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So, Ideology is Dead. So now what ?

by ValentinD Wed Nov 26th, 2008 at 03:35:05 PM EST

On the same, already battered subject of the death of ideologies, a few more reflections on the post-mortem situation.


Ideologies - or more accurately said, ideologisation of social and political life, seem to show signs of weakness.

In what concerns me, I even argued about their approaching death - disappearance, if not from society, at least from public debate of any importance.

Is this really the end of it, no more wars of ideas, no more ideals to dream of, no more polarisation?


I confess the idea that we would tend towards a sort of a bureaucratic-technocratic society, sounded quite appealing at first - not because of its advantages: jury's still out on that; but as a surprisingly (and terrifingly) accurate assessment of the state of affairs these days, if I were only to mention the multiplication of regulations normalizing everything, in more and more detail.

I'm not just speaking of laws - everyone knows of the battles still raging between for instance those claiming "markets always know best" and those bothered with reducing the risk for systemic financial crisis.

I'm speaking about regulation in the broader sense. The need for more efficiency naturally leads to normalization, standardization, standard processes and procedures, standard forms, standard answers from hotlines and standard decision making. This, like the need to eliminate every possibility of abuse, leads to organization getting more and more pervasive, on a more and more detailed level.

Life is becoming regulated in its smaller aspects, and law has no scruple entering private life any more, since the principle of pre-emptive potential victim protection is irrefutable, by the same logic which helps justify pre-emptive War against Terror or the right for humanitarian motivated international intervention.

Or two of the most important (and usually overlooked) effects of excessive regulation (again, in the broader sense) are these: 1) too much procedure ends up killing efficiency, rather than improving it 2) the road becomes wide open to abuse

The first problem is also known as bureaucracy. Too much specification can kill a project. Too much paperwork will end up doing a disservice to the clients.

The second one is also well known: the pretext of pre-emptive war is used to justify military aggression, and the laudable cause of military intervention for humanitarian reasons is perfect means of achieving much more prosaic and quite less noble geopolitical goals. And war is just one example of many.

Bureaucracy becomes even more dangerous when it is backed by technocracy. The best example is the quite famous Brussels bureaucracy: people claiming to make purely technocratic decisions, with as sole goals, better pan-european competition and improved economic efficiency.

This approach too had an irrefutable justification: politicians have a long-established name for making narrowminded, short term, politically motivated (if not downright populist) decisions, with an eye on the latest poll and the other on the next elections.

The result was that politicians bow to experts, but do not assume decisions anymore, and this deresponsabilization can get populist colours too, only in a different way.

The reason is very simple: technocrats are not elected. They don't necessarily bear in mind the interest of the population, but rather economical goals sometimes as narrowminded as populist politics.

Worse still, whoever thought specialists are only and always neutral and technocratic, has been shockingly disproved by the latest financial crisis. Being fed for years on with news about the competence of the Oracle Greenspan, we are now discovering the mind-boggling extent to which he pushed his activism for implementing Ayn Rand type ideologies. Technocrats have their own idols, be they Milton Friendman, Keynes, Marx or Engels, and those idols often brought their reflections from economics to broader views of society, hence becoming ideologists.

All this shows where technocratic bureaucracy can lead. This is also why some, especially in France (as opposed to freemarket faithful) appreciated a certain modification Nicolas Sarkozy inspired on the EU constitution:

that the EU goal is not simply unrestricted competition; competition can be a goal for a technocrat, not so for anyone else, because who cares about "competition" (or other technocratic mantras) when the consequence is that service is failing and prices spike.

Technocratic bureaucracy can also be a negative result of careless pragmatism. In fact, the way technocrats justify themselves is precisely by their neutral approach. They'll never devaluate currencies to deal with government mismanagement of economy. They'll never get into a mountain of debt in order to please masses into keeping them in office. Technocrats are pragmatic, rational, they are experts and as such, their arguments are irrefutable, which is why Alan Greenspan was looked up to in awe, even as few actually understood what he was saying (hence his famous phrase on this).

This was a problem some pointed to me on the other ideology post: pragmatism can be about one's own convictions raised at the rank of certitudes. It is very easy to abuse pragmatism and rationalisation, and use them as debate obstructors. But then it is all about arguments, in the end.

I mentioned Sarkozy in a positive way several times, because I believe in the soundness and inherent balance in a statement like this one: "there are rights, and there are duties too".

A modern "an eye for an eye", one might say, struggling to see the sentence in a negative connotation, code speech in reality directed against certain parts of the population (like the unemployed). Sarkozy applied this to many issues, be those about unemployment, public service unions, education, or immigration. The fact that the very idea of "duties" seem to stir certain people into a visceral opposition, is in itself relevant.

As to this being more code speech, we'll just have to see how the thing materializes in terms of policies.

But in terms of rational argumenting, I can't think of any possible objection outright. On the contrary, what can be more trivial, there are rights and then there are duties, well duh!

The fact is that many political situations imply at least two sides, and some are unsurprisingly concerned that the interest of one side (and request for certain advantages or rights) can be opposed the interest (the rights) of the other, and so, rational argumentation can be used to deny rights.

I for one think that this is a baseless fear that implies a largely unfounded assumption of ill will.

Which does not exclude those cases where pragmatism or technocracy gets misused or abused; these cases do exist, as I tried to show with the Greenspan example - what I say is that careful rational argumentation, refusal of ideological postures ("the markets always know best" -- because Milton Friedman proved it?...) and, well, yes, good faith can void this danger.

And the impression EU leaves about "Brussel technocratic bureaucracy" having as sole purpose the interests of capitalists and multinationals can be corrected simply by completing the reasoning that politicians tend to be populist, with one pointing the importance of the role of popular democracy (pleonasm, I know) in all this. Both sides must be taken into account, not just the political one (or saying that finance technocrats work against the people), and not just the economical one either (and saying that all that matters is to insulate economic decisions from political bias). Neither is 100% correct, both must be taken into account.

Display:
To complete this, a difference between ideology and religion is that ideology claims a right to rational Reason. Ideologies don't base on mysticism, or revelation of some kind (even if they employ assessments and views of a situation in a nearly axiomatic manner). Ideologies also do not have as a goal to offer a moral framework (at least not directly). Ideologies don't necessarily need an apparatus to keep up the faith and evangelize the unbelievers. Ideologies are much more rational, and this is where the confusion begins.

But after a while, it all reduces to ideology's axiomatic truths, and dismissal of any objection is nearly automatic - surely no one can deny that markets need complete deregulation to function best, or that the workers are oppressed and governments work for multinationals.

The problem with truth today is that at some point no one bothers to go through the whole reasoning anymore, let alone compare it to the day's reality. Workers' conditions are bad and their pay low, period. Everybody knows that.

Religion can be dismissed by pointing to Darwin, and that's that (even if the same people tend to object the idea of biological determination).
Ideologies are more difficult to deal with because they are much more theoretized in a rational manner.

One deals with a whole system of ideas that stick together quite logically and are related to physical stuff (rather than fuzzy stuff like spirituality)
Even so, in the end ideologies still represent a certain (subjective) view of the world, impregnate people much like religion does, make sometimes wild assumptions and declare bold goals (called ideals) - which in practice tend to look much like the faithful's Heaven, with a touch of logical justification to make it look credible to the critical mind.
The consequence is that all this makes speaking against ideologies much more difficult than bringing a believer back on earth.
The fact is, people need frameworks. They needed mysticism, they needed religion, now they need ideologies. We don't live inside ideologies, one way or the other - I still think crticial unbiased thinking possible. But we do need them, their axiomatic views that we like to believe, and their far-fetched ideals we like to dream of.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 07:40:41 AM EST
ValentinD:
I still think critical unbiased thinking possible. But we do need them, their axiomatic views that we like to believe, and their far-fetched ideals we like to dream of.

??

it seems 'I' can jump from being part of 'We' at will!

Please clarify...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 08:47:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"We" stands for us the humans, I include myself in this "we" to show my solidarity and empathy with the other humans. We seem to need ideologies and religions at least as much as they are "conquered" by them. This need seems to agree with the claim that "we" would not be able to live outside ideology.
But I see it more like connected to our affective side: a need for frameworks, for certainties, for a determined world, which is reassuring. The unknown renders insecure and scares, religions and ideologies bring explanations, comfort, a feeling of well being. Also a need of dreams to motivate us to a "better future"- like the communist society for marxists, or the heaven for the christian or muslim faithful.

"I" stands for myself alone, and while I recognize the humans' atavistic need for comfort-providing axiomatic truths, personally I still think we are able to leave aside our fears, our social conditioning and make use of our rational organ.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 06:17:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"We seem to need ideologies and religions at least as much as they we are "conquered" by them"

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 06:20:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Comment responses
But I see it more like connected to our affective side: a need for frameworks, for certainties, for a determined world, which is reassuring. The unknown renders insecure and scares, religions and ideologies bring explanations, comfort, a feeling of well being. Also a need of dreams to motivate us to a "better future"- like the communist society for marxists, or the heaven for the christian or muslim faithful.

i couldn't agree more with this part. convention is soothing...all the way to madness...not always, but often enough to create a breed that values nonconformity for its own sake, an opposite extreme.

all humans respond to narratives, especially new ones, especially ones that can keep a flicker of hope alive to those in despair. this vulnerability has been turned into a cash cow by religions, huddle together, muddle through...

a better future is more likely if we become seriously more realistic, this is a truism i know, but it's still true. for that we may need to achieve a level of spiritual security that enables us to better use that organ to which you make reference.

from what i understand from your posts, i believe you would agree, is that so? to give up fantasy we need realities that don't encourage escapism so much.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Nov 29th, 2008 at 09:43:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup. I couldn't have put it better.

If we become seriously more realistic -- learn to recognize in ourselves when the affective need is kicking in, and learn to detach and see what that leads to. Religion and ideology are approached affectively , even when we don't realize it. We feel right or left even as we pretend to be rational. Subjectivism, hot-blooded-ness,  affective response, are all human. I even wonder if getting sucked into this isn't built-in?...because the idea would be to be able to recognize the phenomenon and be able to play the devil advocate for a second (critical thinking, by using the aforementioned organ).

As to realities that encourage escapism, you know, from stories of ships caught in storm, I always retained the image of the captain washed by the waves yet still there. It's all a matter of point of view. In the most dire situation, escapism can be turned into heroic activism - and used to change those realities.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sat Nov 29th, 2008 at 10:17:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
As to realities that encourage escapism, you know, from stories of ships caught in storm, I always retained the image of the captain washed by the waves yet still there. It's all a matter of point of view. In the most dire situation, escapism can be turned into heroic activism - and used to change those realities.

thanks V, though i wonder, do you mean dreaming of the heroic captain was escapism for you?

talking of pragmatism, here's something you might like...
Insurgent American » Blog Archive » Politics is Food is Politics

The argument from the archaic left, i.e., that the Food Underground is individualistic voluntarism, has copped to the idea that all practical, local palliatives are somehow ineffective. This is a deeply fallacious argument. It means we still see the world exclusively through our left-to-right, linear, and purely ideological continuum. We still see politics as the persuasion of the word, and our deeds being limited to either symbolic expressions of resistance or aiming some mythical "mass blow" (a military metaphor, which implies military organization and discipline). Support our Program, and we will win Political Power, and change the Policies, and all will be well.

this is the top social priority, i believe... the whole article is wonderful.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 09:15:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
lol no, I was rather arguing about a more positive, optimistic approach when faced with certain realities, than escapism.
If rationalism ever gets irritated at something (assuming a philosophical category can have such humaine reactions), that would certainly be this sequence here:
1)criticism
2)victimization (PC Alert)
3)pessimism  (PC Alert)
4)escapism  (inherent solution to the above)

Thanks for the link, I'll try to read it later.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 09:47:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You think that critical unbiased thinking is possible; I very strongly doubt it because all thinking is based on assumptions, convictions etc. When we try to leave them aside and appeal to (objective) rational Reason, it will be better than relying on someone else's opinion that he got because he read this and that and also... etc.

Rational Reason will still be based on certain facts, however, not on others, and there will always be facts outside the viewer's vision, hence there will be bias.

Rational Reason in itself is an unattainable ideal, not all that much different from the fuzzy stuff spirituality is based on - with the difference that rational Reason claims objectivity (a notion of power), while spirituality knows how fuzzy it appears.

Do you estimate in good faith that the new pragmatism that accompanies the declared [by you] death of ideologies is based on rational Reason?

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 05:13:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You doubt it, yet you are too, if I may, one living proof of it :)

Of course you can say our basis for reasoning are subjective (different from a person to the other), relative (depending on the point of view). Humans are subjective by definition, and the universe is infinitely complex and nuanced, with an infinite number of dimensions.
When you say that perfect rationality is an utopia, I'll add: of course it is, all ideals are.
No one could objectively and reasonably contradict you on any of these points - your reasoning is flawless :)

I replied to this kind of questions on the first Ideology blog in two ways:
- one: rational pragmatism is not about some absolute, scientifical determination of the world; I believe that the "fuzzy" stuff (only guessed to be there, like the black matter - or the spirituality!) is at least as important as the directly observable and measurable stuff; we have probably little chance to comprehend the universe with a degree of exhaustivity comparable to that of God's :)
Rational pragmatism is not a philosophy, doesn't pretend to explain the world, it is about the approach to practical issues - reduce unfair inequalities, improve living standards, protect the planet, scientifical progress, peace etc.
Start up without assumptions or made-up truths; approach issues with an open mind, and with objectivity and fairness as a goal. Search the optimal solutions taking into account all sides and factors. They won't be perfect, but they will likely be the best.

- the second answer:
this kind of criticism is quite general and belongs to the philosophical sphere; I'm speaking real-life politics here: in practice, we can actually find a lot more precise answers to problems than one might suspect. Ideologists tend to philosophise and idealise; real life is much more down to earth. In a way, they're doing themselves a pleasure by basking in those fine, abstract theories (and mess up everybody else's life). The real world is much more prosaic and issues often have much simpler solutions than we might suspect while philosophising.

A more indirect answer to your question is my brief exchange with melo at the very beginning of this thread.

I'll also point out that I merely intended to bring to attention a phenomenon already on the way. More and more feminists today speak about pragmatism and refuse male vilification. One week does not pass without hearing a politician (of any colour) emphasizing a will to look for the best solution, rather than promote some ideology. I felt this is rather striking, hence these two blogs about the death of ideology.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 02:05:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Male vilification hasn't been a mainstream feminist position since before I was born...

And as an aside, I thought we'd agreed that "pragmaticist" sloganeering did not necessarily correspond to actual pragmatic policy?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 02:49:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are THAT young?!? Oh boy...
:)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:43:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He's blogging from the womb.

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
by poemless on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:44:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You doubt it, yet you are too, if I may, one living proof of it :)

I don't refer to rational Reason.

Start up without assumptions or made-up truths

It all begins with very small things. Maybe a word said, the tone of a voice, will trigger a reaction in us that we hadn't planned and that we cannot control. Maybe the voice sounded so much like aunt Martha or you heard that word from your teacher when you didn't do your homework.

You will feel free from assumptions and above made-up truths but social conditioning, experience are often stronger than our good will. Rational Reason is quite abstract, cold and scientific. You had mentioned Newton's laws, which is why I don't subscribe to being a reasonable rationalist or a rational reasonalist.

I'm speaking real-life politics here: in practice, we can actually find a lot more precise answers to problems than one might suspect.

The real world is much more prosaic and issues often have much simpler solutions than we might suspect

The problem is that precise answers to problems and simple solutions rarely allow us to conclude that policy makers were led by rational Reason.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 05:28:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So we're back to how much social conditioning there is, and how much we are masters of ourselves, or tiny wheels in the great mechanism.
I've seen too many people thinking with their own mind, critical of their background or environment, to doubt the existence of free will and the effectiveness of critical thinking.

Einstein's relativity is political philosophy. Newton's Laws are politics applied to every day life; the former is becoming more like a historical phenomenology of politics, while the latter is becoming independent and intelligent enough to make a difference.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 09:10:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I'm a physicist by training, I always have been skeptical of analogies between physical models and political life. That being said, even if one accepts such analogies in general, this particular analogy is rather curious. Are you seriously contending that special and general relativity are any more obscure, anachronistic or inapplicable to everyday life than Newton's laws?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:16:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're completely mistaking the analogy. It was rather about the degree of relevance to every day life.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:26:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because people obviously use Newton's laws in their everyday life, more than they use GenRel...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:35:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is not what I said. Simplifying isn't helpful in any way.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:32:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then I utterly fail to understand your analogy.

Maybe I'm just stupid, but could you bend it in neon for me?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:53:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
we have probably little chance to comprehend the universe with a degree of exhaustivity comparable to that of God's :)

What, you're not smarter than a unicorn?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 05:31:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And when I say "need", I do it almost affectionately.

For there are balanced columns like this one, about fiscal stimulus:



Normally spending splurges are to be distrusted, but the scale of this downturn argues for bold budgetary action. Large sums will be needed: at least $300 billion, or more than 2% of GDP. And with so swift a decline, speed is of the essence, not least because America has far fewer "automatic stabilisers" than other rich countries with which to cushion a recession.

Thanks to the changing nature of America's workforce, unemployment insurance offers less of a prop to demand than it used to. The proportion of part-time workers, for instance, is higher than it was a generation ago, but in nearly two-thirds of states part-time workers are ineligible for unemployment benefits. The states' fiscal rules, which require most of them to balance their budgets, also make a federal stimulus more urgent. With revenues vanishing, the states collectively face a $70 billion budget gap this year. Half have already started cancelling infrastructure projects, cutting health-care benefits or laying off workers.

The federal government can counter this. A bill to modernise unemployment insurance has already passed the House of Representatives, though it languishes in the Senate. Washington can shovel money to the states quickly and easily, for instance by increasing its share of jointly financed spending, such as Medicaid, which pays for poor people's health care. The Senate Democrats' stimulus plan would have done this, if too timidly. Republican opposition, based on a misguided aversion to government spending and political sour grapes, is short-sighted in the extreme.

Nor, though, are the Democrats blameless. Looking ahead to bigger majorities in January, congressional Democrats have been less than eager to seek compromise. More worrying, too many on the left are keener on the grand rhetoric of redefining government's role than on the practicalities of designing effective stimulus. Washington is full of talk of a new New Deal (see article) to put many thousands to work building a greener America. But details are scant, even as many states have scores of "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects set to be axed.

Cushioning America's downturn will demand fiscal boldness, but that does not mean eschewing simple, speedy solutions. Quick and plentiful aid to the states is one of the best.

(source here).

or like this one here, on blame fashion in Britain:


But there are other factors that sometimes conspire to produce an atmosphere that seems almost as hysterical: a tabloid media that are at once sensationalist and stridently censorious; a reductively adversarial parliament; and a centralised system of government, in which the fault for almost any cock-up can be traced to the top. There is also a creeping, American-style taste for litigation. The result is a political culture dominated and warped by blame.

Consider the frenzy of blame set off by the awful killing of a toddler, known as Baby P, by his mother and two men. Perhaps because of the queasiness aroused by parental violence—or perhaps because the criminals had already been judged when the details emerged—public and political anger has largely been displaced on to the doctors and social workers who might have prevented the death. They have “blood on their hands”, yell the tabloids, which publish their mugshots and demand their sacking.

But there has been a wider, furious festival of blame in Britain recently. Two comedians make cruel jokes on BBC radio: heads must roll! (They did—one of the comedians, plus two executives, were forced out.) The chaotic shooting of an innocent Brazilian electrician by anti-terrorism officers in 2005 led to a long quest for the scalp of London’s top copper (he eventually quit in September).

It is easy to understand blame’s appeal. It offers a simple narrative of how problems and tragedies arise, and a beguilingly simple solution: sack, punish, excoriate the culprits. It is doubly alluring for politicians and newspapers. Their blame campaigns can yield easy, tangible victories if their targets succumb—especially gratifying if the quarry is another politician.

The trouble is that it is not always the worst or most culpable people who are targeted for blame or offered up to appease it; it is sometimes the weakest and most expendable instead. And too often the blamers are cynically opportunistic. The Baby P case has instantly been adduced as “proof” that the welfare state, or local councils, or unorthodox family arrangements, are hopelessly delinquent. (Oddly, some of those now crying out for the government to engineer families and emasculate councils have, in the past, demanded that the government be less intrusive and nannying, and that Whitehall give more power away.) For inveterate enemies of the BBC, the radio scandal was a happy if irrelevant pretext for reviving the debate over how the corporation is funded. Despite his previous successes—or perhaps partly because of them—there are bits of the Tory party who have never loved Mr Osborne and are eager for a chance to humble him.

Moreover, by fixing blame on individuals, complex failures and hard decisions can be missed or evaded. More unsettling explanations and wider culpability can be ignored. By blaming Mr Osborne for their poll dip, restive Tories can dodge the possibility that a collective lack of coherence or plausibility may lie behind their plight. Conversely, it may be comforting to claim that the incipient recession, and all its nasty consequences, are solely the fault of Gordon Brown—and not, say, of those thousands of homeowners who took out foolish mortgages that they are unable to service. So long as it’s someone else’s fault—the government or the schools or, increasingly, your genes—it isn’t your own.


(link here)

Rational thinking and deconstruction of simplistic approaches are there, and affectionate need of frameworks will give in to Reason, as people gather more and more confidence in their own destiny.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 07:49:55 AM EST
I will make three broad objections to your conclusions:

First, I'm not sure how you can interpret the current state of affairs as a decline of ideologically driven politics. When governments systematically dismantle regulatory safeguards put in place in response to the Great Crash of '29, surely this cannot be accident or misguided pragmatism? If one or two rules here and there were removed in a misguided but basically honest attempt to make stuff work better, I might buy it. But the wholesale assault on labour unions, fiscal policy, unemployment and disability benefits, financial regulation, regulatory protections against social dumping and so on and so forth and et cetera... We're supposed to believe that this isn't ideological?

That it's just a coincidence that what The Powers That Be perceive as pragmatic and unideological positions just happens to happen to coincide virtually completely with what Uncle Miltie and his acolytes have been preaching?

Second, I (still) see very few, if any, examples of actual pragmatic policies. Surely, pragmatism should be evaluated at the policy level, not at the slogan level?

Third, you seem to assume that there is fundamentally good faith in politics - that we should take politicians at their word until and unless they prove that we can't. I find that view to be, bluntly put, criminally naïve.

When Sarko surrounds himself with LePen apparatchiks and assumes his slogans and rhetoric for his own, the assumption must be that he will act in the interests of LePen's apparatchiks. When a German SPD "dissenter" surrounds himself with coal barons and coal lobbyists, it is safe to assume that he will act in the interest of the coal lobby. If a political party takes substantial money from Howard Ahmanson or the Saudi royal family, it may be assumed that they'll act in the interests of fundagelicals. When Bush the Lesser started palling around with Nixon's and Reagan's old cronies, it was safe to assume that he wasn't gonna "govern from the centre."

In short: Follow the money. Politicians are slippery and good at sloganeering, but their backers, grass roots and friends are usually less so - and a politician's backers can tell you at least as much about his style and substance (such as it is and what there is of it...) as his own pronouncements and record.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 02:22:16 PM EST
Oh, and it's funny when we read claims of the death of ideology -- followed persistently by quotes from Neolib Ideology Central.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 04:29:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah that's what bugs me too, and The Economist openly claims its libertarian leaning. You must be aware tough that they support neoliberal economic policies just like they do neoliberal social policies, such as gay marriage and adoption. In short, the less regulation, the better, no matter the domain.

So it has been a surprise to find quite a lot of balanced columns lately, well argumented, making a good point which is in not really neoliberal. I'm comfortable with them, just as I am with certain leftwing positions sometimes. Maybe they too are starting to feel the breeze of pragmatism !
(btw sometimes I quote from Washington Post too, In wonder what would you make of that :))

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 06:02:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Labour unions need to rework themselves, I'm afraid, because we do need unions even more now than before. The history of unions in the US shows how complex this topic is.

Is there an assault on benefits? I've seen nothing to justify this, maybe our experience isn't the same.

Sarkozy is for instance actively supporting regulatory protections against social dumping btw, which made The Economist (DoDo's favourite paper :) ) quite angry at him.

The problem with ideologies is that they provide a much more "factual" view of the world, they have their own arguments, quite logically articulated and making sense  in a certain way.
For instance a big argument I saw for deregulation was that globalisation needs freedom of movement for goods and capitals. Hence arguments like those for less protectionism, less financial regulation etc based on this idea that globalisation will function better.

Neoliberals argue now that this helped big time to combat the poverty in 3rd world countries. Neocons also argued that the war in Iraq was motivated by a desire to free Iraqis and help them discover democracy.
These are typical examples of reasonings that bend the reality to fit ideologies. It still looks logical, but in reality it is originating in an ideology.
When Greenspan had no more arguments against demands for more regulation of derivatives, he used brute force and helped strip the respective congress commission of its regulating powers. Arguments were just pretexts. (there was an article in NY Times about this).

So I think ideologies decline, but we're not there yet, there is still resistance, but we hope it will be overturned! :)


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 06:40:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Labour unions need to rework themselves, I'm afraid,

Why? And How?

You haven't made any coherent case for what's wrong with the way labour unions work. All you've done is assert that they are excessively ideological and that they shouldn't interfere with the political process (which political process? as defined by who?).

Every time you've come up with a concrete example, there has been a perfectly valid pragmatic justification.

  • You say that unions shouldn't care about work conditions in China, because that's none of their business. In a world with capital controls, that's a debatable point (I happen to disagree, but it's a debatable point). In a world without capital controls, it's pure, mean-spirited nonsense.

  • You say that unions shouldn't care about outsourcing and maintaining a civil service. Yet empirically - pragmatically, if you will - outsourcing and hollowing out the civil service almost universally leads to worse working conditions and a downward wage pressure. (It also often leads to more expensive and lower quality service, but that's an aside.)

  • You say that unions shouldn't care about immigration policy and discrimination, yet immigration policy directly affects the supply of labour (and the ease with which such labour can organise), and discriminatory policies tend to create a poorly organised underclass. Both will put downward pressure on wages.

  • You say that unions shouldn't care about environmental policy. Yet employees are usually hit harder by environmental degradation than employers, on account of them being poorer.

And that's leaving quite aside that union members are citizens as well as labourers, and that every sane citizen should be concerned about these policies.

The history of unions in the US shows how complex this topic is.

The history of unions in the US shows that systematic union-busting works exceedingly well.

The US unions were systematically persecuted at the federal, state and local level. Through legislation, through a concerted propaganda effort, through workplace-level union-busting, by deliberately race- and religion-baiting at every political level. That was a case of deliberate, ideological activism by right-wing extremists.

If you have a suggestion for how US labour unions could have resisted that, I'm all ears. So far, though, your only input into that discussion has been a refrain of "reform, reform, reform." But there's a conflict of interests here that cannot be resolved by pragmatic compromise, because the right-wing extremists perpetrating the union-busting would settle for nothing less than the total obliteration of organised labour. You cannot negotiate or compromise with people who want to drown government in a bathtub; you have to purge them from the body politic.

Is there an assault on benefits?

In 1980, tertiary education was free France, the UK, all of Scandinavia and all of Germany. In 2000, the UK and more than half of all German länder charge "tuition fees." To take just one very concrete example.

The list goes on with privatisation of health care, price hikes for railroad tickets, cutbacks in unemployment subsidies, outright theft of workers' pensions, below-inflation indexing of public pension schemes, below-inflation indexing of unemployment subsidies, tighter applicability requirements for unemployment subsidies, cutbacks in prescription drug subsidies, cutbacks in essential public services (railroads, schools, water, sewage, electricity).

I have a diary in the pipelines detailing another assault on Danish unemployment subsidies, and I'll leave the rest of the list as an exercise to the reader. Simply browsing ET should more than suffice for examples from France and the UK.

Sarkozy is for instance actively supporting regulatory protections against social dumping btw

Sarko makes noises about signing sternly worded letters. But until and unless I see the actual policy, I remain skeptical. As long as Sarko is palling around with pathological liars like Gordon Brown and Anders Fogh, he has the burden of proof to show that he's acting in good faith. You yourself conceded that politics needs to be argued at the policy level, not at the slogan level.

As for your examples of neocons/neolibs arguing from ideology, there's the small matter of fact that the neolibs and neocons were flat out wrong on the facts. And we knew pretty much precisely how and where they were wrong in considerable detail and well ahead of time. No, let's not mince words here: They were so full of shit that their ears started smelling. You have yet to make a remotely convincing case that this true for those that you accuse of being "left-wing ideologues" (and as an aside, you have yet to actually identify any, aside from labour unions - who these days are more centrist than the centre).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 29th, 2008 at 12:25:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi Jake,

I'm not going to enter a detailed discussion about unions. My point was never "against unions", nor to say that all unions would be leftwing or extremist. I gave an example of two such unions in France, in order to show how we're not even allowed to call them that without getting shut down by leftwing ideologists.
The same holds true about globalisation or "the markets know best". Even before opening our mouth, missiles fly against the miscreant.

I could also comment long and large on the assault on benefits. At least in France, one can hardly say that. If you choose to see it as a tendency, or even an organized attack, it's your right, I tend to me more moderate and more nuanced about this (too).

Finally, neocon/neolib arguments might have been clearly fake for you, but not for everyone out there, which is why Bush got elected (besides fear mongering) and Greenspan was praised by both right and left administrations.

(btw I am glad you at least agree Sarkozy makes the correct noises; we're going to have to wait a bit and  see what will come out of it all)

V

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 08:49:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not going to enter a detailed discussion about unions.

You never do...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 09:44:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because I won't allow myself dragged into that, when the point I'm trying to make is not that. Do read my reply to Jake: I have nothing against unions, except when they promote class warfare. I have nothing against economists, except when they pretend to make a society moulded on their own desires.

Btw the point of this post was technocratic bureaucracy, it is sad that instead of noting that (maybe even commenting), all you and Jake care about is my pretended political bias.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 09:53:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unions promote class warfare? How, where and when pray tell? Last time I checked, it was the top 10 % of the wealth distribution that was waging class war on everybody else. Or perhaps you think unions are at fault for actually fighting the war that the fatcats started instead of rolling over and playing dead like the so-called social democratic parties in parliament?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 11:47:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I never said unions are at fault, I don't think they should fight any way.

And then, I don't remmeber having ever even mentioned unions in the diary post above (which I recommend to you, in case you didn't read it yet).

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 04:22:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you seriously saying that unions should refuse to defend themselves when subjected to a concerted attack by neoliberal fanatics? Are you seriously saying that unions should not oppose the dismantling of civilised society by people who want to throw us back to the 19th century?

Something tells me that you don't have such a lenient attitude towards fanatics who wish to impose Shari'a...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 07:11:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could also comment long and large on the assault on benefits. At least in France, one can hardly say that.

So stealing train drivers' pensions (pensions that were contractually deferred salaries - i.e. money that they had an indisputable right to) isn't an assault on benefits? I wonder what does qualify.

Finally, neocon/neolib arguments might have been clearly fake for you, but not for everyone out there, which is why Bush got elected (besides fear mongering) and Greenspan was praised by both right and left administrations.

Bush was not elected, and Greenspan was never praised by left-wing administrations. Bush stole at least one of "his" elections (and American democracy is nothing to write home about in the first place), and Greenspan was praised by right-wing administrations and far-right extremists. Because that's all that were there to praise him in the American scene.

Unless of course you subscribe to a rather peculiar kind of political relativism, whereby Lenin could rightly be called a centrist, because he was right in the centre of the Soviet political spectrum (between Trotsky to the left and Stalin to the right).

None of which changes the fact that the neocons/neolibs were wrong on the facts to an extent that you haven't even tried to argue that the left is.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 11:36:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly pragmatism should be evaluated at the policy level. With certain exceptions, I believe Tony Blair made a good show of pragmatic policies, by and large.
I can give much more examples of pragmatic policies in France.
Immigrants are not vilified (as some pretend), but now they also have some obligations too - to master French, even to sign an agreement wr French republican values (not sure if this is done already). A point system of admission will soon be installed similar to the Canadian one.
Also the democracy (politics) is beginning to have a say again in European affairs, until now the privilege of economic experts and Brussels bureaucrats. Also France supported stronger environmental policies (even if there is still the delicate issue of the fishing quotas), supported a unique european voice in foreign affairs, for the pragmatic reason that this way EU will weigh much more in international politics. Also France supports, not protectionism, but regulation of the different standards (social, quality, health) to be applied to all EU imports, no matter where they would come from.
The adoption of the Euro as unique currency has been a pragmatic consequence of the attacks on the franc and on the pound in the past - and now it showed its benefits (pity Britain is not a part of it).

I certainly don't assume that good faith. But we cannot continue to fundamentally doubt everything politicians say. This is a bit the atmosphere in France: many are convinced "they are keeping things from us", that politicians usually lie, that advancement depends on corruption and connections rather than competence and skills. I don't say these believes are unjustified, I say that they must be corrected, or else faith in democracy will decline, less and less people will vote and the road will be open for extremisms. The society needs to find ways to force politicians to be honest, tell the truth and do what they said they will - naive as this may sound.

You'll have to name those Le Pen apparatchiks and slogans, so that I can give an opinion on that.

I'm afraid I don't know much about German internal political intricacies...

W based on neocons and religious fundamentalists, with the sole goal of getting more power and implementing his base's ideologies. His time has passed, and all I say is, let us watch Obama.

I agree about follow the money. I don't see a simple way to regulate industrial lobbies except much more transparence. And even so, I remember Bill Clinton (which I hold for a pragmatic) forgiving felon Mark Rich just before leaving office. I thought that was appaling. So nothing is perfect, people will always need money and risk to fall under the influence of lobbies. Maybe electoral campaigns should be totally subsidized and all private contributions forbidden, purely and simply.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Nov 28th, 2008 at 07:03:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With certain exceptions, I believe Tony Blair made a good show of pragmatic policies, by and large.

Please, do tell. With examples. And coloured graphs where appropriate. Because I sure as heck don't see anything pragmatic about Tory Bliar's policies.

to master French,

Are exceptions made for those who cannot do so either for lack of talent or medical reasons (such as PTSD)?

even to sign an agreement wr French republican values (not sure if this is done already).

And how is this anything but politics of symbolism? Is this not precisely the kind of ideological, completely ineffective policy that you rail against when pushed by the left? How in the world is an agreement to "respect republican values" (what republican values? as defined by who?) going to change the actual pragmatic outcomes one bit?

To me that looks like a prime example of race-baiting, actually: It places immigrants automatically under suspicion as potential troublemakers and subversives and intimidates legal political activity. And for what? A piece of paper that's utterly unenforceable in practise?

What would you say if the government instituted such loyalty pledges that "native" French had to sign in order to be eligible to vote? Surely, if it's good enough for immigrants, it's good enough for natives, right?

Also the democracy (politics) is beginning to have a say again in European affairs, until now the privilege of economic experts and Brussels bureaucrats.

How, pray tell? What has changed recently in the EU that has given the public greater influence? Last time I checked, the treaty that was supposed to give the public greater influence was rejected. That rejection could of course be interpreted as an expression of the public's will, but I fail to see how it's any more so than the half-dozen treaties that passed by referendum in various countries around the Union.

