism clearly inherited from its colonial past.

21st Century Fascism (2010-?)

While the Cold War is understood to have ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is equally important to recall that this was accompanied by claims of ‘the end of history’. Few analysts of capitalism or fascism anticipated an expansion of the political horizons for fascism during the years following the end of the Cold War. Most assumed it would pass into the garbage bin of history. Instead, in retrospect, that time period was a crucible within which fascism was reinvigorated. With the ‘Great Recession’ of 2007-2010 it has vigorously shaken itself, much like a wet dog emerging from a rainstorm; no longer on a short leash, it is on the hunt covering terrain previously out of reach.

An expanded and modified framework for understanding this sweeping periodization might be constructed following ideas popularized by Immanuel Wallerstein. Capitalism cannot be theorized without reference to a ‘global north and south’ and a ‘core and periphery’. Neither can fascism.

To illustrate the flaw inherent to analogies that proceed directly from Classical fascism to the present, let’s turn to Chumbawamba and their 1994 anthem, The Day The Nazi Died (the Nazi is Rudolph Hess).

We’re told that after the war

The Nazis vanished without a trace                                            

But battalions of fascists

Still dream of a master race

The history books they tell        

Of their defeat in ’45

But they all came out of the woodwork                                  

On the day the Nazi died

They say the prisoner at Spandau                                    

Was a symbol of defeat    

Whilst Hess remained imprisoned                              

The fascists they were beat

So the promise of an Aryan world                                    

Would never materialize          

So why did they all come out of the woodwork                            

On the day the Nazi died?

The world is riddled with maggots                                      

The maggots are getting fat

They’re making a tasty meal of all                                                

The bosses and bureaucrats

They’re taking over the boardrooms                                      

And they’re fat and full of pride

And they all came out of the woodwork                                  

On the day the Nazi died

So if you meet with these historians                                  

I’ll tell you what to say            

Tell them that the Nazis

Never really went away

They’re out there burning houses down                          

And peddling racist lies

And we’ll never rest again    

Until every Nazi dies

Sunkara and Riley both extrapolate from a definition of classical fascism that is flawed not least because it omits or downplays key categories necessary for defining it. With flawed definition in hand, they then do what virtually everyone else does: proceed directly to the present, skipping Cold War fascism.

From here they will have difficulty understanding 21st Century Fascism, which began around 2010. The twenty years between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of 21st Century fascism is an interregnum, which I will explain in another article.

Riley has his own blind spot on display when he is discussing what animates the former attorney general, Jeff Sessions. “Sessions’s anti-immigrant fanaticism is rooted in a theory of us development over the past ninety years or so. According to him, the massive inequalities of the Gilded Age were an expression of uncontrolled immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe. With the passage of the National Origins Act of 1924, the European population was assimilated, becoming a homogeneous white working and middle class—the foundation for us world power and domestic tranquility in the twentieth century.”

To use Riley’s own turn of phrase, such a political philosophy could plausibly be cast in white nationalist terms.

The “extreme form of hybridity” Riley assigns to Trump is a feature of fascism, as well as a style of rule. Fascism scrambles familiar categories of the liberal and conservative thought world precisely because it insists upon white identity. The civil becomes the ethnic state (birtherism, attacks on the 14th Amendment, the border becomes a wall), economics is increasingly rendered as cultural (black crime imperils white neighborhoods, immigration undermines community cohesion, trade protectionism expresses a desire to care for one’s own), etc. It must do this because what drives fascism–racism, nationalism and the fight above and below–cannot be carried forward within traditional modes of capitalist command and control; they are not the same, although there is a great deal of overlap between them.

This is fascism in its movement stage.

How to account for this? In a footnote on NSDAP voting and membership data, Riley acknowledges the problem of identifying fascism in its movement stage: “…whether voting behaviour is a good indicator of the ‘social basis’ of fascism is an important question.” At least he recognizes the need to account for fascism in its early stages. But, as with so many others, he throws up his hands because it is apparently too difficult a task. It isn’t.

Here’s an example of what I mean drawn from yet another missed opportunity, this time from our preeminent political prognosticator, Nate Silver. In February of 2016, following breathless articles in the New York Times about disturbing levels of racism polled throughout the American South, Silver led a befuddled group of his colleagues in an attempt to address this. “Elections Podcast: Racism Among Trump’s Supporters”  was the first time Silver, or probably any of his colleagues, used the term ‘white nationalism’. Their unfamiliarity with the term, together with no particular follow through, opened a window through which to view the more general failure to anticipate the election victory of Trump. Aside from Michael Moore, most liberals and leftists failed as well. Again, the key term here is ‘white nationalism’.

Near the end of his article, Riley, having thus far successfully eschewed the term ‘populism’, then renders to it that which must be denied: analytical legitimacy. Trump, Riley argues, may not be any kind of fascist per se, but he exhibits ‘traits’ of the authoritarian and populist. Ugh.

About that “shot of adrenaline”. Here’s the full quote:

“In the 2018 congressional elections, there is no doubt that Trump bore much responsibility for a result unprecedented over the past fifty years—a 49 per cent turnout in a midterm. In this basic sense, Trump’s ascendancy has not resulted in the erosion of American democracy, but rather acted as a shot of adrenaline to a moribund system. Can the left succeed in turning this new terrain to its advantage?”

Yes, perhaps. But what will determine success or failure? If that “shot of adrenaline” turns out to be crystal meth the need for a vibrant, grassroots, militant antifascism will be essential to countering whatever new monstrosities are unleashed. The time for that is before such abominations gain a foothold.

What is it then that Sunkara and Riley prescribe?

More of the same.

Today while the left may not be a roaring tiger, it is certainly no longer a mewling kitten. Democratic socialism is on the lips of millions, but so is white nationalism. By their own logic Sunkara and Riley should understand this. So long as they deny even the existence of contemporary fascism, they will unwittingly hobble our efforts to both confront and offer an alternative to it.

Neither Sunkara nor Riley have anything to say about antifascism, much less the Antifa. It should be noted that the two signature tactics used by today’s antifascists in the United States–doxxing and deplatforming –have effectively crippled the further development of mass fascism. Antifascists throughout the global north deserve support–theoretical and political defense, legal aid, funding and platters of brownies. Where is it?

Last November, after Trump singled out the Antifa for attack by “cops, soldiers and tough guys” there were no statements of solidarity forthcoming from the left. Perhaps the International Socialist Organization or Democracy Now! stood up, but it wasn’t enough. Antifascists should not be hung out to dry; their accomplishments left for academics, ‘anti hate centers’, celebrities or the SPLC to cannabalize. The left needs an independent antifascist effort from the left and below, rooted in the red and the black. It has this in the Antifa, but it needs the political and theoretical defense necessary for continued development. Such efforts should be supported by comrades in positions to do so.

I have been terse, even harsh, with Jacobin and New Left Review. But I want to be clear: These are two of the most important journals I go to for theoretical and political clarity.

I’m yelling at you because I care.

In 2019 there is a growing sense among fascists that what they fight for is not a narrow nationalism, but a transcontinental ‘whiteness’ that stretches from Western Europe east through Russia, onwards to Canada and the United States. In this scenario the threat from Russia is not principally from its ‘authoritarian’ nature, but from its increasing alignment with a fascist international in formation. This ‘white belt’ cannot be understood within a framework of analysis that amounts to a ‘white out’. The solution, as always, is a hybrid of communist and anarchist ideas–the red and the black.



No Mercy: 1980s Reactionary Nostalgia



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please stand by

Throughout its first four seasons Black Mirror, the science fiction series that features technology-driven dystopian futures, has largely managed to avoid the 1980s nostalgia trap. Black Mirror’s critique of science, technology and capitalism has been sharp and disquieting in welcome ways.

My favorite episodes from the first three seasons are “5 Million Credits”, “Nosedive” and “Hated in the Nation”. Although Netflix got involved in season four, the series still managed “Black Museum” and “U.S.S. Callister”, continuing a tradition of entertaining and socially conscious science fiction.

Now comes Bandersnatch.

Rather than fidelity to the social-science fiction of Issac Asimov, William Gibson, Ursula K. LeGuinn, or even Samuel Beckett (check out Lost Ones) Black Mirror, perhaps in keeping with the global civilizing mission of its adoptive parent, Netflix, has plunged down the 1980s memory hole. We will have to see if it can find its way out.

Which raises a couple questions:

What is it about the 1980s that has captured the imagination of corporate popular culture? What are the reactionary nostalgists nostalgic for?

Allow me to hazard some answers.

What is celebrated here is the golden era of the Cold War, where, as the story goes, capitalism, and to a lesser extent, democracy, finally triumphed over communism, and to a lesser extent, totalitarianism. Reagan said “tear down that wall!” and the wall came down. Every rose colored look back includes that scene in its rear view mirror, with a Hollywood sunset ahead.

This triumph of the anticommunist ‘democratic’ consensus claimed to have ushered in ‘the end of history’. No more class struggle, no more engine of history that didn’t run on wage labor, private property and free markets. Progress may be slow, we were told, but it was persistent, always bending towards justice. But history didn’t end, only ‘the end of history’ came to an end–in the killing fields of the Balkans, Rwanda and Iraq.

This is the ‘progress’ Walter Benjamin warned us about.

So here we are, in 2019, and one can smell fascism wafting through the malls, class struggle back on the streets, meaninglessness growing as a malignant tumor on the body politic. What went wrong?

How to fit this square peg into that round hole?

Efface, or reframe it.

The consolidation of political reaction, economic austerity and social backlash came about in the final defeat of the 1960s-70s global wave of upheavals. You know, what came before the 1980s. Buried within this nostalgia is a tacit celebration of reaction, or at least a begrudging acceptance of it.

For corporate interests and many liberals and reactionaries alike, the 1980s also represents the end of socialism, by which is meant class struggle, the true motor of history. The launch of the digital frontier coincided in the popular imagination with that ‘end of history’. They are linked.

But something sinister stalks the anti communist consensus and the tech revolution to which it is yoked.

Nostalgia always involves sentimental longing, often for something that never was. This longing for a mythical past has been described as a key feature of fascist ideology. It is, but it is not the only feature, although it shares this in common with neoliberalism.

What this nostalgia doesn’t efface, it reframes and co-opts. Note that the current wave of 1980s nostalgia does not (usually) include a revalorization of gay bashing, women in the kitchen or Black people at the back of the bus. It presents itself as inclusive of hard fought and won social and economic rights, but claims these victories for itself, then repackages them for sale to the highest bidder, thereby undermining the foundation for those gains. What is most important is that the narrative of how those rights were won be safely ensconced within the embrace of this nostalgia. Slowly, incrementally, while enjoying Kenny Loggins, Michael Jackson or Van Halen.

‘Everything’s gonna be alright’.

The return to the 1980s frequently presents these victories as having come about as a result of anticommunism, austerity, and extreme increases in corporate power, and not despite of or in opposition to them. It’s a difficult argument to make with a straight face, but plenty of people do it. The most persuasive arguments for such nonsense are those that have their roots in a playful naïveté leavened with a healthy dose of cynicism, preferably with very high production values.

Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One is a gleeful expression of this tendency. Bandersnatch plays the same tune, but in a different key.

Whereas Ready Player One employs a traditional action/adventure narrative structure, Bandersnatch is configured to scramble any narrative structure. Although they are dissimilar in this respect, they are united in their reactionary nostalgia.

The first element of attraction here is an effort to rediscover that magical moment when the twin totalitarianisms of fascism and communism gave way to capitalism and democracy. Or so the story goes. But capitalism and democracy are fundamentally incompatible, their clash engendering the eternal return of various strategies for an exit.

The second concept celebrated here is the birth (in a garage, rather than a manger) of a nascent cottage industry of personal computers. A bunch of sexually maladjusted teenage nerds fondling diodes and manipulating bits innovated again and again until voila! the personal computer was liberated from IBM, then plundered for profit by Microsoft and Apple.

Whatever trace amounts of creativity and public good remain from those garages was long ago gobbled up by metastasizing corporate power.

For Ready Player One this retreat from the public sphere into the garage is glamorized in the opening moments of the film, when the protagonist says, “he showed us we could go somewhere without going anywhere at all.” This is the perfect theme for a political philosophy that cannot acknowledge even the existence of a shared material reality, much less the gross inequality of that reality.

The first unforgivable sin of Bandersnatch is in its very conception and, predictably, its production costs. Because this movie/app involves multiple story lines, it takes hours to exhaust all the possible ‘endings’, so instead of four discrete science fiction pieces, we get ‘four in one’. “Look how much money we saved on actors and locations!” someone surely noted.

But the end result is a second sin: Bandersnatch takes on more than it can chew and succumbs to that dreaded art form, pastiche. Who in their right mind thought to combine the worst elements of an ‘on demand app’ such as Uber Driver or Deliv with a science fiction tradition that skewers such naked digital aggression? If that’s Bandersnatch’s snarky point, it’s well taken because I didn’t bother to finish it. Mission accomplished.

Here are three concepts useful in unpacking the reactionary philosophy at the heart of Ready Player One and Bandersnatch and for understanding my seething hatred of them both.

Commodity fetishism is a concept with deep roots in Marxist economics. It borrows from religion and anthropology to examine capitalist production. All capitalist production involves exploitation and domination. The processes and relations that are a part of producing the things we need and desire, and the inequality that ensues, must be hidden, the whole process represented as good, just and eternal. Where commodities come from, how they come to be, and what relations are involved with their production must be obscured or reframed, if they are even acknowledged. Why? Because the truth of the matter is a horror show.

In Ready Player One, as with seemingly all video games, keys and coins are fetishized. A commodity is represented as having magical properties in much the same way a talisman does for a priest.

The relationship between the Bit and capitalism is perfectly represented by keys and coins. One must develop skills (coding, for instance) in order to obtain and use keys; the keys unlock chests of coins, used to purchase more keys (skills) so as to unlock…and so on. Nowhere in this film is there even a glimpse of the material reality that underlies its world; only that sometime in the future there will still be trailor parks and Pizza Huts.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the scenario that takes place in a digital recreation of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. This craven homage is, to me, sacrilegious. But I aggress.

The second concept is possessive individualism. Here’s C.B. MacPherson, who coined the term, on what it means: “in which an individual is conceived as the sole proprietor of his or her skills and owes nothing to society for them.” The highest expression of possessive individualism today is the celebrity tech millionaire, worshipped for their genius. Originally, as with the case of Thomas Edison, genius was represented by the ‘invention’. Today we call this ‘innovation’, the difference in terms reflects a deeper transformation of things (inventions) into processes and relations (innovations) controlled by Bit logic. The power of the tech lord is not found in a thing so much as the ruthless cunning necessary to instrumentalize all those hidden relations of production that produce corporate profits. If tech titans wield a talisman, it is the Bit. This is what networking power is really about. Because corporations are inherently dictatorial, the celebrity tech titan is a prime source of authoritarianism. We know this, intuitively, and it causes anxiety. That anxiety, however, is neurotic: it loathes and loves the dictator. This is why there are usually good and bad corporate dictators, as in Ready Player One, from which one must choose. There is no alternative to this binary–one must choose one or the other. Both choices are bad.

The last concept, repressive desublimation, occurs when in order to satiate our thirst for change, we increasingly purchase or fund our rebellion, becoming thirstier.

Repressive desublimation can be broken down into its constituent components. Attributed to Herbert Marcuse, of the Frankfurt School, it borrows from psychology. Repressed, as in a desire that cannot be fulfilled, the deferment of which functions as both a defense mechanism and the source of pathology. When we say something is repressed, we usually assume it will bite back with a vengeance sometime later. The longer the repression, the harsher the bite back later on. But it is also a coping mechanism, where one learns to tolerate and accept intolerable and unacceptable things and get over it.

Desublimation occurs when a desire, say for sexual expression, is desublimated through, for instance the beauty myth. Sexual fulfillment can only be found through the sexual marketplace where strict adherence to a beauty regime and the wages of patriarchy are required. Each desire deferred is transmuted into a new desire, and so on. Desublimation occurs when the unfulfilled desire snaps back, without a mediating state, to a state which now contains within it both the original desire and the experience of its repression, thought to be its fulfillment. The snap back is not gradual, but immediate and harsh as when the purchase of a Land Rover is criticized as outdated, or your haircut is ugly.

As a thermodynamic process, desublimation is when a substance (here, steam) is transformed back to its original state (ice), reversing its sublimation from ice to steam.

This is the soul crushing cycle of consumer capitalism, where needs and desires are manufactured as much or more so than goods and services, through advertising. Workers are enlisted as consumers in administering their own poison. This is the essence of repressive desublimation, which is what framing Van Halen as rebellion is all about.

The Bildungsroman coming of age adventure story featured in both Ready Player One and Bandersnatch allows for celebrity worship, but of the right celebrity. This always features a poor, Horacio Alger type, preferably abused by a working class family that fails to appreciate his (it always is a boy-man) genius.

Here capitulation to pop culture is rendered (fat boiled off down to the bone) as resistance, even revolution.

But it is neither.

The only exercise of free will here is that of the corporation, a legally defined citizen with all the rights of a citizen, but none of the responsibilities. The only responsibilities a corporation has are those of a fiduciary nature, to shareholder value.

Perhaps this is one of the points the creators of Bandersnatch seek to make. But it’s difficult to extract that from an experience as loathsome as that of watching/playing Bandersnatch. Many of us are forced to endure such indignities on a daily basis and prefer that our intelligent science fiction be free of such cruelties.

The film Almost Mercy, by Tom Denucci is a flawed, but welcome antidote to this reactionary nostalgia. Almost Mercy is violent, gory and gruesome, yet surprises with deadpan humor and even manages tenderness and melancholy. The plot contains an initially disorienting look back to the bigotries of early American Christian fundamentalism. That disorientation later reveals itself as deeper character development and thematic exposition. The narration by the protagonist, an emerging militant feminist, is caustic and unsparing, but funny as hell.

There are problems, however, such as the well sprung role reversal near the end. If you watch closely, that role reversal is given away a bit too early. There are also several scenes with anachronisms, such as selfies with IPhones, not invented until 2007.

The casting of two icons of 1980s slasher horror films is brilliant, as they satirize themselves. The soundscape and soundtrack obliterate so much 1980-90s commercial pop music through thoughtful and searing vignettes, which owe more to that time period’s alternative rock.

Set in ‘South Greenwich, Rhode Island’ the social context for Almost Mercy is rooted in Northeastern American deindustrialization. The town used to have industry, but now downwardly mobile whites pursue “champagne lifestyles on gingerale budgets”, caught up in the familiar scourges of easy credit and indebtedness, addiction, meaninglessness and the disposable family. As if that weren’t enough, every possible institutional representative relied upon to protect the young protagonist, fails: parents, teachers, law enforcement, pastors, social workers, psychiatrists, peers, the media, etc. Each, in turn, is skewered in scenes of deep pathos and sarcasm, creating the conditions within which drastic means of redress become the only option.

It’s a brilliant film, but needs editing.

In summation:

The exit strategy for Ready Player One is the full embrace of the simulacrum; of Bandersnatch, that there are endless iterations of an exit; and of Almost Mercy, vengeance–kill your oppressors.

A socialist future is nowhere considered here, but there is little doubt that it cannot be constructed from the lessons of the first two; only, problematically, if at all, from the last.



