Friday, August 24, 2012

Railing Against the "Left" in America

At some point I will have to acknowledge the uselessness of continuing to beat the long dead horse of what passes for the "left" in American politics.

In point of fact, there is no real Left active in the American political system and there hasn't been one for many years. There are a few (very) fringe parties that take leftist, even revolutionary, positions on some issues, but they have no political influence at all -- some would say by the design and intention of the political system itself and by these fringe parties in cahoots with their own marginalization. They do seem to be oddly content outside the system, come to think of it.

In the mainstream of American politics, what's called the "left" functions as a slightly mitigating version of the ever-dominant American Right. I've pointed out that even St. Franklin Roosevelt was no "leftist," and the New Deal programs and policies that actually survived (like Social Security and Unemployment Insurance) are NOT leftist by any stretch of the imagination. They are basically survivalist policies of the Right intended to buy off the masses and keep the tumbrils and guillotines at bay for a while longer.

Now, however, since the Crash of 2008, the Right is going for complete control without the troublesome and burdensome necessity of carving out some benefit for the masses. They've been busying themselves with taking economic benefits as well as civil liberties away from the masses, selling off public assets at fire sale prices, destroying public education, reducing and/or eliminating pension benefits, making access to health care ever more difficult and expensive and setting up system after system of automatic revenue payments to corporate entities, many of which are now behaving like taxing authorities and private governments.

The so-called "left" in American politics and governance merely operates as if it were a helpful critic of Rightist policies. The "left" has no policies of its own except maintaining bits and pieces of the status quo and delaying and mitigating (somewhat) the more radical policies of the Right.

That's it. At one time, when there was something of an active Left in American politics, instead of reducing benefits and raising retirement ages, we would have been treated to arguments proposing to lower the retirement age and substantially increasing benefits. We would hear arguments to collectivize, nationalize industries and services and implement a broad-based public sector economy on democratic principles. Instead of ignoring Marx and other cogent critics of capitalism, we would have long ago explored and demonstrated alternatives to the kind of rampant crony capitalism we endure today -- a capitalist system that is depriving whole generations of a future.

If we had a real Left in our politics, the possibilities for the Future would be seen as unlimited.

But we don't have one. No, Occupy is not "the Left," not even close; it's not at root a political entity; it's more of a philosophical one. It may give rise to a political entity, but it hasn't yet. It has only given rise to ideas, opportunities, and demonstrations of alternatives to the current downward spiral.

The election will only have an effect on how fast and how harshly Rightist programs and policies -- most of which we are already familiar with -- will be implemented going forward. Neither major party is in any way interested in backing off from those Rightist programs and policies, any more than most of the governments around the world are going to suddenly jettison neoliberalism. It's not going to happen.

The only way to accomplish that end now is through efforts conducted outside the standard political system, and we've already seen that if those efforts show signs of succeeding, they will be violently shut down by the corpro-government.

If a genuine political Left is ever revived on the other hand, what might we see? What wonders might await?

A rational argument for not voting. [Note: a repost of the material at the link was disappeared at FDL because a moderator didn't want to "promote" the idea of not voting. It is obviously considered a dangerous concept that must be kept away from the masses.]


  1. Nice write up, thanks. I've been trying to figure out why most of the people I know on the "left" continue to support democrats. Clearly things have continued to shift to the right in this country in spite of the democrats holding both houses of government and the presidency for two years. NOTHING HAPPENED. You think that would have been a give away to the true motives of the democrats. It seems most people have come easily to accept the garbage the democrats feed them for excuses. I think the psychological principles of commitment and consistency are over riding the thinking of many on the left. How it works is these folks have made a committment to democrats and to maintain their consistency to this committment they will automatically dismiss any information that is contradictory to their committment. I don't know what it will take to shatter this illusion for people on the so called left. As for the voting issue, I basically agree with the points in that article. I want to cast my vote for Jill Stein to make a point in my own mind. I'm actively voting against Obama, who I voted for last time. It may seem silly but it will make me feel better.

