Saturday, August 04, 2007



Last week, the week of July 30, 2007, the British Army ended its 38 year occupation of Northern Ireland not with a bang but a whimper. That event has created a certain amount of hand wringing in academic and media circles around the lessons that the American government might learn from the British “counterterrorism” experience. After all, although there are a thousand differences between the occupation by the British in the North and today’s American occupation of Iraq, the mission of both armies, in the end, was the same-to fight ‘terrorism’. The British would have seemed to have had the simpler task, given the geographical, historical, linguistic and cultural affinities between the occupation army and the population as compared to the nightmare scenarios of the Americans being clueless about the local tensions in Iraq and a long way from home to boot. Nevertheless what united them is their dogged pursuit of the inevitably thankless and seemingly endless task of keeping sectarian forces in check by the jackboot. The British did not learn that lesson and it should come as no surprise that the Americans, seemingly willfully, refuse to learn it either.

The trials and tribulations of imperial administration are, however, not really what interests me here. Hell, the British and Americans administrations went into these adventures with their eyes open and with the ‘sweet’ illusion that both affairs would be the usual walkover. What interests, and worries, me are the ramifications of both the late British occupation in Northern Ireland and the one in Iraq today for those of us opposed to imperialism. Needless to say that no important element in the reformist British Labor Party, including the ‘darlings of the left’ in the left wing of that party ever raised the slogan British Troops Out of the North Now as a serious slogan during the whole period of occupation. As far as I can tell very few to the left of the British Labor Party ever unequivocally proclaimed that elementary slogan either (I would like to hear on this if I am incorrect). I do not mean over the last few years when that a was cheap way to appear militant on the Irish question. I am talking about times like 1969 when “the troubles” started or 1972 when all hell broke loose. Or even the time of the Bobby Sands-led hunger strikes. The net effect of the recent British withdrawal is that, after 38 long hard years, the British imperialists were able to leave unbowed and not as a result of political struggle by the British left to force them out. That, my friends, is the real meaning for the American struggle. In 38 years will our grandchildren still be calling for the American withdrawal from Iraq or are we going to take the situation hand well before that time. It is our call.

Thursday, August 02, 2007





Well, I have my sporting blood up this morning. It seems to be the time of year when not much is doing on the ‘real’ political circuit so that I have time to engage in a little speculation on the odds for the 2008 presidential election. Thus I can do a little ‘think’ piece here to while away the summer doldrums. One of the virtues of this exercise is that while I can win or lose money on various electoral propositions I do not have to actually vote for any of these people. There are, indeed, some very big benefits to being a workers party propagandist theses days.

As we know there are now at least eight candidates on the Democratic side and at least nine on the Republican side so that this early trying to handicap those races would be madness. What today’s morning line is about is which party- the Democratic or Republican- will win the presidency in 2008. Now even those like me who only hold their noses at bourgeois politics would be hard pressed to deny that the Democrats -after what will be eight years of George Bush- should be in the cat bird seat. As one Republican candidate is quoted as saying the Democrats have started to take measurements for new drapes in the White House. Let me make a few points, however, that should sober up even my liberal friends about the political realities today.

We all like to use the phrase about the unacknowledged elephant in the room to highlight some obvious problem that is better left unstated. In this case the Democrats have three-the continuing disproportionality caused by the anti-democratic Electoral College; the women and/or black question; and, the way the likely major issue of the 2008 campaign Iraq and national security may cut for the Democrats.

The rank inequity of the Electoral College system of election may rank as about number 106 on a list of reasons that socialists would put together for why this bourgeois democratic system has to be replaced- but it is on the list. The aristocratically-derived Electoral College is probably the most blatantly anti-democratic aspect of the original frame of government. However, despite all the moaning and groaning in 2000 over the Bush thievery, no one to my knowledge has seriously put forth the idea of replacing it with a more democratic formula and a truer sense of proportionality in regard to the make-up of the Congress. In any case if one looks at the numbers that Republicans start with in the South and the interior West then, as has been the case in presidential politics for a while, this is already an uphill fight for the Democrats. Sure there may be some more blue in red states, etc. but the political reality is no matter how popular you are these are the real numbers. Just ask Al Gore.

Let us face it unless Al Gore makes some kind of last minute decision to entry the Democratic race this one is really about Hillary and Obama. That means the most likely Democratic candidate will either be a white woman or a black man. This is new at the presidential level. But let us face some very hard realities. In a time of perceived national security needs will a woman do? And while it is possible that hard core Democrats will find no problem with a woman as their lead candidate does that hold true for the electorate as a whole? Throw in the Hillary-haters and Clinton fatigue factor and there is a very big question about whether a woman can be elected in 2008. And whether that particular woman can get elected.

