Revolution#118, February 3, 2008
MAKING REVOLUTION AND EMANCIPATING HUMANITY
PART 2: EVERYTHING WE’RE DOING IS ABOUT REVOLUTION (CONTINUED)
Heightened Parasitism and the “Two Outmodeds”
Editors’ Note: The following is the sixth in Part 2 of a series of excerpts from a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, last year (2007). This has been edited for publication and footnotes have been added. These excerpts are being published in two parts. Part 1 is available in its entirety, as one document, online at revcom.us, and has been serialized in (the print version of) Revolution (see issues #105, Oct. 21; #106, Oct. 28; #107, Nov. 4; #108, Nov. 11; #109, Nov. 18; #110, Nov. 25; #111, Dec. 9; and #112, Dec. 16, 2007). Part 2 is also available, as one document, at revcom.us.
Heightened Parasitism and the “Two Outmodeds”
I want to return briefly to the question of the heightened parasitism of U.S. society, as a result of the position and role of U.S. imperialism in the world, and the dynamic, or dialectic, of the “two historically outmodeds.”1 The more U.S. imperialism pushes ahead with its drive for unchallenged empire, focusing much of its fire on Islamic fundamentalist forces—and the more there is the absence of an outpouring of mass political opposition within the U.S. to this course—the more this, in turn, strengthens the Islamic fundamentalist trend. And, at the same time, the more this whole dynamic—where these “two historically outmodeds” (imperialism and Islamic fundamentalist Jihadism) reinforce each other, even while opposing each other—goes forward and is strengthened, the more it will become increasingly difficult to bring forward another way: to break out of the current deadly dynamic and to galvanize and mobilize people around a positive pole, opposed to both of these “outmodeds”; to rally masses of people on both sides of the “great divide” in the world—between imperialist countries, and above all the U.S., on the one hand, and Third World oppressed countries, with billions of impoverished and desperate masses, on the other hand.
In connection with this, we have to simultaneously struggle against two trends which represent (to borrow Engels’ phrase) “opposite poles of the same stupidity.” On the one hand, there is a line—which has currency among some “left” forces in the U.S. and elsewhere—of supporting Islamic fundamentalists simply because they are in some measure opposing imperialism, and U.S. imperialism in particular, without examining, or really being concerned very much about, the content of that opposition and where the ideology and program of Islamic fundamentalism will lead—the true horrors it really does represent. This speaks to the importance of the polemic by Sunsara Taylor that was in Revolution not long ago2 —a polemic against the ISO (International Socialist Organization) and their opposition to the “two outmodeds” analysis, as well as their whole economist (and ludicrous) line about how working people in the U.S. don’t benefit from imperialism—to which perhaps the most meaningful response is, simply: “What fucking world are you living in?!”
This is an important polemic, but it will continue to be necessary to take on—to dissect and refute—these kinds of arguments (as put forward by the ISO and others). This kind of thinking represents, ultimately, a defeatist orientation toward really being able to take on imperialism through mobilizing masses on a revolutionary basis, and a limiting, or consigning, of the struggle to the contest between these two reactionary and outmoded forces; it amounts to, or leads to, becoming cheerleaders for one side or the other (and in the case of those with “anti-imperialist” pretensions, often doing this on behalf of those, like the Jihadist Islamic fundamentalists, who are to a certain degree opposing U.S. imperialism but, once again, are doing so from a reactionary and “historically outmoded” position, politically as well as ideologically). It is one thing when, in the past, some people’s stance and role amounted, or became reduced to, simply playing the role of cheerleaders for forces struggling against U.S. imperialism, but those forces were at least engaged in what could legitimately be considered revolutionary struggle (as, for example, the Vietnamese people’s war of resistance against the U.S.). But it is quite another thing when you’re becoming cheerleaders for thoroughly reactionary forces, with all the horrors they’ve already brought about and would bring about on a much fuller scale, were they able to do so.
