[Marxism] Zero Tactics of Social Democracy (Or, Picketing Piketty)

Jeff Rubard jeffrubard at gmail.com
Sun May 11 19:38:55 MDT 2014

A quick thought on something less gripping than Putin's megalomania:
although I am basically illiterate in "bourgeois economics" -- Adam Smith
and von Neumann's *Theory of Games and Economic Behavior* remain distant
and not-very-exciting "aspirations" of mine -- one thing Thomas Piketty,
that instant celebrity of the soft left, says seems to me to be a total
clunker and I'd like to draw folks' attention to it. Though he disavows
Marx as "that bdy. boring bastard", he is almost chirpy when it comes to a
circumvention of the recrudescing inegalitarianism he scientifically
discerns: like US war strategists with their two-theater dogma, he says "we
did it once and we can do it again" -- the social-democrats of Europe and
the "left-liberals" of North America (perhaps with some teeny union
participation) can make the "free world" safe for equality again through
procedural parliamentary democracy. Although people may have already
arrived at this vivid insight, I'll just say it: ain't gonna happen, and
it's important to recognize this. In fact, one might well predict that
Piketty-mania is really the death-throes of "progressivism" -- if one is
charitable and says the last great achievement of European social
democracy was New Labour bringing the toff-heavy UK's Gini coefficient
under that of Freedomland here, the realization today that Things Are
Really Fucked Up But Obama Can't Do Anything About It Right Now provides an
important, if undesired, "teachable" moment for radical socialists.

When I was cutting my teeth in politics in the '90s, Clinton's hippie
bohemian comfort with people like Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and the promise
of a renascent union movement under John Sweeney made it seem like the New
Deal coalition recently tentatively eulogized by Adolph Reed, supplemented
by race, sex, and gender activists workin' a fairly ruthless criticism of
most things existing and the undeniable power of liberal religious
movements like Alinsky's community organizing, might return and give us
peace, land, and bread *sans peine*: Richard Rorty's moment in the
public-intellectual sun. But, as I'm sure list readers have had some
practical cause to reflect recently, Ronald Reagan won and Mondale lost,
and more than ever this is the country Reagan made, a time Reagan would
fucking love: "empowered" career women dress extra sexy to catch the
remaining men with decent jobs and clean criminal records, and men of the
cloth like Jeremiah Wright and Bill Moyers who try to advance the fortunes
of "social justice" are submitted to *Atheismusstreite* on the daily, to
give two signs of Norman Lear's Apocalypse. Back in 2004 my fellow
neo-Wobblies, who looked askance at a "professional critical theorist",
and I showed up at George Soros-John Kerry central in Portland for the
gravy train: but there is no "big tent progressivism" now worthy of the
name or effort, even though it sadly probably drives John and Jane Public
to distraction like that fabulous implementation of aggressive corporate
welfare disguised as an entitlement, Obamacare. Unless it is a question of
cylindrical objects going in orifices more comfortably, the "liberal"
opinion mavens have no traction, and hardly want it: their 401ks are all
right, "Jack". Conversely, in the country at large it's no longer lonely at
the bottom, and a version of a famous question does raise itself.

So, what should anybody even start thinking about doing? For starters, the
politically experienced -- you know who you are -- should start
aggressively "divesting" young people of Democratic delusions: it may have
a real value for the young women of America for Goldwater Republican
Hillary Clinton to be elected President, just like people in popular music
today observing (somewhat surprisedly and uncomfortably) that their
President is black, but obviously this will mean less than zero for the
broad progress of popular freedom. Mainstream unions, of both AFL-CIO and
CTW varieties, are going nowhere fast under laws and worker sentiments
unlikely to change for the foreseeable future, and the military-industrial
complex takes a keen interest in both your emails about Palestine and
blowing people up with RC airplanes (can an oppression "speedball" be far
away)? Seriously, the seeming insanity of the Marxist left in America has
become a "virtuous necessity" -- strange as it may be even for Old
Bolsheviks to consider, the notable American cultural critic-cum-Internet
schlemiel John Emerson recently opined "We are all Trots now" and I think
many people are on the verge of seeing the revisioned Leninism of recent
years, along with other traditions from anti-imperialism et al. that say a
Gregor Gysi warmly welcomes now, will truly play a role in realistic social
change. We can, because we must: immiseration and oppression are
omnipresent realities today in the "developed" world and nothing but a
seriously principled and radical democratic socialism is likely to take
capitalist excess "off line" for, basically, the rest of time. I would
hazard that popular organization that does not make common cause with
capitalism is a necessity, rather than a "possibility". Think about it and
let people know what you think.

Jeff Rubard

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