Notes on socialism, retreat, and the false promise of strategic loss

“Finally, and at the risk of alienating you a little, I think that preferring my moral/political purity over these life-or-death questions is a privileged position to take. I think one reason Bernie’s supporters tend toward the white, young, and privileged is that we don’t have as much skin in the game as others who would be affected by a Republican victory. Moral purity is a luxury not.
It’s not compromising, selling out, or picking the lesser of two evils to choose a candidate that can appeal to the broad middle of America — it’s democracy.”

it’s an interesting article! in that it is utterly reactionary, bourgeouis, and short-sighted, and serves as a great foil for eliciting grand thoughts on the supposed inadequacy of the present time for ending oppression.


i can’t make any guess as to how people would actually vote. i am not a demographer or political scientist or etc.

as i understand it, bernie has a shot. not a big one! but a shot. some very strange things could happen in the next couple months.

i strongly believe his campaign has been inadequate thus far. but the highlight on economic inequality and especially on the financialization of modern capitalism — which drives ever higher shares of profits towards a small cadre of individuals whose work is not beholden in any way to the common values or projects of the nation — are worth my support. i am desperately hoping that this election can shed light on the utter brokenness of the two party system, of the paucity of good ideas being offered by establishment politics, their transparent capture by Capital, and on their absolutely intransigent attitude towards the economic inequality in our country.

i believe class violence infuses and is effectively coterminous with other forms of structural violence, largely reproduced through the control of the means of production by a dominant race/class/sex/etc

the electoral process asks me which contender i would like to represent me.

it is privileged to prefer moral purity over utilitarian or pragmatic calculations in a one-off decision, yes. this is called deontology and i am not with it.

capitalism is voracious. it is cyclic. and politics under capitalism is an iterative game which requires a buildup of momentum through many such cycles. capital(ism) reproduces itself by means of a series of offers of reconciliation which break that momentum. the prisoner’s dilemma offers all the example we need. a single defector can break the signal of trust necessary to build up the ideal, collaborative strategy.

rejecting moderation is not the same thing as acting from a privileged position. in fact, in a radically unequal world, we would expect the position of moderacy, from a purely mathematical perspective, to represent an equally radical departure from the norm.

i think the fact of the matter is that mass awakening leading to revolution would benefit quite a bit from a failed electoral attempt at reform. but i reject instrumentalist thinking, for it is too easily manipulated by sleight of hand. as soon as we begin to plot strategic defeats that place the lives of others as chess pieces to be sacrificed in pursuit of some larger goal, we have lost the thread entirely. we are then in service to the abstractions and departures from reality which are the root of all violence. those lives are the goal. it is also very possible that, by his “pragmatic” logic, at each stage or election liberation will be deferred again as the “ideal but not guaranteed” solution.

bernie is a democratic socialist. he’s also a populist. he’s not really that radical in some ways, not nearly radical enough in many ways, and he is running with the democrats.

i’m not sure how i feel about that last. the two-party system is perhaps too stable. i believe the beachhead for long-term socialist change in this country requires more than realignment; a renaissance. a much stronger local and ground presence. the devastation of labor unions and the forceful reprisals against African American radical groups has absolutely gutted America of the organizing infrastructure that won the most significant wins for jobs and justice in the 20th century. the neoliberal turn within the democratic party turned its back on everything civic, indigenous, public, and social in favor of privatization and structural adjustment.

(the other massive opportunity is people power cornering, legally or economically, or at least liberating from corporate control, some technological chokepoint. one possibility, for example, is that solar energy might be produced through an entirely people-owned, decentralized network, such that people effectively own the means of energy production.)

i will say that i would be p fucking amped if bernie runs 51–49, loses the primary on superdelgates, and instead of winning converts his fundraising message to the senate, where he builds an actual coalition running on a fused ticket wedded to a populist/progressive platform based on eliminating citizen’s united, gaining back the full extent and implementation of the voting rights act, a war against gerrymandering.

we need to reestablish that this country is about something other than guns and quarterly earnings reports. there are a lot of people who want to see better ideas put forward. bernie’s universal health care plan is clearly not cutting it, but i don’t think we should let policy hurdles get in the way of expressing what goals we wan those policies to achieve.

it seems to me like the choice between bernie as signal and bernie as candidate is poisoned from the start. it reflects a false choice. especially so if you come at it from a perspective of thinking as the whole system as fucked anyway.

the categorical imperative is flawed in its reasoning but is a powerful rejoinder against moderation. more powerful i think, and perhaps less severe in condemning moderacy, is rawls’ test of the veil of ignorance.

that’s how i roll.

this is not to marginalize the concerns raised in this piece. our votes have real world consequences. would running sanders open the door for a trump victory? as far as i can tell, it would probably open the door for michael bloomberg, not donald trump. trump has come to prominence with the support of a really quite small segment of the electorate. he’s winning with a plurality of the republican primary voters, who are already what, only 30% of people? so he’s got something like 10% of the population actively supporting him. that’s a fuck ton, in that he reads like a certain david foster wallace character and might be the biggest asshole to ever become president, adjusting for the times. (i hear you knocking, andrew jackson, and you’re just going to have to stay dead.)

bloomberg and clinton might actually do a lot of good as presidents. i 100% buy that. but pardon me for hoping that eventually we can get a president who isn’t a billionaire. that’s why i am organizing for democracy spring.

i try to say these things from an informed place that involves showing up. not perfectly. not all the time. but for me, electoral politics are one small part of a much much bigger puzzle. **the war is waged in the minds of the people** and classrooms, doctor’s offices, professional spaces, places of worship, pubs, and streets are also places that need to be reclaimed by the people.

electing a president, no matter how enlightened, is rather an incomplete theory of change.

my perspective is not uninformed by my place within the climate movement. i’m mentoring a divestment campaign through the divestment student network this spring. these kids’ kids may live in a world without coral reefs. on climate change, there is quite possibly no time at all to delay. i do believe climate change will actually be a key winner with moderates, regardless of who runs on the dem side, because i don’t think americans want to be pariahs. the george bush years were too hard on tourists.

think of john the baptist, the one who comes before. the one who reminds the people that another is coming.

in the long run, i hope we can reconsider the very structure of the united states government, which is presently rigged towards rural interests in reflection of long-forgotten boundaries written by a class of genocidal murderers whose worldview and interests we neither share nor should feel beholden to.

the constitution is a piece of paper. our relationship to it is entirely at-will.

yes, this is a gramscian perspective.

“quietism is itself a form of despair.” — sartre

this is the only moment.

tomorrow is always tomorrow.