335 90 8MB
English Pages  Year 1999
"March, 1983." "This paper is based on informal remarks delivered at a plenary session of the annual meet
426 117 884KB Read more
Unlike most books, which treat labor, Socialist and Communist history separately and view French Marxism as a self-conta
523 124 6MB Read more
Throughout its 65-year history, the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) has sought to
138 97 14MB Read more
This edited volume investigates the concept of ambiguity and how it manifests itself in language and communication from
113 53 1MB Read more
This collection brings together ten of the most distinguished feminist scholars whose work has been celebrated for its e
1,231 60 3MB Read more
This edited volume investigates the concept of ambiguity and how it manifests itself in language and communication from
113 37 2MB Read more
Table of contents :
1 Communication as Strategy
2 Contingency of Socialism
3 Present Needs
Appendix A: Reinventing Socialism: Language, Responsibility, and the Philosophy of Hope
Appendix B: Religion, Rhetoric, and the Left
SOCIALISM AND COMMUNICATION
This book is dedicated to my family: Jinbao Zhao, Jun Tian, Rui Zhao, Yan Zhao, Bing Zhao, Xiaocong Fan, Sue Swartz, Robert Swartz, Rose Forster, and to my new son, Avi.
Socialism and Communication Reflections on language and left politics
OMAR SWARTZ Duke University
First published 1999 by Ashgate Publishing Reissued 2018 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN 711 ThirdAvenue, New York, NY 10017, USA
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business Copyright © Omar Swartz 1999 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Publisher's Note The publisher has gone to great lengths to ensure the quality of this reprint but points out that some imperfections in the original copies may be apparent. Disclaimer The publisher has made every effort to trace copyright holders and welcomes correspondence from those they have been unable to contact. A Library of Congress record exists under LC control number: 98074199 ISBN 13: 978-1-138-34282-8 (hbk) ISBN 13: 978-0-429-43953-7 ( ebk)
Communication as Strategy
Contingency of Socialism
Reinventing Socialism: Language, Responsibility, and the Philosophyof Hope
Religion, Rhetoric, and the Left
I am writing this preface in the summer of 1998. As 1 write and look around me, I see a political world that is increasingly hostile and alienating. I lament this condition and offer this book as one response. But this book, like all books, is not enough. Books are little more than meditations on how the world should be; it takes the commitments of people to enact the visions of books. I hope this book inspires people to think and act differently. In the field of communication studies (represented in the United States by the National Communication Association), there is no book like this. The two closest books are James Amt Aune’s Rhetoric and Marxism 1 and my The Rise o f Rhetoric and its Intersections with Contemporary Critical Thought2 Both of these books, however, deal with traditional Marxist literatures and relate them to the classical rhetorical tradition. In each case, the emphasis is on the rhetorical, rather than on the social or the philosophical. In addition, both books speak to disciplinary audiences. This current book, Socialism and Communication: Reflections on Language and Left Politics, also contributes to scholarship on the nature of political change. However, it differs from the above two books by stressing the social over the communicative/theoretical. In an important sense, it is a study in applied communication (or applied philosophy). Rather than advancing communication theory per se, this book advances social philosophy (from a communication perspective). My Conducting Socially Responsible Research: Critical Theory, Neo-Pragmatism, and Rhetorical Inquiry1anticipates and helps to pave the way for this type of scholarship within my disciplinary community. A second audience for this book is members of the British intellectual community who identify with the cultural studies movement. The final and most important audience for this book is the various left political parties themselves. I hope this book helps members of the above communities to rethink popular politics in inventive and productive ways. This said, however, I must recognize, and my readers must recognize, that the world I envision, and the way I envision it, is often considered to be controversial. This book speaks for the vision of libertarian socialism (otherwise known as anarchism). "Anarchism" and "socialism" are noble vii
words that have been debased by more than a century of abuse, propaganda, repression, and warfare. To the extent that I can, I hope to contribute to their rehabilitation and to their reintroduction into mainstream political discourse. More specifically, I trace the dimensions of what can loosely be called a communicative theory of anarchism. But "theory" is an ambitious word for an idea that is still being worked out. It is more accurate to write that this book offers a communicative and rhetorical perspective to questions of left political struggle. From this beginning sketch, I hope that others can help me build even more useful theories of communication and social change. Because of the book's political themes, and because it is offered as scholarship, I have to take some time, before delving into the substance of the book, to discuss the controversy of critical scholarship. Unfortunately, after more than one hundred and fifty years of leftist political struggle, we still live in an age in which an apology has to be made for critical scholarship. This is unfortunate because "democracy" in its most worthwhile form demands the participation of critical scholars in order to be healthy. The marginalization of political scholarship from politics at large is a symptom of the poverty of our nation's political and moral imagination. By an "apology," I do not mean such statements such as "I'm sorry, but I made a mistake." As a scholar, I do not make an "apology" (in the above sense of the word) for my politics or for my critical tone. Rather, an "apology" is a statement made in the defense of something, it is to speak in favor of one's ideology or philosophy in order to gain a wider public acceptance.4 An apology is a rhetorical act that tries to create community out of divergence by locating a larger space and public acceptance for one's idea of the world. This is exactly what most critical scholarship tries to do: it seeks to create social community and an understanding for radical politics out of a diverse range of competing and antagonistic political and religious identifications. Tertullian's speeches in defense of Christianity against its persecution by the Roman empire is an apology. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is an apology. In the first example, Tertullian was trying to create an intellectual and political atmosphere conducive to the spread of Christianity and to the creation of a Christian community. In the second example, King's task was to make his civil disobedience on behalf of civil rights palatable to the mainstream clergy that was urging him to be more cautious in his approach.5 Just as Tertullian and King needed to defend themselves and their "extreme" form of community, that is, just as they struggled to make room in viii
the larger social realm for their particular visions of the world, scholars who devote their research energies to challenging the politics of the status quo often need to defend themselves as well. What I offer in this preface is such a defense. The tone of the paragraphs to follow is personal. This is because this book is not my first attempt to engage in critical scholarship. Over the past several years I have been practicing a critical scholarship, and I have received a large amount of feedback by my professional peers who were less than sympathetic to my work. In rejecting my work, many of these scholars rejected more than my specific conclusions; rather, they rejected my general approach. In short, many scholars reject critical scholarship because it is critical scholarship,6 The most important thing I have learned over the last few years since I have been a practicing professional in my field is that all academic work is political. While the politics may change based upon the individual scholar, the creation of any scholarship serves a material function. Scholarship, in other words, is a way for intellectuals to interact with the world, to change or to reinforce its dimensions. More specifically, academic work is political because it engages in the politics of representation. As a scholar, I use the tool of language to create or argue for "meaning" and understanding. Unfortunately, meanings are such that they are seldom universally recognized. As a result, the representation of any scholar is frequently contestable. This is particularly true when scholars work on overtly political matters. Thus, it is likely that this book, like all my books, will be resisted in some quarters of the Academy, and by members of society who disagree with my views because they are socialist. The people who evoke the Platonic sense of "rhetoric" (meaning false, self-serving discourse) to describe what I am doing will be quick to condemn my work for being "ideological" (a charge that it is a base, empty form of discourse that substitutes political prostitution for rationality). Indeed, my work and the work of others has been characterized in this way before.7 Frequently, condemnation of critical scholarship focuses on its so-called lack of "objectivity." Critical scholars must resign themselves to the fact that they will forever be forced to wear the albatross of "subjectivity," the aca demic equivalent of the mark of Cain. I proudly wear this mark as a badge of honor, for I maintain that "objectivity" in scholarship is never completely possible, or even desirable. This issue has been addressed by Howard Zinn:
The myth of "objectivity" in teaching and scholarship is based on a common confusion. If to be objective is to be scrupulously careful about reporting accurately what one sees, then of course this is laudable. But accuracy is only a prerequisite. That a metalsmith uses reliable measuring instruments is a condition for doing good work, but does not answer the crucial question: will he [sic] now forge a sword or a plowshare with his instruments? That the metalsmith has determined in advance that he prefers a plowshare does not require him to distort his measurements. That the scholar has decided he prefers peace to war does not make him distort his facts.8
Similar to Zinn, I believe that objectivity in the first sense of the term is a good thing to practice. As critical scholars, we must engage with the world fairly. But objectivity in the sense that it equals social aloofness, or even compliancy with an unjust social world, is not my goal or the goal of any critical scholar. Rather, I am interested in having something useful to say, even if it does thrust me into the heat of controversy and battle in the "real" world. But the fact that I do not pretend to strive for objectivity does not mean that my scholarship is simply "made up." To write that scholarship serves the masters of some ideological force is simply to say that knowledge is always the response to a reason, it is always contextualized by the drives and ambitions of the researcher. By embracing this notion at the onset of any of our projects as critical scholars, we are simply being more forthright with our ideological commitments than those scholars whose ideological commitments deny the existence of ideology and who ignore the political realities that ideology always reifies. Because I have rejected the traditional disinterested persona that scholars are supposed to assume in their research, my work has been frequently rejected by book and journal referees as "anti-intellectual." I am often described by my critics as "angry," "hostile," and "polemical," and as having practiced politics at the expense of scholarship. One reviewer even went so far as to write that I was "anti-American. " This hostility spills over into interpersonal relationships as well. At the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where I took my first job in the Fall of 1995, I was addressed for months as the "communist" by the department chair. Some faculty members actively discouraged students from taking my classes and from working with me. The one M.A. student who dared study with me was subjected to abuse by the then Director of Graduate Studies.9 When my contract expired, I was dismissed and was unable to find another faculty position and had to leave the field.10
Because of my political commitments to a wider social democracy in the United States, I argue, fundamentally, for including more things under the rubric of scholarship (thus challenging disciplinary norms of professional objectivity), and that, in itself, is or should be an important ideal in U S. society, or in any society that calls itself a democracy. Furthermore, I take seriously the fact that all points of view are encouraged, even welcomed in this society (at least theoretically). This is the norm that America claims to represent. However, by pursuing an invigorating and applied notion of communication scholarship, I am accused of being alien - alien to students, alien to colleagues, alien to the discipline, and alien to our nation. This situation is both ironic and tragic. The marginalization of critical scholars from mainstream academic and political culture closes the doors on some of the most enthusiastic of our students and scholars, and keeps much academic scholarship squarely in the realm of the mediocre. Omar Swartz Durham, N.C.
Notes 1 2 3 4
(Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994). (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998). (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997). For the theory of apologetics, see William L. Benoit, Accounts, Excuses, and Apologies: A Theory o f Image Restoration Strategies (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995). A copy of King’s text appears in I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World (Glenview, IL: ScottForesman, 1986), 83-100. For an example of Turtellian's apologies, and those of other early Church fathers, see Apologetic Works (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1962). In the larger world, many people reject left politics because it is left politics, regardless of the specific contributions that it has made and can continue to make to the health and happiness of human communities. For my response to the marginalizing practices of ideological dissent of the National Communication Association, see "Disciplinizing the Other': Engaging Blair, Brown, and Baxter," Southern Communication Journal, 62 (1997), 253-256. The Politics o f History 2nd ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990), 10. XI
The multi-faceted attack against this student's credibility and competence continued for almost three semesters, and stopped only after the student went over the head of the department chair and successfully brought disciplinary action against the offending professor with a University grievance committee. 10 I persevered for a year as a lecturer at N.C. State University before enrolling at Duke University as a law student. For a discussion of the condition of radical scholars in academia, see Michael Parenti, Against Empire (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1995), chapter 10.
I would like to thank Professors Edward Schiappa, Charles Stewart, and Don Burks for the education that they provided me in graduate school. Judith Szerdahelyi listened to many of the ideas contained in this book as I was formulating them, and, through her reactions and discussions, she has contributed to the refinement of my thoughts in some ways. I want to thank Chris Bachelder for his helpful comments on earlier drafts of this book. His careful editorial work and prodding questions have greatly added to the project's competency. My mother, Sue Swartz, has stood beside me through thick and thin, and deserves to share in all my accomplishments. Finally, I want to thank my wife, Rui Zhao, who serves the essential function of providing me with the encouragement and love that I need in order to function as a human being.
[H]ope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many [people] pass one way, a road is made.
Selected Works voi. 1 (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1985), 101.
1 Communication as Strategy
This book charts some of the broad intersections between a socialist and a communicative perspective in social philosophy. It is supplemented by two appendixes that further exemplify the union of socialism and communication as a praxis informed activity. In an important sense, this book is cross-disciplinary and even counterdisciplinary (or anti-disciplinary). One of the primary assumptions of this book is that disciplinary scholarship often hinders social and critical understandings of society and social change. This is particularly tragic when we consider the discipline of communication.1 Communication scholars, in particular, are able to comment intelligently about the ways in which the mass media create social alienation in the United States.2 Communication scholars have particular expertise on how rhetoric and ideology intersect.3 When I was a doctoral student in the field, I had expected that given what communication scholars know, they would be more active in intervening in politics for the betterment of democracy. This "knowledge" excited me, and made me feel as if I was "in" on the beginning of something important. However, by the time I became a professor, it became clear to me that this was not going to happen. Critical politics, for the most part, is anathema to formal academic disciplines.4 I have largely rejected the constraints imposed on me by my discipline, and encourage others to do likewise. Only in this way can scholars hope to achieve some sort of real influence in areas where it really matters - in the lives of people struggling to better their circumstances.5 Scholarship is not about keeping our jobs, it is about giving something back to the people who pay our salaries. It is about serving the public trust. In a word, it is about socialism, however loosely the term can be defined. While socialism will be defined more fully in the next section, it can be usefully understood here as the system by which "human beings - once their essential needs are taken care of - [are] motivated to work and create by considerations other than monetary profit."6 Socialism, and public scholarship more generally, is about meeting the needs of people, not of profit. It is about building a society that is sustainable, just, and fair. A socialist-minded public
scholarship is about the best that we can be as people, and it sets itself against the worst that we have been (and currently are).7 I do not believe that what I have written is unreasonable or even unpractical. We can as a society be better, much better. Imagine a society that does not deplete the world's resources, pollute the environment to the point of causing widespread premature death,8invest in (and use on occasion) nuclear weapons, support fascist totalitarian regimes that massacre its own people, use its military as an offensive weapon to insure the submission of dependent nations, and use the unprotected condition of international labor to reduce the security of people in its own society. Furthermore, imagine a society that does not marginalize all non-property-based political parties, and one that makes a real effort to help the one-fifth of its population that lives in utter depravity. I can continue with this narrative, but I think that I have made my point: citizens of the United States suffer from a poverty of political and moral imagination. Moreover, many of the reasons why we have been so limited in terms of our moral imaginations is because we have been told to be base and selfish. We have had our histories rewritten so that all the wonderful human traits that have nurtured successful past communities, expressions of compassion, solidarity, and fraternity, have been deleted from the historical record. We have been told that we live in the best of possible worlds. As people we have a duty to challenge this conceptualization and to invite a wider sense of history and human potentiality into our political realities. Communication theory has much that can help us in this task. As should be readily apparent to any reader, this book contains poignant assumptions about political life in general. While readers may balk at some of the assumptions offered herein (there is no reason why any reader has to accept what I write at fece value), readers should understand that all scholarship makes similar assumptions about politics and the world. This book constitutes a piece of scholarship, although it will not be recognized as such in some communities because of its tone and attitude. As mentioned earlier, this book is anti-disciplinary. It is intended to be biased, polemical, and aggressive. This book has all the traits academic reviewers condemn in sanctioned scholarship.9 I know, I have been through the political ringer on three previous books. On each occasion, the integrity of my scholarship was challenged on the grounds that it is focused too much on what reviewers call the "real world." In this world, we find things like ideology, marginalization, hunger, greed, violence, femine, and war. It does not take much scratching on the surface o f these phenomena to see that they 2
are connected with politics. So why cannot scholarship be political? Well, if it were, scholars might start asking embarrassing questions about the structure of many of our social and political relationships. They might ask embarrassing questions about our history. In fact, if scholars were actually to engage with the world, rather than merely describe it or make excuses for it, they may find that they can change it. One of the important aspects of scholarship that most people do not think about is that it is first and foremost an argument.10That is to say, scholarship is not true in total by virtue of its existence. Its truth and its importance exist on a continuum. Readers are invited to make judgements about its usefulness based upon their experience with the text. They can only do this, however, if they have learned to suspend disbelief and to bracket their counter-assumptions long enough to study the integrity of the arguments contained in a document (such as this one). No assumptions, no belief, no Truth - disciplinary, religious, political, social, or economic - can withstand total scrutiny if readers refuse to grant the condition of plausibility, at least, to the integrity of assumptions that ground all argument. This is not to say that all arguments are good, or that all positions are equally valuable. It simply means that in order for the dialectic of communicative freedom to be created - toward which all scholarship should strive - the consumer of scholarly discourse must accept the proposition that audience and author are free to disagree. Within the tensions of that disagreement lie the dynamics of academic and social growth.11 All of the above strikes me as being a little wordy, but I feel that the qualification is necessary because so many people are conditioned to react negatively to the word "socialism" or "anarchism." Even within progressive political communities, people react to these words with a degree of suspicion. Appendix A of this book, for example, is a speech that I wrote to deliver at the Militant Forum, sponsored by the Socialist Workers' Party, at their Pathfinder bookstore in Greensboro, N.C. Representatives of the Socialist Workers' Party disagreed with everything I said about socialism, maintained that their party was the "true" socialist party of the United States, dismissed the importance of other progressive parties, thought that communication had nothing to do with socialism, and forbade me from delivering this speech after I had submitted the manuscript for their approval. Now, do not get me wrong, the people at Pathfinder Books are fine people, very devoted, and they dedicate all their free time toward organizing. Their party does excellent practical work in trying to build a better life for working people. Yet the members of the party that I met in Greensboro appeared to me to be 3
very dogmatic and inflexible at times, and they were certainly uptight about the word "anarchism." They even rejected the notion that they belonged to the political left, which they considered to be juvenile and rift with ideological factions. Somehow, they were able to transcend this provincialism, at least in their minds. Most of my readers are probably in the opposite position. They probably see themselves as belonging to the political left, but not necessary as socialists. Furthermore, most people of goodwill are even interested in learning more about anarchism, since, by and large, most people have no clue as to what it is. This is the legacy of history. Both the capitalist and socialist worlds have done such a good job of eviscerating anarchism as a political option that people today have no idea what the word "anarchism" means.12 The word scares people, even socialists, just as the word "socialist" scares people who are further right on the political spectrum.
Some Definitions Before moving into the substance of this book, it is necessary to define in detail the two terms in the title that promise to be the pivotal concepts of this text. I will start with "communication," a concept with theoretical and philosophical dimensions that are not familiar to people outside of a limited, but growing, academic community (see footnote #1). In this book, communication is defined in two senses. The first is more colloquial. Communication is a practical method of exchange, verbal or nonverbal, of emotive data. In other words, communication involves the exchange of symbols between humans that affects participants in an interaction (it leads to compliance, for example).13 This effect may be dramatic or subtle. It may be emotional or it may be factual. The sentence, "Jane asked John to turn on the light" reflects this meaning of the word "communication." The second sense in which communication is used in this book, one that is less familiar to most readers, involves its rhetorical or persuasive elements.14 It is the philosophical inquiry into the structure of emotive symbolic exchange. Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have A Dream" address is an example of communication in this sense. His speech represents more than an exchange of information; he is not simply asking for equality, as Jane asked John to turn on the light. Rather, King attempts to restructure our social relationships by placing old words and old expectations in a new and socially progressive light. In a technical sense, human communication is 4
epistemic: it creates knowledge.15 However, many people limit communication to the transferring of knowledge. The people at Pathfinder Books did this when they told me that language interferes with ideas. This is a Platonic view of communication.16Such a view sees socialism as a thing of its own. If we are clear about what socialism is, this view holds, then we can find ways to communicate that knowledge effectively. However, it is doubtful that we can ever know what socialism really is outside of our different ways of communicating about it. It is through communication that abstract ideas, such as socialism, become real for us. For example, Edward Schiappa discusses the three ways (rhetorical, psycholinguistical, and ideological) in which communication reifies abstract ideas and makes them knowable. He begins by discussing the notion of "entitlement." Schiappa explains that "Language sums up situations and makes sense of human experience."17 Another way of explaining this is that communication directs sight. It declares something to be something and not something else. Schiappa then discusses how "meaning" is linguistic, it derives from a sign that anchors thought: "A relationship exists between vocabulary and understanding: the more complex the vocabulary, the more sophisticated the observed learning."18 Finally, Schiappa explains, communication is "never neutral."19 Communication is always a positioning of reified subject matter to suit the needs of material/political conditions. Translated into the theme of this book, the above suggests that we can suffer, but we cannot learn to overcome that suffering in an organized fashion until we learn to talk about it, theorize it, and otherwise attempt to control it through our intellect - which of course then directs us to praxis, or behaviors that will instigate the actual material changes. I will come back to some of these ideas about communication as I develop its relationship with socialism more fully. But first I have to define in a more systematic way what I mean by "socialism." Socialism means many things to different people and cannot easily be discussed outside of the specific literatures that comprise what we take to be the "field" of socialism. We normally do not think of socialism as a field or as a literature. I think this is a big mistake. As I suggested above, I do not think there is any such thing as "socialism" outside of the various conversations and books that develop our understanding of it. By forgetting this, we tend to reify one particular literature, at the expense of others, and close ourselves off from wider understandings of the term. This creates an inordinate amount of disunity among progressive people. For example, many people tend to think of their socialism as something that is real, and what 5
other people label as "socialism" as something that is false. With few exceptions, every existing communist party or socialist party tends to magnify the importance of their interpretations. They also tend to focus on a limited range of canonical texts and to deny divergent or dissident readings among their members. This type of behavior strikes me as the antithesis of what I would expect from socialists, people who ostensibly value criticism, dissent, and human subjectivity over all else. In spite of the schisms, factions, and bickering among various members of the political left (often with disastrous political consequences), there are many different socialisms, some preferable to others. Soviet Socialism, for example, leaves much to be desired. As we move through the list of existing socialist countries, or countries that were once socialist, or countries that had significant socialist development at one time or another, we will find various strengths and weaknesses. Each country has its own history, and each party its own practice, and it is very difficult to generalize from one to another. While most people will agree that Soviet Socialism was a failure for various internal and external reasons, most people do not realize that a vast array of different socialisms exist in its opposition (anarchism, as just one example). These other socialisms exist because socialism is what we can imagine it to be (or what we can build).20 Like anything else human beings create, socialism can be a heaven or a hell (a Cuba or a Cambodia). The fact that we are responsible for its ultimate outcome should endear us more to the process of its creation. We have much to learn, but nothing to fear, from the specters of past failures. In a very real sense, the failures of the past make the successes of our future that much more likely. We can theorize past experiences and build a strategic knowledge of the present because we have literatures on socialism. The fact that we have no unity within this diverse literature is a strength. It shows us that thinking about socialism must always be a process, and it can never be completed. On the flip side, however, because this literature is so vast and diverse, people have a difficult time achieving consensus on even the most basic concepts, and this leads to unnecessary bickering among allies. Take the word "ideology," for example, or the word "proletariat." Neither has a consistent meaning, either denotatively or connotatively, across the different socialist literatures. Indeed, the most fundamental concepts of socialist theory are often contested by socialists themselves. What is a "bourgeois" or a "capitalist," for that matter? What is a "landlord"? What is a "worker"? What is "emancipation"? In raising these questions, I do not in any way mean to diminish their practical importance. In many cases, it is very clear 6
who is doing the oppressing and who is being oppressed. In other cases, these lines are more difficult to draw (which explains some of the repression in existing or in previously existing communist countries). This does not mean that we should stop drawing lines altogether, but that we should be more flexible in adapting our categories to localized contingences. Also, we have to realize that the type of lines we draw correspond to the theoretical categories that our socialist literatures have given us. Accentuating the problem of meaning when it comes to understanding the richness of the word "socialism," particularly among non-socialists, is the baggage that we bring to the term, prejudicing our perceptions and our understandings. Upon reading the word "socialism," many people immediately think of the former Soviet Union and all the problems associated - justly and unjustly - with that country. The reason people tend to make this connection is the result of an unfortunate semantic "trick" that both the United States and the former Soviet Union played on their peoples. By labeling the Soviet Union as "socialist" and by associating socialism with the social and political systems of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellite countries, the U.S. has been able to demonize the term. As a result, any country that strives to collectivize its resources becomes labeled as "socialist," and it is made to appear as existing in the image of the Soviet Union, no matter how differently it practices its politics. In reality, many socialist movements and governments have done much to alleviate human suffering throughout the world (particularly in curtailing the victimization of women and in providing for the basic needs of their citizens). This is a point that cannot be said for many non-socialist governments and social movements.21 Critics of my interpretation may respond that the Soviet Union used the term "socialism" to describe itself, and, could it not be said that it was, in fact, a socialist country? This response begs the question that something can or cannot be socialism. It implies an essence. However, as suggested above, what is and what is not socialism can only be answered from the point of view of the literature from which a person speaks. In a sense, Stalin was a socialist, but so was Che Guevara. While we rightly reject Stalin and his interpretation of socialism, there is no de facto reason to reject the socialism of Che or of Cuba. There is no reason to equate Nicaragua under the Sandinistas with the former Soviet Union. Outside of a limited range of literature, mostly that produced by the Soviet Union itself, and outside of its bureaucrats and those in the U.S., few people who objectively explore the situation of the former U.S.S.R. would be 7
inclined to call its system "socialist." The fact that the official discourse of the Soviet Union identified itself with socialism is illustrative of the Soviets' desire to cash in on the moral force of the word.22 In a sense, the two former super powers were engaged in a great communicative battle: both fought over what the word "socialism" was going to mean; both countries were trying to define it in terms that best suited their interests. Neither publicly took the time to explain to their citizens what exactly the word "socialism" means when approached from a wider literary and humanistic perspective. As a result, the word means practically nothing anymore, its moral currency compromised by both sides of the ideological divide. All this politicking went on while the practice of socialism rarely got a chance to speak for itself (when it did, its libertarian potential was squashed by the U.S., as in Vietnam). This "moral force" behind socialism and the re-creation of this moral force is what this book is about. But this book cannot act alone. This is a practical problem for the political left, and it is one that is informed by the study of communication.
Libertarian Socialism My definition of socialism is derived from libertarian socialism, otherwise known as anarchism. Anarchism is communism without the Communist Party (or at least without the notion of the "vanguard" party). Personally, I do not think it is necessary to give up the notion of a communist party, per se, as it is a useful political tool for organizing and supporting resistance, but we do have to rethink its structure in radically new ways. The communist party cannot be hierarchical. It cannot be authoritarian. It cannot be anything more than a loose coalition of various leftist perspectives that unite for the purpose of working out a viable leftist political platform. And what is "leftist politics"? Leftist politics is primarily the politics of everyday people struggling to create just and equitable work and living relationships. Leftist politics is a politics that comes from the people up. Leftist politics can never be dictated to the people by a self-appointed vanguard; it has to come from the people. That is the difference between the political left and the political right. The left believes, more than anything else, that political decisions must be based on the active involvement of the people being governed. The political right, on the other hand, believes that people are unable to make decisions for themselves and must be dictated to (usually because, if given a choice, most people will not want to abide by decisions 8
that benefit a few at the expense of the many). A communist party that is hierarchical, authoritarian, and inflexible properly belongs to the political machinery of the right. Anarchism is a form of communism, as I said above, but one that is at odds with many forms of existing socialism (specifically authoritarian socialism). Anarchists believe that people, when left to their own devices, and freed from the fetters of hate and dependency caused by capitalism, are naturally inclined to set up social systems, premised on the principles of mutual aid and cooperation, that are egalitarian and democratic. The political position of anarchism is represented by the late nineteenth and early twentieth century anarchist, Emma Goldman. As she explains: Anarchism . . . stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on a free grouping of individuals for producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the Earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tasks, and inclinations.23
Anarchism, used interchangeably with the word "socialism" in this book, is the philosophy of hope that optimistically maintains that the present social and economic systems can be restructured so that the resources of the Earth can be equitably distributed, thus absolving humanity of the need for the militarism that currently infects the planet. The problem with such a broad definition is its vagueness. It is unpolemical, at least among most people. It invites a passive, utopian yearning for an unattainable Golden Age. Edward W. Said emphasizes this problem in the following observation, explicating a further dimension of the tactical problems before us: Everybody today professes a liberal language of equality and harmony for all. The problem for the intellectual is to bring these notions to bear on actual situations where the gap between the profession of equality and justice, on the one hand, and the rather less edifying reality, on the other, is very great.24
In this gap between our public and often religious commitments to the principles of fairness and equality, and the often bitter reality of our economic and social practices (both in the U.S. and abroad in its colonies), there exists a communication problem: how do we explain to people how and
why this gap exists? solutions?25
Moreover, how do we frame our suggestions for
Socialism as a Communication Problem A clear way of seeing the future of socialism as a communication problem is to pose the question, "Why be a socialist?" Immediately, we are faced with the fact that most people will regard this question as incomprehensible. This alone should alert strategists on the left to the importance of communication in political struggle. If we cannot even raise the question, we will not have any chance to argue our positions, and the race is lost even before we leave the starting gate. Few people, besides existing socialists, take the question of socialism seriously anymore. Even people who are socialists, while often sincere, have a difficult time defending the question in the event that they are able to articulate it, as evidenced by the contemporary wane of the political left in the U.S. discourse community. If no room for discourse exists, there can be no hope for persuasion, no matter how hungry people are and no matter how unjust the market economy.26 Without socialist persuasion, desperate people are more likely to turn fascist than socialist, given the dictators who are always ready to rise in difficult times to satisfy immediate human needs at the cost of long range institutional change. I am immediately reminded of Germany and Marx's prophecy for the original socialist revolution. Obviously, socialists feel that there are good reasons to be socialist, and there are, but those reasons can never be separated from the narratives in which they are couched. In a sense, there are no clear reasons for believing in socialism as a workable political program; if the reasons were clear, then we would already be well on our way to a better world and not headed toward ecological, political, and social catastrophe. Socialism is not a selfevident proposition, at least not immediately, and not given the history and conflicts of the twentieth century. No social or political order is self-evident, which is why "scientific socialism" is not even a decent metaphor. Everything that is important to human beings has to be rationalized, that is, given some sort of comprehension. This means that the structure of the social world is not found, it is created. While mutual aid may be a "law" of nature, for example, as Peter Kropotkin argues,27 it still takes persuasion and effort to construct large scale communities that are humanely sensitive to the individual. As strange as it may sound, socialism needs to be established at 10
the individual level, and not at the level of the collectivity. This position is represented by Felix Guattari and Toni Negri, who explain: [Cļommunism is the establishment of a communal life style in which individuality is recognized and truly liberated, not merely opposed to the collective. That's the most important lesson: that the construction of healthy communities begins and ends with unique personalities, that the collective potential is realized only when the singular is free.28
In other words, socialism must be democratic, and that implies persuasion. Persuasion is how "reasonability" becomes operationalized. Communication is the paradigm under which all social meaning takes place. As explained by Walter Fisher, "[S]ymbols are created and communicated ultimately as stories meant to give order to human experience and to induce others to dwell in them in order to establish ways of living in common, in intellectual and spiritual communities in which there is confirmation for the story that constitutes one's life."29 The importance of seeing socialism in communicative terms further rests on the fact that non-socialists take the word "socialism" very seriously, and they do so by embodying it with a negative aura. In the battle between the former Soviet Union and the United States, two conservative and anti revolutionary countries, the political left has lost the use of the word "socialism." It has been co-opted by a range of people, including potential allies, and has been redefined to mean "the great bad thing." Part of this problem is infantile, as when Ronald Reagan evoked the demonized term as a way of justifying his aggressive policies against Nicaragua. To the extent that Nicaragua became associated with the Soviet Union in the minds of the North American public, the word "socialism" suffered accordingly (and so did the Nicaraguans). Part of the problem, as stated earlier, involves the Soviet Union and the memories the world has of Stalin and the forced labor camps. Stalin was real and the Soviet Union was terrible, but this is not to say that socialism is bad. To ascertain a more accurate appraisal of socialism, one needs to look at a place where people made an effort to practice it. While Cuba and Nicaragua are (were, in the case of Nicaragua) not "socialist" in a libertarian or anarchist sense, and while they have their limitations, they are significantly more socialist than was the Soviet Union and more democratic than is the United States, if we take "democracy" to mean a political system that strives to represent the interests of its people.30 Because of the problems defining socialism, and because of the mystifications by the United States and the Soviet Union, we are faced with 11
the contemporary contingency that for many people, the resonant question is not "Why be a socialist?" but, "Why on Earth would you want to even raise the question?" The extent to which the second question overshadows the first is the extent to which the political left is faced with a tremendous communication problem. Simply, the question of socialism is considered ludicrous and distasteful to many, and that exacerbates the already difficult, but necessary task of organizing. For example, Richard Rorty is among those on the cultural left who is particularly embarrassed by the question, "Why be a socialist?" He writes, "Visitors from postrevolutionary Eastern and Central Europe are going to stare at us incredulously if we continue to use the word socialism when we describe our political goals."31 Fair enough, given the way the word has been abused, but Rorty ought to be more careful to distinguish between what the word meant in Eastern Europe, and what it could mean and does mean in most literatures that are not controlled by apologists for the United States or the U.S.S.R. Thus, it is inconceivable that he can write, "The events of 1989 have made clear that we need a way . . . to make our grandchildren's lives better than ours that makes no reference to capitalism, bourgeois ways of life, bourgeois ideology, or the working classes."32 The fact that a major theorist on the left (as Rorty more or less positions himself) can write this is an indication that things have passed beyond the crisis point. Has the generation of philosophers following Camus and Sartre given up on socialism? While Rorty clearly has, I am not so sure that others of his stature are so anxious to discard a rich intellectual tradition and its implications for social transformation.33 Rorty notwithstanding, leftist politics can only be successful when it succeeds in organizing labor at the community levels to enact a change in corporate consciousness. But how do socialists organize, both locally and politically, when they are marginalized as "radical"? Yet, as defined by political scientist Clinton Rossiter, the "radical" person is one who is dissatisfied with the existing state of affairs and who is committed to a blueprint for thoroughgoing change.34 Rossiter's definition positions the radical as a visionary, one who challenges rather than assents. This "radical," or what Said identifies as the "intellectual," is "someone who considers that to be a thinking and concerned member of society one is able to raise moral issues at the heart of even the most technical and professionalized activity as it involves one's country, its mode of interaction with its citizens as well as with other societies."35 Notice, however, that Rossiter's definition and Said's characterization of the "intellectual" - a critical citizen who speaks "truth to power" - has a much 12
greater moral nuance than the term as it is evoked in much contemporary political and social discourse. This book does not specifically address those who marginalize socialists to irrelevance by labeling them "radicals." Labeling as a marginalizing tactic has been well studied,36 and a review of the literature suggests that people who utilize this practice act as if they were unreproachable for their actions they self-righteously deny the rhetoricity of their actions by mistaking slogans for Truth. Such people are being used by language and have lost control of their own agency as human beings to influence, self-consciously, the world; they fail to recognize that their act of naming is an act of politics, and not an act of attaching words to objective reality. To condemn socialism as "radical" is to presuppose that there is something "natural" about the world as it is currently structured, something that makes the idea of altering it unthinkable. From the point of view of a person committed to thinking critically, the only reasonable response to the question of socialism is to say: Sounds interesting, can you convince me that I should join you? What this idealistic scenario suggests is a point that I think we often overlook, although it is so obvious that it seems rather silly to write it here: the burden of proof will always lie with the socialist. No longer can we assume that the sorry condition of the world and all the people in it will lead people to be naturally sympathetic to us and our cause, no matter how rational such behavior would be. We have to see our task as being persuasive, which is the function of this book. However, the other point that has to be made is that the responsibility for dialogue remains with the anti socialist, at least insofar as an honest intellectual position is concerned. While we have a duty to make socialism a respectable topic for discussion and debate, this duty is dependent upon our skill in creating a democracy strong enough so that anti or non-socialists will at least give us the courtesy of listening to us. This is as necessary as militaristic confrontation in places where the labor movement is being harassed and/or persecuted. Confrontation without persuasion is counter-productive, just as persuasion without the threat of confrontation is seldom likely to succeed.37 This said, it is difficult for many people to engage in a reasoned inquiry on the subject of socialism - they tend to react as if socialism is radical, and radicalism is a terrible thing. People have a psychological need to believe that their world is permanent and that their lives are just, no matter how contingent and corrupt their actual social existence. To problematize this world is to destabilize the normalcy of people's everyday lives, and people bitterly resist confrontations of this sort. 13
It is difficult to reach these people, because their logological commitments - i.e. their emotional ties to the implications of a certain vocabulary, like that of neo-liberalism - bind them to a form of denial and self-loathing and to the conditions of their own servitude. This is one way in which ideology works and largely explains why substantial resistance to U.S. domestic and foreign domination from the African-American community is not forthcoming, and why it took on a destructive, rather than an ideological, expression during the most recent L.A. riots. These logological commitments behaviorally condition people to respond in a glandular fashion to socialist appeals and they effectively circumvent rational thought. This is Noam Chomsky's thesis, which he reiterates throughout his large corpus on the media. People who respond defensively toward socialism are not the enemies of socialism, or of liberty and democracy. They are simply people, no different from us in any other way, who are, due to propaganda and a biased education, sadly committed to the forces of their alienation. These people choose, and are encouraged to choose, to spend their intellectual energies analyzing professional sports (as well as other distractions) rather than engaging in the analysis of national politics. As Chomsky explains: When I'm driving, I sometimes turn on the radio and I find very often that what I'm listening to is a discussion of sports. These are telephone conversations. People call in and have long intricate discussions, and it's plain that quite a high degree of thought and analysis is going into that. People know a tremendous amount. They know all sorts of complicated details and enter into far-reaching discussion about where the coach made the right decision yesterday and so on. These are ordinary people, not professionals, who are applying their intelligence and analytic skills in these areas and accumulating quite a lot of knowledge and . . . understanding. On the other hand, when I hear people talk about . . . international affairs or domestic problems, it's at a level of superficiality which is beyond belief. . . . The way the system is set up, there is virtually nothing people can do anyway, without a degree of organization that's far beyond anything that exists now, to influence the real world. They might as well live in a fantasy world, and that's in fact what they do.38
Chomsky has placed his finger on part of the problem; he has identified the types of people that socialism needs to reach so that intellectual energy can be channeled into discussions that actually "matter" to our lives and to the lives of others. This is another reason why the issue of communication needs to be central to a reorganized political left: it is about reaching others 14
so that they feel that their voices and concerns can be heard in a meaningful way. As indicated in the above, the task of socialism is the battle against alienation. The pervasiveness and intensity of our national commitments to sports, television, and cinema suggest that these interests are more than just modes of entertainment. They are not a means to the goal of re-creation - to reenvision one's self; rather, they are an end in themselves, and thus take people away from their abilities to refashion their identities, which is always a political act. People become alienated when they do not see themselves as historical beings, capable of influencing the direction of their lives. Socialism is the reaffirmation of peoples' right to recreate and to integrate themselves politically with their neighbors and their society. Socialism, in opposition to alienation, seeks the revival of the human as human in all aspects of social and political life. This is the fundamental point of all the classical writings on socialism.39 The study of communication is an important tool in this contest against apathy, for it focuses attention on mystification and reification, which are natural properties of language; furthermore, it accentuates the role that value and ethics play in human narrativity. In short, communication functions as a mediator of ideology: "Human beings are 'conditioned,' not directly to belief and behavior, but to a vocabulary of concepts that function as guides, warrants, reasons, or excuses for behavior and belief."40 In the United States, as well as in the rest of the world, people's alienation is seldom total. Everyday, people battle their alienation from labor and society as they strive to build democratic communities for themselves. At certain times, for example in the 1960s, this resistance becomes coordinated and the potential for meaningful change arises. From the Black Panther Party that formed in Oakland in the 1960s, to the Zapatistas uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, in the 1990s, and in countless communities throughout the world, people have united periodically in a concerted effort to take control of their communities and their lives.41 Their victories are seldom complete, but each social movement, nevertheless, struggles to attain a certain degree of material gain, if only an increased self-confidence. To see these movements or struggles as violence is to miss the larger point: they are first and foremost acts of socialization and democratization, with the aim of achieving a more or less total community involvement. Bobby Seale explains the philosophy behind the formation of the Black Panther Party: We, the Black Panther Party, see ourselves as a nation within a nation, but not for any racist reasons. We see it as a necessity for us to progress as human 15
beings and live on the face of this earth along with other people. We do not fight racism with racism. We fight racism with solidarity. We do not fight exploitative capitalism with black capitalism. We fight capitalism with basic socialism. And we do not fight imperialism with more imperialism. We fight imperialism with proletarian internationalism.42 This same sentiment is repeated in the discourse of the Zapatistas, as it is in all libertarian social revolts. None of these movements embrace violence and destruction for their own ends, and the violence is inconsequential to their ideology, although often quite necessary for individual survival. The violence associated with socialist politics is always the violence of the capitalist state that rises to contain and subvert libertarian impulses. "Always" is an ambitious term. Yet, how can you say a person commits violence when he or she resists injustice? The violence is what is done to them, not what they do in response. In the words of Victor Hugo, "If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he [sic] who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness."43 Through the work of the visionaries who create the socialist literatures, we are constantly reminded of the necessity to battle alienation, and it is through their work that the people who have closed their eyes and ears to injustice can be reached. They remind us, although often indirectly, that solidarity and community are created through the communication act - when we get people to see themselves and their interests as being interrelated with others) - and that successful communication and persuasion themselves are dependent upon the pervasiveness of the conditions of solidarity and community. As Herbert Read explains, "[T]he communication of any truth, of any 'lesson' depends on the existence of a condition of mutuality between the teacher and the pupil - all effective communication is a dialogue, and is based on mutual respect and love."44 All revolutionary social movements, across the political spectrum, have always been for the establishment of a "community" (either tightly or broadly drawn). The norms and borders of that community, its moral contingencies, are rhetorically situated.45 In other words, it is only through a sense of solidarity and community that the social "other" can be antithetically positioned. As rhetorical theorist Kenneth Burke explains, "Identification is affirmed with earnestness precisely because there is division. Identification is compensatory to division. If men [sic] were not apart from each other, there would be no need for the rhetorician to proclaim their unity."46 Real or imagined, it is the existence of this "other," manifested through communication and dialogue, that gives substance and identity to the union 16
of a new community struggling to self-actualize itself and its demands. Even when large communities of people are being persecuted, like AfricanAmericans and Palestinian people, their group resistance is dependent upon their ability to act with a degree of coordination and unity. This sense of solidarity is not an inevitable part of their community. They must be organized linguistically to see their servitude through a common ideological perspective. If not, resistance is haphazard and individual (riots rather than protests). The successes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, for example, derive from the relative ideological unity among their followers. These leaders creatively focused individual resistance. During his "I Have a Dream" speech, King told his followers that they were the "veterans of creative suffering."47 The L.A. rioters were suffering no less in 1992 then they were in the 1960s, but they were unable to channel their suffering into an ideologically inspired resistance (which is an act of creativity). They did not resist, they destroyed, and little, if anything, was gained from the experience. In being able to channel dissent into commonly shared visions, social and political groups learn to distinguish between the people who may be able to join with their cause, and those that exist, dialectically, as their mortal enemies. This is essential because class conflict transcends racial or religious conflict, and is the root of all conflict. Racial and religious strife are materially driven, at least as they have been expressed in the twentiethcentury. The dialectical nature of the relationship between social identity, organized resistance, and communication is indicative of the symbolic structures of meaning that underlie all human interaction. Human consciousness is dependent upon symbols. For example, while we may experience hunger as animals, we only understand it through our cognitive (thus linguistic) processes.48 While death from starvation is real, whether cognitively understood or not, we nevertheless learn to understand our bodies by thinking and talking about them. This is our symbolic nature, and its effect on human consciousness is as great, if not greater, than the substantial material influence of the environment. Yet, as mentioned above, our symbolic and communicative dimensions are themselves material as well as dialectical. Thought proceeds as an interchange between the environment and our perceptions. Both are equally real. In other words, thought^ meaning, values, and perceptions are all linguistically mediated. Within this mediation, the indeterminacy of symbols invites a constant reevaluation and debate on all matters of value and belief. This is one reason why "socialism" 17
as a term can fall into disuse. By itself, the word means nothing. Its meaning derives from us and our moral commitments, as well as from our perceptions. To reiterate: symbols and symbolic action may be as material as they are cognitive, just as dialectical thinking itself is both a symbolic cognitive affair and a material practice. For example, "class warfare," while symbolic as a concept and rich as an ideological term, is also material. The working classes do have their enemies, and wealth has the power and the prerogative to pursue its own ends. While the metaphysical distinction between the working classes (defined in this book as people who control no significant economic resources besides their own manual or intellectual labor) and the ruling classes is a symbolic distinction, arising artificially through the alienation of money (itself a symbolic phenomenon), that distinction is also real, as money itself is both a symbol and an agency of power. Money and "class warfare" are both symbolic as well as representative of a material force. Their symbolism derives from the human alienation from nature, itself the consequence of language use.49 "Class conflict" does not exist outside of people's commitments to construct power relationships based upon the control of material relationships. In traditional Marxist theory, class conflict withers away as the capitalist means of production is abolished. Money itself disappears when people lose faith in its value. Neither are "real" in the sense that they will exist when the social contingences calling them into being cease to exist. Nevertheless, the contingencies that make real our symbolic understandings are real, and while they exist in the particular capitalist forms in which they have existed for the past five hundred years, people suffer and the Earth is destroyed. Sanctioned with the false authority of a governmental or legal ethos, people, that is individuals, do plan wars of conquest and acts of domination. This point is made obvious by Howard Zinn, Chomsky, and Michel Bead, authors of alternative histories that challenge the intellectual hegemony of the victors to write self-vindicating narratives.50 What these histories reveal, as Marxist historicism reveals, is that the misery of the world is not an accident, as it is made to appear in standard histories. Human misery is not rooted in poverty, but in the conditions that create poverty. Misery is not the unfortunate side effect of our (in the West) "good intentions" gone awry, as the misery inflicted on Vietnam is often explained or presented,51 but is rather the result of specific policies that are intentionally designed to maximize social inequality. In Read's words, "The
existing order is outrageously unjust, and if we do not revolt against it, we are either morally insensitive or criminally selfish."52 The forces of capital do exist world wide, nurtured by the successes of U.S. anti-communism, as well as by the anti-communism of the former Soviet Union. These forces are self-consciously ideological, even though they deny that ideology in their public discourse. While the vast majority of the working people in the United States and abroad have given up on the terminology and philosophy of socialism, capitalist leadership has not. It believes in the prophecy of Marx (while, ironically, the left does not), and this is one reason why the U.S. government is so persistent in suppressing, repressing, and destroying any vestiges of popular social consciousness, domestically or abroad. Systematically, beginning in Greece and Italy after the Second World War, up until Haiti in 1995 and beyond, U.S. foreign policy, as well as its domestic policies, has been dedicated to the perpetuation of class distinctions and traditional class relationships. The very success of the U.S. and its allies abroad in eradicating the class consciousness and fraternity that characterized labor and inspired the revolutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, is evidenced by the fact that the words "socialism" and "anarchism" conjure up images of demons and chaos. At the very best, the words have become associated in the minds of most Americans with irrelevance and incompetency. In an important sense, the reactionary forces have won an essential communication battle.53
The major national journals of the National Communication Association are Communication Education, Communication Monographs, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Journal of Applied Communication Research, The Quarterly Journal of Speech, and Text and Performance Quarterly. The four important regional journals are Communication Studies, Communication Quarterly, Southern Journal of Communication, and the Western Journal of Communication. In the broader sense, however, communication studies is interdisciplinary, and is much larger than the discipline that controls the above, often parochial, journals. There is, in fact, currently a world-wide explosion of programs that identify themselves as communication related. For examples, see Alex Carey, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda Versus Freedom and Liberty (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997); Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon Press, 1988); Michael Parenti, Inventing Reality: The Politics of the News 19
3 4 5 6 7
Media (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993); and Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Penguin Books, 1985). See the collected essays that appear in "Special Issue on Ideology and Communication," Western Journal of Communication 57 (1993), number 2. See Russell Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe (New York: The Noonday Press, 1987). For an overview of this perspective, see the essays collected in Charles C. Lemert, Intellectuals and Politics: Social Theory in a Changing World (Newbury Park: Sage, 1991). Howard Zinn, Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology (New York: HarperPerennial, 1990), 172. An excellent historical example of such scholarship is Michael Parenti's The Anti-Communist Impulse (New York: Random House, 1969). In its day, the book positioned itself against the destructive ideology of anti-communism that was perpetuating the Vietnam War, as well as countless other U.S. military invasions. Parenti offers his book as "a critical examination of the kind of political reality which the anti-communist impulse has constructed; it is an inquiry into the imagery, theory, and practice of an American orthodoxy" (6). As Parenti documents, U.S. anti-communists have "perpetrate[d] greater human miseries and dangers than the ones they allegedly seek to eradicate and they become the very evil they profess to combat" (9). Public scholarship such as this, and the type we find more recently exemplified in the work of Parenti, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky, has the potential to convince millions of Americans that they can make a difference in the world if they learn how to control the vast political machine that perpetuates genocide in the guise of "protecting" its citizens. See John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Toxic Sludge is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Public Relations Industry (Monoe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995). In The Politics of History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990), Zinn discusses the "rules" by which scholarship is typically measured. These are: "Carry on 'disinterested scholarship'" (9); "Be objective" (10); "Stick to your discipline" (11); "To be 'scientific' requires neutrality" (12); and "A scholar must, in order to be 'rational,' avoid 'emotionalism'" (12). By these standards, what I have written in this book is not sholarship according to the guardians of disciplinary thought. See Wayne Brockriede, "Rhetorical Criticism as Argument" Quarterly Journal of Speech 60 (1974), 165-174. Readers should bear in mind the distinction that Edwin Black makes between "critical" and "glandular" disagreement. The person who reads this book and says, "I hate it!" is not participating in a productive intellectual process; rather, that person is simply reacting on a glandular level - that person is not 20
17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24
reacting to the ideas contained in the book, but to the emotional baggage that the person brings to the text. In order for his or her disagreement to be productive, the reader would have to say, "Your argument is not convincing. While you stress X, you overlook conditions Y and Z. Perhaps if you viewed your topic from the following perspective . . . " See Rhetorical Criticism: A Study in Method (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), 7. The conflict between Marxism and anarchism can be traced to the First International and the clash between Karl Marx and Michael Bakunin. For traditional Marxists, the struggle of labor was the struggle for state power, which leads to the so-called "Dictatorship of the Proletariat." For the clearest expression of this principle and its function in traditional (or at least Russian dominated) Marxist ideology, see Nikolai Bukharin and Evgeny Preobazhensky, The ABC of Communism: A Popular Explanation of the Program of the Communist Party of Russia (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1966), part II. For the anarchists, however, the struggle of labor was for the abolishment of the state, the very thing that Marxists coveted. Thus, what have historically been known as "communist" or "socialist" states or parties have been as against the anarchists as the capitalist states and parties have been. For an overview of communication in this sense, see Stephen W. Littlejohn, Theories of Human Communication 4th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1992). For a discussion of communication in this sense, see Sonja K. Foss, Karen A. Foss, and Robert Trapp, Contemporary Perspectives on Rhetoric 2nd ed. (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1991). Robert L. Scott, "On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic, '' Central States Speech Journal 18 (1967), 9-17. For an extension of this implication, see my The Rise of Rhetoric and its Intersections with Contemporary Critical Thought (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998), chapter four. "Rhetorike: What's in a Name? Toward a Revised History of Early Greek Rhetorical Theoty," Quarterly Journal of Speech 78 (1992), 9. Ibid., 10. Ibid. See the essays collected in Richard R. Fragen, Carmen Diana Deere, and Jose Luis Coraggio, Transition and Development: Problems of Third World Socialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1986). See Michael Parenti, Land of Idols: Political Mythology in America (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994), chapter 11. Noam Chomsky makes this point frequently throughout his thirty-odd books on this and related themes. Anarchism and Other Essays (New York: Dover Publications, 1969), 62. Representations of the Intellectual (New York: Random House, 1994), 94. 21
25 It strikes me that all future appeals for socialism must acknowledge that people are often deeply committed to religious ideals. Socialism must not be positioned as being anti-religious, although it should continue to resist those traditional Church structures that perpetuate human suffering. Appendix В to this book is devoted entirely to the discussion of this point. 26 See Edward S. Herman, Triumph o f the Market (Boston: South End Press, 1995). 27 Mutual Aid: A Factor o f Evolution (New York: Black Rose Books, 1989). 28 Communists Like Us (New York: Semiotext(e), 1990), 17. 29 Human Communication as Narration: Toward a Philosophy o f Reason, Value, and Action (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1987), 63. 30 Harry R. Targ, People's Nicaragua (New York: International Publisher, 1989). 31 "The Intellectuals at the End of Socialism," The Yale Review 80 (1992), 1. 32 Ibid., 9. 33 See, for example, Jacques Derrida, Specters o f Marx: The State o f the Debt, the Work o f Mourning, and the New International (New York: Routledge, 1994); Michel Foucault, Remarks on Marx (New York: Semiotext(e), 1991); and Guattari and Negri, Communists Like Us. 34 Conservatism in America (New York: Vintage Books, 1962). 35 Representations o f the Intellectual, 83. 36 See Charles J. Stewart, Craig Allen Smith, and Robert E. Denton, Jr., Persuasion and Social Movements 3rd ed. (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1994), chapter 10. 37 Howard Zinn, Disobedience and Democracy: Nine Fallacies on Law and Order (New York: Vintage Books, 1968). 38 The Chomsky Reader (New York: Pantheon Books, 1987), 33. 39 For an indepth discussion of this in Marx's writings, see Erich Fromm, "Marx's Concept of Man." In Marx's Concept o f Man (New York: Continuum, 1992), 1-83. Incidentally, this essay is the best overview of Marx's humanism that I have ever read. 40 Michael McGee, "The 'Ideograph': A Link Between Rhetoric and Ideology," Quarterly Journal o f Speech 66 (1980), 6. 41 See, for instance, Bobby Seale, Seize the Time: The Story o f the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton (Baltimore: Black Classics Press, 1991); and Zapatistas: Documents o f the New Mexican Revolution (New York: Autonomedia, 1994). 42 Seize the Time, 71. 43 Quoted in Martin Luther King, Jr., The Trumpet o f Conscience (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), 74. 44 Anarchy and Order: Essays in Politics (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), 30. See also, Paulo Freire, Pedagogy o f the Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 1994). 22
45 Stewart, Smith, and Denton, Persuasion and Social Movements. 46 A Rhetoric o f Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 22. 47 In Ronald F. Reid, ed., Three Centuries o f American Rhetorical Discourse: An Anthology and a Review (Prospect heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1988), 725. 48 See Klaus Eder, The Social Construction o f Nature (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1996). 49 Kenneth Burke, Language as Symbolic Action (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), chapters one and three. 50 Howard Zinn, A People's History o f the United States (New York: Harper and Row, 1980); Noam Chomsky, Year 501: The Conquest Continues (Boston: South End Press, 1993); and Michel Bead, A History o f Capitalism: 15001980 (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983). 51 Stanley Kamow, Vietnam: A History (New York: Penguin Books, 1991). 52 Anarchy and Order, 17. 53 For a historical study of the demonization of "anarchism" in North American culture, see Nathaniel Hong, "Constructing the Anarchist Beast in American Periodical Literature, 1880 - 1903," Critical Studies in Mass Communication 9 (1992), 110-130.
2 Contingency o f Socialism
The question of communication as it relates to socialism in the last chapter involves issues of representation and meaning. Representation is always linguistic and is always value and interest laden. Representation is the essential concern of persuasion, and shared meaning is its goal. This leads us to the question of ideology and its intersection with discourse and public understanding.
Ideology and Language As noted by scholars such as Terry Eagleton, the question of ideology is difficult to address.1 Simply, the word means so many different things to so many different people that it has lost much of its technical specificity and practical usefulness. For example, Eagleton provides a list of some of ideology's common meanings: [T]he process of production of meanings, signs, and values in social life; a body of ideas characteristic of a particular social group or class; ideas which help to legitimate a dominant political power; systematically distorted communication; that which offers a position for a subject; forms of thought motivated by social interests; identity thinking; socially necessary illusion; the conjuncture of discourse and power; the medium in which conscious social actors make sense of their world; action-oriented sets of beliefs; the focusing of linguistic and phenomenal reality; semiotic closure; the indispensable medium in which individuals live out their relations to a social structure; the process whereby social life is converted to a natural reality.2 This trend to over-theorize the concept must be resisted. No matter how accurate the above definitions may be, questions of what ideology is do not have to be settled for the word to be heuristic. "Ideology," like "socialism," does not mean anything besides the meanings we bring to it and take from it, as well as the use we make of it. Broadly speaking, ideology is a communicative phenomenon. It involves the logological commitments that language naturally implies, and it provides 24
a grammar for ordering and structuring perception. Thus, ideology serves important structural functions in human perception. In the language of Kenneth Burke, ideology is dramatistic: it is the base from which motives can be understood as manifested through action. Burke explains the origin and effect of ideology in the following way: An "ideology" is like a god coming down to earth, where it will inhabit a place pervaded by its presence. An "ideology" is like a spirit taking up its abode in a body: it makes that body hop around in certain ways, and that same body would have hopped around in different ways had a different ideology happened to inhabit it.3 In this way, ideology involves the structuring of our priorities and the rhetoric of our potentialities. It is more than a "false" consciousness (the most common definition of ideology in the traditional Marxist literatures), although it is certainly manipulated by the media to mystify class consciousness and to reify the justifications of the status quo. This latter, limited sense of ideology, is evoked in the following passage from Howard Zinn, as he discusses one effect of education in the perpetuation of the modem capitalist state: Education and literacy did not end the deception of the many by the few; they enabled deception to be replaced by self-deception, mystification to be internalized, and social control to be even more effective than ever before, because now it had a large measure of .ve//-control.4 This view of ideology has been popular in the past, and it is not entirely unacceptable, as this sort of thought control does exist. However, our understanding of ideology needs to be broadened and approached as the communicative norm that negotiates shared meaning. Burke set out to do just this when he spoke to the first American Writers' Congress about the importance of revolutionary symbolism in promoting socialism in the United States.5 He concluded, in effect, that communication (particularly rhetorical communication) involves education and thus socialist politics must been seen as a part of larger rhetorical and educational processes. He argued, unsuccessfully at the time, that the political left had given up its claims to the communication field by ignoring its rhetoricity.6 Burke's warnings have come to haunt the political left, which have largely ignored his important message.
There is no doubt that ideology, in the sense of being a false consciousness, and in its larger logological sense of networking values and beliefs, exerts a tremendous influence on our contemporary political life. If real social change is to occur, the methods of communication that currently create political consciousness in the United States must be transformed in an effort to realign socialism with the moral force of its previous linguistic identifications. The knife of ideology cuts both ways: it is not the inherent tool of the left. Moral identifications (ideologies) are struggled over linguistically, and it is within the terrain of communication and its intersection with ideology that we find meaning in the following observation. While the words are Zinn's, they have been eloquently repeated by a range of socially-attuned writers: "Revolution in its full sense cannot be achieved by a force of arms. It must be prepared in the minds and behaviors of men [sic] even before institutions have radically changed. It is not an act, but a process."7 In many ways, the people caught in the negative web of ideology and deceit, the result of reactionary communication and propaganda, constitute an important part of the rhetorical audience that a socialist politics of communication needs to reach. But these people are difficult to reach because they self-select themselves away from the forums where most socialist persuasion takes place: the literatures, including what has traditionally been known as "propaganda" (i.e. popular communications such as leaflets, pamphlets, fliers, and community speakers). Socialism today is largely a literary phenomenon (without much propaganda or appeal to a non elitist working class contingency). During no time in the past one hundred and fifty years have so many people written so much about socialism with so few people actively engaged in socialist politics. This is ironic and again stresses the need for us to examine critically what can be called our "communication deficit." Our theoretical, moral, historical, and practical insights have not been commensurate with our communicative abilities. This is sad because at this time in history so many people are potentially willing to consider our ideas if we can only find a way to speak to them. In a very real sense, the world is crying out for a strong left leadership. This is the situation in which the political left finds itself; its communication possibilities are largely unexplored and frequently self limited. Its discourses fall on deaf ears. As much as we write about theory and document, yet again (and again), the abuses and excesses of capitalism and the crimes of its henchmen, our practical appeal will be limited at best. Texts can never be as persuasive as a lived real-world experience (although 26
this a point that is often difficult for academic Marxists to understand). Socialism needs to be in the streets, in the factories, in the shopping malls and markets of U.S. society. Socialism needs to have a presence. Reducing persuasion to a "text" neuters it. Persuasion, to be effective, needs to be lived. It is local and involves values that people use to engage in their everyday lives. The limitations of text-based analysis (coupled with the fact that the dominant mass media have a monopoly on the information that is exchanged daily in this country) makes it difficult for socialists to speak outside of their immediate audiences.
The Need for a W ider Political Dialogue Books such as this one are often treated as technical for a highly exclusive and theory-dependent university population. As Chomsky and others have noted, this retreat to theory is often operationalized as a rejection of a lived politics.8But it does not have to be this way; books can be sophisticated and popular, they can be academic and social, as I hope this book is. Certainly, all people, not just professors, have the ability to read - illiteracy among people in the general population is not innate. The fact that capitalism has weaned people of print and has replaced it with an electronic surrogate is in no way natural, nor is it inevitable (or socially healthy). The fact remains that, for the most part, people choose not to read, and what they have available to read is often carefully processed for them. In his study of a wide range of popular literatures, Ariel Dorfman concludes that what we read and how it is prepared does have an effect on the way we think in this society. While we may not be completely illiterate as a nation, our literatures (and hence our thoughts) are often quite juvenile: Perhaps it is inevitable that the consumer should be treated as an infant, helpless and demanding, in societies such as ours. As a member of a democratic system, he [sic] has a right to vote and the even more important right and obligation to consume; but at the same time he is not really participating in the determination of his future or that of the world. People can be treated as children because they do not, in effect, control their own destiny. Even if they feel themselves to be utterly free, they are objectively vulnerable and dependent, passive in a world commandeered by others, a world where the messages they swallow have originated in other peoples' minds.9
In short, the minds of the reading public are often filled with trash that eviscarates our political imaginations, while politically progressive books, such as this one, remain largely unread. Books such as this should appear serialized in magazines such as Commentary or the The New Republic, or even appear in mainstream newspapers. Unfortunately, "freedom of the press" usually means "freedom" for those who own them. This means that controversial perspectives, either political or academic, tend to be marginalized, even by "left" publications, to the periphery of public awareness.10 The result is that important preconditions for the construction of a political democracy continually remain unactualized. This state of affairs must not go unchallenged. There is space for a wider political and moral dialogue in our society, particularly in our news sources. A range of people have commented on this need, most notably Edward Herman, Noam Chomsky, Neil Postman, and Michael Parenti." These scholars' critiques of the mass media's deleterious effects on the functioning of a popular democracy are highly persuasive and well documented. Yet these authors are virtually ignored and excluded from the professional communication literatures, as well as from the professional political science and history literatures. The only significant exception to this state of affairs in the professional communication literature is Elli Lester.12 Lester alone, to my knowledge, dares to take Herman and Chomsky's charge of propaganda seriously (and his essay did not appear in a mainstream communication journal). The rest see only symptoms and problems of the mass media, limitations perhaps. No one, however, seriously questions the institution of the media as the tool of a belligerent government. Media scholars pride themselves too much on "objectivity," as if their professional aloofness is not itself a political affirmation of the status quo. Even Neil Postman, the one communication scholar who comes closest to the total critique of the media that is necessary today, draws back from the obvious conclusion that he is in the position to make: the U.S. media is a reactionary force designed to distract people from their efforts to create a larger, interactive, populist and democratic society. Postman, who skirts this critique, pulls his punches at the critical moment, suggesting that things have to remain the same - he cannot envision any other alternative, such as a socialist control of the media. But others can, people who usually do not have a professional background in the field of communication (people like Chomsky, for example). It is to such people that we turn when we look toward ethical progress in the United States. 28
In challenging this state of affairs, we create space for change, for popular political and social growth. This statement is validated by the fact that the United States maintains a public commitment toward democracy (no matter how disingenuous and limited this may appear). For example, in his 1993 Inaugural Address, President Bill Clinton clearly implies that there is room for a wider political dimension in the United States. He declared, "There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America."13 Fair enough, the statement is true. America can be a leading progressive force in world politics and human rights, although, historically, it has worked against these goals. In actuality, the phrase "American democracy" is a farce at best, and an oxymoron at worst.14 In spite of a range of critiques that illustrate how fascist corporations have usurped political power in the United States and have created a social environment that suits their needs, there is still a grain of truth to the belief that dialogue matters and that politics can be informed by further participation by the traditional left. Otherwise, why would the left write anything? Why would we organize, if not to amplify our voices? IftheU .S. was a traditional fascist state, the kind found in Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan, the political left would be forced into underground political activities. Yet we remain above ground, for the most part; in fact, our potential strengths lie in an increased presence. The left needs to be louder, and to appear in more places; its emblems need to be more recognizable and welcoming than the "Golden Arches" of McDonalds or the deceivingly friendly Mickey Mouse. In a real sense, the question of socialism is the question of dialogue. The "friendly fascism" of the corporate state can be resisted by persuasion, as the traditional fascist states had to be resisted with guns. Indeed, agitation must be directed towards persuasion - the corporations have all the gims and have shown, by their past actions, their readiness to use them. The Federal Government, as a proxy for the corporations that control it, has destroyed countless democracies across the globe and stands poised to smash democracy if it were to appear in significant form in the United States. With their weapons and control of technology, the capitalists can control the cities as well as the countryside, but they cannot control our minds if we choose to resist them and dedicate our energies to that task. And we must choose to do so if we wish to humanize our lives and our communities. While the corporate world can exert great force on the political agenda, it cannot keep us from being critical if we choose to exercise our minds and begin the difficult process of democratization. If the corporate world loses control of 29
our thoughts, its game is over. The strength of capitalism is grounded, to a great extent, in the absence of critical thought and in the marginalization of a socialist discourse. Thus, socialism in the United States is always a potential that exists in an immediate sense. Socialism is never far away, even when its practical influence is negligible. Socialism can be as real as we make it; we have a political infrastructure in this country that allows for democracy if people can find a way to see through the mystifications of the mass media and the Public Relations industries.15 The answer to the problem of how we work toward socialism is, once again, dialogue. Social change cannot be contemplated outside of communication. When people can freely meet on the streets and in their homes without television and without the current pressures to survive, people will want to talk with one another and find ways to bring meaning and beauty to their lives. To a certain extent, this belief in dialogue animates scholarship in the National Communication Association. More specifically, a few scholars, most notably Philip Wander, have recognized that communication and ideology intersect, and that questions of rhetoric involve questions of socialism.16 Wander's work underscores the importance of dialogue, particularly the critical dialogue between a critic's evaluation and the dissemination of that evaluation among a wider, more general public. This point is emphasized as Wander writes: Criticism takes an ideological turn when it recognizes the existence of powerful vested interests benefiting from and constantly urging policies and technology that threaten life on this planet, when it realizes that we search for alternatives.17 Wander and Burke aside, few communication scholars take seriously the connections between communication, community, and ideology; socialists and other activists on the left have not been much more astute. Criticism is necessarily social and ideological, and it is thus rhetorical. This seems to be a basic observation, but one that almost completely alludes leftist politics. The political right, however, is well aware of how rhetoric works, and has used it quite effectively in recent years to represent itself as the "natural" political position. Criticism is necessarily rhetorical and functional because the task of socialism as it meets the challenges of the twenty-first century is to create space in the United States for a popular resistance to the hegemony of capital. This means not only making life better in the U.S., but also creating space for socialists in other countries to work out a viable politics for 30
themselves without having to worry about U.S. tanks, bombs and economic aggressions. For all practical purposes this is a difficult task, as the weight of reaction presses heavily against us. However, life on Earth may hang in the balance. Sadly, the people of the United States have not risen to the occasion to demand an end to the death and destruction perpetuated by their government and economy. This is because, its potentiality aside, the United States of America is not a democracy in any meaningful sense. Although we have limited freedoms when compared to Third World dependent states, countries like El Salvador, for example, these freedoms lack in both commitment and in depth in comparison to the other industrialized nations. In an important sense, we are a nation without a public consciousness, a mass without ideological or class unity. We are a nation that has substituted consumerism for consciousness.18
Criticism and Democracy Even if socialists were able to attain a degree of power in the United States, as they have done in the past in many European nations - granted by the rules of democracy and fair representation that are decidedly lacking in the United States - they will never gain a corresponding degree of economic power, and will continue to protest silently from the political margins, unless we can find some way to curb the power of the corporate world. As John Dewey wrote, "Politics is the shadow that big business casts over society."19 Dewey would be astonished at what is labeled as "democracy" in the United States today. Dewey, however, is not the only one who should be disappointed by the manner in which "democracy" is practiced in the U.S.; the rest of us should feel similarly, if we really look. But people do not look. People in this country are mesmerized by the spectacle of television. As Chomsky explains: We have a fantastic propaganda system in this country. There's been nothing like it in history. It's the whole public relations industry and the entertainment industry . . . . And it is dedicated to certain principles. It wants to destroy democracy. . . . That means destroy every form of organization and association that might lead to democracy. So you have to demonize unions. And you have to isolate people and atomize them and make them hate and fear one another and create illusions about where power is. A major goal of 31
the whole doctrinal system for fifty years has been to create the mood for what is now called anti-politics.20 People, however, learn to resist, and that is the goal of socialist/leftist politics, and an important prerogative for scholars of communication, people who probably best understand the workings and mechanisms of the mass media, as well as the rhetorical dimensions of logology. "Logology," as it is used in this book, is the study of how certain words imply other words and create systems of meanings and understandings that predispose individuals for behaviors.21 In a loose sense, logology involves the study of ideology. A good example of logology and how it can be critically used is Kenneth Burke's study of Hitler's Mein Kampf.11 In this study, published before Hitler invaded Poland, Burke is able to predict much of Hitler's actions based upon the way Hitler used language to describe his vision in his book. For example, Burke observed in Hitler's writing that in Germany, after all the upheaval, we see nothing beyond a drive for ever more and more upheaval, precisely because the "new way of life" was no new way, but the dismally oldest way of sheer deception - hence, after all the "change," the factors driving towards unrest are left intact, and even strengthened.23 An understanding of language, then, plays no small part in understanding how alienation and social control work. In battling this alienation and social control, socialists can transcend the historical effects of colonization. They can refocus human community into a universal fraternity, one in which all peoples of the world reaffirm Emma Goldman's belief that "[r]eal wealth consists in things of utility and beauty, in things that help to create strong, beautiful bodies and surroundings inspiring to live in."24 When this occurs, the vulgar self-interest of an enforced state-capitalist value system will give way to a "[t]rue social harmony [that] grows naturally out of a solidarity of interests."25 If this statement appears utopian, it is only because people are taught that the selfishness and greed of our current social world reflect inherent traits of the human species. If this is the case, then democracy as a goal itself must be rejected. For if the world is as chaotic and base as the critics of anarchism suggest, and if people act inherently selfishly, then democracy cannot be the preferred political system, for democracy is not a religion that is expressed through an isolated act of voting, but a social relationship that is established between people of good will. In the following, 32
John Dewey, America's foremost theorist of democracy, explains this sense of democracy in detail: Democracy is a way of life controlled by a working faith in the possibilities of human nature. Belief in the Common Man [sic] is a familiar article in the democratic creed. That belief is without basis and significance save as it means faith in the potentialities of human nature as that nature is exhibited in every human being irrespective of race, color, sex, birth and family, of material or cultural wealth. This faith may be enacted in statutes, but it is only paper unless it is put in force in the attitudes which human beings display to one another in all the incidents and relations of daily life.26 In Dewey's quote we find as eloquent a call for anarchism as we find in the writings of Chomsky, Goldman, and Peter Kropotkin.27 All these writers maintain that democracy is not earned through competition, but through cooperation. The fact that "democracy" and "competition" have become practically synonymous in U.S. political culture is further indication that we are tyrannized by language. Burke noticed this trend when he analyzed a newspaper headline in the years immediately before the Second World War. The headlines read: Freedom for Enterprise Is Demanded as Effort to Balk Dictatorship and Collectivism Gains Burke responds, "At the word 'collectivism' in the headline my plodding patience fails. It is hard to believe that, in a democracy, such a word could ever be used as the synonym of evil."28 Any democracy worth its name must be grounded in mutual aid and fraternity. Mutual aid and fraternity are real human values and must again be associated with socialism. This view of socialism is embodied by Max Horkheimer, whose writing often reflects the need to transcend individualistic values and embrace a more universal form of compassion and solidarity. While reflecting on the lessons of the German imposed Holocaust, Horkheimer concludes: The decisive point - and the real task of education without which neither the Jewish nor the Christian nor the German cause is helped - is that man [sic] should become sensitive not to injustice against the Jews but to injustice as such, not to persecution of the Jews but to any and all persecution, and that 33
something in them should rebel when any individual is not treated as a rational being.29 In transcending cultural identifications, Horkheimer, himself a German Jew and exile from the Nazis, claims the authority to speak with a larger voice that encompasses a world audience because his social concerns are not provincial.30 His moral claims extend beyond individualistic communities. He embodies the critical task outlined by Said. Said directs the critical gaze of our moral aspirations to broaden our acts of solidarity. The task is "explicitly to universalize the crises, to give greater human scope to what a particular race or nation suffered, to associate that experience with the sufferings of others."31 This goal of libertarian socialism and of anarchism best represents the future of human kind. In the words of Kropotkin: The higher conception of "no revenge for wrongs" and of freely giving more than one expects to receive from his neighbors, is proclaimed as being the real principle of morality - a principle superior to mere equivalence, equity, or justice, and more conducive to happiness. And man [sic] is appealed to to be guided in his acts, not merely by love, which is always personal, or at best tribal, but by the perception of his oneness with each human being.32 The idealistic future envisioned by Kropotkin, Horkheimer, and others that has for so long motivated socialist and leftist political action, is in no sense inevitable; it must be the result of hard work and practical organizing. The telos of history cannot be reduced to any simplistic characterization, such as one that postulates a human social utopia.33History is nothing more than what people make of it, and that is the essential point behind Karl Marx's philosophy, and the essence behind any workable form of libertarian socialism or anarchism. The goal has been to build a more humane society, not because we must, due to a "law" of history, but because there is little else that can be considered truly "meaningful" for our lives. In the absence of God or Truth in any metaphysical sense, all we really have is each other.
Communication and Historical Consciousness The fact that people are historical and that history is of their own making, in conjunction with economic and technological institutions, means simply that we are responsible for inequality in the world today and for understanding that the poverty and despair of the world are things that can be controlled 34
and alleviated. It means, in short, that there are no "accidents." We do not live in a world where things "just happen" to us. This is why Marx came to see that the critique of religion is the beginning of all social critique. As he explains: It is the task of history, therefore, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. The immediate task o f philosophy, which is in the service of history, is to unmask human self-alienation in its secular form now that it has been unmasked in its sacred form. Thus the criticism of heaven is transformed into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics,34 This position is also the beginning of communication as a critical activity, for as the signifier is freed from the dogma of a reified sign (as post structuralists argue) we are left only with a communication culture by which "reality" can be understood. In other words, while suffering exists, it becomes meaningful to us, and indeed, to the people suffering, when it can be talked about and understood and placed into a particular context. This is the crux of Michel Foucault's historicism, which he learned from Marx.35 Transporting Foucault's historicism back to Marx, we learn that Marx's critical consciousness must be turned from its over-reliance on a historical consciousness and seen more as a communicative consciousness. Communicative consciousness, in other words, is the structure of historical consciousness. There is no understanding of historical consciousness without a prior understanding of how people communicated within a specific historical period. Foucault's archaeologies attest to this point.36 In his own words: The great untroubled mirror in whose depths things gazed at themselves and reflected their own images back to one another is, in reality, filled with the murmur of words. The mute reflections all have corresponding words which indicate them. And by the grace of one final form of resemblance, which envelops all the others and encloses them within a single circle, the world may be compared to a man [sic] with the power of speech.37 As Foucault repeatedly illustrates, events in the world, and the ideas that sustain them, are created by people, codified by language; thus, human policy (the expression of ideology and language) is the root - and resource of all our contemporary contingencies. There is nothing outside of time and chance that gives rise to those sets of beliefs and values we hold dearly as 35
Truth - Truth, in this sense, is simply those beliefs we hold so dearly in a particular time and space that we cannot image being without them. Metaphysically speaking, socialism has no future (neither does capitalism or Christianity). Libertarian socialism and anarchism have no use for metaphysics. The tenants of socialist struggle must be rooted in the actual behaviors of people collaborating in small, and perhaps increasingly larger, autonomous organizations. All else is a form of religion. In giving up our metaphysical justifications for engaging in leftist political action, we become faced with practical questions regarding the future of humanity. If human beings are to have much of a future (and it is not clear right now that they will), then socialist appeal must move beyond the cultivation of a socialist ideology for its own sake, and recommit itself to enact a world based upon exemplary communicative and social practices. After all, while socialism may not be the final word on human history, it supplies an important moral direction (see Appendix A). This "pointing" is the ultimate purpose of socialist politics: If the present wave of repression can be beaten back, if the left can overcome its more suicidal tendencies and build upon what has been accomplished in the past decade, then the problem of how to organize industrial society on truly democratic lines, with democratic control in the work place and in the community, should become a dominant intellectual issue for those who are alive to the problems of contemporary society.38 Looking back at the twenty-five years since Chomsky wrote the above, coming off the strengths of the 1960s, it appears as if we are still waiting, still facing our suicidal tendencies, but having lost, during the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton years, our decades' worth of social and political gains. The practice of left political theory has, as its goal, paths that can lead us to a more humane tomorrow. This "tomorrow" depends upon developing ways of living that move people toward a world that reaffirms life, health, community, and solidarity (and rejects the death, disease, and ffagmation of our corporate existence). Unactualized, the commitments of socialism are empty, like the ones found in archetypal U.S. documents, such as the classbiased Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.39 The promises of the above U.S. documents mean nothing when they are not extended, as they have historically not been, to protect the liberty of people against the encumbrance of capital and industry. Rather than serving as edifying statements of the human spirit, these documents reify the rights of private property over the bodies of the Native American, the African slave, 36
and the U.S. worker. These documents allow and justify an international global piracy that has povertized and decimated large populations of the globe.40 In contrast to the empty promises of such documents, socialists strive to form a vibrant community and a true solidarity among peoples that does not distinguish between race and ethnic identification, and does not mire itself in nationalistic provincialisms. These pointing values are clearly articulated by Read: "Socialism is dynamic: it is a movement of society in a definite direction and it is the direction that matters most."41 Socialism is, above all else, an affirmation of life, and it organizes our political energies and talents toward this end. Socialists understand all of this, and it animates their struggle against a powerful enemy devoted to rape, plunder, and disease. While the term "socialism" can never be made to imply a unity of thought, the political left must embrace the affirmation of life as an axiomatic sentiment. To engage in socialism without affirming this principle is to be a socialist in name only, as were German National-Socialists and Bolshevik socialists. To claim to engage in democratic politics and not affirm this principle is to be hypocritical, as we find in the practices of the United States. While it is clear what socialism does (it affirms life), it is not obvious what it is and what its intersections are with communication. Here we get disagreement and debate. This is good, we want to resist as much axiomatic philosophical or political claims as possible. In fact, we should reject them all, provided we maintain our commitment to solidarity and compassion. Why? Because this is the road out of Auschwitz, out of Hiroshima, and out of the forced labor camps of Siberia and China.
Socialism and Ironism The questions before us, ones of definition and intersection, are necessarily heuristic because they are not certain. Certainty leads away from thought; debate and controversy leads to thought and argumentation. Because we do not know, we explore, and such exploration should lead to a questioning of our socio-economic habits. Because the intersections between socialism and communication are heuristic, because they lead to new understandings of politics and community, they are difficult to explore. Thus, this book cannot be seen as anything more than a rudimentary attempt to map out a general approach to the problem. It involves an approach to scholarship that is rooted in historical Enlightenment traditions of emancipation, but one that 37
extends throughout the present to help us plan and prepare for the future. "Emancipation," after all, is also a word that means nothing outside of the localized behaviors contextualizing it. This intersection makes communication and socialism equally rhetorical concepts. The best way to plan for the future is to ask the difficult questions of the present, the questions that challenge our thoughts and our thinking, our beliefs, and our religion, our patriotism and our servitude. For if democracy means anything at all, it means exactly this: believing in nothing as permanent except for the commitment that we make to question our beliefs and values and to make public our visions of the world for critique and counter-analysis. As Dewey explains: A philosophy animated, be it unconsciously or consciously, by the strivings of men [sic] to achieve democracy will construe liberty as meaning a imiverse in which there is real uncertainty and contingency, a world which is not all in, and never will be, a world in which in some respect is incomplete and in the making, and which in these respects may be made this way or that according, as men judge, prize, love or labor. To such a philosophy any notion of a perfect or complete reality, finished existing always the same without regard to the vicissitudes of time, will be abhorrent.42 If we take care of this public sphere, after first creating it by freeing people from the tyranny of large corporations, we will ensure ourselves of a socialism that is not dogmatic, and we will be in a position to treat socialism as a constant transition to something else. This perspective extends from Eduard Bernstein's notion that socialism is an evolutionary construct: Unable to believe in finalities at all, I cannot believe in a final aim of socialism. But I strongly believe in the socialist movement, in the march forward of the working classes, who step by step must work out their emancipation by changing society from the domain of a commercial landholding oligarchy to a real democracy which in all its departments is guided by the interests of those who work and create.43 Thus, it stands to reason that we evolve from socialism as much as we evolve toward it.44 Anarchism, explains Goldman, "leaves posterity free to develop its own particular systems in harmony with its needs."45 The above political views on what socialism can offer in the struggle to create democratic relationships is consistent with Richard Rorty's liberal ironist perspective.46 While Rorty gives up on traditional leftist concerns and vocabularies, and while we must rebuke him for this, he does not give up on 38
the left per se. He is trying to change all the questions, in hopes of changing the answers. Ultimately, Rorty is not a friend of socialism as socialism needs to be articulated today, because his politics seems to support that of the status quo. Nevertheless, his philosophy, with certain modifications, has great potential to inform socialist strategy.47 Translated into the political vocabulary of this book, the liberal ironist position articulated by Rorty can be restated as follows: Since socialism reduces suffering by reducing alienation, and because it introduces into a society a more rational control of production and consumption - benefiting specific communities rather than private corporations - the intellectual commitment to socialism is justified. This intellectual commitment serves as a "temporary reified belief' by which we strive to fulfill our lives. Thus, justification for a belief in socialism is not the belief in its Truth (its "historical" inevitability or the "inherent" leadership qualities of the proletariat); rather, the "truth" we find in socialism is dependent upon its ability to solve our social, economic, and moral problems. Its "truth" is the pleasure we get from it as it is expressed in the freedom of our lives. In Read's words, "The task of the anarchist philosopher is not to prove the imminence of a Golden Age, but to justify the value of believing in its possibility."48 Anarchism is an ironist position. While Rorty privileges bourgeois politics as much as he condemns the false socialism of the Soviet Union, he never discusses anarchism. If he were to, and I imagine that he simply has not read in that area, he would be forced to reevaluate his political support of the bourgeois system, and to embrace anarchism as the political environment under which the world he envisioned in Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity could be actualized. While we cannot imagine it now, there may be a time in the future when we can, as a species, imagine something even "better" than socialism. At which point people need to be flexible enough to reevaluate their commitments to socialism in light of new contingencies. The choices before us are not between "socialism" and "capitalism," but between better or worse forms of government and economics. What this "something" else is (the moral evolution beyond socialism) cannot be speculated upon at this time. We simply do not have the vocabulary with which to think in these terms. Our communication potentialities grow as our moral imaginations expand, and the immediate question involves the communication of a socialist vocabulary in light of our contemporary constraints and the seemingly depleted ethical currency of the terms.
Notes 1 2 3
6 7 8
Ideology: An Introduction (London: Verso, 1991). Ibid., 2. Language as Symbolic Action (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 6. See also Burke's discussion of ideology in A Rhetoric of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 88, 103-104. For his larger system of dramatism, see A Grammar of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969). "The Art of Revolution," in Anarchy and Order: Essays in Politics by Herbert Read (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), xi. "Revolutionary Symbolism in America," in American Writers’ Congress, ed., Henry Haret (New York: International), 87-94. For a discussion of this event, see Frank Lentricchia, Criticism and Social Change (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 21- 25. See related claims in James Amt Aune, Rhetoric and Marxism (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994); Omar Swartz, Conducting Socially Responsible Research (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997). "Art of Revolution," xviii. Much of this critique, particularly of mainstream academic "radicalism," is reviewed in Pauline Marie Rosenau, Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) , chapter 8. Ariel Dorfman, The Empire's Old Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar, and Other Innocent Heroes Do to Our Minds (New York: Penguin Books, 1983), 200. Also, see George Orwell, "Boys' Weeklies," in A Collection of Essays (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich, 1953), 279-309. The most poignant study of literaiy political thought manipulation and its relationship to political aggression is Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart, How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic (New York: International General, 1991). Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (Boston: South End Press, 1989). Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon Press, 1988); Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Penguin, 1985); Michael Parenti, Inventing Reality: The Politics of the News Media (New York: St Margin's Press, 1993) . "Manufactured Silence and the Politics of Media Research: A Consideration of the 'Propaganda Model,'" Journal o f Communication Inquiry 16 (1992), 4555. 40
13 "Inaugural Address," Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents 29 (1993): 76. 14 There are countless ways to document this claim. Bertram Gross, Friendily Fascism: The New Face of Power in America (Boston: South End Press, 1980) is as good as any other. 15 This is the central thesis of John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton's, Toxic Sludge is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Public Relations Industry (Monrow, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995). These authors explain, "The answers, in short, will be found in fellowship with our neighbors, and in rediscovery of ourselves. Democracy, to be real and continuous, must be lived daily, its values woven into the fabric of society" (204). 16 "The Ideological Turn in Modem Criticism," Central States Speech Journal 34 (1983), 114-119; "The Third Persona: An Ideological Timi in Rhetorical Theory," Central States Speech Journal 35 (1984), 197-216. 17 "The Ideological Turn," 18. 18 This is a common thesis in much critical theory. For an overview of this position, see Douglas Kellner, Critical Theory, Marxism, and Modernity (Baltimore: The Johnson Hopkin's University Press, 1989). 19 Quoted in Noam Chomsky, Class Warfare: Interviews with David Barsamian (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1996), 29. 20 Ibid., 138. 21 See Bill Bridges, "Logology," in The Encyclopedia o f Rhetoric and Composition: Communication From Ancient Times to the Information Age, ed. Theresa Enos (New York: Garland Publishing, 1996), 409-410. 22 "The Rhetoric of Hitler's 'Battle,'" in The Philosophy of Literary Form (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), 191-220. 23 Ibid., 220. 24 Anarchism and Other Essays (New York: Dover Press, 1969), 55. 25 Ibid., 59. 26 The Political Writings (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1993), 242. 27 For an analysis of the close relationship between Dewey's thought and anarchism, see Peter T. Manicas, "John Dewey: Anarchism and the Political State," Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 18: (1982), 133-158. Derived from Manicas' discussion is the following germane quote: "[For Dewey] community requires communication and it requires knowledge . . . . which is shared, which funds experience with common meanings, transforms needs and wants into mutually understood goals and which thereby consciously directs conjoint activity" (144, emphasis in the original). 28 "Reading While You Run: An Exercise in Translation from English Into English," in Philosophy of Literary Form, 326. 29 Critique of Instrumental Reason (New York: Continuum, 1994), 118. 30 Notice how Horkheimer's tone of universal commensurability is at odds with the policies of the modem Jewish state which positions the Jewish "cause" at 41
31 32 33
34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44
45 46 47
the expense of the Palestinean cause and, indeed, at the expense of the entire Arab world. Representations o f the Intellectual (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), 44. Mutual Aid : A Factor o f Evolution (New York: Black Rose Press, 1989), 300. What is needed are critical theories that embrace a "complementary holism," shedding light on the "integrated character of modem oppressions." See Michael Albert, Leslie Cagan, Noam Chomsky, Robin Hahnel, Mel King, Lydia Sargent, and Holly Sklar, Liberating Theory (Boston: South End Press, 1986). Early Writings (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), 44. The Order o f Things (New York: Vintage Books, 1970). The Archeology o f Knowledge (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972). Order o f Things, 27. Noam Chomsky, "Introduction," Anarchism by Daniel Guerin (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970), xvii. See Jules Lobel, ed., A Less Than Perfect Union: Alternative Perspectives on the U.S. Constitution (New York: Monthly review Press, 1988). See Michael Parenti, Against Empire (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1995). Anarchy and Order, 103. Political Writings, 44. Evolutionary Socialism (New York: Schocken Books, 1961), xxii. Even Marx wrote that while "[c]ommunism is the necessary form and the active principle of the immediate future . . . communism is not itself the aim of human development or the final form of human society." Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956), 246. Anarchism and Other Essays, 43. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (New York: Cambridge University Press), 1989. This is a point I developed in detail in my Conducting Socially Responsible Research: Critical Theory, Neo-Pragmatism, and Rhetorical Inquiry (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1997), particularly in the first and second chapters. Anarchy and Order, 14.
3 Present Needs
To talk about socialism is to talk about the present (i.e. present needs, present sufferings, present goals). Socialism is not a metaphysics. Socialists believe that if we take care of the present, the future will take care of itself.1 To talk meaningfully about the future is to engage in wishful thinking, at best. At worst, such speculation involves the extension of contemporary values into the future, and that is always a gamble. In the words of Foucault, "[T]o imagine another system is to extend our participation in the present system."2 Foucault's statement, while often misinterpreted as indicating a rejection of political values, is actually a tremendous affirmation of political liberty and practical socialist politics.3 In the sentences immediately preceding that quote, Foucault wrote: [W]e can't defeat the system through isolated actions; we must engage it on all fronts - the university, the prisons, the domain of psychiatry - one after another since our forces are not strong enough for a simultaneous attack. We strike and knock against the most solid obstacles; the system cracks at another point; we persist. It seems that we're winning, but then the institution is rebuilt; we must start again. It is a long struggle; it is repetitive and seemingly incoherent. But the system it opposes, as well as the power exercised through the system, supplies its unity.4 From these passages, we can see that what Foucault meant in his controversial quote is that politics, by definition, is communal and is located in the chaotic needs of the present. One mind in isolation cannot articulate a political reality, nor can the politics of the future be realistically envisioned. Therefore, for Foucault, real politics needs to be a negotiated reality that takes place, permanently, in the ever-changing present, and on all fronts. In the sentences immediately proceeding his controversial quote, Foucault explains how the Soviet Union infected its political program by extending the politics of the regime it supplanted: [Apparently, new institutions were in fact based on elements taken from an earlier system - the Red Army reconstituted on the model of the Czarist army, 43
the return to realism in art, and the emphasis on traditional family morality. The Soviet Union returned to standards of bourgeois society in the nineteenth century . . . ,5
As Foucault points out with this example, there is no "future" to plan as the Soviets planned their future, only the present which demands our vigilance (and compassion). Without vigilance and compassion, the socialist politics of the present is soon corrupted. Furthermore, there is no "beyond" to look toward and no larger vision to articulate other than to reaffirm the commitment to continual revolution (the unsettling of reified social and political beliefs) and to an increased democratic participation in all aspects of society: For freedom is meaningless without unity; without mutuality. I am free if I stand in the middle of the Sahara, but there is no use in my freedom, because I cannot communicate my consciousness of it to others . . . Consciousness [in particular, political consciousness] is a social, collective phenomenon.6
Since nobody can speak for the collectivity or understand its needs and desires, nothing substantial can be said of the future that is not in some sense a lie. More importantly, we cannot articulate a political reality with any degree of rigidity: dogma belongs to the politics and to the State that we are trying to leave behind: [Anarchism] is a living force in the affairs of our life, constantly creating new conditions. The methods of Anarchism therefore do not comprise an ironclad program to be carried out under all circumstances. Methods must grow out of the economic needs of each place and clime, and of the intellectual and temperamental requirements of the individual.7
In short, no political party, no ideology, no religion, no system of thought, can offer itself as being the sum total of human consciousness; they are all part of the infinite expressions of human subjectivity, some better and some worse. Nothing morally sanctions our politics and behaviors besides their effects and our responsibility for them. This position does not lead to vulgar pragmatism, as in the belief that, had the Nazis attained their aims, their politics would have to be judged "good." Nothing can be further from the fact: it is not the effects themselves which are "good" or "bad," although, clearly, they can be either, but the degree to which people self-reflect upon these results and adjust (read "expand") their moral imaginations. 44
However, self-reflection without the equal expansion of our moral imaginations offers no protection for liberty. For example, the United States
government may reflect on what it does and find that its imperialist system and belligerent militancy are quite effective in serving its international needs. For example, political scientist and political advisor Robert W. Tucker "selfreflected" on the foreign policy of this country in the 1980s and concluded that "Right-wing governments [in Central America] will have to be given steady outside support, even, if necessary, by sending in American forces."8 Indeed, that is what the United States government did, and continues to do. But why would the government want to do that? According to Tucker, to restore U.S. interests in Central America. "Once done," he concludes, "the great object of American foreign policy ought to be the restoration of a more normal political world, a world in which those states possessing the elements of great power once again play the roles their power entitles them to play."9 With Tucker, we find no sign of remorse for the untold suffering that his greed and the greed of his masters have inflicted upon the world. In writing that there is, can, or should be a relationship between selfreflexivity and the expansions of our moral and political imaginations, I am assuming a further relationship that exists between imagination and behavior. Similar to Tucker and to the government he represents, the Nazis had a tremendously narrow moral imagination, and that is what made their politics unacceptable and led to their murderous policies. In contrast to Nazi Germany and to the United States, a socialist government has the potential to challenge the moral imagination of its citizens to be more inclusive of a wide range of economic and social relationships. The feet that not all socialist governments have done so in the past is a limitation of their particular historical imaginations, and not a sign of socialism's weakness. As activist Michael Albert explains, "True socialism will be based on a system in which democratically organized workers and consumers participate in planning their joint economic endeavors in light of full knowledge of the social effects of their decisions."10 To borrow a metaphor from Rorty (while again acknowledging his political limitations), we need to treat our political vocabularies as "ladders" that we throw away once we climb them. This position is consistent with the democratic philosophy of Dewey and the post-structuralist philosophy of Foucault. It is also consistent with Marx and with the principle of dialectical materialism: every synthesis calls into being a new thesis and antithesis, and thus nurtures, deep within itself, the contradictions that will eventually destroy it, initiating the cycle anew: "Every claim to knowledge has its 45
specific refutation, and this involves consciousness in a new set of commitments."11 It is the continuation of this Hegelian process that is the dynamis of history. No position is sacred for long, all ideas embody their own eventual negation. Human culture feeds off this dialectic as yeast feeds off starch to give bread its texture and fullness. Dewey, Foucault, and Rorty were, like so many intellectuals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, highly sympathetic toward socialism. This is true even of Rorty who wrote, "I grew up knowing that all decent people were, if not Trotskyites, at least socialists."12 In addition to their tacit support or identification with left politics, each of the above belonged to or supported various radical or socially progressive organizations. Add to this list people like Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Noam Chomsky, and we find that some of the greatest philosophical and humanistic thinkers of the twentieth century were committed to many of the same social and moral questions that socialists are committed to today.13 (Even Albert Einstein spoke on behalf of socialism).14 Yet all of these thinkers were repulsed (and I would even include Marx on this point) by the rigidity of socialist dogma and This question of essentialism demarcates the separation between the classi cal humanism of much of Marx's writings, particularly his early writings (within the tradition of the Western Enlightenment) from the pseudo-socialism of the Soviet Union and the unactualized socialism of the People's Republic of Soviet Union and the unactualized socialism of the People's Republic of China.15 Western humanism, inseparable in many ways from libertarian socialism, has no use for the "dictatorship of the proletariat" or for the belief that human beings can be molded into "socialist men." People cannot be molded into anything. "Molding" is a violent metaphor, it is as much a transgression of the personal as is rape. People only become socialist when they can act like socialists (when they choose to accept and embody a socialist rationality); that is, when they are allowed to express themselves as a community. In many ways, political socialism is simply the removal of the alienation that thwarts our inclinations toward mutual aid and solidarity. Cornel West explains what is commonly meant by the term "alienation": Generally, it refers to a particular kind of human domination and control, namely, that in which the dominated and controlled create the conditions for their own dehumanization or "thingification." Specifically, alienation (and its various forms) is the result of an objective social relation necessary for the working of modem capitalist societies in which workers produce products 46
alien to them, products which are part of socioeconomic arrangements that dominate and control the producers.16
What the progressive humanistic thinkers of the past century believed, and here they joined with Kropotkin and Jean Jacques Rousseau, is that while people are bom free, they are everywhere enslaved - not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually (slavery after all, is the ultimate form of alienation) - and that these chains can be broken by communal acts of cooperation and mutual aid (that is, an accentuated inter-dependence based upon love, respect, and understanding). In effect, we enslave ourselves when we allow ourselves to be turned into objects to be manipulated, and the recognition of this enslavement is the beginning of all social analysis and the first step toward turning "things" back into humans. The above humanitarian thinkers believed that people always incline towards freedom and creativity. For them, the attempt or desire to resist alienation is natural; it is what makes us human and not beasts. It is the liberating spirit that has served as the impetus for all moral and progressive cultural growth. In other words, there is a dialectical tension between the will to freedom that all of us share and the forces that constrain that freedom in the name of Capital, the State, or even "the people." This is what Marx meant by the importance of class struggle in the unfolding of history.
Community, Communication, and Historical Memory As this book suggests, we are dealing with some difficult issues to which the best human minds of the past two centuries have devoted significant attention. During this time, the questions of socialism and social justice have been recognized as the questions of the age. This is sadly no longer the case. As West observes: The profound tragedy of the epochal change in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe may be a turning away from these fundamental issues [employment, health care, housing, child care, and education] - a kind of global erasure of egalitarian and democratic concern for jobs, food, shelter, literacy, and health care for all. This would mean that along with the unleashing of capitalist market forces on an international scale goes an unleashing of despair for those caught within or concerned about the world's ill-fed, ill-clad, and ill-housed, especially those in "invisible" Africa, Asia, and Latin America.17
The rise of reactionary totalitarian governments in Germany, Spain, and in the United States (as well as throughout Central and South America) attest to the fact that the question of socialism was taken very seriously by the right, and with satisfactory results for them. In light of the corruption of the human spirit caused by each of the above countries, Horkheimer recognizes the spiritual potential of a socialist consciousness: If young people recognize the contradictions between the possibilities of human powers and the situation on this earth, and if they do not allow their views to be obscured either by nationalistic fanaticism or by theories of transcendental justice, identification and solidarity may be expected to become decisive in their lives.18 In part, because this has not yet happened (at least on a world scale), and because powerful interests can control the perception of history, our technological, scientific, and military accomplishments all seem out of place and alien (in fact they are alienating). The technological and moral capacities of human beings have yet to be reconciled, and, as Horkheimer stated above, the contradiction is glaring when it is not masked by nationalist or other dogmatic thought. At least since Marx and Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1848, the question of socialism can no longer be ignored. They proclaimed for the entire world to see that a state of illness existed in the social body: Modem Industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses of laborers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they the slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State, they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the over-looker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself [sic]. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.19 Having diagnosed this sickness they prescribed some medicine which, to various degrees, continues to have a critical relevancy. This point is summed up by Burke: Marxism has many faults, the most obvious being that it is a poor critique of Marxism. But, like the German philosophy, English economics and French politics from which it sprang, it also has many virtues. And it can be wholly 48
rejected only at a great sacrifice of intelligence (a sacrifice which many of our colleagues seem quite willing to make).20
West makes a similar observation: I am convinced that, despite its blindnesses and inadequacies . . . . Marxist thought is an indispensable tradition for freedom fighters who focus on the fundamental issues of jobs, food, shelter, literacy, health and child care for all.21
The fact that today the contradiction between our technological and moral selves is eviscarated by the ornaments of the mass media should be a clue to socialist organizations (Marxist or otherwise) as how to redirect political action. The "one-dimensional man" that Herbert Marcuse describes in great detail is, if anything, more prominent today.22 Alienation is so rampant in society, in part, because the question of socialism has not been successfully answered and applied on a large scale (at least in its libertarian forms). Accentuating this alienation is the influence of the mass media, which has not been countered with a socialist theory of communication. While there does exist a three volume, Communication and C lass Struggle,™ these essays, for the most part, constitute a critique of the mass media as well as a description of historical practices. What is missing from this literature is a wider discussion of what a socialist theory of communication would look like. It seems to me that such a theory of socialist communication must address concerns in at least three areas. First, a socialist theory of communication needs to examine critically the intersections between belief and disbelief that exist between socialists and the general public they are trying to persuade. This gap must be transcended before any meaningful exchange of perspectives can occur. Second, this theory needs to address the needs of individuals within socialist communities. If a socialist world is truly transformative, then we have to assume that our communicative norms will also change, and we need to look at what those changes might entail. Third, a theory of communication needs to be postulated at the level of federations, to unite people politically across communities. For instance, if we were to establish the anarchist vision of social life, one without a centralized government and bureaucracy, then communication, as a way to manage collectively the diverse communities, becomes imperative. It stands to reason that the success or failures of such a social life will depend on the effectiveness of its communication practices. After all, the more that a 49
system rejects bureaucracy (which is itself a denial of communication), the more that system is dependent upon communication as a way to negotiate its practices. While people study the media, some of them critically, they have not found a way to counter its force. It is not enough to say that the bourgeois media is oppressive and alienating; we need to understand that a ll media (in particular television and cinema) is nothing but propaganda in its negative sense, and a socialist theory of communication needs to be based on a more active relationship between people and information. For socialism would be lost if we simply retained our current media habits, after we enacted political change (as is the case in China today). If masses of people are watching television, it does not matter if the capitalists or the anarchists (or the communists, in the case of China) control the station - people are engaged in alienating activity. The electronic media is part of the problem that socialists have to overcome if people are to become community motivated. This is not to say that television is "evil"; rather, it is a very real threat to community and historical memory, and socialism is nothing if it is not grounded in a strong sense of a community consciousness (which includes historical memory). The closest thing that exists to a socialist theory of communication is critical theory, but that is mostly posed in the negative and the defensive. Critical theory is mostly offered as a bulwark against ideology and a warning about the current state of affairs. While this is necessary and needs to be extended, traditional critical theory is not proactive. While we have theories of propaganda and apologies for socialism, we do not have a theory of socialism that sees social identity as constructed through communication. In other words, we do not have a theory of a socialist rhetoric to counter the negative theories of ideology that mask the corrupting consciousness of capitalist persuasion.
Solidarity and the Threat of Ecological Collapse The social question that remains before us needs to be answered in such a way as to continue our commitment to socialism in the face of overwhelming repression, both in the United States and abroad, and in light of the awesome propaganda apparatus that causes us to hate the very thing (socialism) that can help us to become freer, healthier, and happier. Socialism, in the sense of a universal solidarity, can certainly help keep us alive longer as a species 50
(unlike capitalism, socialism affirms the principle of life). If we do not enact a solidarity among all the people of the world, which, in a real sense means eradicating hunger, disease, racism, and sexism world wide, there will, in fact, be a human created telos to an otherwise open future - the extinction of the species. In the one hundred and fifty years since Darwin published Origin o f the Species, we are faced with the situation in which human evolution may be seen as a closed text. The human-inspired armagedden, however, is not pre-ordained; human beings do not have to self-destruct and engulf themselves within a terminal holocaust. The terrible gods of consumerism, technology, and politics we worship can be tamed and tempered into forces that serve human beings rather than enslave them. These are the awesome tasks and stakes that concern a renewed socialist commitment. Now, more than ever, is the time to be reminded of the words of the great labor song, "Solidarity Forever": When the union's inspiration through the worker's blood shall run there can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one? For the union makes us strong.24 In light of the example of solidarity that we learn from the common struggle of workers for a decent life, we need to learn that, as a species, when we steal from our brothers, when we starve them and enslave them, and when we rape our sisters and treat them like animals or property, when we marginalize our mothers and daughters to the fringes of society, when we consume our planet and reduce it to a sea of garbage, we betray our own humanity. Yet we mask that betrayal with glorious words such as "progress," "free markets," and "free labor," and even the word "freedom" itself. We talk about "economic laws" when we mean ecological and social disasters. We talk about "democracy" when we practice "plutocracy" and "oligarchy." We communicate as if we were morally exemplary beings, yet we are pirates in priests' clothing. This is the communication bane of the Western industrial nations, and socialism must learn to combat that communication with its own counter-discourse. In this counter-discourse, we must raise our moral voices so loud that the "Golden Arches" of McDonalds shake and tremble. We need to shout with such ferocity that the walls of the White House and Pentagon collapse under 51
the weight of their self-acknowledged hypocrisy. When the moral tremor of our voices speak in unison, when the spirit of our present potential is sung for all to hear, the steady drone of the television will be lost in our chorus of truth and solidarity, and we will learn that when we treat others and the world's resources as commodities to further our own individualistic and private ends, when we ruthlessly plunder the treasure house of the Earth - her forests and her oceans - we humans sow the seeds of our own destruction. This is not a new observation. The Native American peoples, great nations of balance, harmony, and security, whose lands and social structures were obliterated and buried beneath our concrete highways and spiritually empty shopping malls, have commented on how the White Man spoils his own bed with his foul excretions, and how he chokes in the stench and disease he has created. Chief Seattle gave voice to this insight when he wrote, "The whites, too, shall pass - perhaps sooner than other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste."25 This "bed" is the Earth. As we choke on our pollution, as we are driven with hatred and selfish greed, we may notice, as the Native American peoples noticed in their study of the White Man's world, that all of the animals are dying, and that the green grass and blue waters are disappearing. In contemplating this trend toward ecological destruction, one greatly accelerated in the twentieth century under the leadership of the United States, the Native Americans concluded that the White Man will die of loneliness. Again, in the words of Chief Seattle: What is man [sic] without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for what ever happens to the beast also happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befall the sons of the earth.26 Upon introspection, the Native Americans were correct. This "loneliness" that Chief Seattle spoke of is not unlike the "alienation" discussed in the socialist literatures. What the Native Americans could not anticipate, however, was that the "White Man's Disease," as it used to be called, would come to infect our non white brothers and sisters. But it has. The Western way of life, in particular its U.S. characteristics, has become the norm and the model of non-Westem development. The result is that the world races ever more swiftly toward the extinction of life. This trend needs to be fiercely resisted. Within this trend, and perhaps contributing to it, communication patterns become increasingly rigidified in Western bourgeois and individualistic forms. The "I" of 52
consumption, the frontiersman, the settler, replaces the "we" of cooperation, community, and moral awareness, the connectedness that the Native peoples of the world felt with the Earth.
Socialism and Technology The swiftness and rashness of this rush toward Western values is surprising, just as it is surprising that the excesses of the current age do not cause people to reevaluate socialism, even given the stultifying effects of television. The two phenomena go hand-in-hand and attest to the real power of propaganda and television. As much as socialists would like to practice politics in spite of television, we must deal with the contingency that television makes the practice of socialism all the more difficult. The effect of television as a roadblock to critical thought is an important aspect of a theory of socialist communication that needs further development. Socialism rose out of the print age, the age of reason, the Enlightenment, the age of texts and arguments. Socialism is having a difficult time adapting to the electronic age, the age of images, soundbites, and non-argument.27 Socialism is a rational force in an increasingly non-rational world, a world that rejects rationality in favor of the unreason of capital and its irrational logic. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that the age of print was the age of historical memory, and the electronic age is the age of forgetting. Connections between social development and the widespread cultural adoption of such architectonic technologies as literacy in the Print Age and anti-literacy in the Electronic Age, have been noted by scholars.28 The relationship between technology and thought has been traced as far back as to the advent of the written alphabet in Ancient Greece.29 Horkheimer states the problem more bluntly: "Technology makes memory superfluous."30 He adds: The power of forgetfulness is great; it has grown and is still growing with the spread of communications. One novelty drives another from the limelight of press and radio, but the old continues to exert its influence in hidden uncontrolled ways.31 The ideological force of socialism cannot exist without historical memory, and television is the great murderer of memory. It is not surprising, then, that socialism is everywhere on the wane. Historical memory is not 53
self-evident, it is a linguistic negotiation between the politics and needs of the present, on the one hand, and artistic forms of representation on the other.32 Television denies historical representation by privileging the base economics of the image over the needs of the present, and by denying a holistic form to the transmission of culture. Television, in short, denies the truth of its own representations: according to Jean Baudrillard, it becomes more "real" than reality.33 Television embraces a false present, a corporatelyprocessed present, and it produces a politics of fantasy, entertainment, and consumption.34 Print, on the other hand, invites a comparison between the past and the present: it is an invitation for the foture, a bedmate of history, an engagement of the mind, and a cultivator of human potential. Television is the negation of history and the embrace of a totalitarian force that makes us all the same in the equality of a helpless passivity. Television numbs thought and dulls our moral responsibilities; it is the invitation to accept things as they are. In contrast, print (literature in particular), is the invitation to recreate oneself and the world, the engagement of our moral commitments, and the affirmation of human social agency. Great social movements originate in the exchange of ideas through speech and writing; great apathy comes from the culture of passivity that is deliberately cultivated by television.35 Regardless of how readers may feel about this analysis of television, they should at least recognize that the question of communication and its theoretical analysis must not remain separate from the larger socialist quest for justice and equality (and for memory). Any such quest, regardless of ideology, is fundamentally communicative. Even the Nazi conquest of German politics must be seen as primarily communicative. As violent as the Nazis were, persuasion, not coercion, was the basis of their influence within Germany.36 As the left contemplates its significant weaknesses in contemporary times, it needs to connect its deteriorating political power with the notion that technology has inoculated people against the idea of social change. So what can be done to rectify the situation? Where can we turn for hope and inspiration? More essentially, how do we, in light of the communicative possibilities and limitations, raise the question, "Why be a socialist?" What can socialism mean as a lived force today when the history of its relevance and strength remains marginalized? Readers of this book, in most cases, are at least sympathetic to the socialist cause. It is the sympathy of my reading audience that separates it from the larger alienation that affects the general population in this country. In many respects, the self-selected audiences for socialist material have seen 54
through the ideology of the times, the false consciousness and the deception that is professionally cultivated by the media and the Public Relations industry. They have also learned to see a socialist ideology as a productive force in actualizing more agreeable moral relationships. These readers have learned, in many cases through the actual struggles of the work place, that great effort needs to be expended in creating a more equitable society. Many of these readers also realize, having lived through much recent North American and world history, that there exist global problems that continue to be ignored. They recognize, as does public radio host David Barsamian, that "Corporations with their political allies are waging an unrelenting class war against working people. A vast social engineering project is being implemented under the guise of fiscal responsibility."37 People sympathetic to socialism watch as American world leadership continues to exacerbate world problems and they see, often painfully, how U.S. corporations have selfishly benefited from the increased misery and deprivation of most of the world, and have even caused, in many cases, that misery. People drawn to the solidarity of socialism from this experience understand that most of what passes for "history" is a fraud. Compare, for example, standard accounts of U.S. history that focus on the technological and leadership developments of the United States with "alternative" histories, such as Bead's A History o f Capitalism, 1500-1980, Chomsky's Year 501: The Conquest Continues, and Zinn's A People's History o f the United States. These persuasive texts seriously call into question the moral integrity of the U.S. national government. They also suggest that the American imperial system has been more ruthless and systematically destructive than either the Soviet or the Nazi systems of foreign intervention. This point is attested to by the fact that the United States has been an imperialist power for much longer than the existence of the Nazis' Third Reich or the Soviet Union. In its history, the United States has made a business of exporting disease and destruction through its policies of Western expansion. From the first days of its colonial settlement, through its practice of slavery and genocide, through its Monroe Doctrine of hemispheric domination, and on to modem times, the United States has strived for world colonization. While the U.S. is rebuked at times, often by socialists, its goals of conquest are largely actualized, to the detriment of other nations. The tonnage of firepower unleashed on the countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, in each case more than the total firepower expended by all countries during the Second World War, and the mass starvation caused by this bombardment, attests to the validity of the claim that the United States 55
far surpasses all the other tyrannical governments in the twentieth-century in terms of barbarism and destruction. These points (and many others) are sadly overlooked and ignored by the vast majority of people living in the United States who daily and dogmatically reaffirm the U.S.'s moral superiority as the leader of the "free" world. This depressing state of American popular intelligence is further encouraged by the left's historical unwillingness to assert itself on the communication front, its inability to wage war by rhetorical means. Historical meaning has been murdered ("History is bunk," declared Henry Ford) and the task falls upon socialism to resurrect its importance.
Creating an Audience The question, "Why be a socialist?" can unfortunately be read as an incrimination of our communicative practices on the left, and our inability to be persuasive when the raw materials of persuasion are in our hands. While the question for the self-identified is "What do we do now?", the larger problem of the left's failure to take communication seriously remains acute: our readership is self-selected, and our influence is insular. This need not be the case, since writing that strives to be socially significant aims to speak beyond its immediate audience. In an important sense, writing is like oratory: it is horatory - it seeks to create an audience and to move it.38 Historically, socialism has assumed an audience, and it cannot move that which does not exist. Our contemporary failure in the United States, at least, is this lack of a created audience. Furthermore, oratory - traditionally suspect and overtly propagandistic in leftist social politics - is a communicative practice that is rooted in the present, but that speaks beyond that context to a more universal mind or consciousness.39 This mind, however, is not philosophically absolute or complete: it is always a rhetorical construction. As Horkheimer warns: The more lucid thinking is, the more it will drive towards the abolition of misery; and yet any assurance that this is the ultimate meaning of existence, the end of pre-history, the beginning of reason is nothing but an endearing illusion.40 The extended effect of all socialist literature and agitation must be to communicate so that a unified left can speak with a voice that resonates throughout the larger culture. 56
Any one text, however, such as this, can only expect to reaffirm an audience's belief in what it already knows, and perhaps challenge that audience to extend its thinking a bit further. In a sense, then, the purveyors of socialist literature encourage and reinforce their audience's already strong belief in socialism and aid those people to re-embrace their socialist actions with a greater commitment. It is altogether appropriate that our literature, taken as a whole, attempts to do this, for all socialists need a material and theoretical base on which to ground their world views. World conditions provide the material base and socialist theory provides the conceptual base. Socialist theory offers a scheme by which we can understand the poverty of morals manifest in U.S. society, as well as the effects of real poverty and real oppression. Together, experience and theory provide understanding for action. Theory and experience guide us to praxis, revolutionary action. This integration of theory and experience is itself rhetorical, because praxis is, by definition, rhetorical once we take away a foundationalist belief in the inevitability of socialism as the end of pre-history. Theory is nothing more than a way of seeing, it is not a description of the world as it is. For example, poverty can be explained as "laziness" or as a "natural" condition. Within capitalist theory, both these answers are made to seem reasonable. However, we can rightly challenge and reject these explanations by attacking them from a different point of view that gives a more plausible explanation for the current structure of our world. Yet, no matter how false the above explanation of poverty is, in terms of economic history and current experiences, it is nevertheless perceived as "True" when it is seen through the spectacles (or self-justifications) of capitalist theory. Yet, to simply assert that apologists for capitalism are "wrong" is to miss the point. This is how they "see" and other people, the people we are trying to reach, are educated in many cases to see similarly. In considering "theory" (or rhetorics of "self-justification" as theory can be understood), we are trying to understand the origin of belief. Belief derives from the communication of values, and from the explanation of those values.41 That is why all philosophy, even socialist philosophy, has to embrace the function of rhetoric, since philosophy is manifested through the acts of writing and speaking - in short, through communication.
Communication and Community The political left has always been at its strongest when it commands inspiration and rejuvenates the hope of people who have had imagination and hope beaten out of them. In the often quoted words of Walter Benjamin, "It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us."42 With this statement, Benjamin best captures what can be considered, in the postmodern limitations of such claims, the "essence" of socialist struggle. While there may be little consensus internationally as to what socialism is, and while the right to contest any such consensus must never be abridged, all people of fair heart must recognize that socialism is at least the philosophy of action and of political struggle that is informed by Benjamin's definition of hope (see Appendix A). Socialism is at its grandest when it serves this function. Reflecting over a large portion of his career as an activist, Kropotkin observes: [I]f I had kept a diary for the last twenty years and inscribed in it all the devotion and self-sacrifice which I came across in the socialist movement, the reader of such a diary would have had the words "heroism" constantly on his [sic] lips. But the men I would have spoken of were not heroes; they were average men, inspired by a grand idea.43 In inspiring the best in people's moral imaginations, socialist communication serves the important function of preparing people for political action, but without predetermining what that action is going to be. Goldman's counsel in Living My Life, her autobiography, evokes this communicative tone remarkably well.44 At this point, when people's political imaginations become impassioned, philosophy becomes as useless as religion, even dangerous. The point of philosophy, in particular socialist philosophy, is to help us to imagine, to remind ourselves that it is in the nature of people to think. However, when philosophy dictates thought, it stifles imagination. As Horkheimer explains, "The indissoluble connection between reason and bureaucracy is a law of European philosophy, if not philosophy as such, no matter how much philosophy may profess to foster freedom."45 In letting philosophy go at this juncture, we are left with what literary critic Harold Bloom and Rorty refer to as "strong poets." These are the people who lead through examples and inspire the rest of us through the poetry of their lives. In terms of socialist leadership, Che Guevara best represents this type of individual leadership, 58
and the Spanish Anarchists in the 1930s best represent its communal expressions.46 The progress to a socialist democracy, we learn from the history of anarchist and libertarian socialist thought, does not come from the top; the true socialist must reject the "beneficence" and "wisdom" of all so-called "vanguard parties." The answers to the difficult questions posed by socialism come from the bottom up: social and political power come from the community. In Read's words, ”[R]eal politics are local politics. If we can make politics local, we can make them real."47 Local-based politics is community-based politics, and "community" must be defined as an autonomous and freely collected group of workers who engage in mutual cooperation and mutual aid. Thus, we need to develop a socialist theory of wira-community communication and, since these communities necessarily join federations with other communities, we need also to develop inter community theories of socialist communication. At the level of inter-community relationships, which become global in its outreach, social and political relationships among the localized communities are united by a shared political, social, and communicative vision. This vision forms an interdependence among the various communities that is mutually upheld. Within this interdependence we find that community is dependent upon communication as socialism is dependent upon community. Within this interdependence, among all people, maximum freedom and equality is ensured. Granted the previous paragraph presents only a rough sketch of the goals envisioned by libertarian socialism, and even a rougher sketch of where we can begin to search for a socialist theory of communication. We have seen, so far, that such a theory of communication must be developed in three areas: 1) at the intersection between belief and disbelief between socialists and the general public they are trying to persuade, 2) at the level of individuals within communistic communities once a political revolution allows such communities to form, and 3) at the level of federation, to re-unite people politically across communities.
Conclusion Socialism involves community empowerment within the individual's quest for liberty. Theories of socialism attempt to balance the needs of the community against those of the individual (and not sacrifice the one for the other). 59
Implied in the dialectical relationship between the community and the individual is a communication axis, and this has historically gone under recognized in socialist theory. Tensions between individuals and communities are necessarily communicative, although they cannot be reduced to communication alone. Nevertheless, a serious attempt to formulate a socialist theory of communication along the lines of intra- and inter-community relations may do much to help insure the success of anarchist federations once they have an opportunity to be established. However, this is not enough. A socialist theory of communication needs to be proactive before significant political change can occur. Thus, in the absence of a philosophy that can guide us into a specific envisioning of socialism, and given the significant anti-socialist contingency of the late twentieth-century, the question "Why be a socialist?" and the issue of socialist politics, must be reframed as rhetorical problems. This is the first issue that a socialist theory of communication must address. People themselves are not "anti-socialist." Although they have been taught to respond negatively to the linguistic representations of socialism, they are not resistant to the ideas that give socialism its moral substance. Outside of a small minority of overt racists, bigots, neo-Nazis, and powerful capitalists, most people champion fairness, equality, fraternity, compassion, and solidarity at some levels. Depending upon how these terms are framed, and accounting for religious and cultural biases, even the most extreme social communities practice a sense of fraternity: if not, such groups would destroy themselves. Human culture, as a whole, privileges the concepts that animate socialism. These concepts comprise a natural and undeniable part of human civilization, without which no type of social organization is possible. Thus, the libertarian socialist vision of a world established on the principles of justice, equality, and freedom is not utopian, it is simply a reassertment of the status quo minus the contingences of capitalism and the State. Capitalism and the State introduce contingencies that selectively negate each of the positive traits that ensure mutual survival and the development of the species. Socialist practice, then, works toward the overthrowing of capitalism by helping people to reframe their social identifications so that justice and freedom will be practiced as inclusively as possible. The point of socialist theory is to design ways to encourage people to gravitate to the moral universe we champion, a world without greed and one in which all share equally in the work, and receive equally the rewards of civilization.
Socialists, however, face a contingency in which many more people feel threatened by and afraid of the word "socialism" than reassured by it. The word has been demonized and discredited by the capitalist press and by the anti-socialist political regimes that masked their dictatorships in the cloak of a socialist ideology. In correcting for this, socialists need to recognize that the question of socialism must be addressed in terms of the practice of identification.48 It is through persuasion that we address the question, which is not selfevident, as to why we should be socialists. It may seem obvious to those who self-identify with the political left why we should be socialists, and it is this heightened sense of clarity that is part of the problem. It is precisely because we are often enamored with the idea of a political philosophy of justice that we have to look beyond the self-evident assumptions that we make about socialism, and that is the historical task of persuasion. A socialist theory of communication, then, is one that recognizes the etymological relationship between "communism" and "communication," and proceeds from there. Such a theory begins with these two words and constructs a grammar of identifications in an effort to persuade others. These identifications are intrinsically moral, and they must be democratically defended if we want others to share them. This is where the persuasive force of socialism can ground its argumentative appeals.
Notes 1 2
This is a basic theme in contemporary neo-pragmatism. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews (Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977), 230. 3 For the implications of this remark and remarks like them, and for the general politics that is implied by Foucault's philosophy, see the collection of essays in Timothy J. Armstrong’s, Michel Foucault: Philosopher (New York: Routledge, 1992). 4 Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, 230. 5 Ibid., 231. 6 Herbert Read, Anarchy and Order: Essays in Politics (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), 24. 7 Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays (New York: Dover Publications, 1969), 63. 8 "The Purposes of American Power," Foreign Affairs (Winter, 1980), 271. 9 Ibid., 273. 10 Stop the Killing Train (Boston: South End Press, 1994), 125. 61
11 Arthur, Dialectics of Labour: Marx and His Relation to Hegel (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986), 51. 12 "Trotksy and the Wild Orchids," Common Knowledge 1 (1992), 140. 13 See, for example, Albert Camus, Between Hell and Reason: Essays from the Resistance Newspaper "Combat," 1944-1947 (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1991); and Jean-Paul Sartre, Sartre on Cuba (New York: Ballantine Books, 1961). 14 Out of My Later Years (New York: Citadel Press, 1991), chapter eighteen. 15 See Erich Fromm, "Marx's Concept of Man," in Marx's Concept of Man (New York: Continuum, 1992), 1-83; and Cornel West, The Ethical Dimensions of Marxist Thought (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1991). 16 West, Ethical Dimensions, 43. 17 Ibid., xiii. 18 Critique of Instrumental Reason (New York: Continuum, 1994), 82. 19 (Chicago: Gateway Editions, 1987), 28. 20 Language As Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 42. 21 Ethical Dimensions, xiv. 22 One-Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon Press, 1991). 23 Armand Mattelart and Seth Siegelaub, eds., (New York: International General, 1983). 24 Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 1989), 25. 25 "Letter to President Pierce," in The Norton Reader 8th ed., Ed. Arthur M. Eastman (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1992), 627. 26 Ibid. 27 For an overview of the various descriptions of the electronic age, see Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations (New York: The Guilford Press, 1989). 28 See Marshal McLuhan, The Guttenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962); Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London: Methuen, 1982). 29 Eric Havelock, The Literate Revolution in Greece and its Cultural Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982). 30 Critique of Instrumental Reason, 79. 31 Ibid, 121. 32 Hayden White, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987). 33 See Best and Kellner, Postmodern Theory, chapter 4. 34 Michael Parenti, Make-Believe Media: The Politics of Entertainment (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992). 35 Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Penguin, 1985). 62
36 For two examples of this, see Omar Swartz, "The Nazi Social Movement: A Consideration of Co-Active, Legitimization, and Nonsummative Rhetorical Strategies," The Pennsylvania Speech Communication Annual 49 (1993),: 321; and Swartz, "The Nazi Quest for National Legitimization," Speech Communication Association of Pennsylvania Annual, 53 (1997), 37-52. 37 Class Warfare [Interviews with Noam Chomsky] (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1996), "Introduction." 38 Aristotle, On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991). 39 See the concept of "universal audience," Chaim Perelman and L. OlbrechtsTyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1969). 40 Critique of Instrumental Reason, 76. 41 See Michael A. Forrester, Psychology of Language: A Critical Introduction (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1996). 42 Quoted in James Amt Aune, Rhetoric and Marxism (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994), xi. 43 Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (New York: Black Rose Press, 1989), 270. 44 (New York: Dover Press, 1970). 45 Critique of Instrumental Reason, 90. 46 For examples of each, see Jon Lee Anderson, Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (New York: Grove Press, 1997); George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1980). 47 Anarchy and Order, 105. 48 Kenneth Burke, A Rhetoric of Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969).
What follows is the text of a speech I was planning to deliver to the Militant Forum at Pathfinder Books in Greensboro, N.C., during the Winter of 1996. The organizers of the Forum were hesitant for me to talk on the topic of language and socialism so, to assuage their fears, I submitted to them this manuscript. After reading this text, the organizers politely told me that this was "not appropriate" for an audience composed of the Socialist Workers' Party. This speech, like the paper to follow in Appendix B, are included in this book because they exemplify some of the theoretical concerns raised in the previous chapters. This speech, in particular, is an appeal for the political left to reject its past essentialism and to form a wider, pan-libertarian cohesion.
Reinventing Socialism: Language, Responsibility, and the Philosophy of Hope As the influence of socialism wanes as an ideological force in international politics, the national and international political left has a bit of reflection to do with regard to the past. It has been over a hundred and fifty years since Marx and Engels published The Communist Manifesto, and over seventy years since the Russian Revolution. The political left has had plenty of time in which to think about its goals, its objectives, and its language. Forgive me, if you will, for using the phrase "the political left." It is an unwieldy term that may make people in this room feel uncomfortable. But I am using this term for a reason. First of all, it denotes inclusion. The political left is, according to my definition, composed of individuals and parties that are working toward some sort of working class solidarity by accentuating class consciousness. In addition, the political left has, as its goal, the redistribution of wealth and resources, and the empowerment of the "proletariat" (also an unwieldy term, but one I will use for the time being). Whether you call yourself a communist, socialist, anarchist, or whether you identify with this particular party or that particular party, does not concern 64
me. There is too much fragmentation and divisivenesses in the ranks of the political left. This divisiveness must be transcended. Our petty bickering must be transcended. Our selfish provincialisms must be transcended. In calling for transcendence, I do not mean the forming of coalitions that still implies divisions. What I mean is that we can no longer afford to let disagreements over methods and means divide us and weaken our internationalism. If we are truly to have class consciousness (one that is unavoidable given the increased power of capital in the 1990s), it must be a unified consciousness, but one that recognizes a diversity of opinion. Only in that way can we present ourselves with a united front to defeat the enemies of the working classes, while avoiding the perils of authoritarian thinking. We cannot simply replace one master for another. Socialism is about the abolition of all masters. While this is not what I came here to talk to you about tonight, it does bring us to our subject: the role of language and philosophy in reinventing socialism as the vision we can offer the world of a more just society. You see, when we talk about divisions in our rank, and when we fight over who has the right to represent the working classes, or when we disagree over "true" socialism, we are engaging in a philosophical speculation to which there is no correct answer. The attempt to assert an answer is anachronistic. In addition, such action serves the politics of essentialism, which has always led to negative consequences. What we have as socialists is a literature, one stretching through Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Peter Kropotkin, Michael Bakunin, Emma Goldman, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Eduard Bernstein, Pierre Proudhon, Mao Tse Tung, Che Guevara, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Michael Albert. Doubtless, I have left scores of people off this list, including people who wrote before Marx, and many people who write and struggle today - for example, the Liberation Theologians [see Appendix В]. But I am not excluding them for political reasons (i.e. I do not believe that somebody's version of socialism is "wrong" and thus does not deserve to be mentioned). The above writers just happen to be the people whose works I have sitting on my shelf or whose work dovetails directly into my own. I do not consider them more correct than any other socialist writer or activist. Also, I recognize that some of these people hated each other, and that some of us read some of these people, but not others. It does not matter to me who we read: where these writers are concerned, it is a matter of taste. There is no difference in kind between any of the above people, or between anyone else who belongs to this so-called "left tradition". 65
Yes, we can argue for significant distinctions between each of these people, but then, we can always argue for our limitations, for our divisions, for the things that take us apart. We can always find differences. The complexity of human beings and their ideas make it easy to find ways to discriminate. Instead of discriminating, I think it is more useful to argue for the things that bring us together. We unite by capitalizing on our differences, by turning them into assets, and by using the tensions we find between our different ways of doing things as a basis for insight. What brings together the political left, whether they are Black Panthers, Weathermen, Maoists, Trotskyites, labor activists, Sandinistas, anarchists, or what-have-you, is the very real concern for a common future based upon the principles of an egalitarian society, one in which the resources of that society are available to all, and in which nobody steals from the labor of another. It is a world united by the recognition that a healthy person, a complete person, is one who is entitled to decent housing, health care, a clean environment, and healthy food. What also brings us together is the recognition that there is a small class of people which is fundamentally opposed to working class solidarity, which does not care about a clean environment (and which actively makes it inhabitable), and which is not interested in complete, happy human beings. All of us who work and dedicate our lives to the vision of a common future, and who oppose the people who want to enchain the workers of the world and turn the mother earth into a big ball of steel and concrete, are one people who have one ideology - an ideology encompassing many views and opinions (an ideology flexible enough to meet local needs). In coming together, we have to learn the hard lesson, and now is a good time, that there is no single path to socialism. The failure of communism to date, discounting for subversion from the United States, has been that the leaders of the past tried to forge a narrow program from out of a diverse range of people and literatures. These literatures and people are such that they can only be gathered in the chorus of a symphony and cannot be reduced to a monologue. The monologue is gray and inhuman, the symphony involves the height of human creativity and imagination. Here is where we have to start: with creativity and imagination. Creativity and imagination are more important today than they have ever been. While the political left has had some important victories, both in this country and throughout the world, the crimes and errors committed in its name and by members of its ranks must be accounted for if its accomplishments are to retain a political resonance in the future. That is 66
what we are talking about here. We are talking about the future. And we are talking about persuasion. We are talking about people imagining and communicating better realities for all of us to live in. People do not magically become socialists. People might spontaneously resist and spontaneously revolt, but such revolt does not lead to any permanent sense of class consciousness - it leads only to riots and to increased victimization. Now riots may not necessarily be a bad thing (as conditions sometimes lead people to have no other choice), but you cannot build a political platform on a riot. You cannot feed children or fight diseases by rioting. You cannot build anything by rioting. In order to build, you need an idea, an ideology. Yes, people do need ideology - not a false consciousness, but a workable consciousness. That takes diligence, that takes study, an d that takes a vocabulary. That vocabulary is socialism, in most all of its forms. Clearly, there are forms of historical socialism that are less appealing than others, and we should reject each one of them. But we can only do so because we can judge each by their practices, not their interpretations, and see that they did not accomplish the goals that they professed to undertake. And even as we reject certain practices, we must remember that their vocabularies and goals are often no different than our own. That vocabulary comes from the list of names I read to you earlier, and from others. And that list of names will grow in the future as more people contribute their intellectual and physical energies toward constructing a socialist reality. With each new name, with each new contribution, the literature on socialism changes and evolves. In its growth, we can find new strategies. Vocabularies are lists of terminologies and ideas, and these ideas are not self-evident, they are always open to interpretation. Failure to recognize this fact results in a reified language, and, thus, in a reified politics. No politics is worth a damn, not even socialist politics, if it does not recognize its own limitations and its susceptibility to interpretation. In short, our political terminologies - our political ideas - must have a contemporary resonance if we are to have any hope at all of persuading people that the ideas contained in the honorable history of leftist thought and political practice have any validity at all. From my study of history, rhetoric, and philosophy, I believe that our political terminologies do have a strong validity, and I am sure that all of you have a similar belief. Nevertheless, we are a minority of the world's population right now, and I believe that our numbers are getting smaller, not 67
bigger. I say tiiis, even as I recognize that the world's condition is getting worse, and more and more people are being forced into a revolutionary consciousness, as evidenced by the revolution that began in Chiapas, Mexico, a few years ago. However, we cannot wait until we are all put back into our literal chains to begin our revolt. The forces that are pitted against us have increasingly greater access to high technology, weaponry, and control of the media that makes it all the more difficult to organize nationally and internationally. Thus, we simply cannot afford to alienate our fellow workers by presenting them with a language that they have been taught to despise. Socialism used to be the language of compassion, a system of social responsibility, and the philosophy of hope. I want to emphasize this because I believe that the greatest tragedy of the twentieth-century is the loss of the moral language of socialism. The political left has lost the moral language of change, as far as the majority of the world is concerned. Socialism used to be the language o f compassion, a system o f social responsibility, and the philosophy o f hope. Thus, the job of leftist workers in a "post-communist" world is to reinvent that language, that system, and that philosophy. I will say that again, because it cannot be overstated. Our job, the task of every one of us in this room, is to redefine socialism as the language, the system, and the philosophy of hope. We do not do that by hashing out the same old vocabularies time and time again for audiences that recoil at words that conjure up images of Secret Police and Siberian labor camps. Now lest you misunderstand me, let me make one thing perfectly clear: there is no logical connection between a socialist vocabulary and a Stalinist regime. But there is a rhetorical connection. Rhetoric is just as real and just as logical as the things we normally call "reality." We cannot take our language for granted. If we do not use language well, language will use us. Specifically, leftist workers must face the following question: How do we retain the moral significance of socialism in light of past mistakes, current contingencies, and demonized vocabularies? As leftists, Marxists, socialists, communists, anarchists, labor activists, (it does not matter, whatever we wish to call ourselves), we have to face the fact that Marx, and scores of other writers, theorists, and activists were as wrong about human "nature" as was Hitler. The leftist tradition, for the most part, has been as rhetorically sensitive as Bob Dole and as intellectually sophisticated as Ronald Reagan (which is to say, not very sensitive or sophisticated at all). Much of our discourse is as silly (but not as dangerous) as was Hitler's. Supermen and superwomen do not rise from the 68
institutionalization of an idea, or from sacrificing their personal convictions to orthodox dogma. The communist party is not omnipresent, and it is not inevitable that good will defeat evil. It is not even likely that there will be much of a planet left if, and when, the capitalists are removed from power. The proletariat are not the vanguards of history (although they are a decent people who, for many reasons, deserve political power). In fact, superpeople do not rise at all, they only exist in fantasy, in books of philosophy that make us think that ideas alone are all that we need to change the world. In this sense, although I hate to make the comparison, the "proletarian" and the "Aryan" are nothing more than the dreams of two men, one praiseworthy, and the other despicable and damnable, who hoped to make their mark on the world. What both men failed to realize, and what their countless followers on the left and on the right have also failed to realize, is that society is what we make of it. Socialist politics is contem porary politics, and it must apply the lessons of our past, the insights of our thinkers, the blood of our martyrs, and the sweat of our labor, to the minds of people living in the world today. No political platform that compromises the individual can remain for long a viable politics - it soon becomes a tyranny, under which the alienation of people is complete. If the political left has an important lesson to learn, it is that ideas cannot be forced upon the people of a nation. A socialist brotherhood and sisterhood, and a state of "true" equality among all people, can only occur when people decide for themselves to be less cruel to one another and to design social and economic systems that reward compassion and solidarity. Thus, for leftist workers facing the contingencies of a late twentieth-century anti-socialism (and that is what we are facing), the important question becomes: What on Earth are we going to do now in light of an increased cruelty to minorities and the working classes throughout the world? How are we going to react to the increased strength and viciousness of the capitalist world? Of course, we continue to struggle, that much is given, that is what makes us who we are and ties us to history. It ties us to the tragedy of the Haymarket Riot. It ties us to the Paris Commune. It ties us to the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Vietnamese, Cuban, Angolian, Korean, and countless other socialist revolutions, successful or not. It ties us to international labor and to our own labor movements. It ties us to the best in human history, and it separates us from the worst.
My friends, it is time to regroup and refocus and recommit ourselves. It is time to forge new solidarities with the wretched and oppressed of the Earth in a new internationalism. More specifically, however, the answer to the above pragmatic question requires finding new ways of talking about the social problems that continue to plague the contemporary world. As philosopher Richard Rorty points out, we can no longer get mileage out of an incriminated Marxist lingo, no matter how much we continue to believe in that lingo, as I know we all do. We believe in Marx. But when I say "we believe in Marx" I mean to say that we believe in the spirit of what Marx wrote, and it is the same spirit we find in Kropotkin, Bernstein, Lenin, Trotsky, Rosenberg, Guevara, Chomsky and in the rest of the people who inspire us. We care about what these people said and what they did. What they said and did still speaks to us, but in other tongues. I believe with all my heart that these men and women were wise enough to accept the insight of that statement and to give us their blessings in our tasks. Make no mistake about it, we will never succeed i f we rely on canonized texts. Along with everything else the writers of these texts may have said, each of them realized that history was important, and that the dialectic between history and economy is ongoing. In other words, a nineteenth-century political vision needs a twenty-first century language. If our traditional vocabularies are to have any political significance in the future, they must be reinterpreted in light of contemporary contingencies. Specifically, the abuses and disappointments of traditional Marxist concepts force us to redescribe our leftist politics in fresh, new ways. Once again: we are heirs to a tradition of hope and social justice, a hope and justice once betrayed, but a hope, nevertheless, that can be renewed. This renewal is not going to be easy, but then again, nothing worth having comes without struggle. Ironically, we must overcome what could have become our two greatest achievements: The Soviet Union and Modem China. Our challenge in condemning Stalin and in condemning the excesses of the Soviet and Chinese systems, is to overcome their misuse of our important ideological and moral ammunition. As every active socialist in the world knows, Soviet Russia and Maoist China were "communist" in name alone. Their desecration of the socialist vision contributed to the moral bankrupting of "socialism" as a socio-cultural and political concept. For this desecration, we must symbolically nod our heads and mourn, and we should continue to mourn for as long as it takes to reconceptualize our dreams of a socialist state. We should not take this desecration lightly - the rest of the 70
world does not, the people we have to persuade do not. We would be foolish to renounce this task. And we must continue the dream, for a dream it is, and the only dream that we have that is worth the price we pay to enact it, the price that so many have dearly paid. It is not just for ourselves that we dream, and it is not just for the future that we dream. We need to do this, our work is for the living, not for the dead. But we are human and we have a past, and we have honor and dignity, and that means that while we must always look ahead, we have to remember those left behind. Our socialism is for them, too. For all the victims of the police, the governments, the armies, the bombs, the hunger, the internal purges, and the slaughters across the political spectrums, our revolution is their revolution; and that is another reason why we cannot let petty differences keep us from uniting; and which is why all socialists, communists, anarchists, and what-have-you people have to become one people who speak with many voices, because we have died as one people who spoke with many voices. To ignore this fact is to pronounce blasphemy on the dead. Our dream, our common goal of socialism is one, and it is separable from the regimes that have masqueraded as leftist politics in the past. This is the message we need to disseminate: socialism represents the best to which human culture can aspire. No other rationality has been invented that approaches the ability of socialism to provide human beings with a sense of commitment to peace and equality. No other rationality has the potential to aid human beings in constructing a tolerable existence for every single woman, man, and child on this planet. Sadly, because of tyrants like Stalin, because of the KGB, and because of the Chinese oligarchs, leaders that continue to abuse their own people in the name of Marxism, future generations will no longer remember that socialism once meant that all people are bom naked and equal to struggle against tyranny and greed together as sisters and brothers. While the crimes committed in the name of socialism are too horrible to forget and must not be forgotten, we must struggle always to preserve a greater historical memory, one of potential and of opportunity. "Communism," in the sense of Stalinism, must be buried along with its victims. "Communism," in the sense of class struggle, must re-ignite the world's imagination. Thus, it is up to us, the leftist workers of the present and the future, not to make apologies for the excesses of the past (we must face these excesses with the solemnity that we employ to face the excesses of capitalism and fascism), but to find some way to redescribe socialism's original 71
humanitarian vision within a twenty-first century context and with a language that conjures up images of hope and emancipation, not of terror and totalitarianism. We have to reinvent our legacy of equality and humanitarianism and present it in a new light so that persuasion, not dogma, becomes the medium of leftist agitation. This is our responsibility. We must, in a sense, reinvent ourselves. We cannot fail. As we rise to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, we have much more to lose than our chains. We risk losing the world.
In this appendix, I celebrate both language and solidarity as important tools for transformational social work. In so doing, I explore the role that organized religion can play in social transformation, while emphasizing its limitations. Similar to communication, religion is an important cultural realm that has not been adequately addressed by the left. Consequently, many important opportunities for progressive alliances have been missed. In Appendix A, and in the main part of this book, I discussed how problems of essentialism plagued left political struggle, and I urged more political unity among various progressive elements. In this current appendix, I go a step further and argue that the traditional spuming of religion by socialists is essentialist and that any successful left politics must involve a coalition with organized religion at some level.
Religion, Rhetoric, and the Left
It is an axiomatic claim of this appendix that hierarchy in religion and in socialism is a shortcoming that mystifies the profane and interferes with the establishment of a democratic community. Neither socialism nor religion makes any sense if it is not democratic; for either to be "true," it must be egalitarian. It is difficult to imagine a god that would recognize theological hierarchy. It is equally difficult to imagine a two tiered society existing under a tmly socialist system. In making the above assertions, I reject an important Burkean notion of language and society.1 In Burkean rhetorical theory, one in which "communism" and "community" are seen as etymological extensions of "communication",2 hierarchy is an inevitable part of language, and thus of human society.3 As Burke explains, humans are "goaded by the spirit of hierarchy (or moved by the sense of order)."4 He writes: Here man's [sic] skill with symbols combines with his negativity and with the tendencies toward different modes of livelihood implicit in the inventions th at make for division of labor, the result being definition and differentiations and allocations of property protected by the negativities of law.5 73
According to Burke, language moralizes our universe (such as injunctions that protect private property), and moralizations are hierarchies that establish a power relationship among distinctions. Burke teaches us that moralizations are assertions of our motivations, the material conditions that we want to establish in the world (such as property relations in the case of politics, and spiritual "property," ecclesiastical privilege, in the case of religion). For Burke, "motives are shorthand terms for situations."6 Capitalist motives, for example, privilege capitalist situations. Thus, all communication has its material basis in ideology or politics.7 We communicate to find, or to make, our place in the world.8 In other words, communication demarcates our property and draws the line in the sand regarding who gets what. While I am generally supportive of Burkean rhetorical theory and of its relevance to social theory and Marxism,9 I do not believe that hierarchy is inevitable in human social relationships, although it is clearly and detrimentally pervasive in our society. Hierarchy is no more essential to the human condition than is greed. One popular criticism of many existing communist parties involves their dependence on hierarchy, and this has been a primary objection of many anarchist writers.10 Yet, as I maintain in this appendix, communist leadership and politics do not have to depend upon hierarchy and, indeed, they should not. In recognizing this point, the disease of bureaucracy that has plagued many existing communist nations can be avoided. At the very least, such bureaucracy cannot be anticipated by any essentialist argument about the inherent "nature" of communist regimes. While it is true that language encourages hierarchy and alienation, the equally human traits of solidarity and empathy combat it. Solidarity and empathy are as human and natural as language.11 In this appendix, I celebrate both language and solidarity as important tools for transformational social work. In so doing, I explore the role that organized religion can play in social transformation, while emphasizing its limitations. In writing this, I am in no way endorsing religion. On the contrary, I am simply recognizing that religion is an important cultural realm that has not been adequately addressed by the left. Consequently, many important opportunities for alliances have been missed. It is the position of this appendix that any successful left politics must involve a coalition with organized religion at some level, and be open to accommodating people's religious motivations.
Burke was correct when he declared that in nature, all human beings are consubstantial (that is, equal) with each other.12 It is language that separates us, according to Burke (it is symbolically our fall from Eden and the original sin). Class distinctions, after all, are first and foremost symbolic distinctions. Indeed, to extend this argument a step further: outside of our basic needs for food, health, and shelter, we can see that the material conditions of the world, that is, the wealth and its tappings, are also symbolic. The fact that class distinctions are symbolic does not make them any less real or any less dangerous. It simply means that people are trained to value the world in particular ways. The way to combat one symbolic orientation is to introduce another, and to persuade people to adopt it. This has been one of the larger points of this book. By studying communication, we find that language is not only the enemy of consubstantiality and of human utopia, it is also the method by which human consubstantiality can be constructed. Therefore, class struggle must be carried out on the persuasive as well as the militant front.13 This is the lesson that we largely learn from Kenneth Burke, and it has been under-appreciated since he was heckled out of the first American Writers' Congress in 1935. The material written above about communication and community can also be written about religion, the theme of this appendix.14 If religion is anything at all, it is at least an expression of the yearning that people feel for consubstantiality, a state of togetherness with some community. Had this yearning naturally been satisfied, i.e. if we were communal as animals are often communal, there would be no need for religious doctrine, no need for religious identification. In such a state, there would be no need for political identification, either. In an important sense, religious identification is political identification, and this helps to explain one of the reasons why traditional Marxism has been hostile to religion (besides its more obvious criticism of religion as alienation). As the political supersedes the religious, communist ideologies are more "real" than religious ideologies; the political need for group consciousness and security is the primal need that grounds religious theories of transcendence. The function of most religious rhetoric, after all, is to promote the universality of human beings in God's image. This is, or should be, primarily a political concern, as God represents total or complete justice and/or peace. The fact that religion is not often interpreted in this way by the 75
different denominations testifies to the hypocrisy that is common in much religious discourse. In contrast to religion, Marxism (or socialism or anarchism) is a theory of consubstantiality that attempts to equalize people vis-a-vis their material conditions; it is the philosophy of earthly justice. Socialism is empowered by a humanistic rationality. Socialists are committed to the logos of reason; not the logos of God, but the logos of people who, in all their frailty, are often quite irrational. Thus, I dismiss in this essay the question of God's existence. I take it as axiomatic that God, if It exists at all, is beyond the human experience to comprehend.15 I also recognize that debates about God's existence often distract us from questions about the existence of earthly injustices, and thus I do not want to participate in the impossible and alienating task of attempting to prove or to disprove God's existence. At the same time, while I dismiss God and the question of Its existence, I want to make room for the political left to recognize that religion is as near to us, as human community members, as God is distant and alienating. Religion is very important to humans and is fascinating from a rhetorical and social perspective (which is exactly what socialism is). Religion is also a phenomenon that theorists and activists on the left have to grapple with more thoroughly, and even learn to accept at some level, just as Aristotle had to accept the fact that humans were not entirely logical and to make room in his theory of rhetoric for pathos and ethos.16 As Aristotle laments what he calls the "sorry" nature and the "corruption" of audiences for their weaknesses in succumbing to emotional appeals, I lament that dimension of the human character that encourages weak people to seek religious solace. Nevertheless, this is precisely the condition that we face. Aristotle's rhetorical theory is all the stronger because of his decision to broaden his understanding of the means by which persuasion occurs; likewise, socialist theory is stronger and socialist practice is more inclusive and humane when it takes into active consideration the very large number of religious people with which it must engage. In a book that celebrates Marx's contribution to ethical thought, Cornel West points to a second reason for tolerating a religious dimension in modem socialist politics and society. As he observes: [T]he Marxist tradition is silent about the existential meaning of death, suffering, love, and friendship owing to its preoccupation with improving the social circumstances under which people pursue love, revel in friendship, and confront death.17 76
In other words, there is room for other explanations of human experience. Marxism can never represent the totality of human logos, and it should not even try. The various forms of socialism are very effective in helping people to meet their material needs, and even our spiritual needs for community. But that is as far as it goes. Socialism has only a limited transcendence capability. If we accept that premise, we have to recognize that competing ideologies exist and various explanations for a range of phenomena exist which socialism cannot speak to, and we have to learn to take from them that which accentuates our strengths (as well as learn from those that point out our weaknesses). In this way, our society will be more holistic. The fact of the matter is that West is correct: Marxism is silent on the existential questions of life and even actively belittles these questions. These questions, however, are not bourgeois and they cannot be easily dismissed, and should thus be embraced at some level (while acknowledging that a preoccupation with existential or metaphysical questions detracts from material productions and can serve a mystifying function). As communist governments solidify and prosper in the future, as I hope they do, and as people in these countries find themselves with leisure, these questions will become increasingly important. For example, witness China in its post-Maoist period. Power politics and nationalism aside, one of the changes we find in China is that the Chinese people have become exhausted by traditional communist jargon. After decades of hearing how "class struggle" was the way to understand the world, people began to wonder if there were other things to talk about - some of which may be metaphysical or existential. China's movement away from even its ideological expressions of communism and its embrace of Westernization (read "Americanization") has much to do with the boredom of its people with a limiting vocabulary and world view, especially since the Chinese people were able to lift themselves from their post-revolutionary depravity (caused by Japanese, European, and U.S. imperialism) and assume a significant degree of social prosperity and leisure. What communist governments soon find out is that changing society does not mean necessarily changing the way that people think. This is not to say that class struggle is not important; rather, it is often irrelevant. Being able to identify when concepts such as class struggle are heuristic and when they are not is an important step in revitalizing and applying Marxist or any type of socialist theory. Critical theory, after all, needs to be critical - that is, strategic and sensitive to the needs of kairos (timing with a philosophical social-constructionist bent).18 77
Clearly, religion and language serve similar functions in human society they both are used to transcend our imperfections (hence our desire for metaphysics or existentialist thought).19 It is here where Burke begins his study of human motivation (which has been as much religious as it has been communistic, as explained above). As Burke explains, "What we say about words, in the empirical realm, will bear a notable likeness to what is said about God in theology."20 He can make this claim because he defines theology as "words about God."21 Likewise, Marxism is words about society, or words about justice; by itself, Marxism is neither. To assume otherwise is to make a significant semantic error: to mistake words for things. As Neil Postman explains:
Knowledge of a subject mostly means knowledge of the language of that subject. Biology, after all, is not plants and animals; it is language about plants and animals. History is not events that have occurred; it is language describing and interpreting events. And astronomy is not planets and stars but a special way of talking about planets and stars.22 While words are not the things they represent, they are, themselves, "things." Words are the material representations of the German Geist (Geist is nothing more than the collective vocabulary of a culture). In other words, we can have a Marxist rhetoric, but it must be, above all else, self-reflective, so as to not reify its own language, its own discourse, as the Church has done. Marxism and other left political philosophies cannot take their own ideas too seriously; while they are important, they are not the final word. With such precaution, we can proceed with our construction of socialism; Marxism still retains its potential to be a critical vocabulary, one that religion has, for the most part, given up.
