Comments: You Call That a Democracy?

I missed that about Paul Johnson, both the comment about France and the Medal of Freedom parts. I love how he explained this:

The U.S. is the world's most successful democracy...

It is this feature that intellectuals--especially in Europe--find embittering...They scornfully, if privately, reject the notion that a farmer in Kansas, a miner in Pennsylvania or an auto assembler in Michigan can carry as much social and moral weight as they do...

France is not a democracy; it is a republic run by bureaucratic and party elites, whose errors are dealt with by strikes, street riots and blockades instead of by votes.

Either he is one of the world's worst writers, or I was recently hit in the head with a shovel.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at July 19, 2009 07:37 PM

Sometimes, when I get sad, I wonder if blogging at ATR is going to help me get the Medal of Freedom.

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at July 19, 2009 08:10 PM

"Sometimes, when I get sad, I wonder if blogging at ATR is going to help me get the Medal of Freedom."
LOL

Posted by I do not recommend this site at July 19, 2009 08:47 PM

I'm currently halfway through Tracy Campbell's excellent Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition - 1742-2004. My belated response to Mr Johnson: Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Posted by Rob Weaver at July 19, 2009 09:07 PM

a republic run by bureaucratic and party elites, whose errors are dealt with by strikes, street riots and blockades instead of by votes.

Oh, so the errors of their bureaucracy are actually dealt with?

Well, I suppose that's one way to do things, even if it's not the American way.

Posted by SteveB at July 19, 2009 09:31 PM

Campbell's book mentioned above does look promising. (That's going on my list, right after Our Kampf, because I need to laugh more, though Paul Johnson might be funny too.)

But if anyone wants to read a good, short book written by a labor lawyer that makes a very similar point to Bernard's, they can read Thomas Geoghegan's The Law In Shambles about, well, the law in shambles, for working people, that is. The law is pretty good to Goldman Sachs.

Posted by N E at July 19, 2009 11:09 PM

Campbell's book mentioned above does look promising. (That's going on my list, right after Our Kampf, because I need to laugh more, though Paul Johnson might be funny too.)

But if anyone wants to read a good, short book written by a labor lawyer that makes a very similar point to Bernard's, they can read Thomas Geoghegan's The Law In Shambles about, well, the law in shambles, for working people, that is. The law is pretty good to Goldman Sachs.

Posted by N E at July 19, 2009 11:10 PM

Paul Johnson was a premature Hitchens. He never found his 9/11.

Posted by Dennis Perrin at July 19, 2009 11:22 PM

I can't help but wonder would would have happened if George W. Bush had stolen an election over there? We have seen what happens in Iran.

Posted by knowdoubt at July 19, 2009 11:43 PM


"France is not a democracy; it is a republic run by bureaucratic and party elites..."

yeah, as opposed to America, a republic run by corporate, media AND political elites, not to mention elitist Ivy-League-educated technocrats , bureaucrats and think-tankers who help to propagandize on behalf of the wealthy and powerful.

"The reason is that we live in a democratic police state. If you burn down a factory, you get at least 10 years in prison; if you're black you get shot. (The Camden-28 faced 40 years of real prison time for much lesser offenses.) With cops, judges, and laws like these, no wonder all the anger gets channeled into nice little emails to Nancy Pelosi's /dev/null."

And let's not forget, also because of liberals like this:

This is not how we do politics, unless we're in favor something tending toward anarchy, or fascism.
Posted by hv at July 20, 2009 01:22 AM

"The reason is that we live in a democratic police state."

I am inclined to agree with you, Mr. Chazelle.

Posted by Steve in Los Angeles at July 20, 2009 01:29 AM

but it wasn't always that way here. would Eugene V. Debs get 3 percent of the vote today, when even Kucinich can't?

reactionary american politicians have figured out how to foment class insecurity so that as our country declines, most people are inclined to protect what they have against the massive imagined horde of everybody else.

I think back to September when there was an initial outcry against the banker's bailout, when it seemed that for a brief moment the forces screwing ordinary people over and draining them dry seemed briefly incarnate, like the scene in the Wizard of Oz when we see the man behind the curtain. but most of the time these "mysterious forces" that bedevil us don't have a face we can focus on, at least not for most people.

so people operate in survival mode, as if life in middle-class america was one long slow-motion raiding of the mostly bare shelves of the corner store before the hurricane hits.

