Friday, April 24, 2009

Socialism 2009

The Socialism 2009 conference will be held this year in Chicago and San Francisco. Here are a few of the talks at the SF conference (which I will be attending) that might be of interest to readers of this blog:

Of course, there is no reason why you wouldn't also be interested in the economy, the anti-war movement and other issues, so take a look at the Socialism 2009 site for yourself if you would like to see the full schedule.

Finally, I'll leave you with videos of Sherry Wolf and Dave Zirin from previous conferences.

Note: I've had trouble getting these to work correctly on Windows/Firefox, but on Windows/IE and Mac/Safari the videos work just fine.


Anonymous said...

Wait, you are the film critic for the Socialist Worker? Since when?

Scott said...

Not THE film critic, but I have written several movie reviews for SW in the past few months, all of which have appeared on this site, including my article on Charlie Chaplin last week.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever read The Iron Heel by Jack London? I'm not a socialist but I really liked that book.

Anonymous said...

Man, you should have said that you were part time film critic for an actual newspaper! That would have made your criticism of Ben Lyons so much more credible and official. Would have given you authority.

Anonymous said...

What about if instead of Charlie Chaplin and the Political Art the organizers suspend everything and everybody sits down and watches "The Lives Of Others." Pretty accurate picture of what real socialism does to a society.

Anonymous said...

^same poster as above

A thought occurs to me, while I'm relating movies to socialism.

Forgiving the fact that in a socialist society movies would fundamentally cease to get made because no one "needs" them while there are hungry and sick people to take care of... what do you think would happen to the content of modern entertainment?

If the government has already decided that they know whats best for me by imposing massive restrictions on what is "mine," would they not also know whats best for me to watch, or read?

Would a libertarian leaning show like South Park (very close to my own politics) be "permitted?"

This is in no way an attack on you. I think your blog is great, and while I strongly disagree with (what little I know of your) politics, I am honestly very curious on your viewpoint--- as you seem like someone who obviously enjoys many of the fruits of an individualist society.

Scott said...

"The Lives of Others" is a great movie, but East Germany (or the Sovit Union at that time) had nothing to do with socialism. Those countries were run by new bureaucratic classes that sustained themselves at the expense of their own populations and accumulated wealth for the purposes of military competition with the West.

Socialism entails workers control of production and wealth--something that did not exist in those societies or in Cuba, China, etc.

The closest example we have is Russia in the first few years after the 1917 revolution and before Stalin took over. That example is totally distorted by the extreme poverty of that country and by the fact that they were almost immediately invaded by the armies of the West.

But there were a number of freedoms in 1918 in Russia not yet known in the West, like the right of women to vote and legalization of homosexuality. There was also a flourishing of arts, which were encouraged by the state, and literacy campaigns in this very poorly educated country.

And, yes, movies prospered--ever head of Sergei Eisenstein? Artists who were hostile to the Bolsheviks were "permitted" as well. It was not until Stalin took over that art became simply propaganda. Which is not to say that it was a utopia before then, and how and why Stalin took over is a much longer and more complicated story. But there is much more to "socialism" than the caricature you learn about in school.

Finally, whether producing "South Park" is more important than feeding the hungry I will leave to you as a question to ponder. But it is totally unnecessary today for most people to work as many hours as they do in crappy jobs--our technology today allows us to produce more than enough wealth to feed, house, clothe everybody with far less labor but the profit motive means all that wealth gets sucked up to the top by the employers.

But if everybody could have their needs met with a much smaller amount of labor, imagine how much time we would all have to create art, do science, etc.? That would be a society unlike ours OR East Germany which would encourage individuals to express themselves and create in ways that the vast majority today just do not have the time and resources to do.

Anonymous said...

Look, I generally consider myself a liberal- I'm a registered Democrat- and something of a socialist but there's no denying that Communism can be just as destructive, wrong headed and fanatical as any other system. It can be a dictatorship as bad as any other and can be just as oppressive to artists. Just look at Poland's and Russia's censorship of film before the fall of the government.

Communist fanatics, Christian fanatics, Muslim fantatics, right wing fanatics- it's all the same crowd.

Anonymous said...

(same poster you replied to earlier, but NOT the same as the anon above)

Ahh, you've described a communist utopia. On paper it looks great. And really, I understand your ideology comes from a good place.

I mentioned South Park earlier, as it is the type of show that would not be tolerated in any so called "socialist society" to date, and also because it represents my political viewpoint (more or less libertarian) pretty accurately and with humor. But it's not even in my top 5 favorite shows. My favorite is actually Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Earth in that show is a Marxist utopia. I'd love that to be the future of mankind, really... a space driven society with no currency and everyone just works to better themselves and society.

The problem is that in Star Trek they have matter replicators, so everything is readily available right out of thin air. And barring leaps in the psychological evolution of mankind, matter replication is the only way we'll ever see that utopia.

It's not as though Socialism is an untested ideology. Look at Eastern Europe only a few decades ago, China, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela just had legislation passed to remove term limits. You are witness to the first throes of corruption in Venezuela, and there will be more to come... it's sickening to me. Sickening.

The more power the government has, the less options the people have. You want to join "The Party?" You play by our fucking rules then, comrade. Dissenters are the first ones to go. Then the book burnings where any alternate ideology is purged from the culture. Media becomes regulated, and you're being watched. Big Brother knows whats best for you, boss. This has happened in every socialist society to date... this is not propaganda, this is fact.

This is even true in modern day America where more government equals unconstitutional programs like the FCC, which censors and regulates art. Should that not be the job of the parents? Do I need to be fucking babied? I wonder what Jefferson or Franklin would say to the FCC today.

The rights to privacy, free speech, to uncensored art and ideas are the things I hold most dear in this entire world. There are few things I'd put my life on the line for (least of which Bush Jr's bullshit war), but I would FIGHT for those ideals, and I hope others would too.

Anyway that's my political rant for the year.