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Friday, October 31, 2008

Oh Glorious Day!!!

I woke up this morning with socialism in the air. Everywhere I turn someone is speaking or writing of socialism.

When I turn to the right, the wacko-right is speaking in a hysterical, ominous voice of Obama's socialism. "Spread the wealth", he says, and Fox news and the talk radio hosts hear "socialism".

Add it up: Obama actually had social intercourse with a self-avowed radical - one of those ultra-revolutionary rich kids who embraced armed struggle in the sixties, only to be re-admitted into polite circles with his redemption. Of course, political discourse with terrorists like Ollie North or the gusano Posada is never elevated to a serious media issue. Furthermore, Obama - in an off-the-cuff comment not vetted by his corporate consultants - actually spoke of spreading the wealth! He must be a socialist.

Actually, I welcome the right's new strategy of red-baiting (pink-baiting?). Common sense says that where there is no red-baiting, there is no fear of the left. Years ago, when a friend commented that since the demise of the Soviet Union red-baiting had subsided, I suggested that that only meant that there was no perception of a threat from the left. So maybe the new scare tactic signals a new born threat of the old specter - socialism. Maybe they're looking over their shoulder nervously!

And when I turn to the left, progressives and the soft left are finding socialism sprouting in every garden. David Sirota, who assures us that he would surely know socialism since he worked for Bernie Sanders, finds the germ of socialism in the aftermath of the elections ("The Potential Progressive Mandate"). Robert Borosage acclaims that "socialism is winning" ("A New Progressive Era"). And The Nation, in a euphoric editorial, finds the buds of socialism springing from the bailout program (see my "The Bailout Scam" below). Breathlessly, The Nation editorial declares: "And yet here we are in 2008, with the old Wall Street hand Hank Paulson, of all people, suddenly seeming to embrace the idea [of nationalization]".

Forgive me for being skeptical, but I don't think socialism will emerge from the efforts of Paul Volker, Robert Rubin, and Lawrence Summers (Obama's principal economic advisers) and surely not from the actions of Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson.

Nonetheless, socialism should be in the air. Not the moralisms that the demented-right shrilly attacks, not the false alarms of the hope intoxicated Obama-maniacs, but real socialism.

How do we know real socialism?

First, it will not be delivered as a gift by the ruling class. Epic conversions should be left to religious zealots and not the real world of political change. History speaks to the determination of capitalists to cling to their system to the death of the last worker.

Second, socialism will not come without class struggle. While class consciousness is rapidly emerging with the deepening of the world economic crisis, capitalism will not simply surrender in the face of public outrage. The defiant behavior of the financial elites who have drawn deeply from the public trough as a result of the bailout program demonstrates this dramatically (again, see "The Bailout Scam" below). One need only look at the polls to see the contempt that the capitalist class and its minions have for the opinions of the majority.

Third, class struggle needs to be organized. Advanced workers must come forward to constitute a critical mass of dedicated advocates - what Lenin calls a "vanguard" - to spread the idea of socialism and organize for its attainment. Historically, this has been the role of a Communist or Workers Party, but sadly many of these organizations have succumbed to opportunistic parliamentarianism or embraced bourgeois parties as instruments of change. Thus, the job of revitalizing these parties becomes vital. Even the tireless Presidential candidate, Ralph Nader - no advocate of socialism, but one of the greatest living reformers - understands this point profoundly. William Greider, writing in The Nation quotes him: "I see a lot of anger around the country, but I don't see it organized...Anger that's unorganized has no power."

Many on the left reject the idea of a vanguard party, believing falsely that class struggle will somehow organize spontaneously and find a way to socialism. But history shows this to be morally commendable, but practically unfeasible. From the early Christian martyrs to the peasant revolts in Europe, from the the long history of anti-colonial resistance to the selfless, but futile sacrifices of anarchism, victory is only achieved through organization and leadership. There is simply no way for the vast majority of working people to successfully battle a resourceful and powerful capitalist class without an organization of revolutionary change.

Fourth, socialism must spring from an understanding and a vision of how the world would get on without capitalism. In short, working people must be presented with a new ideology - an ideology free of the corrosive elements of capitalism and promising a better life.

That ideology must reflect the conditions necessary for the realization of socialism. Again, history shows that socialism cannot be attained until the decisive organs of power are in the hands of working people. From the Paris Commune to the Salvador Allende government, from reconstruction in the defeated US South to the attempted coup in Venezuela, this lesson has been brutally demonstrated. Radical change requires a fundamental redistribution or neutralizing of the coercive forces operating in society. Though distasteful to many, this truth separates the arm-chair socialist from socialist militants.

Marx has been criticized for failing to offer a socialist blueprint. But surely expecting one is most unrealistic. Socialism is not declared by fiat, but created democratically from the experiences, needs, and resources of working people at a particular time and place. To construct a blueprint would depart from the Marxist method. Ideology, like all social processes, evolves with new experiences and deeper understanding. Similarly, the shape of a new society will evolve in the cauldron of struggle.

Yet socialism is not merely people's power, but people's power guiding a material life without exploitation and, necessarily, without the engine of private profit. For Marx and other students of history's trajectory, common ownership of the sources of material life was both the truest, and most effective route to eliminating exploitation and the other miseries of the capitalist regime. By common ownership, Marx, and those who followed him, understood that the resources and means of creating wealth would be shared by all, developed and administered by all, with all enjoying fairly the benefits of their shared efforts. Such a regime of social justice is clearly impossible with capitalism.

Vague notions of "shared wealth" are not compatible with this vision. Tax policies may "reform" capitalism, welfare programs may "humanize" capitalism, and charitable activities may take the sharp edge from capitalism's injustices, but they will not replace capitalism nor will they reverse the inequalities that capitalism invariably produces.

By the same token, government stock ownership schemes in private companies, public-private partnerships, "injections" of public wealth, and other forms of government interventions that are meant to revive an ailing capitalism are not socialism. And public assumption of the waste products of capitalist excess - whether its called "nationalization" - is far, far away from socialism.

In the end, there can be no socialism ushered in enthusiastically by the capitalist ruling class - only by the conscious, organized efforts of a determined working class..

But I may wake up some morning with socialism really in the air.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Bailout Scam

I would be lying if I claimed to understand the full scope of the financial crisis afflicting world capitalism. Too much is deeply concealed by the exotic instruments, opaque hedge funds, private equity funds and other arcane aspects of the world of high finance. Rumors and speculation abound. Some say that $60-70 trillion dollars exist somewhere in the debt-credit universe with no solid mooring in the world of ordinary folks. What this sum means, how it was acquired, and what will become of it defies understanding by those of us who simply balance a checkbook.

My view for some time has been that the onset of crisis is a product of both a growing role for financial capital in the global economy and a speculative, parasitic direction pursued by this sector. Further, I see this direction as one encouraged by state-monopoly capitalism to bolster a sagging profit rate.

As the crisis intensified, policy makers in the US ruling class whistled in the dark, minimizing the depth of the crisis. First, they postured it as a crisis of sub-prime loans and declining housing values, then as a crisis of individual firms (Bear Sterns, Countrywide, etc.), later as a crisis of the financial sector, and finally as a full blown crisis of world capitalism.

With the recognition of its depth, these same policy makers used the panic in the stock market as a cover for a radical bailout of the monopoly financial firms. Fear, intimidation, and stealth defined an extraordinary week that led to a massive commitment of public funds to the privileged sector of the economy most responsible for the panic [].

Actually, "bailout" was the wrong word; while the financial corporations lost billions of dollars of paper assets, they were actively encouraged to access tens of billions of dollars in credit from the Federal Reserve. Nonetheless, the bailout was sold as an attempt to break a credit log jam. But the constipation of credit was not due to a lack of funds, but to an understandable reluctance to take risk given the unfolding collapse of the world economy. How extending relief to credit lenders could shake this fear is a question that no one dared ask and no policy maker faced.

