Saturday, November 25, 2006

i can only slake my desire for infinite revenge with an infinitely deep lake of blood

“Two sides to every story
Somebody had to stop me
I'm not the same as when I began
I will not be treated as property”

Public Image
- John Lydon

In 2004, LI compared what was happening in Iraq to a chess game. This was a radically simplifying image, meant only to highlight the fact that, a., “American strategy” was not the salient factor, by that time, in Iraq’s affairs in spite of the myopic depictions of the American newspapers; and b., there would be no deus ex machina, no special suspension of the laws of causality, for the Americans. Whenever the governing class confronts one of those crises that results from a combination of erroneous assumptions and its own deepseated corruption, it immediately begins to evoke a suspension of the laws of causality, along the lines of “… but if Iraq improves in the next three months,” etc.Behind the cloud that is supposed to hide cause and effect, the elites scramble to put in place the usual deals and violence. But of course, in 2003 the elites, to even manage the affair of plunging the U.S. into an unprovoked, aggressive war, had already bet that the violence would be so easy – that a major war could be waged with the resources of limited war, with the surplus cost going, of course, to a network of seedy mercenaries of all kind, an immense machine dedicated to hiring politicos and producing goods and services that were as expensive as they were unnecessary. Of course, you can’t wage a major war as though it were a limited war – which LI pointed out in 2002-2003 in increasingly hysterical tones, like a mockingbird with an adenoid problem. But even LI, at that time, couldn’t imagine how fucked up the U.S. effort was going to be.

Well, as John Lydon said, “You never listen to a word that I said…” Me, plus how many million worldwide, out in the streets protesting, and given the kind of rush one usually reserves for a prophylactic salesman’s phone call at dinnertime. Fuck off wasn’t in it – this was a truly historic silence, an indication of the absolute decay of democracy world wide – a silence compared to which the Czar’s soldier’s trampling down and shooting the crowd petitioning the Winter Palace in 1905 was actually more democratic, more responsive. Poof, the crowds went. Poof, the protest went. Poof, the protest went about the occupation. Oh, we all went poof, we were all so so so fucked. But we ate, we shat, we fucked, and we watched other crowds get it in the neck, in the groin, get the dental drill, the black hood, the drone bombardment, the white phosphorus.

Anyway, the chess metaphor served to point out some facts, but the problem with chess is, of course, that the ritual sequencing of moves, the waiting while one’s opponent makes his move, organizes the game tidily away from reality, where the moves are made by millions, all at once, on countless number of boards, according to an inferno of rules. So, while LI has pressed for one thing since the invasion – unilateral, immediate American withdrawal - and we still believe in pressing for that, we aren’t insane. Nobody hears, and nobody certainly is going to give this result in the American system. We will be in Iraq, in all probability, until 2008 and beyond. The way to get out of Iraq, from the American side, is to press in every way, from discouraging recruitment to demoralizing the war effort to pressing congress. Unfortunately, when the Peace movement went poof, it disheartened those who would organize the stabbing in the back of the American military effort – and the anti-war effort has since been mainly directed by those who abjure the whole stabbing in the back thing in order to remain, uh, politically viable. Yeah, right. Well, we are ardently pro-stab, and hope that the demoralization of the American will – that vaunted tool of the para psychos in DC – will lead to massive, permanent cuts in American military expenditure and a radically revampted foreign policy that no longer relies on military threat, period.

However, there is what you want and there is reality. The one thing a small blog can do is work to promote the decomposition of the American will, and particularly the illusion, which is still prevalent, that the Americans are over there to prevent a bloodbath – which illusion was, in the Vietnam war, beginning to crack under the strain of too much reality by 1967. Still, it is a perennial American misconception. It is like thinking a man purchases an elephant gun to protect elephants.

However, as it is likely the America Will is not going to respond to LI’s flea circus, we have another goal we want to promote, even though it is in contradiction to the goal of withdrawal. This is simply to call for unconditional negotiations between all parties in Iraq – the Americans, Al Qaeda, the Badr Brigade, etc. – simply in order to establish a basic level of self-policing and a significant diminishment of attacks. On the table should be the ridding of the criminal gangs that have attached themselves to all factions (including the Americans – we have heard too much about the private military services to not think they’ve engaged in murder and robbery). Does such a suggestion have a snowball’s chance in Cheney’s undisclosed underground location?

