Karl Marx in Teen Vogue

On May 10th, Teen Vogue published “Who Is Karl Marx: Meet the Anti-Capitalist Scholar“, a fairly light look at Marx and his ideas. After the dissonance of the fact that this publication is presenting Marx in a positive light fades, there’s actually some good to be found here.

You may have come across communist memes on social media. The man, the meme, the legend behind this trend is Karl Marx, who developed the theory of communism, which advocates for workers’ control over their labor (instead of their bosses). The political philosopher turned 200-years-old on May 5, but his ideas can still teach us about the past and present.
The famed German co-authored The Communist Manifesto with fellow scholar Friedrich Engels in 1848, a piece of writing that makes the case for the political theory of socialism — where the community (rather than rich people) have ownership and control over their labor — which later inspired millions of people to resist oppressive political leaders and spark political revolutions all over the world. Although Marx was raised in a middle-class family, he later became a scholar who struggled to make ends meet — a working-class man, he thought, who could take part in a political revolution.

“When I teach Marx, it’s got a lot to do with questions of how to think critically about history. Marx says we live under capitalism [but] capitalism has not always existed,” Ciccariello-Maher tells Teen Vogue. “It’s something that came into being and something that, as a result, just on a logical level, could disappear, could be overthrown, could be abolished, could be irrelevant. There’s this myth of the free market, but Marx shows very clearly that capitalism emerged through a state of violence.”


Sometimes I collect a big backlog of articles that are important but that I don’t have time to parse and share at the time I read them. Here are some views from the left I collected. TLDR: We need unions, we need left politics and we need to care about each other.

Sam Wallman’s “If They Could Pay Us Less, They Would” is a comic that showcases why a high minimum wage is necessary, but not sufficient, for all of us to live good lives.

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Better education doesn’t correlate strongly to economic mobility (but union membership does)” a piece on Boing Boing by Cory Doctorow opens the door a crack on a study that points out that the keys to better lives tend to be “higher minimum wages, the presence and strength of labor unions, and clear career pathways within local industries.”

Another article indicating education is not sufficient for moving us forward is Lonnae O’Neal’s “Ibram Kendi, One of the Nation’s Leading Scholars of Racism, Says Education and Love Are Not the Answer“. In the article, the problems of systemic racism are highlighted:

Education, love and exemplary black people will not deliver America from racism, Kendi says. Racist ideas grow out of discriminatory policies, he argues, not the other way around. And if his new center can help identify and dismantle those policies in the U.S. and around the world, he believes we can start to eliminate racism. At least that’s the goal.


“We have been taught that ignorance and hate lead to racist ideas, lead to racist policies,” Kendi said. “If the fundamental problem is ignorance and hate, then your solutions are going to be focused on education, and love and persuasion. But of course [Stamped from the Beginning] shows that the actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural.” Self-interest drives racist policies that benefit that self-interest. When the policies are challenged because they produce inequalities, racist ideas spring up to justify those policies. Hate flows freely from there.

In another article from Cory Doctorow, “Shared Destinies: Why Wealth Inequality Matters“, he muses about a tipping point for wealth inequality and offers the hope that we will be wise and kind enough to work together:

So much many of us are poor today than just a few decades ago; after the world wars’ orgies of capital destruction, wealth reached unprecedented levels of even distribution. After all, the poor had little to lose in the war, and the rich hedged their war-losses by loaning governments money to fight on, and so many of those debts were never paid. The next thirty years—the French call them “Les Trentes Glorieuses”—saw the creation of the GI Bill, the British and French welfare states, and the rise of an anti-capitalist, anti-war counterculture that reached its apex in the summer of ’68, when the world was on fire.

But since the malaise of the 1970s and the reboot of fiscal conservativism with Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened all over the world. The rich got a *lot* richer, and though the world’s economy grew, and though millions in China were lifted out of poverty, many millions in the “rich” world sank back down to pre-war levels of inequality—levels of inequality to rival France in 1789, when the Reign of Terror brought the guillotine and the massacres.


Something has to give. When it does, the question is: how will we react? Will we shoulder one another’s burdens, grabbing our bags and bugging in to the places were our neighbors need us? Or will we act like the cruel and selfish people the billionaires insist we are, grab our things and bug out, leaving others to sort through the rubble.

I’m betting on the former. That’s why I wrote Walkaway, an optimistic disaster novel about being kind during awful times. Awful times are a given, even in well-run, stable societies—they get smote by war, by disease, by climate and by unimaginable failures of complex systems. The delusions we cherish about our neighbors, about their essential untrustworthiness and downright unworthinessdetermines whether we rush to their aid or run from them.