On the Obama factor let us not kid ourselves- this is a deeply racist country that is probably more segregated today that 40 or 50 years ago in the things that matter like schools and housing. Even having a white mother does not good here. Moreover, as far as politics go the questions of special black oppression like education, housing, jobs etc. that desperately need to be addressed have fallen off the political map. Watch for some very ugly general election campaigning by the Republicans if either Hillary or Obama is nominated.

You and I, dear reader, have had our fill of Iraq. We want the troops out now. However, the opinion polls that show this same desire to get out do not reflect a favored direction on the various strategies put forth for getting out. The Republicans will be hurt by the Iraq fiasco but unless Dick Cheney or Jeb Bush jumps in none of the contenders is personally responsible for the damn war. They can distance themselves adequately if they have a plan for withdrawal or some such thing. Richard Nixon was able to do so in 1968 and again in 1972 without actually having any plan at all for withdrawal from Vietnam-and won. So anything is possible. Moreover, the Democrats have been so wishy- washy of late in their responses to Bush’s strategy that people in general may not give them a break. So Iraq may not cut so favorably for the Democrats as they might think, especially in the heartland where many of the troops come from. Add the ringer of the economy upstaging the war as the central issue and all hell could break loose.

There you have it, dear reader. Today I would place the odds on a Democratic presidency at 7/5 in their favor. Any takers?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007




Militant leftists oppose the Iraqi occupation out of a fundamental opposition to American imperialism. We oppose the capitalist system out of a conviction that it needs to be replaced by a socialist system that will do better by the mass of humanity and its pressing needs and to let the human potential flower. In the normal course of events we place the monetary cost of imperialist wars as a secondary factor in our opposition. Nor do we make the argument, acting as de facto advisors to the imperialist state, that such wars are merely a matter of mistaken policy and that the resources used for war could be better spent on relieving the vast problems of human misery. Hell, we know that and will take the appropriate action when we take power. However a little news item from the Congressional Budget Office has to make any working person take notice. The analysts at that agency have published, at the request of Congress, various estimates about the final costs of the American occupation of Iraq. And it isn’t pretty. Under the most conservative scenario the expected real costs of the war will be at least one trillion dollars. Now we all know that this estimate may be off by a hundred billion here or there and that one trillion dollars does not go as far as it use to but in anyone’s book that is a lot of money. So now we have the spectacle, in addition to the massive causalities and long term occupation that may have to be fought by our grandchildren, a debt that will take generations to pay off. All under the premise of getting rid of one rogue tin pot dictator, Saddam Hussein, and bringing ‘democracy’ to Iraq. Some neo-cons may say that is cheap at the price but just to be contentious I would say that this is not cost effective. No one, least of all a militant leftist, will cry over the demise of Saddam and his ilk, that is for sure but if one needs an additional argument for getting rid of the irrational capitalist system and its political agents here it is. In the meantime the task of the day is still the Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal from Iraq.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007





Sometimes life is exceedingly unfair. Today, July 31, 2007, I was all prepared to present my morning line on the odds for the upcoming 2008 presidential elections when a quick look at the newspaper informed me that the august Iraqi Parliament had adjourned until September. So I had to quickly scrap that lead and make comment here on this remarkable occurrence. Oh, I know, legislative bodies do this all the time for a myriad of reasons-some good, some bad. That is not the point, although I have noted in an earlier commentary that this desire for long vacations seems to be the only thing that the Iraqi parliamentarians have learned from their American mentor. Moreover, it took an apparent mini-civil war by the Bush Administration for the Iraqis not take an originally planned two month break in order to show that they had truly have assimilated the meaning of democracy.

Well, Markin, get to the point. One month, two months what does it matter, right? Perhaps, dear reader, you have forgotten that as part of the deal to continue to fund the war this spring the Congress ‘adamantly’ insisted that come hell or high water the Iraqis had to pass some ‘benchmarks’ (sure, I know, it sounds like something out of the education curriculum guidebook, maybe Laura has some input). Those included oil legislation, everyone making 'nice' with everyone else and for a least one Iraqi soldier or policeman to go out into the Baghdad neighborhoods without half the 82nd Airborne Division beside him (or her, if that may be the case). Needless to say none of this has occurred, is likely to occur or is anyone desirous of having it occur. That September 15th report by General Petreaus and Ambassador looks like it is going to have to be really ‘sexed-up’ to give Congress a reason not to go screaming in the night. But we already know the deal there so it will not come as any surprise to us when the Bush Administration asks for and is given ‘a little more’ time come September. Say, January 20, 2009, at least. The real question, as I have posed before, pose now, and will continue to pose until the troops are out is what are WE going to do about it?

Sunday, July 29, 2007



Okay, let us go by the numbers. On a few occasions over the past several months I have stated that there will be no significant troop withdrawal from Iraq until January 20, 2009, if then. Some of my liberal friends, in the afterglow of their parliamentary victory in the 2006 midterm Congressional elections, talked among themselves about my need to get a little rest and psychiatric help on hearing this ‘prediction’. Then came the Iraq Study Group Report. You remember that little booklet that was to cure all the ills of the Iraq disaster in 79 easy lessons. I caustically noted that they would find that report under some White House couch when Bush vacated the premises in 2009. Again, my liberal friends scratched their heads and said something really needed to be done for the poor lad. After all James Baker, Poppy’s fixer, and Lee Hamilton and other grey beards and blue-haired ladies of the establishment were giving the advice. The Bushies did not even wait a respectful time before they unceremoniously tossed that sacred text into the nearest waste paper basket and came up with the ‘surge’ strategy, a.k.a. escalation in Iraq.

Then came the so-called ‘showdown’ this spring over the war budget appropriations. Even then my dear friends cast a skeptical eye in my direction and hid the silverware. You see, as part of the fall out from the budget appropriation wrangling Congress was able to ‘insist’ on being given progress reports as the price for continued funding for the war. That, my friends, is where we are now. But hold on, the so-called interim report issued in mid-July had to be so ‘sexed-up’ that it was meaningless. Now come the tom toms out of Baghdad telling us not to expect too much in the mid-September mandated report. And here is the clincher. American Ambassador Crocker and American head military honcho in Iraq General Petreaus want the classic ‘more time’ for the dust to settle on the effectiveness of the ‘surge’ strategy. Moreover, now they are talking about mid- 2008 as the ‘real’ evaluation nodal point. Egad. If that is the case we had better start talking about 2010 for a drawdown.

Now is all of the above a matter of, “I told you so”? Well, sure, a little. That is half the fun of politic. Right? Is it also all about the superiority of the socialist method in analyzing political events and figuring out what to do about them? Sure, socialist theory is always a useful tool in that regard. But, frankly, as much as that may help, it does not take a post graduate degree in Marxist Studies to figure out what is going on here. Soldiers, from time immemorial, have always had one goal-Victory. Anything short of annihilation of their own forces, and sometimes even that, is not good enough. Soldiers want to win wars not matter how screwed up they are by the civilians. They want more soldiers, more materials, and more time to produce victories. American presidents, especially those ending their second terms, are always scratching for their place in history. Right now Bush is running neck and neck with Millard Fillmore. He has no where else to go. That is why he rolled the dice for the ‘surge’ and why he will ‘listen’ to his generals to the end. This happy confluence between flaky president and frustrated military is the nut of the matter. And Congress? And the Democrats? Hell, at this point they literally do not matter. They can take over the mess in 2009 and are welcome to it. We, on the other hand, have immediate business that will not wait 18 more months. Once again, and I address this personally for the first time to my liberal friends- BREAK WITH THE DEMOCRATS. Or, at least, get out of our way. And, as always, if you want to fight for immediate withdrawal from Iraq you had better form committees to link up with the fighting rank and file soldiers and sailors to get them the hell out of there. Way before Christmas.


Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia' entry for Richard Sennett's book,"The Culture Of New Capitalism".


One of the tenets of classical Marxism is that the industrial working class- those who produced the mass goods of society- are the central agency for leading the revolution against capitalism and creating the conditions for a socialist society. In their enthusiasm for this social change Marxists, including this Marxist, never expected that capitalism would be holding on as tight as it has. This development has had many causes that I have gone into elsewhere and is not germane to the point of this commentary. What is germane is that with the long term extension of the capitalist mode of production some significant changes have occurred in the infrastructure of the system, particularly in the advanced capitalism countries. The prime example is, as almost always the case when talking about modern capitalism, the United States. There has been a long term gradual but steady conversion of the old model industrial plant to the new technologically driven service industry. Here, think Wal-Mart.

One would think that the conversion from the old top down hierarchical system that industrial capitalism demanded to that of a service economy with a more and better educated workforce and with increased technological skills that this system would have become obsolete. Not so according to in an article in the New York Review of Books, August 16, 2007, entitled "They’re Micromanaging Your Every Move" (reviewing "The Social Life of Information" by John Seely Brown; "Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream" by Barbara Ehrenreich; and, "The Culture of the New Capitalism" by Richard Sennett). The gist of the article is that the new technologies are spinning off software that permit a small elite of managers and ‘super star’ technocrats to control white collar work in the manner of the old industrial system. I have not personally read the books discussed there yet but it is apparent, and has been for a while, that we need to account for these dramatic changes in the workplace. And first things first- we desperately need to organize the Wal-Mart workers-that is for sure. Read this article or one of these books