Saturday, December 31, 2011

Left Talking Points on Ron Paul

"Ron Paul 2012" signs are seen at Occupy-related events from time to time. This seems to happen more in the South. By and large, these forces seem marginal and have little hope of achieving wider influence in the Occupy movement, given the movement's basic politics (i.e. class-conscious, anti-austerity, anti-racist, radically democratic, generally skeptical of the two-party system, critical of capitalism, etc.). Still, there are many newly politicized folks who have questions about the relationship between Ron Paul-style right-wing politics and the movement. This is by no means a central question facing the movement today. But, to the extent that there are questions of this kind arising in certain local contexts, the following may be useful. Here are a couple of suggested talking points that the Left can draw on in clarifying the politics of Ron Paul:

  1. Paul is out of touch. Occupy stands for taxing the 1%, resisting all cuts and austerity, reigning in the unchecked economic and political power of the financial sector, among other things. In sharp contrast, Ron Paul's position is that the 1% are over-taxed, that we need even more cuts and austerity, and that big banks and corporations are over-regulated. This is not a marginal political disagreement. This is a fundamental divide between those who genuinely want to stand up and fight for the interests of the 99%, on the one hand, and those who want to cede even more power to the system—capitalism—that empowers and enriches the 1% on the other.
  2. Paul stands for the two-party system. Occupy is a grassroots social movement that has taken to the streets in order to challenge the political and economic dominance of the 1%. It has used general strikes, direct actions, mass marches, speak outs, and general assemblies as its tools. It has empowered millions of ordinary people to stand up and fight for their own interests. It has not begged for crumbs from above, it has not placed its faith in leaders on high, nor has it confined itself to pandering to the existing political system. At its best, it has been fiercely independent of our broken electoral system and the two-party straight jacket. But Ron Paul is operating 100% within that broken system, as a candidate for Palin and Perry's Republican Party—with whom he votes more than 80% of the time. Those who support him in this journey miss the entire point of Occupy, which is to empower people themselves—not high and mighty leaders—to fight for their own liberation. We do the work in this society, we make it run. The 1% doesn't pick up their own garbage, they don't pilot their own private jets, and they don't produce the necessities of life they need to survive. The 99% produces all of it—and when we stop doing what we do the system grinds to a halt. That's all the power we need to topple the system that enriches the 1%.
  3. Paul's politics are racist. This is not a moral judgment about his character (that is another matter). This is about politics. For example, his position on the Civil War is that it was unjust because it infringed upon the "legitimate property rights" of slave owners. Instead, he claims, the Federal Government should have compensated slave owners for their lost "property". Paul is also a staunch opponent of the Civil Rights Act which, he claims, is an unjust incursion on the right of big business to discriminate against blacks. Noticing a trend? Paul doesn't, at the end of the day, really care about freedom and liberation for all--he cares about the property and privileges of business owners. Paul has also made numerous racist anti-black public comments, and he put out a newsletter, The Ron Paul Political Report, which regularly printed far-Right racist commentary. Don't take my word for it, read the newsletters for yourself (see here). Even Paul's most calculated and measured remarks on race evince colorblind racism. Paul is also a staunch defender of draconian, xenophobic anti-immigrant laws. Paul also regularly refers to undocumented people as "aliens". The Occupy movement, in contrast, stands in uncompromising solidarity with black people and immigrants in their struggle for freedom and equality. Tolerating Ron Paul's politics in the movement is an insult to working-class people of color who are being hit harder than anyone else by the global economic crisis.
  4. Paul is anti-education. Occupy has challenged the profiteers who are hijacking public education and lining their pockets on the backs of heavily indebted students. The movement has called for a moratorium on student debt and free, quality public education for all. But Ron Paul, like most of his Republican brethren, fiercely opposes the stands that Occupy has taken on these issues. He stands for abolishing the Department of Education and slashing education spending. He stands for cutting all Pell Grants, all Stafford Loans, indeed all public financial aid, since these programs "discriminate" against the wealthy. He is for privatizing and corporatizing public education. He stands against teachers and opposes their right to collectively bargain. He claims that education is not a right, but a commodity that should be bought and sold for a profit in the marketplace. His position on health care is the same: health care is not a right, but a luxury commodity that should be sold by private corporations for profit. In other words: if you can't afford to buy it, well fuck you. Capitalist property relations matter more than human life.
  5. Paul is anti-choice and homophobic. Paul has attempted to ban abortion at the federal level (see the Sanctity of Life Act). Paul also wrote a bill called the "Family Protection Act" that starts with talk of abolishing the Department of Education and ends with a proposal to "prohibit the expenditure of Federal funds to any organization which presents male or female homosexuality as an acceptable alternative life style or which suggest that it can be an acceptable life style." In 1990, a Ron Paul Political Report newsletter complained about President George H.W. Bush's decision to sign a hate crimes bill and invite "the heads of homosexual lobbying groups to the White House for the ceremony," adding, "I miss the closet." "Homosexuals," it said, "not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities." Comments of this ilk abound in the Ron Paul Political Report.
  6. Ron Paul will not end the wars. Only a movement will end war—in particular a mass movement from below that has the power to challenge capitalism, the political and economic system that produces war and imperialism in the first place. Moreover, the mere fact that Paul is against the wars doesn't entail that he deserves the support of Occupy. Pat Buchanan and David Duke are also against the wars. So are the editors of the hard-Right journal The American Conservative. But none of those bigoted reactionaries deserve an ounce of support from Occupy, and neither does Paul. Furthermore, isolationist nationalism--Paul's basic foreign policy—has no place in a movement that is global and fiercely internationalist. Occupy stands in solidarity with the global 99% in its struggle against the global system—capitalism—that holds it in contempt. We oppose war and imperialism not because they violate the principles of right-wing isolationism, we oppose them because they oppress and brutalize our sisters and brothers in the global 99%.
There are plenty of other things to say here. But these points really make clear how wide the gulf is between Ron Paul conservatism and the radicalism of Occupy. Readers interested in more detailed refutations of the sort of politics pedaled by Paul and other so-called "libertarians" should consult the following: why the wealth of the rich is illegitimate (1, 2, 3); capitalist property rights vs. freedom (here and here); how "libertarians" oppose liberty (here and here); the "free" market as illusion (here). For a socialist analysis of how power works in our society, see here.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Marx Against "Crude Communism"

