[Marxism] Reply to Rick Perlstein
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 11 13:30:27 MDT 2004
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