I don't know.

Friday, November 24, 2006

win win in iraq - can't you just taste the slaughter?

And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit
                thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye
                defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination

LI doesn’t have the equipment to respond to the news from Baghdad. The evil done yesterday, and the day before, and the day before, going all the way back to the invasion, the massive links in that chain forged by criminals in Washington – and the mediate links through all of the criminals, literally, on the streets of Baghdad – and the inevitable tit for tat braiding of all Iraqi blood for blood – the incredibly stupid sudden grab for Sadr in 2004, balanced and exceeded by the razing of Fallujah in 2004, while the zombie American war crowd howled, like the dead in the Odyssey, blind bats attracted to blood sacrifices, the sportifs getting hardons from the purple revolution - exhausts the pittance of my empathy and imagination, which is contained in only so much nerve and neuron, insufficient collective tissue to curse and moan, to beg God above to rain down fire and brimstone on this dangerous, disgusting country of ADD aggression. No God, though, and no matches. Not really much to that, in the end, surely? Fuckin’ pitiful. Truly a cunt prophet, LI, not even one of Nobodaddy’s emissaries, but doing my utmost to imitate, in prose, the projectile vomiting of my indignation.

So, track some blood in the house. The slaughter in Sadr City, yesterday, which the American forces, striving to achieve the bogus objective of pleasing the diseased vanity of our Rebel in Chief, were helpless to contain or prevent, is the dark cloud in the Iraq picture – but hark, a little brightness for the war gamer crowd – a pitched battle! This should make the sucklings of the War industry, all those gamer belligerents, hard:

“American soldiers fought such units in a pitched battle last week in Turki, a village 25 miles south of this Iraqi Army base in volatile Diyala Province, bordering Iran. At least 72 insurgents and two American officers were killed in more than 40 hours of fighting. American commanders said they called in 12 hours of airstrikes while soldiers shot their way through a reed-strewn network of canals in extremely close combat.”

Yes, this is the family friendly movie of combat, and what Americans do best – or at least, since they spend 500 billion per year on this kind of scenario, the only thing the American military really knows how to do.

There was a story last year (December 18, 2005) in the Boston Globe Vietnam and Victory, by Matt Steinglass about the brand new brand new thinking of the Rumsfeldian military, sniffing, in the Iraq situation, the smell of victory – and as we all know, the Bushies are all about accomplishing missions, leading to victories, leading to wearing butch clothing and an all around distribution of medals and defense contracts.

Here’s a bit of it:

“SUPPORTERS OF the American invasion and occupation of Iraq have often argued that it has little in common with the Vietnam War. But judging by President Bush's new "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," unveiled Nov. 30 and promoted in a series of recent speeches, the administration itself may have started to see some parallels. The document envisions a three-pronged security strategy for fighting the Iraqi insurgency: "Clear, Hold, and Build." It is no accident that this phrase evokes the "clear and hold" counterinsurgency strategy pursued by the American military in the final years of the Vietnam War. For months, as the Washington Post's David Ignatius and The New Republic's Lawrence Kaplan have reported, influential military strategists inside and outside the Pentagon have been pushing to resurrect "clear and hold" in Iraq, claiming that the US effort to suppress the Viet Cong was actually a success.
The argument that "clear and hold" vanquished the Viet Cong is made most forcefully in "A Better War," the 1999 book by Vietnam veteran and former Army strategy analyst Lewis Sorley. The book focuses on General Creighton Abrams, who replaced General William Westmoreland as supreme commander in Vietnam in 1968 and moved from Westmoreland's discredited strategy of seeking out and killing enemy soldiers ("search and destroy") to one of controlling and defending patches of territory and population ("clear and hold"). In Sorley's telling, this new approach, combined with the severe losses the Viet Cong suffered during the 1968 Tet Offensive, virtually wiped out the insurgency. By late 1970, Sorley writes, "the war was won." Sorley's book has reportedly been widely read this year by US military strategists, including the commander of US forces in Iraq, General John Abizaid. Its influence can also be seen in a key article in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs by military analyst Andrew Krepinevich Jr., himself a Vietnam War historian, which called for adopting a "clear and hold" approach. But the idea that the strategy that beat the Viet Cong could work in Iraq elides a fundamental question: Did "clear and hold" actually beat the Viet Cong? For most historians of the war, not to mention for those who fought on the winning side, the answer is no. And the lessons for Iraq are far from clear. . . . "The Sorley analysis is wrong," writes David Elliott, author of the exhaustive and widely lauded "The Vietnamese War: Revolution and Social Change in the Mekong Delta, 1930-75." "For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would think [clear and hold] was a success in Vietnam," writes William Turley, author of "The Second Indochina War, 1954-1975." "Lewis Sorley is completely wrong," concurred retired General Le Ngoc Hien in a recent interview. As deputy chief of staff for operations in the North Vietnamese Army, Hien was responsible for compiling the overall military strategies for both the army and the Viet Cong. The argument is not about whether the Viet Cong suffered severe losses between 1968 and 1972; everyone acknowledges that it did. Hien agrees with Sorley that "major mistakes" were made in planning the Tet Offensive, including expecting pro-Communist uprisings by the urban populations in cities the Viet Cong seized (they never happened), and trying to hold on to the cities against overwhelming US and South Vietnamese counterattacks. More importantly, in 1969 and '70, the Viet Cong lost control over huge swathes of countryside and population. The Viet Cong, Hien acknowledges, found it impossible to locally recruit new guerrillas to replace those decimated in '68; tens of thousands of regular soldiers had to be sent down from the North to fill out Viet Cong units.
The debate, then, is over the reasons for the Viet Cong's reversals-and their significance. Sorley claims the tide was turned by Abrams's use of smaller American units working in close concert with South Vietnamese Army and Civil Guard troops at the village level, and by the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development (CORDS) program, which targeted economic aid to government- controlled villages in a campaign to win the locals' "hearts and minds." Elliott disagrees. He thinks Viet Cong setbacks resulted from a much simpler and more brutal tactic: The US and the South Vietnamese Army emptied Communist-controlled areas of people. "Only the 'clear' part [of 'clear and hold'] was a success," according to Elliott. In terms of controlling the population, the key was "indiscriminate bombing and artillery shelling which led to rural depopulation." Elliott's book is largely based on 400 interviews with Viet Cong defectors, some of which Elliott himself collected as a Rand Corporation researcher in South Vietnam during the war. Interviewees speak of villages hit by 300 or more mortar shells a day, of tiny hamlets with dozens of civilians killed by artillery and bombs. In one six-month operation in 1969, the US 9th Division came up with a body count of over 10,000 "enemy" dead, but only 751 weapons, suggesting huge civilian casualties.
"People hated the Americans," Elliott quotes one defector saying-a far cry from "winning hearts and minds." In sum, where Sorley paints a picture of in-depth village-level deployments between cooperating American and Vietnamese units, combined with economic aid, building villagers' loyalty and sense of security, Elliott and Hien paint a picture of indiscriminate firepower driving villagers off of their land, creating an atomized and demoralized, but controllable, population. This, presumably, is not the new strategy the US envisions winning hearts and minds in Iraq. . . .
A second critique of Sorley's thesis goes to the significance of the Viet Cong's reversals. According to Hien, the aim of the Tet Offensive was only partly to seize the South's cities; it was also intended to break the will of the American political leadership to continue the war. In this, it succeeded. Hien calls Tet "a victory with heavy casualties." It may have been a sacrifice from which the Viet Cong never entirely recovered, but it was a sacrifice which helped drive the US from the field, ultimately enabling the North to win the war. "The American historians want to isolate a short period of history and claim a victory," Hien remarks. "But at the end of the war, which side achieved its strategic and political aims?" Hien is right that some American analysts are eager to "claim a victory" in Vietnam. Sorley doesn't just argue that "clear and hold" beat the Viet Cong. He goes on to argue that the Vietnamization program in general was a success, and that by the time the last US troops left in 1973, the South Vietnamese Army was capable of defending the country.”

Is this cool or what? The Bush administration not only gets the U.S. into a losing war, but then goes through past losing wars in order to stock up on more losing strategies. And, as we can see – as we will see, although nobody is really going to see the hundreds of dead per day in America, since at heart the country has no heart – the Bushies have managed to lose Iraq in more than one way – they are burning a hole in America’s position in the Middle East for the next decade.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

C’est le renversement de toutes choses

“Who was safe? No one. From the moment that the devil was taken to be the revenger of God, from the moment that one wrote, under his dictation, the names of those who could pass into the flames, each had, day and night, the terrible nightmare of the stake.” - Michelet

That the devil would be inside God as his hitman is, in a sense, part of the white magic mythology – that mythology that reconciled the pains of man to the benignity of the deity, with the assumption that God allowed evil as a part of the scheme for the greater good. For other stories (for instance, that God enjoyed evil as well as good, or even that the devil’s evils disguised his own dark good intents) – they sank to the nasty Gnostic bottom, where only the poets muck about.

The Devil inside God is God’s devil – and, LI would claim, there at the very origin of human organization. It is an Uncle Tom Devil, and I know it intimately.

These quotes are picked out of the the Gauffridi chapter in Michelet’s La Sorciere – to which, readers will notice, I all too often refer. Louis Gauffridi was a priest burned in Aix in 1613, after having been accused by two Ursuline nuns of having subdued an entire convent to the will of the devil. Michelet gives one account of this rather famous case of possession and persecution. It preceded the Loudun case, and served in some ways as a template.

Gaufridi, confronting the nuns, was nonplussed. The nuns in this case, Louise and Madeleine, were an interesting pair – Louise, possessed by a devil named Verrine, dared all things, having a demonic freedom granted to her to mock, to accuse, and in general to run over Madeleine (who, Michelet points out, had made the mistake of claiming too high a regard from the demons – an impudence that Louis’ behavior soon cowed out of her, as Louise seem to inexorably cow all who got in her way). Gauffridi was formally accused by Madeleine of presiding over sabbats with the usual sex and blasphemies, and despite his his standing, was inexorably pulled, by the competition between religious orders, and the impressiveness of Louise and Madeleine's devils, into a meat mangle from which there was no exit. And so he was imprisoned, questioned, denied all charges, and burnt, after which a pseudo-confession was circulated by the exorcists to blacken his posthumous reputation.

An old, barbarous story. What interests LI is the way in which Michelet grasps its essence – the way in which power, panic and rumor are the elemental spirits of this trial. LI can’t help but think of the twisted logic of our own GWOT era, in which all terrors are permitted to the terror-hunters. Louise and Madeleine agreed that the satanic convulsions and phrases they would banter – blaspheming the mess, parading through the streets proclaiming Belzebuub – were actually emanating from Gaufridi – Gaufridi was the master ventriloquist here, especially before he had been thrown into jail and made his confession. Louise, asked why she, possessed by a devil, would so betray Gaufridi, to whom she would seem to owe some discretion at least, replied, ‘why shouldn’t there be treason among demons?” Louise was, in general, a veritable participant-observer in the demon world, and was continually being quizzed by the inquisitors as to demonic moeurs. Michelet doesn’t include all of her responses, some of which are quite interesting. For instance, it turns out that Belzebuub cried out against printing. “Cursed be the first who began to write! cursed be the printer! cursed be the doctors who approve the works!”

Interesting, too, as evidence of how justice does not accrue to the victims, is how the pseudo-confession of Gaufridi gradually supplanted his actual pleas of not guilty as his name comes down, through the years, among the historians and artists who gradually want there to be this satanic priest who supposedly seduced through his very breath – which the devil made of such sweetness that no woman could resist. And so the Uncle Tom Devil had his way with Gauffridi in death and in the afterlife. As with so many millions of victims, one is left to ask in vain: “Where are all those beauties that those ashes owed?”

And on that grim note: Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

maximalism, or I want a sword for Christmas

LI has a small pain in the back this morning, due to some pinched nerve business going on in the lower lumbar region. And we have a debt on our mind – we floated this Lenin as the inventor of the modern party structure theme posts and posts ago, and hoped to have the wrap up with the usual bloggish smash and grab rampage through What is to be done? But… what is to be done? There are tides in the affairs of LI when we simply weaken, when the hams unclench, when we emanate a distinct aura of boredom. Not that we are bored, but … we are boring. The intellect dims, the jokes fall flat, either sucked into a black hole of infradig reference or limping around like retired vaudevillians. Every word that comes out of our keyboarding fingers has a vaguely p.r. sound – the blackboard scraping sound of cliché.

So – we truly want to pursue the dialectic between agent and percipient, we want to poke and prod Lenin’s idea of the party as the manufacturer of theory, and to call y’all’s attention to the fact that this role is now taken for granted – or at least that one of the signs of true political sterility is that the party becomes the subject and object of political talk, becomes the percipient and the agent, and crowds out the spontaneous moment.

But no, lets go for something easier today. A reading suggestion – the new Harper’s has a story about fundamentalism in America by Jeff Sharlet that contains this interesting graf:

“Is "fundamentalism" too limited a word for a belief system of such scope and intimacy? Lately, some scholars prefer "maximalism," a term meant to convey the movement's ambition to conform every aspect of society to God. In contemporary America from the Cold War to the Iraq War, the period of the current incarnation's ascendancy--that means a culture born again in the image of a Jesus strong but tender, a warrior who hates the carnage he must cause, a man-god ordinary men will follow. These are days of the sword, literally; affluent members of the movement gift one another with real blades crafted to medieval standards, a fad inspired by a best-selling book called Wild at Heart. As jargon, then, "maximalism" isn't bad, an unintended tribute to Maximus, the fighting hero of Gladiator, which is a film celebrated in Christian manhood guides as almost supplemental scripture. But I think "fundamentalism"--coined in 1920 as self-designation by those ready to do "battle royal for the fundamentals," hushed up now as too crude for today's chevaliers--still strikes closest to the movement's desire for a story that never changes, a story to redeem all that seems random, a rock upon which history can rise.”

Sharlet writes in the very alarmed mode of a man who has discovered that his neighbors have been replaced by pod people. I am not as sure as he is that the fundamentalists are everywhere, or that they have as much power in America as he imagines. I like the phrase maximalism, though – since it does point to the odd way in which fundamentalists seemingly can’t get out of America. They import the new world into everything – the bible; the various wars jacked up by War Inc; life itself, the cosmos, and even that heaven in the sky, where even the traffic jams are fun – but of course, even God dare not ban the SUV. Especially as his son drives one.

Sharlet throws himself into the Fundie mindset, and in particular the new, alternative history approved by Bob Jones University and snakeoiled out there to the masses by Tim LeHaye.

“…I was "unschooling" myself, Bill Apelian, director of Bob Jones University's BJU Press, explained. What seemed to me a self-directed course of study was, in fact, the replacement of my secular education with a curriculum guided by God. When BJU Press, one of the biggest Christian educational publishers, started out thirty years ago, science was their most popular subject, and it could be summed up in one word: "created." Now American history is on the rise. "We call it Heritage Studies," Apelian said, and explained its growing centrality: "History is God's working in man."

My unschooling continued. I read the works of Rushdoony's most influential student, the late Francis Schaeffer, an American whose Swiss mountain retreat, L'Abri ("The Shelter"), served as a Christian madrasah at which a generation of fundamentalist intellectuals studied an American past "Christian in memory." And I read Schaeffer's disciples: Tim LaHaye, who, besides coauthoring the hugely popular Left Behind series of novels, has published an equally fantastical work about history called Mind Siege. And David Barton, the president of a history ministry called WallBuilders (as in, to keep the heathen out). And Charles Colson, who, in titles such as. How Now Shall We Live? (a play on Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture) and Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages, searches from Plato to the American Founders to fellow Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy for the essence of the Christian "worldview," a vision of an American future so entirely Christ-filtered that beside it "theocracy"--the clumsy governance of priestly bureaucrats--seems a modest ambition. "Theocentric" is the preferred term, Randall Terry, another Schaeffer disciple who went on to found Operation Rescue, told me. "That means you view the world in His terms. Theocentrists don't believe man can create law. Man can only embrace or reject law."

History matters not just for its progression of "fact, fact, fact," Michael McHugh, a pioneer of fundamentalist education, told me, but for "key personalities." In Francis Schaeffer's telling of U.S. history, for instance, John Witherspoon--the only pastor to have signed the Declaration of Independence--looms as large as Thomas Jefferson, because it was Witherspoon who infused the founding with the idea of "Lex Rex," "law is king" (divine law, that is), derived from the fiercest Protestant reformers of the seventeenth century, men who considered John Calvin's Geneva too gentle for God. Key personalities are often soldiers, such as General Douglas MacArthur. After the war, McHugh explained, MacArthur ruled Japan "according to Christian principles" for five years. "To what end?" I asked. Japan is hardly any more Christian for this divine intervention. "The Japanese people did capture a vision," McHugh said. Not the whole Christian deal, but one of its essential foundations. "MacArthur set the stage for free enterprise," he explained. With Japan committed to capitalism, the United States was free to turn its attention toward the Soviet Union. The general's providential flanking maneuver, you might say, helped America win the Cold War.”

All of which would be more droll if one didn’t suspect that the Prez is, at present, very attracted to these ideas. A more frightening chock full of nuts fundie is the one who was just appointed the “anti-birth control czar,” Eric Keroak (who, inshallah, can't be, can't be related in any way to Jack!), about whom this Slate story delivers the goods.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

floating the rumsfeld for president exploratory committee

The NYT hosts an extremely alarming op ed piece today by a Mark Moyar. Moyar apparently teaches at the U.S. Marine academy – which is the reason the piece is alarming. It is a survey of the Diem era in Vietnam that is almost wholly mythical, which is not surprising given the book that Moyar apparently wrote: ''Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965” In the 1920s, the Weimar government never seriously attempted to eradicate the proto-fascist culture of the German military – and lived, or rather died, to regret it.
The myth that has arduously been cultivated in the American military about that extended war crime, our Hardy Boy’s adventure in genocide in Vietnam, has grown and ramified. Amusingly, this is what Moyar thinks was happening in Diem’s Vietnam in the fifties:

“When the South Vietnamese sects defied the authority of the Saigon government in the spring of 1955, the American special ambassador, Gen. J. Lawton Collins, urged Diem to compromise with them. Efforts to suppress the sects by force, Collins warned, would alienate the Vietnamese people, unhinge the army and lead to disastrous civil warfare. This advice was based on the mistaken premise that political solutions suitable in the United States would likewise be suitable in any other country.

Diem rejected Collins's advice, and with good reason. In South Vietnam, as in other historically authoritarian countries, if the government failed to maintain a monopoly on power, it would lose prestige among its supporters and enemies. Only a strong national government could prevent the sects and other factions from tearing the country apart. While Diem was able to gain the submission of some groups by persuasion, others remained defiant.

In April 1955, fighting broke out between the South Vietnamese National Army and one of the militias. Diem sought to capitalize on the fighting to destroy the militia, which caused Collins to advocate Diem's removal. Other Americans predicted chaos and wanted to abandon South Vietnam altogether.

President Dwight Eisenhower, however, decided that Diem should be allowed to use the army against the militias. In Eisenhower's view, a leader who had the smarts and the strength to prevail on his own -- even if it meant he discarded American advice -- would be a better and more powerful ally than one who survived by doing whatever the United States recommended.

Through political acumen and force of personality, Diem gained the full cooperation of the National Army and used it to subdue the sects. Simultaneously, he seized control of the police by replacing its leaders with nationalists loyal to him. In a culture that respected the strong man for vanquishing his enemies, Diem's suppression of the militias gained him many new followers.”

