fragments of an attempted writing.
Libertarian Bryan Caplan says that “hard-core libertarians’ comparative advantage is to play watchdog for moderate libertarians – and make them seem reasonable by comparison.” You see, on many areas other libertarians secretly agree with us, but they are afraid to acknowledge it openly. Instead, they prefer to let us take the heat for our principled positions, and to wait for us to turn previously “radical” ideas into common sense.

- from part 2 of an excellent "interview."  Part 1 is here.

books for sale, part one.

I have a sick three year old clinging to me so I will only get 10 books up today.

The above monograph is The Crimes of England by G.K. Chesterton.  This is the Second Edition, December 1915 (the first edition was November 1915).  127 Pages.  Publisher info in photo.  This book is in poor to fair condition and I normally don't sell poor condition books but I know that there are collectors out there who would take this copy.  This is an early 20th century European style paperback made at the time when paperbacks not meant for re-binding were just beginning to be sold widely to the general public.  It's almost like a very long pamphlet.  The spine is 1/3 missing and frayed.  The front cover is holding on barely - it may not be attached post shipping.  But all the pages are intact and clean, aside from some oxidation consistent with the book's age.  This book could be repaired and bound in cloth by a competent bookbinder (I always recommend Campbell-Logan Bindery).  The Cecil Palmer & Hayward symbol on both cover and front page is attractive.  Price $25.00 plus $6.00 S&H.

The above monograph is scarce.  A first edition of A Chesterton Calendar, published by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd., London 1911.  Complied from the Writings of 'G.K.C.' Both in Verse and in Prose.  With a section apart for the Moveable Feasts.  Cloth.  421 pages.  Fair to good condition.  Interior hinges have been taped in the past and re-papered, the hinge in back is cracked but intact, with no abuse to function or the soundness of the binding.  Pages are clean with normal oxidation for a book of this age.  The photo of the exterior pages shows that they are rough cut and purposely irregular - this is how the book was originally bound - the exterior side and bottom of the pages are rough cut, the top is smooth and gilt, though the gilt is slightly faded.  My bookplate on interior front board.  The book has removable protective plastic on it (not pictured, I removed it temporarily because of the glare).  All in all this book is in good condition for it's age and would make any GKC collector quite happy.   Price $60 plus $10 S&H.  SOLD

The above monograph is a first edition of The Party System by Hilaire Belloc and Cecil Chesterton.  Scarce.  Cecil was GK's brother and the most, shall we say, aggressive of the early distributists.  Published by Stephen Swift, London, 1911.  Cloth, 226 pages and 2 publisher's advertisements.  Slight crack to front hinge, with binding sound and all pages tight and intact.  Good to very good condition.  This book lacks the dust jacket that originally dressed the monograph when sold from publisher.  Pages are clean with normal oxidation for a book of this age.  My bookplate on interior front board, as well as the signature, in what appears to be fountain pen ink, of a certain Gordon MacDonald, which from the apparent age and sophistication does not appear to be the signature of the famous Evangelical pastor of the same name, who had an affair at what perhaps should have been the height of his career, had he not gone on to make a fortune in books and speaking tours promoting his repentance such that he became even more famous as a professional repenter - no friends, I am confident this is the pen of a different Gordon MacDonald.  An excellent collector's copy.  Price $90.00 plus $10.00 S&H.

The above monograph is The Contrast by Hilaire Belloc.  This is Belloc's book which compares the U.S. with Britain.  If you are in one of those U.S. hating moods (about the last decade or so for me), this will serve you well.  Robert M. McBride & Company, New York, 1924.  Cloth.  267 pages.  Ex-lib with library markings throughout - "Property of Catholic Library... Hartford, Conn."  Former dust jacket glue stains on interior front and back covers.  Glue stain on spine from a library sticker no longer present.  Excerpt of a description of book glued to interior front board, my bookplate on interior back board.  Top and bottom of spine very slightly frayed.  Overall good ex-lib condition.  Price $15.00 plus $5.00 S&H.

For some reason the photo didn't turn out well on this one, it looks in the photo like it might have water damage on the front bottom right of the board, but in person it's just that the cover is slightly wrinkled, appropriate to its age.  I think the light in the photo makes it look weird in a way that it doesn't in person, and I am too lazy to take another picture, in part because I am such a horrid photographer I probably won't do any better the second time around.  The above monograph is the first American edition of Utopia of Userers and Other Essays by Gilbert K. Chesterton.  One of the other essays is "A Workman's History of England" which is something of an outline of what GKC wanted to see in a then unpublished book he imagined covering the history of workingmen in England.  That essay causes me to wonder what GKC would have thought of E. P. Thompson's magisterial Making of the English Working Class had GKC lived to see that work (which only covers the 1790s through 1840s, but still).  The above book is Boni and Liveright, New York, 1917 (hell of a year to be publishing books on the evils of usury, eh?).  Cloth.  217 pages.  Cover is slightly wrinkled from age with slight fraying at spine ends and corners.  Pages are clean and tight, with normal oxidation for a book of this age.  My book plate on front interior board, as well as the signature of Malachy T. Mahon, 1953 on the opposing page.  I wonder if this book was in the hands of this guy when he was a young man.  Anyway, this copy of Utopia of Userers and Other Essays is in good to very good condition overall, and would make any GKC collector or distributist collector a happy soul.  Price $50.00 plus $7.50 S&H.

The above book is The Restoration of Property by Hilaire Belloc.  Sheed & Ward, New York, 1936.  Cloth.  144 pages.  No dust jacket, but an extraordinarily clean, tight copy.  Very slight oxidation of pages, less than one expects from a book of this age.  My bookplate in front board.  Ends of spine and edges of boards show very slight wear.  Otherwise very good to excellent condition.  Price $30.00 plus $5.00 S&H.

The above monograph is the first American edition of Eugenics & Other Evils by G.K. Chesterton.  Scarce.      Dodd, Mead, & Company, New York, 1927.  Slight crack in front pages, though binding is sound and pages are tight.  Clean copy, with normal oxidation for age.  Slight scrape on exterior of pages, though this is only noticeable because they were published with a rough cut - does not affect the integrity of the pages.    Very slight fraying at top end of spine and slight wear to cover.  My bookplate in front board.  Otherwise good to very good condition.  This is an excellent collectors copy.  Compare my copy to this one, which appears to be in only slightly better condition.  Price $65.00 plus $10.00 S&H.

The above work is volume 6 of The Catholic University of America Studies in Christian Antiquity, edited by Johannes Quasten.  It is The Attitude Towards Labor in Early Christianity and Ancient Culture by Arthur T. Geoghegan.  CUA Press, Washington, D.C., 1945.  Paper (the binding is typical of an American dissertation published by an academic press during that period), 250 pages with 6 black and white plates.  Cover frayed at all edges and with slight dent on front.  Pages clean and tight with very slight oxidation.  Otherwise good condition.  Price $25.00 plus $6.00 S&H.