I can still recall some of the first things I learned about "Communism" in elementary school. According to what we were taught, "Communism" was supposed to be a system which did not reward hard work. We discussed the parable of the ant and the grasshopper, where we were encouraged to conclude that the upshot of the story was that the productive should flourish and the lazy should perish. Since capitalism allegedly exemplified this moral principle of just reward for hard work—never mind that this is totally false—we were supposed to prefer it to "Communist" systems that rewarded the lazy and stultified the diligent.

A close corollary of this teaching was that socialism is little more than a "politics of envy". That is, since socialism is the institutionalization of the principle that the lazy shall be rewarded and the productive shall be punished, it follows that the main motivation to adopt socialist politics must be envy. The poor, the oppressed, the exploited masses of workers are just jealous of what their allegedly hard-working wealthy counterparts have amassed. Everyone wants the same thing, the story goes, and that thing is rather simple: maximum consumption. The only difference, then, between workers and the ruling classes is that the former is denied high levels of consumption whereas the latter is not. Socialists and defenders of capitalism therefore agree that the basic goal of society—whether its socialist or capitalist—should be maximum production and endless consumption for its own sake. Socialism appears here as little more than a leveling down maneuver that aims to realize a certain patterned distribution of material goods. Equality—or, more specifically, possessive equality—appears to reign supreme.

But what has this to do with genuine socialism as Marx himself described it? Nothing whatsoever. In fact, this picture is precisely what Marx excoriated as "crude communism".

Now, to be fair, this image of socialism as conforming to the basic goals of capitalist society, as aiming at consumption and possession, does describe the basic contours of the Stalinist system rather well. But that is no stain on the socialist ideal—it is simply one further reason to think that those state capitalist regimes had nothing to do with socialism properly understood.

