Oklahoma Events and Request for help
pieinsky at igc.apc.org
Fri Apr 28 16:12:48 MDT 1995
Dear Marxism Listers,
I hope I can still post to this list. I subscribed previously
earlier in the spring, introduced myself and then posted a couple
of things pertaining to Bernie Sanders and Vermont politics.
Then, with the volume of my mail becoming unbearable, I convinced
IGC to pick up the Marxism list as a new conference--then I
unsubscribed. Mostly, I've been doing EZLN/Chiapas support work
(on the Internet) since while occasionally dropping in on the
Marxism list has had some very interesting analyses about
Oklahoma. The following are some thoughts on the events that I
sent out to folks in Vermont hopefully to get some political
P.S. What's a good and succinct Marxist class-analysis of the
attraction between the rural petit-bourgeoisie--as these criminals
seem to be classwise--and the rightwing/fascism. Anybody got one?
I looked at some old documents of the Comintern, Trotsky, etc. but
couldn't come up with anything. The urban petit-bourgeoisie, yes.
The rural petit-bourgeoisie and farmers, no. As an historian I am
fairly familiar with the whole variegated history of U.S.
populism. However, I can't seem to lay my hands on anything more
theoretical. This is especially important because I live in a
rural area, and, while there are no militias (yet), the same
mind-set sure exists. Educating ourselves and others about this
kind of stuff is not an academic exercise. E.g. I have friends
working with a farm group. Thus, it needs to be theoretical but
also accessible to laypeople.
Thanks to everybody in advance.
As you have also I'm sure, I've been thinking a lot about the
Oklahoma bombing and its political and social fallout. I would
like to get a discussion going. Here are some of my thoughts:
1) This should probably go without saying. But since there are
various conspiracy theories being spun out, we should be clear
that this was a fascistic and reprehensible crime. If ever the
term, "terrorism" applies--and I would restrict this term, which
gets used by the powers-that-be against everybody they don't like
while Contras become "Freedom Fighters", to violence against
civilians, to innocent people not property--it does apply in this
instance. Let's be plain: This was a case of terrorism by a
fascistic gang. I cannot buy these conspiracy theories about a
government set-up. Get real! The real "conspiracy" (much more
structural in nature as all these things generally are) is in how
this event is now being "constructed" by the powers-that-be to
serve their own purposes.
2) We need to try to redirect the discourses about terrorism that
the bombing has generated. The power-that-be can't blame this
event, although of course that is what they tried to do initially,
on a foreign Other. This terrible crime was committed by good ole
boys--who believed in their twisted way they were defending "our
American values" against the Other within and without. What does
this say about American values--i.e., the long history of violence
against Others which has characterized "our" history. N.B.: The
chief accused, Timothy McVeigh, and one of the Nichols brothers
served in the U.S. Army and moreover in the Persian Gulf War.
What difference is there really in moral terms between dropping
"smart bombs" on civilians in Baghdad and using a dumb fertilizer
bomb in Oklahoma City. There is a practical continuity--like the
Afghans et al the CIA trained who blew up the World Trade
Center--and moral equivalence. In the modern world, the state is
supposed to have the monopoly on violence. That's supposed to be
OK. In one sense, Oklahoma is the "return" of the violence of the
U.S. system onto innocent people. We need to use this sad event
to raise talk and consciousness, if we can, about the real sources
of violence in society: militarism, poverty, racism, etc. We
need to open up discussions about American society in general.
There has long been "terror in the heartland" for blacks, women,
native people, etc--not to mention all the terror against the
Vietnamese, Iraqis, etc. Let's expose the hypocrisy of the System
weeping for babies now and use the positive feelings of people in
general to expand empathy. We feel for these babies and all the
hurt and suffering everywhere.
3) Some people hereabouts whom I know have unfortunately fallen in
the past for the facile notion that the left and the right somehow
converge at the far sides of the spectrum or circle (unfortunate
metaphors in my opinion). Our politics, however much we are
anti-statist, have nothing to do with these fascists (not
anarchists!--they may hate the present government perhaps but they
would love a Fuhrer; they have authoritarian personality
types--see W. Reich). There may be superficial resemblances in
form--i.e., decentralized modes of organizing--but there is a hell
of a big difference in terms of content. They are racist,
anti-semitic people who relish in guns. No doubt, their rebellion
(white rural petit bourgeois) is comprehensible in class and in
political economy terms--see the Covert Action piece I've
circulated. But contrast their "armed struggle" with that of the
Zapatistas (who are rural but having a very different class
character and culture), who have taken up as their own the causes
of all the oppressed: gays, women, etc. The EZLN says they have
taken up guns--but so as to abolish guns. We must remain clear
that armed struggle as a means to liberation from tyranny may well
be justified in the context of an overall popular movement--not by
small sects--but terrorism is never acceptable. Fascistic
violence, again, needs to be linked in kind with statist
violence--and the whole history of the U.S.--and delinked from the
activities of liberation movements, the very opposite of want the
state (and state-serving liberals and conservatives) want to do.
