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413px-spinoza

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)

LUMPENPROLETARIAT—On today’s edition of Against the Grain, Professor Ted Stolze (Cerritos College) discussed a new article he’s published at Rethinking Marxism, which ranges from the philosophical works of Baruch Spinoza to Dr. Karl Marx.  The article is entitled “An Ethics for Marxism: Spinoza On Fortitude“.  Listen (and/or download) here. [1]

Messina

***

[Working draft transcript of actual radio broadcast by Messina for Lumpenproletariat and Against the Grain.]

337px-Karl_Marx_001WikiUser

Dr. Karl Marx (1818-1883)

AGAINST THE GRAIN—[26 SEP 2016]  [Station identification by Erica Bridgeman(sp?):  94.1 KPFA and 89.3 KPFB, in Berkeley; 88.1 KFCF, in Fresno; 97.5 K248BR, in Santa Cruz; and online at kpfa.org.  The time is twelve, noon.  Stay tuned, next, for Against the Grain.]  [theme music]

“Today, on Against the Grain, what sustains radical politics?  What keeps resistance to oppression going over the long run?

Ted Stolze finds, in the writings of Baruch Spinoza, resources, that can help socialists and other radicals persevere and carry on with their political struggles.  I’m C.S. Soong, the philosophy professor and specialist in Spinoza and Marx joins us, after these News Headlines with Aileen Alfandary.”  (c. 1:04)

[KPFA News Headlines (read by Aileen Alfandary) omitted by scribe]  [2] (c. 6:55)

C.S. SOONG:  “From the studios of KPFA in Berkeley, California, this is Against the Grain on Pacifica Radio.  My name is C.S. Soong.

“People rise up in anger.  They cry out and gather on the streets and organise in their communities in response to some injustice, something, that provokes indignation and outrage.  And, sometimes, this upsurge in protest can go on for some time, for weeks and even months.  And, then, often, the demos begin to fizzle out.  And the anger subsides.  And a lot of people go back to their everyday lives.

“So, if a key question hovering over radical politics and activism is how to sustain resistance, how to motivate or inspire people to stick with it, then what, or who, can we turn to for resources, for ideas about how to keep radicals going over the long run?

Baruch Spinoza was a 17th century Dutch philosopher, who wrote a lot about the human condition.  And my guest, today, has found, in Spinoza’s writings, ideas, that he believes can help radicals persevere as radicals.

Ted Stolze is a philosophy professor at Cerritos College in Norwalk, California.  And he contributed an article entitled ‘An Ethics for Marxism: Spinoza On Fortitude’ to the journal Rethinking Marxism.  He’s also author of the forthcoming book, Becoming Marxist: Studies In Philosophy, Struggle, and Endurance.

“Now, Spinoza was born in Amsterdam in 1632.  His Portugese-Jewish parents had moved there to escape persecution.  I asked Ted Stolze what he likes to emphasise about Spinoza’s early life.”  (c. 8:37)

DR. TED STOLZE:  “He was the son of a fruit merchant.  So, he grew up in a, sort of a, business climate.  And, in one of his earliest works, called A Treatise On the Improvement of the Understanding—is the customary title—Spinoza reflects that he had sought out various forms of truth and goodness and came to the realisation—this isn’t, necessarily, an autobiographical statement on his part; but this is a universal experience, that I think reflects, in part, his autobiography.  He’d realised that wealth and honour and pleasure were fleeting, were inadequate. [3]

“And the limited biographical materials, that have survived—and later biographers have drawn on these—suggest that he was a very sensitive young manHe was not comfortable or satisfied with remaining within the context of his father’s business. [4]  His brother did pursue that.  But, Spinoza, himself, saw the limitations, the constraints of, even, a successful business.

“And he was widely regarded as a very precocious student.  His Latin teacherFranciscus van den Enden, was a big influence on him.  He became very interested in theatre and the arts and may, even, have acted in some plays, that van den Enden produced.

