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SPARKS

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ISSUE #5

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CONTENTS

Poems.................................................Stacy Tartar

"Barney and Bill Juxtaposed: An Epic Rant"................Jim Esch

Poems...................................................Jim Morris

"Where All the Dramas Began".............................Lori Ewen

"Not Just Macaroni"..................................Frank B. Ford

"My Friend Clinton?: State Reform and Class Power".....Mort Allman


SPARKS: A ZINE FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE

Editors: Jim Esch and Stacy Tartar

Copyright # 1994 by Jim Esch and Stacy Tartar

All rights for each work contained herein revert back to the author(s) upon publication. We welcome and encourage your submissions. Snail-mail manuscripts will be considered and returned, provided you have included a self addressed stamped envelope. Send all correspondence to the address below.

232 North Kingshighway, #616 St. Louis, MO 63108-1248

PLEASE SEND ONLINE SUBMISSIONS TO Jim.Esch@launchpad.unc.edu

ASCII text format preferred.

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POEMS

by Stacy Tartar

GUILTY

Words are such fuck-ups.

But they're so interesting.

Guilty hangs in the back of my throat then

shoots at my teeth like a firing squad.

My tongue rolls back, dead.

Resentment is a different kind of word.

Resentment takes its time

inspecting hidden teeth

before it opens wide

and snaps down.

The feel at the end

depends on whether or not you explode

the final t.

Forgiveness, too

will do

more than it says.



OUR LEAVE-TAKING

The heavens scream too as the earth

pitches on violent waves of change.

The sun, monstrously huge, swims into view

before bleeding into black tidal waters.

Or is it the sun?

Now we cry our tears,

but they melt into our faces

as our faces and our bodies all melt away.

The gate is burned.

Time is shed.

We lost.

Names all melted, love and fear

mere vapor, blown upon the winds.

And the winds have buried us,

shuffled us, like so many dunes

in a shifting desert.

HUMAN NATURE

stoneaged

rock that rises

everything down

spearthrowing

savage raping

collector of dreams

slavedriving

cavedweller

fire dancing

palace eater

paradise stealer

prophet making

Godless and guilty

machine

your face glittering in a box of golden flowers

frozen

haunted

deeply unaware

mastered by the shining

fixed by the image of your own two hands

doublefisted daggers

that leave dark scatterings of blood

so high upon your brow

angels wings dissolving in the sun

you think you know what song the sea will sing

you think you know everything

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BILL AND BARNEY JUXTAPOSED: an epic rant

by Jim Esch

i fuck you, you fuck me, let's all fuck ourselves

let's pack it in kids, i'm tired of this shit

the dancing, the sing sings

why do ya need a purple dinah-shore

when your presidents pitch the dirty work anyway?

Barney says, listen to the will to power,

the absolute control over your daily attention span,

my Jurassic fist is your spotless freedom to choose

uh...duh

king dinosaur king bill, b.c. rex

bill n barney funny house white house honey

[cultural pause...

oedipus was right only no one could see it

dido was her own torch song

end pause...]

somebody fetch me an epic. Hey kids, Bill says make an epic

oh america the beautiful

dumb blonde of the west

what's that up your dress?

o say can you weed? by the lawns' early blight what so proudly we

failed at the stoplight's last beaming whose broad hype and slight

stars through the scurrilous tights oh the hand jobs we botched were so

gallantly gleaming and the rocket's lead stare the bombs bursting in

pairs gave proof to the right that our fags were still fair o thay does

that fart spangled tanner still bathe oer the land of the thieves and

the foam of depraved...

wait o minute, Barney, Bill said EPIC

as in

make change your friend

as in

new covenant

as in

bring me your hired, your scores, your befuddled asses yearning to pay

fees.

uh-duh ok

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

POEMS

by Jim Morris

FLYING CONDITIONS

[found poem from the Estes model rocketry safety code]

the code of power

with use the exhaust

of the disconnected

And carry them to the launch pad

I pledge to you the model of my Recovery


CREAM

[found in a list in wallet]

1 whopper

Forget Forget

Large


SMOKE

Yes, I will be as you like

And fog my face with your

Smoke.