11 As it has been exceedingly clear in this book, I am a heretic in terms of traditional religion and politics (and disciplinary norms). I am a radical scholar who sees my subjectivities and my political commitments as cites of inquiry.22 As liberation theologians (representatives of a religious tradition that inspires this appendix and my rethinking of the religion question) let their love for God inform their love for people,241 believe that a scholar's love for knowledge should inform his/her love for humanity (and vice-versa). The ends of theology, and the ends of scholarship, should be social transformation (i.e. socialism). All other ends are "sinful" in the sense that 78
they emphasize selfishness rather than egalitarianism and perpetuate the unjust and criminally irresponsible social order. I have often felt in my studies that rhetoric leads to Marxism, but now I see that any praxisinformed scholarship or intellectual activity, such as religion, leads to socialism if it is done with open eyes. For no one today can engage in the world at the level that it presents itself to us and not become socialist if they are really committed to social justice. Furthermore, I recognize that whatever claims I make for knowledge are rooted in the delicacies of the human condition, in classical humanism. I affirm Protagoras' dictum that "Of all things the measure is man [sic], of things that are that they are, and of things that are not that they are not."25 Long before Christianity came on the scene, Protagoras made clear that knowledge must be grounded in something, and that "something" is human, not eternal, it is flesh, not immutable, it is yearning, not disinterested, it is imperfect, not divine. From here subsequent scholars have derived the principles of rhetoric.26 Rhetoric, scholars have been telling us for over two thousand years, is what we do with language to create knowledge, and even to create our systems of politics and religion.27 Rhetoric, in short, is epistemic28; it makes the world fit into distinctly human categories that can be understood and utilized for practical ends. We never know the world, what we "know" is the world as processed to fit our conceptual potentialities.29 Disinterested knowledge is not knowledge at all, but background. What we call "facts" are nothing more than the selection of some material in certain relationships that stand out in a significant way within human conceptualizations. In other words, background stimuli become accentuated and transferred to the foreground of our consciousness in the act of producing knowledge. Backgrounds change, however, and human beings can know more and more about the universe they live in. We call this "progress." But still, what people know they only know because they are human, and their humanity exists only in the context of experience. It is in the human where knowledge becomes "real," or at least important. Marx, working within the great humanist tradition of the Enlightenment, had, as his motto, "I am a man, and nothing human is alien to me." Marx meant that the human was familiar, and it is the familiarity of the human that conquers and tames the unknown (humanizing it). Indeed, the unknown can only be known by comparing it to the known. Human knowledge does not grow in leaps; rather, it is largely incremental (we know more by slowly building on what we already know, or by imagining novel relationships through the repositioning of what we take to be old relationships). This returns us to the 79
power of metaphor and language which help us to conquer the unknown by refiguring our thought.30 Since it is the human, and not the deity, who is the standard for knowledge, it is also the human where the secular and the profane meet. Thus, it is here where the potential to know God can never be more than a well-intentioned impossibility - the finite human brain can never comprehend even a fraction of what is commonly stipulated as an omniscient deity. In other words, anyone who claims to "know" God is either a liar or mad or both.31 God, by definition, is eternal, and the realm of the human is the realm of the contingent. Everything about the human is subject to change.32 The temporal and the timeless cannot be bridged, except on the symbolic level. This is why critical theorists and rhetoricians can be excited about theology, and why theology is an inescapable bastard in the Marxist family. Perhaps another reason why Marxists and other socialists have hated religion so much is that, no matter how dark a sheep it is, it has ties to the structure of Marxist ideology, and indeed, to all human ideology. Along with rhetoric and Marxism, theology, in an important sense, was Burke's passion, for he saw in religion distinctly linguistic motivations and recognized them as being the same structure that underpins rhetorical persuasion and Marxist ideology. The following poem by Burke speaks to Marxism as much as it speaks to religion and to rhetoric: Here are the steps In the Iron Law of Histoiy That welds Order and Sacrifice: Order leads to Guilt (for who can keep commandments!) Guilt needs Redemption (for who would not be cleansed!) Redemption needs a Redeemer (which is to say, a Victim!). Order Through Guilt To Victimage (hence: Cult of the Kill).33
In other words, we are at home here in the symbolic, however reluctantly we have reached this conclusion, as academics or Marxists, or both (or as religious people). No one interested in language, rhetoric, or even politics is 80
alien to religion (and vice-versa). Religious motivations are human motivations, and are rhetorical motivations (and are political motivations, as discussed above).34 However, socialism, not religion, is the material force most capable of improving the conditions of people because, unlike religion, socialism starts, with its basic premise, that the human condition is first and foremost material. As Marx writes, "All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice."35 Socialism is the "philosophy of hope" because it assumes, along with rhetoric, that people make the world what it is, and that if things are to change, then that change is dependent upon human agency. With all the United States' propaganda of the Cold War, much of it now acknowledged to have been designed to manipulate the American public,36 it is difficult for American audiences to appreciate the sense of hope that has historically surrounded communism. However, writing in the 1950s, Eric Hoffer acknowledged, "If the Communists win Europe and a large part of the world, it will not be because they know how to stir up discontent or how to infect people with hatred, but because they know how to preach hope."37 This is the hope that the world so desperately needs, a hope in people, a hope in community, a hope in solidarity and compassion. In other words, socialism is an earthly hope, not an ecclesiastical one, one with earthly and not spiritual goals. Socialism has a material and worldly presence. It is a philosophy of the present. It is an assertion of human value and it animates a truly human agency. As West and the Liberation Theologians suggest, religion can ally itself with socialism and provide for people's spiritual needs (and these are allies that we desperately need); however, by itself, ecclesiastical hope equals no hope at all. Without socialism to focus and mature it, religion often serves as a useful distraction, as when the slaves in the United States were encouraged to practice Christianity as a way to acclimate themselves to their servitude.38 By itself, religion is a false hope; while religion may make people feel better, it is nothing more than a placebo when it is not combined with a progressive political platform. For example, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X were all religious leaders, but they were also, and primarily, social leaders with progressive platforms and poignant visions of practical social justice and resistance to oppression. As Gandhi explained his mixture of religion and politics:
I could not be leading a religious life unless I identified myself with the whole of mankind [sic], and that I could not do unless I took part in politics. The whole gamut of man's activities today constitutes an indivisible whole. You cannot divide social, economic, political and purely religious work into watertight compartments.39 Gandhi also wrote, "I see coming the day of the rule of the poor, whether that rule be through force of arms or of non-violence."40 While Gandhi worked for non-violent change, he worked for change and gave his life for it. He was so determined to bring about better social conditions for the struggling masses of poor people, and to resist the evil that was thrust upon India and the world in the form of colonialism and imperialism, he preferred "extermination to submission."41 While each of the above leaders inspired a faith in God, they grounded that faith in the rhetoric and deeds of social transformation, of men and women struggling, thus illustrating an important teaching of Marx: for real change to occur, the social must take precedent over the religious: The abolition of religion as the illusionary happiness of men [sic], is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, the embryonic criticism of this vale of tears of which religion is the halo.42 Gandhi, King, and Malcolm X all tried to abolish religion as illusion and to create, in its stead, religion as method - a method for reducing suffering by increasing the sphere of compassion and community. The ends of each was not the kingdom of God, but the freedom of people who suffered daily in the kingdoms and tyrannies of other people. I ll
It appears, in the waning years of the twentieth-century, that socialists have failed to inspire hope over the long run. This failure was not due to lack of effort, however. The failures of socialism (or of Marxism p e r se) worldwide were not the failures of socialist ideology so much, but, primarily, material failures as well as military defeat. Much, but not all, of the reason for Marxism's failure is the determination of its enemies to defeat it.43 Still, part of the reason for socialism's failures has to do with its substitution at times of "faith" for "hope." Hope and faith are not the same thing, although faith is 82
a special, illusionary type o f hope. Faith is the unwarranted belief that things will work out according to some larger plan or directive. Bertrand Russell defines faith as "a conviction which cannot be shaken by contrary evidence."44 Because it is irrational, faith causes people to do stupid things in the name o f religion, communism, or anything else. Hope, on the other hand, involves concrete plans, or strategies. Unlike faith (which is alienating and anti-human), hope does not require a person to give up his or her critical facilities; on the contrary, hope encourages people to maximize their critical talents in order to create the world that they envision. Hope involves the richness o f the human imagination; faith panders to the poverty o f our spiritual and moral imaginations. Hope is a direction that we take toward the future, but not one that predetermines the future, as faith does. Hope is pragmatic, faith is dogmatic. Hope builds, faith retards. The best o f Marxism and o f socialism was hope, the worst was faith. Hope represents human agency; faith represents the neutering of human potential and the abdication o f human responsibility to destiny. Socialism, in the past, has been both hope and faith. Socialism's future must be hope. The above can be written of religion as well. The best o f religion is hope (the belief, matched by action, that the best in human beings can overcome the worst). Thus, religion can be a spiritually and socially rewarding endeavor. The worst in religion, however, is faith, and faith impedes rationality and has become the standard by which most o f the world's religions measure themselves. While rationality is not always a good thing, as in the rationality o f the Holocaust or the logic that creates and perpetuates the potential for nuclear annihilation,45 its absence is a positive evil. A sustained social commitment to peace and justice cannot be maintained by any ideology that rejects rationality, as religion mostly does.44 In accepting socialism - in its anarchist or M arxist forms - we are led, at least in its traditional conceptualizations, to the position that it is the human who creates God, and not the other way around. What M arx means by alienation is that, in its most basic sense, we create God and forget that we are the masters o f our creation, and we bow down before the idols that we ourselves have created. M arx argues that we must smash these idols and free human beings to worship no master (in particular, money and the capitalist/landlord). When humans free themselves from ecclesiastical masters, that is, when they can see their servitude as symbolic, they can also free themselves from their earthly masters, and that is what really matters. Humans need to see that they are the masters o f money and wealth, and that 83
it is not money and wealth that are the masters of people (just as it is people who create and master God, and not the other way around). In both cases, the end is human freedom (freedom from a ll masters, be it God or the Landlord). To the extent that people on Earth are free, we, as socialists, are content. When this state of affairs occurs in any society, it becomes inconsequential, from a political point of view, if people wish to reinvent religion. While the criticism of religion is an important starting point in the development of a critical consciousness (indeed, M arx wrote, "Communism begins where atheism begins"),47it does not mean that, once a critical consciousness has been developed, religion cannot be tolerated, or even embraced. While atheism can lead to communism, it does not have to, and the absence o f atheism in a society does not mean the decline o f socialism in that society.4® In fact, as I suggested above, the presence of theism in a communist or socialist society may indicate that that society has reached a level of maturity and stability, after recovering from the traumatic experience of the revolutionary upheaval and the modernization process. In tolerating religion, however, we have to differentiate between types of religion. Not all religion is equal - for example, we now recognize that human sacrifice is not an acceptable form of religious expression. Some religious traditions are progressive, enlightening, and socially useful. Other traditions are regressive, denigrating, and socially detrimental (even without practicing human sacrifice). Speaking to these latter forms or traditions of religion, which were dominant in Europe through the early twentieth century, Marx outlines the beginning of his critical theory. As he explains, "The criticism o f religion ends with the doctrine that man [sic ] is the supreme being f o r man. It ends, therefore, with the categorical im perative to overthrow a ll those conditions in which man is an abased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being."49The world of this enslavement is described more accurately by Michael Bakunin: God being everything, the real world and man [sic] are nothing. God being truth, justice, goodness, beauty, power, and life, man is falsehood, iniquity, evil, ugliness, impotence, and death. God being master, man is the slave. Incapable of funding justice, truth, and eternal life by his own effort, he can attain them only through a divine revelation. But whoever says revelation says revealers, messiahs, prophets, priests, and legislators inspired by God himself; and these, once recognized as the representatives of divinity on earth as the holy instructors of humanity, chosen by God himself to direct it in the path of salvation, necessarily exercise absolute power. All men owe them
passive and unlimited obedience; for against the divine reason there is no human reason, and against the justice of God no terrestrial justice holds.50 Along with these two giants o f intellectual and critical thought (and with Bertrand Russell and others), I see in religion, in particular Christianity, many (but not all) o f the causes for the ills and depravity of the Western world. I am even willing to argue that, in terms o f its overall historical effect, Christianity is worse than Nazism. Recall, as only one example, the genocide that the Christian missionaries and soldiers perpetrated in support o f their governments' policies and their own ideologies against the tens of millions o f Native Americans they found throughout the New W orld.51 I do not intend to lessen the horrors of Nazi Germany. In the approximately thirteen years that Hitler's Third Reich lasted, it produced a tremendous amount o f calamity, destruction, and human suffering, through which the Nazis became the paradigm o f evil in the twentieth-century. Among the annals o f twentieth-century horror, the Nazis have few competitors.52 In contrast to the relative brevity of the Nazi regime, however, Christianity has existed for almost two thousand years in different forms, and nothing I can write here will reflect the totality or the terror of that experience. Christianity cannot be easily reduced to a single representation (even to evil, for there has been good in it). Like any ideology it resists reduction, and it resists caricature. To condemn Christianity universally is to invite the objection of essentialism, and thus I freely admit that Christianity has had some positive effects. In particular, it had influence in curtailing some o f the excesses o f the Roman empire. Thus, I do not wish to essentialize Christianity, but to comment briefly on its history. Aside from whatever else it may be, Christianity is a historical phenomenon (as is socialism). That is to say, Christianity has a history to be studied. It is a history that can also be judged. Regardless o f how positive people feel about it in the present (and there is no reason why people should not feel good about their religious identifications), Christianity has a past that is not altogether admirable. At the vary least, as suggested above, Christianity has contributed to the European domination of the New World, with its many genocides. It has sponsored Holy W ars and Inquisitions. It has sanctioned and perpetuated anti-semitism. While similar critiques of violence and fanaticism can be leveled at the other major W estern religions (which only substantiates my point that religion is often, but not always, horrible), Christianity, writes Russell with understatement, "has been distinguished from other religions by its greater readiness for persecution."53 Thus, it is not unreasonable that, traditionally, socialists have felt that 85
"religion [in particular, Christianity] has been in the past and still is to-day one of the most powerful means at the disposal o f the oppressors for the maintenance of inequality, exploitation, and slavish obedience on the part of the toilers."54 I am not trying to "Christian bash" in this appendix (or bash religion). As my reverence for the Liberation Theologians, and for preachers such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X illustrates, I am not anti-Christian (or anti-religion, more generally). Islam and modem Judaism are also blood soaked religions. Yet, individual Muslims, Jews, and Christians may be fine, perhaps even righteous people who serve as moral examples for the rest of us. Furthermore, I do not want to imply that Christianity itself is the cause of world colonization and genocide on behalf of the European nations for the last five hundred years. There are other factors involved, such as the rise o f capitalism, the industrial revolution, and the formation o f the modem nation-state.55 Still, in the history o f these phenomena, we cannot ignore the Christian influence. These phenomena existed, grew, and thrived under Jie watchful and supportive eye of the Christian oligarchy that controlled or at least supported the power structure in these nations.56 By briefly reviewing the history o f Christianity, I am trying to cleanse it, as I am trying to cleanse and salvage from all religion its humanizing and spiritual traits, and to enlist their service in the building o f socialism. For example, I am Jewish, and I am ashamed and horrified at what the Jewish state is doing to Arabs, particularly the Palestinians. In a newspaper editorial I once wrote: As a U.S. bom Jew, I am writing to publicly denounce the State of Israel for its war of oppression against the Palestinian people, for its general disregard for peace and stability in the Middle East, and for its support of U.S. counter insurgency programs in Central and South America. In each of the above instances, the State of Israel has contributed to the deaths and sufferings of countless numbers of Third World people.57 Because o f these atrocities, Judaism takes on a sinister hue that must be purified if Judaism is to have any moral significance in the world today. Also, because o f these atrocities (and others that happened before), Israel has transformed its original socialist and humanitarian vision into an armed militaristic nightmare.58 Similar to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam take on a sinister hue when you look at their historical practices. The same is tm e, to an extent, with 86
communism. It is difficult today to be a communist (in its anarchist, M arxist, or other forms), probably more difficult than it has ever been. While the repression from the capitalist world is the same, the dream has, in some very real cases, been tarnished. Most tragically, "socialism," that beautiful democratic word, has been associated with unspeakable horrors (correctly and incorrectly). To be an unreflective communist, or an unreflective Christian, or to be an unreflective Jew, is to be a participant in injustice. IV
O f course, the intellectually suspect way out of the predicament of having to face one's unsavory history (religious or political) is to engage in the type of essentialism that I am trying to avoid. Thus, it is easy to find talk about a "true" Church (or revolutionary party), one uncorrupted by the sins of people and the demagogues o f the past. But where is this Church found? It seems audacious for modem day Christians to say that the Christianity of the Holy Roman Empire was false, that the Church of the Inquisition was false, that the Christianity o f the Spaniards who conquered and slaughtered in Mexico was false, that the Christianity o f the American settlers who conquered and slaughtered the North American Indians was false, or that the religion behind 500 years o f colonization and countless religious wars was false. This above argument is weak because there is no place where we can draw the line. Consider the following examples: During the Second World W ar, the Pope was compliant with the Nazis.59 Does this fact invalidate Catholicism? Martin Luther, the man responsible for the Protestant Reformation, was a vicious anti-semite. So was Calvin (who had some repressive views on social welfare). Does the anti-semitism o f these important religious figures invalidate their creeds or the traditions that rose on behalf of their teaching? In Britain and in the United States, the Church endorsed the slavery o f the Africans. Were none of the people who supported and benefited from these cmel institutions "true" Christians? W hat about recent history? Many people who are pious support the United States Armed Forces and proudly send their children to die in our imperialist wars.60 How many "Christians" dropped napalm on Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian babies? How many "Christian" presidents, men who appear pious and attend Church, ordered mass death through foreign intervention, and sanctioned those deaths, publicly, by appealing to God?61 In asking these questions, I realize that the examples implicate people, and not 87
necessarily religion. Nevertheless, my point is that essentialist claims of an ideology's "purity" are not valid. There is no difference between people and religion, or between people and any ideology. People construct their religions and their ideologies and those ideologies and religions are acted out in the behaviors o f people. In short, I do not believe that there is a "true" church, only churches that are built by people for people, some better and some worse. The same is true with socialism - there is no "true" socialism, only the practice o f socialism in its better or worse forms. The best I can write on behalf of Christianity is that Christianity is historical (meaning it cannot be reduced to its past) and that it is slowly improving. Today Christianity is less militant, on the whole, less antisemitic, less racist, and more tolerant (the Religious Right, notwithstanding). I applaud these developments and wish that they continue. I also commit myself to our common goals, as in the United States Catholic bishops 1983 pastoral letter, The Challenge o f Peace.61 The stated goals of Christianity, after all, are admirable, and all people should wish the Christians well in their social project. If the majority of the Churches could reconcile their rhetoric with historical social circumstances, Christianity could become a progressive force in the world, as Martin Luther King, Jr. imagined: A religion true to its nature must also be concerned about man's [sic] social conditions. Religion deals with both earth and heaven, both time and eternity. Religion operates not only on the vertical plane but also on the horizontal. It seeks not only to integrate men with God but to integrate men with men and each man with himself. This means, at bottom, that the Christian gospel is a two-way road. On the one hand, it seeks to change the souls of men and thereby unite them with God; on the other hand, it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so that the soul will have a chance after it is changed. Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a dxy-as-dust religion. Such a religion is the kind that Marxists like to see - an opiate of the people.63 Marxists do not "like" to see religion in this way; this merely is the way that religion presented itself to the M arxist theorists who were writing in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The M arxist critique o f religion is not due to the excesses o f Marxism, it is due to the excesses of religion. But Marxism or any form of socialism is wrong if it does not allow for religion to be other than it has been historically. 88
In fact, left politics, even anarchism and Marxism, can be more sensitive to the needs o f religious people. After all, both M arx's and Bakunin's critiques o f religion are critiques of a particular historical manifestation of religion. Their own historiographical methods should have led them to the conclusion that Christianity was not always the same as it was in their day and, more importantly, that other, benign or even socially-useful forms of Christianity and religion could make their appearance in the future. Furthermore, M arx was writing idealistically when he claimed that the critique o f religion was the beginning of all critique. Specifically, Marx argued: The immediate task o f philosophy, which is in the service of history, is to unmask human self-alienation in its secular form now that it has been unmasked in its sacred form. Thus, the criticism of heaven is transformed into the criticism of earth, the criticism o f religion into the criticism o f law, and the criticism o f theology into the criticism ofpolitics,64 While M arx is absolutely right, socialists do not have to take criticism to its ultimate telos. To do so is to invite a new form of metaphysics to replace the old. It is enough to write, instead, that the strengthening o f community is the beginning of all critique, or some other neo-pragmatist dictum.65 If we take criticism to the end o f the line, as M arx encourages us to do, we find ourselves in inhospitable country (in a deconstructionist's black hole) since, ultimately, there is nothing beyond an individual's life. We are animals who live and die, and we happen to be vain enough to wish for some sort of immortality for ourselves or for some part of the world. This is a foolish desire, but an understandable one. It is not a sign o f weakness, as Nietzsche suggests, but o f strength. If we can channel our desire for immortality away from lifeless statues, cold crypts, and empty prayers, and instead focus our creative energy on artifacts o f social achievement (like permanently ending racism, poverty, and war), then our lives, temporary as they may be, will have a more far-reaching significance. Just as I would caution people against dismissing 'communism or socialism because o f some o f its negative historical manifestations, I would remind the political left that religion can serve the interest o f universal fraternity. While the points made by M arx and Bakunin are solid, Christianity and other religions could learn from their critiques. Marxism and religion must make peace if there is to be peace in the world - neither force is going away for a long time. Religion will never be anything more than hypocritical if it serves as a reactionary force against social change, if it 89
continues to ignore the sufferings of people, the crimes o f their governments, and if it continues to cloak these sins behind the illusions o f transcendence. The various churches can do well to study the works o f Martin Luther King, Jr. His message is more than that racism is wrong, his message is that poverty is a sin of the nation that perpetuates it.66 On the other hand, Marxists and other socialists can learn that hope comes in many different forms. While socialism serves the flesh in wonderful ways, it neglects to realize that it is in the nature of people to be afraid o f the unknown. It is also in the nature o f people to fail. Failure and fear breed the belief in redemption, and this is a basic psychological need that socialists communities often ignore at significant peril. Indeed, the success of the Nicaraguan revolution lay, in part, from a coalition between the Church and the M arxist government.67 For this reason alone, if not for many others, the Sandinistas' government o f Nicaragua stands out as a model for international emulation.68
V As Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrates better than many in the second half of the twentieth-century (at least in the United States), theology does not have to be a tombstone, and it does not have to contribute to the poverty o f our moral and political imaginations. Theology can be a liberation. Theology, after all, is not a relationship between humans and God, but between humans and humans. God, if It exists, does not need theology. Theology is what humans use to put into words that which is incommunicable. Centuries before Christianity, the ancient Greek sophist Gorgias concluded that Truth was unknowable and uncommunicable.69 In so doing, Gorgias posited a reasonable religious truth. It is a big universe. It is unlikely that the existence o f God, assuming that It exists, reflects in any way our ability to perceive It. This does not mean that, being alive, we cannot participate in whatever it is that the universe is. We are a part o f the universe. But what we talk about is not the imiverse and God's place in it or mastery over it, but our place in it and mastery over it. We can evoke God for our ends, and we often do, but these ends are always human. To deny this is to deny the theologies o f Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Oscar Romero. As a scholar, socialist, and humanitarian, I choose not to ignore the theology of these brave men, and urge others on the left to embrace them as well. I choose to embrace these men for their theologies o f liberation, and I compose this appendix to do justice to our memories of them, and to further 90
substantiate my call in Appendix A for more inclusive left resistance. All three of these men were slain for preaching the word of God to the poor. While their Gods may have been different (King and Romero worshiped Jesus, and Malcolm X worshiped Allah), their message was the same: liberation. King, Romero, and Malcolm X sought the liberation of vast numbers of human beings from their oppression from other, selfish people. All three people named the United States as the perpetrator of this selfishness and oppression.70 King, for example, was confronted with the problem o f having to explain to rioting African-American youths why non violence was superior to violence. In light o f the Vietnam W ar, such a position ran counter to the dominant examples of conflict management in the world. "Their questions hit home," King explains, "and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence o f the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government."71 King, Romero, and Malcolm X were killed because they preached heaven on earth, and preached that, in justice, the poor deserved a better lot. They demanded that the United States, and its client states in the Third World, democratize and socialize its hoarded privileges. They each appealed to the religions o f the W est to actualize the justice that is so common in the rhetoric o f the First World, privileged nations. By any religious standards, all three men were pious, even saintly, yet they all preached that theology involves the relationship between humans. While they did not ignore God, they spoke and acted as if the only way to know God is through social action. If we are made in the image o f God, they reasoned, then we are all, in some sense, divine. Therefore, if some o f us are made ugly by poverty and injustice, then there is some corruption in the kingdom o f Earth. This is the true sin: If our Earthly house is not in order, then the heavens themselves can know no peace. If we want to know God, these men preached, the path to such knowledge is found in our relationship to others and in our mutual acts o f self-liberation. In that respect, they all broke from established religion, and were condemned on many occasions by other leaders o f their respective ecclesiastical communities.72 The bullets o f humans, not lightning bolts from God, brought these men to their graves. Each died as Christ died - on a cross built by humans for humans. They died so that each o f us could live in a world o f economic justice. Such a position is not solely a M arxist ideal. As Emma Lazarus, the poet whose "The New Colossus" consecrates the Stature o f Liberty, explained in 1883: 91
[T]he very latest reforms urged by political economists, in view of the misery of the lower classes, are established by the Mosaic Code, which formulated the principle of the rights of labor, denying the right of private property in land, asserting that the comers of the field, the gleanings of the harvest belong in justice, not in charity, to the poor and the stranger; and that man [sic] owed a duty, not only to all humanity, but even to the beast of the field, and "the ox that treads the com."73 Lažams goes on to explain how the fathers o f modem socialism were three Jews (Lassalle, Marx, and Jacoby) and she connects messianicism with socialism. So, in this important sense, Liberation Theology is not new, and religion is not completely alien to socialism. In the same tradition, King, Malcolm X, and Romero reminded us that economic justice is a divine right. For without economic justice, there is no spiritual justice. If there is no heaven on Earth, there can be no heavenly paradise. Each revolutionized God's word by sanctioning revolution on Earth. Each o f them acted as Moses acted so many centuries ago when faced with the disparity between divine justice and social justice (remember, the slavery o f the Jews was sanctioned by the Gods of the Egyptains). It is at this junction, the intersection between people, purpose, sacrifice, and religion, that we find the quintessential M arxist or anarchist act - the act of inspired liberation. As the Philosophy of Hope, socialism intersects with the above and is the ally o f all who seek a better life for the masses o f the world's population. Socialism, like Liberation Theology, involves a commitment, not to some hereafter potential or promise to some absent creator, but to humankind itself, and to the creative, consubstantial, rhetorical acts that makes human beings what they are.