“So, he just seems to have been a very precocious young man, who saw the limitations of the life, that was laid out for him.  And he had a kind of—I guess we could call it—an existential crisis or a philosophical conversion.  I’m not sure, exactly, what would be the best way of characterising it.

Baruch Spinoza was eventually banned by his Sephardic Jewish community for being an independent-thinking radical in 17th century Amsterdam.

C.S. SOONG:  “At age 17, Spinoza cut short his formal studies to help the family’s business.  At age 24, he was excommunicated from the Sephardic community of Amsterdam.  Tell us about that.”  (c. 10:49)

DR. TED STOLZE:  “Well, excommunicated is more of a Christian way of explaining.  He fell under a ban by the elders of the Jewish synagogue, or community, in Amsterdam.  And they were in a somewhat precarious situation.  If I were thinking along their lines:  Here’s a young, radical, free-thinker, who is endangering the stability and respect and toleration, that was offered to the Jewish community in Amsterdam. 

“Throughout Europe, there were very few places, in which Jews could worship openly and not fear persecution, social isolation.  So, I think there was a level of discomfort with Spinoza.  And it was a mutual parting of the ways, frankly.  I think Spinoza was, at that point, not really content to remain within the small circle of friends and family within the Jewish community.  He had already met people through his father’s business.  He had met other individuals, just, in everyday intellectual pursuits and his studies.

“So, in a way, it sounds harsh to say it was an excommunication or a ban.  I would think we could call it a mutual parting of the ways.”  (c. 12:08)

C.S. SOONG:  “Now, we are talking, this hour, about an article you wrote for the journal Rethinking Marxism.  It’s called An Ethics for Marxism: Spinoza On Fortitude‘.  And what you’re trying to do is draw on resources, that you find within Spinoza, within his thought and writing, resources, that might aid what?, that might help whom?  And I assume, of course, and I know, that this relates to the socialist project, the project of people, who have read, and understood, and taken from Karl Marx.”

DR. TED STOLZE:  “Yes.  Well, I’ve been an activist most of my adult life.  Most recently, as a union president, as a faculty union president.  Previously, in the anti-apartheid movement, Central America solidarity, anti-Gulf War movement.

“And, over the years, it occurred to me—it’s very difficult—and I think this is true of other activists as well—it’s pretty difficult to sustain a commitment to radical social change, partly because of the ups and downs of movements, partly because of the stresses, that activism plays upon each individual, emotionally, and their friendships and family relationships.

“Now, Spinoza wouldn’t be the only person one could turn to.  But, I think, Spinoza’s discussion of emotions, the affects, to use his technical term, is, potentially, fruitful for radical activists to think through.  On the one hand, what causes people to become motivated to participate within radical political projects, but also what can sustain their commitments, especially in the context of the ups and downs of struggles and that many of the movements, that we participate within, will not fully achieve what we hope that they will achieve [within our lifetimes].

“So, it’s that unevenness, I think, of the rise and fall of social movements and how activists and organisers can regularly rethink and adjust themselves to that ebb and flow of movements.  A very specific, recent, example, I think, is, like many people, I was supportive of the Bernie Sanders campaign.  And even that slogan, to feel the Bern, was very contingent on the success of the campaign and forces, that we don’t always have much control over. [7]

“So, how do you sustain a commitment, even past the defeat of Bernie Sanders, or whatever comes after Bernie Sanders?”  (c. 15:07)

Well, I clearly see emotional appeals by musicians, by artists.  For many of my generation, music played a very important role, whether it was the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan or Marvin Gaye.

I mean the ability of music to animate a desire for a society to be very different; that’s what I would call a utopian element within the arts or a romantic impulse within much music and art.

C.S. SOONG:  “Socialists should, in an effort to persuade others to join in the socialist project—right?  I mean part of what socialists want to do is to build the movement.  They should, and they do, use facts and arguments; and, they, also, you write, should rely on emotion, by which you mean what?”

DR. TED STOLZE:  “Well, I clearly see emotional appeals by musicians, by artists.  For many of my generation, music played a very important role, whether it was the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan or Marvin Gaye.  I mean the ability of music to animate a desire for a society to be very different; that’s what I would call a utopian element within the arts or a romantic impulse within much music and art.

