Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Anarchism


Anarchisms are highly diverse in their visions of the society to replace both the State and other forms of social life which they judge undesirable, including among them anarcho-capitalism, mutualism, syndicalism and directly-democratic communes, not to speak of anarcho-primitivism.

Anarcho-capitalism is close to minarchist libertarianism in its focus on absolute self-ownership and property rights, yet abandons even the minimal State for a privatisation of the protection of persons and property.  Mutualism sees individual producers working with means of production held in common, and exchanging products according to the labour-time invested in them.  Syndicalism envisions workplace democracy, with wider decisions taken at the level of syndical federations by workplace delegates.  Communes and social spaces tend to be highly localised communities where all products are for public consumption within the community, and group decisions are ideally deliberative; a commune may relate capitalistically to the outside economy, or trade with other communes, or be self-contained.  Anarcho-primitivism aims at abandoning large-scale civilisation in favour of small bands living directly in the natural world, and takes inspiration from hunter-gatherer societies.

Anarchisms thus range from the highly individualistic anarcho-capitalism through to thoroughly collectivist (although ideally democratic) communes.  Their economic organisation ranges from capitalistic, through mixed and regulated political economies, to communes embodying the motto "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."  What unites these diverse anarchisms is their commitment to organising and justifying social forms from the bottom-up by way of voluntary associations and mutual commitments, as against imposed relations of authority and interference.  Typical anarchist bywords are freedom and autonomy.  What is most notable is the reluctance of anarchists to concede some freedom or authority to the State in order that it secures the remainder for them; anarchists aim to live in total enjoyment of liberty and rights and autonomy, relating to each other by way of contract or consensus, rather than by authority or coercion.  Anarchists want for people to run their lives for themselves, as empowered citizens, not to be governed and have social functions performed for them by distant legislatures and bureaucracies.  They are not against social organisation, but seek to organise without establishing domination or concentrations of power.  Anarchist political practice is typically prefigurative, aiming to embody their ideals, as opposed to Leninist, whereby a strong, disciplined party is built for taking power and imposing social transformation under a dictatorship.

The reasons anarchists give for opposing the State are similarly varied, including those based on: individual liberty; freedom of conscience; pacifism; self-defence; egoism; property rights; lack of democratic engagement in social and economic life; desire to live co-operatively; opposition to all hierarchy, authority and domination; alienation from the State as the preserve of the wealthy or powerful, as controlled by and for the benefit of capitalist interests, or as the cause and source of the ills of society.  Anarchists often oppose not only the State and its institutions, but other social forms too, with capitalism being the most prominent one, but also sexism and racism.  For some anarchists with a strong socialist or communitarian influence, capitalism is the primary evil, and the State condemned as the enforcer or enabler of capitalism, a view which is widespread in contemporary alternative-globalisation movements.  During the Soviet Union, statist authoritarian communism was also a prominent target of anarchist propaganda.

The anarchist is opposed to the existence of States in principle because the deficiences she sees in them she believes to be inherent in States as such.  This definition sets apart the true anarchist from others who resort to anarchist methods of social organisation or action against the State only when certain States contingently offend their principles, and their words and actions may therefore be aimed at causing the State to change so that it conforms with them.

Anarchist methods, again, are varied, and range from direct attacks against State agencies and symbols, to "dropping out" of mainstream society in order to construct practical alternative social forms.  Three main classes of anarchist activity may be distinguised: propaganda, which seeks to promote anarchist critiques and alternative visions by communicating them; Direct Action, which is activity aimed deliberately at shutting down mainstream social forms, or at demonstrating or constructing alternatives whereby people conduct social functions autonomously and without authority relationships; and "propaganda of the deed" which is action aimed at inspiring or catalysing a popular anarchist rising without in itself qualifying as Direct Action.

While "propaganda of the deed," what one might call "Indirect Action," historically gave the world bombings, kidnappings and assassinations, it is not at all essential to anarchism or very prominent among anarchists today.  For example, shutting down G8 or WTO meetings is most often justified by anarchists not as propaganda of the deed (being expressive or propagandistic action with no practical value in itself) but as hampering the evils of capitalist (or neo-liberal) globalisation, while at the same time protest camps demonstrate anarchist living in practice.  Thus propaganda and Direct Action have largely displaced Indirect Action as the modus operandi of anarchist movements, although the latter often accompanies anarchist protests and is seen, for instance, in the ritualised destruction of corporate outlets.

The most prominent contemporary anarchist movements, away from the anti-capitalist protests, are those factories and communes (e.g. squatted social spaces) which drop out of the capitalist economy in order to self-organise their social and economic life on a basis of deliberative democracy, along with activist groups dedicated to specific sectors (e.g. news media) which produce an alternative to mainstream, often marketised sources.  The militia, or "patriot" movement of the United States shares some aspects with anarchism, being focussed on gun rights, opposition to taxation, and freedom from oppressive government agencies, although it tends to style itself as committed to Constitutional rights and freedoms that the State establishment habitually infringes.  Probably the historically most significant realised anarchist communities were the communes and syndicates of revolutionary Spain around the time of the Civil War.

In order to assess anarchist alternatives to the State and other social forms, we must consider whether anarchists' alternative models of society are sustainable without State-like institutions, and without introducing new deficiencies and problems just as bad as the deficiencies for which they condemn the State and the mainstream capitalist economy.  Since it is admitted that States do in practice in many times and places violate rights and fail to promote social justice, we will consider only true anarchists, those who oppose what is inherent in States, and who admit no possibility of a reformed State meeting their ideals.

The simplest conception of the State is that organisation which seeks to establish for itself a monopoly on coercion within fixed boundaries and to impose some conception of justice within its jurisdiction.  Ideally, the State protects rights, enforces justice impartially, and acts only in accordance with the law as publicly and previously declared.  The worry about anarchism is that without a State, there will be no impartial enforcement of justice and no rule of law.  Moreover, the claim that no State has or can approach this ideal to any tolerable degree is not immediately convincing.  While anarchists might accuses Statists of being insufficiently open-minded about the possibilities of non-State society, Statists might well turn the accusation around and accuse anarchists of an unwarranted scepticism about the State as an instrument of social justice, as well as a utopian attitude which fails to respond realistically to the problems of social deviance.  Should we really abandon a State which approximates impartiality and rule of law in favour of anarchism?

Let us take individualist and collectivist anarchisms separately.  Individualist anarchists who are anarcho-capitalists, like Murray Rothbard, oppose the State even in its judicial and policing functions because they view the taxation which supports them as unjustified demands, theft in effect, and assert the right of individuals to organise their own protection and settlement of disputes.  Violation of rights is therefore intrinsic to the State in even its most benign functions, and the State has been accused of implementing a "monopoly of crime."

Rothbard proposes that civil and contractual disputes be resolved by independent arbitrators who would sell their services on the market.  Lacking coercive enforcement of their decisions, this function would be carried out by means of social disapproval and commercial ostracism.  Protection of person and property could be carried out by security firms selling their services, perhaps consituted as selling insurance against crime.

It cannot scarcely be doubted that such a highly unstable society would soon degenerate into a battle between feuding warlords and clans for resources and power, in the image of Somalia.  This is the popular image of anarchy, the condition, or something like it, which most Statists believe would ensue should a State collapse.  In an anarcho-capitalist society, the weak and poor would be subject to exploitation and oppression without limit, since they would be unable to defend themselves, or pay to be defended by protection businesses (or rackets).  There would be nothing to induce so-called protection agencies from aggressing and aggrandising themselves.  Where there is no State authority in the contemporary world, as in the slums of South American megapolises, there is instead constant gang warfare, funded by the drug trade.  In less densely populated areas outside State control, like historic rural Corsica, social relations have been regulated by codes of revenge, which did not prevent a very high murder rate.  Civil peace without a monopoly on legitimate force would be as difficult to uphold between individuals as it is between States at the international level, which is another classic case of the upshot of anarchy.  Periods and zones of peace and co-operation can occur among States, but who would want to recreate this situation at the civil level just because a functioning State taxes and enforces its authority?  In the end, anarcho-capitalism is unsustainable since its operation would be so unstable as to tend to undermine the very individual rights and protections which are supposed to justify it.

Moving on to collectivist anarchism, here are six problems for an anarchist society, organised by direct democracy and subsidiarity (deciding decisions at the lowest practical level), and regulated without organised coercion:

i) what to do about "social deviance" such as crime and violence;

ii) whether there will be the rule of law, with law as a public and accountable institution;

iii) how to defend anarchist society against violent external enemies;

iv) whether intense levels of political interest and commitment could be maintained by the mass of people at the local level;

v) how to achieve efficient and democratic co-ordination of society without reintroducing authority relationships;

vi) and lastly, how to reconcile commitment to democracy and consensus with extra- democratic tactics such as Direct Action.

It is not entirely clear how anarchist society would cope with social deviance such as crime and violence, and other anti-social behaviour.  There would have to be a great deal of liberty to live as one pleased, with no organised social coercion to resort to for the regulation of social relations.  Anarchists have tended to obfuscate this problem by arguing that, in anarchist society, many inducements to crime, especially property crimes, would be missing.  But there still remain whole classes of crime and violence, for instance domestic violence and rape, bullying and blackmail, drug-dealing and addiction, and cheating the system.  In a number of ways, contemporary anarchist movements do not have to deal very much with such problems: their communities are typically small in scale (or large in scale only for short periods, such as specific protests) and the participants are committed to the goals of anarchist living.

If anarchism were to be extended from small pockets of activists to the general mode of life for a whole society, then it would have to deal with the many people who would not be devoted to anarchist ideals, and thus to deal with many of the everyday problems of any mass society.  In order for anarchist conflict resolution and policy on criminals to be fair, there would have to be a set of rules impartially administered.  But straight away, this would be to introduce an element of rigidity and authority into the community.  In a community that had no set rules, and just decided collectively how to act as problems arose, there would otherwise be no rule of law, but rather the rule of the people's whims; no independent judge; and no clear public declaration of what is and what is not permitted, and how infractions will be punished.  The benefit of a State is that it can provide a fixed set of laws impartially enforced and publicly known.  Can there be the rule of law under anarchism?

An anarchist society would also have great difficulties in organising for self-defence against a violent and organised external enemy.  The organisation of a disciplined, centrally organised military force would be directly contrary to anarchist principles, and being with it all the potential for the corrupting force of power which anarchists fear.  This was the great dilemma for the Spanish anarchists in the Civil War, as they were unable to reconcile their anarchist social philosophy with the need for military defence against Franco's armies.  They finally threw their lot in with the Republican government but were subsequently suppressed by the Communists and moderates as they had given up their independent base.  On the other hand, it might be possible for anarchist forces to operate in a decentralised, independent way, for instance like partisans behind enemy lines, but this mode of defence would not do much to preserve an anarchist society, but only keep the anarchists alive long enough to fight back and perhaps refound it.

Anarchism rejects politics as a separate sphere of social life, the preserve of a political class who make and implement the decisions, but rather seeks to bring political debate, organisation and power back to the level of people's everyday lives, although by bringing politics back to that level and relying on consensus rather than authority, the power of some over others is dissolved.  But there is a valid question mark over how interested and committed people would be in running local politics for themselves, where it is a matter of collecting garbage and so on, and in politics generally.  People would put in different amounts of time towards informing themselves and persuading others about political matters, so that consensus democracy would become a question of influence rather than a consensus of equal and independent citizens.  There would be no guarantee that fairness would be the norm rather than self-interest and deception.  There would be no institutional safeguards, no checks and balances, to guarantee the validity of the decision-making process.  Plus, there is a likelihood that, given a great diversity of desires and opinions, having to decide every issue directly at the lowest level would be a recipe for division and indecision rather than consensus and coherent policy-making.  Even if policies were made, there would be no guarantee of their faithful application.

It is not at all clear how subsidiarity would work in practice, due to contradictions among anarchist values.  For example, a society with a just distribution of work and income would most likely have to exhibit some degree of co-ordination above the local level, but this would come into conflict with local control, as would economic efficiency, for example in the provision of public goods like healthcare and distribution research funding (as well as defence, already noted above).  Much that is most efficiently organised with markets or large-scale bureaucracies would have to be organised in a piecemeal fashion, or else by delegates with an appreciation of the big picture, as opposed to mere messengers of their local community.  Selecting delegates to a supra-local committee however, would be to reintroduce the separation of politics into a sphere endowed with authority, and from which most people were alienated.  But then, who has the expertise, time and interest to concern themselves with flood defences, what drugs to buy for the health service, and tax harmonisation?  Anarchism is committed to small-scale politics, but so much that needs to be done requires a larger scale and specialist attention.  This suggests that anarchism romanticises politics somewhat, in the idea that everything that needs to be done can be done directly by all local people together.  The realities of administration would most likely lead to the development of elected specialists dedicated to administering specific problems in a joint way both win and across local communities, which is precisely what anarchism condemns.