Marx weighs in against "crude communism" in many different places, among them in the Manifesto, the Critique of the Gotha Program and in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. Let's examine what he says about "crude communism" in the latter text:

"[In crude communism] the domination of material property looms so large that it aims to destroy everything which is incapable of being possessed by everyone as private property. It wishes to eliminated talent, etc. by force. Immediate physical possession seems to it the unique goal of life and existence. The role of worker is not abolished but is extended to all men. The relation of private property remains the relation of the community to the world of things. Finally, this tendency to oppose general private property to private property is expressed in animal form; marriage (which is incontestably a form of exclusive private property) is contrasted with the "community of women", in which women become communal and common property. One may say that this idea of the community of women is the open secret of this entirely crude and unreflective communism. Just as women are to pass from marriage to universal prostitution, so the whole world of wealth is to pass to the relation of universal prostitution with the community. This communism, which negates the personality of man in every sphere, is only the logical expression of private property, which is this negation. Universal envy setting itself up as a power is only a camouflaged form of cupidity which reestablishes itself and satisfies itself in a different way. The thoughts of every individual private property are at least directed against any wealthier private property, in the form of envy and the desire to reduce everything to a common level; so that this envy and leveling in fact constitute the essence of competition. Crude communism is only the culmination of such envy and leveling-down on the basis of a preconceived minimum. How little this abolition of private property represents a genuine appropriation is shown by the abstract negation of the whole world of culture and civilization, and the regression to the unnatural simplicity of the poor and wantless individual who has not only not surpassed private property but has not yet even attained it. The community is only a community of work and of equality of wages paid out by the communal capital, by the community as universal capitalist. The two sides of the relation are raised to a supposed universality; labor as a condition in which everyone is placed, and capital as the acknowledged universality and power of the community."
This critique of "crude communism" is as much a searing indictment of contemporary capitalism as it is an indictment of the state capitalism of the Stalinist regimes. Let's take a close look at specific passages to get clearer on what Marx's socialism is and is not.

First, Marx is not arguing for a leveled, conformist society in which personality and individuality are obliterated. Neither does he stand for a society in which people are not able to develop their talents, cultivate their natural powers, and develop their full potential; on the contrary, the basic aim of a socialist society would be to fully realize these goals. For Marx, it is a profound problem with capitalist societies that "immediate physical possession seems to it the unique goal of life and existence." That is, rather than placing human development at the center, capitalism privileges having and possessing capital at the forefront. Profit trumps human flourishing whenever the two come into conflict (which is often) in capitalism. But Marx's argument against crude communism here is that it doesn't depart from the basic aim of capitalist societies. It merely reproduces them in a slightly different form.

What's more, Marx argues that in "crude communism", "the role of worker is not abolished but is extended to all men. The relation of private property remains the relation of the community to the world of things." There are two deep insights here. First, Marx didn't think that socialism had to do with increasing workers' standard of living, winning better working conditions, shorter work hours, etc. Of course, Marx was for all of these reforms, but he didn't think that they were enough. For Marx, socialism is about full working class self-emancipation—which is equivalent to the worker's self-abolition of her status as worker. That means abolishing the division labor characteristic of capitalism—especially the sharp division between mental and physical labor—and fundamentally restructuring the organization of socially necessary labor. A socialist society, for Marx, is precisely not one in which workers are simply treated better by the bosses than they are in capitalist societies. On the contrary, a socialist society is one in which there are no bosses, no workers as such, indeed no classes at all. No group would enjoy exclusive ownership and control of the social means of production and no group would be dispossessed from it. No propertied group would be in a position to rule over those without property. In short, socialism would not mean leveling-down all to the status and social position of the worker in capitalist societies. It would be a qualitative break from the present in which human development and genuine individuality were possible for all.

The second deep insight is that crude communism preserves the possessive, reifying tendency of capitalism. In the Manifesto, Marx and Engels complain that capitalism has torn asunder traditional (i.e. feudal) social relations, norms, practices and rituals with the result that the fundamental bond between individuals consists of little more than cold cash transactions. The point isn't that we should be nostalgic for feudal social formations; the argument is that capitalism tends to colonize human relations, leisure, recreation, even family and "private" life. These spheres come to be ruled by the basic coordinates of capitalist property relations, with money as the mediator and accumulation of profit as the basic aim. To be sure, the colonization and commodification of these domains isn't total or all-encompassing. But one only needs to think of the ways in which Christmas has been packaged, commodified and transformed into a orgy of consumption to see that Marx was on to something here.