"The EU is finally held accountable" is a wingnut talking point that's been played up after every single failed treaty by those who have no interest in the development of a coherent European political superstructure. Just as the pro-Union political factions play up every passed referendum (however narrow the margin) with their stock "the EU finally has a public mandate" talking points.

(Which is not to say that referenda aren't a means to inject a measure of accountability into the EU system. I just note the hypocrisy of only noting this when the referenda produce the desired result.)

I certainly don't assume that good faith. But we cannot continue to fundamentally doubt everything politicians say.

Why not? When politicians repeatedly lie, surround themselves with people who repeatedly lie (and lobbyists, which means people who are paid - rather handsomely - to lie), why aren't we allowed to assume that politicians lie?

I don't say these believes are unjustified, I say that they must be corrected, or else faith in democracy will decline, [...] The society needs to find ways to force politicians to be honest, tell the truth and do what they said they will

Why? Why should the survival of democracy depend on our ability to re-make humans into some abstract, Aristotelean or Habermasian ideal of unbiased, disinterested and unforced debate of the issues on their merits?

Oh, sure, it would be nice and all, but it's not actually necessary. You can (and should) largely disregard whatever politicians say that you agree with. Instead, you should look at who they surround themselves with, which factions in the body politic speak on their behalf, where they held previous positions of power. You know, their actual record. You can lie and obfuscate and deny your convictions in the name of political expediency. You cannot as easily airbrush your past and your friends (although Yog-Sothoth knows that they're trying...).

(If, OTOH, they say things you disagree with, you should take them on their word, on the odd chance that they happen to be sincere... It's like a dog in a front yard. If the dog looks cute, but the sign on the fence says "dog will bite," you should believe the sign. If the dog looks fierce, but the sign says "dog is nice and will not bite," you should not believe the sign...)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Nov 29th, 2008 at 01:23:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
About Blair, I said that I believe, because I am not that much into British politics.

About mastering French, I am glad we speak of exceptions, having accepted the principle that one must know the language of the host country.

French republican values: democracy. When you come from a dictatorship and have no culture whatsoever of democracy, or of human rights, it is legit to pose the problem.
I also believe it is normal for a country to also define certain national values which are specific to it, and ask incomers to respect them.
After experiencing first hand the huge differences of civilization between locals and newcomers, I would also impose a test of politeness and civic sense.

As to the EU, things begin to move. Sarkozy is only there for a year. I gave my opinion on referenda elsewhere.

Otherwise, I do believe in democracy and in the fundamental good nature of humans. Once things well regulated and people actively involved, politicians will follow. This should not stop you from feeling closer to an anarchist, of course.

V

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 08:59:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But where and how did you get that impression of Bliar? I'm actually curious, because not even the Danish corporate press tries to cast him as a pragmatist anymore - they cast him as an idealist (an ideologue, if you will).

With regards to demanding that immigrants master the native language, it can serve at least two purposes: When expectations are realistic and based on a judicious assessment of individual capabilities, it's an entirely legitimate exercise in integration with their new mother country.

OTOH, when a one-size-fits all language competency requirement is imposed and rigidly adhered to, it serves as a way to discriminate against handicapped people, poor people and people with little education. Not granting voting rights to illiterates is a debatable point (I happen to disagree, but it's a debatable point). But I note that those who favour rigid language requirements don't usually demand that the natives are able to pass the same tests in order to vote...

So, although superficially similar, these are two quite different policies, serving quite different agendas. Failing to clearly distinguish between them does the attempt at enlightened debate little service.

Regarding national/democratic values, I ask again: Why only demand adherence from the furriners? Why not demand that every citizen, upon assuming voting rights, signs a piece of paper to the effect that he supports democracy and the nation's values (who determines what the nation's values is, by the way? You never touched upon that). Surely, you're not going to argue that white people raised in a Western European country are incapable of being opposed to democratic values?

W.r.t. politeness, I think you should be careful what you wish for. One person's politeness is another person's political correctness. That's hard to legislate.

W.r.t. the EU, precisely what is it that's beginning to move (and what does Sarko have to do with any of it)?

As an aside, I also believe in the fundamental good nature of most humans. That does not, however, prevent me from looking out for those who are not, and wanting to curb their excesses.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 11:21:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:

We all seek our area of activism...

You appear to have chosen the defence of the poor, underprivileged, immigrants, Unions and are, mildly put, very sceptical of government. Reading through your comments, I wonder what you really WANT.

Constructive criticism of government can lead to change. You sound as if you wanted things to be changed but I cannot gather into which direction you want to see them changed and how.

You say,

None of which changes the fact that the neocons/neolibs were wrong on the facts

They were so full of shit that their ears started smelling.

why aren't we allowed to assume that politicians lie?

IMO, no matter how much politicians may lie, you can always assume that politicians always lie. But that is an assumption only. If you want to get somewhere and sense that they lie, you must first prove it. When you have evidence to prove the lie, the next question will be: How you are going to make this fact public in an effective and efficient manner. No easy task ...

That's the task nonetheless.

As long as Sarko is palling around with pathological liars like Gordon Brown and Anders Fogh, he has the burden of proof to show that he's acting in good faith.

No. If you estimate that other people's lies will make of him a liar, too, without any evidence to prove the assumption, the burden of proof is still yours.

If you have a suggestion for how US labour unions could have resisted that, I'm all ears.

What practical measures do you suggest to improve the status/power of labour unions?

If you are dissatisfied with the status quo, you must work out a plan. To blame those in power, i.e. those who were democratically elected into power, is no effective means to bring about change. You either remain within the law, and get organised as best you can, or you call out a revolution but that does also require that you be organised and disciplined.

It is utopian to expect non-Unionists who are busy in their own activism to give you the plan ...  

OTOH, when a one-size-fits all language competency requirement is imposed and rigidly adhered to, it serves as a way to discriminate against handicapped people, poor people and people with little education.

Physically handicapped people and poor people should be able to learn the language of their host country.
  As to regulating immigration, - it will always be restrictive and discriminatory. That's the nature of regulations/laws. There sure are heart-breaking stories, and legislation is insufficient and unsatisfactory in some areas.
OTOH, when you speak out in favour of no control of immigration, you thereby favour a concept of no state, no nation.

Everyone would simply always go there where life's best at a given moment.

You are so much against government that I wonder what you'd ideally expect from it, or whether you simply don't want any government at all?

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 02:20:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You appear to have chosen the defence of the poor, underprivileged, immigrants, Unions and are, mildly put, very sceptical of government.

I don't know where you got the idea that I'm skeptical of government. I'm skeptical of the idea that the elected officials of a representative democracy are the only legitimate representation of government, which is the idea that Valentin has repeatedly cast himself as a proponent of.

Constructive criticism of government can lead to change. You sound as if you wanted things to be changed but I cannot gather into which direction you want to see them changed and how.

Then I'll give a few examples, in no particular order:

  • I want to ban billionaires, by confiscatory taxation of wealth above half a billion €.

  • I want to prevent Ponzi scams by putting airtight walls between the investment banking sector and the retail banking sector.

  • I want to stop the clearing of rainforest for use in slash-and-burn agriculture (not only does it destroy the rainforest, it also yields fewer calories pr hectare - even at peak production, before soil degradation sets in - than what you can go pick in the forest if you know the local flora), by promoting NGOs that help farmers make sustainable use of their forests.

  • I want to ensure honest work at an honest wage for all, by promoting strong labour unions to force employers into equitable agreements with their employees.

  • I want to promote the use of wind and solar power through feed-in tariffs.

  • I want to reduce our reliance on cars by a combination of measures, such as expanding rail networks, increasing fuel taxes, imposing congestion charges and parking fees in our cities, etc.

If you want to get somewhere and sense that they lie, you must first prove it. [...] No. If you estimate that other people's lies will make of him a liar, too, without any evidence to prove the assumption, the burden of proof is still yours.

That's all very nice and proper and works fine when lies are relatively uncommon. But when you're dealing with pathological liars - like the Cato Institute, or the Project for a New American Century - you cannot dissect all their lies one by one. That'd turn into a battle of attrition that you cannot hope to win, because it takes only two minutes to write a bald-faced lie, but it takes half an hour to debunk it.

Similarly, one cannot evaluate individually every Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, or every newsie on the Washington Times. That takes far more time than is warranted. Once an organisation - be it a think tank, a political party or an ideology - has endorsed a sufficient number of outright, provable lies, that entire organisation becomes suspect.

Is that guilt by association? Perhaps it is, but that does not stop us from concluding that people who associate with neo-nazis are probably racists, that people who associate with biker gangs are probably criminals or that people who associate with creationists are probably fundagelicals. Why should it stop us from concluding that people who associate with neo-liberals are probably neo-liberal? Exceptions do exist, of course, but I find it unwise in the extreme to elect someone to high office on the assumption that he is the exception to the rule.

What practical measures do you suggest to improve the status/power of labour unions?

[...]

It is utopian to expect non-Unionists who are busy in their own activism to give you the plan ...

I'm not sure I explained my point properly: There are many and more ways for unions to react to union-busting. The French anarcho-syndicalists of the 19th century practically wrote the book on that. The point is that all of those defences are well beyond what Valentin argues is legitimate union activism. So I asked whether he has a suggestion for how the unions could defend themselves while remaining within the constraints that he wants to impose on their activity.

Physically handicapped people and poor people should be able to learn the language of their host country.

I think that depends on the nature of the physical handicap - lacking a leg shouldn't pose a material hindrance. Blindness or deafness, OTOH, might make it a little difficult. Not necessarily insurmountably so, but certainly sufficiently to be taken into account.

Poverty often correlates to lack of education - so any measure that discriminates against people of low education also predominantly targets poor people. I don't know whether poverty has a negative impact on learning above and beyond the correlation to low starting education, but if it does it should also be considered.

OTOH, when you speak out in favour of no control of immigration, you thereby favour a concept of no state, no nation.

State and nation are two quite different things. But that's a digression that we can save for another time.

I do not speak out against restrictions on immigration in general. I speak out against certain unreasonable restrictions on immigration and certain unreasonable humiliations that immigrants are subjected to.

For instance, it is not reasonable to deny immigration to someone who is married to a citizen, because a married couple has the right to live together. (And the excuse that they can live together elsewhere does not hold - if all countries had that practise, they couldn't, so that excuse clearly cannot be elevated to a general principle.)

Everyone would simply always go there where life's best at a given moment.

That quite neglects the considerable financial and personal cost of moving around profligately. In fact, precisely such personal and financial costs mean that mass migrations only occur when conditions in the emigration country are sufficiently horrible and conditions in the immigration country are thought to be sufficiently good. If mass migrations are held to be A Bad Thing - and such a case can certainly be made - it is a simple matter to prevent them: Simply stop pillaging those countries that people emigrate from en masse.

As an aside, casting the question of immigration as a question of "would you invite in the entire world?" is a red herring: If the entire world decided to invite themselves, there'd be damn all we could do to stop them.

You are so much against government that I wonder what you'd ideally expect from it, or whether you simply don't want any government at all?

I'm not against government, any more than I'm against hammers. Government is a tool to implement policy. What I am against is the implementation of unjust policies.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 08:50:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
great diary-in-a-comment, Jake.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 10:31:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You defend your position very well, JakeS, though all this is an aside, not the point of Valentin's diary. His pragmatism's the new black non-ideology implies among other things that unions are unnecessarily hindering the pragmatic approach to public policy.

You say,

I'm skeptical of the idea that the elected officials of a representative democracy are the only legitimate representation of government

all of those defences are well beyond what Valentin argues is legitimate union activism. So I asked whether he has a suggestion for how the unions could defend themselves while remaining within the constraints that he wants to impose on their activity.

I think the problem here is that you are the activist in the debate and revolt against the pragmatism that Valentin describes and which is based on his observation. Valentin, who we can presume is no worker, observes and experiences the work of unions when he cannot use train/metro/tram... -

Valentin is probably no decision maker in favour of or against worker's unions. So, addressing your criticism to him has little effect. Further, Valentin may very well present a view that is shared by many others because reality has it that the masses in Western societies are NOT workers.

When you look back at the French revolution, you had a huge base of people who shared their suffering. The situation today is fundamentally different. The proportion of people living in a dire situation is not big enough to bring about the change you would hope to see. Besides, many of those who long for change and improvement of their living standard find comfort in front of their TV screens or with all kinds of technological gadgets.

You are the one who wants change; you must figure out how you can get there. You have good ideas, and I don't blame you for being idealistic, but debunking Valentin's observations simply won't help your cause.

BTW, your argument against language proficiency as a requirement for immigration could be turned around: If you have people who will master the language and have a certain level of education, they will be an asset to unions by being able to express themselves in the local language.

I find it unwise in the extreme to elect someone to high office on the assumption that he is the exception to the rule.

Okay, if it was unwise to elect e.g. Sarkozy, who are you going to blame for it? He was elected democratically. Maybe the majority fell victim to manipulation, or they all lost their senses, ... - But still, is there anywhere anything better than democracy?

I believe that democracies today do have a truth problem, and this should be addressed and manipulation be controlled but that's a different story.

Government is a tool to implement policy. What I am against is the implementation of unjust policies.

Sure...

You had mentioned that government policies amounted to stealing train driver's benefits...

You will find support among train divers - no doubt about that.

This raises the question of what is just and what is unjust to begin with... - I agree that foreigners marrying French nationals should have French citizenship, too. I can see the injustice, but in the case of train driver's hardship - oh well...

We are heading towards (are in a) recession. This for once is not just media hype but reality. This isn't the best of times for anyone anyway. There is a lot of material injustice, and everything looks as if things were going to get worse.

The answers will continue to be pragmatic, like an avalanche that will carry away everything on its way down. Why would the middle class who struggle, too and receive less for their money, have compassion for train driver's benefits?

If anything, a realistic concern that ALL should share IMO - would be the functioning of our democracy, the dismantling of lies and misinformation so that the public would be able to choose representatives* for their interests wisely and be governed in all our best interests. I wonder whether this is possible at all with our TV sets turned on and internet's virtual realities ...

* who would have to be found first, too ;)

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:48:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the problem here is that you are the activist in the debate and revolt against the pragmatism that Valentin describes

No, I dispute that it's entirely a matter of pragmatism. There's a longer discussion to be had here around the issue of "pragmatism to what end?" Pragmatism, in my dictionary, is the principle that the perfect should not obstruct the good, that one should take what progress one can get and not stubbornly insist on getting everything at once. But that does not obviate the need to define "good" and "progress."

Those are not apolitical decisions. Now, there's a variety of ways to arrive at political conclusions, but let's broadly call it "principles" - guidelines for how to act. Everybody has those. You don't steal, not because you're afraid of getting caught (there are many instances in which that risk is minimal to none), but because stealing is wrong in principle.

We can quibble about the term "ideology" - for myself, I view ideology as an overarching narrative that lends coherence, consistency and justification to one's principles. Valentin has a different operational definition, so I've avoided the semantic discussion until now. But when dealing with "pragmatism" it is necessary to explore the principles and priorities that this pragmatism is supposed to promote.

If a politician or activist holds to a principle that all cute puppies should be skinned alive on national television, we do not applaud his pragmatism when he compromises so that only one cute puppy is skinned alive, and he settles for broadcasting it on a local TV station. Yet it is undoubtedly a pragmatic approach: He realised that he could not obtain his goal, so he compromised and ended up endorsing a position that fell short of his ultimate objective, while still preserving the more important parts of his principles.

So when Valentin argues that he does not have an ideology - something I am in no position to dispute, neither under my own definition nor under what I think is his definition - he does not void the question of "where do your principles come from and how do you justify them?" "It's the pragmatic approach" is not an answer to that question, because it instantly provokes the response "pragmatic approach to what, exactly?" And then we're back at the issue of principles and their justification.

"I trust my gut" or "I go by Conventional Wisdom" are both more or less unideological answers to that question - not very good answers, IMO, but relatively unideological. "I hold this principle because it is true," would be a dogmatic answer. Again, it's an answer, but I don't think it's a very good one. "I arrive at principle X because it follows from principle Y for which I cannot find an alternative that does not conflict with principles Z, L and M, all of which are deeply embedded in [the justifying narrative of the ideology]," would be an ideological answer, at least under my definition of ideology.

When you look back at the French revolution, you had a huge base of people who shared their suffering. The situation today is fundamentally different. The proportion of people living in a dire situation is not big enough to bring about the change you would hope to see.

That's a classic Marxist argument that certain preconditions must exist for revolutionary change. But first of all, I am not a proponent of revolutionary change - I advocate some small changes, and I advocate some big changes, but as long as things are moving in the right direction, I am not particularly in favour of forcing the pace.

(Second, and as an aside, I'd guess that many of the classical Marxist revolutionary preconditions will show up within my lifetime if neoliberalism remains the dominant ideology.)

BTW, your argument against language proficiency as a requirement for immigration could be turned around: If you have people who will master the language and have a certain level of education, they will be an asset to unions by being able to express themselves in the local language.

Unions are not, despite their importance, the be-all-end-all of civil society. But that aside, I am not opposed to language requirements. I'm opposed to one-size-fits-all language requirements that don't take the abilities and preconditions of the immigrants in council. Because that is a harsher requirement than what we impose on our own citizens.

Okay, if it was unwise to elect e.g. Sarkozy, who are you going to blame for it? He was elected democratically. Maybe the majority fell victim to manipulation, or they all lost their senses, ... - But still, is there anywhere anything better than democracy?

I might counter that question with another: "Are elections really the only (or the highest) legitimate expression of democracy?" I don't think they are. There are various other structures - independent courts, tenured civil service, civil society institutions (universities, NGOs, labour unions, etc.) that all have roles to play in democracy and all have a certain degree of institutional legitimacy.

You had mentioned that government policies amounted to stealing train driver's benefits...

You will find support among train divers - no doubt about that.

But that's not a matter of debate, that's a matter of fact. The government entered into an agreement to provide those future benefits in exchange for present services. Reneging on them amounts to little more than an ex post facto law. That's true, by the way, for all pay-as-you-go systems: Promises were made to provide benefits in the future to those paying others' benefits today. Those are promises that you cannot simply renege on.

Why would the middle class who struggle, too and receive less for their money, have compassion for train driver's benefits?

Because pensions are counter-cyclical spending - so cutting them worsens the downturn.

Because paying the benefits will not materially reduce the prosperity of the middle class (quite the contrary, actually, as per point one), but reneging on them would be a violation of the social contract. Not only does it set a bad precedent, it also creates unrest which hurts the economy at a time where it's already in pain.

Because reneging on benefits for train drivers sets an undesirable precedent that can then be employed vis-a-vis health care, general pensions, unemployment insurance, and so on and so forth and etc. Good, old-fashioned class solidarity, in other words.

Because the middle class can shift the burden of paying those pensions (inasmuch as it is a burden at all; see above) onto the rich who are the ones who benefited from the boom-and-bust cycle now producing a recession. More good, old-fashioned class solidarity.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 06:11:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Are elections really the only (or the highest) legitimate expression of democracy?" I don't think they are. There are various other structures - independent courts, tenured civil service, civil society institutions (universities, NGOs, labour unions, etc.) that all have roles to play in democracy and all have a certain degree of institutional legitimacy.

I agree though there is a difference between NGOs, Universities and labour unions. NGOs and universities provide services, or in the case of NGOs they will fund themselves, through donations, etc. They serve a larger interest, not purely themselves. You can of course tell me that labour unions also serve a larger purpose... , but they mostly just serve themselves. When individual worker's rights are defended against harassment for example, they do society at large a service. But to keep society from functioning through blocking transport - is in no way constructive.

It smacks of revolution. You either abide by the rules - no matter what the rulers themselves do. They don't set the example. The law does; it is the law that's binding. And it is through enforcing law that workers should fight for their rights. Now, if democratic structures don't work anymore and you suffer because you want justice and don't get it, because you want truth and there's no one to fight for it within the governing bodies that are in charge of just this..., then what you really want IS revolution.

You don't trust government, based on experience. You have huge idealism with regards to social inequalities. You don't want no government but change, i.e. change governing representatives are opposed to.

That's why I consider that the implementation of your ideals within the structures of THIS democracy is not very realistic.

It's idealistic.

ValentinD's idealism on the contrary is based on the concept of rational Reason, his good faith in politicians who would have rational Reason as their baseline. He sees constructive pragmatism (?) on the winning side and does not have a problem with it. - This position is 100 % opposed to yours, and it will be impossible to find consensus or compromise...

BTW1 - I'm going to reflect on the train drivers a little more...

BTW2 - How would YOU control immigration?

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 08:51:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree with the notion of the university as a service provider - I view universities as academic institutions first and foremost. But let's leave that for another time.

When individual worker's rights are defended against harassment for example, they do society at large a service. But to keep society from functioning through blocking transport - is in no way constructive.

I would say that this depends on the political justification for blocking transportation. If it is done for frivolous reasons (if, for instance, the train drivers strike because they don't like the colour of the new trains) it would clearly be objectionable. But if it is done for grave reasons (for instance, if the government plans to start colonial war)... not so much.

I think it goes beyond the scope of the present exchange to lay down hard and fast rules for the circumstances under which striking for political reasons is appropriate. All I want to point out is that there is a legitimate political discussion as to the merits of blocking crucial infrastructure, and that this discussion must be had in each individual instance before issuing condemnations.

As an aside, ways exist to insulate the strategic infrastructure against strikes. I described one of them here. It does not completely prevent strikes - I think that'd be impossible - but it largely does prevent frivolous strikes.

It smacks of revolution. You either abide by the rules - no matter what the rulers themselves do. They don't set the example. The law does; it is the law that's binding. And it is through enforcing law that workers should fight for their rights. Now, if democratic structures don't work anymore and you suffer because you want justice and don't get it, because you want truth and there's no one to fight for it within the governing bodies that are in charge of just this..., then what you really want IS revolution.

I object to the term "revolution" because it has overtones of violence and because it seems to me to imply the imposition of a radically different constitution.

I don't condone violent revolutions in any but the most extreme cases - for a combination of ideological and pragmatic reasons. And I think that most Western European constitutions are reasonably serviceable as they are - oh, there are certainly things I'd like to see changed here and there, but nothing quite dramatic enough to justify calling it revolutionary.

What I call for is a cultural and political change, more than an institutional one. An evolutionary change, if you will, as opposed to a revolutionary one.

That's not to say that strikes - general strikes in particular - do not have some of the characteristics of revolutions. They do - a fact which has inspired some syndicalists who do desire a revolutionary change to the way society is structured to propose general strikes as a means to achieve such change without bloodshed, terror, purges and all the assorted nastiness that usually accompanies violent revolutions.

ValentinD's idealism on the contrary is based on the concept of rational Reason, his good faith in politicians who would have rational Reason as their baseline.

I think that's a very astute observation, and one that I didn't quite realise myself before you pointed it out.

--------------

W.r.t. immigration, I would "control" it by removing the push factors from the countries of origin. If we are concerned that too many Turks immigrate to Western Europe (bearing in mind that "too many" is not a terribly precise number...), the obvious preventive is to promote the wealth and welfare of the Turkish people in Turkey.

If there were only minor differences in the standard of living in rural Turkey and metropolitan France, the Turks who emigrate to France would do so for predominantly personal reasons - a preference for French culture, a desire to live under the French form of government, or because they like the climate better (whether the temperature climate or the political climate). And presumably, there would be a similar migration in the opposite direction, of people who wanted to live in Turkey.

I am not convinced that migration founded upon such reasons is a problem that needs to be controlled - we do not, for instance, speak of the problem of immigrants from the US, nor did we speak of the problem of defectors from the USSR and its client states settling in The West(TM). The potentially problematic immigrants are those who want to come to Europe solely to gain a higher standard of living, but have no desire to actually take constructive part in European culture (for suitable values of "constructive part" and "European culture" - these are not well defined entities, so they should be used with care and taken with a largish grain of salt).

This mechanism of "control" would also tie in nicely with a geopolitical strategy based on soft power and partnerships between equals, an approach that I and others have advocated elsewhere on ET.

Of course there would be a transitional period between adopting this policy and the time when standards of living were equalised. For that period, I'd suggest looking at the rules from the 70s - they were perfectly serviceable then, and while I expect that some anachronisms will have to be retouched, I don't see why they can't be pressed into service for a couple of decades until poverty-driven migration tapers off.

[Refugees are a somewhat different discussion for a variety of reasons, but the rule about improving the standard of living in the country of origin holds even truer here, since in many, if not most, cases The West(TM) has either neglected to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict or actively precipitated conflict or repressive forms of government. Or, to put it more bluntly, if you don't like Somali refugees coming to Europe, stop sending guns and ammunition to Somalia.]

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 02:41:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the political justification for blocking transportation

Jake,

I have thought some more about the train drivers (not finished). I still believe that strikes that stifle public transportation would not be the right and a justified way to go.

I have thought of Germans who lie on rails to hinder the transport of nuclear waste. They do so because they feel that everyone is concerned. They act out of pure idealism, not because they want to maintain their social standing or to keep benefits.

When Greenpeace interferes with industrial deep-sea fishing, blocking boats, they do so out of idealism.

When individuals take risks, sabotage rail tracks - in order to prevent life-threatening deportations, they act out of idealism.

These are examples that would justify the blocking of normal life.

Train drivers don't face any life/death situation. Their idealism is limited to their own personal interests. To defend their interests, they can take legal action if they can make their case, providing proof that cutting benefits would be illegal, a breech of contract, etc.

So, the train driver's idealism is first of all concerned with their own self-interest, and second, they don't address those who are in charge for cutting their benefits, i.e. the government. What they do instead is, they blackmail the government by blocking innocent employees, workers, students.

The more I think of it, the more it strikes me as being outrageous.

I object to the term "revolution" because it has overtones of violence and because it seems to me to imply the imposition of a radically different constitution.

What I call for is a cultural and political change, more than an institutional one. An evolutionary change, if you will, as opposed to a revolutionary one.

I don't use the term "revolution" with an overtone of violence or the imposition of a radically different constitution though this could be the result. You want radical change and this desire is revolutionary.

This mechanism of "control" would also tie in nicely with a geopolitical strategy based on soft power and partnerships between equals...

I don't see why they can't be pressed into service for a couple of decades until poverty-driven migration tapers off.

You are full of idealism.  The only problem is - that you are not in power (are you not?). The implementation of your wide-ranging idealistic plans is about as far-fetched as Valentin's trust in the well-intended, humanistic, philanthropic and altruistic, rational-Reason-minded and empowered politician. ;)

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 06:08:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, the train driver's idealism is first of all concerned with their own self-interest, and second, they don't address those who are in charge for cutting their benefits, i.e. the government. What they do instead is, they blackmail the government by blocking innocent employees, workers, students.

By that line of reasoning, no purely pay-related strike in the strategic infrastructure would be justified. Do you think so? If so, I note that this is the opposite objection of Valentin's who complained that the train drivers went on strike for reasons that he thought were too idealistic.

I would give the same counter to both objections: It is possible to create a class of tenured civil servants (similar to the Danish tjenestemænd) for whom striking is illegal, and use them to staff the strategic infrastructure. Precisely because striking is illegal for them, they are paid better, they have complete job security and fairly generous pensions.

This was rejected.

So who's at fault here? The train drivers who exercise their natural right to withhold their labour - a right that all other non-tenured labour has in a democratic system - or the politicians who refuse to pay what it costs to staff the strategic infrastructure with tenured civil servants who don't go on strike?

A case can certainly be made that the politicians are holding the rest of society hostage: On the other hand, they refuse to grant their civil servants tenure and pay them an appropriate compensation for not using a generally accepted bargaining tool - a bargaining tool whose use is entirely uncontroversial in the rest of society. On the other hand, they expect the train drivers to refrain from using this generally accepted bargaining position, because it would harm third parties who are not actively involved in the conflict.

It's not obvious that the train drivers are the ones holding society hostage to their bargaining positions. The case can certainly be made that they're just calling the politicians' bluff.

You are full of idealism.  The only problem is - that you are not in power (are you not?). The implementation of your wide-ranging idealistic plans is about as far-fetched as Valentin's trust in the well-intended, humanistic, philanthropic and altruistic, rational-Reason-minded and empowered politician. ;)

Milton Friedman used to say something along the lines of "our task is to keep the ideas alive."

Granted, I don't have the high-powered support that Uncle Miltie did, but that does not mean keeping the ideas alive is for nought.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:29:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lily:

the problem here is that you are the activist in the debate and revolt against the pragmatism that Valentin describes and which is based on his observation...
He sees constructive pragmatism (?) on the winning side and does not have a problem with it. - This position is 100 % opposed to yours, and it will be impossible to find consensus or compromise.

Spot on!
This is the problem I had with Jake the whole time. I could hardly reply to his posts, because to me it looked like fiery ideologic activism. I'm not passing judgement, just telling how it looked from here.

Lines like these:
are unions at fault for actually fighting the war that the fatcats started instead of rolling over and playing dead
or
stealing train drivers' pensions
or
dismantling of civilised society by people who want to throw us back to the 19th century

to me are ideology, sloganeering (no offense, Jake, I just say how it looks for me), and I can't bring myself to even comment on it, which, to Jake or DoDo, looks like I would be eluding the subject.

And Jake's discourse (which I don't judge) is filled with this kind of stuff.
For instance, he says Bush stole elections. Officially speaking, I agree; but still he was voted by a huge part of the population, almost 50%.
Or Greenspan, who enjoyed the same prestige under the Clinton administration.
Or the idea that elected officials would not be the only legitimate representation of government. This to me is either absurd, or coming from a revolutionary. Elected officials are not the only instance of democracy, but they are the only legitimate government, that's why we put them there!
To me, this looks like coming from a wildly idealistic spirit, which I can understand, but with whom I can hardly debate pragmatism, because he looks too much into his own "thing" to be open to anything else. To me it looks like a continuously defensive-aggressive position, which is not my "scene" at all - I know I could never convince someone who has honest, strong convictions - and I'm not even interested in convincing, since rational pragmatism is not an ideology, but a methodology.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 02:42:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jake was saying at some point, about neocons/neolibs...

you cannot dissect all their lies one by one. That'd turn into a battle of attrition that you cannot hope to win, because it takes only two minutes to write a bald-faced lie, but it takes half an hour to debunk it.

This (replacing lies with strong convictions) is a bit how I felt too during my three or four debates with Jake. I felt I would have had to go in the finest details on a huge range of topics, practically covering all the societal issues today. It was far easier to say "unions must act political" and then asl for details from myself; I could simply not go into all that detail, and it was not the point, anyway. Talking pragmatism and technocracy to me does not imply explaining why social neolibs or socialists are not pragmatic. These are ideologies attested as such - QED.

Also Jake used the puppy skinning metaphor and ended saying...


we do not applaud his pragmatism when he compromises so that only one cute puppy is skinned alive

I pointed this before to Nomad: compromise is not the same thing as rational pragmatism. It's not just compromise (which can sometimes be a solution) or just pragmatism/real-politik. It's also rational, it's also humanistic. I wonder how much liberals and humanists today have in common with the original ones.

Finally: I agree with Jake's definition of ideology.
As to... Pragmatism to what end? :
A better life for all involved. As simple as that. Not the communist society, not the freemarket, globalised society, not any other pre-described society. A humble, yet an "enlighened" purpose.


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:03:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I felt I would have had to go in the finest details on a huge range of topics, practically covering all the societal issues today. It was far easier to say "unions must act political" and then asl for details from myself; I could simply not go into all that detail, and it was not the point, anyway.

Well, if you're going to discuss politics, you have to be prepared to discuss policy - preferably in some detail.

That doesn't mean that you have to provide detailed argument against every off-hand example tossed out, but it means that you should be willing to go into detail on at least one to three points. If you want to assert that this or that politician (nevermind the whole political culture of all of Western Civilisation(TM)) adheres to this or that conviction, surely it's not unreasonable to expect you to take an example or two and go into some detail to demonstrate how you think they support your contention?

I pointed this before to Nomad: compromise is not the same thing as rational pragmatism. It's not just compromise (which can sometimes be a solution) or just pragmatism/real-politik. It's also rational, it's also humanistic.

But humanism is an ideology, at least in its original incarnation and under my definition of ideology, which you say you agree with.

  • It proposes an overarching narrative: An idea of continual, inevitable progress for all mankind, the notion of such progress (and the precise nature of said progress is usually left to the individual adherent...) as an end in itself, the belief that humans are rational creatures and usually a strong streak of anthropocentrism.

  • It proposes to derive a number of high-priority principles from this narrative. In no particular order, it often promotes equality for all (for certain values of "equality" and certain values of "all"), the pursuit of scientific research, limited government, the pursuit of industrialisation and the pursuit of material well-being for society (again, for suitable definitions of "society").

  • It has a strong coherence (centred around the notions of progress and unbiased rational reason) and as high a degree of consistency as can be expected from such a broad school of thought.

A better life for all involved.

Who are "all involved" and what is "a better life?" For most values of "all involved" and "a better life" the above sentence represents an unachievable objective. So the question becomes one of tradeoffs. Which measure of "a better life for all involved" is more important, median income or aggregate income? Are they both red herrings, because "a better life" has nothing to do with income? Is the Brazilian rainforest more important for "a better life for all involved" than access to cheap beef for consumers?

I have my own preferred answers to those questions, and many of those answers are unashamedly ideological. But at least I'm not hubristic enough to pretend that those answers offer "a better life for all involved" - usually, my preferred answer would deprive a billionaire somewhere of some of his money. You might object that this does not materially degrade his prospects of a better life - and I would agree - but I'm willing to bet you a beer that he doesn't see things that way...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:48:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, maybe my pragmatism is an ideology after all. Maybe simply a longing for the old style liberalism and humanism. I might well be a classical liberal completely at odds with what bears that name today. :)

Or maybe the old humanism was actually much less an ideology in the sense we confer this word today, and quite pragmatic in itself.

(just count how many times you pointed to places of imprecision in the definition of humanism that you give; feeling those places with something is what tursn it into a true ideology; without them, it's a rational way of organizing society)

(it reminds me of those adorers of the God Reason, and also of that statement, that God is Reason, and Reason was God.... our humanists were catholics in disguise - oh the horror!)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 09:21:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
feeling those places with something is what tursn it into a true ideology; without them, it's a rational way of organizing society)

No, leaving them out renders the sentences unintelligible.

"Progress" is simply not well-defined unless one specifies the end towards which the progress is aimed. Similarly, "equality" is not well-defined unless one specifies what measure should be equalised (income? Rights? (Which rights?) Safety? Freedom from material want?), and among whom it should be equalised (Europeans? Christians? White people? All of humanity?). "Society" isn't well-defined unless one specifies who belongs in it. Is "society" the society of land-owners? Of gentlemen? Of nobles? Of all citizens? Of all residents? Of all humans?

