The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

On The Use of Clubs

This post is by Eric Anderson

What’s the first thing you think about when you hear the word club? Does it bring to mind a night out dancing with your friends? A day behind a fancy gate wining and dining between rounds of golf? Perhaps getting together with friends to play chess, or cards, watching birds, or exploring nature? Or, does it bring to mind something entirely different — such as bashing your enemy over the head?

The comedian George Carlin wryly observed that the elite are “… one big club, and you’re not in it.” Were Carlin to better understand the nature of clubs he might have more accurately stated “it’s one big club, and you’re not swinging it.” Carlin’s predecessor Groucho Marx understood, once stating “I got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it.” What the elite have always known, and the left tragically fails to understand, is that “club” means power.

Originally used in the violent sense, the word club originated c. 1200 from the old Norse klubbe, as in cudgel. The word’s transition from connotations of violence, to ease, is fascinating. As any wildlife biologist knows, humans are by far the most violent species. Most animals displace aggression by use of elaborate dominance rituals, that while serving to measure the species’ fitness to reproduce, or defend territory, rarely result in death.

And while humans are the least skilled at this adaptive ritual capacity, forms of it have evolved. Sports are one such outlet. And so it appears that the paradoxical use of the word as both a means of violence, and ease, evolved from this same capacity. The club, as cudgel, was used in early gatherings of individuals to play games and sports. See: the golf club. From there, it’s easy to see how the differentiation to such wildly different connotations evolved. The modern usage of the word club seems to have emerged as a means to symbolize displaced social aggression.

Clubs — in the groups of people wielding power sense of the word — serve another important function. They diffuse responsibility. As stated by Frederick Douglas, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” And, in the same speech “Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.” Douglas is saying, in no uncertain terms, that when demands go unmet the only recourse is to clubs. But, using clubs is messy business. A demand, made by one moral human alone, is no demand at all.

This is because most humans are moral, and it viscerally pains us to hurt another human being. Not so with the sociopathic elite, who employ their clubs of attack dogs to beat justice bloody, while standing one-thousand feet removed from violence in their towers. Clubs allow diffusion of the pain it causes a moral human to hurt another. But, unlike the elite who can afford to pay attack dogs, among the poor “Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.”

Today the elite — and their traditionally conservative constituents — appear to understand this relationship far better than their traditional leftist enemies. For example, try strolling into Davos and see if you’re not met by a human attack dog with a badge who will revel in taking a club to your head. “Good dog! Here’s your promotion. Now, heel. Sit. Good dog.” So too, the elite’s conservative constituency understand that “club” means the power to smash your enemy over the head. Witness a sample of right-wing clubs having no qualms about using the club to achieve power: the Ku Klux Clan, NRA, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Stormfront, Constitutional Sheriff’s Association, Three Percent, Redoubt Movement, Patriot Front, Family Research Council, Atomwaffen Division, and virtually every fundamentalist religious organization one chooses to identify.

The list on the left is not nearly so extensive. Witness: Antifa. Wait, WHAT? How is this working out for leftists? Not so well.

There was a time in the U.S. when the left did understand the relationship between clubs and power. We called those clubs Unions. The reasons behind the erosion of Union power are numerous, but this discussion must include the fact that their vision was not large enough. Union vision was limited to jobs. Those clubs failed to threaten to use the club on those elite who sold America’s soul to the foreign bidder offering the lowest wages. They failed to use their power on politicians and capitalists. Then, when the jobs were gone, so too were the clubs. The left was left powerless, and remains so. In America, the left go clubbing to dance. The right goes clubbing for dominance.

One billion theoretical leftists using the tools of their elite internet masters, remain alone in practice – myself included. As it stands, we remain like those described by Thoreau, as “a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” Leftists desperately need new clubs, on the ground, that are willing to use clubs to effectively strike at the roots of power, or the perpetual slide down the slope of fascism will continue. It’s past time all those identifying as leftists join clubs, and courageously set about beating the elite over the head with them.