Neither is genuine socialism (or genuine communism—I draw no principled distinction here) about "abstractly negating" (a Hegelian concept) all culture and "civilization". On the contrary, it would represent a "determinate negation" within the history of culture and civilization, a dialectical maneuver that takes stock of what is good and true in the present while negating what is false in the act of going beyond it. It would draw on the promise of the elements of existing progressive culture as leverage to forge something new.

This brings us to envy. Envy usually has the form of resenting someone for having something (a good, a status, an ability, an office, etc.) that you wish you had. It is not to be confused with wishing that you had your needs met—envy is about resenting a particular person (or group of persons) who have something you lack but wish you had. Thus, it's often enough, as far as the envious impulse is concerned, that that person is cut down to your level. This kind of sentiment surely simmers underneath those workers who resent other workers for having better pensions or wages. On the other hand, to envy a capitalist, from the perspective of a worker, would be basically to wish you were in their shoes. But the goal of collective working-class liberation is incompatible with the individualist urge to leave the class to join the small clique of rulers. Envy, then, is certainly not a revolutionary impulse. It does not brush against the grain of exploitation and oppression. Nor is it like the sort of righteous anger that we feel toward oppressors of all kinds. Envy is a self-regarding, possessive impulse that is based on avarice. It is a police concept—something that is essential if one wishes to artificially ensure that everyone is off in their own respective corner consuming equal amounts of stuff.

But socialism is not in the first instance about ensuring that everyone earns exactly the same income or possesses exactly the same amount of stuff. Negatively, socialism is a society in which there are no social relations of domination: no exploitation, no oppression, no high and mightiness, no bowing and scraping. Positively, socialism is a free community of equals, or, if you like, freely associated producers who, through organization and democratic self-governance, put human development first. Socialism is about making the flourishing of all human beings the basic priority of social production—not private profit.

This is all a way of saying that envy has no basic place in the argument for socialism. We shouldn't want to be socialists because we're jealous of the nice cars and mansions that the ruling class lavish themselves with. We should be socialists because we cannot tolerate a system in which a small class dominates, oppresses and exploits the majority—all for the sake of the endless accumulation of capital. Envy presupposes the competitive, possessive mindset we are encouraged to adopt in capitalism. Thus, it has no legitimate place in a socialist society.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hedge Your Bets

From the latest Harper’s Index:

Amount employees of private-equity firm Bain Capital have donated to the campaign of its co-founder Mitt Romney: $69,500

To the Obama campaign: $119,900

(hat tip to Proyect).


Friday, December 9, 2011

Proyect on Cynical Lesser-Evilism

The Nation Magazine’s Ari Berman wrote:

"You’re likely to hear elements of this speech over and over as the campaign heats up, as the Obama campaign attempts to stand with the 99 percent and paint Gingrich or Romney as core defenders of the 1 percent. None other than Chuck Schumer, one of the senators who represents Wall Street, told Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent that Democrats would focus on income inequality “like a laser” in 2012."

This is the same Chuck Schumer that the NY Times described as embracing the financial industry’s “free-market, deregulatory agenda more than almost any other Democrat in Congress, even backing some measures now blamed for contributing to the financial crisis.” The December 13, 2008 article added:

"He succeeded in limiting efforts to regulate credit-rating agencies, for example, sponsored legislation that cut fees paid by Wall Street firms to finance government oversight, pushed to allow banks to have lower capital reserves and called for the revision of regulations to make corporations’ balance sheets more transparent."

None of this matters to liberals who tend to have a short memory. As long as you toss them a bone, stroke them on the chin, all is forgiven.
Read the rest here.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Occupy Xmas? Consumerism or Struggle? has an (in general) excellent article (see here) on why this is a bad idea. The bottom line is this: "focusing hostility against consumers instead of the 1 percent only serves to mystify the circumstances that create such [Black Friday shopping] frenzies." Moreover, the article makes the important point that:

...#OccupyXmas accepts the very logic of consumerism that it decries at a time when millions of people are open to looking at the world in a new way. After all, it's the 1 percent that relentlessly encourages us to think of ourselves only in terms of what we consume, to measure ourselves by what we can buy, and to define our identities in terms of the products we possess.