Of course, those questions would all lead to a political debate that doesn't well suit the claim of unavoidable progress towards reasonableness as a historical inevitability, which is quite central to the narrative. So those questions are usually swept under the carpet. But just because they aren't answered explicitly does not mean that they aren't answered at all.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:49:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the contrary, leaving them out allows the society to freely choose its way. To me, ideologies fix a goal and   try to push the society in its direction. You tell people what you think is good, raise the thing at faith level, and declare that everybody disagreeing is a neocon, neolib, propagandist, anti-unions.

A framework is all that is needed, when you filled in with something precise, you think you provide a ideal to the society, when in reality you limit their choice.
Original humanism and liberalism was much more rational and acceptable than living in a continuous and more and more intense polarisation and cat fight. Your argument that I read somewhere, that the "others" (the class enemy, the fatcats etc) are already doing that, is fallacious. Expose their flaw, don't make the same mistake. Turn the other cheek and work relentlessly in the proper way, which is not more sloganeering in the other sense.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:37:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the contrary, leaving them out allows the society to freely choose its way.

Leaving them out permits the listener to substitute whatever he feels is the appropriate definitions. To a sincere believer in the doctrines of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, imposing Shari'a in France would be Progress, because it would bring the world-wide Caliphate a step closer. To the CEO of Halliburton, the Iraq war was Progress, because it made him a couple of billion $ richer.

I.o.w., society does not have a set of preferences w.r.t. the direction of progress. Only individual people can provide those definitions. But when they do - or rather, when their definitions differ from the ones you've provided for yourself - you label them ideologues and accuse them of dogmatic obstinacy.

You tell people what you think is good, raise the thing at faith level, and declare that everybody disagreeing is a neocon, neolib, propagandist, anti-unions.

Bah, humbug. Nowhere have I called you a neocon or neolib propagandist.

I have called you anti-union, with, I think, considerable justification, because you repeatedly convey an overly simplistic view of the labour market which places blame on unions for problems that are actually caused by employers, or for which blame is at least equally shared by employers and unions. And refuse to even take council of the objections raised against that view. If you wish to interpret this as a knee-jerk ideological reaction, that is, of course, your prerogative. I'll leave it to others to judge whether you're right.

Turn the other cheek and work relentlessly in the proper way, which is not more sloganeering in the other sense.

That's been tried. It's been tried with creationists. It's been tried with HIV/AIDS deniers. It's been tried with neo-Nazis and holocaust deniers. It's been tried with perpetual-motion frauds. It's been tried with homeopaths and crystal healers. And it's been tried with Friedmanites. It didn't work.

Reason and logic and pragmatism work well and fine when you operate in a climate of general good faith and mutual trust. But the thing is, I don't trust the right wing, and I don't for a second believe that they're arguing in good faith. So when debating a professional wingnut, it's for the benefit of the audience, just like debating a professional creationist.

And if you believe that reasoned argument, detailed expositions of policies and proof of how those policies further the common good of the vast majority of society is more convincing to the body politic than sloganeering and propaganda... then you really have very little business accusing others of Utopianism.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:39:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You'll have to come up with better examples of doctrines abusing the humanist/liberal framework.

The society can at some point arrive at conclusions too. Like, women are discriminated. (good one). All women are discriminated anywhere they're not in equal numbers with men (absurd ones).

I never placed blame on unions as such. I protested against abuse of the right to withdraw labour. When it transgresses their right to labour, especially more so when it's for an unworthy cause, even worse when it's a tiny minority abusing their strategic position (air traffic controllers), some people can get very very annoyed and vote for someone who promises minimum service.

On the last part, I could agree with you, the problem is that it seems by and large the public is getting fed up with excessive activism from all sides.

My question was quite simple actually: faced with such polarisation, would the society not tend to counter-react by particularly picking leaders and movements which profess moderation, balance, reason, pragmatism ?  That was the whole idea of the first blog, not to challenge your ideological position.

The second blog (which no one noticed, but then is that even surprising, I wonder) went further and analysed those situations, where technocrats, experts, bureaucrats tend to impose by claiming themselves from pragmatism.

It was an almost academical reflection (in all humbleness). It became flaming and polarising because of guys like you who claim to recognise the conspiration behind the text and pass to action against the enemy.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 02:59:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You'll have to come up with better examples of doctrines abusing the humanist/liberal framework.

What's wrong with them?

If obviously off-the-wall insanity like six-day-creation can pass muster in public debate, then what hope do we have of combating superficially plausible-sounding nonsense like the Laffer Curve?

The society can at some point arrive at conclusions too. Like, women are discriminated. (good one). All women are discriminated anywhere they're not in equal numbers with men (absurd ones).

But "society" does not magically arrive at those conclusions ex nihilo. They become socially accepted because they are propagated by individuals and groups within the society.

So if you insist that "society" is the only entity to legitimately impute meaning into the narrative that you claim to be operating according to, then you are essentially saying that you defend the Conventional Wisdom and the status quo.

Which is a perfectly acceptable position. But it's not unideological.

I never placed blame on unions as such. I protested against abuse of the right to withdraw labour. When it transgresses their right to labour,

Emphasis mine.

That is placing blame on the unions. Because the fair and balanced description of the situation is that their employers are abusing their right to lead and distribute the work by hiring people to fill critical positions who are not paid not to strike. That's a case of irresponsible cost cutting, just as surely as not providing emergency brakes or fire extinguishers for the trains. So in this case, employers are entirely to blame for the mess, and expecting the unions to help clean it up is a lot like expecting the taxpayers to foot the bill for bailing out Wall Street.

If an employer decided to hire employees who could quit (and be fired) with a day's notice, we would not blame the employees for quitting, even if it disrupted service - we'd blame the employer for being short-sighted by hiring workers on a contract that allowed them to quit. So blaming the workers for striking when they're employed under a contract that permits them to strike seems entirely out to lunch. The workers aren't responsible for being employed under that contract - in a capitalist economy, it's the employer's prerogative to lead and distribute the work.

The second blog (which no one noticed, but then is that even surprising, I wonder) went further and analysed those situations, where technocrats, experts, bureaucrats tend to impose by claiming themselves from pragmatism.

I did actually read it, and I substantially agree with your criticisms of technocracy and the illusion of meritocracy. I just reacted to the underlying assumption that technocracy is established because people want to run things in an unideological fashion - far more often, as is presently the case, technocracies are established and enshrined in order to lock a specific ideological position deep into the institutional framework of society.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 05:21:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shari'a (or the literal interpretations of the old testament) fitting humanism ?... Ouch.

You can also choose to emphasize the "can" in the conventional wisdom. Instead you add "only". Vicious, vicious debater.

Not placing any blame. Mere constatation that rights sometimes oppose one another. I then said one can choose to ignore it, for a better cause than hanging on to corporative privileges, or if it wasn't just a handful extremists (sometimes even out of union support) blocking the whole airport or railway or television.
Otherwise I broadly agreed with no-strike more-pay strategical areas idea. You just keep speaking from an union/worker viewpoint (ideological), picking favourite categories, as if employers would be a necessary evil at best - while I am neutral.

Not because people want to run things unideologically, but that some people or categories promote technical expertise as unideological, impartial and as such the best - obviously not true.
It remains that not all economical technocrats are neolibs - many are quite to the left, for that matter.


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:09:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can also choose to emphasize the "can" in the conventional wisdom. Instead you add "only".

Because when anybody other than "society" does it, you call it ideology and denounce it as hopeless utopianism.

You just keep speaking from an union/worker viewpoint (ideological), picking favourite categories, as if employers would be a necessary evil at best - while I am neutral.

No, I'm just telling you what the definition of capitalism says: In a capitalist society, it is the employer's prerogative to lead and distribute the work - and to ensure that staffing is adequate for the task at hand is an obvious corollary to this. And if the employer in question can't find enough qualified work... well then he's just shit outta luck, but that's not the employees' problem. No political school of thought that I'm aware of - left, right or centre - disputes this. Comes with the whole "private ownership of the means of production" thing, which I gather is rather central to capitalist economic models. It's in any PoliSci textbook you might care to name.

Fortunately you are right that not all economic technocrats are neolibs. There are still holdovers from saner times. But far too many have drunk the Reaganomics kool-aid.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:32:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Denounce it only when it is extrapolated to the whole society and tries to push it in that direction. Groups can reach conclusions, solutions, goals, with different degrees of perfectibility and definitivity, individuals can, the society can as a group, anything is possible, nothing is imposed on anyone, there is no higher purpose able to defeat a sound reasoning - but a sounder, finer, better one.

Who says that definition ?  Prerogative ?... Conferred by...? This all sounds so ideological, I feel itching at almost each word of yours.
Political schools of thought - a rational pragmatist's anathema !
"Capitalism" could rather be seen as the natural state of things, rather than an ideology in itself. PoliSci schools remind me of certain economy books indoctrinating students with freemarket doctrines.
Yuk.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:22:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a very nice position... almost exactly a manifesto of the philosophy of the Enlightenment.

It works exceedingly well for science, because in science cheaters are usually caught sooner or later, and then they're run out of town on a rail, covered in tar and feathers and branded with a big, fat sign in the middle of their face saying "liar."

In politics... not so much.

And while capitalism could indeed be seen as the "natural" state of things, so could feudalism, clientism, oligarchy, corporatism, serfdom, tribalism and a host of other more or less undesirable ways of running society. Capitalism is no less artificial than social democracy - if you want a truly "natural" state of affairs, look at tribalism and feudalism; they seem to be the state societies move towards when their citizenry stops paying attention.

Who says that the definition of capitalism is that the employer leads and distributes the work? Well, originally this particular formulation of capitalist principles was taken from an early Danish employers' union manifesto - more specifically from their demands for concessions from the Danish labour movement, in return for ending a major lockout. It was subsequently written into the September Agreement, which you might call the constitution of the Danish labour market.

It's right up there with private property when it comes to defining capitalism.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:49:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This all is quite expected coming from an ideologist. Means of production, 19th century workers, historical comparations of possession of means of production is quite a nice place for marxist theorists.
I still think capitalism is in essence no more than just the normal state of things (a bit like democracy, in principle), and has been ideologized by different declinations and schools of indoctrinated thought.
I'll think a bit on that and get back to you.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 09:21:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dude, what is capitalism if it's not the private ownership of the means of production and the right to lead and distribute the work? That's the definition that the people who coined the term agreed on, and it's the definition that every political theorist, every dictionary and every political faction agrees on to this day.

You're the first person I have ever met who disagrees that the definition of capitalism is private control of the means of production - or at least that capitalism means universal private property rights, to which private control of the means of production is an obvious corollary.

Of course, you can make up your own definition of capitalism if you want, but if you want to substitute some idiosyncratic definition of capitalism, then you have to at least tell us what that definition is.

And I wonder what the "natural state of things" even means. It sounds like more "wink-wink, nudge-nudge, know what I mean" speak. What is "natural" about capitalism - under your definition, or the dictionary definition, I don't care which? Why has a system that's "the natural state of things" only existed for two hundred years or so, tops? And why does "the natural state of things" seem to regress towards feudalism when left unattended (a problem that already Adam Smith was aware of when he wrote of the necessity of trust-busting)?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:29:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well for one, private property is the normal state of things. Always existed, only in danger when no rule of law, or by abuse. Private property period. Then you start from there and you buy your machine and set up a baker's shop. That's not so much "means of production" but private property you bought with your money. Period.

Then you bring people in for work. Becoming an employer changes things, because people are not machines, personal and social problems are posed, which is why there are work laws and statutes to regulate the thing and protect employees.

Still pondering, without relating to any highminded philosophical book, for the moment. Dude :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:00:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well for one, private property is the normal state of things. Always existed, only in danger when no rule of law, or by abuse.

No. You'll have to argue that a bit more than simply stating it. Indeed, one of the first large States, Egypt, had everything owned by the Pharao.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŔres

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:02:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In this case I confess my ignorance. Was old Egypt a nation of slaves alone, no private property? Or was it rather nominally so, much like kings were said to own the land.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:23:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even Europe, where the property was owned by the king or the church. Or, obivously, pre-Colombian North America. And today, most property is owned by banks, or, really, Chinese investors in banks. Private ownership of property is a recent phenomenon and applies mostly to the wealthy.
by asdf on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:57:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well for one, private property is the normal state of things. Always existed, only in danger when no rule of law, or by abuse.

"Always" is a very long time. And I would point out that in most cultures, the notion of individual private property does not actually exist, because the individual is wholly subsumed in the clan or family.

Additionally, very often in European history, peasants didn't actually own most of their stuff - they rented it from their local nobles.

That's not so much "means of production" but private property you bought with your money. Period.

You can shout that there is no difference between capital goods (means of production) and consumer goods until you go blue in the face, but that doesn't change the fact that the rest of the world makes that distinction.

Land has, throughout most of European history, either been owned communally or held in fief from one's feudal sovereign. Agricultural implements have been variously privately and communally owned, but certainly weren't usually bought and sold on open markets the way they are under full-fledged capitalist systems. With a few notable exceptions (such as the Freemasons), even the proto-capitalist craftsmen in the cities worked in guilds, which communally owned the means of production, and did so essentially since the dissolution of the Roman empire and the start of the Middle Ages.

(None of which, of course, means that these constructs were in any way egalitarian or remotely similar to what most Marxists would understand when they say "communal ownership" of the means of production. They just weren't capitalist in any sense of the term that my dictionary recognises.)

Employing people to produce goods for third parties is a relatively recent invention - it used to be that most work was done either for oneself (as, e.g., with subsistence farming, an activity that used to take up more than 90 % of all economic activity in pre-capitalist societies) or on commission. This only really changed once industrialisation made mass output of cheap, standardised goods practical.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 12:48:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The normal state of things is ownership of everything by the king. Where have you been for the last couple of thousand years?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:35:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, ownership of everything by a feudal nobility - i.e. the nearest gang of armed thugs. Absolute monarchy was a relatively recent invention (and didn't last for much more than 200 years).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:47:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, very often the feudal nobility didn't own their stuff: it was granted by the king, at least in principle.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:38:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Add a "?" to the end of that ...

Well, very often the feudal nobility didn't own their stuff: it was granted by the king, at least in principle?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:39:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Things were much more nuanced even then, and often peasants had property of their land and house. Without speaking about the town people, traders etc.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:56:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Things were much more nuanced even then, and often peasants had property of their land and house.

That's only true for the freeholders, which were not the majority in most countries (and in some countries, such as Denmark, for instance, didn't even exist for several centuries).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 12:49:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that capitalism's evolution in the last few decades was nothing short of revolutionary. So many cultures, economies, ecologies were leveled to a plane of only monetary and power dimensions. That is not normal, at least not for long periods of time.
by das monde on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:33:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No offence taken. It is ideological sloganeering, although I do hope that I have explained why I think those particular slogans are justified.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:08:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You did, but to me, this is acting to pollute the debate (if debate is to be). I could not care less about sloganeering of any kind. You can blast at neocons, or Sarkozy, or catholics all you want, I don't feel personally touched, it is but the lack of fairness and truthfulness that annoys me.

This blog was about the bad sides of pragmatism - technocracy, bureaucracy, shutting down the debate with a pretention of expertise, opposing rights so that to not confer any.
You turned it into a ideologically polarised fight.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:41:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could not care less about sloganeering of any kind.

... says the guy who talks about "promoting a better life for all" and who pronounces that "ideology is dead, so what now?"

Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, pot.

You can blast at neocons, or Sarkozy, or catholics all you want, I don't feel personally touched, it is but the lack of fairness and truthfulness that annoys me.

I challenge you to find somewhere I said something untrue.

Fairness, OTOH, is to some extent a matter of perspective, so it is possible that you find some of my assumptions or conclusions unfair. Which is to my sorrow, but does not change their merit.

This blog was about the bad sides of pragmatism - technocracy, bureaucracy, shutting down the debate with a pretention of expertise, opposing rights so that to not confer any.
You turned it into a ideologically polarised fight.

It was ideologically polarised from the word go. By claiming the death of ideology, you lent a shroud of normalcy, legitimacy and even historical inevitability to the current political climate - a climate that is very much dominated by ideological dogmatism, as I explained in considerable detail. I fail to see how disputing the assumptions fundamentally underpinning your diary constitutes an irrelevant threadjack. But maybe that's just me.

As for the fight part... well, we could go back through the comments and see who started what and who called whom names. But frankly, that would probably be an exercise in futility. At any rate, I don't think any of the participants has reason to be particularly ashamed of his or her conduct.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:52:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pronouncing ideology dead, can that e ideologic ? :)

Untrue stuff? Your whole point of view was heavily biased. Like when you deny any place for argumentation in neocon propaganda, I reply that many americans were still convinced of some of the more logical bits in it,  since they re-elected Bush, and you reply the elections were stolen, choosing to ignore the fact that plus or minus several thousand votes, about 50% actually voted for him. You're propagandizing against a supposed propagandist, which is why I'm telling you you're wasting your time. I don't believe in any hard right, neocon or neolib theories, I have certain rightwing values (like the moral value of effort) and leftwing one (like fighting inequalities as a genuine societal goal), and some more. But my stance is not ideological.
You probably think anyone must have an ideology, like you have one. The world is polarized, the good and the bad, the fatcats and the oppressed, and any attempt to say differently is a support for the actual state of affairs.
If you're trying to prove the inherent relativity in any such position, that's what I call an exercise in futility. We can abstractize stuff to no end, my original points, where I presented several views of certain topics and the polarisation ("extremisation") of debate that usually follows, remain unchallenged - just like the examples I gave on pragmatic Sarkozy.

Had you paid more attention, I did not argue  in support of the present situation, but about a change of approach, for nuancing and de-polarising stuff in order to keep in touch with reality.


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:19:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pronouncing ideology dead, can that e ideologic ? :)

It can, as in the case of Fukuyama. But that's beside the point, because I was using it as an example of sloganeering - which it indisputably is - not of ideology.

I reply that many americans were still convinced of some of the more logical bits in it,  since they re-elected Bush, and you reply the elections were stolen, choosing to ignore the fact that plus or minus several thousand votes, about 50% actually voted for him.

There are several ways to steal an election, of which actual ballot stuffing is only the crudest one. Massive media dominance also counts as a way to manipulate elections - at least when Vladimir Putin does it...

And as an aside, it's closer to 25 % given the turnout.

Had you paid more attention, I did not argue  in support of the present situation, but about a change of approach, for nuancing and de-polarising stuff in order to keep in touch with reality.

Depolarising the situation requires a good-faith effort from both sides. The Left has - broadly speaking - shown its good faith by moving towards the centre. The Right has - broadly speaking - responded by moving farther to the right. You're barking up the wrong tree here - we've scratched their backs, it's their turn to scratch our backs now.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 06:34:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And precisely in what way, if I may, would "pronouncing ideology dead" be even remotely similar to "sloganeering" ? (let alone I challenge you to point me  wherever such a declaration would be made at all).

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 02:45:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And precisely in what way, if I may, would "pronouncing ideology dead" be even remotely similar to "sloganeering" ? (let alone I challenge you to point me  wherever such a declaration would be made at all).

Been there, done that, gave the reference to Fukuyama. What more do you want? A detailed dissection of The end of History complete with an analysis of all the misleading sloganeering in it (of which the death of ideology is but one among several)?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 05:25:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You gave the reference to Fukuyama, it's true, but then you said that it is

"beside the point, because I was using it as an example of sloganeering"

So (unless I misread your english) I rightly ignored it.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:58:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, my bad. I should've specified that Fukuyama does both. I just figured he was a known name. He's one of the big hotshots that usually gets quoted when the subject is the fall of the Soviet Union.

My bad.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:08:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can idealists ever be above ideology?
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 06:12:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Try and put all the faith you're capable of into atheism! :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 09:24:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Why only demand adherence from the furriners

Because the locals are quite socially conditioned into accepting democracy as the best system ever! :))
Or because being taught democracy and surrounded by democracy and human rights all the time, I trust them to always justify and calibrate their reactions, even anti-democratical, having all this background. It's not at all the same with someone coming from a dictatorship and for whom women rights don't mean zip.
When a cannibal asks me for a visa, I'll make sure he knows and formally agrees that murder, boiling people and cannibalism are not allowed here. You may argue that there are murderers in Europe too anyway. It's not at all the same thing as admitting in someone for whom cannibalism is normal. And I have no reason to add a potential murderer to the already existing ones.


W.r.t. politeness, I think you should be careful what you wish for

I hoped you would react to that :)

Actually I should have rather put it as follows:
all immigrants coming from exotic civilizations will need to follow a three-year course on local civilization and way of life - before even their file be received!
:)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 04:15:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When a cannibal asks me for a visa, I'll make sure he knows and formally agrees that murder, boiling people and cannibalism are not allowed here.

He could be granted a visa on the condition that he would agree on remaining caged in a zoo and provided that you'd be able to finish your sentence explaining his rights and duties as a guest to the great country of yours...

Also, would he be allowed to import any meat from back home?

;p

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 04:45:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Also, would he be allowed to import any meat from back home?"

Darn, I didn't even think of that. And what if the guy gets hungry and, in all naïveté, demands his favourite dish, invoking his right to cultural exception! Darn, darn.

Ok. Changed my mind. Noooo cannibals here. NEXT !
:P

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 07:19:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Althoughhh... given the dire state of our prisons... we COULD feed him a criminal or two, I guess... this will help elevate the comfort level in those overbooked rooms too. Criminals, yeah! With, a raw anarchist thrown in too, as entrée froide!
(A)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 07:25:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminds me of the joke about the cannibal who returns home from holiday missing an arm and a leg.

His friend says:

"Good grief, what happened on this holiday of yours, then...?"

"...it was self catering..." explains the cannibal....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 11:28:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
because being taught democracy and surrounded by democracy and human rights all the time, I trust them to always justify and calibrate their reactions, even anti-democratical, having all this background. It's not at all the same with someone coming from a dictatorship and for whom women rights don't mean zip.

But if all people raised in a democratic culture already support democracy and republican values (except those of us who live in a constitutional monarchy, of course :-P), then they shouldn't have a problem with signing a pledge to honour democratic and republican (respectively constitutional-monarchy) values? It would just be a formality - like showing your passport when you re-enter the Schengen, right?

Actually I should have rather put it as follows:
all immigrants coming from exotic civilizations will need to follow a three-year course on local civilization and way of life - before even their file be received!

What is an "exotic civilisation" and who gets to decide that? What is the "local civilisation and way of life" and who gets to decide that?

The Roman Catholic Church claims that European culture is inherently Christian. Last time I checked, the official position of the French government was that European culture is secular. To take just a very easily grasped point of contention in such a curriculum.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Nov 30th, 2008 at 09:08:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The last time you checked, Chirac was in power; you might need to check again soon - Sarkozy speaks not about religious principles, but about factual history, or factual history says this continent was christian for a loooong long time, and that that did leave some traces - a mere fact.

All non-european civilization can be said exotic :)

People raised here have gone through at least 15 years of indoctrination to democracy and human rights.
You're right, a 3 year course would be too short. Make that 10 - at least !

:)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 09:29:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarkozy speaks not about religious principles, but about factual history, or factual history says this continent was christian for a loooong long time, and that that did leave some traces - a mere fact.

But it was Pagan for a lot longer. And it has been secular more recently. Emphasising Christianity above those other contributions to our history is what I usually call "telling a lie by telling a lot of little truths." It's true in the detail, but grossly misleading in the overall message.

All non-european civilization can be said exotic :)

What's European civilisation? Does Turkey qualify? Poland? Russia? The US? Italy? Singapore? Hong Kong?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:10:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hairsplitting.
You're going general-relativistic again.
Let's remain on the Newton laws' level.

Europe or America today shows huge christian influence. Not pagan, not muslim. I recognize the right of a country like Poland to oppose gay marriage, religiously and culturally, even if I might vote for it in France. I recognize the Irish the right to oppose opening mosques, even if EUROPE will likely accuse them of "discrimination". We are allowed to hold dear our past, our culture, and reject people who will later want to build mosques, keep women as housecares and so on. It might seem unfair, but it's the host's right to admit whoever it likes to.

You know very well what European civilization is, no point to do more hairsplitting. It's Europe, America, Australia, not Turkey, not Singapore, not Hong Kong.

Yes, hairsplitting, you'll likely find some more arguments, exceptions, abscons abstractions to counter-argument. That's what I call ideological stretching of a very clear and simple factual situation.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:50:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe or America today shows huge christian influence.

True.

Not pagan,

Except for - oh, I don't know, Christmas trees, harvest festivals, a bunch of idioms, much of our everyday superstition, many of our festive rituals and much of our architectural tradition. Our entire legal tradition, inasmuch as one subscribes to the notion that European legal tradition owes more to Roman law than Enlightenment philosophy. And a great many of our stories, fairy tales and assorted anthropological baggage.

not muslim.

Except on Sicily, in much of Spain, in those parts of French culture influenced by Algerian immigrants during Napoleon II/III reign, the part of Eastern Europe that used to be in the Ottoman sphere of influence. And a couple of other bits and pieces that I can't recall off-hand.

Oh, and those parts of Europe that use Arabian algebra... which is, like, all of it.

I also note that you didn't object to my highlight of the secular Enlightenment influence. Is that an oversight or because you don't object to it?

We are allowed to hold dear our past, our culture, and reject people who will later want to build mosques, keep women as housecares and so on. It might seem unfair, but it's the host's right to admit whoever it likes to.

The whole "keeping women as housecares" thing has been a pretty ecumenical tradition...

If you think that that's not a part of the European Past(TM) that you want to hold near and dear, then you have a somewhat selective view of which parts of European history constitutes "our past." Specifically, you'd exclude pretty much half of everything that happened prior to - oh - 1968 or thereabout.

And I'll note that it was pinko commie subversive ideologues who put a stop to the women-as-housecares practise.

You know very well what European civilization is, no point to do more hairsplitting.

Why these appeals to "you know very well what I mean?" My assumptions about what your assumptions are do not a principle make. Suppose I'm stupid and ignorant and just landed on a space ship from Mars. How can I tell what European Culture is?

It's Europe, America, Australia, not Turkey, not Singapore, not Hong Kong.

Utah and Alabama are European culture? More European than Hong Kong? I disagree, but I'm curious to hear why you think they are.

Yes, hairsplitting, you'll likely find some more arguments, exceptions, abscons abstractions to counter-argument. That's what I call ideological stretching of a very clear and simple factual situation.

Maybe I'm hairsplitting. Maybe you're painting with an overly broad brush. Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:23:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I never said the Christian influence was the only one. I just said it has an important place.
There places in Europe were muslim influence can still be seen - south of Spain, Albania or Bosnia, to name just a few.
You can well make a five-foot list with arabic or muslim details of influence originating in the golden age between the 9th and the 13th century. This is more hairsplitting, because I never denied their existence, but their importance in comparison with christianism. In your now usual manner, you will say algebra is at the base of every bit of technology in use today.
Fallacious argumenting, generalised-relativity-type of hairsplitting - we're speaking culture here actually.
Others already tried to show there is no possible absolute point of view, and so pragmatism is an illusion - or a simplification. Sophisms have no limit too, I'm well aware. Being able to argue that black is white, or that there are numeration systems where 1+1=10 is of little relevance, in the end you won't have more than 2 apples in that hand of yours.
You positively remind me of the French deconstructionist several decades ago, how fast they managed to draw enthusiasm in US universities, and how fast it faded too.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:41:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I never said the Christian influence was the only one.

No, but Sarko is, if you quote him correctly. The whole "Christianity has an important place in European history" phrase (and its derivatives) is a piece of sloganeering that goes back to the discussions around Lisbon 0.5 (a.k.a. the EU Constitution), and the explicit mention of Christianity therein. It is a straightforward adoption of a slogan that was used intensively by the then-current Pope and his minions, in a very explicitly exclusionary campaign that aimed to put Christianity in a legally privileged position relative to both other religions and Europe's strong secular tradition.

You may not be aware of that, so for you the message might sound entirely factual and innocuous. But I assure you that the Catholic fundagelicals have not forgotten that slogan, and they attach the above backstory to it.

It's actually an excellent example of the kind of dog-whistle politics that you earlier denied that Sarko was using.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 06:19:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well yes, the factuality of the message seems quite obvious to me, and I made it a habit of being very careful before assigning conspiration theories to a statement. And then, instead of focusing on all possible malevolent implications of a phrase (which can  sometimes be "discovered" in great numbers), I concentrate on the facts, if they are correct or not.

For instance if had Sarkozy only spoken of duties and obligations (say, of immigrants) and not of "rights, but also duties", I would have not agreed.
When his statements are balanced and factual (see also this phrase: we are a secular state, but that does not mean we are so in opposition to religions or to churches;
or this one: a psychiatric hospital is not a prison, but still one should not be able to come and go as one pleases - approx.quot.), I cannot not agree with them.
Frankly, I hoped for some criticism from the left, for the sake of safety - maybe they will see something I did not. No trace, alas, except slogans and outcries against the "dangerous monster".

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 02:40:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well yes, the factuality of the message seems quite obvious to me, and I made it a habit of being very careful before assigning conspiration theories to a statement. And then, instead of focusing on all possible malevolent implications of a phrase (which can  sometimes be "discovered" in great numbers), I concentrate on the facts, if they are correct or not.

This is not a conspiracy theory, nor an attempt to fabricate malevolent connotations. The slogan is a direct plagiarisation of one of the chief slogans of a very recent campaign to undermine secular democracy in Europe.

Would you also scrupulously evaluate the truth or falsehood of the statement "arbeit macht frei" without attaching "frivolous" historical connotations to it and proposing "conspiracy theories" about the person using that slogan?

For instance if had Sarkozy only spoken of duties and obligations (say, of immigrants) and not of "rights, but also duties", I would have not agreed.
When his statements are balanced and factual

The problem with that statement is that immigrants already have duties as well as rights. So either the statement is true but trivial (like saying "the sun goes up in the East, but it also goes down in the West"), or it is interesting, but alarming, because the emphasis on duties implies that he thinks that more attention should be paid to the duties of immigrants than to their rights (and/or to the duties of other citizens).

(see also this phrase: we are a secular state, but that does not mean we are so in opposition to religions or to churches;

Again, this can be true but trivial (the definition of a secular state is that it is not in support or opposition to churches). Or it can be interesting and problematic, because he conveniently leaves out half the definition, implying that he's not against the state supporting churches, only against the state opposing them.

or this one: a psychiatric hospital is not a prison, but still one should not be able to come and go as one pleases - approx.quot.),

Again, this doesn't pass the "duh!" test. No psychiatric hospital permits patients to come and go as they please if they are a danger to themselves or others - that would be a direct violation of medical ethics. So either he's stating complete banalities again, or he's implying that he wishes to impose restrictions that are not medically warranted.

You're perfectly free, of course, to imagine that Sarko spends his time uttering complete trivialities. I fail to see how that makes him an admirable politician, but hey, he's not my president anyway.

But I hardly think you can blame people for thinking that he actually has a point when he opens his mouth. And that if he doesn't come right out and tells us what his point is, we'll have to give our best guess.

Frankly, I hoped for some criticism from the left, for the sake of safety - maybe they will see something I did not. No trace, alas, except slogans and outcries against the "dangerous monster".

Slogans cannot be criticised with substance until and unless they are turned into actual policy. That's the whole rhetorical point of slogans - to provide a confirmation of one's "values" to core voters, that cannot be challenged on its merit, because it doesn't have any merit to be challenged on yet.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 05:54:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The emphasizing is on both sides. Just like the many examples I gave. It is you who choose to see it as a slogan. They might be trivial (melo already pointed  that out) in theory, but reality is often more complex.
For instance, in France, secularism implies opposition to religion and church, for many historical reasons.
A bit like me being an atheist would mean I am necessarily opposed to any kind of faithful, and not simply outside the faith spectrum. Or like a pragmatist would by definition be opposed to all ideologies (and attacked by all ideologists) when he's rather outside and above the political spectrum.

My point was to show things are more nuanced than simply saying Sarkozy is an ideological monster. We don't agree on positive discrimination for instance. He's also beginning to promote the idea that banks should provide cheap loans for the poor, without indicating who will have to cover the risk. The sloganeering part seems to be rather leftish.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:33:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For instance, in France, secularism implies opposition to religion and church, for many historical reasons.

Bah! Even the most casual tourist can see that the Catholic Church holds a privileged position in French society - de facto if not de jure. If that's your definition of repression against the church, then you have a somewhat curious view of the legitimate role of religious groups in a democratic society.

My point was to show things are more nuanced than simply saying Sarkozy is an ideological monster.

I never said that Sarko was an ideological monster. I just pointed out to you that the slogans you cite give very reasonable cause for complaint and concern from the left, because they belie a right-wing ideological position. At least, if they mean anything at all - but let's be generous to Sarko and assume that he's not a total air-head (or at least that not all of his handlers are...).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:56:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are obviously not very knowledgeable concerning both Sarko and the catholic church in France. It smells like you got certain ideas from certain other people here we both know :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:52:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll freely admit to not being very knowledgeable about Sarko and his policies - so all I have to go by is the slogans you provide, and they make a lot of little red flags go up all by themselves.

As for the Catholic Church, they certainly hold a less privileged position than they do in most formerly Catholic countries... But they are hardly the oppressed dissidents that their own propaganda tries to paint them as.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 12:57:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What were those slogans again ?...

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:08:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These, for example.

There are more floating around the thread, but these will suffice as examples.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:14:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Those are less slogans and more like balanced, pragmatical, two-sided assessment of practical real-life situations. You may see them as a slogan though.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:32:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People raised here have gone through at least 15 years of indoctrination to democracy and human rights.

You know, I haven't been paying attention, distracted by other things since you arrived, and I hadn't quite appreciated the subtle depth of your humour. It's quite impressive.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:23:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is so very nice of you to say that. Thank you.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:51:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe electoral campaigns should be totally subsidized and all private contributions forbidden, purely and simply.

Excellent suggestion!!!

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 08:53:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed.

Of course, it doesn't solve the underlying problem that wealth can buy elections, because wealth can still buy the press and can still bankroll belief tanks and pay for lawyers.

But it's a step in the right direction.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 02:46:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So we need to subsidize the whole press as well.

You do realize that what you describe is sheer communism - ie, something as bad, if not worse, than nazism.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:04:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And having the electoral process controlled by a small number of media barons is much better? What's their body count?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:06:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IDEOLOGY ALERT

:)

You mean Murdoch media? You think they have any credibility left, after the Bush years ?

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:36:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the UK and Ireland? Loads.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:40:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you have precise figures on this?
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 05:09:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope, only anecdote. Thus "loads".
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 05:28:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you.
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 06:09:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But a good place to start would be circulation figures. They aren't a perfect match for influence (who reads it is as important as how many), but it's a place where you could get hard data that's not easy to fudge. I don't have that data on hand, even for the Danish newspapers, but it should be possible to dig out.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:32:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What would precise figures on the influence of Murdoch's media consist of?

And do you have precise figures for the supposed decline of influence of same?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:39:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What would precise figures on the influence of Murdoch's media consist of?

Anything from statistics to more ample research...

And do you have precise figures for the supposed decline of influence of same?

What "supposed decline of influence" do you refer to? I was looking for data because it is not possible to assess the situation without them.  

