Notes on Trump 14

1. A “chaired” Professor:
Only an assumption that academics like this never do anything would justify not expecting this guy’s delusionary politics and hatred for the ignorant rabble to not result in him getting involved in some conspiratorial attempt to impose a more “democratic” dictatorship by force.

That assumption is reasonable. During the George W Bush administration and Iraq war, the fringe Democrat blogosphere (closely allied with the paleocon opposition to the war) was full of more “insurrectionary” talk, although less inclined to openly blame the people as their delusions were about them leading the people, rather than the intelligence agencies to rise up and overthrow the government. They were merely expressing their impotence and their open threats against democracy never needed to be treated seriously.

An academic like this probably doesn’t even have delusions of being taken seriously. But its noticeable that he is being published in “The Conversation” which aims to have academics taken more seriously than the popular media.

2. Perceptive article on Democrat dilemma:

Try as they might, Democrats will find it impossible to stick to an economics-only script ahead of the 2018 midterm and 2020 general elections. It would be foolish even to try.

The analysis of current contest for Virginia makes. Sense. The final conclusion I have highlighted is perplexing as there is no clear call for a split from the Democrats.

Perhaps it just reflects ruling class inclination in favour of stirring up both sides of “culture wars” to keep people from uniting against them.

3. Bloomberg analysis of Republican 2020 primary challenge to Trump
Not thinking in terms of a split following mid-terms.

Not mentioned that owner Bloomberg himself could be a potential GOP globalist candidate if Democrats go anti-globalist.

4. More on Virginia race from Bloomberg:
If they win (as usual in Virginia) it will help entrench this approach of trying to out shout their opponents and help them lose elsewhere. If they unexpectedly lose I doubt that they will learn any more than they did from Clinton loss. Would reinforce their despair and hostility to the “deplorables” that won’t vote for them.

[Update, as expected Democrats won]

5. Bloombert on why Netanyahu imitates Trump
Remains puzzled about it because thinks Netanyahu is a “master strategist” and Trump is not. Both are skilled ruling class populist demagogues in a situation where mainstream politics has demonstratively failed.

6. Bloomberg explanation that the GOP style features in current tax bill that are unpopular (and hence also Democrat focus) are likely to be dropped. That is also my assumption. Just part of the pretense that they aren’t  approving a massively increased deficit which is in fact what Trump wants and needs. When they are taken out you get less GOP incumbent support, more GOP donor hostility, less public hostility and a better economic climate for Trump and Trumpists to win in.

8. Remarkably silly analysis of Putin’s international situation from Bloomberg:
Starts off right that there is a vastly exaggerated impression of Russian strength despite actual weakness.

But analysis of Syria assumes Putin wanted and wants to stay there rather than helping end it.

And analysis of Crimea/Ukraine forgets that the actual reality was a massive detachment of the Ukraine from close relations with Russia to become part of the West and a relatively minor disruption to that by the (inevitable) recovery of Crimea by Russia and the damaging support for separatism in Russian minority regions of Ukraine. The latter has indeed been popular domestically and is indeed overall damaging in long term. But omitting the context of a massive defeat rather than aggressive advance into Ukraine reflects the very exaggeration of Russian strength that the article starts off pointing out.

9. Bizarre analysis of Mueller indictments:
All it takes is some mouthing off against Mueller by raving lunatic entertainer Alex Jones of Infowars and some milder shouting in same direction from Fox news Trumpists to convince this “analyst” that Mueller is going to save them from Trump despite NO actual evidence of this.

Expect more intense fireworks from Trumpist side to keep them distracted if the hope fades and they show any signs of slackening their obsession about Russia and actually thinking about American politics. At some point Alex Jones et al may not be enough to keep them fired up and Trump himself may need to step in with something they can really get their teeth into. An unannounced secret meeting between Trump and Putin would probably be enough to tip them over the edge. Follow up with a hamburger dinner for Kim Jong-il.

10. At last a rallying cry that Democrats can really get behind and lose even the mid-terms with:

“What do we want, more regulations! When do we want them, now! Defend the Federal Bureaucracy!”

11. Wow! Some readers of The Atlantic actually tried to engage with a writer there about his Trump obsession and he actually tried to respond seriously…

(If this starts happening more widely there should end up being widespread agreement that a very different political system is badly needed as the current “politics” makes no sense whatever.)

12. Satire from New Yorker. Not bad sendup of liberal fantasies. Not brilliant, but not bad enough that it could be aimed elsewhere. But in the New Yorker? How can they send themselves up while also continuing …

13. Excellent article from Taibbi in Rolling Stone:

Division does make money, but beyond that, it’s highly political. It’s an ancient technique of elites, dividing populations into frightened and furious camps so as to more easily control them. When people are scared enough and full enough of hate, they will surrender their rights more quickly.

It’s not an accident that as the right-left divide has grown in this country, we’ve gradually given up on almost every principle that used to define us, collectively, as Americans. We surrendered our rights to privacy, failed to protest vast expansions of federal power (including to classify the inner workings of our own government – our government), stopped requiring due process to jail people and closed our eyes to torture and assassination and all sorts of other atrocities.

This was made easier first because conservatives were convinced liberals were in league with terrorists, and more lately because progressives have been told Trump and his like are in league with Russians. Mutual hatred and fear has made us much more easily disenfranchised.

14. Despite total focus on getting rid of Trump opponents in GOP it is still possible Democrats could actually remain a minority party in the House after mid-terms.

15. Guardian just bleating that election was rigged. Not even pretending to have a plan beyond bleating:

16. CNN A year out from the election, Trump remains unpopular, as do the Democrats, the Republicans and Congress.

17. I’m confused by a response to Notes 11:


Arthur I do think that I try to analyse what is going on and what is going on is that Republicans get elected only if they are advantaged by crooked electoral systems and politicians in the US generally only get elected if they align themselves with wealthy vested interests, that’s why most people want tax reform but they will get a tax rip off, that’s why most people want decent health reform but they get at best Obama care, that’s why most people want more restrictive gun control reform but they get, no reform, none, zip, nada. The Virginian Gubernatorial election was widely seen as a referendum on Trump and Trump backed Gillespie and Gillespie backed Trump (eventually) and Gillespie lost by almost 9% and this was an essentially democratic process. In 2013 the Republican candidate for Governor lost by 3% now with President Trumps help and riding the Trump wave that margin has blown out to 9%

 This follows my reply apparently quoting my “[Update, as expected Democrats won]” in para 4 above.

I thought this whole draft post was still unpublished and therefore invisible so am not sure what is going on.

Anyway I have trashed the comment from Notes 11 and quoted it here in current post instead although I still don’t see any attempt at analysis worth responding to.

18. This looks like confirmation of my analysis that Democrats sweeping victories likely to make them even more inclined to their present strategy:
(Which could result in them stuck with a House majority committed to impeachment with no hope of success in Senate and faced with a completely Trumpist GOP mobilizing for 2020 with the same anger that got Dems turning out for these quarter terms and a completely plausible account that the only to unblock Washington is to remove obstructionist Democrats now that obstructionist GOP has already been dealt with.) 

19. CNN analysis that Trump won’t even face a serious challenge at 2020 primaries.

If they mean that any challenge will fail, that is plausible.

But I would expect there will be a VERY serious challenge intended to split and establish a new GOP that would throw the 2020 election to the Democrats.

The never Trumpist Republicans aren’t going to join either wing of the Democrats with their present outlooks and aren’t going to stay in Trump’s GOP or just quit politics. So I think they have to split and run a candidate just aiming to defeat Trump. (Assuming the Democrats don’t run a candidate they cannot even prefer to Trump again).

But if I am wrong and CNN is right then a united angry Trumpist GOP running against split Democrats demoralized after having got nowhere with a House majority for 2 years seems an easy win on turnout for Trump in 2020.

20. More on Democrat celebrations and inclinations to just keep going the same way they have been:
21. Even celebrating the fact that Trump’s opponents in GOP are likely to retire from politics making it easier to swing their seats to Democrat in mid-terms (and easier for a Trumpist to take it back in 2020).

Notes on Trump 13

1. Uptick in GOP primary voters gallup approval since indictments! Republicans 83%, Conservative Republicans 87% (day 285, Oct 30 to Nov 5). Why on earth do people imagine Trump wants media to stop their bizarre carry on about Russia when it so clearly helps consolidate his base and must eventually end up irritating others when it does eventually come to nothing? The closer to elections it implodes, the better off he will be. Expect some fireworks to try and keep it going despite any efforts by Mueller to wrap it up.

