The Nader campaign, part 1

cc136 at SPAMcornell.edu cc136 at SPAMcornell.edu
Mon Jun 5 11:49:45 MDT 2000



        I am not familiar with Blair Sandler's theoretical arguments, but
I am sympathetic to the general thrust, as I was as an environmental
organizer back in the day.   I should have said "they MAY help to push
the capitalist system further into crisis".  Thanks for the correction.
        At the same time, I think it is a mistake to categorically reject
these kinds of environmental initiatives as inherently supportive of the
capitalist system.  They MAY do so, they MAY not.  And yes, I do think it
matters how these issues are framed by enviro/consumer groups.  I
disagree with the portrait of Nader's "cretinism" being portrayed on this
list.  Again, I'm not his biggest supporter, and agree that his failure
to frame the issues in Marxist/class terms is a big mistake, BUT I don't
think he supports shallow-minded consumerism.  Anyone who argues this
probably hasn't listened to many of Nader's speeches.  His message has
been remarkably consistent - citizens should have more control over
corporations (including revocable corporate charters).  This is a good
first step, and I think it is well received by many young would-be
activists.  It is our job as socialists to push them, take the further
step into class struggle and socialism.  We shouldn't tear down Nader
because he isn't where we are, because they are very few who are.
        Chris Carrick
        PhD Candidate
        Department of City and Regional Planning
        Cornell University


On Mon, 5 Jun 2000, M A Jones wrote:

