Notes on Trump 18

1. Gallup approval day 331, Dec 11-18, 77%/83% Republican/Conservatiive Republican. Decline again. 

Here’s some celebration that Trump support and GOP identification sliding in polls. Given the media onslaught on Trump and the likelihood that this will still result in a large Trumpist party in Congress from 2018 I would have thought they would be less celebratory and more worried about how small an impact the onslaught has had.

Details of slide in GOP identification:

Democrat identification remains steady so most leaving GOP are not becoming Democrat identified but “independent” and potentially available for a split in GOP. Their leaving implies greater proportion of Trumpists voting in GOP primaries and so consolidates the likely emergence of a Trumpist party in Congress after 2018. 

Widespread expectations of a Democrat majority in House of Representatives seem entirely plausible to me, despite being so widespread. Given the total discombobulation of Democrats it is interesting that I haven’t seen any analysis from others suggesting that a Democrat majority facing a Trumpist minority in Congress might be a far better environment for Trump than the present one. Do people actually imagine that voters will be favourably impressed towards the Democrat candidate in 2020 by the results of another two years of gridlocked disfunction in Washington that Trump will be able to blame on them? 

If I was a Democrat I would prefer to remain a minority in the House and be able to keep on pretending that Trump is to blame for the GOP’s disfunctionality (and would prefer not to be stuck with having to irritate and demoralize everybody by unsuccessfully impeaching him). 

No real confirmation of Democrat split yet, but it would be hard to stay united in that situation. 

2. Nearly all the commentary is celebrating Alabama as defeat for Trump and sign of things to come. Here’s two antidotes:

3. Some confirmation that Jerusalem announcement was about shoring up alliance with Evangelicals (whose support for Trump has declined significantly):

Likudniks are less enthusiastic than Christian Zionists about the end-times, conversion of the Jews etc but they sure need allies (and most other Zionists still want to pretend they want “peace” rather than more pieces).

Here’s their allies (and a significant part of Trump’s coalition):

Elizabeth Oldmixon

Roughly a third of the American evangelical population, which is something like 15 million people.

Sean Illing

Why are these evangelicals so interested in the fate of Israel?

Elizabeth Oldmixon

These are the folks who believe that there will be a millennium in the future, a golden age, where Christ reigns on Earth, [and] they believe that before Christ will return, there will be a tribulation where Christ defeats evil. There will be natural disasters and wars, and perhaps an Antichrist, as the book of Revelations notes. Then at the end of that period, the people of the Mosaic covenant, including the Jews, will convert. Then after their conversion, the great millennium starts.

Sean Illing

And what about the people who don’t convert? What becomes of them?

Elizabeth Oldmixon

Well, according to the evangelicals who believe this, they’ll end up with the rest of the unsaved, which means they’ll be wiped out and sent to hell.

One would think it would not be difficult for opponents of that coalition for the end of days to win. Problem is the liberals also believe the unsaved will be wiped out and sent to hell (by the “intelligence community” or other saviours).

In addition they also have their fair share of Zionist extremists. Even though most pro-Zionist American jews are even less enthusiastic than Likudniks about making an issue of Jerusalem you can rely on a Democrat leader to boldly go where not even Trump went and loudly proclaim he urged Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel ie he wants credit for explicitly demanding acceptance of the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem – the capital of any future Palestinian State.
4. Bernie Sanders is following the standard line on tax cuts. Joining the GOP pretence that those cuts that go to majority will expire in 10 years (to pretend to balance the budget) while also saying  that they won’t, so there will  eventually be huge budgetary pressure for cutbacks in necessary government services. This line may work in very short term, but only among people who still pay attention to what the media reports. When it comes to election time, what matters is the actual impact, which will be positive at that time. I would have thought Bernie would have more sense than the rest of the Democrats and explain that yes, it will have a positive effect until election time and that long term it can only make the crisis being postponed worse. But I guess that would require coming up with a positive program for transition from capitalism, and that’s our problem, not his. Just saying the truth, without having that alternative program, only helps the standard GOP/Koch brothers line against deficits and for cutbacks.

On the bright side, this direct connection between current politicking and economic theory about postponing and intensifying capitalist crisis does help clarify the need to get the theory right and formulate economic policies for transition from capitalism guided by a coherent theory.