CNN’s report on their own polling for same period confirms big deal for the week was the indictments. Report focuses on ongoing decline in Trump’s overall approval (ie increasing hysteria among Democrats).
Has link to full results which confirm same 83% Republican approval as gallup.

Meanwhile Aaron Blame reports wapo polling that shows Hilary Clinton even less popular than Trump and that he would probably win a re-run of 2016 election if held now. Presumably a hint to Democrats that they still haven’t actually got an alternative and will lose again if they don’t get one fast.
2. Interesting article from Bernie Sanders in La Times:

Illustrated with photo of Bernie surrounded by supporters opposing offshoring jobs.
Bernie’s article itself does NOT promote anti-globalization. Focus is entirely on issues that a traditional social democrat would naturally espouse. Only a straw in the wind. But if Sanders wing positions itself this way it could attract Republican globalists as well as many Trumpist workers and traditional Democrats and be a very viable option in 2020 elections (or even in 2018 mid-terms). Conservative globalists are going to have to go somewhere and they also know they are going to have to accept a lot more concessions to workers whereas GOP incumbents seem to just not get it. (Historically conservatives have made the necessary concessions to workers themselves as well as via Social Democrats eg “one nation” Tories extended the franchise to British workers before the Liberals were wiped out by Labor party.

Also worth noting, but not new, Bernie’s denunciations of Trump are largely based on what GOP wants/does. If, as I expect, Trump smashes GOP and pushes healthcare for all, tax cuts that aren’t just for the 1%, infrastructure program etc, there will be a LOT of commonality. In a 3 or 4 way deadlocked Electoral College it could be VERY hard for Sanders wing to support a Clintonite against Trump. If they also preserve their credibility by not actually swinging the vote to Trump then the Electoral College deadlock would still throw the election to the House of Representatives voting by states, not seats. Trump would be stronger there due to smaller states being more GOP and Republicans in those States being more Trumpist, so he could win. But if he doesn’t have a majority of States, Sanders wing could win. I don’t see how Clintonites or traditional Republicans could win either in the Electoral College or the House (although of course anything is possible). If Sanders wing stops pushing anti-globalism they could swing the House of Representatives majority to vote for their President rather than traditional Republicans or Clintonites losing all credibility by voting for Trump against a Sanders wing candidate preferred by their base.

On the other hand, it is just a straw in the wind and he may not actually be following that winning strategy. A lot of Sanders popularity has been based on him being more genuinely anti-globalist and isolationist than Trump.

3. Andrew Bolt on ABC trivia:
I’m wondering whether it really is Trump hatred as Bolt claims or whether reporters are starting to send themselves up. Inane twittering and organized festivals to howl at the sky isn’t what I would normally associate with hatred.

Here’s some purely fake news presumably intended to damage Trump. But is it really? Perhaps the people making this stuff up are also doing an ironic sendup about their jobs?
4. Detailed analysis of claims about “Trump dossier” from Washington Examiner:

I don’t see anyone likely to take much interest in such detailed refutation so I suppose the breathless media accounts of “verification” still work with liberals and Democrats while the whole story just irritates Trumpists and leaves GOP incumbents helplessly paralysed. Do the people writing this stuff actually believe their own stuff? Perhaps they do. The ones just chasing ratings may be the ones also turning to sendups of themselves, while the others may be true believers who honestly think they are helping to bring down Trump by pushing a theory about Russian collusions that just isn’t going anywhere (but is also being turned against Democrats).

5. I have no idea what’s going on in Saudi Arabia or how Trump and/or US Government are relating to it.
My assumption would be that things are getting worse and will eventually collapse and that both the US Government and Trump would view that with equanimity more than bordering on enthusiasm. But I really do not know.

6. Detailed discussion of collapse of Never Trumpers in Georgia and generally:–regional-govt–politics/trump-holds-firm-grip-georgia-gop-one-year-after-his-election-win/s7yMZLq8sGOeAHaIZ6hulM/politicallygeorgia.html
Recent Congressional election returned a traditional GOP incumbent from a traditional GOP state. But very clear completely constrained by large and noisy Trumpist base among primary voters and adapting accordingly to embrace Trump. I would guess same in other safe GOP districts and States. The contested “purple” districts and States will have greater likelihood of nominating GOP candidates more appealing to Democrat voters and less Trumpist. They are also far more likely to lose to Democrats in the mid-terms. So I don’t see how anybody could expect anything other than a solidly Trumpist GOP in the House of Representatives, faced by a Democratic majority divided between Sanders supporters (mainly but not only from safe Democrat districts) and Clintonites (mainly from contested but also from some “identity” or “ethnic” districts. I assume a deadlocked Senate (neither side having 60% nor combined 50% willing to abolish the 60% rule).

So Trump gets to spend the last 2 years of his first term demonstrating that Congress remains completely disfunctional (far too busy with hopeless attempts to impeach him) and that this can only be resolved by electing more Republicans to booth Houses. Democrats who turned up angry at 2018 mid-terms likely to have become apathetic about possibility that their votes could achieve anything by 2020, while Republicans remain angry and turn out to vote…

7. Russian sanctions imposed near unanimously by Congress being seriously implemented:
Adds to the difficulties of the Democrats main tune about Russian collusion.

8. This analysis of a contested “purple” State election is useful for understanding the dynamic now at work:
So a traditional GOP incumbent goes completely overboard as the most obnoxious kind of stridently racist Trumpist in order to win primary. Democrats respond by getting more stridently hostile to Republicans and more focussed on “identity” politics.

I would expect the result to be another defeat for a GOP incumbent (posing as a Trumpist) thus avoiding more internal GOP problems for Trump, and a comfortable win for the sort of Democrat who will help the Democrats lose in 2020. Perhaps even helping them not to win in mid-terms if it results in GOP nominating a more genuine and less obnoxious Trumpist and Democrats remaining strident in a contested district (though still more likely to return a stridently obnoxious Democrat in 2018 to help Trump win in 2020). 

Guy Fawkes – Reactionary who tried to return England to the tyranny of the Pope

The Gun Powder Plot was not, in any reasonable sense of the word, revolutionary. It was counter revolutionary in the strictest interpretation. The English Reformation was a social revolution that freed Britain from Papal tyranny. Under Queen Elizabeth I, the old Norman aristocracy lost their influence in favor of the new merchant class.
I’m re-running this one for Guy Fawkes’ Day. (Sorry – a day late).


I was planning to write a piece about Guy Fawkes for 5th November but in googling some sources came across this excellent piece by Bill Dunlap that says it all from my point of view. Bill ran the piece on his blog, Grumblings from a grumpy old man, in 2008 and has kindly given me permission to republish it. Like Bill, “I cannot for the life of me figure out how Guy Fawkes became a symbol of revolution”.

guy fawkes


I cannot for the life of me figure out how Guy Fawkes became a symbol of revolution. I see all these anarchist types wandering around with their V masks, and I wonder if they even know who Guy Fawkes really is? It baffles me why a reactionary like Fawkes has been so heartily adopted by the American left. Why did the main character of V for Vendetta wear a V mask rather than a Che mask, or a Lenin mask, or even an Abbie Hoffman mask? Why Guy Fawkes, for the love of heaven?

The Gun Powder Plot was not, in any reasonable sense of the word, revolutionary. It was counter revolutionary in the strictest interpretation. The English Reformation was a social revolution that freed Britain from Papal tyranny. Under Queen Elizabeth I, the old Norman aristocracy lost their influence in favor of the new merchant class. Guy Fawkes himself was the son of an upwardly mobile middle class Protestant family. His father was a minor official in the Church of England, and his mother was the daughter of a dry goods merchant. Fawkes’s conversion to Catholicism may have stemmed from teen rebellion.

Guy Fawkes and his fellow Gunpowder Plotters wanted to destroy the new Church of England and return England to Papal control. How can this possibly be seen as revolutionary? Despite popular belief, Guy Fawkes was not the ringleader. That dubious honor went to a hereditary Catholic by the name of Robert Catesby. The Gunpowder Plot could have been thought up by Sir Edmund Blackadder. The conspirators rented a house next to the Winchester Complex, planning to mine beneath the House of Lords, pack it with gunpowder and blow it up during Parliament’s opening session. That way they could get King James, most of his court and family, and all the influential Protestant nobles. The opening of Parliament was delayed three times on account of the Black Plague, yet the tunnel was still not completed. So they rented the cellar beneath the House of Lords and stocked that with gunpowder instead.