> >>True, the bottle bills, recycled content
> standards for packaging, clean air, clean water, toxics, safe energy,
> auto fuel efficiency standards, and campaign finance reform (to name just a
> few of the many issues I worked on at PIRG) are not the revolution, but
> they do help to push the capitalist system further into crisis, which is
> all for the better (even if the PIRGs and other enviro groups don't frame
> their work this way, which is a big mistake in my opinion).  <<
>
> How do they "help to push the capitalist system further into crisis"? Surely
> the reverse is the case, as for eg Blair Sandler has argued theoretically:
> the co-optation of 'green' issues to corporate agends can make corporations
> more not less profitable, can relegitmise capitalism and can act as powerful
> levers of social/poltical control and renewed economic hegemony in US client
> states and 3rd world dependencies where local economies are forced to
> compete against highly-capitalised 'envionrmentalised' US labour and
> production standards.
>
> And are you seriosuly suggesting that if Nader outfits reinventted
> themselves as explicitly revolutionary, they would even exist in the form
> they do now? Of course they wouldn't; Nader would be perceived as one of the
> marginal Trots Gary Maclellan just warned of...
>
> Mark Jones
> http://www.egroups.com/group/CrashList
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: <cc136 at cornell.edu>
> To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>
> Cc: <marxism at lists.panix.com>; <pen-l at galaxy.csuchico.edu>;
> <SOCIALIST-REGISTER at yorku.ca>; <jhurd_newparty at indiana.edu>;
> <awald at umich.edu>
> Sent: Monday, June 05, 2000 2:00 AM
> Subject: Re: The Nader campaign, part 1
>
>
> >
> > I considered waiting until Louis had finished posting his
> > analysis of the Nader campaign, especially since he indicated that he
> > would be arguing that a Nader campaign might be beneficial for socialism,
> > but there are several points in this first 'hit piece' to which I'd like
> > to respond.
> >
> > First, I also think that it is a 'low blow' to use Jefferson's
> > genocidal attitudes/policies towards Native Americans against Nader.
> > But, more generally, I think the entire tone of Lou's post is sort of a
> > 'low blow'.  It's not that I think that a person's history is irrelevant,
> > but the attempt to 'disprove' a hagiography which Nader did not create or
> > perpetuate is really a 'straw man' argument.  Nader never claimed to be a
> > saint, and I think that (especially for Marxists, who should be sensitive
> > to these kinds of personal attacks) it is unreasonable to expect
> > activists to devote precious time/energy to refuting the claims made in
> > one's behalf or against one's cause by supporters/opponents with their
> > own various and sundry agendas.  Frankly, I don't care where Nader lives
> > in DC but I do know from personal experience that the guy works harder
> > than most people I know.  Nobody can credibly claim that Nader is not
> > committed to his causes; on the contrary, if anything he is perhaps a
> > little to single-minded (for his own health and for his various campaigns
> > and co-workers).  It's a little disappointing to hear Lou (and other
> > leftists) echo the same kinds of personal attacks against Nader which his
> > right-wing opponents have been spewing for decades.
> >
> > Second, as someone who worked as a PIRG Campaign Manager for
> > several years, in both DC and SF, I can attest to the fact that Nader has
> > nothing to do with the various state PIRGs or their parent organization,
> > the Fund for Public Interest.  Of course, the Executive Director of PIRG
> > is a close friend and confidant of Nader, but the connection is purely
> > informal (I imagine the same could be said of the other Nader 'spin-off'
> > organizations).  It is frankly false to say that PIRG is a 'cash cow' for
> > Nader.  Now, I would be the first to offer an extended critique of PIRG -
> > it is far from perfect.  It is true that they offer barely subsistence
> > wages, and as such recruit primarily upper middle class kids whose
> > parents can subsidize the $12,000/year salary.  It is true that they work
> > primarily in white, upper middle-class suburbs and avoid communities of
> > color like the plague.  In this way, PIRG is like most other large
> > environmental groups that perpetuate racism and classism.  It is also
> > true that PIRG is primarily interested in raising lots of money to
> > perpetuate its own existence.  At the same time, these same criticisms
> > could be leveled at many socialist organizations and unions, so we should
> > tread carefully here.  It is also true that the PIRGs (and other Naderite
> > groups) do a lot of good work.  True, the bottle bills, recycled content
> > standards for packaging, clean air, clean water, toxics, safe energy,
> > auto fuel efficiency standards, and campaign finance reform (to name just
> a
> > few of the many issues I worked on at PIRG) are not the revolution, but
> > they do help to push the capitalist system further into crisis, which is
> > all for the better (even if the PIRGs and other enviro groups don't frame
> > their work this way, which is a big mistake in my opinion).  But it
> > troubles me to see Lou and other leftists echoing the same charges
> > against PIRG that the right-wing student groups here at Cornell and
> > across the country have been using to kick PIRGs off campuses.  It only
> > serves to perpetuate the rampant student apathy that we see today.
> >
> > Third, and perhaps most important, regarding Nader's political
> > philosophy, I think there is plenty of room for criticism (and I have
> > been a big critic on this score among my PIRG and Nader supporters over
> > the years).  It is true that Nader has an almost obsessively exclusive
> > focus on domestic policy issues over the years.  As Marxists, we should
> > criticize him for failing to link international politics (and US foreign
> > policy) with domestic issues.  But on this score, we could criticize just
> > about every public figure in the US today.  And, nobody ever claimed that
> > Nader was a socialist or Marxist (least of all, Nader himself!). I
> > suspect Lou will be touching on this issue in his upcoming posts, but I
> > think that as members of a distinct political minority, we should be
> > willing to hold off on some valid issues for the sake of supporting
> > someone who might be able to peform the critical task of re-politicizing
> > the masses (or at least the youth).  I would like to make it clear that I
> > am not endorsing Nader here, and frankly I have serious doubts about his
> > ability to energize the electorate.  I also think he is not doing enough
> > to let Winona speak.  Frankly, she is a much more dynamic and compelling
> > personality than he ever was or might be.  We'll see how his campaign
> > progresses, but I'm not very hopeful.  The main point of my response was
> > to caution us against the dangers of criticizing other 'progressives' in
> > ways that the right wing demonizes everyone on the left.  One insightful
> > point I have heard Ralph make both publicly and privately is that
> > "whenever the left forms a firing squad, they do it in a circle".  Let's
> > try to avoid that on this list and in our work.  I've seen far too many
> > people criticize others they haven't read or whose work they haven't
> > engaged in a serious way (especially those tarred with the 'pomo'
> > label).  As serious socialists and scholars, I think we can do better.
> >
> > Yours in solidarity,
> >
> > Chris Carrick
> > PhD Candidate
> > Department of City and Regional Planning
> > Cornell University
> >
> >
>
>





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