“Of course, there’s also music or art, that plays upon anger, indignation, rage, a sense of injustice, that things should not be like this, cannot be allowed to remain like this.

“Also, I think of, in public meetings and in public events, there’s a tendency for, maybe anger and indignation is the common emotional appeal.  The danger, of course, and this is why, I think, partly, Spinoza is importantIf you rely on, simply, anger or indignation to arouse a crowd, it can’t easily be sustained.  I mean, in the short-run, it might be very effective.  But my concern is: How do you sustain that kind of emotional appeal.  It’s extremely short-lived or episodic.  That would also be true of utopian and romantic appeals, that people can only live in that euphoric moment of, say, the Occupy Movement for a certain period of time.  You know; weeks, months, perhaps.  But that euphoria will tend to die down.  And there is a return to the ordinary life, that we live.

“So, it’s this fluctuation of emotions, that is the problem, that I’ve observed and Spinoza in his Ethics, in his great work, especially, focuses on this kind of alternation of emotions, the dynamic of the affects between, for example, hope and fear, love and hatred.  And, if all we are presented with is this fluctuation, we’re not really able to build the kind of movement, that is going to reach out and sustain itself through these ups and downs of whatever difficulties present themselves to us.”  (c. 18:08)

[SNIP]

[(c. 23:57) Dr. Stolze draws upon an example from his experience with collective bargaining.] (c. 25:26)

C.S. SOONG:  “I’m C.S.  And this is Against the Grain on Pacifica RadioTed Stolze joins us.  His academic research focuses primarily on Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century Dutch philosopher and Karl Marx and contemporary French and Italian philosophy.  And he worked for five years as president of his American Federation of Teachers Local.  And we are talking about something he wrote about Spinoza and Spinoza’s notion on fortitude and socialist politics, that appeared in the journal Rethinking Marxism.

What about outrage toward a political system or a political injustice?  And, you know, that outrage might not last very long, for a variety of reasons, you know, for practical reasons.  We may just need to get back to work and deal with our jobs and our families and our personal lives.

“But what might the concept of fortitude and the subcategories of courage and generosity, that you laid out, that Spinoza advocated?  What might fortitude do to help us work through that outrage and anger toward something more stable, less fluctuating, and more focused, and more enduring?”  (c. 26:46)

DR. TED STOLZE:  “Right.  I think one of the difficulties here is to distinguish what Spinoza might be talking about and its relevance to radical politics.  And I guess what has become rather popular is some notion of grit.  I’ve seen a number of books, that have come out with this idea of gritIf only we could exert greater willpower or strength of character, that we will be successful in our personal lives or in business or something along those lines. [5]

Spinoza is not suggesting that, as actuated individuals, we are going to be able to strengthen our emotional life.  I don’t take what Spinoza is talking about as some kind of pop psychology for activists.  You know; some sort of daily routine or regimen one goes through, not that anything would be, necessarily wrong with that.  In this aspect, Spinoza could be seen as in continuity with a kind of Stoic tradition of regular reflection on one’s emotional life.  You find this in Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus and Seneca in the ancient world.  (c. 27:54)

“But I think for Spinoza, really, what’s needed is to build organisations, is to reach out to others, that the strengthening of one’s emotional life can’t fully be done by oneself, even through a very regular, regimented, routine of reflection.

“For example, we have to build sustainable movements, political parties, unions.  And, if we think about fortitude in terms of the courage aspect, that’s only one element.  The generosity aspect means that we take courage and strengthen our resolve in relation to others.  So, there’s that dynamic interplay, that dialectic, we could call it, of courage and generosity.  Those who are generous have courage strengthened, and vice versa.