If Robert Catesby was Blackadder, then Guy Fawkes was Baldric. Even though Fawkes knew that the plot had been revealed by a Catholic nobleman who was appalled at the plot, he tried to go through with it anyway. The guards were looking for him. They caught him in the cellar with 32 kegs of gunpowder and with fuses and matches in his pocket. He still tried to lie his way out of it. He was taken to the Tower of London and tortured while his buddies epically failed at getting away.

That was the historic Guy Fawkes. He was not the great defender of freedom as portrayed in V for Vendetta. He was an expendable flunky in a hare-brained plot to stop the wheels of progress and to return England to the “good old days” of Papal domination. The only advantage to that would have been to the Catholic nobles such as Robert Catesby, who wanted their old power and influence back. Fawkes himself became a figure of ridicule amongst the British, as shown by this rhyme.

Remember, remember the fifth of November
It’s Gunpowder Plot, we never forgot
Put your hand in your pocket and pull out your purse
A ha’penny or a penny will do you no harm
Who’s that knocking at the window?
Who’s that knocking at the door?
It’s little Mary Ann with a candle in her hand
And she’s going down the cellar for some coal

Guy Fawkes became identified with the Anarchist movement in the early 20th Century. British Anarchists put up posters with the modern stylized sketch of Fawkes, declaring that Guy Fawkes was the only man to enter Parliament with honest intent. This was, of course, using Guy Fawkes as a figure of ridicule. It was meant as a sort of black joke. Somebody lacking a sense of humor started taking the joke seriously, and the next thing we knew, we had V for Vendetta, and kids wearing Guy Fawkes masks in honor of a man who was trying to put Britain back under Papal control.

The irony is that these kids in their Guy Fawkes masks are pretty well accomplishing what Fawkes set out to do. They want to destroy government control without replacing the structures that have been destroyed. In this they actually share the same goals as their neocon opponents. The result is that money rushes in to fill the vacuum left by the lost structures. The more government is torn down, the more control falls into the hands of those who have the most money. This has been going on for twenty eight years and nobody has yet figured out that our loss of civil liberties is equal to the amount of government regulations that have been eliminated. The American left has not figured out that tearing down the government is a bad idea which will accomplish the opposite of what we want. The bad guy in V for Vendetta said at the people need to realize that the people need the government. This is very true. A dear friend of mine, who is a big V for Vendetta fan, adds that the government needs the people’s consent in order to govern. This is equally true. Government and the people exist in a symbiotic relationship. When that symbiosis fall out of balance, disasters like the present economic melt down occurs.

This leads us to the present cult of the Constitution. America has become as conservative as the conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot. The American left has not yet realized that by trying to return us to the original Constitution, they want to return us to the times when only property owners were citizens and could vote. Women were chattel, and African Americans were bought and sold like cattle. America has grown beyond those times, and trying to return us to them is only going to place Wall St. in charge of our lives. Looking backwards, even to the days of the American Revolution, is as reactionary as the Gunpowder Plot. There is also the truth that it is easier to destroy what we have in a vain attempt to make the clock move backwards, than it is to build. The more we destroy the government, the more of our civil liberties fall into the hands of Wall St. The only logical step is to rebuild the Government into what we want it to be.

This is perfectly Constitutional. The Constitution was never meant to be Holy writ, nor is it a mortal sin to change and revise it. The writers of the Constitution knew fully well that the world changes. They wrote the Constitution in order to deal with the changing conditions of their own time. They knew the world would continue to change, and built structures of change right into the Constitution. Hence the constitution was changed to allow all economic classes to vote. In 1971, Richard M. Nixon signed an amendment that changed the voting age from 21 to 18. Women won the vote in the early 20th Century. African Americans were freed by a Constitutional amendment. We have all the tools we need to change the government back into what we want it to be. All we need now is a plan.

Planning is the difference between revolutionaries like Jefferson and Burr and morons like Catesby and Fawkes. Rather than have some vague idea about returning the country to what Tom Jefferson wanted, we need a clear idea of what we want and need as a nation. There were many movements which had clear and precise goals as to what they wanted the government to be. The Labor movement, the Suffragist movement, and the Civil Rights movement are three clear examples of revolutionary movements that have changed the nation. Despite the best efforts of the neocons and their religious lapdogs, we still enjoy many of the benefits we gained from those movements.

Remember that the Constitution was written to be an instrument of the will of the people and not chains to bind us to a past age. Trying to return the Constitution to the days of the founders is like Guy Fawkes trying to return England to the tyranny of the Pope. It simply cannot be done. Maybe Guy Fawkes is really the appropriate symbol for the 21st Century American left, as they lead us to the future with their asses firmly in front of them.

A penny loaf to feed the Pope
Hip hip hoorah hoorah!
A farthing o’ cheese to choke him.
Hip hip hoorah!
Then we’ll say ol’ Pope is dead.
A pint of beer to rinse it down.
A fagot of sticks to burn him.
Burn him in a tub of tar.
Burn him like a blazing star.
Burn his body from his head.


Notes on Trump 12

1. Interesting developments on the Russian interference in US elections. Will wait for detailed studies likely after special counsel and Congressional investigations but have noticed a few news items mentioning that Russian trolls were stirring up BOTH sides of the various divisions racking USA (and other Western countries).

This fits with my impression of the liberal media helping foment such culture wars by fanning flames. No doubt the Russians generated far more on the Trumpist side than against it, but they didn’t need to do much of what it seems they HAVE been doing to help stir up the liberal side. The liberals just keep doing it anyway.

This New Yorker item is headlined “How Trump Helps Russian Trolls”, illustrated with an ad attempting to trick Clinton voters into voting by twitter instead of turning up at polls and is naturally oriented on the theme of Trump backed by Russian trolls rather than liberals ALSO helping and being helped by Russian trolls.

But it does mentions the following:

much of the material from the Russian social-media campaign was directed at sowing division in general rather than attacking a specific candidate. Senator Susan Collins told a story of how trolls seized on racist comments made by the governor of Maine to set up two phony groups, one of African-Americans protesting the governor’s comments and one of nationalists defending him. Senator Richard Burr described a devious Facebook campaign that organized a real-life duelling protest in Houston last year between supporters of Muslim rights and Texans in favor of secession. Earlier this year, Russian trolls pushed both sides of the N.F.L. debate over kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality toward minorities.

Also has links to other articles and mention of similar Russian stirring up conflict in Europe.

It could be well worthwhile to follow the Congressional hearings and study the material already available on this. I hope somebody does but I won’t have time and will just wait for the eventual reports.

2. Here’s a better analysis of same issue, with more info:

3. Things are hotting up in the Democratic party split. Proof now published by Donna Brazile, the DNC chair that replaced Clinton’s flunkey after the email hacks that Democrat National Committee was indeed bought and paid for by Clinton campaign while DNC was supposed to be neutral conducting primaries in which Hilary was running against Bernie Sanders.

This is the origin of the whole “Russia” story as Clintonite Dems were desperate to deflect attention from the contents of the hacked emails that indicated this onto the fact that they had been hacked and suspicion that it was Russia who did it and Trump who benefited (which he certainly did – lots of Sanders supporters didn’t vote against Trump after learning about the rigged primaries by Clinton).

Not sure if this is just “old news” or dynamite but expect it will not be highlighted by media if they can avoid it. Initial reports angle it as a Trump tweet.

the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.

The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.

I had been wondering why it was that I couldn’t write a press release without passing it by Brooklyn. Well, here was the answer.

When you have an open contest without an incumbent and competitive primaries, the party comes under the candidate’s control only after the nominee is certain. When I was manager of Al Gore’s campaign in 2000, we started inserting our people into the DNC in June. This victory fund agreement, however, had been signed in August 2015, just four months after Hillary announced her candidacy and nearly a year before she officially had the nomination.

Elizabeth Warren has agreed that the primary was rigged and emphasized that Sanders supporters must be brought into DNC.

(See link within above).

