Mike Davis on Socialism on Bill Moyers

by Chris Sturr | March 29, 2009

From the folks at SolidarityEconomy.net. Video is probably available somewhere, too.

Bill Moyers Talks with Mike Davis on the Economic Crisis

March 20, 2009

BILL MOYERS: For all the talk on the cable channels and in the blogosphere, you would think Washington has been invaded and conquered. Remember that scary movie from the 1950’s, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS? MALE VOICE: Everyone! They’re here already! You’re next! You’re next!

Many film scholars believe the movie is a paranoid parable, warning of a Communist takeover of America. But today, the body snatchers are you ready for this? Socialists! That’s right. Socialists, reportedly swarming over the city and making off with the means of production, namely the Federal budget. I’m not making this up. Newsweek was the first to spot the aliens a month ago and it was us. Here’s the headline of a recent article on Salon.com. Newt Gingrich, reincarnated once again as himself, sounds as if Obama ate his Contract with America for lunch and coughed it up as “European Socialism.”

NEWT GINGRICH: I think it is the boldest effort to create a European Socialism model that we have seen.

BILL MOYERS: But the ghosts being conjured in the corridors of power aren’t those great American radicals Eugene V. Debs or Norman Thomas. No, Stalin, Marx and Lenin have risen from the grave, stalking our highest officials. Just listen to CNBC’s Jim Cramer:

JIM CRAMER: We’re in real trouble. We’re in real trouble between what is happening in the world economy and our president, who seems to be taking his cues from. Guess who he is taking his cues from? No, not Mao! Not Pancho Villa, although I had lunch with him today. No he’s taking cues from Lenin! And I don’t mean the all we need is love Lenin. I talking about we will take every last dime you have Cramericans Lenin!

BILL MOYERS: And others followed suit:

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Liberal democrats and the drive-by media are speeding down the highway, implementing Socialism as fast as they can.

FOX & FRIENDS: Some economists say the stimulus plan that President Obama just put into law moves us closer to Socialism.

FOX COMMENTATOR: One small step for fixing the economy or one giant leap towards Socialism in the United States?

PAT BUCHANAN: That is Socialism pure and simple.

BILL MOYERS: So what does a real live Socialist think about all this? We consulted the Endangered Species Act and actually found one, way out to the People’s Republic of Southern California. That state’s economy has tanked with one of the country’s highest number foreclosures and unemployment above 10% and climbing. California is a financial earthquake off the Richter scale. All of this is grist for the socialist writer and historian who is sitting with me now. Once a meat cutter and a long haul truck driver, nowadays, Mike Davis teaches creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. This recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” has written so many books we can barely get them on the screen for you. Two of his histories of Los Angeles and Southern California, CITY OF QUARTZ and ECOLOGY OF FEAR were best-sellers. His latest: IN PRAISE OF BARBARIANS: ESSAYS AGAINST EMPIRE. Mike Davis, welcome to the JOURNAL.

MIKE DAVIS: My pleasure, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: Did you ever in your life imagine that America’s financial system would become insolvent or that our way of life would be in such a sudden freefall?

MIKE DAVIS: No. And I found myself in the position of, say, a Jehovah’s Witness, who, of course, believes the end is nigh but then one morning wakes up, looks out the window, and the stars are falling from heaven. It’s actually happened. Of course, people a lot like myself are famous for I think the phrase is we predicted eleven out of the last three depressions. So, no.

BILL MOYERS: But I do think this time most everyone would agree with what you how you’ve described what we’re going through as the mother of all fiscal crisis. Do you have a sense of the people you know being frightened right now?

MIKE DAVIS: Oh, people are terrified, particularly where I teach in Riverside County. People have no idea you know, where to turn. UC Riverside is the largest percentage of working-class students in the UC system. And their families have scrimped and saved. And they’ve worked hard to get into courses that pointed toward stable careers and jobs. And now those futures are incinerated. What kind of choice do you make? You know, what do you study?

BILL MOYERS: You wrote an essay on one of my favorite websites, TomDispatch.com, in which you asked this question. “Can Obama see the Grand Canyon?” Now, help us understand the use of that metaphor.

MIKE DAVIS: Well, the first explorers to visit the Grand Canyon, simply were overwhelmed. They couldn’t visualize the Grand Canyon because they had no concept for it. That is, there was no analogue in their cultural experience, no comparable landscape that would allow them to make sense of what they were seeing. It actually took ten years of heroic scientific effort by John Wesley Powell and these great geologists, Clarence Sutton, before he was truly able to see the Grand Canyon in the sense that we see it now as a deep slice in Earth history. Before you just had confused images and, you know, feelings of vertigo. And so the reason I raised this is that do we really have an analogy? Do we have the concepts to understand the nature of the current crisis other than to step back shaking from the brink and say this is profound? Because, you know, we’re in this situation where not only do we seem to be having a second depression, but this is occurring in the context of epochal climate change. It’s occurring at a time when the two major benchmarks that survived for global social progress, the United Nations millennial goals for relieving poverty and child mortality, on one hand, and the Kyoto goals for reducing greenhouse admissions, both of those sets of goals are clearly not going to be achieved. They slowly failed. This would be a time of fierce urgency in any sense. And now we face a meltdown of a world economy in a way that no one anticipated, truly anticipated the possibility of another recession, even a financial crisis, but no one counted on the ability of this to happen in such a synchronized, almost simultaneous way across the world.

Read the rest of the transcript.

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