Socialism (and hope?) Reaches the U.S.: Kshama Sawant

I remember thinking at some point in time, while I wrote or said something in the same way I’m doing it now — off the cuff and improvising most of it — that the political state of things  was changing in real and tangible ways. Whomever I was with at the moment reminded me that I was delusional, or perhaps even drunk, to actually think that the Occupy movement could mean anything significant for the political landscape of the world – least of all in the U.S. of A. I didn’t budge, but I did see his point: the ‘alternatives’ that people, including the ones at Occupy, demanded were never really articulated in a determinant way, that’s at least what we could gather from the news; we always got a version where they were always danced around, and flowered with terms like “social reform,” “bridging the gap between the rich and the poor,” and other pretty but substantially empty phrases.

And while some of the protesters and occasional journalist, did admire the style of the late Bolivarian leader, Hugo Chavez, and  of other of the new-century Revolutionaries spreading through South America like wild-fire (some would say), they did so from a distance, never really wanting to drink the Kool-Aid themselves, but wanting to see what it did to the brave-ish-foolish ones that did. But today I found out that some — at least one — seems to have taken a step further, however brave or foolish it may be.

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Kshama Sawant, an economics teacher, former Occupy activist and self-denominated Socialist, according to Democracy Now, was elected to the Seattle City Council on Monday, January 6. Some articles on the net are estimating that this is the first Socialist elected to office in over 100 years. Wikipedia — for whatever it may be worth — says Anna Louise Strong, a radical progressive, was the last far-left person to be elected to office in Seattle in 1916 (School Board). I expect I’ll find out a little more when I get a chance to sit down and actually dig into it, because it’s early and I didn’t expect to get into any of this heavy stuff at this time, without at least preparing my nerves or even a morning coffee.

But so be it. It’s very clear to me that whatever this could actually mean in the future, it certainly got the Washington-crowd out of bed with a jolt this morning, like a cattle-prod to the testicles when you least expect it. And I don’t mean just the politicians — because if it is just another smoke-screen after all, as I suspect some others may be suspecting, then that type of human-machine-dog hybrid that inundates Capitol Hill certainly knew about it — but just the good ol’ civilians; the unsuspecting ones (that sounds like a good movie title). And if rednecks keep up with news, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were already up in arms, planning to ‘take back their country from the reds’ — though I would be surprised if they read the news. In any event, the point is that Kshama Sawant, the Seattle City Council wearing “the badge of Socialist with honour,” has certainly raised some eyebrows.

Now, the thing about it being a smoke-screen is not that farfetched, at least to jaded, or perhaps enlightened, or even unstable (depends where you look at it from) people like me. I wouldn’t put it that far past anyone in that state, or even remotely embroiled in politics, to concoct some bizarre plan to distract from the myriad other issues crumbling on top of them like a house of cards made of heavy and jagged marble (high unemployment rates, Guantanamo, drones, scandals, the overall stalemate in Congress, debt in the trillions, etc.). But it’s way too early to seriously assume that. And if I did, I’d be no better than that individual that was telling me Occupy and other such movements didn’t really mean anything.

I’ve met many people like that — hell, most people I meet are like that. At most, they sympathize with some ideas and call them well-intentioned and idealistic, but unrealistic at their core. These, I think, may very well be the same people that equate “conviction” with “stubbornness,” and “neutrality” or “objectivity” or “open mindedness” with being a fart in the wind, carrying the stench of an expulsed gas to whatever corner the stronger winds may carry them. I recall Thompson’s phrase in Fear and Loathing: “All energy flows to the whim of the Great Magnet…” I guess even a fart is energy, and the Great Magnet certainly doesn’t have to be benevolent, and often, as with most Gods in the religious/mystical history of the world, certainly not free of Greed, Insecurity and an ironically misplaced sense of Self-Importance.

In any case, I’ve always refused to be that person, and it’s always taken a bit more than wind to move me, even when it’s towards the warmth it’s moving me. Now it’s time to see what this Kshama Sawant can really do. She ran on a ticket to raise minimum wage to $15/hour, and Democracy Now reports that Seattle Mayor, Ed Murray, is planning to raise city employees’ wages to just that. “Meanwhile, voters in the nearby community of SeaTac recently increased the minimum wage for many local workers to $15,” the article continues. “The vote suffered a setback when a judge ruled last month that the raise does not apply to workers at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the area’s largest employer. That ruling has been appealed. Murray and Sawant are being sworn in today with record crowds expected at City Hall.”

In this excerpt from a transcript of the interview with Democracy Now, Sawant captures what I think is the bigger significance of all this to the average person, whatever the emerging truth may be down the road:

Today’s inauguration really is an absolutely historic moment for working-class politics, and to understand—to really feel the moment that this is a turning point in the history of the United States…. this is all an indication that the people in this country are extremely frustrated and angry and outraged at the status quo…the fact that we have been victorious in this grassroots campaign is really an indication that people are ready to start moving forward, moving into struggle. And so, the real question is: How are we, on the left—how are we going to take up this responsibility of organizing the vast numbers of people, especially young people, for whom there is no future? And how are we going to present those alternatives? (emphasis added).

[Democracy Now Interview]

And there it is. Like the old ‘proverb’ says — or perhaps just a dumb saying we say all the time — now we just have to wait. Of course, we won’t do it with our arms crossed or thumbs up whatever orifice we can first find. Hopefully, we will be ‘waiting’ while really we are moving forward with it all: Writing more about it in the mainstream news; exploring what makes the difference between one or another state, or country; supporting and growing grassroots movements; having real discussions, even (and particularly) in newsrooms, about sincerely exploring what results similar domestic and international movements have done and could do, etc. This is no time for being a fart in the wind, but a Bastion of Change!

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THE WHITE BUTTERFLY

Originally written September 1, at 3 p.m.

******

Tranquil. That’s how I’d describe the moment. But not a good type of tranquility: it isn’t the kind that simply drowns out the background noise and let’s you get lost in your own thoughts; it’s not the kind that soothes every nerve to the point of ecstasy. This tranquility is almost superficial. It is what is imposed on you by the elements – by circumstance.

It is the dead calm of the day. It is the single and distant bird whistle or squawk. It is the all-too-audible humming of some machine. It is the lonesome white butterfly making its way through the wind, seemingly lost. The sky torments me: the dead, grey lump above me that threatens me with a deluge, but dares not move a muscle. It doesn’t even breathe hard, for the trees don’t dance. A few shake their leaves slowly, almost like a nervous wave, but they don’t move like in times of life: when you feel alive in Her Bosom. No. Now, they just wave stealthily, as if hiding.

But from what? Perhaps from the same thing that everyone else seems to be hiding from, whatever it may be. This desolate place speaks loudly enough. The lonesome and lost white butterfly reflects this place – this moment in time, which is naught but confusing and lost: it glides back the other way now, flapping its tiny wings in the opposite direction, hoping – really hoping – to finally find its way…a path. But she’s blossomed already; she flies with full confidence, even in the face of error, for she knows to always search. Not the rest. Not these larvae, still cocooned in their homes, fearful of the dead calm outside their doors. Like me, they mourn this tranquility, but they fear it to the point of death and paralysis. They dare not storm the beaches; to come out of their vessels – of their cocoons. They remain larvae. But my Wings Are Tearing Skin.

And, as they say, that a butterfly’s wings in one place births a hurricane in another, so has my metamorphosis begun. The skies are parting and the oceans’ reflection begins to emerge. Somewhere, the sun shines, for change is inevitable. Evolution never stops. Still lost and nervous — “dizzy and unable to stand on my own” — but flying. My wings move to the tune and winds of the “Great Magnet”  — to wherever it may lead. Avoid the wasps along the way by manoeuvring skillfully: the white butterfly glides, flies, weaves in and out; she knows to survive to see the Ocean in all its glory: gleaming under the twilight.

Alas! Wings are Truly Earned!

ProstheTic

Originally Published September 3, 2011

“Lightning flashes of insight into the mirth of a dark sky…”

The joy is in feeling eternal.

As it starts to work on me, it blinds me from the trouble ahead.  The light seems clearer and shinier, and for some unknown reason I dare not try to explore, I feel 100%.  Bright Colors are nice, but this calm is essential…

The first moments come unexpected.  My body feels flushed.  There is heat building up from within and it slowly seeps through my skin.  Before I know it, the warmth has taken over my body and if I didn’t know better, I would swear I were floating.

An overwhelming calm wraps me like a blanket.  I feel safe, but more importantly I feel as if I could completely be secure about the future, because I think that as long as I can sustain this feeling, the rest of the pieces will simply fall into place.  It is an amazing feeling, because regardless of the tumultuous events happening around me – the thunder destroying me and the monsoon soaking me – I feel no worry; I am safe, as if in a womb.  There is no worry.

Though my body remains still, I feel as though my mind has reached places few of us have seen or been to.  I feel as though I’ve felt something only the Saints were supposed to feel.

But I hold no grudge.  And I repudiate selfishness and egoism.  So I don’t intend to make this feeling solely mine.  I intend to share it with the world; to allow light to radiate through me; to inspire the fellow who thought about surrendering.

I feel no heaviness, and I feel no weight. I am full – not an empty vessel – but there is no strain needed to lift me up. I am weightless.  I float.  I am above the ground and above mediocrity. I am high above. It’s a feeling of eternity.

This is the feeling I felt, and which blinded me. This is what I attempted to sustain…..

 ******

But I couldn’t.  The moment was over.  The high became a low. The calm was suddenly shaken by a storm.

With eyes wide open – gazing straight ahead at the dismal future and the ensuing struggle – I realize now I was duped.

It wasn’t eternity: it was deceitfulness.  It wasn’t empowerment: It was weakness. It wasn’t happiness: it was merely a sedative. And finally, it wasn’t life: it was just – and forever nothing more – a drug.

Narcotics.

A sensation. A high. An alternative reality. But it was a drug.

Now it is gone.  And now, in this erratic calmness – in this soothing emptiness – at the bottom of the barrel – after the smoke has cleared and the snow has melted – at the last hour – in this place of quiet, I reflect:

I was just getting high. I made no progress.  I sedated myself….and now that is all gone.

The future is bright; but the road is covered in shards of glass, and I forgot my shoes inside a wilderness…

A MILD AND VERY BRIEF RESPONSE TO ANOTHER UNFOUNDED ATTACK AGAINST SOCIALISM

Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a r...

There is a 12 second video on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0maXjDMaW8&feature=share) whose description reads as such:

(TRANSLATED FROM SPANISH)

“In the interview conducted by a Venezuelan reporter named Vanesa Davies who is one of the spearheads of the Chavista propaganda (sic). She asks Fidel a question whose answer openly demonstrates that the SOCIALISM OF THE 21ST CENTURY is simply the same RANCID COMMUNISM OF FIDEL. It’s not that there were doubts but take hold of this all those that are still not convinced that they are trying to transform Venezuela into Cuba.” (sic)

This is what is said in the video, also translated from Spanish:

Q: “What is Socialism for you today/now?” 

A: “For me? It’s Communism…the very same that Marx himself defined as Communism”

In response to this video and its comments, I have the following to say:

It is neither Fidel’s nor Chavez’ trip.