This is still “breaking news” at the moment. But even if it does get buried it won’t be easy to avoid a major Democrat split before the end of Trump’s first term.

Above was yesterday (Saturday 2017-11-09). Today, Sunday, it looks like media cannot avoid talking about it since they just HAVE to respond to Trump’s tweeting.

That tweet expertly mobilizes Sanders supporters while appearing to be directed at Trumpists. The analysis links to a Trump pollster confirming that polls showed Sanders more likely to have defeated Trump. So anti-Trumpists have a LOT to be angry about, not all of which can be contained into anger at Trump when his Presidency is the direct result of other things they can actually DO something about.

This links to a twitter hashtag:

So Donna Brazile has announced she “Never Said Hilary Rigged Election” and responses are highlighting that she DID say Hilary rigged the nomination. Ditto for Warren.

Even if the general readership goes for the line that this is all about Trump and whether he can get the Justice Department to prosecute an internal Democratic party matter, that is not likely to cut much ice with the millions of Sanders supporters or prevent a Democrat party split.

Sanders and Warren are both playing it straight, expressing appropriate partisan indignation against Trump butting in, but that only strengthens them internally in fight with Clinton machine.

NPR is covering it as the equal third most important thing that happened this week. But its conclusion is:

What was revealed only reinforces for the left that there was collusion — against them. It’s only going to harden and deepen the fissures in the party that is trying to oust Republicans in Congress next year and President Trump two years after that.

If the Democratic Party doesn’t shape up, create a message and figure out — most importantly — how to unify its divergent factions, it’s going to be hard to mount a campaign to defeat a sitting president with a locked-in base.

4. Resuming dump of old links.Trump: Flake and Corker had no chance of getting re-elected

The party Trump took over in November 2016 is now purging itself of its past. It also happens to be the overwhelmingly dominant party in the United States, controlling the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House, as well as 33 governorships and 69 out of 99 state legislatures. It reflects the new American normal far more than the Democratic Party does. And it is increasingly Trump’s party.

Trump did not rise out of nowhere to smash our norms and replace them with new ones. His successful candidacy was a reflection and enshrinement of changes in the American body politic we do not yet understand — nor does he, for that matter. But everyone distressed by the Trump phenomenon will not achieve a greater understanding of it if they continue to comfort themselves by arguing he’s not the new normal.

The question they must find an answer to is this: How can they successfully replace Trump’s new normal with a new new normal?

5. Libertarians “Reason” making similar point:

Also mentions that liberals (“the left”) have similar problem:

The left has a similar problem: Candidates like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have to pretend to be skeptical of or hostile to free trade to allay their base while nudging and winking to international trade partners. On immigration, Democrats have lost the current debate in large part because they’re unwilling or unable to make the economic case for liberal immigration policies, instead relying on emotional appeals that only contribute to the hyperpartisan divide.

The Trump difference is that Trump has mostly stuck to his rhetoric after the election. Establishment Republicans have long been comfortable cultivating economic ignorance and racial resentment among their base in pursuit of electoral victory and then pursuing other priorities in Washington. But eventually the base clues in to the bait-and-switch and seeks out candidates who seem less likely to compromise. What set Trump apart wasn’t his ideas so much as his perceived authenticity: He seemed like a guy who would actually follow up on that Trumpist rhetoric once in office

Paul Krugman illustrates this “Conscience of a liberal” by arguing that corporate tax cuts would benefit “foreigners” (who own 35%).

6. Bizarre headline saying GOP incumbents should call Bannon’s bluff by not folding attached to article demonstrating that there is no bluff and that they are folding.

7. Same GOP columnist has perceptive article on latest news and Democrat implosion:

8. CNN “analysis” explaining how one of Trump’s opponents giving up and quitting politics once again illustrates Trump’s utterly hopeless lack of any strategy just like the analyst has always said and will always say.

Similar from NPR, still not getting it that Trump wants a deficit that he will get from Democrats and not from his opponents in the GOP.

9. Australian Trumpist boasting that Trump attack on Green card immigration in response to recent islamo-fascist murders will win him second term. Highlights contrast with liberals twittering about “Russia”. Plausible enough. Instead of actually presenting any principled defense of immigration etc US liberals are indeed opening the way for a second term.

10. Here’s a different example of liberal twittering. Standing applause at women’s resistance conference when recent Mueller indictments announced. It gives them “hope” that there will be a “saviour from on high” and substitutes for having any actual program.

11. USA today explains the vital differences between the Clinton campaign paying foreign espionage agents to get fake “dirt” against Trump from unamed “Kremlin sources” and Trump campaign hoping to receive dirt against Clinton from Kremlin sources. One would think they would just shut up and write about something else.

(But of course there are indeed legal differences between actually paying and hoping for free gifts…)

Meanwhile Democrat lobbyist who helped Manafort launder his money from Ukraine has resigned…

Why are they so sure Mueller will not do them at least as much damage as he does to Trump? Perhaps just certainty that he is part of the swamp doesn’t actually care about Russian interference but desperately cares about getting rid of Trump. Doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that there is any other possibility.

12. Sign at anti-Trump protest rallies:

“I am sexually attracted to indictments”

13. Meanwhile readers of the Guardian and the Chicago Tribune are comforted with sheer fantasizing about how dumb Trump is:

and the certainty that if they keep on banging those rocks together they will win:

Is the Russia investigation, probably the most important ever conducted by the justice department, closer to bringing down the Trump presidency than it was a week ago? Sipher noted that his demise has been widely predicted before yet somehow he manages to survive – until the day he doesn’t.

“It’s like hitting a boulder with a hammer 1,000 times and it doesn’t break,” he said. “Then you hit it the 1,001st time and it smashes to pieces. Its hard to predict.”





Notes on Trump 11

1. Gallup approval rates were still 80% for Republicans and 84% for Conservative Republicans (day 275 of term, polled Oct 17-22).  Now 79% and 82% (day 282, Oct 23-29). Still slight decline but no risk to sweeping GOP primaries.

2. Still trying to dump links. First on indictments filed subsequent to above polls, which may affect later polls. (Summary – not likely to change my expectation of GOP dominated by Trumpists after mid-terms, House dominated by Democrats likely to impeach Trump, no chance of Senate removing from office. Scene still set for a second term as still no sign of any coherent opposition). Real impact of isolationist policies more likely in second term as Democrats also shift that way.)

3. Vanity Fair fantasizing on White House freak outs over indictments (which have been known for months). As far as I can make out there is not even a pretence at reporting from any sort of source or even at analysing anything, just pure fantasy.
4. CNN has actually noticed that Republicans “speaking out” against Trump are not planning to run for office again, confirming that GOP is becoming Trump’s party:
(I won’t bother with the far more numerous reports celebrating these attacks as though they were inflicting actual damage rather than admitting defeat).

5. Guide to code words used in media articles to describe anonymous sources.
Some are claimed to imply a credible source. Most articles I read use one of these:

People familiar with the investigation,” “U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports,” “current and former officials familiar with the investigations,” “one current and one former American official with knowledge of the continuing congressional and F.B.I. investigations,” “Republican strategist,” “Democratic strategist,” “senior Republicans

 Article suggests even such nonsensical “sources” should be considered:

So our advice is: Read all of these vaguely sourced stories with skepticism. But if you really want to keep up with Trump’s Washington, you probably don’t have a choice but to read some stories with unnamed sources.

I can confirm that is what I am having to do. But it is to keep up with the collapse of mainstream politics, not to actually get a grip on what else is going on apart from that collapse. (eg very hard to figure out foreign policy, trade policy etc – only easy to understand the media and Democrat baiting).

6. Media wonks discussing media’s coverage of Trump:

The media has lots of problems in how it covers Trump. We’ve just scratched the surface here. But these problems are also hard to solve and figuring them out in real time is tough.

In other words they cannot help themselves and are just going to keep doing it…

7. Kim Jong-Il figures out how to get a straight report of what he actually said into the US media in full:

“Donald Trump is a rogue and a dotard (at length)”.

Will Putin catch on?

8. Dems moving towards Medicare for all:

VOX notices that Trump pushing them that way.

9. NY mag actually noticed that Trump has every incentive to push tax breaks for middle not top.

GOP incumbents who treat that as a betryal of GOP priorities won’t be back after midterms.

10. Dem ex President carter has noticed that Trump is preparing way for bipartisan immigration reform and medicare for all.

11. Dem economist hints Trump could meet his 3% growth target. Lamely suggests that will please just stock market rather than voters. Still actually noticing the danger even if unable to say it explicitly suggests some residual capacity for analysis.

12. CNN describes GOP incumbents worried that Democrats on track for House majority as “Trump allies” who are worried that Trump doesn’t understand he would then be bogged down in inquiries and impeachment. No attempt at explaining why that wouldn’t be a good outcome for winning a second term.

13. The Economist explains how the indictments could be used to pressure witnesses to expose Trump collusion with Russia. Assumes there was some despite a year of no evidence.

14. Paul Walden at the week says Trump more worried that Mueller might expose his shady financial dealings than about Russia. Sounds plausible to me. But no sign of it happening.

15. Just a reminder that Bernie Sanders opposing immigration won’t be an opportunist switch like others – that’s always been his position:

Many more to dump…

Hegel, Engels, and the pseudo-left… “All that is real is rational, and all that is rational is real”

Fundamental to a genuine left is this concept:

“Just as knowledge is unable to reach a complete conclusion in a perfect, ideal condition of humanity, so is history unable to do so; a perfect society, a perfect “state”, are things which can only exist in imagination. On the contrary, all successive historical systems are only transitory stages in the endless course of development of human society from the lower to the higher. Each stage is necessary, and therefore justified for the time and conditions to which it owes its origin. But in the face of new, higher conditions which gradually develop in its own womb, it loses vitality and justification. It must give way to a higher stage which will also in its turn decay and perish.”

(Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886)

The following is a discussion from the Lastsuperpower site in 2003 about the philosophical basis of pseudo-leftism. The two contributors are ‘Albert’ and ‘Keza’. It stands up very well fourteen years on, and had a big impact on me at the time. –


Revolutionaries are historical optimists who stress the inevitability of progress. Pseudo-Leftists are reactionaries who merely denounce how bad things are and actively reinforce the idea that they cannot be changed. But when revolutionaries reject the irrational obscurantism and moralistic posturing of pseudo-Leftists and line up together with the ruling class against them, by asserting that “all that is real is rational”, they are also implicitly saying “all that exists deserves to perish”

Author: albert

Date : Jun 15, 2003 4:48 am

“All that is real is rational; and all that is rational is real”

Hegel’s remark “All that is real is rational; and all that is rational is real.” is central to understanding the philosophical outlook of communism.

It’s worth carefully studying Engel’s explanation of this seemingly paradoxical position, as it sheds a lot of light on some aspects of the problems with pseudo-Leftists and other reactionaries conservatives.

Fundamental to the genuine left is this concept:

“Just as knowledge is unable to reach a complete conclusion in a perfect, ideal condition of humanity, so is history unable to do so; a perfect society, a perfect “state”, are things which can only exist in imagination. On the contrary, all successive historical systems are only transitory stages in the endless course of development of human society from the lower to the higher. Each stage is necessary, and therefore justified for the time and conditions to which it owes its origin. But in the face of new, higher conditions which gradually develop in its own womb, it loses vitality and justification. It must give way to a higher stage which will also in its turn decay and perish.”

One aspect of that is the idea that “each stage is necessary, and therefore justified for the time and conditions to which it owes its origin”. Pseudo-Leftists assert the opposite. They are able to present themselves as more “militantly opposed” to the status quo than revolutionaries because they refuse to “understand” current reality as “necessary” and “therefore justified for the time and conditions to which it owes its origin”. Instead they simply denounce it from an ahistorical perspective as contrary to some absolute morality.

Anyone critical of the status quo is bound to highlight its negative features and denounce them as intolerable. But by denying that those negative features had their own rational basis the pseudo-Left obscures the rational necessity for inevitable change to the status quo arising from new circumstances that obsolete the justification for the old reality and necessitate a new reality.

Revolutionaries are historical optimists who stress the inevitability of progress. Pseudo-Leftists are reactionaries who merely denounce how bad things are and actively reinforce the idea that they cannot be changed. But when revolutionaries reject the irrational obscurantism and moralistic posturing of pseudo-Leftists and line up together with the ruling class against them, by asserting that “all that is real is rational”, they are also implicitly saying “all that exists deserves to perish” as explained by Engels:

“And so, in the course of development, all that was previously real becomes unreal, loses it necessity, its right of existence, its rationality. And in the place of moribund reality comes a new, viable reality — peacefully if the old has enough intelligence to go to its death without a struggle; forcibly if it resists this necessity. Thus the Hegelian proposition turns into its opposite through Hegelian dialectics itself: All that is real in the sphere of human history, becomes irrational in the process of time, is therefore irrational by its very destination, is tainted beforehand with irrationality, and everything which is rational in the minds of men is destined to become real, however much it may contradict existing apparent reality. In accordance with all the rules of the Hegelian method of thought, the proposition of the rationality of everything which is real resolves itself into the other proposition: All that exists deserves to perish.”


Hegel and the pseudo-left

Author: keza

Date : Jun 21, 2003 3:00 am

After reading Albert’s Hegel message I got a bit interested in Hegel and tried to find out what he was on about. The following message results from that. It’s not really finished but I’ve had enough of it for now…

In his Australian article ‘Not in Your Name Indeed’, Barry York described the politics of the pseudo-Left as a “mish-mash” , a “jumble of prejudices”, “more akin to a sub-culture than a political movement”.

I think these words captured something very important about the pseudo-left – in particular its atheoretical and ahistorical nature. Pseudo-left ideology lends itself well to bulleted lists of things to oppose and things to support. At the same time, events in the world are classified according to surface appearance rather than in terms of what underlies them. The pseudo-left may talk of the “underlying reasons” for something like the war in Iraq but this talk is always of “hidden agendas”, “secret motives” and is quite different from studying such events in light of the underlying flow of history.

Hegel’s statement: “All that is real is rational; and all that is rational is real” asserts that history makes sense: “the phantom of a world whose events are an incoherent concourse of fortuitous circumstances, utterly vanishes”.

In contrast, pseudo-left ideology attributes only the most superficial rationality to what happens in the world.

Indeed it seems to me that the pseudo-left has an essentially folk-loric version of how the world works. There is evil and there is good. (Or there is God and there is Satan). Being “good” means being pure and true and perfect and this comes down to opposing the dark forces of evil. It’s an abstract, ideal position which is capable of generating protests but has no serious orientation toward actually changing the world. The feel-good slogan “Not in My Name” captures its nature rather well.

The Hegelian conception of history exerted an enormous influence on both Marx and Engels. Although Hegel was an idealist, his view of history was one in which humans were seen as becoming progressively more capable of controlling their own destiny. He saw history as always progressing in the direction of greater freedom – driven by the dialectical opposition between what is actual and what is potential.

Hegel was an idealist because of his adherence to the idea of the supremacy of “Spirit” (akin to mind) over matter (which he saw as inert – “its essence outside itself’.:

“Spirit knows itself. It involves an appreciation of its own nature, as also an energy enabling it to realise itself; to make itself actually that which it is potentially. According to this abstract definition it may be said of Universal History, that it is the exhibition of Spirit in the process of working out the knowledge of that which it is potentially. And as the germ bears in itself the whole nature of the tree, and the taste and form of its fruits, so do the first traces of Spirit virtually contain the whole of that History.”


“The life of a people ripens a certain fruit; its activity aims at the complete manifestation of the principle which it embodies. But this fruit does not fall back into the bosom of the people that produced and matured it; on the contrary, it becomes a poison-draught to it. That poison-draught it cannot let alone, for it has an insatiable thirst for it: the taste of the draught is its annihilation., though at the same time the rise of a new principle.”

Engels pointed out that “according to Hegel certainly not everything that exists is also real, without further qualification. For Hegel the attribute of reality belongs only to that which at the same time is necessary: “In the course of its development reality proves to be necessity.” “.

This qualification is important, otherwise Hegel’s statement could be taken as no more than the assertion that the status quo (being “real”) is always rational and therefore justified. Such an interpretation would contradict his view of history as a process of progressive change in which what is actual loses its necessity and gives way to its own potential: “It certainly makes war upon itself — consumes its own existence; but in this very destruction it works up with existence into a new form, and each successive phase becomes in its turn a material, working on which it exalts itself to a new grade.”

