AC Meetup: Mother’s Day and Humane Cat Herding–Know Our Rights and Fights! by Galtisalie
“Happy Mother’s Day” in many countries in the world. Hopefully you did not have to prepare a hormone-laden turkey dinner for eleven as in Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want” painting. I’m not an art critic, so no problem with his Thomas Kinkade style, but I never liked the composition of the painting, and now I pretty much hate it–it’s unchallenging paternalism, the grins, particularly of the younger men, the bourgeois crystal, linen, “silvah,” and china, unh-unh–it did not strike me as, shall we say, reflective of the seriousness of the challenge of resolving hunger in most of the world, or even of “coming out of” the Depression in the U.S. with a fledgling of a welfare state. What an incredible cultural missed opportunity to educate Amurrricans. On the other hand, we have to know our fights, and “our” rights will be met or unmet on tables both alike and unlike this one, and maybe we should suppose that those young men might indeed be overjoyed with the first feast they have had ever or in a long time. IMHO, best not to get too picky with our potential political allies in such matters. So, Norman, if you’re up there, hope you don’t mind my imaginative doctorin’; you did some good popularizing work on human decency, but in this case, thanks for nothing. I sort of love that, according to the most trusted name in news, in 1948 you voted for another Norman, Thomas, but you soon fell off that wagon (and by voting for him you in a tiny way almost helped throw the election to another Thomas, Dewey, and because I am a pragmatist on the left wing of the possible, I would not have liked to see that happen). I will not be holding any candles in your late afternoon-glow honor.
I will try to be at least a little more pro-system change in this diary than a Rockwell painting. This has turned into a socialized Mother’s Day wish directed equally to men and women–not to deprive mothers of deserved praise but in hope of one day achieving a world that will bring all women, and children and men too, freedom from want and fear, if not an occasional huge Butterball. If we want to achieve such a world we must first recognize the clear moral justification for it, something Rockwell completely missed, undoubtedly on purpose, and for that he is morally accountable in my accounting. This moral justification is the underpinning for “rights,” not hoped-for Thanksgiving Day bounty. However, “visualizing” our rights to freedom from want and fear, while incredibly important, is obviously not the same thing as “achieving” it. This diary is also about pursuing the most efficient and peaceful path to such a world. To be as efficient and peaceful as possible on the journey to a just and loving world, we need to know our fights as well as our rights. As many people as possible need to learn about humane “cat herding.”
I hesitated (not really) to raise this confusing cat-laden subject at a website that devotes a lot of cyberspace to cute kitty stories, and they are adorable, concerned that I would be rebutted with expertise about actual cat behavior, glorious traits, etc. In all seriousness, at the outset I do want to disclaim any intent to talk down to anyone, but especially the poor and their allies, by using this soon to be extremely tiresome cat herding motif, which will go on for several paragraphs and then abruptly end, I promise. It is just an illustrative tool. Please do not think that I think that any human beings, even the fat cats running our world, are actually less than full human beings and somehow lower forms of life, such as cats. That is not at all what I am trying to suggest. This diary will be clunky from start to finish, but it is with good intent, and not intended to disparage anyone by suggesting that I think any human beings are literally cats or “subhuman.”
Nor do I want to promote a “vanguard” approach to cat herding. I certainly do not mean to suggest that “the masses” are stupid, waiting around for a free turkey dinner, or even in need of external or hierarchical leadership. Rather, as I just stated in the above italicized sentence, “As many people as possible need to learn about humane ‘cat herding.'” Capital’s mercenaries, themselves the dominant cats in my illustration, are already herding us around with their sharp teeth and claws away from the world’s sustainable buffet table, which is derived from our rightful land. To defend ourselves and future humans justly and lovingly, we must learn to fight back efficiently while recognizing the inhumane but still all too human predilection for tribalism and susceptibility to the exploitative divisive tactics of the right.
I am endorsing and promoting the full democratization of cat herding. When we all become cat herders, the mercenaries will themselves be herded, if not declawed, and we will rise to our best non-Rockwellian expression of our inherent worth and beauty as human beings in full possession of HUMAN rights, not cat rights. And the only cats left will be the 1% or less, that’s right, the fat cats. All on the left have a role to play in deeply democratic cat herding. As much as possible, we all should become our leaders. We each, IMHO, have to figure out our most effective leadership role on one or more of the fronts against capital.
Women, whether they are mothers or not, often have been and still are forced to herd most of the cats. This typically reflects a desperate and unfair state of affairs antithetical to socialism, both in terms of the need for cat herding to begin with and in terms of the involuntary roles of women. Again, I am not advocating a vanguard of cat herders, whether composed of women or some secret society of enlightened cat herders. Certainly, if there is a need for cat herding, supplying this need should be equally done by men and women. However, I do believe that on the long journey to global deep democracy massive amounts of cat herding will be required and that when conscious united species beings arise with insistence to demand our HUMAN rights, most will naturally become cat herders wanting to make a positive difference in one way or another. In winning a global deep democratic revolution this special skill can at least partially be redeployed from internal nuclear family survival to external human family survival. Perhaps more women than men will in fact tend to lead the female and male “cats” of the world to “unite” and demand true freedom with full HUMAN rights.
Solidarity requires that beings formerly acting more like cats learn to cooperate in order that we may collectively lose our “chains” (Marx’s word). While “chains” is still an apt metaphor for the restraints on billions of women and other humans around the world, probably a better metaphor in many places is “the silver-inlaid concrete” of the paternalistic institutions imposed on us by the racist white males who have run our world for millennia, wrote the U.S. Constitution, and have since developed and imposed a system of global neoliberalism. So, let’s go with that. “Concrete,” as I use it, is something of a play on the word as used by Herbert Marcuse when he was giving a talk in 1966 about his late friend Paul Baran:
I would like to discuss the topic assigned to me by first dealing with Paul Baran’s critique of the social sciences. In his critique of the social sciences he emphasized the dialectical element in the Marxian method. The sentence he liked to quote again and again was “the truth is the whole.” To him it was a revolutionary principle of thought, because it broke with the fetishism and reification, with the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, prevalent in the social sciences, a pseudo-empiricism which in his view tended to make the objectivity of the social sciences a vehicle of apologetics and a defense of the status quo. Baran defined this dialectical principle negatively and I will read to you the definition, the short definition, he gives in “The Commitment of the Intellectual”: “The principle ‘the truth is the whole’—to use an expression of Hegel—carries with it, in turn, the inescapable necessity of refusing to accept as a datum or to treat as immune from analysis, any single part of the whole.”
I would like to supplement this negative definition by a positive one to the effect that in and for the social sciences every particular phenomenon, every particular condition, every particular trend, in a given society must be analyzed and evaluated in terms of its relations to the whole, i.e., to the established social order. Isolated from this whole the respective phenomenon, condition, or trend remains a false, at least incomplete, and inconclusive datum concealing rather than revealing its true place and function in the social order. The social order itself, the social order as a concrete whole, is determined and defined for Baran following Marx by the material process of social reproduction and by the hierarchy of functions and values established in this social process of production. But the concrete relation between any particular fact, datum, condition, or trend, on the one side, and the whole social order, on the other, is never a direct and immediate one. It is always established through various intermediate factors, agencies, and powers, among them psychological factors, the family as agent of society, the mass media, language, images prevalent in a society, and so forth.
In politically but not economically “democratic” nation states, we are supposed to make-believe that the silver-inlaid concrete of the paternalistic institutions all around us are sufficiently malleable to be in our best interests; and that we can “participate” on an equal footing in national or sub-national elections, and maybe even national or sub-national court proceedings now and then, and these institutions can somehow be conformed to “our” satisfaction, consistent with free market supremacy of course. All this deception is intended to ensure that “the gold” of the world stays with the fat cats, and that the workplaces and fields of the world are producing that “gold” and not the gold of grains for hungry mouths to feed and other useful things.
No, “Brother Francisco,” aka Galtisalie, did not get into the bad acid again. I do tend to mix and match my metaphors like unto a tie-dye shirt. (“You think,” the generous manage to chuckle.) Again, I did not intend to make this a “Mother’s Day” message at all. I, a privileged male, have no qualifications to address women of the Deep South of the U.S., where I live, on Mother’s Day or any other day, much less the women of the world. But I am going to try anyway to address women as well as men, crummy metaphors and all. While I am hopeful that men in general will become truly free leaders deserving of the words in the revolutionary future, I know enough to doubt that men generally have the best stuff “to lead” our world any longer, and I am begging women of the left to error on the side of democratically taking over elective and other leadership positions before it is too late. I am not pandering, or giving up my own right to vote and otherwise participate in the forms available to me in these flawed institutions. I simply have the honesty to admit that men have messed up the world big time, so I reject on the basis of abundant evidence any paternalistic mindset as a qualification for leadership and look for leadership far outside of that paradigm. While I am not asking for a substitution of maternalism for paternalism, “far outside” of paternalism points me in the direction of the hearts and minds of women of the left.
