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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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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Friday, December 16, 2016

A. A. MILNE TO THE RESCUE

As I have often remarked, I am a Tigger in a world of Eeyores, a fact that is, in the words of W. S. Gilbert, a “source of innocent merriment” for my friends.  Alas, Tigger has of late been hiding in his den, fearful of showing his face lest he suffer public ridicule.  In the past two days, as some of you are no doubt aware, the Republican majority in the North Carolina State Legislature, its collective nose out of joint as the President-Elect siphons off the calumny that it feels is rightfully theirs, have taken steps to strip the Governorship of all its powers before a Democrat, Roy Cooper, is sworn in to that office.  Ashamed to show their faces while they engage in this act of blatant theft, the legislators have barred the press from the hurry-up special session they called [they cannot actually keep what they are doing secret – they are enacting laws, after all].  I am ashamed to admit that Tigger, a soul of indefeasible cheerfulness though he is, thought seriously of taking a baseball bat and going down to the State Capitol to beat them senseless.

These are hard times for the few remaining Tiggers.  The president-elect seems intent upon filling each cabinet office with the person in America who is most unalterably opposed to the functions of the government office he [or in startlingly few cases, she] is designated to lead.  In what can only be judged a beau geste, he has even tapped one feckless person to head a department that he famously could not even recall the name of.  I think Trump will go down in history as a fascist with a sense of humor, something for which neither Hitler nor Mussolini was noted.  Inexorably, I have felt the long ears and doleful countenance of Eeyore descending upon me.

But then, a thought occurred to me, and as it did, Tigger stuck his nose out, sniffed the air, and felt irrepressible hope beginning to stir deep in his breast.  As I reflected on the actions of the Carolina Legislators, the thought came unbidden to my mind, “They are desperate!  These are not the actions of a triumphant conquering army.  They are the scorched earth tactics of those retreating in disarray.”

As I walked in the twenty degree weather [-6.666 Celsius, for S. Wallerstein], I began to run down the list of the truly horrible things the Republicans have done or are now proposing to do.  The rampant voter suppression laws are the desperation moves of a party that knows it can no longer count on winning an honest election.  The attack on the rights of LGBT Americans is a lost cause, both legally and in the court of public opinion.  Two generations of women have grown up in an America that legally guarantees the right of an abortion.  The appalling state laws being passed and re-passed will do hideous harm to millions of women, but they will fail to reverse the established fact that abortion is legal.  Not even the appointment of another Scalia will accomplish what the original Scalia could not.  The demand for a raise of the minimum wage, which was not even on the public agenda until this election, now commands almost majority popular support.

The fact is that even after nominating the most unpopular candidate ever to be put forward by the Democrats, they still won three million more votes than their opponent.  [The one good thing to come from this appalling election is that I never have to think about a Clinton again.]  Demography is destiny, as someone should have said, and demography ineluctably favors the progressive forces in America.  White Privilege may fuel an intensity that burns with white heat, but in a few more electoral cycles, a party built on that passion will have all the salience of a party of farmers, once the backbone of America.

Let us be clear.  Terrible harm will be done by the Republicans as they struggle desperately to hold off their inevitable demise.  Tens of millions of men, women, and children will be grievously hurt, and many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of them will die because of what the Republicans are doing.  Only if we are strong and fight with unyielding determination will we win, but we will win.
 
What of the last and greatest battle, the battle against capitalism itself?  Here, alas, Eeyore reemerges triumphant.  We are not losing that battle.  We lost it almost a century ago.  It is now only a few days before the centennial of my grandfather’s election to the New York Board of Alderman on the Socialist ticket, together with six comrades [the “seven honest men,” they were called.]  Those were the glory days of the Socialist movement in America.  Now “collective ownership of the means of production” is a phrase never uttered even by a presidential aspirant who bills himself a “Democratic Socialist.”  Like Lord Voldemort, he who shall not be named, Marx lurks in the dark corners of American politics, unable to be acknowledged even as an enemy.  When a scholar can win universal acclaim with a book entitled “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” and without apparent irony never mention the name of Marx, we are forced to admit that true socialism is a bridge too far even for American progressives.


And so, my friends, on this darkest day in modern North Carolina history, I reassume my mantle as the Tigger of the Left.  Dangerous as this moment is, terrible as the consequences will be of the actions of the Republicans, we can win, we must win, we will win, if we do not lose faith and never cease to fight.

18 comments:

levinebar said...

Trump hires the ones he thinks are not too smart
who won't speak out on what they've seen him steal
acclaiming his fresh lies as if they're art
as if his highest goal's to cut a deal
the confirmation battles loom ahead
each one's less competent than is the next
by now, the Senate staffers have re-read
just what "consent" entails in our core text
the Kremlin's favorite's ill-prepared for State
when carbon's got to be left in the ground
the Exxon stock-price and the planet's fate
if we're to have a chance, must not be bound
Trump's ego-driven need to keep control
presents a peril to our nation's soul

Barry Haskell Levine (levinebar)

Robert Paul Wolff said...

a sonnet for our time

Jerry Fresia said...

Another gem blog. And so THE spectre is haunting once again?

levinebar said...

Trump, alas, has swollen to a whole genre of sonnets of his own. I had hoped this oeuvre would have become obsolete a month ago
http://mobilesonnets.blogspot.com/search/label/trump

I'd rather get back to writing about less time-bound themes. But I suppose the destruction of our republic (if not our planet) is a theme of current interest.
Barry

Daniel Langlois said...

'Demography is destiny, as someone should have said,..'

Common saying, but demography is not destiny. Or: Is demography truly destiny? In the 1960s, scientific concerns about unchecked global population growth reached the mainstream (for example, Paul R. Ehrlich, the author of the influential book “The Population Bomb,” became a frequent guest of Johnny Carson’s on “The Tonight Show”) and sparked campaigns for population control in the United States and around the world. But the predicted apocalypse, the “utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity,” never happened.

Anyways, I question the precise note of inevitability that was intended, here. -- I mean, the demographic case against the GOP. Maybe right now, we think of Latinos and Asian Americans as separate from the white mainstream. But there’s no guarantee that will be true in the future. If we look ahead 40 years, there’s a decent chance this Democratic majority never materializes. In the beginning, there was the Anglo-American majority. or almost a century, the Democratic Party was identified with the interests of European immigrants. In the decades to come, a similar path might emerge for today’s immigrants, and Latinos in particular. I think I get the idea that whites are the mainstream of American life. But it seems to me that for all intents and purposes, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is understood as white. There’s a chance that the GOP ends up getting a new crop of voters over the next two decades: Latinos and Asian Americans who have assimilated, become 'white'.

Daniel Langlois said...

'Marx lurks in the dark corners of American politics, unable to be acknowledged even as an enemy.'

I coasted along confidently for a few years believing that Karl Marx was a dimwitted crank. who got everything about human nature and human society all wrong. Then, one day in 1983, I found myself in disputation with a well-read and very intelligent Marxist. He chewed me up and spat me out. The ideas of Marx have never been more relevant than they are today. Kidding! ;)



s. wallerstein said...

Ideas come in and out of fashion.

Who would have imagined that in 2016 the U.S. would elect a racist and misogynistic candidate? If you look at Trump's election and much of what is occurring in Europe, you'll see that proto-fascist, xenophobic ideas, ideas that most of us assumed had lost their power over the mass with the defeat of fascism in 1945, are back in fashion.

When I was young, laissez-faire capitalism was seen by "everyone" as "over". Keynes was the guru until the 1980's when laissez-faire capitalism returned as the established wisdom.

So too Marxism may very well come back in fashion. I don't know when and I long ago gave up on guessing what will come next historically, but I'd bet that some day it will become so widely accepted that it will irritate those of us who champion it now.

Franz said...

Perhaps there is hope in resistance:

https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/12/this-is-what-the-resistance-sounds-like/510899/

Anonymous said...

This New Yorker article discusses a document, entitled, "Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda," about grassroots organizing we might find helpful:

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-crowd-sourced-guide-to-fighting-trumps-agenda

Any thoughts?

Daniel Langlois said...

I am able to track on why you mention 'proto-fascist, xenophobic ideas'. I'm more sympathetic then we might guess. I don't think that the choice is binary, between godless socialism and communism. What I think, is that our democracy is dependent on voters who inform themselves and vote accordingly. What is 'communism'? I mean, in communism, there is no free speech, right? In communism, productivity and efficiency are difficult to achieve. This is difficult to achieve without profit motive for the workers, right? Central planning is difficult to achieve. We're talking about communism, what does this mean? Does it mean that the government owns all the businesses and properties? The so-called means of production? I mean, what am I crazy? I think I'm perfectly reasonable, I like to think that I am the soul of open-minded reasonable rational cogitation. I'm 20 times more interested in Marx than the average college-educated American. I know all about Marx, and I'm willing to learn more. But I also know *anything at all* about real economics, and I don't think it's an accomplishment. What does communism mean? It means that consumers' needs are not taken into consideration. I mean, correct me if I am wrong, post an image of communist Romania in the eighties, or whatever you take communism to mean. It doesn't mean you can eat at McDonald's, indeed you'll be in good company if you starve to death under communism. If that's not the plan, then don't make me guess the plan. What's the plan? I could talk all day about politics, there are real issues, complex issues, where people argue and disagree and it's all very cerebral. Marxists will just shoot you in the head on the curb.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Mr. Langlois, you are talking gibbereish. I think perhaps this is not the blog for you.

Paul Kern said...

Perhaps this will give you some reason for hope.

https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/12/this-is-what-the-resistance-sounds-like/510899/?utm_source=atlfb


Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you, Paul Kern. I think maybe I should move to California!

Aleta Quinn said...

Unfortunately, Il Trumpo will likely name several Supreme Court Justices, and they could effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, among other things.

fgs said...

To be fair to Piketty, Marx makes several prominent appearances in his book and is never too far from the surface.

Jared P said...

Hi Dr. Wolff,

If Trump truly has a sense of humor, it is of a severely limited sort: the only sort of humor that insecure authoritarians are capable of--goofy (stupid! always stupid) little sweets dolled out to their fawning audiences. (What is the Perry appointment except another stick in the eye of those elitist liberals?) But a real sense of humor is irreverent, airy, critical, sharp. Insecure men like Trump cannot stand that kind of humor. For them it is always a challenge, a threat. (Just think about the indigestion that Alec Baldwin evidently gives him every Saturday night.)

Daniel Langlois said...

'Mr. Langlois, you are talking gibbereish. I think perhaps this is not the blog for you.'

I am thinking also that perhaps this is not the blog for me, but I do not see how this is 'gibberish':

'What is 'communism'? I mean, in communism, there is no free speech, right? In communism, productivity and efficiency are difficult to achieve. This is difficult to achieve without profit motive for the workers, right? Central planning is difficult to achieve. We're talking about communism, what does this mean? Does it mean that the government owns all the businesses and properties? The so-called means of production? I mean, what am I crazy?'

These are questions that might simply get answers?

Daniel Langlois said...

If my comments do not pass for coherent comments, and simply look ridiculous, then I guess I am depressed and/or amused, and surely I'm in good company. On the other hand, what is this?:

'Marx lurks in the dark corners of American politics, unable to be acknowledged even as an enemy.'

Wrong.