Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 13b

13.3 ‘Cusa’s direct influence on Modern thought is small; an immediate common-bond is scarcely confirmable.’

Jasper Hopkins, who has specialised in the writing and thought of Cusanus wrote

Just as Nicholas does not anticipate, prefigure, foreshadow, etc., Kant, so also he does not anticipate Copernicus or Spinoza or Leibniz or Berkeley or Hegel. …Nicholas is not the first Modern thinker. For his ‘Modern themes’ are not sufficiently developed for him to warrant this title. …Nicholas must be regarded as a transitional figure some of whose ideas (1) were suggestive of new ways of thinking but (2) were not such as to conduct him far enough away from the medieval outlook for him truly to be called a Modern thinker. ….Emerich Coreth’s judgment remains cogent: ‘Cusa’s direct influence on Modern thought is small; an immediate common-bond is scarcely confirmable.’

  Nicholas’s intellectual influence on his own generation and on subsequent generations remained meagre. …Looking back on Cusa, we find in his corpus of writings certain ideas that were developed by his Modern successors, without his having directly influenced most of those successors through his own writings, of which they had scarcely any firsthand knowledge. …(Cusa) does not help ‘legitimate’ the Modern Age…Instead, the reverse is true: the Modern Age helped ‘legitimate’ certain of his ideas1

He quoted Jaspers

Karl Jaspers assesses the historical influence of Nicholas’s thought as minimal: ‘Through the contents of his philosophy Cusa also exercised no influence except upon a few monks. On the pathways of the Occident – the Reformation, the New Catholicism, Absolutism, the Enlightenment, the modern scientific disciplines – Cusa was nowhere to be found.’2

Beck wrote

If any stream of thought can be traced, even intermittently, back to Nicholas it was that of the philosophy of nature, theosophy, and Protestant mysticism; and this stream did not lead to the most significant work in philosophy.3

On the possibility of Cusanus having directly influenced Hegel, Hopkins quoted Hans Gerhard Senger

let there be no unclarity about the fact that we are no longer dealing with the question of Cusanus’ direct historical influence. On the contrary, we must always remain conscious of the fact that with such a comparison (e.g. between Cusanus and Hegel) we are reconstructing a narrative of Cusanus’ discernible historical influence – a narrative that cannot with historical accuracy be characterised in just that way.4

Michael Inwood wrote ‘Nicholas of Cusa (whom Hegel surprisingly never mentions)…’5, Glenn Alexander Magee wrote ‘Hegel never mentions Cusa anywhere in his published writings or in his lectures’ and in the footnote Magee expressed a standard view ‘David Walsh notes that although there is no evidence that Hegel ever read Cusa, he was indirectly influenced by him through J.G.Hamann and Giordano Bruno.’6

It would seem my contention that Hegel knew of Cusanus – and in detail – has been smashed and sunk without trace. How could the experts be wrong?

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Notes

1. Jasper Hopkins, ‘Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464): First Modern Philosopher?’, Renaissance and Early Modern Philosophy, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26 (2002), 13-29, 28-29
2. Jasper Hopkins, Nicholas of Cusa’s Metaphysic of Contraction, Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, 1983, 3-4
3. Lewis White Beck, Early German Philosophy: Kant and his Predecessors, The Belknap Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1969, 71
4. Jasper Hopkins, ‘Nicholas of Cusa’s Intellectual Relationship to Anselm of Canterbury’ in Peter J. Casarella, Ed., Cusanus, The Legacy of Learned Ignorance, The Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C., 2006, 54-73, 55
5. Inwood, A Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 140
6. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 28

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 13a

13. Hegel and Nicholas of Cusa

13.1 The use of Neoplatonism

Nothing could more clearly exemplify the dishonesty that permeates modern Western philosophy, a dishonesty motivated by a careerist pandering to the requirements of the dominant ideology, than the relationship between Neoplatonism and the philosophy of the German idealists, particularly Hegel.

The reason of the former – fluid, poetic and ‘speculative’ – always eager to acknowledge meaning beyond the constraint of concepts and argument and to explore ways of conveying it was appropriated to the reason of the latter, and not acknowledged.

