Misconceptions About Electoralism

There is a sentiment shared by some leftists that if one participates in electoral politics then one is inherently counter revolutionary. Many have the idea in their heads that if one is in favor of organizing for electoral politics then that person must think electoral politics is the only answer. This idea in my opinion is shallow, insulting, and nearsighted.

I am pro electoral politics but I am not some naive fool who thinks that we can solve all of our problems simply with reforms and elections. I believe that in order to bring about total revolution we need to be organizing on all fronts relevant to the working class in the time we live in, and yes one of those fronts is electoral.

However, I believe we must also be constructing alternatives to capitalism through local acts of mutual aid and solidarity, that we must have an internationally focused analysis and support fights for liberation all over the globe, and that we must organize the workers, tenants, and patients of the world to overthrow the capitalist system.

I do not think electoral politics can solve much but I do believe that it can 1. Help with mass base building and 2. Can be used to put up resistance to right wing influence. While electoral politics will never bring about the totality of revolution it is a way to reach millions of people at once. Reaching this many people with a working class platform is essential to laying the foundation for revolution. Not only this but participating in elections inconveniences the right wing.

The system is inherently built to protect the right wing because the interests of the right are the interests of capital, however electing leftists to all ranks of public office puts up road blocks to right wing policies. The more we can make things harder for the right wing the better. I do not understand why some on the left forsake this!

For example when abortion bans are introduced to legislatures, the presence of leftists can offer open vocal challenges to these bills and even organize their defeat. This in the short term is a genuine material victory for the working class, their rights to reproductive health are safe for another day. In the long term, if organized properly, their campaign will have built a base that can be mobilized when needed. An example of how to properly utilize the base you have built is best personified in the Bernie campaign. Bernie has used his network to alert his base about ICE raids and strike actions, this is what elected officials should be doing!

The other thing to remember is that no leftist should view one single tactic as a panacea. No single tactic will bring revolution and revolution itself is not a panacea (remember, revolution is not the end but the means to an end!) This is why it is imperative that we be present on all fronts. The number of issues that are connected to the realities of capital create so many different fronts that need to be organized. The attacks on women’s choice, the attacks on sex workers, the attacks on black lives and immigrants, the attacks on unions, the attacks on tenants, and the attacks on genuinely democratic elections are all places where the left must be taking action.

I find it insulting and genuinely shallow that some people think because I am in favor of organizing for electoral politics that I must only believe in electoralism and reform as our means.

No, I believe in electoralism and reform as a tactic of base building, inconveniencing the right wing agenda, and winning short term material goals. I believe that true revolution can only be achieved when the left is built into a massive front united against capital! I do not see electoral politics as a panacea, nor do I fetishize the idea of spotenous revolution, as many leftists do.

Another thing to remember is that infiltration is a lost art to the left. Snu Tzus Art of War makes a clear argument that spies are a necessary tool to win any war, and make no mistake because we are in a class war. We on the left have no spies, no insiders, no informants. We constantly have to worry about the likes of the FBI or local police infiltrating our ranks, the agents of the state should be just as worried about us spying on them. Yet they are not, all because so many on the left do not touch electoralism and reform.

I am willing to concede that electoralism and reform is not sexy. It is not as romantic as ultra left reading groups larping about the russian revolution, it does not feel like as much of an immediate material gain when compared to local acts of mutual aid, it is not as cool to post on social media as a sit in or mass arrest is, but internal base building is essential and electoral work streamlines base building.

Yet once again I must reitierate, I do not see electoral gains as a panacea. I see them as a short term base building gain and a short term material gain when we use elections to put up blockades to right wing attacks on the working class. To act like I believe in no other tactic, no other hope for a massive revolution is insulting, gaslighting, nearsighted, shallow, and just over all counter revolutionary. We can never expect to defeat the right wing if we are still having trivial arugments about whether or not to vote! While we continue to have these conversations, the ice caps melt and all who are not white cis males are attacked by the day.