I am definitely not trying to say I can tell women of the left what their priorities should be, as concerns for instance, the relative weight any or all should give to the class struggle versus “women’s” struggles. I know from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man that it is unfair for “white people,” even well-meaning white people of the left, to seek to impose a world view on African Americans. Similarly, it is unfair for me, a male, to seek to impose a world view on females–on this or any other day of the year. When I say, “know our rights and our fights,” I am not trying to pre-determine the rights and the fights that are most important to you. For one woman at any point in time, the most important right may be the right not to be attacked or beaten by an abusive person, for another it may be the right to reproductive freedom. But, whatever your most important of our rights, you and I must know how to build unity to assure that they and hence we are protected. So, I hope that this diary will, without seeming to dictate “rights and fights,” help to identify “fronts” where the rights and fights most important to you, whatever they are, may be vindicated.
I certainly did not intend to talk to my comrades about cats. I am not at all suggesting that cats disprove dialectical materialism. Rather, “they,” (i.e., the cats a narrow “we” in the “wealthy” pet-keeping and powerful, typically northern, portions of the world, such as the Deep South of the U.S., typically think of when “we” think of cats, i.e., puddy tats which are well-fed and domesticated), seem to have a lot of priorities that are not measurable in caloric intake. (They do not truly need to eat Tweety, if you will–head spinning, stay with cat motif and away from birds.) While greedy capital runs the human world, focusing on the emotion of fear, in the “they” cat world pride and aloofness seems to be dominant.
My cat-related thesis begins first with the observation that because humans who reach high levels of capitalist power, be it in the, now transnational, “business world” or in the silver-inlaid concrete institutions that serve capital, be they the true fat cats or merely their handsome mercenary cats, do not fear where their next meal is coming from, when they are not purely motivated by greed at the behest of capital at their best tend to behave like well-fed spoiled-rotten self-centered cats. They use the walls of the halls of the silver-inlaid concrete institutions as posts to scratch their claws. Second, billions of hungry cats around the world are in a severely weakened and fearful state, and perhaps a billion or two more are comparably just enough more comfortable to still be extremely fearful of losing the extra that is “theirs.” These combined billions are unlikely to depose the cat powers that be, at least without a “united” effort, which these institutions are designed to prevent; so they need to build their own new institutions as much as possible, both locally where they live and globally to unite and self-humanize, with full HUMAN rights, cats everywhere. IMHO, the world-wide cat-human revolution primarily needs to take place on the ground level, wherever we can put our paws on the actual earth, and at the international level, where the silver-inlaid concrete is not quite completely dried. Third, because even ideally “conscious” masses of cat-humans cannot have full access and control of the earth and its resources without deeply changing national and sub-national institutions which undercut deep local and global democracy, and because we have to survive during a long revolution for there to be a successful revolution, we must continue to participate and in fact try to take over the very institutions that are most rigid so that we can eventually, somehow, someway, fundamentally change them to the extent they deserve to continue in existence.
For humanity, penned in by oppressive and repressive capitalist institutions, to accomplish great things for itself by all appearances will require great skill at cat herding. Being herded is against the nature of cats. The most archetypal domesticated felines are the least cooperative. Some well-fed cats perhaps can be made to cooperate if they do not realize they are being herded and can instead receive particularly tasty warm milk or stroking, but generally speaking, well-fed cats could not give a flip about where a well-meaning human wants them to go. Once in a while, however, through enormous effort and skill, all the necessary herding takes place to present a quorum or win an election and thereby accomplish something for some of the rest of the cat-human world.
The temptation on the left has sometimes been simply to call all of this faux democratic quorum-seeking, electioneering, and judge-justice appointment-seeking out for all of the bullshit that it is, because out there, outside the halls of power, billions of cats are not well-fed, and we cannot wait on behalf of the hungry, that is not our right. While I understand this, I do not think that we (the broader and inclusive non-fat cat “we”) can avoid cat-herding. Thankfully, with anarcho-socialism at the base of my ideal world, and even today in some places, we can potentially say, “screw you fat cats” to a limited degree and build our own new truly democratic and non-autocratic institutions of cooperation. But the fat cats do not want these oases of freedom to exist. So, in order to get to build most of our cooperatives, etc., we are going to have to have a “revolution” by most of the non-fat cats. And, that revolution will involve all manner of cat herding, not only of the proletariat cat-humans but also of the fat cats themselves, as well as the robust cats who form the mercenaries protecting the fat cats, as well as the not currently starving but fearful cats who form the bulk of the population in the so-called developed world, where they have civil and political rights entitling them to vote on the mercenaries.
