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Sunday, December 2, 2018


The television news is now wall-to-wall fond remembrances of the life and presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush, so naturally I have been thinking about the transition to socialism and how it could go down.  [Pretty clearly, anything from a Marx Brothers festival to a root canal can get me thinking about the transition to socialism.]  For purposes of this post, let us assume that we do not mean full frontal socialism – collective ownership of the means of production and all that jazz – but rather what now passes for Democratic Socialism in these parts:  single payer health care, high national minimum wage, punitive death taxes on the rich, large scale redistribution of wealth, protections for unions, environmentally friendly clean energy, free education through college, and lots and lots of local and regional cooperatives.  In short, Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Octavia-Cortez on steroids.

How might all of this actually come about?  Well, not by way of violent revolution, that’s for sure.  First of all, America is awash in guns, more of them than people apparently, and most of them are in the hands of those opposed to these proposed changes.  And secondly, the most efficient part of the federal bureaucracy is the military.  So it is going to have to be the good old fashioned way, by elections, legislation, and the enforcement of duly enacted laws.

Now, I actually think this is a possibility, although that may just be my inner Tigger asserting itself, but let us be realistic.  In addition to the united opposition of the entire capitalist base and much of its superstructure, we will face opposition from a very large segment of the voting public, even if [and this is my optimism showing again] not a majority.

But even if we win a landslide election and take over the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, long experience suggests that at some point, after we have introduced our revolutionary transformation of American economy and society, we will lose an election, and the forces of darkness will come to power.  The transition to socialism is not a movie with a triumphant conclusion followed by a roll of the credits as the houselights come up.  It is an unending struggle to make progress and then hang on to as much of it as we can until the wheel turns again and we come to power once more.

Which brings me back to George Herbert Walker Bush.  Many of us are permanently outraged by the obscene policies pursued by our government during our lifetime.  Some of these policies have been exploitative, some have been reactionary, some clearly qualify as war crimes.  Bush 41, as he is known, is not the worst president of my lifetime, but he is very far from the best.  And yet I am invited now to celebrate his life, ooh and aah at his relationship with his wife [who was, of course, known as “the enforcer” in the family], and in general during this time of official mourning adopt the old Roman rule de mortuis nil nisi bonum [of the dead say nothing but good.]  Is this any way for an aspiring socialist to act? 

Alas, I think it is.  Inasmuch as the forces of established order are against us, our best protection is the American custom of making transitions from one administration to the next without throwing the outgoing administration in jail.  They may deserve it, but we sure don’t, and that custom is the only protection we have when the wheel turns, as it surely will.

So, suck it up and smile as the talking heads remember good old 41.  Either that, or find a plausible basketball game, as I did last night [Stanford led Kansas by ten at the half but fell short.]


Danny said...

He's just kidding folks! Irony!

David Palmeter said...

I share your optimism about moving the country to the left, but it won’t happen right away. My hope is that the House next year will pass a lot of progressive legislation that, while it will die in the Senate, will be the basis of the Democratic platform going forward. I am concerned, though, with the number of what used to be called (and maybe still are) the Blue Dog Democrats, such as many of the ones who are opposing Pelosi. They can keep the Party closer to the Center than I’d like it to be. They were a problem in Obama’s first term. As maddening as they can be, however, they’re better than the alternative. Democrats need them to have a majority.

My feelings about 41 are mixed. I was no fan of his when he was in office, and I was disgusted with his race-baiting (Willie Horton) campaign. But he brought a degree of managerial competence that was sorely lacking in 43’s administration. Just think of Katrina and Brownie doing a great job. More importantly, think of Iraq. 41 put together an international coalition, obtained a UN resolution, did the job of kicking Iraq out of the territory of our great and glorious ally, Kuwait, and came home. Compare that to Junior’s fiasco.

41 also contributed importantly to the civility in government that is necessary for the system to work. His letter to Clinton was a gracious gesture, and apparently started a tradition. Clinton left a letter for 43 who left one for Obama who left one for Trump. It’s hard to imagine Trump doing any such thing. How could he if he thinks his political opponents are enemies of the state?

Anonymous said...

Bush the First—the evil of banality. What’s his legacy? His arrogant invasion of Iraq—ostensibly to save the Arabs from themselves, but really to save the oil industry from a despot whom we didn’t like in order to preserve it for despots who were less objectionable to us—which led to the creation of Al-Qaeda and the debacle that so far, for the us and the rest of the West (and the Middle East), has largely defined the 21st century? Huge mess, and huge historical screw-up. Good job, George. His cynical appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court? Thanks a lot. Imagine what would have slithered onto the Court if Bush the First had had another four years. His son? Heck of a job, Brown-nosy. The creepy litany goes on, and on, ad nauseam. I won’t miss him. --Fritz Poebel

Jerry Fresia said...

To be honest, I really don't get your attending to the old Roman rule for someone like 41. For you, is this a rule you attend to across the board out of a sense of decency? for all Presidents of the United States and grand poobahs (sorry: I'm working on my irony but I often get stuck in sarcasm)? when for you might it be put aside out of attachment to such principles as benevolence and justice? or even, dare I say, required that you do?

LFC said...

Re the Gulf War, presided over by Bush 41 and his coalition: the casus belli passes muster under intl law, but there are some questions about how the war was conducted (w/o going into the details). And then it was a mistake to accede to what I believe (if I recall correctly) was the Saudi govt's desire that a fair number of U.S. soldiers remain stationed in S. Arabia. But there had been some U.S. forces in S. Arabia before that, I think, just not as many.

Btw, Al-Qaeda was formed in 1988 (see L. Wright, The Looming Tower, for a discussion of its origins), so it predates the Gulf War.

Anonymous said...

All I remmber of 41 is that he wanted to be the education president and he wasn't kidding when he picked a v-p who couln't spell potato.