We cannot afford to reject any area where we can achieve a genuine material gain, be it in the short or long term. We must build our base, our platform, and mobilize. What many on the left forget, we are still in the phase of building our base.

So abandon this shallow outlook. I am not asking you to embrass electoralism, I am demanding you stop assuming that someone using one tactic means the only believe in that one tactic. We cannot afford to be nearsighted, we have too much work to do.

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Film Under Socialism

With the success of films like Selma, Sorry to Bother You, and Get Out we are seeing the return of the subversive to cinema. Political significance is making its return to film but the capitalist nature of the film industry keeps its growth in a stranglehold. Socialism would de-commodify cinema and take the power of content creation away from industrial venture capitalists and put it back into the hands of creators and artists.

First let us look at how film has thrived in a socialist state. The Bolshevik Revolution that created the Soviet Union also spurred the growth of cinema, because as the Bolsheviks bottom-lined industrialization industrialization also spearheaded the expansion of cinema in Russia. The state had an obligation to fund and foster the growth of the film industry as it was apart of it’s obligation to expand industrialization. It was in this environment that Sergei Eisenstein thrived.

Eisenstein is easily one of the most important directors in film history and his early films were made as testaments to the power of the Bolshevik revolution. In a country where the state funded cinematic development, Eisenstein was able to develop techniques in film making and editing that are now standard practices for filmmakers today. The most famous contribution to filmmaking by Eisenstein was the montage, and while Eisenstein did not invent montage he was the first director to theorize that editing could be a tool used to help story telling. Instead of editing merely being a part of the filmmaking procedure for Eisenstein it became a part of the film itself.

When one watches Battleship Potemkin or October one sees how true this is because while both films have no central main character the story in both films still progresses thanks to the way the films are cut. The power that montage can have on story telling is best exemplified in the Odessa steps scene from Battleship Potemkin. While Eisenstein would eventually flee the Soviet Union because of his criticisms of Stalin in his magnum opus films Ivan the Terrible I & II, he leaves a legacy behind that shows the power of cinema when there is public investment in the project. Whether or not you feel that Eisenstein’s movies are propaganda, it cannot be denied that the success of his films demonstrates that film can exist for the sake of creating a pro-working class message. Eisenstein’s success and legacy is demonstrative of the fact that film does not have to be about profit or commercialism.

Eisenstein was not the only early director who had anticapitalist tendencies, many American and British filmmakers from the silent era also had roots in radicalism. The works of Charlie Chaplin have a central theme of sympathy for the working class. His character, the Little Tramp, is a working class archetype. The Tramp is a lovable human being who is just trying to get ahead in a world that seems to hate him for not being rich. The Kid, Modern Times, The Gold Rush all have this connecting theme and all three of them paint a less than forgiving portrait of either law enforcement, the rich, or both.

In The Kid the police are constantly trying to take the Tramp’s newly adopted child away believing someone so poor could never be a good parent. In The Gold Rush the rich friends of Chaplin’s love interest are bullies to Chaplin because he simply has yet to strike it rich in the gold mines. One of the best case examples of Chaplin’s working class sympathies is the scene from Modern Times when unionists and communists march on the streets peacefully only to be mercilessly beaten by the police. In the scene Chaplin can also be seen waving the red flag. Another classic subversive moment of Chaplin’s would be his closing speech from The Great Dictator, now one of the most popular speeches in film history and a viral piece of inspiration porn, one that is desperately needed in this era of revitalized nationalism.

Let us not also forget that the films deemed the greatest in American film history have been ones rooted in radicalism in some form or another. In addition to the works of Charlie Chaplin, we can see radicalism or at least elements of radicalism in many of the classics. Citizen Kane, which is considered by many to be the pinnacle of perfect filmmaking and storytelling, was a subversive biography about industrialist William Randolph Hearst. The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppella, originally a pulp novel about the mafia, was converted by Coppella into “a commentary on the effects of American capitalism on the family,” according to the film’s producer Robert Evans.