“However, even within, very robust, dynamic organisations, there are periods of crisis.  There are divisions.  There are splits.  So, even at that level there are no guarantees.  But what I am trying to suggest is, for Spinoza, it’s not a merely psychological analysis of how we can rein in bad impulses or redirect bad impulses to good impulses.  It’s a question of joining forces with others.  And, for Spinoza, we increase our power to act in the world to the extent that we identify with, find support and encouragement in organisations with others.”  (c. 29:36)

C.S. SOONG:  “Another thing you bring up in this article in Rethinking Marxism is Spinoza’s insistence on looking for what’s good in whatever we come across.  Can you elaborate on that?”

DR. TED STOLZE:  “Yeah.  Let me give a contemporary example.  If you look at the presidential campaign, I think a lot of the liberals and progressives, that I know, have been unduly terrified by the specter of Donald Trump and those who support him.  There is cause to be afraid.  There is cause to be concerned.  And, yet, the ascendancy of Trump suggests, as with the support, that people had for Bernie Sanders, that things are not going to continue on as they have in the past.  There’s something new, that has emerged.  And it’s not that I would say there’s something good in Trump.  But the Trump phenomenon indicates the discontent, the lack of satisfaction with the way U.S. capitalism is going.  And it’s an opportunity. [6]

“So, the tragedy to me is that I think Bernie Sanders would have been able to, and was able to, reach the people, who were responding to Trump, or at least some of them. [7]  And, given the nature of the campaign, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is simply not, it would appear, interested in trying to reach those people, but rather simply relying on fear of consigning those who support Trump—simply to exclude them from consideration. [8]

“Now, I have family members, who are sympathetic to Trump.  So, it is challenging at a personal level to try to find some good out of what can be very, very frustrating [chuckles] conversations.  But this is the nature of politics and political debate and discussion to try to find some good in one’s opponent, not that you’re going over to the side of your opponent.  But you’re trying to strengthen your own arguments in the process.

“So, I think what Spinoza is saying is a realisation that there is, neither, pure good, nor bad, in the world.  There are relative degrees of good and bad.  And, even in a very negative situation, a situation of fear, there are bases of hope, even in a very negative campaign, like the Trump campaign, there are symptoms or indications that there’s something more interesting going on that radicals, leftists, can seek to identify and to redirect, within limits, to their own efforts at a more progressive, egalitarian, social transformation.”  (c. 32:32)

C.S. SOONG:  “I wanna step back here and talk about Spinoza and his ethics and his ethical project and what it brings to the Marxists, specifically Marxist projects.  And you bring this up in your article.  Maybe, as a way of getting into this, we could talk about to what degree you think ethics was a part of Marx.  To what degree Marx focused on ethics, as opposed to politics and capitalism and economics?  What’s your take on that?”

DR. TED STOLZE:  “Well, I’ve been in—let me take it in two different directions.  I’ve been in socialist organisations.  And my first real exposure to an education in socialist ideas was not in an academic setting, but in a socialist organisation, Solidarity, which is a small, national organisation.  But it still exists.  I remain sympathetic to that perspective of socialism from below, which is a term, that Hal Draper, who was very closely connected to the Berkeley Free Speech movement, as a librarian at UC Berkeley.  That’s his term, socialism from below or, in Marxist politics, the idea that socialism requires the self-emancipation of the working class.

“The difficulty, however, among Marxists within many of the organisations, that I’m familiar with and, to a certain extent, within my own experience, that ethics hasn’t played the sort of role, that it really ought to play.  I don’t mean that ethics should play the primary role.  But so much of the discussion within socialist groups tends to be dealing with a current political issue or a discussion of economics or foreign policy or something along these lines.  And there’s not enough attention paid to: So, why is that wrong?  And how ought we to react at a level other than just a factual analysis?

“So, part of my concern is that socialist organisations have not paid enough attention to matters of ethics.  But in Marx you do see—in Marx’s early writings, in Marx’s political writings, in Capital, itself, you see—a willingness, not just to describe capitalism and the nature of capitalist crises, but to condemn capitalism, to not provide a blueprint of what the alternative might be, what socialism might look like.  I don’t think Marx was interested in blueprints.  But he was a theorist and consistent critic of the injustices of capitalism, the degradation, the lack of dignity, that working people experience under capitalist social relations.