5. The consumerist Trump hater’s gift guide. No this isn’t a sendup, it really is at the Guardian:

6. It’s been so bizarre following Trump news for the past year that I hadn’t noticed we are now in the silly season. 

Latest BREAKING NEWS development is not just a BOMBSHELL, its an EXPLOSIVE bombshell!! 

A Democrat has speculated that there are RUMORS that Trump MIGHT fire Mueller!!!!

National Review says this would be INSANE!!!!!!!!!!!!

This NEWS totally DWARFS the CNN report that Trump’s PARANOIA that his enemies are trying to undermine his electoral victory by linking him to Putin is TERRIFYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hmmm, come to think of it, when you look closely at these stories maybe Trump will fire Mueller. With the Congressional inquiries moving towards shutting down due to having nothing to inquire into and reports that Mueller could wind up soon with the same conclusion, there may be no other way to keep Trump’s opponents obsessed with this distraction…

It’s even got to the point where they are trying to convince themselves that if they cannot get him for colluding with Russia they can demand a coup based on the fact that he liked Wikileaks (which is one step removed from Russia).

Who knows how many steps closer to thinking about actual reality they might get if they were enabled to stop blithering about Russia?

Nah, even a totally paranoid Trump could not be worried that his opponents might start thinking coherently. If he was worried about that then he would be even more worried that sacking Mueller could be seen through as a transparent ploy to keep it going.

But then, sacking Comey worked for months. So it could be worth a try? It would be so easy to do, all it took to set them down this rabbit hole was a GOP member of the House of Representatives boasting that he had advised Trump to sack Mueller. One could keep them going for months just by having Trump actually hint he was interested in such advice…

On the other hand, why bother? Trump denying that he might sack Mueller works just as well as hinting he might to get them going. At this point there is no way to prevent the media making idiots of themselves, let alone a need to work out ways to ensure they continue doing so.

Here is the sort of stuff that Trump will have to face from the “resistance” if they ever do stop blithering about Russia:

Ivanka Trump accused of ‘conflict of interest’ after opening shop in New York’s Trump Tower

Since the Democrats KNOW they deserve to win they are quite capable of going all the way to the 2020 elections with absolutely nothing to say about anything meaningful, even without further distraction. It is reasonably certain that Ivanka Trump did not setup shop in Trump Tower with the strategic aim of distracting idiots, but as the idiots have claimed, she would have done it to exploit other idiots.

7. I just came across this “Resistance Guide” promoted by “Democratic Socialists of America” (which has roots going back to the Social Democrats that helped establish movements like SDS in the 1960s and is now closely related to the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democrats):

I strongly recommend downloading and reading the whole 72pp. It is valuable in itself as a reminder of what serious broad left mass politics looks like (with a focus on polarization and trigger protests appropriate to the earlier stages aimed at reaching the first 3.5% that is necessary before actual mass organization can take off). It is also important as a warning about how easily that can be adapted to ruling class politics. Their initial focus on “monthly” trigger protests is not intended to lead to actual mass organization and potential revolution but to a second focus on “weekly” pressuring politicians and more relevant institutions, building to a final focus on taking over the Democrat party.

Came across it via link for “increasing popularity of left-wing groups outside of the (Democrat) party” in a liberal rant:

That in itself indicates that they are starting to have some impact. They at least “exist” in the sense that mainstream politicking is aware of their existence and others can find out about them from that – it is the same sense in which a broad left once existed many decades ago in Australia and other developed countries. That provided a milieu in which a harder and sharper left could and did grow and even got to the point of existing once. The fact that they have to explain these basic concepts about organizing the people by reference to successes of the “Tea Party” and the CIA’s “color revolutions” is a reminder of how long it has been since there actually was any sort of broad left.

I think there are real possibilities of such a milieu existing again soon. It looks like a very plausible approach to splitting the Democrats and possibly winning office or becoming the main opposition if Trump still wins in 2020. Far more plausible that this could gain traction than that the liberal pap in the mass media remains unchallenged as the only alternative to Trumpism. Whether they end up governing or as the main opposition, it would be important to understand this trend and work with the people mobilized by it and be able to help a harder and sharper left grow again when the Social Democrats again prove unable to deliver. (For similar reasons it was important to understand the Tea Party and now Trumpists).