Radicalism in the film industry is nothing new, however as time went on commodification of film became harder to fight and exploitative labor practices had been running rampant since the dawn of Hollywood. During the golden era of cinema, the late 1920s to the mid 1950s, it got to the point where labor in film was so exploited that even the actors were literally at the mercy of studios. The relationship between actors and studios in old Hollywood can be considered an example of the importance of workplace organizing. For example, live ammunition would be used in war and gangster scenes up until the late 1930s. D.W. Griffith and Cecil B Demille were notorious for using live ammunition, with one actor actually dying of gunshot wounds on the set of Demille’s The Captive in 1915. In 1930’s gangster films, rather than use blanks and squibs as we do now film directors would hire marksmen to shoot at and around their actors but not hit them in order to get the most realistic reaction and sound for the film.

This practice did not stop until Jimmy Cagney, who was nearly shot in the head on multiple sets of his gangster films, helped start the Screen Actors Guild and demand work place safety regulations be put into place for actors, including the ban of live ammunition on film sets. The SAG would also go on to give actors more autonomy and make them less dependent on predatory studios. Before SAG actors were bound to the contracts that they signed to specific studios and had to do whatever films the studio ordered and to participate in whatever stunts the directors demanded. The success of SAG and other film industry unions and guilds is demonstrative of the power that actors now hold over studios where as in the golden age of cinema it was the other way around.

Years later the SAG would become a tool of the red scare when reactionary Ronald Reagan became it’s chairperson, using his power to purge radicals from Hollywood as they had been from other unions during this time, such as the AFL-CIO. However its origins and successes show the importance of workplace organizing and how such organizing is a possibility for the film industry of today. In fact bottom up organizing within the film industry is necessary as it is with other industries in order to make the unions democratic again.

With the creation of groups such as SAG to protect the labor of creatives came the catch-22 of the film industry that is standard for all current film industry professions, be it set design, directing, or acting. It is virtually impossible to get work in the film industry if you are not a member of one of the unions or guilds, and the average dues are astronomical. The Screen Writers Guild charges dues averaging between $3,000 to $5,000 a year. Getting work in film is always a matter of connections, who you know, and the way to get to know people in the industry is through the guilds and unions. So in short, you can’t get work easily if you aren’t in the unions and you can’t afford to join the union if you aren’t getting work.

Incorporating democracy into the economy and taking the power of creation away from the power of capital could solve this issue. In a democratic economy, trade unions in film would put the power of decisions back into the hands of the masses, freeing them from the dangers of political purges. It would also allow the union members to create their own standards for membership instead of relying on the ones set by undemocratic union organizers who are intent on keeping new workers from entering the labor market of film production. Such issues with the unions would have been less likely to have arisen had radicals not been purged from the Hollywood guilds and allowed to pursue true rank and file organizing as was the case with Jimmy Cagney and the Screen Actor’s Guild.

The purging of radicals from the American film industry was also the purge of most radical films. There has been the occasional boon for radical content with the works of people like Francis Ford Coppella or Boots Riley yet the 40 year gap in between films such as The Godfather and Sorry to Bother You is important to note. When the endgame for all American cinema became profit so did our stories change to suit the desires of mass commercial appeal rather than subversive radicalism. Film has always been about story telling but now it is the question of what story will sell, not what story the filmmakers think needs to be told. This is why superhero and franchise films have dominated the market for nearly a decade, they are the blockbusters and therefore they are the only films worth investing in. It is another reason why diversity is such an issue in Hollywood. The investors who put their money into films don’t invest in stories directed by women or into stories starring non-white or LGBTQA characters unless they are convinced it will be a profitable venture. That is what needs to be removed from cinema, the need for investors.

