A Totally Original Parable Not Derived From Anything Else Really

Once upon a time a man named Barry Goldwater appeared on the political scene. And the radical cried, “Danger! A fascist!” And the people came running, but they saw that, actually, he was just a right-wing authoritarian, and he was making no effort to build a mass movement based on violence and terror in order to overturn democratic institutions, so the people went away grumbling.

Then a man named Nixon appeared, and the radical cried, “Danger! A fascist!” And the people came running, but they saw that, while he was extremely right-wing, and was, indeed, chipping away at democratic institutions, he still had no mass movement based on the frustrated petty bourgeoisie, nor an agenda to lead such a movement to establish himself as dictator on behalf of finance capital, so the people went away annoyed.

Then Trump came along….

May Day Post

It’s the day of international working class solidarity, so a few quick answers to some things I’ve been hearing.

1) No serious revolutionist has ever wanted to make things worse in order to incite revolution. Utter rubbish.  Especially now; things are quite bad enough. What’s missing is consciousness that there is a way forward, a way out of the mess.

2) Being a revolutionary socialist does not mean one wishes to rush out and make a revolution. No one, as Lenin said, can suck a revolution out of his thumb. Being a revolutionary socialist means one is convinced a revolutionary crisis will take place regardless of anyone’s desire. Victory, however, is not guaranteed. For that, preparation is necessary.  Preparation means, primarily, bringing socialist consciousness and theoretical preparation to the working class, and the building of a revolutionary party prepared to see the job through to its end.

3) We aren’t there yet. But the World Socialist Web Site is now the mostly widely read socialist publication in the world, especially among workers, so we’re getting there. My own role in this is trivial, yet not useless; when I go onto Twitter or Facebook and explain my views on something that is happening today, insofar as my explanation is correct, there’s someone whose beliefs have been shaken up by events in the world, and who may be ready to listen, and possibly join the fight.  See the last sentence of point 1) above.

Happy May Day

When writers get stuck

Someone on Twitter said she was stuck on her current project and asked for suggestions for getting unstuck. I started to reply, then realized it would turn into a huge thread.  So, here I am.  Note: as I understand it, stuck on current project is not the same phenomenon as “writer’s block.”   The former is, “I don’t know what the next sentence is,” the latter is, “I can’t write and I don’t know why.” So far, I’ve never had writer’s block, so I cannot pretend to give advice on how to deal with it.

There are many tricks for getting the next sentence on the page.  None of them work for everyone, and none of them work all the time for anyone.  The most I can say is that if you collect enough of them, there is a good chance one of them will help in any given situation.

Here are some of the methods that have worked for me:

1. Write a long, tedious passage about your protagonist not knowing what to do, at the end of which he or she might figure it out, at which point you delete the long, tedious passage.

2. Fallback scenes.  Raymond Chandler famously said that if he didn’t know what would happen next, he had someone come through the door with a gun. In my case, when in doubt, have a meal. In any case, this scene, also, can be deleted once it gets you unstuck.

3. Look for tropes or motifs in the earlier chapters. You very likely have them even if you aren’t aware of it.  For example, suppose in chapter 1 someone is looking through a window, and then in chapter 3 someone else is looking through a window.  Now that you’re aware of it, you can play with it, and, have someone look through a window, tell us what’s there, and possibly generate something interesting.  Another thing about this method is that some critic might notice it and decide it’s Art.  I once did that with a series of puns based on lines from Hamlet; when I didn’t know what would happen, I’d pick another pun and write toward it, and by the time I’d get there I had a good feel for where to go afterwards.  In that case, no one thought it was art.

4. Switch points of view.  Write a scene from your antagonist’s point of view, or that of a side character; what are those people up to right now?  And (as always) if it works to get you unstuck, feel free to delete it.

5. Consider your structure.  This is similar to 3, but instead of motifs, see if you have a pattern in the types of scenes you’ve been writing.  For example, conversation followed by a fight followed by a chase.  If you see a pattern like that, you can continue it, or consciously break it; either might help get the words moving again.

6. Reread what you have so far while asking yourself, “What does the reader think is going on?” and then figure out a way to mess with the reader’s head. Messing with the reader’s head is always a good thing. It causes them pain and they will thank you for it.

I might expand this as I think of other methods I’ve used.  Meanwhile, writers: What are some of your methods?

“We live in a democracy, therefore the government represents us.”

(I’ll be adding this to my socialism FAQ, but for now I think it deserves it’s own post.)

The logic here is what fascinates—the mechanical formality, starting with rigid definitions and proceeding step by careful step to absurdity. The old scholastics of the middle ages would certainly have approved, but if we don’t want to do our political analysis using the method of  St. Thomas Aquinas, we need to do better.  Here’s how the logic works:

1. We live in what is called a democracy (or a democratic republic, if you want to be fussy).
2. By definition, this means we elect those who govern us, and can thus elect anyone we want to carry out our will.
3. Therefore, those in office are carrying out our will.
4. Therefore, most Americans are in favor of massive income inequality, genocide, making the Earth uninhabitable, right-wing censorship, pseudo-left censorship, a barbaric health care system, murderous police, the loss of democratic rights, homelessness, letting COVID kill us by the hundreds of thousands, and continuous war.

That there are those who follow this chain and believe—or act as if they believe—that it represents reality continues to astound me. But it is common enough that it is worth taking a look at.

..1 In a bourgeois democracy, the bourgeois always takes precedence over the democracy. Theoretically, we know that if the rights and privileges of the ruling class are threatened—particularly the right to make unlimited profit—democracy narrows, shrinks, and becomes more limited. In practice, we are watching it happen before our eyes.

The whole world saw what happened when Senator Sanders dared to suggest that capitalism could become not quite so mean all the time. That he was never a real threat to capitalism and would in fact have done nothing significant for the working class made no difference; his pretensions had to be crushed using legal and quasi-legal means. He isn’t the first to discover the ruthlessness of the American bourgeoisie and the Democratic Party in particular when it comes to making sure Wall Street never feels the least pinch! Gene McCarthy (honestly or not) spoke for those who wanted an end to the Vietnam war and was destroyed. Bill Clinton, swine though he is, made tiny, halfhearted efforts toward improving health care and suddenly a sex scandal emerged. &c &c,

..2 The media are part of the capitalist system, controlled by a few (and getting fewer) mega corporations, all of whom have, at the top of their agenda, convincing us that there is no possibility of any political change outside of the two capitalist parties. Billions and billions of dollars go into this every year (whether conspiratorially or simply by natural selection of editors and publishers is irrelevant). While I disagree with those who believe propaganda is all-powerful, it is silly to think that propaganda on such a massive scale is without effect.

..3 At the very least, one ought to reflect on the significance of the fact that every political gain since Reconstruction—unemployment insurance, civil rights, medicare, welfare, &c—has come as a result of direct struggles by the working masses, not by selecting the right candidate.