Thursday, November 20, 2008

Racism, Fascism, Skinheads USA

When thinking about fascism today, we usually have the impression that everyone is very alert of fascism or anti-fascism, but we tend to ignore the fact that it still exists today. Especially in America, as the video showed, fascism is actually related to one of the most severe social problems: racism. In Moser’s article, he found “with whites already a minority in some parts of the U.S., it’s a pitch that has become very popular among extremist groups.” If we assume fascism is no longer popular, it’s hard to explain why racial discrimination still exists, and why resegregation of schools is even more obvious than in 60s.

Listening to what Bill and those young kids in the Skinhead group said, it sounded like fascists are still alive, and they truly are. Such as their 14 words: “we must secure the existence of our people and our future for white people,” which was repeated more than once in the video. And someone also said “my only nation is my race.” Making parallel between nation and race is not uncommon is Hitler’s theory.

In both the video and Moser’s article, they focus on young extremists. Statistically, Moser showed that “the number of hate crimes by kids has risen sharply.” I believe it does not only happen in America, but becomes a world phenomenon, but reason varies in different places. Moser explained that “these kids aren’t prepared for people who are different,” and “they want to know why the world seems so messy, so complicated, so out-of-control.” There is no easy answer to the question, but young people might simplify the problem, which results in violence, or be attracted by extreme groups like Skinhead. In the video, the tacit to recruit young people is pretty simple: “We’ll feed you. You have a home now.” The sense of belonging and the need to be taken care of are what these young people lack, but unfortunately, it’s extreme group like Skinhead who fills the gap. In the video, a kid was asked “where is Hitler,” he answered, “in my heart.” I couldn’t imagine what kind of future the boy would have.

At the end of the video, Bill was arrested, because the police claimed “though fiery rhetoric is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment, he organizes and mobilizes disenchanted young white males to acts of violence makes him dangerous.” I was actually more amazed by the constitution, which allows fascist groups like Skinhead to exist, and have their voice heard, though most people don’t agree with them.

I always think of America as a place for human experiment to let all different races of people try to live together, which might be the future of the whole world. Whether it would be successful remains a question, as long as racism or fascism or groups like Skinhead exists.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Adolf Hitler: Mein Kampf

Hitler started with exploration about principles of Nature, as he believed, “the inner segregation of the species of all living beings on this earth.” Honestly, I did feel the invisible line between different races when I first time came to America. I doubted whether it’s kind of human nature to search for “people like us,” but after getting to know more friends in different racial backgrounds, the gap seemed not that hard to jump as before, but I still wasn’t sure it didn’t exist anymore. In saying so, I’m by no means trying to agree with Hitler, but to understand why he felt the Nature in this way, and how he developed his theory.

Hitler’s theory, in today’s term, is more like social Darwinism, such as “in the struggle for daily bread all those who are weak and sickly or less determined succumb, while the struggle of the males for the female grants the right or opportunity to propagate only to the healthiest.” I’m wondering when Darwin discovered the rule of the nature, whether he thought of someone in years later applied his theory into human society, which caused probably the most horrible catastrophe in human history. According to Hitler, the relationship between people is fighting, a matter related to life or death, as he wrote, “those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.” It implies those who don’t deserve to live should be killed, which was the actual case in later history.

In order to get uniform character, Hitler made up his racial purity theory, which specified social Darwinism into particular race. He argued “the stronger must dominate and not blend with the weaker, thus sacrificing his own greatness.” I couldn’t believe how arrogant and narrow-minded this sounds to be. Hitler even assumed “everything we admire on this earth today is only the creative product of a few peoples and originally perhaps of one race,” which was Aryan.

Hitler’s understanding of the state was also in consecutive with his theory of race. He defined state is “the organization of a community of physically and psychologically similar living beings for the better facilitation of the maintenance of their species and the achievement of the aim.” I would rather say he’s setting his personal ideal on a state stage, which surprisingly but very unfortunately succeed. He switched the purpose of a state normally should have, as he said “the urge to preserve the species is the first cause for the formation of human communities; thus the state is a national organism and not an economic organization.”

The relationship between individual and state in fascism is a little bit similar to socialism, both demanding “the ability and will of the individual to sacrifice himself for the totality.” But their reasons are different: in socialism, individuals sacrifice their property so as to live in a community; in fascism, “the sacrifice of personal existence is necessary to secure the preservation of the species.” Again, it’s back up to the whole theory of race.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This Is What Democracy Looks Like?

I found I’ve been thinking about the function of protests or rallies for a long time since I came to America. On the one hand, it’s kind of normal and very often to see different kinds of rallies going on in America every day, and I’m jealous that Americans have the right of rally to make their voices heard, which is almost impossible in China. On the other hand, I truly doubt whether such kind of protests could contribute to any actual social change, or just causing social turmoil.

The documentary “This Is What Democracy Looks Like” reminds me another documentary “Tiananmen” about the world shocking student protest happened in China in 1989. Western people know it mainly through a picture of the “tank man.” In both events, we could see students or young people are the majority of the protest, who are active, idealistic and somewhat irrational. We could also see the confrontation between protesters and the police, which might last a long time but it’s always the police who own the power and control at the end.

There are many controversies I couldn’t deal with. First, why anarchists supported the protest against WTO? Globalization is the ideal WTO aims at, which also helps anarchism to decentralize states, as I said in last blog. Then were anarchists targeting at the institution of WTO, or the trend of globalization? I understand those NGOs concerning labor issues, the environment or the consumer protection, but I still cannot get it from the point of anarchists.

Then, even if they protested, did they win? At the end of the film, I heard “we win.” In Wikipedia, there’s an entry of “WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 protest activity” and I found that “to many in North American anarchist and radical circles, the Seattle WTO riots, protests, and demonstrations were a success and are thought of as the most recent victories in the U.S. Prior to the ‘Battle of Seattle,’ there was almost no mention of ‘anti-globalization’ in the US media, while the protests are seen as having forced the media to report on why anybody would oppose the WTO.” But did they really win if we look at it today? At least I couldn’t find any possible stop of globalization.

On the side of the police, were they violent and acted as the “bad” people? Police are supposed to protect people, not using violence against people. But was the protest really peaceful? In the film, it looked like so. Was that biased? In Wikipedia, I saw “The situation was complicated around noon, when black-clad anarchists began smashing windows and vandalizing storefronts, beginning with Fox's Gem Shop. …This set off a chain-reaction of sorts, with additional protesters pushing dumpsters into the middle of intersections and lighting them on fire, deflating the tires of police vehicles, non-black bloc demonstrators joining in the property destruction, and a general disruption of all commercial activity in downtown Seattle.” Then should we let the violence keep going out of control? What’s appropriate for the police to do?

The title of the film is very interesting: this is what democracy looks like. Really? They mean the protest, the confrontation? Ironically, that’s exactly the reason why Chinese government doesn’t want “democracy,” because they think we need social stability, not chaos. Why the student protest in 1989 was brutally stopped? Because we cannot tolerate turmoil any more; we need control. Since then, it’s almost hard to find any political reform in China.

I especially remember in the film when they talked about Chinese labors, they described them as cheap labors, in poor working conditions, not allowed to talk during working or would be fined… but one thing they didn’t mention is Chinese labors are not allowed to make unions to fight for their rights or protests like them. That’s why labors’ situation doesn’t change too much up till now.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cindy Milstein: Anarchism’s Promise for Anti-Capitalist Resistance

Milstein had some great comparison between anarchism and socialism. They both share the idea of anti-capitalism, but “anarchism evolved out of socialism to indicate an opposition not just to capitalism but also states and other compulsory, interlinked institutions.” Capitalism is just a part of what anarchism focuses on, but it’s the whole thing socialism against. Thus, “all anarchists are socialists, but not all socialists are anarchists.” Anarchism is inherently anti-authoritarian, but socialism in practical could be extreme authoritarian. From Milstein’s view, anarchism even seems more practical than socialism, because “anarchists maintained that people could attempt to build the new world in the shell of the old through self-organization rather than passively waiting until some post-revolutionary period.” Socialism kind of collapsed before the real revolution of capitalism to come, while anarchism blossoms in tons of NGOs.