 There a lots of indications this is just more pseudoleftism. The limitation to “circles” of no more than 15 is a dead giveaway that the “movement organizers” intend to remain a top down leadership of an atroturf “movement” only capable of helping spread slogans chosen by others and not capable of developing independent policies. Classical “Soros”. The “meeting script” at the resources guide makes this quite explicit. Just “resonating”, no asking questions, certainly no policy making.

But similar politics has a significant mass base in Britain as well as Spain, Greece and Eastern Europe, so why not America and Australia? There is still no organized left that can help people participating in politics to learn to think by actually having to discuss policy and tactic. The Occupy movement, demonstrated how easily such movements can be contained and dissipated even though it did not start out as astroturf. 

I intend to just keep monitoring the mainstream while studying economics. It would be very good if others followed up on what’s happening with attempt to re-establish Social Democrat politics by monitoring their blogs etc. They might become part of the mainstream again and if so, they could either provide an opening for political engagement or an effective block to it that needs to be thoroughly understood in order to overcome it.

BTW here’s an amusing video clip rebutting far right paranoia about “Soros”, (but far too skillfully done to refute my leftist paranoida about “movements” sponsored by “leftist” billionaires inspired by the Koch brothers success with the Tea Party).

Notes on Trump 17

1. Gallup approval Republican/Conservative Republican 82%/87% (day 324, Dec 4-10). Recovered from recent decline.

2. USA today fully joins the chorus:

and congratulates itself on being welcomed aboard by the rest of the maistream media:

At one level the editorial reflects the shift in focus to Trump’s sexism (on which there is nothing to say that wasn’t said during the 2016 primaries and election). There is no mention at all of Russia or “obstruction of justice”, but this seems only a little bit ahead of others in the mainstream who are still claiming they expect some dramatic exposure of “obstruction of justice”, but rather forlornly and seem to have basically given up on their being some collusion that Trump is supposed to have been trying to prevent justice being done about.

The immediate focus is on the drama about Trump having accused a Democrat Senator of “begging” him for campaign donations and said she “would be willing to do anything for them”. Naturally the liberal media interprets this as a “slut shaming slur” (since it plainly does not hint at collusion with Russia or hatred of immigrants and muslims or efforts to rob from the poor to benefit the rich, what else could it be?)

Curiously however USAToday actually mentions:

And as is the case with all of Trump’s digital provocations, the president’s words were deliberate. He pours the gasoline of sexist language and lights the match gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame in a country reeling from the #MeToo moment.   

So it must have at least crossed their minds that a deliberate effort by Trump to invite liberals to “burst into flame” must be seen by Trump as having some benefit to Trump. Did the thought process stop there? Did it actually occur to them that the perceived benefit would be that Trump’s base would interpret the same words as being about the corruption of campaign donations and would be further entrenched in both that view and their general hostility to the media by insistence that it was a sexist slur?

No doubt such a deliberate strategy is contemptible. But why not just thoughtfully analyse it? Why burst into flames as directed?

Anyway, the two articles are well worth a look to understand that the media just are not going to be able to avoid continuing down this path that leads nowhere.

(Other recent efforts have included “Pocohontas” as a derogatory nickname for Senator Elizabeth Warren as a slur on native Americans rather than an allusion to the story that she once sought benefits by unsupported claims to have native American ancestry).

Even the Democrat leadership is not quite as carried away by total tactical ineptitude as the Editorial Board of USA Today, which concludes:

It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign.

3. USA Today also continued its tradition of publishing opposing views, with this statement from the Republican National Committee. It is also worth reading to understand how reasonably Trump’s supporters are successfully able to portray themselves in contrast to his opponents.

 4. Alabama results are being spun in various directions. Some key points:

4.1 40% turnout is huge for a special election (expectations given the unusual interest were for a very high 25%).

4.2 Less than 2% were for write in candidates. That was from GOP supporters unwilling to vote for either a disgusting GOP candidate or a Democrat and was enough to tip the election (49.9%/48.9%). But it was only enough because of the huge turnout, which would have reflected enormous Democrat mobilization (especially among Alabama blacks who would not usually bother voting in elections where they can have no impact). Presumably even larger Democrat mobilization than is obvious since GOP turnout would have relatively declined as the more common response to disgusting GOP candidate would have been to not vote rather than vote for a write in that could not win as both have identical effect in throwing it to the Democrat.

