On China

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First as tragedy then as farce

Is a book by Zizek that makes the case for the communist Idea both through his critique of capitalism and by extension liberal democracy and the religion of free market economy that by all reasonable standards have failed to deliver what they promised to the majority.

I think it was Churchill who is said to have uttered these words

Democracy is the worst form of government except all others

And since then any attempt to critique democracy is met with the dismissal that communism has been tried and failed and so we must resign ourselves to the worst system. This kind of criticism is, in my view, uncritical.

There is hardly any place where we have democracy, that is, a government of the people by the people. We have instead increased authoritarianism that purports to hold elections. In effect what we have is a parliamentary dictatorship where power resides not with the people but with the ruling elite.

A case can actually be made for a proletariat dictatorship which does not only change who is in power but changes to a non-statal existence destroying all that which came before it.

Zizek talks too about the current privatization of the commons through what is called intellectual property where the intellectual product is mediated by private capital ala Bill Gates or Apple.

Another thing I find very interesting is what Zizek proposes as a response to anyone who accuses us of undermining democracy. He writes

That one’s answer should be a paraphrase of what Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist manifesto: the ruling order is itself already doing all the undermining necessary.

He continues

In the same way that (market) freedom is unfreedom for those who sell their labour-power, in the same way that the family is undermined by the bourgeois family as legalised prostitution, democracy is undermined by the parliamentary form with its concomitant passivization of the large majority, as well as by the growing executive power employed by the increasingly influential logic of the emergency state.

Its a good read. Interesting. Well written and argued.

The rich man is a thief

The above is the conclusion of Basil of Caesarea, who in the fourth century wrote

 “‘Upon whom,’ he (the private proprietor) says, ‘do I inflict any injury in retaining and conserving that which is mine?’ What things, tell me, are yours.  yours? Whence did you bring them into the world? You rich act like a man who, being the first to enter a theatre, would keep all others out, regarding as his own that which was intended for the common use of all. For you appropriate to yourselves the common heritage, simply because you were the first occupants. Whereas, if every man took only what was sufficient for his needs, leaving the rest to those in want, there would be no rich and no poor. Naked you came from the womb; naked you shall return to earth. Whence your present possessions? If you say, ‘from fate,’ you are impious, since you do not recognize the Creator nor render thanks to the Giver; if you answer, ‘from God,’ then tell me why you have received them. Is God so unjust as to distribute the necessaries of life inequitably? Why are you rich and your neighbor poor? Is it not to enable you to receive the reward of benevolence and upright stewardship, while he obtains the crown merited by patience? Yet you fancy that you do no injustice when you gather all things into the fathomless recesses of your greed. Who is the avaricious man? The man who is not satisfied with enough. Are not you, then, avaricious? Are you not a despoiler? For you have made your own that which you have received to distribute. Is he not called a thief who strips a man of his clothes? And he who will not clothe the naked when he can,-is he deserving of a different appellation? The bread that you keep in your possession belongs to the hungry; the cloak in your closet, to the naked; the shoes that you allow to rot, to the barefooted, and your hoarded silver, to the indigent. Hence you have done injustice to as many as you have failed to help.”

Were the church fathers communists[pdf]? John A Ryan doesn’t think so.

Stealing from the poor presents quotes from selected church fathers and comments by readers.