Tasks and Perspectives

The Democrats don’t care about democracy.

While this can be read as a standalone, it is a follow-up to the article:

The DNC does not have to hold fair elections.

“Neoliberal theorists are, however, profoundly suspicious of democracy. Governance by majority rule is seen as a potential threat to individual rights and constitutional liberties. Democracy is viewed as a luxury, only possible under conditions of relative affluence coupled with a strong middle-class presence to guarantee political stability. Neoliberals therefore tend to favour governance by experts and elites.”

― David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism

According to Politico, members of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) actually discussed changing the primary election rules to stop Sanders at the convention in 2020. If this is surprising to you, you’re likely unaware that there was a class-action lawsuit brought against the DNC for its handling of the 2016 election. Supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders argued that they were denied a fair and impartial election, and that financial contributions were being made under the assumption that this was a fair democratic process. While the courts recognized that the DNC had, in fact, treated voters unfairly, a federal judge nonetheless dismissed the lawsuit. Why? Well, the DNC is a private corporation, and therefore isn’t required to hold fair elections at all.

Footage of Nancy Pelosi “giving credit where credit’s due,” when DJ Trump tells her he’s allowed to nuke Rosie O’Donnell’s home so long as he classifies it as “mission essential.”

And then we have classic voter suppression. Focusing just on the use of coronavirus to suppress voting, recall Florida, Illinois, and Arizona all held their primary elections despite medical professionals strongly pushing for quarantine and social distancing. Wisconsin held their primary elections even later into the pandemic, and long before the flattening of the curve. There’s 19 new cases of coronavirus in Wisconsin linked to election activities. Two poll workers for the Florida primary tested positive shortly after the primary was held (meaning they very likely infected many voters). After a Chicago poll worker died from the virus and another tested positive, the city was forced to warn voters that they may have been exposed to the virus at polling places. Considering the lack of available tests, it’s very likely holding these primaries spread the infection more than we can ever definitively know.

I could go on, but I’d rather not because talking about the DNC is honestly just boring. Now I’m not saying election corruption necessarily lost Bernie the nomination. It’s possible he’d have lost even if this were a fair election (though, not sure the extreme concentration of media ownership ever constitutes a “fair” election).

That’s right Jack, I see you. I hear you.

But all things considered, I’d understand if a lot of people heavily-invested in Bernie’s campaign (his “bros,” is the proper terminology, I believe) are furious with the DNC right now.

NOTE: People like me are not why he lost, if that’s what you’re thinking. I fully intended on voting for him in the primaries (I’m registered in a state that hasn’t voted yet, so it’s sort of moot now), and I strongly encouraged everyone and their grandmother to vote for the guy on the off-chance it worked. I’ve gone without healthcare before, I’ve had a number of shitty run-ins with the criminal justice system, and I’m in hella debt. I’d have been stoked if Bernie got in there and lifted that authoritarian boot off my face, even just a little bit.

Welcome to the Bern Unit.

So instead of Bernie, the DNC is riden’ with Biden…an old man riddled with dementia known for, uh, yeah…

Sir, that is literally a child.

Bernie Sanders endorsed Joe Biden because he ultimately doesn’t believe a progressive movement is possible without backing from the DNC. He doesn’t believe a workers party is possible at all―the DNC and RNC are both political parties that represent the ruling (capitalist) class interests. This is why electoral politics in the US collapses into what is essentially a culture war…neither party represents the interests of working people. Nor do they represent the interests of small business owners…if lobbying isn’t in your budget, then expect this ruling class to throw you under the bus the moment it benefits them (e.g. COVID-19 bailouts that essentially screwed over everyone but massive corporations).

Staying within this two-party system framework forces you to assume the position that some workers do need to be sacrificed to maintain the existence of an extremely wealthy capitalist class. What changes is which workers you deem expendable. Do you draw the line at child labor, but excuse low wage labor exploitation? Do you draw the line at white workers, but excuse the exploitation of people of color? Do you draw the line at American workers, but excuse exploitation overseas? Do you draw the line at college-educated young adults, but excuse young military recruits being sent into excessively dangerous situations?

These are all morality arguments that hinge on the cultural norms you grew up with. And yeah, the Bernie campaign really did push back on this: Not me, us. No one needs to be sacrificed!

And such a stance is materially opposed to any political party representing the ruling class. Like, say, the DNC. A capitalist political party that really does love rules and formality and civility…which is why Trump is so offensive to them. He’s so crass, it’s no wonder the poors love him (which…they don’t really, but reality’s never stopped the libs before).

