Sunday, January 11, 2004

Letters from "M"

What follows is great stuff. A few days ago, I began an email correspondence with a reader of this blog. His comments are extremely insightful and caused me to clarify my thinking in places and my writing in others. I hope you will indulge this rather longish post in which I present most of the body of his emails to me. I've done some editing and include a few of my comments and his responses. It goes to the very heart of what is happening in our country today.

I call these "Letters from M" for three reasons:
  • He does not want any identifying information in these postings.
  • The first letter of the pseudonym he uses when writing me is "M".
  • It sounds really know, kinda James Bondish. "I've just received a new communication from "M".

First, I must make a few introductory comments. His long messages were in response primarily to my characterization of as "conservative" because of the website owner's comments against taxes and in favor of guns. M caused me to rethink some of my positions, and clarify much that I left unsaid. But if you think this is just about guns and taxes, think again. This dialogue really goes to the heart of the crisis we find ourselves in today. No, not the crisis of the Titans losing in the play-offs...the other crisis...that whole fascist takeover thing.

Bear with my introductory comments a few lines longer, patient reader. Because I did not develop my responses as fully as M did his arguments, I could look, well...kinda dumb. But really, I'm only going to include the responses I made that elicited further comment from M. However, you should know a little bit about me to understand what I left unsaid.

I have been politically active since I was a teenager. My first efforts in a teen-run organization, were led, unbeknownst (I finally got to use that sounds so scholarly) to me, by local members of a national communist party. As I learned about their beliefs, I joined them, and though, by definition (almost) a communist party felt that a violent revolution was inevitable, or at least very necessary, I don't think anyone was actually forming any "leftwing militias." Their stance on gun control, however, was decidedly in league with M's.

I also spent many years in nonviolent political activity. I stayed for 8 months at the Open Door Community in Atlanta, a community of Christians who actually read Jesus's words about how one treats the poor and relates to those in power. I even spent a few days in jail as a result of a nonviolent action protesting the opening of a huge new mall, the development of which led to even more suffering of the city's homeless. I got off easy, as I believe protesting a mall opening these days is cause for a trip to Guantanamo bay.

I even spent six months walking halfway across the country with a Japanese Buddhist monk (you've seen these guys if you've been to anti-war protests in many of the major cities. Yellow robes and prayer drums. Can't miss them.) That was a profound experience in many ways, including a very direct visual comprehension of how militarized the south is. I can't even remember how many military convoys passes us by during our journey.

I've also been associated with movements that were not nonviolent in their philosophies, though mainly through association with those more directly involved with such movements as the Sandanistas in Nicaragua and the FMLN in El Salvador. I have even had the great privilege of chatting with Subcommandante Marcos of the EZLN (Zapatistas) in Mexico. He's not an easy guy to have a meeting with...and given that Oliver Stone was also involved...well, I'll leave that story for another time.

All right, I don't want to try your patience any longer. I just wanted to point out that I am open to revolutionary/oppositional movements of various types and my "anti-gun" comments were decidedly simplistic. But it is not my views that are on display here, today. So let's get on with M's thoughts. I am posting his original email, and comments from me when those comments elicited further thoughts from M. There is an important dialogue about the use of technology that I'm omitting for now, but it will show up, I think, in some future post. I need one of my famous disclaimers, however. This site does not recommend the violent overthrow of the American government. It is a crime to do that. In fact, there is a young man in jail right now simply for linking to an anarchist article that had information on bomb building. Go here for more info on his case: Sherman Austin. M and I are merely engaging in philosophical discussions. Please do not come arrest me. Please. They don't defer student loans based on jail sentences.

Letter from M

My comments in maroon

I found your site through the "Center for an Informed America" site,
which I regularly read, as it is free from the usual disinformation and
bullshit disseminated by the fake/controlled left. Perhaps this is where
your "unexpected influx of virtual guests" is coming from. In its
recommendation of your site, it says "Leave him your comments on his
postings to let him know that his efforts are appreciated" -- so here
they are. Aren't you lucky. I wonder which category I'll fall into --
"informed" or "nuts"?

Regarding , you said "clearly a conservative. He often has comments about taxes and guns (against and for) that
identify him as such."
I think that's a fair assessment of the politics
of that site. However, when I read comments like this coming from people
who claim to be "a tad to the left", I usually conclude that the author
belongs to the above-mentioned fake/controlled left and stop reading.
I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, since you obviously share my
suspicion of "leftists" who accept the official story of the JFK
assassination, 9/11, and other Establishment fairy tales.

Thanks for noticing.