In my view, this snippet of a video in no way supports the opinion held by the person that recorded it or that uploaded it (in case those two are different people), who interprets what is said as evidence that “they want to transform Venezuela into Cuba.” The transition from Socialism to Communism is the natural and normal trajectory of that political and economic evolution – the trajectory that is supposed to be realized according to the economic and political theories dictated by both the Socialist and Communist ideologies. Socialism is (very simply put for the sake of brevity) the “in-between” between Capitalism and Communism – it is the Path taken from Right to Left. The main objective is Pure Communism, and, in my view, most Socialist countries today have not had the privilege of realizing that end yet, including Cuba; most of these are still fighting the Good Fight against Capitalism through Socialism – they are in Transition, as it were (when the fight is finally won, then Pure Communism will have been realized). Therefore, in my opinion, what is trying to be done is not to “transform Venezuela into Cuba” but rather to finalize that transition from Capitalism, through Socialism and towards Communism. If and when this finally happens in Venezuela, by no means will the country have turned into Cuba, because not even Cuba, as I just mentioned above, has implemented Pure Communism, at least to my knowledge (part of the reason why there are still economic and political issues despite the obvious and immense Social advancements achieved, which are themselves something to be argued about in depth, but at another time). So, both Venezuela and Cuba continue to fight the fight, aspiring to the eventual Victory of Pure Communism.

On the other hand, this video in no way “uncovers” Chavez, as the title suggests. It is insincere to title these 12 seconds of video that way. If the person wanted to honestly inform the public of the lies and other corrupt and disgusting practices that he/she is keen on accusing Chavez of, and which were supposedly corroborated by this video and interview, then it would have behooved him/her to record the entire program and not just the 12 seconds that the person so ignorantly assumed would help explain their anti-Chavism. The Context surrounding all three — the question, the answer and the interview itself — is imperative in order for the viewer to arrive at his own well-informed and educated conclusions, which is, after-all, the main point of NEWS and INFORMATION. But that has obviously not been done here. Nevertheless, they have still managed to discredit themselves (and their message) more than they had ever intended to do for Chavez and Socialism in general. The video at no point in its minuscule time-span shows Fidel “uncovering” Chavez – he’s not even mentioned; and this on top of the already evident prejudice in the person that recorded the entire 12 seconds instead of the entire show. On the contrary, the video accomplishes the very opposite by very concisely explaining the purity of Chavez’ Socialism – the Socialism of the 21st Century, which in these days, in fact, embraces and belongs to not only Socialist/Chavista Venezuela but rather the entire of our Beautiful Latin America; it explains very sincerely the goals of real Socialism – in one word: Communism!

The other thing I gather from the video is that Fidel explains, or rather responds, to the question of how he sees Socialism in Venezuela today. I think he answers that “for [him this is] Communism – the very same that Marx himself defined as such.” That which Marx defined as Communism in the 19th Century, at the top of his brilliancy and voiced through his great COMMUNIST MANIFESTO – that is Pure Communism which even I think Fidel, erroneously and hastily but with good and sincere intentions, has accredited to the great Bolivarian Venezuela.

Fidel simply seems to be explaining the inevitable (which, comparatively, is as inevitable as the depressions and other economic-ticking-time-bombs that Capitalism is subject to and which are daily and globally decimating it, just as it has scientifically been foreseen since feudal times): that regardless of the country or of the person in power – of course, as long as that person has Pure Ideals in mind and Humanitarian and Social Advancements at heart instead of Personal and Economic Gain – ideals truly characteristic of figures such as Chavez, Fidel, Correa and Morales, among others – regardless of these two variables, Pure and Uncorrupt Socialism, like Cuba’s and Venezuela’s, is that which simultaneously produces the necessary conditions needed to arrive at Communism as well as drives the society that adopts it towards Communism.

If anyone wishes to know more about Pure Communism I invite you to look for material to read or to ask me to direct you to some, which I’ll be happy to do, because there is definitely lots of it out there (and I have some gems too!) You just have to look for it. Because, honestly, going to Fox News and CNN for news about Chavez or Venezuela or Cuba – or about any other place, for that matter, whose politics or economics are not aligned with the Local Interests of the U.S.A. – is infinitely the worst choice…If we do, we may as well just burrow our heads deep inside the Earth, or better yet, simply undergo a voluntary lobotomy and get this fucking charade over and done with….

And of course any comments…ALWAYS WELCOMED! Let’s get the ball rolling here…Undoubtedly, not everyone agrees with what they’ve just read…

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HASTA LA VICTORIA SIEMPRE!

PATRIA, SOCIALISMO O MUERTE!