Recently I’ve been reading “The Great Shark Hunt”. It’s a collection of Hunter S Thompson articles from the 60s and 70s. They are things he wrote while also writing his more widely known gonzo journalist books “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas” and “Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail”. While reading these, I’m struck by the similarities between his time and ours. Among these similarities, and they are many in number, is the hostile relationship in that time period between progressives on the true left and the Liberal Establishment.
Let us not forget that in the 1960s, it was a Democrat president who entered into war with Vietnam, it was a Democrat mayor in Chicago who ordered his cops into open war with “hippies” and “anarchists”. It was Democrats and the Liberal Establishment who criticized the anti-war protesters of their time as being idealists and unrealistic. It was a Democrat mayor in Kent Ohio who requested National Guard support from the Republican governor, which ultimately led to the Kent State Massacre. And all throughout the anti-war period, the mindset among Democrats never changed from the essential question, what the hell is wrong with these dirty hippies?
I joined Liberal website/community DailyKos in June of 2005. At the time I was serving in the US Air Force and deployed to Baghdad. I’d opposed the war in Iraq since 2002, and was far from the only serving military service-member to have that opinion. After the demoralizing experience of the 2004 elections, when it was clear we were going to be stuck with Bush for 4 more long years of wars and destructive foreign policy, I was looking for somewhere on the net that would be liberal and anti-war. I was a dot of blue in a sea of red. At the time, DailyKos was a harbor. It was the place for progressives, for people against the wars, for people who were for the environment and for all the wide spectrum of progressive issues.
Well, the White House has changed hands, but for the most part, it has not changed directions. Troop numbers in Afghanistan have increased. The withdrawal from Iraq was a result of an agreement made between the Bush Administration and the Iraqi government, and if the Obama Administration had been able to get the Iraqi government to agree to a Status of Forces Agreement providing troops with immunity from war crimes prosecution in Iraqi courts, there would still be US forces in Iraq today. Even as it is, there is a force of 16,000 civilian employees at the State Department megaplex known as the green zone embassy, including 5,000 “security contractors”, or mercenaries as they’d be called in an earlier age. Then there’s the NATO action in Libya spearheaded by Obama, the constant push for war in Syria and Iran, the stationing of Marines in northern Australia to threaten Chinese interests in the South China seas, the placement of anti-missile defenses in Europe against Russian protests, and so on. For someone anti-war, the pro-war president is now a Democrat.
That brings us back to DailyKos. There was a time when I went there because it was an anti-war website, anti-imperialism, pro-environment, pro-civil rights, and generally progressive. Unfortunately, the site leadership there has decided, spurred in no small part by very intensely vocal elements within the community, that they are not a progressive website. They are a website for Democrats. If those Democrats are pro-war, imperialist, if they favor industry lobbyist money over environmentalist concerns, if they believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman (at least until the next poll numbers come out on that front), then that’s what the site will support, against any alternatives. There exists a dedicated cabal within the commentors and the moderators there to hide and ban anyone who countermands the group-think. The importance is not the issues, but the Team. It is not the prevention of war and suffering, but the promotion of Democrat politicians, uber alles.
This leads to a curious sort of schizophrenia for the Liberal community; on the one hand they’re claiming to oppose war, linking to stories about the abuse of unmanned drones in surveillance and assassinations, opposing police brutality in major cities, opposing a brutal and counterproductive drug policy, but on the other hand they can’t ever identify and criticize the guilty party in these things, because that guilty party is a Democrat. This might seem surprising and unusual, unless you’ve read accounts from the progressive and anti-war left in the 1960s and 1970s. The Democratic and Liberal Establishment always adopts the imperialist and capitalist mindset when they are in power, and when out of power they oppose it with words instead of deeds. The Iraq war had no small number of Democrat Senators and Representatives voting for it, many of whom (Hillary Clinton and John Kerry come to mind) later claimed to be against it. While Republicans have been responsible for any number of outrages over the last several decades, they have done so with the assistance of Democrats, and when Democrats come back into power, those same policies are continued.
So here’s the lesson for us, the socialists, the anarchists, the communists, the progressives. Democrats as a whole, as an Establishment, with very few exceptions, are not our friends. They will tell us they are to get our votes and support. They will tell us we just have to be realistic, we just have to be patient, and eventually they will give us what we’d like. Of course, if we are placid and accepting, we never get these things from them. But if we are not placid and accepting, if we demand our rights, if we demand equality, if we demand an end to illegal wars of aggression, then we had best watch our backs for incoming knives. The hand of the Establishment which maces us, beats us, or shoots us, is just as likely to belong to a Democrat as it is to a Republican.
I close with a quote from the great Socialist agitator Eugene V. Debs. A man who was willing to go to jail over his public protest of the draft for World War 1. In 1904, he said the following, and it remains absolute truth today: “The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.”
Cross posted to Liberally Geeky
Since the Obama Administration has continued renditions (and has since the new administration was barely a month old), CIA black ops secret prisons (there’s one in Somalia now), the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, wars public and secret throughout the globe, GPS tracking of American citizens, and all the other worst abuses of the Bush Administration, dedicated Democrat Party loyalists have been forced to either abandon their team or give in to their baser impulses and change their ideology to support their team. In other words, many Democrats, in Congress and in the public at large, have rediscovered their inner neoconservative. But don’t tell them this. See, “neoconservative” is a word associated with the Enemy, their opposing Team, and as such is an object of hatred.
In George Orwell’s 1945 “Notes on Nationalism”, he wrote of nationalists:
All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.
To put it more simply, it’s not the action that matters, but the team that does the action. Political parties in our binary political system are as meaningless as a college football team, and the rivalries between groups are identical in their pointlessness.
If you live in a college town, like Columbus Ohio or Oklahoma City, you see this mindless fanaticism from team fans (short for fanatic) all the time. In “Buckeye” country, the blue and gold of their Michigan rivals are hated and reviled. It’s only scarlet and gray here, thank you very much! Both teams just play football. Big fucking deal, right? And yet, there’s a sense of moral righteousness in one team’s support, and their opposition to the other team. People will be genuinely outraged if you wear the wrong colors. Fights may even start. For what?
The Democrat and Republican parties, especially over the last couple decades, have been different in word, but not significantly different in deed. During the 8 years of Bush, these deeds were associated with Republicans, and neo-conservatives. Those are on the opposing team, so members of the Democrat team opposed it. Now the Obama administration continues and expands what the Bush administration did. But the current administration is a Democrat administration, so for a member or supporter of the Democrat team they must oppose anything that challenges the Democrat administration, and they must support anything done by the Democrat administration. If it was a Republican administration, as members of the Democrat team they would oppose it.
You can see this in how members of the Republican team opposed Democrat military intervention in Libya. Obama has been a conservative in nearly all his actions, has been since the beginning, and yet the “conservative” team members still complain, and the “liberal” team members still support him. Not because of the actions themselves, but because of the team undertaking those actions. The actions don’t objectively matter, what matters is Team. If you try to explain this to a member of the Republican/conservative team, or to a member of the Democrat/liberal team, they will just shut down. Or they will get very angry. They hate to have this sort of thing pointed out to them. Objective thought is impossible. Team is all.
For a related comparison, look at the reaction to that coach at Penn State, who covered up the rape of children, and was forced to resign. There were riots, not because children were being raped (which I would consider an excellent reason to riot), but because the coach that turned a blind eye to it was being forced to resign. All the anger and hatred of the fan(atic)s was directed not at the rightful target (child rapists and their defenders) but at the people in the media and at the college who dared to reveal this and demand accountability for it. Classic nationalism, it is not the objectionable act they oppose, but the revelation of that objectionable act and the associated discredit it brings upon the object of their worship.
With college teams, their coaches are looked at as being the team. Attacks on the coach are attacks on the Team. With national politics, the president is looked at as being the embodiment of the team, the political party. A verbal attack on the president and his actions is considered an attack on the Team, and this cannot be allowed to stand by the team’s supporters.
If we can’t get past our slavery to team politics in our country, we’ll never be able to make any progess. Instead we’ll continue dancing like puppets on the strings of the people who control both parties. They’re able to do whatever they want, and the team supporters back it or oppose it depending on which team is committing the actions this year.
Got this from a Ron Paul supporter on Facebook.
Sorry I’m not a socialist, I work for a living and support the Constitution. I don’t need nor want to be taken care of. … Capitalism: I want to recieve money for the labor I produce.
This is probably the worst argument against socialism I’ve *ever* heard. It demonstrates that capitalism’s defenders are not arguing against socialism itself, they’re arguing against a scarecrow stuffed with capitalist lies, with “SOSHALEEZUM” scrawled on it.
1. People need to work for a living in a socialist system too, they’re just not having the lion’s share of the value they produce go to a few wealthy at the top of the pyramid. There’s this vicious bit of misinformation spread that all “socialism” means is we have heavy taxes on the wealthy and we use that to pay for everybody else to sit around. It’s bullshit. It’s obviously an unworkable system, which is why the owner class wants everyone to think that’s the socialist system. In the ideal socialist system, you wouldn’t need progressive taxation. Everybody would work more or less equally, and the taxes would go to services that would benefit everyone equally; roads, parks, national health care, and so forth.
2. On supporting the Constitution:
By definition, Socialism is “an economic system in which the means of production are publicly or commonly owned and controlled cooperatively, or a political philosophy advocating such a system. As a form of social organization, socialism is based on co-operative social relations and self-management; relatively equal power-relations and the reduction or elimination of hierarchy in the management of economic and political affairs.”
No part of that is unconstitutional. Moreover, under our current Capitalist economic system, the political power wielded by Capital has led to the trampling of our constitutional rights. Most notably the first amendment rights to free speech, assembly, and a free press, but also the 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments.
3. Socialism isn’t just about taking care of people, people gotta work in it too. But they’re working for the benefit of themselves, their families, and their neighbors, and not the owners and the shareholders. The social safety net would be part of this, but it’s not an end in and of itself. However, capitalism seeks to exploit the value Americans place on this myth of Rugged Individuality by making people think that in a socialist society, they would be dependent upon a government, that said government would be the only thing responsible for “taking care” of them. What’s interesting is that while they rebel at this sort of paternalistic government figure, they preach that a owner or “job creator” is graciously providing His workers with jobs, He’s making the hard business decisions for them so they don’t have to, and just asking a bit of profit in return to cover His expenses and make up for His risks that He took in starting the business. It’s just as paternalistic a mindset. In a socialist society, we would take care of ourselves and those around us, and they would take care of themselves and ourselves. A community. One of equals, not a family with a head of the household and various subject children.
4. “I want to recieve money for the labor I produce”… the main problem with Capitalism is that somebody else is profiting off of the labor you produce, and you instead are given a “wage”. The “wage” comes nowhere close to the value of the labor you produce. If you support Capitalism, it’s because you don’t want to be paid for the labor you produce, not because you do. The whole point of the wage system is separating workers from the value of their labor. That value is then pocketed by the factory or business or corporation owner, and the workers are paid a much smaller “wage” from what is left.
My goal as an anarcho-syndicalist / socialist is for a society in which people work in cooperatives, and profit from the fruits of their labor, not from the exploitation of workers. One where there’s no need for heavy-handed government attempts to level the playing field, because it has been leveled by the workers themselves.