I am not a conservative -- quite the opposite. I do not enjoy being a
slave for the corporations and their wholly-owned subsidiary, the
capitalist state. Since the origin of class society thousands of years
ago, the ruling class and the state have always tried to disarm the
people they wished to exploit and oppress, for obvious reasons. It's a
historical invariant. The only mystery is why, starting in the last
third of the twentieth century, the leaders of the slaves have decided
that it would be a good idea to comply with this demand. It's especially
odd to hear this from people who believe that "the fascists have won in
this country."

Regarding income tax -- we already get ripped off by the employer at the
point of production, and now we're supposed to believe that having a
large fraction of our wages confiscated by their enforcement and
extortion apparatus, the state, is a good thing? It used to be the case
that the meagre social services provided by the government were largely
paid for out of corporate taxes. For the last thirty years (at least),
the continuous decline in taxes paid by the corporations and the people
that own them has been matched by a corresponding decline in the social
welfare system, and in working-class real income after taxes. Income tax
is a mechanism which redistributes wealth from ordinary people to the
rich, at gunpoint. Surely this is the major purpose of the $400
billion/year Pentagon budget. The nifty hardware used for suppressing
the Imperial colonies is just an (important) side effect.

The difference between a slave and a wage-worker is that the wage-worker
is free to quit her job and try to get a better deal from another
employer; the slave doesn't have this right. But once the government
asserts that it has the right to confiscate thirty or forty percent of
your wages, you're back to being a slave again, because you can't escape
from them. The only thing left to decide is the exact degree of
enslavement. Even for actual chattel slaves, the rate of exploitation is
not one hundred percent, because the slaveowner still has to provide
them with food, clothing, and shelter, or else they will quickly cease
to provide him with any return on investment. Many wage-workers receive
little more than this after the state extortion agencies are finished
with them. Through trade union organisation, it's sometimes possible to
negotiate a wage increase from the employer, but it's impossible to
negotiate with the government taxation gangsters. They'll just
confiscate most of your wage increase through their "progressive income
tax" racket and hand it back to your (and their) boss in the form of
corporate tax cuts, if not direct payouts and subsidies. See how that
works? "Progressive income tax" actually isn't anything of the sort,
because the ruling class pays a much lower rate of tax on capital gains
and stock dividends than the working class pays on wages, even when they
don't hide it in offshore accounts and other semi-legal scams.

The (deliberate?) failure to understand these issues is both a cause and
a symptom of the pathetic condition of the North American "left". The
reactionary, pro-state position of "progressives" on these two issues,
income tax and gun prohibition, drives large numbers of people who could
and should be leftists into the arms of the populist right. This
explains much of the mass base of the Republican Party -- otherwise it
would only appeal to racists, anti-abortionists, homophobes, evangelical
bigots and other scum.

I don't wish to be a slave, and it seems to me that "gun control" and
wage confiscation are part of the techniques by which the corporate
slavemasters prevent any meaningful liberation from occurring -- surely
it's not a coincidence that the state began to seriously pursue these
policies just at the point when effective trade unions, the civil rights
movement, Vietnam war resistance, womens' equality, and other social
liberation movements presented a real challenge to capitalist hegemony.
"Income tax" is slavery, "gun control" is fascism, and they were both
deliberately instituted to reinforce the corporate power system. I don't
think that I'm the only one who feels this way, and if the fake
social-democratic "left" thinks that these opinions make me a
right-winger, or even a "conservative", then they can kiss my ass.

I particularly appreciated your "Nostradamus"and "End of Democracy" posts. These things need to be said loudly and often, to counteract the
hypnotic drone of the "anti-conspiracy" establishment left. (It's only a
conspiracy if you claim that the government did it. The Official Story,
wherein four airplanes are simultaneously hijacked by terrorists under
the direction of a crazed Islamic fanatic living in a cave in
Afghanistan, is not a Conspiracy Theory.) Also, your explanation of "How
to Attract Government Goons Without Really Trying"
brought back fond
memories of, as you put it, my "fairly futile history of political
activism". I find it's particularly hard to distinguish between insane
people, insane people under the control of the cops, and cops posing as
insane people. What fun, indeed.

What followed was some discussion on technology which I'm omitting for now. I do need to apologize for my use of the word "geek" regarding Linux users. It was meant to be tongue in cheek and self-effacing. I call myself a geek because of my computer interests and my twice a month evenings with a friend to play video games I call "geek night." I wish I could use Linux but I get so frustrated with having things not work, that even though I know Linux is better than Windows...I've never been adventurous enough to switch to or dedicated enough time to learn Linux. It should be noted also that the tech savvie will have an important role in whatever resistance emerges in the coming years.

Now back to M. I made a few responses in an email back, which got some great responses back. I'd love to hear from more readers on this conversation. Here it goes.

(My comment to start) What you say (about taxes) is right, and true progressives have campaigned for lowering or repeal of payroll taxes and putting the burden back on the corporations. "Conservatives" for lack of a better term as you've given good reasons to mistrust such labels, often say that lowering taxes on the rich is as or more important than that on the poor. Trickle down...etc. Often, I see many "conservatives" using rhetoric such as yours (and I don't mean that your own views are not sincere or well informed) but supporting "tax breaks" that are clearly designed for corporations.

Well, as you say, surely the distinguishing factor between the
conservative and left-wing positions on this issue is what is proposed
to be done about corporate taxes. I think we can agree that trickle-down
economics is bullshit corporate propaganda. One might also inquire as to
the economic status of the individual making the proposal; those who
derive their income from wages are more likely to be sincere in their
beliefs than those who subsist on corporate dividends.

All this "grass roots" stuff is a show, usually quite well orchestrated by corporate interests.

The term "grass roots" is almost certainly intended to obscure the class
issues in question and divert people in the direction of right-wing
populism. This is why I don't use it, except maybe when initially
talking to people who don't understand what social classes are.

I am always saddened to see working people side with the very forces that want to keep them down. We have a lovely talk radio station
owned by Clear Channel, here in Nashville. They whip up HUGE anti-tax
demonstrations. It is the folks who think like you who are the rank
and file of these demos, but the policies that result are decidedly
anti-working class.

This is *exactly* my point. The working-class population knows from
their own experience that state confiscation of their wages is a serious
issue, but the predominantly middle-class leadership of the so-called
"left" has abandoned class politics in favour of "identity politics" and
similar foolishness. Seeing that the "left" doesn't care about the
issues that matter to them, many workers come to identify with the only
visible political culture which pretends to take such things seriously,
the populist right. The results are exactly as you described. Worse,
once politically unsophisticated people have been attracted to the
talk-radio demagogues and Republican front organisations on the basis of
issues like income tax, this is used as the thin end of the wedge to
sell them a bunch of logically unrelated right-wing opinions about
immigration, unions, minority rights, foreign policy and other issues.

Over the last thirty years, the concerns of the mainstream "left" have
diverged so completely from the issues that matter to the majority of
the population, with such disastrous results for the possibilities of
resistance to corporate hegemony, that it's hard to believe that this
happened accidentally. I suspect that it's at least partly the result of
a long-term ruling-class strategy, implemented through academia and the
"philanthropic" foundations (Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller, etc). I'm not
the only one who thinks this.

I have similar views about the merging of Christian ideology with
capitalist ideology, especially as manipulated by the

My understanding is that "Christian ideology", at least in its finished
form, was formulated under the Roman Empire either by superstitious
loons under the control of the secret police, or by secret police posing
as superstitious loons, because the existing ideological control
mechanisms were no longer up to the job. This happened several centuries
after the supposed lifetime of the mythological founder of the religion,
"Jesus Christ". It's not an accident that Christianity has served the
interests of the ruling class so well for the last two thousand years;
that's what it was designed to do.

For a particularly blatant example of this, refer to the Book of Romans,
chapter 13, wherein we're told that God commands us not only to obey the
state authorities, but also to pay taxes. There you have it, from The
Man himself. How stupid do they think we are? (The following comment was not in my email to M, but is worth noting. We are also told that slaves should obey their masters. It is worth noting that all of these references come from Paul. Paul never met Jesus (save for as a mysterious light) and Paul NEVER quotes Jesus. I've always said (tongue in cheek???) that Paul was a Roman agent sent to disrupt the Christian movement (if there really was much of one at that early stage.) Contemporary evangelical Christianity is primarily Pauline in its outlook. Jesus has import as a PERSONAL savior the social teachings have been largely ignored. This certainly dovetails nicely with the state interests. However, even in Paul we are urged to fight the "principalities and powers." Go figure.)

(Back to the email conversation.) My identity as "left" means "anti-capitalist, anti-corporatist". I don't know what you mean by the "fake" left, but what passes for
left in this country is centrist most other places.

That's what I mean by "left", too, with the important addition of
"anti-state". I don't see how you can be anti-capitalist and
anti-corporatist for very long without realizing whose side the state is
on, regardless of which political party is currently in office.

