[Marxism] Counterpunch promoting left-right alliance (aka "Querfront")?

A.R. G amithrgupta at gmail.com
Thu Jul 23 13:58:02 MDT 2015

*Also, I was re-reading the Greenwald article I just posted and I found
this one, which I had forgotten about:


Matt Stoller: Why Ron Paul Challenges Liberals
Posted on December 29, 2011
 by Matt Stoller <http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/author/matt-stoller>

*By Matt Stoller, the former Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Alan Grayson and
a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. You can reach him at stoller (at)
gmail.com <http://gmail.com> or follow him on Twitter at @matthewstoller

The most perplexing character in Congress, ideologically speaking, is Ron
Paul. This is a guy who exists in the Republican Party as a staunch
opponent of American empire and big finance. His ideas on the Federal
Reserve have taken some hold recently, and he has taken powerful runs at
the Presidency on the obscure topic of monetary policy. He doesn’t play by
standard political rules, so while old newsletters bearing his name
showcase obvious white supremacy
he is also the only prominent politician, let alone Presidential candidate,
saying that the drug war has racist origins
You cannot honestly look at this figure without acknowledging *both* elements,
as well as his opposition to war, the Federal government, and the Federal
Reserve. And as I’ve drilled into Paul’s ideas, his ideas forced me to
acknowledge some deep contradictions in American liberalism (pointed out
years ago by Christopher Laesch) and what is a long-standing, disturbing,
and unacknowledged affinity liberals have with centralized war financing. *So
while I have my views of Ron Paul, I believe that the anger he inspires
comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American
liberals bear within their own worldview.*

My perspective of Paul comes from working with his staff in 2009-2010 on
issues of war and the Federal Reserve. Paul was one of my then-boss Alan
Grayson’s key allies in Congress on these issues, though on most issues of
course he and Paul were diametrically opposed. How Paul operated his office
was different than most Republicans, and Democrats. An old Congressional
hand once told me, and then drilled into my head, that every Congressional
office is motivated by three overlapping forces – policy, politics, and
procedure. And this is true as far as it goes. An obscure redistricting of
two Democrats into one district that will take place in three years could
be the motivating horse-trade in a decision about whether an important
amendment makes it to the floor, or a possible opening of a highly coveted
committee slot on Appropriations due to a retirement might cause a policy
breach among leadership. Depending on committee rules, a Sub-Committee
chairman might have to get permission from a ranking member or Committee
Chairman to issue a subpoena, sometimes he might not, and sometimes he
doesn’t even have to tell his political opposition about it. Congress is
endlessly complex, because complexity can be a useful tool in wielding
power without scrutiny. And every office has a different informal matrix,
so you have to approach each of them differently.

Paul’s office was dedicated, first and foremost, to his political
principles, and his work with his grassroots base reflects that. Politics
and procedure simply didn’t matter to him. My main contact in Paul’s office
even had his voicemail set up with special instructions for those calling
about HR 1207, which was the number of the House bill to audit the Federal
Reserve. But it wasn’t just the Fed audit – any competent liberal
Democratic staffer in Congress can tell you that Paul will work with anyone
who seeks his ends of rolling back American Empire and its reach into
foreign countries, auditing the Federal Reserve, and stopping the drug war.

Paul is deeply conservative, of course, and there are reasons he believes
in those end goals that have nothing to do with creating a more socially
just and equitable society. But then, when considering questions about Ron
Paul, you have to ask yourself whether you prefer a libertarian who will
tell you upfront about his opposition to civil rights statutes, or
authoritarian Democratic leaders who will expand healthcare to children and
then aggressively enforce a racist war on drugs and shield multi-trillion
dollar transactions from public scrutiny. I can see merits in both
approaches, and of course, neither is ideal. Perhaps it’s worthy to argue
that lives saved by presumed expanded health care coverage in 2013 are
worth the lives lost in the drug war. It is potentially a tough calculation
(depending on whether you think coverage will in fact expand in 2013). When
I worked with Paul’s staff, they pursued our joint end goals with vigor and
principle, and because of their work, we got to force central banking
practices into a more public and democratic light.