The libs love a good loophole, are suspicious of real democracy, and they want to maintain their own class (the ruling class) far more than they want their own little cultural wing of the party to succeed. Sure, they think Trump lacks taste, but at least he isn’t talking about redistribution.

They’re so ineffective, it almost seems…performative. Like they don’t really oppose Trump’s political agenda that much, they just think he’s gauche.

You fell for one of the classic blunders: the popular front vs. the united front.

Running a candidate in the DNC didn’t destroy the DNC this time, but there’s always 2024, boys.

The Bernie campaign wasn’t a workers movement, so much as it was a popular front due to its reliance on the DNC. A popular front is an alliance between workers and the capitalist ruling class…one that relies on that capitalist class support to sustain itself. The issue with this sort of organizing lies in that fundamental power imbalance. While workers in the movement sacrifice their political goals in an effort to make “realistic” demands (e.g. demands the ruling class may willingly give up), the ruling class is never actually obligated to give anything. You’ve made it clear you think working with them is the only route to power. You’re not a threat to them, so why would they give up anything?

This was the flaw in trying to “take over” the Democratic party. You’ve literally told them you don’t think a workers movement is possible without backing from the DNC. The leftwing of the capitalist class isn’t you’re fucking roommate…they’re not just going to give you rights because you showed a willingness to compromise.

This is opposed to the united front, which is a coalition of working people who unite around a shared political goal. For instance, the push for ending child labor in the US constituted a united front, with some groups in the coalition being explicitly socialist, while others were the working children themselves, many of whom likely did not identify as socialist. Still, others may have been small business owners (who are not actually in the capitalist ruling class despite not entirely being workers either).

The united front doesn’t need to make concessions to some ruling class allies to sustain itself. As such, it is typically this type of coalition-building that lends to a weakening of ruling class power, as opposed to a mere reshuffling of how labor exploitation occurs. Child labor laws didn’t mean adult workers would need to work longer hours at lower pay…they meant capitalists materially got to extract less profit from laborers. This was an actual economic win for the working class.

Of course, if your organizations dissolve because “we did it,” you risk capitalists slinking back to steal back the profits they lost while no one’s organized enough to react. They’ll always extract as much profit as they think they can get away with. My boyfriend grew up doing unpaid labor for commercial construction projects…so child labor in the US. This was in a religious cult, so the upaid part made him “closer to God,” or some shit. It also made the cult leader/capitalist a shit load of money. And while this might surprise some that this took place in the US, I hope it’s not news that US corporations use overseas child labor all the time.

This is what happens when your movement is about reshuffling oppressions, rather than materially changing conditions for all workers. Stop giving up ground to a capitalist party that literally owes you nothing in return. Meanwhile, that compromising is very often what’s limiting your movement. If your organizing could include all workers in the US, but you limit your scope to citizens as a stipulation of a popular front alliance with the capitalist class…the capitalists will fuck you over, and you’ve just shown non-citizens that their rights are negotiable. That is more damaging to the movement than telling the ruling class you will not capitulate to their demands. Honestly, that’s very likely why they proposed you do it in the first place. They didn’t just waste your time, they set you back.

That’s how you get supposed feminists telling rape survivors that they’re morally bad if they don’t vote for the blue rapist. That’s how you get all these motivated leftists thinking, what the fuck do I do now? That’s how you get people throwing up their hands and bailing on the political realm altogether. It’s how you get people thinking politics is just voting. That’s how you get black, transgender, and disabled comrades feeling like they have no place in the movement aside from occasionally being some sacrificial pawn so we can maintain an alliance with capital.

For more, read The Tactic of the United Front and How it Differs from the Popular Front (pdf) by Les Evans, and consider looking into a revolutionary socialist party, such as Socialist Resurgence. I also highly recommend you check out the article Corbynism Lost, Sandersism is Losing: Why Working Within Capitalist Parties Fails by Ezra Brain on Left Voice.

Educational Examples

Biased science.

Science is always biased. Yeah, even if there’s a lot of math in it. I’m not anti-math or anti-science…quite the opposite, really. And while I don’t really care to go into my personal background too much here, suffice to say I have a lot of experience in scientific research and mathematical modeling. And while I’m opposed to professionalization barring people from discussing science (why will likely be made clear by the end of this essay), my point is that I am what most would consider to be a professional scientist and/or mathematician. Getting to that point was difficult: my family’s never had enough money, and they’ve never put much weight on academic achievement. That’s not to say they weren’t supportive, more that it was often pretty blurry to them what they were even supporting me to do. I mean, it was blurry even to me. It still feels like I stumbled through schooling, all just to wind up poorer than my high school dropout older brother. But I kept doing it, not because I’m a high-achiever or a hard worker. I’m not, which was a real fucking disappointment to a lot of project advisors and professors, honestly. I just liked it. And despite my chronic disinterest in attaining any sort of official marker of success, I’d make myself push through all sorts of bullshit if it meant I got to keep doing research. 