On the other hand, “the opposite pole of the same stupidity” is the line that the U.S. is, after all, better than the Islamic fundamentalists—because, the argument goes, the U.S. is a democracy, even if a flawed one. And, along with this, the point is made that the U.S. is after all a secular country—even if, as many would admit, this is being challenged in a serious way now by Christian fundamentalist forces within the U.S. Revolution recently received a letter from a prisoner very strongly arguing this point: we should at least support democracy, up against feudal or other reactionary forces, including Islamic fundamentalists, which aren’t even democratic; and we should support the spreading of democracy, even if and even where it comes through the brute force of the U.S. military. For example, the letter insisted, we should support the U.S. going into Darfur, because that would be better for the people there. But, in reality, in an ultimate and fundamental sense, a U.S. military incursion—and still more a full-scale invasion and occupation, like what has happened in Iraq, or even on the level of what has gone on in Afghanistan—would make things worse for the masses of people, over any period of time, not just in Darfur but in the world as a whole. It would strengthen U.S. imperialism and its ability to continue imposing very real horrors on literally billions of people throughout the world—through military means but also through the “normal functioning” of imperialist economic exploitation and social oppression, and the political structures that enforce this. But you have to have a scientific outlook and method to see that.
And when you get outside of the so-called “left,” this line of siding with the imperialist “outmoded” has much more currency. This applies among many people who are generally “progressive” but not part of any organized “left” group, as well as in society broadly. And, of course, it is championed by some people who have the posture of being defenders of the enlightenment and of rational thought: sometimes this is done in more crude and very aggressive ways, by the likes of Christopher Hitchens, but it is also argued by people who are perhaps, or in some sense seem to be, more subtle and nuanced in their approach (someone like Sam Harris, for example). Both Harris and Hitchens polemicize against religion in general but bring this around to arguing that Islamic fundamentalism is worse than Christian fundamentalism—in effect ignoring, or even covering over, the very real danger posed by Christian Fascism.3
These are positions we’re also going to have to continually engage and refute, and in doing so it will be very important to bring forward the correct synthesis very sharply, in opposition to both of these “poles of stupidity.” It is crucial to deeply understand the fact that if you support either of these “two historically outmodeds” (historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity, and historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system) it is really true that you end up strengthening both—and you strengthen the whole dynamic where they reinforce each other even while opposing each other. It is really important to understand deeply, and to enable growing numbers of people to actually understand, this dynamic—which also enables you to understand why it would not be a good thing for the U.S. to intervene in places like Darfur.
At the same time, it is also very important to be clear—and this is something I also emphasized in Bringing Forward Another Way—that, between these “two historically outmodeds,” it is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and U.S. imperialism in particular, which by far has done and is doing the greatest harm in the world and represents the greatest obstacle to the advance of humanity to a radically different and much better world. This is not only a general truth, but something that is being acutely posed right now. So here I want to focus on this historically outmoded: the imperialist system, and U.S. imperialism in particular.
Parasitism, infantilism, instant gratification and self-indulgence
As one aspect of this, it’s worth recasting and reconstructing some analysis in the book Consumed by Benjamin R. Barber, who was the original author of the formulation “Jihad vs. McWorld” (the title of an earlier book by Barber). While Barber’s view is confined to terms within the framework of capitalism—and he insists that there is no real (or desirable) alternative to capitalism, in one form or another—there are nonetheless some important and provocative insights in Consumed. As Barber portrays it in Consumed, capitalism in this stage is faced with the contradiction that:
“The global majority still has extensive and real natural needs…. But it is without the means to address them, being cut off by the global market’s inequality (the ‘north/south divide’) from the investment in capital and jobs that would allow them to become consumers. This is true not just for the global Third World but for the growing Third World within the First World, the poor who live among the wealthy, exposed to the seductions of the consumer marketplace but without the means to participate in it….
