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How Australian Unions Fought Apartheid.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 23/05/2021 - 7:48am in


Politicians and the literati have a very limited attention span. Perhaps that’s because the news cycle gets ever briefer. Or maybe they – like Matt – are just too busy praising “unjustly forgotten” books they never read, to pay attention to what happens in the real world.

This is particularly true when educated, better-off, upwardly mobile Leftists – including some who, much to my dismay, call themselves Marxists – are called to evaluate the achievements of the organised labour movement. If accomplishments are acknowledged – if, I repeat – it seldom goes beyond improvements on working conditions and pay (say, the 8 hour workday); moreover, even those gains are often belittled as “sweetheart deals” in payment for services rendered to capitalists against Third World workers.

And yet, unions both in Australia and in the US played a key role – “unjustly forgotten”, as Matt wrote in another context – in the fight against South African apartheid, as historians Peter Cole and Peter Limb argue (in Australia, Commie unionists also were among the pioneering environmental activists).

It is true, however, that given the lawful and unjust limitations imposed on the right to strike (embodied in the “protected industrial action” notion), that kind of union activism has been made next to impossible, much to the relief of our masters’ mouthpieces Christopher Pyne, Michaelia Cash, Michael Stutchbury, Chris Kenny and … Peter Hartcher. Thank you very much, Labor party.

Lessons that can be learnt from dockworkers who helped bring apartheid to its knees Dockworkers in Australia, pictured here alongside other trade union members in a march through central Melbourne, acted in solidarity with South African workers in the 1980s. Reuters Peter Cole, Western Illinois University

Today’s complex global economy has brought new forms of worker exploitation. And globalisation has made workers ever-more precarious. For example, factory workers in Bangladesh toil long days in buildings that could very possibly collapse and kill them. Foreign guest workers in the Arab Gulf have no legal protections from physical abuse.

Overwhelmed by the injustices they face, many workers feel helpless and apathetic. But the Anti-Apartheid Movement reminds us that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight for workers’ rights – even halfway across the planet.

The movement was one of the most impressive global social movements of the post-second world war era. What is often forgotten is that it was also a struggle by workers for workers.

Global solidarity

Among the workers who mobilised against apartheid were unionised dockworkers and seamen far from South African shores. In collaboration with Peter Limb, I researched the history of Australian and American dockworkers’ mighty contribution to the global movement against apartheid.

Our research compares the transnational solidarity activism of maritime unions in Australia and the US. Strategically positioned, dockworkers exerted real influence on the South African state. They did this principally by refusing to unload South African cargo. In both places, their actions helped drive the local and national anti-apartheid movement.

A Release Nelson Mandela poster issued by the anti-apartheid movement. Wits University library/Reuters/Radu Sigheti

In Australia, we examine the Waterside Workers’ Federation, the Seamen’s Union of Australia, and related unions. In the 1950s, the two unions contacted the South African Congress of Trade Unions through international labour and peace networks. Over the next three decades, they repeatedly responded to appeals for boycotts by South African unions and the country’s liberation movements, notably the African National Congress.

Thanks to a combination of politicised union leadership and grassroots activism, these organisations undertook numerous boycotts. They also raised and donated significant money to support people struggling in South Africa and in exile.

On the US side, we examined the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), especially Local 10 in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the aftermath of the 1976 Soweto students’ uprising, some ILWU Local 10 members, predominantly Pan-Africanists and leftists, formed a rank-and-file committee to support the anti-apartheid movement as well as struggles in Mozambique and then Rhodesia.

Hitting apartheid where it hurt

Their greatest effort was an 11-day action in 1984 when they refused to unload South African cargo. This action came hard on the heels of the apartheid state’s repression of striking black gold miners who belonged to the National Union of Mineworkers, notably the imprisonment of some leaders.

With the support of thousands from the Bay Area committee who rallied in solidarity, San Francisco longshore workers galvanised the region’s commitment to this cause and expanded the struggle.

This activism had a huge impact. Shipping remained an Achilles heel of apartheid because the South African economy was both export-driven as well as dependent on foreign oil. Maritime unions fully understood this reality, so they boycotted the unloading of South African cargo.

They were also positioned to gather information on South African imports, particularly oil, and contribute to the squeeze on South Africa’s industrial economy by denying it oil. South Africa’s lack of oil is why the then-state-owned company Sasol invested so heavily in converting coal into oil, with all its attendant noxious and polluting side effects.

Marine transport workers, part of one of the most heavily unionised industries in the world, contributed to the tightening of the noose around apartheid’s neck. After his release from prison in 1990, Nelson Mandela singled out dockers, in both Sydney and the San Francisco Bay Area, for their contributions when he visited each country.

The power of transnational solidarity

This forgotten history of transnational solidarity in the anti-apartheid movement reminds us that workers, in our increasingly connected global economy, still possess power and exert influence.

For instance, in 2008 dockers in Durban refused to unload weapons aboard a Chinese ship that were intended for Zimbabwe. The provincial leaders in the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, whom I later interviewed, explained that they did not want to see the weapons used by the government to gun down Zimbabwean workers.

The Durban dockers also knew that many Zimbabwean workers had supported the liberation struggle in South Africa.

Dockworkers in San Francisco and Sydney lifted their voices and downed their tools on behalf of the oppressed in South Africa. They showed that people had power when committed and organised. They also demonstrated a related lesson that is increasingly easy to forget: unionised workers can be central to the struggle for both labour rights and broader political change.

We can and must do the same on behalf of workers and others suffering today. While we might not have the power to boycott a ship, dockers provided a blueprint for action, a useable history for us to adapt to contemporary struggles. We can – as citizens, consumers, and particularly workers – exert political pressure, including in foreign lands.The Conversation

Peter Cole, Professor of History, Western Illinois University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Power … and the Dialect of Economics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 31/03/2021 - 2:24am in

A few months ago, I went down a rabbit hole analyzing word frequency in economics textbooks. Henry Leveson-Gower, editor of The Mint Magazine, thought the results were interesting and asked me to write up a short piece. The Mint article is now up, and is called ‘Power: don’t mention it’. What follows is my original manuscript.

If you’ve ever taken Economics 101, then you’re familiar with its jargon. In the course, you probably heard the words ‘supply and demand’ and ‘marginal utility’ uttered hundreds of times. As you figured out what these words meant, you gradually learned to speak a dialect that I call econospeak.

Like all dialects, econospeak affects how you express ideas. The vocabulary of econospeak makes it easier to express certain ideas (such as ‘market equilibrium’), but harder to express others (like ‘imperialism’, as we will see). This trade-off is a feature of all specialized dialects. Physics-speak, for instance, makes it easy to talk about the dynamics of motion, but difficult to talk about emotion.

While all scientific languages share this kind of trade-off, econospeak is different from natural-science dialects in one key way. The natural sciences have a solid empirical footing. Mainstream economics does not. As Steve Keen showed in his book Debunking Economics, when the ideas in Econ 101 are subjected to scientific scrutiny, they manifestly fail.

Despite this scientific failure, Econ 101 charges on like a juggernaut, largely unchanged for a half century. Why? The simplest (and most incendiary) explanation is that the course is not teaching you science. Rather, it is indoctrinating you in an ideology.

In his introductory textbook Principles of Economics, former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke admits as much. He writes: “economics is not a set of durable facts … it is a way of thinking about the world.” I agree. Economics 101 teaches you a fact-free way of thinking — the very definition of an ideology.

In their book Capital as Power, political economists Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler go further. They argue that mainstream (neoclassical) economics is “ideology in the service of the powerful”. If this is true, the trade-offs in econospeak take on new meaning. In particular, the words that are absent from the economics dialect indicate ideas that the powerful wish to suppress. As we will see, what econospeak seems to suppress is the idea of power itself.

Analyzing econospeak

To better understand the economics dialect, I recently assembled a large sample of economics textbooks. I measured the frequency of words in these books, and then compared this frequency to what is found in mainstream English (as measured by the Google English corpus). Here is what I found.

Unsurprisingly, economists use some words far more than average. The word ‘supply’, for instance, is about 30 times more common in economics textbooks than in mainstream English. The word ‘demand’ is about 50 times more common.

Economists also use some words far less than average. The word ‘imperialism’, for instance, is about 100 times less common in econospeak than in mainstream English. And the word ‘anti’ (used to voice opposition) is about 1000 times less common. It seems that economists rarely speak about imperial conquest, or of opposition to it.

We can find similar differences across the whole economics dialect. Because there are about 35,000 unique words in my textbook sample, I cannot discuss the results for every word. But I can show you the ‘structure’ of econospeak. To do so, I’ll break the economics dialect into four quadrants, as shown in Figure 1. (If you want to explore this data in more detail, I have built an interactive app available here.)

Figure 1: Quadrants of econospeak. For an interactive version of this chart, visit

In Figure 1, each point represents a word. The horizontal axis shows the word’s frequency in economics textbooks. The vertical axis shows this word frequency relative to mainstream English. I have divided the economics dialect into four quadrants that I call ‘jargon’, ‘quirks’, ‘under-represented’ and ‘neglected’.

The ‘jargon’ quadrant contains words that economists use frequently, and far more than in mainstream English. Here you will find the jargon of economics — words like ‘supply’, ‘demand’, ‘marginal’, and ‘utility’.

The ‘quirks’ quadrant contains words that economists use infrequently in absolute terms. But these words are so rare in mainstream English that economists actually overuse them in relative terms. In the ‘quirks’ quadrant you will find the language of economic parables. ‘Superathletes’, for instance, are a parable for extremely productive people. And to be ‘grasshopperish’ is to be lazy.

When you learn economics, you focus on the jargon and the quirks. What you do not focus on are the words in the lower two quadrants of Figure 1. These are words that economists underused relative to mainstream English. You tend not to notice these underused words because absence is difficult to spot. But when we crunch the numbers, it becomes obvious which words economists choose not to say.

Let’s look at the ‘under-represented’ quadrant. Here you will find words that economists use frequently — almost as frequently as economics jargon. But outside of economics, these words are so common that economists actually underuse them. In the ‘under-represented’ quadrant you will find (among other things) the language used to describe the bureaucratic structure of groups — words like ‘organizations’, ‘administration’, ‘management’, and ‘committee’. Economists, it seems, prefer not to think about bureaucracy.

And now to the ‘neglected’ quadrant. Here live words that are common in mainstream English, yet which economists utter rarely. It is here that we find the language of power.

Not speaking about power

Economists, it seems, do not like to speak about power. We can see this fact in Figure 2. Here I show words that relate to wielding and submitting to power. I’ve plotted their frequency using the same coordinates as in Figure 1 — the ‘quadrants of econospeak’. I find that the vast majority of these power-speak words live in the ‘neglected’ quadrant. Economists rarely utter them. And relative to mainstream English, this constitutes massive underuse.

Figure 2: Econospeak neglects the language of power.

What should we make of the relative absence of power-speak in economics? One possibility is that economists are simply unaware of the power dynamics of modern capitalism. This is a popular argument made by in-house critics like Wassily Leontief — the former President of the American Economic Association (AEA). In his 1970 presidential address to the AEA, Leontief scolded his colleagues for building models that had little to do with reality. Economists, he claimed, made theoretical assumptions based on ‘nonobserved facts’.

In this telling, it is ‘naive assumptions’ that cause economists to neglect the language of power. Leontief’s criticism certainly has an element of truth. The assumptions baked into mainstream economics models are extremely naive — at odds with an ever-growing array of evidence. But what Leontief’s critique does not explain is economists’ intransigence. It has been fifty years since Leontief scolded his fellow economists for ignoring the real world. And yet in the time since, Econ 101 has remained virtually unchanged. Why?

The intransigence of Econ 101 points to a darker side of economics — namely that the absence of power-speak is by design. Could it be that economics describes the world in a way that purposely keeps the workings of power opaque? History suggests that this idea is not so far-fetched.

An investment in hiding power

John D. Rockefeller — widely regarded as the richest American who ever lived — was nothing if not a shrewd investor. What, then, did he consider his ‘best investment’? It was not stocks. It was not even physical property. No, what Rockefeller would describe as his ‘best investment’ was far less tangible. It was an investment in ideology.

In 1890, Rockefeller spent $600,000 — the equivalent today of about $170 million1 — to found the University of Chicago. While remembered as an act of philanthropy, Rockefeller himself considered this gift an investment — and his best one at that.2 This was because the University of Chicago would later promote ideas that vastly improved Rockefeller’s image.

In building his industrial empire, Rockefeller was ruthless in wielding power. Here is how Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler describe it:

[Rockefeller] invented every possible trick in limiting competition and output, in using religious indoctrination for profitable ends, in rigging stock prices and bashing unions, in enforcing ‘free trade’ while helping friendly dictators, in confiscating oil-rich territories and in uprooting and destroying indigenous Indian populations.

(Nitzan and Bichler, 2009)

This ruthless use of power, you can imagine, gave Rockefeller a bad image. Enter Rockefeller’s ‘investment’. In founding the University of Chicago, Rockefeller created the first bastion of neoclassical economics. It was at the University of Chicago that Milton Friedman penned his ode to free markets, Capitalism and Freedom. It was there that Theodore Schultz and Gary Becker proclaimed that income stemmed from productive ‘human capital’. And it was there that the ‘Chicago boys’ were trained — a group of Chilean economists who helped Augusto Pinochet institute a brutal military coup in the name of the ‘free market’.

In the writings that came out of the Chicago school, ruthless acts of power were not discussed. Instead, the focus was on a fantasy world governed by ‘perfectly competitive free markets’. This fantasy, argue Nitzan and Bichler, “helped make Rockefeller and his like invisible”. It allowed capitalists to cloak their power in euphemistic language. Capitalists did not wield ‘power’ … they wielded ‘freedom’.

A century later, Rockefeller’s investment appears to still be paying dividends. As Figure 2 shows, the language of power remains conspicuously absent from economics textbooks. This absence, I believe, is by design.

The key to successfully wielding power is to make control appear legitimate. That requires ideology. Before capitalism, rulers legitimized their power by tying it to divine right. In modern secular societies, however, that’s no longer an option. So rather than brag of their God-like power, modern corporate rulers use a different tactic. They turn to economics — an ideology that simply ignores the realities of power. Safe in this ideological obscurity, corporate rulers wield power that rivals (or even surpasses) the kings of old.

Are economists cognizant of this game? Some may be. Most economists, however, are likely just ‘useful intellectuals’ — clever people who are willing to delve into the intricacies of neoclassical theory without ever questioning its core tenets. Meanwhile, with every student who gets hoodwinked by Econ 101, the Rockefellers of the world happily reap the benefits.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. You can use/share it anyway you want, provided you attribute it to me (Blair Fix) and link to Economics from the Top Down.


For more details about my analysis of econospeak, see my blog post Deconstructing Econospeak.

  1. In 1890, Rockefeller’s $600,000 gift was worth about 2600 times the US per capita income of $230. In 2019, US income per capita was $65,000. If today Rockefeller gifted 2600 times the average American income, it would be worth about $170 million.↩
  2. Speaking of his endowment to the University of Chicago, Rockefeller reportedly said ‘it was the best investment I ever made’ (Collier & Horowitz, 1976; cited in Nitzan & Bichler, 2009).↩

Further reading

Collier, P., & Horowitz, D. (1976). The Rockefellers: An American dynasty. Henry Holt & Company.

Keen, S. (2001). Debunking economics: The naked emperor of the social sciences. New York: Zed Books.

Nitzan, J., & Bichler, S. (2009). Capital as power: A study of order and creorder. New York: Routledge.

Matt Taibbi or the Boy who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/03/2021 - 4:16pm in

Last month Matt Taibbi (author, journalist, and podcaster) sent the hornets into a fit of fury with “Marcuse-Anon: Cult of The Pseudo-Intellectual” an angry piece on Herbert Marcuse, a (or the) sacred cow of the identitarian Left.

And no one was more evidently furious than Jonathan Feldman (docent at the Department of Economic History, Stockholm University), who replied with “Matt Taibbi, Herbert Marcuse and the Journalistic Appropriation of Philosophy”.

Although I sympathise with Taibbi (yes, I ain’t no fan of Marcuse and I’m even less favorably disposed to educated, relatively affluent, upwardly mobile identitarian Leftists – which Feldman seems to champion) I am sorry to say neither side covered itself in glory in this brouhaha.

By coincidence, however, current Australian affairs offer a good opportunity to illustrate where Marcuse has valuable things to say and to start my comment on that controversy.


A little digression is needed.

Australian women are protesting the COALition Government inaction on women’s rights at work and against sexual and other kinds of gendered violence. This comes after a series of rape allegations against current Cabinet members and their staffers (one of the alleged victims took her own life).

Yesterday women protested around Australia. To that effect, they organised a series of peaceful rallies to express their frustration.

This is how PM Scott Morrison began his speech before the House of Representatives, as protesters just outside Parliament House were left unsuccessfully demanding his presence:

“Today here and in many cities across our country, women and men are gathering together in rallies both large and small to call for change and to act against violence directed towards women. It is good and right that so many are able to gather here in this way, whether in our capital or elsewhere, and to do so peacefully to express their concerns and their very genuine and real frustrations. This is a vibrant liberal democracy. Not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets—but not here in this country. It is a triumph of democracy when we see these things take place.”

So, a liberal democratic government’s inaction on women’s issues is redeemed by the fact women can protest that inaction without being shot.

Local politicians, observers and commentators didn’t fail to notice that. What they failed (or refused) to understand is its implications.


What does that have to do with Herbert Marcuse? Well, he deals with such situations in “Repressive Tolerance”:

“The exercise of political rights (such as voting, letter-writing to the press, to Senators, etc., protest-demonstrations with a priori renunciation of counterviolence) in a society of total administration serves to strengthen this administration by testifying to the existence of democratic liberties which, in reality, have changed their content and lost their effectiveness. In such a case, freedom (of opinion, of assembly, of speech) becomes an instrument for absolving servitude”.

Readers can see Morrison’s 2021 speech foretold in Marcuse’s 1966 fragment, yes? So, Marcuse’s work is not just wankery.

Let me spell out the implications of that for Aussies: liberal democracy is a sham.


A problem with Taibbi’s criticism is that he seems to believe until Marcuse had his Idea (with big I), people acted otherwise. Instead of the Devil, it was Marcuse’s Idea who made them do it. But that’s not true.

Mind you, if I’m right and my assessment of Taibbi is fair, he isn’t the only one – or the first – to believe that Idea precedes and makes reality.

Nobody can realistically believe Scotty from Marketing has ever read any literature beyond whatever Hillsong produces. More relevantly, I doubt even his speechwriters have read Marcuse.

Identitarian Leftists, however, do use Marcuse as an intellectual cover for what they were already doing.


This brings us to Feldman’s really long reply (roughly twice as wordy as Taibbi’s already wordy post). He proceeds by points. I will only comment on one, that I find particularly wrong: “Did Marcuse Trash the Working Class as Agents of Change?”

Marcuse didn’t, Feldman asserts and dugs up two quotes (from 1967 and 1969) to prove it. The first one, for example, was a lecture Marcuse delivered at the Free University of Berlin, explaining in public that he never trashed the working class.

The question is if Marcuse’s comradely love for the working class was so evident, so clear for all to see, why would people – even in his own time, for Christ’s sake! – doubt it? Because on one thing Feldman is right: many people before Taibbi believed Marcuse trashed the working class.

So, why did these people entertain such idea? Ask them. My guess is that they may have read what Feldman forgot to read: thesis 32 in Marcuse’s 1947 “33 Theses” (which, incidentally, also addresses his “Did Marcuse Love Lenin and Dictatorships?”). Let me quote Marcuse in full (the emphasis is mine):

“While the unions in their traditional structure and organization represent a force hostile to revolution, the political workers’ party remains the necessary subject of revolution. In the original Marxist conception the party does not play a decisive role. Marx assumed that the proletariat is driven to revolutionary action on its own, based on the knowledge of its own interests, as soon as revolutionary conditions are present. In the mean time monopoly capitalism has found the ways and means of economically, politically and culturally leveling the majority of the proletariat. The negation of this leveling before the revolution is impossible. The development has confirmed the correctness of the Leninist conception of the vanguard party as the subject of the revolution. It is true that the communist parties of today are not this subject, but it is just as true that only they can become it. Only in the theories of the communist parties is the memory of the revolutionary tradition alive, which can become the memory of the revolutionary goal once again; only its situation is so far outside the capitalist society that it can become a revolutionary situation again”.

Again, Marcuse’s Idea did not create reality. He only expressed in scholarly language what less scholarly minds always believed: at best the working class was their tool, their asset, which they could use to attain power for the greater good (aka Leninism) or write it off when it becomes unprofitable (aka identitarian Left).


I won’t quote from it, but you will find in Noel Ignatin and Ted Allen’s “White Blindspot” Marcuse’s ideas on the working class, more crudely expressed, with less care for philosophical nuances – or PR. Their message, however, is the same: the white working class (the majority of the American proletariat) made a sweetheart agreement with the US ruling class.


Feldman seems oblivious to this, but any moderately thinking working person can bear witness to the disdain our better off brethren feel for us. But you won’t take our word for that. The “lived experience” thing does not apply to us. No matter. Occasionally, even some among our better off brethren have remarked on it. Barbara Ehrenreich, for one, has. George Orwell, too. The second part of his 1937 book “The Road to Wigan Pier” became infamous for that.

Indeed, back in 1879, Marx and Engels also witnessed that and as a consequence threatened to disown German social democracy (see part three of that circular letter).


We leave the Taibbi/Feldman quarrel at that.

Once upon a time, the liberal/Leftish parasitising the workers’ movement from its very start and sapping its energies like a tapeworm could speak their minds openly. Workers needed their representation, because of our “seedy appearances”; we didn’t look respectably bourgeois. We lacked their good manners and taste; we were “louts besotted with barricades”. Their British contemporaries, less tactful, would say we smelled (or were dysgenic).

Eventually, such openness became unacceptable. So, come election time, everybody dons hi-visibility vests and hard hats. But as soon as electoral defeat happens, we become throwbacks; homogeneously bigoted among all others in society; sell-outs who don’t know our own interests and stubbornly reject the caring guidance of those who know better (sometimes, however, we still revert to dysgenic or just plain stupid and inbred a la Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel).

At any rate “the working class is incapable of emancipating itself by its own efforts. In order to do so it must place itself under the direction of ‘educated and propertied’ bourgeois who alone have ‘the time and the opportunity’ to become conversant with what is good for the workers”.

When Marx and Engels denounced that, Leninism and the New Left were still in the future. They could have written it about them; what they wrote then still applies to our own time.

How Capitalism Survives: Social Theory and Structural Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/02/2021 - 12:40pm in

by Francesco Boldizzoni* For as long as neoliberalism – the face that capitalism has assumed since the 1980s – has been showing signs of aging, there has been a tendency to view every crisis as a harbinger of impending epochal … Continue reading →

The Core Social Principles of Ideologies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/02/2021 - 3:05pm in



Every ideology has a few core principles: guiding lights, or pole-stars, which believers should use to guide themselves.

The fundamental proposition; the IDEAL, of Confucian government, is that the rulers should govern as if they are benevolent parents. If they do not do so, they are not legitimate, but tyrants.

The fundamental proposition of feudalism and related ideologies is that some bloodlines are better than others, and those from those bloodlines deserve to rule.

The fundamental proposition of capitalism is that money is earned by providing “utility” and that those who have money have it because they have done the most good. This easily turns into oligarchy, “those with the most money are the most virtuous & should rule.”

The fundamental proposition of democracy is that all legitimacy comes from the citizenry (people) and that they should rule, sometimes by selecting others; sometimes directly.

The fundamental proposition of Westminster style democracy (parliamentary) is that “Parliament is Supreme!” It can do whatever it wants, and one Parliament cannot tie the hands of another one. (Treaties have been used to try to get around this, doing so is illegitimate.)

The fundamental proposition of American enlightenment democracy is that everyone is equal. It was originally phrased as “all men”, but that is an error requiring correction, and much of American history is about the attempt to properly live up to the proposition.

The fundamental social teaching of Jesus, was that we should help the least of us, and that great wealth is an evil.

Buddhism, to my knowledge, doesn’t have a great deal of governing philosophy, but the proposition is that life always involves suffering and that we should try and end or reduce suffering as much as possible, including in animals.

Communism’s core proposition is that the means of production should be controlled by the masses: that power should not be a consequence of wealth or property.

Once you’ve identified the core proposition of an ideology, you use that as your pole star, moving ever towards it. You’re not a communist if you allow private concentration of wealth to control the economy or don’t keep control of economic activity in the hands of the workers in specific and the people in general.

All founders make mistakes and their disciples and heirs make more. It is your duty, if you follow a great ideology, to correct those errors. In Confucianism this includes Confucius’s treatment of women. In American democracy, systematic inequality and disenfranchisement.

In Buddhism this would be indifference to suffering because, hey, there’s no self anyway, amiright? In parliamentary democracy, it is believing the supremacy of Parliament either can be used against the people’s interest OR trying to bind Parliament and thus the democratic will.

If you have an individual philosophy or code of conduct/honor, it too may have a polestar. Mine is truth. In matters of public import, I try not to lie, because I believe we can’t make good decisions if we believe wrong things.

I also try to correct. I try to be open to being wrong, without being so open-minded I accept nonsense. Just had a long conversation with a friend that convinced me I had misunderstood some important things about the modern left. I was grateful to learn where I had been wrong.

Use this post as a spur for thought. What are the polestars for various ideologies? What are your polestars in various parts of your life.

Bonus: if there’s more than one polestar, where do they conflict or help each other and when?

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