Sunday, September 1, 2013


It's been another quiet week in Trotsky-land. The Militant is on yet another vacation. Mr. Proyect has been spending time at the movies. The September issue of Socialist Viewpoint is waiting for September, and Socialist Action hasn't had much interesting to say.

The events of the season are happening around Syria. Unfortunately, I have little to contribute to that conversation. The best I can do is point you toward Adam Garfinkle's excellent reporting here.

While I'm left speechless, Mr. Proyect has posted two intriguing pieces. This, by guest blogger Jeff Richards, argues that Bashar al-Assad has missed his calling. He'd much prefer to be a playboy in Europe than a dictator in Syria. It is only because of his older brother's car accident that he is forced into this unfortunate situation. In his current role, Mr. Assad is a puppet of the deep state, i.e., the Syrian military and the Alawite mafia. (Mr. Proyect is very much against the Assad regime, so I'm not quite sure why he publishes this apology.)

Mr. Garfinkle's view is approximately opposite. He suggests that Mr. Assad is very much in charge, and probably initiated the chemical weapons attack (rather than it being some rogue agent in the regime). The purpose is to knock Mr. Obama down a peg--to make him look foolish. If Obama responds with some meaningless, two-day attack, it will be a fabulous propaganda victory for Mr. Assad. That, according to Garfinkle, is precisely the strategy.

By Mr. Garfinkle's account Mr. Assad is more a psychopath than a playboy. I'm more inclined to believe the psychopath diagnosis, but then what do I know.

The second piece is also guest-written by a Leftist from Beirut. He's not Syrian, but too close for comfort. He criticizes the American Left this way:
This is why discussions of Syria in such quarters tend not to be discussions of Syria. They’re actually discussions of “American capitalism” or “American imperialism” – take your pick. So let me be clear: if your opinion of Syria is actually an opinion about the United States, I have no interest in hearing it, and it’s probably safe to say that most Syrians (or at least all of the ones I know) who are faced with the business end of the regime’s ordinance don’t either. I can’t think of a single Syrian who’s willing to get killed so you can flaunt your anti-imperialist street cred from the comfort of your local coffee shop.
Not that he supports an American attack--like everybody else he doubts Obama will do much more than bounce the rubble. But I think he could be brought around to supporting American intervention if it looked to be in some way substantive.

The editors at Solidarity need to take our Beiruti's criticism seriously. They post an editorial strongly condemning any US intervention in Syria. They first accuse the US of hypocrisy, citing US and British "war crimes"--the firebombing of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Agent Orange and Napalm, and (so they claim) "white phosphorus" in Fallujah (?). The money paragraph reads (italics in original)
Solidarity condemns U.S. military intervention in Syria. That’s not because we have any sympathy or support for the Assad regime. It’s because missiles, whether delivered from ship or plane, will certainly cause civilian casualties. It’s because bombing Syria will have nothing to do with protecting the population from further atrocities. And it’s because the United States has no legitimate right to attack countries whose governments it doesn’t like. 
These arguments are, indeed, entirely about the US and not at all about Syria. They're offered solely to burnish the street cred of Solidarity.

So what's my opinion on Syria? Frankly, I have absolutely no clue.

In other news, the fast food strike hit the national media. I've blogged about the issue here and here, among other places. Socialist Action posts a useful article here, albeit from August 5th. I have argued that the cause is lost--fast food will never be unionized. Frankly, I have to admit the effort has gotten a lot further than I ever expected it would, but I'll stand by my ultimate judgement.

We live in deflationary times. Wages are going down, not up. The notion that fast food workers (and only fast food workers) are going to be able to double their wages simply by throwing a temper tantrum is not believable. These people might as well strike against the law of gravity--it's heroic, it may even be inspiring, it will garner news coverage, but it won't be successful.

And I close with yet another topic from Mr. Proyect's energetic pen--two articles about North Star. The name originates with Peter Camejo, who thought American Marxists should abandon Russian or Chinese symbols (such as the hammer & sickle) and find their own. He chose North Star, which is the title of his autobiography. Now there is a journal by that name, which I've never read.

One can't read everything, and so one reads stuff that is of interest. North Star (the journal) devolves into academic Marxism, which means it has two strikes against it. One can summarize it in one word--boring. So that raises an interesting question: Does one's politics determine one's interests? Or is it the reverse: Does one's interests determine one's politics?

I vote for the second choice. I have never been much interested in history. Emotionally, my attitude is history is bunk, even though intellectually I know that's not entirely true. Marxism, on the other hand, over-interprets history, suggesting that every squiggle has some ultimate cause or some deep significance. Randomness is not part of their vocabulary.

Mr. Proyect is passionate about history. Indeed, I think one could call him a historian, though I certainly am no judge. I surmise that his passion drove him toward Marxism rather than the other way round. And then no wonder he reads stuff like North Star. Likewise, he won't have much truck for theories that take random seriously, e.g., Darwinism or the Black-Scholes equation. Meanwhile, I love that stuff.

So I'm a Libertarian (at least regards economics) because I like randomness. Unlike history, randomness is mathematically tractable, which allows for some (limited) progress.

And then, history really is bunk.

Further Reading:

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