Where Neoplatonism’s vitality and dynamism, necessary to lifting philosophy out of scholasticism was retained, its reason was now forced into conceptual structures and this done with greatest determination by Hegel, the self-appointed master of the ‘scientific’ philosophising of the ‘concrete’1.

Yet that very determination, together with his orientation to Neoplatonism and his sensitivity to creativity resulted in him taking Neoplatonism to its highest point of development. Cusanus, following on Proclus, was instrumental to Hegel in this regard.

13.2 Philosophers who didn’t acknowledge those who influenced them

German philosophy of the period is emblematic of Western philosophy under capitalism in its failure to deal honestly and openly with Neoplatonism and with philosophers considered to be ‘suspect’ or disapproved of in relation to the dominant paradigm of ‘reason’ – an activity still little understood. Redding said of Spinoza

there was an underground distribution of his works and they were very influential in Germany in the eighteenth century. Jacobi blows the lid on this by saying that Lessing had told him that he was a Spinozist on his death-bed, resulting in many coming out saying that they had read Spinoza. Spinoza took off like a bomb. Teenagers began reading Spinoza.2

Magee wrote of the ‘highly probable’ influence of the Swabian mystical theologian Friedrich Christoph Oetinger on Hegel

Hegel never mentions Oetinger, but then neither does Schelling, even though we know from independent sources that Oetinger was important to him. The reason for this silence is very clear. Academics and clergymen who referred to Oetinger or expressed sympathy for his ideas were generally ridiculed and even sometimes dismissed from their posts.3

and similarly of Hegel’s interest in Böhme

the only reference to Boehme in Hegel’s published writings up until the Berlin period is in the 1817 Encyclopedia, where a brief reference occurs in paragraph 472 of the Philosophy of Spirit. Perhaps Hegel felt it prudent not to advertise his interest in Boehme in his published writings. By the Berlin period, however, he felt secure from academic persecution, and so decided to openly acknowledge his interest in print. Hence, not only does a reference to Boehme appear in the 1832 Doctrine of Being, but also, as mentioned, in the preface to the 1827 Encyclopedia.4

The motives of a fear of disapproval and of the termination of a career in not acknowledging a philosophical influence or interest could also merge with ambition. Küng wrote that Hegel and Schelling, though never acknowledging him, were

greatly in Fichte’s debt both for the development of the monism of Spirit and for the development of dialectic5

Magee wrote that Hegel’s ‘true infinite’ ‘would seem to owe something to Spinoza’s theology.’6 In fact all three notions – the monism of Spirit, dialectic and Hegel’s ‘true infinite’7 were staples of Neoplatonism.

Again, the motive could simply have been egotism

Hegel’s treatment of Böhme is fundamentally no different from his treatment of any number of other figures in the history of ideas: he sees him as in certain ways approaching the ideas that only he, Hegel, fully and adequately articulates.8

Other examples of German philosophers who concealed their interest in or debt to the writing and philosophies of others include Schelling with regard to Swedenborg9, Nietzsche with regard to Stirner10 and, of most interest to me, Hegel with regard to Cusanus – on which I will now begin to expand.

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Notes

1. ‘Schelling…gave to his Spinozism a neo-platonic twist, and the philosophy of Schelling and, especially, after him, Hegel, showed clear features of the type of thought found in the Platonism of late antique philosophers like Plotinus and Proclus (Beierwaltes 2004; Vieillard-Baron 1979). …The neoplatonistic thought of Plotinus and Proclus had been a recurring feature of German religious and philosophical thought since the late middle ages, having appeared in influential thinkers like Meister Eckhart and Nicholas of Cusa and, later, Leibniz and Jacob Böhme. In the 1780s and 90s, there seems to have been a revival of Platonist and Neoplatonist thought in the German states, and this would come to be especially influential on early “romanticism”. During the 1790s, the poet-philosopher Novalis (Friedrich von Hardenberg, 1772-1801) had even claimed to find similarities between the views of Plotinus on the one hand, and Kant and Fichte on the other (Beierwaltes 2004: 87-8). In retrospect, this does not seem too fanciful.’ Redding, ‘Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’, op. cit., 6
2. Lecture, University of Sydney, 13.09.10. ‘Lessing, who had died in the year in which the Critique of Pure Reason appeared, had posthumously introduced the ideas of Spinoza to the intellectual avant-garde. His enlightened friends in Berlin were deeply shocked when, four years after his death, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi reported a private conversation he had had with Lessing shortly before his demise (On the teaching of Spinoza in letters to Mr Moses Mendelssohn, 1785). In 1780 he was supposed, according to his own words, to have abandoned the orthodox ideas of God; appealing to Spinoza, he had rejected the notion of God as personal cause of the world and come to conceive of him as a kind of soul of the universe embracing the world as one and all. Thus Jacobi accused Lessing not only of pantheism, but also of determinism, fatalism and atheism.’ Küng, The Incarnation of God: An Introduction to Hegel’s Theological Thought, op. cit., 103
3. Magee, ‘Hegel and Mysticism’ in Beiser, Ed., The Cambridge Companion to Hegel and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy, op. cit., 276
4. Ibid., 264. His further understated words should be noted ‘This, plus the encounter with Baader, makes it exceedingly difficult for scholars to dismiss Hegel’s interest in mysticism as a mere “aberration of youth.”’ ‘In the 1840’s, Schelling publicly accused Hegel of having simply borrowed much of his philosophy from Jakob Böhme.’ Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op. cit., 2
5. Küng, The Incarnation of God: An Introduction to Hegel’s Theological Thought, op. cit., 151. ‘Fichte made the two “discoveries” which were to remain fundamental for post-Kantian Idealism. These were subsequently taken over and remodelled by the two younger men (i.e. Schelling and Hegel), without showing too much gratitude to Fichte! a) The monism of Spirit. …This was the “I” or the subjective reason, which proves to be a creative force and a productive power or, to use another name, Spirit. b) Dialectic. …the “I” exists in conflict with the “not-I”. Thus the structures and forms of the world arise out of the creative reason. The latter posits itself, continually confronting and overcoming the antithesis afresh. Hence, the genesis of Spirit occurs in the threefold act of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, or, to use another word, in dialectic.’ Ibid., 151-152. Plotinus was accused by his colleagues in Greece of having plagiarised Numenius of Apamea. Paul Henry ‘The Place of Plotinus in the History of Thought’ in Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., lxix 
6. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 225
7. Proclus, The Elements of Theology, op, cit., Props., 91 and 102. The relationship between ‘infinite’ and ‘finite’ is Cusanus’ fundamental philosophical concern: ‘Your Concept is most simple eternity itself. Now, posterior to most simple eternity no thing can possibly be made. Therefore, infinite duration, which is eternity itself, encompasses all succession. Therefore, everything which appears to us in a succession is not at all posterior to Your Concept, which is eternity. For Your one Concept, which is also Your Word, enfolds each and every thing.’ Nicholas of Cusa, De visione Dei (‘The Vision of God’), op, cit., 10, 43, 699
8. Magee, ‘Hegel’s Reception of Jacob Boehme’, op. cit., 544 
9. ‘There is not a single passage in the works of Schelling published during his lifetime that explicitly indicates that the author was engaged with Swedenborg, as were so many of the leading spirits of the time who in one way or another reacted against Enlightenment rationalism…(Schelling made only one reference to Swedenborg in his dialogue ‘On the Connection of Nature with the Spiritual World [Clara]’) but even here he is referred to only as “the Swedish spirit-seer” or “the Northern spirit-seer.” Even more astonishing, there is not a single direct reference to Swedenborg in Schelling’s letters. …as far as the available sources indicate Schelling never wrote the name “Swedenborg”…This once again confirms Ernst Benz’s assertion that the official academic judgement passed on Swedenborg was so potent “that Swedenborg was rarely mentioned by name even by his covert adherents.” Still, the references to Swedenborg in Clara demonstrate that Schelling regarded him as a true seer.’ Friedmann Horn, Schelling and Swedenborg: Mysticism and German Idealism, Trans., George F. Dole, Swedenborg Foundation, Pennsylvania, 1997, 27. Horn quoted Kant ‘in the future – I don’t know where or when – it will be proved that even in this life the human soul is in an insoluble community with all the immaterial natures of the world of spirits, and that it reciprocally influences it and receives impressions from it, of which, however, the soul is unconscious as long as everything is fine’ (p. 149 in Kants populäre Schriften, ed. Paul Menzer (Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1911)’ 169
10. Safranski wrote that, wanting to read the writing of Max Stirner (Johann Caspar Schmidt – Marx and Engels referred to him in The German Ideology as ‘Saint Max’), Nietzsche sent one of his students (Adolf Baumgartner) to the Basel library in 1874 to get it. On another occasion, Safranski reports, he was quoted by his friend Ida Overbeck as saying that she would not let on that he was familiar with Stirner’s writing. Nietzsche was accused of not only having been influenced by Stirner but of having plagiarised him. Safranski quotes one contemporary of Nietzsche’s having written that Nietzsche would have been ‘permanently discredited in any educated milieu if he had demonstrated even the least bit of sympathy for Stirner’. Rudiger Safranski, Nietzsche, A Philosophical Biography, Trans., Shelley Frisch, Granata Books, London, 2002, 126