“In this new epoch in which the needy are without income and the well-heeled are without needs, radical inequality is simply assumed.” (Consumed, pp. 9, 10)
And a little later he says:
“Capitalism is left in crisis on both sides of the North/South frontier. In the North, in a dynamic compellingly described by William Greider, too many unprofitable products chase too few consumers, too many of whom must be prodded, pushed, and cajoled into consumption; while in the South, too many urgent but unprofitable needs chase too little available capital, held by owners who remain disinterested in those without discretionary income—the impoverished, disease-ridden, deeply needy inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa, for example.” (Consumed, p. 45. The paraphrase by Barber here of William Greider refers to Greider’s book One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.)
Capitalism, Barber argues, must now set about creating artificial needs among those with disposable income, utilizing advertising on a massive scale and the very elastic extension of credit.
There is much, including much that is fundamental, that is left out or greatly distorted by Barber in his analysis—including the whole phenomenon, historically, of the “primitive accumulation” of capital, to which Marx spoke, incisively and with searing irony4—as well as the actual nature and workings of capitalism in its imperialist stage now. There is the whole history of the U.S., for example: slavery; the use and extreme exploitation of immigrant labor, wave after wave; and the westward expansion of the U.S. through the armed theft of land from Mexico as well as from Native Americans, with the reduction of Mexico to a semi-colony of the U.S. and the conquest and confinement on reservations of the native peoples themselves through genocidal means. And there has been—this is something very important to understand—the spreading of this on an international scale, and the continuing growth of parasitism in U.S. society, through a series of spirals—through two world wars, and then the resolution of the “Cold War” and the heightened globalization that was further unleashed by that—which is combined today with the existence of significant sections of society, within the U.S. itself, which Barber refers to as “the growing Third World within the First World,” including millions of immigrants, many of them undocumented, at the bottom rungs of the proletariat, and millions more proletarians and semi-proletarians in the inner cities, especially Black people and Latinos with extremely high rates of unemployment, much of it more or less permanent with regard to the formal and official economy.
Just to briefly elaborate on the point about the spreading of this through a series of spirals, including two world wars, if you go back to the beginning of the talk “Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today…And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution,”5 it is pointed out that it wasn’t always the case, in the “configuration” of U.S. society, that you had this “fat middle,” which includes more bourgeoisified sections of the working class as well as new and old strata of the more classical petit bourgeoisie. But through first one and then another world war in the first half of the 20th century, and the advances (in imperialist terms) that the U.S. made through those wars, the configuration within the U.S. changed accordingly, in line with a heightening parasitism. The more classical proletariat shrank in relative terms, and even in absolute terms, speaking of the industrial proletariat, and the more bourgeoisified sections of the working class and the intermediate strata grew through each of the two spirals associated with these two world wars. Exploitation—or even the most extreme sort of “Fordist” exploitation, in other words, labor intensive exploitation—was not eliminated from this system, even within the U.S. itself, but it became much more “internationalized”: looking at things on an international scale, it was spread more broadly and more deeply. And this, again, is both an expression of and has gone in tempo with a heightening parasitism characterizing U.S. society itself (in the case of the imperialist ruling class, reaping huge profits from—and in the case of the population overall, enjoying, although quite unequally, benefits as a result of—the exploitation of billions of people throughout the world, particularly in the Third World). In a sense, this is like the line from the Yeats poem (“The Second Coming”) about the “widening gyre.” This has been a spiraling process where, within the U.S., the working class, in its “classical” form, is being shrunk, and the more “parasitized” sectors of society are growing, while at the same time, on a world scale, the masses of people are ensnared, in one way or another, in ever greater numbers in the web of capitalist exploitation, and the corresponding poverty, misery, and brutalization has grown. So, again, it is not that imperialism has somehow done away with extremely intense, and impoverishing, exploitation; but it has increasingly “spread it out,” made it increasingly an international phenomenon—and this has everything to do with the heightening parasitism and the changes in (social and class) “configuration” within the U.S. itself.