Meeting With A Stalinist



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If only in 1991 there had been a John Brown Gun Club, a Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective, a Socialist Rifle Association, or even a communist caucus within the Democratic Socialists of America, I wouldn’t have been visiting a Stalinist at a Victorian overlooking Delores Park, in San Francisco.

But then again, I wouldn’t have enjoyed that reefer in the park, either.

Somewhat delirious after frolicking in the Castro during Gay Pride, I sat in the parlor of a woman who was an aficionado of the great abolitionist, John Brown. In fact she called her organization the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (JBAKC–what an acronym!). A committed Stalinist, she held forth at length about ‘Uncle Joe’, and was a militant and mostly nonsectarian (really) antifascist. But between the two of us–I am not in any sense a communist in the Stalinist tradition–we did what we could, from within a political environment vastly different from that of today, to stem the tide of fascism. We shared intelligence on fascists, protested fascists, and fought them in the streets, all the while hoping to ignite a prairie fire of resistance and rebellion. But all this we did at a time when radicals who were socialists, anarchists and communists, were not so frisky. Most people from these traditions split the difference as ‘progressives’, the remainder operated from radical grouplets. The most dedicated and principled among us did prison support work to honor and protect comrades on the inside.

Much of our conversation in that Victorian proceeded in the manner of a seasoned dialectician gently head-patting a skeptical neophyte:

“Kicking the shit out of Nazis seems to be at least somewhat effective,” I would say. My Stalinist friend would reply, “well, I agree with you in practice, and will even do it with you, but, look here,” pointing to a passage from Stalin’s Dialectical and Historical Materialism, “I’m not sure it works in theory.”

What the Antifa practices works, damn the theory.

The theory will come round, eventually.


King vs Kubrick



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I was always fond of the phrase, “the book is always better than the movie.” Then Stephen King wrote The Shining, and Stanley Kubrick made a film by the same name.

Let’s compare and contrast the book and film, shall we?


Book: The Shining

Movie: The Shining


Book: Overlook Hotel in Colorado

Movie: Overlook Hotel in Colorado

Operative Motif

Book: a wasp’s nest

Movie: a maze

Principle Conflict

Book: (literal) Ghosts of hotel seduce father to kill mother and child; (figurative) hive mentality vs bourgeois individualism; addiction vs sobriety.

Movie: (literal) Ghosts of hotel seduce father to kill mother and child; (figurative) White settler colonialism vs. everyone else; industrial capitalism vs. nature; the leisure class vs. the working class; patriarchy vs. women and children.


Book: Jack’s drinking.

Movie: Danny’s ability to ‘shine’.

Jack’s Principle Weapon

Book: a mallet from the lawn game of roque.

Movie: an axe for clearing forests.

The Supernatural vs. Science Cliche

Book: Stock characters are present everywhere in the King universe to support a main conceit indulged by seemingly all purveyors of supernatural horror, and therefore common to all of it: science and rationality are ill equipped to apprehend and control the spirit world. To believe otherwise is folly and brings disaster. This is why a doctor, a cop, a lawyer, a scientist or a government agent always appear in such narratives as well intended, but naive and ineffective, allies to the main character(s). There are many in the book.

Movie: one scene involving a child psychologist establishes Danny’s gift will be misunderstood as pathology.

Supernatural anthropomorphic manifestations

Book: Topiary animals. A firehose. A boiler. A lamp (just kidding).

Movie: None. Only ghosts.

Bullshit Pop Culture Reference Worked Into The Narrative As Though It Was A Postcard Tacked Onto A Refrigerator

Book: Creedence Clearwater’s “Bad Moon Rising” lyrics portend a coming snowstorm?

Movie: none. Kubrick is meticulous and reviles pop culture.

Bullshit Literary Reference Worked Into The Narrative As Though It Was A Postcard Tacked Onto A Refrigerator

Book: Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death.

Movie: none. Unless you count the maze, in which case it is effectively worked in and therefore not bullshit.

Annoying Incongruity

Book: Caribou in Colorado. (elk yes, but not caribou).

Movie: none

Jack’s Choice of Liquor

Book: Gin Martini.

Movie: Bourbon, of course.

Jack’s Typewriter

Book: Underwood–Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Kerouac.

Movie: Adler–Nazis.

Source of Evil

Book: Bad people who did illegal and immoral things in the hotel, then got trapped there in the afterlife.

Movie: The hotel itself–a monument to the parasitical leisure class that demands everyone become a ‘Jeeves’ to serve them. The worst fucking place on the planet where the spoils of exploitation and war coagulate in shimmering infinity pools of conspicuous consumption. Our hell, their heaven.

Metaphor Used By Dick To Explain the Presence of Ghosts

Book: “Fingernail clippings and boogers” which does not work as a metaphor as both reference the entirely quotidian and therefore not frightening sloughing off that every human being experiences.

Movie: Dick says, “Burnt toast”–the perfect metaphor to represent traces a ghost leaves behind. Burnt, as in something went wrong with the cooking of the toast such that an unpleasant smell would linger. Ghosts are emotional remnants made material in our world because of unfinished business of a nefarious nature.

What Jack Means When He Says, “White man’s burden, Lloyd, my man. White man’s burden.”

Book: The civilizing mission of paint by numbers genre fiction is a heavy burden.

Movie: what a suckup asshole says to impress his bosses.

What the Ghosts Represent

Book: All the ghosts are evil; all desire to continue their evil deeds–marital infidelity, gangsterism, murder, as a manifestation of their “single group intelligence”. The source of this evil is not institutional, structural, historical, political or otherwise outside of the individual. It is located within us, in our denial of the possessive individualism at the heart of the bourgeois family.

Movie: The source of evil is the hotel itself, which cannot be separated from its history, in part erected on the bones of indigenous peoples. It is rabidly racist and demands absolute servility on the part of inferiors, most pointedly workers and their families.

Racist, Homophobic, Classist or Misogynist Scenes That Contribute To Plot Or Character Development.

Book: None

Movie: Grady calls Dick Hallorran a “nigger” in the all important restroom scene. Elsewhere Jack says, “just a little problem with the old sperm bank upstairs. Nothing I can’t handle, though.” That’s about it. Sparing, short and devastating. But Kubrick doesn’t wallow in it as King does–as a teenager expressing unfiltered repressed emotions.

Gratuitous Racist, Homophobic, Classist or Misogynist Scenes That Don’t Contribute To Plot Or Character Development.

Book: an endless parade of cringe worthy and vicarious bigotries apparently pleasurable for some people to read. Emblematic is where King has a young Dick Hallorran fire a “Nigger Chaser” firework (bottle rocket) at a wasps nest. This makes no sense even on its own terms.

Movie: none.


Book: Serve different masters. In Wendy’s case, following escape from the Overlook Hotel, this is made possible by the generosity of Jack’s former alcoholic buddy, Al, who can be distinguished by two things: he’s rich and with his connections can get Wendy a job, and he’s emotionally stable, having defeated the demon of alcoholism. Oh, and he’s part owner of the hotel?! This makes perfect sense if the idea of the hotel is not what the problem is, just its mismanagement. This satisfying ending is a continuation of the real horror unaddressed by the novel.

Movie: Dick is killed by Jack. Wendy and Danny escape by snowcat. Jack then freezes to death in the maze.

Symbol of Eternal Horror

Book: something about August 1945 and “group intelligence”. Almost completely unintelligible, as though King finally, mercifully, tired of typing.

Movie: Jack is immortalized in a framed group photo of rich, white revelers at an eternal Fourth of July celebration, circa 1921.

In conclusion.

All of this flaunts two unavoidable truths about the world we live in: first, that the true source of horror in the world is capitalism, a system of private property and markets that is eminently rational in organization, yet bat shit crazy in its unrelenting imposition of the inequality and suffering that are the unavoidable hallmarks of its rule; and, secondly, the only way out of this maze-like house of mirrors horror show is collective struggle and a socialist future. Everything else is a part of that horror show.

Kubrick, brilliant nihilist that he was, ably deconstructed the hypocrisy and hubris at the heart of the capitalist narrative. He acknowledged that horror and identified its sources, but without any exit strategy, (as a nihilist he didn’t believe such a thing could ever exist) he succumbs to the traditional failure of nihilism: cynicism and its doppelgänger, fatalism.

Kubrick is still preferable to King, who misidentifies the true source of horror in the world we live in, then prescribes more of it as a way to escape it.


Love Letter To The Antifa



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Dear Antifa,

After all these years, I remain hopelessly in love with you.

From our first meeting, I was head over heels.

The initial courtship, that labor of love called the Antifascist Archives Project, blossomed into a passionate love affair.

We became friends, comrades and lovers.

You would tutor me in the manner of a sober socialist dialectician. But, Oh!–how my heart would skip a beat and I would blush when you pronounced the word, “dialectician.”

So many late nights with comrades buried in newspaper clippings, pamphlets and balaclavas, it was a wonder we ever slept.

That cold call you insisted I make to an old Yippie–“castigate him for not sufficiently appreciating the legacy of the Black Panthers,” you exhorted. That same old Yippie would laugh uproariously at my chutzpah, then spend countless hours sharing trade secrets over latkes and coffee.

“Only from ignorance can the greatest leaps of wisdom be made,” you later said.

Thrumming your fingers on a wooden desk piled high with papers, you look up: “The best protection from being infiltrated by your enemies is to infiltrate them. Simple and irrefutable. Know what they are thinking before they think it; act before they act. Then crush them.”

You were always straight to the point.

Long before his posthumously published Millennium Trilogy, you claimed Stieg Larsson as one of our own–an international socialist and antifascist who lapped other researchers by practicing the dark arts of Antifa spycraft, all the while hewing close to your dictums.

Gazing up at the entrance to a segregated country club, you mused: “Pedagogy is important. Where the rich have been so shortsighted as to construct their temples of conspicuous consumption in close proximity to us, we will occupy them so as to provide a teachable moment.”

The Great Game, by Leopold Trepper, always at your fingertips.

“Trapped between the anvil of Stalin and the hammer of Hitler, Trepper chose an independent, antifascist communism. He also developed long term spies and a formidable intelligence network.”

Later: “Sometimes I feel trapped between the hammer of Trump and the anvil of Clinton.”

You were never so relaxed and jovial as with that knock-nosed miner from Northern England. The Godfather of the American Antifa (who, in keeping with tradition shall remain anonymous) dispatched this foul mouthed hooligan to disrupt fascist enclaves in the Pacific Northwest, and we sang songs about gay and lesbian liberation, armed strikes and Native resistance.

In 1996, over weird breakfasts and not a few pints in a baker’s dozen of cities throughout Germany you showed me the Antifa flag flying high.

“Look”, you pointed up. “There, hoisted high above that community center, the red and the black. The only flag the Antifa will ever fly–if it flies one at all.”

You were everywhere over there after the fall of that wall, from Stuttgart to Bremen, Wuppertal to Keil and of course Berlin and the wonderful organized chaos of Kreuzberg.

“What’s that smell?”, I asked in Leipzig. “Braunkohle”, you murmured, “distinctive and dirty.”

Defending refugees the urgent task of the day; fighting cops what the Antifa did on its lunch break.

“All cops are bastards,” you would spit, the taste of cayenne pepper fresh in your mouth.

Later: “Most cops are workers, too. Find a few still capable of cognitive dissonance; they will help us liberate their intelligence reports on fascists and identify racist cops.”

Then, after a shot and a beer, another tattoo, and dancing to LKJ at a meet up with the RABL, you woke up with a terrific hangover, then got back at it.

As you remember I continued to fight fascism, and fascists, but sometimes wound up in odd situations, occasionally a forum where I did not belong.

You never thought much of that cocky, droll southern lawyer and his legal sophistry; less of the television repairman and his White Aryan Resistance. Something was amiss during that trial and verdict. I have heard rumors of a fateful meeting at a Shari’s Restaurant that one day will provide a curious postmortem to this instance of American justice carried out in the little city known as ‘Little Beirut’.

Sometime thereafter I was drafted to appear before an unofficial meeting of some subcommittee or another of the United States Congress, where I read something about terrorists and white supremacists.

You shrugged.

I lectured judges about ‘citizen militias’ and white supremacists, keen to know if any of them were sympathetic.

We always found a few.

I then became an unpublished footnote to a libel suit filed by a peripatetic Holocaust denier, a suit he lost to a scholar of the Holocaust.

“I see you are slated to provide testimony for the trial,” you casually noted.

“Will they be in wigs?” I asked.

“Yes,” you said, “but it won’t be as much fun as a drag show.”

I stayed home.

Finally, I was approached (not the first time) to expand my intelligence network to target a part of the left that was dancing with brownshirts. I refused.

The request came from an unlikely source, and its refusal was difficult. What’s more, the logic behind the request and its integrity were not without foundation. It was something I would not do, but, could not categorically state should not be done. That’s a conundrum.

Ugh. I was a mess. So was the left.

But I never betrayed you, a statement many comrades close to you then, and perhaps close to you now, cannot truthfully say.

Sometime later you passed me a note which read, simply “What have we become?”

I burrowed deep within my files.

The bloom was off the rose.

Then I left. Or was shown the door. Probably a bit of both. I cast myself adrift, but always found myself moored somewhere close to you. I thought perhaps you would be better off without me. I watched from a distance, and you were hardly aware of my existence.

Throughout many years I’ve never really had another proper lover; paramours, flings, but nothing serious.

After you, no one could compare.

Today things are much different. Today the fascists are on the march and there are more of them. But so too have the red and the black multiplied and spread.

When Trump noted that opposition to the Antifa would include cops, soldiers and “tough guys” no one leapt to your defense.

Radicals who should have leapt to your defense instead demurred.

Others, however, expressed their solidarity.

The Socialist Rifle Association through its slogan “Arm the Working Class”, is an antidote to both the National Rifle Association and David Hogg. They are organic allies to the Antifa, as I’m sure you would agree.

I see you deepening your ties to allied antiracist, anticapitalist, left struggles. Even the New York Times references you, once removed, in begrudging acknowledgement of your successes.

Recent efforts by Al Jazeera, Hate Not Hope and even The Stranger in Seattle to infiltrate fascist groups follow a template you established.

But the terrain will be tricky.

Recently you were bashing the fash when a comrade approached you wearing a button that read, “I Am George Soros”. You shrugged, “Billionaires can take care of themselves, until we do. And fuck Charlie.”

A few months ago you exclaimed, “Look here! There is a veritable cottage industry in doxing, outing, de-platforming, shaming, exposing and ostracizing fascists online.”

A bit later, “human intelligence is often the foundation for signals intelligence. Not the other way around.”

When discussion strayed and the autonomous nature of the Antifa in doubt, you would retort:

“The Antifa is a conspiracy: Small, local, anonymous, decentralized, and flexible, with both feet churning in para politics, holding a compass oriented to the red and black.


“It has a twofold mission.

“First, fight fascism by attacking fascists. Destroy their capacity and disrupt their organizing.

“Second, protect kindred movements from attack. As socialists, anarchists and communists, the Antifa places priority on left popular movements and communities targeted by fascists.

“Safeguard the political integrity and independence of the Antifa in part by never using spycraft against the left or targeted communities.”

Warming up to it, you would continue:

“The Antifa is not a mass organization. The Antifa is not a, much less the, vanguard.

“The Antifa does not base build, hold conferences on privilege, organize unions, coordinate voter registration drives or practice entryism. All of these can be fine activities, but are not the province of the Antifa proper.

Finally, channeling Lenin or Luxemburg:

“The Antifa is a defensive formation that fights a rearguard battle against fascists to clear and prepare the way for popular revolutionary movements.”

“The Antifa does not fight to preserve liberal democracy, nor on behalf of liberal democracy, nor even according to the norms of liberal democracy; only, when appropriate, alongside liberal democracy, in opposition to fascism.”

“Such support is provisional and never in support of capitalist war, only class war.”

I’m breathing heavy just remembering your off-the-cuff harangues.

“Having an intelligence advantage is often a prerequisite to everything else. If you don’t develop it, you will be dependent on the state or para state formations to do so. That’s a relationship of dependence that will corrode your principles.

“Be bold. Push the envelope. Be conspiratorial.

“When recruiting people to infiltrate fascist organizations, ‘already antifascists’ are always preferable to someone motivated by money, or a recent epiphany. Leave them to the ADL and SPLC.”

As I look upon you now, in an epic battle with fascism, my love burns anew, if a bit less bright.

Do you still consider me one of your ‘original gangsters’? An O.G. Antifa? After all, once a gangster…

I am also, of course, an Old Ghost of Antifascism.

Whatever I am to you, I will always love you.


Zombies vs The Superhero



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Have you ever seen a superhero take a shit?

Every superhero secretly craves the limelight, and will even battle one another for it.

The superhero is a con artist, a narcissist posing as an altruist. Hence the disguise.

The superhero is a reclusive millionaire (Batman) a flamboyant millionaire (Tony Stark) a magical millionaire (Dr. Strange) or, getting right to it, a god (Thor).

The arch-enemy of a superhero emerges from the shortcomings of that superhero; the wealth and privilege the superhero defends produce the evil they will eventually vanquish, at their leisure.

The superhero sets the barn on fire, then expects applause when they put it out.

For zombies, a superhero is scum coagulating at the top of a boiling pot.

Zombies stir that pot.

Zombies are filthy and eat without utensils.

Zombies eat brains because direct action against cognitive capital never tasted so good.

Zombies are the salt of the earth, the great unwashed.

Zombies swarm and are anonymous.

Zombies say, ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’; the superhero says, “hold my cape.”

Zombies rush through borders, climb over walls; a superhero builds them.

Zombies cry out: No Pasaran! The superhero pats us on the head, and says, “this too shall pass.”

Zombies harness the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ against the private power of the few.

Zombies lose their teeth and hair from disease; the superhero secretly harvests black market organs so as to live forever.

Zombies act to satisfy basic needs and desires denied them; the superhero stands for ‘a man and his castle’ and ‘every man for himself’.

The superhero is, in a word, an ubermensch. A word from which every zombie recoils, yet also a meat sack every zombie will devour with relish.

To the superhero, zombies are irredeemably different, less than human, and an eternal threat; to zombies, a superhero is meat.

A superhero will hold the line.

Zombies do not wait in lines.

Zombies just don’t behave.

A superhero is clean, bright, mostly white, fashionable, and, above all, ironic.

Irony: when fate conspires, unexpectedly and often humorously, against you.

Zombies don’t believe in fate.

Zombies believe that ‘we make our own history, just not in conditions of our own making.’

(Zombies slur their speech, so I may not have got that exactly right.)

Zombies feast on superhero irony, then spit the bones into that boiling pot.

Zombies are anti-heroes, yet also something more than just the opposite of a hero; something more than a collection of individuals who either shuffle or run really fast.

Zombies represent that movement towards liberation the masses carry out when, by becoming a class for themselves, they engage that inexorable motor of history, the struggle of poor against rich, class against class, us vs them–and win.

No gods.

No masters.

No superheroes.

We are many, they are few.

‘Everything we want is in the end of you’.