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 03:25:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is also bad but they haven't engaged in any medium or large scale arrests and killings, yet. They manipulate and must be watched - which is possible in a democracy (though it may be difficult); Nazism or communism would render this impossible.

Our democracy as is, is not quite under the rule of a few media barons, yet which is why all tools of democratic participation and legal means to watch over/control power should be used. It is better to concentrate on our freedoms/rights and that we use them wisely instead of pointing to glossy magazines that everyone is free to shun...

"If you cannot say 'no' [to the propaganda the media is feeding us], you won't be able to say 'yes' to greater things." (unknown)

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 04:56:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is also bad but they haven't engaged in any medium or large scale arrests and killings, yet.

... of white people.

That aside, you're quite correct that comparing the current Western European press to the Pravda is - with a few notable exceptions - a gross injustice to the Western European press. The problem is that things are going in the wrong direction, vis-a-vis concentration of media power, and the argument is that if something is not done to curb this trend, we will end up with a press that is, if not entirely Pravdafied, then at least Berlusconified, which is bad enough.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 05:12:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A sort of anti-trust set of laws, for the media.


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 09:33:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, yes, you might call it that. I like constitutional recognition better, because it confers the appropriate gravitas, but anti-trust laws would certainly be a step in the right direction (as they would for all sectors of society - if it's too big to fail, it's too big to make profit, and must be either broken up or nationalised).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:25:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This, the election subsidizing, the strategical public service.
We can actually agree on some stuff. Hallelujah! :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:54:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't say that. I just pointed out that thinking that subsidising the politicians solves the problem is slightly naïve.

That aside, having some strongly subsidised independent outlets staffed by tenured reporters and insulated from partisan political pressure is probably A Good Idea. And I do think that the press needs to be officially recognised in our constitutions as a branch of government - with both the prerogatives and the checks and balances that come with such recognition.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:13:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know, but this is where that leads.

You know, on a TimesOnline blog I once said that money have nothing to do in health care - so it should all be nationalized.
Also law procedures are extremely complex for the alpha citizen, so the people should have free legal assistance, with lawyers as employees of the state.
And no further than last week Sarkozy proposed that football be regulated at EU level, and not risk becoming pure showbiz, influenced by markets and money.

These kind of ideas circulate freely in France, but how practical are they? I do believe in them too a bit, but I can also see how useful and efficient the free private enterprise can be. And then there's the more general issue of freedom, which is why I mentioned communism.
Press is actually quite regulated today, there are journalist associations, charts and laws guaranteeing press freedom. Owners may be billionaires, but most journalists belong to the leftwing (as most intellectuals).
On the contrary, subsidised outlets dont always mean independence and impartiality. ALL French public channels are strikingly hard left and social-neolib. And communist or nazist states controlled the press far stronger than our billionnaires - and I mean, far far stronger.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:34:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Owners may be billionaires, but most journalists belong to the leftwing (as most intellectuals).

I don't know the French situation, but in those countries that I do have fist-hand experience of, that's a myth. Danish and American newsies span the entire Overton Window, in rough proportion to the general population (and in both cases, the Overton Window is almost entirely right-of-centre...).

And even if it were true, the owners still appoint the editors, who are the ones who ultimately decide what gets published (and how to spin it). Moreover, by moving more and more "news" from investigating reporting to cut-and-paste from press releases and stories ghostwritten by belief tanks and spin doctors, current trends place even greater control in the hands of the moneyed oligarchs.

On the contrary, subsidised outlets dont always mean independence and impartiality.

Which is why staffing it with tenured civil servants is so important. Impartiality is, of course, an impossible demand, just as objectivity is. But independence is valuable in and of itself.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 03:58:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's utter fantasy concerning France too.

Any notion that journalists working for Le Figaro, L'Express, Le Point, Paris Match, financial dailies La Tribune and Les Echos, or Le Parisien, are a bunch of "leftwingers" depends on how far you can drag the Overton Window to the right, and nothing else.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 04:27:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Washington Post and Economist are Obamaians today, so well... it does tend to become a bit relative :)

They made a poll at some point, may be I'll find a link if there is one, and 80% of French journalists declared themselves leftwing.

(btw you forget to mention Marianne, NouvelObs', Liberation, Monde, Le Parisien, l'Express, Challenge )

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 09:37:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
WaPo has never been a neocon house organ.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:28:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Both them, Economist, or Time Magazine were supporting Bush, the war in Iraq, Greenspan to such extent that I ceased reading any of them for a while, so fed up I was with it.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:55:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll take you at your word if you say WaPo was supportive of the Iraq war. My own recollection of those years is somewhat hazy and most of the American press was in "let's bomb some random brown people" mode, so it wouldn't really surprise me.

But they seem to have come to their senses (inasmuch a major American news outlet can be said to have come to its senses recently) around 2005, when it was obvious to everybody that Vietraq was gonna end in Peace with Honour. Whereas the genuine neocon house organs like the New York Post or Washington "Moonie" Times... not so much.

You may colour me unsurprised that Time Magazine supported Bush and now supports Obama. Time always supports The Powers That Be. They know which side their bread is buttered on; mistake that for conviction at your peril.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:35:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
L'Express is in my list.

The others, I conceded, so didn't mention. Though Libération and Le Monde have certainly moved rightwards over the past thirty years, as they have become progressively more in hock to big investors.

My point is that your sweeping generalisation that journalists are "leftwing" doesn't hold good. It's an often-stated narrative meant to somehow dilute the power of big money and rightwing ideology over the press. In other words, one of the means of shifting the Overton Window.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:48:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry, you're wrong. I'm not trying to dillute or minimize the supposed danger of the big-money power, and that's no sweeping generalization.There actually was a poll in France and more than 80% of journalists declared themselves as leaning to the left.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:57:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ALL French public channels are strikingly hard left and social-neolib.

What on earth does that mean? Apart from the fact that, by calling French public TV channels "strikingly hard left", you are simply betraying how hopelessly far to the right you are?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 04:31:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
how hopelessly far to the right you are

That depends on your definition of left/right.

I have observed that from a right-wing conservative (neo-con) US perspective, all things French are genuinely left-wing and socialist...

Only supporters of US foreign interests are centre-right.

I'm sure there were diaries written on the topic in the past...

You can observe the same when you hear someone French discussing German politics. In France, the German magazine "Der Spiegel" gets cited by those to the right, ... less so in Germany.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 05:05:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have observed that from a right-wing conservative (neo-con) US perspective, all things French are genuinely left-wing and socialist...

Well, US neocons also seem to think that Thomas Jefferson was a pinko commie traitor who hated America.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 05:21:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... which is to say that left/right are now notions that have been distorted to a point that it has become difficult to apply them beyond one's own border or outside one's own group's definition.

 

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 06:19:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It has always been difficult to place people on an absolute political left-right scale. Nevertheless I don't think it's a meaningless exercise. It makes sense partially because it permits comparisons in time and space - for instance, saying that Tory Bliar is left-of-centre seems awfully contrived when many of his actual policies are noticeably to the right of Maggie Thatcher's.

For another, it belies the notion (as claimed by some self-described "centrists" that their conception of "the centre" is a natural and inevitable position - i.o.w. it calls attention to the shifting of the Overton Window, which is in and of itself desirable.

Finally, it shows for the lie it is the hysterical rhetoric of those on the right who are apt to compare everyone to the left of them to Stalin and Mao. Now, we may quibble about the precise location of the centre, but irrespective of where it is located, Stalinism and Social Democracy are not the same thing, and claiming that it is very clearly demonstrates that someone's either disingenuous or has a poor calibration of his political compass.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:22:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hysterical rhetoric goes both ways, unfortunately.

One side will call the other socialist, terrorist supporter, whiners,... ; they will present 'facts' to support their allegations - and there's a population out there who want strong words and rulers who are IN CHARGE. The aforementioned is result-oriented sloganeering...

The other side will begin talking of McPain and Tory Bliar and will not get much support from old people, conservatives, and others more to the right who look for guidance and leadership. The rhetoric is not result-oriented.

If the Left adopted some more traditionalist reflexes it could gain, but to expect this seems impossible to do, and centrist parties neither have the punch needed to produce results.

Obama's an exception but he has left the classical spectrum and is above all else a pragmatic.
Pragmatism does have centrist aspects in that it takes in the best from all sides of the political spectrum.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:53:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The other side will begin talking of McPain and Tory Bliar and will not get much support from old people, conservatives, and others more to the right who look for guidance and leadership. The rhetoric is not result-oriented.

McPain is an Obama campaign slogan, not chiefly a progressive one. I always preferred McPalin myself... Which actually is a result-oriented slogan, because Palin was an albatross around McCain's neck from the first time she opened her mouth. So reminding people that a vote for McCain would also be a vote for Sarah Palin was a quite effective meme to spread - at least judging by the polls and focus groups.

"Tony B. Liar" is actually Tory slogan, AFAIK. Seemed only fair to repay them in kind by exchanging the "n" for an "r." That aside, Bliar is almost universally despised these days, so mocking him can hardly be an ineffective propaganda gambit.

If the Left adopted some more traditionalist reflexes it could gain,

In the short term, but frequently at the cost of moving the Overton Window. Quite simply, if the Overton Window remains in the current location, we cannot win, nevermind if it slides farther to the right. So any and all political action has to be evaluated in terms of how effective it is in moving the Overton Window left. And adopting authoritarian rhetoric and wingnut-lite policies doesn't do anything for that.

Obama's an exception but he has left the classical spectrum and is above all else a pragmatic.

Again, pragmatic towards what end? I don't know. You don't know. Nobody except Obama and possibly a few in his inner circle seem to know.

But given who he's filling his staff with, it looks like we're in for a third Clinton term. Which would mean essentially pragmatism in favour of staying in the White House. That's all well and good as long as it's a means to an end, but for Clinton and Tory Bliar it became an end in itself - an end that they were willing to sell out every principle that their parties had once had in pursuit of.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:05:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Believe it or not, I don't know what the "Overton Window" is. I don't know what "wingnut-lite" or "wingnut-classic"(?) policies mean.

I didn't say that I preferred right-wing sloganeering and their "facts" - did I?

I prefer to keep language as neutral as possibly because I'm interested in dialogue and diplomatic solutions, compromise if necessary...

pragmatic towards what end

Frankly, I have no idea but I'm sceptical and critical... - Pragmatism could mean anything and everything.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:27:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Define "neutral." :-P

Seriously, though, my attitude to "neutral language" is about the same as Gandhi's quib about Western Civilisation: "That sounds like a good idea."

I wrote an essay on newspeak here. The general thrust of it is that doing politics today - in the presence of the hard right, represented by Friedmaniacs, neocons, etc. - is like playing poker with a pathological cheater who uses marked cards. Except that you can't call a referee and you can't leave the table.

Now, if you're going to institute a referee, I wish you good luck with that. But in the meantime, I prefer to promote our own brand of newspeak, so we at least don't lose money to an obvious cheater while we wait for the referee.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:56:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll read your essay later. Thanks for the link.

You can use your own brand of newspeak for your own pleasure but it will leave the pathological cheater unimpressed. Meanwhile, others watching the scene might get the impression that the cheater's the righteous one and that you are not, based on the language you use.

So, is your own newspeak serving any purpose?
It won't help to get the marked cards on the table. There is no referee. All you/one can do IMO is use decent language to name "the obvious".

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 06:14:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not looking to impress the pathological cheater. I'm looking to defeat him, to ruin him, and to run him out of town on a rail, covered in tar and feathers. The point of newspeak is to win, not to play nice. If my brand of newspeak does not work towards winning, it is defective and should be discarded. But it should not be discarded just because it's newspeak.

As an aside, the objection that the appearance of neutrality is essential to promoting newspeak is already covered in the comment thread over there. Briefly, my response is that most successful newspeak did not sound neutral when it was introduced - it is, in fact, a feature of newspeak that it makes concepts that are highly disputed sound like matters of course by endlessly repeating highly contentious assertions as if they were neutral matters of course. See, e.g., "activist judges," "liberal media," "war on terror," "Washington Consensus." None of these terms is even remotely neutral. That does not seem to prevent them from being effective.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 06:58:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm looking to defeat him, to ruin him, and to run him out of town on a rail, covered in tar and feathers. The point of newspeak is to win, not to play nice.

Now this sounds more like revolution of the violent variety.

You mention notions (I haven't been to your link, yet) that were accepted though they weren't neutral. They were effective due to the combination of two important elements: First, it was assessed what people wanted to hear, and newspeak was adapted to satisfy the interest of a large audience. Second, the media adopted the new notions and spread the word.

In your case - the voice of the minority, of the opposition, it is not intelligent to try to uncritically copy what was successful in a different context. You cannot buy the media but you can find out what the audience wants to hear, you can listen and adapt the message to their ears.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 07:18:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now this sounds more like revolution of the violent variety.

Meh. The New Deal was an attempt to compromise and let the fuckers stay at the table if they promised not to cheat. We saw how well that worked out.

In your case - the voice of the minority, of the opposition, it is not intelligent to try to uncritically copy what was successful in a different context. You cannot buy the media but you can find out what the audience wants to hear, you can listen and adapt the message to their ears.

Different fora, different audiences, different approaches. When I write LTEs, I tone down on the ET newspeak. When I write for ET, however, I assume that the audience is at least sufficiently interested to challenge my newspeak and hear the explanation. After all, it worked for you and Valentin - both of you read and responded to my argument that taking away civil servants' pensions is little more than theft. As I understand it, at least one of you even accepted that there was a case to be made, even if you didn't necessarily agree with me on it.

While I don't expect you to accept my newspeak - particularly when I admit in so many words that it's a propaganda effort :-P - I hope it at least challenges you to think about the terms people normally use to describe the same things.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 10:18:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
May be... How does this relate to this diary entry though, and how is this effective or relevant here, beats me...

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:05:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here you go:
Overton window - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Overton window is a concept in political theory, named after its originator, Joe Overton, former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. It describes a "window" in the range of public reactions to ideas in public discourse, in a spectrum of all possible options on an issue. Overton described a method for moving that window, thereby including previously excluded ideas, while excluding previously acceptable ideas. The technique relies on people promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous "outer fringe" ideas. That makes those old fringe ideas look less extreme, and thereby acceptable. Delivering rhetoric to define the window provides a plan of action to make more acceptable to the public some ideas by priming them with other ideas allowed to remain unacceptable, but which make the real target ideas seem more acceptable by comparison.

The degrees of acceptance of public ideas can be described roughly as:

  • Unthinkable
  • Radical
  • Acceptable
  • Sensible
  • Popular
  • Policy

The Overton Window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it, and adding new ideas that can push the old ideas towards acceptance merely by making the limits more extreme.



Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 12:12:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lily is making a constatation, Obama seem to act pragmatically. Everybody says that about his governing team choices. You can look him up on On The Issues and see how he argues his positions. It's rationalized, humanistic, pragmatic. This is a way of being and acting, and by its very definition it does not need some utopian, highminded goal.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:01:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not having a high-minded goal is not quite the same thing as not having a goal at all. So the question is still relevant: To what end? What is the goal?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:36:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no goal, because that is not a philosophy. Repeatedly eluding this will not make you right - or your question relevant.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 02:27:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Repeatedly eluding this will not make you right

I couldn't have said it better myself.

If you insist that progress can be made without having a metric against which to evaluate progress... well, that's your prerogative. You're in good (or at least prominent) company; quite a lot of post-modernists would agree with you.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 05:59:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just have a hard time imagining an example of neutral  metric. All I can see is ideologically inspired ones, and those look more like societal procust beds, never satisfied with actually valuable progress, which for the most part is a collateral effect.
Interestingly enough, the western society seems to realize this and direct their preference more and more often towards opportunistic people.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:54:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That could be because any consistent and coherent set of goals is an ideology almost by definition, while any set of goals that is not coherent and consistent is unlikely to gain traction.

Opportunism is tactics. If you want to know the colour of a politician, look at what he has done in office - or, if he has never been elected before, at the company he keeps.

That most of the electorate is unwilling to take the time and effort required to evaluate their representatives on their merits, rather than on this week's opportunistic dog-and-pony show, is hardly something I consider progress. But hey, what do I know, I'm just another ideologue.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:02:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Opportunism is pragmatic. If the left has it right, I'll apply this idea even if my political company is rightish.

So the people are always to blame. Maybe we should evaluate their competence before voting.

What have you to say about Obama then? His record in the Senate is very left, his opinions are quite pragmatical/centre-left nuanced, his companionship is a bit bizarre.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:42:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Opportunism is pragmatic. If the left has it right, I'll apply this idea even if my political company is rightish.

How are you going to judge whether somebody "has it right" if you claim to have no coherent standard for evaluating it? Go by your gut? Go by what Conventional Wisdom tells you?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:16:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You look at the facts without bias.
If there is proven inequality, it must be tackled, period. If women are discriminated even as they're fit for the job, that must be stopped, one way or another, by a law if needed.
But not automatically, by quota laws, imposing parity no matter where and how.
If life conditions in prisons are indecent in terms of health, cleanness etc, this must be corrected and means must be provided by the state. This doesn't mean anyone should have his private room with colour satellite television though.
So whenever the left has a valid point, I'd listen and correct it without having a problem that it comes from the left.
Likewise about economic issues - no absolute freemarket/freecapital doctrine, not vilifying privateers either (they're not there to do social work).

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:49:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If there is proven inequality, it must be tackled, period. If women are discriminated even as they're fit for the job, that must be stopped, one way or another, by a law if needed.
But not automatically, by quota laws, imposing parity no matter where and how.

There is a case to be made for quota laws, particularly in jobs where a great part of the qualifications can only be acquired by on-the-job training. In those cases, denying women access on account of lack of qualifications is self-perpetuating. As an aside, gender inequalities may very well be caused by structural imbalances rather than out-and-out discrimination, and quota laws can provide the necessary impetus to challenge those structural imbalances.

That being said, there is, of course, also a case against quotas, because they are wide-ranging, sweeping and very strong interventions in society. And strong interventions in society should be used sparingly and with considerable care. But that is not quite the case I hear you making...

If life conditions in prisons are indecent in terms of health, cleanness etc, this must be corrected and means must be provided by the state. This doesn't mean anyone should have his private room with colour satellite television though.

I should very much think that they have the right to a private room (the right to privacy is a pretty basic and inalienable human right, which is not revoked merely because you are imprisoned), and they certainly have a right to some contact with the outside world (since prolonged isolation is a form of torture). Whether that contact should take the form of internet access, TV, newspapers or some combination is, of course, a matter of some debate.

I'm slightly amused that you make a point of mentioning that the TV is in colour and via satellite, BTW... would B/W cable TV be more acceptable to you :-P

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:10:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"And strong interventions in society should be used sparingly and with considerable care. But that is not quite the case I hear you making."

That is exactly the case I am making.

Otherwise, yeah, local channels on B/W TV sets would be a nice punishment (psychological torture, you will call it) :)
You know, even keeping someone imprisoned is a restriction of the fundamental right to move freely and do whatever you please. It is very hard to bear psychologically, even if less so than downright isolation. A form of torture can be in certain cases your roommate. As a student, I remember my right to privacy was limited to my own bed and my own locker in that shared room.

And so on.
Goes without saying that prison is inhumane, particularly since prisoners are not to blame: the society didn't listen to their griefs, and pushed them to crime.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:45:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, keeping someone imprisoned is a restriction on one of their fundamental liberties. And that is one of the reasons for the continuing debate over the value of employing that particular method of punishment. But for all its faults, there is a case to be made for removing some people from society for a longer or shorter time.

However, restricting their ability to follow developments outside the prison, crowding them together too closely to permit them privacy and isolating them completely from their families and friends are simply gratuitous vengeance for which there is little pragmatic justification in terms of rehabilitation or the safety of the rest of society.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 03:52:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Whoever asked you what your detailed opinion is on that subject? My point was about giving an example of balanced take on a delicate subject. You may protest that the pro-prisoner part didn't go far enough (and I might say that you're too leftwing, that's why, to which you'll reply I'm rightwing, duh, boring).
But the point was not to discuss in detail this particular issue.
And not discussing it does not mean I'm not prepared or ready or willing, but that you are eluding all the points I try to make, sink in a sea of details with no relevance in the context, and try to drag me after you.
I should post this on the On Rhetorics thread.
Of course to DoDO you would make a good politician - an Old Style One !
:)

No more ranting, Jake, or you'll do it all by yourself.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:38:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point was about giving an example of balanced take on a delicate subject.

An example of what you consider a balanced stance on a delicate subject.

But when you repeatedly couch your own subjective - and highly ideological - assessments in the language of objective observation of fact, you get called out on your bullshit. And that involves going into some of the details of how and why you are wrong.

You may protest that the pro-prisoner part didn't go far enough (and I might say that you're too leftwing, that's why, to which you'll reply I'm rightwing, duh, boring).

The fact that you are not sufficiently pro-prisoner (pro-prisoner? WTF kind of term is that? I'm pro-human rights, thank you very much!) is not my complaint. My complaint is that you blithely conflate areas of policy for which there is a utilitarian case to be debated and areas where there is no utilitarian case to be made. That's comparing apples to oranges.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 01:33:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I said pro-prisoner because I had already pointed out how you can transform anything and everything into a problem of human rights. The moment I will start comparing what you consider a human-rights friendly cell, with the places many people, poorer and even not so much, live in, you'll realize that by that logic everybody is subject to an inhumane treatment. If you push that logic to the extreme, everybody is guilty of torture and everything is wrong in this world.

Well you can call it utilitarian, yes. The case I am actually making about the death of ideologies, is that politics are becoming more and more utilitarian these days. The time of the grand principles and their even grander invocation is past, not because the society gives them up, but because there's no need to fight for their necesity anymore.
That necessity has now become quite obvious, and the talk about a rational way of putting them into practice is little by little excluding politicians of the type of J-L Mélenchon (formely of the French PS), or other hard or extreme left.
The same phenomenon, but from a different direction, will occur about the neoliberalism, libertarianism, or hard right.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 01:57:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The moment I will start comparing what you consider a human-rights friendly cell, with the places many people, poorer and even not so much, live in, you'll realize that by that logic everybody is subject to an inhumane treatment.

That is rank nonsense. Try taking a look at a prison cell sometimes. Yeah, students living in dormitories have similar amounts of space and privacy to what's found in a single-occupant prison cell. But students don't have to spend their every waking hour in their dorm rooms either. And they get to choose their co-occupants, which is not entirely insignificant either.

Pretending that prison cells are comparable to the accommodation offered to the twentieth percentile (nevermind the median...) income/wealth in society in general is bald-faced denial of easily verifiable facts, which is neither conducive to a productive debate, nor to my blood pressure.

You're entitled to your own opinion. You're not entitled to your own facts.

And anyway, you're shifting the goalposts again. I never objected to single-occupant cells on principle. Not even students sleep in cots in group dormitories - when two of them share a bedroom, it's usually for rather more social reasons than lack of accommodation space.

Well you can call it utilitarian, yes. The case I am actually making about the death of ideologies, is that politics are becoming more and more utilitarian these days.

Utilitarianism is an ideology. Nobody disputes that - except, apparently, you. Not even the Enlightenment thinkers who proposed it would dispute that it's an ideological position.

But I'm not going to waste any more bandwidth correcting such basic omissions in your education, because that has so far been a waste of time. You can look up the history - and critiques - of utilitarianism on your own time. Wikipedia has an excellent page on it, I hear, from which to start.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 04:06:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point was that prisoners are there for a reason, which is hardly to feel comfortable and be distracted. I said that decent lodging should be balanced with scarcity implied by the situation. Balance, Jake.

Utilitarianism?
Ah, but you see, I didn't speak about utilitarianism. I used the adjective utilitarian in a commonly accepted sense - that is, by people who are aware life is more than just semantics - or hairsplitting.

Utilitarianism is not what I described, just like real-politik or compromising isn't pragmatism. You not being able to discern this shows you actually don't know so much on what means what.
You have it all wrong, Jake :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:34:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point was that prisoners are there for a reason, which is hardly to feel comfortable and be distracted. I said that decent lodging should be balanced with scarcity implied by the situation. Balance, Jake.

Your own words, from two posts ago:

The moment I will start comparing what you consider a human-rights friendly cell, with the places many people, poorer and even not so much, live in, you'll realize that by that logic everybody is subject to an inhumane treatment.

Your original statement:

If life conditions in prisons are indecent in terms of health, cleanness etc, this must be corrected and means must be provided by the state. This doesn't mean anyone should have his private room with colour satellite television though.

You started out by stating - without attempting to make a case - that you thought prisoners ought to not have individual cells. That's a view one can hold. I happen to disagree, but hey, that's life.

You also stated, however, that by "looking at the facts without bias" this was not "indecent" conditions.

When challenged on the decency of parts of those conditions, you claimed that they were not indecent because a substantial fraction of the population lived in similar or worse conditions. Of course, that's not an argument against those conditions being indecent.

But even more importantly, when challenged on the factuality of this statement, you backpedaled to words to the effect of "well, maybe they're indecent for free people, but they're in prison, silly - different standards apply to people in prison."

So now you're reduced to claiming that "yeah, conditions in prisons are indecent, but the prisoners deserve it. So there!"

For all your talk about utilitarian pragmatism, when pushed to defend your points from first principles, you fall back on primitive retributive justice. Principles that are hardly particularly utilitarian or pragmatic - retributive justice incurs far greater costs on all involved - society, potential victims and the criminal than rehabilitary justice.

So apparently principle trumps pragmatism in the case of prisoners?

Ah, but you see, I didn't speak about utilitarianism. I used the adjective utilitarian in a commonly accepted sense - that is, by people who are aware life is more than just semantics - or hairsplitting.

Your own words, again:

The case I am actually making about the death of ideologies, is that politics are becoming more and more utilitarian these days.

I'll leave it to those less linguistically challenged than I apparently am to figure out which sense of "utilitarian" that this implies, and how precisely this conflicts with saying that politics have increasingly aligned with the principles of utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism is not what I described, just like real-politik or compromising isn't pragmatism.

You'll have to show me a definition of "pragmatic" that doesn't cover realpolitik and compromise.

And you can't fall back on what "common knowledge" says here, because if you go out and ask people at random "are realpolitik and compromise pragmatic approaches?" they'll overwhelmingly answer that they are. So here you have to be using it as a term of art. And then you have to provide a coherent definition. This game of "I'll let other people guess at what I think I mean by this" is one of little value and even less amusement.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Dec 6th, 2008 at 12:05:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No. I started out by making a case about a comfort. I mentioned private room and satellite TV, I could have mentioned ivory bathrooms, and you would have been outraged and accused me of ideological bias :)
The point was about striking the right balance between decency and comfort.

The first quotation of me is about human rights, if you pay attention. You didn't challenge me on the decency part; you made it a matter of human rights, and I pointed out that turning everything in life a matter of human rights will lead no where; this is just a way for you the Revolutionary to make sure you'll always be able to claim the Establishment (led by those fatcats, no doubt) despises human rights .

This is how you twist one tiny word in a phrase and then make a huge case about it - and why I called you a vicious debater. I don't have time to correct each of your tiny errors of logic, let alone that I suspect them to be intentional, given the general revolutionary tone you chose to use.

Finally, the word "utilitarian" has two meanings (as you might well know; so I won't give any links - there). One is about caring about the usefulness rather than the pretty packaging. The other is related to the doctrine of utilitarianism. I used the term in its first signification, and while I might have put this clearly, it was you who deliberately picked the second one, in order to be able to send a arrow about my supposed need of "education". The doctrine goes much farther than the everyday life term of utilitarian.

Compromise can be pragmatic, as well as un-pragmatic, when the two parties involved strike a deal according to the balance of power between them and other factors but the best way for the given situation.
Real-politik can be pragmatic, but can also be cynical. Rational pragmatism implies in my view a good dose of humanism and especially intellectual honesty - something you seem in utter want of.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sat Dec 6th, 2008 at 08:38:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"The point was about striking the right balance between decency and comfort."

I meant balance between decent conditions,
and the degree of comfort fitting their condition of prisoners - people paying their debt to the society for a wrong done (and not just "removed from society").

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sat Dec 6th, 2008 at 08:43:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't say that Obama's pragmatism is naturally rationalized and humanistic. If it is pragmatism that shows Obama the way, we must hope that pragmatism will not one day become a cause that would justify all means...

My fundamental difference between both you, Valentin, and Jake is that you both believe that humans act out of good faith, either politicians or ordinary humans. I don't trust our goodness which is why I believe that you both forget the pitfalls of our humanness - greed, egoism, inclination to withhold truth, to hide, envy, etc.

Pragmatism can only be good when everybody involved has a pure and honest heart. The same goes for models that derive from the communistic ideal.

It is possible to put pragmatism and communitarian life into practice but they need to be embedded in a framework of laws, societal rules, etc. to keep them save against natural abuse, and that's where restrictions need to be enforced, rendering pragmatism less pragmatic and turning communism into something that will rather look like social democracy.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:55:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So why do you think we're in disagreement? I am a Social Democrat (of sorts), and I favour social democracy. None of the actual policies I've advocated go beyond the scope of social democracy as understood when social democracy was at its zenith around 1975...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 06:37:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So why do you think we're in disagreement?

What a thought-provoking question! ;)

The difference is in the fine print.

Not everyone who considers "Social Democracy" a good state form is a Social Democrat. Social Democracy is home to left-wing and right-wing thought. As a Christian, I could identify with "social", or with "environmental protection" (The Greens) or with the more conservative values on paper as outlined by parties to the right.

I don't identify with either side but consider myself, not above but outside of this spectrum. I like to find truth in all things but have no interest in imposing myself or see others impose their or my convictions on others. I am rational and fatalistic with regards to reality, not depressed.

I know that change begins with ones own heart, which requires patience and persistence. In a way, I also have a (though less visible) revolutionary impulse... I just don't try to reach for the stars though they are beautiful to look at.

* * *

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 04:13:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lily, what a tag-team you make with ValentinD! :)

Why don't you ask her/him by what definition of left/right s/he arrives at  "strikingly hard left" for French public TV?

In my view, the simple use of such an ideologically-determined expression that bears no relation to fact, is an indicator of ValentinD's political leanings.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:01:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why don't you ask her/him ...

lol

Why should I ask when it is you who wants to find out?

I haven't followed your exchange above but you could ask, "Could you please provide details as to what you consider to be strikingly hard left and why."

Maybe he wants to be provocative? ;)

What is a "tag-team"?

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:15:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, for instance I am beginning to get quite fed up with France 3 pushing euthanasy as modern or progressist, or with France 5's hard-feminist reports, with their hard left unions too. I like to make my own decisions without being told what is good and what is obsolete, without my tax money being used for political purposes.

The very intensity you use to react at my statement is an indication of your own political leanings. I had the same warm welcome from the right, when I spoke against Bush, neocons or economic neolibs. For me personally this enough proof I'm quite on the centre, actually.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:12:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
sheer communism - ie, something as bad, if not worse, than nazism.

IDEOLOGY ALERT

:)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 04:36:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I beg your pardon. A balanced statement, and a comparison that can be backed with historical facts. Contesting it only shows how hopelessly extreme you are

(not sure from which point of view you call my comparison ideological :P )

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Mon Dec 1st, 2008 at 09:41:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not really.

"Communism" covers a much broader range of ideological thought than "Nazism" or even "Fascism" does. Depending a little on how you delimit it, "Communism" can cover everything from orthodox Stalinism over the Scandinavian M/Ls (who can hardly be said to be genocidal butchers in the making) to the various hard-left versions of Syndicalism. While orthodox Stalinism is probably comparable to Nazism and Fascism, Scandinavian M/Ls, Western European Trotskyists and revolutionary Syndicalists... not so much.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:36:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jake is hairsplitting again. Of course we were speaking of press freedom, and I quoted communism and nazism in terms of dictatorial regimes strangling press freedom. No need to go on more Einsteinianly philosophical hairsplitting.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:13:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or maybe you were painting with an overly broad brush.

The Swedish Marxist-Leninist tradition rejected violence almost to the point of pacifism, opposed the Soviet Union vigorously, and fought quite a number of legal battles for press freedom (mostly when they were charged with treason and espionage for writing something unflattering about the secret police...). Yet they were indisputably communists.

The Soviet Union embraced violence almost to the point of sadism, naturally the Soviet Union supported the Soviet Union vigorously and it clamped down hard on press freedoms, even to the point of using the secret police to shut down the free press. Yet the Soviet Union was indisputably a communist regime.

Conventional usage of the term thus suggests that both pacifism and violent repression can be accommodated by ideologies that can broadly be considered "communist."

If you prefer to refer the term "communist" for totalitarian police states, I guess that's your prerogative. But then I you'll need to find some other term for quite a wide part of the European left.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:49:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jake, you're one of the most ill willed debaters I have ever met, I'm saying this in all sincerity.

Turning each and every word of mine against myself, pushing relativism and hairsplitting to extreme, is of no use (AGAIN):

Indeed I first said "sheer communism", and that can be called broad brush. But barely twenty seconds later, I explained clearly what I meant by that expression:

quote:
"And communist or nazist states controlled the press far stronger than our billionnaires - and I mean, far far stronger."
unquote.

I could argue about communism as ideology too, because IMO it leads to suppression of freedoms and rights, no matter how "well" would be implemented. But that's something else. In our case, the meaning was precise.
You're a vicious debater, Jake. Really.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 02:21:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Meh. Your claim - the claim I actually responded to in the post - was that communism was as bad as or worse as nazism. My reply was essentially "while that's true for some variants of communism, it certainly isn't for all of them."

This is not hairsplitting, it's a straightforward matter of pointing out that you're either using a definition of communism that differs notably from the one used by the rest of the world, or you're attempting to tar the perfectly democratic and civilised variants of communism with the atrocities committed by Iosef Stalin and company.

And as an aside, your original claim that subsidising the press is sheer communism is ridiculous hyperbole as well. But that's another story that's dealt with elsewhere in the thread.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:10:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're not hearing me. The comparison was made in the context of press freedom in dictatorial countries, communist as well as fascist. My second comment explained clearly that I did not talk about the ideology in itself.

On other occasions (not on this blog though) I did argue that too, about the general viciousness of those dictatorships, on which I maintain communist ones can be seen as at least as evil as nazist ones.

Ideology is still one more step further. I tend to maintain the original comparison, broad brush as it was. But that was not the point here and now.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:42:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, no, it was made in the context of a discussion about subsidising the press, which is something that's hardly limited to dictatorial countries.

You wrote

So we need to subsidize the whole press as well.

You do realize that what you describe is sheer communism

in response to

Of course, it doesn't solve the underlying problem that wealth can buy elections, because wealth can still buy the press and can still bankroll belief tanks and pay for lawyers.

Unless my English skills have taken a turn for the worse of late, this reads like a discussion of the problems of having a corporate press in a democratic country.

You can go upthread and read the exchange from the beginning. You were the one who started with the allusions to communist dictatorships - and with a highly spurious claim to boot.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:12:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the context of protecting the press from corporate influence, my remark was that this eventually leads to subsidizing the whole press, which is one step away from owing it, which means putting the state in a triple position as a legislator, law enforcer, and media owner, which to me looks much like press in dictatorships (emphasizing on communists, as explained).

When I speak of my english, I mean that I am not a native speaker, and fluent as I may seem, I do make  mistakes actually, easy to misinterpret in the charged context that you provoked.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:49:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But this deterministic slippery slope has so far failed to manifest in those countries where it has been tried.

There is a certain internal coherence to your claim. But it flies in the face of historical and contemporary facts.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:56:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because we're in democratic countries (even if you dislike the current state of affairs) and the subsidising is limited and done in ways to preserve press independence. And that holds true for the press owned by billionaires (at least as I see the situation in France).

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:08:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As about press subsidizing, it was no hyperbole at all.   When you start subsidizing press, you must subsidize it all, and sooner or later you'll start getting involved in the editorial part. Privateers can attempt this and be attacked in justice, over regulation and journalist charts.
When the state makes the regulation hammer, holds that hammer, and owns the press as well, this leads strrraight to dictatorship.
Or it was communist regimes rather than nazist ones that made it a point from owning the press, "in the name of the people". (yuk)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:46:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a variety of ways to shield public institutions from political pressure. None of them are perfect, but many of them work reasonably well.

I also don't understand the claim that sponsoring all of the press must necessarily follow from sponsoring part of it. It is perfectly possible for part of the press to be sponsored by political parties, part of it to be sponsored by labour unions, part of it to be sponsored by Big Money and part of it to be sponsored by the state.

That's actually how it used to work in Scandinavia, until right-wing ideologues set out to undermine our independent public radio. I don't usually hear claims that Scandinavia is a communist dictatorship - well, I sometimes do, but only when I'm stupid enough to follow a link over to FreeRepublic...

(And as an aside, the Danish press is all subsidised to some extent through various regulations that benefit organised publishers over - say - boy scout pamphlets.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:20:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Finally we're communicating.

Sponsoring part of the press amounts to creating an official organ of press. Been there, done that.

Sponsoring part of it also won't stop capitalist rats from making even more capitalist papers, better quality, larger audience, slogans well instilled inside. So in order to be faithful to the purpose, you need to owe all the press; then you get to forbidding any other press but the official one.

I was speaking about sponsoring/subsidizing by the state though. Granted, what you say about Scandinavia sounds quite differently and I find fewer reasons of mistrust.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:56:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Stopping the capis from creating their own house organs isn't necessary. Merely preventing them from achieving complete control of the media picture suffices.

I don't see why public press should necessarily be lower quality than the commercial press. In fact, it is often the other way around - the public press does not have to worry about the bottom line, so they can let their reporters actually do some expensive investigative reporting, instead of copying what they're fed by spin-doctors.

But of course, that requires that the state-owned press is insulated from political pressures. Much the same way universities have to be, and for much the same reasons.

You should come live in Scandinavia for a while. See socialism with a human face :-P

Heck, apart from the fact that it's cold and dark half of the year, you might even like it here...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:22:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We agreed about media anti-trust laws, although hard to implement. See Berlusconi.

State universities are not always quite so insulated from either state bureaucracy or political influence. There is a point to those americans saying that whatever the state touches, becomes inefficient, a perk and a political territory. The bad side of democracy. Their extremist solution is no better though.

My opening diary was about my latest two week trip to Scandinavia actually.


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:47:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
State universities are not always quite so insulated from either state bureaucracy or political influence.

Tell me about it... our universities have been brought to the ragged edge of dysfunction by a right-wing imbecile of a minister who insists on micro-managing everything.

There is a point to those americans saying that whatever the state touches, becomes inefficient, a perk and a political territory.

And this isn't true for the things corporations do?

It is of course true inasmuch as "inefficient" is taken to mean "catering to other purposes than blindly maximising profit." Which is the usual wingnut definition. As to whether public institutions are in general less efficient at fulfilling their roles in society... well, no, as public railways and utilities can attest.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:11:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You speaking of Danish universities ?

Corporations do other kind of bad things, they don't do bureaucracy. Their goal is always the market and the profit, which is normal, their reason of existence, and which must be well regulated to avoid abuse
(like insurance corporations refusing to reimburse people on pretexts).

OTOH state's role is to serve the society, and bureaucracy or political perks are NOT normal. Not the same thing.

As it happens, the private railways example is IMO an example of bad regulation, even though I tend to consider this a domain of public service and a strategic domain, and so I even wonder whether it should not be, as such, state property.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:43:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I'm speaking of Danish universities. More specifically of Helge Sander's "reforms."

Corporations don't do bureaucracy? ROFLMAO! Oh, they certainly also do those other Bad Things you mention. But they sure do bureaucracy too... Yeah, it makes them less effective and hurts their bottom line, but that doesn't prevent them from doing it.

I agree with you that railways are a bad example, though, because you're right, they shouldn't be private. They were just the most obvious example I could think of off the top of my head of excessively bureaucratic private organisations vs. much more efficient public sector ones providing essentially the same services.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:21:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
As about press subsidizing, it was no hyperbole at all.   When you start subsidizing press, you must subsidize it all

No, there is no rule saying you must subsidize it all. Swedish press subsidys has been targeted at minor publications in accordance to sales figures. That is if you have a big enough newspaper, you do not get subsidized.

And thus your ideological story of the evilness of press subsidizing and the slippery slope it leads to, does not hold up.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:52:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Argh, drawing conclusions about my supposed ideology. It would be nice if you could limit yourself to countering my arguments. "Outing" me as the Enemy disguised in sheep skin is a bit silly.

To return to the interesting part.

If there is no rule saying you must subsidize it all and then own the press, billionnaires will still be able to come up with more journals, better quality, wider audience. So you didn't solve the problem of the press falling prey to corporate interests, which was the point in Jake and my discussing press subsidy.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:37:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
Argh, drawing conclusions about my supposed ideology. It would be nice if you could limit yourself to countering my arguments. "Outing" me as the Enemy disguised in sheep skin is a bit silly.

No, you are misinterpreting me. I am not saying you are an enemy because you have an ideology, I am helping you see your ideology by pointing it out.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 11:31:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I got the feeling for some of you here it is all a matter of being one of the boys, or not, all a matter of feeling, affectivity, and sensibility. Like I said several times already, you pointing out to my supposed ideology is pointless, I couldn't care less about any kind of labeling, were it only because I got used to it here.

Arguments and ideas is what I'm interested in. I see you don't actually answer to my latest reply on the matter. Maybe you were convinced after all.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:05:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If there is no rule saying you must subsidize it all and then own the press, billionnaires will still be able to come up with more journals, better quality, wider audience. So you didn't solve the problem of the press falling prey to corporate interests,

But - as I have already noted elsewhere - there is no law of nature saying that the private press will always be better, more interesting or have a wider audience.

In point of fact, the state-sponsored press quite often has both higher quality content and greater viewership/readership than the private press in those countries where it's being done properly. Of course, nobody wants to read a Pravda, but that's not what anybody here is proposing anyway, so I fail to see the relevance of that fact...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:24:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're a vicious debater, Jake. Really.

I'll take that as a compliment :-P

Seriously, though I'm sorry if you feel that my style is too adversarial. But I believe that pushing ideas to their breaking point is a good and perfectly reasonable way of testing them. And I believe in trying to achieve consistency in one's principles. And in being able to spell out what one is saying, without relying on connotations to bridge semantic gaps. Which is one reason that I keep heckling you to provide explicit definitions and spell out all the unvoiced connotations.

All of these endeavours are aided by acknowledging specific ideological frameworks - not necessarily agreeing with them, but acknowledging them. Which is why I think ideology is a useful construct.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:49:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I did far less than this - barely mentioned the work conditions of train workers today, and was libeled a thatcherian propagandist.

Which is to mean there is a time, a place and a manner to act provocatively, confrontationally & co.

Or claiming that workers are stolen benefits is such an exaggerated, ideological, broad brush statement that I can hardly see any use or added value for it, especially that I did not speak against workers per se, but against certain politicized French unions.

You actually push me on the ideological field, while I am on the academic debate one, pondering on the death of ideology (currently witnessed) and its consequences.
You may go on certain TimesOnline blogs and test ideas with people of your kind - of inversed polarisation. A sight to see, definitely.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:02:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...it is not a dismissal, actually. A genuine rightwinger would have rained his own slogans on you like you do on me.
This debate still continues because I am so finely playing my pragmatist role and limit myself to non ideological, factual, balanced, neutral stances.


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:13:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I did far less than this - barely mentioned the work conditions of train workers today, and was libeled a thatcherian propagandist.

I didn't see that exchange, but that's not quite the way I heard the story...

Or claiming that workers are stolen benefits is such an exaggerated, ideological, broad brush statement that I can hardly see any use or added value for it, especially that I did not speak against workers per se, but against certain politicized French unions.

But these particular "activist French unions" represent precisely the workers whose benefits were stolen - and stolen is precisely the right word: If a private company suddenly decided to stop paying benefits that it had promised its workers, it'd get sued down to its skivvies. Now, there are some things that governments are allowed to do that private companies aren't (using monopoly power to set standards, for example). But reneging on benefits isn't one of them.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:27:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because you heard it from ideologists ? :)

Those promised benefits as I know were bought back. No actual breach of contract was inflicted. Although the state can change a contract that is obviously ideological.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:50:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Those promised benefits as I know were bought back.

Now you're moving the goalposts. The removal of those rights were being tabled, and there was a strike in response. What concessions were granted after the strike was launched can have no bearing on the justification for the strike. Unless you live in some alternate universe where future events can negatively impact the legitimacy of current decisions...

Although the state can change a contract that is obviously ideological.

The courts can dissolve a contract that is obviously unfair to the weaker party, or into which the weaker party has been tricked. But the presumption is always that if it is the weaker party that benefits unfairly, not the stronger party, the contract stands, because it is presumed that the weaker negotiating position cannot enforce an unfavourable contract on the stronger negotiating position unless the stronger party has failed to do his homework properly.

And the state is, by definition, always counted as the massively stronger party.

These are two very basic principles of public administration. Principles that underlie essentially all jurisprudence on expropriation and resolution of conflicts between states and private parties.

If the state fucks up and gives you a million € for a job that's only worth half a million, it cannot five years later say "hey, waitaminnit..." (unless you got the contract through illegal means, such as bribing a politician).

This is, again, a principle no serious legal scholar, no political faction and no bureaucrat - left, right or centre - disagrees with. Claiming that it's invalid in the case of train drivers' pensions is pure special pleading and nothing else.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:43:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sigh. I'm not moving any goal posts, my sole interest is factual facts.

From what I know, concessions were granted and the strikes stopped. Most people (about 70% French were against, I think) saw those strikes less as worrying for existing employees and more as setting things straight for the future, and I suspect this is how unions saw it too.
In the end, no "stealing benefits" happened, and the matter of interest in that issue was bringing things on par with the other categories of employees.

And one can argue even for existing transport employees, given that the issue was about privileges granted without any counterparty. It was not so absurd that they be given up purely and simply.

I like the way you argue about contracts and courts (the establishment), although it fits little with your previous fiery talk :) Anyway French unions were often in the stronger negotiating positions, as unplausible as you might think it.

The state cannot come five years later and ask for the money back, of course, when it's about salary;
when it's about pensions 20-30 years from now, the state can make adjustments so that you have to work 40 years for them, like everybody else, since you don't provide any counterpary in return to justify such positive discrimination. Nuancing.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:32:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From what I know, concessions were granted and the strikes stopped.

So an illegitimate policy was being proposed, workers went on strike against it, the worst aspects were withdrawn and the strike stopped. How is this in any way an illegitimate use of the strike weapon?

The state cannot come five years later and ask for the money back, of course, when it's about salary;
when it's about pensions 20-30 years from now,

Those pensions were part of the salary. That's the way a pay-as-you-go system works, as I have repeatedly pointed out to you. The Danish system is different - here, pension contributions are paid immediately to private accounts. Under the Danish system, pension contributions could have been lowered as part of the ordinary labour market negotiations without compensating workers under existing benefit plans, because the money had already been set aside for them. But under the French system, the pension benefits that would have been paid out thirty years from now were part of their salary today. That they were not actually set aside as such is merely a technicality of differing accounting practises, and in no way does this justify stealing them.

If I hire you for € 10000 a month and pay € 1000 a month to a private pension plan, I cannot simply retract 20 % of your private pension savings because I decide that I don't want to pay you that much in pension benefits anymore. OTOH, if I hire you under a pay-as-you-go pension scheme, I pay you € 10000 a month and promise in your contract that I'll support a pension scheme with a net present value of € 1000 pr. month. According to you I can then at a later date decide that I only want to actually pay out 80 % of that - and since the money didn't change hands in the first place, this is perfectly fine?

The only difference between these two cases is that in the pay-as-you-go system, the employer keeps the € 1000 - or, more correctly, borrows the € 1000 until the pension is actually paid out. So according to you, employees should be punished for trusting their employer with their pension savings?

(And as an aside, even if it had only been a benefit cut for future employees, striking against it would still have been a perfectly normal part of labour market negotiations. Non-tenured employees are allowed to go on strike, and if their strikes disrupt service, then it's the employer's fault for not hiring tenured employees. That's a basic, basic principle of all reasonably civilised versions of capitalism.)

the state can make adjustments so that you have to work 40 years for them, like everybody else, since you don't provide any counterpary in return to justify such positive discrimination. Nuancing.

Not when you have already worked for five or ten years under the current contract, they can't. They could have done it if they had a) compensated the workers up-front for the net present value of their future benefit loss or b) stipulated that it only applied to all new hires.

I like the way you argue about contracts and courts (the establishment), although it fits little with your previous fiery talk :)

There is no contradiction here: Courts and contracts have their place in a democratic system. Labour unions, strikes and blockades (even sabotage) have their place in a democratic system. Politicians, parliaments and laws have their place in a democratic system.

I just objected to the way you were trying to sweep much of civil society under the rug and deny it its institutional legitimacy - I never meant to imply that courts, contracts and parliaments have no institutional legitimacy, only that they don't hold a monopoly on it...

Anyway French unions were often in the stronger negotiating positions, as unplausible as you might think it.

Of course they are, unions are supposed to be in the stronger negotiating position. That does not, however, change the fact that under almost all democratic jurisprudence, the state is presumed the stronger party. Just as the fact that most trans-nats are in reality much stronger than the states they demand concessions from does not change their rights to compensation when those concessions are revoked (unless it can be proven - which it of course often can in the case of trans-nats, but less often in the case of labour unions - that they used illegal means to acquire those concessions in the first place).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 02:00:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're a vicious debater, have I said that already?

I just told you why that wasn't such illegitimate policy.

I just told you the reason to go on strike was the fact of doing away with a privilege, as a principle.
When it became clear that the new principle is equality, and no privilege without counterparty, the talk actually started on the pragmatic issues.

Often, less often, illegal means, stealing... Oh well.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 02:19:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, you told me that you couldn't see the problem with taking away benefits that hadn't been paid out yet. But you didn't present any actual reasoning behind this. It just "seemed right" according to no logic but your gut that because they had never had the money in their hands, it had not been promised to them.

I wonder if you even read the explanation of the way a pay-as-you-go system compares to a privatised accounts system? Because you don't seem to have given any reason for why the employer can take the employee's money when he has borrowed it, but not when he has deposited it with a third party.

Does depositing money with a third party automatically launder the money and make it safe from the employer taking it? Does the employer have the right to refuse to repay money that he has borrowed just because he borrowed it from his employees?

When it became clear that the new principle is equality, and no privilege without counterparty, the talk actually started on the pragmatic issues.

There are two distinct issues at play here. The first issue is whether or not it is legitimate to strike on account of announced benefit cuts. And if you don't have tenure, it clearly is. If you don't have tenure, you can strike for whatever damn reason you want, and it's the employer's problem if he doesn't have enough tenured employees to cover his ass when that happens.

The other issue is whether an employer can renege on benefit payments from a pay-as-you-go benefit scheme. I can see no reason - even in principle - that he should be allowed to do that. In a pay-as-you-go scheme, the employer has been borrowing his employees' pension funds - funds that he would otherwise have had to pay out to third parties, who would then hold them in trust for his employees. As long as the employer doesn't default on the pension, that's a great idea, because it dispenses with a middleman who would otherwise have to be given a cut. But why does it allow the employer to suddenly renege on his debt?

You never answered that. You never even attempted to answer that. And the fact that other parts of the French labour force was robbed of their pensions is a complete red herring - that my neighbour robs a bank does not automatically permit me to rob a bank as well.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 03:29:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Above, you used IDEOLOGY ALERT in reaction to:

Colman:

And having the electoral process controlled by a small number of media barons is much better? What's their body count?

We must therefore assume you see ideology in that comment. It was in response to this comment of yours:

ValentinD:

So we need to subsidize the whole press as well.

You do realize that what you describe is sheer communism - ie, something as bad, if not worse, than nazism.

You, the objective pragmatist, decree that subsidies to the press (a proposition that could after all be debated in an objective, pragmatic manner?) constitute "sheer communism" (!), and we are supposed to accept that your statement is free from ideology?

You then go on to emphasize your position by telling us that "sheer communism" is worse than nazism. So, by inference, subsidising the press is the Gulag and Auschwitz combined? That is what is called a strawman, and what's more a strawman redolent of ideology. You are citing ideologies and comparing them in order to disqualify a policy proposal as being in itself ideological.

Your comment (and particularly the leap "subsidies = sheer communism") is far more ideologically-determined than Colman's. That's why you got, in your turn, an IDEOLOGY ALERT. With a :)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:46:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 Not to mention trotting out the usual right-wing ideology about "sheer communism" being worse than Nazism. Of course Stalin's dictatorship had almost nothing to do with the kind of system which Marx advocated and he would have been horrified by the Soviet Union.

Attempts to establish communist or even socialist systems have been opposed by capitalist countries, most brutally by the US, e.g.: Iran (with the Brits), Vietnam, Indonesia, Chile, Nicaragua, etc. Re Chile:

"Kissinger declared, 'I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.'" So much for democracy.

...
The CIA set up a fascist organization, Fatherland and Liberty, headed by a former public relations man for Ford Motor Company, Federico Willoughby McDonald, who became Pinochet's press secretary after the coup. It sponsored Operation Djakarta, a plan for the systematic assassination of leaders of Allende's Popular Unity government, named in honor of the CIA's bloodiest success, the 1965 military coup in Indonesia in which 1 million people were slaughtered.

http://newsmine.org/content.php?ol=coldwar-imperialism/kissinger-irresponsibility-own-people.txt

The US has done everything it can to undermine Cuba, including sponsoring an unsuccessful invasion at the Bay of Pigs. The US did not want the "threat of a good example".

The ideological Right also tries to present Nazism as socialism, merely because Hitler used the word (which didn't seem to bother the capitalists who happily backed Hitler), while suppressing the unions and communists.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 10:53:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know that I know nothing, i.e. my knowledge on the history of practical ideology is extremely limited but I try to improve and therefore listen to all sides.

With regards to Cuba you say,

The US did not want the "threat of a good example".

Do you believe what you say here, i.e. that Cuba would be a good example? Or are you ironic?

I wonder whether there is any comparative study for the independent lay observer, contrasting statistics cited by right-wing ideologists and figures cited by left-wing ideologists with an attempt to not minimise either evil.  

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 01:14:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cuba perhaps not. But Mossadeq's Iran and Allende's Chile certainly qualify. As do, with some reservations, Ho Chi Min's Viet Nam and the Indonesia before Suhartu.

Not to mention the eradication of the Italian left, the Greek anarchists, the Spanish Popular Front and a couple of others I can't recall off the top of my head.

MarekNYC's our resident history buff - but each of the cases I mentioned easily runs into the thousands, if not tens of thousands of murdered, and several times that number tortured, disappeared or displaced.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 01:41:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You may also mention the degree of support leftwing  and peace movements received from the soviet secret services.
(and just let me place a bet: 100 to 1 you'll say only a right hardliner could say this).
Sigh.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:30:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

So what - this doesn't automatically make them bad, a peace movement can still be for peace - any more than some of the movements funded by the CIA were necessarily bad (though many were).

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:11:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you have the causality upside down here: Fascist coups aren't bad because the CIA supports them. The CIA is bad because it supports fascist coups.

Similarly, the peace movement isn't bad because the GRU supported it. The GRU was bad because they was in the habit of kidnapping and murdering people.

And as an aside, how is the GRU supporting peaceniks materially different from - say - the CIA supporting Radio Free Europe, or the EU supporting a cultural exchange centre in Cairo? Every country supports NGOs they like in other countries, in the hope that those NGOs will cause their country to come around to their way of thinking.

As another aside, the claims that the Soviet Union supported the peaceniks and DFHs to any great extent is largely frivolous: There were probably more Western(TM) provocateurs and spies in the various groups on the Western European Left than Soviet ones...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 06:01:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The difference is fundamental and one must be a sworn theorist, a certified philosophical relativist and a fanatic of quantum physics to the point of forgetting to what direction water flows, not to see it. I'm sorry.

Radio Free Europe represented for many (myself included) the only connection with the free world, for years and years. That (as opposed to Bush's war on terror) was indeed a war for democracy. That war had a good side, democratic and promoting freedom, and a bad side, dictatorial and murderous. That was less a game of geopolitical influence than working to correct a situation imposed by the end of the WW2 and literally save hundreds of millions of people.

Not only pragmatism, not only common sense, but decency itself holds me from minimizing or relativizing initiatives such as Radio Free Europe, after those years' experience. Even in an abstract or philosophical discussion.
Even less accepting as legitimate (let alone valid!) a comparison to GRU or KGB infiltrating and supporting certain civil movements. That had as sole purpose to use freedom and democracy in order to undermine free and democratic societies. The same could never be attempted in dictatorial countries, because of their very nature.
There was a general spy war and it took place essentially on western side, because of its guaranteed freedom and human rights, precisely to have as result the termination of those freedoms and rights.

As one of my favourite classics said,
in order to explain the unexplainable, we will end up justifying the unjustifiable. Friends will certainly recognize the author ;)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 02:11:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The difference is fundamental and one must be a sworn theorist, a certified philosophical relativist and a fanatic of quantum physics to the point of forgetting to what direction water flows, not to see it. I'm sorry.

Radio Free Europe represented for many (myself included) the only connection with the free world, for years and years.

That's all well and fine, and I'm not actually disputing the legitimacy of the activities of Radio Free Europe. The point I was making was that the fact that RFE was sponsored by a gang of murderous thugs does not in any way detract from its value or legitimacy, any more than the fact that modest sums of money were channelled from GRU to various NGOs in Western Europe detracts from the merit of their work. (Usually, BTW, fringe groups. Romanticism for the Soviet Union was never the mainstream position on the organised left - and certainly not to the extent that later historians have made it out to be.)

That (as opposed to Bush's war on terror) was indeed a war for democracy. That war had a good side, democratic and promoting freedom, and a bad side, dictatorial and murderous.

It had a bad side and a less bad side, that much is true. But a "good" side? Only for a very - ah - flexible (one might almost say "relativist") definition of "good."

That was less a game of geopolitical influence than working to correct a situation imposed by the end of the WW2

Six of one, half a dozen of the other... If you believe that the policy of The West(TM) during the Cold War was driven by anything remotely resembling altruism, you really have very little business accusing other people of knee-jerk ideological reactions.

Even less accepting as legitimate (let alone valid!) a comparison to GRU or KGB infiltrating and supporting certain civil movements. That had as sole purpose to use freedom and democracy in order to undermine free and democratic societies.

How is opposing murderous colonial wars a way of "undermining freedom and democracy?" Should people in The West have sat idly by while the great powers sent their gangsters around the world to enforce a colonial order, merely because an expansion of the American colonial empire put pressure on Soviet geopolitical interests? Didn't you just speak out against sacrificing people for a higher end? Or does the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union justify all the "collateral damage" associated with creating and maintaining the American empire? (And principles aside, very few of the colonial wars that the peaceniks opposed actually had any material impact on the security and stability of the Soviet Union - the Soviet attempts at obstructing them was just old-fashioned Grand Chessboard gamesmanship...)

There was a general spy war and it took place essentially on western side,

And how the fuck does this justify spying on your own citizens? Being opposed to the war in Viet Nam did not make one a Soviet spy or agent provocateur, any more than opposing the war in Vietraq makes one a terrorist-loving fan of Osama Been Forgotten.

If you want to catch actual, honest-to-God spies (you know, the people who sell out their countries' strategic interests for money) - Russian, Soviet, Chinese, American, you name it - you look at the staff of defence contractors, you look in the counter-intelligence agencies, you look in the foreign ministries, you look in the industrial R&D departments. You don't look at a bunch of long-haired hippies brewing organic green tea in front of the Parliament building. That's just ridiculous.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:40:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
RFE was sponsored by the US Congress and had as statement of mission:

"To promote democratic values and institutions by disseminating factual information and ideas"

That is not "less bad"; Freedom IS good - unless you're a faithful relativist for which everything indeed is relative. (see, I'm not saying you're downright a communist.

Most if not all of those who claim they were sponsored by CIA are self declared communists or socialist (I can only quote William Blum, you may have other sources) - hardly a model of objectivity on the matter.

RFE acted for freedom; pacifist groups often acted against military opposition of the free west to communist dictatorships. They were as such a tool used by the latter in their type of cold war, in absolutely no way equivalent to openly sponsoring a radio station promoting human rights and liberties.

I am getting more and more baffled of the things I am brought to argue about.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:34:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually I had enough material to incite me to pondering on a new diary entry dedicated to the modern Left.

The basis would be this:  

  • they're materialists and support Darwin, but refuse biological determination

  • they support human rights in all cases - except those when those are promoted by Rightwing/capitalist governments or groups (human rights come behind class warfare)

  • they are ready to destroy anyone even nuancing anti-racist policies, but they support multiculturalism

  • they are ready to terminate anyone even implying a doubt about far-right policies, but they understand far-left philosophy; crucify nazism and justify communism

Conclusion: my ideology always comes first.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:42:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
Conclusion: my ideology always comes first.

I thought rule number one of Valentins ideology was that it is not called an ideology. Otherwise I agree, you do seem to consistently put your ideology first.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:06:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well first, I don't promote any ideology, not even pragmatism. My diary is about the more and more cases of unideological people and approaches to issues that I see these days.

Second, "my ideology comes first" is a conclusion of the leftwing positions quoted above. From those, one can conclude that the beacon is no highminded ideal, be it human rights, freedoms, inequalities, but winning the war, period.
You can also see this in the way any of my attempts at nuancing things was received as a sign of hidden rightwing agenda. I was reading somewhere else that the Daily Kos etc were meant to support the Democrat party rather than leftwing ideology. My feeling is on the contrary that far from this being open, you get shut down immediately when you don't seem to "feel together" with the others, when you don't react exclusively emotionally (and strongly so) to oppression and inequalities. No matter how rational and argumenting you are. Hardly a sign of opening or welcoming people of other sensibilities.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:05:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
My diary is about the more and more cases of unideological people and approaches to issues that I see these days.

And my comment was about the more and more cases of obvious ideology I see in your writing.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 11:31:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My conclusion was argumented: those things I quoted lead to the idea that for their supporters, "my ideology comes first" is the base line. The same stands for the ideological right, or neolibs.

You can of course comment on all you want, but analyzing myself, like I said, is not the point at all.  Kindly judge my arguments and deny, confirm or otherwise comment them if you care.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:01:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My point is that you appear to have a huge blind spot when it comes to your own ideology. It appears to make you see stances you agree with as unideological truths, and that which you do not agree with as ideological. That appears to your baseline and it is the foundation upon which most of your arguments are made.

I suspect this is an exercise in futility. You seem perfectly happy in pointing out ideology in others, but your own can not be discussed as it does not exist, and arguing otherwise is ideological, right?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 02:06:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I only agree with unideological truths when they are justifiable, argumentable, and manifestly take into account the interests of all parties involved, not only of the "markets", of the fishermen, of certain vulnerable categories that we pick, our clan, or our party. The exercise in futility is so because I gave numerous examples of what I understand by that, and what is the reasoning from which I claim certain stances are non ideological.

I gave Jake earlier the example of the psychiatric hospital. A sick man went out and killed someone. That provoked a lot of noise, of course, so measures were taken to enforce safety in these hospitals.
In order to reassure people that would risk to misunderstand these measures as some authoritarian/securitarian policy of a rightwing government, a statement has been made, broadly saying that such places are not prisons, yet people shouldn't be free of their movements either.

Now one can see this as trivial, and a slogan used to mask authoritarian policy. Someone less biased would likely understand that by putting in balance both situations, the idea was to show that both viewpoints are considered, none is forgotten, and the measures don't intend to turn psy clinics into prisons. A mark of pragmatic approach.

I gave this kind of examples all the time, and they were systematically taken as positions against train drivers, prisoners, immigrants, unions, NGOs, and so on. The fact that I presented the two sides and I said both are to be taken into account, apparently looked like a way to manipulate the real intention, the ideology that you think you point as hiding behind.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 02:36:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The hospital case you cite is a prime example of "nine-o'clock news" politics: Take a single case where something didn't work properly (for reasons that are usually not fully understood at the time) and respond to it by passing sweeping legislation in order to be seen as "tough on X" or "doing something about Y" and score cheap points on the momentary outrage.

That usually creates a legal hodge-podge with little structure, little consistency and plenty of unanticipated side effects. In other words, all the things you criticise bureaucracy for doing...

That we have a tabloid press (of which the Murdoch Times is part, to go by what our British comrades are saying) that facilitates this by treating news as if it were cheap, tasteless pornography is hardly a credit to our society, or our body politic.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 03:15:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Valentin -

There simply is no escaping, never. Your conclusion "was argumented" but you chose your arguments and you had reasons for choosing the arguments that you chose.

It is not clear IMO in what exact terms your ideology should be defined but it CAN be defined. Your ideology consists of your views, your convictions, your values. The glasses that you wear when you describe the world, how you - and only you - perceive the world, are your ideology.

You don't need to say explicitly, "I believe in ...", " I don't believe in ...". The words that you choose to describe what you think allow everyone to see who you are and what your ideology consists of. No one has the full picture. The ideology that is yours has not been put in words and published in a book for everyone to read, but you transcend it, transpire it through your words.

There is no escapin' from ourselves...

I believe that your refusal to admit to be ideological like everyone else here, too - is causing more upheaval than the controversy of the political debate itself.

It's much easier to say, "I believe in this and that because of this and that", be clear about ones ideology than to claim to not have one but talk through the inspiration of rational Reason that is unattainable but absolute.

It would be interesting if you could frame your ideology and if JakeS and you would then debate and work out differences and common ground. Maybe both could learn something new from the other.

 

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 04:38:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bingo! I've rarely seen a whole 300+ post thread condensed into such succinct a summary.

[That sounds a shade on the fanboyish side, but it's actually true...]

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:31:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yup, ain't she great?

new levels of lucid...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:04:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, no Jake, Lily's post summarized what some here - you, DoDo etc, try to pull out of my mouth by force :)

That is your own point of view and what you looked for here in the first place.

This diary has nothing to do with my own ideology. I signaled it to you, when you were going about wildly about ideologically charged topics.

Again:
I wrote about how polarisation of political life  seems to lead to a new political class, rational pragmatists, defending human(ist) values, rights and freedoms, and also the capitalist economy to do well its own job.

I'm not saying they are perfect at it, or that the current state of affairs is a proof of this, but that things tend to go into that direction.

I - never - mentioned - my - own - ideology in my diary, nor related to it in any way.
People should get that into their heads before drawing overarching conclusions.

On the contrary, after seeing TimeOnlines, Economist and NY Times blogs too, I see some people here as extremely polarised. They admit it unrepentfully, and it's perfectly ok.

NO wonder therefore that the slightest gut reaction I have to some case of unfairness other than the Rich and the Famous, you take it as a sign of rightwing ideology coming out.

I said a very restrained, limited, precise thing on unions, and you transformed it into a huge sub-thread where you ranted about stealing and aggression and fight and so on and so forth. It was a rant Jake, an ideological one (yourself accepted that later on, even as maintaining its justifiability), and nothing to do either with me, with my comment, or with the topic of this blog.

So to Lily, I reply that I made a few impersonal reflections on the political world today, and I have been confronted with a few extremely activist left-leaning people.
I've been dragged onto their ideological field, and had to reply in ways which of course contrasted theirs.
Like I said before: being centre against a violent leftwinger, positively looks like being rightwing.

The same can be said about my anti-neocon/neolib posts on other blogs. Being centre and rational to violent neocons/neolibs appears as being leftwing; I've been called a socialist Frenchie, supporting the Big Government, spineless appeasing European etc etc. The same reactions.
My own gut reactions to ideological extremisms appear as sign of the opposite ideology.

Well I can tell Jake that the usual social-democrat does not believe unions are under violent attack from fatcats. The ones I knew or saw sounded much more moderate, even as being leftwing.  

As to my personal ideas, I admitted to rightwing values as effort, as well as to supporting unions and NGOs as indispensable to the civic life, for instance as reflected on the website of the British vulnerabilities commission (or so - link provided by In Wales that I lost).
My personal values come from the three sides, they look much like classical liberalism and enlightenment humanism. I'm for the individual, but also for the society, for punishment, but also education and prevention, for rights, and for duty (Sarkozy Alert). I could speak with people of both sides provided they're rational and not extremist. Call me a maverick if you need to label me.
Again, this has nothing to do with the subject of this diary, which analyzed the political life today.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:06:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Valentin -

IMO pragmatism is a new ideology, not no ideology.

Your earlier blog was called "Is ideology dead?" - The debate was controversial. I didn't read all of it but I don't remember that there was agreement on ideology's death.

This blog is called "So, Ideology is dead. So now what?" -

Who said ideology was dead? You declared it dead by choosing this title.

Then, you present your argumented views. They are NOT OBJECTIVE. I don't say they are wrong or right anyhow, or pink, green, yellow, ..., left or right. They are simply not objective. And this is what most here have been saying, I think.

You can say that in your view ideology is this and that but you begin by presenting the issue of the former debate as solved, as irrefutable fact, and on top of it you claim that this is the truth. Well, you don't talk about the truth; you simply say that this is so because of your objective and rational assessment of facts.

This in itself is subjective and highly ideological because you say that your way of looking at an issue is objective; the way you choose and analyze facts is the best there is. By implication you dismiss the arguments others have brought forward on the issue.

You didn't want this debate to be about "your" presumed ideology by trying to keep it abstract and by declaring not only ideology dead but also yourself immune to ideology.

To me this feels like a vacuum that is imploding.

Isn't this the way stars are born?  

;)

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:46:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My comment box doesn't have any indication as to how I could make it more dynamic.

This blog needs a shift to the right.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:49:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not the comment box. Scroll to the bottom of the page. There's a drop-down box labelled "Display:" Right now it's probably set to "Nested" which is IIRC the default position. If you change it to "Dynamic Threaded" long threads become easier to read (but IMO short threads become more cumbersome...).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 02:44:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can set your account to automatically switch from nested to dynamic depending on number of comments.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misŔres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 05:51:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lily,

The title was merely provocative.
Anyone bothering to go beyond the first line found this:

"Ideologies - or more accurately said, ideologisation of social and political life, seem to show signs of weakness.
In what concerns me, I even argued about their approaching death - disappearance, if not from society, at least from public debate of any importance.
Is this really the end of it, no more wars of ideas, no more ideals to dream of, no more polarisation?

