Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Love me


Many moons ago, in a country far far away, Daniel De Leon wrote a series of scathing editorials lambasting Victor Berger a reformist socialist elected to the US House of Representatives. Later published as a pamphlet (not online, but I have it at home) called A Socialist in Congress (IIRC).

De Leon's criticism boiled down to this: Berger, as a lone congressman, was not attending meetings of congress, rather, he was touring the country doing lectures and rallies, De Leon thought he ought to be in the chamber challenging the propaganda of the paid lickspittle appologists of capital there. To what extent he was laying down a view on the functions of Socialists in the legislature or whether he was just using Berger as a peg to hang an article on I can't say.

The point is, there wasn't that much difference between the two positions. Neither party saw the socialist in congress as a part of the system, but viewed him as a rebel insurgent in enemy territory.

Lets cut to a new scene, a student digs sometime in the seventies - a kid, enthused by Trotskyism discusses the futility of the parliamentary road to socialism, how we need to organise to smash the state, not seixze it - how only the workers from below can bring real social change. Revolution, not reform. Faintly echoing the glimmering rebels of yesteryear, perhaps with a Phil Ochs album on his record player and a joint in his hand.

Freezeframe, then fastforward. In 2006 John Rees, national secretary of Respect isa appearing on the PM programme (last night) defending his party's MPs decision to enter the Celebrity Big Brother House (no, I won't link there). Does he excoriate parliament? Does he expose the sham of liberal democracy? Does he reject charges of desertion by noting that an MP is not a social worker but a part of a revolutionary movement whose job it is to campaign - as Berger and DeLeon agreed - for the cause and for a new society?

No, he noted that Respect held surgeries every Friday, that his MP wasn't going to miss vital votes and then whinged that he was being censored (not mention of the capitalist nature of Channel Four though).

So much for using Parliament to be Tribune os the oppressed. instead Respect engages in sub-liberal-democrat reformism.

So, all together now:
I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I'd lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad the commies were thrown out
Of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
As long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

The people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can't understand how their minds work
What's the matter don't they watch Les Crane?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I read New Republic and Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like korea
There's no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I vote for the democtratic party
They want the U.N. to be strong
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I'll send all the money you ask for
But don't ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal


Blogger Darren said...

Wow Bill,

when did you get into Phil Ochs in such a big way?

12:21 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Someone once downloaded a few of his tracks onto a computer I had access to - can't remember who that was though...

1:46 PM  
Blogger iridescent cuttlefish said...

Great to see:

* someone who knows that "Left" doesn't need to be in quotation marks

* someone who mentions Victor Berger at all, but especially for the right reasons

Don't have time to chat right now, but I might come back at some point to proposition you in much the same way that I did Ken MacLeod a while back regarding a "new" sort of communism...he was kind enough to be encouraging, I think...but label-wise I guess it would be more of a Kropotkin-esque mutual aid/endosymbiotic biology metaphor enhanced, local energy & food production autonomy based sort of neo-primitve communism, actually, but that tends to get a bit unwieldy (as you might guess).

In a thumbnail somewhat smaller than its label, then, I could say that the whole thing is built on the idea of taking a whopping great step back for the necessary perspective--something like what Steve Taylor does in The Fall: the Evidence for a Golden Age, 6000 Years of Insanity and the Dawning of a New Era and Edwin Black in Internal Combustion and Eugene Tsui in (R)Evolutionary Architecture--in order to see that we've been swindled by Empire in ways that we probably hadn't quite imagined and, further, that it's the built environment that's actually physically holding us hostage...so that if we were to basically dismantle the whole damned thing (carefully, mind) and rebuild in such a way that each house was energy self-sufficient (matter of design--the materials are "free") and each community food self-reliant and each bio-region durable goods self-manufacturing (emphasis on durable), well, we wouldn't need any bloody strongman government any more. Quite a lot more to it, actually, but I'm already late, late, late.

Oh, and you might like this little history of my man Victor--it's an undergrad piece by a local lad who must have inhaled some of Berger's endlessly recycled atoms or some such...

And thanks for the Phil!

6:13 AM  

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