I saluted the unprecedented mass rejection of the bailout plan and condemned the flagrant, undemocratic legislative coup to promise $700 billion to the rapacious financial sector[]. Yet many on the left embraced this audacious act of corporate welfare. I was surprised to hear a self-proclaimed "Marxist" professor on Michael Ratner's Law and Disorder radio show, when pressed, concede that the bailout was probably necessary. Even more surprising was the infamous "dose of socialism" article in the CPUSA People's Weekly World, actually celebrating the bailout as a kind of incipient socialism.

With the passage of only a few weeks, both the intent and practice of the bailout program - TARP - are being exposed for all to see. The veil has come off the official version - the restoration of the flow of credit - to reveal the shameful pillage of public funds for monopoly consolidation and corporate pillage.

Articles posted on make the connection between the first wave of public subsidies and the payment of the annual corporate bonuses of the big financial corporations. Commentator Jonathan Weil, in a fit of righteous indignation, explained on October 21 that very likely the Treasury subsidies for both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs will find their way into the respective companies end-of-year bonus packages. Morgan Stanley, despite losing around a third of its stock value this year, has about $6.5 billion dollars in bonus commitments. The company's total employee compensation expenses this year amount to $10.7 billion which is nearly twice its pre-tax earnings. As Weil's title aptly reveals: "Morgan Stanley's Bonuses Get Saved By You and Me". Though Goldman Sachs is far healthier, they also got a $10 billion infusion from the US Treasury which will undoubtedly go a long way towards meeting its $11.4 billion compensation commitment. And surprise! That figure too is almost twice the company's pre-tax earnings.

In a follow-up article on dated October 27, Christine Harper and Serena Saitto developed the point further, exploring the similar gambit of Merrill Lynch. In the case of Merrill, the per employee compensation is actually higher than last year thanks to layoffs and in the face of five straight quarters of losses and a 70% slide in stock values.

The thrust of the game plan for corporate America was revealed in a New York Times article by Joe Nocera who spied on a conference call between JP Morgan Chase executives. The executives candidly asserted that the bailout monies are to be directed to M&A, the Wall Street acronym for "mergers and acquisitions". In other words, "freeing" credit for loans is neither perceived as a problem nor taken to be object of accepting bailout money. Instead, the public funds are meant for and to be used for consolidating the banking industry.

This candor only deepens our understanding of the government collaboration with PNC bank to both fund and secure the purchase of National City bank. While PNC was relatively healthy, National City was quite weak. Nevertheless, the Treasury agreed to a purchase of $7.7 billion of PNC preferred stock, a move unneeded by PNC except to make the acquisition. At the same time, the ailing National City was denied a similar deal which could have bought it a reprise from its difficulties. Clearly, the Treasury was complicit in the move. This did not go unnoticed by some Ohio legislatures, including Dennis Kuchinich, who cried foul, noting the government's "arbitrariness" in its efforts.

That there is nothing arbitrary in this move was confirmed in a Wall Street Journal article on October 28 entitled "Much Bank Aid May Not Go to Loans". The authors cite several bank executives in line to receive pieces of the first $125 billion tranche of bank welfare. All were coy about applying the monies to new loans. One executive frankly stated that "potential acquisition" was one option and another bluntly said "opportunities would certainly include M&A..."

These developments demonstrate that the TARP legislative act was really a trojan horse. The $700 billion bailout was not meant to break a credit log jam (in reality, a credit strike based upon risk aversion). If anything, giving the assets to gun-shy financials only served to encourage them to business-as-usual and renewed recklessness. Instead, the public funds were meant to encourage and execute a consolidation and restructuring of the industry. For capitalism, restructuring translates into more profits. Job cuts, reduced benefits, and inhanced productivity (speed-up) are all part of the rationale for consolidation. Capitalists plan to restore profits the old-fashion way: by increasing the rate of exploitation.

But it is not just the financial corporations that are looking for government subsidized restructuring. The long rumored GM-Chrysler merger is projected to turn on $10 billion of federal TARP funds which would allow the merged company to "layoff workers, close plants, integrate the two companies, and provide liquidity...", according to the October 27 Wall Street Journal. Internal estimates anticipate a loss of 40,000 jobs from a current work force of 166,000! In other words, public funds are being solicited to destroy 40,000 jobs and squeeze production dramatically from the remaining work force. Could there be a more audacious demonstration of the reality of the fusion of the state and monopoly capitalism?

