The Early Days of a Better Nation

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

New Light from the East

Avedon wonders if Mark Ames is 'that lefty I've been hearing so much about', and praises with just a hint of bemusement his savage insight into 'The Spite Vote'.

Mark Ames, steeled by his years over there in the glorious post-Soviet future-and-it-works, is an original and offensive left gonzo journalist. Here's his unforgettable takedown of the response to 9/11 of the pseudo-anarchist liberal Chomsky :
The lack of dynamism or discovery is why, in spite of appearing so "radical" to more dull-witted crackers, Chomsky comes off as flat, fake, ineffectual, especially now, when something new and interesting is required.

Contrast this with real radicals from the past, people of words and action, who were confident enough in their radicalism to adapt and change when paradigm-shaking events overtook them, rather than merely acting out their narrow role. There's the example of the Jewish-Italian anarcho-syndicalist Camillo Berneri, who in 1917 eagerly rushed to the front on behalf of a bourgeois regime he was trying to overthrow, writing: "There are occasions when to get oneself killed is the most logical solution, and to get oneself killed becomes a moral necessity. Cases of conscience are more terrible than Austrian bullets or asphyxiating gases." Or Paul Nizan, the most bilious of all of France's France-hating Marxist intellectuals, who volunteered for and died at the front in 1940.
It's the Nizan ref that's the clincher, for anyone who's read The Watchdogs, a book that did for philosophy what a dead cat through a closed window does for a church.

Or take this incisive analysis of the condition of the working class in the imperialist heartlands:
I'd moved to Louisville with not even a fork or a spoon. Wal-Mart sells all that -- hamper, dishes, utensils, dish rack, sheets, telephones, you name it -- for prices so incredibly low that I was genuinely grateful. I thought about Wal-Mart's union busting, its abused work staff of geriatrics and economically desperate wage slaves, its stocks of Third World products which in turn further destroyed America's manufacturing, it's aesthetic Sovietization of America... and then I thought about my own shitty fiscal situation. Conclusion: "Fuck 'em."

Wal-Mart is one of the few bones with a little meat on it that America throws to its tens of millions of lower-middle and semi-middle classes. Goods that once may have been unattainable are now attainable, almost free, thanks to union busting, employee abuse, Third World slave labor, the destruction of over-priced ma and pa stores, the homogenization of Middle America and every other horrible sin. When I said "Fuck 'em," I didn't mean it in the sense that I'd turned coat and gone right-populist like some David Horowitz. I just meant that I needed those cheap dishes.
Ames goes on to give a cogent analysis of the vicious circles of globalization, stuffed to the gills with quotable quotes ('The rightwing oligarchy and its mandarins explain away globalization's savage effects on the lower classes as all part of prophet Adam Smith's wonderful plan for humanity'), glances at the role of the Russian intelligentsia (the only class to have destroyed the same state twice, and itself twice with it) and concludes with the intriguing hypothesis that the American hard left fails to connect not because it's elitist, but because it's not elitist enough. (Dress like somebody whose lifestyle people might aspire to, not like somebody they would cross the road to avoid.) And there's plenty more where that came from. Not all of it is by Ames, and not all of it can be recommended to those of a sensitive disposition. Nevertheless, the eXile holds out a glorious vision of a future liberated America:
The task facing UN forces now is "De-Bushification" of the occupied US. UN Courts will soon convene to try several thousand Yankee suspects held for Crimes against Humanity that claimed as many as 60 million victims from Kuala Lumpur to Oslo. Some of the most influential "chickenhawks," including Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Cheney, have agreed to testify in exchange for immunity. A British military lawyer preparing the UN's case says, "This lot have turned on each other like rats in a trap, squealing at full pitch."

While the top Bushites face stiff sentences, the ordinary Yankee will be treated with mercy. UN officials who have researched pre-war Yankee psychology stress that the ordinary Yankee "kubik" (derived from "cubicle-slave," a derisive term for Yankee workers) was a victim of the Bushites. "The kubiks were virtual serfs, working 70 hours a week with no medical care or childcare. There was daily propaganda designed to keep them in a state of terror. Anyone who spoke up was punished. They had no choice but to obey."
Nice to see that even in these troubled times the eXile doesn't get all bitter and twisted. Read it regularly, if it survives its latest outrage. If it doesn't, and even if it does, you can always browse its archive.

(Update: slightly edited to remove excess irony.)


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