But this obscures the real question, of why Paul disdains the Fed (and
implicitly, why liberals do not), and the relationship between the Federal
Reserve and American empire.  If you go back and look at some of
libertarian allies, like Fox News’s Judge Napolitano, they will answer that
question for you. Napolitano hates, absolutely hates, Abraham Lincoln. He
sometimes slyly refers to Lincoln as America’s first dictator. Libertarians
also detest Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

What connects all three of these Presidents is one thing – big ass wars,
and specifically, *war financing*. If you think today’s deficits are bad,
well, Abraham Lincoln financed the Civil War pretty much entirely by money
printing and debt creation, taking America off the gold standard. He
oversaw the founding of the nation’s first national financial regulator,
the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which chartered national
banks and forced them to hold government debt to back currency they issued.
The dollar then became the national currency, and Lincoln didn’t even back
those dollars by gold (and gold is written into the Constitution). This
financing of the Civil War was upheld in a series of cases over the Legal
Tender Act of 1862. Prior to Lincoln, it was *these* United States.
Afterwards, it was *the* United States. Lincoln fought the Civil War and
centralized authority in the Federal government to do it, freeing slaves
and transforming America into one nation.

Libertarians claim that they dislike Lincoln because he centralized
authority in the Federal government. Of course, there is a long
reconstructed white supremacist strain that hates Lincoln because he was an
explicitly anti-racist President, and they hate the centralized authority
and financing power that freed the slaves and turned America increasingly
into more racially equitable society. This strain can be exploited by the
creditor class, who also disliked how slavery – which they saw as a
property right rather than a labor and human rights issue – was destroyed
by state power. History, of course, has a nasty way of mocking us about
long-held fights we thought were over. The conflict between labor/human
rights and property rights continues today. Or as Carl Fox said in the
movie *Wall Street*, “The only difference between the Pyramids and the
Empire State Building is the Egyptians didn’t allow unions.” Without even
getting into globalization, prison labor legally makes body armor
<http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/03/prisoners-body-armor/>, as
well as products
for victoria’s Secret, Starbucks, and Microsoft
State centralized power can prioritize labor rights over property rights,
and for this reason, creditors are wary of it.

On to Woodrow Wilson. Wilson signed the highly controversial Federal
Reserve Act in 1913; originally, the Federal Reserve system was supposed to
discount commercial and agricultural paper. Government bonds were not
really considered part of the system’s mandate. But what happened the next
year? Yes, World War I. And Wilson, who ran on the slogan “he kept us out
of war” in 1916, started a long tradition of antiwar Democratic Presidents
who took America to war (drawing the ire of among others Helen Keller, but
garnering the support of union leader Sam Gompers who argued it was a
“people’s war”). Wilson also implemented a wide variety of highly
repressive authoritarian measures, including the Palmer Raids, the
Espionage Act of 1917, and the use of modern PR techniques by government
agencies. For good measure, Wilson was an unreconstructed white supremacist
(even a bit out there for the time) and sent many antiwar opponents to
jail. In the monetary arena, Wilson’s new Federal Reserve system began
discounting government bonds. Like Lincoln, he had set up a tremendous war
financing vehicle to centralize capital flows and therefore, political
authority. In many ways, Wilson set up the rudiments of America’s police
state, and did so arguably to help a transatlantic Anglo-American banking
elite. Here, one can argue that libertarians are wary of centralized
financing and political authority for liberal reasons – the ACLU was
founded after the Palmer raids.

And finally, we come to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s Fed is a bit
more complex, because he did centralize monetary authority using wartime
emergency powers, but he did so in peacetime. FDR abrogated gold clause
contracts, seized the domestic supply of gold, and devalued the currency.
He constrained banks with aggressive regulation and seizures of insolvent
banks, saving depositors with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. He
also used the RFC to set up much of what we know today as the Federal
government, including early versions of disaster relief, small business
lending, massive bridge and railroad building, the FHA, Fannie Mae, and
state and local aid. Eventually, the government used this mechanism to
finance college and housing for veterans with the GI Bill. Since veterans
were much of the population right after World War II, effectively this was
the first ever near-national safety net. FDR also fused the liberal and
union establishments with the corporate world, creating the hybrid
“military-industrial” complex that is with us to this day (see Alan
Brinkley’s“End of Reform”
<http://www.amazon.com/End-Reform-Deal-Liberalism-Recession/dp/0679753141> for
a good treatment of this process).

Later, this New Deal financing apparatus was used to finance the munitions
industry and America’s role in World War II. At one point, the RFC owned
eight war material producing subsidiaries, including the synthetic rubber
industry. Importantly, FDR had the Fed working for him. The Fed kept
interest rates pegged at an interest rate set by Treasury, and used reserve
requirements to manage inflation. This led to a dramatic drop in
inequality, and unemployment sank to 1% during World War II
<http://prospect.org/article/federal-reserve-we-need>. In 1951, the Fed,
buttressed by what Tom Ferguson calls “conservative Keynesian” corporate
leaders, broke free of this arrangement, under the Treasury-Fed Accord,
leading to the postwar monetary order. That accord is where the vaunted
“Federal Reserve Independence” came from.

Now, if you’re a libertarian, and you believe that centralized power is
dangerous, then it’s obvious that state control over finance and mass
mobilization of social resources for warfare or other ends are two sides of
the same coin. If you fear social spending, you could also be persuaded to
believe that any financing mechanism for mass social spending is
problematic. Creditors might just dislike the possibility of any state
power centers that could challenge their hegemony and privilege labor/human
rights over their property rights, though they do support captive state
systems they control. If you are a white supremacist, centralized power can
easily be viewed as a threat to racial homogeny, since historically it has
acted as such in the past. But if you are against war, or you believe that
a centralized state is likely to act in an unjust or repressive manner (as
it also has in the past), then war financing is a reasonable target.

Modern liberalism is a mixture of two elements. One is a support of Federal
power – what came out of the late 1930s, World War II, and the civil rights
era where a social safety net and warfare were financed by Wall Street, the
Federal Reserve and the RFC, and human rights were enforced by a Federal
government, unions, and a cadre of corporate, journalistic and technocratic
experts (and cheap oil made the whole system run.) America mobilized
militarily for national priorities, be they war-like or social in nature.
And two, it originates from the anti-war sentiment of the Vietnam era, with
its distrust of centralized authority mobilizing national resources for
what were perceived to be immoral priorities. When you throw in the recent
financial crisis, the corruption of big finance, the increasing
militarization of society, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the collapse of the
moral authority of the technocrats, you have a big problem. Liberalism
doesn’t really exist much within the Democratic Party so much anymore, but
it also has a profound challenge insofar as the rudiments of liberalism
going back to the 1930s don’t work.

This is why Ron Paul can critique the Federal Reserve and American empire,
and why liberals have essentially no answer to his ideas, arguing instead
over Paul having character defects. Ron Paul’s stance should be seen as a
challenge to better create a coherent structural critique of the American
political order. It’s quite obvious that there isn’t one coming from the
left, otherwise the figure challenging the war on drugs and American empire
wouldn’t be in the Republican primary as the libertarian candidate. To get
there, liberals must grapple with big finance and war, two topics that are
difficult to handle in any but a glib manner that separates us from our
actual traditional and problematic affinity for both. War financing has a
specific tradition in American culture, but there is no guarantee war
financing must continue the way it has. And there’s no reason to assume
that centralized power will act in a more just manner these days, that we
will see continuity with the historical experience of the New Deal and
Civil Rights Era. The liberal alliance with the mechanics of mass
mobilizing warfare, which should be pretty obvious when seen in this light,
is deep-rooted.

What we’re seeing on the left is this conflict played out, whether it is
big slow centralized unions supporting problematic policies, protest
movements that cannot be institutionalized in any useful structure, or a
completely hollow liberal intellectual apparatus arguing for increasing the
power of corporations through the Federal government to enact their agenda.
Now of course, Ron Paul pandered to racists, and there is no doubt that
this is a legitimate political issue in the Presidential race. But the
intellectual challenge that Ron Paul presents ultimately has nothing to do
with him, and everything to do with contradictions within modern liberalism.

- Amith

On Thu, Jul 23, 2015 at 9:45 PM, Sheldon Ranz via Marxism <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

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