Walkaway is a story where crisis threatens to tip into dystopia unless we can beat back elite panic and realize our shared destiny. It’s a vaccination against paranoia and mistrust, and a reminder that working together to make a better world is the oldest, most noble dream of our species.

In “The Generation Game“, John Quiggin points out that “In other words, a focus on differences between generations obscures the crucial role of inequality within generations.” He goes on to highlight that the wealthy are largely instrumental in triggering hardships regardless of their generation:

The point here is not that one generation is more or less to blame than another. The people who caused the crisis were mostly born before 1945 because they were of the right age to hold powerful positions in the financial sector in the 1990s. It was their membership of the 1 per cent that matters here.


Niki Ashton's NDP Leadership Bid

I was thrilled when Niki Ashton entered the leadership race for Canada’s New Democratic Party. We need leaders like her who are willing to be open about being socialist and to take stands against the real dangers that come with the agendas of the neoliberal parties of Canada (Liberal and Conservative). She is standing firmly behind universal child care, universal post-secondary education and protecting our infrastructure from privatization. As part of her announcement she drew a line that differentiates our party from the parties of the right, stating “You privatize it, we nationalize it. You deregulate it, we regulate it.”

When Canada’s NDP last had a leadership convention, in 2012, I was moved and impressed by Niki Ashton‘s convictions and policy stances. Her track record of standing against precarious work, fighting for social, economic and environmental justice and  working to alleviate the shameful treatment of indigenous communities instills a lot of confidence she will be the kind of leader who will remain firmly on the left

Niki’s candidacy give me hope we can finally build a movement to start easing the suffering of the most vulnerable in Canada. As she said, “We must challenge the power of Canada’s elites, the rich and powerful who are benefiting from growing inequality in our country.”

Profile on NDP Candidate Lisa Roberts

LocalXpress (written by striking Chronicle Herald staff) has a profile on Lisa Roberts, our NDP candidate in the Halifax Needham by-election. Her dedication to promoting affordable housing is tremendously important in a part of the city that is losing homes to anti-community developments. I voted for Lisa last weekend because we need more voices that will put people first and not continue to push misguided cuts and inaction on real problems as the Liberals have done.

Roberts sees access to affordable housing as one of the major issues facing residents of Halifax’s north end.

“And affordable housing through the whole spectrum, up to people who have quite good incomes. I worry about people on income assistance, people who are working at a minimum wage that is too low to afford a rent in the north end; I worry about people even making modest incomes who still can’t afford to buy a place in the north end,” she said.

“I want those people to be my neighbours. I want a lot of different people to be my neighbours, because that’s part of what makes this neighbourhood wonderful is the diversity.”

Lisa Roberts aims to keep Halifax Needham for NDP


Graceless: a Journal of the Radical Gothic is a Creative Commons-licensed magazine that frames radical social change through an unflinchingly dark lens. For years I’ve carried an affinity for dark and gothic culture, and I appreciate the work Graceless does to bring the loose collection of subcultures into political and social discourse.

While I have deep reservations about the anarchist leanings found in many pieces in the one issue that has been released, I have enjoyed stepping through the perspectives it collected and the editor, Margaret Killjoy, has expressed an attitude of ideological agnosticism that I appreciate: “I can’t say I agree with every word written by every contributor, but that is part of the point: we have no desire to present to you a single solution, no desire to sell you an ideology. We’ve only a desire to invigorate people who want to question our society and find their own answers.” There is a remarkably rich collection of content in the first issue.

A highlight for me was “A Radical’s Guide to Spooky Music”, which highlighted political lyrics of bands associated with the goth movement and mentioned some surprising bits of history, such as the existence of a Public Enemy and The Sisters of Mercy tour.

I was also impressed with an interview with musician Unwoman, in which she spoke of genre and gender in a way that is close to my own thoughts on both.

Genre and gender are connected, I suppose, in that I firmly believe we have the right to choose what traits and labels we take on without being judged in the slightest. The fact that society in general looks down on or fetishizes people who have gender reassignment or otherwise reject Western gender roles will never cease to amaze me. Like, seriously, how does this threaten you? The fact that the new mainstream news story is that it’s okay to be gay as long as you get married and settle down is frustrating, as is the need to state that being gay isn’t a choice. What if it were, don’t we have the right to choose, isn’t any healthy lifestyle as valid as the others? What if I want to be a boy one day and a girl the next, or to complement a bustier with a lovely moustache, without going any deeper into my motivation than “because I feel like it?” 

