Observing the Fourth of July

exchange with a fellow blogger, I wrote that it was curious to claim that somehow my colonist descendants had human rights while Kanaka Maoli did not and I did not know whether he was simply trying to provoke a response or whether he was actually asserting that the early Anglo community that settled and occupied the Iroquois Confederacy were practitioners of human rights. Americans, who in defending rights we may not have fully thought through, are betraying our Declaration, in essence, rendering it meaningless. The Fourth of July should remind us to fight for its protection and not its corruption. On this Fourth of July, can we stand behind our Declaration of Independence and acknowledge that Hawaiian independence is as much an American right, as it is a Hawaiian right and an International right? If we cannot, we are continuing to belittle, corrupt and add to its devaluation. As conventional history continues to perpetuate and mythologize the Revolutionary War as a war fought only between Euro-colonists, it is also distorting history by dismissing the profound influence of the Iroquois and the five nations that comprised them, especially concerning law and human rights. Even before the landing of the first pilgrims, the Cayuga, the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onandaga and the Seneca had formed a confederacy of peace among peoples that centuries later, profoundly affected Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. We know that it was only after the introduction of the European technology of guns and firearms that this five-hundred year pact was derailed by the manipulations of missionaries and fur merchants (sound familiar?). The Kanaka Maoli too, had laws, language, and a system of governance developed in accord with the system that evolved alongside the other islander groups spread throughout the Pacific. When my blogger friend defines laws of slavery and human sacrifice as being barbaric, he is simply imposing his own conventional history of slavery and human sacrifice. Our American history of slavery for example, is not complex. It is simply tied to our pre-capitalist greed. Slavery meant only that we would reap the reward over the labor of chattel. Human sacrifice for us meant nothing more than a spectacle, our obsession for cruelty and torture, institutionalized propaganda. Our cultural evolution was not marked by the same principles of community and evolved responsibilities that marked other first peoples, it was marked by technology. We need to re-think the evolution of peoples and learn not to prioritize technological advancement as the mark of an advanced civilization. Anthropologist Valerio Valeri, in “Kingship and Sacrifice,” attempts to describe these practices in Hawai’i. President Lincoln delivered his Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, which was the executive order that declared the freedom of all slaves.  Eleven years earlier, in 1852, Kamehameha III delivered his Declaration of Rights which as Art.12 states: Slavery shall, under no circumstances whatsoever be tolerated in the Hawaiian Islands: whenever a slave shall enter Hawaiian territory he shall be free…” Also, in his King’s Speech at the Opening of the 1850 Legislature, and despite complaints by some of his missionary advisors, Kamehameha III also encouraged inter-racial marriage, which the U.S. at that time vehemently and legislatively opposed. If anything, the influence of American culture/democratic ideals on the issue of culture and race in Hawaii has been over-determined and negative since annexation policies were asserted in the Organic Act in 1900. It was only after Annexation that Hawaii saw stricter immigration policies imposed.  It was at this time that the forced assimilation of the Kanaka Maoli to American culture began through the institutionalized displacement of Hawaiian language and culture. I would happily suggest that had Kanaka Maoli landed among the Iroquois Peoples before the Euro-colonists waged their xenophobic and genocidal traditions, we would have evolved as a nation quite differently, and perhaps our observance of July 4th would then, really be a celebration.]]>

13 comments for “Observing the Fourth of July

  1. Pannekoek
    July 5, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I won’t celebrate the 4th of July. I agree with the article about the horrors of imperialism and colonialism. But to substitute Hawaiian nationalism for European is not appealing.
    There is not a word about class in this, or many similar articles that focus on culture as defining the problem. Hawaiian culture had rigidly stratified class hierarchy, and that’s bad.
    Hawaiian cultural technologies are often superior to hi-tech capitalist production, one example with agriculture and care for the land. But if we don’t address class issues, we’re doomed to keep reproducing the capitalist mechanisms that pit ethnic groups against one another to obscure and defeat any chance that wage slaves might band together in solidarity.
    Critiques that jettison class serve ruling class goals, bolstering isolated national or ethnic enclaves striving to carve out their right to play as other nations do, leaving the working class in the same deprivation as before. There’s no benevolent class oppression.

  2. Jere Krischel
    July 7, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    “Horrors of imperialism and colonialism” seems to be an unnecessary qualification to simply the “horrors of mankind.” Every society from every culture has had horrors -> even the “native” Hawaiians denuded the sandalwood forests and drove native species to extinction. And every society and every culture struggles with class boundaries and socioeconomic caste structures.
    That all being said, celebration of the 4th of July seems particularly appropriate for those striving towards a more egalitarian, merit based world. The United States has had its missteps, but certainly on the whole has helped to promulgate ideals and ideology around the world that has greatly forwarded the ideas of equality and progress.
    As Churchill wryly noted, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
    Happy 4th of July!

  3. Jere Krischel
    July 7, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    “On this Fourth of July, can we stand behind our Declaration of Independence and acknowledge that Hawaiian independence is as much an American right, as it is a Hawaiian right and an International right?”
    The declaration of independence was driven by the idea of taxation without representation. The citizens of Hawaii, regardless of race, have ample representation in both local, state, and federal government. As a small state, we have even more say that the more populous ones because of our powerful Senators, and even the President himself is a native born son. To try and equate radial racial sovereignty groups in Hawaii to the patriots who helped found our nation with the Declaration of Independence is a poor judge of the context of both situations.
    The representative electorate of the Territory of Hawaii overwhelmingly voted for union with the United States in 1959, with over 94% of voters choosing statehood. Prince Kuhio, and most of the native Hawaiian politicians of the early 20th century strived for statehood, and the benefits it would bring. Certainly, the multi-racial State of Hawaii would have a right of independence, if it so chose, but a small, disaffected and radical minority claiming to have succession rights to the Kingdom in contravention to the universal international recognition of the sovereign Republic of Hawaii has no such right to be recognized.
    “The Kanaka Maoli too, had laws, language, and a system of governance developed in accord with the system that evolved alongside the other islander groups spread throughout the Pacific.”
    Can’t you say that also of the “people of Hawaii,” rather than ascribing it to a racial group? What is the essential difference between the several hundred years of isolation of the conquering Tahitians, and their eventual identification as “Hawaiians,” and the several hundred years of the multi-racial Kingdom, Republic, Territory and State of Hawaii, and our identification as “Hawaiians?”
    Pre-1778 was a brutal time in the Hawaiian Islands. Constant warfare, an oppressive religious class system, incest, slavery, torture, rampant misogyny and an environmental record which included the devastation of many native plants and animals is hardly something to be nostalgic about. Not to say that this isn’t true of every society -> all of our ancestors have at one time or another, raped, pillaged, plundered and otherwise acted in ways today considered incontrovertibly immoral. But let’s be honest with each other, and recognize that our common humanity lies in our common failings, and that there is nothing unique about anyone’s story in this world. We are each other, we are all human, all perfect and all flawed.

  4. Jere Krischel
    July 7, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    “I would happily suggest that had Kanaka Maoli landed among the Iroquois Peoples before the Euro-colonists waged their xenophobic and genocidal traditions, we would have evolved as a nation quite differently, and perhaps our observance of July 4th would then, really be a celebration.”
    Had the warriors of some ali’i nui, descendant of the Tahitians who wiped out the first Hawaiians (originally from the Marquesas), landed among the Iroquois People, there is no doubt they would have treated them just as they treated the first Hawaiians -> they would have conquered them, enslaved them, called them “kauwa,” used them for human sacrifice, and continued their march onwards once the had used up the resources they had taken from the Iroquois. To pretend otherwise is dishonest. Genocide and xenophobia are not the exclusive province of white europeans, nor are white europeans a monolithic group which should be ascribed such venom and bile.
    What we should be celebrating is the fact that we can all learn from the mistakes of our ancestors, none of whom were innocents, and that the ideals put forth in the Declaration of Independence are worthy ones for all people, regardless of time or space.

  5. arnie
    July 7, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    At some point we have to stop saying that 94% of voters voted for statehood. The only time that number makes sense is when one clarifies the 94%, as those that actively voted “yes” or “no” on the ballot asking whether Hawaii should become a state or remain a territory.
    Really the number of “voters” (meaning those who voted) in the general election should be 77%.
    And as was discussed in a previous article, the number drops to 35% when framed in the context of voter eligiblity.
    http://statehoodhawaii.org/wp/index.php/2009/05/12/the-statehood-plebiscite/

  6. Jere Krischel
    July 7, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    94% of the representative electorate voted in favor of statehood. Although this may have only been .0001% of the world population, or some other lower fraction of some arbitrary larger number, this electorate was the duly representative electorate of the people of Hawaii. Asserting that it was anything less than a nearly unanimous sentiment in favor of statehood is disingenuous.
    A representative democracy does not work like a census, where every individual must be counted -> a portion of the population (adult, registered voters) is representative of the interests of the whole. Those who decide not to vote on a question cannot be considered “against” (neither could they be considered “for”), so it is perfectly valid to leave them out of the equation of representative sentiment of the whole population.
    Certainly the overwhelming vote for statehood represented a greater population sentiment than any radical sovereignty group could ever argue exists today…yet somehow, these so-called “independence” activists don’t find a problem with being a tiny, tiny fraction of the electorate of the State of Hawaii, and in no way, shape or form representative of any major fraction of the population.
    How does one reconcile that? If you want to complain that the 1959 election was not an enumeration of the sentiment of every island resident, how can we “reinstate” a long gone kingdom on the basis of a group smaller by several orders of magnitude?

  7. admin
    July 8, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Even if I were to discount the invalid process by which this 1959 vote had occurred and disregarded the biased variables and other disparities, and simply conceeded to your assertion that Hawaii’s eligible voters was a representative electorate, you still couldn’t assert 96%. Even with your representative electorate theory, out of those that voted, still only 77% chose to vote yes that they no longer wanted Hawaii to be a territory.

  8. Jere Krischel
    July 8, 2009 at 12:26 am

    I can still assert 94% because making no choice is simply discarded. We don’t count them one way or the other in a binary process, such as an election with yes or no questions. It is just as likely that they would have voted “yes” if pushed to a decision as if they had voted “no.” In a voting democracy, like it or not, people with no opinion simply don’t count.
    That all being said, again, how do you reconcile a critique of the overwhelming 1959 statehood vote, without also leveling the same critique at the miniscule minority of so-called “independence” seekers, who wish to rip the 50th star off of the flag?

  9. Jere Krischel
    July 8, 2009 at 12:50 am

    How about we leave it at this – less than 6% of the population voted against statehood. Maybe glass-half-empty works better than glass-half-full in this case.
    Would you object to that characterization, that during the Statehood vote, only a tiny fraction of the population, less than 6% of the representative electorate, and certainly less than 2% of the total population, voted against statehood?
    Now that I think about it, I like that…according to your analysis, only 7971 people voted against statehood. For a voting population of 381,859, that means only 2.09% of the people voted against statehood. For a total population of 632,772, that means only 1.26% actually voted no.

  10. Pannekoek
    July 11, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    JK: “Horrors of imperialism and colonialism” seems to be an unnecessary qualification to simply the “horrors of mankind.”
    P: This is ahistorical to the point of absurdity. You want us to boil our analysis down to some silly notion of “human nature” with the goal of justifying the world as it currently is. Your position is Panglossian as your clichéd quote from Churchill shows. Why did colonialism and imperialism coincide with the development of nation states and accelerate with the rise of industrialism and the extension of capitalism from formal to real domination throughout the globe? Is our current system a mirror of “human nature”? If so, why are there so many uprisings around the globe against it? Why does it need huge police forces and armies to ensure its existence if it is simply “natural”?
    JK: …every society and every culture struggles with class boundaries and socioeconomic caste structures.
    P: Class relations within capitalist social relations are very specific historically. They have to do with the extraction of surplus value from the labor power of the proletariat, a class that MUST sell its labor to survive, but which is simultaneously alienated from the product of its labor or control over production. This is why class consciousness is a precursor for fighting oppression today. You take it in a totally different (Right Libertarian/Neo-liberal) direction when you claim “it’s always been this way and it can be no other way.” And you act as if “society” struggles together to eliminate class/caste. This shows you have not the first inkling of what class struggle is. It is a struggle BETWEEN classes, the owning class and the working class (at its most simple description). The owning class has no interest in eliminating this system, in fact they RELY on it to keep extracting profit from the labor of “their” workers.
    JK: “Hawaiians denuded the sandalwood forests”
    P: Again, utterly without context so as to remove any meaning. Why were Hawaiians denuding sandalwood forests? Contact between their own class based society and the Europeans led to accelerated capitalist production for the world market. You can’t acknowledge this because your whole bogus “egalitarian democratic capitalist US” free society shows a lot of rot if you examine in it with any rigor, as does any national project.
    JK: celebration of the 4th of July seems particularly appropriate for those striving towards a more egalitarian, merit based world.
    P: Capitalism is a system based on plunder and requires brute force to maintain itself. From the enclosures in Europe to the artificially induced famines which killed millions at the hands of Democratic parliamentary regimes in the Third World, to the state capitalist regimes of “communist” countries, to the current condition of 1 billion people who face constant hunger and malnutrition, the system is a dud. To say it is based on merit is a crazy delusion. Most people work their entire lives in this system and have nothing to show for it. Are the millions of people annually facing foreclosure in the US somehow without merit? Are they all lazy good for nothings? Predictably you will claim the current crisis is due to the over regulation of the normally good capitalism.
    Are you following the massive uprisings against capital that are ongoing around the world? If so, why do you think people are so upset with this “best of all systems”? Perhaps they all hate egalitarianism and freedom.
    JK: To try and equate radial racial sovereignty groups in Hawaii to the patriots who helped found our nation with the Declaration of Independence is a poor judge of the context of both situations.
    P: Again, you miss the point in a big way. You play your “anti-race” card without acknowledging that capitalism in Hawaii depended on and encouraged racism and racial separatism on (just one example) the plantations to diminish worker solidarity and power. The Founding Fathers, for whatever good aspects of the Enlightenment the Declaration embodies, did the same, obviously, by laws dealing with black slaves and white indentured servants, creating a racial hierarchy to separate them. The later ruling class tactic of importing blacks as strike breakers is another example of deliberate use of race to attack workers (who sadly, too often did buy into the notion of their own skin privilege in the class hierarchy, but fighting anarcho-commie unions like the Wobblies helped to lay the foundation for anti-racist and anti-capitalist struggle).
    The point is not that Hawaiians are wrong to vividly outline the exploitation and genocidal consequences of the overthrow of the kingdom, and the ongoing inequity for Hawaiians. The point, for many of us, is that our struggle would be addressing the roots (“radical”) of the problem by focusing on our current “universal” experience as waged (sometimes salaried) laborers who are the victims of this system. It might help for people to see that “whites” and Europeans were the first victims of modern capitalism. In many cases, Europeans may benefit from wealth extraction from peripheral zones of exploitation, but they are kept prisoner by the constant threat of outsourcing jobs and capital, and low wages anywhere on the globe help keep wages low everywhere else. “Whites” make up the largest portion of the poor in the US.
    As to your references to the allegedly legitimate electoral process in Hawaii, it is utterly without historical context. You can justify the current Iranian elections, or the outcome in Florida in 2000, with statistics cut free from history and context, but only a chump does that. A binary yes or no vote on whether or not you want to officialize and normalize oppression says nothing of what other possibilities for freedom and “democracy” are simply considered to be off the table.

