Friday, November 21, 2008


When survival is a team effort

Recently, in the course of working with fucked up teenagers, I've gotten to thinking about all the essential contributions people have made to my life. Finding one's way to adulthood is never easy; throwing certain awful experiences or psychological conditions into the mix makes it infinitely harder. The following list is of people who directly contributed to my survival, literal or psychological. As such, it is missing any number of dear friends who have supported me through less dire circumstances, as well as people who contributed in less direct, more "behind the scenes" ways, such as my sister Sarah and, I'm sure, others. I appreciate you also.

I wish everyone could know what great gains a small contribution can make; I wish everyone could know what can happen in the scale of one other life when they have the courage to step forward and care.

For everyone who has gotten me this far--thank you.

Mum and Da, who chose to welcome 1984 in the best of all possible ways and have always tried to do their best for their kids

Nancy, for making her husband my brother by marrying him

Alma, the best older brother a girl could ask for, who taught me almost everything I know about set theory and people, and more than I would have imagined about unconditional love

The PHS chess team, which included the first real friends I ever had, Ben Werner, Rachel Smith, and Caleb Anderson--special thanks to Gribble for making it possible and giving us a safe place

Mary Hedengren, whose courage, insight, intelligence, excellent advice and inadvertently persistent friendship have pulled me through some of the darkest times

Kathrine O'Sullivan, who made my Spanish sound like French, made competence incredibly appealing, and took a moment to ask me how I was every day and mean it

Dan Krimmelbein, who believed in me so much it was embarrassing and let me do whatever I needed

Barbara Patillo, the best listener I have ever met, who never refused to mourn with those that mourned or comfort those who stood in need of comfort

Whatever assortment of my family (I think mostly Grandmother and Mom) made sure I had the funds and the guts to fly off around the world and then spend two years of my life studying dance, when they didn't know why but only knew that I needed it

Mykle Law, who showed me my best when I couldn't see

Greg Lucero, who cared, keeps his promises, passionately believed I belonged to myself, and wanted me to be better till I wanted it too

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How communism serves the American right

This is how I explain my awesome family to radical communists. :D

If you had some sort of illusions that I was a not a radical communist, you may consider this a sort of late halloween costume for my blog. ;)

I like to advocate class struggle by pointing to material conditions. For all it's posturing to the contrary, capitalism creates material conditions deeply toxic to freedom and democracy. In the accumulation of capital is the accumulation of power; in the concentration of power, widespread opportunity for self-determination is destroyed. So far my favorite depictions of this process come from Domhoff and Chomsky.

As for the path to victory, I am far from a master tactician, but I prefer to take the words of Marx and Engels to heart:

"(Communists) have no interests separate or apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement."

Along with this comes the injunction to form the proletariat as a class, and from this combination my preference in strategy is born. It seems we must re-articulate cultural struggle as class struggle--and this goes for (what appears to be) both sides of the culture struggle.

Consider the interests of the American (United States) proletariat, as they presently perceive them. Besides the materialities of survival and comfort, the issues they are most aware of being concerned with are families, immigration, gay marriage, abortion ethics, and a certain kind of self-determination. All of these social issues can be subsumed more or less neatly into the framework of communism or socialism. The possible quality of relationships in a family are intimately and inextricably connected with types of exploitation and quality of work; global socialism renders concern with immigration issues obsolete; availability of universal health care (a class issue) makes the question of gay marriage no longer a life and death matter*; socialism has the potential to vastly reduce the incidence of abortion**.

Saul Alinsky, in describing the class conflicts of political organizing, cast Americans as haves, have-nots, and have-a-little-want-mores. It is this last group, he says, that offer the greatest resistance to change; they have gained some ground under the existing system, have just enough that they no longer are free from fear of loosing it. This is the illusory self-determination with which the American proletariat is so entranced; not that they are "Joe the plummer" who has something to loose, but for the most part they have just enough that they can dream of being him, and want to hang on to that dream. It seems best to work out of this by constantly presenting more meaningful forms of self-determination. In this, whether or not we might choose a planned economy in the longer run, the concept of syndicalism is extremely useful.

* It removes the state's involvement with gay marriage as a property relation, thus rendering the question of "marriage" or not purely cultural.

**The details of this position I will, actually, publish in subsequent posts