4.3 As Vox said:

Sometimes you get bad luck

In the Alabama race, Senate Republicans suffered fundamentally from bad timing.

If the allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore had surfaced during the primary, he likely would have lost to either Luther Strange or Mo Brooks, either of whom likely would have beaten Jones. If the allegations about Moore’s misconduct had surfaced after the general election, he might have been forced from office, but Alabama’s Republican governor would have appointed his replacement. Having this information come out during the window between the primary and the general election was a fluke, and absent that fluke, it’s hard to imagine Jones winning.
Such “flukes” rarely turnout to be coincidence. Vox pretends that Roy Moore could only have been forced from office if the charges had surfaced after the election. Actually if the charges that “surfaced” decades later and after the primaries were true, the GOP Senate leadership would have been delighted to join with Democrats in removing Roy Moore from the Senate and replacing him with a GOP Senator of their choice after an ethics investigation as they explicitly announced when they failed to persuade him to stand down. So the charges HAD to “surface” PRECISELY when they did to actually have any impact on partisan politics. That does not mean they are not true. But only Democrats will pretend to believe it was a “fluke”. Others will investigate. Whoever arranged the timing clearly intended to risk Roy Moore winning in the hope that a Democrat rather than a Republican would become and remain Senator for a solid GOP State. There will be a lot more of this stuff with the total breakdown of mainstream politics.

4.4 Presumably both parties will try to insulate themselves by careful candidate vetting so the temporary success of this tactic in Alabama obscures whatever trends may otherwise be indicated by the result. But I see nothing that contradicts my expectations of large Democrat gains in 2018 elections (with strong Democrat divisions in the primaries) and large Trumpist gains in GOP primaries.

4.5 The effectiveness of party splits in swinging results is highlighted by the (genuine fluke) that 2% write-ins tipped the result. Both Bannon supporters and GOP incumbents are blaming each other for the defeat. Neither can blame Trump as he opposed Roy Moore in the primaries and did what he could to avoid a Democrat victory in the election (and has gone on to pretend that he opposed Roy Moore because he was less likely to win rather than because he was more likely to be a loose cannon after what was then assumed to be an inevitable GOP victory in a solid GOP State). This actually strengthens Trump’s position as arbiter of GOP contests.

4.6 GOP incumbents who choose to split in 2020 will know that they will be throwing it to Democrats so can only do so as part of a long term effort to build an alternative party. Same applies on Democrat side.

5. Trump not as bad as Obama in Iraq so hailed as good.

6. Here’s a reminder of the efforts to derail Trump on sexism in 2016. I accidentally followed the link while reading that Bernie Sanders has less tactical nous than I thought and is joining the current chorus in an encore.

7. World Trade Organization going nowhere.
8. Rolling Stone simultaneously denies and illustrates that Trump’s “resistance” has been left with no time or capacity for reflection (thus confirming to them that he has no strategy and is not even aware that this lack has mysteriously reduced his opponents to gibbering).

Though he probably doesn’t realize it, Trump benefits from doing so many bizarre and ridiculous things that they steal attention from each other. In many cases, the most egregious things he says are conveniently timed to take attention away from more serious issues – see his recent “Pocahontas” comments overshadowing debate about the tax bill in Congress or the controversy over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Trump has flummoxed academics, journalists and commentators attempting to fit him into the historical context of the presidency. Collectively, we appear unable to decide if Trump is some kind of strategic mastermind or so random and impulsive that even he doesn’t know what he will say or do next.

But if this year is any indication, there is no multidimensional chess strategy playing out in his head. Looking at the Trump presidency day by day shows no strategy or plan of any kind. It looks on paper exactly how it has felt to live through: one crisis after another, with little time for rest or reflection. It is a car that is constantly veering off the road, and we have to fight so hard to keep from going over the edge that it’s not easy to remember where we’ve been.

To illustrate that point, below are just some of the embarrassing, incomprehensible or flat-out stupid things from the first ten months of the Trump presidency that received a great deal of attention, but only for a very short time. This list may seem long, but it’s only the barest sketch of the edifice of madness we now inhabit; a comprehensive one would be the size of a phone book. (Many thanks to TrumpWatch for helping me on this journey.)

