Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 10, 2013

SWP madness

Filed under: housing,sectarianism — louisproyect @ 11:23 pm

No, I am not talking about the British group but the Americans who are far nuttier and far more peripheral. I generally don’t pay any attention to them, but in this instance the nuttiness is so transcendental that it demands commentary. In an article in the latest Militant newspaper, something I used to sell avidly and that Malcolm X hailed, there’s a warning that the government is up to no good by seducing workers, particularly African-Americans, into buying houses. It points to the following:

According to recent articles on the WND.com website and in the Investor’s Business Daily, the Justice Department has:

— Threatened banks with lawsuits if they don’t push loans in “minority communities” and demanded lenders open branches in working-class neighborhoods of cities hard-hit by foreclosures like Detroit and St. Louis.

— Forced big mortgage lenders like Wells Fargo and Bank of America to provide 30-year loans to what banks refer to as “high-risk” borrowers under threat of prosecution.

— Issued orders mandating lenders advertise in “minority media” and offer loans to people on public assistance.

— Resurrected a Clinton-era regulation that warns lenders they must be more flexible with minority home buyers with weak credit to make up for “past discrimination.”

To start with, it is of some interest that they cite wnd.com. This, for those who don’t follow the American ultraright, is World News Daily. On their home page, you can find a reader’s poll that asks: “What do you think of U.S. government inviting Muslim cleric who disparaged dead Navy SEALs at their own funeral?” The website was founded by Joseph Farah, a rightwing nut who was deeply involved in the campaign to prove that Obama was not born in Hawaii. Apparently he also believes that soybeans cause homosexuality, although no amount of tofu over the past 11 years of marriage have diminished my desire for my wife.

Now 9 years ago, when the SWP was still clinging to sanity, it featured an article on housing that stated:  “In the 1970s numerous cases of redlining—where banks would not grant mortgages to renovate or build new apartments, especially in Black or Puerto Rican neighborhoods—were challenged and some lending terms were improved. While many of the most blatant practices were ended, banks and insurance companies continue to use discriminatory methods.”

As is so often the case, this nutty cult reverses positions without bothering to provide readers with an explanation.

They do invoke Engels, as they have in the past:  “In his booklet The Housing Question, written in 1872-73, communist leader Frederick Engels described how the bosses use home ownership to tie workers to the capitalist system, entangling us in debt that conservatizes us and makes us less mobile.”

Unless of course you are the leader of the SWP who lives in a snazzy West Village loft:

If bow-tied, cigar-mouthed Republicans can have nice seven-digit, six-room co-ops, don’t a few old Manhattan communists deserve multi-million-dollar real estate, too?

A two-bedroom loft at 380 West 12th Street, a 109-year-old building on a cobblestone block by the Hudson River, was sold by American socialist leaders Jack Barnes and Mary-Alice Waters. Their buyers, Sony BMG Music Entertainment vice president Ole Obermann and his fiancée, Stephanie Jakubiak, paid $1,872,500.

“I don’t want to hurt the sellers’ feelings at all, but they definitely had a funky style in terms of how they did the apartment,” said Mr. Obermann. That means there are sliding stained-glass doors, plus a wall of bookshelves. (Ms. Waters is the president of publishing house Pathfinder Press, which publishes Marx and Trotsky, and Mr. Barnes, too.)

“Personally, our tastes are different and we’ll probably do something different,” the buyer said. “It will be open, airy, simple, whereas when it was done 15 years ago there was a lot of light-colored wood shelving.” He’s adding six or so wireless speakers, “a nice music system.”

full: http://observer.com/2007/07/communists-capitalize-on-village-saleget-187-m-for-loft/


  1. Categories: “housing” “sectarianism” at the bottom were amusing. Now Barnes will face capital gains taxes! Or does he expect to achieve state power before next April 15th and abolish the IRS?

    Comment by Peter Myers — May 10, 2013 @ 11:49 pm

  2. That’s one thing a lot of people never got. The biggest problem with the “turn to industry” wasn’t that the SWP tried to transform some of its petty-bourgeois members into workers by sending them into factories, or even that these alien class elements were doomed to fail in their proselytizing, it was that the guy who ordered it had never experienced a single day of hard work in his entire life.

    Comment by A Book by Dostoyevsky — May 11, 2013 @ 11:51 am

  3. The mis-named “Militant” these days often echoes the talking points of the far-right media. That’s why I, and “all class-conscious workers” (to use a favorite Militant phrase) call them “Fox News socialists.” Their point about mortgages having a conservatizing effect on the working class is not necessarily off-target, but this particular WND/IBD/Fox News talking point has a thoroughly racist provenance. It posits the banks as helpless victims of the “politically correct” liberal establishment, forced to give handouts to irresponsible, ungrateful minority groups.

    Comment by David Altman — May 11, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

  4. P.S. Actually, the political evolution of the SWP over the last 30 years is a perfect illustration of the Marxist dictum that “being determines consciousness.”

    Comment by David Altman — May 11, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

  5. Agree with #4 David, but not necessarily post #3. The left and the right can actually have the same position on things while arguing from different points. For example, many rightists (from neo-Nazi groups to Ron Paulites) oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Of course the SWP and every other self-respecting leftist did too. They had different reasons but came to the same final conclusion.

    The SWP’s argument here is that the government via the banks is preying on poor blacks in impoverished ghettos. This is actually closer to a liberal point of view than a right wing one. Here we have another example of a number of arguments leading to the same conclusion.

    Liberals think banks are prey on poor and desperate people with high-interest home loans that are essentially unpayable, and government regulation is needed to stop this practice.

    Rightists think the government is favoring poor people and forcing the banks to give them loans which are essentially unpayable, and that the government should reverse this.

    The SWP thinks the government is trying to conservatize poor black people (odd enough, since poor black people actually poll far to the conservative side on nearly every social issue: abortion, gay marriage, etc.) by forcing the banks to give them home loans which are essentially unpayable, and that the government should reverse this.

    They could all march under a common banner: “Stop giving loans to poor people, especially if their skin is brown.”

    Comment by A Book by Dostoyevsky — May 12, 2013 @ 9:38 am

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