Getting back to the pseudo-left …it seems to me that their political outlook is characterized by a denial/ignorance of both necessity and rationality (and therefore of reality). Opposition to US imperialism turns out to be an unchallengeable, immutable, stand-alone principle of some sort. The idea that Bush et al could intend to democratize the Middle East – that their old policy is no longer rational (ie that in the current world situation it has lost its necessity) is seen as strange and nonsensical. How could it be possible for US imperialism to do such a thing?

It’s easy to appear as very revolutionary and militant if your stance does not include any appreciation of current reality and necessity. And the opposite is also true – it’s easy to attack those who are being (correctly) radical and militant. Basically you don’t have to feel responsible for anything that happens because such a stance does not involve actually trying to change the world.

In “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific”, Engels said this about Hegel:

“This new German philosophy culminated in the Hegelian system. In this system — and herein is its great merit — for the first time the whole world, natural, historical, intellectual, is represented as a process — i.e., as in constant motion, change, transformation, development; and the attempt is made to trace out the internal connection that makes a continuous whole of all this movement and development. From this point of view, the history of mankind no longer appeared as a wild whirl of senseless deeds of violence, all equally condemnable at the judgment seat of mature philosophic reason and which are best forgotten as quickly as possible, but as the process of evolution of man himself. It was now the task of the intellect to follow the gradual march of this process through all its devious ways, and to trace out the inner law running through all its apparently accidental phenomena.”

Pseudo left ideology does not encourage people to use their intellects to grasp the nature of what is happening in the world . On the contrary it propagates the idea that the truth can be hidden – (and sometimes) that there’s really no such thing as truth, that intuition and “gut feeling” are superior to logic, that the people who rule the world are stupid/irrational enough to “let things get out of control” and so on.

Anyway I’m getting tired of writing this ….


Comments :

(by albert on 06/20/2003)

Thanks for the excellent article!

I’m getting inspired to read up on Hegel again too (also philosophy generally and have started reading Marx’s Notebooks on Epicurus to shed some light on why he wrote his doctoral thesis on atomic physics 😉

One point I’d stress is that it isn’t just the pseudo-Left which suffers from the various problems described. What distinguishes the pseudo-Left is often merely that it dresses up conventional ruling class ideas in a “militant”, “radical”, “leftist” but essentially a “pseudo” guise.

The basic idea that Engels finds appealing in Hegel is “the whole world, natural, historical, intellectual, is represented as a process — i.e., as in constant motion, change, transformation, development”. That dialectical emphasis on a process of progress and development is especially problematic to a decaying, moribund, parasitic ruling class.

Although some sections of the bourgeoisie still sing “Happy Days Are Here Again” and present themselves as at least complacent, if not progressive or revolutionary, the dominant mood is full of doom and gloom – literally terrified of what the future might bring (with a corresponding emphasis on “terrorists” as only one aspect of that).

As Marx pointed out, in any class society the ideas of the ruling class are of course the ruling ideas. That can easily be said glibly but it stands in direct opposition to such views as Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent”.

The ruling ideas, those that dominate education, culture etc, are thoroughly pessimistic and stress the hopelessness of any struggle for change. That is especially the case for state sponsored education (“post-modern” university departments of doom and gloom) and culture (national broadcasters such as the British BBC and Australian ABC bringing daily sermons that everything is going from bad to worse).

The pseudo-Left has been let off the hook because it has been challenged only by the complacent right, which accepts the pseudos self-image as something “radical”, “militant” etc (by denouncing them on that basis, in support of the status quo).

Instead the pseudo-Left must be exposed as a direct reflection of ruling class ideology delivering exactly the official line – that nothing positive can be done to challenge the ruling class since even though they are obviously hopeless, no better alternative is possible.

That is what strips away the “radical” veneer. For example when faced with the usual diatribes against “consumerism” from greenies, these should just be treated as obviously a proposal to reduce real wages and discussed seriously on that basis. “Ok, so you want people to consume less. That’s easy – simply reduce their incomes. So I guess what you would need would be more unemployment – both to reduce incomes directly and to add to the pressure for reducing wages indirectly. That would explain a lot of green policies. I guess if we used less technology that would pretty well guarantee a sharp reduction in productivity and therefore in incomes and consumption. Hmm, interesting approach. Must be appealing to governments and corporations so they would give you a lot of funding. But aren’t you up against History – isn’t there something unstoppable about people’s desire to live better than before?”





Bold thinking, revolutionary democracy and ‘the children of Karl Marx and Coca Cola’

Last month, La Trobe University organised a ‘Bold Thinking’ panel for its 50th anniversary program at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

I was one of the four panellists. The others were Katie Holmes, professor of History at La Trobe, and my two old comrades, Fergus Robinson and Brian Pola. Fergus and Brian and I became known as ‘the La Trobe Three’ after we were gaoled for contempt of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1972. Amnesty International became interested in our case as we were political prisoners.

La Trobe live-streamed the ‘Bold Thinking’ event, including question time, and it can be seen here. Anyone wanting greater background can check out my book ‘Student Revolt’ (1989) or this essay which appeared in ‘Vestes: Australian Universities Review’ in 1984: VESTES essay – Student dissent LTU 1967-72 (1984)

This morning, I viewed the film of the event for the first time. I thought each of us did well but had a lot more we could have said.

As for me, I was extremely nervous. The last time I had spoken before so many people in a public political forum was 1980 at the Lower Melbourne Town Hall when I was on a panel in support of a boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games.

Prior to the ‘Bold Thinking’ event, I jotted down a few key points. I was only able to make a few of them – after all, there were four of us sharing an hour – and I want to offer a few more thoughts (in no particular order) here.

* * * *

  1. I had wanted to mention at the beginning of the evening that while the notion of ‘the La Trobe Three’ is valid because only three of us were gaoled, there were in fact four of us who were named in the Supreme Court injunctions. The fourth was Rodney Taylor, who was never captured and thus not gaoled.
  1. Also, in late 1971, twenty-three left-wing students were fined by the University’s kangaroo court, or Proctorial Board, and twelve were excluded (expelled for specific periods). The authorities had accurately identified the core of the militant left, with one or two ‘innocents’ thrown in to make it look fairer. The point I had wanted to make was that of those 23 comrades, five are no longer with us. I want them to be remembered, and do so now: Rob Mathews, Ken Rushgrove, John Cummins, Jan Schapper and Maggie Grant.
  1. A factual blooper on my part: I said that we escorted Defence Department recruiters from the campus in 1969 – it was actually 1970. (The first on-campus confrontation with the University’s governing body, the Council, had occurred in 1969, when a protest delegation entered a Council meeting without permission to demand student representation on the governing body).
  1. Fergus made the point that the type of student rebellion of the late 1960s-early 1970s is “almost impossible to replicate today”. I broadly agree but feel that his reasoning – decentralised campus structures and overseas students – requires further consideration. To me, a glaring problem is the absence of communists on campuses. La Trobe – and Monash – had genuine left-wing leadership for at least a couple of years and we instigated and led the issues and set the pace. At La Trobe, this was the situation in 1970 and 1971. Today there are lots of ‘greens’ and post-modernists on campuses so…
  1. Left-wing leadership was made possible through challenges we made to ‘revisionist’ or pseudo-left people with whom we were in open conflict. The CPA (Communist Party of Australia) was not just an opponent but an enemy. They sought to constrain our militancy and politically sought to divert our energies into supporting the Australian Labor Party. (At this time, after the ascendancy of Whitlam in 1967 as ALP Leader, the ALP’s position as the federal Opposition on Vietnam was no longer one of immediate withdrawal of all Australian troops but rather ‘holding operations’ in Vietnam. This pushed many of us further to the extra-parliamentary left, as there was no parliamentary party through which we could secure our goal in Vietnam).

The CPA was not in any sense a revolutionary organisation, and we were revolutionaries with an understanding of state power and the history of class struggle and the nature of the overthrow of one class by another. As with Marx and Engels in the C19th, some of our biggest ideological battles were with ostensible comrades, those seen as leftists or progressives. Within the left/rads/revs (whatever) is its opposite.

I believe there is a need for a similar overthrow of the faux left leadership today. Until that happens, the period of hibernation, or whatever it is, may continue for another 40 years.