I confess the idea that we would tend towards a sort of a bureaucratic-technocratic society, sounded quite appealing at first - not because of its advantages: jury's still out on that; but as a surprisingly (and terrifingly) accurate assessment of the state of affairs these days

Moreover, even arguing in favour of "the death of ideologies" is not ideological in itself. It's like arguing that the society is becoming atheist would be a religious position. In a contorted logic, maybe.

Pragmatism, as I said a few times now, is a methodology based on the systematic attempt to get free from subjective bias.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:18:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pragmatism, as I said a few times now, is a methodology based on the systematic attempt to get free from subjective bias.

this is starting to sound like dialogue out of star trek.

we'd all make better decisions if we had no emotions, i guess!

there's something dehumanising in the relentless verbiage, no sense of give and take, just wearying repetitions of  what seems an increasingly robotic take on life, expressed with hairsplitting relish-less relish.

you are doubtless intelligent in an AI fashion, but it seems  cognitively alien in some way i can't quite put my finger on, something emotionally autistic in the subtext, bleeding through the comments, also a slightly superior, hectoring tone that leaves a funny taste on the monitor.

excuse me for drifting into ad hom territory, but i use it to counter what i perceive to be a trollish passive-aggressivity, especially towards Jake, that provoked so many interesting comments i thought it just a new foil for a while for some here, who usually aren't so forthcoming as a rule.

but it's gone on so long, and while your command of language and argument is impressive, especially in a non-mother tongue, it's fucking hard work tracking you, and after doing the work, there's a vacuously cheated feeling left at the end, as i said in another comment on another semi-tedious thread, there's no 'there' there!

so i must regretfully conclude that you V are a new kind of troll i never encountered before, one that bores victims into reluctant submission, because who has the stamina, at the end of the day, to argue one's points with such a fixed-non-position as yours? in trying to be absolutely impartial, you actually create a semantic black hole for the idealistic to supposedly wormhole through to some post-ideological nirvana, where actually we all end up rendered, flattened into some different, dispassionate shape, disembodied algorithms jammed into some utilitarian anti-philosophy.

it's a recycling of the 'god is dead' mantra of the 50-60's, but this time it's ideology.

so fucking what?

you've created a little tautological loop, and having successfully convinced yourself of its invincibility to discussion, continue to batter the blog with spurious, sophistic, shaggy-dog circular non-reasoning that so far has convinced no-one of the veracity of any of the pseudo-truistic non-points you indefatigably belabour, with admirably impressive tenacity.

there's a kind of zen futility to the whole operation, kinda makes me wonder if you enjoy creating a sort of vortex into which heartfelt arguments meet a watery grave, a maelstrom of meaninglessness into which they tumble, energy and time misspent chimera-chasing.

davy jones in person!

i sure hope you got your jollies here, where's the next lucky blog you plan to enlighten in your, er, unique way?

sheez, i'm sorry if i offended some netiquette, but some of these threads have had me wanting to scream at what i have finally deduced, wading through so many murky mystifications, can only be wilful, wanton and contrarian obtuseness.

i really tried, but this one's off any map i can relate to.

happy looping! i sure wish i hadn't bothered spending precious time down a rabbit hole, but hey, chalk it up to getting accustomed to ET being a place where mental energy invested was always over-amply rewarded.

there went another cherished illusion!

wheeee (with h)... have a peaceful day.

 nice job, i admit you had me going for a while... hats off to the saintly levels of patience others have revealed, in trying to welcome you and make you feel respected and 'chez toi'.

fool's gold, it just shimmers, ultimately weightless... being endlessly 'right' is a vaccination against productive discussion. we lefties are easy to bait into 'deep' dialogue, but eventually you have to come clean and take a position that consists of more than shooting holes in others'.

but you're way too clever a fox for that, huh? you are a giant wind-up, that gets kicks from daring provoking people into spitting out what you masochistically really want to hear, namely that your counter-arguments hold no water of life, they're just maya, mindstuff, monkeymind chatter, much ado about Sweet Fanny Adams...

but you were dying to have your bluff called, right?

we're on to you! at least your posts elicited some excellent responses.

lucifer's advocate?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:19:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"so i must regretfully conclude that you V are a new kind of troll i never encountered before, one that bores victims into reluctant submission, because who has the stamina, at the end of the day, to argue one's points with such a fixed-non-position as yours"

Apparently you have never tussled with a global warming skeptic.  :-)

by asdf on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:50:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll just remind you I acknowledged the subjective, human, affective side from the beginning.
And if it sounds "AI", repetitive, this is because some of those (few) who replied seemed unable to conceive someone or something existing outside ideology. The political atheist. Pragmatic, moderate, utilitarian politicians have always existed, I just wondered whether this kind of politics is going to take over.

The rest was bonus hours spent replying to fierce ideological shots. I merely said, ideological stances have a tendency to exaggeration, to flaming, to work for some ideal, and was noting people might be getting fed up with it.

There is no "there", just a question whether utilitarians are to take the place of the "illuminated" politicians.
No intention to promote anything, but the reactions  were blazing. I explained why: a non ideologue is mistaken for a hidden kind of one, and attacked by everybody else.
What's the goal of pragmatism? Simply utilitarian, I suppose. No more grand vision of the future.
What's my goal? None, I framed an issue that I found interesting, and for the rest, mainly replied to ranting.
Jake made valid points, which we discussed, and pure sloganeering (which he admitted). But in general, he dragged me on ideological ground. What do I care that he sees the society as a war between fatcats and (cornered, battered) civic organizations? For me, that's the dychotomic view typical to ideologically polarised people.

My "impartiality", utilitarianism, certainly looked excessive and boring, due to too much repetition. My mistake was to not set things straight from the very beginning, know when to draw the line, instead of leaving those "interesting" sub-threads develop to no end, and then complain of it. For instance, it was a big mistake to speak of "sheer communism". It was ideological, and my subsequent clarification was useless. I shouldn't have replied to Ted Welch on "communist dictatorships", as it had nothing to do with my diary.

I'm not trying to revive anything, you can see that but a few people joined in.
And for a reason: my diary was a bit too "academic", phrases too long and convoluted, the subject quite trivial, if you take a critical look at it.
The subject was actually so dull, that stopping the ideological rants make it look void: the only "brilliant" idea is that we would be diving into prosaic utilitarianism.

So yes, you can say 300 + 300=600 posts were published on anything and everything but the topic, because the topic itself hardly interested.

"saintly levels of patience others have revealed, in trying to welcome you and make you feel respected"

Oh? Except the newcomers' welcome, each of my subsequent posts were met with mistrust and accused of rightwing propaganda.
On the women discrimination, or these two blogs on ideology, all I said was in the end quite trivial stuff. But the slightest scent of me not being totally and fully for the weak and the poor, no matter how trivial and argumented, provoked the ire of a handful of people and derived into hundreds of posts.

Yes, lucifer's advocate in a way. I confess to this, I promise I don't do it on purpose, to troll, flame or hurt anybody, I just seem to thrive on hot debates and me taking several sides for the fun of argumenting.
I actually tend to do that, indeed. I realize this won't bring me any more fans than I already have :)

I would apologize for this, even if it really was not meant like that. I really only wanted to speak of utilitarian politicians. But then, you do admit to having found some interest in those other reactions after all. If only for that, my "void" can be forgiven and forgotten
:)

cheers

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 03:03:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pragmatism, as I said a few times now, is a methodology based on the systematic attempt to get free from subjective bias.

Not under any of the definitions of that word that appear in my dictionary. The term you're looking for is "the scientific method." But of course, being familiar with the rather dubious claims of Marxism to be based on a scientific understanding of the world, you might understandably be hesitant to claim that your ideology is "scientific." It sounds much better to call it "pragmatic" and then do a rhetorical bait-and-switch to substitute in the meaning of "scientific."

You are of course free to attempt to construct your own political philosophy based on concepts that you invent out of thin air, or based on re-defining words that have a reasonably precise meaning in the context of other political philosophy. And by appropriating words with positive connotations, you might get people to profess agreement. But that's not quite the same thing as convincing them that your position is correct.

In the meanwhile, if you want to get your point across to people who actually do have a little schooling in the standard terminology of political theory, you'd be wise to at least give a nod in the direction of the usual terminology instead of dismissing it as ideologically influenced (it is, of course, just as your terminology is, but that does not render it invalid...).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 02:56:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What one might see as my excessive detachedness, abstract objectivity, mathematical formulas, or "scientific method" not unlike Marx's, is more like allowing more critical thinking, more facts, more down-to-earth practical life stances into politics.

Hardline ideologists - communists/marxists, fascists, hard right, neocons, neolibs (soc' and eco') occupy the political scene for some time. The point would be no more than applying reason even when the Book says things are this or that way. I'm not saying that computers should decide life much like rugby would only have video equipped robot as referee. I don't say people shouldn't have convictions, but they should be thought of, not just faith.

You think "the war against fatcats", "bigots", "McPain", "Sarko's baiting for racists", "USSR was not really communist" are not rants, do not come from faith and visceral reactions? Do they strike you as reasonable, or productive?  Polarisation, framing, invective, truth twisting, sloganeering, this is has always been in fundamentalists' toolbox.

As I said to melo, people need frameworks. People needed religions, and were often exploited by them or by their opportunists. Ideologies today are much like religions yesterday: they pretend to give people a framework, an ideal, make some good points, but behind their rather abstract theoretical base, it often hides opportunism and faith.

"My" pragmatism would be opposed this ideological faith. Not against honest conviction, but against pre-determined, unquestioned conviction, the kind saying "we know workers are exploited, we need no argument or nuancing, anyone bringing that is a miscreant, anyone in dissent is evil". (who said that? one might ask; but it was there permeating everything)
Those ideologies I listed above, in the end, amount to exactly that, despite some good, humanist, or logical points they have.

The idea would be about taking faith and intellectual dishonety out of politics and political ideas - call it idealistic, and as such, ideological :)  We need people who think critically, rather than just activists, we need people who believe in what they do for a good reason, who combat discrimination not from feminist faith, or biased statistics, but are aware that not all inequality comes from discrimination or unfairness. That they need to look for the causes, not just act out of activism.
I didn't plead for a mathematical objectivity, it's impossible and inhumane, and I feel quite more sympathetic to classical liberalism and enlightenment humanism than would be needed to deny that. I'm just getting the impression people are beginning to appreciate more down to earth politics, and less ranting and wild dreams. One might point me to Obama's hopeful yes we can own slogans. Yes, but we can change things that don't work, so that they work, in real life, and not in order to implement this or that ideological agenda. Just wait and watch him at it :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 07:30:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What one might see as my excessive detachedness, abstract objectivity, mathematical formulas, or "scientific method" not unlike Marx's, is more like allowing more critical thinking, more facts, more down-to-earth practical life stances into politics.

Yeah... "critical thinking" - we sure need more Cobb County style "critical thinking..."

Now, that's a real "down to earth" "practical life" approach that caters to the issues that the community actually cares about.

Coming from the guy who said that sloganeering pollutes the debate...

You think "the war against fatcats", "bigots", "McPain", "Sarko's baiting for racists", "USSR was not really communist" are not rants, do not come from faith and visceral reactions?

It's class war, and has a fairly precise meaning that involves taking away billionaires' billions (whether one permits them to keep their millions is where the imprecision comes in), respectively billionaires trying to become trillionaires at the expense of everyone who isn't a billionaire. The latter part being the more common in recent decades...

As for Sarko's race baiting... wasn't it you who said something along the lines of if the shoe fits?

"Bigot" can be a slur, or it can be an accurate assessment of a person. Someone who thinks that homosexuals should be denied the right to marry (or registered partnership or whatever you want to call it to not offend the fundagelical fruitcakes) is a bigot - I hardly think you'll deny that? Context is important.

Similar considerations apply for McPain.

I agree with you on the USSR being communist.

So what was that? One and two halves out of five? But hey, who's counting, right? I'm just being a spoilsport here and disrupting a perfectly good ideological rant.

"My" pragmatism would be opposed this ideological faith. Not against honest conviction, but against pre-determined, unquestioned conviction,

I never saw you make a serious attempt at challenging anybody's convictions. A serious attempt at doing so would involve data and policy, two things you have so far scrupulously avoided to pass comment on.

the kind saying "we know workers are exploited, we need no argument or nuancing, anyone bringing that is a miscreant, anyone in dissent is evil". (who said that? one might ask; but it was there permeating everything)

You never actually presented any data - at least none I've seen. Anecdotes are all well and fine as fairy tales go, but they really don't compare to a good, solid graph.

It would be one thing if all you wanted was for us to accept that workers are not getting a raw deal - and need to be getting an even rawer one - on blind faith, a little hand-waving and some sloganeering that could have been (and often has been) clipped right out of the part of the press that writes in big, easy letters and rarely use words with more than two syllables.

It is quite a different order of chutzpah to claim that this is injecting critical thinking into the debate.

The idea would be about taking faith and intellectual dishonety out of politics and political ideas - call it idealistic, and as such, ideological :)

I'm all for that - I just think you're barking up the wrong tree. The majority of the left got that memo decades ago.

We need people who think critically, rather than just activists, we need people who believe in what they do for a good reason, who combat discrimination not from feminist faith, or biased statistics, but are aware that not all inequality comes from discrimination or unfairness.

Yawn Been there, done that, got a Reagan Revolution for our troubles. We have all those things. What we need is activism that makes sure we can actually put to use any of the insights we gain from all this critical thinking and introspection.

You really are barking up the wrong tree here. The left is so far behind on the propaganda game that it's downright pitiful. It's like hearing a committed pacifist give sermons on the principles of non-violence to a Palestinian kid because he throws rocks at the Israeli tank that's just plowed his house down...

I'm just getting the impression people are beginning to appreciate more down to earth politics, and less ranting and wild dreams. One might point me to Obama's hopeful yes we can own slogans. Yes, but we can change things that don't work, so that they work, in real life, and not in order to implement this or that ideological agenda. Just wait and watch him at it :)

I don't know what you're smoking, but it's unfair of you not to share! (I think I know what you've been reading, but that's neither here nor there...)

I would be most happy if Obama could change the things that don't work so they start working - working for all the people all over the world, ideally. But heck, if he can get it working for all the people all over the US, I'd be impressed.

Given the shitpile that thirty consecutive years of Reaganomics (is it ideological to point out that the current financial and ecological disasters have been the sole and proprietary responsibility of the Right?) have dumped on him, I'd be very surprised.

Given the decrepit state of US democracy (is it ideological to point out that reduced voter turnout has been a deliberate strategy from the Right in the US?), I'd be very, very surprised.

Given that so far he seems to be more about centrism and sticking to Conventional Wisdom (is it ideological to point out that Conventional Wisdom is flat out wrong on how to run an economy?) than about radical change to make things work for Main Street as opposed to Wall Street (and is it ideological to point out that there has been a massive transfer of wealth from Main Street to Wall Street in the last three decades?), I'd be extremely surprised.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Dec 6th, 2008 at 01:06:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
congratulations on so graciously and unpolemically demystifying V's (to me) endlessly contorted thinking. it's like being caught in an escher loop!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:06:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wrote about how polarisation of political life  seems to lead to a new political class, rational pragmatists, defending human(ist) values, rights and freedoms, and also the capitalist economy to do well its own job.

I'm not saying they are perfect at it, or that the current state of affairs is a proof of this, but that things tend to go into that direction.

And the rest of us pointed out that this conclusion was bullshit when examined at the level of actual policy - you know the level of detail that actually matters - rather than at the level of propaganda and sloganeering.

Your response to this has been - consistently - that you can only evaluate politicians by what they say. We called bullshit on that as well: Clearly, there are other ways to evaluate politicians - such as by the policy they implement, or by the policy that their supporters push for.

Then you replied - over and over again - that you couldn't be bothered with details, because you were trying to make a general point. But when the details run counter to your general point, you don't get to dismiss the details.

Now, if all you had argued was that appearing pragmatic is a viable propaganda strategy, nobody would have objected with any great force - that this is the case has been known essentially since Goebbels invented modern marketing. But that's not the case you were trying to make (although it's a position that you've tried to backpedal to more than once). You were trying to make the case that a) (winning) politicians try to sound pragmatic, b) therefore the public seems to desire pragmatic politicians, c) therefore the public elects pragmatic politicians, d) therefore the elected politicians are pragmatic.

But item c) does not follow from items a) and b), except in a naïve fantasy land where democracy works perfectly, the citizenry is completely informed and propaganda has no effect because politicians are judged not by the colour of their advertising, but by the content of their policy.

I said a very restrained, limited, precise thing on unions, and you transformed it into a huge sub-thread where you ranted about stealing and aggression and fight and so on and so forth.

Where? You made a sweeping, general claim that many unions are excessively ideological and will push their ideology to the detriment of society in general.

When challenged to provide examples of this - you know, actual data from which your position could be evaluated, you not only backpedaled to the position that only a few unions were doing this, you also cited a couple of highly spurious cases.

I (and a couple of others) called bullshit on those cases. But unlike you, most ETers don't just make sweeping general claims as to the bullshitty nature of other people's proposals. There's an expectation around these parts that when you object to someone else's examples, arguments, hypothesis or conclusions, you make a case. Which I did.

You then dismissed the case on the highly spurious grounds that 1) it wasn't relevant because it was too detailed, 2) it wasn't relevant because your impression of public perception didn't agree with the conclusions and 3) you didn't agree and you considered the disagreement a result of differing ideological baggage. Full stop, no further argument presented.

The same can be said about my anti-neocon/neolib posts on other blogs. Being centre and rational to violent neocons/neolibs appears as being leftwing; I've been called a socialist Frenchie, supporting the Big Government, spineless appeasing European etc etc. The same reactions.
My own gut reactions to ideological extremisms appear as sign of the opposite ideology.

This is the standard fallacy of centrism - to cast as inherently virtuous the fact that one is somewhere in between two disparate groups. Well, when one group is simply consistently wrong on the facts, this is not laudable. If a creationist says that the Earth is 6000 years old, and a scientist says that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, you don't get to split the difference, call it 2.25 billion years and claim credit for being a "sensible centrist." The creationist is flat out wrong on the facts, and the scientist is reasonably correct.

But of course, if you insist on doing politics instead of policy - that is, if you insist on only examining propaganda and slogans rather than actual content - you'll never get around to examining the data that would allow you to determine this fact.

Only looking at the slogans and not at all at the data, and to on that basis claim that all ideologies are born equal is the ultimate in epistemological relativism. But that doesn't seem to prevent you from calling anyone and everyone a relativist who argues that your position has no inherent validity (a priori and absent comparisons with data)...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 02:41:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Downgrading the level of your discourse hardly helps your argumenting. Try and do that in real life, then watch the effects.

I made no general claim. I said French unions are broadly considered more to the left than others, and that their discourse still goes in tones more characteristic to the 19th century.
I pointed at the case of CGT and SUD unions as quite ideological and politicized, even as I mentioned that the CGT now seems to have broken ties with the French extreme left.

That was quite precise. Any of the other points I made about balanced approaches were not proven mistaken for their purpose; you (and others, about nurses for instance) immediately flamed up, imagined some denial of discrimination, inequality, or sufference, and poured slogans creating ideologically charged sub-threads to no end.
You didn't contradict my point about prisons, but started the same fiery arguing about human rights.
linca earlier didn't note that my reference to nurses was only to show that you can't judge discrimination only by numbers, not to claim that they have some easy life. And that thread likewise was completely hijacked by ranting against nurse sufference and degrading status.
I'm discussing details of policies, but only in the context of balance.
My phrase about train drivers' condition was not even attacking the unions. All I said is that that has nothing to do with 100 years ago. Again, a whole sub-thread of ranting about how drivers must be very careful and wake up early, about how their pay is insufficient, and so on.
Many common sense statements obviously drew certain people into an ideological gut reaction.

The content you bring up does not add anything at all either for or against my "claim" that ideology would be dying. Unless you try to show yourself very polarised, and so prove that the flame still lives on.
I don't deny your data, I can ignore your slogans (that you admitted to be so), ok, passons.  We agreed on certain policies, as you saw (when you managed to slow down a bit). But that wasn't the point. I don't care about discussing whose policies are true and better - left or right.

The point was, is utilitarianism and opportunism (as you call it, I think many of those politicians are actually sincere), are they pushing ideologies to the fringe of the democratic life?

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 02:18:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Downgrading the level of your discourse hardly helps your argumenting.

You want some cheese with that whine?

I have said before, and I will happily say again, that I would have no objection to going through the entire thread and look at who called whom names. I'm not sure that's a particularly productive way to spend our time, though.

Try and do that in real life, then watch the effects.

Because smug arrogance is such an endearing trait... Pot, meet Kettle. Kettle, permit me to introduce Pot.

I made no general claim. I said French unions are broadly considered more to the left than others, and that their discourse still goes in tones more characteristic to the 19th century.

And that's not a sweeping, general claim? Well, I can see why you might think that it's not. There's only what? fifty million people in France? And after all, they're only organised in some two score unions, plus the small change...

I pointed at the case of CGT and SUD unions as quite ideological and politicized, even as I mentioned that the CGT now seems to have broken ties with the French extreme left.

All the while studiously refusing to provide any actual evidence to back up your position. Not so much as an objectionable quote from one of their spokespeople.

Or maybe I missed a couple of links with damning proof that the French unions are run by dangerous revolutionary Marxists who are slavering at the thought of installing a dictatorship of the proletariat? If so, could you go to the slight bother of reposting them, or do you want me to go through the entire thread to find them?

Any of the other points I made about balanced approaches were not proven mistaken for their purpose; you (and others, about nurses for instance) immediately flamed up, imagined some denial of discrimination, inequality, or sufference, and poured slogans creating ideologically charged sub-threads to no end.

Bull. Shit. What was explained to you - at some length and in far greater detail than appears justified in retrospect - was how those slogans (not "approaches" - an approach contains an actual policy, which you never once presented, nevermind justified) are in fact ideologically charged. That you wilfully refuse to even consider the context and history in which public debate takes place, and refuse to acknowledge (not "accept," acknowledge) the substantiative reasons that people consider those slogans statements of ideology, hardly amounts to a resounding refutation of those reasons.

When racist skinheads and Catholic fundamentalists think that Sarkozy is the best French president since Pétain, and you think that he's a down-to-earth pragmatist who embraces common-sense policies that nobody in their right mind can doubt, then at least one of you must be wrong. Sure, you can claim that he's just using fundagelical and racist rhetoric to get the morons - sorry, values voters - into the fold. But you ain't no mind reader, Comrade Valentin, so how do you know that you're not the one being fooled. After all, at least one of you is...

You didn't contradict my point about prisons, but started the same fiery arguing about human rights.

Really? "Fiery arguing?" You wanna see "fiery arguing," you go to somewhere like DailyKos. I see no fiery arguing in this thread.

Rhetoric aside, you claimed that your slogan about prisons represented a balanced, pragmatic, middle-of-the-road approach - or words to that effect. When you elevate statements that challenge the right to privacy to the level of elementary truths that should not be questioned (for fear of appearing "ideological"), you should expect people to call bullshit on that.

If you think that support for a fundamental, inalienable human right to privacy is an ideological position... well, you'd be completely correct. It is.

But for all your bloviating on the death of ideology, I can't really picture you coming right out and stating that you oppose universal, inalienable human rights - to privacy or otherwise - in quite so many words.

I'm discussing details of policies, but only in the context of balance.

No, you don't discuss details of policy. In this thread alone there are some three hundred posts. Around a third of them are from you. Less than ten percent of them even mention policy, other than to claim that further details are irrelevant to the subject at hand. Let's be really, really generous and call it ten posts in this entire thread where you discuss actual policy. If you can find eleven, I'm paying you a dinner next time you get to Copenhagen.

My phrase about train drivers' condition was not even attacking the unions. All I said is that that has nothing to do with 100 years ago. Again, a whole sub-thread of ranting about how drivers must be very careful and wake up early, about how their pay is insufficient, and so on.
Many common sense statements obviously drew certain people into an ideological gut reaction.

You keep ignoring relevant context. I've pointed out the relevance of context to you already.

Most poignantly, I asked you upthread whether you would evaluate the slogan "Arbeit Macht Frei" solely on its isolated truth value and the degree to which it corresponded to your understanding of "common sense," or you would be persuaded to consider its history as well.

Then the crickets started chirping.

The content you bring up does not add anything at all either for or against my "claim" that ideology would be dying.

Except point out that you never actually made a case at the policy level. Which is the level that matters - the level that everybody here, including yourself agrees is the level that matters.

I don't care about discussing whose policies are true and better

Truer words are not found in the rest of the post.

I think many of those politicians are actually sincere

Well, I guess you can fool some of the people all of the time...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 05:10:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I never proferred insult, Jake, which you start doing, which gets me even more bored, frankly. As usual, when ideologists are cornered, they start biting and spiting. Bof.

You do sound utterly ignorant both about France's religious situation, France's unions, or its government. I did provide proof when I said that well in the 90s one of CGT's leaders was a member of the communist party's leadership. You won't hear it because you act like a sophistic debater, as usual.

I'll make yet another sweeping generalisation and say that the French leftwing parties are in general clearly more to the left than those in other countries. Feel free to demand links.

Again, there is absolutely no sloganeering in asking that certain French unions give up the proletarian tone and also that the importance and contribution of unions be enforced; or in asking that we stop using simplist statistics to justify anti-discrimination laws or quota laws, and instead accept here and there that discrepancies are not due to any discrimination.

And so on. I provided lots of examples of balanced approaches, that you won't make disappear by posting dramas on imagined slogans or on the war against the oppressing fatcats.
You think anyone is capable to reply to any bit of contorted reasoning in which you hairsplit an issue to exhaustion? You act like the living proof of what I meant: stretching reality to fit ideology.


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:27:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I did provide proof when I said that well in the 90s one of CGT's leaders was a member of the communist party's leadership.

Your original claim was in fact that CGT got radicalised in recent years, something on which I showed you as completely ignorant of CGT's opposed movement.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:37:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the old In Wales' thread, you did ask me about examples of radicalised unions, and I named CGT and SUD, without explaining, because that wasn't the point or the place for it.

On my own diary, I said:


"The French trade unions (and particularly so the likes of CGT, FO or Sud), are considered amongst the most leftwing unions in Europe.
Until not so long ago still in the "class warfare" mode, it was only in the '90s that the CGT started to take their distance from the communism (amongst other things, quitting the communist inspired World Federation of Trade Unions in 1995; leader Louis Vianet resigning from the political bureau of the French Communist Party; accepting certain negotiations rather than downright going on strike and so on).
Even so, the tone for most French trade unions remains proletarian-inspired even today (some might say this is just PR, and still!)

You never showed me anything at all, want me to make a collection of all instances where I showed you to be wrong? You didn't even know what a propagandist means :))

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:57:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
The CGT has been radicaliezd for a long longt time and has moderated a bit just last year.

Nineties, last year; Nagy vs. 1956...

You never showed me anything at all, want me to make a collection of all instances where I showed you to be wrong? You didn't even know what a propagandist means. QED.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Dec 8th, 2008 at 09:43:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Taking their distance from communist inspired organizations may be "moderation" from their own side.
We, the others, marked 2007 as the first time the CGT actually dropped sloganeering and activism and started being more pragmatic about what is the best interest of their members, instead of just caring to be the scarecrow of all governments, regardless of their political colour.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 9th, 2008 at 07:38:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Btw, since you cite me, I hope you also took the chance to see the difference between what I actually said, and what you were claiming I did ("Your original claim was in fact that CGT got radicalised in recent years").

You seem to be an expert in getting things exactly the opposite of how they really are.
Makes me wonder whether your whole political framework is based on the same kind of mind gymnastics :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 9th, 2008 at 07:44:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're gonna have to quote me on those insults, Val. 'Cause all I can see in that post is me calling your arguments (such as they are and what there is of them) bullshit.

Now, as invective goes, that's pretty mild, and not even directed at your person...

Meanwhile, several places in the thread, you have insinuated that I relativise the crimes of the Soviet Union out of some ideological sympathy with Stalin. Do you remember that, or shall I go find some quotes? How's that for not proffering insult?

You do sound utterly ignorant both about France's religious situation, France's unions, or its government.

I'm still learning. But I'm in what was traditionally the German (and subsequently Anglo-American) sphere of influence, so my handle on German, British and American issues is somewhat better than French ones. Now, can you provide some actual references that a non-Francophone can read, or am I just going to have to take your word for the situation in France?

I did provide proof when I said that well in the 90s one of CGT's leaders was a member of the communist party's leadership [citation needed].

That was supposed to prove that France's labour unions are considerably to the left of the rest of Europe's. Even if that were true (several Danish unions maintain close ties with parties that most would call communist), that still wouldn't be saying much. The British unions have been all but destroyed. The Italian unions never got off the ground (in no small part thanks to American support for the fascist remnant, thanks to which it holds seats in the Italian parliament to this day). Poland's never had widespread unionisation, apart from Solidarnost which has drifted so far right over the years that it's barely recognisable as a union any more.

So which unions are you comparing to anyway? The German? The Spanish? The Scandinavian?

I'll make yet another sweeping generalisation and say that the French leftwing parties are in general clearly more to the left than those in other countries.

Given that left-wing political parties essentially don't exist in many countries in the Union (UK, Denmark, much of Eastern Europe, (AFAIK) Portugal, Italy), that doesn't really say all that much.

Again, there is absolutely no sloganeering in asking that certain French unions give up the proletarian tone

Such as? Examples here, sil vous plait. Your previous examples of "slogans" vs. "slogan-free" headlines doesn't precisely inspire me with a lot of confidence that I can trust your judgement on that.

and also that the importance and contribution of unions be enforced;

This is some kind of turn of phrase translated from French, right? As already mentioned, I'm not Francophone, so I'm afraid you'll have to give me the long version. What precisely does "the importance and contribution of unions" mean and how is it "enforced?"

Does it mean that something similar to the Danish Hovedaftale is hashed out and an arbitration system set up to enforce it? Then I see little problem. Does it mean that unions must contribute to keeping production running in an orderly fashion by sitting down and shutting up without getting major and significant (and irrevocable) concessions in return? Then I'd be very much against.

As it stands, though, it could read as both.

And just to make my nasty, suspicious mind even more suspicious, there's no mention of the other side of the table at all. What happened to the fact that there are always two sides to any strike: The striking workers and the employer who wan't give in to their demands. What "importance and contribution" will be "enforced" against employers?

or in asking that we stop using simplist [citation needed] statistics to justify anti-discrimination laws

Here you mean affirmative action programmes rather than anti-discrimination laws, correct?

And so on. I provided lots of examples of balanced approaches

Approaches contain policy.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Dec 6th, 2008 at 01:56:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm afraid you'll have to take a look on the internet all by yourself, and try searching CGT on Google or Wikipedia.
In the end you're not saying anything contradicting my statement. Anyone can give plenty examples of unions and of leftwing parties, you can ask de Gondi for instance, who indulged us with those posts on L'Onda.
The main difference between France and many other countries is that while other communist parties and organizations were shattered after the fall of the communism (which proved it a failure and an utopia as a system, breeding genocidal dictatorships), the French ones still kept on the proletarian / class warfare rhetoric.

Yes, a French turn of phrase. The union role being enforced means IMO that France has things a bit more similar to, say, Germany. OTOH employers shouldn't be treated like the enemy class, just like money shouldn't be regarded as dirty, I'd dare add :)
We could debate this and likely reach a pragmatic compromise (no I'm not contradicting myself, please don't go off on yet another ranting) like in the case of media anti-trust laws.

I mean those other discriminatory programmes, yes.

Approaches do contain policy. And proof must be provided. The only problem is you ask for "proof" on details where it's completely superflue, and that your approach to policy looks more like hyper-biased ranting.
Proletarian stuff was so pervasive in demonstrations, strikes, press conferences and interviews of those unions, that I can't even be bothered proving that to someone only because he's in Denmark and suspicious.

As for my statements not inspiring confidence, they certainly remain way way behind your own.

You said several times that you entered details of policies because you had to show my examples where not sloganeering, but substantive, and to bring forth the context, which was important too in showing that.

You made a good point about deregulation, neoliberalism etc. But this was one my targets too when I mentioned ideologies being on their way out. They too abused ideology, and this crisis will push them out of society and into history books.

But you mostly chose to do that 'substantification' like this:


the wholesale assault on labour unions, fiscal policy, unemployment and disability benefits

Sarko surrounds himself with LePen apparatchiks and assumes his slogans and rhetoric for his own, the assumption must be that he will act in the interests of LePen's apparatchiks.

The history of unions in the US shows that systematic union-busting works exceedingly well.

privatisation of health care, price hikes for railroad tickets, cutbacks in unemployment subsidies, outright theft of workers' pensions, below-inflation indexing of public pension schemes, below-inflation indexing of unemployment subsidies......

it was the top 10 % of the wealth distribution that was waging class war on everybody else.

Or perhaps you think unions are at fault for actually fighting the war that the fatcats started instead of rolling over and playing dead like the so-called social democratic parties

I want to ban billionaires, by confiscatory taxation of wealth above half a billion €.

And so on and so forth.
This is what I call fiery talk, fist to the sky, eyes towards a better world up there somewhere.
This is no "discussion of policies", this is polarised talk, ideological ranting, that many can nod to, but no one will enter in a debate with you about.

Which is why I answered to one of Lily's posts:


This is the problem I had with Jake the whole time. I could hardly reply to his posts, because to me it looked like fiery ideologic activism. I'm not passing judgement, just telling how it looked from here.

Lines like these:
are unions at fault for actually fighting the war that the fatcats started instead of rolling over and playing dead
or
stealing train drivers' pensions
or
dismantling of civilised society by people who want to throw us back to the 19th century

to me are ideology, sloganeering (no offense, Jake, I just say how it looks for me), and I can't bring myself to even comment on it, which, to Jake or DoDo, looks like I would be eluding the subject.

And Jake's discourse (which I don't judge) is filled with this kind of stuff.

In short, even as you discuss policies, even when you 'try' to be reasonable (at least to me you look as you do try), you sound very much like our most leftwing extremists in France (which means, in the world). Just look for Besancenot, or Jean-Luc Mélenchon, I bet you will experience a reflex sympathy for them.
But I cannot debate pragmatism with such ideologically -charged characters.
It's like you'd try to prove to a muslim fundamentalist the benefits of secularism.

See you around, Jake.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Sat Dec 6th, 2008 at 09:29:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The main difference between France and many other countries is that while other communist parties and organizations were shattered after the fall of the communism (which proved it a failure and an utopia as a system, breeding genocidal dictatorships) Soviet Union, the French ones still kept on the proletarian / class warfare rhetoric.

You have a really shaky grasp on the history of Western Europe.

