Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wait, so "social spiders" are a thing?

So I was just killing time reading random things about different species of spiders and decided that, since every type of spider that I'm aware of is a solitary creature, I'd do a search for "social spider".


Yeah yeah yeah whatever, the link is to Wikipedia, but still this blew my mind:
Even widow spiders (genus Latrodectus), which are notoriously aggressive and cannibalistic, have formed small colonies in captivity, sharing webs and feeding together
I guess there is hope for Republicans after all!

Anyway, I have the strange feeling that I've discovered my latest obsession.  Last semester I wrote a paper on hyenas because I read about them obsessively, maybe my next one will be on spiders.

Stop laughing.  Spider colonies are so fucking cool!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"updated" the "into the darknes..." post fyi

I crossed the whole thing out, because it was stupid.  Rereading it, it seems that I was still recovering from my days as a neocon.  Ewe.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Life and death in a nation of fear. (a shamefully self-centered post in the wake of a tragedy)

There was a shooting at a theater, two thousand miles from my home but showing the same movie I wanted to go see with a cousin.

I don't want to go see the movie now.  I do not think I'm scared (consciously, at least), just kind of frustrated and sad.  I spend so much time reading about violence and death- drone strikes in Yemen, disappeared labor organizers in South America, Black kids beaten by the NYPD etc.

That's in addition to the 'normal' things that we're confronted with every day.  Turn on the TV and see another mutilated corpse on one of the hundreds of 'cop' shows.  I play video-games and get points for killing my friends.  Go to a book store and there are rows and rows of carnage (why are all the "fantasy" books about killing things?), go to the mall and there are Army recruiters.  Walk down the street and see Christians screaming about abortions and hellfire.  Try talking about politics with anyone (and with the billions being spent on political advertising it is impossible for it not to come up in conversation every day) and it is always in apocalyptic terminology about "financial meltdown", "Public Sector Parasites", "regulatory tyranny", "police state", "War on Drugs", "War on Terrorism", "11 million Illegal Aliens".

"They Hate Us For Our Freedoms!"

The new Batman movies are all about shadowy entities that want to use violence to destroy our civilization, who can only be countered by the vigilante brutality of an elite few.  For the fascists in Greece and the border militias in the US it means going out and thrashing the migrant workers and the refugees. To Obama that means raining death down on family gatherings in the desert because there might be A TERRORISTtm there.  I'm sure the shit-head in Colorado felt like he had a perfectly justified reason too.

"Stay at home."  "Be afraid."  "They are out there, among us."  "Load your weapons and be ready Stand Your Ground."

"Land of Free and home of the Brave." - It makes me want to vomit.

Friday, July 13, 2012

So, are Nazis "socialists"?

The question as to whether or not the National Socialists are "socialists" is almost entirely meaningless at this point since the commonly accepted definitions of socialism are so vapid and divorced from historical context.

Nonetheless, Marxists are going to have to offer clear and principled explanations to these questions if they are to become relevant to the global Left once more.

So, are Nazis "socialists"?

At the time Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto they were very explicit in explaining that they were using to word "Communist" so that they could differentiate themselves from various "socialists" such as the Utopians and various 'reformers'.  This touches on the core problem with defining socialism properly: it has never been a term for a movement with any set goal, but rather is a term that covers a broad spectrum of reaction against the negative aspects of Capitalist society.

In this sense the Nazis have some claim to being socialists, at least ideologically.  They are socialists, however, in a way that is completely at odds with Marxist socialism, just as the Utopian cults in the United States had nothing to do with Marxism.

Marxism, in the sense of "what Marx actually wrote, rather than all that state-bureaucratic bullshit that dominated the Cold War", is about worker's control of society politically, economically, and for the most part socially, in a very "bottom up" way.  It is about economic planning based around cooperatively meeting human needs and wants, and ending capital exploitation.