  2. One of the problems inherent in our political system is the lack of a viable political alternative to the ever more rightward trending major parties. The two party system ensures that both the parties will be more closely aligned with one another than they are with the People. In a multiparty system that alignment might still take place between the two largest parties, but there will be viable alternatives as well.

    I have no problem with Jill Stein; she seems perfectly capable and a good candidate -- perhaps the best we've seen so far from the Greens -- and yet her candidacy is not viable, probably not even as a spoiler. It's the nature of our political system.

    The argument for boycotting elections is getting stronger all the time; yes it's risky. I'm not sure that if -- say -- a significant percentage of Independents, Greens and Democrats boycotted, for example, the resulting victory for the Rs would be considered illegitimate. On the other hand, I'm not sure it wouldn't be. After the 2000 (s)election and the introduction of easily compromised machines, the legitimacy of elections in general came into question, a question that is still open. Boycotting is a way of demonstrating your questions about the legitimacy of elections and the resulting government, but there are other ways to do it too.

    The problem is that nothing, so far, has worked to thwart the objectives of Our Rulers more than temporarily.

    What will it take?

  3. The problem with proposing an election boycott is that it is really almost just like another way of voting 3rd party in a way.

    See, the way things are now, the large percentage of non-voting eligible voters will likely stay the same. So, out of the remaining voters, it would be necessary to convince the remaining voters to not vote to the extent that it was not merely noticeable but worrying to our rulers. Well, you can forget about convincing anyone who would vote for Romney/Ryan as their first choice. You might convince Ron Paul supporters (I know at least one who is going to vote for Obama despite hating his guts), but the rest will go to the polls.

    That leaves the Democrats, where you'd have to convince enough to really make the election look illegitimate. What percent of Democrats is that. 50%? 75%? Larger?

    No one could even convince the Democrats to primary Obama, politically much less risky and almost as strong a message, even if Obama had won the primary.

    Also, by putting human monster and polarizing figure Paul Ryan on the ticket, you'll have people who were apathetic at the prospect of rule by Empty Suit Patrician Mitt Romney scared to death of putting Nehemiah Scudder in there (same dynamic as Palin, in a way, though Ryan is much more menacing and much less flamboyant about it).

    No, I think what we have here is not a problem that can be solved by strategic voting or non-voting. We would need to come up with a way that a small, underfunded but dedicated minority of Americans could have a big impact on politics. That requires a more intelligent person than me to figure out.

  4. The Spanish have a multi-party parliamentary system and levels and levels of local/regional elections; it's very elaborate and it should represent the People fairly well, but the Spanish People discovered to their horror that it didn't. Both of the largest parties, the social democrats and the fascists, were more than happy to sell the People out for a bag of silver and they did.

    So the People engineered a boycott on the principles enumerated in the article, and behold, the fascists won most of the local/regional elections and the national elections, and so Rajoy sits in the catbird seat, running roughshod over the public interest and ensuring an ever greater level of suffering for the long suffering Spanish People.

    The idea of the boycott was to delegitimize the elections and the resulting fascist victory (pretty much foregone anyway because of the Socialist sell-out to the banksters) but it certainly hasn't had that effect in Europe or internationally, as Rajoy is seen as something of a wunderkind, Frau Merkel's BFF and whatnot, and even in Spain itself, the "legitimacy" question is never really resolved, as all governments displease large swaths of the Spanish electorate under the best of circumstances.

    On the other hand, in the USA -- as elsewhere -- we've seen time and again how a dedicated minority can not only have a big impact on politics but can literally control the political system and the government if they are determined enough. That's the situation we've been in for quite a while now. The Banksters and NeoLibs and NeoCons rule, and it's not solely because they have all the money. It is also because they are relentless, know how power works and are not afraid to use it to their complete advantage, and are absolutely determined. And they are a tiny minority. Infinitesimal. They rule not only in the USA but around the world.

    There should be a lesson in that...