Charity Or Change



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As measured by revolutionaries the value of philanthropic giving is to be found not only in the item given (the amount, its strategic impact) but in the size of the reservoir from which said item derives. Put another way acts that rise above charity and facilitate change are those which involve sacrifice. On this valuing, the $5 bill extended a homeless person from someone with only $100 is revolutionary in a way the $10,000 grant from a foundation with an endowment of $3,000,000, is not. With one exception: when that grant is made in order to spend that endowment down, immediately. Then again, all fortunes are amassed from another’s misfortune. That such endowments are not universally regarded as the spoils of war and wage labor is of little matter. When such wealth is redistributed in the commons the truth of the matter will out.

Everything we want is in the end of you.

Back To Little Beirut



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Back in the late 1980s, in the embryonic days of the Coalition for Human Dignity,  together with a small group of student radicals I cobbled together something called the Antifascist Archives Project. It amounted to little more than a poster featuring a bundle of sticks with the blade of an axe protruding from the top being broken in half. The symbol is that of the fasces, the Latin term from which fascism derives. Together with our fanatic hearts and a pile of research files to inspire the breaking, we began ferreting out fascists wherever they might be, in whatever stage of development they had progressed, at whatever cost to ourselves. We operated from the second floor of a warehouse space located at 333 SE 3rd Street in Portland, Oregon known as The Matrix. From the beginning my antifascism always involved no small amount of rebellion.

Below our second-story ramshackle office was a tortilla chip factory where (in my mind’s olfactory eye) I can still smell those fresh tortillas cooking. After being cut into chips, they would slowly make their way down a small conveyor belt where they would be bagged and often consumed, hot and fresh, by yours truly. My memories of this collective space are bound up with the smell of those tortilla chips and that of another: the fresh ink that emanated from the giant offset printing press which periodically disgorged the finished broadsheets for the long defunct, and somewhat bizarre, Portland Free Press.

Fronted by Andrew Seltzer, the cantakerous and idiosyncratic editor and publisher, the newspaper had a short run of a couple years. I was listed on the masthead as “Staff Researcher”. In late 1989, I dug up a connection between the local top representative for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and government surveillance of the left. Seltzer told me to call the local FBI office for an interview, which I did. To my surprise, I was granted an audience with the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Portland, Oregon FBI, a guy named Danny Coulson. Two of us marched up to his office and were allowed to record the proceedings (where is that tape recording?). We grilled him about the FBI’s Cointelpro (Counter Intelligence Programs) of the 1960s-1970s, armed with the accusation that such efforts to “infiltrate, disrupt and neutralize” the left were continuing, in particular around groups such as CISPES, (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador). I was young and well on my way to a political philosophy that does not appear on any conventional ideological map. The interview didn’t win me a Pulitzer, but it was an interesting peek into the top office of America’s Secret Police.


The Matrix warehouse collective was a motley crew of antiracists and anarchists, Earth First! environmentalists and anti-gentrification activists (some of whom would burn to the ground a number of rowhouses being built by developer Phil Morford, and get away with it) antiauthoritarians who had stools alloted them at the Laurelthirst Pub, cop watchers and ACT-UP militants (some of whom I joined in occupying a federal office building more than once) anti-repression activists and numerous denizens of alternative music venues such as Satyricon and the Pine Street Theatre. The Matrix was a crucible for radical politics and an incubator for a subculture of resistance that would later be dubbed, “Little Beirut.” On more than one occasion I had a tasty meal procured from dumpsters at the back of a local grocery store. On other occasions, following rolling street brawls featuring Anti Racist Action and SHARP (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) activists fighting racist skinheads, comrades armed with shotguns and rifles patrolled the roof of The Matrix.

Around the same time I was interviewing the Portland SAC, my comrades and I were organizing the first protests against Dan Quayle and George H.W. Bush. The two would visit Portland over the next few years for a series of very expensive, very posh, private fundraising dinners, mostly held at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Portland. Chuck Palahniuk, by the way, doesn’t know shit about any of this, and neither do the scribblers at Willamette Week. Allow me to fill you in on a few details left out of these sanitized versions of what took place. First, the earliest of these protests were conceived, planned and carried out by militants in The Matrix collective. Get that right.

The symbolic protestors of Reed College who were self identified as “Reverse Peristalsis Painters” and who swallowed ipecac and food coloring so as to vomit in red, white and blue, were a sideshow, and came much later. The main events involved something quite different: gauntlets organized at two entrances to the Hilton Hotel, through which the well heeled Republican millionaires had to travel if they wanted to eat dinner. We disrupted the fuck out of that dinner party. Projectiles of all kinds–fruits, vegetables, eggs, rocks, etc., hit their mark. Cops were unprepared for the first two events, and rolling battles took place in the streets. I know, because I was there. One group of us dressed in the manner of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–straight out of the sewers. What animated us was one main objective: raise the social costs of staging such events by interfering with the material capacity of the organizers to carry out such events. Symbols and imagery were secondary.

“Everything we want is in the end of you.”

That gauntlet, by the way, was what earned Portland the moniker ‘Little Beirut’, not the kids from Reed College and their ‘shocking’ performance art. And we threw all manner of projectiles, soiling the fur coats of the rich, burning newspaper boxes and cars. For a brief moment in time, at a few intersections in downtown Portland Oregon, the rich were on the run from impending violence. You don’t see that often enough.

History, as the saying goes, is written by the victors and they write whatever necessary to justify their continued dominance. Let this missive from a ghost of antifascism past be a token of resistance to that history.

Socialism, the great revolutionist Regis Debray reminds us, “was born with a printer’s docket around its neck.”

“Writing collectivizes individual memory; reading individualizes collective memory. The back-and-forth between them fosters the sense for history by unearthing potentials within the present, creating backdrops and foregrounds; it is fundamental for the idea of socialism. When it is cold outside and the night is long, memory means that we are not alone.” “Socialism: A Life Cycle” Regis Debray, New Left Review, No. 46, July-August, 2007.

For a new generation of radicals at the barricades I ask this: What happens to a society that no longer writes or reads, but posts and records in the manner of a compulsive self-documentarian? The selective timelines and creepy sanitized nostalgia of Facebook displace historical memory. Not that history by the victors was objective to begin with, but for every Richard Hofstadter or John Lewis Gaddis there is a Howard Zinn or an Eric Foner. Who shall replace them?

Socialism was born with a printer’s docket around its neck, and a molotov cocktail in her hand.

Long Live Little Beirut.


Why I Hate Stephen King And Love Stanley Kubrick



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I hated Stephen King’s books when they came out and I was in high school. I had to read more than one, just to keep up with the pop culture references. I loathe them even more, today. For me his low point (to date) was writing the teleplay from his book, The Shining for the TV series of the same name (1997). There is no better example of King’s narcissism, hubris and corresponding lack of talent than this laugh out loud effort to ‘correct’ what is arguably the greatest horror film of all time, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). The only thing to be said about the television version is that it is indeed faithful to King’s book, while Kubrick’s is not. But that’s exactly the point: King’s writing has always been cloying and soft in the middle, unconsciously mendacious in that uniquely ‘ugly American’ way. At once insipid and preternaturally neurotic, the horrors visited upon Stephen King’s Americans–and they are always stock Americans–are the character flaws and psychological failures of individuals, even when they take an institutional form.

This is precisely what Kubrick has never trafficked in, the melodrama and kitsch that characterize contemporary morality plays in the wasteland of genre fiction.

What Kubrick did with King’s pablum is extraordinary–he made a mediocre text obsessed (as always) with individual themes of personal responsibility and psychology into an indictment of American exceptionalism and universalism. And it was terrifying, but in ways that were difficult to verbalize.

Kubrick linked profoundly disturbing themes of child abuse, murderous misogyny and alcoholism with capitalism, racism and white settler genocide–he made the personal, political, and the political, personal.

This achievement is partially recognized through the fanciful documentary film Room 237, (2012). The filmmakers make much of Kubrick’s fanatical attention to detail, noting the frequent appearance of symbols that reference two genocides–those of Native America and the Holocaust. And I agree that the repeated appearance of certain symbols–cans of baking powder and a typewriter, for instance, were not incidental nor accidental; but intentional. Kubrick puts them there for reasons cited above.

Room 237 is an interesting homage to Kubrick’s The Shining but it doesn’t take King to task. As befitting the pay-to-play state of modern academia, it also includes a lengthy, tedious and stupid section that is incidental to the film, repeating conspiracy theories that Kubrick assisted in faking the 1969 moon landing. The film also fails to note what is hidden in plain view within the important scene that takes place in the bathroom between Jack and the ghost of the previous caretaker, Grady. Grady refers to the Black head cook, played by the iconic actor Scatman Crothers, as a “nigger.” Kubrick was as careful crafting language as he was with symbols, so that’s there for a reason, too. Jack’s mental illness is brought on not least because he craves acceptance into upper management at a resort hotel that caters to the well heeled, white and rich, who are forever dancing and drinking at a Fourth of July celebration. The price Jack must pay for admittance to the upper crust is the sacrifice of his family. The character played by Scatman Crothers is the only one trying to protect them. For King its all about the ‘demons’ of alcoholism and the ‘salvation’ of AA. To King, Crothers is the ‘magical negro’, a frequent staple of his stock and trade (The Green Mile, The Stand) but in Kubrick’s hands the character represents something much more.

King always resolves whatever conflicts he conjures within a morality play of possessive individualism. His characters–an endless parade of pop psychology tropes torn from a high school year book–are as wooden as his plots: The magical negro, the overburdened patriarch, the evil foreign interloper, the randy daughter, the undersexed milf, the touched giant, the addicted adolescent, so on and so forth. Each character a world unto themselves; all forbidden from exercising the only possible resolution to their woes–radical collective action.

King hated Kubrick’s movie because it skewered the very myths King had spent his entire literary career so passionately defending–the bourgeois family, the myth of a melting pot America, the ‘up by your bootstraps meritocracy’, Democracy vs the Evil Empire, etc.

