Monday, March 29, 2010

Communist Revolution today

This has little to do with being gay or catholic, but I wrote it just now for Facebook and thought I'd share it here.

Copy and Paste--you're my friend!

So I'm sitting in SEL between classes and decided to visit my old favorite website, Gotta love the extensive library they have. And all for free! In the purely communistic spirit of communal ownership of the intellectual endeavors of the people, you can read whatever you want concerning class struggle, militarism vs. passivity, etc. It's wonderful. But I started reading Rosa Luxemburg (I am such a Luxemburgist) as I am wont to do, and settled into her article "The Militia and Militarism." (You can find it here: And now I'm going to discuss the conditions of our country that mimic the conditions of Germany at the end of the nineteenth century when she was writing. Ahem.

Rosa Luxemburg as do all socialists from this period talks a lot about the working man. Specifically, she is discussing the issue of establishing a German militia, giving every man a gun, and how the Reichstag denied this possibility because it wouldn't be able to pay for it. Rosa's critique is primarily critical of privileged taxation, as the Spartacan League was advocating at the time for a graduated income tax that would tax more heavily the wealthy. The Reichstag didn't even entertain this idea. In America we do have a militia (called the National Guard you right-wing Second Amendment gun nuts!) and it is paid for by the graduated income tax. The issue here is that even with the graduated income tax, wealthy Americans generally do not pay the full amount according to law, and the insanely convoluted tax code of the American system is to blame.

This leads me into the usage of "working man" in today's American economy. We no longer have an economy of the wealthy vs. labor. Instead we have an economy that is predominantly service-oriented, one that generates enormous amounts of wealth for a lot of people. One could almost argue that the American dream is that which allows anyone to tap into this enormous amount of wealth regardless of background. But is it really so easy?

I am currently in dire straits as far as funding for my schooling is concerned. I was on academic probation because I was an idiot and failed a few classes. I did everything that was asked of me in regards to getting off probation, but instead of getting a 2.0 I got a 1.993. Now my financial aide is in jeopardy. Attending Ohio Wesleyan, I was privileged to watch some of the wealthiest children of the wealthiest Americans pay for their schooling in cash...and reap the rewards of the vast amounts of scholarships and grants given to them because of their parents' alumni status. Many of them were investors in the university as well. Given this, I can only assume that other schools, notably state universities that have less liquid income generally without donations and legacies, would have a bigger issue with this. Anecdotally, I have heard stories of this same exact thing happening at Ohio State.

So, the working man is no longer based in a factory, but is instead based in the lower-income brackets of American service industries. They work diligently to send their children to school so they can have an easier time of it later. But their children are discriminated against because their parents are not a) alumni or b) beneficiaries of the university at which their children are attending. So financial aide becomes paramount and the policies of FDR and other rather socially-minded administrations comes into play.

The Federal Government legislated that federal aide is given to students who need it. Universities set standards of academic performance and punish those who fail to meet them. The question is, when does punishment administered by an institution include withholding governmental awards?

When the person in question is poor, without connections, and lacks any chance at academic nepotism. The problems of the class system that were so obvious in Luxemburg's day have become hidden by the shadowy promise of a university degree. Foreign students have a higher tuition to attend, but they receive grants and scholarships that are paid for by the poor students' taxes. Yet a poor student who genuinely wishes to learn but has no way to pay for his schooling outside of financial aide is denied even after he meets the basic requirements of lifting his punishment. The class struggle suddenly becomes much harder to pinpoint because this could be anyone who has lapsed in his academic rigor and suddenly finds his future being held hostage over less than a hundredth of a percentage point.

Luxemburg advocated the application of the parliamentary system to all institutions, especially those funded by the state. Universities are notoriously anti-democratic, even as they champion the cause of student governments. The board of trustees controls the money and the policies, student government pretends to influence these decisions. When student government comes in conflict with the trustees, the trustees know they only have to wait a few years for the troublemakers to be gone. And if it's undergraduate student government, they can pay even less mind to the little upstarts.

As an analogy, the trustees can be thought of as the gentry of pre-republican Europe, and the student government the local organizations of labor and students. The former is content to keep things the way they are and the latter is the primary cause of agitation. Just as the labor organizations and peasants made the money for the gentry, the students who are present in student government (along with the rest of their peers) make the money for the university. The trustees are paid out of our tuition, the university is maintained with our tuition, and the football team (which I loathe with such a virulent passion) is paid for, maintained, and kept in part because of the university's all-pervasive sports worship. This trickles into the community and draws in extra-university funds into the university. So the trustees which represent the university to the larger community are doing things to appease the wealthier gentry outside the board and ignoring the plight of many within their hallowed halls.

Here, again, we see a muddling of the class struggle. Who amongst the student body is feeling the persecution of the ransom of financial aide? Who amongst the student body feels the tensions between trustee and student? Who amongst the student body realizes that they, as the primary source of university income, have almost no say in how the university is run? Parliamentarianism in the university would do away with the trustees and have an institution for the students of the students and by the students. Does it not make sense that a government that is supposedly a vox populi should be the model for all other institutions? If the customer is the driving force behind corporations and commercialism in general, why is the student not considered the driving force behind his education? The failure of the university to realize where the power should lie contributes in large part to the poorest sections of our society failing to even attend university, and further propagates the larger class struggle outside the university walls. Those of us within the university are so intermingled its hard to distinguish those who are unfairly profiting from the system from those who are unfairly being hindered by it. This miraculously successful tactic keeps discussion of these issues at a minimum and prevents too much agitation from reaching the ears of the trustees.

Even now we see the ongoing riots at UCLA and UCS over tuition hikes, in which hundreds of students were arrested after several buildings on their respective campuses were taken over. There the students have shown how little control they actually have in the day-to-day management of their education which they have to pay for. But why do students only get upset over tuition hikes? Why do they not get upset at the system itself? Because angering the system endangers this idyllic future that is promised by that degree. Unfortunately, as the percentages of degree-holders go up, it becomes harder and harder to achieve that idyllic goal without even more degrees, more schooling, more money, and more slavish devotion to a discriminatory system. Much in the same way that the Jews in Nazi Germany failed to rise up against a system hell-bent on destroying them, students feel no compunction in assimilating into the system that is actually designed to mold a supposedly free-thinking individual into the perfect model of the status quo.

Socialism in Luxemburg's time was easier to define as Marxism has inherent in it an us vs. them mentality. But when it becomes incredibly difficult to determine who is us and who is them, how then are we to agitate for socialism in the very place it was born? I'm at a loss on how to go about figuring out this problem. I've advocated free education before free healthcare for a while, but apparently, nobody in this country wants that, least of all the philandering politicians. Instead of arming everyone with guns, lets arm everyone with an education. How are we to pay for it? Simplify the tax code. Be done with owing taxes and be done with getting refunds. Everyone pays according to their tax bracket and that's that. Make the wealthy pay their share. Make the poor pay their share. Alleviate the burden on the only class that actually pays--the lower middle. This is a concept that is revolutionary in the fact that those with the power to enact it have never thought of it, just as the Reichstag could not conceive of a graduated income tax in Luxemburg's time.

So I guess if we were to continue our parallel with Luxemburg, we'd say "The Intellect and Intellectualism." Arm everyone with an education. Pay for that. Then, when we're all living our idyllic degree-granting fantasies, we can afford to offer free health care without tax increases. Everyone gets what they want, and the trustees can rest easy knowing that their agitated student bodies are placated for a while longer.

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