[Marxism] RE: Reply to Carl Davidson - or, Why Democrats Really *Are* Worse than Republicans

Julio Huato juliohuato at gmail.com
Tue Mar 15 21:23:20 MST 2005

M. Junaid Alam wrote:

> Julio Hauto writes:

My name is Julio Huato. 

> Republicans and Democrats are not equally bad. They are not identical in form
> and content. Rather, they are different in form and similar in content. 

I agree with this.  But "formal" doesn't mean unimportant.

> From the 
> standpoint of social change, this actually means the Democrats are worse than > the Republicans.  

So, are you saying that -- "from the standpoint of social change" --
it is better to help the Republicans?

Well, I totally disagree.  If the workers' movement were strong and
united, about to threaten the status quo with a social revolution, and
the Democrats were trying to divide the movement and divert it towards
unnecessary compromises, then the Democrats could be worse than the
Republicans from the standpoint of social change.  But that is not the
situation now.

> Here is why.
> The Republicans are the open party of right-wing ideas and values. They 
> espouse and strongly advocate their line. The Democrats do not pull in the 
> opposite direction.
> They do not advocate a left-wing line with anywhere near the same zeal and
> intensity. Instead, they peddle softened, watered-down versions of the same right-
> wing ideas, to make them more palatable to their constituencies, in smaller 
> doses, in less antagonistic packaging.
> This process  activates and enables the intellectual and political dynamic 
> that leads to right-wing ideas penetrating society as a whole. Right-wing victories
> are the inelecutable result of Democratic Party enabling of right-wing frameworks,
> since this is an entirely one-way process. 
> Let me illustrate by way of a model.


Yours is a useless formalistic exercise.  Read my reply to Jim
Farmelant.  Or better yet, let me repeat here the main ideas:

This dynamics between the parties doesn't happen in a social vacuum. 
It's not the result of some embodiment of the Ruling Class/Absolute
Idea assigning convenient roles to the parties.  The underlying
conditions of the class struggle determines this dynamics.  We cannot
will our way out of a historical trap of this kind.  We can only
understand it and, on that basis, create conditions to overcome it. 
Even if it were unencumbered by ideology and capable of tactical
flexibility (something that won't happen if Louis Proyect and you can
have a say), chances are this will be a very gradual process.  History
only jumps when it's ready to jump.  Otherwise it moves gradually and
sometimes even seems to get stuck in one place.

In a nutshell, the current conditions of the class struggle are that a
cabal of ultra-conservative right wingers holds power at great cost
for the working class (domestic and international) and the Democrats
as a whole tend to shift to the right, *not mainly* because the
Republicans are tricky and/or because the Democrats like to play
along.  You just made a sour guacamole out of the Avocado Declaration.
 The main reason is that the working class in the U.S. is utterly
divided, ideologically dominated, and unable to undertake independent
political action *and* the working classes abroad are not sufficiently
strong and united to offset it.

So, what's the solution?  It's not to blur the distinctions between
the ruling parties, but to exacerbate them.  It's not to support the
Republicans in power, but to form the widest possible movement to
oppose them and defeat them.  It is not to pretend that the Democrats
were, are, or ever will be the champions of the working class, and
reproach them for not ever being such, but to grow locally, to
redouble the organizational effort, to advance gradually, to emphasize
unity, and -- to the extent we grow -- make others adapt to this
growing, more united, more educated movement or -- if they refuse to
adapt -- see them perish or become irrelevant.

No revolutionary class has ever taken power without broad alliances
with classes or groups that are not, by definition, the same as the
revolutionary class.  That's the condition to isolate and fracture a
ruling class.  No revolutionary class has ever become strong enough to
challenge the status quo without a gradual accumulation of strength
and without broad alliances, some of them long term.  Alliances with
forces that are fundamentally different from the working class is what
I'm talking about.  The weaker the class, the more it needs to sharpen
its analytical perspective, differentiate its ultimate and fundamental
interests, strengthen its radical propaganda.  Yet at the same time,
the weaker the class, the more it needs to divide the enemy, form
alliances, exhibit tactical and even strategic flexibility.  There's
no handy shortcut to this evolution of the class.

These lessons of history ought to be particular true in the case of
rich, complex societies such as the U.S., where the political and
legal superstructure are deeply intertwined with "civil society,"
where this superstructure is internalized in the collective
consciousness and in the matter-of-fact behavior of the people.

The "exceptionalism" of the U.S. working class that Jim referred to
lies in its greater division, in the deeper roots that the world view
of the ruling class has in social life.  The good news is that the
class struggle still applies.

> Frankly, any fool can see this. 


> Just look at our recent history. The New Deal, War on Poverty, Civil Rights, 
> affirmative action for blacks, political rights for women, are all in some form and
> on some level held responsible for America's problems today by the Right. The
> backlash against these programs and ideas, this "silent majority" phenomenon
> of resentment against them, is a direct result of the fact that all these programs
> were crippled, unfinished, or uncompleted. Harrington, Piven, and Quadagno have
> demonstrated this empirically time and time again. 

Well, I haven't read those authors, but I totally disagree with *your*
diagnosis.  This is not the "direct result" of the programs being
"crippled, unfinished, or uncompleted."  This is the direct result of
the actual inability of the working class to impose its interests more
fully.  The perfidy of the Democrats is not the overriding force in
U.S. history, you know.  You're granting them more power than they
actually have.

> So the national attitude becomes: "The problems remain, but the solutions
> were "tried" - therefore the solutions were the problem." That is the mentality that
> fuels the Right's fires.

Wrong again.  What really fuels "the Right's fires" is not a
"mentality."  It is a balance of forces.  We can and should operate on
the balance of forces where our work makes a difference.  Gradual
quantitative changes will end up preparing a qualitative leap.

> If these programs were not inhibited by Democratic appeasement, we would be in a hell of a lot better shape.

The problem here is that you expect the Democrats to behave in a way
that goes against their interests as a political formation in the
concrete conditions of their history.  A bourgeois political formation
will do what bourgeois political formations do.

You remind me of a former boss I had who used to praise and "idolize"
every employee he first hired only to feel "disappointed" later by her
conduct.  It's a cheap manipulative, or self-manipulative, trick. 
Don't ever rely on the DP doing something against its own self
interest as a historically-conditioned political formation.  Rely on
what you can do to influence things.  Don't set yourself up for yet
another painful disappointment.

> The maggots of reaction we face today arise from the corpse of leftist confidence
> and radicalism.

I kind agree.  Part of the problem is that leftist "confidence and
radicalism" that made the leftists believe that they could will they
way out of the traps of history, bypass a heavy political process by
taking sectarian shortcuts.   They ended up in the same place and are
playing the same role of dividing and weakening the class by drawing
artificial lines.

> Anyone who fails to grasp this fundamental reality has got to be either a paid
> agent and functionary of the Democratic Party, or an absolute coward.

I'd put it differently.  I'd say that anyone who fails to grasp this
fundamental reality has got to be either a paid agent and functionary
of the Republican Party, an absolute idiot, or both.


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