The above title is a dissertation, but one which will be of great interest to most distributists. Foundations of A Modern Guild System by Rev. Harold Francis Trehey, M.A.  CUA Press, Washington, D.C. 1940.  Paper, 204 pages.  The book is inscribed to the Rev. Father Robert McEwen, S.J., with best wishes, by a certain L. Arent, who leaves her West 121 St. NYC address.  Perhaps she had her name and address in there before she intended to give the book to our Jesuit.  Then again, we are talking about a Jesuit here, so perhaps the address was an invitation.  In any event. the book is a typical dissertation style paperback, frayed at edges, small portion of bottom spine missing.  Pages tight, normal oxidation.  Some underlining and marking, though minimal and unobtrusive, mostly in light colored pencil.  Chapters include The Principle of Libery, Other Principles (which includes sections on the Principle of Subsidiarity and the Principle of General Welfare, among others), The Medieval Guilds, the Union (with a subsection titled The Union - the Foundation of the Guild Structure), The Joint Council and Collective Agreements, Public-Legal Status, The Guild, Some Existing or Proposed Guilds, The Guild and the State, Guild Autonomy in a Legitimately Constituted State, Building the Guild Structure, and a Conclusion.  It's a pretty fascinating work from a distributist perspective.  Fair to good condition (probably good to very good for a dissertation of this age - the paper "binding" is very thin).  Price $30.00 plus $5.00 S&H.

The last work for sale today is that classic work of distributist thought, The Servile State, by Hilaire Belloc.  This is the first American edition.  Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1946.  Cloth, 189 pages.  There are library stamps that convey "Library - St. Francis School - Todt Hall" and there is minor residue left from the library card slip on the back board.  Usual slight oxidation.  On back exterior board there is a 3 3/8" black line which looks like it may have resulted from an an encounter with black chalk or something of the sort.  The book has a removable clear plastic protective cover. Otherwise clean, tight, very good condition.  This is an excellent reading copy and slightly collectible being the first American edition.  I haven't seen very many 1946 editions in this good of shape hence the length of time this one stayed in my collection.  Price $25.00 plus $5.00 S&H.

For buying procedures see this post.

The S&H costs are higher with some of the more expensive books because I use more protective materials with those books and I get insurance.

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have.  I may get another decade of books up tomorrow, otherwise it will be Thursday when the next book selling post goes up.

Lastly, I am very keen on describing the faults of the books I sell, so that there are no issues upon receipt of purchase.  Please take that into consideration when reading my descriptions.


book procedures..

I've decided to just go ahead and sell the books I have to sell here instead of spending the time to create another site.  Before I start, some protocol:

I am including here pictures of my two bookplates found in many of my books.  From here on out, if I mention a book having "my bookplate" in it, it has one of the two pictured above.  

Buying procedure:

If you are interested in any of the above, please contact me at owenandjoy at bellsouth dot net.  I will sell these on a first come, first served basis.  I will be accepting payments through a simple PayPal "send money" system, which you can do here, but don't send me any money until I have confirmed to you that you contacted me first with an intent to buy an item or items.  If you purchase books and find them unsatisfactory in any way you can return them for a full refund, including shipping costs, so long as you let me know within 2 weeks of the date I ship them to you.  All shipping will be via the postal service unless you want to pay me more to ship them UPS.  I have packed many books for shipping in my lifetime (when I started working at Loome Theological Booksellers I began in the shipping department), and I assure you that you will be satisfied with the care I take in packaging these tomes.

post-ochlophobic book sale....

Starting tomorrow, hopefully, I'm about to sell another batch of books.  Need cash to buy an alternator for the car and some decent whiskey and whisky for my dad and I to drink come Christmas.  So what's up next is a bunch of ChesterBelloc (including some first editions -- for instance, a first edition All Things Considered and a first edition A Chesterton Calendar, as well as a first edition of Belloc's The Jews) and Distributist titles (including some rare things), with some Gilson, Gertrude Himmelfarb, books by and about Voegelin, a couple of first edition Robert Penn Warrens, books by and about Michael Polanyi, and a few other things.

These will be sold via posts with 10-20 books per day going up.  I may add some other significant portions of my library if I get the sense that they might sell.

I am thinking I may start a new blogger blog just to sell books on, and keep the sales off of here.  Obviously I'll provide the link if I do that.  I will get word out through my usual channels but if you know of anyone who collects ChesterBelloc, Warren, or Distributist things, or anything else above mentioned, please direct them my way.

I went through most of the books that have been in boxes for years today.  It was an odd experience - seeing and holding books and remembering those points in my life when I read that book or was given it or the thrill of finding it in some bookshop, and so forth.  The books with alcohol stains and bits of tobacco in them were clearly the most loved (don't worry - I don't sell those titles - the ones I'm selling are clean).  I have this cheap Penguin Mabinogion that my friend Mark gave me just before he died, his grandfather had given it to him and his grandfather's signature is in this book.  It looks like absolute hell but I think it might be among the last 10 books I would ever get rid of.


swat, take one.

You might be doing something right when the smuggard drone who writes:
Just because someone is pro-life doesn’t mean they reject a robust social structure to provide assistance to these women. But that has to be balanced with the fact that the state shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing out-of-wedlock births, and so when speaking about addressing these matters, a lot of other instruments have to come into play. The death penalty for any man who seduces a woman might be a good start. [emphasis mine, and no surprise there, as our enlightened one seems to have been struggling with Oedipal tensions for some time.  Revolutionary violent rhetoric = dangerous; kill absentee father rhetoric = OK.]
then goes on to assert:

...for those who are participating [in the Occupy movement] in the name of some “revolution” or, worse, using website and blogs to revel in the carnage they have created — as if being a blogging blowhard who decorates their site with “revolutionary imagery” and issues forth morally idiotic rhetoric contributes to “the movement” — there is a pathology infecting their worldview which is not only detestable, but disturbing.
and from the thread of the same post:
I find that a lot of the blog coverage of the “Occupy” movement, particularly by so-called “Marxists,” “anarchists,” and other “revolutionaries,” are packed to the brim with moral idiocy. 
Well, of course.  No doubt he reads a great many Marxist, anarchist, and "revolutionary" blogs.

Any rhetorical exchange with our reactionary gnat, whether actual or monologued (as is increasingly the case with him), results in his opponents getting Strauss'd.  Take for instance this diatribe from the same thread as above:

To the best of my knowledge (which, I confess, is incomplete), most of the “Occupy” crowd or even its self-apointed “spokespersons,” haven’t offered up a credible critique of “the 1%” beyond restating, over and over, the empirical fact that they control a supermajority of the wealth in the United States. Serious analysis of why there are massive wealth disparities (along with other imagined and real problems) isn’t necessarily beyond the “Occupy” movement, but it hasn’t taken center stage either. Maybe it doesn’t have to. Perhaps empirical facts which carry with them an intuitive sense of being “unfair” is enough to motivate those with either: A) Nothing better to do; B) Concrete economic problems of their own; or some combination/nuance of either (or both) to rally together for some ill-defined cause. But beyond engaging in public fornication, littering some parks, and dabbling in a bit of property damage here n’ there, I’m not sure the “Occupy” movement has done much of anything. I suspect most people are aware that there are massive wealth disparities in the U.S. and that this disparity has only increased over the last several decades. However, few people understand “why” (or are on board with enough of the literature to come up with some plausible hypotheses as to “why”). Too much of the Leftist “critique” hinges on the childish notion that there is some cabal out there which holds all of the chips and isn’t letting go. When you present them with evidence that the top 1-2% of wealth holders in this country do not constitute a static lot, they throw fits and, after a great deal of rhetoric, basically claim that the data is fudged (without offering up contrary data). Such is the way of ideologists.
I still tend to hold, with some serious caveats, to the view that state intervention and regulation is a stronger contributing force to the current composition of wealth distribution and corporatism in this country than the (semi-mytic) “free market.” An unregulated market is not going to solve all of the country’s woes, but the libertarians — whether the sort you see hanging around the Cato Institute or on the fringes of “localist” movements — have at least offered a plausible academic argument why rolling back state intervention in the market will reduce the power “big business” (loosely defined) wields in the country while opening up new opportunities for entrepreneurs (including “small businesses”). Unfortunately, when it comes to breaking up “state monopolies” and “regulated cartels,” too much emphasis is placed on labor unions and agriculture (both of which function that way today). It takes the eye off of other balls, ranging from, say, the international airline industry (which today functions as a massive cartel that cuts across borders) to energy production to finance. However, the unions don’t do themselves any favors, particularly when they use their concentrated lobbying power in concert with private industry to rig the game in their favor (e.g., automotive bailouts). 
It's interesting to read the elitism here at the same time as I am reading Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind. I think our reactionary gnat may be the perfect expression of Robin's thesis, right down to his being a non-Spanish speaking Hispanic who prides himself for his enlightened conservative views held in an academic environment that he finds hostile to them. There is something downright conradian about it all, and Robin handles competently this sort of phenomenon.

Confessions of incomplete knowledge have never been an impediment to this guy.  Why even bother confessing?

O my!  The average protester in a movement which has now involved hundreds of thousands in the U.S. and millions worldwide does not employ a sophisticated critique of economic and political realities sufficient to be deemed "credible" by our libertarian young lawyer who likes to quote Epstein and whose canon includes Strauss, Voegelin, and Schmitt!  Say it ain't so!  I suppose there should never be any mass protest in the mind of our reactionary gnat.  But then I wonder what he thinks of the fairly large pro-life protests in Washington, DC each January 23rd.  Most protesters there say very simplistic things about conception, life, babies in the womb, etc.  Few have ever looked at the arguments made in Roe vs. Wade, few could articulate the differences in approach between U.S. and most European abortion policies, few have ever touched let alone read a copy of Human Life Review, few are aware of the leftist pro-choice arguments against Roe vs. Wade, and I wonder how many of them know that Margaret Sanger was against abortion, as was Planned Parenthood when Sanger was in charge of it?

To be sure, the conservative adoption of leftist methods, such as mass political protests, does seem to go against certain conservative principles, such as the rule of an elite - I think Robin does a good job of explaining the interplay between elitism and populism in the conservative movement - but I could also see how a conservative fan of Schmitt and Voegelin might detest any mass protest, so who knows in this case?   Though our reactionary gnat has in the past expressed sympathies with the tea-party movement, so it seems that he is not completely hostile to mass actions, though perhaps he views the tea party mass actions as justified because they are paid for and promoted by an economic elite.

Whatever his views on mass protest, it would seem apparent that our reactionary gnat thinks that people should be content to remain within their station and do as they are told by an elite.  Perhaps because if they arise in mass protest there will be the "danger" of revolutionary rhetoric, there will be disruptive actions which could lead to further disruptive actions, there will be inchoate expressions of "the cause," there will be articulations which are not credible in the light of academics, and while these protests will likely be nothing more than an annoying waste of time and resources, if they do result in anything that result will likely effect the "wrong" targets and achieve counterproductive ends.  Fine and well then.

Every rhetorical turn with the gnat seems to go like this one - "When you present them with evidence that the top 1-2% of wealth holders in this country do not constitute a static lot, they throw fits and, after a great deal of rhetoric, basically claim that the data is fudged (without offering up contrary data)."  Really.  I wonder when gnat had this exchange and with whom.  I was in an exchange with him regarding this very issue once, but that must not be the one he is talking about here.  In my exchange with him on this issue, the "data" involved flat assertions made by Epstein based on a study that was of no more academic caliber than the sort of thing that Krugman and Wolff use all the time.  And I didn't deny that of course people go in and out of the 1% in terms of income.  People retire.  People get one time inheritances.  People get occasional golden parachutes.  I have never heard any intellectual among the Occupiers or those in sympathy with them argue that the 1% constitute a static group.  Of course the 1% is seen as an imprecise target on the part of Occupiers, hell, look at the very popular site in which 1%ers proclaim support of the 99%er movement.  Look at the number of Occupiers who talk about the wealth concentration of the top 0.1% and pass around articles like this one.  Further, among a growing number of Occupiers one hears rhetoric that the real divide is more accurately found somewhere around 80%.  But any popular movement is going to have to find images and language that works broadly and efficiently and the 99% moniker works about as well and about as accurately as the political designations pro-life, pro-choice, less government, no new taxes, states' rights, pro-slavery, abolitionist, anti-war, and so forth.  All of these terms are vague, all of them involve an oversimplification, a momentary overlooking of various contradictions and complexities for the sake of political causes and organization and brevity when discussing politics or agitating for or against something.

I've never heard anyone suggest that data which shows that people go in and out of the 1% is flawed because it suggests people go in and out of the 1%.  The obvious question is where the people going in and out of the 1% are coming from.  Who gets those inheritances, those golden parachutes, those stock market windfalls, those huge CEO bonuses?  Is access to the 1% easier or harder for someone with an IQ of 140 coming from a lower middle class background or someone with an IQ of 140 coming from poverty or someone with an IQ of 140 coming from the top 10% (I note IQs here not because I believe any given measure of IQ represents an efficiently workable social designation but only for the sake of argument)?  How many people who, any given year, get into the 1%, came from families that had previously had 1% years?  How many had previously been in the top 5%, the top 10%, how many grew up in families that were in the top 5% and top 10%?  The gnat's assertion here is meant to suggest that there is fluidity in the 1% and thus access to it that is relative to some egalitarian standard - at least perhaps egalitarian in the meritocratic sense or the market sense of having succeeded fairly in the market.

I have a distant relative who grew up working class and now makes shitloads of money on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.  He's a top 3%er and he got access to this income because he was a jock in a fraternity for athletes in college and several buddies of his from there - all good looking, tall guys used to being surrounded by women and the air of success - got brought in to a particular firm.  I'd be surprised if my relative has an IQ of higher than 105 or so.  He is, however, an example of somebody who went from a bottom 50% background to the top 3%.  Robin in his book deals with the fact that the elite in modernity has always made use of fresh blood and fresh faces, and he notes how the occasional outsider being elevated into the elite often helps emphasize the eliteness of the elite - one of the factors in play is that it is often the new face that is the most militant about protecting the elite's interests and advancing the whole notion of the rule of the elite (think Disraeli, etc.) and the fact they they deserve to rule and their subjects deserve to be ruled.  What centralized elite does is not dynamic to some degree?  Hell, after Stalin took over he assassinated the former Bolshevik leaders and created an all new elite group of rulers in Russia, but no conservative I know suggests that this dynamic change in the elite in Russia meant that there was not a real elite with real power.  Cabals are often transient institutions.  Look at mafia organizations.  Their leadership and membership often change frequently, for obvious reasons (death, imprisonment, etc.), yet the social function of the cabal and its power often remains relatively consistent over periods of time.

My wife has some friends who grew up in lower middle class homes in rural WI.  In the conversation I had with them upon our first meeting, the male of the couple explained to me that he was majoring in computer science in order to make vast wealth because he believed that Christians who were able had a responsibility to make as much money as possible because we were entering a time in which something akin to slavery (his word) was going to re-assert itself as social phenomena and basically the world would be divided between a 10% of masters and a 90% of slaves and we needed to have as many Christian masters as possible.  His view, and the fact that he thought he could be among the masters (which he now is, he just returned to WI after a decade and a half away, returning a multi-millionaire), suggests that a static vs. dynamic 1% or 10% is not really the issue.  The question is the relationship between the elite and their, to use a gnat's terms, social subordinates.  The question is what social, political, and economic power the non-elite have in public institutions and in their workplaces, schools, civic groups, families, etc.

These observations are not particular to me, I suspect most Occupiers who have ever been presented with "data" about a dynamic 1% will tell you something along these lines.  But the point isn't about actual convictions or actual observations, it's just about our reactionary gnat's use of imaginary conversations to advance his repetition of a grossly populist, and trinketly elitist caricature of Occupiers (yours truly shares some of his experiences with Occupiers here).  In the second paragraph above the gnat does his routine song and dance - he makes assertions about the economy which insist upon libertarian theses.  He insists that these are plausible and academic without ever referencing academic studies or making an argument as to how they are actually plausible, and then he contrasts this "plausible and academic" libertarian insight with the caricature of leftist populisms.  This from the guy who presents PBS interviews and papers from Epstein - all of which thus far have involved Epstein doing little to nothing more than repeating libertarian talking points - as if the points raised by Epstein have not been repeatedly responded to by Krugman, Wolff, and a number of other economists, who also have data supporting their positions.  It's not that I have a problem with Epstein's third tier level of economic analysis being presented publicly, it's just that it's ridiculous posturing to poise this against more imprecise and overtly populist expressions from the other side.  One might as well present Krugman against Sarah Palin and suggest - "see, our side wins."  Of course this gnat has a fondness for saying that he just "has yet to encounter any serious analysis from" the perspective of x  position he disagrees with.  And of course he never will.

Years ago I was sitting in the office of my mentor when a guy who just graduated from Boston College came in.  This BC grad had done a degree in political science under some Straussians.  BC grad's dad was on the faculty of the same institution as my mentor.  My mentor had just become involved in an organization that this BC grad was entering.  So BC grad goes right up to my mentor, a rather accomplished anthropologist, and the first words out of his mouth were "I just want you to know that I know that your social science ideology is bullshit."  In several later conversations with BC grad I came to appreciate the astounding pomposity of the young man, the unrivaled parochial nature of his many intellectual disdains, and the unmatched confidence the man had in dismissing others for making the exact same intellectual moves he did.  Every time I read gnat, who of course is too good and intellectually pure to even admit that he is a Straussian, I am reminded of that first encounter I ever had with a Straussian.  They are all the same prior to age 45, and of course the only interesting ones were/are gay.  They like to appeal to the scholarly discipline of prior ages in a pedantic manner, they have a fetish for European intellectual standards prior to WWII which is romantic, they read just enough material from outside their accepted canons to appear to be engaging contemporary thought even though their readings are so manifestly hack jobs couched in an outline of analysis (the form of critical analysis if you will) so as to appear serious (how so much like the work of those they detest), and they get most agitated when encountering social and intellectual phenomenon which occurs outside of the realm of influence or would-be influence of themselves or their Straussian cohorts.

And this is what, I suspect, really bothers gnat with regard to the Occupy movement and the myriad of intellectual discussions it has wrought, by people from a wide array of perspectives, in the U.S., Canada, Europe, the whole world.  Gnat doesn't have anything to do with it, he has no association with it at all or anything remotely close to it (his attempts at times to pull out his familiarity with leftist activism by pointing out his past as a member of a students-against-sweatshops group at a college in the middle of Michigan notwithstanding).  Nor do those very few other minds in gnat's intellectual playground who he happens to trust.  He has no intellectual point of entry that is viable for him.  He can only bitch and whine like that audio clip of (was it?) Voegelin going after the "radical" female student at a lecture at U of Chicago, or like grumpy old Solzhenitsyn furious that the U.S. was not putting down Vietnam War protesters.   All the while, as usual, gnat reveals to those who have spent serious time at Occupations and among Occupiers that he hasn't a damn clue what he is talking about.  True to form.


Above photos by Jim Weber.  The vacant Sears Crosstown Building in Memphis.  In the first photo the building is reflected in a shop window containing a mannequin, at the Cleveland Street Flea Market.

Some other photos of the building.  Two from inside:

 Construction in the mid 1920s:

The front of the building:

An aerial view from 1930:

Here are some more photos from the inside.

Several life-long Memphians I've met over the years used to break into the building at night as kids.  What an urban gothic adventure that must have been.  I suppose adventure might be the key term, as in adventure vacation, or something else adventure-wise that connotes trendiness and status, as all of the people I met who claim to have broken into the building have been white.  I once asked a black guy I know, who lives closer to the building than any white person I've ever talked to about it, and he told me that only white people break into the building for fun, while "the black folks who break in there are all crackheads."  Not sure what to make of that.  Perhaps black teenagers living in the neighborhoods around the building have more to fear if caught by the police during or after a break-in.  It's hard for me to imagine kids of any sort not taking advantage of this obvious target.  

One guy explained to me that the place is so big someone could hold a party with a couple hundred people at one end and you might never know about it if you were at the other end of the building.  Not all of the trespassers in the building were non-violent, of course, and so there was some danger running around the place at night - no doubt that thrill made a break-in all the more enticing.  

The tower as been vacant since 1993 but most of the building has not been used since 1983.  Finished in 1927, the physical structure of the Memphis Sears retail and catalog center is one of 7 remaining, of the original 9 of these behemoths that were built.  The six others that remain are in Minneapolis, Boston, Kansas City, Atlanta, LA, and Dallas.  The demolished were in Philadelphia and Kansas City (the city had 2 and the larger one was demolished - I suppose the central location of KC made it ideal for catalog centers).  Memphis' is the only one that remains vacant.  Some of the others have been renovated and gentrified into chic bobo magnets.  Atlanta's building uses 20% of its space for city municipal departments and the rest sits empty.  The Memphis building is 14 stories tall and has 1.45 million square feet.  There have been potential buyers and renovation prospects for the Memphis Sears Crosstown Building but as of yet none of them have come to fruition.  

I used to drive by this building all the time when hauling copper scrap for work.  I drove past it the other night for the first time in a month or so.  I wish I had some night images of the building but I didn't have my camera on me.  It makes an impression.  

A mural carried on the Brooklyn Bridge last night.  I like the Norman Rockwellesque aesthetic combined with a very different sort of theme.
By the end of this year somewhere around 53-54 million Americans will be living in poverty.  Of those, somewhere around 22 million will be living in extreme poverty - less than $11,000 for a family of four, or less than $5,500 for an individual.  Infant mortality is on the rise.  Public health officials are inclined to think that average lifespan in the U.S. will decline.  It is already among the lowest in the developed world, and unlike France and Germany, our bottom 40% has a significantly lower lifespan than our top 40% - in other words our rich live really long by world standards but come to Memphis and you have infant mortality rates that are equivalent to many third world countries and lifespan rates that are dropping precipitously and are lower than what one finds in any developed country.  Access to health care is declining, an increasing number of people are uninsured and an increasing number of people who have insurance can afford health services (such as maternity wards - you would think that American conservatives would at least want free obstetric health care for white people in order to produce more white babies).  That you can go to any emergency room and get treated is hardly a help to people with cancer or people who have heart disease or diabetics and the like.

I'm don't really have much of an opinion regarding Keith Olbermann - like Rachel Maddow he sometimes gets things very wrong and has a petit-bourgeois liberal smugness to him, and other times he nails it.   I don't have cable so I only see clips of his when friends forward them to me.  In this clip his designation of McCarthyism as an attack on "liberalism" struck me as an unfortunate and opportunistic revisionism.  But overall I thought this response to the tear-down of OWS well done.   The part about the Batman bridge shut down is spot on.
More from Doug Henwood on corporate personhood:
All this doesn’t mean that we have to make peace with the status quo, however. In one of his more optimistic moments, Marx declared the modern corporation, owned by outside shareholders and run by their hired hands, “the abolition of the capitalist mode of production within the capitalist mode of production itself, and hence a self-abolishing contradiction” (Capital, vol.3, chapter 27.) That is, there’s no reason why such an enterprise has to be run for the benefit of its shareholders, and not by and for its workers, neighbors, and customers. It is now, but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. Of course, getting there from here isn’t one of those self-evident truths, but it’s a very enticing prospect to think about.

Read the whole post here.

On Wisconsin! and the temporary break-up of OWS...

The Democratic Senators in WI did a great disservice to the people of WI when they came back from Illinois and told the assembled, protesting, and agitated masses to go home and work on electoral politics. Outspent and politically outmaneuvered, they failed in a critical State Supreme court election, even though the winner was obviously a colossal misogynist asshole and Republican party hack - conditions only further proven by his behavior since he took office. Then the Dems were unable to take control of the state senate in the recall elections. The mainstream unions, being the prison bitches of the Dems, did nothing but take orders from the Dems during this process. When I was in Madison I could not believe how many people I saw wearing mainstream union t-shirts who were calling for a general strike. That longing for direct action was suppressed, and that was a huge strategic error. Now reports are that Madison has one of the weakest Occupy efforts in the country, which is amazing considering all of the radical and labor networks there are in Madison.

All that said, Scott Walker is the epitome of all that is disgusting in the right-ward shift in American political life. The recall effort to get rid of him formally begins today. It is my hope that the people of WI return to a mobilization and hunger for direct action. But it would be nice to see Walker gone too.

I remember the trip my family took to Madison last winter fondly.

Wisconsin "Budget Repair Bill" Protest Pt 2 from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

Georgia Ruth at her first protest.  She is on State Street here where it intersects at the Capitol.  She's been to several other protests since.  She and her sisters will be at another one tonight.

Last night Bloomberg ordered the NYPD to destroy OWS.  After getting home from a conversation regarding Occupy at the Lamplighter (one of the last holdouts of dive sanity in Memphis) with Comrades representing several different radical organizations, I watched on livestream in the wee hours of the morning as dumpstrucks were filled with all manner of equipment and gear.  A New York City Councilman and former taxi driver, Ydanis Rodriguez, was among the arrested and was reported to have been given a bloody head thanks to a policeman's baton (see one of the video's of that sort of thing here).  This morning Bloomberg is keeping Zuccotti Park closed in defiance of court order.

An interesting dynamic in all of this is that there has been a fair amount of mainstream union participation at OWS actions and the mainstream unions have tried, at least rhetorically, to ride the OWS bandwagon a bit (perhaps over-framing it as singularly against Republican interests) and after the heinous actions of the NYPD as the billionaire's puppet there is some anticipation that OWS may call for a nation-wide general strike.  The key to a nation-wide general strike is the involvement of the large unions.  If the Teamsters alone get all of their truck drivers to refrain from work for one day the country's commerce essentially gets a wrench thrown in the wheel.  If just half of all AFL-CIO, AFSCME, UAW, etc., workers were to refuse to work on a given day the effect would be pronounced.  I don't think the major unions have the cajones to actually go through with this, but the debate which would ensue upon the call for a general strike and the resulting backlash whether they embraced the strike or not will only help those radicals working within the larger unions to further press for radicalization within those unions.  There is no slam dunk to be had in these struggles, but the opportunity to apply increased pressure at this time is greater than it has been for ages.