All of this is now reappearing with a vengeance through a virulent strain of reactionary nostalgia for 1980s America, which is really the golden era of Stephen King. And he has imitators galore: Here come the amnesiac and conspiratorial Duffer Brothers, and Stranger Things, followed by Steven Spielberg and his Ready Player One. Both try and recast conformist and repressive strains of pop culture such as Van Halen and Yacht Rock, Dungeons and Dragons and Back To The Future as rebellion. The naval gazing, Wall Street speculating, anti communist computer nerds of Reagan’s America are the hero’s making America Great Again. There is a term for this, it’s called repressive de-sublimation. Look it up.

As an old ghost of antifascism I must draw the analogy: King’s entire oeuvre is to horror what the Anti-Defamation League is to antifascism, the Nature Conservancy is to ecology, or the 2017 Women’s March is to feminism. The latter the result of celebrities ‘leaning’ so hard into their ‘resistance’ they fell over the day after Donald Trump was inaugurated. Ooh. Scary!

Kubrick, while not a leftist, and probably not a feminist, was at least my kind of nihilist, unsparing and sharp, his erudite vitriol always serving to clarify relations of power, rather than obscure or justify them.

He may not have had an alternative to the world of shit within which we live, but his work helps us not mistake that world for a flower garden, which is more than one can say for all the typing Stephen King has ever clacked out. “All Work And No Play Makes Stephen A Dull Boy.”

Aside from the greatest American horror film ever made, Kubrick also made the greatest film of political satire: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb (1964!?!). A great satirist needs a wicked sense of humor, and I think Kubrick took some inspiration from Jonathan Swift’s, A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick (1729). You remember what that proposal was, yes?

Did Kubrick also create the greatest American antiwar film ever made in Full Metal Jacket? (1987).

A Clockwork Orange (1971) is a searing indictment of the postwar boom in youth subcultures, consumerism, social control and the inherent violence of the state.

2001: A Space Odyssey exposes every asinine iteration of George Lucas’ Star Wars as the juvenile cartoons they are. Yes, I hate Star Wars, too and I don’t care that it was originally conceived as having something to do with protesting the Vietnam War. They are all wretched films.

Long Live Kubrick!


When Fascists Are Naughty Or Nice



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“Two Roads For the New French Right” by Mark Lilla, New York Review of Books December 18, 2018.

Mark Lilla has written an essay on the French Catholic Right without using the term laïcité’, an achievement of sorts. It strikes me as a bit like writing an article about The National Rifle Association and not mentioning the Second Amendment, which you can do, but only if you are Sacha Baron Cohen, and its not an article you are writing, but a satirical sketch.

Come to think of it, Lilla also manages to explore a good chunk of the French far-right ecosystem without once using the term ‘fascism’. This will not do.

A liberal heavyweight of ‘populism’ studies and a critic of identity politics, Lilla writes that something is underway in France that is more than “xenophobic populist outbursts”. A “New French Right” is being assembled by some characters with questionable democratic credentials.

But what Lilla purports to identify as a new political phenomenon is not in any sense new to veteran anti fascists. It’s only new to him. Lilla, who understands not a bit of the essence of fascism, waxes cheerily about the hip, countercultural credentials of this latest iteration of the French far-right, as though this is the first time a political movement has raided the nostalgia box of May 1968.

For instance, what he describes as a New French Right owes much to the 1980-90s writings of Alain de Benoist, an obvious progenitor of the ideas that are the focus of his essay. de Benoist and his Nouvelle Droit (New Right) of the 1980s and 1990s was also influenced by Gramsci, and I think de Benoist coined the term ‘the right to difference’ way back when. The Génération Identitaire fascists of today, with their millionaire funders behind their slick tech savvy media stunts, are similarily fascsinated with Gramsci and hegemony,  the counter culture, environmentalism, etc. So is it a new, new French Right? Let’s not go down this road, for I fear we will end up reinforcing what is already a lexical hell.

Through this critique of Lilla’s essay, I will try a different approach.

The 3rd generation neofascist from the Le Pen stable, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, (pictured above on her Granddaddy’s lap in a Riefenstahlesque National Front poster of yor) gets a treatment that reads like a human interest piece. She is a “stylish Frenchwoman” with a “slight, charming French accent” who politely opposes what she calls a “nomadic, globalized, deracinated liberal system”. “Deracinated” translates here as “uprooted”, but it works in the other sense, too.

Lilla writes that French intellectuals dismiss these new-right Gramscians as closet National Front supporters and therefore of little political significance. He then laments that “The left has an old, bad habit of underestimating its adversaries and explaining away their ideas as mere camouflage for despicable attitudes and passions.” We probably don’t agree on what is referenced above as “the left”, but what Lilla doesn’t understand is that it is not all of the left that is guilty of this, just part of the left.

Comrades within the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) who beat the living shit out of a National Front organizer during a recent Saturday protest are not paralyzed by attempts to parse French fascism into naughty and nice. But that’s what Lilla trys to do here.

Lilla is wringing his hands, as all liberals do when they sense the salience of their ideas approaching a denouement. One solution, of course, is to hop in the sack with the fascists by calling them conservatives.

“One possibility is that a renewed, more classical organic conservatism could serve as a moderating force in European democracies currently under stress. There are many who feel buffeted by the forces of the global economy, frustrated by the inability of governments to control the flow of illegal immigration, resentful of EU rules, and uncomfortable with rapidly changing moral codes regarding matters like sexuality. Until now these concerns have only been addressed, and then exploited, by far-right populist demagogues. If there is a part of the electorate that simply dreams of living in a more stable, less fluid world, economically and culturally—people who are not primarily driven by xenophobic anti-elitism—then a moderate conservative movement might serve as a bulwark against the alt-right furies by stressing tradition, solidarity, and care for the earth.”

Note how encouraging the nice French New Right could have a positive effect on democracy. And that’s the crux of the problem here: if the liberal democratic state is “under stress” and in need of a “moderating force” then the possibility that capitalist democracy is itself the problem is out of the question. This is the key concept around which all descriptions of ‘extremism’–from right or left–are constructed. And it is dangerous for antifascists to traffic in this stupidity.

The other possibility, according to Lilla, is this:

“A different scenario is that the aggressive form of conservatism that one also sees in France would serve instead as a powerful tool for building a pan-European reactionary Christian nationalism along the lines laid out in the early twentieth century by Charles Maurras, the French anti-Semitic champion of “integral nationalism” who became the master thinker of Vichy.”

So we have a passive and an aggressive conservatism that are behind what he calls the French New Right.

Both of Lilla’s scenarios are bunk. What is underway, and has been for some time, is a continental project of neo-fascism that has outstripped and scrambled familiar liberal categories. The only way to unscramble them is to reject both using a theoretical framework that is antifascist and socialist–from the left and below.

Lillla’s second scenario unconsciously references what I call the political geography of white nationalism within which all of this is taking place. This, together with neoliberalism, are what condition and structure this ‘new’ expression of the French far right, not vague notions of a global economy about which peope feel a generalized anxiety.

Let’s call it what it actually is: a fascist international in formation.

Also, just because one political creature of the far right prefers terms like “culture war” or “social organicism” in place of “race war” and “white nation” doesn’t mean such efforts have any empirical value for antifascists. Such  rhetorical flourishes cannot help us distinguish ‘good conservatives’ from ‘bad conservatives’.

All of this is ripped from history, as when Lilla writes “This is consistent with trends in Eastern Europe, where Pew [Research Center] found that Orthodox Christian self-identification has actually been rising, along with nationalism, confounding post-1989 expectations.”

Confounding whose expectations, exactly? Most antifascists I knew in the 1990s correctly predicted a profoundly destructive unleashing of far right forces once they were freed from the Cold War parameters that had previously limited their political options. Much of this neo-fascism had a Christian bent–not surprising at all if you understood the twin pillars of fascism to be white nationalism and the Chrisitian Right. If, however, at the time you believed in the righteousness and stabilizing influence of the post Cold War American led neoliberal order–the end of history, the universal utopia of the European Union, the expansion of ‘free markets’ and civil society, etc.,–there was no real threat of a renewed fascism, only a gradual diminishing of those ancient prejudices that would accompany progress. But that was never going to be the case.

Some of us were arguing way back when that a pan-European white nationalism was developing into what can only be described as a fascist international. The collapse of the Soviet Bloc didn’t unleash long buried ancient prejudices that ‘communism’ kept artificially suppressed, as some inept anthropologist or another wrote, it burst the Cold War anti-communist consensus and opened new horizons for fascism to challenge capitalist democracies and authoritarian states alike.

Perhaps most disturbing, however, is that Lilla, together with so many of his dim witted colleagues, never tire of fretting about the ‘anxiety’ and ‘xenophobia’ that supposedly accompanies (excessive) immigration. Exhausted from such intellectual turbidity, they have nothing left for an analysis of why people from the Global South move northward. To do so would mean bringing up the pulverizing wars, economic super exploitation and social dislocation that is always justified, when it is even acknowledged, by a zero-sum racism that says, effectively, “that’s the nature of the nation state. You can’t change that, only fight for your piece of the pie within it.” That successive French governments and corporations have played no small role in prosecuting these wars for profit and conquest is totally ignored.

In any case Lilla gets it backwards: immigration doesn’t drive xenophobia. The de facto racism of the French state (or American) and its beneficiaries drive the manufacture of immigrants, creating the finished product that becomes refugees. It’s a global killing machine, with an engine that uses humans as fuel. Liberals are incapable of getting this, which is why Hillary Clinton recently floated her ‘tough on immigration’ proposal, clearing the way for Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to offer Trump $1.5 billion for construction of his border wall. Will Democrats provide a ceremonial signature brick in that wall? How convenient and despicable, yet predictable and predicted. But I aggress.