  11. Jere Krischel
    July 11, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    “You want us to boil our analysis down to some silly notion of “human nature” with the goal of justifying the world as it currently is.”
    No, I want you to stop considering the evils of the world as something somehow distanced from your own ancestor’s history, and realize the common humanity we all share. Dividing people into “good” and “bad,” simply because of the color of their skin is wrong, no matter what the particular skin color considered “bad.” Asserting that the works of all white people during the 18th, 19th and 20th century were inherently white, and inherently evil, is myopic in the extreme.
    “This shows you have not the first inkling of what class struggle is. It is a struggle BETWEEN classes, the owning class and the working class (at its most simple description). ”
    And if you can simply acknowledge that there have been “owning” classes and “working” classes in every society ever created in the history of mankind, perhaps you’ll understand my point better. Certainly in pre-european contact Hawaii, there were “owning” classes and “working” classes. And certainly during the Kingdom, Republic, Territory and State of Hawaii, there have been those same class differences. As we move forward, we attempt to ameliorate the gaps between haves and have-nots, and we try to improve the general living conditions of both the haves and the have-nots, but to think that we can simply by force of will eliminate the social forces that create such differences, or perpetuate such differences, is to misunderstand the human condition.
    “Why were Hawaiians denuding sandalwood forests? Contact between their own class based society and the Europeans led to accelerated capitalist production for the world market. ”
    And so the question becomes, was the contact with Europeans simply contributing to the existing capitalist and classist society that existed in Hawaii pre-1778, or was it directly responsible for creating the ideas of capitalism and classism? I would propose to you that although it is true that opportunities opened for sandalwood trade with the contact with Europeans, there is nothing that europeans brought except for that opportunity -> the inherent humanity which strives for security, luxury and progress, with all the evils that can come along with that, was both present and viable within the pre-1778 community.
    “Capitalism is a system based on plunder and requires brute force to maintain itself.”
    Wrong. Socialism is a system based on plunder, and requires brute force to maintain itself. Capitalism is based on property rights, and the protection of private property from theft and plunder. Socialism is based on the destruction of property rights, and the so-called “egalitarian” nature of it is a smokescreen for the class based society of social engineers (politicians), and the common man. If you haven’t read “Atlas Shrugged” yet, please pick up a copy.
    “Are you following the massive uprisings against capital that are ongoing around the world?”
    What the hell does that mean? If you’re referring to leftist dictators around the world rallying the masses with the siren song of socialism, while at the same time plundering the private property rights of others in order to build their system of patronage for their own personal gains, sure, I’ve seen that. But really, how do you have an uprising “against capital?” Have you recently seen someone protest a bank? Or a company that has given them a job and a paycheck? Or the laws which protect their private property from “legal plunder” of socialism? If you haven’t read Bastiat’s “The Law” yet, please do so.
    “You play your “anti-race” card without acknowledging that capitalism in Hawaii depended on and encouraged racism and racial separatism on (just one example) the plantations to diminish worker solidarity and power.”
    Wrong. Capitalism in Hawaii did not depend on racism and racial separatism -> racism and racial separatism was a disease of the time that was completely independent of capitalism. You mistake a system of economics for a social structure here, and fail to recognize the success of the plantations and capitalism even after such racism and racial separatism was defeated. You probably also fail to recognize the failure of the labor movement, and the subsequent destruction of the agriculture economy in Hawaii, with the work simply moving to places like Costa Rica because of the untenable burdens placed on businesses by government and unions. The problem we have here is that although there were evils to be fought by the labor movement, it has turned into yet another class system, this time favoring union bosses and their cronies. Ironic, isn’t it?
    “The point, for many of us, is that our struggle would be addressing the roots (“radical”) of the problem by focusing on our current “universal” experience as waged (sometimes salaried) laborers who are the victims of this system. ”
    I think the real problem is that although we both see the same problem, we have radically different solutions. My contention is that capitalism and liberalism, with the limitation of government to the protection of private property rights, is the cure for the disease of government interference, intervention, and social malaise due to misguided victimhood delusions. Your contention seems to be that socialism and communism, with the explicit use of government to violate private property rights, would somehow bring about an utopia of equality. I think history has already proven you wrong on this point.
    “A binary yes or no vote on whether or not you want to officialize and normalize oppression says nothing of what other possibilities for freedom and “democracy” are simply considered to be off the table.”
    Less than 1.5% of the population of Hawaii voted against statehood in 1959. By any measure, freedom and democracy have increased since 1959. How you can call self-determination and self-government, and an equal participation in the Union of States as “oppression” is delusional.

  12. Pannekoek
    July 11, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    JK: No, I want you to stop considering the evils of the world as something somehow distanced from your own ancestor’s history, and realize the common humanity we all share. Dividing people into “good” and “bad,” simply because of the color of their skin is wrong, no matter what the particular skin color considered “bad.” Asserting that the works of all white people during the 18th, 19th and 20th century were inherently white, and inherently evil, is myopic in the extreme.
    P: Please show me where I write anything resembling the racist strawman you present here. In short, who are you responding to?
    JK: if you can simply acknowledge that there have been “owning” classes and “working” classes in every society ever created in the history of mankind, perhaps you’ll understand my point better. Certainly in pre-european contact Hawaii, there were “owning” classes and “working” classes. And certainly during the Kingdom, Republic, Territory and State of Hawaii, there have been those same class differences.
    P: Again, this vague moralism totally ignores history in the pursuit of saying “it’s always been just as it is now.” This is ridiculous. Social stratification was not exactly the same in Hawaiian culture, at any period, as it is in a modern industrial capitalist city or a modern Third World underdeveloped capitalist society, or any other variant thereof. The current situation is one where capitalist social relations/commodity social relations, have penetrated virtually every aspect of human life. This was clearly not the case in pre-overtrhow Hawaii. Yes, the Hawaiians had established class relations, and nowhere do I defend these as desirable or pure. But your weird and ignorant notion that “it’s all pretty much the same” correlates with the fact that you seem to know nothing about how capitalism functions, or about history.
    JK: As we move forward, we attempt to ameliorate the gaps between haves and have-nots, and we try to improve the general living conditions of both the haves and the have-nots, but to think that we can simply by force of will eliminate the social forces that create such differences, or perpetuate such differences, is to misunderstand the human condition.
    P: If you really think that “we” (assuming that the working class and the ruling class operate with the same interests at stake) all work together to eliminate inequity, then you simply have no clue about how wealth is created in a modern capitalist society. Ricardo, Adam Smith, and other classical political economists were quite open about the fact that wealth was created by labor and expropriated by owners under capitalist socialist relations. If you want to peddle some clownishly naïve fairytale about how the owning class earned their vast fortunes through “merit” be my guest.
    Where do I say anything about “force of will” eliminating “social forces.” My view is that we already have the social productive capacity to eliminate class relations, and that all that is needed is for the working class to develop class consciousness to the point that it can see its own position in the system, and then yes to act in its own interest. What requires major force of will, and this is ongoing, is the indoctrination of people to believe the sort of Horatio Alger mythology that tells us that if we all just keep our nose to the grindstone that we’ll get our payoff, and that this system is leading us in a linear fashion toward “ameliorating the gaps between the haves and the have nots.” In a system that has consistently kept 90% or more of the wealth in the hands of the top 5% of the population, your view is incredibly naïve at best, intentionally deceitful at worst.
    JK: And so the question becomes, was the contact with Europeans simply contributing to the existing capitalist and classist society that existed in Hawaii pre-1778, or was it directly responsible for creating the ideas of capitalism and classism?
    P: Here we see clearly your extreme ignorance on what capitalism is, which might explain why you continually defend it as the best of all systems. Hawaii a capitalist society pre-1778? Were they producing goods mainly for the market? Was waged labor the rule? Was agriculture under capitalist ownership producing to sell on markets for a profit? In short, you’re talking out of your hat.
    JK: I would propose to you that although it is true that opportunities opened for sandalwood trade with the contact with Europeans, there is nothing that europeans brought except for that opportunity -> the inherent humanity which strives for security, luxury and progress, with all the evils that can come along with that, was both present and viable within the pre-1778 community.
    P: Again with a moral take. No one is arguing that capitalism is “evil.” Of course humans strive for security and some type of progress toward bettering themselves. Capitalism isn’t “trade.” It’s a mode of production and a social relation. But it is also one that precludes human beings developing into fully realized individuals. Walmart is currently the largest employer in the US, with their union busting, anti-democratic, top down, hierarchical, structure in which employees are often forced to work overtime for no pay, and in which people can’t even secure set schedules that might allow them to attend to their own social/family needs (being able to pick up the kids from school practice etc.). The low wages and crap benefits also see many of these workers turning to food stamps to survive, when fully employed. If this is freedom as you see it, I disagree with your world view.
    JK: Socialism is a system based on plunder, and requires brute force to maintain itself.
    P: Classic partisan argument. But we’ve established you don’t even know what capitalism is, so how would you know what “socialism” is? In the countries you probably would define as “socialist” (Soviet or modern Russia, Cuba, Eastern European nations, China, etc.) there was state capitalism. Work for wages, from which the ruling class extracted surplus value, classes: a ruling and working class, production for markets, etc. There was state ownership of many industries, but this does not preclude competition or production for profit, and it does nothing to eliminate wages or classes.
    JK: Capitalism is based on property rights, and the protection of private property from theft and plunder.
    P: The history of private property, the ownership of the societal means of production by a small elite, is one of plunder. Look up “the commons” and “the enclosures” to start your learning journey. It’s not about someone having the right to own an ipod or a comb or a place to live. It’s about the means by which society reproduces itself being totally controlled by a small owning class that utilizes the means of production in ways that guarantee ongoing poverty and class inequity, because without a class system, there can be no profit in the sense we discuss here.
    JK: Socialism is based on the destruction of property rights, and the so-called “egalitarian” nature of it is a smokescreen for the class based society of social engineers (politicians), and the common man. If you haven’t read “Atlas Shrugged” yet, please pick up a copy.
    P: Ha ha. Wow, I didn’t realize you were a walking cliché. The notion that wage slavery, the central tool of modern capitalism, will somehow unleash the full potential of each individual is so ludicrous as to be insanity. I would suggest that the Wall Street Journal would give you a more accurate depiction of the goals of the ruling class than Ayn Rand’s purple prose, and yes I have read her books. She has no developed critique of capitalism beyond her romanticizing of it as the mirror image of her experience of Bolshevism.
    JK: What the hell does that mean? If you’re referring to leftist dictators around the world rallying the masses with the siren song of socialism, while at the same time plundering the private property rights of others in order to build their system of patronage for their own personal gains, sure, I’ve seen that.
    P: It’s not surprising that you have no clue. Here are a few very recent examples among thousands, all from this year. In Bangladesh, workers burned down their places of employment and fought riot police to protest their working conditions, which include the failure to pay workers. In France, millions carried out General strikes to protest the CPE reforms that would leave younger workers in an even more precarious condition than they are now and strip away social protections. In Britain, workers occupied the Visteon car factory after they’d been told they were “redundant” by the bosses. Massive daily protests in Greece against the governments “reform” of the education system due to the economic crisis, and other attacks on the working class continue to illustrate the mistrust of their own government that has been continuous since the days when the US propped up a right wing dictatorship post WWII. In Chicago, Republic Windows and Doors employees occupied their workplace when they were told their plant was being closed. They were demanding their severance pay required by law. I could fill a book with more examples, all of them recent, from everywhere.
    JK: But really, how do you have an uprising “against capital?” Have you recently seen someone protest a bank?
    P: Of course! The Republic Windows and doors workers forced Bank of America to the negotiating table to win their pay after BofA refused to extend the line of credit to Republic, despite having just received federal bailout money. There are thousands of protests against banks in the US against foreclosures on people who have paid huge sums to the banks, but who are currently unable to pay. The pressure is for the banks to renegotiate loans to prevent making people homeless. Sheesh, don’t you read the papers? Union members have been protesting Bank of Americas campaign against the Employee Free Choice Act, specifically the use of taxpayer dollars to fund chambers of commerce and other front group campaigns against the EFCA. In some cases, people being foreclosed on have occupied the offices of mortgage brokers, setting up their living quarters, complete with baby cribs, inside said offices to show the human side of the crisis. Over the last 15 years millions of people the world over have protested and battled against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, against “structural adjustments” designed to “rationalize” production, slash wages, social services, and benefits, in order to increase profits with the goal of maintaining healthy investment climates. So yes, obviously, people protest banks all the time, rightfully so.
    JK: Or a company that has given them a job and a paycheck?
    P: Wow, here go with econ 101. Obviously the owning class does not “give” anyone anything. The owning class utilizes the labor of those who have no other choice but to work for them. By paying these workers for only a portion of their labor (see “surplus labor” and “surplus value” to continue your learning journey) they are able to extract profits, both to make more business, and to keep these very social relations intact. That’s the open secret of capitalism, that workers reproduce their own chains. Any wage any boss pays to a worker is not a “gift,” because the value of that wage was created by another worker. The owning class obviously coordinates this to their own profit. Human needs are not met by production for the market, because the market is where money is, nothing more. The fact that one in six people on the planet face severe hunger and nutrition issues might be a small sign of the colossal failure of the market to allocate resources for human needs.
    JK: Or the laws which protect their private property from “legal plunder” of socialism? If you haven’t read Bastiat’s “The Law” yet, please do so.
    P: Of Bastiat, I know enough to understand that his silly concept that workers seek a “fixity of income” in the safety of waged labor has been historically demolished by the simple fact that waged labor has rarely provided such security for the average worker. Look around! And the capitalist’s idea that people could have social mobility relies on the concept of non-fixity of income, the supposed cornerstone of capitalist freedom. Wage labor arose as the result of the destruction of fixity of income (feudalism etc.). Marx demolished Bastiat easily, noting that apologists for capital like Bastiat sought to “prove to the worker that he has no right to share in the opportunities of gain and in general to reconcile him to his subordinate role vis-a-vis the capitalist, [and] put great stress on the fact that the worker, in contrast to the capitalist, enjoys a certain fixity of income …”
    JK: Capitalism in Hawaii did not depend on racism and racial separatism -> racism and racial separatism was a disease of the time that was completely independent of capitalism. You mistake a system of economics for a social structure here, and fail to recognize the success of the plantations and capitalism even after such racism and racial separatism was defeated.
    P: No system “depends” on racism solely. I mentioned that capitalism deploys racism as a tool to destroy class solidarity. You will not find a single sane historian who would argue against that point, regardless of his or her political leanings. And “a system of economics” is not some abstract entity outside of history. It IS a social structure. What do you think class is? If that’s not a social structure then what is? The system of production largely shapes the social structure of society, like the property rights you mentioned without understanding the origins of or consequences of. The fact that capitalism, or specifically plantations “succeed” when employing racist tactics, or when supporting anti-racism says nothing of the exploitation that it ALWAYS utilizes to extract profit. Anti-racist, Green, Feminist, capitalism will ultimately betray any of those stances if it diminishes profit. Capitalism does not operate on a calculus of progressive values or human need, nor does the market allow people to cast votes for how they want capitalists to behave, since the masses must also obey the logic of the system they are trapped in (buying what they can afford, rather than what is most green, fair, or healthy etc.).
    JK: You probably also fail to recognize the failure of the labor movement, and the subsequent destruction of the agriculture economy in Hawaii, with the work simply moving to places like Costa Rica because of the untenable burdens placed on businesses by government and unions. The problem we have here is that although there were evils to be fought by the labor movement, it has turned into yet another class system, this time favoring union bosses and their cronies. Ironic, isn’t it?
    P: While I agree that unions can be corrupt, I think you once again have it backwards. The general trends of corruption for unions are that they operate as mini-fiefdoms for small sectors of workers or union leaders against the interests of non-union workers or those in other unions. But more importantly, with the erosion of union power since WWII, weaker union position means that leaders cozy up to bosses, acting in “collaboration” as if the workers and bosses had the same interests! They police their workers to ensure no strikes and thereby take away labor’s main tool to fight the bosses: withholding labor. The outsourcing you mention is not caused by unions, but is inherent to capitalist operations, which always seek to pressure wages, benefits, quality of life, to the lowest possible, in order to maximize profits for stockholders, the other bosses in the anti-democracy of the private sector. If you can’t see that all workers are pit one against each other in the system, and that unions are a convenient scapegoat (especially since they occasionally do protect workers) than you really don’t see anything at all. You may as well argue that the struggle for Civil Rights “caused” the Klan to attack Blacks. It’s true in a very fallacious and ahistorical way.
    JK: Your contention seems to be that socialism and communism, with the explicit use of government to violate private property rights, would somehow bring about an utopia of equality. I think history has already proven you wrong on this point.
    P: History has certainly proven that the only system to actually exist continually in the last 500 years, capitalism, in its different varieties, is a continual failure if we measure success as meaning full unfettered human development, freedom, and the meeting of basic human needs. Capitalism’s main success is in the increase of productive capacity, which says nothing of the quality of life of the producers of wealth, the working class. Just as feudalism faded and died when bourgeois revolutions swept them away, replacing one set of controls for another, there is a chance that proletarian revolutions will abolish class society including the proletariat. As I stated before, this will likely depend on the level of class consciousness informing the self direction of the proles, whose revolution will hopefully abolish the state, which is little more than the mechanism for the operation of the empire of capital.
    JK: Less than 1.5% of the population of Hawaii voted against statehood in 1959. By any measure, freedom and democracy have increased since 1959. How you can call self-determination and self-government, and an equal participation in the Union of States as “oppression” is delusional.
    P: Just as in Iran, there is a small clique of the ruling class that determines a handful of acceptable candidates, none of whom will challenge the status quo, the same is true in the “Western” world. Whether it is a theocratic or a money barrier, the result is one in which one class controls and limits another.

  13. Jere Krischel
    July 12, 2009 at 3:33 am

    “Please show me where I write anything resembling the racist strawman you present here. In short, who are you responding to?”
    Well, both the original post, as well as your comments. “Imperialism and colonialism” in the original post context essentially equates that with white people. Perhaps that’s not what you meant, and we can both agree that imperialism and colonialism are part of the human condition, and practiced by people of every society, culture and ethnic background.
    “Social stratification was not exactly the same in Hawaiian culture, at any period, as it is in a modern industrial capitalist city or a modern Third World underdeveloped capitalist society, or any other variant thereof. ”
    You’re right -> social stratification was much more rigid and life determining pre-1778. Modern industrialist capitalism has helped break down many of the hereditary class structures common in many so-called “indigenous” societies. Granted, you’ve still got your dynastic capitalists (Kennedys, Rockefellers, Campbells), but compared to the rigid caste structure and the life-and-death consequences of that in pre-1778 Hawaii, we live in a moderate utopia.
    “The current situation is one where capitalist social relations/commodity social relations, have penetrated virtually every aspect of human life. This was clearly not the case in pre-overtrhow Hawaii.”
    Bullshit. King Kalakaua was bought and paid for by Claus Spreckels, a notorious sugar baron. The monarchy had been critical in capitalism in the islands since as far back as the sandalwood trade in the early 1800s. You do realize the overthrow was in 1893, right?
    “Ricardo, Adam Smith, and other classical political economists were quite open about the fact that wealth was created by labor and expropriated by owners under capitalist socialist relations.”
    “Capitalist socialist relations?” Are we mixing metaphors here? Perhaps your definition of “capitalist” and “socialist” would help clear up your point.
    “My view is that we already have the social productive capacity to eliminate class relations, and that all that is needed is for the working class to develop class consciousness to the point that it can see its own position in the system, and then yes to act in its own interest.”
    And has this ever happened or succeeded anywhere in the history of the planet? The idea of “working class” is simply a smokescreen for yet another class based system, this one based on social engineers at the top of the hierarchy, and everyone else at the bottom. You’ve got a guaranteed failure in 1) assuming that there is a monolithic “working class” with motivations that coincide with each other and 2) that even if they did have the will to act in their own interest, that those actions would coincide with your desires and predictions.
    “Hawaii a capitalist society pre-1778? Were they producing goods mainly for the market? Was waged labor the rule? Was agriculture under capitalist ownership producing to sell on markets for a profit? In short, you’re talking out of your hat.”
    Let’s see. Different konohiki would trade for goods not available in their ahupuaa. Labor was taxed by lesser and greater ali’i. Granted, there also existed the slave class of kauwa, which was probably a remnant of the original Marquesans conquered by the Tahitians, but that notwithstanding, there clearly was both greed and opportunity in ancient Hawaii, even if it was generally restricted by further class boundaries based on ancestry and religion.
    Is your definition of “capitalist society” simply “producing goods mainly for the market” and having “waged labor?” Certainly any form of socialism and communism we’ve ever seen has worked to fix markets and fix wages, not to eliminate them…perhaps the words you’re using don’t mean what you think they mean.
    “Capitalism isn’t “trade.” It’s a mode of production and a social relation. But it is also one that precludes human beings developing into fully realized individuals.”
    What, pray tell, is a “fully realized individual,” and why can’t someone working at WalMart be one? Does being a greeter somehow cripple someone morally? Does working a checkstand or bagging groceries somehow destroy the soul? For all the things you could possibly pick on, the low-prices and extensive reach of WalMart employment is probably your weakest choice.
    “In the countries you probably would define as “socialist” (Soviet or modern Russia, Cuba, Eastern European nations, China, etc.) there was state capitalism. ”
    So “capitalism” is simply shorthand for “evil” in your lingo. Bad socialists are just really capitalists in disguise. Perhaps if you could point to some society which wasn’t capitalist, you could make your point clearer.
    “The history of private property, the ownership of the societal means of production by a small elite, is one of plunder.”
    Sounds like my critique of socialism. I believe you’re confusing the idea of capitalism and free markets with the sustenance of a small elite. Capitalism is an economic and social system in which most trade and industry are privately controlled for profit rather than by the state. Capitalism does not necessitate an elite, nor does socialism eliminate the elite. Granted, capitalism will stratify society to some extent, but these boundaries are more fluid than the rigid elite created by state control of trade and industry.
    “The notion that wage slavery, the central tool of modern capitalism, will somehow unleash the full potential of each individual is so ludicrous as to be insanity.”
    And the alternative to so-called “wage slavery” is what, wages dictated by a ruling governmental elite regardless of the quality or necessity of the products being produced? I can certainly get on board with critiquing the leeches of capitalism, the government regulators and investment bankers who game the system rather than produce innovation and progress, but really, “wage slavery” is a tad jingoistic.
    “In Bangladesh, workers burned down their places of employment and fought riot police to protest their working conditions, which include the failure to pay workers….In Chicago, Republic Windows and Doors employees occupied their workplace when they were told their plant was being closed. They were demanding their severance pay required by law.”
    Neither working conditions nor breach of pay contract are particularly “capitalist” vices. Again, you seem to be using “capitalist” as a synonym for “evil” by your definition.
    “There are thousands of protests against banks in the US against foreclosures on people who have paid huge sums to the banks, but who are currently unable to pay.”