One thing that’s changed since I started calling myself Unwoman ten years ago is that I’m thinking now, if gender and genre aren’t limited to one choice, you don’t need to rebel against making choices. If you’re allowed to pile on the genre tags for a song, calling it “cello rock, electro-blues, chamber pop, steampunk, goth” (which bandcamp.com allows) and if you allow yourself to pile attributes of the traditionally feminine and masculine onto your identity, there’s no need to reject either the idea of genre or the idea of masculine/feminine. In fact playing with extreme traits from different genres and genders can be quite fun.

“Dressed To Kill: Illegal Dandyism” was a fascinating look at the intersection of fashion, politics and counter cultures. Accounts of the Zazous and Schlurfs’ opposition to Nazis were new for me and added to my appreciation of fashion as a force against fascism.

It was their ironic and sarcastic comments on the Nazi/ Vichy rulers, their dandyism and hedonism, their suspicion of the work ethic, and their love of “decadent” jazz that distinguished them as one of the prototype youth movements to question capitalist society. One fascist magazine commented on the male Zazou, “Here is the specimen of Ultra Swing 1941: hair hanging down to the neck, teased up into an untidy quiff , little moustache à la Clark Gable … shoes with toothick soles, syncopated walk.” At that time, Jazz was mostly associated with black culture and thus went directly against the Aryanization of culture that was happening in Vichy and the rest of Nazi-occupied Europe. The authorities attempted to shut down their clubs, making use of fi re codes and other pretexts to harass sympathetic bar and café owners. Th e Zazous were forced to to keep on the move, finding new places to meet and dance, including in cemeteries late at night. When Vichy ordered Jews to wear the yellow star of David, the Zazous added it to their wardrobe as both a fashion and political statement, putting “Zazous” in the center of the star.

[Schlurfs] adopted sexually ambiguous mannerisms and listened to black American-inspired swing jazz in late-night clubs that were underground both literally and figuratively. Unlike the Zoot Suiters or the Zazous, they did not have a uniform look per se, but prided themselves on creating their own outrageous DIY fashions based on noir, science fiction, and German expressionism. The men were even said to wear their hair long and “girlish” and don dark lipstick, “looking like vampires on the streets of Vienna” according a scandalized and disgusted Nazi corpsman in a letter home. Despite the Schlurfs’ resistance to Nazi ideology, once even burning a Hitler Youth Training Center to the ground, their repression continued even after Austria’s liberation. The Schlurfs were not fi ghting for Austria or some return to bourgeois Viennese conformity, but to live their lives as they saw fit.

The first issue of Graceless can be downloaded in web and print quality PDFs or purchased in print.

When we say “radical,” we are not speaking of a specific ideology, but we’re also not talking about politics like who’s gonna vote for whom. Radical means, to us as well as the dictionary, “affecting the fundamental nature.” We’ve as little interest in mainstream politics as we do in mainstream culture. We’re looking to transform our society and our lives on a fundamental level. And while we are not interested, as a journal, in promoting one specific methodology, our focus is broadly anti-authoritarian and probably tinged with left and post-left ideas. We are staunchly opposed to fascism and rightwing politics in general.

Everything dark belongs to us. When we say “gothic,” we don’t mean to speak to a specific little sub-category of a genre. Musically, we mean industrial, gothic, darkwave, coldwave, neo-folk, powernoise, alt-country, EBM, futurepop, black and gothic metal. We mean genres that don’t exist and we mean music that hasn’t been made yet. We’ve interest in the occult and we’re interested in the cold, dark of atheism. We’re interested in the Romantics and of course, the gothic.

The Radical Gothic
The radical gothic is the acceptance of the world as it is—dark and horrid, full of wanton cruelty—without denying the world as we might make it: dark and beautiful.
The radical gothic rejects the myth of consumer identity, that our purchases—or what we wear—define us. But at the same time, it recognizes that aesthetics are a valid form of expression.
The radical gothic is the acceptance of responsibility that grants us the freedom to define ourselves, our own lives and our own society.

In Support of a Free Burma

I’ve been following the “Saffron Revolution” (a series of anti-government protests in Burma) and the response to it for days now with tremendous sympathy. The protests are a non-violent movement lead by Theravada monks, aimed at creating reforms in the fascist government that is currently in command of Burma. The response to the protests was bloody and heartbreaking, but not unexpected. This is what so often happens when absolutistic forces (fascists) collide with multiplistic defenders of freedom (democrats); emerging freedom is met with violence.