In 1948, an older version of the above good woman and cat herder par excellence [No more cat talk–Phew!], was instrumental in the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration had arisen gradually as an outgrowth of the organizing of the UN at the 1945 San Francisco Conference (chaired by a U.S. diplomat, Alger Hiss). According to the U.S. State Department (which has purged Hiss’s involvement from its website, perhaps to deflect the rightwing charge that the UN is part of a festering communist conspiracy if not the work of the Anti-Christ), FDR’s goal was “preserving peace,” which in turn built upon the (KKK-supporting) Woodrow Wilson’s goal to do the same in the League of Nations, which isolationist Republicans would not allow the U.S. to join.
Ironically, many nation states in the “free world,” the U.S. included (whose 32nd president had given freedom a fuller voice eleven months before Pearl Harbor), did not want to agree that freedom from want and fear were human rights. Many others on both sides of the Cold War and unaligned did. the Eleanor Roosevelt papers project provides an excellent short synopsis of the back and forth, including this important acknowledgement of socialism:
The covenant’s provisions clearly reflect the socialist emphasis on economic rights, which is what the General Assembly had intended when it took the matter up in 1951. As a result, the United States and other western democracies remained unconvinced of the covenant’s merits and refused to ratify it. Despite a lack of support from these countries, however, the covenant entered into force on January 3, 1976 for those states that had approved it. As of 2002, the United States had still not ratified the covenant.
The end result is a Committee, whoopee, which I will describe in detail in a future diary, but which I will mostly link to at this point:
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by its States parties. The Committee was established under ECOSOC Resolution 1985/17 of 28 May 1985 to carry out the monitoring functions assigned to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Part IV of the Covenant.
Dispute exists as to what authority the committee has (see, e.g., http://hrlr.oxfordjournals.org/content/11/1/1.abstract), but I think that it provides the left with its best focal point on the official international front, including by pointing out the committee’s many major institutional flaws and limitations.
In the end, we can each do what the balance sheet of each day we have allows. We morally can only be sacrificial with our own individual bellies and not those of other human beings. The capitalists use this, our morality of human compassion, against us through the principle of divide and conquer, to defeat solidarity. Some of us may have intentionally eschewed “family” or other small bound grouping of two or more people, sought one and been denied one by fate, or we may have a family or other small bound grouping, in which case it has to chew. Maybe our immediate family is us and a real cat. Maybe our small bound grouping is “traditional” nuclear, communal, or some other combination of mouths to feed, but no matter what, we don’t want to see it starve. Finite resources meet x number of mouths to feed around the table, however we define it, a number which we, with the varied influence of our bodies, societies, and subcultures, determine to varying degrees. But it is these mouths to feed that we probably care about most, in all honesty, because we have to look them in the eye when they are in hunger or fear. And to fear that we will not be able to feed them is our greatest fear.
Life is weird. In the midst of writing this diary, I have been reading about the Ludlow Massacre a lot in JayRaye’s incredible diaries at Hellraisers Journal. And the same week, an Irish socialist friend put on his Facebook page the unforgettable defiant picture of Stepjan Filopovic, the Yugoslavian Communist Martyr, whose last words were “Smrt fašizmu, sloboda narodu!” (“Death to fascism, freedom to the people!”)
We never know when we may be on our last day or our last diary. Most of us will not have to lose our lives in the cause like the Ludlow Martyrs or Mr. Filopovic. The striking workers of southern Colorado were not seeking a fight but merely the right to organize and seek a modicum of justice for their families. If we are part of a small bound grouping, we may like them stand up for our rights–or we may become risk averse, or we may suffer from the PTSD of living on a capitalist-dominated earth which makes us “shell” shocked. So we may not be able or willing to put our lives on the line like they did. But, even though the things most of us do will likely not get us killed for standing up for the powerless, maybe that is more of an indictment than we would like to admit. I hope I have many days, and even decades to go, and many diaries. I hope you do too. A doctor told me the other day that, as a left-handed male, my subpopulation is statistically non-existent at the age of 80 (so maybe I do have a ways to go, and if I stop driving at a sensible age, maybe I won’t hurt myself or someone else), primarily because it is so accident prone, a personal tendency I cannot deny. Whatever the future holds, I am glad to be able to write this diary and have you with me on this beautiful planet. I am so grateful to this group and to Hellraisers Journal for making me feel true solidarity in the cause in which we believe. Down heah in the Deep South of the U.S., we don’t get that feeling much, and in fact, the whole concept of “we” is suspect.
I hope that this diary synthesizes some important concepts in a simple and understandable manner. I intend to work with my comrades on the fronts that this diary raises to the best of my ability for the duration, whatever that is, unless I am reassigned by socialism “learnin’ me” something else that makes more sense. ¡Viva la Revolución!
The tension between political democracy’s “negative” rights and economic democracy’s “positive” rights has never been resolved and may never completely be. But “we” have to try. Whichever system best resolves it may win the hearts, minds, and stomachs of humanity. Repression is the natural domain of the powerful few, who purchase military might and mercenaries to get their way over the masses. Absent repression, the left has the overwhelming advantage in this greatest of all contests. Because of constant repression by the right, the left will have to fight in newfound human solidarity on multiple fronts for its reformed deeply democratic message to prevail. Our blood and resources should not be spent on capitalism’s wars, at home or abroad.
We need to keep our own house in order so that never again will committed leftists wonder which side of a “Cold War” they should be on. However, we must be realistic and realize that the capitalists exploit civil and political rights to divide and conquer. Solidarity is our friend and capitalism’s enemy. To live in solidarity, we must know our rights and our fights.
Republicanism, beginning with the U.S. Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, came to be associated with civil and political rights. However, this paradigm has always been manipulated by the wealthy as a matter of their convenience, for whom true democracy of the polity and the economy has always been a grave threat to their privileges. Many who have been exploited and their allies–Native Peoples, African Americans, the poor of all ethnicities, women, GLBTs, labor martyrs and hellraisers, Mother Jones, Eugene Debs et al., countless victims of Eugene McCarthy, non-“Anglo” immigrants past, today’s undocumented workers, and the families and descendants of the victims of U.S. and U.S. puppet bombs, bullets, torture, murder, and dirty tricks the world over–readily can dispute the paradigm that the U.S. is a credible and virtuous purveyor of civil and political freedom. Meanwhile, through weak social welfare programs won by the left, some of the poor in the U.S. receive some state “charity,” but never under the rubric of “economic rights,” while “labor rights” to organize and use direct action against capital have been viciously denied and, when won in some regions, constantly undercut.
In a sad parallel, “real” socialism under Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s People’s Republic of China also did not practice what it preached. It was supposed to deliver economic rights while making “capitalist” civil and political rights obsolete. Stalin’s show trials, brutal repression of millions of his own people as well as the anarchists and Trotskyites in 1930s Spain, and immoral temporary alliance with Hitler himself put conscientious leftists in a questioning and compromised position for generations. We have never fully gotten over it. While the Soviet Union provided some economic justice, it allowed some piggish behavior by the guardians of economic equality (piggish behavior which has, of course, dramatically increased with the dispensing with “outdated” socialist concepts and the adoption of capitalism in these places–although even today, North Korea is a shining example of state monopoly capitalist totalitarianism at its worst, providing no civil and political freedom and mass exploitation on behalf of the elite, with special privileges to the military.) Moreover, through some monumentally stupid central planning decisions, Stalin and Mao managed to buttress Ronald Reagan’s now Lafferble voo doo notion that the poor might somehow be better off if they only got pissed on more–a notion that, while thoroughly disproved, now rules the world through global neoliberalism.
The powerful few are destroying our one beautiful world long before an asteroid or the life cycle of the sun do it for us. With global warming and endless human suffering, humanity has no time to dither. The good answers are on the left. But until the left is able to communicate a just and loving future for humanity, and focus and unite in pursuit of this future, it will be treated as an anachronism by all but the desperate and their morally-devoted allies.
It is my ultimate thesis that by sincerely espousing an updated and greatly expanded version of FDR’s “four” freedoms, and coupling this with a modified praxis recognizing four challenging but unavoidable fronts in the battle for true freedom, the left can do just that.
Here is a hopefully handy-dandy chart:
And here is a good tune: