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Bhaskar Sunkara's recent essay in The Nation, Letter to 'The Nation' From a Young Radical, argues persuasively that American liberalism is "practically ineffective and analytically inadequate" to the twin political tasks of mobilizing supporters and generating policy.  Sunkara blames the crisis of liberalism on the fact that, "Liberalism’s original sin lies in its lack of a dynamic theory of power," which leads liberals--Sunkara specifically cites Obama--to treat

politics as a salon discussion between polite people with competing ideas. . . [in which] the best program ... is assumed to prevail in the end...[and] political action is disconnected ... from the bloody entanglement of interests and passions that mark our lived existence.
Admitting that liberalism is "a slippery term" Sunkara defines it in terms of the two dominant species of Washington Democratic insiders, which he defines as follows:
to the extent that we can assign coherence to the ideology, two main camps of modern American liberalism are identifiable: welfare liberals and technocratic liberals. The former, without the radicals they so often attacked marching at their left, have not adequately moored their efforts to the working class, while the latter naïvely disconnect policy from politics, often with frightening results.

Both sorts of liberalism, Sunkara argues, have failed analytically and politically, though in different ways and for different reasons. Nevertheless, Sankara has the same prescription: "the solution to liberalism’s impasse lies in the re-emergence of American radicalism."  

What would that look like? The first task is that

Socialists must urgently show progressives how alien the technocratic liberal worldview is to the goals of welfare-state liberalism—goals held by the rank and file of the liberal movement. ... Broad anti-austerity coalitions, particularly those centered at the state and municipal levels like last year’s Chicago Teachers Union strike, point the way toward new coalitions between leftists and liberals committed to defending social goods.
But anti-austerity is not, of course, the full program, but
just one example of the kind of class politics that has to be reconstituted in America today; surely there are many others. The Next Left’s anti-austerity struggles must be connected to the environmental movement, to the struggle of immigrants for labor and citizenship rights, and even, as unromantic as it sounds, to the needs of middle-class service recipients.

Although Sunkara's essay, like his groundbreaking publication Jacobin Magazine, is an important attempt at creating bridges between liberals and radicals during a time of onslaught by the corporate Right, even as it demonstrates the analytical weakness of liberalism, it suffers from some of the very same analytical inadequacies of liberalism itself, especially its lack of a dynamic theory of power.

Specifically, Sunkara's categories of analysis are rooted in politics and ideology, with no moorings in the social formation beyond a few statements about working class support for social welfare liberalism--statements which fail to recognize the accomplishments wrought via American working class and subaltern self-activity. In light of this, it is perhaps not surprising--though it ought to be--that a self-described "young radical" had no place in his analysis for a discussion of capitalism as an exploitative economic system whose nature is at the root of or contributes greatly to every one of the social problems liberals profess to care about.  

American Liberalism and the American Working Class

American liberalism is difficult to understand, not just because the word came to mean the opposite of what it had meant the prior century, but also because the modern version is genetically incapable of analytical consistency or rigor because it is based on half-truths about capitalism, which are the only truths the system allows into discourse about itself.

Specifically, modern liberals understand that capitalism creates class and other forms of conflict, but rather than seeing that conflict as inherent to the system and an engine for change, they seek to defuse its oppositional energy and channel what remains into policy proposals that preserve the status quo of capitalist relations.  Given that, how could liberals do anything other than become, if not the enemies, then the unwitting enabler of the enemies, of the working class?

To be radical is to get to the root (Latin: radix=root) of things, to understand not merely their appearance but their underlying structures and dynamics.  To understand American liberalism, we need to understand its history from the past forward, not start with a bestiary of newspaper pundits and then work back.  

American liberalism originated during the New Deal, but the energy underlying it came not from FDR and friends but from American working people, not from above but from below.  FDR came into office on a conservative platform of cutting the federal budget, and the centerpiece of his First New Deal (1933-34) was the NRA, a corporatist scheme that allowed big corporations to collude on production and prices as a way to replace "ruinous competition" with rationality.  

Even the liberal accomplishments of the Second New Deal (1935-36), which included Social Security, rural electrification, etc., came about not because of liberal leaders but because of pressure from below.  Consider the case of labor law.  