Notes on Trump 16

1. Gallup approval Republican/Conservative Republican 78%/84% (day 317, Nov 27 to Dec 3). Starting to decline. Still comfortable for primaries. Perhaps more important is significant decline in total identified as Republicans from 42% at time of November 2016 election to 37% now, a year later:

Presumably this means a higher proportion of registered Republicans entitled to vote at 2018 primaries will be Trumpists since opponents more likely to be leaving. Democrats aren’t doing much to provide a home for those leaving so likely to end up either not voting or supporting a split from GOP in 2020 – both of which tend towards a deadlocked electoral college. (That throws election to House voting by States with Trump likely to have more States than electoral college or House members since support stronger in smaller States).

2. I haven’t studied tax cuts in detail but following points noted:

2.1 Substantial deficit which is main thing he needs for economic climate in 2020. Not unusual for GOP to approve a large deficit pretending that magic will prevent it biting later while making their main theme the need to stop Democrats running deficits. What is unusual is the near unanimity. Most of tea party/koch brothers voted as Trumpists so they are thoroughly intimidated by 2018 (elections as well as primaries). Lots more deficit to come for infrastructure.

2.2 Pretence from opponents that personal cuts only favour the rich may have some impact but based on joining the Republican pretence that tax cuts will expire within the 10 year limit that enables them to go through without Democrat support by pretending to balancing the budget. For next 10 years tax cuts will benefit potential Trump voters more than traditional GOP voters and “elites”. Then it will be time to continue them and further increase the deficit. Most voters will respond based on how things are going for them at time of election, not on what media are telling them now, even if they believe it.

2.3 Main target seems to be people living in States with higher local tax rates (i.e. Democrats). Removing credit for local tax rates hits them more than potential Trump voters. Result likely to be even bigger disproportion between popular and electoral college votes in 2020 (whether or not Trump wins either). eg New York and California even more solidly Democrat than before with no effect at all on 2020 outcome.

2.4 Corporate tax cuts are part of a world-wide race to the bottom which Australia and other countries will follow. Result general world-wide shift from relying exclusively on monetary measures to running fiscal deficits again – as demanded by central banks, OECD et al. State assuming greater role as the national capitalist in each country as described by Engels. Will intensify both international tensions and eventual crisis but could well postpone it further.

3. Some Fox coverage of Trump becoming somewhat hostile:

Highlights difference from liberal meltdown – Fox’s occasional negative coverage is far more “reasonable” and likely to do real damage. Seems like Fox replacing NYT and Wapo as “mainstream” or “authoritative”. Interesting that this example shares liberal assumptions that Mueller inquiry will come up with something very damaging to Trump and is being attacked by Trumpists for that reason. More plausible is that the Hannity types at Fox frothing gives that impression to others working there, but actual situation is Trump wants to keep it going and denouncing it is a good way to ensure liberals and GOP never Trumpists will keep it going.

4. Al Jazeera has an interesting indicator of where some of the “resistance” may head when their current fantasies about impeaching Trump explode:

Starts off with quite sane and sober analysis that they are indeed fantasizing and Trump isn’t going anywhere, with understanding that their fantasies are about a system they support “working” (ie the “rule of law” aka “the authorities” will rescue them from Trump via a coup led by their beloved “intelligence community”).

But then becomes clear that the author shares much of the delusionary mentality about what is actually happening now, and hearkens back to some golden era in 1974 when the system did indeed work and got rid of Nixon (who as all good Democrats remember can be blamed for the Vietnam war started by Kennedy and escalated by Johnson).

Ends up denouncing half the population of USA as fascists who worship Trump!

So that is one direction they could go. Others include just continuing to feel simultaneously smug, superior and impotent.

5. Plausible analysis that Trump doing rather well at the moment:

6. Some Fox triumphalism:

7. Fox joining in the anti-homophobia chorus:

8. Some CNN confusion. I cannot figure out whether it is dawning on them that there isn’t even going to be an obstruction of justice claim and morphing into general outrage about having a President who agrees with most people that the system is corrupt or whether they are actually convinced by some Trumpist frothing against Mueller that they are really onto something and should keep indeed keep going in the same direction as B’rer rabbit keeps telling them not to.

Here’s their understanding of the B’rer rabbit Tar-baby story:

Earlier they did not seem at all confused, just utterly convinced that Trump (or his lawyer) acknowledging the obvious that when Trump sacked Flynn for lying and said he didn’t want Flynn charged he knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI – that means they have “got him” for “obstruction of justice”.