Of course this is just the beginning of state-monopoly capitalism's offensive to restore capitalist profitability.

Shame on those liberals and Marxist poseurs who tried to sell the bailout as some kind of back door socialism! Now is the time to leave this sordid chapter and begin the fight for real relief for working people. Society's resources should be dedicated to society's needs and not the machinations of our false " representatives" and their corporate masters.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fundamentals of Capitalist Crisis

Marxism offers a unique and challenging explanation of the development of capitalism. While academic economists have acknowledged the business cycle - periodic rises and falls in economic activity, most believe that policy has tamed the worst of these fluctuations. Marxists, on the other hand, believe that capitalism fundamentally begets crises of all kind: political, social and economic.

By fundamentally, we mean, regardless of policy actions, crises will arise again and again because of inconsistencies - what Marxists call "contradictions" - in the very nature of the capitalist system.

What elevates Marxist economic theory beyond a mere opinion or semi-religious dogma is the testability - the availability or absence of real world evidence - for the claims of the theory.

With the global economy spiraling into a seemingly bottomless pit, with policy makers searching frantically for answers to the decline, and with the vast majority of the world's population facing insecurity and deprivation, the evidence is mounting that not only is capitalism failing, but the comforting theories that justify capitalism have failed. The dominant academic economic theories and the popular assumptions spouted by the media appear now to be mere apologies for a system unable to serve the interests of working people.

Conversely, the persisting realities of economic decline serve as evidence that Marxist economic theory, with its prediction of inevitable systemic crisis, better captures the trajectory of global capitalism.

Since there is an understandable growing interest in alternatives to the reigning economic orthodoxy, there are many versions of Marx's theory of crisis circulating, some from pretenders, others from those simply confused.

The global capitalist economy is very complex with numerous divisions and multiple layers. To dissect this body in a theoretically revealing way, Marxists employ three interrelated concepts that are both unique to and essential for an analysis of capitalism. They are:

1. Class Marxists see a great division in capitalist society between those who create the wealth of society and those who expropriate a surplus of that wealth -profit - without themselves creating it. In a capitalist society, private ownership is the precondition and exploitation the mechanism for expropriating wealth from the producers.

2. Profits At the heart of capitalism system - the purpose that sustains it - is the private accumulation of greater surplus, both absolutely and relatively. The surplus is acquired through private ownership and remains private in the hands of one class.

3. Exploitation The process of expropriating a surplus - profit - by the capitalist class from the productive class is the basic motor of capitalism.

Though there are other important concepts in Marxist economic theory, these three notion serve as a cornerstone for understanding capitalist crisis. Generally, when self-proclaimed Marxists get off track, they fail to take all three fundamental notions into consideration. For example, a theory of crisis that stresses that production often outstrips the ability of economic consumers to acquire commodities (overproduction) may very well express an important insight: an increase in exploitation and class inequalities may often precede or coincide with capitalist crisis. As inequalities grow, the purchasing power of those outside of the capitalist class diminishes as well, restraining the potential growth of production.

But this insight overlooks two important points:

1. Economic periods of overproduction in and of themselves will not generate crisis, except if these periods also disrupt the growth of profits. It is not instability, human suffering, dislocations, cyclical changes, etc. that force the system into crisis; it is a marked decline in profits that disable the capitalist system.

2. Overproduction, like dislocations, imbalances, underinvestment, and the many other factors that may interrupt the smooth operation of capitalism are subject to policy correction. The tendency for the capitalist system to fail to generate profits is not.

The popularity of Keynes' economic theory after the Great Depression probably accounts for the widespread adoption of the crisis theory of overproduction by Marxists. Keynes is widely and correctly touted for demonstrating that a capitalist system will not automatically achieve a balance between productive output and that output's successful exchange in the marketplace. While this conclusion came as a blow to conventional economics, it actually implied that a full understanding of market failure would generate policy remedies that would, in fact, restore balance or equilibrium to markets. In other words, the Keynesian diagnosis gave rise to policy prescriptions that should, theoretically, heal an ailing capitalism. Even more to the point, proper understanding of the treatments should effectively blunt the onset of any future crises.