  1. The question of our relationship to the counter-culture came up and I wish I had been a bit more nuanced. It’s true that I wrote my book, ‘Student Revolt’, because I didn’t like the way the period was being portrayed/trivialised in popular culture as almost wholly about sex, drugs and rock music. But I should have made the point that, for all our hard-line politics, we were also part of a counter-culture in that we were working and thinking outside the system. We eschewed the ‘proper channels’ established by the La Trobe University Act to channel student discontent – the Student Representative Council – and I recall a leaflet describing the SRC as a ‘glorified high school prefect system’.

Personally, I had a good relationship with the hippy kind of people but I didn’t approve of the idea of ‘dropping out’ of society and living in share-houses or of the drug culture. Indeed, in 1971 or thereabouts, I compiled a pamphlet called ‘Goddam the pusher man’.

I did wear my hair long back then, wore a purple coloured top from London’s trendy Carnaby Street for a while and loved the more edgy music – especially The Animals, Nina Simone, Country Joe and the Fish, and J B Lenoir (one of the few overtly political blues men). And (gulp) I owned a pair of flairs.

My distaste for the idea of communal share-house living reflected my strong commitment to home ownership, something I retain to this day. I had this attitude because from the age of three to five, I was technically homeless (using the Australian Bureau of Statistics definition of homelessness).

My parents and I disembarked at Station Pier, Melbourne, in 1954 and after a very brief stint with my dad’s brother, Joe, who had worked on the wharves since the mid-1920s when he migrated from Malta, we became the ‘drifting migrants’ you see in the movies. My mum used to talk about how we had seven different accommodations – all boarding-houses in Coburg and Brunswick – within our first 21 months in Melbourne. That averages out as a move every three months. In each place, there was a single room for each family, with rooms running off long corridors. A notorious one in West Brunswick was run by a Lithuanian landlady. I was five but still vividly recall the police coming to evict an old drunk from his room. As they forced him out, the landlady ran behind them, screaming in her thick Baltic accent to the poor old bloke: “God help you! God help you!”

‘Housing for all!’ was a communist slogan back then. It should be revived today.

  1. We also shared with the counter-culture a genuine interest in how society could be reorganised, how people could live differently to the alienating system based on wage slavery.

And we were all moved by the wonderful provocative slogans emanating from the 1968 Paris uprising when ten million workers went on strike and students took over the streets with them. I use one of the 1968 Paris slogans as part of the banner of C21st Left: “Sous les paves la plage” – Under the paving stones, the beach!” Awesome stuff and I hope I live long enough to see a revival of the soixante-huitard spirit.

“Society is a carnivorous flower!” Oui!

  1. I had also wanted to mention and discuss Jean Luc Godard’s famous phrase (used in his 1960s film ‘Masculin-Feminin’): “The children of Karl Marx and Coca Cola”. It’s a rich comment, and an accurate one. We were the children of Karl Marx and Coca Cola in so many ways. I’ll flesh this out if I ever write a subjective memoir of those years.
  1. Brian said he was still a communist. Fergus indicated he wasn’t. I described myself as a “revolutionary democrat” who supports all struggles against dictators and tyranny, especially in Syria. I said that I wouldn’t feel safe in North Korea or Cuba or any other nominally ‘communist’ country today. I wish I had expanded on what this means. The reason I wouldn’t be safe is because I’d seek out the dissenters and rebels against ‘dictatorship over the proletariat’.

Revolutionary democracy, to me, is entirely consistent with Marxism. But one can be a revolutionary democrat without being a Marxist. For instance, there are Islamists who are revolutionary democrats (and there are those who are very much the opposite). Under conditions of fascism, people who fight for basic bourgeois democracy can be revolutionary democrats regardless of how they self-identify politically.

For Marxists, the ultimate aim is a more democratic society, one in which democracy is extended to the social and economic realm through the ‘lifters’ overthrowing the rule of the 0.1% who are ‘leaners’ and establishing their own rule. In the C21st, no-one in their right mind will support this if it means one-party dictatorship or a continuation of the current Australian model of two-party dictatorship. They will want a genuine competitive multi-party electoral system, one in which the parliament and other representative bodies reflect accurately and proportionately the people’s will. There is no reason why this cannot be achieved in a system based on social ownership.

  1. Which leads me to my regret that I didn’t once talk about ownership of the means of production. “Means of production”! Sometimes I feel like emulating Howard Beale, the character in Paddy Chayevsky’s great film script, ‘Network’ (1976), by going to a window in a tall building, opening it, and yelling to the universe: “I can’t take it anymore!!” but with the added words: “Why is no-one talking about the means of production?!!!!”

Revolutionary democracy, to me, implies the eventual social ownership of means of producing the stuff society needs, with a view to improving living standards and lifting everyone currently in poverty out of it globally, while also going well beyond catering for ‘social need’ through greatly expanding scientific and technological research and development in the interests of even greater progress – the pursuit of fun and fantasy. The early Suffragettes had it right when they talked about ‘Abundance for all!’ My early interest in communism, in the late 1960s, found that slogan enormously attractive. Old coms often talked like that. Back then.

  1. Early influences. It’s always of interest to others to know how and why someone becomes a communist revolutionary. This is largely because 99.9% of people in the west don’t, and they find it intriguing and weird that anyone would.

The ‘Bold Thinking’ event provided opportunity for each of us to talk about this. Fergus and Brian and I had very different upbringings and socio-economic-family environments. I’m sure we each could have talked more about ourselves, and I’ll do so now partly because, for one thing, I regret not being able to explain the extent to which I was already political when I first went to La Trobe in 1969.

I had been involved in the campaign against capital punishment – the hanging of Ronald Ryan – in 1966 and 1967. It was easy as a 15 year old to cycle from my home in West Brunswick up to Coburg to attend protests outside Pentridge Gaol. This year is my 50th ‘on the left’.

In my final years of high school, 1968, I attended the ‘riot’ outside the US Consulate in Commercial Road, St Kilda, Melbourne. The militancy helped ‘bring the war home’ and also jolted the CPA revisionists who had assumed they could keep leading and controlling the growing Vietnam solidarity movement. I was in my school uniform and my emotional response to the police riot, baton assaults and mass arrests left me both very frightened and excited by the fact that people were fighting back.

It may have been my first experience of the feeling that I was taking part in something much bigger than Australia. I had seen footage of the French and US student uprisings of that year – thanks to television. I felt for the first time that little ol’ me was part of a truly international movement of solidarity. (It was not, however, my first riot, as I had been at Festival Hall, West Melbourne, in 1965 when the Mongolian Stomper attacked Domenic DeNucci with the heavy brass ringside bell causing 7,000 Italian wrestling fans to engage in riotous behaviour that required the attendance of many police and several police divisional vans).

  1. And speaking of my old friend Television, I should have thanked it for bringing the world into my lounge-room. News reports of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when I was 11, stay with me to this day, as does film of Bull Connor setting vicious attack dogs onto black protestors in Alabama. Connor was a Democrat of the ‘southern’ kind and Birmingham’s Commissioner of Public Safety. There was also footage on the news of the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa. I wasn’t just disappointed or saddened by what was happening. I was angry – an anger intensified by the juxtaposition of programs like ‘Leave it to Beaver’, which promoted the idealised American family, against the real world characterised by so much oppression, suffering and resistance. Programs like ‘The Twilight Zone’ were among my favourites. In taking me into “a world of imagination”, Rod Serling really helped spark my imagination. Subversive stuff.
  1. Another cultural influence of that time – another expression of the ‘Coca Cola’ in Godard’s formulation – was science-fiction literature (and movies). For a few years in my teenage years I read short stories in that genre and received at Christmas the year’s ‘Best of Sci Fi’ collections. Back then, there wasn’t so much dystopianism. Arthur C Clarke in particular saw the positive potential in rapid technological development. To this day, I believe in reaching for the stars, figuratively and literally. But we won’t get there via capitalism, where R&D is constrained by the pursuit of maximum profit and concentrated private ownership. I would have liked to have made that point on the night.
  1. Still on personal influences, I told the audience how my parents were wage workers, my dad a factory worker and we were on the lower socio-economic side of life. I spent about 30 years growing up in Brunswick, which was all pretty much ‘lower socio-economic’ with many migrants from diverse places and many factories. You could be sure back then that wherever there were lots of migrants there would also be lots of factories. For more than ten years I lived next door to one. Its high red brick wall was the view a metre from my bedroom, blocking out the sun.