Here’s some background.

Trump’s lawyer mentioned the obvious in a tweet from Trump, that he had sacked Flynn for lying to Vice President and to FBI and did not want him charged. Did not repeat Trump’s remark at the time about some other Flynn issues – presumably Flynn being an unregistered agent of Turkey and being an especially deranged Trumpist. Also did not repeat Trump’s attempt to explain in NBC interview that he knew sacking Comey would prolong the “Russia thing”.

Trump’s lawyer then explained the obvious to Axios:

  • Dowd: “The tweet did not admit obstruction. That is an ignorant and arrogant assertion.”

Axios duly ran with that as “Exclusive: Trump lawyer claims the President cannot obstruct justice”.

Lots of solemn analysis followed in which fantasists tried to convince themselves that the Chief Executive officer responsible for taking care that the laws of the United States shall be enforced is prohibited from expressing an opinion about any case.

Some actually noticed that is absurd and correctly stated that President can and does give directions to and hire and fire law enforcement officers and allocate resources and priorities and issue pardons, not just make suggestions – so that “obstruction of justice” would require a “corrupt intention”.

But that gets buried in liberal coverage because we all know that anything Trump does is inherently corrupt and they also KNOW deep in their souls that the truth is out there somewhere and Mueller will discover it because Trump won the election by colluding with the Kremlin and then sacked Comey to prevent justice being done.

If you don’t actually KNOW that is the only possible explanation for him having become and remaining President despite all right thinking people being aghast, then you may find it difficult to follow their legal analysis.

9. NPR still deeply fascinated by Russia inquiries:

10. California Democrat Governor “Trump doesn’t fear the wrath of God”:

11. A plausible view on Trump’s announcement re Jerusalem:

My own take is that undermining the ludicrous posturing about the US being an “honest broker” in a “peace process” has no real impact whatever. I view everything Trump does as narrowly focussed on winning 2018 GOP primaries. In this case playing to Evangelicals some of who have both a bizarre alliance with Trumpists and bizarre enthusiasm for Zionism and the end times.

Here’s another contrary view attempting to analyse Trump foreign policy from a foreign policy rather than a domestic focus:

12. David Brooks says GOP now 100% swung from pro to anti globalization:

13. Counter attack starting against blatant coup mongering from “intelligence community”:

Here’s a breathless example of more “restrained” undermining rather than open coup mongering from US and Israeli “intelligence community” and/or journalists fantasizing about what stories they might have to tell:

14. Not sure but I’m guessing this is an attempt to wean some of the Evangelical likudniks to a more “mainstream” Zionism:

15. If this quote from Chief Palestinian negotiator is accurate, it is very significant:

““Now is the time to transform the struggle for one-state with equal rights for everyone living in historic Palestine,”

16. Under the headline “Trump is cracking up”, NYT demonstrates that NYT is cracking up:

“If you think 2017 was bad, imagine an America without allies fighting another two-front war, this one involving nuclear weapons, under the leadership of the most hated president in modern history, while a torture apologist runs the C.I.A. The world right now is a powder keg. Trump, an untethered maniac, sits atop it, flicking a lighter that Republicans in Congress could take away, but won’t. If everything goes up in flames, we can’t say we weren’t warned.”

Celebrating the Russian revolution: from the ox-drawn plough to nuclear power and Sputnik



I was six years of age when ‘Sputnik’ became the first artificial earth satellite. It was sent into orbit by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957. I have a vague memory of my parents taking me into the street that night and, with curious neighbours, peering into the dark star-lit skies over West Brunswick, Melbourne. I’m fairly sure someone said they could see it, and maybe I saw it, or something, among the stars too.

I also recall my father, Loreto, remarking on how the success of Sputnik highlighted ‘the superiority of socialism’. Of course, I didn’t understand what that meant. What was socialism? And what was it meant to be superior to? He was a Labor voter, but very much to the left, and it wasn’t uncommon for Labor men and women to talk favourably about socialism in those days.

About a decade later, when I was 16, my dad and I would sometimes take the number 19 tram from Brunswick to the City on Saturday mornings and visit the International Bookshop in Excelsior House, 17 Elizabeth Street. An antiquated rickety old lift would take us up to the second floor where we’d be greeted by the Communist Party shopkeeper, Jack Morrison.

