Sunday, 19 October 2008


Left, right, left, right, left, right, left! The sound of a marching army, or the swinging electoral pendulum. The threat of the other side is so great, that one is grateful to be presented with his own side. It's as if life were one big interrogation room, someone's always longing for the reemergence of Jeff.

Nevertheless, politicians steadfastly carry the label "moderate" in order to avoid being labeled otherwise. Those divvied into the radical and reactionary camps have a much harder time being taken seriously, if they're to be considered at all.

Upton Sinclair repeatedly ran for office as a Socialist, but never garnered the kind of numbers that would make any of our current third party hopefuls envious. He was by current standards - standards which have been set firmly for more than a century - outside of the mainstream.

Despite this fact, his Oil! provided the - em - fuel for the film, There Will Be Blood, which was roundly successful just this past year. Written in 1927, the novel buoys the idea that a society of owners has the ultimate say in world affairs. In recounting his time in Siberia following the official end to the first world war, his Paul Watkins laments having thought he'd been drafted to defeat the Kaiser, only to realize that he had become in actuality a strikebreaker at the behest of international bankers.

I can't speak to the film, but if you read the book, you must come to the conclusion that Sinclair believed that an experiment in socialism had been violently manipulated, if not outright destroyed by the international ruling class. Would anyone running for higher office today make such a claim? Of course not. Socialism, like communism, has come to mean the opposite of freedom and democracy. We only deal in opposites here.

As the author noted: "The American People will take Socialism, but they won't take the label. I certainly proved it in the case of EPIC. Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to 'End Poverty in California' I got 879,000. I think we simply have to recognize the fact that our enemies have succeeded in spreading the Big Lie. There is no use attacking it by a front attack, it is much better to out-flank them."

Now clearly, the enemies he was referring to were not members of one of the political parties exclusively, though a major turning point in Oil! involves the buying of the Harding presidency, subsequently owning the interior department, and thereby securing a no-bid drilling contract on oil-rich government land. All of this was based on that Republican president's Tea Pot Dome Scandal, though the extent to which he had been bought is indeed open to debate.

Based on the author's political history, however, it's doubtful that in recommending an out-flank of the enemy that he was talking about Democratic politicians protecting the welfare state, though virtually all Democratic supporters I know believe in their hearts that their candidates of choice publicly withhold some of what they hold dear and true in order to get elected. Not a revolutionary thought.

Could it be that Democrats are actually Socialists in disguise? Many of their working class supporters still hope so today, while most others - including the directors of their image - can't accept the terminology. Hence their reaction to a prominent swing state senator's reference to the Senator from Illinois as a Socialist: "It's a smear campaign."

But are influential members of the political or ruling class in America attempting to implement socialism as a matter of public policy? If so, they certainly don't like to be called on it while they're doing their best to appease those from whose living rooms their campaigns are launched.

The paradox of the New Deal nostaligentsia is that they can believe opposing paradigms. It's an intellectually acceptable notion that both political parties are bought and paid for, even cleverly insightful to recall the adage that we have one party with two right wings.

But to suggest, therefore, that change must come from a movement outside of this structure is not only thumbing one's nose at the party who gave out the crumbs the loans are backed with, but - when considering the potential result of such an action (the re-election of Mutt) - is downright crackpot.

I suppose, our collective financial risk-taking aside, Sinclair's following lament is instructive: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

So maybe the best thing for a peaceful state of mind is just to have faith, to hope that those of authority will keep your own interest at heart. To care about anything outside of this is to rock the boat and risk drowning.

A friend told me this past summer that she cares less about a potential presidency by the Illinois senator enabling further bloodshed for weapons manufacturers and imperialists than she does about the mere fact that his presidency will go a great deal towards giving Black American youth a role model on the one hand, while strengthening the equanimity of American education on the other.

At the time I thought, "Well, that's just National Socialism." But the more I look around, the more it seems that this is the best one can expect anyone to hope for.

Maybe the irony of ironies is that the Republican camp had it right when they said that the state of the economy is a psychological one. That's certainly what drives the market, regulated or not.

I mean, I can't point to a single person that I know and say that their hardship has anything to do with the current administration's policies. As far as I know, no one I personally know can either. So what's the problem?

The problem is that all pretend to care about something other than themselves, but as the press all-too gleefully points out at every turn: The People vote their pocketbooks.

When Sinclair wrote The Jungle - which is credited with radically changing the standards of the meatpacking industry - his primary focus of concern was the condition of the worker. Yet it was from the perspective of the consumer that the change was spurred. He said: "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."

So if the political wind keeps blowing in the same direction, come November 5th an awful lot of people will have four years to insist that they are better off than they were the previous eight. If not, they'll have something to hope for the next time around.

from the month & year of my birth
when I was four days here on Earth
(not the ad, but what follows)

R.I.P. Levi Stubbs
June 6, 1936 – October 17, 2008