[Marxism] Sectarian? Re: The Obama cult

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Tue Dec 2 06:22:00 MST 2008


On Mon, Dec 1, 2008 at 10:28 AM, Fred Feldman <ffeldman at bellatlantic.net>wrote:

> . . .
> This is a simon-pure personal attack on my own political past and present,
> without making an attempt to answer any argument that has been made.

    . . .

I was not responding to all your recent messages about Obama, Fred.  I was
responding to the most recent one (copied in full below).  Although your
ability to read the minds and explain the thinking of those you are arguing
with is quite unbounded, here are excerpts from the message i replied to
which clearly show that your basic argument is that those who don't agree
with you are suffering from sectarianism:

" . . .
Obama is experienced as a threat because unlike any President perhaps since
Kennedy-Johnson, he has a genuine popular base among the seriously oppressed
and exploited, and his race is an inevitable part of that. The comrades feel
threatened by this not as racists...but as sectarians.
. . .
Yes, they want the phenomenon to disappear very badly not for racial reasons
...because we are dealing with deeply consolidated sectarian phenomena on
the US left.

Only a relatively small portion of today's far left is capable under present
conditions of responding as working class revolutionaries to almost any
significant change in the situation. Objective conditions including the past
history of the US left which is not a fact that can be changed, are
responsible for that situation.
. . .
Radicals from a tradition which is substantially and traditionally sectarian
got comfortable with the popular trend toward pessimism and hopelessness of
the Bush years...

If the whole thing dissolves into nothing, they will be relieved and settle
back glumly into sectarian business-is-bad as usual..."


and i did 'attempt to answer' your argument that your interlocutors are
deeply sectarian.

Dayne



On Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 1:25 PM, Fred Feldman <ffeldman at bellatlantic.net>wrote:

Contrary to what Walter seems to suggest, there was no shortage of criticism
on the far left of Bush. He was a hated figure, a figure people got used to
hating and even came to loved to hate and felt. By the end, we came to feel
assured that we were among friends in hating him.   Now there's a
president-elect who not everybody hates yet and they think this is a huge
gain for reaction.

Obama is experienced as  a threat because unlike any President perhaps since
Kennedy-Johnson, he has a genuine popular base among the seriously oppressed
and exploited, and his race is an inevitable part of that. The comrades feel
threatened by this not as racists, as
Walter may be seen as suggesting (and I think he should get away from
anything that smacks of that), but as sectarians.

Their only answer to the "hope" inspired by Obama's election -- powered in
part by the fact that the election of a Black president is itself a
progressive change of significant scope -- is to  bank on "disillusionment,"
despair, and abandonment of hope, which will put all of us cosmic pessimists
back in the same boat as the masses, instead of floating off in our own
little lifeboat while the crazed masses "drink the kool-aid" of the cult
leader. Obama as Hitler. Obama as Stalin Obama as Pol Pot. Obama as Healy.
Obama as Rev. Jim Jones.

Well at least, people who throw around the term "cult" for Obama's
supporters -- or anyone whose antagonism is even restrained -- will lose
credibility for their tendency to overuse this term as a supposed
explanation for all kinds of political phenomena.

Yes, they want the phenomenon to disappear very badly not for racial reasons
(a longing for days when whites were more supreme or something like that),
but because we are dealing with deeply consolidated sectarian phenomena on
the US left.

Only a relatively small portion of today's far left is capable under present
conditions of responding as working class revolutionaries to almost any
significant change in the situation. Objective conditions including the past
history of the US left which is not a fact that can be changed, are
responsible for that situation.

As trenchant critics, yes. As criers in the wilderness, yes. As Ambrose
Bierces or HL Menckens, sort of. As the greatest minds of their generation
driven howling mad by a situation they cannot comprehend -- well, that would
be an excess.

In this situation, the fight is to reach and to educate those who can be
reached for turning toward very modest, very confused motion on our side --
rather than simply calling for the phenomena that are expressing this to
vanish or be dissolved by an instantaneous wave of absolute and total
disillusionment.

Radicals from a tradition which is substantially and traditionally sectarian
got comfortable with the popular trend toward pessimism and hopelessness of
the Bush years. Its not surprising to me that many of us can see this sour
mood as a gain in consciousness that is being undermined by a alight upward
shift in the popular mood, based in part on an actually progressive social
change -- the election of a Black president, based on the votes of Blacks,
Latinos, Asians, young white workers and students and other people of
relatively progressive or at least significantly less reactionary views.

Although hopelessness about the future is a massive and deep obstacle to
social progress in this country and the erosion of traditional privileges
actually plays a part in this seemingly anti-establishment "radical" mood, a
lot of comrades have come to see it as part of our common ground with the
masses of people in the country. And they see it slipping away towards the
"Obama cult."

If the whole thing dissolves into nothing, they will be relieved and settle
back glumly into sectarian business-is-bad as usual. If something more
positive develops out of the process -- and we certainly can't guarantee
this at this stage of the game -- well then they and we will either learn
from it and gain from it or not.

At this stage, continuing to argue over what is going to happen with people
who are as religiously sure of everything that will happen next as those who
foresee the Last Days in living color and every detail is a waste of time.

No more until Obama takes office in my opinion. There are other things
happening (such as Afghanistan and Palestine) which get almost no attention
or are totally and wrongly subordinated to the framework of this discussion.

For me, I am finished with that discussion until there is a new president.
No more arguments for me over what he will or won't do. Of what this or that
appointment means. Or whether this will be Bush's third term or Clinton's
third term or Clinton-Bush's fifth term or Grover Cleveland's third term or
Franklin Pierce's second.




On Mon, Dec 1, 2008 at 6:33 AM, Dayne Goodwin <daynegoodwin at gmail.com>wrote:

On Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 1:25 PM, Fred Feldman <ffeldman at bellatlantic.net>
>
> wrote:
> > . . .
> > because we are dealing with deeply consolidated sectarian phenomena on
> > the US left.
>   . . .
>
>
> I agree that sectarian-ism is a deeply consolidated problem on the U.S.
> left.  I assume that Fred - as a veteran of decades within one of the
> deeply
> sectarian U.S. left organizations - is quite familiar with sectarianism.
> But i don't understand why Fred lodges an accusation of sectarianism in the
> midst of discussion on this list.
>
> The word "sectarian" is used in the marxist movement to refer to
> organizations which put their own organizational self-interest - their sect
> - ahead of the best interests of the working class generally.  (Of  course
> the validity of the charge is a matter of judgment.)
>
> If Fred thinks that it is in the best interests of the working class to
> have
> illusions about Obama, and Fred observed a marxist organization which
> criticized Obama and which argued that workers should join their particular
> organization to advance working class interests instead of putting faith in
> Obama then from his point of view Fred could accuse that organization of
> being sectarian.
>
> I think that it is ridiculous to accuse some among a loose array of
> marxists
> on a self-selected marxist discussion list of being sectarian for
> criticizing Obama or for pointing out widely-held popular illusions about
> Obama on that discussion list.  We would need to know about list
> participants' political practice and their organizations to consider
> whether
> they're engaged in sectarian behavior.
>
> I would be interested to learn how Fred's view that it is sectarian to
> confront illusions about Obama impacts his actual political activism,
> beyond
> this discussion list.   In regard to this issue of how to respond to
> widespread illusions about Obama, what are other "sectarian" marxists doing
> in their activism which he chooses to avoid doing?  What does he choose to
> do in his activism which distinguishes him from these other activists who
> do
> not properly restrain themselves from criticizing Obama?
> Dayne



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