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

The US capitalist class, its agents and allies, marauding around the world

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas

‘Just Imagine…

If Russia Had Toppled the Canadian Government’

Neil Clark, Australian National Review 1-14.11.14

Just imagine if the democratically-elected government of Canada had been toppled in a Russian-financed coup, in which far-right extremists and neo-Nazis played a prominent role.

That the new unelected ‘government’ in Ottawa cancelled the law giving the French language official status, appointed a billionaire oligarch to run Quebec and signed an association agreement with a Russian-led trade bloc.

Just imagine…

If Russia had spent $5 billion on regime change in Canada and then a leading Canadian energy firm had appointed to its board of directors the son of a top Russian government politician.

Just imagine…

If the Syrian government had hosted a meeting in Damascus of the “Friends of Britain” – a group of countries who supported the violent overthrow of David Cameron’s government.

That the Syrian government and its allies gave the anti-government “rebels” in Britain millions of pounds and other support, and failed to condemn “rebel” groups when they killed British civilians and bombed schools, hospitals and universities.

That the Syrian Foreign Minister dismissed next year’s scheduled general election in the UK as a “parody of democracy” and said that Cameron must stand down before any elections are held.

Just imagine…

If in 2003, Russia and its closest allies had launched a full-scale military invasion of an oil-rich country in the Middle East, having claimed that that country possessed WMDs which threatened the world and that afterwards no WMDs were ever found.

That up to 1 million people had been killed in the bloodshed that followed the invasion and that the country was still in turmoil over 10 years later.

That Russian companies had come in to benefit from the reconstruction and rebuilding work following the “regime change.”

Just imagine…

If the pro-Russian journalists who had faithfully parroted the claims that the Middle Eastern country that Russia had invaded in 2003 had WMDs did not apologise afterwards or show any contrition despite the enormous death toll; but instead carried on in their well-paid jobs to propagandise more illegal wars and ‘interventions’ against other independent countries, and attacked those honest journalists who didn’t peddle the war lies.

Just imagine…

If over forty people protesting against the central government had been burnt to death by pro-government extremists in Venezuela.

That the Venezuelan government had launched a military offensive against people protesting for greater autonomy/federalisation following visits by the head of the Russian SVR and Dmitry Medvedev to Caracas.

Just imagine…

If last August over six hundred people protesting in camps against the government in Minsk in Belarus had been massacred by armed forces. That this spring, the courts in Belarus had handed out death sentences to over 600 supporters of opposition parties.

Just imagine…

If Russia had spent the years following the end of the old “Cold War” surrounding the US with military bases and pushing for Canada and Mexico to join a Russian military alliance. That earlier this month Russia carried out major military exercises in Mexico.

Just imagine…

If we had heard leaked telephone calls between a high ranking official from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Ambassador in Canada in which they discussed who should/shouldn’t be in the Canadian government. That their approved candidate subsequently became the new, unelected Prime Minister following a Russian-financed “regime change.”

That the high ranking Russian official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said: “Fxxx the EU.”

Just imagine…

If the Syrian air force had bombed a weapons depot in Israel and also bombed convoys which security officials said were carrying weapons to anti-government forces in Syria.

Just imagine…

If leading Russian politicians attended anti-austerity street protests in western Europe, handed out cookies to those protesting, and supported the protestors’ calls for the governments to step down.

Imagining what would happen if any of the above events occurred, and comparing it to what has happened in reality is highly instructive as it shows us what is wrong with the world today.

Actions have been taken by the US and its allies which would be considered totally outrageous if carried out by other countries. All we have to do is to switch the names of the countries concerned to see the double standards.

If Russia had attacked an oil-rich Middle Eastern nation in 2003, and pro-Russian journalists peddled the same sort of deceitful pro-war, WMD propaganda that neocons and faux-leftists did in the west when the US invaded Iraq, then we can be sure that Russia would have been regarded as an international pariah, and the journalists who acted as cheerleaders for the illegal invasion would be discredited for the rest of their lives. But the US is not subject to sanctions or treated as an outcast, its President in 2003, George W. Bush and his close ally Tony Blair, have yet to stand trial for war crimes, and the media ‘pundits’ who supported the invasion of Iraq are still in place and now pushing for a new Cold war against Russia and new military ‘intervention’ against Syria.

If Russia had spent $5bn on toppling the democratically-elected government of either Canada or Mexico, and installed a pro-Russian junta in its place, we can be sure that within hours, a full scale military invasion by the US would have taken place, in order to remove the new “government” from power. Western television news channels and elite pundits would be enthusiastically supporting the US action – declaring it to be a “response to Russian aggression” and saying it was totally justified. But when the regime changing is done by the US in Ukraine, and a pro-US junta installed in power in Kiev, it’s a very different story. The same people who would cry ‘foul’ at the top of their voices if Russia engineered a coup in Canada or Mexico, celebrate the unlawful toppling of the legitimate government of Ukraine.

We already know how the US would respond, if another country sought to put nuclear weapons close to its territory – in 1962 the world came to the brink of war in the Cuban missile crisis. But while a third world war would undoubtedly be threatened again if Russian forces held military exercises in Mexico, it’s not considered provocative for NATO to hold military exercises in Estonia.

If the governments of Belarus and Venezuela had responded as brutally towards anti-government protesters as the Egyptian military regime did last August, or sent in the tanks and used heavy weaponry against their own people as the western-backed Kiev junta has, then we can be sure that the great ‘humanitarians’ of the faux-left would be screeching not just for punitive sanctions but for air strikes too and for Presidents Lukashenko and Maduro to be carted off the The Hague.

We all know too what would have followed if it had been the Syrian air force that had bombed a weapons depot and convoys in Israel and not the other way round. Why do we tolerate such brazen hypocrisy?

There is no legal or moral basis for saying that the US and its allies should be able to do things, which if done by other countries, would be condemned as wrong and punished with the imposition of sanctions and/or military attack or invasion. International law and the principles of non-interference in other nations should apply equally to all: regardless of the country’s political system or form of government. The British government has no more right to interfere in the internal affairs of Syria than the Syrian government has to interfere in the internal affairs of Great Britain. The US has no more right to “regime change” in countries bordering Russia, than Russia has to “regime change” in countries bordering the US.

We need a new international order based on the equality of all sovereign nations: a new “World of Equals”, as envisaged by this year’s Belgrade Forum, whose declaration can be read here. If we can imagine that and work to put it in place by exposing current western hypocrisy and double standards whenever they occur then the world would be a much safer place.

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John Pilger: Breaking The Silence: Truth and Lies in The War On Terror 2003

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Dissatisfaction became greater and deeper

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Now the abrupt alternation between rich and poor became really apparent. Abundance and poverty lived so close together that the saddest consequences could and inevitably did arise. Poverty and frequent unemployment began to play havoc with people, leaving behind them a memory of discontent and embitterment. The consequence of this seemed to be political class division. Despite all the economic prosperity, dissatisfaction became greater and deeper; in fact, things came to such a pass that the conviction that ‘it can’t go on like this much longer’ became general, yet without people having or being able to have any definite idea of what ought to have been done.

These were the typical symptoms of deep discontent which sought to express themselves in this way.

But worse than this were other consequences induced by the economisation of the nation.

In proportion as economic life grew to be the dominant mistress of the state, money became the god whom all had to serve and to whom each man had to bow down. More and more, the gods of heaven were put into the corner as obsolete and outmoded, and in their stead incense was burned to the idol Mammon. A truly malignant degeneration set in; what made it most malignant was that it began at a time when the nation, in a presumably menacing and critical hour, needed the highest heroic attitude. ….

The stock exchange began to triumph and prepared slowly but surely to take the life of the nation into its guardianship and control.

Mein Kampf

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Vladimir Putin answers a reporter’s question

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Aristotle and Nicholas of Cusa: to be and/or not to be, that is the question

Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet ‘…she described her character as “manly and resolute, but nonetheless thoughtful…[he] thinks before he acts, a trait indicative of great strength and great spiritual power”.’ (Wikipedia)

Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet ‘…she described her character as “manly and resolute, but nonetheless thoughtful…[he] thinks before he acts, a trait indicative of great strength and great spiritual power”.’ (Wikipedia)

‘Now it is also the case that there can be nothing intermediate to an assertion and a denial. We must either assert or deny any single predicate of any single subject. The quickest way to show this is by defining truth and falsity. Well, falsity is the assertion that that which is is not or that that which is not is and truth is the assertion that that which is is and that that which is not is not. Thus anyone who asserts anything to be or not to be is either telling the truth or telling a falsehood. On the other hand, neither that which is is said either not to be or to be nor is that which is not.

And if there were an intermediate of contradictory statements, then it would either be like grey between black and white or like the non-man-non-horse between man and horse.’

Aristotle The Metaphysics, Gamma 7 1011b, Trans. and Introduction by Hugh Lawson-Tancred, Penguin, London, 2004, 107

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‘I want to tell you of one more thing that I see to be marvellous above other things. …since all things are singular, they are both similar, because they are singular, and dissimilar, because they are singular; (and they are not similar, because they are singular), and not dissimilar, because they are singular. A corresponding point holds regarding same and different, equal and unequal, singular and plural, one and many, even and odd, concordant and discordant, and the likes, although this (claim) seems absurd to the philosophers who adhere – even in theological matters – to the principle that each thing either is or is not (the case).’

Nicholas of Cusa, De Venatione Sapientiae (On the Pursuit of Wisdom), Nicholas of Cusa: Metaphysical Speculations, Six Latin Texts Translated into English, Trans., Jasper Hopkins, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1998, 1320-21

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Trump, ‘freedom’ and the forces and relations of production

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As with astronomy the difficulty in the way of recognising that the earth moves consisted in having to rid oneself of the immediate sensation that the earth was stationary accompanied by a similar sense of the planets’ motion, so in history the obstacle in the way of recognising the subjection of the individual to the laws of space and time and causality lies in the difficulty of renouncing one’s personal impression of being independent of those laws. But as in astronomy the new view said: ‘True, we are not conscious of the movement of the earth but if we were to allow that it is stationary we should arrive at an absurdity, whereas if we admit the motion (which we do not feel) we arrive at laws,’ likewise in history the new theory says: ‘True, we are not conscious of our dependence but if we were to allow that we are free we arrive at an absurdity, whereas by admitting our dependence on the external world, on time and on causality we arrive at laws.’

In the first case it was necessary to surmount the sensation of an unreal immobility in space and to recognise a motion we did not feel. In the present case it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist and to recognise a dependence of which we are not personally conscious.

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

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It is striking that at a time of economic and therefore social crisis, the American people have voted to be their next president someone who is the personification of the patriarchal, misogynistic, racist, utterly abusive, dishonest and exploitative essence of capitalism.

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Only socialism can defeat Trumpism

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Nicole Aschoff and Bhaskar Sunkara, ’Only socialism can defeat Trumpism’ The Nation, 07.11.16

…the past year has shown that millions of ordinary people are ready for an alternative, one pointed to by the success of Sanders and the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. These leaders have tried to articulate a humanist, social-democratic vision—a platform with concrete demands that, if met, would improve the lives of the poor, restore dignity and means to workers, and assure young people that their efforts are not in vain. This vision resonates with voters. This is the vision that must be built on—and expanded—by any party that wants to be relevant in these times.