“So, I think there’s sort of a disconnect between the socialist organisations, that I’ve been involved in, where there isn’t much attention paid to ethics.  And, yet, Marx’s writings seem to be filled with moral condemnation of the injustices of capitalism.  That doesn’t mean that that’s all there is in Marx.  But I am suggesting that that is a resource in Marx’s writings, that contemporary socialists might want to pay attention to.

“Probably, the best example of somebody who tried to do that was an English philosopher named Norman Geras, who wrote eloquently on the need for Marxists to re-engage with ethical reflection, both, and with criticising the injustices of capitalism, but also in trying to identify what would be just means to surpass or supersede or replace capitalism.

“So, there’s a moral deficit, I think, within many organisations of the left, and the socialist organisations, that I’ve been a part of.  For all of their good work and intelligent activism, there needs to be that kind of rethinking of those moral resources, that we find within Marx’s writings, and not just Marx.  You find it with Rosa Luxemburg.  You find it in Antonio Gramsci.  You find it in the Frankfurt School.  You find it as part of the Marxist tradition.  Herbert Marcuse would be another example of a Marxist philosopher, who was deeply concerned with a moral condemnation of capitalism, not simply a characterisation of how capitalism works with capitalist crises, but why capitalism must be challenged and, to the extent that we can, reformed and, we hope, replaced with a much better kind of society or a socialist democracy, if we want to use that term.”  (c. 37:44)

C.S. SOONG:  ” [SNIP]

[(c. 38:12) music break: song about courage and going “against the grain”]  (c. 39:30)

C.S. SOONG:  And this is Against the Grain on Pacifica Radio.  My name is C.S. Soong.

Ted Stolze is a philosophy professor at Cerritos College.  And he taught philosophy and religious studies for a dozen years now at, what is now, California State University-East Bay.  And we are talking about an article.  And, actually, it’s, really, a much broader research and academic investigational project he has into the work of Baruch Spinoza, who was born in 1632 and died in 1677.  He was a Dutch philosopher born of PortugueseJewish parents, who had fled to Amsterdam to escape persecution.

“His magnum opus is The Ethics, which was published in 1677.  He died in The Hague that year.  How political was Baruch Spinoza?  I mean we’ve been talking about his analysis of emotions, his understanding of things like fortitude and courage and generosity, and the distinction he made between passive and active affects, or emotions.

To what degree was he politically engaged?  And, to what extent did he use the kinds of ethical resources, he was offering to the world, specifically, in political struggle or political activity?”  (c. 41:01)

DR. TED STOLZE:  “Well, we wouldn’t want to characterise Spinoza as an activist.  He did have a circle of friends, that he met regularly with and discussed philosophy and science, undoubtedly, discussed current affairs.

“When the Dutch Republic was in danger, he certainly supported the leaders of the Republic, the De Witt brothers.  But he was not somebody, who you would say was engaged in a modern political sense.  That was not really something, that he, perhaps, had any expertise or was not even something, which was possible for him.  It is interesting, that, however, that his Latin teacher, Franciscus van den Enden, was a very committed advocate of radical democratic politics and was, in France, accused of being a spy and, in fact, executed on a charge he was participating in a plot to assassinate the King of France.  (c. 42:10)

“So, I’m under the assumption that Spinoza’s relationship to his Latin teacher would’ve been one in which he was exposed to very democratic ideas.  And, in the 17th century, these were ideas, that were largely suppressed in Europe, with the exception in the mid-17th century of the English Civil War, in which King Charles the First and his army were defeated by a parliamentary army led by Oliver Cromwell, who in 1649 presided over the execution of King Charles and establishment of a Commonwealth, that last for the length of Cromwell’s life.