Perhaps coming from that background was the reason I do not share Fergus’ view that university life was fairly drab and that the left provided an avenue into stimulation from the boredom. To me, just going to the campus – two bus rides and eleven kilometres away in a strangely named suburb called Bundoora – was excitement in itself. My parents never owned a car and everything went into paying off our house. We never had a family holiday. I knew – and still know – West Brunswick like the back of my hand – every back alley, road and side street. There was a strong neighbourly ethos among some along my street but there was also insularity. For instance, West Brunswick ‘boys’ viewed East Brunswick, on ‘the other side’ of Sydney Road, with caution while we all regarded Coburg people as toffs and snobs. For me, going to La Trobe University in 1969 was like a whole new universe opening up. The politics was icing on that cake. I was meeting people of my own age cohort who lived on properties with beautiful gum trees in places I’d never normally visit, like Montmorency and Eltham. Not a factory wall in sight.

Brunswick suffered three main social problems back then: alcoholism, gambling and domestic violence. In my family home, there was no gambling and no alcoholism. Two out of three ain’t bad.

The act of going to university each day, all that way from Brunswick, was in itself liberating for me. An escape. I loved it.

  1. There was a smattering of applause when Brian declared that ‘the New Left’ treated women very badly. I noticed that some of those applauding were not our age cohorts, so wondered how did they know?


I would gladly have swapped places with a woman, had one been able to replace me as a target in the Supreme Court injunctions, but none were in positions of leadership at that time to experience that degree of state repression. Was this because of the undoubtedly male dominated nature of the left’s leadership at La Trobe? Did the men hold them back, consciously? I don’t think so.

Was there a problem with male chauvinism? Yes.

When I enrolled at La Trobe I broadly sympathised with equality for women but I also brought with me the common assumptions about men and women of that time. I didn’t come from a ‘bohemian’ bayside background, where Simone de Beauvoir was discussed over fine wine in the evenings. Some of my personal attitudes and expectations were quite conservative in that regard. I was fairly backward in some ways but, as a slow learner, I’m a good learner. While achieving much progress for women, the women’s movement also challenged and changed many men. Including me.

Was there also egalitarianism within the left? Yes again. (I wish I had a dollar for every leaflet I typed – it’s a myth that women did all the typing. It is true, though, that nearly all the leaflets were written by men – which is certainly proof of male dominance).

Going by memory, I think the first regular newssheet published by a women’s lib group on the campus was called ‘Women Arise’ in 1970 (or perhaps 1969). Helen Reddy’s magnificent anthem, ‘I am woman’ was a year or two away but, to me, it sums up all that was and is great about the best politics of women’s liberation. No hint of victimhood, it is a song of defiance, determination and optimism.

I told the audience that I strongly supported the Women’s Liberation movement back then. I did, and still do. It was a very effective movement with clear, attainable, political objectives and it included many socialist women. I regard it as one of the great socio-cultural-political developments of the C20th. But it certainly fragmented – as part of the left’s rapid decline, I would argue – and some of the later varieties of feminism were distinctively not socialist and some were divisive and reactionary.

Any “ism” that uses the term “white men” as though it somehow wins an argument or proves a point, let alone as an insult, loses me as someone influenced by Marxism. These days, I’m favourably disposed to the libertarian feminists who, while not socialist, none the less display some of the qualities of the soixante-huitards. Conservative feminists don’t like them very much. I would have liked to make the point that, in my opinion, we need more Pussy Riots and fewer neo-Mary-Whitehouses.

An old comrade from the La Trobe days has made this comment: “The effect was certainly one of male dominance. A more contentious and important issue is that of intent. Did we write stuff out of a sense of ‘male entitlement’ or because we had things to say and stepped onto a stage that was as much our own making as not? Did we exclude women, that is, discourage their involvement? That is not my memory and the problem I have with the proposition that we did (it’s more an assumption than a proposition) is that it delivers a nice backhander to the women, a more pernicious form of sexism than anything I can remember us being guilty of”.

  1. Smash Soviet social-imperialism! Fergus and Brian and I made it clear that we believed in international solidarity but it’s a pity none of us mentioned the fact that we supported the student and worker uprisings ‘behind the Iron Curtain’ as well as in the west. Again, I was a slow but good learner and came to regard the Czech and Polish rebellions as part and parcel of our own struggle. It made sense from a Marxist revolutionary democrat perspective to support the Polish Solidarity movement later and to rejoice in the fall of the Berlin Wall. I had no problem with the Maoist line that saw Soviet social-imperialism as an ascendant threat and US imperialism in decline following its defeat in Indo-China. Richard Nixon’s memoir (1978) shows how Mao and Zhou En Lai wanted more than just normalised diplomatic relations with the US in facing the Soviet threat.
  1. Decline of the revolutionary left. I know that several hours would have been required to discuss and debate the above points. It’s understandable that people are interested mostly in the dynamic period of the late 1960s to early 1970s when there was so much passion, intensity, dedication, excitement, argument, optimism and resistance to repression. But I would have liked to have said something about the period of decline too, which I think was starting during 1972. The subsequent years in the 1970s were nothing like the period from 1968 to 1971, in activism or in spirit, and I’m still waiting for the spirit of ’68 to re-emerge in the C21st.

The period from 1972 to 1980 warrants the same level of investigation and discussion as the earlier period but this has not been undertaken. From my point of view, those years were characterised by increasing dogmatism. We stopped thinking anew, or dialectically. In some cases, ‘we’ turned into our opposites. I know this from personal experience, and to a large extent it happened to me.

One of the important lessons I learned from my activism back then is that it is very hard to think critically or dialectically. And it is even harder to think for oneself.

  1. People usually want to know whether the gaolings, and involvement in left revolutionary politics, had an impact on our employment and careers. In my case, it had a very negative effect later in the 1970s when I was black-listed by the Director-General of the Victorian Education Department. I had completed my Diploma of Education and worked as an Emergency (or Relief) teacher in the Technical Schools Division of the Education Department. Back then, the principals of the schools could employ such casual teachers without needing the approval of the Department. To cut a long story short (I must write it up one day), I had been working at various schools on a casual basis, hoping to eventually be offered a ‘permanent’ teaching job, which would mean having a career and some security. I still have the references from principals of those schools and they range from good to very good in their assessments of me.

Finally, the principal at one of the schools told me that a full-time teacher was retiring and he would like to have me on the staff as an on-going teacher. I was thrilled, as I had been hoping for such an opportunity for many months. The principal took me into his office and rang the Staffing Office in my presence. He told the person on the phone that he had someone to replace the other teacher but when he mentioned my name the response made his face drop. His tone changed and at the end of the call he turned to me and said, “I’m very sorry, Barry, they told me you’re not to be employed”.

It’s hard for me to describe what a personal blow this was – in 1976 or 1977. It knocked me badly, emotionally and psychologically.

I was called to attend a meeting with someone from the Staffing Office, on a street corner in the CBD (I kid you not). I was told that the meeting was strictly ‘off the record’. The officer told me that “someone upstairs” had marked my file “Not to be employed” and that the reason was because I was “a known political activist”.

Of course, I went straight to the union with this news and, to their credit, the union leaders saw the issue in a principled way, as one of opposing the political black-listing of qualified teachers. I was able to keep working on a casual basis, as the Department regulations allowed principals in each school to decide who to take on as a Relief teacher. I had a lot of support and worked pretty much full-time as a Relief teacher, going from school to school as required. The fact that I was doing well in the classrooms, sometimes five days a week, completely undermined any arguments from the Department that I was not suitable for permanent employment.

It took about 18 months of protests, meetings, negotiations, and utter anguish on my part (I was almost certainly clinically depressed during this period) before the Director-General, Laurie Shears, surrendered and I was given an on-going teaching job. A highlight of the struggle was when the three separate teacher unions – The Victorian Teachers Union, the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association and the Technical Teachers Union of Victoria united and stopped work on my behalf. I was told by the TTUV president that it was the first time that the three teacher unions had taken united action.

Mao said that reactionaries lift a rock only to drop it on their own feet. I have experienced and witnessed that truth many times.

Barry victimisation by Education Dept - Brunswick Sentinel - 23 Nov 1977


  1. I hope this piece will prompt others from that period, or those with an interest in it, to send in their thoughts on that period of struggle… and beyond.

Struggle - La Trobe heroes cover 1972