Deep thought

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If the pundit you're reading seems more concerned with the effect the economic crisis is having on an ideology than with the effect the economic crisis is having on actual human beings then the pundit you're reading is irrelevant. Or should be.

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The policies that affect "actual human beings" begin with ideology and our values. It is not that some are "more concerned with the effect the economic crisis is having on an ideology than with the effect the economic crisis is having on actual human beings" but that these people understand the link between the two. Both perspectives are relevant and needed.

I'm not trying to suggest that ideology itself is a dirty word. Not long ago there was a lot of talk about throwing all ideology out the window in favour of almighty pragmatism. That's not where I'm going here.

When I wrote that post I was thinking of a couple of pieces I've seen that read as though the authors really think the big story of recent months is the Death of Conservatism (and the caps are appropriate to the tone of the articles). It really seems as though the authors think that people who are losing their jobs and their homes should have the good grace to suffer in silence so that we can avoid even considering policies that clash with the authors' version of conservatism. Their ideology is so closely held that if reality threatens it, reality itself must be ignored. Preserving their ideology is paramount even if it means ignoring the real world results of that ideology.

PS: If it gives you any clue to my state of mind, I had just finished reading a piece by Jonathan Kay when I fired up Movable Type. He has that effect on me.

"Their ideology is so closely held that if reality threatens it, reality itself must be ignored. Preserving their ideology is paramount even if it means ignoring the real world results of that ideology."

That comment encapsulates the disastrous twentieth century, when ideologies aestheticized politics, so that people lived and died for a beautiful dream.

The Conservative ideology which failed decisively in 2008
had already done so in 1929, but was permitted to rise from the dead because people forgot the lessons of history, or made up excuses for why their particular free market God had failed.

By an interesting contrast, I've noticed that the leftist ideologies currently most prominent show a profound break with leftist ideologies influenced by Soviet ideas.

Unfortunately, the left hasn't really come to terms with the failure of the USSR; while few admit to being pro-Soviet any more, many of the same defects--one party government, absence of a free press--are excused in "progressive" countries like Cuba.

Still, the important lesson to drive home today is that "free markets" will deliver depression plus handouts to the rich, instead of prosperity.

the left hasn't really come to terms with the failure of the USSR

Horsefeathers. The best critics of the Soviets have always been on the left (since the 1930s) and still are. Their first virtue is that they actually know how to analyse things in detail, and furthermore they know the detail.

They also tend to have thought through the problems of ethnocentricity and the ways it is exploited by cynical politicians. That's how they know, eg, that there's something wrong with inspirational statements from Cherie Blair and Laura Bush about saving the women of Afghanistan.

Overgeneralization is a sin.

Just a second to skdadl here .....

once the 'left' came to terms with the undenyable fact that the Communists Part(ies) were but arms of Russian foreign policy - a "new left' developed in western countries, unattached to any particular country rather owing loyalities directly to class.

While this provided an upsurge in Trotskite leanings, even he was seen as so entangled in the local politics of what became the Soviet Union that it never really made an enduring impact.

You say: "while few admit to being pro-Soviet any more". That describes a situation unseen since about 1960. (The Soviet Union was 43 or so years old then - and that was close to 50 years ago.)

The left still hasn't understood the failure of the USSR; all you have to do is ask leftists to criticize Cuba; then you find the old time religion still reigns.

Returning to the original pogge post, about the strength of ideology and the unwillingness to give up the beautiful picture it paints of the future human paradise, I ran across an interesting comment on ideologists in one of Hannah Arendt's essays, the one on Hermann Broch:

"They are aesthetes insofar as they are enchanted by the consonance of their own system, and they become murderers insofar as they are prepared to sacrifice everything to this consonance, this "beautiful" consistency."

Just as Communism and Nazism/Fascism have exhibited this tendency in the twentieth century, so too has the ideology of the free market, which has killed millions by neglect and by imposing one-size-fits-all solutions throughout the Third World.


Oh, nonsense, Jeff. Nobody ever asks leftists "to criticize Cuba". They ask leftists to endorse mainstream criticisms of Cuba, most of which are either entirely bogus or at a minimum deeply flawed. The result is they get an argument. Big whoop.
Whenever leftists are actually asked "Do you have a critique of Cuba?" they pretty much always have one, and it focusses precisely on the problems related to Soviet style structures--centralized power, statist bureaucracies, lack of popular control. To the extent that the left has anything like a model with state power nowadays, it isn't Cuba and Castro. It's Venezuela, Chavez and El Proceso.
The modern left is if anything more anarchist than communist, and partakes strongly of the anarchist idea that you have to fight using the structures and approaches you want to end up with when you win. The part of the left with any energy is related to things like the World Social Forum and all its offshoots. Everyone respects Cuba for having resisted the empire for fifty years, but they're not where the action is or what anyone wants to imitate.