National Socialism was about purging Germany of "parasitic" peoples and concentrating power in the hands of a ruling minority who would restore the German people to greatness.  In this way it was similar in many important aspects to Stalinist, "Socialism in One Country."  The important difference is that Stalin (while being a grotesque monster who made a mockery of Marxism) at least paid lip service to ending exploitation of the working classes, and largely abolished the capitalist markets within the USSR (to disastrous effect, in many places they would have been better off under pure capitalism than under Stalin).  In comparison the Nazis's central leaders never talked about ending capitalism, only ridding it of its "Jewish" and "anti-German" components.

So the Nazis, in rhetoric, were kinda socialists.  In practice they really weren't (most of their nominally "socialist" reforms such as "abolition of the standing military and its replacement with the armed German People" they never even tried to implement) and even in rhetoric their claim to being socialists is tenuous at best.

The fundamental issue for Marxists is that the Nazis rejected entirely the core parts of our version of socialism: the self-emancipation of the working class, the abolition of all exploiting classes, an end to all forms of exploitation and repression (that of women, national/ethnic minorities, LGBT, etc), and international solidarity.

Friday, July 6, 2012

North Korea's "new" song.

Remember those children singing a song about President Obama?  The one about children singing praises to the Dear Leader?  No?  Well I assure you that Fox News hasn't forgotten yet.

Anyway here's another song about a Glorious Leader.  This one is from North Korea.

In 1951 Natalia Sedova Trotsky wrote a letter of resignation from the Fourth International which said in part, "Obsessed by old and outlived formulas, you continue to regard the Stalinist state as a workers state. I cannot and will not follow you in this."  Obscenely much of the Trotskyist left has yet to grasp the wisdom in her words.

The ideas put forward by too many of my comrades that North Korea is a "deformed" or "degenerate" worker's state are nothing more than obscene jokes being told by children who fail to grasp the significance of their words.

Update: Ah! I forgot to link to her letter.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Random Inspirational Quote

Holy shit I've been busy lately :)

I just finished an excellent book titled Revolutionary Rehearsals.  The core of the book is a series of examinations of five different 'failed revolutions' (France 1968, Chile 1972-'73, Portugal 1974-'75, Iran 1979, Poland 1980-'81) and an analysis of the lessons to be learned from their successes and failures.

Despite the bleak subject matter there is an overall optimistic tone to the book, and I want to repost a few things from the final summary here.

None of this is copy/pasted.  I had to type it up manually and apologise for any errors in advance.  Obviously the brackets are my own.
How do situations of this kind arise?  Much of the time, after all, social revolution appears a forlornly improbable and utopian hope.  The dominant images of society emphasise order and continuity, mere reproduction.  Socialists - and especially revolutionaries - are a small minority, whose view seem at best eccentric.
[Skip ahead a bunch of pages]
In such a [revolutionary] situation there is an unleashing of what Lenin, writing on the 1905 revolution, called 'festive energy'.  The term is apt.  The development of a revolutionary situation involves a great change in the psychology of millions of people.  New hopes emerge.  Previous habits of subordination and deference collapse.  A new sense of personal and collective power develops.  The 'common sense' of class society suddenly falters.  Normal everyday social relations are transformed.  Historic hierarchies - in workplaces, in the state, in schools and college, in families - are threatened or actually tumble.  Old divisions between different groups of workers, national and ethnic groups, among peasants, between men and women are shattered and re-shaped by the development of new solidarities.  Ordinary people find them-selves performing tasks and assuming repsonsibilities from which society previously excluded them.  New kinds of competence appear, new divisions of labour, new powers.
Popular Confidence and imagination advance by leaps and bounds.  With them, practical intelligence also rises: nothing is so mentally numbing as the act of subordination.  Every 'festival of the oppressed' involves a sudden release of collective pleasure [ewe].  Perspectives alter, the horizons of possibility extend.
From personal experience, this was exactly what was beginning to happen during the Capitol Occupation in Madison a year ago.