[Marxism] Forwarded from Ralph Johansen
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue May 18 07:28:57 MDT 2004
Sent in response to the article "Who Leads" below, from
CommonDreams.org, distributed on another list:
The mantra, "In order to get elected, it is necessary to take the
center" has become a shibboleth like TINA. True it may be of
contemporary electoral politics and all very well, this purportedly
"hard-headed" marketing-message from the liberal left about the need to
grab for the center-pole.
However, the solution part, the analogy to the right wing always made in
these pieces, collapses when the questions arise, what is that
attractive and practicable liberal-centrist message that will compete in
the political arena with the right, and how can liberals get the money
and the media exposure that is easy for the right, their religious
organizations, think tanks and political action committees, since the
right's covert and overt messages and program are not necessarily or at
all inimical to, in fact tend to merge with, the aims of those with
political, military and economic power - the political enablers and
brokers - including of course the compliant Congress?
Whereas a liberal attempt at a centrist message, including hidden at its
source all or some of the following: unshackling of the right to
organize in the workplace, reform of welfare, social security and
unemployment benefit liberalization, health care, reform of political
campaign funding, gay and women's rights, preserving the environment,
curbing corporate power, a balanced judiciary, a more benign foreign
policy, etc., is no longer remotely in tune with financial and
industrial power (less than ever), won't garner big Democratic PAC
money, and won't pass the oligarchic media's smell test. What it will do
is prove once again that the present electoral system in the U.S. is not
the arena for constructive change, as well as puncturing again the
notion that the liberal message of reform and tinkering with the system
of capital accumulation has essential mileage. What we get with Kerry
and the Democrats, or any other opposing faction scrabbling for the
center, is more of what we have had with Clinton and his forerunners,
and this message to liberals has little or nothing to do with it.
Disheartening to liberals, yes. Ineluctable, no. We aren't stuck here in
this lotus-land for wealth and power, where the center somehow holds,
for all time. Periods of prolonged dead-space have occurred before for
the left. Long dry spells - where expansion and the imperialist project
carried many with it, especially the buffering middle, and where no
alternative possibilities for organizing the system of getting on seemed
feasible and everything seemed to be in capital's favor - are not new to
us. But support for this patently inequitable system is uninformed,
shallow and tenuous. The "manufacture of consent" succeeds in conditions
more rather than less favorable to complacence. As history shows, the
flash of recognition that produces radical change among us, individually
and collectively, does not disappear. The distillation and incorporation
of historical experience can only enhance the prospects on the left. And
notice how political and economic crisis and even collapse of this
system and openings for change gather all around us, even the imperial
project bogs down, after the most prolonged and rapacious bubble effect
in the history of capitalism which has succeeded in large part by
ratcheting exploitation of workers and the environment, glutting markets
and by capitalizing on speculation in interest and exchange rates, real
property, derivatives and the ephemeral, shunting contradiction to the
side and to the periphery, until stretch comes to shove.
In other words, what is the alternative to paying meticulous attention
to the dynamics of class, to straightforward organizing among and by the
working class (define it how you will) with a consistent, unarguable and
completely relevant radical critique and platform? No one has to wait
for more favorable conditions, the sudden Damascus-conversion of the
union bureaucracy, the resurgent movement from beyond our shores or more
egregious imperial blundering. What we have to do is our homework, in
every sense. Failing this imperative to organize on the left, hold on,
it's all downhill from here in any case. Have you seen anything that
Socialism or barbarism has lost none of its relevance. TINA.
Published on Thursday, May 13, 2004 by CommonDreams.org Who Leads? by
The desire to have a Democratic Party candidate who makes noises like
Nader is a death wish. A candidate who sounds like Nader will get votes
like Nader. If a young, attractive, dynamic, glamorous Ralph Nader with
a huge TV Q and the presence of Oprah Winfrey came along and was the
Democratic Party nominee, he or she might get the same share of the vote
as McGovern or Goldwater or Dukakis.
The job of a politician is to get elected.
A politician who does not get elected is a loser. Perhaps a glorious
loser, but a loser none the less. He is an out of worker demagogue in
search of a way to make a living. He is an almost was, a wannabee, a has
been. Except, occasionally, when, like Bill Clinton, he determines not
to lose again and looks, with a clear eye, at why he lost and even goes
so far as to hire the guy who beat him - Dick Morris - as his own
consultant and remodels himself to be electable. Or, like George Bush,
after he was beat by Kent Hance, not a real attractive candidate, and
then determined never to be out Texaned again.
In order to get elected, it is necessary to take the center. Note that
George W. Bush did not get elected by declaring he would gut
environmental regulations, turn medicare into a milk cow for the
pharmaceutical corporations, pack the courts with judges even scarier
than Scalia, attempt to conquer the world in a neo-Christian crusade and
station our legions in the outposts of oil. He got elected by promising
to be the education president, to refrain from nation building, by
calling himself compassionate and conservative. In short, by promising
to be a sort of Clinton without an active penis.
But when Bush came into office he moved, in his actions, to the right.
That was ground that had been prepared by others. There was an ideology,
there was money, there were lobbyists, there was a vocabulary to
describe what he was doing in positive terms, there spokesman and
media-manipulators in place to cheer him on and disparage his
opposition, and there were cadres, who believed, even more fervently
than their leader, ready to take up the jobs from the cabinet down to
That's our job.
It is our job to create ideas. To market those ideas. To sell those
ideas. Continually rethinking and rephrashing and repackaging them and
then pushing them in a million small ways, in books, op-eds, letters to
the editors, complaints to the radio and television producers until we
Chomsky is probably correct, that in a democracy, consent is
manufactured. But we have to stop considering that to be a complaint.
Take it as a simple fact. If consent needs to be manufactured, let's
manufacture it. Don't lets complain about it and let Exxon-Mobile and
Pfizer and RNC and Rush Limbaugh go ahead and keep manufacturing it
What we can do for a candidate is create a vocabulary and a set of ideas
and make them acceptable to the mainstream. That's what the
conservatives did. And they spent years wandering in the wilderness
before they were successful. They worked hard in the face of rejection
and ridicule and they did not give up and they changed and they grew.
They found, raised and spent money. Now they are reaping the rewards of
that effort and dedication.
Liberals and the left did not. Our ideas may be valid, but they sound
old and tired. The right has effectively ridiculed and demonized our
vocabulary and our catch phrases. Sometimes correctly. Sometimes
incorrectly. But it really doesn't matter if they're wrong and we're
right. What matters is that we don't have attractive fresh, new packages
that make political consumers jump up and down and say, "Yes,
John Kerry's job is not to lead us into the promised land, or even point
us to the promised land. It is only to check the madness of King George
and the neo-cons. He can appoint judges who believe in choice and
believe that the environmental and social rights of the community have
validity. He can propose sound fiscal policies and restore civil rights.
He can let environmentalists and independent scientists into the room
when energy policies are being planned. John Kerry's job is to win. It
is demanding and grueling and often perverse.
It is not his job to lead. That's our job.
Larry Beinhart is a writer who lives in Woodstock, NY. He is best known
for American Hero which became Wag the Dog. He has a new book coming out
with Nation Books in August.
posted by ellie m.
The Marxism list: www.marxmail.org
More information about the Marxism