Neo-Keynesians - friendly to the Marxist critique of stable capitalism - like Joan Robinson, helped to popularize a thoroughly Keynesian version of crisis theory among Marxist economists.

Theories of overproduction, imbalance, underinvestment, dislocations, etc address the anarchy of markets, a reality not to be denied. Certainly economic exchange organized within markets will always generate disruption, but if Keynes is right, the policy tools for correction are available or, in theory, can be constructed. For a Marxist to base capitalist crisis solely on market aberration is to rest on the faith that capitalist policy makers will stumble or err and not upon sound theory.

One of the great myths spread widely is that the neo-liberal turn inaugurated with the Thatcher-Reagan revolution booted out Keynesian economics. Conservatives promote this view because they are out to decimate New Deal programs which are mistakenly viewed as coextensive with Keynesian policy. But the idea that conscious policy decisions can modify effective demand is alive and well, especially in the area of military spending and its related areas. The huge military budget and its attendant costs - the cost of empire - account for roughly half of the US federal budget and function as the chief policy instrument for fiscal stimulation. Military Keynesianism is Keynesianism to the bone.

In addition, capitalism constantly creates and modifies stimulative tools to boost effective demand for productive outputs. The expansion and evolution of credit, for example, serves as a source of purchasing power for consumers. Time payments, layaway programs, mortgages, credit cards, loan consolidations, second mortgages, unconventional mortgages, etc are all instruments that expand buying power beyond current incomes. As stimulative agents, they replace direct assistance, jobs programs, and other entitlements. The advantage to capitalism is obvious: they generate profit - albeit deferred profit - where social programs may well not. Thus, neo-liberalism replaced the stimulative function of welfare economics with an advanced, expanded mechanism of credit.

But in Part III, chapter 13, of volume III of Capital, Marx sketched a theory of crisis, not based upon market anomalies, but upon the tendency for the capitalist system to fall in profitability. While only a brief and undeveloped argument, Marx placed great stress on the important insight that the capitalist system was inherently prone to pressing economic growth - in pursuit of profits - to the point where competition and an increase in labor productivity would actually inhibit profit. The argument was strictly a logical argument and turned upon a highly schematic model of capitalism and assumed the labor theory of value. Over the years, Marx's theory was widely criticized and came in for considerable scorn. Nonetheless, the notion that capitalism's ability to generate profit stood at the core of Marx's crisis theory. Marx, I believe, understood that it was the direction of profitability, in all cases, that determined the relative health of a system based upon social production for private gain.

The argument in volume III of Capital was never meant to be descriptive of capitalism in his time or any other, but an exposure of how the basic mechanism of capitalism could hang itself by its own rope. Marx left it to others to elaborate this process with regard to a constantly evolving capitalism. As Marx said in a correspondence with Engels in 1868: "the tendency of the rate of profit to fall as society progresses [is] the great pons asini of political economy to date." (quoted in Maurice Dobb's Political Economy and Capitalism, p. 81)

With the advent of state-monopoly capitalism - the current era of capitalism - the expropriation of society's surplus takes more complex, more varied forms. The exploitation of productive labor remains the ultimate source of society's wealth, but the methods of directing and distributing the surplus have become infinitely more diverse. Monopoly capitalist enterprises rely more and more on predatory methods: marketing campaigns, mergers, acquisitions, shaping perceived needs, etc. to acquire a larger share of the surplus as well as the cooperation of a state that serves their and, to every extent possible, only their interests.

Nonetheless, the drive for profits remains the cornerstone of capitalist development and the source of crises. The roots of the current crisis follow on the heels of a long period of economic stagnation in the 1970's and early eighties that saw profitability and incomes lagging while inflation raged. The deindustrialization and rising rate of labor exploitation of the eighties in the US produced a growth in profits, but the fall of the Soviet Union and the socialist community gave capitalism and its profit potential the greatest boost. The incorporation of new markets and the destruction of alternative trade relations paved the way for the process popularly called "globalization", a process of simply absorbing the ex-socialist community and those developing world economies that formerly had other options available. With both an advanced mobility of productive enterprises and huge pools of cheap labor, production and trade expanded rapidly. A new division of labor developed with productive and service activities located in areas of low labor costs and financial activities located in the advanced capitalist countries, especially the US. Of course, this expansion and division of labor produced a sharp rise in the rate of labor exploitation and a consequent leap in the rate of profit.

The technological advances associated with computers and sophisticated programs promised to further increase labor productivity at the end of the twentieth century. The possibilities of both radically restructuring the means of production and exploiting an enormous consumer market drew billions and billions of investment monies to this high-tech sector. Of course, the goal of these investments was greater profits. But the investments far out-stripped the real potential for profit causing a severe downturn, primarily in the hi-tech sector, and the loss of trillions of dollars of capital.

Policy makers sought to isolate the damage from other sectors with monetary policies, lowering borrowing rates to unprecedented levels, and creating an environment of easy credit. This action encouraged riskier actions in order to boost the rate of profit. At the same time, a weak labor movement and a brutal campaign of restructuring and concessionary labor agreements combined to further raise the rate of exploitation and shore up profits. As a result, the capitalist world, principally the financial sector, found itself awash in capital, but with fewer and fewer customary investment opportunities for high return, as the Wall Street Journal noted in 2003.

To hold capital without any place to invest it profitably is a neither a desirable nor stable position for the capitalist. In a real sense, it is comparable to Marx's schematic presentation of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, where investment in new machinery to raise productivity has the unwanted effect of lowering the profit rate. Idle capital plays the same role insofar as its not used to generate profits.

The enormous concentration of wealth in the US financial sector created and extended new, obscure, and risky investment instruments to utilize this capital. As Maurice Dobb wrote in 1945, "New methods of extending the field of exploitation - extending it to new and untapped strata beyond its former frontiers - [has] to be pioneered" as "compensation for a falling rate of profit which seems to constitute the primary difference between the crises of the earlier and later stages of capitalist economy." In our time, the pioneering spirit of capitalism pushed even further.

Though the numbers are only speculative, some estimate that the financial sector created securities and other opaque financial instruments totaling $60-70 trillion in order to draw investment towards a promised profitability.

Often the current crisis is referred to as "the mortgage crisis" or "sub-prime crisis", but clearly mortgages were merely the opportune vehicles for constructing an enormous edifice of speculation. The persistent rise in housing values and easy, stable credit made mortgage speculation attractive, but other areas would have been found if necessary.

As a counter to the tendency of profits to decline, the financial gambit proved to be a bust. The failure at the base with failed mortgages shook the entire edifice, amplifying what would otherwise be manageable losses to waves of financial destruction.

From a policy perspective, there are two concerns - the same concerns that occupied policy makers in the Great Depression: Do we rescue profitability? Or do we rescue the billions of victims of capitalist profit-seeking?

To date, US and other policy makers have reduced this to one question: How do we rescue capitalism? It is unimaginable within the board rooms and legislative chambers to separate the interests of the masses from the forward march of capitalism.

In the Great Depression, human misery and militancy forced action benefiting the victims upon both Hoover and Roosevelt. At the same time, capitalist failure opened minds to alternatives for hundreds of thousands of capitalism's victims - alternatives that included socialism.

Despite all the nonsense about "socializing assets", "nationalization", "partial government ownership" that circulate around ruling class attempts to restore profitability in the current crisis, policies have advanced no further than the furtive efforts of the Hoover administration. In fact, Hoover's Emergency Relief and Construction Act, adopted on July 21, 1932, addressed the issue of mass suffering far more than anything on the table today. ERCA provided for relief as well as public projects to generate employment.

Capitalism will stabilize when the rate of profit is restored. The fate of the millions harmed by the crisis will be dealt with when we make our rulers understand that people come before profits.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Joe, the Plumber: Class Traitor

A man that is a credit to "Our Red White and Blue."
His head is made of lumber, and solid as a rock;
He is a common worker and his name is Mr. Block.
And Block he thinks he may
Be President some day.