Incidentally, I'm not trying to say the modern left is a thing of perfection. Taking the WSF, it isn't as horizontal or people-powered in its actual organizational structure as it would like to appear, as it should be, or even as it could be. Making it better would take some will, and some thought about structure and (because it's basically organized over the web) how to enable good structure with appropriately done software and web portals.

Awesome thought!

That's great that no one wants to imitate Castro and Cuba!

Instead, everybody likes Chavez and "el proceso"!

Except that Chavez says that Castro is his "exemplary father" who he never criticizes.

For readers of Spanish, here he calls Castro "Our Father who art in Havana".

http://actualidad.terra.es/articulo/html2/av22688615.htm

Bottom line? The top-down process in Cuba is being imitated in Venezuela. A good solid chunk of the left doesn't reject Soviet-style party decisionmaking for the entire population.

Say what?!
OK, so let me get this straight . . . Chavez treats Castro with respect, therefore one-party rule is the same as masses of elections, extensive recall powers for both elected representatives and legislation, and constant expansions of local power via such things as the "communal councils"? Sorry, you're a bit muffled there from that hat you're talking through.

Frankly, the way you're talking about the left from a semi-official-NDP perspective reminds me a good deal of the way Elizabeth May talks about the NDP. She has to trash the NDP because their green program is better than hers. The NDP has to trash the social-movement left because its democratic socialism credentials are better than the NDP's.

Well, I suppose it is because I understand what the word "example" means.

If Harper were to say that Bush is "an example for all of us", much less "our father who art in Washington", would that worry you at all?

And what if Harper commandeered the CBC EVERY WEEK for FIVE HOURS to browbeat his opponents and make threats?
What if government employees had to listen to the President's tv show to find out if they were being fired or transferred to Tuktuyatuk?

You can apologize for this sort of stuff if you want, but in my opinion, it is a deep failure of the left that one standard is applied to Model-Socialist countries, and another to our own.


what if Harper commandeered the CBC EVERY WEEK for FIVE HOURS...

If he did that, maybe he'd fund it properly.

But what's a "Model-Socialist" country?

And who's in "the left"? I want to know how broad a brush you're painting with because I can't tell if I'm included or not.

Chavez says a lot of things. An awful lot of things. He said George W. Bush was the devil and that he could smell the brimstone from Georgie Boy having recently been in the area. Nobody thought he meant it . . . it was hyperbole to make a point. Chavez gets along with Castro, yes. And he has put a good deal of energy into making the point that being the elder statesman of Socialism in the region is now to be considered a good thing, not a bad thing, and the ostracism of Cuba in the region must end. He has made this point in typical hyperbolic fashion. And it's worked. He has in effect reframed the way people see and approach Cuba in the region.

If you were supplying me with examples of problematic Soviet-like policies in Venezuela adopted using Cuba as an example I'd be a lot more concerned.

I'll admit that it *does* concern me that one standard is applied to countries like Venezuela, and another to our own. For instance, given the behaviour of the opposition on a number of occasions over the past few years, it would have been considered normal in Canada to read the War Measures Act, declare martial law and start banning political parties as terrorist. Given the operation of most of the private media, in Canada there would have been fines, jail sentences, massive libel suits, and the CRTC would have taken away their broadcast licenses in favour of more community acceptable networks like Al Jazeera. All Chavez does is mount some counter-propaganda, and people like you have the gall to complain? Man, just imagine if he were actually as undemocratic as *we* are.

And what if Harper commandeered the CBC EVERY WEEK for FIVE HOURS to browbeat his opponents and make threats?
For several hours every DAY in the US the right wing corporate airwaves are given over to the likes of Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, Beck, Malkin and Dobbs - just to name a few - to browbeat and threaten their opponents. And you're whining about Castro? Give your head a shake Jeff.

"If you were supplying me with examples of problematic Soviet-like policies in Venezuela adopted using Cuba as an example I'd be a lot more concerned."

How about, from today's news, "Prepare the decree!"

http://www.cnbc.com/id/29523863?ref=fp6


But I don't expect you to be concerned.

In fact, I expect that when Venezuela is a fully-fledged dictatorship of the right, calling itself Communist or Bolivarist, or whatever, you will have a new "MODEL COUNTRY".

The argument will then be, sure, Venezuela went wrong, Chavez got power hungry, but all the cool kids are now into Panama! Or maybe Malasia!

