cj#864> Blum vs. rkm debate, re: left & right

1998-11-12

Richard Moore

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From: •••@••.••• (Bill Blum)
Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998 21:10:39 EST
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: comment

Dear Richard,

I must take exception to the following remark of yours, although
I have the feeling that we're dancing a dance we've danced. before.

<<   Thanks for the feedback on right-wing reactions. As Carolyn Chute of the
 2nd Maine Militia says, "There's no right wing or left wing, there's just
 up and down. All the fat cats up there having a good time while the rest of
 us are down here struggling to get by."  The perceived gap between left and
 right comes more from lack of communication than it does from lack of
 shared interests. >>

The right-wing libertarians, about whom you were writing differ profoundly
from myself, a leftist.  They worship the market system and the profit motive,
while i would greatly reduce the power of both in society.  It's true that the
powers-that-be fuck over all of us on the lower rungs of the social/economic
ladder, right and left, but only the left has a valid, consistent social
analysis of why this is so (see previous sentence).  This can profoundly
affect political action or forming a movement.  The right also suffers heavily
from this thing called "patriotism" -- by definition, I'd say --  which
interferes significantly on both an intellectual level and an activist level.
There's a world of things a rightist would not say or do in a struggle against
oppression from above, because it would seem unpatriotic, hurt "national
security", give aid and comfort to our "enemies",  etc., etc. -- choose your
favorite cliche.

I recently attended a trial in Alexandria of two very idealistic, progresive
activists found guilty of espionage.  They may be sentenced to life in prison,
even though they haven't -- and were not even charged with having -- hurt
anyone in the world, nor even passed any classified information to an "enemy".
The jury came from national security-obsessed Northern Virginia.  A leftist
jury would never have found the defendents guilty.   To me that's a PROFOUND
difference!

Bill Blum

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Dear Bill,

It is with tongue somewhat in cheek that I present this as a debate between
us. We aren't on different "sides", but hopefully our differing viewpoints
can, as debate, be useful to cj readers.

Of course differences between `left' and `right' are easy to identify.  And
I too count myself on the left, and find myself in opposition to right-wing
views most of the time.

It is also true that `divide and conquer' is one of the elite's most
effective strategies for neutralizing the potential of a democratic
uprising.

I suggest that we need to take a more movement-strategic perspective on the
issue of left vs right (and men vs women, labor vs environmentalists, etc).
By this I do _not mean compromising principles, I do not mean an alliance
with the devil.  I do mean to look deeper into what the left and right
really are.

At the bottom of all "isms" there are real human beings, striving to find
political relevance, and choosing between the various "isms" offered to
them.  At the top, we have the mass media and other forms of illegitimate
"leadership" defining what left, right, and other isms mean, accompanied by
all sorts of dis-information.

Those who say they're on the left or right don't really influence
government policy. Government policy is determined exclusively by elite
corporate interests.  The rhetoric of the left and right is simply brought
in as part of a pretense that government policy is in response to popular
pressure.

In my own efforts to make sense of the world, and to come up with political
strategies, I find that people on both the left and right have part of the
answers, and that both wear partial blinders.  And I find that both groups
are allergic to talking with one another.  They've both been sytematically
vaccinated against dialog -- that's how divide-and-conquer works.


 >only the left has a valid, consistent social
 >analysis of why this is so (see previous sentence).
 >This can profoundly affect political action or forming a movement.

I don't see the left in the US as having any shared analysis, let alone a
valid and consistent one. The left is scattered, it follows a thousand
causes, it has no longer any program -- it spends its time identifying
evils and inconsistencies in the establishment.  It throws pies from the
back row of the theater, it doesn't compete to be on the stage.


 >The right also suffers heavily
 >from this thing called "patriotism"

I spent most of my life identifying nationalism as the primary evil. But
then globalization came along, the world's power axis shifted, and national
sovereignty has become an advantageous rallying point for those who want
democracy to survive.  The elite have committed themselves to the
abandonment of the nation state, and that works to our advantage.  One of
the blinders of the left is that it still frames much of its thinking in
pre-globalization terms.

It is from the right, in the US and Britain, that voices are raised
regarding national sovereignty and the preservation of consititutions.
Instead of seeking common ground on sound principles such as these, the
left dismisses them as xenophobic, and falls into the divide-and-conquer
trap.  It was a Democrat government in the US that threw away sovereignty
by bringing in NAFTA, and it is a Labor government in Britain that will
throw away sovereignty by bringing in the Euro currency.

Since globalization threatens all of us, the correct political strategy, I
suggest, is to identify the principles that unite us, to break through the
out-of-date categories, and to define an agenda that people generally can
support. The leaders of the right may be morally unsalvageable, I'm not
sure, but millions of their followers are sincere people looking for
answers.

At a minimum we need to dialog across the out-of-date rifts.  And in
judging people, we must in fairness keep in mind the constant propaganda
deluge they must try to make sense of.


 >There's a world of things a rightist would not say or do in a struggle
 >against oppression from above, because it would seem unpatriotic, hurt
 >"national security", give aid and comfort to our "enemies",  etc., etc.

That may be, but the massive support for the Gulf War was by no means
limited to those on the right. Only a tiny minority of the population, as
near as I could determine, was able to perceive `oppression from above'
through the nationalist rhetoric and patriotic football half-time shows. It
is also significant that the pro-war rhetoric was designed for leftish ears
-- it was all about the poor democratic Kuwaiti's and the evil aggressive
Saddam, not about US national interests.  Those on the left, I suggest, can
be just as easily manipulated as those on the right, toward whatever elite
objective, as long as the propaganda has the correct spin.


 >A leftist jury would never have found the defendents guilty.
 >To me that's a PROFOUND difference!

Perhaps, but would a skinhead with a swastika tatoo whose father is a DEA
undercover agent get a fair trial from a leftist jury?  With all the circus
trials that have been going on recently (Rodney King, OJ, et al), we've
seen impulsive juries on all sides.  Prejudice is not a monopoly of the
right.

_solidarity,
rkm



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