Joe Hill, songwriter for the working class, wrote the above lyric in 1913. A different blockhead, Joe - actually, a Sam - has become the darling of the media. Joe had the audacity to walk up to Presidential candidate Barack Obama recently and challenge his tax policies. It seems that Obama wants to increase taxes on all those making more than $250,000 a year while reducing those below that threshold, a commendable proposal, indeed. Now most workers would see Obama's proposal as a positive move, but not our Joe, the plumber. Joe's unhappy because he wants to buy his boss's business which he judges to be worth $250,000.

And so the love fest with the media began. Joe became the voice of the working class to our incorruptible, unbiased journalists. His every word was closely examined for signals of the mood of those alien to the elites - workers. Joe proved to be such an "everyman" - a Long John Willoughby in Capra's movie, Meet John Doe - that his deep thoughts dominated the final debate between the major party candidates.

A bit of research by the Cleveland Blade - not the prestigious New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the networks, or the cable shouters - turns up some interesting facts about the Ohio native: Ole' Joe is not really a plumber - he had no license; he wasn't a registered plumber - but a plumber's helper. Well, actually, his boss also wasn't registered, so I guess he wasn't a plumber's helper, either. With Joe making about %40,000 a year, it will be a long time before he buys the bosses business especially since he'll have a hard time getting a loan with a lien against him for failure to pay property taxes. It seems Joe's against property taxes, too.

So Joe is a windbag - filled with strong opinions and cocksure of his destined success. We all know people like him; there's always a few in every working class neighborhood.

Joe brings to mind the poll results from a few years ago. I can't remember the source, but the poll asked respondents if the thought they were, or would be, in the top 1% of incomes. Approximately 20% said they were and another 20% said they would be! Joe, like Joe Hill's Mr. Block, undoubtedly fits into one of these two groups.

Now some will say that I'm too hard on Joe; after all, "class traitor" is a pretty strong charge. Certainly Joe is not alone with his twisted ideas, ideas reinforced by elite word mongers on talk on talk radio, Fox News, and the rest of the lapdog media who make much more money than Joe will ever imagine. I suffered through a Fox interview with Joe, thinking "Joe, how can you let this rich rich white guy in a business suit make such a fool of you?" The interview makes an obscene amount of money for journalistic buffoonery; he stands to pay more with the Obama tax plan; and Joe lets the creep use him to attack working class interests. Yes, Joe's a class traitor.

But it is satisfying to watch the politicians and media courtesans squirm when they encounter working class people - I'll give that blockhead Joe that much. They act as though they are in the presence of a newly discovered species - not unlike their unease around African-Americans.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


For several years, I have been contributing to a website with the goal of presenting the ideas of Marx, Engels, and Lenin - the leading figures of the modern Communist movement - to a larger audience. The fall of the European socialist community and the decline of many formerly powerful Communist Parties left many on the left discouraged and without a compass. Several comrades and I felt an urgent need for a website that maintained fidelity to the century and a half of Communist tradition, while applying Marxism creatively to the events and issues of the moment. We hoped, in a modest way, to add our labor to that of others internationally who shared our goal. Thus, was born (Marxism-Leninism Today).

In the several years since the website's inception, we have been able to reach a larger and larger audience and stir interest and interaction with a growing number of Communist activists and interested friends. But more importantly, we have been encouraged by a renewed interest world-wide in both Marxism and socialism. We are buoyed by the determined resistance to imperialism in the Middle East, Latin America, and Eastern Europe as well as other regions. And the struggles for justice and equality throughout the world are becoming more militant and demanding - a source of further inspiration.

The current crisis of the world economic system is both calling capitalism in question and demanding new, daring ideas. Today's news reports tell of a surge in sales of various tracts authored by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Staid, conservative politicians are secretly reading Marx for ideas. While a specter is not now haunting Europe, certainly Marx's shadow is looming over the world economy!

Given the fast-moving events of the moment, I thought a blog - ZZ's blog - would be timely, allowing me to share some thoughts - perhaps ill-formed and incomplete - on those events. Hopefully, others will find these comments of interest and join me in developing them.

Zoltan Zigedy