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party would do well to take the popular demand for an alternative seriously. Americans—especially young adults and minorities—don’t see Sanders as a dinosaur trading on nostalgia or harking back to an irredeemable past. Instead, they see capitalism as a key source of their troubles. A recent Harvard University poll of Americans between the age of 18 and 29 found that 51 percent did not support capitalism, compared to only 42 percent who said they did. This doesn’t mean a socialist majority is right around the corner—only 33 percent offered it up as an alternative—but the poll indicates a significant shift in attitudes from just a few years ago.

Results like these fit within a broader picture of discontent. A majority of young Americans, including college-educated millennials, saddled with debt and dealing with bad jobs or no jobs, identify as working class—60 percent, more than any other group of Americans, suggesting that a class-based politics is increasingly salient. Even before Sanders ran for president, 66 percent of Americans saw “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between rich and poor, and recent data show that the wealth gap between middle-class Americans and elites has reached a record high. The vast majority of Americans are unhappy with the status quo, and most are willing to pay higher taxes or tax the rich for programs to improve public education and fund Social Security and Medicare.

Most Democratic politicians appear unwilling to acknowledge the extent of these shifts. But in this post-2008 climate, replete with anger against the establishment, the Clintonist approach of winning over moderates and drawing in reluctant leftists presupposes the existence of an ideological center that increasingly cannot hold. It might not be apparent on the eve of their November 8 triumph, but it will soon be.

As with the collapsing social democrats in Europe, the Democratic Party’s best bet is to move left and embrace a platform that speaks to the real needs, fears, and aspirations of working people. This doesn’t mean looking back with rose-colored glasses on the New Deal; it means building a coalition of young people, working-class whites, and minority voters around a new politics.

Those of us to the left of Clinton and the Democrats don’t have all the answers. But we have a good idea of where to start.

First, call for single-payer healthcare and free, quality public education—including higher education—for people of all ages. Fight for robust maternal and paternal leave and universal pre-K to help young families. These policies, despite debates on how to pay for them, are easily grasped and popular. The widespread support for Bernie’s broadsides against the “millionaire and billionaire” class shows that Americans are tired of handouts to Wall Street and the elite, and are ready for a new, progressive tax scheme to foot the bill.

But gains like single-payer and free higher education wouldn’t just be about giving a handout to working people instead of the rich. They would be part of a social movement demanding a decent life for all Americans. This movement would have a broader vision, one that includes the demand for a national job guarantee. Giving everyone a decent job isn’t a pipe dream. It’s a logical way to address pressing social problems and it’s achievable, through a robust expansion of public employment with an eye toward addressing social needs like infrastructure, education, and scientific research and scholarship in the public interest.

Policies like these will not only help alleviate material suffering, they will eventually help unite a divided electorate. Programs that benefit all Americans will foster the sense of solidarity and political engagement necessary to building a lasting progressive coalition in this country.

The alternative is more anxiety and inequality, a further decline in the Democratic Party’s base, and the continued growth of a Trump-like far right that is actively positioning itself to pick up the pieces. For the Democrats, no less than their peers in Europe, where the neoliberalisation of social democracy has opened up space for a populist right, the choice on offer might well be either socialism or irrelevance.

My thought: Trotsky articulated ‘the choice on offer’ far more accurately – socialism or barbarism

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I recommend the following for your consideration. That the Chinese Communist Party has learnt the lesson of the necessity of financial reward for individual initiative and has so far managed that very well within a socialist framework at the same time as the global crisis of capitalism which is so clearly reflected in the current US Presidential election gives even greater emphasis to Engels’ words :

‘The war in China has given the death-blow to the old China. Isolation has become impossible; the introduction of railways, steam-engines, electricity, and modern large-scale industry has become a necessity, if only for reasons of military defence. But with it the old economic system of small peasant agriculture, where the family also made its industrial products itself, falls to pieces too, and with it the whole old social system which made relatively dense population possible. Millions will be turned out and forced to emigrate; and these millions will find their way even to Europe, and en masse. But as soon as Chinese competition sets in on a mass scale, it will rapidly bring things to a head in your country and over here, and thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’

Engels to Friedrich Adolf Sorge in Hoboken; London, November 10, 1894, Marx Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1982, 450-451

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Pilger and Assange counter the toadying pap of Australian ‘journalism’ 2

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Pilger and Assange counter the toadying pap of Australian ‘journalism’ 1

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