Anarchists resort to Direct Action in the belief that established political structures are unwilling or unable to provide social justice or give people the freedom to run their lives for themselves.  But in a society with liberal democratic norms, Direct Action is most often frowned upon as a circumvention of democracy, for instance as the unwelcome impositions of people who cannot persuade anybody else with their arguments.  This is even more the case with anarchist violence and destruction.  Direct Action is a licence for people who feel they are being hemmed in by the system to bypass normal procedures, and assert themselves anyway.  This precedent would not necessarily just fade away in anarchist society, but could re-emerge whenever some people felt mistreated by collective decisions, leading to the kind of disorder that is another image of anarchy in the minds of many.

Thus anarchism faces a variety of problems which show themselves most only once anarchy moves beyond small activist groups to encompassing society at large.  The directness and flexibility which give anarchy its appeal have a flipside which is characterised by a difficulty in dealing with social conflict in an impartial and established manner, and with sustaining a high quality of political life, especially where expertise and co-ordination are required.  Anarchism is rather unrealistic in its vision of a local, participatory politics of everyday life.  Against the anarchist vision, there is a liberal or social-democratic vision of elected politicians arguing about public policies in terms of shared democratic values which allow for citizen engagement through association, consultation, voting and protest in a vibrant civic culture.  Within a wide latitude of liberty, people are free to associate and organise to support themselves and each other in ways in which the wider social system fails them: anarchism is best seen as an alternative for people to turn to when mainstream politics is not working for them.  However, in many ways it is not ideal for society as a whole.  While anarchism has its place as a positive ideology of community-building and DIY politics, it works best within limits and within a wider State framework that can accomplish the functions that suit it well.

Fascism


Fascism aims at carrying a nation to greatness through the thorough inculcation of ultra-nationalism and strong, nationalist leadership.

Ultra-nationalism means that all policies and organisation of society should be geared to national priorities, and that the lives of the members of the nation ought to be suffused with nationalist sentiment and with duty to the nation.  The nation is something greater  the sum of the members of the nation at any one time, and something more like a force or essence which expresses itself in them, and with which their lives are involuntarily bound up.  The good of the nation is the criterion and condition of every other value in the Fascist ideology.  Only State power is adequate to embody national leadership, and the State is therefore supposed in theory to subsume all other organisations, leaving no independent civil society.

Fascism competes with Socialism in that, where it seeks to raise up and organise workers, this is for the good of their nation, and for them as members of their nation, rather than for the good of the workers as a class opposed to the rest of society, and above all rather than as a class which transcends nationality.  Instead of instituting a revolution in ownership or control of industry and the means of production, Fascism emphasises the national role of industry and consequently seeks to organise industry, industrialists and workers both, along nationalist lines.

The Fascist ideal for society is militaristic, in that it is characterised by patriotic spirit, obedience and willingess to sacrifice.  A Fascist society is geared up for the contest of nations, meaning above all for war, for it is war that brings the national spirit to the fore and suffuses members of the nation with fervour, unity and duty to the cause.  To organise a nation in such a permanent wartime spirit is the Fascist ideal, and as such there is no end point at which to arrive, no moment when national greatness has been secured for all time, and nationalist fervour can be allowed to fall off.  Thus, although Fascism has an ideal mode of society, it has no Utopia in the sense of an end point at which it aims, and certainly no ideal conflict-less state of things for the sake of which it fights.  It prizes the national fighting spirit for itself, and hence no other ideology has provided such an inspiration to fight wars, to join in wars, to start wars.

National Socialism, or Nazism, is a German version of Fascism, but with the special feature of a belief in and commitment to Race War, and hence to the inculcation of racial consciousness.

This racism is really a version of the national idea, rooting it in biology and heredity, and hence it easily fits into the ideological morphology of Fascism.  It means that nationality is a function of heredity, which expresses itself in the nature and gifts of a nation, and that the greatness of a nation is in part a function of the purity of its racial inheritance.  Nazi racism is a specific conception of the idea of German nationality and greatness, and hence Nazism is not a separate ideology, but only a racialised German variation on Fascism.  However, it was this racialised national essentialism that made Nazism so ferociously bent on eugenics and genocide in a way that Italian Fascism, which lacked a strongly racialised national idea, was not.


Let us compare and contrast Italian Fascism with Nazism, in order to support the thesis that Nazism is a racialised German version of a generic Fascism.

Fascism has one idea at its core: the surpassing importance of the nation.  Individual rights and interests, claims to redress of grievances, are as nothing except in so far as they harmonise with the aim of raising up the nation to greatness.  All of life is to be subordinated to an overwhelming passion for the nation: "Our myth is a faith, a passion... Our myth is the nation, the greatness of the nation!  And to this myth, this greatness, which we want to translate into a total reality, we subordinate everything else."

The inspiration of Italian Fascism was the vision of a "new Italy, which has nationally come of age and is full of historical and political purpose."  It is to be achieved by force of will dedicated passionately to its cause.  The old Italy, that was to be split asunder by this new Italy, was characterised by division, lack of unity and purpose, slumbering national consciousness, and by everything that was summed up in the Fascist watchword, materialism.  This term signified everything unheroic, from a concern for private and civil rights, to economic profiteering and self-interest, to forgetfulness of the nation, seen as the one great cause.

The reawakening Italian spirit was catalysed by the First World War, into which the interventionists threw their country with gusto, having defeated the exponents of isolationism.  "The war brought into contact Italians separated by differences... making them live in the same trench, in the same mud... and, by making them love and suffer, hope and work together, it fused them in the same pride and the same love of their Fatherland..."  War is sought and celebrated; it provides the context for the progress of the reawakening of a demoralised, divided nation like nothing else can: "War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it."  This spirit of war is proper not only for the front, but for the whole of life, and here we find the root of Fascist totalitarianism: "this anti-pacifist spirit is carried by Fascism into the life of the individual [who] conceives of life as duty and struggle and conquest."  The Fascist ideal is a total way of life, being ultra-nationalist in the sense that what is good in life is only what contributes to the national struggle for greatness.  Only as a total way of life does Fascism hope to succeed in making the nation great.

The inspiration of Fascism is utterly Romantic, celebrating the spontaneous and emotional commitment to a great and living cause, and opposed to materialist concerns, which are petty and unworthy, and make a nation small and weak.  This Romanticism, or irrationalism, means that Fascists happily resort to emotive and rhetorical appeals in order to whip up nationalist sentiment: "Reasoning does not communicate, emotion does.  Reasoning convinces, it does not attract."