“But it turned into the kind of democratic republic, that I suspect, that Spinoza had hoped to see, and other, more radical elements within the parliamentary army and within English society had hoped to see.  (c. 43:12)

“So, there was a kind of disillusionment, that some have thought occurred, or a waning of Spinoza’s enthusiasm for democratic politics.  I’m not sure that that, in fact, is the case.  But there is a kind of withdrawal of Spinoza, from direct political engagement. [9]  And I think there’s, sometimes, a need for withdrawal to rethink.  And The Ethics and the unfinished last work, that Spinoza wrote called A Political Treatise do have strong commitments, I would say, still, to thinking of democracy as one in which participation, rather than representation is the identifying feature.

“There was no freedom of speech in the 17th century.  So, it would have been very difficult for Spinoza to have openly advocated democracy.  The Dutch Republic was governed by a looking elite.  And, when it was overthrown in the early 1670s, Spinoza was appalled by it and publicly sought to protest it.  But his landlady, evidently, persuaded him to stay at home and not risk the anger of the mobs, who were celebrating the overthrow of the Republic and the re-establishment of the House of Orange monarchy.

“So, I don’t think you’re gonna find in Spinoza a necessarily good model of an activist, the way we would understand an activist.  But Spinoza’s philosophy, I think, and his commitment to democracy in this participatory sense is very useful for contemporary activists.”  (c. 45:09)

C.S. SOONG:  “We’ve already talked about the pitfalls of acting out of outrage or anger or maybe the problems with anger and outrage as resources with which to fuel a continuing sort of activism or agitation.  What about pity?  What did Spinoza think of acting out of pity for others?”

DR. TED STOLZE:  ”  [Spinoza was not sympathetic to pity as it implied a sense of superioty, such as offering a homeless person a handout but not doing anything to identify nor challenge the causes and sources of that poverty.  Spinoza had a deeper sense of pity, borne of a deeper egalitarian impulse to recognise the source of the suffering and to do something about it.] [SNIP]

C.S. SOONG [SNIP]  ”  (c. 47:55)

DR. TED STOLZE:  ” [SNIP]  [TW:  On Negri, values, intergenerational struggle, etc.]  (c. 50:57)

“So, I think what Spinoza offers, his philosophy has offered, to me at least, the way of thinking, not just how we become radicalised, initially, either, through hope or anger or some combination of the two, but how we can, over the course of our lives, continue to build, continue to hope, continue to think, continue to reach out and join forces with others in new organisations, new parties, new struggles to come.  We, again, may not live to see the fruits of our efforts.  But we continue in that direction, nonetheless.”  (c. 51:38)

C.S. SOONG:  ”  [SNIP]  ”

[SNIP]

[SNIP] (c. 59:59)

Learn more at AGAINST THE GRAIN.

[This transcript will be expanded as time constraints, and/or demand or resources, allow.]

***

[1]  Terrestrial radio broadcast, 94.1 FM (KPFA, Berkeley, CA) with online simulcast and digital archiving:  Against the Grain, this one-hour broadcast hosted by co-host C.S. Soong, Monday, 26 SEP 2016, 12:00 PDT.

Programme summary from KPFA.org archive page:

“Radical political projects suffer when people burn out, get distracted, or otherwise drift away. What can help socialists and other leftists stay on course and even deepen their commitment over the long term? Ted Stolze finds in the writings of the philosopher Baruch Spinoza conceptual resources that he thinks can help radicals persevere.

Rethinking Marxism

[2]  Topics included:  the 2016 two-party presidential debate #1, mass shooting by Dessai(sp?); jury selection in trial of Dylan Routh(sp?) for hate crimes; man pies mayor, mayor punches man in the face, requiring stitches; etc.

[3]  We may recall the fable of Siddartha Gautama.

[4]  On existential angst and feeling unsatisfied with the status quo:

“Unsatisfied” by The Replacements

[5] Indeed, in the great American tradition of stoicism, the legendary John Wayne may come to mind, in the classic film, True Grit (1969), recently remade starring Jeff Bridges (2010).  Adapted from the 1968 novel.  Or simply consider the concept of grit, as a personality trait, in the American culture.

[6]  In recent years, Ralph Nader has spoken and written about a burgeoning potential for a left-right, working class, coalition, emphasising that rank-and-file conservatives and liberals are largely working class people with more in common than they think.  See Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State (2014).