Posted by grimmy at July 20, 2009 01:50 AM

I don't think it's necessarily about the US labor movement; it's about pretty much any anti-establishment movement or action. I think in the late 1960s - early 1970s it came so close to a total collapse that they decisively turned to repression; incarceration of the anti-establishment element has become their main tool. Repression and a massive brainwashing effort, of course. It works.

Posted by abb1 at July 20, 2009 04:56 AM

Good post Bernard...reinforcing what I have said over and over... for there to be real change in the USA we need a rebirth of the labor movement along IWW lines....direct action-aka democracy- works better than walking into a voting booth every four years and flicking a little switch....

Its not rocket science.-Tony

Posted by tony at July 20, 2009 08:11 AM

How the hell can you equate Democracy to some workers who break the law because they feel someone owes them something ? I can't see the missing piece of that puzzle.

And how did Democracy become equal to people getting into their little groups (unions, etc) and fighting for the privileges they think they have a right to?

I thought it was supposed to be about individuals? I missed the part of the history books about the Ancient Greek workers unions.

God damn, Marx is a pox on all your brains. Here's a hint: Fascism is Fascism, no matter what labels the corporations cloak themselves with. And that includes the greed of certain unions. And it applies to everyone down to your grammies cookie baking club.

And about getting 10 years-- I don't know about you but we elect judges round these parts.. just sayin, THATS democracy. Americans' civic retardation just makes them unable to enjoy the wonderful form of government they have. So you have it backwards. Those factory burning frogs are plain anarchists nothing more.

Posted by tim at July 20, 2009 08:47 AM

Tony: "we need a rebirth of the labor movement along IWW lines" and "direct action-aka democracy- works better than walking into a voting booth every four years and flicking a little switch...."


Any movement that is going to be effective at making things better is going to have to be suited for present conditions. I'm not sure what's going to work best now, but I don't see how a radical industrial labor organization can succeed when so much manufacturing has been moved overseas to low cost production areas.

I do very much agree that if massed of people take an active role in demanding just treatment for themselves, and especially in organizing to do it collectively, they'll get more for themselves than if they just vote. United organization and action is the key, same as it ever was.

Posted by N E at July 20, 2009 08:53 AM

Oh and IDNRTWEBSITE -- Zen -- Mankind's second greatest tarpit for the mind, right after Marxism.

You think that the devil is a red dude with a tail? Nope, it is no more than the human abusers of words. (I would say the devil is red though, if you know what I mean)

Posted by tim at July 20, 2009 08:54 AM

Paradoxically, the US is also home to the idea that the 2nd amendment gives a right to shoot goverment officials to guarantee all other rights. Curious.

Posted by Härj at July 20, 2009 09:21 AM

hello NE...long time no speak


Any movement that is going to be effective at making things better is going to have to be suited for present conditions. I'm not sure what's going to work best now, but I don't see how a radical industrial labor organization can succeed when so much manufacturing has been moved overseas to low cost production areas.

Well I mean that the means and tactics used by the IWW should be followed in my opinion as determined by those actually carrying out the actions...I agree that there is no blueprint and one size does not fit all but radical and direct action are the best means to making the world a better place...at least that's how I view the course of history..

so it is more the spirit of the IWW and other actions that I have in mind more than anything else...that can work in all kind of conditions and circumstances not just industrial factories...and of course any type of action needs to be done with the support of others and in the support of others around the world....something like the World Socialist Forum which takes place every year, or if you will, something along the lines of the old International-the first globalization movement....

so I to be clear, I am in favor of direct action and radical movements for change regardless if they are being done in a factory making windows-like the one in Chicago not that long ago, or people working in Citibank or whatever...it seems to me it is the only way to real change...


I do very much agree that if massed of people take an active role in demanding just treatment for themselves, and especially in organizing to do it collectively, they'll get more for themselves than if they just vote. United organization and action is the key, same as it ever was.

yup....

I dont have much belief in voting, but I do because I realize that there are differences between the two factions of the business party and they are not unimportant....sensible choices have to be made, but building a mass movement for change outside of political parties is what leads to significant and real change, not electing someone that is bought and paid for by the corporate sector...Its why I thing people who voted for Obama should not be all that surprised by his actions and what he has done and what he will continue to do...he is not some sort of sellout...he is what he always was...a mainstream middle of the road corporate democrat..it cant be any other way given the institutional structure of political parties at this point in history in the US.-Tony

Posted by tony at July 20, 2009 09:51 AM

"Paradoxically, the US is also home to the idea that the 2nd amendment gives a right to shoot goverment officials to guarantee all other rights. Curious."

Not so curious when one considers that Second Amendment rights exist only up to the moment before the trigger is squeezed.

Posted by jm at July 20, 2009 10:03 AM

For what it's worth, the IWW was formed by workers in relatively unskilled occupations. Manufacturing unions, such as those under the CIO umbrella, wanted nothing to do with the lesser skilled scum.

Posted by jm at July 20, 2009 10:09 AM

Not so curious when one considers that Second Amendment rights exist only up to the moment before the trigger is squeezed.

Aye, civic retardation

Posted by tim at July 20, 2009 10:33 AM

Why are we conflating the libertarian left with the totalitarian right again?

Fascism is Fascism, no matter what labels the corporations cloak themselves with. And that includes the greed of certain unions.
...
Those factory burning frogs are plain anarchists nothing more.

—tim

This is not how we do politics, unless we're in favor something tending toward anarchy, or fascism.
—Rick Perlstein

Dear god, tim, you've caught whatever the fuck Perlstein has!

Posted by Save the Oocytes at July 20, 2009 10:37 AM

Tim said "I missed the part of the history books about the Ancient Greek workers unions."

I'm curious what part of Ancient Greek history you caught. I would recommend that you read Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism by Perry Anderson, but he's a Marxist historian, so i suspect he would be scratched off your reading list. Too bad, because you would learn a few things about Ancient Greek civilization from it, and it might cure you of a few stereotypes and misconceptions you have.

But I don't know what to make of this view you put forward: "Fascism is Fascism, no matter what labels the corporations cloak themselves with. And that includes the greed of certain unions. And it applies to everyone down to your grammies cookie baking club."

Are we to really think that grammies' cookie baking club has a lot in common with the Third Reich? You seem to suggest corporations are a key element of fascism, but i don't think the grammies baking clubs are incorporated yet, nor the "greedy" unions. Other than you felt like pissing on Marxism and Anarchism and the intelligence of Americans and I guess Fascism and baking clubs, but praising elected judges and our wonderful underappreciated democratic government, I don't know what you were talking about.

Posted by N E at July 20, 2009 10:51 AM

Hey, and Debs won a million votes running for president from his prison cell, where he'd been placed by academic free-thinker Wilson for--gasp--sedition.

Interesting post. It is amazing that the police do not get involved in these labor disputes. People yak about Posse Comitatus but forget that Truman called in the army at Homestead. Not to mention the earlier battles, Palmer and the Wobblies, the mine wars.

Johnson had his day in the sun, in the mid-80s. Certainly every good Reaganaut (I was one, wore the jaunty blue uniform and Johnston & Murphy hobnails) proudly carried his copy of Paul Johnson's 'Modern Times' everywhere they went. Club rules insisted, while riding the subway or waiting for a friend at Tequila Flats, it be carried "on the knee," cover defiantly displayed, to let any lurking Sandinista symps know exactly where you stood.

The members accorded higher status in this cult, Buckleyites and their ilk, would carry a 'double,' Modern Times on top, Charles Murray's 'Losing Ground' tucked menacingly underneath. A copy of National Review or Commentary, preferably both, completed the picture of repressed dishabille.

Posted by Oarwell at July 20, 2009 10:52 AM

Hey, and Debs won a million votes running for president from his prison cell, where he'd been placed by academic free-thinker Wilson for--gasp--sedition.

Interesting post. It is amazing that the police do not get involved in these labor disputes. People yak about Posse Comitatus but forget that Truman called in the army at Homestead. Not to mention the earlier battles, Palmer and the Wobblies, the mine wars.

Johnson had his day in the sun, in the mid-80s. Certainly every good Reaganaut (I was one, wore the jaunty blue uniform and Johnston & Murphy hobnails) proudly carried his copy of Paul Johnson's 'Modern Times' everywhere they went. Club rules insisted, while riding the subway or waiting for a friend at Tequila Flats, it be carried "on the knee," cover defiantly displayed, to let any lurking Sandinista symps know exactly where you stood.

The members accorded higher status in this cult, Buckleyites and their ilk, would carry a 'double,' Modern Times on top, Charles Murray's 'Losing Ground' tucked menacingly underneath. A copy of National Review or Commentary, preferably both, completed the picture of repressed dishabille.

Posted by Oarwell at July 20, 2009 10:52 AM

And how did Democracy become equal to people getting into their little groups (unions, etc) and fighting for the privileges they think they have a right to?

So, what is Democracy equal to, then?

Posted by abb1 at July 20, 2009 11:32 AM

My life is dedicated to pissing on Marxism. Because it's evil. And it's strongest adherents are ignorant.

Anarchism is cool in theory, but not with the people we got round this place. You can read all the fancy history books you want, but if you can't grasp the simple concepts of freedom, wtf? But yet you will continue to throw meaningless labels around.

Posted by tim at July 20, 2009 11:35 AM


Tim said "I missed the part of the history books about the Ancient Greek workers unions."


There is no need to go to history books regarding Greece...just look at the recent history of Greece say in the past 6-12 months....factory occupation, general strikes and so on...do a google search and learn something

Incredible how something taking place right now is not even known and that same incredible ignorance is used to denigrate a very rich and noble history that reaches across artificial national borders,class divisions etc and so on...

yeah people taking matters in to their own hands and not accepting their lots in life as handed down from their benevolent slave masters is beyond civilized discourse...and the ever present and useful boogie-man(Marx)is trotted out the same way a Nazi would trot the term "jew" as the evil ones who question or have fault with the actions of the all knowing and benevolent "master of the universe" who only act and are dedicated to well being and interest of others.

open your eyes, Tim.-Tony

Posted by tony at July 20, 2009 11:39 AM

Psssst! Over here . . . keep your voice down, he might hear us . . . listen: Tim is a t-r-o-l-l. Yes I'm sure. Never mind how I know . . . just remember DNFTT.

Posted by I do not recommend this site at July 20, 2009 11:49 AM

Sometimes, when I get sad, I wonder if blogging at ATR is going to help me get the Medal of Freedom.

Well, I don't think it's going to hurt your chances. I hope that cheers you up.

Posted by cemmcs at July 20, 2009 12:32 PM

Tony:
"to denigrate a very rich and noble history"

Rich yes, noble--depends what you mean. But all that talk of freedom was made possible by slavery. The whole ancient Greek (and then Roman) economy was almost entirely slave driven, and the guys writing about freedom had the time to pontificate so much about freedom because they owned slaves. As I said before about something else, same as it ever was. Perry Anderson's book really is impressive if you don't mind getting contaminated by fancy.

Posted by N E at July 20, 2009 12:35 PM

The reason I mentioned Greece is because that's supposedly where Democracy (big D) came from. The word that is at the top of your browser, see it?. Don't assume I'm a troll because you can't read between my lines. And I'm not talking about any individual Greeks who owned slaves, just the big D concept that came from that era.

Group Consciousness -- When all citizens consciously realize their own individuality, and that the sum of all the individuals makes the whole; and all the citizens make their individual decisions with both these factors, plus the future in mind.

Now when you have things such as unions, or political parties, they serve to sever the group consciousness by dividing certain groups of individuals out of the whole. Please examine yourself and whether you fit into the mold of what I say and where before you talk about me.

I might be a troll but I eat you with wisdom. And you taste yummy.

Posted by tim at July 20, 2009 12:39 PM

DEMOCRACY=THE INDIVIDUAL IS THE VOICE OF POWER, speaking out to convince the other INDIVIDUALS to change or not.
The French have a skinnier ass than WE do and are more able to get up off the couch and SAY SOMETHING. Even the crank-heads gotcha beat on that one. They will at least get up and DO SOMETHING, even if it is just stealing YOUR TV.
AMERICA, being a REPUBLIC votes for representatives to speak for its citizens, therefore those representative's voices ARE power and convince their FELLOW representatives to change, or not. This leaves the INDIVIDUAL CITIZENS with speaking TO power (those representatives) only. The difference being, addressing power as opposed to BEING power. The French no more have a DEMOCRACY than WE do. They are just more willing to SPEAK TO POWER than WE are, and burning down the work place seems like much more fun than TV and a bag of cheetos.

Posted by Mike Meyer at July 20, 2009 12:39 PM

Interesting. The thing is, though, from the point of view of an individual - one single independent individual in a large enough polity - democracy is a completely meaningless concept.

Where 100 million people vote, your individual single vote is much less likely to make a difference for you than your buying a powerball ticket.

If you act as an unaffiliated individual and you vote - you're an idiot.

Posted by abb1 at July 20, 2009 01:06 PM

listen: Tim is a t-r-o-l-l. Yes I'm sure.

I disagree with Tim about many things, but I certainly wouldn't call him a troll. In fact, he certainly breaks up the oppressive groupthink inside my own mind, which I appreciate.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at July 20, 2009 01:27 PM

abb1, if you believe rolling with a crowd gives you more power than as an individual you ain't no genius. As soon as you join grammas cookie cult you cede rights to the group. That's by design, that's corporation. If you think that gives you way max power to change shit, *shrug*, cause you are here arguing with me instead of wielding your massive cookie powers.

And before you go waving at all the huge evil corporations and parties who do wield that massive power; that concentration of power is only possible because we allow ourselves to be divided like this by stupid things. PS imnsho nihilism and skepticism are thought cancer.

And people might not agree with everything I say, but that doesn't make any of it wrong, certainly the arguments against what I say rarely do. The main difference that I see between others and myself is that I won't reject a Truth because I don't like it. And the truth is I don't meet many people like that.

Posted by tim at July 20, 2009 02:22 PM

skepticism [is] thought cancer.

WTF?

Posted by Cloud at July 20, 2009 02:42 PM

"You can read all the fancy history books you want,"

C'mon. A professional wrote that line. Give me at least that.

Posted by Oarwell at July 20, 2009 02:42 PM

Well, basically here's your choice: you can choose to cooperate with others and achieve something - or you can remain pure, refuse to cooperate and (most likely) get eaten. It's up to you.

Bummer, I know, but such is life.

Posted by abb1 at July 20, 2009 03:15 PM

Truth's Tim Doesn't Reject

Fancy Book Truths

Anarchists Truths

Marxist Truths

Skeptical truths

Grammies' Baking Club Truths

Fascist Truths

Union Truths

Group Consciousness Truths

Truths from Political Parties

Individual Ancient Greek Slave Owner Truths

Meaningless Label Truths

Troll truths

Electric Kool-aid Truths ?

Posted by N E at July 20, 2009 03:16 PM

Rich yes, noble--depends what you mean. But all that talk of freedom was made possible by slavery. The whole ancient Greek (and then Roman) economy was almost entirely slave driven, and the guys writing about freedom had the time to pontificate so much about freedom because they owned slaves. As I said before about something else, same as it ever was. Perry Anderson's book really is impressive if you don't mind getting contaminated by fancy.

NE,

I was not very clear what I meant when I wrote what I did....I did not mean anything about ancient Greece which I realized had slaves...I meant the "rich and noble"history of direct action and civil disobedience which I alluded too taking place in Greece in the present....that is what I meant...I was writing quickly because I had to go but I wanted to respond to Tim's ignorant comments before I left my house....I hope that is clear now...I have no illusions about ancient Greece...Tony

Posted by tony at July 20, 2009 04:39 PM

With the help of PRISON LABOR this economy will turn around. OF COURSE with so may kids in jail SOME Child Labor Laws must be rewritten.

Posted by Mike Meyer at July 20, 2009 05:16 PM

If they could harness the energy of all this hot air the economy would be fixed

Posted by tim at July 20, 2009 05:55 PM

If they could harness the energy of all this hot air the economy would be fixed

I love people who write blog comments that imply that writing blog comments is a waste of time.

Oh no, I just wasted my time pointing out to someone else that he's wasting his time telling the rest of us that we're wasting our time!

Posted by SteveB at July 20, 2009 08:01 PM

I agree that the legacy of slavery is a massive scar on the face of Greek "democracy" as it is on the face of the American Founding Fathers. But I think that in comparing the two, the Greeks had better ideas, including what Herodotus, Aristotle and Plato thought about how decision makers should be selected, which is not by a popularity contest but by sortition. I'm certain Tim has not taken this into account. Aristotle said:

"it is thought to be democratic for the offices to be assigned by lot, for them to be elected is oligarchic,"

That would mean the US is and always has been an oligarchy, which would account for the fact that it is and always has been an oligarchy. It takes 700 million dollars of advertising to be President, and that doesn't take into account all of the free corporate advertising the establishment candidates get for themselves and against their opponents for free.

Posted by Marcus at July 20, 2009 08:51 PM

Insert joke about Nancy Pelosi's /dev/null here.

Posted by greenmachine at July 22, 2009 01:28 AM