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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Obama’s speech brings out an opportunity to look back at the writings of Herbert Marcuse

President Barack Obama gave his speech the other night--Declaring the combat mission in Iraq over after more than seven years, President Barack Obama also sought to use the milestone Tuesday night to buy patience from voters on the economy, and patience from fellow Democrats on the war in Afghanistan, according to The Wichita Eagle.
A few questions come to mind. Why don’t more Americans oppose a war that is taking their children and loved ones? While the Tea Party attacks Obama relentlessly, why do they never question the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or all the inconsistencies on the so called “war on terrorism?”

Among the many Marxist I have read and learned to appreciate, Herbert Marcuse comes to mind as an important writer for the industrialized world. His writings seem quite relevant today. To some extent, his books, such as One-Dimensional Man and Counter-Revolution and Revolt dealt specifically with methods of control used by a highly developed society, such as the US.
Some forms of Marxism are tailored for certain parts of the world. This is a necessity and some Marxist writers such as Antonio Gramsci, famous for his work in the early communist movement in Italy, encouraged it. Gramsci is a good writer for anyone to read and he makes a lot of good points to think about. His picture can be found on Italian Maoist sites such and the new Communist Party of Italy ((n)PCI).
Some Marxist writers, such as José Carlos Mariátegui, a South American theoretician and Kwame Nkrumah, who is considered the father of African Socialism, clearly wrote to those of a specific culture and conditions. Even Mao Zedong (毛泽东) quoted Lao Tsu (老子) and Mencius (孟子)to make sure that Chinese people could relate to their own brand of communism. Yet his theories were also generalized enough that people can relate to him on all continents.
So Marcuse is really a Marxist for the industrialized countries. That is what I recommend that he be read for. The conditions in Kansas, USA are way different than the workers of India, Nepal or Peru. In the last countries, people are very poor. In the US there is a large working/middle-class that does not live in such poverty. Some people have called them the “working-class aristocrats” of the US. The only problem with that label is that these “aristocrats” don’t have any real political power. They are being told what to believe in, what to vote for and any power they have is an absolute illusion. They are getting a piece of the American Pie (US wealth). They do benefit economically from our wars in the Middle-east. We get enough cheap gas for people to drive SUV’s and large pickup trucks while the people in Iraq live in poverty and have to ration gas. The conditions Iraqis live in are probably about the same as before the US invasion. The US has no intentions of raising that standard of living, which is the president's present focus here in the US.
And why do we so willingly send our young people off to war- a war for economics that makes fools of US citizens?
This is where Marcuse comes in. He understands the propaganda, the rhetoric, the tricks—to get Americans to act as pawns in an empire building scheme. Reading Marcuse helps us understand our own propaganda and repression while it may help people in the poorer countries, such as Peru and India, how to understand why American soldiers are so willing to come to their countries and spill their blood for corporate masters.
Marcuse "argues that genuine tolerance does not tolerate support for repression, since doing so ensures that marginalized voices will remain unheard. He characterizes tolerance of repressive speech as "inauthentic." Instead, he advocates a discriminatory form of tolerance that does not allow so-called "repressive" intolerance to be voiced.
"Surely, no government can be expected to foster its own subversion, but in a democracy such a right is vested in the people (i.e. in the majority of the people). This means that the ways should not be blocked on which a subversive majority could develop, and if they are blocked by organized repression and indoctrination, their reopening may require apparently undemocratic means. They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc"
"Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left."
I used this quote for my book Memoirs of a Drugged-Up, Sex-Crazed Yippie:
“Society takes care of the need for liberation by satisfying the needs which make servitude palatable and perhaps even unnoticeable.”
Even though this site is mostly a Maoist one, it doesn’t hurt to look at other writers and appreciate their contributions to the understanding of capitalist society and revolution.

-សតិវ អតុ

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