    Sigh. Banks get forced to give bad loans to people who cannot afford the houses they want, people take the bad loans they know they cannot afford, prices get jacked up sky high with the loose lending standards, and when it all comes tumbling down, the taxpayers who didn’t spend beyond their means, in a arch-socialist fashion, get stuck with the bill. Foreclosures mean lower housing prices. So which do you want, affordable housing, or no foreclosures? One would think that an egalitarian idealist would want affordable housing, to disseminate the wealth of the home-owning elite. It’s either that, or entrench permanently the elite home-owners in their position and keep everyone else out of the market. I’m obviously for letting the market and competition drive prices down to an affordable level, but perhaps you have a different imaginary remedy in mind?
    “The fact that one in six people on the planet face severe hunger and nutrition issues might be a small sign of the colossal failure of the market to allocate resources for human needs.”
    If the world was truly 100% free-market, perhaps you could make that claim. The problem, though, is that corruption in government (state control of trade/profit, versus private control) drives down productivity, and creates waste of resources so that they cannot be effectively distributed. I think the colossal failure you’re noticing is one of socialism, not capitalism.
    “Marx demolished Bastiat easily…”
    You haven’t read Bastiat, have you? And you haven’t lived by Marx before either, I’ll guess. Check him out online: http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html
    “I mentioned that capitalism deploys racism as a tool to destroy class solidarity. You will not find a single sane historian who would argue against that point, regardless of his or her political leanings.”
    You once again use “capitalism” as a synonym for “evil.” And to fix your tautology in stone, you declare anyone who disagrees with you “insane.” Racism is a function of culture, and is used as a tool by those who want to obtain hereditary title, or justify the evils they commit upon others. Correlation is not causality.
    “Capitalism does not operate on a calculus of progressive values or human need, nor does the market allow people to cast votes for how they want capitalists to behave…”
    Well, yes, the market does allow people to cast votes with their dollars -> that’s a feature. Whether or not there is a “calculus of progressive values” one could possibly agree to, or a universal hierarchy of needs that can be defined and held static, are dubious propositions. Now, the consequences of one’s dollar votes may not always be immediately apparent, but the power is there nonetheless.
    The fact is that capitalism, private control of trade/profit/industry, does a superior job to government control of trade/profit/industry when it comes to allocating resources and improving the human condition.
    “The outsourcing you mention is not caused by unions, but is inherent to capitalist operations, which always seek to pressure wages, benefits, quality of life, to the lowest possible, in order to maximize profits for stockholders…”
    Unions which reduce productivity, place untenable burdens on businesses, and serve only as leeches upon the work of both laborers and the capitalists which fund those industries, directly cause outsourcing. Put another way, the unions in first world countries such as our own are misguided -> they should instead be unionizing the most deprived and low-wage countries. Why don’t they do that? Because there is no profit there. So in essence, the unions simply act as independent capitalists, working for their own profit. The difference between them and the capitalist of industry is that the industry actually produces something, and the union only taxes labor and business.
    Also note that maximizing profit to stockholders is not simply a function of taking money from the poor and downtrodden and putting it into the pockets of bankers, it’s a function of improving quality, competing against innovation, and lowering price for consumers. Not to mention that with 401ks and the like, most of your “working class” is actually comprised of stockholders!
    “Capitalism’s main success is in the increase of productive capacity, which says nothing of the quality of life of the producers of wealth, the working class.”
    Okay, I call bullshit again. The incredible increase of productive capacity, per capita, has tremendously improved the quality of life of the working class. Give up toilet paper and flush toilets for a week, and imagine what quality of life was before the industrial revolution.
    “…whose revolution will hopefully abolish the state, which is little more than the mechanism for the operation of the empire of capital.”
    Abolish the state, and the only thing left is capitalism. I really think you’re using words without considering their meanings -> capitalism is private control, socialism is state control. What you seem to be railing against is perhaps the profit motive, or perhaps injustices in the distribution of resources. I don’t think you can really remove the profit motive from humanity (hedonistic utilitarianism being the operative theory on this one), and I think you’re blaming the injustices in the distribution of resources on the wrong thing. You also seem to judge success in contradictory terms, because “the meeting of basic human needs” may be a worthwhile goal, but cannot exist universally if we have “full unfettered human development.” Success is possible, but so is failure. We cannot choose heaven with no choice of sin.
    I’ll also suggest to you “The State” by Oppenhiemer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_State_(book)
    http://www.franz-oppenheimer.de/state0.htm
    “Just as in Iran, there is a small clique of the ruling class that determines a handful of acceptable candidates, none of whom will challenge the status quo, the same is true in the “Western” world. Whether it is a theocratic or a money barrier, the result is one in which one class controls and limits another.”
    I can agree with that one, but the Statehood vote for Hawaii simply wasn’t an instance of the kind of duopoly that has been in place in the US since the 70s. The idea of monied “community organizers” working the electorate with a victimhood narrative in order to control and limit the freedoms of private property, the right to bear arms, or speech gets my panties in a bunch.

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