[7]  Actually, the biggest tragedy is that Senator Bernie Sanders quit on his supporters by acquiescing to the two-party machine, or the two-party dictatorship.

Firstly, there was evidence that Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign was illegally aided by the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the Democratic Party, which favored Hillary Clinton and worked behind the scenes to discredit and defeat Bernie Sanders.  Yet, Sanders did not demand that Clinton’s campaign be disqualified.  He didn’t even call for any further investigation.  Sanders simply did not fight back.  He simply said that he was “not surprised”, but he was “disappointed”.  Then, when Obama sat him down in the White House, he came back almost reprogrammed.  He was no longer campaigning to win, but to influence Hillary’s campaign.  On day one of the 2016 Democratic Primary, despite droves of his supporters still backing him, he immediately conceded to Hillary Clinton claiming that he did not have a mathematical chance of winning.  His supporters booed and cried out in anguish.  Yet, there had already been indications of electoral fraud, which has been further substantiated by this point.  (See Greg Palast’s various election reports, including for Rolling Stone and KPFA/Pacifica Radio’s Flashpoints.  Also see Greg Palast’s new documentary film The Best Democracy That Money Can Buy.)  Bernie Sanders could have fought back against the illegitimacy of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  But he chose not to.

Secondly, Bernie Sanders’ campaign could have unanimously defeated Hillary Clinton’s campaign had Bernie Sanders featured his own chief economist Dr. Stephanie Kelton (University of Missouri-Kansas City), a heterodox economist of the Post-Keynesian variety, who is also currently one of Politico‘s Top 50 most influential people (#44 to Bernie’s #1 position).  Instead, Sanders basically squandered Dr. Kelton’s expertise and her technically sound, yet revolutionary, economic policy proposals, which Bernie supporters would have loved.  Had Bernie Sanders led with Dr. Kelton, someone with the passion, intellect, and charisma comparable to an Elizabeth Warren, the Sanders campaign could have included in its political platform the heterodox economics policy proposal of the job guarantee program, which can end involuntary unemployment, as we know it.  Dr. Kelton could have explained to the American people, via Bernie’s campaign, how modern money theory (or MMT, modern monetary theory), monetary sovereignty, having a sovereign currency, and how our current economic system works, which means the government can afford to spend for public purpose without fiscal constraints.  With all the talk about the need for jobs from all sides, including Trump and Hillary, it’s truly tragic that Bernie Sanders chose not to allow Dr. Kelton (and other heterodox economists) to explain how a job guarantee is possible, feasible, and necessary for the economic well-being of the nation.

Senator Bernie Sanders could have challenged the cheating and collusion on the part of the Hillary Clinton campaign during the Democratic Primary election.  He could’ve denounced the Democratic Party for being anti-democratic against him and his campaign.  He could’ve denounced the collusion between the Democratic and Republican parties to block other political parties from their nationally broadcast presidential debates.  He could’ve ran as an independent.  He could’ve joined forces with the Green Party.  He could’ve stood courageously, instead of caving in, allowing himself to be reprogrammed, and immediately backing neoliberal Hillary Clinton without qualification.  Instead Bernie Sanders sold out in the worst way.

[8]  Actually, it’s more than just “given the nature of the campaign”.  Actually, more precisely, it’s given the nature of the two-party system, the two-party dictatorship.  The limitations Dr. Stolze refers to extend beyond this particular election to the entire American political superstructure, which is anti-democratic in its suppression of political alternatives to the Democratic and Republican parties.

[9]  If Spinoza really lost his revolutionary or democratic spirit toward the end of his life, if his writing and later philosophy reflect a certain resignation from civic engagement, could Spinoza be the prototype for the sell-out, bourgeois, or petty bourgeois mentality among politically stagnant or moribund liberals in the United States?  Does Robert Putnam need to rewrite Bowling Alone with a reconsideration of Spinoza?

***

[Image of Baruch Spinoza by unknown.]

[26 SEP 2016]

[Last modified  12:23 PDT  3 OCT 2016]

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