My next installment will discuss a model to begin rebuilding the grassroots clubs necessary to take power.


Principles Of The Green Age After The Collapse: #1


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 10, 2024


  1. bruce wilder

    Nice. Very nice.

    Unions, sure. Churches, too. And, as you say, sports organize their fans in a sometimes politically important way.

    Here’s the thing about our 21st century soi disant left: much of it has a strong social class contempt for the peasantry and the working class and the servant class. Even in labor unions, the “skilled” have sometimes worked against the rest. Excluding “managers” from the scope of labor law and collective bargaining was a strategic master stroke of the capitalists fighting back against the New Deal after WWII.

    The “enlightened” among the well-educated and capable and even modestly rich are a minority among their class and need as allies people, who because of their social and economic circumstances, have political attitudes that are inevitably somewhat fearful, suspicious and frankly, “authoritarian”. Getting real about that without treating vast numbers of people as if they are inherently evil or repulsive seems to be too much for many of “progressive” conceits. If you can’t see yourself in a club with much of humanity as it is, that is a problem.

    It is real obstacle to effective political organizing against the concentrated power of the billionaire class and their better-paid servants and sycophants.

  2. Clubs serve another important function. They diffuse responsibility

    Clubs are more powerful then each of the individual members combined. The whole is greater than the parts. A function of a club is to provide people with the power to do things they otherwise could not do.

    There was once a period where leftist groups in western Europe used their very small clubs violently. After this period followed one of the greatest expansions of living standards and equality in recorded history. It also followed far-left political parties regularly winning 20%-40% of the vote. I’m talking of course about WW2, and the Communist guerilla resistances.
    “The tyrant dies his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.”

  3. Amen. Don’t think I ran into you before, but you had me with that take on Carlin’s bit *100 100 100 emoji*. I’ve long quoted that one, always adding “… yeah you laughed, but that club is beating the life out of you and you let it”.

  4. Carborundum

    de Toquville on associations would be good to take a look at. Unions are only one manifestation.

  5. Eric Anderson

    Good morning, Ben —

    I’ve been trolling around here for a while now — to many’s chagrin I’d imagine 🙂
    I have a full time job and family so my writing is sporadic. Click on my name above and it’ll take you to all the posts I’ve contributed here over the years. There are some under a previous pseudonym ‘Webstir’ as well. I do the microblog thing over at Mastodon, eschewing corporate social media: @LeftistLawyer

  6. Richard Holsworth

    The Swedes are using the union club against Tesla.
    My comment to a pretty good Reddit post

    The Democrats as champions of Labor? not so much. We al know Truman vetoed Taft-Hartley; but, it was all theater—a farce.
    New York Times
    June 24, 1947:
    Bill Curbing Labor Becomes Law As Senate Overrides Veto, 68-25
    “It was apparent this morning, from the maneuvering before the Senate met, that the President’s supporters were in positions that would be taken in the first assault and overrun. The counter-attack was plainly hopeless from the start.”
    Truman, who incidentally invoked Taft-Hartley 12 times after its passage, knew that his veto would be overridden with the help of Democrats. Only 71 House Democrats voted to sustain the President’s veto while 106 voted to override it. In the Senate 20 Democrats voted to override the veto. The law that was to enable capital to destroy organized labor when it became convenient was passed by a bipartisan vote (and with more than just Southern Democrats), something you will never learn from the AFL-CIO, or from a thousand hoarse throats at Democratic rallies when the candidate is whoring for the labor vote.


  7. Willy

    Good to hear from you again Webstir. As always, just clear straight talk with no attempt to “soi disant” the nuance.

    I think part of the problem with clubs, is knowing who to club. Them (the corrupt powerful) and us (everybody else) seems obvious enough. But a lot of us have been turned into zombies serving them.

    Me, I’m all for clubbing those zombies out of our misery. Isn’t that what they do in all those TV shows? But then, I’ve never been advised about where the zombiehuman switch might be located on them. All I can see is some zombie stumbling towards me mumbling “brains…” and my natural urge to club the crap outta them kicks in.