As everything continues to slip sideways, the ground shifting beneath our feet, yesterday’s comrade today’s foe, everyone is reaching, struggling to capture what the fuck is going on. Lilla’s fumbling about illustrates my point: precisely when everything appears to be up in the air, fascism begins to thrive and has an opportunity to arrive.

“In countries as diverse as France, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Italy, efforts are underway to develop a coherent ideology that would mobilize Europeans angry about immigration, economic dislocation, the European Union, and social liberalization, and then use that ideology to govern. Now is the time to start paying attention to the ideas of what seems to be an evolving right-wing Popular Front. France is a good place to start.”

No, it’s not a “right-wing Popular Front”, but a fascist international.

“The prerequisites for a European Christian nationalist movement may be falling into place, as Hungarian president Viktor Orbán has long been predicting.”

Again, this is fascism in formation and we don’t need a Hungarian dictator to point it out. Lilla has no problem expressing awe for the supposed prognosticatory powers of Orbán, but he can’t bring himself to say as much about antifascists who have predicted as much for thirty years. Orbán, by the way, isn’t only ‘predicting’ such a social transformation, he’s actively bringing it about. That’s called a self fulfilling prophecy, not a prediction. And as long as academics such as Lilla continue to use the framework of liberalism vs populism to try and apprehend 21st century fascism, and comrades on the left ape that analysis, then Orbán and his fascist humunculi will be rendered as oracles, rather than the fascist meat sacks they actually are.

It’s good that Lilla is reaching for a way to apprehend this transformation of the European Right, but trapped as he is within the sociology of ‘populism’ and the liberal assumptions that go with them he does not have much to offer.

Yanis Varoufakis and Bernie Sanders are fumbling in a similar manner with their newly launched ‘Progressive International”, which is at once progressive, but not socialist, and international, but not internationalist. From this confused and confusing framework both continue to waffle on the so-called ‘issue’ of immigration, which is not an ‘issue’ at all, only an expression of racism vis a vis the eternal and inviolable right to movement, which it denies. In any case, about the time Lilla, Varoufakis and Sanders get their shit together to confront the so-called ‘populist threat’,  the terrain has probably shifted again underneath their feet.

Academics and their postmortems.


No Wall, No Border


I wrote the following, last May, as part of a speculative fiction piece.

“June 1, 2018–The Summer of The Dancing Exodus

The Summer of 2018 begins with blistering heat waves and thousands of refugees forcibly reopening the land route through the Balkans and Greece; the restart of the migrant caravans on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border; and, a deepening of militant memorials to the Nakba. With these signature developments the three great movements of people in the global south begin to coalesce.

June 5, 2018–Discourse

Slogans of ‘Family Reunification First’, ‘We Are All Refugees’, ‘On Demand Housing’ and ‘No More Work, So You Can Play’ begin to be shouted by wild-eyed subversives from makeshift pulpits.”

“Here, it seems, framing the right of movement in terms of fundamental human rights and survival begins to outstrip notions of charity, for which one is expected to be grateful, and access, which must be earned.”

“June 25, 2018–The Worm Turns

ICE raids in the U.S. begin to be met by unruly crowds of mothers and children. Street gangs begin targeting enforcement agents. An ICE picnic in a Texas park, replete with silhouettes of sprinting ‘illegals’ that participants shoot with paint guns, is demolished by protesters.

Thousands willfully obstruct ICE raids on meat packing plants in Illinois, Tennessee and Ohio, blocking armed raiders access to their targets.”

While my timeline may be a bit off, such fervid speculation has not been entirely off base.

From the New York Post November 25, 2018

“US Border Patrol agents fired tear gas to repel rock-throwing migrants who tried to storm through a border fence separating California and Mexico Sunday…”

The confrontation came after a caravan of several hundred Central American migrants — including women pushing kids in strollers — overwhelmed Mexican cops standing guard near the San Ysidro crossing that links San Diego with Tijuana, Mexico.

The group breezed by the blockade, carrying hand-painted Honduran and American flags and chanting, “We are not criminals! We are international workers!”

From the Washington Post

Singing ‘Amazing Grace,’ a church surrounded an ICE van to stop an arrest. 27 were jailed.

And from a post on my webpage from a few weeks ago:

“Border attacks need manse occupations. The next complimentary phase will be housing and rent protests–mass non violent direct action aimed at palatial estates, penthouses, resorts, yacht and golf clubs. Anywhere the elite live, reproduce and recreate.

Finally, from the NYT

“But Mr. Trump’s dystopian imagery has clearly left an impression with some. Carol Shields, 75, a Republican in northern Minnesota, said she was afraid that migrant gangs could take over people’s summer lake homes in the state.

“What’s to stop them?” said Ms. Shields, a retired accountant. “We have a lot of people who live on lakes in the summer and winter someplace else. When they come back in the spring, their house would be occupied.”

Oct. 22, 2018

My response, from the film Almost Mercy:


One day we will look upon these fortresses as so much concrete and steel that had to yield to the far more powerful force of human freedom. Walls are never a guarantor of freedom, but a singular impediment to that freedom.

Dear Max


Ok. You don’t like that picture. Sorry, but I do. That grin is from our kitchen sink, where I am bathing you, and we are both ecstatically happy. And I want more of those moments, together.

Please come home.

You are truly a force of nature. Your will is indomitable. You have proven, once again, that you will not be denied. Rather than endure another group meeting, you fled through a bathroom window, out into a hellscape with freezing temperatures and a massive toxic cloud of smoke from the Camp Fire–only a few miles north of you, with no money and a location you were totally unfamiliar with. After 24 hours on the run, I hope you have reached a safe haven.

Time to come home.

You have a wonderful character trait I lack: physical bravery. I am brave with my thoughts, in speech and writing, but a coward in body.

But you are so powerful and beautiful that sometimes we just hold you in awe. And that can be frightening, because that same unbounded courage can lead you to act without self regard. You hurt yourself. And we need to work on that–you and I–because I do that, too.

Time to get home.

You are loved. We miss you. Please come home. Your extended family is here for you.

Stay away from the shit. You know what I mean. Have your fun–you have earned it, in a peculiar sort of way. But go easy on your mind and body–chill, but don’t turn to the shit. If you have already, make the call. Right now.

I love your fierce loyalty and incipient anarchist contempt for authority (ask me what I mean by that later). But your loyalty to family and friends means listening to them. And all of your most important family is saying,

Get your ass home.

Make the call, soon. Or at least let me know you are ok, and we can negotiate a pick up.

We can add this to your roll call of shenanigans.

Another bed time story you can tell your children, when they are home with you, safe and warm.

I love you more than life itself.

Please come home.


P.S. It’s Sunday, I won’t be working. I’ll be watching my version of the Super Bowl–match seven for a stake of the World Chess Championship. It will be a six hour thrill ride for me. But it could never compare to a call from you. Call me, come home.

Love you more.


Periodizing As A Feature of Fascism Redefined


Political Geography

Social base





How the first four elements interact over time is my fifth element–periodization. To visualize this we can use a picture frame to view our subject matter; the mortise and tenon joint is comprised of the first four elements, the whole frame is the era.

These eras are:

Classical Fascism 1921-1945

Cold War Fascism 1945-1990

21st Century Fascism 2010–

In another sense I am just focusing attention on what was happening within and to fascism during this long span of history. Elsewhere I will situate that effort within Régis Debray’s broader medialogical history of ideas (a frame around a frame, if you will) although with a caveat–that the current era we are in is not the videosphere, but the Bitosphere, a part of the Bit Revolution.

We can see why such a periodization is important in understanding the threat of fascism today by noting what can happen when some other frame, often unacknowledged, is used.

Christopher R. Browning’s “The Suffocation of Democracy” in the New York Review of Books (October 25, 2018) is exhibit one. To be fair, Browning is an historian of classical fascism, in particular the holocaust, who wrote the article cited above at the prompting of friends and colleagues who wanted, as we all do, satisfactory answers to two questions: What are the parallels between fascism then and now? What are the differences? Not unreasonable questions. But the very framing of the questions conditions the answers.

Browning extrapolates from a definition of fascism rooted in the classical period forward to the present. In doing so he does what virtually everyone else does, he skips what happened in between. He reasons from a definition of fascism 70-100 years ago to the present, with a frame of liberal democracy vs the twin totalitarian threats. In this he mischaracterizes the nature of fascism, perhaps not so badly in its classical phase, but wildly so today.

Projected out across a sea of time and space this approach to the problem of fascism is ahistorical. In this his broad sweep of history doesn’t hold up.

But he is not alone. It is a rarity for anyone to discuss fascism during the Cold War era because the common wisdom has it that fascism died with Hitler in the bunker, leaving the ‘free world’ to fight communism. Fascism didn’t do anything over that time period because it was dead. Its reemergence in the 21st Century, if one even concedes that it has re-emerged at all, is ex-nihilo. And herein lies the problem: this operation, repeated add nauseam throughout the liberal and socialist press serves narrow political goals (fighting republicans, supporting a narrow anti-capitalism, encouraging a split from Die Linke over ‘open borders’, etc.,) but at the expense of history and thereby a viable revolutionary socialist project.

From a reasonable question (fascism then vs now) comes an analytical movement of staggering stupidity and often breathtaking dishonesty. But, as I noted above, this is not confined to liberals.

Exhibit two. Here’s the same nonsense from Bhaskar Sunkara’s “A Thousand Platitudes: Liberal Hysteria And The Tea Party” (New Politics, June 2, 2011).