Sometimes a couple of dad’s young workmates from the factory where he worked would meet us there. We’d browse through copies of glossy propaganda magazines like ‘Soviet Pictorial’ and ‘China Pictorial’, marvelling at the photographic evidence of bumper harvests and advanced technology. I was a reader of science fiction and the images of gigantic tractors and huge pumpkins enthused and fascinated me.

By this stage of my life I had an understanding of socialism and identified with it in a gut kind of way. It was about progress, about eradication of poverty, about imagining a better future based on scientific discovery and technological innovation – and about the working class who produced society’s wealth taking control of the means of producing it.

At a time when censorship laws in Australia and the west were ridiculous, it was also about greater freedom. The International Bookshop flaunted censorship laws by stocking some of the books that had been banned by the government for political or sexual content. (D H Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ was in the latter category).

An example of political censorship was a ban on a pamphlet that exposed US war crimes in Vietnam. I forget its title now but remember obtaining copies from the Eureka Youth League in 1968 and distributing them, surreptitiously, at my high school. The pamphlet was banned under the Obscene Publications Act, from memory.

* * * *

My father had served in the Second World War, volunteering in 1940 for the Royal Air Force in his homeland, Malta, when the Italian Fascists started bombarding the main island of the Mediterranean archipelago. He remembered the priests opposing British imperialism from the pulpit in the lead up to the War and assuring their congregations that Malta’s future was best served by accepting Mussolini’s Italia Irredenta.

By any measure, British imperialism’s crimes at that time were far worse than those of Italian imperialism, but on the other hand, British bourgeois democracy was much preferable to Italian/German fascism.

During the War, my father served in Africa, the Middle East, Palestine, and France, before being stationed in London after the War.

The War changed his world, everyone’s world, and in mixing with other RAF men, his eyes were opened to new ways of seeing and thinking. He remembered Jewish and Scottish airmen telling him about Stalin, the Soviet Union (“where the workers ruled”) and communism. (Note, they are called ‘airmen’ but they served on the ground, in regiments, and never flew).

The troops knew that Stalin’s Red Army were routing the Nazis in Europe and my dad’s comrades told him the story about the early British appeasement of Hitler and the west’s refusal to heed Stalin’s calls for collective security against fascism as early as 1933.

After the War, in London, still in uniform, my father thrived in the cosmopolitan environment of one of the world’s biggest cities. Servicemen in uniform were given free tickets to the West End theatres and to lectures given by the likes of George Bernard Shaw and Hewlett Johnson, the ‘Red Dean of Canterbury’. My dad took advantage of such opportunities.

He started buying the ‘Daily Worker’ regularly, the organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and found that while there were strong pockets of anti-communism, in general Londoners were tolerant of it and there was sympathy for Stalin and the Red Army.

My dad told me about an occasion when he went to work at his job in the Air Ministry in London after the War, having purchased the Daily Worker that morning. Walking through the main office, one of the heads of the ministry – a ‘Lord’ no less – noticed him and asked, ‘What’s that paper you’re carrying?’ My dad saluted and replied, ‘Sir! It’s the Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party’. Lord-so-and-so responded: ‘Oh, I thought it was. May I borrow it after you’ve finished with it? I forgot to buy mine this morning’.

It’s easy to forget that communism was popular after the War and that the Cold War arose in part because of communism’s popularity in Europe, west and east. If it’s true that reactionaries tremble at the mere rustle of leaves, then you can imagine how they responded to elections in places like France and Italy where between a quarter and third of the people voted Communist.

* * * *

I want to celebrate the centenary of the Russian revolution because it was an attempt to build socialism after the old feudal order had been overthrown by the people, led by the communist Bolsheviks. That it was led by communists was a rather flukish situation. The overthrow of the feudal order required a bourgeois democratic revolution that would develop capitalism. As David McMullen says in Rescuing the Message of the Communist Manifesto:

‘There is a thoroughly entrenched view that the experience of revolutions during the 20th century shows that communism has failed. It is true. There was a failure. However, it was not of communism, but rather of an attempt to sustain a path towards it when its preconditions were absent. Russia in 1917 and virtually all the “communist” regimes established mid-century were essentially backward pre-capitalist societies. Most people were peasants rather than proletarians, and they were more interested in land for the tiller than social ownership. There was little modern industry and thinking was more medieval than modern. They had not passed through the capitalist stage, which is necessary for a successful communist revolution’.

