plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Mar 18 14:11:24 MST 2004
> The only way to break out of lesser-evilism is to vote
> in Democrats. The left flourished under under JFK and
> LBJ; it withered under Nixon; it became virtually
> extinct under Reagan.
Actually, it was during the Nixon years that the left was strongest.
At the end of the 1960s, SDS had 100,000 members, Maoism had thousands
and thousands of adherents and Trotskyism had grown significantly as well.
The Nixon years saw the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement, with
the biggest demos.
It saw the arrival of the women's liberation and gay liberation movements.
The American Indian Movement was formed during the Nixon period.
The idea that the left flourishes under the Democrats and dies off when
the Republicans are in government seems to be wrong.
Moreover, people had to fight for left positions just as much under LBJ
as under Nixon. LBJ was prepared to abandon the 'Great Society' project
in order to have sufficient funds to massively escalate the war in Vietnam.
In terms of economic policy, as someone on this list pointed out a few
weeks back, the Nixon years actually appear in retrospect as the
highpoint of Keynesian reformism, compared with what came after (under
*both* Democratic and Republican administrations).
The key to the weakening of the left after the end of the Vietnam War -
and this was a phenomenon throughout the world, especially the
imperialist world - was the end of the postwar boom, in my opinion. The
radical left of the 1960s was a product, in no small part, of the
postwar boom and vastly underestimated the significance of the end of
the boom and how this would lead to the political retreat of all the
'new social movements' and of most of the radical left's liberal-left
allies - ie of the whole social milieu in which the radical left was
The shift to the right of this milieu, which Mike Davis analyses in the
extract Louis posted, involved a shift into the Democratic Party which,
again as Davis noted, was a kiss of death to any genuinely radical politics.
The pro-Democrat argument in the US is rather similar to the pro-Labour
argument here in NZ. Of course, what actuially happens is that when the
National Party is in power, the liberal-left argue against radical
struggles and for concentrating energy on getting Labour back into power
and then when Labour is in power they argue against rocking the boat in
case it topples Labour out and National back in. So the time for
struggle is. . . well. . . never!
Over the past decade, the actual experience of struggle here is that
there is little difference between the two governments. Days lost
through strikes, currently sadly very low in NZ, does not vary much
according to who is in government. Wage rises were notably larger in
the last few years of the National (in the late 1990s) than under Labour
(in power since 1999) and class inequality between the richest and the
rest has widened more and at a faster rate under Labour than National
since 1984 (the 1980s Labour government organised the biggest transfer
of wealth upwards in NZ history since colonisation, while under the
current Labour government those on the NZ Rich List have seen their
wealth increase at a faster rate than any time since. . . the last
From what I know of the Clinton years, there was a clear esacalation of
US military involvement abroad (most US involvement in imperialist wars
and interventions have been courtesy of the Democrats), plus there
continued to be erosions of workers' living standards, the health fiasco
and so on.
The (partial) revival of protest movements in recent years has little to
do with who is in power and more to do with revulsion at certain aspects
of capitalism which have become more apparent and rampant - like the
commodification of everything capital can get its hands on. There is
now a new generation of young people, who did not go through the defeats
of the 1980s and 1990s, and who are coming into political activity.
What a waste of this new generation if it got embroiled in lesser-evil
politics. They deserve better.
And, happily, I think there are lots of radicalising young people for
whom the mainstream parties actually hold little attraction. I would
guess that people like Chomsky and Nader are far more attractive to
critical-minded young people in the US than people like Kerry and
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