“How would socialism solve this?” One may ask. Well for one it would make the film industry more democratic. Diversity is bound to increase if there is more collective input on what kind of story needs to be told and if the need for investors is removed so is the need to appease the bourgeoisie with your storytelling. We are also looking at the de-commodification of a creative outlet which would in turn lead to a renaissance of content. There would be a surge of new content creators and there would be no shortage of pertinent content because of that surge. Films such as Sorry to Bother you or the Young Karl Marx would become an industry standard. A de-commodified film industry would increase accessibility to resources for those without capital which in turn would increase original content, ending the rut of familiar franchises and constant reboots. The end of investors means the return of radical content and an increase in diversified content as well and would allow for subversive tales about power hungry industrialists such as Citizen Kane to return.

Union membership would also thrive under a socialist film industry because it would be the democratic participation of industry members that would keep this system alive. This would not only lead to a greater control of wealth in the hands of film industry workers but would also guarantee consistent protections for them, which we already know is a possibility because of the establishment of the Screen Actors Guild to improve workplace safety for actors.

A return to radical content, liberation from commodification, increased workplace democracy, are all arguable and demonstrable effects of what would happen to the film industry if democracy were introduced into the economics of filmmaking. Artists would once again be free to experiment and push boundaries while telling stories that are pertinent to the working class, just as Eisenstein was able to thrive in a de-commodified film industry so would people like Boots Riley, all while assuring fairer treatment of the people working to make the movies. If there is any industry that benefits from a socialist, democratized economy, it is the film industry.

Rebels Lead The March of History (a poem)

Rebels Lead The March of History!

Do not forget,

It was the rebels who brought forth our days!

And do not forget,

the people who learned,

But got little praise.

Stupid is a condition,

Ignorance a choice,

So stop the idiotic voice.

So cheers to the rebels,

Who died for our better days!

And peace to those who lost the fight,

And lost it going insane.

They had no stake,

No burden unless they choose,

So it is no wonder

Why the rebels never lose.Nationalists

Bootlicker (a poem)

Do not mock me!

Do not! Do not!

For I am a man,

And this my woman

And we be not beasts, damn straight!

We’re just monsters, deplorable sexists

enabling fear monger flag waving.

But stop being so mean to us!

We have feelings to.

But we ain’t afraid of no snowflakes,

that’s why I armed myself to the teeth!

But blue lives matter and your blocking traffic!

Some of us have jobs to get to!

How dare you call me racist!?

I still watch CNN!

Bootlicking, it’s just my thing.

Bootlicking, I’ll make the man’s shoes shine.

Bootlicking, it’s just what I’m born to do.

Be it through kink.com videos

that I never pay for

and shame anyone who does.

I earn the bread,

then give it all to have the latex woman

break my balls.

But I’ll never admit to it.

My 2 twitter followers would never

let me live that down.

I’m a good little bootlicker,

Capital is my dominatrix master.

Thank you master,

I’m such a good little bootlicker.

Socialism (a poem)

Socialists

Filthy depraved minds we are,

Daring to see women as equals,

To see race as a tedious thing

to feud about,

To see that liberation

is an all or nothing game.

Wanting to see each child fed,

Each human housed,

Every belly full,

and every need met.

How dare we ever take up arms

to protect ourselves

against the colonial bullies.

How dare we,

Us sex craved drunks

biting roses in between our teeth

as we seduce your now young adult children

into a lifestyle

of militant humanity.

Yes, how dare we,

how dare we even think

such thoughts about justice

or equality

or dignity.

How dare we,

us filthy,

us depraved,

us socialists.

6 things you believe about communism that are not true (My First Listicle)

Apparently this is the only way people read on the internet now. It has also become apparent that I need to prove I can write in this format. But if we are going to do a listicle then we are going to do listicles my way, about things I like, and I like Communism.

SO! In the spirit of everything I just said, here are six things you probably think when you hear the word “communism” that are total bullshit.

