Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A CHALLENGE TO ROBERT SHORE AND TO CHRIS

Perhaps because I spent my entire career as a teacher, perhaps because I was in my teens before I even saw a television set, I have a rather old-fashioned sense of this blog as an on-going conversation, a grand seminar save for the fact that we meet here in cyberspace rather than face to face.  Some young friends have cautioned me that this entirely misunderstands the nature of what they call “social media,” and perhaps they are right, but I persist in my antique understanding.  It is because I understand my blog in this fashion that I strive to maintain a courteous and welcoming voice, even when disagreeing with those who honor me with their comments.  A few of you, like Tom Cathcart, I know personally [I persist in thinking of Mr. Cathcart, very much a senior citizen, as Young Tom because that is who he was when he sat in my Junior Tutorial at Harvard in 1960.]  Several of you I have exchanged email messages with, which is one step closer to actual personal contact.  But most of you are only web names to me – “Ed Barreras, S. Wallerstein, anonymous [a number of those, it seems.]

I say all this because after reading some of the comments posted yesterday, I grew so agitated that I lay awake for three or four hours last night, too upset to sleep.  Let me explain what had me so distressed.  No doubt it will make no sense to some of you who visit this blog, but were we all together in a seminar room, I would feel compelled to say something, so I have decided to do so now.  I am writing before my morning walk, before six a.m., before my wife has awakened.  Think of this, if you will, as my night thoughts.

Let me begin with a fact.  One month from today, Donald J. Trump will take the oath of office and become President of the United States.  I view this fact with horror, because I believe that Trump’s presidency will pose an existential threat to the future of such democracy as we still have in this country.  I believe he will do vast harm to many millions of Americans by cooperating with his Republican colleagues in shredding as much of the so-called safety net as has been created by three generations of Democrats.  I believe he poses a grave threat to many nations and peoples in the world.  For these reasons, I believe we must together do everything we can to mitigate the damage and recapture control of our nation.

You may think I am wrong.  If you do, I desperately hope you are right.  Time will tell.

Now, listen very carefully to what I say next.  You may think that Hillary Clinton, as president, would pose an existential threat to such democracy as we have.  You may believe that her presidency would do great harm to millions of Americans.  You may think her presidency would pose a grave threat to many peoples and nations in the world.  It does not matter, because she is not going to be the next President of the United States.

I would like to grab you by the shoulders and shake you and raise my voice as I say this, but this is a blog, not a seminar, so I will do the next best thing.  I will hit the capslock key, then I will type control-b, and I will retype what I have just written:

YOU MAY THINK THAT HILLARY CLINTON, AS PRESIDENT, WOULD POSE AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO SUCH DEMOCRACY AS WE HAVE.  YOU MAY BELIEVE THAT HER PRESIDENCY WOULD DO GREAT HARM TO MILLIONS OF AMERICANS.  YOU MAY THINK HER PRESIDENCY WOULD POSE A GRAVE THREAT TO MANY PEOPLES AND NATIONS IN THE WORLD.  IT DOES NOT MATTER, BECAUSE SHE IS NOT GOING TO BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

You may think that Clinton ran a terrible campaign, and lost for that reason.  I happen to agree, but it does not matter, because she is not going to be the next President of the United States.  You may think that Bernie Sanders lost the nomination because of DNC dirty tricks.  I think you are kidding yourselves.  You may think Bernie Sanders would have won had he been the nominee.  I tend to agree, but that also does not matter, because he was not the nominee, and Hillary Clinton, who was, lost.  You may think the Russians had nothing at all to do with the election.  It does not matter, because Donald J. Trump, for whatever reason, will be the next President of the United States.

Now, a word specifically to Robert Shore.  I have been publicly protesting America’s overthrow or attempted overthrow of foreign governments since 1960, which is now fifty-six years ago, probably since you were in whatever passed for knee pants when you were a boy.  I do not appreciate being lectured about the subject by you, and I very much wish you would just cut it out.

So I issue a challenge to you and to Chris.  I challenge each of you to write an entire lengthy comment about what you foresee as the character and consequences of Donald J. Trump’s presidency.   You may say anything you like.  If you think a Trump Presidency will be morning in America again, fine.  If you think Trump will advance the cause of socialism, fine.  Say so.  But whatever you choose to say, I challenge you to say it without mentioning, alluding to, linking to, or otherwise invoking, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the DNC,  Wikileaks, Wikitruth, Wikidirt, or any other Wiki.  Just state simply in declarative prose what you think Donald J. Trump will do as president.


Try it.  It might help you to focus your mind for the coming struggle.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think comments are getting caught by the spam filter.

s. wallerstein said...

Just let me say that what I appreciate in your blog is the seminar room atmosphere. I myself do not have either twitter or Facebook. I had Facebook for about two days maybe 7 or 8 years ago and it seemed like a combination of the worst of high school as I recalled it, and Orwell's "five minute hate".

Although I do not agree with Chris on this specific issue, I don't feel that there is anything in his manner of speaking that is out of place in the seminar room.

Please keep up your form of blogging and have a good walk.

Larry Hamelin said...

Professor Wolff,

I cannot speak for your commenters (I long ago stopped reading blog comments unless the original post inspires me to comment directly) but I think Clinton is salient just because while I agree with you that we must resist Trump, it is not enough to just resist Trump, nor to resist just Trump. We must resist capitalism, and we must resist capitalism towards socialism.

I have long argued that the moral case for revolution depends on whether the inevitable pain and suffering of revolution outweighs the pain and suffering of the status quo. Under Trump, that argument becomes rather strong. While I am appalled at what I expect will happen during a Trump presidency, I never expected the fall of capitalism to be easy or gentle.

If anything is better than Trump, then must be the case that revolution is better than Trump. Thus, I think that rather than fighting for a restoration of neoliberalism, let us actually fight for a revolution.

I suspect you probably agree, but the tone and tenor of your recent posts (which I have been giving my full attention) do not make this position absolutely clear. You sound panicked, and panic will help neither socialism nor humanity.

Yes, Trump is very dangerous. But it is this exact danger that revolutionaries have been expecting, and it is this exact danger that makes revolution possible.

Chris said...

I e-mailed my response, it's too many characters for the comments window.

s. wallerstein said...

Chris,

Could give us a brief summary of your main points here? Thank you.

David Palmeter said...

Slightly off the topic, but close--what needs to be done:

I'm a reader of Taegan Goddard's Political Wire. His report on North Carolina and Republicans in general is worth reading:

There is no better example than what just happened in North Carolina to illustrate how Republicans are playing by different rules than Democrats.

Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and his fellow Republicans passed legislation to restrict voting access only to have it thrown out in court because it targeted African-American voters with “almost surgical precision” and “discriminatory intent.” He narrowly lost his re-election bid but refused to accept the outcome suggesting “massive voter fraud” was to blame, while providing no evidence. After grudgingly accepting the result, McCrory then signed two surprise bills passed by the GOP-controlled legislature that strip Gov.-elect Roy Cooper (D) of some powers.

David Leonhardt explains the significance:

If he were merely a rogue politician, this story would be a local one. But too many Republicans elsewhere have begun to ignore political traditions, and even laws, to exert power. While Democrats continue to play by more genteel rules, Republicans have subscribed to the Capone school of politics (as Sean Connery fans can recite): “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.”

In the last eight years, Republicans have tried to pass laws restricting voter access across the country. They have attempted to block almost anything President Obama proposes — even when they agree! — in an attempt to make him a failed president. They’ve threatened to shut down the federal government several times and even brought the country to the brink of credit default. They refused to even consider an Obama appointment to the Supreme Court, preferring to leave the seat vacant for nearly a year.

Make no mistake: This is anti-democratic behavior and it threatens the fabric of our country. It’s not a mistake Donald Trump was able to hijack the Republican party using autocratic rhetoric. It’s not clear Republicans even support democracy anymore.

Leonhardt issues this warning:

Around the country, Democrats should fight every restriction of voting rights and build grass-roots organizations in all 50 states focused on little-guy economic arguments. Dreaming wishfully of demographic destiny won’t cut it.

Anybody tempted to fantasize about inevitable Democratic victories should think ahead to 2020 — when the McCrory playbook may well be used not just in a state election but a national one.

Chris said...

Wallerstein, I'll post it in chunks, although I suspect Wolff will post it to the blog.
--------------


Let's start with what's most pressing. I do not want to be the source of your lack of sleep, since as we both agree, Trump is a greater existential threat than I ever should, could, or would be. So sorry if I'm causing you lost sleep.



This is a very confusing post for me. The reason this post is confusing is that other than the one line about the degree to which the DNC favored the election for Clinton over Bernie, I agree with EVERYTHING you said up until the second to last paragraph (the one where you begin this red herring challenge). I often get the impression that when I respond to you, you don't read what I actually write, you read what you suspect I'll write. Maybe I’m wrong, but that has been my impression for some time. So when it comes to this bold caps form of yelling at me, it's as if you're screaming at me a series of platitudes I long ago accepted, and never publicly denied. I was one of the FIRST people to e-mail and blog here as Trump won asking YOU for help because I considered him such a grave existential threat. That was hardly a month ago! You even said on November 9th, in response to "Chris's poignant plea": "However, the President controls a huge administrative bureaucracy, and I am very fearful, AS CHRIS IS, of the ways in which Trump will deploy that power. [emphasis mine]"


I couldn't have been clearer with how scared I was! Next you could scream at me the sky is blue, the sun will rise, and sweaters are comfier than suits. I repeat, I agree with everything, except one sentence, in the entirety of that post, up until the "challenge" to me. If you thought I disagreed with any of the above content I’m unsure why.



As far as what do I suspect will happen?

Well I also at length explained some of what I thought in that post earlier:

http://robertpaulwolff.blogspot.com/2016/11/first-thoughts.html


I even said in one post how my wife is half mexican, and I'm considering building a crawl space, and stocking up on arms, which was sort of a manic joke, that a part of me thinks is actually worthy of consideration. No doubt it emanated from my Id, but knowing I must appear calm in society, I laughed it off with an unsure ego.


As I stated here:

http://robertpaulwolff.blogspot.com/2016/11/it-is-worse-than-i-realized.html

I suspect persecution of the LGBT community will rise thanks to Mike Pence.


Chris said...

But these scatter shot citations to my comments cannot properly answer your question which I consider loaded. You ask me to detail what I suspect will happen while completely ignoring ANY talk of Democrats. That seems near impossible. If I’m to discuss how Trump will and won’t proceed aren’t the Democratic members of congress a pertinent part of that analysis? If he’s vying to pass a bill, it does matter whether or not dems have X numbers of seats. But fine, I’ll do my best to give my general 4 year fear with MINIMAL reference to democrats except when necessary.



No doubt Trump and Ryan will slash Obamacare. I happen to think it’s a terrible program (for empirical not ideological reasons!) so prima facie that isn’t the worst news, but what is bad is that it’s clearly saving the federal government money so the deficit and debt could rise. They’re also going to rise when Trump and Ryan get their tax cuts passed. Something like 6% of the tax cuts benefit median and lower income Americans and over 80% the rich. Since they are both deficit-debt hawks, they will proceed to attempt to gut every bit of the welfare state since they’ve just exploded the debt and deficit. Now at this point we HAVE to bring in Democrats no? Because if this is to succeed Democrats in congress play a pivotal role. We know up until Sanders gained popularity Obama and other corporate dems had flirted with cutting social security and Medicare, and privatizing elements of it.* So, even though Republicans do not have a super majority to run through this maelstrom of shit Trump and Ryan have planned, there do exist dems that will let it pass with some minimal haggling (maybe a planetarium will be built in their district). This is why I keep pressing that our strategy needs to be to back progressive dems and not any old dems. It’s not from ideological purity (if it was I would say just support communists), it’s because like you, my goal is STOP TRUMP. I also suspect as is readily evident Trump will spend the next 4 to 8 years amassing wealth in the most conspicuously crooked way, renegotiating trade deals, and foreign economic issues with the sole interest of making his children and himself richer, much to the cost of the American worker. Any attempt to please the American worker will be nothing other than pure PR. Typical spin we expect from both parties, but more Orwellian from Trump and his lickspittle.


In terms of foreign policy, I just don’t know what will happen. Like Chomsky said, the man is so unpredictable, so unprincipled, so thin skinned, we just can’t make predictions. Maybe, if there actually is a God, we’ll avoid a terrorist attack for 4 years and world leaders will just stroke Trump’s ego and we’ll mostly be fine. Maybe if there is a terrorist attack, we’ll be hiding Muslims in our attics while nukes drop from Egypt to Pakistan. I have no idea, really. But I’m not hopeful.

Finally, what scares me the most, and has gone ignored on this blog, and must require democratic mention, is my fear, Greenwald’s fear, Scahill’s fear, Snowden’s fear, and others, that Trump will abuse the worst aspects of Obama’s drone program, kill list, assassination program, and NSA, to squash any and all resistance in all its form (civil, non-civil, domestic, foreign, satire, open letters, etc). That’s when I start suspecting fascism really is going to rear its head and I suspect the literally worst case, Hitler-esque scenarios play out. Scapegoating and state destruction of all non-white elements. I just hope people like Michael Moore and others can retain such a galvanized resistance to Trump that the police state strategy of his will remain untenable and he can’t form a greater and more severe police state. That said, I do fear res

Chris said...

resistance may be futile since the democrats that backed these programs cannot save face in trying to publically resist them just because the other party is in office.



I hope you’re confident by the end of this commentary that I do NOT equate Trump with Clinton, and I really do agree with everything you’ve said up until the challenge.

One final note, which cannot be overlooked, because again, I suspect you misread my earlier comments. I was asking how do we adjudicate between the claims of the state (i.e., Russia hacked the DNC), and the claims of Wikileaks (our source was not Russian statesmen). And this is why your post is a red herring, because the answer to that question is logically separable from what do I suspect Trump will do in power (see above).

Please, don’t lose sleep on account of me. We are brothers in arms, comrades, and possible members of a future resistance to hide all non-heterosexual and all non-Anglos in our attics and crawl spaces.



*https://theintercept.com/2016/06/02/obama-wanted-to-cut-social-security-then-bernie-sanders-happened/
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jul/21/barack-obama-social-security-cuts

s. wallerstein said...

Thanks, Chris.

David Palmeter said...

Just as a matter of policy, it probably won’t be responsible for the Democrats to support the kind of infrastructure Obama sought, back when unemployment was high, the economy was slow, and borrowing costs were nil. Now the economy has picked up, unemployment is less than 5 percent, and the Fed has started to raise interest rates. I think Keynes himself would say that this is not a time for stimulus. That could lead to more bubbles. It is, however, a time for infrastructure repair and the Democrats should insist on a tax increase on the wealthy to pay for it The Republicans, who led us into two wars without paying for either of them (hence the debt they deplore) certainly won’t go along with that. That is where the Democrats should make their stand.

One of many ineffective aspects of the Clinton campaign and the Democrats generally in this last election, I think, was their failure to turn the debt issue to their advantage by reminding people not only of who inherited a budget surplus and who inherited a mess.

Robert Shore said...

Sorry, Prof. Wolff, but I really do not understand your response to my comment. I completely share your horror about what we can expect from the Trump presidency but what does that have to do with calling for an investigation into possible Russian hacking helping Trump win the election? Do you really think that such an investigation is going to change the outcome of the election? Do you think that possible Russian hacking was the deciding factor in Clinton losing the election? Regardless of how Wikileaks got hold of some of Clinton's emails there was nothing fake about their contents. Clinton tried to shift the focus away from the emails by blaming Russia for them and casting Trump as a Russian puppet, to my mind at least a pretty cheap strategy.

David said...

I prefer the idea of a conversation within a grand cyber-seminar. (Mostly I sit in the back of the class, but maybe I will begin to pipe up more now and then.) My students know my class to be very discussion-based because I'm old fashioned enough to believe that it's very important that we talk to one another. (By the way, I just have to share that one of my former students gave me a copy of Plato and Platypus Walk Into a Bar. I look forward to reading it, Mr. Cathcart!)

In any case, I haven't been asked, but I will offer my prognosis of a Trump presidency anyway:

I expect the Trump regime to do great lasting damage to this country by the divisions they sow, by the violence they stir up, by the terrors they inflict, by the civic traditions they subvert, by the massive theft they engage in, and by the countless lives they ruin. It is by no means certain that the American Republic will survive the ordeals that are about to plague it. Our fate will be determined by how willing we are to unite in solidarity, to sacrifice our energies, and, if necessary, to risk our bodies in reconstructing the hope of a better country.

Chris said...

I spent a half hour listening to Tom tell jokes on youtube the other night and then much to her annoyance, repeated them all to my wife in my woefully inadequete monotone voice.