If we are looking for traditions to inspire and motivate us--what
Marx once, in a celebrated text about "making history", referred
to as "the poetry of the past" (and despite the strong pejorative
side against such poetry in favor of modernity where Marx invokes
this phrase, Marx later became quite interested in the Russian
peasant "mir" (the communal village structure) as one possible
alternative departure point for the transition to socialism--any
similarities to Chiapas here?)--then we should not be looking, as
right-wingers love to do, at the Colonial "Patriots" (possessive
individualist, patriarchal smallholders in the North; slaveowners
in the South) but at the indigenous people
("left"-libertarians/communitarians). Other rolemodels:
abolitionists, feminists, labor activists, etc. And we should not
just look at "our" U.S. history in our efforts to "get rooted."
The whole world of popular struggles is our history.
Yes, definitely, let's get ourselves rooted "bioregionally" (in
Vermont, meaning--e.g. learning about and supporting the Abenakis,
not identifying with that land-speculating "founder" Ethan Allen).
But eschew local, regional and national chauvinism. We on the
Left need to emphasize our planetary vision (an internationalism
welling from below, not like GATT imposed from above and leading
to narrow-minded responses). Although the ideal for some of us
may well be small-scale and communal (federated with others),
don't reify and romanticize the local and the parochial--what the
rightwingers do. I believe we ought to try to think and act
locally and globally, look both backwards and forward, recite old
poetry and exclaim new. This is all, needless to say, very
different both conceptually and programmatically from what the
Right thinks and does. There is no genuine "covergence" anywhere
between the Left and the Right. We are all Leftists, some being
more or less decentralist than others. That--decentralism--is a
discussion precisely within the discourse of the Left and not
between any of us and rightwing "anarchists". Their ideology is
selfish, possessive, get-off-my-property (as well as a lot of
other bad things); ours is sharing, caring, inclusive. We have
that much in common on the Left. The rest we can discuss.
4) The events in Oklahoma should likewise raise questions about
the whole strategy now prevalent on parts of the "Progresssive"
Left of using a "populist" rhetoric and organizing methodology.
Economic populism--i.e., that the government does not serve the
interests of the "working people"--while true enough on the face
of it can go in different ways, not all of them especially
"progressive". (This is very apparent if we look at the history
of the original late-19th century Populist movement.) What we
need is to articulate and to organize the fight against all forms
of oppression and not to duck the more troublesome issues like
racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. for the sake of a temporary unity
around economic, class concerns. Yes, tap into that anti-systemic
class anger among white males out there--there's a lot to be angry
about--but educate and broaden it. Otherwise, it may find
expression in these fascistic kinds of ways.
5) The powers-that-be are using Oklahoma, along with
"pornography", as a wedge-issue to try to expand the powers of the
State over the Internet, to physically infiltrate "subversive"
groups, etc. This must be resisted in every possible sane way.
These changes will inevitably mean people like us becoming targets
of repression more than the right-wing. Look at the Sixties. The
FBI, the pseudo-historical movie "Mississippi Burning" to the
contrary, worked hand in glove with the KKK to incite bombings and
murders in the South. Then there is the whole sorry history of
the COINTELPRO against the Black Panthers and the spying on CISPES
in the 1970s and 1980s. Our civil liberties must not be
infringed. The ACLU is absolutely correct. (And where were these
born-again right-wing defenders of civil liberties like Bob Dole
and Rush Limbaugh when the government came down against the Left?
Let's expose this blatant hypocrisy.)
These are some early thoughts I wanted to share with other folks.
What are you all thinking? Let's get talking about these events.
There are definitely challenges here but also new opportunities.
I have some other very interesting files from Internet discussion
groups (e.g. list.marxism) about this topic I may be circulating
next. If you don't want this kind of material, please notify me.
Your sincerely, J. Moore
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