In this context, what I mean by "fake left" is people and organisations
such as the social-democratic parties which exist in every
industrialized country in the world, except the United States. In the
receding past, these parties used to produce real reforms, such as
public healthcare, old-age pensions, and unemployment
insurance. Nowadays, they are manifestly incapable of even defending
previous reforms, let alone generating any new ones. They claim to
represent the interests of the working class, but the actual effect of
their activity is to even further entrench state control over the
majority of the population. They don't see this as a problem, because
they claim to believe that the state is or should be socially neutral,
whereas all historical experience shows that the state is a machine
which the economically dominant class uses to politically and militarily
subjugate those who they wish to exploit.

I guess that's my definition of the "fake left" -- people who claim to
be pro-working-class while their actual political activity helps to
further entrench the power of the capitalist state over the working
class. I consider "leftists" who support income tax (at least as applied
to wages and salaries) and gun prohibition (except as applied to persons
with a prior history of criminal violence) to be paramount examples of
this phenomenon.

It wouldn't be fair to describe the US Democratic Party as "fake left",
since they don't pretend to be leftists of any sort. Their class
allegiance is transparently obvious to everyone but the willfully blind.

Guns. I just watched Bowling for Columbine (you may insert your Michael Moore is a fake leftist remark here.)

Done. I've been wondering about him for a while, but the whole Wesley
Clark episode pretty much settles it as far as I'm concerned.

(Another aside. I have a friend who has a "liberal" talk show in DC. He is endorsing Clark. He also told me recently he has lots of friends in the CIA. You do the math. If Clark isn't some kind of CIA plant or Republican stalking horse, I'll do Rush Limbaugh's laundry for a year. Wheels within wheels, you know.)

(back to the dialogue)...and was interested that Moore was not taking the position that guns were the problem. Moore compared gun ownership with rates in Canada. They are similar, but murders in Canada are rare.

I think he contradicted himself rather deeply in this film. He starts
off by demonstrating quite convincingly that:

-- the violence in American culture is intimately connected with the
violence of US foreign policy

-- in the specific case of the six-year-old child in Michigan who shot
another child at school, that if his whole family hadn't been forced
into poverty the incident would never have happened

-- with the Canada example, that the availability of guns does not in
itself cause violence

He then proceeds to ignore these important findings and finishes the
movie with an irrational rant about Kmart and the National Rifle
Association. He tries to smear the NRA by associating it with the racist
terrorist organisation of former slaveowners, the Ku Klux Klan, whereas
in fact the NRA was founded by Union army officers who had just defeated
the slaveowners in the Civil War, and who continued to suppress the
southern racists for the following twelve years.

Sorry, Mike, what point were you trying to prove, exactly?

However, overall, I find the idea that if I own a handgun I can keep
myself free from oppression rather laughable. Yeah, I can shoot
myself after the standoff, but I think the swat teams are a bit better
armed. So do I need body armor and automatic weapons? Grenades?
Even then, these are useless items without some organized movement.

When you express the idea like that, it does sound
ridiculous. Unfortunately, most of the Second Amendment libertarians are
unable to formulate any theory much more coherent than this, because
their politics don't reflect how society actually works.

It's a fact that prior to the twentieth century, the explicit purpose of
American gun control laws was to disarm black people who were either
trying to free themselves from slavery, or resisting terrorists who
wanted to return them to that condition.

During the twentieth century, this objective expanded to encompass the
disarmamant of the entire working class population, regardless of race
or ethnicity.

It's interesting to notice that while the vast majority of gun violence
in the US is carried out with handguns, this is the category of firearms
that the government has the LEAST interest in suppressing. It
necessarily follows that reducing criminal violence is not the main
objective of current gun control campaigns.

What the gun grabbers are really excited about is what they call
"assault weapons". This is actually a meaningless term of their own
invention, intended to scare people, but it appears that what they mean
by it is automatic and semi-automatic military rifles. Not
coincidentally, these guns are statistically the least likely to be used
in crimes, but are the only type that are likely to be of much use in
large-scale organised resistance to fascism.

More than this. It used to be the case that you could buy a Chinese
military-surplus semi-automatic rifle for less than $150. When the
government noticed that these were becoming popular, they banned further
importation of them. On the other hand, you can easily buy an exactly
equivalent, recently-manufactured American rifle for $800, even one that
fires the same cartridge, if you have the money. The government has gone
so far as to ban the reimportation into the US of M1 semi-auto rifles
made here during WWII and later exported to other countries, even though
the ones which never left are still perfectly legal. Again, these used
to be cheap, but since the import ban the price has gone up

In other words, the government has no problem with the upper-middle
class and the rich having guns of any type. The purpose of gun control
is to deprive the working class of specifically those weapons which
might be useful in defending themselves against the class enemy. If guns
are of no potential use for this purpose, then what is the capitalist
state worried about?

Your point about guns being useless for resisting oppression in the
absence of an organised movement is of course quite correct. But
consider the converse. When the Nazi (Republican?) death squads start
kicking in our doors, if we don't have any guns, then the existence of
even a large and well-organised movement is not going to be of any more
help than it was for the members and supporters of the German Communist
and Social-Democratic parties after the Reichstag fire. If you think
this is a hypothetical issue, ask any refugee from El Salvador.

And if such an armed revolutionary movement is succesful, do I want THEIR revolution. I won't be able to argue with them, of course, because, well, they have all these guns.

I think that at this point in time, worrying about what might happen
after the revolution is a little bit less of a pressing issue than
considering our response to the fascist counterrevolution which you have
predicted on your website, don't you? But then, you already think that
"the fascists have won in this country." (Aside again. By this, I meant they are in power now. I assume there will eventually be resistance (or implosion with just the right 9-11 document making it out, for example. Long odds, that.). The added issues we face now as opposed to past resistance movements, however, are the existence of both technology capable of world destruction and the issue of "peak oil" which will be addressed in a future post.)If so, maybe it would have been prudent for the left to have taken these issues more seriously in the past. Amen. On the off chance that the fascists haven't already won, perhaps it would be an opportune time to reconsider previous attitudes.

Notice that your point about not being able to argue with people who
have guns applies at least as much to the armed nonrevolutionary
movement known as the capitalist state. People who attempt to argue with
the sharp end of the state rarely live long enough to regret this
decision. Just ask the survivors of the Waco massacre. (oops, now you'll
never believe I'm not a closet right-winger.) Not at all. The day it happened my good and very "leftist" friend called and said in horror, "They just burned them all!" We both understood what was going on there.

What I'm saying is that my position on these and other issues
is very similar to what anyone who considered themselves a "leftist",
"socialist", "revolutionary", "anti-capitalist", or whatever term you
like, anywhere in the world, probably prior to 1945, but certainly prior
to 1914, would have said. If you had told anyone in the
late-nineteenth-century left that in the late-twentieth-century North
American left, support for state confiscation of working-class wages and
weapons would become some kind of political litmus test for
distinguishing "progressives" from "conservatives", they would have
reacted the same way they did when they heard that the social-democratic
parties had voted in favour of the First World War: they would have
refused to believe it.

The Paris Commune was established when the French army tried to
confiscate the *artillery* of the Paris militia, which had been
purchased with voluntary contributions from the working class. This
resulted in a two-month civil war and a huge counterrevolutionary
massacre perpetrated by the ruling class. This must be one of the
largest nineteenth-century experiments in gun control and working-class
resistance thereto.

Right now, if you went to Columbia, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Turkey,
Guatemala, Iran, the Philippines, Greece, or any number of other
countries which have suffered under CIA-inflicted terrorist
dictatorships, and told even *liberals*, let alone leftists, that the US
"left" spends its time lobbying the government to take people's guns
away, they wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry. They'd think you were
out of your fucking mind (pardon my French), and they'd be right.
Operation Condor and the Phoenix Program are coming here too.

The terms "left-wing" and "right-wing" originated in the French
Revolution and had well-established meanings by the middle of the
nineteenth century. My politics and my usage of these terms are
completely consistent with what most leftists in North America and
Europe believed prior to 1945 and with radical-left opinion in the rest
of the world up until now. Anyone who calls themselves a leftist but is
in favour of granting these kinds of powers to the capitalist state has
a completely different definition of what "left-wing" means than the
original one. They're the ones who have abandoned traditional left-wing
politics, not me.

At this rather critical juncture in the development of the international
class war, I think I'd prefer to maintain a healthy distance from any
"leftists" who are still suffering from the delusion that the state is
their friend. Such people are dangerous. If they want to commit suicide
by being run over by tanks, that's their business. I don't.

Well, that's about it. I apologize for any errors in my transcription. I wanted to get this up fast. I've also not checked out all the links, so let me know if one is broken or links to a porn site. I've been looking for a good porn site. Comments, as always, are welcome. Meanwhile, be thinking..what role are YOU prepared to take in the coming resistance? What is your own view about the best way to oppose power? Do you have hope or are you resigned that we're in for a catastrophic end? Let me know.


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