The Russian revolution also shows how the old order never just gives in. Civil war followed the revolutionary overthrow of the ruling class, with the old order backed by military forces of more than a dozen foreign governments.

Then there came the rise of fascism in Europe and the active pro-fascist fifth columns in various countries, especially the Soviet Union. Hitler hated communism, which he called Judeo-Bolshevism. In the Soviet Union, the fifth columnists engaged in sabotage and collaboration – as they did in some western countries too. In the west, the fascist sympathisers promoted isolationism in foreign policy. It’s “over there”, not our problem, we’ll only make things worse, blah blah blah. Such is the mentality that thinks in terms of ethnic identity and nationality rather than humanity.

As if things couldn’t become more difficult, there came the Second World War which, initially, the Soviet Union tried to keep out of; though Stalin had sought collective security agreements with Britain and other powers in the early 1930s when Hitler’s Nazis took power. Britain declined and instead entered into the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in 1934. Poland agreed to a non-aggression pact with Hitler, rather than collective security to thwart him, also in 1934.

The Nazi German invasion of the Soviet Union, and Soviet resistance, resulted in 25 million mainly Russian deaths. The Soviet Union instigated the greatest military action in world history known as Operation Bagration, codename for the 1944 Soviet Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation, which secured the defeat of the Nazis. Women were mobilised along with men and the Red Army’s women’s sniper force became legendary in the Soviet Union. Lyudmila Pavlichenko shot 309 Nazi soldiers as a Ukrainian Red Army Soviet sniper during the war. (Woody Guthrie wrote a song for her in 1942).

It was understood at that time that the Soviet Union, despite what it had been through – a revolution followed by a civil war caused by the military intervention of forces backed by a dozen foreign governments, the subversive activities and sabotage of a pro-fascist fifth column, and an invasion by the German Nazis and their Finnish and Romanian allies that killed 25 million Soviet citizens – had achieved plenty through its socialist system.

Industrialisation, massive dam construction and electrification of the countryside had lifted millions from the acute poverty experienced under Tsardom. Stalin wanted to create “a second America” in terms of industrial progress. For the first time, the socialist republics of the USSR developed their own motor, aircraft, tank, tractor, machine tool, electrical and chemical industries – with the assistance of European and American experts.

The dam built on the Dnieper River from 1927 was the biggest hydro-electric station in Europe and was consistent with Lenin’s slogan: ‘Communism is soviet power plus electrification’.

lenin electrification soviet

New cities were built, most notably Magnitogorsk, which was based on iron ore mining and steel production. Hundreds of experts were brought in as advisers, including Americans, as the city was to be based on US steel-cities, Gary (Indiana) and Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania).

Roads, railways, canals also helped move Russia and the Soviet Union further from the feudal era of the ox-drawn plough. The Volga-Don Canal and the White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal were achievements of a system in which need and progress motivate planning and production. And, in 1954, the Soviet Union became the first country in the world to harness nuclear power for peaceful use, with the operation of the APS-1 nuclear power plant at Obninsk, the ‘Science City’.

This material progress, the application of human ingenuity in the creative-destructive transformation of Nature through labour, is a key reason as to why so many working class people in the west were attracted to socialism.

If the unleashing of the productive forces in a backward economy like Russia in the early C20th could produce such results via social ownership, then what could be achieved under socialism in the advanced industrial west where progress was held back by concentrated private ownership of the means of production and the pursuit of maximum profit for those private owners as the goal of production?

Despite the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s, these questions remain. They just need to be put back on the agenda of public discourse. Instead, we can expect the same old ritualistic denunciations based on the false premise that ‘the History is settled’.

Thanks for all the fish…

This has been timely for many years/decades, but more so now. (Anyone for gin?)

* * * *

Douglas Adams

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”


“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”


“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward.


On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”


“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”


“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”


“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”


“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”


“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”


“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”


“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in.

Got any gin?”




“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”


“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”


Ford shrugged again.


“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”


“But that’s terrible,” said Arthur.


“Listen, bud,” said Ford, “if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.”


― Douglas AdamsSo Long, and Thanks for All the Fish