Kenneth Burke (1898-1994) was an influential American critic and philosopher of language who infused a Marxist orientation with rhetorical studies in the United States. The historical context for this important fusion can be found in Frank Lentricchia, Criticism and Social Change (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985). As an example of this infusion, Lentricchia explains: One of [Burke's] most significant contributions to Marxist theory . . . is his pressing of the difficult, sliding notion of ideology, bequeathed to us by The German Ideology, out of the areas of intellectual trickery and false consciousness 92
and into the politically productive textual realms of practical consciousness rhetoric, the literary, and the media of what he tellingly called "adult education in America." The political work of the hegemonic, as well as that of a world-be counter-hegemonic culture, Burke saw (as Marx did not) as most effectively carried through at the level of a culture's various verbal and nonverbal languages. (24)
Don Burks, "Kenneth Burke: The Agro-Bohemian 'Marxoid," Communication Studies 42 (1991), 219-233.
4 5 6 7
For an overview of Burke's theory of language and its relationship to society and criticism, see William Reuckert, Kenneth Burke and the Drama o f Human Relations, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982). Language as Symbolic Action : Essays on Life, Literature, and Method (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 16. Ibid., 15. Permanence and Change: An Anatomy o f Purpose (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 29. See Bradford T. Stull, Religious Dialectics o f Pain and Imagination (Ithaca: SUNY Press, 1994) for a book that connects the liberation "rhetorics" of Burke with the liberation theology of Paulo Friere and Oscar Romero. For a general (and accessible) introduction to rhetorical theory and its supportive relationship to social and critical theory, consult Sonja K. Foss, Karen A. Foss, and Robert Trapp's, Contemporary Perspectives on Rhetoric, 2nd ed. (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1991). For an explication of Burke's Marxism and its grounding for his rhetorical theory, see Omar Swartz's Conducting Socially Responsible Research: Critical Theory, Neo-Pragmatism, and Rhetorical Inquiry (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1997), chapter three. This can be seen in the anarchist tradition that runs from Michael Bakunin to Noam Chomsky. See Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989). For an elaboration of Rorty's philosophy, see David L. Hall, Richard Rorty: Prophet and Poet o f the New Pragmatism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994). A Rhetoric o f Motives (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969). It must be pointed out that "persuasion" cannot be reduced to "propaganda," as classical Marxism traditionally has done. Because persuasion involves an active agency in the construction of a democratic world view, all democratically-inspired social movements, such as Communism, must ground themselves more firmly in a rhetorical framework. Three sources document this claim. First, James Amt Aune, Rhetoric and Marxism (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994) explains how classical Marxism has neglected the rhetorical tradition at a significant cost. He also outlines what a "red rhetoric" would look like. Second, Charles J. Stewart, Craig Allen Smith, and Robert 93
20 21 22
E. Denton, Jr., Persuasion and Social Movements 3rd ed. (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1994) provide the best overview that exists on how social moments function in essentially rhetorical ways, and give much practical advice on how to enable a movement's success. Finally, skeptical readers should compare both of the above books' sophisticated treatment of persuasion as "rhetoric" with the view of communication as propaganda put forth in the otherwise impressive two volume Communication and Class Struggle, edited by Armand Matterlart and Seth Siegelaub (New York: International General, 1983). This essay is not the first to deal with issues of religion and the left. The JulyAugust 1984 Monthly Review featured a special issue on this subject. For an elaboration of this position, see Bertrand Russell, "The Theologian's Nightmare." In Bertrand Russell: On God and Religion. Ed. Al Seckel (New York: Prometheus Books, 1986), 337- 339. On Rhetoric: A Theory o f Civic Discourse. Trans. George A. Kennedy. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 219. In other words, people are not perfect and, in our imperfections, we find a catalyst for religious imagination. Cornel West, The Ethical Dimensions o f Marxist Thought. (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1991), xxvii. For a discussion of how style in classical rhetoric had a philosophical and constructionist dimension, see Raymound DiLorenzo, "The Critique of Socrates in Cicero's De Oratore: Ornatus and the Nature of Wisdom," Philosophy and Rhetoric 11 (1978), 247-261. Also, see my discussion "Gorgias and Kairos" in The Rise o f Rhetoric and Its Intersections with Contemporary Critical Thought (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998), 75-78. Indeed, "class struggle" itself is a transcendentally inspired metaphor. To understand better the functional structure of such "life" metaphors, see George LakofF and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980). The Rhetoric o f Religion: Studies in Logology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970), 14. Ibid., 1. "Defending Against the Indefensible," in Conscientious Objections: Stirring Up Trouble About Language, Technology, and Education (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), 23. Defense of this position is beautifully articulated in Howard Zinn, The Politics o f History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990). It leads to socially useful scholarship as his A People's History o f the United States (New York: HarperPerennial, 1990). In a more localized context, this approach to scholarship has led to important articles such as Carole Blair, Julie R. Brown, and Leslie A. Baxter's "Disciplining the Feminine" Quarterly Journal o f Speech 80 (1994), 383-409, which illustrated, in a major disciplinary organ, 94
27 28 29 30 31
32 33 34 35 36 37 38
the deleterious effect of sexism and the marginalizing of radicalism in academic life. See Gustavo Gutierrez, 1988. A Theology o f Liberation. Trans. Sister Caridad Inda and John Eagleson (New York: Orbis, 1988). "Protagoras' Truth or Refutations," in The Older Sophists, ed. Rosamond Kent Sprague (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1971), 18. For an elaboration of Protagoras' statement, see Edward Schiappa Protagoras and Logos: Study in Greek Philosophy and Rhetoric (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991). For selected readings in the history of rhetoric from the Sophists to the modem day French philosophers, see Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg, eds., The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present (Boston: St. Martin's Press, 1990). This is concisely illustrated in my, The Rise o f Rhetoric. Robert L. Scott, "On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic" Central States Speech Journal 18 (1967), 9-17. Jonathan Potter, Representing Reality: Discourse, Rhetoric, and Social Construction (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996). See Adeną Rosmarin, The Power o f Genre (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985). In spite of West's earlier claim that Marxism cannot answer existential questions, and in spite of what I hope is the left's increasing tolerance for religion, Marxism is superior as an ethics to religion because it bases its praxis in the material conditions of human suffering. While religion cannot claim to "know" God, Marxists can claim to "know" people. This is not a metaphysical statement, but a practical one. A Marxist, unlike a preacher, can ask the subjects of his/her service how best to help them. While nothing human is alien to people, God is clearly not human. God, in fact, is the ultimate "alien." Rhetoric o f Religion, 5. The great religions of the world are great rhetorical edifices. The fact that they deny their rhetoric only reinforces the correctness of this claim. Great rhetoric often seeks to conceal itself. Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy (New York: McGrawHill, 1956), 69. See Alex Carey, Taking the Risk out o f Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty (Uibana: University of Illinois Press, 1995). The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature o f Mass Movements (New York: Harper and Row, 1989), 9. John B. Boles, Masters and Slaves in the House o f the Lord: Race and Religion in the American South, 1740-1870 (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1988). Gandhi on Non-Violence (New York: A New Directions Paperpack, 1965), 64. 95
40 41 42 43
44 45 46
Ibid., 56. Ibid., 68. Early Writings (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), 44. Political bickering and even war between the Communist nations in Asia, along with the primary cause of it, the Sino-Soviet split, did not help matters at all. See Grant Evans and Kelvin Rowley, Red Brotherhood at War: Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos Since 1975 (New York: Verso, 1984). For a partial textual record of the Sino-Soviet split, see Dennis J. Doolin, Territorial Claims in the Sino-Soviet Conflict: Documents and Analysis, Hoover Institution Studies: 7 (Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, 1965). Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957), vi. See Douglas Kellner, Critical Theory, Marxism, and Modernity (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989). A substitution of Marxist dogma for the rationality of Marxist humanism certainly undermined the stability and moral example of the Soviet Union, contributing significantly to its collapse after seventy years. On the other hand, one fault of some Marxism in the past is the over-reliance on (or over glorification of) rationality to solve our problems, just as one serious fault of religion has been to hide from rationality. In this sense, Marxism and religion can learn from each other. Early Writings, 156. Bolshevik communism, as exemplified in Nikolai I. Bukharin and Evgeny A. Preobrazhensky, The ABC o f Communism (Ann Harbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1966) is exceedingly blunt in establishing a false dichotomy between loyalty to religion and loyalty to "the Party." Indeed, from their comments we can find, at least in the Marxist tradition (as opposed to the anarchist tradition which never has this problem), another reason for the hostility to religion by much communist leadership: a pathological desire for loyalty. As Bukharin and Preobrazhensky explain: A communist who rejects the commandments of religion and acts in accordance with the directions of the party, ceases to be one of the faithful. On the other hand, one who, while calling himself [sic] a communist, continues to cling to his religious faith, one who in the name of religious commandments infringes the prescriptions of the party, ceases thereby to be a communist. (248)
Parenthetically, I might add, this is one of the more unreasonable comments I have read in the socialist literatures, and is a good example of the dogmatism that marred Soviet Communism. People are communist, not because they belong to a party, but because they act like communists. And since communism is a material philosophy, and while it does not recognize 96
49 50 51
53 54 55 56
57 58 59 60 61 62
religion, it needs to recognize that religion, by itself, is inconsequential to the running of a socialist society. For years, until it was sacrificed to Stalin's "vision," Bukharin and Preobrazhensky's book (which, in spite of its occasional dogma, does contain many progressive, admirable ideas and contributions to socialist thought) was the definitive statement of the Bolshevik leadership throughout the world. Marx, Early Writings, 52. Michael Bakunin, God and the State. (New York: Dover Press, 1970), 24. For an important primary source on this history, see the multi-voluminous work of Bartolome de las Casas, History o f the Indies (New York: Harper and Row, 1971). Las Casas was a dissident Spanish priest who, after partaking in the brutalities of the Spanish invasion and occupation, rejected his role of conqueror in the New World and documented its abuses. For a provocative discussion of how and why ordinary people enthusiastically engaged in colonial style mass murder and genocide, see Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (New York: Vintage Books, 1996). Why I Am Not a Christian, 202. Bukharin and Preobrazhensky, The ABC o f Communism, 247. See Michel Beaud, A History of Capitalism, 1500-1980 (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983). Because of this history, it seems reasonable to assume that many of the good souls who identify with modem Christianity will feel ashamed of this identification if they approach Christianity from a historical perspective. To take this historical perspective is the first step in the development of a critical self-reflexivity. If, after this history is known and understood, a person still decides to remain Christian, he or she should be readily accepted as such by all socialists. The reason for this is a) democratic tolerance for people with different ideas, and b) people who have gone through this experience have hopefidly grown because of it, and will probably be kinder and more gentle in the future. "End Jewish Support for Israeli Terror" [West Lafayette] Community Times (1995, May), 9. See Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (Boston: South End Press, 1983). Saul Friedlander, Pius XII and the Third Reich: A Documentation (New York: Octagan Books, 1980). To their credit, many Churches, especially in the hispanic communities, resisted these wars in the 1980s. See Philip Wander, "The Rhetoric of American Foreign Policy," Quarterly Journal o f Speech 70 (1984), 339-361. For an overview of this document, and a description of the struggles that the Catholic bishops underwent to reconcile their Christian beliefs with social 97
activism, see George Cheney, Rhetoric in an Organizational Society: Managing Multiple Identities (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1991). 63 The Words o f Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Newmarket Press, 1983), 66. 64 Early Writings, 44. 65 For the politics of this position, see John Dewey, The Political Writings (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1993). 66 His most mature statements on this theme appear in The Trumpet o f Conscience (New York: HarperCollins, 1968). 67 For the complexity of the relationship between the Church and the State in revolutionary Nicaragua, see Luis Serra, "Ideology, Religion and the Class Struggle in the Nicaraguan Revolution," in Nicaragua: A Revolution Under Siege. Eds. Richard Harris and Carlos M. Cilas (London: Zed Books, 1985), 151-174. 68 The revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro is an example of a socialist state that has had a shaky relationship with the Catholic church. The insensitivity showed by Castro to the Church alienated many supporters of his government. If revolutions are to be truly popular, they must include the Church. After all, social revolutions can only last if they are followed by spiritual revolutions, that is, the ascent of a higher, communal morality. The Church, if it commits itself to a revolutionary agenda, can be very instructive in accentuating a fraternal relationship among people. In recent years, Castro has formed better relationships with the Catholic church in Cuba, and this was a wise, although belated move. For a discussion of these relations see Raul Gomez Treto, The Church and Socialism in Cuba (New York: Orbis Books, 1988). 69 For the details of this argument, see Sprague, The Older Sophists, 42-46. 70 Gandhi, also, had harsh words for the Western democracies. He wrote, "Western democracy, as it functions today, is diluted nazism or fascism." Gandhi on Non-Violence, 45. 71 Trumpet o f Conscience, 24. 72 For example, Liberation Theology was condemned by the Pope during the 1980s. In addition, King's famous "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" serves as a good textual example of King's need to defend his tactics and philosophy against the leadership of established Christian and Jewish communities in the South. See I Have A Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World (Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1992), 83-100. 73 Emma Lazarus: Selections o f Her Poetry and Prose (New York: Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women Clubs, 1978), 78.
Index References from Notes indicated by "n" after page reference African-American(s) 14, 16, 91 Albert, M. 42n, 45, 65 American Writers’ Congress 25, 40n, 75 anti-communism 19, 20n apology viii Aristotle 63n, 76 Ame, J. vii, 40η, 63n, 93n Auschwitz 37
Chomsky, N. 14, 18, 19n, 20n-23n, 27, 28, 31, 33, 36, 40n-42n, 46, 55, 63n, 65, 70, 93n, 97n Christianity viii, 36, 79, 81, 85-90, 97n class conflict 17, 18 consciousness 19, 25, 64, 65,67 struggle 47, 49, 71, 75, 77, 94n, 98n warfare 18,41n, 63n Clinton, B. 29, 36 cold war 81 Communication and Class Struggle 49, 94n Conducting Socially Responsible Research vii, 40η, 42n, 93n Cuba 6,7, ll,6 2 n , 69, 98n
Bakunin, M. 2 In, 65, 84, 89, 93n, 97n Barsamian, D. 4 In, 55 Baudrillard, J. 54 Bead, M. 18, 23n, 55 Benjamin, W. 58 Bernstein, E. 38,65, 70 Black Panther 15, 22n, 66 Bloom, H. 58 Burke, K. 16, 23n, 25, 30, 32, 33, 40n, 48, 63n, 73-75, 78, 80, 92n, 93n Bush, G. 36
Darwin, C. 51 Dewey, J. 31, 33, 38, 41n, 45, 46, 98n Dole, B. 68 Dorfinan, A. 27,40n
Cambodia 6, 55, 87, 96 Camus, A. 12, 46, 62n capitalism 9, 12, 16, 23n, 26, 27, 30, 36, 39,51, 55, 57, 60,71,86, 97n Carey, A. 19n, 95n Castro, F. 98n Chiapas 15, 68 Chief Seattle 52 China 37,46, 50, 70, 77
Eagleton, T. 24 Einstein, A. 46 El Salvador 31 etymological relationship between "communism" and "communication" 61, 73 Foucault, M. 22n, 35,43-46,61n Gandhi, M. 17, 81, 82, 86, 95n, 98n 99
Germany 10, 29, 32, 45, 48, 54, 85 Goldhagen, D. 97η Goldman, E. 9, 32, 33, 38, 58,61n, 65 Greece 19, 53, 62n Guattari, F. 11, 22n Guevara, C. 7, 58, 63n, 65, 70
Marx, K. 10, 19, 2In, 22n, 34, 35, 42n, 45-48, 62n, 64, 65, 68, 70, 76, 79, 81-84, 89, 92, 93n, 97n Marxism vii, 21n, 40n, 41n, 48, 63n, 71, 74-80, 82, 83, 88, 89, 93n, 95n, 96n McDonalds 29, 51 Mexico 15,68, 87 Mickey Mouse 29 Militant Forum 3, 64 money 18, 83, 84
Haiti 19 Herman, E. 19n, 22n, 28, 40n Hiroshima 37 Hitler, A. 32, 41η, 68, 85, 97η Hofier, E. 81 holocaust 33, 51, 83, 97η Horkheimer, M. 33, 34,41η, 48, 53, 56, 58 Hugo, V. 16
National Communication Association vii, xii, 19, 30 Nazi(s) 29, 34, 44, 45, 54, 55, 60, 63n, 85, 87 Nazism 85, 98n Negri, T. 11, 22n Nicaragua 7, 11,22n, 90, 98n Nietzsche, F. 89
India 82 Indians 87 Islam 86 Israel 86, 97n Italy 19
Palestinian 17, 86, 97n Parenti, M. xii, 19n, 20n, 2In, 28, 40n, 42, 62n Persuasion and Social Movements 28n, 23n, 94n Platonic rhetoric ix Pope 87, 98n praxis 1, 5, 57, 79, 95n Protagoras 79, 95n
Jacoby, R. 20n, 92 Jew(s) 33, 34, 86, 87, 92 Judaism 86
kairos 77, 94n Kamow, S. 23n King, M. viii, xi, 4, 17, 22n, 81, 82, 86, 88, 90-92, 98n Kropotkin, P. 10, 33, 34, 47, 58, 65, 70
Read, H. 16, 18, 37, 39, 40n, 59, 61n Reagan, R. 11,36,68 Religious Right 88 rhetoric (rhetorical) vii, viii, ix, 1, 4, 5, 16, 20n-23n, 25, 26, 30, 32, 38, 40n-42n, 50, 56, 57, 60, 63n, 67, 68, 73-76, 78-82, 88, 91, 92, 93n-95n, 97n, 98n riot(s) 14, 17, 67,69, 91 Roman empire viii, 85, 87 Romero, O. 90-92, 93n
Lazarus, E. 91, 92, 98n Lentricchia, F. 40n, 92n Lester, E. 28 Liberation Theology 92, 93n, 98n logology 32, 41n, 94n Malcolm X 81,82,86,90-92 Marcuse, H. 49 100
Intersections with Contemporary Critical Thought vii, 2 In, 94n, 95n Toxic Sludge is Good For You 20n, 41n Trotsky, L. 65, 70 Tucker, R. 45
Rorty, R. 12, 38, 39, 45, 46, 58, 70, 93η Rossiter, C. 12 Rousseau, J. 47 ruling class 18 Russell, В. 83, 85, 94η Said, E. 9, 12, 34 Sartre, J. 12,46,62η Schiappa, E. xiii, 5, 95η "scientific socialism" 10 Seale, В. 15, 22η Second World War 19, 33, 55, 87 Siberia 37,68 "Solidarity Forever" 51 Soviet Union 7, 8, 11, 19, 39, 43, 44, 46, 47, 55, 70, 96n Spain 48 Stalin, J. 7, 11,70, 71, 97n Stalinism 71
United States Constitution 36, 42n Declaration o f Independence 36 University of North Carolina, Greensboro X Vietnam 8, 18, 20n, 23n, 55, 91, 96n Wander, P. 30, 97n West, C. 46, 47, 49, 62n, 76, 77, 81, 94n, 95n working class 12,18, 26, 38, 64-66, 69
television vs. literature 53-54 Tertullian viii The ABC o f Communism 2 In, 96n, 97n The Challenge o f Peace 88 The Rise o f Rhetoric and Its
Zapatistas 15, 16, 22n Zinn, H. X, 18, 20n, 22n, 23n, 25, 26, 54, 65, 94n