[Marxism] Reply to Rick Perlstein

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 11 13:30:27 MDT 2004

Hi, Rick,

I am cc'ing Marxmail and PEN-L on this. I doubt that the howling 
extremist mob on the former would have much interest in how the 
Democrats can become a majority party again, but I know that PEN-L is 
very tuned in to this topic.

To start with, everybody should take a look at Rick's Boston Review 
article which is titled "How Can the Democrats Win?" at 
http://www.bostonreview.net/BR29.3/perlstein.html. There are also 
replies by well-known leftists and liberals such as Robert Reich, Adolph 
Reed and Stanley Aronowitz.

To start with, I found your discussion of Boeing quite interesting. I 
had the chance to look at the development of the 747 in some depth as 
part of an examination of airline deregulation a few years ago. I relied 
heavily on a book by John Newhouse titled "The Sporty Game" that 
appeared originally in the New Yorker when the magazine was worth 
something. I was much less sanguine about viewing the development of the 
747 as an unqualified success, at least on capitalism's own terms:

 >>In the same year that Newhouse's book appeared, a report on 
"Competition and the Airlines: An Evaluation of Deregulation" was 
submitted by staff economists David R. Graham and Daniel P. Kaplan to 
their superiors at the Civil Aeronautics Board. Given its internal 
character, the authors make no effort to depict deregulation as 
progressive legislation motivated to make air travel affordable. Instead 
it is declining profits that occupies center stage. In fact they openly 
admit that air travel had become a mass consumer phenomenon without the 
help of Senator Kennedy's trust-busters. They state that between 1949 
and 1969, air traffic grew by more than 14 percent a year. During this 
same period, average air fares actually fell by 2 percent while the 
consumer price index rose by 50 percent. In other words, air travel was 
cheap relative to other consumer goods.

What concerned the economists was the fortunes of the airline companies 
rather than those of the consumers. With all the money spent on 747s and 
other oversized jets, empty seats became a much more serious problem 
given the economies of scale. <<


Turning now to your recommendations to the Democratic Party leadership:

"Any marketing executive will tell you that you can’t build a brand out 
of stuff the people say they don’t want. And what do Americans say they 
want? According to the pollsters, exactly what the Democratic Party was 
once famous for giving them: economic populism."

All I can say is that this not quite the Democratic Party I am familiar 
with, at least in broad historical terms. Keep in mind that the 
Democratic Party was originally the party of the Southern Bourbons. 
While Arthur Schlesinger Jr. portrays Andrew Jackson as some kind of 
plebian democrat, he owned slaves and saw his role as promoting the 
interest of the same class he belonged to. The Republican Party emerged 
as a revolutionary opposition to the Democrats and only withdrew from 
the task of uprooting racial supremacy in the South when Northern 
liberals, particularly those grouped around Godkin's Nation Magazine, 
persuaded party bosses that they were encouraging developments in the 
USA that might turn out like the Paris Commune. David Montgomery details 
all this in "The Death of Reconstruction".

I myself stumbled across this sordid tale while preparing a critical 
review of the Nation around the time that Hitchens had become a turncoat 
and Marc Cooper was perfecting his own redbaiting skills. I learned that 
hostility to radicalism was not an invention of Katrina vanden Heuvel, 
but something rooted in the magazine's hoary past. On December 5th 1867, 
the Nation wrote:

"It must now be confessed those who were of this way of thinking [namely 
that the Radical Republicans were going too far], and they were many, 
have proved to be not very far wrong. It is not yet too late for the 
majority in Congress to retrace its steps and turn to serious things. 
The work before it is to bring the South back to the Union on the 
basis-of equal rights, and not to punish the President or provide farms 
for negroes or remodel the American Government."

After the "great compromise" that ended Reconstruction, challenges to 
the big bourgeoisie were mounted not from within the Republican or 
Democratic Parties but from 3rd party efforts like the Populists. Then, 
as today, efforts were mounted to either co-opt or destroy these 
movements. If you compare the programs of the Democratic and Republican 
Parties from the period of the end of Reconstruction to FDR's election 
as a *balanced budget* realist, you'll find about as much to choose 
between as George W. Bush and John Kerry. (I must say that for all your 
eagerness to assert that "beating George W. Bush at the ballot box in 
November...is imperative to the future health of the United States", you 
don't seem at all that interested in explaining why. That is, unless you 
think that "staying the course" in Iraq is part of that future health. 
But what can I say, I am one of those unrepentant 1960s radicals who 
never would have voted for Humphrey, to the everlasting dismay of Todd 
Gitlin I suppose.)

After FDR's election, New Deal legislation was enacted not because he 
was a populist or even wanted to win elections. Change came because 
workers sat-in at factories, marched on Washington and generally raised 
hell. I guess you might say that that describes my attitude in general. 
I am for raising the more hell the better.

Marxism list: www.marxmail.org

More information about the Marxism mailing list