All this, Nazism shares with Italian Fascism.  Not for nothing was Hitler's account of his life and the establishment of the Nazi Party called "My Struggle".  Nazism too brings the fight for national greatness down to the level of the individual life, to be lived in service to the nation.  Like the Italian interventionists, it was in the trenches of the Great War where Hitler found his ideal and which epitomised the spirit which he admired.  However, Hitler's experience of the war left a different taste in his mouth: that of bitterness at betrayal on the home front of the soldiery, that meant that all their sacrifices had been in vain.  This historical difference between Germany and Italy produced a legacy of the strongest disgust among Nazis for the "November criminals" who had stabbed the soldiers "in the back" and surrendered, so Hitler claims, just as the possibility of decisive victory opened up.

But above all, so Hitler believed, Germany was defeated because its national spirit, its whole organisation from its politicians down to the working man were not rightly inspired.  Elements of the population were allowed to operate which undermined the national stuggle.  The Nazi, like the Italian Fascist, movement was aimed at renovating and inspiring the whole of life as a means to making the nation great: "The revolution we have carried out is a total one... It has completely changed and recast the relationship of people to each other, to the State, to life itself... At bottom it is the struggle for existence of a people which, left to its old forms of cultural life and played-out values, was otherwise destined to collapse... The purpose of the revolution which we have carried out is the forging of the German nation into a single people..."  Like Italian Fascism, Nazism aimed at suffusing all of social organisation with nationalist duty.  The economy was to be run, as one Nazi put it, as "soldierly socialism," that is, with a view not to profit and gain, but the harmony and strength of the nation.  Although Fascism was opposed to Socialism, as in the collective administration of the economy in the pursuit of social goals, it opposed it not in the name of individualism but of an alternative, national collectivism.

Hitler, like the Italian Fascists, also celebrates the irrational appeal as a means of fomenting nationalism, and is particularly scornful of the German propaganda effort, which, he writes, failed so badly that the slogans of English propaganda became the grievances of the home front.  Propaganda, for Hitler, must be utterly subjective in its advocacy of national rights, that the nation is rights, that its enemies have no legitimate claims.  Moreover, national struggles are not a matter for negotiation; the people do not admire two leaders who shake hands over their differences, he writes, but leaders who defeat and humiliate their enemies.  Nazism is for the uncompromising pursuit of national greatness, and the utter defeat of the rest, with no quarter given.

Italian Fascism and Nazism shared the project of a total renovation of the spirit in which a society lived, its ethos and way of life, in order to unify, embolden and strengthen it as a nation.  But the core of shared ultra-nationalism also defines the enemies of Fascism: whatever forces and ideas affect to de-nationalise the consciousness and aspirations and conscience of a people.  There is in both Italian Fascism and Nazism an "organic" conception of the nation whereby the parts conduce to the health of the whole insofar as the parts are conscious of and defer to the whole, which comes before the parts.  The nation is always present, only for periods it slumbers among an unconscious people, whose national spirit is sapped by what Fascism sees as the decadence-inducing forces of pacifism, socialism, Marxism, humanitarianism, liberalism, finance capitalism and parliamentary democracy.  These enemies forces are also frequently conflated, and regarded as different arms of one force, or two sides of one coin, and often as the ideological weapons of "Jewry": "Marxism always follows capitalism like its shadow.  Both grow from the same root—Jewish Gelddenken."  Hitler regarded Marxism as a Jewish conspiracy to make Jews the rulers over every nation.  Whether they ruled through the stock market or Communist revolution was all the same; they were behind every enemy current all at once.

These forces listed above are indicted for weakening and misleading the nation from its martial and competitive instincts and imperatives, and making it appease its enemies, who are typically conceived as cynically deploying morality against the nation (pacifism); for setting the nation against itself, one part against another (Marxism), as well as putting nationals in league with foreigners against it own co-nationals (socialism, internationalism); for preventing the nation from setting its own goals, setting the national economy to serve the nation, and instead using it to enrich an international (read Jewish) monied class and oppress the workers (finance capitalism); to throw the State to faithless, corrupt, chattering, irresponsible, indecisive, nationally-unconscious politicians, and allow the press to confuse and demoralise the people (liberalism).

In opposition to these forces, the State sets out to endow the whole corpus of the nation with well-directed energy, to bring out its latent forces, to make all its elements co-operate and suppress the wastefulness of competition and in-fighting.  Fascism looks to leadership undertaken in a spirit of dedication and ultimate responsibility, as opposed to practical accountability and free expression of approval and criticism, for democracy cannot assure the qualities and effects that the greatness of a nation demands.  Rather, democracy is perfect for introducing disorder and corruption; it makes a politician look to the voters and their passing whims, rather than to the eternal good of the nation, which rises far beyond the horizon of the individual.  It is not for individuals to aggregate in the State and decide its future by the aggregation of their preferences, but rather it is individuals who are to be animated by the unifying goals of the nation.  Democracy is derided either as a merely quantitative exercise, deciding courses of action according to the largest number, rather than according to the quality of a policy as pro-national; or by elitists as a thin veil for the rule of elite minorities.  Either critique is amenable to the Fascist attack on democracy.

As we see in the case of the critique of democracy, Fascism is not monolithic but diverse, since many parts of its ideology can fit one conception or another, with the constraint only that it validates ultra-nationalist transformation and leadership of society.  Hence why it can seem that the diversity of Fascisms precludes classifying them all under one name; but it is the outline structure of Fascism—an ultra-nationalist core which conditions all other values—that unites them, no matter which conception of the nation, or which arguments against democracy are deployed.  There is no other ideological family which shares the ultra-nationalist core.  Nativist or anti-immigration parties are not Fascist on that basis alone, since anti-immigration nationalism is not in itself ultra-nationalist, implying neither than nationalism should permeate all spheres of society nor that it conditions the value of all other values and institutions.  Nor is an anti-communist dictatorship Fascist unless it seeks not only to resist class war and alignment of its working class with foreign Communist powers, but also to transform society along ultra-nationalist lines.  Fascism is not conservative, but transformative in its own way.

Pace Roger Griffin, if Fascism has often been expressed in terms of national "rebirth," this is less because rebirth and resurgence are essential to the Fascist ideology, and more because the recovery of the proper moral spirit for one's society is a matter of spiritual rebirth, in a sense: the sloughing off of unworthy aims, deception and false idols, and submission instead to a duty and sentiment which is felt to arise from the very needs of the moment.  Why should such a born-again (the term really signifies the first discovery of one's moral compass or self-knowledge) national spirit be called Fascism when a nation-state pre-exists, but not when one is coming into being through struggle?  The "rebirth" theme in Fascism should be interpreted as the spiritual effect of a whole nation rising to national self-consciousness, and not used to restrict the classification of Fascism to movements which seek the more literal rebirth of a nation-state that already was.  That is a contextual rather than ideological distinction.  Rebirth should be understood not as "born for a second time", but as a spiritual achievement for the nation, of which attaining full status as a nation-state could be an example.

Since the Fascist national spirit can decay, and other currents can sap it, the positive totalitarian ideal of the life inspired by nationalism must be complemented by the negative powers of surveillance and intolerance, of the one-party State, which aims at inculcating against and eliminating all dissenting and all independent aspects of social life, and "cleansing" culture of anti-national, "degenerate" elements.  There is a notable difference of content between Italian and Nazi Fascist writings, in as much as Nazism was much more concerned with its enemies: Nazis seem to spend more time and energy on detailing the ideological and anti-national enemies with whom they will have to reckon.  Italian Fascist writing tends to seek to discredit anti-Fascist ideas and politics as ineffective, corrupt and failed, but not as eternal enemies, whose destruction is demanded.  This contrasts with Nazi writing, which describes an almost cosmic encounter between the resurgent German nation and its enemies.

The special feature of the Nazi Fascism was that the struggle for the nation against anti-national elements and ideas was racialised as a struggle of the Germanic race against the Jewish race, and racialised in a way that Italian Fascism was not to be.  This showed historically in that Fascist Italy was never wholly committed to the destruction of the Jews of Europe, and its army at times acted to preserve the Jewish populations of areas it occupied in South-East Europe.  Italy saved 80% of its Jews, more than France (c. 75%).  There were indeed Jewish Italian Fascists in earlier years, which would be unthinkable to Nazis.  Mussolini himself had declared: "The Jews have lived in Rome since the days of Kings [and] shall remain undisturbed;" and he ridiculed German racial thinking, saying of it: "Thirty centuries of history allow us to look with supreme pity on certain doctrines which are preached beyond the Alps by the descendants of those who were illiterate when Rome had Caesar, Virgil and Augustus."

Italian Fascism did take an anti-semitic line in the 1930's and Jews were removed from positions in civil society from 1938 on, while mixed marriages were forbidden, and along racial rather than religious or cultural lines, but the movement never burned with anti-semitic hate as Nazism did, and the laws were laxly enforced.  According to Gioacchino Volpe, who wrote what was regarded as the official history of Italian Fascism, only in 1938 were efforts begun to "identify the materialistic content" of Italian nationality, and official Italian racism "at least in its first formulation, did not talk about superior and inferior races, and did not establish a relationship between biological and moral values."  So although Italian Fascism did become anti-semitic, this seems to have been a late addition to its ideology, and most probably largely an inspiration drawn from closer ties with Nazi Germany, but there remains a wide gap between Italian Fascist anti-semitism and its position front-centre in Nazi thinking.

Earlier Italian Fascism does not appear to problematise Italian nationality and to question whether it is defined by culture or by race, or how the two are linked, in the same way as the issue of Germanness was seen as a vital one by the Nazis in their resistance to anti-national subversion.  The problem of internal non-Italians and the idea of Race War were not the concerns of Italian Fascism until its closer rapprochement with Nazism, in the 1930's.  On the other hand, the unanswered question of who was an Italian did leave a window open for a racial definition which in truth, as Mussolini had said, did not do justice to Italian history and culture.  There is no particular reason why Fascism should not permit a cultural, or civilisational, definition of its core concept, the nation, and a purely cultural conception of what constitutes its greatness; this would however leave room for the persecution of groups living in the national space who were perceived as unable or unwilling to be absorbed into the nation, so it should not be thought that only racialised Fascism provides the ideological resources for attacking minorities.  Furthermore, since Fascism is an ideological of militarism, fervour and conflict, it is liable to find enemies to attack and conquer, even if they do not present much of a threat, for example Abyssinia, which Mussolini invaded for the sake of national glory and to prove that Italy could be a great imperial power.

The definition of the enemy of Fascism as at once the Jewish race and the anti-national spirit was expressed as follows by a Hungarian Fascist: "in the purification of our economic life not only the solution of the Jewish question is essential, but also the exclusion of those Christian Hungarians contaminated by the economic spirit of Jewry... we shall not be guided by the spirit of Jewish morality, but by the life-force, resourcefulness and will for life of our Hungarian people."  Thus "Jewry" is at once the Jewish people and also their supposed ethos, which can be taken up by non-Jews.  It was a peculiarity of Nazism, and perhaps of the dictatorships set up by Nazi Germany in occupied countries, that Jewish influence, a common Fascist bogeyman, was given a further definition as a racial threat, residing in the biological inheritance of Jews, and resisted in part by "racial hygiene" as well as by ideological monopoly and social control.

Although it is not clear from Hitler's thought just how the Jewish biological inheritance causes the Jews to have the spirit or political aims they supposedly have, the different streams of Fascism's enemies are entwined and brought ultimately back to a Race War between Jews and other nations: "For a racially pure people which is conscious of its blood can never be enslaved by the Jew... in politics he begins to replace the idea of democracy by the dictatorship of the proletariat... Culturally he contaminates art... drags men down into the sphere of his own base nature [etc.]."  The Jews are depicted as racially conscious themselves, and engaged in a long-run strategy to undermine all nations, racially, economically, culturally, politically, in their spirit, and all in order to live parasitically on and within them, and without ever being able to join as part of them.  Jews are forever a foreign body in the nation, their race preventing them from joining the nation.  If they have assimilated to a greater or lesser degree, this is only a ploy to insinuate themselves into the nation like an infection.  The Jewish modus operandi is exhaustively detailed in Mein Kampf, where Hitler effectively regurgitates the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which he believes to be a true document from the other side, or at the very least a correct picture of the truth.  It is partly this supposedly inborn, persistent diabolical role of the Jews that inspired Nazism with the justification to undertake a "Final Solution" of the "Jewish problem," since eradication of the carriers of an evil, anti-German force, appeared the only way of defeating them and cleansing the world.

It was, similarly, the special Nazi racialised Fascism that led to policies of eugenics (sterilisation, control of German breeding pairs).  When nationalism conditions all values, as it does in Fascism, and the success of the nation depends on its racial purity and quality, the dignity and protection of the individual as such disappears, and he appears instead merely as better or worse stock from which to perpetuate the nation.  Whenever a social group has all the evil of the bad old world loaded onto it, an evil which it is irredeemable bound to epitomise and sow, it is possible for all moral constraints in dealing with human beings to fall away, and the hardest, most cold-hearted resolve to take over.  Communism is capable of producing a similar hardness, as for example in Khmer Rouge Cambodia, where parts of the population were conceived as obstacles to the most wonderful transformation of life; as with the idea of national greatness in Fascism, the principle to be fulfilled, and which conditions and colours everything else, permits the sacrifice of everything in its pursuit.  The political and economic organisation of the Fascist total State are characteristically unspecified as ultimate values: "the essence of the whole National Socialist revolution encapsulated in one word national honour!  This single thought is all that is need to build a new political State system, and foster a new type of economic thinking, a new economic ethic."

The ideological power of Fascism, like Communism, is to set up a single value and a single goal as the be all and end all, where that goal is defined independently of the individuals who will achieve or enjoy it.  The nation comes before its members; the Communist Utopia is the glorious future, and it matters not whether any workers alive at the time live to see it.  Such is the core idea of Fascism which any other idea or principle must satisfy in order to have any value at all.  Personal virtue is service to the nation, obedience to leadership.  Hence the utter disregard, indeed ridicule of traditional morality or natural law-human rights thinking; whose ends do they serve?  Not the nation's?―Then they are but a trap for the weak-minded.  Both Fascism and Communism erect a double-standard morality: the quality of an act depends on who perpetrates it upon whom, what ends it serves.

The Fascist conception of national success or greatness is, however, ambivalent, for there is often at once a recognition of fellow national Fascisms as equivalent movements, and at the same time a need to assert the primacy of one's own nation and against others.  International relations for Fascism tend to be seen as a zero-sum game.  For example, Mussolini looked forward to a Europe where, after a century of Fascist success, "the Italian people would have the possibility, the numerical strength, and the spirit to enable them to act as an effective counter-weight to the power of Germany, a power which is now overwhelming."  Thus it is unclear whether the aim is to build a joint European Fascism as "a material and spiritual force to mobilise against the eventual enemies of Asia and America," or whether Italy would have to challenge German supremacy.  Would a self-respecting Fascist of principle accept to share power with another nation?  To share resources and room which could be put towards the greatness of his own nation?  There is no stable future peace to aspire to in Fascism, no definition of greatness except continual besting of other nations, of accruing the means of greatness at their expense.  Even if a century of Fascist peace is expected, it is only a period of preparation for greater clashes on an even bigger scale.

To conclude, Fascism is an ideology of a fanatical nationalism to which all else is subordinated, and which promotes it by indoctrination and discipline, aggression against perceived anti-national forces, and international aggrandisement.  The Nazi variation on Fascism took on the special character it did because it gave both the German nation, and anti-national forces and ideas, a racial characterisation which led to racial citizenship, eugenics and genocide.  Every Fascism will give a different account of the nation, and what constitutes its special value, its decadence or greatness, but Fascisms are united by the ultra-nationalism they advocate as the way to make the nation great: not through individual liberty and peaceful co-existence, but discipline, obedience and aggression.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Guns, Race and Corruption: three US Supreme Court cases that made today's America



1. A look at 3 live issues in the USA, in which controversial cases at the Supreme Court have arguably sent the country down bad paths.


2. US Constitution: separation of powers; role of Supreme Court as head of judicial branch.


3. Bill of Rights: interpretation of First and Second Amendments involved in 'Corruption' and 'Guns' cases.





4. District of Columbia v. Heller, 2008

Interpretation of this amendment is controversial because it is unclear whether the Militia Clause limits the Right of the People Clause: does the right to keep and bear arms extend to all the people, or only to those involved in the militia (then, local community citizen units; today, the State National Guards)?  Prior to Heller, the federal appeals courts were split on this question.

Another controversy is over whether to read the Constitution in light of its Original Intent, covering all firearms in general, or as a Living Constitution, to be understood according to contemporary ideas and circumstances, and not necessarily covering firearms unknown at the time of writing.


5. US gun homicide rate compared.



6. Conversely, millions of Americans believe gun-ownership is a sacred right, for hunting, for self-defence, and potentially for defence of freedom against a tyrannical government: this last is foremost in conspiracy theories about the government trying to take away guns as a prelude to the installation of a dictatorship.

4. Washington, D.C. statute, Firearms Control Regulations Act (1975): banned handguns, automatic, high-capacity semi-automatic firearms; required permissible firearms (e.g. rifles, shotguns) to be kept unloaded, disassembled, or locked by a trigger-lock device.  Dick Heller sued D.C. for the right to register and kep a handgun in his home for self-defence.

The Supreme Court decided by 5-4 that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to keep firearms for self-defence, regardless of service in a militia.

The majority decided that the prefatory Militia Clause announced the purpose of the operative Right Of The People Clause, without completely limiting it;

--- the drafting history showed the amendment was meant to prevent Congress from banning firearms, in order to protect the existence of armed State militias, which were necessary to maintain the freedom of the self-governing States;

--- but did accept that the Second Amendment only protected those kinds of firearms in common use in State militias.

Majority arguments:

--- 'the People' includes more than the military-age men liable for militia service;

--- State laws and constitutions protected the right to keep and bear arms for self-defence;

--- political events of the early-modern period confirmed a fear of tyrants disarming citizens generally: the English Bill of Rights (1689) established that Protestants "may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions, and as allowed by Law", reflecting Charles II's effort to disarm his opponents, and widespread fear of standing armies - as opposed to citizen militias;

--- and George III's government's efforts to disarm colonists in rebellious colonies in the run-up to the American Revolution were at the forefront of the Founders' minds.

The minority argued:

--- the amendment said nothing about Congress' right to legislate to limit non-military uses of firearms;

--- other State statutes and constitutions explicitly protected individual rights keep guns for self-defence, but not the Second Amendment;

--- that such explicit protections were in drafts submitted but rejected;

--- 'the People' in the Second Amendment refers to a collective, community right to be exercised through their State governments.

The case shows that the Second Amendment is ambiguous: by not explicitly refering to firearms outside of a militia context, either to limit or protect them, did it mean to enshrine a right to use them for all lawful activities, or to permit Congress to regulate them?  The legal arguments being inconclusive, it is likely that the justices voted more on their feeling for what was more important: the greatest personal freedom, or the government's interest in making policy to promote law and order.

Heller ensures that Americans will not be banned from keeping and bearing arms for personal uses, and therefore that governments and police will not be able to respond to a gun-crime epidemic by simply ridding the country of guns --- however, laws restricting criminals' gun rights and licensing requirements were not addressed.




7. Milliken v. Bradley, 1974

The 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War in an effort to prevent States and cities from discriminating against African Americans.  In the South under 'Jim Crow', schools were racially segregated, as well as housing, restaurants, public transport, marriage, etc..  Segregation was protected by the Supreme Court's 'separate but equal' doctrine.


8. In 1954, the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans won its first famous victory in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, ruling racial school segregation unconstitutional: "Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."  Although white Southern racists resisted, continued protest and federal civil rights laws and enforcement by the late 1960s pushed schools to desegregate on the ground.  Desegregation is the most effective way known for decreasing the educational achievement gap between white and black students.

A large part of desegregation was achieved by busing, but this was fiercely resisted in many white communities.  In the 1980s, desegregation slowed, then reversed.


9. Resistance to busing was especially fierce in Boston.  The Soiling of Old Glory is a famous photo from a 1976 anti-busing riot in downtown Boston: the black lawyer was walking across a square, and was attacked by a mob.


10. Boston as an example: white Boston families tended to either send their children to private schools, or to move in the 'White Flight' process to suburbs outside the city.



11. Often African Americans were effectively excluded from suburbs by owners and estate agents' refusal to offer properties to them, and by relative poverty; and importantly, before the Civil Rights Act, by 'redlining', whereby federal and State governments refused to guarantee mortgages to black homebuyers, partly because of their impact on house prices where they bought.

Milliken was a case about whether predominantly white suburban schools should have to integrate their students with predominantly black Detroit city schools: Milliken was the governor of the State of Michigan, sued by Detroit parents the NAACP to make him implement a desegregation plan encompassing the city and surrounding county suburbs.

The Supreme Court accepted by 5-4 that the school systems were de facto segregated--racially divided as a matter of fact--but decided they were not de jure segregated--racially divided across district lines as a matter of any school board's policy--and therefore that the school systems were under no duty to desegregate across district lines.

Majority arguments:

--- local control of schooling is a deeply rooted tradition and right;

--- a school district should not have a desegregation plan imposed on it without a finding that its educational policies were discriminatory;

--- to justify inter-district integration, the plaintiffs would have to show that the suburban school boards' policies played a role in segregation across district lines.

Minority arguments:

--- limiting integration to the city would make each school city school predominantly black in attendance, and thus result in White Flight which would soon increase segregation: only a plan encompassing city and suburbs would accomplish desegregation;

--- the right to equal protection of the laws does not end at the school district boundary: rather, school districting was one of the means whereby the State of Michigan could design a school system that protected students' rights;

--- the Detroit public school system, found guilty of de jure segregation policies within the city (such as only building schools in the hearts of black or white areas), was an arm of the Michigan State government, and therefore the State at large was responsible for desegregation, not the city alone;

--- school segregation was such a serious violation of equal rights that the strongest measures were to be considered in order to root it out.

Milliken ensured that school segregation could be effectively re-established under colour of the law, by permitting White Flight from inner cities to remove white children from integrated city public school systems.  The consequence is that many Americans continue to live lives of social segregation, denying children the experience of racial integration in their formative years, and marooning many black and minority children in under-funded, under-cared for inner city schools.  It allowed one of the greatest achievements of the Civil Rights Movement to be effectively lost, and perpetuated an America of sharp racial inequality in education, and thus also in later achievement and income.  It granted white suburban citizens the right to divest themselves of any responsibility for making America a more equal and fair society.




12. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 2010


13. Political science study shows: ordinary citizens' level of support for a policy is uncorrelated with its likelihood of adoption; but there is high correlation for wealthy elites and interest groups such as corporations and pressure groups.

Citizens United was a pressure group that wanted to pay for the broadcast of a TV film criticising Hillary Clinton, in the weeks before Democratic primary elections.  Federal law prohibited election spending by corporations, trade unions and pressure groups on election broadcasts in the weeks before elections and primaries.  It also prohibits corporations and unions from contributing funds directly to candidates for federal office.

In a decision by 5-4, the majority decided that paying for election broadcasts constituted political speech, which ought to be free from government interference.

Majority arguments:

--- Corporations and other organisations are only collective associations of individuals, and as such have the same free speech rights as any individual;

--- "There is no such thing as too much speech": the heavy spending of large organisations may allow them to make their speech heard more loudly than that of individuals, but the First Amendment did not authorise the government to restrict anybody's speech to allow others to be better heard: it is up to citizens to critically consider all the information and opinions they hear, not up to the government to filter them for citizens;

--- the prevention of corruption of candidates by big money would justify government regulation of election spending in the interests of preserving democratic control of the government by ordinary citizens: but it defined corruption as a definite quid pro quo - e.g. the exchange of a certain vote for the spending of certain funds.

Minority arguments:

--- "A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold."  They argued the decision gave a greater incentive than ever for politicians to cosy up to wealthy and powerful corporations and pressure groups, to see things their way, and to vote in accord with their interests, in order to have them fund election broadcasts for them - and not for their rivals;

--- corruption was much wider than quid pro quo votes for money: it involved access to decision-makers, and influence over them;

--- the government had a duty to preserve the democratic principle of control of government by ordinary citizens, and to prevent the appearance that politicians were swayed by big money;

--- corporations and organisations are not like individuals: they often had little purpose beyond making money, had no votes, and could amass huge wealth and power that lasted for centuries: corporate election spending should be regarded as a profit-making strategy, rather than a contribution to democratic debate;

--- expensive election broadcast campaigns distorted democratic debate by using money to dominate the marketplace of ideas, drowning out views and opinions that were not backed by big money.

This is another difficult case like Heller, in which the minority wanted to restrict freedom for the good of the community at large: in Heller, to protect public safety; in Citizens United, to protect the democratic system of government.  Just because freedom is a good thing in general, does not necessarily mean it should overwhelm all other values and principles.  In this case, it is certainly contributing to an elitist political system in which wealth and power have more influence than votes, in which corporations speak to voters much more loudly than citizens, and in which elites and interest groups therefore have great control over policy-making.


Conclusions

What these 3 cases show is that the Supreme Court is not really interpreting the Constitution, as in, reading it and determining the meaning of the words.  The Constitution is much too brief and ambiguous to do that.  As we have seen, the legal arguments are not decisive on either side in any of the cases.

What the Supreme Court is really doing in each case is weighing the relative importance of principles that have come into conflict.  In Heller, freedom versus public security; in Milliken, local control of schools versus educational equality; in Citizens United, freedom of speech versus democratic control of government.  These are really not legal, but political, questions: which value has priority, which principle should bow before the other.  It is a naive idea that such critical political questions can be settled in a neutral, legal way.

The Supreme Court has stepped into politics and in these three cases, I would submit, made the wrong choices.  The USA is a more dangerous, unequal and corrupt country today that it might have been, if these decisions had gone the other way.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Is Revelation an astrological myth?

Consider the evidence that John's vision is literally a vision of the heavens, which to New Testament-era people meant literally the visible sky and the further heavens above it.  After taking dictation of seven letters from "one like a son of man", he sees a vision:
behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumbling and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.
These are all sky phenomena.  (Regarding the sea of glass, remember Genesis 1 saying there are waters up in heaven, and a canopy separating the waters above from the waters below.)  He who sits on the throne in the sky seems to be God, especially if ones compares the figure in Ezekiel 1.

Coming back to the "one like a son of man":
In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
This son of man is standing in the midst of seven lampstands, and holds seven stars in his right hand.  Up by the throne there is next also seen:
a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Again with the seven items.  This would seem to be Jesus in his anthropomorphic and ovine avatars: of course one of Jesus' roles is to be the replacement for the life-saving sacrificial lamb of Passover.

If John is seeing the Lamb with seven stars in the heavens, he might be talking about a vision inspired by the constellation Aries with the seven Pleiades alongside.  We call Aries the Ram, but in ancient Hebrew culture it was a lamb.  With his head pointing backwards, we can imagine him "slain".  Just next to Aries on the left is the cluster of seven stars called the Pleiades.  Being on the ecliptic, with the Sun passing through annually, we might see an explanation of his face "like the sun shining".


We also have by the throne some creatures of the following kinds:
the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings...
Like much in Revelation, they seem to be based on these creatures from Ezekiel:
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. ... And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.
The four same human and animal faces.  As it happens, the Lion and the Bull also lie on the ecliptic (they are signs of the Zodiac), while the Eagle lies just off it, in ancient Greek astronomy.  Perhaps the human face is the Hunter (Orion), just below the Bull:


Looking back at the context for the borrowing in Ezekiel, the sky references are obvious:
As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning.
The astronomical references too, as the creatures turn on wheels within wheels.  These are their orbits:

Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went.
The myriad angels who praise God in the throne-room are probably myriad stars as well.  We know that in Revelation stars are actually animate beings:
I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.
If we imagine the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding horses with wings, which is unstated, then the winged horse is another nearby constellation reference.  Perhaps there is a horse reference anyway.  One of the horsemen has a balance in his hand: Libra?  Perhaps the horrid locusts that "have tails and stings like scorpions" reference the constellation Scorpio.  As for the twenty-four elders around the throne, Greek astrology identified 24 important stars, one North and one South of each sign of the Zodiac, but perhaps this double-12 represents 12 Gentile tribes for each of 12 Jewish tribes, or some such numerology.

Later on:
a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness
There is of course a woman in the Zodiac, along the ecliptic, "clothed with the sun": Virgo, associated with virginity and fertility.  Depending how one counts, one can see twelve stars around her head on the right:


Not far from Virgo is the Serpent, perhaps referenced by the Dragon (a type of serpent according to Strong's Concordance).  The Dragon is associated again with the number seven, and The Serpent has 7 prominent stars about its head (notice the double star):


None of this is a proof, but the correlations are interesting.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Sin, law and interpolation in Romans 7-8

The most damaging errors in Christian interpretations of the New Testament, are the assumptions that the canonical texts are in fundamental agreement with each other, and moreover that each text is internally coherent, bearing a single message about any given subject.  Tomes upon tomes have been written upon the epistles attributed to Paul, in particular, in an effort to explicate the contortions and twists of his logic.  The only logical solution is to cut the Gordian Knot of interpretation, by seeing that the twists and contortions were in fact introduced by interpolators and editors who changed and added to the text to bring Paul round to their way of thinking.

Romans 7 and the majority of 8 (ESV), below, is supposed to explicate Paul's attitude to Sin and the Law (i.e. Torah commandments).  I have colour-coded it to show in red what I estimate as interpolation:
Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
The triple expostulation in 7:7 is transparently an attempt to row back the authentic Paul's principle that the Law was captivity and an evil instrument, for it both "aroused" the sinful passions of the flesh and applied the punishment for Sin.  This rowing back is bookended on the other end of the passage with the pseudo-inference, "So the law is holy", which bears no logical relation to the foregoing argument.  How can Paul honestly be supposed to have argued that the Law arouses Sin, made it come alive, killed him, and therefore is holy?  This is a transparent attempt to assert by interpolation that Paul meant the opposite of what he was trying to communicate.

The chapter as it continues is interpolation:
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
The curiosity is that only now do we read an argument for how the Law can both be holy and arouse Sin: the argument comes after the conclusion falsely tacked on to the authentic Paul's contrary argument above!  The solution the interpolator has come to, is to argue that while the Law is holy, Sin is inherent in the flesh, a traitor to oneself embodied in the physical nature of humanity.
 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Who can take seriously the idea of a Paul who says, "I delight in the law of God ... I myself serve the law of God with my mind", when this is supposed to be the same Paul who said in the epistle to the Galatians: "I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace" and "all who rely on works of the law are under a curse"?  Does Paul "delight" in the Law from which he has already been "released" (Romans 7:6), the Law that "aroused" Sin, the Law apart from which Sin lies ded, the Law to conform to which is to be severed from Christ and laid under a curse?
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
The pseudo-Pauline soteriology here is a separate theory from that already stated in Romans 7:1-6.  The interpolator's soteriology is that Jesus' death substituted for our punishment for our sins; the authentic Pauline soteriology of 7:1-6 is that the Christian faithful have already "died to the Law".  This authentic soteriology is explicated by the point made about baptism and death in Romans 6: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."  Paul's authentic soteriology is that since the baptised have died once by union with the resurrected Christ, they cannot be punished with death under the Law, for one can die but once: "We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.  12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
The authentic Paul would not have said, "the body is dead because of sin", because he had already said why the body is dead and resurrected: baptism into Christ's death and resurrection.
14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Here we seem to be back with the authentic Paul, as identified by the idea of the "spirit of slavery", which by comparison with Galatians would seem to imply attachment to captivity under the Law, as promoted by Jews and the Jerusalem apostles.

The most natural way to interpret Paul is in this and similar ways, to notice the contrary arguments and nonsensical bookendings, and to pay attention to the way his epistles are incoherent.  The viewpoint the interpolators are trying to row back, is most likely the authentic one.