The British left was shattered by Thatcher. The American left has never really existed, and what little there was of it was purged by Ronnie Raygun. Scandinavia has never had influential communist movements, but it's true that the Overton Window was dragged right over the past thirty years. That started in the late seventies and early 80s, so the only way that could have anything to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union would be if effect could precede cause. In Germany you might have a case. Anywhere else... not so much.

Yes, a French turn of phrase. The union role being enforced means IMO that France has things a bit more similar to, say, Germany.

I didn't ask your opinion on what it ought to mean. You say it's a slogan used by the French right wing. I asked what the French right wing thought it meant. Seeing as they're the ones who get to actually implement their interpretation of their slogan, not you.

OTOH employers shouldn't be treated like the enemy class, just like money shouldn't be regarded as dirty, I'd dare add :)

So basically unions get to make concessions and get diddly-squat in return. I think we're starting to get a pretty good picture of your sense of pragmatism here...

Proletarian stuff was so pervasive in demonstrations, strikes, press conferences and interviews of those unions, that I can't even be bothered proving that to someone only because he's in Denmark and suspicious.

You sound like you think a red flag is a symbol of militant, revolutionary proletarianism. Being from Eastern Europe, that's more or less understandable, of course. But weren't you the one who argued that immigrants should learn a bit about the culture of their new country? Or does that only apply to brown people?

You said several times that you entered details of policies because you had to show my examples where not sloganeering, but substantive, and to bring forth the context, which was important too in showing that.

That's not what I said. I said that your slogans were right-wing slogans (as opposed to unideological statements of fact). That you apparently fail to distinguish between wingnut sloganeering and objective statements of fact should give a little pause for thought.

the wholesale assault on labour unions, fiscal policy, unemployment and disability benefits

An executive summary of points made in the other thread. The one you actually chose to challenge:

In 1980, tertiary education was free France, the UK, all of Scandinavia and all of Germany. In 2000, the UK and more than half of all German länder charge "tuition fees." To take just one very concrete example.

The list goes on with privatisation of health care, price hikes for railroad tickets, cutbacks in unemployment subsidies, outright theft of workers' pensions, below-inflation indexing of public pension schemes, below-inflation indexing of unemployment subsidies, tighter applicability requirements for unemployment subsidies, cutbacks in prescription drug subsidies, cutbacks in essential public services (railroads, schools, water, sewage, electricity).

Are you disputing any of the facts here? Or are you just playing games?

Slogan + Substance => Policy
Slogan - Substance => Bullshit

Sarko surrounds himself with LePen apparatchiks and assumes his slogans and rhetoric for his own, the assumption must be that he will act in the interests of LePen's apparatchiks.

Well, LePen certainly seems to think so.

Sarko broke a tradition of not meeting with LePen.

He also calls to debate an issue of science as if was a matter of policy - a little trick he inherited from George "The jury is still out on how God created the Earth" Bush.

Then you can go here in the comment thread (#25 in particular). An American neocon (and his friends/sock puppets) show up and run out essentially the same line you have here. They/he get their asses handed to them.

The history of unions in the US shows that systematic union-busting works exceedingly well.

You should, I think, complete that quote:

The history of unions in the US shows that systematic union-busting works exceedingly well.

The US unions were systematically persecuted at the federal, state and local level. Through legislation, through a concerted propaganda effort, through workplace-level union-busting, by deliberately race- and religion-baiting at every political level. That was a case of deliberate, ideological activism by right-wing extremists.

Do you actually dispute any of this? Do you really want me to go to the trouble of digging out the legal and political history of US union busting over the past quarter century? In that case, you can start here.

privatisation of health care, price hikes for railroad tickets, cutbacks in unemployment subsidies, outright theft of workers' pensions, below-inflation indexing of public pension schemes, below-inflation indexing of unemployment subsidies...

You gonna actually dispute that this happens systematically? I was not aware that any of this was disputed in your part of reality.

Health Care.

Public transit.

Sub-inflation transfer increases.

it was the top 10 % of the wealth distribution that was waging class war on everybody else.

You gonna actually dispute that? You gonna claim that this isn't class war by the rich?

I want to ban billionaires, by confiscatory taxation of wealth above half a billion €.

That's actually an example of a policy that can be implemented as it stands, right off the shelf. The legal technicalities were hashed out by the West German government during the de-nazification period, when they needed to confiscate all the fortunes that had been made in ways that were not - quite - meriting a full war crimes trial.

Are you telling me that you can't tell the difference between a slogan and a policy? The shock. The horror. The surprise.

You can argue the merits of this policy (and get your ass handed to you - removing billionaires from the political equation would remove much of the concern about media power and corruption, and it wouldn't do any harm to anybody, because it's not like anybody actually needs a billion €... all in all, a very pragmatic approach to a very concrete corruption problem).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 7th, 2008 at 05:26:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
The main difference between France and many other countries is that while other communist parties and organizations were shattered after the fall of the communism (which proved it a failure and an utopia as a system, breeding genocidal dictatorships) Soviet Union, the French ones still kept on the proletarian / class warfare rhetoric.

Indeed. I should note that someone from both Eastern Europe and France should be aware of similar views about liberalism as failed utopia two centuries ago, after the terror of the French Revolution and the rise and fall of Napoleon.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Dec 8th, 2008 at 09:26:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well yeah, but at that time liberalism didn't drag behind it a 150-year history filled with lies, terror, crime and genocide.

Last week I think I heard at least half dozen people on different televised interviews or debates claiming themselves un-ideological. Mere consistent use of careful argumenting seems to drive faith out once again (and ideologists out of themselves).

Or maybe it is just a fashion afterall. It just looks like it's gonna be a dam'd hard one to fight against :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 9th, 2008 at 07:33:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Last week I think I heard at least half dozen people on different televised interviews or debates claiming themselves un-ideological. Mere consistent use of careful argumenting seems to drive faith out once again (and ideologists out of themselves).

To claim one self un-ideological is like pretending to be objective. Objectivity claims to be truthful. This introduction is very persuasive. The masses don't want to hear the bias of clearly defined ideologies but they want objectivity. So, they get to hear what they want to hear. Politics is all neutral, objective, ...

These are good times for those who don't want to take sides or take on responsibility for a decision. Let's all trust the un-ideologists which feels like trust into a neutral, objective and truth-bearing entity and we'll see where this will lead us.

"Consistent use of careful argumenting" - ...aiming for what? with what baseline? defending whose interests? ...

Asking these questions will lead you to an agenda that, too, is based on some sort of ideology.

Communism manipulates through open repression. This, however, is the kind of manipulation that must be dealt with in democracies, i.e. the free world. To ignore this amounts to opportunism; it is naïve at best.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Dec 10th, 2008 at 05:10:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
they're materialists and support Darwin, but refuse biological determination

Which is different from Darwin's position in what way?

they support human rights in all cases - except those when those are promoted by Rightwing/capitalist governments or groups (human rights come behind class warfare)

You'll need to give examples here, because I don't know any case where the left has opposed human rights on grounds that class warfare was more important.

they are ready to destroy anyone even nuancing anti-racist policies,

Can you cite even a single example of such right-wing "nuancing" resulting in an expansion of anti-racist protections? If you can't, I'd call that pure newspeak. If you think anti-racist protections are too widespread and need to be rolled back, come right out and say so and be prepared to defend your case - don't hide behind weasel words like "nuancing."

but they support multiculturalism

Oh, R'lyeh?

You really should go back in the archives and read some of the flame wars from around the time of the Cartoon Jihad...

"They support multiculturalism..." I laugh so I don't cry.

they are ready to terminate anyone even implying a doubt about far-right policies, but they understand far-left philosophy; crucify nazism and justify communism

Dude, now you're conflating different variants of communism again. Nobody here makes apologetics for Stalin and his merry band of butchers - and if somebody does, he gets crucified, as you so aptly put it.

But in tarring all of communism with Stalin et al, you're attempting to relegate half of the mainstream European left for most of the 20th century to an extremist fringe. That's simply not honest brokerage in the debate. We're talking here about people who were opposed to the Soviet Union, who were opposed to violent repression (who were, in many countries actually the targets of violent repression), who were opposed to toppling democratically elected governments and imposing dictatorial regimes. How the fuck is any of this "far-left" or remotely comparable to nazism?

OK, the term "communist" carries negative connotations for you, because you were oppressed by a communist regime. That's OK, I get that. But it doesn't make all communists evil or comparable to nazis. Just like the fact that some people get bad vibes from the term "catholic" because they were raped as kids by a Catholic priest doesn't make all catholics child-raping perverts. And just as the fact that "capitalism" carries unfortunate connotations for many Chileans doesn't make all advocates of capitalism the equivalent of Milton Friedman and Augusto Pinochet.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:36:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't particularly speak about you Jake, or this or that person. I can see that you may feel left without believing in communist ideals, unlike Ted Welch, and others may have their nuanced positions, just like US democrat party is far from representing hard left.

I was more speaking about how left comes off by and large, impressions and tendencies, when we look from above.

Me, personally, hathes no issue with the left the moment private property and enterprise stops being evil. On the other hand, "my hero" :) Nicolas Sarkozy, said a very important thing once:
the Left should not be allowed as the only defence of the poor, the vulnerable, the different.
Granted, this is because in France things are much more polarised and the left much more to the left than elsewhere, and it had become impossible to allow the left occupy the place of the angel waging war on the vicious capitalists.
But it's a sign of entering traditional left domain, just like your dear Bliar entered left one, and with as much success. That's the way that leads to pragmatism. Is that going to lead to an unideological democracy? Are lack of ideology and pragmatism a sign of a-politicalness? Does this mean democracy is in danger? Those are the questions, rather than about more or less humane variants of communism.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:17:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was more speaking about how left comes off by and large, impressions and tendencies, when we look from above.

But you don't look from above. You look through the lens of the media you consume, and the principles and opinions that you already hold. That's an important point that you keep refusing to acknowledge.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 03:37:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
RFE was sponsored by the US Congress and had as statement of mission:

"To promote democratic values and institutions by disseminating factual information and ideas"

And we all know the US Congress' bottomless respect for factual information and ideas...

That is not "less bad"; Freedom IS good

Well, yes... for the definition of "freedom" most people use. But "freedom" a la "Operation Iraqi Freedom" - not so much. Problem is, it's usually hard to tell which sense the US Congress is using at any given time.

Most if not all of those who claim they were sponsored by CIA are self declared communists or socialist (I can only quote William Blum, you may have other sources) - hardly a model of objectivity on the matter.

I am not quite sure where wikipedia gets the CIA link from, but given the general tenor of the article, I'm inclined to think that the sources for that claim have been challenged and found to be kosher.

RFE acted for freedom; pacifist groups often acted against military opposition of the free west to communist dictatorships.

Y'mean like opposing - oh, I don't know, the ousting of a democratically elected government in Viet Nam? Or the democratically elected government in Chile? Or the democratically elected government in Iran? Or the democratically elected government in Nicaragua? Or the democratically elected government in Bolivia? Or the democratically elected government in Argentina?

You dislike it when apologists make light of Soviet atrocities that they know little about. I can respect that position, and I have actually defended it downthread. Will you do me a favour and not make light of Western(TM) atrocities that you apparently know equally little about?

They were as such a tool used by the latter in their type of cold war,

Bah! Soviet funding of the peace movement was minuscule. Soviet influence was even less.

The dirty hippies that you accuse of being on the USSR's payroll were demonstrating outside the Soviet embassy when the tanks rolled into Hungary. They were passing out fliers condemning Soviet aggression in Afghanistan. They were vehemently opposed to Soviet nuclear weapons testing.

Even the MI6 - who are not precisely famous for their competence - could set up better puppet organisations than that.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:15:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's why I said you can't compare those years with what happened since 9/11, because of a fear-mongering power-obsesssed president.

CIA working for the destabilization of communist regimes actually happens to be a bit different from KGB working for the same about democratic countries.

Calling the Viet Minh or Ho Chi Minh democratically elected government is a wild stretch. In the end it was all about Chinese communist expansion. The cases you quote were part of the cold war, and you cannot put on the same moral place soviets and west, tm or not.

Minuscule or not, that remains to be evaluated. I don't have numbers here and now, but you giving your personal opinion, particularly in this context, is not quite enough.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:57:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's why I said you can't compare those years with what happened since 9/11, because of a fear-mongering power-obsesssed president.

And the Domino Strategy wasn't fear-mongering? And Nixon wasn't a power-obsessed president?

CIA working for the destabilization of communist regimes actually happens to be a bit different from KGB working for the same about democratic countries.

First, the regimes in question weren't communist. Second, the regimes in question were democratically elected. Third, the "destabilisation" of them involved mass murder.

Didn't you just criticise communists for their doctrine of exitus acta probat?

Calling the Viet Minh or Ho Chi Minh democratically elected government is a wild stretch.

Why? They stood to win a constitutionally mandated election. How is it anything like a stretch to call that "democratically elected?" The fact that the election was preempted by an American invasion can hardly be laid at the feet of the Viet Minh.

In the end it was all about Chinese communist expansion.

More Domino Theory bullshit. This was revealed as a lie already with the publication of the Pentagon Papers. Where did you get this from? The Washington Pravda?

The cases you quote were part of the cold war, and you cannot put on the same moral place soviets and west, tm or not.

So supporting murderous dictators is OK when they're our murderous dictators? Exitus acta probat, eh? By that logic, you could argue for supporting Hitler, on account of him being the only leader to ever come within arm's reach of deposing Stalin.

That's not - unfortunately - wild-eyed accusations. Several Estonian skinhead groups actually espouse that line of reasoning.

Minuscule or not, that remains to be evaluated. I don't have numbers here and now, but you giving your personal opinion, particularly in this context, is not quite enough.

Bah! You want to argue that the peaceniks were patsies of the Soviet Union, then you have to provide evidence. No evidence of substantial support (much less evidence of favours going the other way, nevermind support for wild-eyed conspiracy theories about "undermining Western democracy") was ever uncovered by Western(TM) intelligence or counter-intelligence agencies. Despite their considerable effort to do so (even to the point of fabricating it wholesale in some countries...).

Here you are simply, factually in the wrong and seem to be talking out of your ass. Please stop doing that - you've shown elsewhere that you can provide better signal to noise ratio than that.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 03:04:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm getting bored.
The Viet Minh might have won elections - or not, they did not. Period. The follow up showed what Ho Chi Minh was about.
Those regimes were communist, inspired from the ideology, applying the class warfare, reciting those books; many of them were not democratically elected, many were pushed through by the soviet union, in order to establish a network of client states. The inspirer was in reality not about freedom, democracy or the good of the people.

As usual, you relativize, you consider it was a game of influence, and like Ted Welch, you see it as not genuine communism. I repeat to both of you that the theory, even coming from a peaceful man, who accepted velvet revolution, the theory divided the world into rich and poor, exploited and exploiters, oppressed and oppressors, promoted class warfare, revolution and this led directly where it led: blood baths and dictatorship.

You hairsplit, abstractize and relativize it, and I'm telling you again that for one,
the situation as I have it is generally accepted (including the designation as communist of those regimes) - except marxist theorisers and philosophic circles marred in endless highly abstract discussions on this or that aspect not present or not precisely as postulated by Marx;
for two, all this is pointless, since I'm well aware we can play sophisms ten more years from now; playing intellectual games may bring you some aura in extreme leftwing circles, but it has no relevance whatsoever here, or for myself.
It's exactly what you did with those other issues. Here the original point was my mentioning the press freedom in communist dictatorships. There it was about politicized extremist French unions. And so on.
I am doing no more fighting against extreme left sloganeering, Jake.


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:30:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Those regimes," "many were" - again these weasel words.

The regime in South Viet Nam invited in an American colonial regime because they were scared shitless that Ho Chi Min was going to win the elections fair and square. He might not have - that's in the nature of elections - but both the US and the regime in Saigon very clearly thought that he would. Blaming Ho Chi Min for the lack of elections caused by an American invasion is like breaking into my house, shooting me and then accusing me of theft because I am now in possession of your bullet!

And now you claim that Ho Chi Min was a client of the USSR. Last time, you claimed he was a client of the PRC. So who did he take marching orders from? Both Moscow and Beijing? What about the issues they disagreed about (and they did not have the same policy on Indochina, except in the very superficial sense that they agreed that the USA had bugger all to do there).

Or do you simply fail to distinguish between China and Russia "cuz they iz all commiez"?

I'm not going to go into a philosophical fight about the nature and ideals of communism, partly because I'm not a communist and partly because political factions like the Perónists provide all the empirical evidence needed to dismiss the claim that communism and class consciousness deterministically lead to repression and totalitarianism. And besides, weren't you opposed to historical determinism yesterday?

If you want to see Marxism with a human face, look to Latin America. If you prefer to stick with your bigotry and nurse your resentment over whatever wrongs were inflicted upon you by the Soviet empire, there's bugger all I can do to drag your head out of your ass for you.

Your view of history is extremely naïve, and your view of the history of half the 20th century is straight out of the Springer-presse's la-la land. But why do I even bother? I'm not here to give you remedial history classes.

And by the way, I'm sick and tired of hearing you imply that I deny or minimise the wrongs committed by the Soviet Union - that's pure, base libel when I have acknowledged them in so many words, on several different occasions, both here and elsewhere.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 03:21:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your view of history is extremely naïve, and your view of the history of half the 20th century is straight out of the Springer-presse's la-la land.

Well, you are debating someone who sought to prove Christian tolerance in the Roman Empire with policies of the sole non-Christian 4th-century Emperor -- who 'earned' the epithet "the Apostate" for his attempts...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:35:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's too hilarious for words. Where was that?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Dec 6th, 2008 at 01:13:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here. (I see we former web fighters against creationism share this perverse love for whopping statements...)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 8th, 2008 at 09:46:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo not only seems to lack the patience to read others' posts, or the wisdom to know when to drop what is but mere stubborn opposition - as was the case with the definition of "propagandist".

Worse, DoDo also seems to be memory challenged, and desperately so. My point about emperor Julian, far from being about some "christian tolerance", was in the context of a discussion about the separation between church and state.

I imagine this isn't the only time that you happen to remember things not quite as they actually were. The least you could do for the community is to check the facts before posting.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 9th, 2008 at 07:11:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not ironic at all. Much is made of the lack of political freedom in Cuba, ignoring the fact that the US has done everything to undermine Cuba, including an attempted invasion and at least six attempts on Castro's life. When the US gets attacked, it quickly decides that many freedoms aren't so important after all.

But in very serious ways Cuba shows what can be done, even when undermined by a powerful neighbour and when poor, if one has the right priorities. Freedom from illness is a very important freedom. Many in the US would envy Cubans' access to health care - cf. Moore's F 9/11 sequence on taking sick Americans to Cuba for treatment.

When the Macroeconomic Commission on Health met to consider the global health challenge it essentially did little more than recommend implementation of Essential Health Interventions, a more systematic way to provide the quasi-technical solutions that `Selective Primary Health Care' had promised. And yet, while this was occurring, Cuba was able to develop a set of coherent policies to adopt a national strategy, develop a comprehensive primary care capacity, and achieve excellent health outcomes.

Some time ago, it was suggested that the threat of a good example (or a politically alternative development trajectory) was an ideological factor in explaining why US policy was uncompromisingly hostile to Cuba.9 The openness to consider Cuba's achievements is clearly called for now, and the taboo on evaluating this experience should be lifted. The question ultimately should then become less of `whether' and `why' the successes are being achieved and more of `how' this can be done. Over the past 10 years, our team of Canadian and Cuban researchers has documented how it is not just the organization of health services but the broad way in which health determinants are addressed that plays a major factor in the `social production of health'--with the possibility of fruitfully engaging the health service workforce as part of a broad-based `population health team.'10,11

http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/35/4/825


 

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 02:23:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That was in Sicko, not Fahrenheit 9/11, as I recall.

And that aside, I wouldn't put too much credit on a photo-op. The Cuban propagandists aren't any dumber than American propagandists, and I'm sure that if you took a band of Cubans to the US for a film shoot about how awful the Cuban system is, someone in the US would come up with excellent care for them for a very modest sum.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 03:42:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, of course, Sicko. That wasn't the most important point in my comment, but the incident was significant in that the Americans, "heroes" of 9/11, hadn't been able to get decent treatment in their own, very rich, country for the reasons examined in the film.

More significant was the article I quoted from. In terms of health-care for the whole population, Cuba is indeed a threatening "good example" for US "health" corporations. See also a WHO report:


 "We fought for the Declaration of Alma-Ata before it was official," says Dr Cristina Luna, "and its message has guided and challenged us ever since." At 43, Luna is Cuba's national director of ambulatory care, and on her shoulders rests the country's entire primary health care system, by many standards one of the world's most effective and unique.

Cuban health authorities give large credit for the country's impressive health indicators to the preventive, primary-care emphasis pursued for the last four decades. These indicators - which are close or equal to those in developed countries - speak for themselves. For example, in 2004, there were seven deaths for every 1000 children aged less than five years - a decrease from 46 such deaths 40 years earlier, according to WHO. Meanwhile Cubans have one of the world's highest life expectancies of 77 years.

http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/86/5/08-030508/en/index.html

Cf.Krgman on "socialized medicine":

The dissonance ... is one reason the Medicare drug legislation looks as if someone went down a checklist of things the veterans' system does right, and in each case did the opposite. For example, the V.H.A. avoids dealing with insurance companies; the drug bill shoehorns insurance companies into the program... The V.H.A. bargains effectively on drug prices; the drug bill forbids Medicare from doing the same.

Still, ideology can't hold out against reality forever. Cries of "socialized medicine" didn't, in the end, succeed in blocking the creation of Medicare. And farsighted thinkers are already suggesting that the Veterans Health Administration, not President Bush's unrealistic vision of a system in which people go "comparative shopping" for medical care the way they do when buying tile, represents the true future of American health care.

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2006/01/paul_krugman_he.html




Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:32:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ted,

Thank you for outlining your position. I understand that you have sympathy for victims of US aggressions.

OTOH I don't think that the evil done unto them makes them automatically good, or rather -

Have you ever lived in a communist country?
I haven't but I sort-of have, too, since Germany has had experience with both. - I visited East Germany twice with the wall still there, and twice when it had just come down. I didn't like it. People who lived there didn't like it, and why did the system collapse to begin with?

I have a friend you lives in England, and I know of the dire state British health care is in. I understand that it is tempting to admire Cuba's "freedom of health" in comparison. But that still doesn't make of it a "good example".

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 04:46:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a friend who lives...
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 04:47:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You haven't visited a communist country, you've visited one with an oppressive state socialist system, controlled for a long time by the Soviet Union. But even that had many redeeming features for many of the population:


Eastern Germans are less satisfied with and less optimistic about their situation than those living in the states that made up the former West Germany. They are also less convinced about the virtues of democracy than their western counterparts -- with many believing that socialism is a good idea that just hasn't been implemented well in the past.

Indeed, the biggest differences in the survey come when eastern and western respondents are asked to share their views on life in the former East Germany. The communist state gets far higher marks from those living in the east than from those in the west. A full 92 percent of 35- to 50-year-old eastern Germans believe that one of the greatest attributes of the former East Germany was its social safety net, with 47 percent of their children in the east believing the same thing. By contrast, only 26 percent of western youth and 48 percent of their parents expressed the view that East Germany had a strong social welfare system compared to today's.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,516472,00.html

Of course there are problems with the UK health service (as there are even with the French system), partly due to underfunding for years and wasting billions on things like Trident. But in general it is very popular. The US system which leaves millions with no health insurance, and many with problems getting their claims paid. Cf. Krugman's "Conscience of a Liberal" for a serious discussion, and Moore's "Sicko" for a dramatic comparison.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:26:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's just that the context was about press freedom. In terms of freedom and civil liberties, communism and nazism are absolutely comparable, with a negative bonus going to communism.

Communism is an extremely harmful and mistaken ideology, IMO, no matter how you would emphasize its different nuances. So is fascism and its declinations.
But saying that Stalin's dictatorship had nothing to do with marxism is the usual excuse of communist utopians:  pretending the System was Right - it just happened to be applied slightly wrongly.
I'm coming from a former communist dictatorship and to hear this kind of justification here (for that is what it amounts to), in what we thought is a land of freedom, is simply outrageous.


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:27:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Be outraged if you prefer emotion over reason - I thought you valued the latter. It's quite obvious to any rational person that Stalin's SU was an oppressive dictatorship, not remotely a form of "communism" as envisaged by Marx. The attempt to insist that it was communism because Stalin kept the word is just a matter of ideological dogmatism.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:36:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am outraged because I heard that argument over and over again. Philosophical justifications of the "genuine" communism are no better than the actual denial. Those people lived that ideology in their every day life in terms you're far from picturing, and the ways the philosophy was justifying murder are as alive as Hitler's justifications for race purification.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:46:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Experience is not the same as emotion.
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 04:48:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In communist dictatorships, the whole press was controlled by the state, like the whole economy. That's all.

Rather than trying to disqualify a proposal, I was questioning its pragmatism. The anti-trust idea sounded much more so to me, and since Jake has accepted it as well, it is soon going to become official policy ! :)

You may repeat that as you wish, I still have no hidden agenda whatsoever. A rightwing agenda would have no chance with you, anyway :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:18:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"communist dictatorships" is a contradiction in terms; but, of course, in your ideological framework  even the obvious is not apparent to you.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:39:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm afraid you don't really know what you are talking about. Those Marx and Engels' books, as well as Lenin's "life work" were a fact of life for everybody in communist dictatorships.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 04:48:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that supposed to prove that Stalin wasn't really a dictator - or to disprove that being run by a dictator disqualifies a systm from being communist ?

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 05:15:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe that Valentin tries to say that the reality of communism is much closer to dictatorship (or equalling dictatorship) than to the ideals (ideologies) they are based on.
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 04:54:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll take a true Scotsman with a special pleading on the side, please.

Let's not pretend that we can just magically "uncommunistify" a movement, person or regime because they or he or it turn out to be assholes. That excuse doesn't fly for Catholics when dealing with priests who rape children. It doesn't fly for neocons when one of their "democracy promotion projects" is revealed to be a colonialist resource grab. It doesn't fly for Intelligent Design Creationists when someone from their fundagelical base goes off-message. Why should it fly for Communists when one of their experiments goes to Hell?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 06:12:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It "doesn't fly" simply because the Soviet Union under Stalin's dictatorship (what VD clearly had in mind when saying "sheer communism" is worse than Nazism) didn't remotely resemble Marx's concept of communism. Other dictators have called their regimes "democratic" - the name doesn't make it so and we'd correctly think it was a silly attack on democracy to cite such a regime as an example of any an inherent problem of democracy.  

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 06:26:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Raping little kids hardly resembles Jesus' understanding of Christianity either (inasmuch as Jesus can be said to have had an understanding of a religion that would not be codified until at least a century after his death...). That does not prevent it from being a problem for Christianity, because quite a lot of variants of Christianity promote authoritarian social structures that makes it easier for perverts to rape little kids.

Similarly, it is worthwhile to examine how a Communist revolution (or was the Russian revolution not a Communist one?) can impose a regime that is so decidedly undesirable as that of the Soviet Union.

The French Revolution is - quite rightly - cited as a blemish on the history of democracy, because it turned into such a bloodbath. Future proponents of democracy arguably learned from this - learned such valuable lessons as "checks and balances" and "the popular vote isn't the be-all-end-all of democracy."

Tarring all of democracy with the French Revolution would clearly be unjustified, and tarring all of Communism with Stalin (or all of Christianity with child-raping priests) is equally so. But that does not mean that there are not lessons to be learned from the Russian Revolution that cannot be learned if you insist on sticking to the "they weren't communist enough" story.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 2nd, 2008 at 06:52:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"Tarring all of democracy with the French Revolution "Tarring all of democracy with the French Revolution would clearly be unjustified, and tarring all of Communism with Stalin (or all of Christianity with child-raping priests) is equally so."  

Quite.

"But that does not mean that there are not lessons to be learned from the Russian Revolution that cannot be learned if you insist on sticking to the "they weren't communist enough" story."

One obvious lesson is try to avoid someone like Stain from taking over and having almost total power. I.e. try to stick to the most fundamental aspects of communism which are opposed to dictatorhsip.

But the problem with learning from history is that it doesn't exactly repeat itself; Nicaragua in the 80s isn't Russia in the 1920s, etc.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 03:25:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"didn't remotely resemble Marx's concept of communism."

The concept is a theory. Its application has so far proved less convincing than the practice of democracy, q.e.d. - This doesn't say that there isn't any evil in democracy but it's still the one that is better adapted to our human nature. Democracy needs boundaries (legal, social) to function properly.

If humans were only good and self-less, communism could work but that's not how we are which is why communism implies repression at all levels, and repression is a vast term.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 05:05:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, but you're just repeating the standard centre-right ideological line. I suggest you consider the evidence offered above about all the attempts at socialism/communism destroyed by the UK, US, etc. Also we're talking about a very short period of history - how long did it take to get democracy more or less functioning?

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 03:20:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, Ted. Communism CAN function when all participants act selflessly, when they WANT to share everything and don't value personal possession or the freedom to make ones own choice and to go ones own way...

This is put in practise with some success among the Amish, and some other Christian groups. Kibbutzim also operate with some success.

All other examples you may cite, involving entire nations whose citizens did not decide out of free will to want to adhere to this societal order either failed or have very big problems.

So, do you simply dream of this perfect world with wonderful human beings where communism as described in theory would be a reality? How would you want to put it in practise? The starting point would have to be that everyone would have to WANT it first.

:) What if the Londoner wasn't allowed to decide on living in Nice anymore? ...

 

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 04:33:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All other examples you may cite, involving entire nations whose citizens did not decide out of free will to want to adhere to this societal order either failed or have very big problems.

But in many of the cases Ted cited, the citizens actually did choose that way of government, at least inasmuch as democratic elections and constitutionally permissible laws can be called an expression of the will of the citizens. In all those cases, the regime was put in big trouble by outside forces who decided that they didn't like the domestic policies they practised - usually because they involved forcing transnationals to actually, horror of horrors, pay taxes and because they involved confiscating property of the feudal nobility and various colonial charter companies. Actions not entirely without precedent in democratic countries in Northern Europe.

As an aside, I would claim that many, if not most, of the countries Ted cites were not actually communist at all - rather a lot of the deposed regimes in Latin America were developmentalists, which is basically social democracy for third-world countries. The labelling of developmentalist governments as communists was part of the propaganda justifying the various and sundry "interventions," and does not necessarily reflect the facts on the ground.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 04:53:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
History is filled with stories about communist regimes come to power pretendedly democratically. Compared to how usually things happened, the Hitler's advent, or the little tricks little Bush used, are mere children toys.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:36:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean a few examples in the 20c. of course - and what Hitler did was hardly a child's toy in comparison. I thought you were trying to get away from ideology instead you come out with these silly slogans.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:50:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Compared to invading a country, pretending to liberate it, pushing an obscure communist party to leadership by the force, deporting all those opposed, then destroying all those owning anything at all (literally), and all the time touting democracy and the free will of the people? Like I said before, you've really no idea how it happened, and think that since your ideology must be right, anyone else's argument must come from an opposing ideology. Appalling.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 08:57:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rubbish - again. The basic fact is that Stalin took power and turned the system into a ruthless dictatorhsip (as Hitler did in the previously democratic Germany), the opposite of any version of communism. So please stop repeating the same blatant, ideological distortions of history.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 04:28:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As already said below, I admire your taste for sound argumenting. The nature of your arguments is a bit like any ideologist beginning to feel cornered. The one I quoted was a much more common way to assume power than the one you do, and it was used all through the 20th century until the fall of the Wall. But then you probably see that too as a moment of halt in the progress of mankind.
And comparing all that to the way Hitler assumed power, by influencing elections and mounting a coup against leftists, is completely off line. Blind to reality, ideologists always have been. The more extreme, the more fanatic, the blinder.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:40:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you just make general assertions - of a right-wing ideological kind, you can expect general dismissals. If you compare our comments, I give supporting evidence with citations much more often than you do.

Cite your cases - and let's compare them with all the right-wing coups organised by the US and direct interventions by the US this century.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:57:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe I will, in a new diary on US and Soviet interventions. The whole point is that the west was the good side in the cold war, and that moral position cannot be relativised, even if  no one ignores the  geopolitical interests.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:05:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ValentinD:
The whole point is that the west was the good side in the cold war, and that moral position cannot be relativised

A moral position can not be argued without an ideological compass of what is right and wrong.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 11:34:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A sense of right and wrong is built in to humans and not dependent on some ideology but on your relation to the others. It's a matter of humanism.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 12:58:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So basically you trust your gut.

I agree that that's not ideological at all. I don't find it particularly admirable, though.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:15:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well if helping someone sick on the street is following your gut, I agree with you. A bit less so on not finding it admirable, though. But then that's your right. Better focus on those poor French unions.

The bottom line is that for you, life is either ideological, or is not at all, and truth, like good, like justice, are defined according to the ideological compass.

That being said, it's the end of our discussion because I can't debate with a fundamentalist notions that I deem as not relative to any faith.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:26:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't do charity, I do politics.

Helping a sick man on the street can be a commendable act of principle, if it is founded in some sort of moral obligation to help the less well-off. But if it's simply a matter of gratifying a sense of moral superiority by helping those who are made disadvantaged by a system that you otherwise support, then no, on balance I don't see that as a particularly moral act.

Give a man a fish, and he'll have food for a day. Teach a man to demand justice, and he'll have food for the rest of his life.

We've covered the nature and merits of ideology elsewhere in this thread. And if you feel that acting on a set of gut feelings and superficial impressions that have no connection to each other, no coherence and no requirement of consistency is admirable and something that all of humanity should strive for, well, that's your prerogative.

For myself... not so much.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 02:34:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Freedom of press, or of speech, is it wrong or right? Is it a matter of the leftwing, of the rightwing, neoliberalism, centre ?


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:29:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A free press can - for suitable definitions of "free" and "press" - be justified from both left wing and right wing principles, and can - for other definitions of "free" and "press" - be opposed from both left wing and right wing principles.

And some of the principles used to justify free press can be incorporated both in ideologies that are right wing and ideologies that are left wing.

Very few principles are inherently right-wing or left-wing. Most often, the political alignment we assign to a principle has more to do with the context and justification for the principle than with what it says in and of itself.

Another way of putting that is that most principles don't say all that much in and of themselves, unless one knows the context in which they are applied. Which is why some of us keep harping on the fact that you seem to want to divorce principles, actions and politics from their context and history. Because when one tries to do that, one most often ends up with either a load of fluffy generalities or a baggage of implied context that one refuses to examine because one assumes to be liberated from the need to examine context.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 03:47:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Citing from marxists.com and communist papers? How would you feel if I cited Mein Kampf? There must be something logical in there.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:06:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The one I quoted was a much more common way to assume power than the one you do

Which is - aside from the dubious truth value of that statement - entirely irrelevant. That a malicious variant of capitalism instigated a dozen or so coups in Latin America that brought vicious capitalist dictators to power in no way invalidates social democratic capitalism as practised in Scandinavia.

Similarly, that a malicious variant of communism instigated a dozen or so coups in Eastern Europe that brought various vicious communist dictators to power in no way invalidates social democratic communism as practised in Allende's Chile (leaving aside the fact that I dispute that Allende was doing communism...).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 02:41:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But in by far the majority of the examples that Ted actually cited, things didn't happen that way.

That the communists in Czechoslovakia came to power in a coup is hardly relevant to how "communists" (actually developmentalists, but I digress) came to power in Chile.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:53:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Amish or others alike can be assimilated to communism up to a point. Christianism can too. And if it would be only about people sharing stuff, it would still be a good subject of debate. The problem IMO is that there is much more to communism than the selfless sharing. There is the materialism, the dialectic aspect, the interpretation of history from a very particular point of view. Sharing is the least problematic part of it.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:34:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes Marx's approach to history was based on materialism (this has nothing to do with wanting to own things); that is he thought history was shaped by people's material circumstances, the level of technology, but also relations of production, and not just by ideas or a few heroes. That approach in general has been adopted by many historians who are not communists. It doesn't rule out the "spiritual", Marx was a cultured person interested in the arts.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:44:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nothing to do with wanting to own things? Far Worse than that: looking at life from a mainly (if not exclusively) materialistic point of view. Much like  everything today is, for some, a matter of capital flowing freely, a matter of freemarkets, or of free competition. The same blindness to the humanist side of mankind. Wagner I think had quite a lot of well placed fans in the ranks of the 3rd Reich too. And the silence of the lambs hero was a highly intelligent, sensitive to art person.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:16:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tripe. There was no "blindness" to the "humanist" side in  Marx's conception of communism:


In our days, everything seems pregnant with its contrary: Machinery, gifted with the wonderful power of shortening and fructifying human labour, we behold starving and overworking it; The newfangled sources of wealth, by some strange weird spell, are turned into sources of want; The victories of art seem bought by the loss of character.

At the same pace that mankind masters nature, man seems to become enslaved to other men or to his own infamy. Even the pure light of science seems unable to shine but on the dark background of ignorance. All our invention and progress seem to result in endowing material forces with intellectual life, and in stultifying human life into a material force.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1856/04/14.htm#art

Cf. Cuba - see comment above, and in the short-lived Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, brutally sabotaged by the US, a philosopher and priest was put in charge of education - and literacy increased dramatically, and a poet, Ernesto Cardenal, was put in charge of the arts:


Ernesto Cardenal is a major poet of the Spanish language well-known in the United States as a spokesman for justice and self-determination in Latin America. Cardenal, who recognizes that poetry and art are closely tied to politics, used his poetry to protest the encroachments of outsiders in Nicaragua and supported the revolution that overthrew Somoza in 1979. Once the cultural minister of his homeland, Cardenal spends much of his time as "a kind of international ambassador," notes Richard Elman in the Nation.

Victor M. Valle, writing in the Los Angeles Times Calendar, cites Cardenal's statement, "There has been a great cultural rebirth in Nicaragua since the triumph of the revolution. A saving of all of our culture, that which represents our national identity, especially our folklore." Literacy and poetry workshops established throughout the "nation of poets," as it has been known since the early twentieth century, are well-attended by people whose concerns had been previously unheard. Most workshops are led by government-paid instructors in cultural centers, while others convene in police stations, army barracks, and workplaces such as sugar mills, Valle reports. In these sessions, Romantic and Modern poetry is considered below standard; Cardenal also denigrates socialist realism, which he says "comes from the Stalinist times that required that art be purely political propaganda."

http://www.umc.sunysb.edu/surgery/cardenal3.html

 

This threat of a good example had to be destroyed - and was.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:04:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nuancing won't help in this case. That vision was based on a materialist and dialectical take on the evolution of mankind. That is reductionist to begin with, and leads straight to the "proletarian revolution", the destruction of "oppressor classes" and other such pearls of wisdom - the democracy embodied by the unique party, the society dictating what the individual must think, say and do, the moral and physical termination of any dissenter, and so on - what we call a dictatorship.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:32:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As usual you don't cite a bit of evidence, it's just assertion of the most caricaturing kind - blatant ideology. Provided with evidence you simply ignore it. I don't provide it to convince you - a closed mind if ever I saw one, but for others who might possibly find your blathering in any way persuasive.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:02:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't need to cite anything, look at how it happened in practice. But I forgot, you claim that was not "genuine" practice. Oh well. Nothing was. The thing remains an utopia, and people will continue to be cheated by ideologists. Hence the instinctive disgust for a pragmatic, rational approach, not unlike creationists' when you bring them to carbon-dated samples.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:08:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I don't need to cite anything, look at how it happened in practice".

The typical response of the ideologist - ignore the evidence, ignore the arguments - a dictatorship is not a version of communism - and pretend that "practice" is your opinion about what happened.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 11:18:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even philosophically I don't need to cite anything. Marxism is BASED on that view that I mentioned. Your job to look up The Capital and all the other books, or any encyclopedy you like if you're that unknowledgeable in things marxist.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:10:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Even philosophically I don't need to cite anything. Marxism is BASED on that view that I mentioned."

No, of course you don't have to cite anything - you just think to know and we are supposed to accept your opinion which is, like the truly ideological, impervious to the evidence and doesn't bother to offer any.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 11:23:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it's just that I don't really see what you want me to provide links or quotations for.

You want me to prove that dialectical materialism, or historical materialism was materialist and, well, dialectical ? :)  

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:21:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You claimed:


Only at the end of it all, after the Armaghedon, came the selfless sharing community.

I provided evidence showing this was not true, Marx allowed for the possibility of peaceful change. You don't dispute the evidence - you simply decide to ignore it and just proceed with the usual ideological nonsense. It's about time you tried to deal with arguments in a serious way.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:07:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll take a slippery slope, with an unsupported conjecture on the side, please.

You know, you've almost earned all of these in a single thread... Those aren't precisely merit badges, ya'know. No need to pursue them so relentlessly.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 02:17:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you ignore the fundamental point that the materialism, abstract (and thus far worse) as it was, it was also dialectical. Hugely important. Only at the end of it all, after the Armaghedon, came the selfless sharing community.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 07:19:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you travesty it - your usual, highly ideological technique. Marx and Engels, were serious thinkers and their ideas developed over time; they weren't fossilized in simplistic slogans:


At the same time Marx treated the situation concretely - he allowed for the possibility of a peaceful revolution as well as the likelihood of violent uprising. In July 1871, a few months after the crushing of the Commune, Marx gave an interview to a certain R Lander, the London correspondent of the US-based journal The World.

Marx explained to him that the methods employed by the various national sections of the International should "include every form of working class activity". "In each part of the world," Marx continued, "some special aspect of the problem presents itself, and the workingmen there address themselves to its consideration in their own way ... In England, for instance, the way to show [manifest - JC] political power lies open to the working class. Insurrection would be madness where peaceful agitation would more swiftly and surely do the work. In France a hundred laws of repression and a mortal antagonism between classes seem to necessitate the violent solution of social war" (K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 22, Moscow 1986, p602).

The last question posed to Marx by the gallant reporter concerned Britain (or "England", as the bad habit of the day would have it). Lander put it to Marx that Britain had a free press and a system which allowed minorities to become majorities and thus avoided any violence. Marx refused to be prescriptive. He conceded that the bourgeoisie in Britain "has always shown itself willing enough to accept the verdict of the majority so long as it enjoyed the monopoly of political power" But he warned: "As soon as it finds itself outvoted on what it considers vital questions we shall see here a new slave-owners' war" (ibid p606).

Put another way, in respect of Britain, Marx advocated peaceful revolution and urged the working class to be vigilant against a bourgeois counterrevolution. Whether or not there was violence depended entirely on the ruling class. Marx and Engels came out with similar arguments to the ends of their lives.

http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/448/peaceful.html



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 06:40:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My ideological technique ? :)
You'll need something better, the technique of painting me as having a hidden rightwing agenda has already been done, in much more stronger ways than that. It shows a mind inclined to sound argumenting.

I'm not interested in revolutionaries, be them of the far left, or far right, nor in their papers, nor in their nuances, feelings, intellect, taste for art or whatever. Class warfare, the world in black and white, the fist raised to the sky and the fiery look towards invisible ideals, how was that expression, mene, mene, tekel, peres.
Outing such ideas no better than justifying the "ideology" leading to fascist rule and nazi camps.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 08:21:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you're clearly not interested in actual revolutionaries, nor in facts in general - just excuses to spout rubbish like "justifying the "ideology" leading to fascist rule and nazi camps." Do you feel better now - why not vent quietly in the corner?
 

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:11:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right, your kind of citations, the way you avoid the social conflict viewpoint inherent to marxism, the way you justify ideologies by claiming what was done was not marxism, the way you refute first hand experience from your London or Nice cosy retreat, this is all so out of line and outrageous that doesn't deserve answer.
When I mention nazism I mean to say jews feel exactly the same when far right question racism or camps.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 10:16:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]

"You're right, your kind of citations, the way you avoid the social conflict viewpoint inherent to marxism, the way you justify ideologies by claiming what was done was not marxism, the way you refute first hand experience from your London or Nice cosy retreat, this is all so out of line and outrageous that doesn't deserve answer."

First you just can't read, far from "avoiding scoial conflict" I cited Marx as saying:


 "In France a hundred laws of repression and a mortal antagonism between classes seem to necessitate the violent solution of social war" (K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 22, Moscow 1986, p602).
...
Marx refused to be prescriptive. He conceded that the bourgeoisie in Britain "has always shown itself willing enough to accept the verdict of the majority so long as it enjoyed the monopoly of political power" But he warned: "As soon as it finds itself outvoted on what it considers vital questions we shall see here a new slave-owners' war" (ibid p606).

Secondly you don't present any arguments to justify calling oppressive dictatorships communist, other than that the dictator kept using the word. Right-wing people use the same stupid argument to claim that Hitler was a socialist. By the same argument one might, if one had as little regard for rational argument as you, claim that the Khmer Rouge were an example of the evils if democracy, given what they called themselves:


Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, and in 1976 Khmer Rouge established a new constitution with the new flag under offical name, Democratic Kampuchea
... As one of the most violent regimes of the 20th century, the Khmer Rouge regime was responsible for the deaths of approximately 1.7 million people by execution, starvation and forced labor.

http://www.cambodia.org/khmer_rouge/

Yes, I know, they were really communists, but of a kind so unlike anything Marx advocated that Marx would have been amongst the first to be killed:


 Anyone believed to be an intellectual, such as someone who spoke a foreign language, was immediately killed.

They and Stalin were as communist as Hitler was socialist, or the Contras of Nicaragua were the freedom-loving democrats of Reagan's lies. Now do try to come up with something resembling a serious argument.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 11:50:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I replied to that already. I told you that far from being disconnected from reality, ideology was permeating anything. Political indoctrination was done everywhere, from school, to work, to unions, to the communist party meetings and to the movies and shows. Political indoctrination and state policies were based not on the Stalin example, but explicitly on Marx, Engels and Lenin's work. The statute of the thick red cover books was equivalent to the one holy books enjoy  in churches.
And I told you all this was so from direct first hand personal experience. You only satisfy with quotations. Well maybe I'll make a diary on that too, showing how the communist dictatorships were direct consequence of the ideology and on the place marxist/communist ideology held in those countries.
If you weren't only busy with vicious capitalists and (I presume) imperialists, you would have know that already, since for 3 decades lots of literature has been published.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:18:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"and state policies were based not on the Stalin example, but explicitly on Marx, Engels and Lenin's work."

Oh really - just as an example, do remind me of where in Marx and Engels they advocate a huge and repressive police force - in a communist society. This is pretty fundamental - so your first-hand experience was of a regime which was no more communist than Kampuchea was democratic under the Khmer Rouge.

Also yet again you use the phrase "communist dictatorship" - if YOU had really read and remembered anything from Marx you'd know that he would see this as a contradiction in terms - as already pointed out. Just try to take on board that simple fact and stop repeating yourself.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 03:01:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...and intellectuals were always considered carefully because they had an annoying capacity of playing with sophisms, deconstructing ideology, using logic when doctrine would have sufficed, finding ways to pass subversive messages, writing books with multiple meanings. It wasn't but sheer savagery. Intellectuals were actually quite dangerous.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 01:53:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite obviously this wasn't what Marx, a classic example of an intellectual, and he had been the victim of repression, was advocating for a communist society. He was trying to put an end to such societies - and you claim to be familiar with Marx's work !

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 03:04:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem with Marx, as I could not conceive you aren't aware, is that by putting society and history in terms of fundamental antagonisms slave-owner, worker-capitalist, seeing the world as manicheist and materialist in essence, he implicitely justified class war, revolution of whoever considered themselves oppressed masses, justified the necessity to overturn order violently, to literally terminate the opposite "class".
There was no more talk about humanism, culture, competence, or even justice. The only justice was class justice, the only truth was ideological truth, the culture was knowledge of the doctrine.
Granted, socialism and the Left in general consisted of many currents and tendencies, but marxism/communism in its accepted meaning has little to do with humanism or classical liberalim and is by definition revolutionary, anti-democratical, and eventually discriminatory, sectarian and thus fundamentally not for but against the people.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 02:03:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your blinkred dogmatism is incredible - you say:

"justified the necessity to overturn order violently , to literally terminate the opposite "class".

when I have now TWICE quoted Marx as saying that there is no necessity about violent revolution, it depends on the context and that in Britain peaceful change was a possibility. But history showed that it was the ruling class who usually used violence to defend their privileges.

Read before ranting.

"but marxism/communism in its accepted meaning has little to do with humanism or classical liberalim "

Which meaning is that - accepted by whom ? Those who write similar uninformed rants ?

Not that it will penetrate your dogmatism, but some evidence of what Marx actually said on the subject:


Rather than thinking of a being with simple needs and simple productive powers, Marx looked to the `development of the rich individuality which is as all-sided in its production as in its consumption' (Marx, 1973: 325).

This is what Marx's conception of communism was all about - the creation of a society which removes all obstacles to the full development of human beings. He looked ahead to that society of associated producers, where each individual is able to develop his full potential--- i.e., the `absolute working- out of his creative potentialities,' the `complete working out of the human content,' the `development of all human powers as such the end in itself' (Marx, 1973: 488, 541, 708). In communist society, the productive forces would have `increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly' (Marx, 1875: 24). The result, in short, would be the production of rich human beings. `What is the aim of the Communists,' Frederick Engels asked in a draft for the Communist
Manifesto? He answered, `To organise society in such a way that every member of it can develop and use all his capabilities and powers in complete freedom and without thereby infringing the basic conditions of this society.' In the final draft of the Manifesto, Marx presented this goal as necessarily indivisible - as an `association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.'

http://www.ruc.dk/upload/application/pdf/f51d6748/research_report%203_2004%20Lebowitz.pdf



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 03:51:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But history showed that it was the ruling class who usually used violence to defend their privileges.

What should be done with the ruling class who want to keep their privileges and money, defending them violently -

  • according to Marx?
  • in your view?
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 04:02:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Help!

I feel "marginalized"!!

How can I convert to the right wing of this screen??

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 04:07:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, now my message popped up further to the right. Is there a way to do this deliberately?
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 04:10:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
AFAIK no, it happens automatically once certain conditions are met. However, one can enhance readability of long threads by choosing one of the alternate view modes for the comment thread (the drop-down menu at the bottom of the diary - try, e.g., "dynamic threaded").

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 04:31:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. Try reading Marx - Google makes it easier.

  2. If you do 1, 2 is irrelevant.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 04:09:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't quite gotten around to reading Marx yet, but my own view is that it depends on the nature and scale of repression they employ.

In many cases it will be possible to dispose of them through perfectly democratic elections resulting in a government that enforces confiscatory taxation of excessive wealth.

In other cases, where democracy has been sufficiently undermined that the ballot box cannot be trusted - the USA springs immediately to mind - a series of general strikes can serve to force the powers that be to hold honest elections.

Where a general strike has been made impossible by violent repression - think Pinochet's Chile or South Africa during Apartheid - one can agitate for various kinds and degrees of international pressure to be applied by countries in which the above methods still work.

When a country proves unresponsive to international pressure - or when there is no such international pressure to be found - one can take direct action in reasonable proportion to the kind and degree of repression faced, from civil disobedience through sabotage, through armed resistance to arrest to actual violent uprising in the most extreme cases.

To give a practical example, the liberation movement in British India employed many of the above tactics. There were strikes, and smuggling activity, to deprive the colonial overlords of revenues. Attempts were made to gather support from the international community. There was civil disobedience. There were attacks on British military targets by militant liberation groups.

All of these activities contributed - with different degrees of impact - to the liberation of India from British colonial rule. And given the nature of the repression faced and the weak support from the international community, I certainly don't fault the insurrectionists who attacked legitimate military targets.

Attacking civilians is, in my view, out of bounds, although there are borderline cases, such as paramilitary groups (think Israeli settlers on the West Bank, armed gangs of skinheads in Croatia during the dissolution of Yugoslavia, etc.) where it is unclear whether they are civilian or military targets.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 04:27:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to dispose of them

lol

Actually, I think that all these measures help to control or reduce the power of the money or military "elite". Communism requires that the elite become integral part of society, without their privileges.

I wouldn't want to miss my freedoms to the extent as is required in a communist society (I think of positive examples like Christians choosing communitarian life; I know examples, not only Amish people). This doesn't mean that I'm egotistical and selfish to the bone. It only means that I like to choose when I want to be selfish and when I want to be generous (which appears selfish, too, I guess). I approve of social democracy where there is a balance of sacrifice for and benefit from the common good and we still have freedom to pursue our own happiness.

I don't count myself to above elites but do not buy into Marx's writings, have read some of them. His ideals are simply not fit for human nature, as is. Sorry, the right wing has nailed this and uses this fact for their own ends. I don't condemn all his ideas but we are selfish, the world is run by money and corruption, ... and no matter how peaceful Marx's ideas were, we - are - not.

"We", that's not all of us, but if there are 97 % selfless, citizens, there would still be a rest of 3 % rebellious, selfish, greedy, violent people left who could spoil the whole enterprise. But, I doubt that there would ever be only 3 %.

   

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:10:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, I think that all these measures help to control or reduce the power of the money or military "elite". Communism requires that the elite become integral part of society, without their privileges.

True. But then again, I'm not a communist :-P

OTOH, in a reasonably democratic society, depriving "the elite" of its disproportionate wealth would also deprive it of most of its privilege - certainly of most of its ability to distort the political process - and force it to live as an integral part of society. That's why I'm in favour of banning billionaires.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 05:24:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have read your quotations.
I just said that his theories implied that.
Saying that some ruling class might agree to leave power peacefully means strictly nothing. It might, but maybe we judge that they won't. It is not such peripherical phrase, but the antagonism (dialectic) and the materialism along with the whole idea of taking over power that led to the bloodbaths.
I could find much more precise criticisms of marxism, it just isn't the place here  - as I kept saying.

Also the link you provide, from Lebowitz, is more about exploring Marx's unfinished work, from a sentiment that the Capital was excessively deterministic, reductionist and lacking a humanist touch. This kind of research work will not replace the fact that the fundamentals of marxism are just that.
Also you may post a thousand links like that, actually saying nothing, I won't bother analyzing them more.
This is not a discussion about marxism and its application. I gave the general ideas, justified them with the ideology (which you could accept or not, comment, but not demand quotations as if we cannot use our own mind and say that seeing the society in a dialectical and historical materialism is blatantly reductionist, and led to revolutions and dictatorships.

If you really want more hairsplitting, do start a diary. My original remark was about the press freedom in communist dictatorship (term generally accepted today) and you dragging it astray is pointless.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:07:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not such peripherical phrase, but the antagonism (dialectic) and the materialism along with the whole idea of taking over power that led to the bloodbaths.

It is said that a good description of chutzpah is to murder your parents and then plead for clemency on account of being an orphan.

I wonder whether we have found an even better one: To lambast a political theorist for being excessively deterministic, on account of historical determinism deterministically leading to genocide.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 03:29:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When it fits the reality...

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 01:42:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More historical revisionism, Val...

Do look up the history of the left wing of the Perónists. When you can place them in the correct country (and perhaps the correct decades), we can argue the merits of calling them communists, the merits of calling them totalitarian oppressors, and then the implications of the conclusions from the above points to your claim that Marxism leads inevitably and deterministically to repression and totalitarianism.

And then we can continue on to the Sandinistas, the Argentine social democrats, the Paris Commune, the left wing of the PLO, Nasserite pan-Arabism and so on and so forth.

Now, if it turns out that even one of these groups can rightly be called communists but cannot be said to be violent oppressors, your claim of deterministic causality between Marxism and totalitarian repression goes the way of the dodos, and you'll have to backpedal to a much looser Bayesian claim.

Should it turn out, then, that not even the majority of these groups imposed totalitarian dictatorships (or attempted to do so), your position will become decidedly precarious.

But you'll have to do a little reading first, I think, because I'm willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that you don't know half those groups even by reputation. And I'm done doing your homework for you.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 03:59:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Those who were unable to make their revolution and extermination of the enemy class, were just out of luck, I guess.

Those who were in a position to, and did not, were not real marxists :)
I know all of those groups, I'm just not in the mood / not the time to discuss such a huge topic here and now - for instance, the Sandinistas can hardly be called marxist or communist, they looked like that, but their actual ideology never followed, and their policies when in power were hardly looking up to the Communist Society.

If you look a bit around, you'll see those who say those dictatorships were not true communists, are the latest surviving communist faithful.
Fortunately in France we're almost done with both extremes, and I can't tell you how much more quiet and peaceful everything is :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:14:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Those who were unable to make their revolution and extermination of the enemy class, were just out of luck, I guess.

Interesting. So, in your mind, had the 1956 Hungarian Revolution prevailed in Hungary or the Prague Spring in the Czech Republic; Imre Nagy, the Workers' Councils or Dubček would have progressed to exterminating the enemy class?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:25:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not at all. We all admired and supported them - albeit from a distance. Do you really think those were communists ? :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:39:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL. You really have no clue...

Neither the 1956 Revolution, nor the Prague Spring was an ideologically homogenous movement. However, Nagy, a large part of the Workers' Councils (which in fact survived the Revolution, were at first recognised by the new regime, and were dismantled only over the next two months) and Dubček were all card-carrying communists.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:46:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact, Nagy being a communist was a significant reason the US help turned out more modest (an irresponsible exile advised at a senate hearing that Nagy is not to be trusted).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:49:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sigh. I knew all this. The bottom line is tht those were not marxist movements. Gorbatchev was a card-carrying communist too, even the best of them, right. And look where he brought them :)

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:50:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The bottom line is tht those were not marxist movements.

"Those"? You are trying to change the subject for a second time. I asked you about Nagy, the 1956 Workers Councils, and Dubček.

Gorbatchev was a card-carrying communist too, even the best of them, right. And look where he brought them :)

Not into the extermination of the enemy class. QED.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:56:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I spoke about those movements, that were not communist.

I said that a man with a card doesn't make him communist. You don't agree that the USSR was a communist dictatorship ?

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:59:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"So, do you simply dream of this perfect world with wonderful human beings where communism as described in theory would be a reality?"

Where is this caricature described in marx's theory ? You didn't get it from reading Marx, but from the usual caricatures in the media.

First, about the only thing we can say about human nature is that is is very flexible and adaptable, hence the great diversity of human cultures through history. We are capable of great selfishness and brutality and also self-sacrifice. Different cultures emphasise different aspects of our many possibilities.

Marx did not give any simple recipes for future communist societies, they would be developed by the people themselves in their particular circumstances (rather like Chomsky's reluctance to give advice about what people should do). But such societies would involve the removal of class differences, which doesn't involve us all being the same, having no personal possessions and all the other features of right-wing caricature.

But a communist society would not encourage selfish consumerism, but rather the development of what ML King termed "the content of their character". A recent documentary on Cuba did not yet again talk about lack of political freedom, instead it showed that culture's support for the arts, e.g. ballet, and, in that still macho culture, there were a large number of boys in the ballet schools.

Cf.:


The U.S. government would like you to believe that all U.S. citizens support the campaign against Cuba, but in fact lots of U.S. people think the country's anti-Cuba policy is for the birds. Treuhaft is one of them.

He is one of the organizers of a project with the catchy title Send A Piana To Havana. "We tuners collect used pianos for Cuba, visit the island en masse to fix them, and help run our Newton Hunt Workshop/School of Tuning and Instrument Repair at the National School of Music in Havana."

To show how absurd the U.S. policy is, while the Treasury is hounding Treuhaft for "trading with the enemy" in 1994, the following year he received permission from the U.S. Commerce Department to ship to Cuba the hundreds of pianos donated by U.S. citizens to Send A Piana To Havana!

So far, the U.S. tuners have delivered 210 pianos to "the 90 conservatories that dot that musical island." And they have another 30 "waiting to go."

But the U.S. government is well aware of the threat posed to American values and the democratic way of life by tuned pianos just over the water in Cuba. So this year OFAC refused to renew the U.S. piano tuners' license to travel to Cuba to tune the pianos Americans donated.

"This makes no sense so I'm going anyway," said Treuhaft in a letter to the Cuba Desk of the U.S. State Department earlier this month. And he went.

No doubt there will be further repercussions and efforts to stop Benjamin Treuhaft and his colleagues from continuing their simple humanitarian work. But every time U.S. government officials try to stymie such actions and to silence the "perpetrators," they create more rebels against U.S. policy in the U.S. itself.

This article is reprinted from The Guardian, the newspaper of the Australian Communist Party.

http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/us_cuba_policy_out_of_tune_opinion/

Communism is about people's potential and forms of social organisation which will develop that - not people's potential to make a few individuals very wealthy. People won't be perfect, but they won't be ruthlessly exploited and will be encouraged to understand that the development of each person requires the development of the whole society towards more humane ends (see the bit about medicine in Cuba in an earlier comment).

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:38:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Did Stalin failed because he was not selfless? Where did his selfish success actually lie? What is selfishness, anyway? Is capitalism is the best system for selfishness, Gorbachov and Yeltsin were sincere geniuses to end the Soviet circus.

At some times, we can fit reality into many ideological frames. But beyond some point, ideology becomes like a masturbation (in mild cases). Stalin was probably aware of how far were Marx-Lenin's ideals and the real world. Trying too hard to realize a "perfection" in practice is certainly dangerous. Working ideology should be respectful of existing background, and give people time to adjust. This smells like conservativism a bit. But modern conservativism allows this wild race economical transformations, while being very narrow-minded how the whole world should adjust.

There may be times when we need to guess the right view of the world, for mere survival or civilization continuation. Otherwise no one would have a vision nor determination. Collective thinking may not be in the human nature (even without so much rationalization of individualism), but if this is this is necessary for adaption, it is within our capabilities to adopt that collective way.  

by das monde on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 07:40:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
great points, das monde.

i'm starting to wonder if stalin hijacked marx in the same way bush hijacked jesus...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 09:46:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Critique of the Gotha Program is a document based on a letter by Karl Marx written in early May 1875 to the Eisenach faction of the German social democratic movement. Offering perhaps Marx's most detailed pronouncement on programmatic matters of revolutionary strategy, the document discusses the "dictatorship of the proletariat," the period of transition from capitalism to communism, proletarian internationalism, and the party of the working class.

"Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat." - Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/index.htm


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 01:38:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As you might have noticed, Marx leaves the definition of "Dictatorship of the proletariat" quite open in his critique of the Gotha program, though you might have noticed his dislike of the state.

Fortunately he was quite produtive and his writings has studied extensively.

Dictatorship of the proletariat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term "dictatorship" describes control by an entire class, rather than a single individual (dictator rei gerendae causa). According to Marx, the bourgeois state, being a system of class rule, amounts to a 'dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.' When workers take state power into their hands, they become the new ruling class and rule in their own interest, temporarily using the state machinery to prevent the bourgeoisie mounting a counterrevolution.

Although Marx did not plan out the details of how such a dictatorship would be implemented, he pointed to the Paris Commune as a model of transition to communism. He stated that:

The Commune was formed of the municipal councilors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally workers, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time.[1]

This social order with its emphasis on recallable delegates and maximal public participation in governance has many similarities to the modern conception of direct democracy.

Friedrich Engels, in his 1891 postscript to The Civil War in France, stated that "Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat." He criticized what he saw as corruption among politicians and stated that "the Commune made use of two infallible expedients. In this first place, it filled all posts - administrative, judicial, and educational - by election on the basis of universal suffrage of all concerned, with the right of the same electors to recall their delegate at any time. And in the second place, all officials, high or low, were paid only the wages received by other workers. The highest salary paid by the Commune to anyone was 6,000 francs. In this way an effective barrier to place-hunting and careerism was set up, even apart from the binding mandates to delegates to representative bodies which were also added in profusion." He also stated that the state is "at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy, whose worst sides the proletariat, just like the Commune, cannot avoid having to lop off at the earliest possible moment, until such time as a new generation, reared in new and free social conditions, will be able to throw the entire lumber of the state on the scrap-heap."[2] Marx's attention to the Paris Commune would make the commune take a central place in the thought of later Marxists.

Sounds a bit different to Lenins defintions.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 05:51:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems so. If you looked up my links though, Lenin was arguing against someone derivating from orthodowx marxism.

But speaking of your excerpt, I knew this, I just didn't want to get into that much detail, because seeing a situation as the enemy class' dictatorship is a part of the same manicheist and violent vision.
One can always argue violence can be justified when nothing else works, but the point was about the term communist dictatorship being a contradictio in termine.

We can discuss all this in detail, I only feared, as before, that this blog too will become about each and every social and political issue today or in the past.

Or is it me managing to systematically position myself opposite each and every "truth" established through previous ET debates.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 06:47:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lenin:
The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is rule won and maintained by the use of violence by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, rule that is unrestricted by any laws.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/prrk/common_liberal.htm#fw03

...it must be a democracy for the exploited, ‘and a means of suppressing the exploiters; and the suppression of a class means inequality for that class, its exclusion from “democracy”.
The indispensable characteristic, the necessary condition of dictatorship is the forcible suppression of the exploiters as a class, and, consequently, the infringement of “pure democracy”, i.e., of equality and freedom, in regard to that class.
The proletariat cannot achieve victory without breaking the resistance of the bourgeoisie, without forcibly suppressing its adversaries, and that, where there is “forcible suppression”, where there is no “freedom”, there is, of course, no democracy

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/prrk/equality.htm


Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Fri Dec 5th, 2008 at 01:40:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"So, do you simply dream of this perfect world with wonderful human beings where communism as described in theory would be a reality?"
Where is this caricature described in marx's theory ? You didn't get it from reading Marx, but from the usual caricatures in the media.

No.

I got this caricature from comparing Marx/you with what I have seen and experienced and heard/learnt from others in real life.  

First, about the only thing we can say about human nature is that is is very flexible and adaptable, hence the great diversity of human cultures through history. We are capable of great selfishness and brutality and also self-sacrifice.

In the "free world", democracy - you risk having poor people, a hopefully broad middle class, and few (very) wealthy people, i.e. huge inequality. But then, there would also be freedom of speech for everyone, and selfishness is framed by legal boundaries. Maybe we achieve only little but life is full of possibilities.

Of course we're flexible and adaptable but I would not want to adapt to what other people believe works best for them, and hence for me. I don't repeat any media mantra. I speak of myself.

Right-wingers also say that we are all selfish, and that "communists" are greedy people who want to have from rich people [read in the media]. Well, well, ... - I have read a bit about Cuba, and have found that your words about Cuba's education and health systems have merit. At the same time, the rich and many people of the middle class, artists and intellectuals in particular LEFT THE COUNTRY when it went communist. Those who benefited from the change stayed. ;) Further, Cuba depended on aid from the Soviet Union which led to a crisis after 1989. (no quotes; from a brochure on Latin America issued by the German Government).

Marx did not give any simple recipes for future communist societies, they would be developed by the people themselves in their particular circumstances

Communism is about people's potential and forms of social organisation which will develop that - not people's potential to make a few individuals very wealthy. People won't be perfect, but they won't be ruthlessly exploited and will be encouraged to understand that the development of each person requires the development of the whole society towards more humane ends (see the bit about medicine in Cuba in an earlier comment).

All this can only work when all involved can agree on a (this) common belief system. I for one have a genuine distrust in human constructs. Let's assume that a majority will democratically decide on communism as the new state form. This would not simply mean that I would then be part of the "minority" because there would be no minority anymore but all would have to "forcefully" (that's reality; it doesn't necessarily imply physical force) surrender to this system, where I would LOSE my anti-communistic voice. I would have to be oppressed.

This is profoundly different from the communist who complains about social injustice in a democratic system. He can still make his voice heard, give his wealth to the poor. The greedy rich ones will stay wealthy, and there will still be poor people.
Communism implies that wealth will be (more) equally distributed (ideally). The rich person will have to give his money to the less fortunate.

Individuals who prefer democracy to communism also understand that it is unhealthy when there is a huge discrepancy between rich and poor. From the rich person's perspective, there will be instability.

It seems that today's pragmatism takes this also into account: In above-mentioned brochure, it was also stated that both Bolivia and Chile today rather looked like social democracies, and Obama's change also includes improving social safety (health care, education, ...).

These are natural developments that take into account both our selfish human nature and this:

the development of each person requires the development of the whole society towards more humane ends

Marxist theories will be (and are already) put in practise, neither in its idealistic perfection nor in its destructive form.
Diversity (cultural, religious, personal, through free choice at many different levels) will be preserved; there will still be incentives to grow and excel (the positive side of our selfish nature), etc.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Thu Dec 4th, 2008 at 02:17:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Article by Olivia Judson in the New York Times, called "Back to reality" and constituting a good example of what ideology can do to things.


The most notable characteristic of the Bush administration's science policy has been the repeated distortion and suppression of scientific evidence in order to fit ideological preferences about how the world should be, rather than how it is.

In his disturbing book "Undermining Science: Suppression and Distortion in the Bush Administration," the journalist Seth Shulman describes case after case of intimidation of scientists in government posts, the suppression of scientific evidence and the perpetuation of misinformation.


Science itself is something else, something both more profound and less tangible. It is an attitude, a stance towards measuring, evaluating and describing the world that is based on skepticism, investigation and evidence. The hallmark is curiosity; the aim, to see the world as it is. This is not an attitude restricted to scientists, but it is, I think, more common among them. And it is not something taught so much as acquired during a training in research or by keeping company with scientists.

Now, I don't want to idealize this. To claim that scientists are free of bias, ambition or desires would be ridiculous. Everyone has pet ideas that they hope are right; and scientists are not famous for humility.

For example, scientists in the pay of drug companies are more likely than independent scientists to find that a given drug has a beneficial effect, and less likely to discover that it is harmful.


However, the beauty of the scientific approach is that even when individuals do succumb to bias or partiality, others can correct them using a framework of evidence that everyone broadly agrees on. (Admittedly, this can sometimes be a slow process.) But arguing over data is different from suppressing it. Or changing it. Or ignoring it. For these activities debase the whole enterprise and threaten its credibility. When data can't be accessed or trusted, when "facts" are actually illusions -- well, this threatens the nature of knowledge itself. And a society without knowledge is steering blind.

Link here.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot franša) on Wed Dec 3rd, 2008 at 06:24:36 PM EST


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