What the Occupy movement has succeeded in doing was taking the discussion beyond a focus on the consumption choices that we as individuals make, and creating a new focus on how those decisions are embedded in a larger social framework--one that benefits the 1 percent at every turn, from individual and corporate tax policy, to the drive to privatize public institutions, to the outsized political influence that the 1 percent wields.

This is the key problem with "Occupy Xmas". It works 100% within the framework of consumerism that it purports to criticize. That is, it reinforces the capitalist principle that "you are what you buy/possess" and merely encourages us to buy different stuff (or make it or whatever). It also reinforces the capitalist myth that our only power is to be found as atomized consumers floating around alone in market forces. Adbusters is, in effect, encouraging us to give up on collective struggle and to think of our primary power in terms of what we have in our pocketbook. That is reactionary, as far as I'm concerned. Particularly after a year like 2011 when collective struggle--the world over--has been steadily increasing in a way that it hasn't done in a generation. To tell us to go home, put down our placards, and look to our pocketbook for salvation is to stand against everything progressive that the Occupy movement has achieved thus far.

To illustrate the bankruptcy of the "progressive consumerist" argument, let's examine one incarnation of it in the environmental movement. It has been pointed out time and again that brow-beating everyone into buying all organic food is not just ineffective, it's also racist and pro-capitalist if you push it to its logical conclusion. It often evinces a "personal responsibility" paternalism that focuses more criticism on individual consumer choices than on the structural conditions that lead to poverty, unemployment, that produce food without nutrients, neighborhoods without grocery stores, etc. That's pro-capitalist insofar as it both papers over the role capitalism plays in these social problems and emphasizes that the solution is a capitalist one that the "free market" will fix for us if we just "vote with our dollars" for the right goods. Never mind whether you actually have the dollars--the middle class liberals who typically push this argument certainly have enough to prop up their consumerist fantasy world. The racist version of this argument might, for instance, take the form of scolding working-class black people for not purchasing organic alfalfa sprouts from Whole Foods. This sentiment surely lies behind those well-intentioned (if paternalistic and, ultimately, racist) white folks who sometimes come into the neighborhoods of these "ignorant" people in order to lead them to the "light" of "progressive consumerism". But, of course, the problem with "food deserts" isn't one of poor individual choices. Neither is it basically a lack of education about what nutritious food is. Nor is it an effect of a so-called "culture of poverty". The problem is economic and political. Blaming individual black people for structural forces that work against them is, perhaps, the most common form of contemporary racism (notice that "colorblindness" does exactly that).

Now, notice what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that people who shop at Whole Foods, or who buy organic milk (like me, incidentally) are the problem. To interpret me in this way is to reiterate the consumerist model I've been attacking. I'm not hating on a particular consumer group or milieu for making choices I disagree with. I'm not siding with some other consumerist bloc against the Whole Foods shoppers. On the contrary, I'm criticizing this whole conservative framework of thinking of oneself (and one's political power) solely in terms of consumption choices. You miss the whole point if you take me to be saying that problem is just a group of consumers that makes "snobbish" choices or something.

In fact, the basic problem lies in thinking that buying organic milk is going to change the world. The problem lies in discouraging collective struggle and replacing it with individualized capitalist consumption patterns. The problem lies with seeing the primary locus of struggle as existing solely in the sphere of consumption, rather than production.

Still, there will probably be at least one person who reads this post convinced that I just have it in for those who drink organic milk, buy fair trade coffee and buy free-range cage-free eggs. In fact, I don't. I do all of those things myself. But I don't think that I'm doing anything political when I do. I don't substitute my atomized actions as a consumer for my political power as a person who has the capacity to link arms with others in struggle. Nor do I scold those who may not have the luxury of choosing to buy this or that at the grocery store.