So, now, the extreme parasitism of U.S. society, and its relation to the rest of the world, is something we are faced with—something which, so to speak, we have to “work our way through.” I was trying to think of what would be a really good way to encapsulate this—the way in which large sections of the population in the U.S. are removed from physical labor, and from the actual process of production, while at the same time many are indulging in crass overconsumption, even of food. And then it hit me: what really captures this is hot dog eating contests. [Laughter] You know, these contests where people from the imperialist countries, including Japan—what’s his name, Kobayashi?—the big question becomes: “is he gonna win again this year?” [Laughter] But then, as it turns out, there is a “great” turn of events, and we hear, “his world record is broken by an American—all right!” Sixty-two hot dogs, in however many minutes it is. Think about what a grotesque phenomenon this is. Here you have people, literally stuffing hot dogs down their throats as fast as humanly possible, trying to outdo each other in this perverse competition, while the great majority of humanity struggles just to have enough to eat, and many cannot even do that under the conditions of imperialist domination and the associated relations of exploitation and oppression—and, yes, the extreme parasitism in the imperialist countries, the U.S. above all.
Contrast this parasitism, and the phenomena it gives rise to, with what is captured, for example, in the subhead to one chapter of Mike Davis’ book Planet of Slums. The subhead is “Living in Shit”—and this is not a metaphorical but a literal description of the conditions of huge numbers of people in the shantytowns throughout the Third World. Contrast this with the profligate self-indulgence of many (though, of course, far from all) in the imperialist countries.
And, of course, along with this heightened parasitism and, yes, self-indulgence, is the promotion of extreme individualism in the U.S. This has always been a country marked by individualism, but it has now reached new heights—or depths. It’s in the advertising—they’re selling ideology as well as products, even on the simplest levels. Take the advertisement for a certain shampoo: this shampoo will do this and do that—and, then the punchline, “After all, I’m worth it.” The whole outlook that’s promoted, over and over again, through things like this, is one of extreme individualism, self-absorption, and self-indulgence.
And along with that—this is one of the points Barber emphasizes, which has some validity and importance to it—is the promotion of a great deal of “infantilization” of the population. While we don’t want to, and should not, descend into the unscientific (and, as a matter of fact, individualistic) terms of bourgeois psychology, Barber has a point that, after all, one of the key dividing lines between infants and adults is the deferring of immediate gratification; and that, if you want to sell all kinds of stuff to people, one of the best ways to do it is to prevent, or reverse, the leap involved in developing the capacity to defer gratification—to infantilize people to where there’s a constant striving, an endless quest, for greater and greater gratification in immediate terms. Of course, even in a predatory imperialist country like the U.S., this is not realizable without an unprecedented extension of credit; and in this country vast numbers of people are presently stretched way beyond their means.
This often goes to ridiculous lengths. James D. Scurlock points out in his book Maxed Out : the more in debt you are, the more credit you can get—up to a certain point—while they’re charging interest rates that would put a petty loan shark to shame. For example, the credit card companies—the rates they charge are incredible. But, as Barber puts it, at one and the same time they direct adult advertising “pitches” to young children to get them to demand more and more consumer goods (toys of various kinds, and so on), while trying to prolong the infantilization of adults so that they will continue to be addicted to instant gratification. So the “I wanna,” “I gotta have” mentality is constantly asserting itself. And while these are not the fundamental dynamics involved, there is some truth to this and some importance to understanding this in its social and ideological expressions and effects.
All this constitutes another part of the political and ideological terrain, if you will, that we have to deal with—that we have to confront and transform.