Communists hate democracy

This is one of the biggest myths that right wingers and neoliberals love to use to justify Red Scares. They point to people like Stalin and the leaders of North Korea and are all like “See! We told you so!” What they ignore is that Democracy is the core to all socialist theory. Pretty much every socialist theorist; Marx, DeLeon, Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, James Connolly all advocate for increased democratic participation. The most respected modern socialist thinkers all develop their theory from a frame that centralizes democracy. (Cornel West, Naomi Klein, Ocalan etc.) The Soviet Union had democratic participation to by the way, even under Stalin. Stalin was a dictator but he operated by flooding the Communist party with his supporters and enforcing a policy of democratic centralism (when a group unanimously stands by decisions democratically made by the group). This allowed him to be the dictator that he was but even Stalin, the embarassment of Communism, utilized democracy. If anything the best argument against Stalin is arguing against personality cults, that is a genuine problem for the left to over come. Cuba actually has a more functional democracy than the U.S. because they have more candidate options and voter participation organized from the bottom up from neighborhood representation to the national assembly. Saying “communists hate democracy” has no factual basis.

Communists hate free speech

Again, pure bullshit because there is nothing in socialist theory that says the state should limit speech. Lenin is often misquoted here when capitalists try to defend this point. “Lenin said the ‘Press is the enemy of the people’.” You might have heard. Wrong! Lenin said “A bourgasie capitalist press is the enemy of the people.” And he was right. News orginzations like CNN or Fox are more concerned with ratings and ad revenue than they are with giving people the full story. As long as media is a for-profit enterprise the owners of said media will limit what the public sees and hears to protect their own interests. Communists do not hate free speech, they hate capitalist press.

Communist countries are bland and without culture

This one might be a matter of taste and opinion but I think it can be argued that the country that gave us the Red Army Choir, the Bolshov Ballet, cinematic montage, and the worlds first film school still had plenty of art and culture.

Marxists are rich liberal elitists

Yes, there are a few of what you may call “champagne socialists” in our ranks but grouping all Marxists into a privieleged category totally ignores the fact that socialism is growing in popularity because of the stagnant wages and job growth that my generation faces. A college degree is the privilege of knowledge, this is true, but a degree does not equal riches. Not to mention it ignores the contributions to history by socialists of color, such as Mumia Jamal, Emma Tenayuca, or Angela Davis. There are so many faults to this argument it’s almost impossible to list them all.

All communists want total government control of everything

Again, factually not true because it ignores the fact that not every communist thinks the same. Traditional Marxists will argue that yes, the workers should take control of the state by creating their own state, however Anarcho-syndicalists would argue that states and governments shouldn’t exist at all and they should be destroyed rather than seized. Tell an anarchocommunist to seize the means by seizing the state they will probably scoff. Some communists want a workers government, and some want no government. Not everyone on the left agrees on everything all the time. We are not a hive mind goddamnit!

Communism breeds bloodthirsty dictators

Again people love to point at Stalin or North Korea and go “See! Communism is bad!” But here is the problem with this arguement, democracies have been just as violent as any communist regime. Abrham Lincoln executed 38 Indeginous People without trial. Winston Churchill, the so called “hero” of WWII was a violent racist who wanted to “Keep England White.” FDR forced Japanese Americans into internment camps, causing poverty and death for thousands. Teddy Roosevelt executed prisoners of war publicly and without trial when he was in the army. De Gaulle, the hero of French Resistance, used military suppression and violent police beatings to stay in power during the revolts in 1968. Every so called “hero” of western democracy is literally guilty of causing the deaths of countless others, usually for racist reasons. Let us not forget that the most horrific acts of state violence were carried out by FASCIST regimes, not communist ones.

Well there we are, my first listicle and one of the first listicles about communism that isn’t some Alex Jones wannabe rage comment on a subreddit. So I hope you all enjoyed and I hope this proves that I can write this kind of shit.

Sacramento County Supervisor Has Questionable Connections

Unknown to many, Susan Peters of District 3 on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, has been fined just short of $10,000 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Her crime? She voted on property development that she had an invested interest in.