  8. Eric Anderson

    Good to be heard again. Life got really busy there for a while — biggest trial of my life so far in the rearview. And it’s good to see you here too, Willy. Haven’t seen you in a while either. Miss your not soi disant contributions as well. Keeping it real, man.

  9. Joe

    The Lydians, an Anatolian Civilization from around beginning of the Common Era are thought to be the people that invented dice. They are also thought to have invented the coin in the modern sense. A piece of metal stamped with the symbol of the state. That symbol legitimizing its worth a backed by that state. I find this interesting and instructive in understanding the basic principles behind the state of affairs today.

  10. mago

    Multi layered and thought provoking.
    Took a little trip down memory lane to the time when I was a teenager and had a dishwashing job the Elk’s Club in a Western town.
    Worked weekend nights and sometimes after school.
    Dishwashing area along with food storage was at alley level with the main kitchen on the first floor.
    Dining and conference spaces occupied the second floor.
    The top floor contained sleeping quarters, mostly short term for sleeping it off, but also longer term for the down and out or a member enduring a divorce.
    All the members of this Benevolent Protective Order of Elks did indeed support each other. They were WWII vets.
    Anyway, the chef was a drunk, but not malevolent. Cut his chops in military kitchens.
    The club hosted weekend dinners and other events. I washed lots of plates and silverware, pots and pans.
    Occasionally there would be a men’s night—a bawdy affair with strippers and booze.
    I snuck a look one time and saw a woman squat down and pick up fifty cent placed upright with her . . . you know.
    Made an impression on my 16 year old mind.
    Anyway, I’ve reflected over the years about the role that Elk Clubs served and still serve in small Western towns and probably outside the west.
    But the club that paid me $2.50 an hour to bust suds and mop floors is the only one I’ve known.
    Thank you Eric Anderson.

  11. David B Harrison

    I guess you support the Liberal Democrats( actually Neolib NeoCONs ) genocide in Palestine, the provoked war in Ukraine, the lip service to environmental causes, the lip service to national health care, the let er’ rip Covid policy, the lip service to the working class, etc. because you never mentioned it once in your essay.

  12. Mark Level

    A very good piece. As I recall, a chief symbol of British rule & authority is the Mace–

    A club is the symbol of rule. Obey or we’ll smash your heads in. Alan Moore’s “V for Vendetta” covered this same ground, with symbolic statues & the propaganda mind-control that underlies all states & status quo as another symbol thrown into the mix.

    We seem to be in a historical time where any faith in the rulers is melting away into thin air (as one writer once put it). The clubs of power are hysterically demanding that NO change of who is in charge is allowed. The Hegemon is permanent & can’t be challenged.

    Well, it is being challenged, even if some can ignore that, growing majorities are waking up. If the power centers around people like Epstein, the DNC & MAGA etc. can only yell out their narratives and demand we conform, at some point the credibility vanishes. Basically at the point we’re at now where most people have the sense that things are only getting worse, not better.

    Can state violence (the only kind of violence that is legally sanctioned, any violence not of TPTB is “terrorism”) jam its Mace into the turning wheel of Change (which the Taoists & even Ecclesiastes remind us is the only reality) & jam it to stop its progress?

    Stay tuned, the answers will be clear in the next 2-5 years, likely no more than that.

    Oh, & a bit of synchronicity. New York governor Kathy Hochul just called out the National Guard to fight “crime” in the New York City subways, with camo-clad veterans armed with automatic weapons searching bags before you can get on mass transit. They actually don’t have any police power, couldn’t arrest you (apparently) if you did have a gun or knife in your bag, but intimidation is good enough evidently. And hey, terrifying people to “save” them from “fear” is a Club or Mace in itself.

    All Hail Leviathan!! Big Brother Loves You.

  13. Willy

    Thanks Eric. I’m currently fighting a losing battle on both medical and familial fronts. Same old motives and strategies, yet different reasons with different enemies. I still have no reason to see the micro (personal battles) and the macro (international battles) as being functionally indistinguishable. Both good and evil scale up quite neatly.

    Anyways, here’s an example of being clubbed, in a subtle sort of way.

    During the runup to our (USA) latest election cycle, I’ve received promotional texts on my phone from no less than 2 dozen MAGA candidates, mostly Trump. None of them do I have any respect for, because after doing my usual homework, I determined that none of them are worthy of respect, let alone worthy of earning my progressive-and-earth-centric-values support.

    I have received no political texts from anybody else.

    TMI time. I’ve had my cell phone and the number that came with it for over 15 years now. AFAIK, the previous owner of my phone number was an undocumented Hispanic. I’ve also been a registered independent the whole time, usually voting D while holding my nose.

    Make of this what you will.

  14. bruce wilder

    let us mourn

    [ if this is redundant I apologize – technical difficulties may have led to trying too often ]

  15. Eric Anderson

    David B. Harrison:
    This is a straw man to the Nth degree. You’re new to me, so I’ll let it pass. Once. I don’t do logical fallacy. This is official notice.

  16. different clue

    @Ian Welsh,

    Was this comment meant to apply to David B Harrison’s comment?

  17. Eric Anderson

    Different clue:
    Yes, it was. And it’s me, not Ian. I’m moderating my posts. Still getting the hang of it. I’ve edited to be clear.
    Good to see you.

  18. David Harrison

    Actually I do apologize for being so harsh. You did criticize the left for not organizing. But unfortunately the left is famous for this. When the left replaced actual action with identity politics that was the end. Decades of lesser evil voting finished them off. All the things I said are perfect descriptions of what lesser evil voting has done to leftist ideas. Solidarity and fellowship are the only way forward. That means that those on the left are going to have to learn to reach out to the working class instead of scolding them. Meet them where they live. Give them help. That’s how you reach them. Drop the constant “my side your side” rhetoric that the left( and the right) depends too much on. Constantly voting for and supporting Neoliberal Democrats( and their Neoconservative partners) will not solve our problems( I’m not accusing you of any of these pathologies but describing why there is no true left movement today). A great description of these pathologies is Thomas Franks “Listen Liberal” and “The People, No” also Chris Hedges “Death of the Liberal Class”. Again I apologize but I am tired and angry.

  19. different clue

    @Eric Anderson,

    Forgive me for the mis-naming. I am a very visual creature and the Moderator’s Red Circle next to a comment triggers me to assume it is Ian Welsh.

    @David Harrison,

    There was an organization-capable Left in this country for decades, and the Ruling Elites spent decades persecuting it and destroying it from existence, followed by decapitation-strike assassinations against Leaders of the Barely Left-of-Center Middle like Kennedy, King, Kennedy, etc. Into that vacuum of Leftist power-no-more surged various pacifists and pacifoids, Identy Policitalists, etc. ( Also, I wonder how much of the post SDS weatherman recreational festivals of violence were Deep State decoy actions and discreditation actions.)

    Since I don’t have my own computer nor endless hours in front of other screens, I can’t really research the role of Herbert Marcuse in all this. I dimly remember reading about how he dismissed the Western Working Class as being so comfortable with their decent pay, Unions, modicum of social respect, etc. ; that they would never make the Marxist Revolution which he demanded that History provide him with for his amusement. So he valorised the ” Third World Colonised” racial-identity groups within the United States as the Truly Revolutionary forces which would lead his beloved and behoped-for revolution, and henceforth any White Left would have to subordinate itself to the “Racial Third World Leadership” as Marcuse defined it. Angela Davis was Marcuse’s special protege’ when she was a young college student.

    That is where today’s etho-racial ( and then sexual orientation and gender identity and etc.) Identity Politics and its Hierarchy of Sacred Oppression as determined by who wins the endless rounds of the Oppression Olympics came from. It has given rise to the Wokel Hordes who beset us today.

    There are some would-be political/economic leftists who have tried addressing this problem in their own small ways . . . as in this article:

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