JOURNAL ENTRY (10/1/80)

The Wildman, Popcorn man invaded me today. The women with wiped

mascara. Screaming for me reasons that are beyond myself. Why? It's

only her fault. everything's everybody's own fault. Mankind is a crook.

The thoughts of a man are only human malfunctions.


10 SECONDS BIGGER

incense burns my other

hand

as I clutch your left thigh

Don't move

please don't

I can smell the incense

my body expands as my watch

grows ten seconds bigger.

All in good time

All in good time

UNTITLED

Someone is swimming

in the aftermath of us

My shadow still smiles

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WHERE ALL THE DRAMAS BEGAN

by Lori Ewen

She went out to the movies. She sat quietly in her seat as the film

began and patiently waited for the previews to end and the main feature

to begin. The screen flickered. Images arose, came and went, brightly

shrouded actors and actresses, loud music, al so distant -- so unlike

life. Yet like life, she thought. Magically as we watch a movie so does

God watch our lives go by. He may predict the ending but perhaps it is

still an ending by fate.

Lights went on. Still she sat to watch the credits roll. Boy 1, Boy 2,

even they got mention, though she didn't remember them much. Like the

girls behind the sales counter in life. Not memorable, but nonetheless

an integral part of any sales transaction. Just fly by night folks in

life. Flashes.

She got up to leave the theater. There were people around her and in

front of her and behind her. Looking up she realized she was

unrecognizable in the crowd. She enjoyed the anonymity. She thought she

had enjoyed the film. It was entertaining. Now she had to go home. Home

was where all the dramas began.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOT JUST MACARONI

by Frank B. Ford

Couldn't see my house with all the satellite dishes, right?

Whatayathink? Huh? Whatayathink? Huh? Whatayathink? Huh?

Whatayathink? Yup yip sonabitch heyhigh!

Screenbowl with five hundred little playing card screens.

I watch all at once, all at once, all at once lots of times, but point

anywhere, you! Click for Monster-Surrounda-Picture-Sound. Look!

Chinaman talking Chinaman-talk see! Pores in his face like quarters.

Big!

TV dinners? Uh uh! See! I put up phone picture bigger than a

man! Whatayathink? Huh? Point at phone and order. Yup yip sonabitch

hey hey high!

I don't know I don't know I don't know. I don't know what I want:

chicken-beef-bread-icecream I don't know but send lots lots lots!

Look at that! All football everybody running. Five hundred

games! Run jerk run CENTURY OF EXCELLENCE.

WE'RE NUMBER 1 MAKING CARS AND MAKING PROGRESS Yup yip

sonabitch heyhigh! NOT JUST MACARONI

PIES GREAT GRANDMOTHER MADE Bolly bolly wick wick.

ACCORDING TO THE LATEST SURVEY Yup yip sonabitch heyhigh. Look out!

Don't let them!

WE ARE SOLVING THE TRASH CRISES WORLDWIDE hey hey hey bolly bolly wick

wick.

KILLING MAIMING RAPE EVERY MINUTE--DIGBY ALARMS COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE I

got metal detectors I got everything. They're trying to kill you all

the time. They can't get enough cops. Look! Break in every game:

cops in Paris smashing students, white clubs, batons. Good!

Yup yip sonabitch. Take all my money for jails take it all!I get the

news from all the countries they're all trying to kill me. They all

are! Yup yip sonabitch NOT JUST MACARONI white clubs.

Hey highbolly bolly wick wick ACCORDING TO THE LATEST SURVEY

bolly bolly wick wick, bolly bolly wick wick, bolly bolly wick wick

wick wick wick wick. Baton, bat-awn bat-awnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MY FRIEND CLINTON? STATE REFORM AND CLASS POWER.

by Mort Allman

"[W]hen you see profound change and you want to preserve what is

most important in your values, your family, your community, you

have to find a way to make that change your friend. That is what

this administration is dedicated to doing -- both in trying to

change the rules of the economic game and in trying to open up a

new era of time when Americans who work hard and play by the rules

have a certain basic security."

(Bill Clinton, October 3, 1993)

"A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for

capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of

this very best shell...it establishes its power so securely, so

firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the

bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it."

(Lenin, THE STATE AND REVOLUTION)

It doesn't take a policy wonk to notice the increased legislative

activity in Washington this past year. Not since Reagan's first term

has there been such a sense of political change. It seems as if Clinton

is really trying to fulfill his promises to change the country's

direction.

We might be inclined to applaud such efforts. 'Good for Clinton,' we

might say. 'He's trying to change the system. He's trying to bring down

the deficit. He's trying to reform the health care system.' Yes, it

seems as if Washington, like it or not, is dealing with one idealistic

southern reformist. A forward-looking baby boomer Democrat. Hoo-ray!

And yet, we still get this pervading sense that our government seems

utterly intractable, unshakeable. We watch in silence as egotistic

senators hold out for hand-outs from the White house. So-called

"deficit reduction" strikes the skeptical eye as so much number-fudging

and face-saving. We get the impression that there's an illusion of

activism in Washington, not the real thing.

What gives? After 12 years of divided government, we finally have a

unified front. Both houses of congress are under Democratic control; at

the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue sits a Democratic president.

Shouldn't the party be ramming through all that legislation that they

just couldn't get past the veto power of republican presidents Bush and

Reagan? Shouldn't we be witnessing a mud slide of progressive reform,

long overdue? Why else would the electorate have turned Bush out of

office, unless it was 'to see things change.'?

To answer these questions we first have to understand the power base of

our present administration and closely examine who it serves.

Conventional political wisdom tells us that Clinton took power by means

of a broad-based coalition so fed up with the inactivity and brazenness

of the Bush/Reagan years that they settled on him as the most qualified

candidate, or at least the lesser of three evils. Clinton's campaign

correctly gauged popular unrest and successfully channeled it into

votes. The public expected, even demanded that Clinton be more of an

activist, reformist president. We were sick of nothing being done about

the recession. We were tired of Bush's foreign policy visits while our

infrastructure and economy faltered. We wanted a more responsive

government. Labor, feminists, minority-blocs, progressives, radicals,

gays/lesbians, liberals, "Reagan democrats", even socially-moderate

suburbanites--we all tentatively climbed aboard Clinton's Magic Bus and

turned him into office.

In a textbook democratic state, you would expect the Clinton government

to be responsive to the power-bloc that put him there. But beyond the

rhetoric about things changing and 'putting people first,' how has

Clinton's presidency helped our coalition?

While retaining some very mild reformist tendencies (stroking the

conscience of democrats who sincerely believe they are reinventing

government, solving the health care crisis, getting the fiscal house in

order, etc.), this "new" leadership in fact STILL acts largely in

behalf of America's large property owners, the well-invested, those who

own the means of production in the society, and those who have been

entrusted with the management of the rest of us wage laborers. Clinton,

the great salesman of reform, is really Clinton the sell-out artist. He

is unable or unwilling to truly champion the needs of the body politic,

aka. US.

Clinton's Reformist Program

Let's judge our present government based on its electoral mandate to

change domestic policy. After all, that is why we elected a united

government, wasn't it? To see the end of gridlock. To see that abstract

term "change" made real. In the parlance of bourgeois democratic

states, change equals reform. How can we characterize Bill Clinton's

specific brand of reformism? In three ways:

1. Centrist Starting Point. Proposals are framed in mild, moderate

terms, so that they will be palatable to conservatives and

moneyed interests. Everyone must be pleased and placated. This

won't hurt a bit.

2. Balancing act. Any progressive tendencies are balanced by

right-leaning proposals, rhetoric and personnel. Reforms must

almost be apologized for. Equivocation, backpedaling and floating

trial balloons are typical political strategies. It might be apt

to recall that Clinton hired Reagan-era media guru David Gergen to

get his house in order last spring. Why? Ostensibly to achieve

more "balance." To send the "right" signals.

3. The sell-out. Clinton is willing to sell-out his reforms to get a

policy through congress or a directive through the military. Such

spineless compromise is even more amazing given his initial

centrist positions, and it leads to the conclusion that he has a

fundamental lack of commitment to anything other than the

appearance of activist government. A lot may be happening in

Washington, but what does it amount to?