The Mather Air Force Base closed for operations in the early 1990s and has since provided an economic boom for Sacramento developers, especially McCuen Properties. McCuen is the company started by Peters’ late husband Peter Mcuen and has been recipient of numerous landmark development projects, including the Ziggurat Office building pyramid and US Bank Plaza, now known as Park Tower Plaza.

The FPPC found that Peters was in violation of conflict of interest laws because she voted on the development of Mather projects. Apparently Peters owns property effected directly by her votes on the county board.

Case documents for FPPC No. 14/611 describes the nature of the charges as such;

COUNT 1: Abatement and Demolition: Direct Effect

Peters violated the Act by voting in favor of demolishing buildings within 500 feet of property she owned.

COUNT 2: Conveyance of Land from U.S. Air Force; Direct and Indirect Effects

Peters violated the Act by voting twice regarding the conveyance of land also within 500 feet of her realty properties.

Now, neither of these charges sound very exciting and clearly not much came from them considering the fact that Peters is still in office and that the most exposure this case received was a single story in The Sacramento Bee in 2016. There was also an incredibly short follow-up by The Bee in November of the same year when the fine was paid and the matter closed.

However, what is interesting about the situation is how much of Susan Peters’ investments have gone unscrutinized.

Though Peters has paid her fine, questions about her ethics record remain. For example, the case does not go into detail about the amount of money that McCuen Properties has made on the Mather Air Force Base Project, nor on other projects for which they have received contracts during Peters’ tenure with the county board. Now, why should we care about one property company profiting off of county board decisions? Because, according to FPPC case documents, Peters was still a partner to the business as late as 2015. There is also no info on how many other pieces of land Peters owns within the county. Peters did not admit to any intentional wrongdoing and has recused herself from voting on issues regarding redevelopment of Mather’s Air Force Base but has said little about her current stake in McCuen Properties.

In other words, Peters might be lying about how much of a financial interest she has in Sacramento County. Peters disclosed her financial holdings at the time of the investigation to the FPPC, which can be reviewed easily online. Aside from her personal holdings in McCuen, in 2015 she held stock in numerous corporations, including; ADT Security, Apple Inc. Costco, Ford, International Papers, Marriott Hotels, Lowes, McDonalds, 20th Century Fox, Oracle, Pepsico. The records also show stakes in insurance pharmaceutical companies Bristol Myers Squibb and Cardinal Healthcare.

This list is not even remotely comprehensive. I do not want to imagine how many deals have come before the county board that either directly or indirectly benefited these corporations and the others she holds stock in.

So, what is to be gathered from the fact Susan Peters paid nearly $10,000 in ethics fines to the FPPC?

Well, for one thing, McCuen Properties, which according to FPPC records she was still a partner of as late as 2015, receives millions of dollars from development contracts from Sacramento city and county. Peters has since claimed that she recused herself from votes regarding the redevelopment of the Mather Air Force Base, but is this enough? Can someone who clearly has invested interests in so many corporations be trusted to recuse themselves completely? How many other times have there been votes by the county that directly affect the profits of McCuen properties? How much property does she own personally? There is no way to tell.

What this whole case means is that a capitalist property developer can be caught in an ethics violation, arguably effective in the range of millions of dollars, and only be charged a few dollars in fines while never being forced to publicly admit to wrongdoing.

When asked if she was still a shareholder, no one from McCuen Properties responded. When Peters’ office was contacted with the same question via email her chief of staff, Howard Schmidt, referred me to the same FPPC documents I had already read.

Sources Cited

http://www.fppc.ca.gov/content/dam/fppc/documents/form700/2012/County/N-Z/R_Peters_Susan.pdf

http://www.fppc.ca.gov/content/dam/fppc/documents/form700/2015/County/sub1/R_Peters_Susan.pdf

http://www.fppc.ca.gov/content/dam/fppc/documents/Stipulations/2016/November/09%20Susan%20Peters%20-%20Stip%20and%20Exh.pdf

http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/the-public-eye/article76322172.html

http://www.fppc.ca.gov/news/political-watchdog-approves-fines-against-Sacramento-County-officials.html