One of the key things that goes along with this—another dimension to the whole way in which the imperialists are approaching the world—is not only the establishment but the very stubborn maintenance of an all-volunteer military. While the rest of society is urged to indulge in such things as “patriotic shopping,” there is an institution, drawing its ranks to a significant degree from the bottom layers of society, whose task is to fight the wars on which all this depends ultimately. And there has been a conscious effort to keep the rest of society sheltered and screened from this. Many people have commented on this, and while we shouldn’t overdo this, and approach it one-sidedly, there is some truth to the observation that a number of people have made: if they were to bring back a draft, you’d see a lot of people’s attitudes become very different, very quickly. Think of the many people who at this point are saying, “Well, I don’t like what’s going on, but there really isn’t much you can do about it”; or “I went out and protested at the start of the Iraq war, but it didn’t really do any good, so now I’m just gonna live my life.” This would change, in significant measure—we shouldn’t overstate this, but there is a reality to the fact that this would change in significant measure—if the draft started hanging over the heads of a lot of youth (and their families). And it would be very interesting to see if it hung over the heads of female, as well as male, youth this time. In the past, the draft was an all-male phenomenon, but it would be very interesting to see if they could do that now, and what social contradictions would be intensified and accentuated, however they dealt with it (whether they drafted both males and females, or only males).
So, besides other reasons, this is an additional dimension to why you see that people in the Bush regime in particular, but generally in the ruling class, are sticking stubbornly to having an all-volunteer military. This is a whole strategic approach of having a highly technologically-oriented military, with somewhat more educated people than in the past to wield this technology, and having this heavy technological component of the military make up for (or substitute for) large numbers of troops that might have had to be employed in the past. This is not simply a military approach. It is that, but there is also the political dimension of their very consciously reckoning with and calculating the social effects and implications of moving away from an all-volunteer military and this whole arrangement where, on the one hand, a small section of society is drawn into this institution—which has a whole different ethos and is organized in a whole different way than the rest of society, in order to be the military arm of this system—while the rest of society is awash in extreme individualism and even infantilization.
Not all, but still too many, Americans—especially within the middle strata, although not only there—are in a real sense falling into acting like children, easily distracted with toys. “Here at midnight tonight—the new iPhone!” People will line up, and fight each other to get in line, to get the new iPhone, but they can’t bring themselves to mobilize against the torture and the wars and everything else that is being done by their government, in their name and right before their eyes—this is not even really being hidden.
Now, it is true that, particularly in the period leading into the U.S. invasion of Iraq, very large numbers of people did mobilize in opposition to this, and to the general direction in which the Bush regime was driving things. And there have, of course, been protests, even significant ones, since then. But the truth is that, as the Bush regime has made clear, even with the great difficulties it has encountered in Iraq it is determined to persevere on this course, and is even threatening to escalate things, with an attack on Iran—and as the Democrats and the ruling class overall have made clear that they are going along with all this, or at least will do nothing meaningful to oppose it—while there are many people who know that this is wrong, is having horrible consequences, and holds the potential for much worse, far too many of these people have retreated into passivity—and what amounts to complicity—on the basis that to try to stop this seems too daunting and requires too much sacrifice.
This is the moral equivalent of coming upon a man brutalizing and raping a woman and not doing everything you can to stop it. You call out strongly “Stop!” But then, when he menacingly turns and responds, “No—I really need to do this,” you simply slink away muttering “Oh, I didn’t know he was so determined about this—and I don’t want to get hurt myself.”
And this complicity is taking place while, as the logo of World Can’t Wait so graphically illustrates, the world burns and the prospect of far worse looms ominously before us.
As I pointed out in “Why We’re In the Situation We’re In Today…And What To Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution,” this is a whole way of life and fundamentally a whole system that requires and calls forth war, of various kinds. If you think about this deeply, you can see why this cannot be maintained without continual war in one form or another—either directly or by proxy. This is a whole set-up, including extreme parasitism, that couldn’t be maintained other than through those means.
As I have also emphasized (in this talk and elsewhere), this parasitism is accompanied by, and is not really possible without, debt on a massive scale—both personal debt for large sections of the population and huge government debt—with interconnections between these dimensions of debt and ramifications, and potentially much greater ones, on an international level as well as within the U.S. itself. This is something that Kevin Phillips speaks to in American Theocracy; and James Scurlock, in Maxed Out, examines some of this as well, including the ways it affects broad strata of the middle class. And there is a way in which the “infantilization”—“let me be a child playing with the goodies”—turns into its opposite for many, many people. After the bursting of the “dot.com” bubble, the big thing more recently has been the housing market, which was inflated with a lot of these loans that enticed people who really couldn’t afford the houses they were being sold—interest-only loans, adjustable rate mortgages (or “subprime” loans), and so on—and then all of a sudden it comes due. This bubble is now bursting in significant ways, too, and this is affecting people very broadly—from the middle strata down to much more impoverished sections of society—as well as having repercussions within the economy of the U.S., and the world economy, as a whole.
Today the strains in all this are intensifying and hold the potential to become even more greatly magnified. For example, think again of the stress that is being placed on the all-volunteer military as a result of what, for the ruling class, has become the debacle in Iraq. Think of the potential for much greater pressures on this military, in light of the larger imperialist plans this Iraq war is part of. And think of the potential effect of all that on this whole phenomenon of parasitism, if they are not able to hold things together while continuing to maintain an all-volunteer military.
If we look at all this and think about it in relation to this phenomenon of heightened parasitism, and everything that goes along with that, we can grasp, in yet a further dimension, the importance to the ruling class of promoting Christian Fascism and the reasons why there is, on the part of a powerful section of the ruling class, backing for the Christian Fascist forces that are so prominent in U.S. society today. This is very important—as a cohering force overall, and particularly in terms of a hard core of support for the imperialist system and the whole course on which it has been set by the Bush regime in particular.
Something that was pointed out a number of years ago (in “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy…And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer”), is that a lot of this extreme individualism, heightened parasitism and relentless consumerism, while it causes real problems and embodies real obstacles from the perspective of our revolutionary objectives, also poses significant problems for the ruling class, much as they’re also promoting it. Among broad sections of U.S. society, because of a variety of reasons and motivations but definitely including the extreme manifestations of individualism among many, the idea of self-sacrifice for the imperialist system does not have a lot of currency, if you’ll pardon the expression. So this involves acute contradiction—not only for us, from our perspective, but also for the imperialists, from the perspective of and in relation to their objective of establishing an unchallenged, and unchallengeable, empire. “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy” quotes from the Communist Manifesto, speaking to how capitalism has reduced things to the cold cash nexus and removed all the philistine sentimentality and religious embroidery, etc., from exploitation; but then it points out that there is a section of the U.S. ruling class today that wants to reinvest this cold cash nexus with religious embroidery and sentimentality, because there’s a fear that things can’t hold together otherwise. It is worth quoting “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy” at some length here:
“In some significant ways, what was written 150 years ago in the Communist Manifesto, concerning the consequences of unfettered bourgeois commodity relations, is assuming a pronounced expression among sections of the U.S. population in the context of today’s ‘post-Cold War’ world capitalism. The following phrases from the Manifesto have a particular and powerful resonance: ‘the bourgeoisie, wherever it has gotten the upper hand…has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of Philistine sentimentalism in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value…. In a word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.’ There is a great irony here: the very ‘triumph’ and ‘triumphalism’ of capitalism in today’s circumstances has produced effects and sentiments which tend to undermine, among significant sections of the U.S. population, the willingness to make personal sacrifices for ‘god and country’—that is, for the interests and requirements of the imperial ruling class, within the U.S. itself and in the world arena. In reaction to this, the ‘conservatives,’ with the Christian Right playing a decisive role, are attempting to revive and impose precisely ‘the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of Philistine sentimentalism’—to resurrect a situation where worldwide exploitation that is unsurpassed in its brutality is at the same time ‘veiled by religious and political illusions.’ ” (Bob Avakian, “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy…And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer,” Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution), October 17, 2004—originally published in the Revolutionary Worker in the fall of 1998, and available at revcom.us)
This underscores the importance for the ruling class of a religious fundamentalist—a Christian Fascist—movement, which insists that America should have, and must have, a special relationship to God and must impose its “God-ordained mission” on the world, at the point of a gun (or through high-tech military means). It further explains (and “situates”) the very fervent advocacy on the part of a section of the ruling class on behalf of this Christian Fascist orientation and program as a cohering force, in the context of the juggernaut of war and repression that is being driven forward now by the Bush regime.
Very significantly, there are two major forces and institutions in the U.S. today which, in opposition to the rampant individualism characterizing the society as a whole, embody an opposite pole. That is, two major forces and institutions which represent the interests of the ruling class and embody an opposite pole to extreme individualism in that way—an opposite pole of reactionary, fascistic-oriented, and extremely hierarchal collectivism. What are these two institutions? The Christian Fascist churches and the military. Here we see another basis for the close intertwining of the two and the great influence of the Christian Fascists within particularly the officer corps of the U.S. military.
All of this is an expression of the various dimensions—and the contradictory aspects—of “living in the house of Tony Soprano”6 (which is another way of speaking to the parasitism and privilege which obtains for significant sections of the population living within the number one imperialist power in the world, the world’s only superpower). And this speaks to the urgent need for rupturing people out of this—for bringing forward another way—and for bringing forward, as the bedrock of that, those who have the least stake in “living in the house of Tony Soprano,” even as political (and ideological) work must be carried out among all different strata of the people, including those more caught up in this parasitic self-indulgence, consumerism, individualism, and, yes, infantilization. We have to look beyond the immediate conditions at any given time, to the more longer-term perspective and to the deeper mainsprings and dynamics of things.
1. Footnote by the author : In relation to this discussion of heightened parasitism and the “two outmodeds,” besides my talk Bringing Forward Another Way, among other works the following are valuable as “background resources”: Planet of Slums, by Mike Davis (Verso Publishers, 2006); AMERICAN THEOCRACY, The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, by Kevin Phillips (Viking/the Penguin Group, 2006); Consumed, How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, by Benjamin R. Barber (W.W. Norton & Company, 2007); MAXED OUT, Hard Times, Easy Credit, and The Era of Predatory Lenders, by James D. Scurlock (Scribner, 2007); and TARGET IRAN, The Truth About the White House’s Plans for Regime Change, by Scott Ritter (Nation Books, 2007). Bringing Forward Another Way is available online at revcom.us and has been serialized in Revolution in 2007, in issues #83, March 25; #85, April 22; #86, April 29; #87, May 6; #88, May 13; #89, May 20; #90, May 27; #91, June 10; #92, June 17; #93, June 24; #94, July 1; #95, July 15; #96, July 22; #97, July 29, #98, Aug. 19; #99, Aug. 26; and #100, Sept. 9.[back]
2. “U.S. Imperialism, Islamic Fundamentalism… and the Need for Another Way,” in issue #91, June 10, 2007.[back]
3. For a further discussion by Bob Avakian of this phenomenon—and refutation of the arguments of people like Harris and Hitchens—see “Religious Fundamentalism, Imperialism and ‘The War on Terror’” and “Why Is Religious Fundamentalism Growing in Today’s World—And What Is the Real Alternative?”—excerpts from the forthcoming book (to be published in the spring of 2008 by Insight Press) AWAY WITH ALL GODS! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, in Revolution #103, October 7, 2007 and #104, October 14, 2007.[back]
4. For example, the following from Marx:
“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signalised the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.” (Karl Marx, Capital Vol. 1, p. 751, also cited in The Science of Revolution, an introduction, by Lenny Wolff, RCP Publications, 1983, p. 90)[back]
5. “Why We’re In the Situation We’re in Today…And What To Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution,” is part of 7 Talks by Bob Avakian, in 2006, which are available online at revcom.us/avakian and bobavakian.net.[back]
6. “Living in the House of Tony Soprano” is discussed by Bob Avakian in Bringing Forward Another Way. This is available in its entirety, as a pamphlet and online at revcom.us, and it has been published as a series in Revolution. The installment in that series which discusses “Living in the House of Tony Soprano” is found in Revolution #87, May 6, 2007.[back]
This series will continue in the next issue of Revolution.
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