[Marxism] re:Buying off the German people

M. Junaid Alam mjunaidalam at msalam.net
Fri Mar 25 00:58:02 MST 2005


Implications for modern America raised by this article are quite startling.

First thing that comes to mind: are Americans worse than Germans? After 
all, if the Germans were bought off to placate any concerns about 
immoral behavior, no such concessions have been necessary in the United 
States to get people to support war and torture. Working people have 
only seen their living standards stagnate and sink since the 1970s. And 
just look at the budget being proposed this year by the administration: 
absolutely screwing over the unemployed, the working poor, and all those 
hanging by a thread or who are one accident or emergency removed from 
total financial disaster.

In other words, reactionaries here can apparently get away with waging 
war much more easily than the Nazis did - the nationalist content of 
American nationalism is extremely pathetic, in material terms. This has 
always confounded me. American patriotism is in so many ways veritably 
anti-American, in that it promotes atomization and isolation instead of 
forging common bonds through government directed programs one would 
expect necessary to create national solidarity. A very strange, not to 
say strangely frightening, kind of beast. And at least Nazism rose on 
the back of a period of revolutionary upheaval. Meanwhile, we have David 
Cobb.

I am a Marxist. But it would require a disciplined imagination to 
pretend that we don't need a serious reassessment of what the hell is 
going on in this country. Marcuse is a step in the right direction. You 
don't hear much about him from self-described Leninists, because he was 
so focused on cultural degradation and alienation, and the underlying 
concession behind this focus was that the material problems envisaged by 
Marx - pauperization and immiseration - were not  primary factors on the 
American scene. Unfortunately, however, Marcuse's prose is highly 
irritating. His essay 'On Tolerance', for instance, is maddeningly 
impenetrable.

I think Baran did a much better, more concise job of laying out the 
problem, at least in terms of how to initially formulate it:

"...the proletariat in the advanced capitalist countries has not 
developed in the way anticipated by Marx. Bad as its condition has been, 
it was able to rise above the "inescapable, unvarnished, imperative 
misery" which was observed by Marx, and which he expected would be 
accentuated with the passage of time. Although its social and cultural 
existence is in essence as inhuman as it was in Marx's time, it has 
largely failed to "win the theoretical awareness of its loss" and has 
tended to succumb to bourgeois ideology and to adjust itself to its 
degradation." (On the Nature of Marxism)

I think the key phrase there is "adjust itself to degradation". In my 
opinion, much of the backwardness in consciousness here flows from 
precisely this problem. American workers are not bought off. If it was 
that simple, you would not have a major part of the professional 
salaried middle-class who are actually quite disturbed by the 
Guatanomization of America. Their solution may be bankrupt, bu they are 
concerned. Certainly much more so than your average worker. So our 
problem is much worse than people being bought off. I think part of it 
is that for many in the working class beneath the professionals, they 
*were* bought off - in the usual sense of pact between labor and capital 
via business unionism - and now their privileges are fast disappearing. 
Who is being blamed for this erosion? It is hardly necessary to state 
the obvious: foreign competition, immigrants, outsourcing, immigrants, 
affirmative action, hatred of which are all staples of Republican 
propaganda. The blame is not put on capitalism but on those forces in 
capitalism that are "stealing" the "loot".

Essentially I think we are seeing rot at the core of society itself - 
the diminishment of people's ability to relate to each other, to have 
hope, to express solidarity, to live dignified lives - in a word, to be 
human. This makes possible the multiplicity of hatreds and antagonisms 
mined by the Right. One of our main tasks in this period is to cultivate 
a positive, humanist culture as part of the struggle itself. To rekindle 
a "theoretical awareness of loss" it will be necessary to illumate those 
values being torn apart by capitalism and insist they are in and of 
themselves worth fighting for.







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