Sunday, September 13, 2009

One way to be political

“From each according to his (or her) ability, to each according to his (or her) need”. A big idea in Marxism, not to say communism. I have always considered Marxism to be an impressive philosophy, particularly in the way it approaches work. It says that we define ourselves by our work, and trading our work for currency (particularly a small amount of currency) degrades us. I guess though if we see our work as directly helping others (in the mythical workers paradise), even as they direct help us, it is more rewarding to our souls.

Of course, anyone who was willing to look with open eyes could see the that the Soviet Union and China were not worker’s paradises. The closest one might come to that would likely be in western Europe, and even in those countries there are plenty of disgruntled workers.

It was maybe a different story in the 1920’s and 1930’s, where the people likely to become communists in the US, the workers, couldn’t really travel to the Soviet Union (and the People’s Republic did not exist yet). Especially during the thirties, Communism must have seemed like an attractive alternative to Capitalism.

I am thinking about this because of Jack Kelly’s column today. My first thought reading it was, so there is only one way to be political in this country. We are the land of the free, yet Kelly suggested that only a few years ago Jones would not have been allowed in the White House (and then you have to say it, does Kelly mean because Jones was briefly a communist, or because Jones is black).

Kelly wants to say (I am extrapolating here) Jones never stopped being a communist, and that automatically should exclude him from any kind of government service, certainly from service in the White House. But I have to say the Van Jones did not behave like a prototypical communist, certainly not one that wanted the workers to rise up and seize the means of production. At this point, in fact, I am not sure what that means (I think the “workers” might need to look like nerds, since I guess they would be seizing netbooks and servers).

But Van Jones was the wussiest Marxist/Communist I have ever seen. He was part of a radical group called STORM (STANDING TOGETHER TO ORGANIZE A REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT), which protested the Rodney King verdict and the anniversary of Christopher Columbus “discovering” America. Jones himself is credited with joining and/or starting groups in the nineties that monitored police brutality, obtained books for convicts and protested the first gulf war. One of these efforts succeeded in getting a policeman accused of brutality fired. Hardly the sort of stuff to topple the US government.

Around the turn of the millennium, Jones figured out that if poor people got better jobs, they would gain more economic and therefore political power, which inspired Jones to look at “green” jobs for poor people. Kelly makes it all sound so sordid, but if you consider the context, Jones has simply pointed out the situation of poor people of color, and worked to change it, or at least keep it from becoming worse, always working within the system, legally. And his reward for doing so was to be hounded from the white House, with unelected “pundits” responsible to no one (like Glenn Beck and Jack Kelly) leading the charge. I guess, despite our “freedoms”, there is only one way to be political in this country.

No comments: