Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ending the "Dairy is Rape (Like Real Rape)" Argument once and for all



I hate to be That Guy who hinges an argument on Dictionary.com (it's lazy and closed off to subtleties); though I think in this instance it actually clarifies this most ridiculous claim that raping another human being equates to inserting things into cows and eating them.

rape

1 [reyp] Show IPA noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.
noun
1.
the unlawful compelling of a person through physicalforce or duress to have
sexual intercourse.
2.
any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
4.
an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation;violation:
the rape of the countryside.
5.
Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.

Now The Vegan may (I'm being very generous here) have grounds to use the term when considering definitions 4 & 5 (forcible seizure, basically). But this still does not equate Rape, as forced sexual intercourse with a Human Being, with Rape 4 & 5, afigurative and literary description of force in general.

There is a real reason why words have multiple definitions. It's pretty insincere to equate acts that share the same word yet are flexible with meaning. One can use strength or drugs to Force sex, and another can use The Force to move objects with their mind and vaguely read the future.

Do the different uses of Force share a common denominator? Yes, imposing will/power/strength. Do they mean the exact same thing? No, of course not.

But even if we give The Vegan that, they should be careful about condemning theforcible plunder variation of the word. Agriculture, whether "local" or not (and let's face it, more than a majority of vegans do not solely consume their veggies from plots of land that sustainably grow in season), is responsible for most of the "plunder" worldwide. To clear land for crops, countless animal/insect species have went extinct. Countless more are killed everyday in that process. The soil itself must be plundered, denying millions of "potential lives" at conception.

Bottom Line: You cannot have life without death. There is nothing cruelty-free about being Vegan. Factory Farming may be unnecessarily mean-spirited, bad for our health, and bad for the environment--but The Vegan is really arguing the essence of the matter: Human beings have a moral obligation to not kill, plunder, "rape", any sentient being for sustenance.

That however, is impossible.


Monday, February 22, 2010

A Conversation with Chris Rouse on Veganism

“I must offer the advice that perhaps you should stay silent a little longer, read a little more, take a writing class or two, follow those up with a course on critical thinking, maybe a little analysis  and subsequent synthesis of the Socratic method, and then maybe consider wading back into the adult pool.”

-Chris Rouse, age 27

We’ve figured out why Chris is still at Saddleback Community College: he’s only taken one semester’s worth of courses! Judging by his writing it's obvious he pleasures himself practicing everything he’s ever learned in his English 1B class—but Fighting Words is no place to do his homework.

This blog in its short history has been slammed for many things. In response to our polemic against veganism Chris Rouse accuses us of stroking our egos. This may be true, but it’s certain that Chris is only stroking himself.

Our original piece demonstrated that given how food is produced, going vegan does not lessen the number of animals slaughtered.  Chris Rouse’s critique is aimed at our emphasis on the introductory premises of “why go vegan?” (namely, that going vegetarian/vegan will end world hunger and save animals). His charge is that we have “summarized an intellectually robust movement as a bumper sticker. He continues, the fact is that what a movement offers as publicly directed propaganda is vastly different than the literature that informs those already within the movement.” 

But when is legitimate propaganda false? The IWW slogan has been “the working class and the employing class have nothing in common.” Of course there is gray area between wage earning supervisors (given the authority to delegate work) and capitalists (who own production and usurp surplus value). Essentially the slogan is true: classes are irreconcilably antagonistic. Hence, there is both nuance and truth to legitimate propaganda, but is there truth to the propaganda of political veganism? He implicitly agrees that there is none by discounting it as not serious.

So what exactly is the literature that informs the “movement”, the internal edification? Chris Rouse points to Plutarch. And what does a Roman citizen have to comment on agribusiness?

“Our conduct in slaying animals and then preparing them for food is wholly against nature. Animal food is injurious: it clogs and confuses the mind and renders it stupid.”

-Plutarch, 2nd century

Chris Rouse also agrees with a set of facts we provided: that over time, both meat production and the number of vegetarians/vegans have increased. “[I]t is a reliable speculation that statistically meat consumption has increased internationally.” Yet, in response to our statement that “Deciding to go vegan will not save a single animal”, he responds “still throwing out unproven statements that were born of your bias, not your knowledge. At least, that is how it would seem since this is a rather large and widely contested claim that you have not backed up with any studies. (FW emphasis)” Despite the presence of a sizable and growing non-meat-eating population, Chris Rouse concedes that meat production and consumption is on the rise, yet he does not renounce the claim that going vegan saves animals.

Chris is either confused, or being intentionally misleading.

What Chris could be confused about: Math

Statistics claiming that going vegan saves x number of animals is based on a simple arithmetical premise: Take the total number of animals consumed in a given time frame and subtract that by the number of people that stop eating meat. This sounds logical, but only if the premise is correct. As we've established, meat subsidies and systemic overproduction makes this a lousy hypothetical. The error is forgivable. He just hasn't gotten around to taking that course yet. 

Why Chris is probably misleading you

Under scrutiny, Chris Rouse is forced to acknowledge that the broader propaganda is not "credible," but refuses to distance himself from it. There is a part of him that knows it is the wonderful-sounding claim that individuals can do something about world hunger and save the lives of animals by changing their diet. Stripped of this, Chris Rouse fears losing his base to disillusionment and boredom (one can't sustain themselves on Plutarch for long). To knowingly offer up a lie in order to convert is an elitist conception of the way propaganda works.

Either way, nowhere does Chris Rouse differentiate between the propaganda of AR activists and what they really believe. And it’s not like he didn’t have the space to do it. Instead he goes off on exhausting tirades appealing quite fallaciously, to authority. He bellows:

rather than quote sources from antiquity like plutarch, from prestigious intellectual epochs such as percy bysshe shelley, george bernard shaw, ralph waldo emerson or thoreau, or quote from modern relevant sources like the ones i mentioned earlier, you have quoted websites which (again, as i addressed earlier) have more propagandistic aims.

Take our word that not a single sentence which follows substantiates any of the aforementioned figures as authorities on the topic. But let’s investigate. In A Vindication of a Natural Diet, Percy Bysshe Shelly tries his hand at evolutionary theory:

Comparative anatomy teaches us that man resembles frugivorous animals in everything, and carnivorous in nothing; he had neither claws wherewith to seize his prey, nor distinct and pointed teeth to tear the living fibre…

…Let the advocate of animal food force himself to a decisive experiment on its fitness, and, as Plutarch recommends, tear a living lamb with his teeth, and plunging his head into its vitals, slake his thirst with the steaming blood; when fresh from the deed of horror, let him revert to the irresistible instinct of nature that would rise in judgment against it, and say, Nature formed me for such work as this. Then, and only, would he be consistent.

Rather than being evolutionarily sound, Shelley is much closer to an authority on Intelligent Design! Humans are not perfectly adapted to consume all types of meat. It was of course the lack of claws and vicious teeth that characterized our initial existence as scavengers for bone marrow. This argument has not evolved much among the vegan propagandists. Chapters in John Robbins’ Diet for a New America (a modern source) explain how our intestinal tract is not suitable for digesting meat.

These are design arguments: “It does not work perfectly, therefore…” The fact is we do consume meat and it was integral to our evolution. That other animals might not consume another species’ dairy is inconsequential, there’s nothing “natural” about making soy hot dogs either.

The issue of animal liberation is similar. We argued that “liberation” is a concept and process only applicable to humans. Chris Rouse objects:

Neither animal nor human liberation is an abstract as both relate to individual beings with individual concepts of self that form social units and possess acute abilities to feel, both physically and emotionally, and form conscious objections to captivity.

Conscientious objection requires two things: 1) awareness of the consequences and 2) choice. Animals will instinctually resist what it perceives as a threat. But just as an animal may demonstrate will against captivity as it’s loaded onto a slaughterhouse truck or confined in a cage, that same animal will struggle against those who must capture them and load them onto to a truck in order to set them “free.” During this struggle, the liberators have no issue with ignoring their “will.” Humans decide the fate of these creatures because other animals do not have agency of their own.

To believe that animal “liberation” exists on the same terrain as ours is to have a paternalistic conception of liberation. The fact that the only example Chris Rouse could offer equating the two was freeing an orphaned child from sexual slavery, only proves our point.

Why are humans the only species capable of agency and liberation? Chris Rouse is fond of flaunting authors who have both a greater understand (sic) of Marx” than we demonstrate. Well if that’s what his argument is hinged on, Rouse has demonstrated he doesn’t understand Marx at all:

Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce, their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organization. By producing their means of subsistence, they are indirectly producing their actual material life.

-The German Ideology

While animals have evolved distinct adaptations to their environments, the fundamental human adaptation is the ability to bend the environment to our needs. It is the same process that has allowed humans to understand nature to survive and explore in any climate, to learn to combat diseases, and to produce an abundance of food. Human liberation is not passive or dependent on another species to grant, it is a conscious act. This does not impress Chris Rouse:

the fact that primates have sustained characteristics and societies this long in what you call a "static" patterns is what a biologist will tell you is indicative of evolutionary stability. by contrast, many scientists… point to the likelihood of our intellect being indicative of a poorly evolved and likely evolutionarily unstable creature that is incapable of finding equilibrium with our infrastructure.

in other words, our productive and adaptive abilities have evolved faster than other crucial parts of our intellect and are leading us with breakneck speed toward potential extinction.

First, 99.9% of all species that have existed on Earth have gone extinct without productive abilities, or even an intellect. Second, it is true that currently our productive and social relations are unsustainable, but it is not the fault of some sort of hard-wired evolutionary defect. It is the failure of harnessing and democratizing our vast abilities to rational and sustainable work. In short, it has been our failure to achieve human liberation. But it is still possible.

Conclusion

We did not center our critique based on capitalist relations because we believed that animal consumption was either, “responsible for the rise of capitalism, (or) inextricably wedded to the dominance of capitalism (or) solved by dissolution of capitalism,” as Chris Rouse conveniently misunderstands. No, the point was to illustrate that your diet is incapable of affecting any of the aims that attracted you to the cause, precisely because of capitalist production. We want to convince anyone serious about combating hunger and ecological crises that it will take a collective and revolutionary solution, not a consumer one. But the hardened Animal Liberator who sees humans and society as a cancer offers only reactionary ideas in the way of a better world.

 

Monday, November 23, 2009

Left-Wing Communism: The Latency Stage


(We intend that this be used as an accessible guide for activists navigating among the ‘ultra lefts’ of today’s movements)

We’ll admit it: figuring out an approach to this article proved more difficult than anticipated. While the short-lived autonomist movement has been better dealt with in numerous Marxist journals—from its workerist origins to the postmodernist swamp—this new breed of self-indentified ultra-lefts have chosen to resurrect the ghosts of 68 after their dilettantism in anarchism and postmodernism led them nowhere. These autonomists would think of themselves as being strictly principled, but their principles are strictly autonomous from each other. Therefore, they can at once insist on playing their roles as the dutiful contrarians in the emerging California budget cuts struggle by calling for “occupation, not democracy,” while simultaneously criticizing the 10/24 conference as “undemocratic.” Their selected literature is a maze of abstractions—a clever way of disguising their lack of ideas (“Demands are meaningless” “You can never destroy utopias”). These comrades would have been more useful as poets than as radical theorists.

Nevertheless, we do have a clutter of disparate philosophies to deal with that can only be approached separately, hence the organization of this essay. However, what appears to be a reoccurring feature of the so-called “new Marxism” is a retreat to old ideas. The Italian workerist/autonomist tradition was a theoretical step backward in its justified reaction to Stalinism. It looked to the “left communists” of the Third International who never had anything to offer the socialist movement but crude and naïve doctrinarism. In its adoption of postmodern idealism, the autonomists deracinated materialist conceptions inherently central to Marxism such as class and power. Here we’ll look at some trends today’s ultra-lefts pluck from.

Workerism

“Workerism” is a political perspective that applies to swaths of revolutionary theories. It shares a very crude understanding of the class struggle and a deep antipathy to politics. Lenin’s original theoretical break from the Russian Social Democratic party was over the matter of ‘economism.’ Economists argued the task for revolutionaries was to assist and inevitably tail the economic demands of the working class, leaving the political struggle to the bourgeoisie. It believed class-consciousness would develop gradually based on the accumulation of economic struggles alone. The much maligned emphasis on the need for revolutionaries to bring politics “from without,” translates to without or outside the factory. To truly be revolutionary, one must understand and respond to all forms of oppression. Economism stemmed from an unapologetic reformist outlook, but at least in rhetoric, workerism was not always reformist (though one can argue the denial of state power offers in practice, nothing but reformism). Syndicalism too, argued against participation in the political struggle, though their revolutionary credentials have never been questioned. Their abstentionism was an anarchist impulse that saw any activity within the State as political quicksand—the more you struggle, the deeper you sink. Syndicalism in practice will be dealt with later in the article.

Today’s ultra-lefts can be traced to those traditions. Sharing a rejection of Lenin’s formulation of politics and the party, workerists would rather flatter the proletariat than take it seriously. Content to cheerlead instead of challenge, the “anti-authoritarian” left is in fact the most elitist. Dense theory for them, and platitudes and praise for the workers.

Currently in fashion is the Italian workerists, or Operaismo. Italy’s 1969 “Hot Autumn” is known for delivering the exclamation point on what was the last significant international upsurge. Operaismo developed as a challenge to the Stalinist PCI, returning to the fundamental tenant of revolutionary socialism—that the “self-emancipation of the working class would be the act of the working class itself.” At best, the Italian workerists restated a concept long lost to Stalinism, but as for something new its theorists offered nothing but academic flash based on imaginative interpretations of Marx’s Capital and Grundrisse. They argued that the struggles of the working class trigger a restructuring of capitalism, where it adapts and strengthens itself. At bottom, it was essentially a fancy denunciation of any type of reform. It began as a reaction to the particular conditions of Italy’s class struggle, where there was a tradition of elevating “professionalism” (skilled workers) over the non-skilled. Rather than seeing it as an ideological obstacle to overcome, Operaismo expanded a historically specific trend to the entire capitalist system. The large scale introduction of Taylorism signaled a new era of capitalist restructuring. On one hand they were right, this was the beginning of neoliberailsm. On the other hand it was meaningless—the restructuring of capitalism has always led to dramatic shifts in working class composition, but never the dissolution of the working class or its centrality.

Workerism without the workers

All this theorizing would inevitably put itself into the camp of the “post Marxist” Frankfurt School and Louis Althusser. Thoroughly demoralized by Stalinism, left academics began their retreat. To break with historical materialism, they first had to falsify it. Claiming Marx had an insufficient take on the role of ideology, they turned him into a mechanical Pavlovian figure, and then wouldn’t stop theorizing. While Marxism saw itself in the arc of modernism— a trend of social progress aided by scientific and technological advance, the “post Marxists” led the way for postmodernism. Postmodernism is actually the absence of a system of thought. It rejected any theory that attempted to explain events with certainty. It questioned the validity of history, of science, because of their strange suspicion of words. Uncomfortable with how “subjective” the written word could be might explain why their texts read like ridiculous ciphers.

This school of “thought” deeply shaped the evolution of Operaismo’s central theorists. You saw the germ in their thinking when the “mass worker” (deskilled) was replaced by the “social worker” which included everyone. Key themes which ran through Operaismo was the idea that factory organization had spread to every sphere of working class life and that workers’ struggles, not the need to accumulate, compelled capitalism to innovate. Therefore, revolution would take place, not in the point of production, but anywhere outside of it (home, neighborhood, “community”).

Today’s ultra-lefts get into serious discussions on “communization theory.” Essentially applying the “social factory” concept to deduce a not-so-novel idea that workers must fight outside of their relationship to capital—rejecting the fundamental antagonism Marx identified. For there is no space in this “critical theory” for “privileging” the working class in a postmodern, ‘postindustrial’ world. Instead, students, housewives, the unemployed, dogs, cats, must organize to take over their communities and create autonomous spaces that will eventually outmaneuver the State. Paul D’Amato exposes this empty concept:

No doubt it would be far more pleasant not to have to “deal with capital on capital’s own terms,” but sadly, this is impossible. In the end, the capitalist system must be reckoned with by the working class collectively and as a whole, not by piecemeal experiments–in short, in a revolutionary “event”…utopian experiments–such as “autonomous zones” or worker-owned cooperatives–are forced to “engage with capital on capital’s own terms,” that is, are forced to reckon with the pressures of the market or disappear in failure. Capitalism is not in the least threatened by them.

‘Ultra Leftism’

Not a term to take pride in, yet ultra-lefts wear it like a badge of stupidity. The term was popularized by a debate between Lenin and the “left communists” of the Third International. The ‘left communists’ opposed working within unions or political parties, and rejected the United Front tactic. The United Front is where socialists seek tactical agreements with reformists for a definite and specific defensive goal. Stalin, during what is known as the “Third Period,” also took an ultra left stance to the United Front in regard to the rise of Nazism. While Trotsky was in exile, pleading to the German communists that, “should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a tank,” Stalin was of the opinion that the liberal reformists were no better. They were “social fascists.” Such a principled stance worked wonders for the German communist party. After Hitler came to power, the social democrats (reformists) and the communists finally united, as Tariq Ali aptly put it, it was “unity in the graveyard.”

Misunderstanding the role of trade unions and abstention from politics doesn’t win more “leftism points”, but it disarms workers against the forces of capitalism. We will cite here an ultra-left argument against trade unions by Aufheben (UK):

While leftists generally support trade unions as at the very least defensive working class organizations (while criticising their bureaucracy), ultra-leftists typically reject unions for incorporating the working class into capital and instead emphasize the workers’ need to break from them and act independently.

We can point out two problems with the ultra-left position. First, they are arguing against the organization of workers on a level that protects them from the immediate assault of the capitalist class (ie, attacks on workers’ wages, working hours and conditions). Trade union struggles are inherently limited to negotiating the terms of exploitation, not abolishing them. The ultra-lefts confuse the character of the unions and act surprised when its bureaucracy collaborates with the bosses. To see how this argument played out in practice, we reference the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the early 20th century. The idea of building dual unions meant that rather than retaining some of the best militant workers for waging a struggle within the AFL, the abstentionism of the IWW left America’s largest federation of unions under the opportunism of Samuel Gompers. Secondly, we would like to point out that when Aufheben (UK) states “ultra-leftists typically reject unions for incorporating the working class into capital” they are revealing to us that they do not understand the fact that the working class gets its power within capitalism precisely because it is incorporated with capital. That is fundamental dialectics, comrades.

We will continue with Aufheben’s argument:

while leftism generally calls for participation in parliamentary elections in the form of ‘critical support’ for reformist working class parties or perhaps to support a strategy of so called ‘revolutionary parliamentarianism’, ultra-leftism rejects such methods as a promotion of illusions.

At most times, bourgeois elections ideologically ensnare the majority of the working class. And at these times, ultra-lefts show themselves as impotent sectarians. The class must be emancipated from such ideology; to ignore it is to gift-wrap unchallenged political power to the bourgeoisie. Here again, we will cite another historical reference that hits home for these autonomists. Following the 2001 economic crash in Argentina, thousands of workers took over their workplaces rather than allow their bosses to throw them out and threw the ruling class into a political crisis. Yet, the 2003 presidential election of Nestor Kirchner—which had designed itself around peronista populism—allowed the ruling class to defuse further rebellion. There are still self-managed factories in operation which are winning legal recognition from the Argentine government, proving that as long as the state remains unchallenged, it can tolerate autonomous collectives which must incorporate themselves with the colossus of the international capitalist economy. The most important historical lesson is, however, that had there been a political challenge from the working class, the bourgeoisie would not have had a free hand to utilize one of its strongest weapons, ideology.

Conclusion

The current student rebellion is a significant development and it makes perfect sense why activists are looking to the last intelligible gasp of the student movement, but it’s important to remember that anti-Stalinism is not anti-Marxism. Marxism continues to provide the necessary tools for reinvigorating that one great “lost cause.” We agree that the failure of the student movements in the late 60s was a tragedy, but we don’t want to make today’s a farce.

Friday, September 25, 2009

An anti-fascist response



Fighting Words won’t eschew from addressing actual points.

We expected a defense of Joe Allen’s review of Inglourious Basterds from Socialist Worker. Elizabeth Schulte valiantly took up this mantle with an article that exceeded twice the length of our own. However, we still await the response she said we deserved.

If Tarantino lacks anything “new or useful’ to offer to the “tedious” genre, Schulte adds even less to Joe Allen’s initial review. We called Joe out for his strange insistence that terrorizing Nazis could be equated with Nazis murdering everyone else. And in her article, she promises to reveal how socialists really view “torture, war crimes, and the Second World War.” But she does none of it. Other than offering up articles to reference, we’ll do the reader one better and quote a well-known socialist, Leon Trotsky, on the same issue, “nothing increases the insolence of the fascists more than ‘flabby pacifism.’ “

Okay so Trotsky was talking about forming workers militias, and not so much about a band of Jewish Americans and German defectors dispatched by the United States. But this gets to the other troubling aspect about Schulte’s response. She insists, "there are a number of war films that depict violence with the horror that it deserves.”

Demanding that art “should have done this” or “should have been about that” misses the point. The basis of legitimate art criticism starts by taking it at its own merit and revealing its place in the particular moment. Sure, the film could’ve been about a Red partisan or the “Red Orchestra,” but it wasn’t. Art, especially pop art, owes nothing to Marxism. Quoting Trotsky again, “Art must find its own road. The methods of Marxism are not its methods.” What we provide is an appraisal of what’s unconscious in the work and give interpretations a historical footing.

But Schulte is more concerned with the film’s violence. She particularly recoils at the sight of swastikas carved into the foreheads of Nazis. But imagine if Col. Hans Landa (the Jew Hunter) was able to make his deal with the United States and live a life of anonymity. In reality, many Nazis did and all they had to do was take off their uniforms.

Films can be celebrated in particular historical moments. What we’ve seen are far-right political parties and right-wing militia activists seeking to legitimize themselves and their history. Just as “Red Dawn” gave ammunition to anticommunism in the 1980s, the success of this film can intimidate fascist sympathies. When a white supremacist shoots up a Holocaust Museum, or militiamen march on Washington, taunting Obama with, “We come unarmed…this time,” a film like “Inglourious Basterds,” a film that revels in fascist intolerance, should only be embraced. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On veganism (a polemic)



 I’m sure you’ve come across some variant of “with the amount of grain used to fatten animals for human consumption, we could, if we all became vegetarian, eliminate world hunger.” The “case” for veganism suffers from the same limitations particular to consumer politics. In that it fails to understand capitalist production, the “air tight” arguments are shown to be nothing but non-sequiturs. 

First, world hunger has nothing to do with scarcity. We continue to produce enough grain and other foodstuffs for human consumption to feed double the human population. Economists who speak of a “grain glut” mean that literally tons of grain is wasted and unused, not because people aren’t in need of it, but because they can’t afford it. Second, it speaks to incredible naiveté to assume that world agribusiness would give away any excess grain left over if the meat industry suddenly collapsed. When I say political veganism doesn’t understand capitalism, this is what I mean.

While there’s nothing wrong with seeing it as simply a moral issue, there is something incredibly obnoxious and self-aggrandizing about puffing out your chest, believing your diet will change the world. While the number of vegetarians and vegans has grown into sizeable minority, you would think that meat consumption would’ve shown a slight decline. But the opposite is true. Total meat consumption has increased. With food costs rising, meat has become more practical (in terms of calorie intake) and affordable. There is absolutely no substance to the claim that going vegan saves any animals. Capitalism does not plan production based on a one to one correspondence of a supply demand. In fact, its key feature is overproduction. A general lowering of demand will then likely mean two things: 1) animals not consumed will just be wasted 2) the price of meat becomes cheaper, increasing total consumption.

There is also no precedent for a boycott strategy that has shut down an entire industry the way it’s being described (and it would require a boycott of all supermarkets and restaurants). That’s because the consumer has very little power. One can “choose” to drive a fuel-efficient car, but can’t choose why cities lack efficient public transportation. One can choose to buy energy efficient light bulbs, but has no say about planned product obsolescence. No one can dispute that the factory farm model creates tremendous amounts of waste, contributing to environmental catastrophe. It does so because capitalism forces every industry to accumulate and capture as much of the market as it can, in the most cost effective way. It functions to maximize profit, not to meet needs or work rationally. So every industry is structured unsustainably. 

But what if for the sake of argument, veganism got what it wanted? The world adopts a vegan diet, the meat industry collapses, then what? This is where their militant rhetoric unravels. The system can shed whatever it needs to, or create a small niche (which it has), but the drive toward exploitation, war, and environmental destruction will always be essential. "Animal Liberation" may sound radical, but instead of challenging the free market, it politically affirms it. Having said that, I find the term “Animal Liberation” to be as meaningless as the politics behind it.  That’s not to say that a being’s capacity to suffer is not worth ethical consideration, but that the term literally means and amounts to nothing. 

The inevitable charge of “anthropocentrism” or “speciesism” revels in anthropomorphism. This in no way is a claim to superiority, but to accuracy and intellectual seriousness. Human liberation is not abstract. Our species distinguishes itself by organizing into social and productive relations. Liberation is historically conditioned and defined by which social and productive relations are being overturned. The factory farm is part of those productive relations and can be dramatically altered, but animal liberation? Claims to the contrary are nothing but ahistorical nonsense. Rather than pointing to the rise of class society, some AR activists argue the root of human oppression (slavery, sexism, etc) can be traced to the domestication of animals. In Vasu Murti's "Politics of Vegetarianism" he even goes so far as to say that people commit "crime" not because of inequality, but because they never owned a pet. As Murti explains, “none of them had this opportunity to learn respect and care for another creature’s life and to feel valuable in so doing.”

These ideas in no way offer anything useful to the liberation of anyone.


a socialist reponse to Joe Allen's review of "Inglourious Basterds"


In his review of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, Joe Allen presumes we have asked ourselves who the heroes are in this movie. He’s wrong. It’s pretty clear to us, Joe. The heroes are the ones killing the Nazis.

The Basterds exist to terrorize and undermine the morale of a genocidal fascist army occupying France. By recounting their exploits as “war crimes,” Joe displays shameful moral equivalence. We unapologetically defend the violence committed against fascists in Spain, during the Jewish resistance, and we should celebrate it on screen.

Far from a “bedtime story” reaffirming the U.S. as the “benevolent defender of freedom,” Tarantino’s film makes a point of setting U.S. racism next to Nazi fascism. In the middle of a drinking game, a Gestapo officer easily confuses the capture of King Kong with the story of American slavery. The King Kong reference, a film notorious for its racial undertones, is Tarantino’s challenge for film history to acknowledge itself. Similar to Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna, a response to the racism in Clint Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers.

Like so much else, this point was lost on Joe.

But what we can’t lose sight of is that liberal pacifism is no response to fascist barbarity.

“Nazi ain't got no humanity. They're the foot soldiers of a Jew-hatin', mass murderin' maniac and they need to be dee-stroyed.”