Saturday, July 12, 2008
THE HOLLOW GOSPEL OF THE LIBERAL LEISURE CLASS: PART FOUR
The ruling class doesn't fear any ideology, any alternative lifestyle choices, any theories. Elite clubs of intellectual snobs refining radical theories pose no threat to them, either. Intelligent people who have an inflated sense of their own self worth are very easy to buy off and neutralize.
Narcissistic Code Pink style antics and guerrilla theater are useful to the ruling class and are welcomed and encouraged by them. Speaking truth to power? You might as well throw marshmallows at a charging rhino. We need to speak truth about power to the powerless.
It is broad participation by the people in politics that the ruling class most fears and works hardest to prevent. That is why saying in essence to millions of people that "you aren't smart enough (or pure enough in the case of the New Agers) to join our elite club" is the kiss of death for any serious political movement that claims to be in any sort of opposition to the ruling class.
This is a chronic problem and blocks or cripples any attempts at mobilizing the working people. I believe that a relatively small group of people control all discussion and all power on what passes for the Left in this country, and that they would sooner surrender anything else - including selling all of us down the river - before they would let go of their sense of exceptionalism, superiority and entitlement.
"Liberal" has come to mean "a superior sort of individual," while "progressive" has come to mean "an individual traveling the path to enlightenment and transcending above their inferiors." No matter how many radical theories or what ideology or superior personal spiritual beliefs you set out as window dressing, the cult of the enhanced and actualized individual will always be contradictory to and destructive of efforts to build the working class solidarity that is essential to any serious political change.
Why are there so many arguments, so much bitter antagonism, such paralysis and confusion on much ballyhooed “Progressive-Liberal-Left”?
Because people fight for their positions as though their personal identity depended upon them, as though their existence depended upon their political position or theory. That is because their personal identity does depend upon their political positions. They are one and the same - "be the change you want to see." People actually mean "seek the change that suits who you are as an actualized individual" since it never involves self-sacrifice or focus on the needs of others, but always on individual personal choices and self-expression. In fact, their political positions are not political positions at all, but narcissistic expressions of their personalities.
Now I recognize that many people here define themselves as "independents" and therefore, may reject whatever came before... but it is still important to know what that was.
It is also true that "liberals" and "leftists" may find themselves allied on many issues or tactics and may well need each other under those circumstances.
Finally, it is true that "liberal" or "leftist" may refer to "political labels", applied by "the right", by others, or even by oneself, and have no particular relevance to the actual issues which divide "liberals" and "leftists".
Nonetheless... historically, liberals and leftists are not merely different points in a common spectrum but, in the end, they are implacable enemies. And the issue is precisely joined on the issue of class, as has been mentioned before but now seems to have disappeared from the general lexicon.
If the term "left" has any meaning other than a purely relative one, it is as that group of political ideas, parties, movements, and organizations which believes that politics is driven less by ideas than by interests and that those interests are based on economic class. Radical republicans (Civil War variety), revolutionary democrats, social democrats (including even a sizable chunk of the British Labor Party and the German SDs of today), socialists, utopian socialists, agrarian socialists, communists, anarchists, anarco-syndicalists, and nihilists - if these do not agree on anything else, they agree on the centrality of social classes even before they divide on what to do about them.
In contrast, "Liberals" explicitly reject the centrality of social classes. If such exist at all, they are assumed to be trumped by a common interest (national or otherwise) and any division is based only on transitory political opinion or policy. They are united with "Conservatives" in their agreement on the fundamental norms of society and on their long-term objectives (most importantly in the defense of private property and the projection of "national interest"). Indeed, for them, the current organization of society is the only one conceivable.
To the Liberals, the Left is a competitor for the same political constituency they claim to represent. The Left fosters "national division" and "class hatred" where moderation and "cooler heads" might otherwise prevail. They are often hand-cuffed by the "extreme demands" and "lack of reform mindedness" of the Left. If things come to a head, they can even justify arresting the Left... in the interest of "the greater good", of course (see Palmer, McCarthy, many more...).
The Left returns this attitude with interest... They regard the Liberals as the reform party of the ruling class. From this standpoint, the Liberals most assuredly need the Left. We are the monsters-beneath-the-bed that they invariably point to as a reason for the Conservatives to negotiate "reform"... "If you don't deal with us you may have to tackle the great unwashed". That is what "playing the class card" or "race card" means.
What exactly do we need the Liberals for? If there turns out to have been a misunderstanding of biblical prophesy and all Liberals are suddenly captured by the Rapture and disappear from the face of the earth how much worse off would we be? Would Rove suddenly be "turned loose" ‘cause Joe Biden was no longer there to protect us?
A little political haiku:
"Why can't we just get along?"
"Which side are you on?"
It is rare to find anything that is not dominated by capitalism, it is the rare person for whom the system is working, the rare industry that is not being ravaged and destroyed by corporate power, the rare neighborhood that is not being destroyed, it is rare to find a public resource of any kind that is not at risk.
The United States is being transformed into a banana republic. A class of people is starting to form, apologizing for and defending the oligarchy in exchange for a certain amount of privilege and comfort, and beating down the peasants or anyone who speaks for them. Educated, mostly white, "liberal," they have infiltrated all through the Democratic party and liberal organizations. It is remarkable to me to hear them, since they sound exactly like the upper class mouthpieces in Latin America have sounded all these years and use almost precisely the same arguments. They are singing a bittersweet, syrupy, seductive song - the sing song lullaby of the oligarchy.