These monks represent a noble and progressive movement within religions that we should embrace and support when it faces off with harmful governance and other injustices. William at Integral Options Cafe shares this sentiment and expressed it beautifully in “More on Why the New Atheists Will Fail“.

[T]he Buddhist monks in Burma, they are the liberals — they are the voice of a progressive effort toward democracy. And they are not using violence — they marched with nothing more than upturned alms bowls.
In the tradition of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Burmese monks join their liberal faith with peaceful resistance. They are marching for the freedom of their nation, not to impose their beliefs upon those who do not share them. They merely seek an open and free nation.

One of the greatest values of religion is when it calls us to raise ourselves to higher wisdom, greater compassion and the very freedom and higher cognition that some claim religion as a whole limits.

Symbolic support for Burmese freedom may be limited in impact, but I feel compelled to take part both in this blog and likely in the flesh at local solidarity events that will come up. Beyond this, we can pressure our governments to act to limit the damage done by the Burmese government in ways that are swift and responsible. I’d love to know of other actions that we can take to help the people of Burma, so please do comment with those.

International bloggers are preparing an action to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. These Bloggers are planning to refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4 and just put up one Banner then, underlined with the words “Free Burma!”.

Thanks to C4Chaos for the heads up on the first blogging action and John Craig for spreading the following one. For some background on Burma, check out William’s “A Brief History of Burma” post.

Note: This is a new kind of online protest that uses blogs to spread a petition globally. To participate, just add your blog by following the instructions in this blog post. This not an issue of partisan politics, this is an issue of basic human rights and democracy. Please help to prevent a human tragedy in Burma by adding your blog and asking others to do the same.

By passing this meme on through the blogosphere hopefully we can generate more awareness and avert a serious tragedy. As concerned world-citizens this something we bloggers can do to help.

How to participate:

1. Copy this entire post to your blog, including this special number: 1081081081234

2. After a few days, you can search Google for the number 1081081081234 to find all blogs that are participating in this protest and petition. Note: Google indexes blogs at different rates, so it could take longer for your blog to show up in the results.

3. If you know how to add tags to your blog posts, add the Technorati tag 1081081081234 to your post as well. This will make your post findable sooner in Technorati.

The situation in Burma and why it matters:

There is no press freedom in Burma and the government has started turning off the Internet and other means of communication, so it is difficult to get news out. Individuals on the ground have been sending their day-by-day reports to the BBC, and they are heartbreaking. I encourage you to read these accounts to see for yourself what is really going on in Burma. Please include this link in your own blog post.

Left or Right, You’re Partial

I just received an e-mail from Integral Institute on politics that would have brought up aversion immediately for me a couple years ago but that now rings true. With a subject line of “If you are Left, or Right, you are partial. Here’s what to do about it….” I’m sure you can see why someone who has come out of a strong Left stance would be jarred.
If you are Left, or Right, you are fragmented and partial. Sound obnoxious? We hope not, but please find out for yourself.
Ken Wilber is the most widely recognized integral philosopher of our times, with both Presidents and Vice-Presidents praising his work. At this time of a fragmented world possessing nothing but fragmented political parties, Ken has outlined a brilliant path to a fully Integral Politics.
This essay includes giving the first truly workable definition of Left and Right—and then, even more importantly, a way to actually integrate them both. This is no watered-down Third Way, but a path that transcends and includes most political polarities (and parties) in a way thought to be impossible. Once you “get” Integral Politics, you’ll never be able to go back. Want to find out? Please join us in this extraordinary piece of political writing…. This is a major statement by the world’s leading Integral thinker, and is marked by Ken’s characteristic wit, luminosity, and poetic style.

What all this is pointing to is “Integral Politics—A Summary of Its Essential Ingredients,” a post in Ken Wilber‘s blog from April. His presentation of politics is elegant, practical and strong, giving us a way to clearly understand politics and then to solve many of the problems we face. When we understand interior and exterior, agency and communion, altitudes of development and the simple, clear AQAL map, we are in possession of a wonderful new set of abilities that allow us to carry all the positive aspects of Left and Right, leaving behind the smallness of both. We transcend and include the fractured pieces and become more whole, more loving and more capable. And our very future depends on embracing Integral Politics; the day for fragmentation has passed.