Though Milstein wrote “anarchists had been able to structure the demonstration along libertarian principles,” and anarchism as well as liberalism both ask for liberty and equality, I think they’re fundamentally different in terms of state and central power. No matter how liberals are anti-authoritarian, they’re trying to give reasons for the existence and legitimacy of a state (such as Locke’s social contract theory), or provide a better structure of the state. They never think of a nation without government, but how to make the government perfect. However, anarchism has doubts for any kinds of centralization, no matter how great it is. Just like Milstein observed the phenomenon after WWII, “it appeared the two political choices were ‘democracy’ (free market capitalism) or ‘communism’ (state capitalism). Lost in the equation was the questioning of authority and concurrent assertion of utopia posed by anarchism.” Both choices were developed based on the state, while there’s still no actual example of anarchist state, and maybe it never will.

But in some way, globalization is helping anarchism to actualize its dream. As Milstein said, “globalization is structurally undermining of the centrality of states,” which is exactly the goal anarchists want to reach, and “anarchists have long dreamed of the world without borders made potentially feasible by the transformations now underway.” The voice of anti-globalization is more and more impossible, which is definitely to the pleasure of anarchists.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Anarchism is not far away

For most people, anarchism at first seems impractical, as the world shown to us is composed of different kinds of nation-states, societies, institutions, unions, etc. It’s hard to imagine a place without an actual power or order; if there is, it must be in chaos or war. Though we doubt all kinds of centralized power, to simply throw over the power with no substitution, as what anarchists pursue, is not a good option.

However, if changing the word anarchism to something else, people might agree: “decentralization, voluntary association, mutual aid, the network model, and above all, the rejection of any idea that the end justifies the means.” Graeber described these as the core principles of anarchism. Maybe inherently, we all have some sense of anarchism, such as anti-authoritarianism, but it’s hard to put thoughts into actions, as we already live in a society with laws or other social values to follow.

I wonder whether the founders of Freeskool think themselves as anarchist, as they said, “The Freeskool is inherently against compulsory education.” If Ithaca Freeskool’s example could be seen as an example of anarchism, then the definition of anarchism should be much broader than I originally thought to be, and anarchism seems more practical in subtle ways.

But I also noticed “the project seems uniquely at home in Ithaca, a city with two universities and a multitude of progressively minded intellectuals.” In other words, anarchism might only attract to certain groups of people, and can run well only within those groups. Beyond that, the space for anarchism is still limited.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Robin Hahnel: Fighting for Reforms without Becoming Reformist

What’s the future of socialism? In retrospect of history, there’s almost no positive answer. Just as Hahnel wrote, “we saw socialist ideals of egalitarianism, cooperation and liberty perverted through authoritarian, violent, wholly anti-democratic and anti-socialist arrangements.” How could those ideals lead to their opposites? What happened between ideas and practice? Socialism cannot answer these questions based on its performance in history.

Socialists have always been criticizing capitalism, and actually capitalism knows its own drawbacks. But up till now, it hasn’t come out a successful alternative to capitalism. Socialists failed to accomplish this goal, and they didn’t expect capitalism could be such stable and resilient. Marx seemed really make a mistake that “unfortunately for those of us working for progressive economic change, capitalism does not dig its own grave. Instead it charges us dearly for the shovels it sells us to dig our own graves.” I could feel how ironic history happened to be.

Then, does socialism have future? Step back from being too idealistic, “social democrats pledged themselves only to pursue reforms geared toward making a system based on competition and greed.” It means, to some extent, socialists adopt the idea of competition, free market or private property, but at the same time, they won’t give up the idea of equality in terms of result, or saying communism. What they want to do it “testing the principles of equitable cooperation and proving that they do work in living experiments in equitable cooperation.”

When thinking about the example of China, I’m not really optimistic. Since 1978, Chinese opened the door as well as our minds towards the world. The government leaders changed their ideas that no matter whether it’s socialism or capitalism, as long as it’s good for people’s lives, we should adopt it. That’s what Deng Xiaoping called, “a cat is good as long as it catches mice, and no matter the cat is black or white.” Undoubtedly, it’s a huge forward from the Culture Revolution. However, the political reform is intentionally ignored, resulted in an unchanged political system plus a “capitalist” economy. China is obviously not a capitalist country, nor is a traditional socialist country any more. China combines the worst things in two systems: political authoritarian and social inequality.

Through all sacrifices been made in history, it’s not uncommon to be skeptical about any socialist trials. And what Hahnel told us is just to “keep hope alive.” But do we still have the confidence to keep hope alive?