Is consumerism a capitalist disease? Yes, it is. Has capitalism colonized a large amount of leisure activities and culture? Yes it has. Does capitalism manufacture certain "needs" ("beauty" products come to mind) in order to create new markets and maximize profit? Of course it does.

So, how do you fight the ideology of consumerism and the commodification of leisure? Not by accepting it 100% and operating entirely within its logic. You fight it by fighting the system that produces it. You fight it by linking arms with other people in struggle against that very system. Consumerism, after all, is hardly the sole problem--it is merely one feature of a global political-economic system: capitalism. It is but one ideology (and an accompanying set of practices and norms) that serves to stabilize and reproduce the system. It also serves to discourage the true weapon in our arsenal--collective struggle. To single it out as the sole problem is to misunderstand what it is (and what function it plays in the system). Moreover, to single it out misses the crucial fact that in capitalism choice is only an illusion. Even if you have the money to acquire whatever you want from what's on offer--the majority of us don't--you still lack the power to determine what the possible objects of choice are. A choice between A or B in capitalism is still a prescribed choice: we have no democratic say in what's produced, so we have no say in the qualitative features of A or B (nor, for that matter, do we have a say in whether or not there should also be a C and a D, etc.). The range of choices before us is out of our control as consumers. Our only power, as consumers, is to walk out of the store and not buy anything. We lack a democratic voice in the conditions of production. Buying different things from the capitalist's shelves will never change that.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

As Arab Spring Goes Forward, Israel Goes Backward

Here (obviously not the only such example)


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sober Look at the Legacy of Judt



Friday, December 2, 2011

Obama's Immigration Policies in Action

See here. Raids and deportations have drastically increased under the Obama administration.


The Conservatism of Liberal Pundits Revealed

This excellent article is a great starting point for beginning a discussion of the recent political positions on the occupy movement staked out by many "progressive" or, if you like, "liberal" politicians and pundits. The thesis of the article is that the radicalism of Occupy has provoked a counter-attack from liberal pundits and politicians, thereby evincing their underlying conservatism.

The article explores a variety of Chicago-specific examples. But this problem is hardly specific to Chicago.

My favorite incarnation of this phenomenon is the following story: Occupy is bad for "progressive" change in this country because it is going to alienate mainstream voters--particularly working class voters--who are repulsed by its radicalism and "counter-cultural" rituals. The Occupy movement, in fact, is "bad" in exactly the same way as those crazy anti-Vietnam War protesters were back in the 1960s. Those long-haired dirty hippies alienated all manner of working-class voters and provoked a conservative reaction that landed Richard Nixon in the White House! So, if these smelly Occupy kids don't get their act together quickly--and stop criticizing Democrats who back austerity and police violence--this country is going to get really bad, really quick because Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann are going to take power! Conclusion: be afraid, stay home, turn on the TV, forget about Occupy, don't criticize the Democrats, and drastically lower your expectations.

This is the "bad cop" strategy used by the Democrat political machine. The "good cop" strategy is one of co-optation and merely rhetorical support. But both aim at the same goal: winding down protest, lowering expectations, getting votes for Democrats who defend the status quo, and, ultimately, dissolving elements that could develop the power to criticize the Democrats from the Left.

As pointed out in the In These Times piece linked above, we sometimes see interesting shifts between these two strategies. Whereas allegedly "progressive" Aldermen in Chicago gave rhetorical support to Occupy Chicago (which at one point had the support of 79% of Chicagoans) at one point, they quickly withdrew that support when the movement started targeting them for voting for a cruel austerity budget that favors the 1% at the expense of the 99%. Instead of sweet-talking Occupy, they switched gears rather quickly and adopted all of the verbal bile of Right: the protesters are smelly, they are all white trust-fund babies with no idea what's going on, they are idiots, etc. The ease with which they adopt the same language as Newt Gingrich is astonishing, isn't it?

But what of the scare tactics? Do they hold any water? No. I think they are evidence of desperation among Democrat politicians and their lackeys.

