Unacceptable compromises: A clarification

Commentary No. 493, March 15, 2019

Two of my regular readers sent me indications that I was not clear in my explanation of what I was talking about when I spoke of unacceptable compromises.

I shall attempt to answer their queries and objections. Let me start by reproducing what they sent me.

The first was a query from Alan Maki who had one concern which was the word: “compromise.” I reproduce it here: “What are you talking about compromising on?”

The second email was from Mike Miller whose query was much longer.

Let me respond to each of them. I know that the author of this query was an activist in the Ontario Labour Party and devoted much energy to obtaining the victory of the Labour Party, which he saw as a rejection of the parties of no change. They rotated between the Center Left and a Center Right version of changeless policies. Analytically my correspondent interpreted the electoral victory of the Labour Party as a demand for significant change.

Mike Miller said that the successful creation of a strong union called The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) over the past twenty or fifty years, despite all the attempts to crush it, is evidence that change is possible.

The victory of the Ontario Labour Party and the ability of the ILWU to beat back all attempts to crush it are evidence that change is possible and cannot be called unacceptable.

Both objections miss the point. I do not deny that the electoral victory of the Labour Party was a great achievement. I salute it and do so publicly as a wonderful achievement. I do not deny that the ability of the ILWU to resist all the many attempts to crush it is a great achievement. I salute it.

This is precisely the point why these are compromises are unacceptable. Not everybody who lives in Ontario, Canada, will benefit by the achievement of the electoral victory of the Labour Party. There will be losers. There are those who are outside this party’s structure in Ontario or outside any party structure whatsoever. They gain nothing and may lose something by the victory of the Ontario Labour Party.

I do not deny that the ability of the ILWU to beat back all the many attempts to crush it was a great achievement. Nonetheless it is unacceptable because persons who are not members of the ILWU are excluded from its benefits and therefore are not included in the favorable results of the ILWU.

So, I repeat, every achievement involves militancy, but also short-run compromises as can be seen by reading the history of the ILWU (see in the network for the item entitled The ILWU Story).

The achievements in both cases were enormous. The benefits were and will be enormous. But precisely for this reason benefits have to be assessed against the balance of the exclusions that the benefits brought.

Following the situation in each case shows that to achieve what they did achieve involved compromises. This may be the benefit of the struggle, but the necessary compromises that are unacceptable because they exclude others were part of the achievement and those necessary compromises made possible the achievements.

Can Unacceptable Compromises Prevail?

Commentary No. 492, March 1, 2019

Every compromise has losers.

Every compromise has dissenters.

Every compromise includes a betrayal. Yet no political struggle can end without a compromise. Compromises do not last forever and often only briefly. Yet there exists no alternative to making them in the short run.

In the short run, we are all seeking to minimize the pain. Minimizing the pain requires a compromise so that assistance to those who need it can be given. But the compromise does not solve any problem in the long run. So, in the middle run (more than three years) we have to pursue a solution without compromise. It is all a matter of timing – the very short run versus the middle run.

If we don’t compromise in the short run, we hurt the people who are weakest. If we do compromise in the middle run, we hurt the people who are weakest. It’s an impossible game which we all have to play.

How to Fight a Class Struggle

Commentary No. 491, February 15, 2019

Class struggles are eternal, but how they are fought depends on the ongoing state of the world-system in which they are located.

World-systems have three temporalities. They come into existence and this needs to be explained. Secondly, they are stabilized structures and operate according to the rules on which they are founded. And thirdly, the rules by which they maintain their relative stability cease to work effectively and they enter a structural crisis.

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The Big Five: Clinging to power

Commentary No. 490, February 1, 2019

When the United Nations proclaimed its Charter in 1945, it included therein a special privilege for five member states – the power of the veto in its Security Council. Why these five states? There was a different reason for each of the five. No matter. The Big Five – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the U.S.S.R. (now Russia), and China – still have this privilege today, and are unlikely to lose it in the foreseeable future.

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Withdrawing troops: The Impossible choices

Commentary No. 489, January 15, 2019

It was I believe Colin Powell who said that sending in troops in a dispute was easy, but extracting them almost impossible.

The present situation in the Middle East illustrates this axiom perfectly. President Trump, like his predecessors, promised to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. And he renewed this promise just recently. Then he found, again like his predecessors, that fulfilling his promise aroused so much opposition, from all political quarters, that he had to renege on the promise. He did this by redefining how long it might be before he actually withdraws the troops.

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The Desperate mr. trump, or Trump says he matters

Commentary No. 488, January 1, 2019

Donald Trump is using all his rhetorical skills to keep everyone’s eyes focused on him and on him alone. He is trying so hard precisely because it is increasingly evident to most politicians and public figures, in the United States and elsewhere, that he is constantly losing ground. More and more actors are ignoring his demands. This is most of all clear to donald trump himself.

So he does hurtful things to all and sundry simply to prevent others from assembling the votes for things that exclude mr. trump from the center of worldwide action.

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When Trump Visibly Crashes

Commentary No. 487, December 15, 2018

As the 2020 U.S. elections begin to be the major front-page concern of the media, there is increasing speculation about what will be the form it takes. Could Trump really be impeached? Will the Democrats move still further left or rather move back to the center? How strong is Trump’s base, and how faithful?

As someone who has argued for a long time that the United States has been in a steady and irreversible decline, I am constantly asked: “Well then, why isn’t Trump crashing?” And if he is, will the crash become more visible? And if it does, will it be a sudden smash, or simply a steady downward slide?

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Is Trump Scared?

Commentary No. 486, December 1, 2018

I get this question all the time. The answer is: of course. He has been running scared all his life. It started with his sense that he was a disappointment to his father and continues until the present moment.

This sense of fear for his future is the most fundamental element in Trump’s psyche. It explains almost everything he does – the meanness and cruelty; the endless bullying; and his obsession with tweeting where he doesn’t share the platform with anyone else, so to speak.

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