Numerous cases can be called forth to depict these three points. One

need only recall the withdrawal of the Lani Guinier nomination, the

backpedaling and equivocation regarding gays in the military, the

supreme court nomination of a moderate, Ruth Ginsburg, the collective

might of presidents Clinton, Carter, Bush, and Ford throwing their

weight behind NAFTA, the various wheeling, dealing, and fudging on the

much contested budget agreement, the whittling down of the college

service program, the deceptive cancellation of the Strategic Defense

Initiative, the continuation of Bush policies in Somalia, the lack of

resolve in Bosnia, and an inconsistent policy towards Haiti that seems

to change weekly.

The end result? Clinton's paper-thin reforms get picked apart and

gutted till emptied of content. If they still resemble reforms, they

are at best mild treatment for the symptoms of larger problems. At

worst they are actually repressive laws masked as reform. We might have

said the same thing of democratic presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson,

Carter.

When this presidency is caught in the act of reneging on promises or

selling-out the interest of the people in favor the owners of capital,

liberal pundits are apt to label such behavior as MEDIATION between

conflicting interest groups, or government and business working in

partnership (to be understood as ultimately good for the public of

course). This is the optimistic, euphemistic spin foisted upon the

public. Clinton will go down in the history books as the great

compromiser, the great deal maker, the great coalition builder

the great mediator.

Of course, such interpretations are false.

When Clinton 'mediates,' you should see it for what it really is. He is

forced by systemic restraints (legislative pressure, market pressure,

diplomatic pressure, corporate lobbyists) to curb any reform too

extreme for the ruling class.

For example, on August 13, 1993 in Denver Colorado, Mr. Clinton signed

into law the Colorado Wilderness Act designating as he said, "a total

of 612,000 acres, 19 separate areas in our national forests, as

components of the National Wilderness Preservation System." Those of us

who care about environmental protection might be applauding him at

this point. But wait,

"The Act also protects five areas totalling over 150,000 acres under

management plans that are slightly less restrictive but still

important."

One wonders what "less restrictive" really means. But wait again, he

hasn't finished yet...

"At the same time as it protects these treasures, the Act releases

about 115,000 acres of Forest Service lands in Colorado for other

purposes balancing the goal of preserving our environment with the

need to provide for a healthy economy for the people who live and

work here."

Whatever gains achieved in preserving wilderness are balanced or

undermined by the "less restrictive" protection of 150,000 acres and

the outright release of 115,000 acres for 'economic purposes.' One

wonders what effect a 'healthy economy' will have on the health of the

Colorado environment and the health of the Colorado wage earner.

In fact, the Clinton administration, aside from being the very stuff of

the ruling and managerial classes, has internalized ruling class values

to the point that they often will not even propose meaningful reforms

to begin with. This truly is government and business working in

partnership. How can a democratically elected government act in behalf

of a small minority of economic interests?

Sociologist Ralph Miliband has attempted to account for such a paradox

in his writings on State power vs. Class power. According to Miliband,

in his essay "State Power and Class Interests" the state is held

in-check by forces outside its immediate sphere--forces that make up

the larger sphere of national and international capitalism, and its

need for capital accumulation and fluidity. These constant needs result

in organifrom capitalist interest groups like the World

Bank, the IMF, multinational corporate lobbyists, the corporate

controlled mass media, the stock markets, and even supra-governmental

bodies like the G7, the U.N., and free trade groups. These forces

combine to support 'free trade', government handouts to big business,

government funding of private research and development, protection of

private interests abroad, and so forth.

And yet the bourgeois state has a degree of relative autonomy in

relation to the ruling class, i.e. it can often act the way it wants

to. It is an entity unto itself, a powerful force that pervades

society. (Miliband 66) Look at the size of the federal and state

bureaucracies, the impact of the federal deficit on the national

economy, the pervasive presence of the military in daily life.

The state has an existence of its own and interests of its own. Thse

interests generally fall into two categories: self-preservation and the

national interest. The impulse for self-preservation needs little

explanation. Leaders will tend to pursue policies and methods that will

keep them in power, sometimes even at the expense of the ruling class.