First, this thing about the anti-war movement being to blame for right-wing backlash is preposterous. The same thing has been said about the black freedom movement of the 50s and 60s by racists in the Democrat Party: it "divided" the country and caused the Southern Democrats to jump ship and abandon the postwar Keynesian consensus. According to these ridiculous stories, we should come away thinking that the Civil Rights and anti-war movements were bad. It's as if they single-handed caused a conservative reaction and therefore deserve all the blame for what followed.

This is nonsense through and through. First of all, the black freedom movement won huge concessions from the powers that be (who were Democrats) because of extra-electoral struggle. That movement shattered Jim Crow (something that couldn't have ever happened by working exclusively through the ballot box), dealt a series of blows to de jure racism, and won Federal legislation that attempted to dismantle some of the worst forms of legal and institutional racism. They reconfigured the politics of race in this country for generations to come. The movement's impact extended far beyond the ephemeral swells of the election cycle. To say that the civil rights movement--or, for that matter the anti-war movement--produced nothing but right wing reaction is nonsense.

This bogey-man strategy is extremely self-serving as far as Democrat politicians are concerned. What they're afraid of is a serious challenge--from the Left--to their tepid, ultimately conservative and pro-corporate party. They want their "base" of voters to shut up, sit down, and robotically support and vote for them. They don't want pressure from below to actually enact policies that benefit the majority. That could hurt, among other things, their clout and fund-raising potential.

But what of holding up Richard Nixon and the "silent majority" as a scare tactic? Two things must be said. First of all, Richard Nixon was a more conventionally "liberal" political figure than Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. He, for example, expanded Medicare, whereas Obama is cutting it. Notice that I'm not saying anything good about Richard Nixon the person. He was a reactionary. But he was more or less forced by the conditions of the time to continue to fund and expand programs like Medicare. This shows that the party who takes the White House matters a lot less than the extra-electoral conditions. So the scare tactic here misses the point that genuine changes come when pressure is exerted from below through extra-electoral struggle and resistance.

This scare tactic also uses an old trope--familiar to the Democratic Party as much as the Republicans--that Americans are fundamentally conservative people who simply don't like anything "radical" or Left. Because that is supposed to be so, Democrats are justified in being "cautious" and thereby defending the status quo.

That this is bullshit is obvious for any reasonable person to see. First, people's ideas and political beliefs are constantly in flux. It is absurd to say that Americans are fundamentally conservative for all time. People are pissed off and feel that our economic and political system does not serve the interests of the 99%. The slogans "banks got bailed out, we got sold out" and "how to fix the deficit? end the wars, tax the rich" resonate deeply with a significant portion of the population. But, of course, Democrats are for the bailout of banks, for selling-out homeowners and debt-encumbered students, for the wars, and for giving tax breaks to the rich. They're also for austerity, layoffs, school closures, and all the rest of it. So, naturally, Democrats want to sell us the lie that Occupy's demands are "too radical".

Second, Occupy has consistently had (and continues to have) higher levels of support among the public than Congress. This has been true across the board in every single poll, which hasn't been hard to accomplish considering that Congress's approval ratings are regularly lower than 25%. If anything, these self-serving politicians should be asking why what they're doing is alienating 75% of the public, before they dare to criticize Occupy. Third, Occupy has--quite obviously--electrified millions of Americans who have either directly participated or indirectly supported the movement in various ways. Many have said that Occupy was the first time they ever took to the streets to protest and fight for their interests. Organized labor has come out strongly in support of the movement, showing a great deal of working-class interest in the politics of Occupy. Moreover, Occupy has forced the discourse in mainstream media to shift to, occasionally, deal with issues of inequality. To say that it is alienating people is false on many levels.

The key is to recognize the "tactical advice" given from above by Democrat politicians is 100% self-serving. They aren't on our side. They aren't our allies. They want us to be docile and blindly supportive of their efforts to "take care of things for us." They don't want a challenge to their authority. They don't want pressure from the Left to fight for the 99%. So, naturally, they don't want Occupy to exist as an independent, Left force in American politics. They either want to control it and convert it into blind support for whomever the Democrats put up for election, or they want to destroy and discredit it in order to stop it from undermining the authority of the corporate-backed Democrat Party.


Ruling Class Education Policy

Here. It's the same medicine being prescribed around the country by Democrat and Republican alike.