That is pretty funny. We especially like the word 'strong' - so much prettier than murderous, don't you think? In the real world, South Vietnam was not, and never could be, a country; in 1955, Diem, a former loyalist to the French colonial masters, purged and massacred other anti-Communist factions, ending the year by calling a referendum in which he got a healthy 98 percent of the vote. And in the purges and the marking out of religious sects as enemies of the Diem’s Catholic state, Diem doomed any hope that South Vietnam would be anything, ever, than a perpetual sport of political nature, a nothing that the U.S. would try to bomb, Vietnamize, agent orange, and phoenix into a something. That Moyar considers Diem an American success is, well, sort of like the position of the Communist party in Russia that Brezhnev was an unmitigated success -an exercize in that delirium tremens of the historical consciousness, the thug's nostalgia. It shows an absence of any standard by which one can actually learn from one’s mistake. The absence of that standard has a clinical name: psychosis.

Moyar’s point in bringing up this ludicrous travesty of Vietnam’s history is to suggest that the way forward in Iraq is to find … a Diem. You can’t make these people up. Unfortunately, they sit on a 500 billion to trillion dollar endowment a year, and they are systematically making the American republic into a Satrapy of Idiocy. Surely, oh God please, just for the sake of satire … surely somewhere one of the zombie groups is floating the idea of a Rumsfeld for President group.

We have to have that. We have Jackass, we have American Idol, we have O.J. Simpson as our national black murderer to run up the flag when the spirits flag … oh, we really, really need a Rumsfeld for President group!

Monday, November 20, 2006

the agent people, the percipient state

Imagine, then, Lenin.

In 1900, when Lenin began his second tour of exile in Europe, he was in his thirties, and had been active in clandestine revolutionary activity in Russia for the last decade. He came out of that experience of organizing, writing and prison with two ideas. One was a newspaper – which became the Iskra – and one was a party.

Lenin’s second objective is the whole point of 1902’s What Is to be done? LI is not interested in the infinite ins and outs of the history of Bolshevism, proper, so much as trying to understand the idea of a highly intelligent man from a state in which there was little to no experience of parties, as they developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, re-inventing the whole concept. Lenin, then, is dreaming. Not that the dream is uninformed by the historical experience of parties in Europe – most notably, the Social Democrats in Germany. But he is dreaming of a party that will play a different role than any party has played before. In Lenin’s dream, the party will found the revolution – and, beyond the ultimate question of the state’s always to be put off dissolution , that means it will found the state.

Of course, as James Scott points out, Lenin is wrong in the case of Russia – the revolutions came about spontaneously, just as the people he denounced said they would. And in 1905 and 1917, Lenin quickly accommodated to that fact – but the party he founded acted as though they had created the revolution. The thing that is important to LI is that this conception of the function of the party is something new, something that theorizes the way parties will be throughout the twentieth century.

This role is new. No revolution in the past came about through the organization of a party. Parties formed as secondary political characteristics of the state. The change, perhaps, comes first in the U.S. –one could argue that the Republican party, under Lincoln, is the first party to expand its role to something more than a loose confederation of likeminded people seeking the power of office, becoming a nation-builder.

But Lenin was the one who saw the party most clearly as a new dispositif, to use Foucault’s term. Or, to use the terms of LI’s last post , there was a new dialectic of agent and percipient set up by Lenin’s notion of the party.

The Lockean-Rousseau-ian state had been founded on a semi-magic relationship between the people and the state. The people were the Agent, sending their thoughts to the great state Percipient. The thoughts are, of course, not natural phenomena, but the phenomena of a will – and just as the agent is controlling, in some small way, the percipient, so, too, the Agent people is controlling the state Percipient, which represents the people’s will.

Into this duality, Lenin introduces the party, which is again shaped around an agent/percipient relationship. But by this time the constants had been loosened – the agent’s will might well actually reflect the work of the percipient, who is not simply the naïve, the young lady sleeping in the bed who wakes up to see the face of the baron who is transmitting her thoughts to her on a dark street, but has played her own trump cards – has found a role as a theorizer, dropping her own suggestions into the mind of the agent.

Lenin finds his textual source for the party’s role in Engels. That’s the bit of What is to be done LI will look at next, in some other post.

The ethics of integrity or the Baker at Dachau

    Throughout the 19th and 20th century, one stumbles upon the lefthand heirs of Burke – Red Tories, as Orwell called them. Orwell’s inst...