The truth is, many of the mechanisms you cite as evidence of democratic principle in Venezuela were also present in, say, "People's China", such as top-town "participatory democracy", in which the party centre proclaims a campaign, and then local party organizations (which control patronage) bring out their supporters/dependents.

Of course Venezuela is far from a communist or fascist state today. But many of its programmes tend in that direction.

People on the left who are unwilling to criticize that, end up justifying the next bunch of dictatorships. Like Madigan. He thinks that because Bill O'Reilly is on tv a lot, that makes government control of all media in Cuba just fine. You know, Bill is President of the Unites States, so it's the same as Castro taking over the airwaves from down till dusk.

I think Purple Guy needs to talk to Madigan. Purple Guy has told us that leftists don't support Cuba much any more, they've made that critique. They're all democratic now. House is all wrong about that! Then Madigan comes in with the same old Stalinist crap.

The argument will then be, sure, Venezuela went wrong, Chavez got power hungry, but all the cool kids are now into Panama! Or maybe Malasia!

Wow. You sure beat the crap out of that straw man.

Of course Venezuela is far from a communist or fascist state today. But many of its programmes tend in that direction.

I believe the term for that kind of argument is "slippery slope."

I think Purple Guy needs to talk to Madigan.

It's Purple Library Guy and mahigan. And the fact that you got both their names wrong in a single post makes me wonder if you're doing it on purpose.

Same old Stalinist crap? How about same old red-baiting hyperbole? How about you calm down and try and have a reasonable discussion? You could start by answering my questions.

Hmmm . . .
Well, Mr. House as he mentioned earlier apparently has a better understanding of the issues than I do because he understands the meaning of the word "example".

That's as may be, but he is certainly giving me a renewal of my understanding of the word "lawyer". I can only take a discussion so far with a guy who gets paid to argue in bad faith.

I will say one thing--his expectation that I won't be concerned about the event he points to is quite correct. First because I've actually been following the context of these events for some time, so I have some idea what's actually going on. Unlike certain parties I've been arguing with, evidently. Second because, while it may be difficult for him to fathom, "democracy" is not precisely the same thing as "respect for corporate property".

As I said, when it comes right down to it, you DO support Chavez when he copies Cuban policies.

And, as I also said, you don't criticize Stalinist posters like Mahigan, who thinks that the Cuban government press monopoly is THE SAME as the situation of the press in the US and Canada.

When he pipes up, you're silent.

Just as I said you would be.

Stalinist posters like Mahigan

I'm not going to screw around with this. I watched the meltdown at babble and by the time the moderators decided that you had to be booted I was in complete sympathy with them. If you're going to bait people this way, you won't be participating here any more. Knock it off or say goodbye.

I'll try to avoid describing supporters of Cuba as Stalinists. But it's really hard to have a serious discussion when a Cuba apologist pretends that press freedom in Cuba (50 year one party dictatorship) is similar to press freedom in the US (Bill O'Reilly AND Rachel Maddow, Rush Limbaugh AND Amy Goodman.


In the case of Venezuela, today showed further evidence of a slide towards the Mike Harrisite authoritarian right:

From today's papers:

"El presidente de la República, Hugo Chávez, dijo hoy que no permitirá que el sindicato de trabajadores del Metro de Caracas paralice las operaciones, y que de suceder, ordenará la militarización del servicio de transporte."

TRANSLATION
The President of the Republic said today he would not permit the Caracas Subway Workers Union to paralyse operations; if they attempt it, he will order the MILITARIZATION of transport services."

The transport workers have not received a raise in four years and have threatened a (supposedly) legal strike.

To me, it is hypocritical when leftists who support trade unions are silent while trade union rights go down the tube in "model" countries.

http://guarenasguatire.eluniversal.com/2009/03/06/eco_ava_chavez-dice-que-orde_06A2245363.shtml

To me, it is hypocritical when leftists who support trade unions are silent while trade union rights go down the tube in "model" countries.

And to me, it's problematic when someone condemns people for things they haven't said. You appear to be demanding a ritual denunciation based on a single sentence for which you've provided a translation. I spent a couple of minutes with Google News looking for something on this to provide more context and found nothing. Without that additional context you'll get no unequivocal denunciation from me. Does that make me a hypocrite? It's a rhetorical question.

I'm closing this thread to further comment because the original point was left behind long ago. I would hope that future discussions will centre on things people actually say — positions they actually hold — without the baiting, the straw men and the name calling.

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This page contains a single entry by pogge published on February 28, 2009 11:49 AM.

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