A chilling, if predictable, photo taken by a comrade at OWS last night:

During my routine quarterly search for wind-up clown videos on Youtube (I prefer them with accordions but take whatever I can get) I didn't find much new that was of interest to me but I did find a video of this Marx Electric Robot that I found compelling.

There is information here on this type of toy robot.

a spectre is haunting conservative media — the spectre of communism.... well, teeny, tiny but wickedly internet viral communism, but apparently that counts as a red horde these days....

So there is a list of groups "behind" OWS and the Occupy movement going around.  It is pretty much the same list no matter which conservative/libertarian hack is offering it.  Take, for instance, this from the Washington Times:

Occupy Wall Street has attracted interesting friends along the way. It garners support from such illustrious groups as the Communist Party USA, American Nazi Party, Socialist Party USA, Marxist Student Union, Black Panthers and the white supremacist group White Revolution. Sympathetic foreigners include Hezbollah, the North Korean government, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (the supreme leader of Iran), the Communist Party of China and Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. American leaders who have expressed support for Occupy Wall Street include President Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke. Wow. Imagine those gatherings.
More instances of this list in use can be seen here, here, herehere, and here.

There is nothing noteworthy about the list as a whole.  Of course the KKK and CPUSA are not conspiring together to take down the U.S. government, and while there have been plenty of "out" CPUSA and SPUSA members taking part in OWS and other Occupy general assemblies and working groups, the Klan has not yet been actively involved in an "out" manner, nor has it been doing much recruiting at Occupy locations, for reasons that are utterly obvious.  Governments hostile to the U.S. government are obviously going to cheer social unrest in the U.S.

What strikes me with these lists is one group in particular mentioned in them.  The Marxist Student Union.

This is quite funny, actually.

The Marxist Student Union, at least the one referred to here, only exists in Memphis.  Google Marxist Student Union and you will see that what comes up is the Marxist Student Union in Memphis - we have the only Marxist Student Union facebook page, blog, and so forth.  It is a group of Marxist students (from a variety of Marxist persuasions) and students interested in Marxism.  Once a month they discuss a reading or watch a documentary.  They support some progressive actions on campus, such as the living wage campaign for U of Memphis janitors.  The MSU recently worked on the successful election campaign of the first earnestly pro-union and progressive city council member Memphis has had in ages.  Some of the MSU members like to drink beer together.  Extremely subversive stuff.  You know, like what you would expect the Shelby County Young Democrats to do if they actually did anything.

So some weeks ago one of the leaders of the Marxist Student Union (henceforth MSU) was in Chicago, and marched with some other "out" communists at one of the Occupy Chicago marches.  This leader of the MSU, James, is a PhD student at the U of Memphis and it seems a disgruntled ex-student of James' sent social media photos from James' FB page to some very conservative/libertarian sites.  This anti-big govt site ran a little exposé on James, the CPUSAers at Occupy Chicago, and the MSU.

And from there the MSU starts to get mentioned all over conservative media - I'm told these lists of groups "behind" OWS have been read on Limbaugh and Beck.  

What is funny about that is this - the MSU has a whopping 12 or so people who would identify as members from all of 3 local colleges and universities and perhaps 30 people total who have attended an MSU event or touched base with the MSU in the last year. Other than in Memphis the MSU has had nothing to do with the formation or maintenance of an Occupy location, and here in Memphis the MSU is one group among many who participate.  Memphis is not exactly the center of the Occupy movement or particularly influential upon other Occupy locations.   James, an all around good guy and busy activist, is very active at Occupy Memphis, but I'm not sure than all of the other members of the MSU have yet to attend an Occupy Memphis event or show up at their Occupation site.

It's this sort of utterly laughable and remarkably fanciful "connecting the dots" that leaves me chuckling when I read almost all conservative descriptions of what is "behind" the Occupy movement - or their attempts to describe the vandalism in Oakland and so forth.  The Marxist Student Union has a name which strikes a chord with conservative propagandists and one of its leaders has had pictures taken waving the red flag with known communists, like, uh four of them, with an average age of probably 35 or so, and one of them, gasp, campaigned for Obomber.  Horror of horrors the red legion is all around us now.  I suppose the lesson here is that it doesn't take very big bait to red bait.

The MSU was very thankful to have received all the attention.  Their website has now had hits galore, and it's revolutionary street cred among leftists in Memphis has increased considerably, as they are now the only nationally recognized leftist student group in Memphis.  Should the Marxist Student Union ever become a Marxist group of notable size in multiple locations, it will no doubt have paranoid conservatives to thank for the initial PR and fame.  

11-11-11 Haymarket Martyrs Day

Today is the 124th anniversary of the execution of the Haymarket Martyrs - August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolf Fischer, and George Engel.

From Wiki:

[On November 11, 1887] Spies, Parsons, Fischer and Engel were taken to the gallows in white robes and hoods. They sang the Marseillaise, then the anthem of the international revolutionary movement. Family members including Lucy Parsons, who attempted to see them for the last time, were arrested and searched for bombs (none were found). According to witnesses, in the moments before the men were hanged, Spies shouted, "The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!"[41] Witnesses reported that the condemned men did not die immediately when they dropped, but strangled to death slowly, a sight which left the spectators visibly shaken.

124 years ago today Louis Lingg, Haymarket Martyr, committed suicide in prison the day before he was to be executed.

From Wiki:

Lingg, the youngest of those sentenced to death, took his own life on November 10, the day before he was scheduled to hang. He used a small bomb (a blasting cap smuggled to him by a fellow prisoner). He put it in his mouth and lit it at 9AM; it blew off his lower jaw and destroyed a large portion of his face. He survived in agony for another 6 hours, until his death at around 3PM. It was believed by many that he didn't want his fate to be in the hands of the oppressors and would rather be a martyr for the cause, by his own volition.

on left populist myths and sentiments...

Continuing the discussion of bank transfer and the hate of big (as opposed to small) business in this radio interview with Sasha Lilley and Doug Henwood, here.

A description of the talk: Moving your money out of the big banks that have helped create the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression may seem like an excellent idea. But leftwing journalist Doug Henwood believes such actions--along with community currencies and attempts to abolish corporate personhood--are misguided. Henwood discusses the long, and problematic, history of American populism, and what a radical approach to finance might look like.

Also discussed is "End the Fed" fetishes, populism both left and right, a sort-kinda defense of Bernanke (as the best actor in this miserable opera), Marx on the creation of the corporation (and its need of being socialized), and more fun stuff.

Interesting and worth a listen.  His discussion on the need for "scope and scale" with regard to the existence of corporations chastises me.

Happy 94th anniversary of the Great October Revolution everyone!

small may be beautiful, but it ain't the way out.

One of the things I disagree with OWS and the more populist side of anti-finance in this country is the "Official Bank Transfer Day" and these promotions of transferring money from big banks to credit unions as a way of hurting the banks.  I used to think this financial localism "mattered" but I'm not inclined to think so anymore.  Keep in mind what a low percentage of overall financial assets the bottom 80% of Americans have anyway.  1/4 of them could transfer to credit unions, and in the grand scheme of things it wouldn't matter much at all.

See Doug Henwood on the futility of these bank to credit union campaigns.

I'm all for going into a Bank of America and raising hell as you get your cash out of there.  Just don't spin the withdrawal of money as something which actually hurts Wall Street.  It doesn't.

There has also been a lot of rhetoric from Occupy circles supporting doing business with small businesses as a means of attacking Wall Street.  I think this is similarly misguided.  Small businessmen invest a substantial portion of their wealth in financial markets, or at least the vast majority of them do.  Small businesses suck at the teat of mass finance and their loan payments feed the beast.  The idea that small businessmen heavily re-invest in local communities is a notion perhaps more romantic than it is accurate.  So a bit more of their money goes local - that money still moves in and out of mass finance vehicles constantly because we are all "in the shit."  The idea that small businessmen are going to offer pay better and offer better benefits than larger businesses has no basis in economic data.  Many people seem to think that small businessmen are generally less ruthless and cunning and apathetic toward worker misery than businessmen working for large corporations.  I wonder how much experience the people who hold these views actually have working for small businessmen.

I used to argue for the use of credit unions and hyper-localist spending whenever possible on moral grounds - the logic being that I, at least, should try to do as little damage as possible in my economic transactions.  I was wrong, first for the moralism, but second for the tactical error.  If one is not taking extreme measures to go off grid (of the sort perhaps a few thousand people worldwide accomplish - people whose effect upon capitalism counts as zilch), then the only thing one can do concretely is to consume less, the wheres and whens and with whoms of consumption don't really matter much, and let's face it, me consuming 10 or 20% less than I did last year has virtually no effect on capitalism, the environment, and so forth.  If I start a movement which gets 33% of Americans to consume 10% less, in just about any reasonable scheme of things this amounts to nothing substantial with regard to the an assault on capitalism or the protection of the earth's resources.

About 45 minutes from my wife's hometown in central WI is a thriving Amish community.  They have all sorts of shops, bakeries, dairy operations, and the like.  Chartered buses bring petit-bourgeois folks from the Twin Cities, the Milwaukee suburbs, and Chicago.  Almost every one of the Amish stores takes credit cards.  Many of the Amish there are quite wealthy and they keep their money in banks.

It's not really any different when I buy beef (which I don't because I can't afford it) from the local organic beef producer in my county in West TN.  He takes credit cards, he buys organic feed from a large corporation, he finances his large trucks which guzzle gas like any other farmer's.  His son (who works there) vacations at Disneyworld with family in tow.  I have friends at a workers co-op in the Twin Cities.  They are decent folk, and they do good work.  But let's face it, they all seem to smoke cigs made by large corporations, put BP gas in their cars, and use the credit behemoth when ordering concert tickets.  Many of them buy second hand clothes too sure, but in the end, those offsets have nominal effect.  And the local Goodwill and Salvation Army take credit cards too.

There is no consumer-choice-magic out for escaping the reach of capitalism and its normative mechanisms.  This isn't to say worker's co-ops are a waste of effort, or that buying second hand clothes with cash is bad, or that eating locally grown peas is wrong.  Do that if you want to, but if you eat those organic peas on mass produced paper plates, don't sweat it.  These "go small and buy local" fads are simply not solutions to meta-level problems, they pose no threat to capitalism, and when taken as an end in themselves they reinforce capitalism.  They may make for a more enjoyable lifestyle, and when we think that they are moral acts which make us "better" for having done them, in doing these things we are playing the capitalist game as well as anyone else.  Only the masses can actually confront capitalism, and meta/mass collective solutions are the only solutions that don't amount to lifestyle choices.

Here is a new, slightly expanded version of Doug Henwood's take on the big to small banking matter.

on anarcho-liberalism

A Bhaskar Sunkara piece in Dissent followed by two Cyrus Lewis elaborations on the subject via Jacobin, part i and part ii.

Essential reading.  A lot to chew on there.  I think Lewis suffers from a bit of NYCleftocentrism, painting the whole of the Occupy movement with issues that more intensely relate to OWS (many Occupy locations have made demands, etc.), but the tensions described in Lewis' posts and the problem of the relation of anarcho-liberalism to neo-liberalism is well stated.

From what I have been told, the old left and the syndicalists (some of whom contrast themselves from WTO style anarchisms, thus perhaps from the anarcho-liberal ethos) have more influence upon the West Coast Occupations than they have at OWS.  I wonder if that is a factor.

My favorite bits in all of this - Sunkara's description of the traits of anarcho-liberalism including - an anti-intellectualism that manifested itself in a rejection of “grand narratives” and structural critiques of capitalism, abhorrence for the traditional forms of left-wing organization, a localist impulse, and an individualistic tendency to conflate lifestyle choices with political action.  Lewis on Tactical Media's "nomadic agency" and "hit and run" cliquish approach to protest that actually reinforces neo-liberalism.  Lewis on Chronos and OWS.  Lewis on the banality of "raising awareness" and his inference of this being perhaps exemplary of "lifestyle" politics.  And Lewis on OWS as possibly being a negation of a negation.
An exchange between Daniel Larison and Corey Robin about conservatism and reaction.

An interesting discussion.  Reading this helped to further clarify some of the inclinations behind my own abandonment of (would-be) idiosyncratic conservatisms and my return to the radical left.  

The Larison/Robin exchange will be of especial interest to folks who have a background or interest in anti-war conservatism, distributism, paleo-conservatism, front-porcherism, crunchyconism, red toryism, and the like, and who try to place these conservatisms vis-à-vis other conservatisms and vis-à-vis the left.   It's not that anything gets resolved here, only that the way each writer frames his position is of interest - perhaps a helpful drawing of lines if you will.

vote for Moises!

Reading the Maps is one of my favorite blogs.  For instance, this post, noting the 103 year old Moises Broggi, a surgeon with the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War who is now a senatorial candidate (for  the Republican Left of Catalonia) in the upcoming Spanish elections.

general strike

I like the combination of the red and black syndicalist general strike poster aesthetic with the day of the dead theme.  Good show fellow workers in Oakland.

As of this writing the news is reporting 4,000-4,500 or so folks at the port in Oakland this evening; Wobblies and Commies on the ground there reported around 10,000.  The numbers are always a bit of a crap shoot.  The port is now effectively shut down and a few moments ago the ILWU said longshoremen scheduled to work tonight have been sent home and/or told not to report to work.  There are plans among the strikers for an overnight occupation (nighttime is a very busy time at a port - the Port of Oakland's 7pm shift is it's busiest shift).  The Port of Oakland handles a container volume of just under 61,000 containers a day.  Their website states that an estimated average of $11,000,000 in goods passes through the port each day, but that seems low to me as that would mean that each 20'x20' container has only $180 or so worth of goods in it.  Oakland's is the fifth busiest port in the U.S.

The spokesperson for the ILWU has said that the longshoremen's union is contractually obligated such that they cannot sanction a strike at this time, but the longshoreman's union has had a number of struggles of late - a longshoreman's wildcat strike briefly shut down the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma in September of this year, and a wildcat protest at the Port of Longview involved overpowering and holding security guards, damaging railroad cars, and dumping grain.  As anyone who follows American labor knows, the ILWU is a union that has a relatively radicalized membership.  After hearing of the call for a general strike on Nov. 2nd, members of the ILWU spoke at the Occupy Oakland general assembly and asked the GA to occupy the Port of Oakland on the day of the general strike.  ILWU members also spoke at the OWS GA and several other large GAs across the country, asking for support for the occupation of the Oakland General Strike and the occupation of the Port of Oakland during this general strike.

$11,000,000 (or so) slowed down by 24 hours (great if it were more but that seems very unlikely) is barely a blip on the radar screen of American capitalism.  But this moment is an important one nonetheless.  Even if all the general strikers were to leave the Port of Oakland a few hours from now, they did manage to effectively shut down the Port and stop freight traffic around the port, the general strike did involve workers from all sectors, it had union leadership support in some cases, and in other cases involved rather overt wildcat actions within unions, about every radical organization in America was involved, with heavy representation by the IWW which has a substantial number of members active within both the ILWU and among the regulars at Occupy Oakland, and of course there were a number of people not associated with any union or any radical organization who showed up to today's general strike and were pressed in a more radical direction.  But the key is that a general strike was called, workers from all sectors responded, and the Port was shut down.  This means that today we have seen the first effective general strike in America in the last 65 years.

Of course nothing may come of this anytime soon.  Of course conservatives and many liberals will ask what the point of all this is and in various and sundry ways write it off as not much more than puerile venting by the "unwashed masses."  Many will continue their feigned confusion and sheepishly repeat their droned question "what do the protesters want to accomplish?"

And maybe Occupy Everywhere will fall apart next week.  Or during the next cold wave.  Or 6 weeks from now due to internal divisions and/or the perception that or some other group "took over" the movement.

In American labor history direct actions usually "fail," as does just about every tactic ever used by labor.  There are generally many more "losses" than successes with any attempt at the use of direct action toward a given end - if by loss you mean that there was no immediate threat to capital and/or no immediate granting of labor demands.  General strike movements usually putter about for months or years before, if ever, they have a clear and direct success.  But when they succeed in actually shutting down commerce in a given area they tend to strike some fear into the powers that be - at least the past efforts used to get rid of radical elements within labor suggest as much.  The more direct action you see, the more carrot and/or stick is used to cease the instigators of those direct actions.  And in American labor history this has been accomplished through an often surprising coalition of anti-radical forces and an incredible amount of fervency and efficiency. Strange bedfellows and generally slow moving bureaucratic forces can really come together when the matter-at-hand is de-radicalizing a labor uprising.

You don't need that many successfully conducted general strikes to make the threat of a general strike carry some weight.  That mainstream union locals are now publicly supporting the use of general strikes (as was seen in WI before the Dems got the feet off the ground in Madison, and is currently seen in Oakland where even a UAW local sanctioned its members' participation in the strike) suggests that there is at least a chance that mainstream labor, long a bastion of the worst effects of liberal policies and liberal ideology, has potential to be radicalized again.   This is significant.  

We are now in a post-Fukuyama period.  As many have noted, we’ve past the “end of history” and lo and behold, history has emerged again.  It seems that most anarchists and old leftists will tell you that they don’t expect the Occupy movement to “succeed” by conventional standards of a political success.  But these folks in the same breath will tell you that it doesn't have to succeed to succeed.  All it has to do is to display to the masses that paradigm of on-the-streets militancy as the initial primary vehicle through which to confront power in our culture.  It has to re-radicalize just a moderate portion the left and/or left-inclined and/or use-to-be-left and/or would-have-been-left-had-it-not-been-for-conservative-populism.  Organization can come later.  Agreed upon political theory can come later, or not.  Of course, many anarchist and old leftist groups had the same “later” approach in the 60s and 70s, but in the 60s and 70s the liberal project still held promise.  Outside of places like Washington DC and academic settings, that promise is pretty much bankrupt in our culture today, especially among the lower ranks of the working classes.  In many respects it makes more sense for them to embrace an overt conservatism today than it does for them to keep being played by liberals.  If things continue to decline economically and politically, even in America more and more people will be open to the ethos of protest militancy and direct actions - actions which infuriate the liberal establishment because it bypasses them.  If active discontent among the working classes continues to expand, watch for increased red-baiting, the old liberal standard in the face of increasingly radicalized workers.  

In the near term to medium term either there will be some sort of temporary scheme which creates something close enough to a 90s boom to create job growth and assuage the public (this would provide a band aid until the edifice behind it collapses), or there will be continued economic decline for most Americans.  Whether actual or perceived decline does not matter.   This will increase class tensions, increase the likelihood of people to become militant, and so forth.  At some point the right will no longer be able to use the “get a job” “look at those affluent wanna-be hippie” "$34,000 a year puts you in the top 1% in the world" canards, and then the right will have to go the route it always does in crisis – towards a nationalism which uses the usual fuels for nationalist fears – racism, foreign aggressors & intrigue, red-baiting, and so forth.  I don’t know that the left in this country will be able to overcome the onslaught from the right when this plays out.  The "usual suspect" left today is impotent in electoral politics and pretty much so in the culture at large.  It is hard to imagine the American people not being pulled and prodded into a more dramatic right wing nationalistic furor if social unrest were to escalate.  We seem ripe for that in so many respects.  Then again, five years ago who would have predicted a successful American general strike in five years time?

Lastly, a small group of anarchists paid a visit to the Whole Foods in Oakland on this day, which ought to warm the heart of anyone who has ever admired Phil Och's Love Me I'm A Liberal song, as Whole Foods is such a magnet for that set today:

Tearing down the white picket fence at Whole Foods Oakland.

Re-arranging the seating at Whole Foods Oakland.

Facelift for Whole Foods Oakland.

 Advertising community activities at Whole Foods Oakland.  How localist!