However, I take issue with a lot of this sort of “mythos” around scientific research, tech development, and modeling. It’s not objective and unbiased. I don’t even mean that it’s sometimes biased, I’m saying it’s always biased. It just is. In the words of Ben Shapiro, noted opinion-haver, facts don’t care about your feelings. You can’t avoid it.  

All scientific research, and all mathematical models require assumptions. And the prevailing ideology of the culture you live in is going to influence what assumptions you make. This isn’t necessarily bad, it simply is. However, science, models, and tech-development tend to go bad when we decide that those assumptions don’t matter, when they do, or when we insist there is no value-judgement motivating the assumptions (e.g. that these assumptions are universal, rather than relative to some sort of ideology/value system). This can be as seemingly-mundane as the assumption that knowing what a molecular bond structure looks like matters. If it didn’t matter, then why bother to create the electron microscope? Why bother to use an electron microscope when you’re studying a molecular compound? Why assume zooming-in on the substance will be more useful than, say, eating it? Why do we even care about the substance? Do we think it can be useful to medicine, and want to improve medical treatments? Do we think this knowledge is intellectually valuable independent of application? You can’t begin a research project without making value judgements on what matters. 

Consider a more specific example: painkillers. Deciding that treating physical pain matters, even if it doesn’t address physical damage, is highly motivated by ideology. It’s only logical to pursue pain treatment if you’ve already made the value judgement: does it matter if someone’s in physical pain? Keep in mind that saying no doesn’t mean you’re more objective. Deciding that it doesn’t matter is still a value-judgement. There’s no objective answer, and if you’re in search of one…buddy, that’s ideology (1) making you think such objectivity is valuable, and (2) masking what subjective values are actually driving your decision-making process. If you ask me, it’s bad to blind yourself from your own system of values. And my saying that is, itself, a value judgement. 

This may seem pedantic until you realize how much these assumptions can impact actual people. For example, consider the concept of “predictive policing.” In the city of Chicago, violent crime and limited police officers motivated the Chicago Police to invest in crime-predicting software:

The Chicago police will use data and computer analysis to identify neighborhoods that are more likely to experience violent crime, assigning additional police patrols in those areas.

How Big Bad Data Could Make Policing Worse, Fast Company

This may sound all well and good to a lot of people; however, an algorithm like this requires the assumption that the data we have on violent crime in Chicago is representative of all violent crime in Chicago. Further, patrolling could be based on violent crime data, but police would still be capable of arresting people for, say, underage drinking, once they’re there patrolling the area…are we assuming more run-ins with police at a young age will have no influence on a person later in life? Are we assuming it doesn’t matter if it does? Also, what counts as violent crime? According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, violent crime includes “murder, rape and sexual assault, robbery, and assault.” Rape is considered to be the most underreported of all violent crime, so data would almost certainly underrepresent acts of sexual assault. Does that matter? Whatever your answer is, that is a value-judgement. Further, wealth will often mean you have the means to (1) not get caught, and (2) argue the severity of the charges down in court, or even have them completely dropped. On (1), if you murder someone on your private estate, you’re less likely to be caught than if you do it on the streets. On (2), consider Jeffrey Epstein (deceased), the financier arrested for sex trafficking in 2019. 

Epstein’s arrest has brought his many high-level connections into scrutiny. Epstein counts many famous figures in his social circle, including President Donald Trump—who once referred to him as a “terrific guy” —Prince Andrew and former President Bill Clinton, who took trips on his private jet. 

Here’s What to Know About the Sex Trafficking Case Against Jeffrey Epstein, Time

There is credible rape allegations against high-profile people (like Joe Biden and Donald Trump), and more often than not, these people are never convicted. Even ignoring the role of corruption, this is unsurprising. A private jet isn’t going to have witnesses, surveillance footage, or police patrolling capable of catching criminals in the act. If we don’t acknowledge what assumptions go into this model, “predictive policing” can quickly turn into the over-policing of poor, black neighborhoods under the guise of “math.” It could also lead us to severely underestimate violence done by the very wealthy. Which, really bold assumption to deem that insignificant.