The national interest is defined by the need to protect the social

order and national integrity (e.g. isolationist tendencies that

actually can run counter to capitalist demands); the need to finance

its own existence (hence taxation policies that can disgruntle

capitalist interests); and the need to respond to popular unrest by

reforming and regulating government and business, something that

insures a stable and peaceful labor force for capital, but which

capital begrudges all the same (Miliband 69-72).

Despite the occasional conflicts between business and government, what

ultimately seals the bond between state power and ruling class

interests is this conception of National Interest. Usually the state

will identify the national interest with whatever will maximize profits

for private industries. The national interest IS the interest of the

ruling class. So the War in Iraq is waged in the national interest

(i.e. in the interest of the oil companies). NAFTA is in the national

interest. Managed competition in health care is in the national

interest. Leasing wilderness land to business is in the national

interest.

For another example, we can cite Bob Rubin, assistant to the president

for economic policy, who spoke on health care and the economy on

October 6, 1993:

Let me make one very brief comment myself, and my own is a very

practical perspective. I remember during the transition we had a

health care presentation, and afterwards I turned to Ira Magaziner.

At that time he wasn't in charge of health care yet. I said, you

know, it's a funny thing. Virtually every CEO that I've spoken to

in recent years -- and I'd spoken to enormous numbers of them

because I was in the financial service industry before I came here

-- has said that escalating health care costs are one of the major

problems of their company. Virtually every CEO that I had spoken

to said, and as I said, I'd spoken to enormous numbers of them --

viewed the escalation of health care costs as a tremendous

impediment with respect to international competitiveness and

exports. And exports, as you know, are critical to economic growth

-- have been in recent years and certainly will be in the years ahead

So I had the feeling then, and I've had it evermore since then,

that we simply have to get health care costs under control if we're

going to have the kind of economic future we want to have.

Secondly, there are non-quantifiable aspects of health care

security and universal coverage which are of great importance

economically. A healthy work force is a better work force. You

have lower turnover, lower absenteeism. You can't quantify these

things, but they're very important. And, finally, as Erskine

Bowles will discuss, there's no question in my mind that when the

small business sector focuses on health care reform and understands

it, and understands how it relates to their long-term prospects, a

great preponderance of small business-people will be in favor of

health care reform."

Mr. Rubin identifies the national interest with ruling class

interests. The need for health care reform is dictated by the needs as

expressed by corporate CEOs. There is no mention of the human suffering

of poor people without insurance, of the populace being ravished by

exploitive health care costs. No, it all boils down to profits; we need

more productive workers! That's what reform is all about.

The connections between state and class power lead Miliband to a model

that describes their relationship as a partnership between separate but

related forces. In a democratic state, the relationship is a semi-fluid

one. In those aspects of the state subject to the will of the people

(elections), there may well be room for representatives and executives

from the left, and there may well be room for the passages of certain

reforms in the context of a capitalist system, which can never be

challenged. Yet to protect the existing societal structure from too

much 'damage', there are forces of the state that are more

conservative, more rigid, more blatantly protective of dominant class

interests. They exist primarily to preserve order, which usually means

protecting the rich and subjugating the lower classes by means of the

military, the civil service, the police, the judiciary, and even the

lawmakers themselves. These state powers almost always act in the

interest of the dominant class. And they help to curb any extremes

arising from the whims of the democratically elected wings of

government. Such a model of the bourgeois democratic state helps us to

understand the nature of the Clinton administration -- the character of

its 'reforms' and the resistance to them. [1]

Obviously an array of forces like this makes reform difficult. So how

can any reforms be achieved? We know that part of the state's function

is to maintain the capitalist order of society. At the same time, the

bourgeois democratic state needs the ratification of popular support;

without it, the government will be illegitimate, and disorder will

ensue. Thus, various reforms become necessary from time to time to keep

the lower classes at bay, to keep up our shaky confidence in the

system; this is the ulterior motive of the reformist program, mere

bones to busy the dogs. Such reformism, because it is watered-down, and

because it is not sweeping, will ultimately fail to solve the very

problems it sets out to fix.

Let's examine a contested reform that finally made it into law, namely

the Family Leave Act. The family leave bill was resisted by

conservative elements who thought it would be bad business to let

workers take emergency time off without the threat of losing their job.

The state finally was able to legislate such a bill, albeit in a

watered-down form compared to other industrialized countries. But even

the liberal, reformist elements will justify their support in

capitalist terms. One argument in favor of the reform was that a family

leave bill would be good for business in the long run by insuring

satisfied and thus more productive workers. And productivity is

definitely in the interest of the ruling class.

But assuming that such a reform as family leave might be perceived by

right-wing ideologues as "extreme" or "contrary to ruling class

interest," how does the state get away with this under the vigilant

gaze of the business owners, the corporate execs, and mega-stock

holders? They get away with it because they are not controlled by the

ruling class per se. The state does function in part through a measure

of democratic participation and popular support. As Miliband puts it,

the state is an institution that acts in BEHALF of the ruling class

more often than not, but it does not act at the BEHEST of the ruling

class. The government is more of a guardian of ruling class interests

and identifies its own interests with the ruling class. This is very

different from the assertion that the government is a lackey for the

ruling class. The distinction is important because it makes room for

activist struggle within the system while realizing the limitations of

that struggle.

Despite the stated intentions, beliefs and goals of the present

leadership, close examination of Clinton's hollow reforms will

demonstrate their true function--keeping the popular masses subservient

to the demands of global capitalism by way of minor adjustments to the

system intended to diffuse popular unrest. What matters are not

intentions of our leaders, but the real effects of their policies and

laws.

When it comes to health reform, Clinton will not even propose a single

payer system with the government as sole insurer. That would endanger

the insurance companies. And the insurance companies are our friends.

It is in the national interest to have health insurance companies.

Single payer systems are too extreme. No, it is better to have a

muddled, messy combination of private insurance and public insurance,

probably accompanied by regressive taxation and leaky efforts at cost

control. The best we can hope for from Clinton's plan would be some

minimum safety net to cover the presently uninsured.

When it comes to NAFTA, Clinton negotiates feeble, unenforceable side

agreements with Mexico in order to throw his weight behind a

'free-trade' agreement potentially disastrous for American labor, not

to mention the environment or the Mexican worker. And yet in the same

breath the government touts a high-growth, high wage economy. What's

good for business will be good for you.

When it comes to allowing gays in the military, Clinton caves-in to the

generals and the Sam Nunns, and settles on a blatantly hypocritical

policy of don't ask-don't tell-don't pursue. Why? Because the military

essentially refused his original "extremist" position, which dared to

acknowledge that homosexuals might want to serve in the armed forces

and should have the right to do so.

When it comes to the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), Clinton

cancels the program, gives it a new name, and increases the funding.

Are these by any stretch of imagination great reforms? If we put

ourselves as activists in the position of defending such two-faced

policy wavering, such deception and ruinous doctrines, we place our own

political integrity on the line.

However, this is not to say we should necessarily oppose Clinton's

reforms on principle. Each must be taken and evaluated on its own

merits. If any improvement can be made in working conditions, privacy

rights, environmental protection, class, race, and gender

discrimination, we should lend our support. But let us dispel any

illusions. This president is more of an enemy than friend.

He will not change the rules of the game.

Does Clinton Deserve Our Support?

It should by now be clear that we cannot continue to allow the

democrats to sponge left-wing support after selling-out the very

principles we value again and again and again. A man like Clinton in

the White House is not going to lastingly effect the unjust system

underpinning the state. Such radical change is not in his nature. Don't

be disappointed if he doesn't advocate it.

If we only wage the struggle at the level of state power, we will fail

more often than not, and our success will be hollow. But with respect

to pending legislation and executive policy, we can and should remain

active. Insist on the strongest reforms that can be possibly pried out

of the system as we know it. Articulate strong positions and make them

heard. As long as we have such a government in place, we need to press

it to the wall, make it pay attention. We must always agitate against

those who offer only band-aid solutions to systemic problems.

But more importantly, we must also wage a broader struggle at the CLASS

level. Everyday, the ruling class is waging war against you. You are

being pressured to work longer for less pay, with a less secure future.

Your unions are being gouged. Your families treated without respect.

Your cities are imploding. Your savings are eroding. Your television

hammers you with ruling class ideology day after day.

It's time to draw our own line in the sand. Resist the state and the

ruling class in everyday life. Challenge the media, agitate

representatives and councilmen, act locally, and protest injustice. We

must contribute in our daily lives to the raising of class

consciousness. We must support with our dollars activist causes and

alternative economic concerns. We must reach out to the disenfranchised

and disgruntled. We must collectively resist wage exploitation. We

cannot rely on the government as we know it to solve our problems for

us; the structure and organs of government must be changed.

Prescription For Radical Opposition

If we could actually elect a true leftist government in America (and

electoral mandate is probably our best hope for now, remote as that

possibility seems), how might it actually try to wrest control of the

state from the hands of the ruling class?

According to Ralph Miliband, a new government must first make radical

personnel changes in state institutions. We could contemplate a

thorough house cleaning of the military and every cabinet division.

This would neutralize much of the conservatism of the bureaucracy. (We

might note here that Clinton was notoriously tardy at filling

government posts with his own people, a serious but unsurprising

political blunder, especially for an establishment politician.)

At the same time, the government would need not merely to propose mild

reformist laws, but direct its energy at smashing and replacing the

institutions of government, aiming to democratize the state further --

to place the decision making power more in the hands of the people. [2]

And further, the government would need to encourage the creation and

development of political institutions parallel to state institutions,

e.g. worker's committees, civic oversight committees, maybe even

popular militias--in short, to create organs of class power

distinguishable from state power (Miliband 104-106).

The aim of such a government would be the radical transformation of

state institutions, turning power into the hands of the people by means

of real democratic organs. It is in this sense that a democratically

elected government could smash the state. But without the help of

organized, class-based institutions, such a government would be smashed

itself by the forces of the ruling class. Such thoughts must

unfortunately remain sketchy; it takes collective action to realize

their full dimensions.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Miliband, Ralph. Class Power & State Power: Political Essays.

London: Verso, 1983.


NOTES

[1]

Miliband also analyzes how the ruling class can exert pressure on

the state to demand its way in the sphere of public policy. The first

method is an unfocused but all out generalized struggle of every

disgruntled member of the ruling class in daily life.

It includes middle class 'housewives' demonstrating...;factory owners

sabotaging production; merchants hoarding stocks; newspaper proprietors

and their subordinates engaging in ceaseless campaigns against the

government; landlords impeding land reform;...anything that

influential, well-off, educated (or not so well-educated) people can do

to impede a hated government....Nothing very dramatic is required; just

an individual rejection in one's daily life and activity of the

regime's legitimacy, which turns by itself into a vast collective

enterprise in the production of disruption ( Miliband 86)

The second method is what Miliband calls "external conservative

intervention." This is outside influence by other countries,

multinational corporations with global interests, the IMF, the World

Bank, etc. The third method is the struggle waged by organized

conservative political parties. Primarily in the United States, the

Republican party most often represents the ruling class up and down the

line. These political parties articulate the general unease expressed

by the class in daily life and turn it into political willpower. The

fourth method is extreme right-wing groups who can be allied with in

cases of extreme emergencies when the going gets tough. We might

include fascist groups, the KKK, and the religious right. The fifth

method is the conservatism inherent in the civil service and judicial

branches of government. They will generally resist extreme reform. And

last but not least, there is always the military. The military can

easily be called to arms to protect ruling class interest or to resist

the radical left. All of these pressures can and will be brought to

bear to resist any effort of the state to act "out of line."

[2]

Technological developments (computers, telecommunications) bring

massive potential to put decision making power in the hands of the

people. We can be sure that capital interests are and will continue to

resist such potential. Thus we might expect a continuation of the

present trend, namely, that the masses are given access to mass

communication tools primarily as a means of "entertainment" or commerce

(e.g. interactive entertainment, more TV channels, easier access to

movies, games, bread, and circuses) and not as a means of empowerment.

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