Though many of its shock-troops have come from lumpenproletarian elements, fascism has historically been a petit-bourgeois movement that can only be understood within the context of a militant left. German and Italian fascists disrupted strikes and physically attacked left-wing meetings. This historically specific brand of reaction implies that there was a vibrant workers’ movement challenging capitalist class rule, forcing elements of those on top to attempt to gamble on empowering the fascists in order to ultimately preserve the existing class structure. The American left is a marginalized and besieged political force, not exactly ready to storm the barricades.

“Historically”, “within a context”, “historically specific brand.” As in waaay back when, not now.

Restated, Sunkara argues: Fascism can only exist if workers pose a credible threat to capitalist rule. Workers pose no threat to capitalist rule. Therefore fascism cannot exist.

If Sunkara insists that the far right represents an episodic readjustment of capitalist command and control, Browning relies on a fairy tale of the post war era so as to isolate the phenomenon of 21st century fascism from it.

“Today, President Trump seems intent on withdrawing the US from the entire post–World War II structure of interlocking diplomatic, military, and economic agreements and organizations that have preserved peace, stability, and prosperity since 1945. His preference for bilateral relations, conceived as zero-sum rivalries in which he is the dominant player and “wins,” overlaps with the ideological preference of Steve Bannon and the so-called alt-right for the unfettered self-assertion of autonomous, xenophobic nation-states—in short, the pre-1914 international system. That “international anarchy” produced World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Great Depression, the fascist dictatorships, World War II, and the Holocaust, precisely the sort of disasters that the post–World War II international system has for seven decades remarkably avoided.”

Setting aside his characterization of the Bolshevik Revolution as a disaster, note that other disasters of this splendid post war era –Hiroshima, Nagasaki (with which it was inaugurated) the obliteration of North Korea, the Vietnam Invasion, Apartheid, and Jim Crow, Rwanda, etc., are apparently separate from the peace and prosperity he cherishes.

So the liberal in part protects what is by defining fascism as entirely separate from it; the patrician socialist attacks what is but cannot make the leap to something else because of blindness to what also, through different means, blocks its path.

The question restated: what the fuck was fascism doing from 1945 until 1990? What has happened within fascism from 1990 to the present?

That obliteration of an important slice of history serves a purpose: to obscure the true nature of fascism as a desperate exit strategy from the contradictions of capitalism in favor of a future oriented nostalgia that reinforces the worst aspects of that system.

Let’s cue Chomsky–not on fascism, which I think he misunderstands also, but on this notion of framing. Every time someone does this on the subject of fascism–extrapolates across 70 years–they perform an analytical operation similar to that of characterizing the slaughter that was carried out from 1961–1975, on the part of the United States, in Indochina as ‘the Vietnam War’ the ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ or ‘Vietnam Quagmire’ but never, ever, ‘The Invasion of Vietnam’. A mistake. A missed opportunity. A failure. Never the predictable results of deliberate policies carried out with bipartisan consensus.

Conservatives draw a somewhat different lesson. My favorite runs like this: fascism was incubated within relatively liberal and democratic polities, (Italy, Germany) yet fascism itself was illiberal (anti democratic) and took aim at that same civic society. Those civic institutions responded in the only way they could–by strengthening those selfsame institutions. This, paradoxically, fertilized the soil for fascism to grow. Ugh. Vicious circle, right? Wrong. Why?

From here it is but a short hop to this conclusion: fascism is a creature of the mob, of the dangerous classes, of the hoi polloi, of an excess of democracy. Fascism comes about through polarization and the collapse of a moderate center, rather than racism, nationalism and war. The stifling of civic society and the intensification of inequality, become necessary evils.

The upshot is this: We all need a little irritating authoritarianism with our morning breakfast so as to avoid the painful bowel movement of totalitarianism in the afternoon. But that’s a steady diet of nothing in the service of the status quo, not an analysis a socialist should respect, much less use.

Browning says, however, that there is a divergence between then and now:

“The fascist movements of that time prided themselves on being overtly antidemocratic, and those that came to power in Italy and Germany boasted that their regimes were totalitarian. The most original revelation of the current wave of authoritarians is that the construction of overtly antidemocratic dictatorships aspiring to totalitarianism is unnecessary for holding power. Perhaps the most apt designation of this new authoritarianism is the insidious term “illiberal democracy.” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Putin in Russia, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and Viktor Orbán in Hungary have all discovered that opposition parties can be left in existence and elections can be held in order to provide a fig leaf of democratic legitimacy, while in reality elections pose scant challenge to their power. Truly dangerous opposition leaders are neutralized or eliminated one way or another.”

So the threat is these ‘authoritarians’, growing everywhere who “aspire” to “totalitarianism”.

Browning then dissolves everything into the plaintive cry of the sappy liberal:

“The racial division, cultural conflict, and political polarization Trump has encouraged and intensified will be difficult to heal. 

That’s as eloquent and empty a summary of the politics of liberal bullshit as any has ever written. Note how ‘fascism’ has totally supplanted ‘populism’ in this treatment–but the use of the term as an epithet denuded of explanatory power remains.

Browning ends with the obligatory environmental apocalypse coda, and just in case you aren’t sure if you are reading this in the NYRB, he reminds you: “No wall will be high enough to shelter the US from these events.”

I agree–that fucking wall won’t be high enough to protect the masters from the hordes. But we won’t wait for rising sea levels to tear it down, we will do it sooner, along with all that “post war peace and prosperity” you have inflicted on us.


Nomophobia—A Wet Noodle of a Word Signifying Your Culture is in the Dumpster.



“What is Nomophobia? Nomophobia represents the irrational fear of being without a mobile phone. The term was coined in 2009 in the UK and comes from the anglicism “nomophobia” (“no-mobile-phone-phobia”).


Sounds like illiteracy, to me. But then again, I’m a bit Anglophobic, so I might be biased here. And there. But still.

I admit that when I first encountered “nomophobia” a few minutes ago, I didn’t know what it meant. So, naturally I focused on the “root” (nomo) which I knew was from Greek or Latin and pertained to the law. But, no. No help whatsoever. I guess I need a teenage wanker from the UK to decode this and the cacology that went into it. That same wanker will probably emerge as the automaton that secretly animates Bard, ChatGPT, and all the other AI insanity currently being unleashed by the Lords of Bitsphere. Now that’s a neologism worth keeping. Not wanker, silly goose, the other word.

Cacology = to both mispronounce and misuse a word. Takes some skill, that one.

And what say the crusty, but eternally proper, OED? The editors added “nomophobia” along with “Jedi” back in 2019. Perfect symmetry there. God I hate Star Wars. Fucking hell. Another sign of Anglophone “culture” going insane and dragging everything else along with it into the dumpster of history.

Thanks for stumbling into my Ted Talk.

Lastly, because I don’t want to be re-traumatized by having to look it up, can you whisper who is/was the eponymous asshole who started that cringe fest for bloviating turd blossoms? 🤷‍♂️ Anyone? Or is TED not a name, but a new word, also?


Calling All Anti-Fascists!



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A22 2021 this Sunday in Portland is a deliberate Chud provocation and cynical attempt at rebranding. Their “Summer of Love” is scheduled on the one-year anniversary of the brawl they instigated outside of the JC that featured the PPD openly collaborating with the far-right.

This Sunday numbers are critical for our safety. While not every anti-fascist can take a physical stand against fascists in the streets, every anti-fascist should support those who can and do. The time-honored Anti-Racist Action slogan of yore still applies: We go where they go.

In addition to the historical parallel with A22 (2020) where Chuds faced fierce opposition from anti-fascists, there is what transpired on August 29, 2020 to consider. That was the day of the Trump caravan that left from the Clackamas Mall and headed to downtown Portland. 

As the miles-long convoy approached the city, some of those cars and trailer trucks—overflowing with far-right militants—began peeling off I-5 onto the Morrison Bridge offramp directly into downtown Portland. I have a fond memory of “Trumpet Man” and a small number of anti-fascists blocking the off ramp and trying to halt their ingress. 

And they succeeded for a time.

I also recall in the days immediately prior the caravan some comrades expressing indecision as to whether to mobilize against the onslaught. As I recall there was no main counter rally organized. Instead of a unified front in the downtown area, it was left to a frighteningly small number of comrades to hold the line, until later in the evening when reinforcements arrived and Patriot Prayerist Aaron Danielson met his ignominious demise and Joey Gibson was forced to walk a gauntlet. That series of events could have easily gone the other way. Numbers are life in this situation. Thankfully there is an anti-fascist action organized for A22 2021. 

Anyone who self-describes as an anti-fascist should be supporting those comrades who choose to hold the line. That support can take many forms—direct action, money, legal aid, equipment, boosting, or platters of brownies. What’s important is that we build public support for them. We should show our deepest solidarity with resistance ground crews, many of whom will be people of color and other targeted communities. Those “anti-fascists” who equivocate or decry the principled choice of some to risk all in the defense of us don’t deserve to be called anti-fascists. Their failure amounts to hanging comrades out to dry. 

And fuck Ted Wheeler.

We are many, they are few. Be Safe. Be Dangerous.

Defend Portland on A22!

Portland Anti-fascist Archives Project 2.0 — Volksfront



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From the Coalition for Human Dignity’s Northwest Update, November 1, 1997.

From the Coalition for Human Dignity’s Dignity Report (“Dig Rep”).


Portland Anti-fascist Archives Project 2.0 CHD Timeline of Events—The Oregon Witness. January–April, 1991.



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More snippets from my personal archives. 

January 1991–Anti-war mobilizing (Gulf War).

February, 1991–Coalition for Human Dignity produces first issue of The Oregon Witness, Vol. 1, Nos. 2 and 3. (Still looking for # 1+).

June 1991–Coalition for Human Dignity The Oregon Witness, Vol. 1, No. 3 May-June, 1991.