Algorithms like this have actually been proposed for non-violent crime-prediction (see the book Weapons of Math Destruction). This requires even more ideological value-assumptions. For instance, do we want police cracking down more on drug usage? A homeless person doing drugs is far more likely to have a run-in with police than someone doing drugs inside their own home, and this would skew police drug-usage data. Should homeless people be subjected to more policing than the wealthy? Should we invest in more police, or housing? Should we do neither? How do we invest? Do we tax the rich? Or do we prohibit the rich from profiting off wage labor entirely? 

Are capitalists valuable to society? 

Ideology influences how you observe something. If you believe racial differences play a fundamental role in behavior, this is going to change how you interpret both the present and the past. If you believe achievement is primarily based on merit, then you may ignore other factors leading to someone’s accomplishments. Ideology is deeply-ingrained, and often only subconsciously influences how we see the world. And just as you can’t set up a scientific experiment without making assumptions, you can’t navigate through the world without some sort of ideology…you can’t overcome ideological thinking.

But you can and (based on my own value judgement) should aim to be aware of what assumptions/values go into your own ideology, as well as the ideology motivating others (especially at the societal-level). For instance, do you think it’s bad to be angry? Is it good to be happy? Is it your responsibility to be happy, so as to not interfere with someone else’s happiness? Do you think people always act in self-interest? Do people even know what they want? What do you mean when you say someone is optimistic? Does civility matter? Are evictions inherently violent? What does it mean to be patriotic? 

Is Harry Potter cool? The answer is no. Who imagines a world where magic is real, and everything is still regulated by bureaucrats. That’s fucking lame as shit.

For a look at how ideology relates to our response to the COVID-19 crisis, check out the following articles:

Isolating COVID-19: alienated crises, and the crisis of alienation

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” ― Helen Keller Neoliberalism largely functions via alienation, and crisis is not excluded from this. The inherent instability of capitalism inevitably leads to crisis; however, the experience of crisis is very often isolatedㅡby geographical region, time, or type. For example, economic expansion requires […]

Tasks and Perspectives

Pass the Nigerian climate change bill NOW!

Featured image: (2018) The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) reports that Nigeria has about 139 gas flare locations spread across the Niger Delta both in onshore and offshore oil fields.

Despite the global ecological devastation caused by climate change (especially in Nigeria), the Nigerian government has done little to implement legislation that will put a check on oil companies and other large industries polluting the environment. 80% of all wastewater coming from Nigerian industrial facilities receives no form of treatment whatsoever, and approximately 40m litres are spilled in just the Niger Delta region of Nigeria annually, often causing dangerous gas flaring that can kill hundreds of people. These industries continue to pollute our waters and destroy our farmland, making it impossible to fish or grow food. The response by the governmentㅡpast and presentㅡhas not been impressive. Indeed they’ve left many families homeless, hungry, and without access to clean drinking water, leading to cancerous diseases and other forms of illness.

Further, there has been little to no academic curriculum adjustment that will teach the younger generations of Nigeria the devastating effects of climate change, let alone the causes or remediation solutions. One can’t help but wonder if this is a deliberate act ensuring the Nigerian working classes suffer the brunt of this ecological disaster, all while left in the dark to what is happening to their soils and their waterways so that they are not inclined to speak out. It would seem the capitalist forces in power care only for increasing their profits, even at the expense of the ecosystem and the Nigerian people.

Rather than environmental justice, Nigerian families are being subjected to violent mass forced evictions, often in defiance of court orders.

The Unite4Action-Nigeria branch is on a mission to spread awareness and raise consciousness in Nigeria, especially among the youths. We want to educate the people on the causes and consequences of climate change, as well as how us Nigerians can push for remediation and political change to end the destruction. To my fellow workers of the world, please join Unite4Action-Nigerian in demanding the Nigerian government implement the Nigerian Climate Change Commission Bill into law immediately by signing our petition. This bill would compel multinational companies and industries to stop the pollution of our waterways, which currently ranges from oil spillage, to plastic and industrial wastewater disposal. Runoff further leads to the destruction of our farmlands, causing an outright public health risk. THE NIGERIAN NATIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE COMMISSION BILL was introduced in the National Assembly years ago, yet we’ve gotten little information on when the bill will be passed into law. The government must act now!

For more on the impacts of climate change in Nigeria, read our article discussing the ecological devastation in Nigeria! Also consider contributing to our Patreon: