Sure, Karl Marx advocated the violent overthrow of governments and the subsequent dictatorship of the proletariat. But he was also a proud bourgeois, a papa who liked buying his daughters nice dresses.
The point is, even Lefties like nice things, and the holidays? That's when nice things come out to play.
We asked two of our favorite Lefties how they'll celebrate this season: Mark Poster, a professor of history and critical theory at UC Irvine, has written extensively on French social theorist Jean Baudrillard and new media, and DJ Dave regularly inundates us with e-mails about progressive/radical issues and causes.
MARK POSTER OC Weekly: What will you give family and friends for the holidays? Poster: I have two grown daughters, so they're usually in dire need of money; so that's easy. With my wife, I usually like to spend more time thinking about what things she'd enjoy. I ask because I once gave my family certificates saying I'd given 50 chickens to a Filipino farmer in their names.
I'm always suspicious of charities because of the 90 percent overhead, so I tend not to do that.
But you don't have any trouble with the commercialization of the holidays?
I don't have any trouble with it, but I'd have to explain my whole position on consumer capitalism to explain why, and that would take a long time.
Just a thumbnail sketch?
I'd have to get into stuff I've written on at length . . .
Well, basically, I think that the traditional neo-Marxist view—that consumer capitalism is a way to dissuade the working class from revolution—is deeply wrong because the working class is already more or less massively committed to consuming.
If the working class is committed to consumption, who's committed to revolution?
No one. There's not even an oppositional party. We have to think about the political realities of the U.S. There's simply no resistance to consumer capitalism. If there is resistance, it takes place at the local level. But nationally, the Democratic Party is hardly even critical, let alone revolutionary.
So you're not bothered by the idea of living a contradiction—supporting resistance to consumer capitalism while buying gifts for loved ones?
The notion of purity is one of the big mistakes of the Left movement. The idea that you can identify an entire group with revolutionary will is a mistake; the working class proves it's a mistake. The working class in the U.S. has not made anything like a revolution. They've gained convenience through very hard struggle, but that's got nothing to do with what we call revolution. We've got to rethink that whole issue of what revolution means—and rethink that whole Jacobin/Leninist idea of mass force against the state through street demonstrations that will overthrow the regime. That's completely outside the political landscape at present.
So there's no hope?
There was mass opposition to the Vietnam War, and that was successful. And I would hope there would be opposition to a war in Iraq. But massive social change? People are living their lives, and they tend to be thankful to their bosses for their jobs, and they behave practically, thankful for the incredible benefits of advanced capitalism. And most of the world wants nothing more than this.
So, Christmas, Hanukkah, these are not the places to take a stand.
I don't think so.
What do you want for the holidays?
Not to be misquoted in OC Weekly.
—Will Swaim DJ DAVE
I'm being a bit capitalistic this year, unfortunately, but I'm getting some friends subscriptions to The Progressivemagazine—$12 for 12 issues, not bad at all. And I'll do it online, so no mall hassles.
There's always Lefty books. Be sure to order from Powell's (www.powells.com) or City Lights (www.citylights.com/CLstore.html) or some other indie bookstore. Some friends of mine are getting used books. Why be wasteful and order up new shit when you can give 'em a hardcover for the new paperback price? Try Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower for a not-so-uplifting, un-Christmasy preview of Herr Ashcroft's Amerika.
Donations to progressive organizations in people's names are always pretty P.C. The ultimate in this is www.charitygift.com. You put in the amount of dollars you want to give to the person, and then the gift recipient gets to go onto the site and pick whatever organization they want to give it to. But beware: they have all kinds of groups on the site, and if you're not careful the giftee you thought was down with the cause could go and support some freako right-wing “faith-based” organization.
Also, DVDs of Catch-22, Steal This Movie, and other subversive shit are always fun too.