The NRA had a landmark provision granting workers in NRA Code industries the right to organize labor unions--which was inserted only because of pressure from Labor leaders and rank and file members.  After the Supreme Court struck down the NRA, labor law reform took the form of the National Labor Relations Act, which the FDR administration supported only belatedly and under political pressure.  

But the Wagner Act itself well illustrates the inherent conservatism of liberalism.  New Deal liberal leaders, including bill sponsor Sen. Robert Wagner, were equally disturbed by the militancy of working class strikers (especially the Sit Down strikers) and the violence of anti-union goons hired by employers.  

As a result, the purpose of the NLRA was to rein in both sides, as though both labor and capital were equally to blame for the violence of the era's labor struggles.  Most particularly, labor unions were reduced to contract negotiators and managers, limited to engaging in collective bargaining on behalf of their members at a particular employer and then enforcing that contract.  Unions were even made responsible for strikes that take place outside of the bargaining context, thus making the unions into enforcers against their own members.  

Because they subscribe to orthodox economics, which holds that equilibrium is the natural state of capitalist markets and thus capitalist social formations, liberals are and always have been unable to conceive of social conflict as anything other than a social malady to be cured, and thus always wind up on the side of establishment institutions against those seeking to change them.  

The Collapse of Liberalism

During the Great Prosperity of the Pax Americana-Sovietica, American capitalism dominated the world, US manufacturing capital reaped huge profits, and American workers used their union power to share in the prosperity.  As corporate profits began a long-term decline in the late 60s-early 70s, however, capital began the process of reneging on what Sunkara rightly terms the Fordist compromise of the Boom era.  

The macro-economic side of liberalism--the aspect of the ideology that was supposed to use Keynesian tools to ensure continuously rising GDP, i.e., a bigger economic pie--began to fail in the 70s, and the emergence of stagnant growth with inflation gave the right the opening it needed to turn its anti-labor ideas into policy, and liberalism became a dirty word in American politics.  

Reconstituting a Broad American Left

The solution is not for liberals to become socialists, nor for them to adopt a Marxist analysis of capitalism, although those would be great of course.  

I suggest that liberals and radicals can come together by focusing on and actively supporting those elements of the US working class--including many working people who identify more strongly in racial or ethnic terms than in class terms--that are engaging in rights' struggles.  We should be looking to them for guidance on the issues, on emerging organizational forms of struggle, and much more.  

Fast food workers, for example, are not simply demanding higher wages and better working conditions.  Like Occupy, the fast food workers are pioneering new forms of worker organization, largely out of necessity imposed by the nature of the fast food industry.  The collective bargaining model of the NLRA simply does not apply to fast food, with its very small units of production and high employee turnover, and workers are responding by making demands that do not fit within that paradigm.  Consider also the struggles of the Immokalee, Florida, workers, whose innovative campaigns have succeeded in breaking the usual labor mold.

This means that liberals would need to reserve pre-judgment of worker demands as excessive or outside the box or too radical, and that radicals would need to likewise reserve pre-judgment of demands as too conservative or beside the point of class struggle.  Mostly, for those of us who are writers and/or activists, it means listening to those who are most often ignored with open minds.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (25+ / 0-)

    "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 Marx was skint - but he had sense Engels lent him the necessary pence What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

    by Le Gauchiste on Sun May 26, 2013 at 03:26:12 PM PDT

  •  Tonight's ACM has been reposted at: (6+ / 0-)

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 03:46:02 PM PDT

  •  ACM Schedule (7+ / 0-)

    June

    2nd: JayRaye
    9th:
    16th: Justina
    23rd: Geminijen
    30th: Annieli

    July

    7th: ny brit expat
    14:  northsylvania
    21: Geminijen
    28:

    Time for the pep-talk and the importance of volunteers keeping the series going! We have a great series coming up, but we have two very important gaps in the schedule which can only be filled by volunteers! Yes, the anti-capitalist meetup needs not only your comments and participation, but it needs your willingness to write so that we have something to discuss when we meet up!! So, comrades, sisters and brothers, allies, fellow travelers, how ever you relate to this series, we need you to volunteer for the 9th of June and for the 28th of July to fill out the early summer schedule. Please volunteer! We need input to keep the series going!!

    You can do it by responding to this message or writing to the ACM using kosmail,  or sending ny brit expat a private message or sending an email to our group email: dkanticapitalistgroup@gmail.com

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 03:52:32 PM PDT

    •  AoT is beginning a new series (5+ / 0-)

      on the Anti-Capitalist Chat which will be reading David Graeber's Debt.  AoT has also volunteered to summarise some of the discussions for us in the ACM once in a while.

      Hopefully, AoT will fill us in on what their plans are with a bit more detail. But I wanted to give people a head's up! And I need to send AoT who is an ACM member, an invite to the ACC which is coming in the next two seconds.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 04:47:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is great news! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat, AoT

        Looking forward to it.

        WE NEVER FORGET Aminul Islam, Bangladeshi Labor Martyr

        by JayRaye on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:04:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Our group is meeting once a month (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JayRaye, NY brit expat, Pluto

        And going chapter by chapter so that we have time to take a more in depth look at the book and so those folks who don't have a lot of time can also take part in the discussion. I generally don't have access on the weekend so I was considering having these run on Mondays or Tuesdays. Let me know what would work best.

        If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

        by AoT on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:11:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Either is great for me! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat

          WE NEVER FORGET Aminul Islam, Bangladeshi Labor Martyr

          by JayRaye on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:17:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  AoT, you and those that are participating (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye

          regularly should choose the day that is most convenient for you. I will certainly come by and read periodically as the book is sitting on my table in a pile of books that are on the desperately need to read pile (there are several other piles that my cats delight in throwing off the table including those which you should read, those which it would be nice to read; yes, there is little space on the table if people actually come to dinner) and this will force me to read it if I have others to discuss it with, but it is the regulars and the organiser that should make the decision. :) Whenever you choose, send a message to us and we can get the information out in our little network! :)

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:22:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I'm interested, Aot (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye, NY brit expat

          If I'm welcome, let me know how to participate. What is the capitalistic chat?

          "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

          by ZhenRen on Mon May 27, 2013 at 12:45:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  everyone is welcome ZhenRen (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JayRaye

            the anti-capitalist chat is the daily diary series. We had thought that it was running more often so we asked AoT to run it out of the chat as opposed to the meetup which only runs on Sunday; this enables the participants to choose which day is most convenient for them so that works as well. Anyone can participate in the chat, just like anyone can participate in the meetup. :)

            The rest is up to AoT and those that want to participate to organise.

            "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

            by NY brit expat on Mon May 27, 2013 at 06:37:48 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Beautifully done Le Gauchiste! (8+ / 0-)

    One of the main difficulties that the hard left face in working with liberals is their essential reformism; by refusing to examine the system as inherently exploitative, they maintain (and work very hard to maintain) that the system is capable of reform such that its worst aspects can be ameliorated. That is true to a certain extent and on some things. However, the nature of the system skews the production choices of those that make decisions, distribution (the distribution of the social product between workers and capitalists) such that it is the needs of the capitalists that are predominant rather than the needs of the majority. The constant need for economic growth to avoid stagnation and falling profits is destroying the planet and green capitalism is an oxymoron essentially.

    We can work together on basic reform, but at the point of the elimination of the thing that is responsible for the essential problem itself, i.e., capitalism, we always will part ways. While they try to reform the system to keep it going, perhaps make it a bit less volatile, the hard left wants to eliminate it.

    It is new organisational forms that are essential for the Left to examine and to adopt; even the revival of older forms that were prematurely abandoned like cooperatives, need to revisited. One of my worries is that liberals will try to shift movements towards different purposes than those of the working class and/or the hard left; subsuming those movements to basic reforms rather than supporting where the people fighting and building these movements want them to go, not only maintains the system, it removes exactly those elements of the struggle that can move things beyond.

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 04:17:19 PM PDT

    •  How much room does that leave us for cooperation? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, AoT, JayRaye

      When we work with liberals, the unit to our right, who by their nature are collaborating with the unit to their right, the capitalist core, we end up enabling the capitalists unless we are very strategic and very selective.

      By liberals' nature, they're still capitalists, however "nice".  If they weren't allergic to real change, they'd be socialists.  They may flirt with us, but they'll always go back to that spouse who wants to shut us down.  

      It's also true that our long term goal is to shut them down because they're capitalists.  This must be a non-violent political evolution, but it's still the bald truth.  I'm happy to work with liberals on the project of making them obsolete.

      They may not enjoy it quite so much.

      A slower bleed-out is not a sustainable value.

      by MrJayTee on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:43:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  if only the epistemic break would not break skulls (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Le Gauchiste, JayRaye, NY brit expat
      This means that liberals would need to reserve pre-judgment of worker demands as excessive or outside the box or too radical, and that radicals would need to likewise reserve pre-judgment of demands as too conservative or beside the point of class struggle.  Mostly, for those of us who are writers and/or activists, it means listening to those who are most often ignored with open minds.  

      Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

      by annieli on Sun May 26, 2013 at 06:44:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sheeeesh! Ain't this the truth: (6+ / 0-)
    Most particularly, labor unions were reduced to contract negotiators and managers, limited to engaging in collective bargaining on behalf of their members at a particular employer and then enforcing that contract.  Unions were even made responsible for strikes that take place outside of the bargaining context, thus making the unions into enforcers against their own members.  
    I can tell you for a fact, having been involved in a rank-and-file safety fight, that the union officers see themselves, first and foremost as contract enforcers. Even when our lives were on the line. Fact is, our contract had safety language which they couldn't seem to find. They were too busy telling us everything that we couldn't do because it would violate the contract. All of which we did anyway.

    We won that fight, no thanks to them. When I was suspended, they had to defend me. But the BA spent most of her time in the disciplinary meeting telling me to be quiet. There were five supe's and two corporate assholes, and her in that meeting. But after a month I was back at work with full back pay.

    Rank and file action is still possible, but it isn't easy. Sometimes it's necessary.  

    I recommend the Troublemakers Handbook:
    https://www.labornotes.org/...

    WE NEVER FORGET Aminul Islam, Bangladeshi Labor Martyr

    by JayRaye on Sun May 26, 2013 at 04:25:26 PM PDT

  •  If Liberalism is Dead, Why Give It CPR? (8+ / 0-)

    Good post, thanks Le Gauchiste!

    But I am completely frustrated by those in Democratic Party, many who would call themselves Liberals, who fail to see that President Obama's actions (as opposed to his eloquent words) put him squarely into traditional Republican, highly anti-democratic (and anti-Democratic Party) territory.  His administration is systematically screwing the working class, with help from so-called liberals.

    These so-called "Liberals" within the Democratic rubric have given cover to the Obama administration's completely trashing of the Bill of Rights while supporting, at every turn, the interests of the big bankers and corporations.

    This wing of the Democratic Party is as much an enemy of the creation of a new, more human economic system as any Tea-Bagger or any member of the current Republican Party leadership.  They too belong in the dustbin of history.

    What is the justification for expecting liberalism to change its tune in any fundamental way?    

     

    Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

    by Justina on Sun May 26, 2013 at 04:31:07 PM PDT

    •  Liberalism as such won't change (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, JayRaye, AoT, tardis10, annieli

      as far as its fundamental attachment to the capitalist system is concerned.  The key is rank and file liberals, because there are plenty of liberals out in the non-DC world whose sympathy and sometimes even understanding of subaltern struggles can be tapped.  And many of them are working class people trying to express their demands in liberal language.  

      After all, what's the real alternative?

      "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 / Marx was skint - but he had sense / Engels lent him the necessary pence / What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

      by Le Gauchiste on Sun May 26, 2013 at 04:38:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Are we trying to work with them or convert them? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annieli, NY brit expat, JayRaye

        Ultimately.

        Where is there a strategy for gradually building class consciousness that will get liberals to work with socialists, then "travel' with us, then join us?

        Is there one?

        A slower bleed-out is not a sustainable value.

        by MrJayTee on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:52:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  excellent question is it "fellow travellers" with (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat, MrJayTee, JayRaye, AoT

          "Left Luggage" / ideological baggage

          Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

          by annieli on Sun May 26, 2013 at 06:58:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Working on limited reforms knowing that (6+ / 0-)

          they will ultimately betray us and everything that we are fighting for does not mean that we cannot work on limited reforms; we just need to know that they will not be on our side for end-games. We also should be trying to convert them if possible, but quite honestly converting true liberals (who are very very hostile to the hard left) requires them to make an epistemological break and abandon something that they think can be reformed into something which it is not qualitatively. That is not an easy thing to shift. There are those that are not precisely liberals but have not thought beyond that who may be amenable to "conversion" ... I dislike that word as it has a religious implication, but am using it as it is in common use.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 07:06:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Oh, Justina, I think I love you. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annieli, NY brit expat, JayRaye
      If Liberalism is Dead, Why Give It CPR?

      A slower bleed-out is not a sustainable value.

      by MrJayTee on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:50:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's Not Liberalism to My Eye. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, isabelle hayes

    The radicals are the only liberals left. And for the most part they're about as radical as LBJ was economically, fairly centrist for the rest of the world.

    For some reason, a population of Democrats that has shrunk the social safety net, damaged labor, reduced consumer protections and so forth have been labeled "liberals."

    You don't get to be liberal by being not a Republican. You have to favor raising standards for the people compared to the rich, something relatively few Democrats espouse. And by "espouse" I mean endorsing policies that have proven to accomplish it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun May 26, 2013 at 04:45:36 PM PDT

    •  Actually what we are witnessing is (6+ / 0-)

      Liberalism returning to its classical roots; take a look at Smith, Bentham, JS Mill. They all believed that the free market would ensure growth which would ensure that income differentials would reduce over time. They all accepted wealth differentials are an accepted part of the capitalist system, they knew that and they believed that this was essential in order for the system to function. This was never abandoned by liberal even when they adopted regulating the economy to mitigate crises. The social welfare state redistributed income between the working class (from those with higher incomes to those with lower or no income)  but they never touched wealth.

      The same can be said for the social democrats that took over in Europe; they may have nationalised essential industries like energy, transport, water, coal and steel; they built social housing. But they never attacked the inherited wealth of the capitalists and aristocracy. From Thatcher forward, all that which was nationalised has been or is currently being privatised.

      While I agree that one does not become a liberal by not being a republican (especially since the liberal wing of the republicans has disappeared essentially), the liberals  have returned to their roots and it is questionable whether they will get off the fence ever and fight for the majority or just continue to ensure that the capitalist system survives.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:00:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What we need is a whole lot less (5+ / 0-)

    nice polite liberalism,

    and whole lot more of this:

    WE NEVER FORGET Aminul Islam, Bangladeshi Labor Martyr

    by JayRaye on Sun May 26, 2013 at 04:50:31 PM PDT

  •  That one can write an entire essay on the (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, NY brit expat, MrJayTee, ZhenRen

    Radical left and not even mention anarchists is rather amazing given the role anarchists have played in the resurgenceof the left. And especially given the success of anarchist organizing methods both in occupy and in the earlier anti-globalization movement, it strikes me as profoundly misleading to make no mention of what is culturally the strongest group within the radical left. Sliding the existence of this group seems to me to be a way to placate liberal/progressive ideological sensitivities while trying to nudge them to the left. Of course, it seems to be a massive folly to distance one's self from what have been some of the most successful examples of organized resistance to capitalism.

    Socialist groups are politically moribund and the only time the liberal/progressive left trots(haha) them out is when they need to make a case for top down structures and electoral action as political necessities. Not explicitly mind you, they always leave it right below the surface. But the calls for some sort of national front have that anti-anarchist undertone that we anarchists are quick to spot given historical precedent.

    The cannot be a real working class movement if that movement is managed. A political manager is the same as any other manager. A boss is a boss is a boss. Why that should be true in the economy and not the political realm doesn't make sense given the connection between the two.

    If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

    by AoT on Sun May 26, 2013 at 04:57:40 PM PDT

    •  You are correct on this, but I had included (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye, tardis10, AoT, MrJayTee, annieli

      the anachists under radical given the definition in the essay; but they should have been explicitly mentioned. This group contains anarchists of several stripes as well as anti-Stalinist Marxists and Social Democrats.

      The vast majority here believe in bottom-up grass-roots organisation at all levels of organisation ... so the formation based upon a corruption of understanding of what Democracy is on the left and its confusion with centralism is really not represented here (although they are welcome as all that identify as anti-capitalists are welcome). I would prefer the non-sectarianism. Immokalee workers which are mentioned in the piece are clearly working in an autonomous tradition and not in standard mainstream trade unionism ... and their contribution is highly lauded in the piece. But in general, we are all not the same and the currents that are in the group should have been mentioned even if this was a critique of liberalism rather than anything else.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:08:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ooops, didn't mean your essay (4+ / 0-)

        You talked about a lot of different stuff and didn't talk about anarchists explicitly because they weren't mentioned by Sankara.He was the one that was pointed at with that comment. And the fact that responses to him that aren't explicitly about anarchism have generally also avoided the elephant in the room.

        If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

        by AoT on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:23:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  oh! completely misunderstood ... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          annieli, Le Gauchiste, AoT, JayRaye

          there are a lot of elephants in the room that Sankara is not talking about ... such as the salient differences between liberals and the hard left in terms of addressing fundamental transformations envisaged means that cooperation is limited on basic reform. If he cannot see that, how can he see the differences among the hard left in terms of post-capitalist society and how to achieve this ... it seems from this piece by LeGauchiste (and after reading Sankara's piece) that we may be asking far too much from him.

          Even working with some progressives becomes difficult for the same reasons as with liberals as many think that reforms can achieve what is needed in the system. Is our goal reintroduction of competition as though that is a panacea or a curative for what the capitalist system is doing to the world? I would say no, we can work on limited issues, we can try to work towards some reforms that the majority view to be in their interest, but our end game is rather different.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:33:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  The essay is not about the Radical left (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, AoT, MrJayTee, annieli, Musial

      It is a critique of liberalism that seeks to understand how those of us who are committed to a future without capitalism can find ways to work with liberals and even bring some of them to a more radical viewpoint.  I didn't mention anarchists or trotskyists or stalinists nor their corresponding -isms because the differences among them are not really germane to the topic.  

      I mentioned Marxism and used it to frame the analysis because it is the only fully developed radical intellectual framework capable of sustaining a comprehensive critique of the capitalist system and the power relations emanating therefrom in a historically specific way.

      "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels came to the checkout at the 7-11 / Marx was skint - but he had sense / Engels lent him the necessary pence / What have we got? Yeh-o, magnificence!!" (The Clash, 1976-1983)

      by Le Gauchiste on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:22:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry, that was a criticism of Sankara (5+ / 0-)

        Not of you. I should have made that clear.

        If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

        by AoT on Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:28:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  agreed but the reeducation task is always epic (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat, Le Gauchiste, JayRaye

        in getting liberals to disentagle themselves of issue-oriented, fleeting attention (bordering on fetishized distraction) to any critical material anaylsis

        American liberalism is "practically ineffective and analytically inadequate" to the twin political tasks of mobilizing supporters and generating policy.  Sunkara blames the crisis of liberalism on the fact that, "Liberalism’s original sin lies in its lack of a dynamic theory of power," which leads liberals--Sunkara specifically cites Obama--to treat
        politics as a salon discussion between polite people with competing ideas. . . [in which] the best program ... is assumed to prevail in the end...[and] political action is disconnected ... from the bloody entanglement of interests and passions that mark our lived existence.

        Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

        by annieli on Sun May 26, 2013 at 06:42:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  pax americana? only by soviets (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT, JayRaye

        backing down a few hours before a nuclear war, then watching us kill 4 million Vietnamese. The post war bump was only that, the crisis of 74-75 brought out the strategy to end democracy at home. King's  giant triplets of imperialism, capitalism and genocide-he used different words-need to be addressed together in a way that people locate their genuine national interest. The British Labor Party is reconsidering its socialist roots. Despite 40 years of sustained attack against it the New Deal is supported and represents a start for reconsidering Dem strategy post-neoliberal.

    •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT
      The cannot be a real working class movement if that movement is managed. A political manager is the same as any other manager. A boss is a boss is a boss.
      One of the concepts that is pervasive in anarchist theory (which is, by the way, an "intellectual framework" quite capable of "sustaining a comprehensive critique of the capitalist system") is that anarchist organization should be based upon anarchist principles of organization, which means they should be bottom up and horizontal in structure. If we can't live according to our ideals, we can't be considered credible. This is why, for example, while anarchists tend to give respect to and work with vertical, top down,  bureaucratic unions, we don't give our wholehearted support to them. If our government adopted state socialism tomorrow, anarchists would still be seeking a revolution, since we would still consider ourselves wage slaves, albeit to a different master.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Mon May 27, 2013 at 04:58:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I can't count (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AaronInSanDiego

    how many times radicals have said liberals are dead.  This liberal has read articles like this one for nearly 50 years.

    Our death has been loudly proclaimed by the left for decades.  

    Yet the truth is for every one radical there at least 10, and probably 20 liberals.  

    For the record, I believe the issue of our times is globalization.  I do not believe either the left or liberals have an answer for it.

    •  The political ups and downs of liberal parties are (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, JayRaye, Le Gauchiste

      One thing.

      What we're seeing now (a process that's taken decades) is the capture of once "liberal" parties, like the Democrats here and Labor in the UK, by frank opponents of the working class. That's a fundamental change.  

      Liberalism >>> Neoliberalism,

      And BTW, I don't think the diary has declared liberalism dead, as you charge. Liberalism is very much alive; it's simply reaching the inevitable conclusion of a movement that thought it could tame the beast...and ended up being eaten by it.

      Liberalism dead?  No, it just smells that way.  It's the stench of rationalization.

      A slower bleed-out is not a sustainable value.

      by MrJayTee on Sun May 26, 2013 at 06:07:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Nation (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AaronInSanDiego

        said the same thing.

        In 1968
        and '78
        and '88 and on and on

        The left is in my opinion further lost.  Marxism - dead.  When applied it lead to nightmares, and the fundamental prediction had been proven wrong decades ago.

        The left has failed to produce a theory that accounts for (or perhaps more accurately one that addresses) the failures of Marxism in a world defined by globalization.  

        It badly needs one.  Liberals need one too - but I don't think we nearly as lost as the left is at this moment.

        •  The Nation said what? (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NY brit expat, Le Gauchiste, AoT, JayRaye

          That liberalism is dead, or that it's been captured and transformed?  Either way, I'm not sure why you're laying its statements in my lap.  The Nation is a nice enough magazine, but not a grand authority on much of anything.

          Your definition of Marxism, equating it to authoritarian regimes claiming to practice "communism" (something Marx wrote little about) is false ("When applied it lead to nightmares...).  

          Marxism in the contemporary context simply means thought based on the work of Karl Marx and comprises all manner of variation, no orthodoxy needed.  The notion that regimes like the USSR or Maoist China are the sole examples of Marxism is a rubbish, as is the notion that the theories they claimed were in line with orthodox Marxism; it is also a perennial, self-serving trope of the right.

          There are almost no Orthodox Marxists left.  Commentators who want to be relevant need IMO to address themselves accordingly.

          As to the triumph of Capitalism, no big theory needed, since the reason is screamingly obvious: the short version is that capital bought off workers in some places at the expense of workers in other places and used control of the mass media to discredit Socialism.  This is one of Marx's errors, in underestimating the ability of capital to use the levers of power, and the gullibility of the public, to preserve itself.

          You do have a point about lassitude on the left.  That's changing lately; there are many of us who mean to make that change into something a lot bigger, and make it stick.  The working class won't wait.

          A slower bleed-out is not a sustainable value.

          by MrJayTee on Sun May 26, 2013 at 07:13:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, and I owe you an apology... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT, JayRaye, NY brit expat

          The title of the diary says "Liberalism is dead"!  Yet I said "I don't think the diary has declared liberalism dead, as you charge. "

          I took the author's "dead" to mean, as NY brit expat says below, politically and economically bankrupt, but not spent as a political force.  

          I took your "dead" to mean dead as a political force.

          I was sloppy and have no one to blame but myself.  Please accept my apology for that!

          A slower bleed-out is not a sustainable value.

          by MrJayTee on Sun May 26, 2013 at 08:47:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  So (4+ / 0-)

          You admit liberals have no theory that takes into account for globalization, and ignore the many theories that have come from Marxism and the left. And even if there were none, that would put the two on equal footing, thus showing that liberalism is just as dead as Marxism.

          If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

          by AoT on Sun May 26, 2013 at 11:27:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Labour was a social democratic party (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MrJayTee, Le Gauchiste, AoT, JayRaye

        it rapidly went under Blair to a liberal one and then a neoliberal one. But its initial ideological basis was that of social democracy not liberalism; they are rather different ideologies.

        This is evident in Clause 4 (eliminated under Tony Blair's reign):

        "The original version of Clause IV, drafted by Sidney Webb in November 1917 and adopted by the party in 1918, read, in part 4:
        To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service (http://en.wikipedia.org/...)."
        This call for common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange has never been part of a liberal ideological argument; it is clearly socialist in orientation and Attlee took it very seriously in his post-war government where nationalisation of transport, energy, water, coal and steel (etc) was undertaken. If you read the blurb on Attlee, it says a Keynesian argument, but it was not Keynesian it was socialist in the sense of social democratic and reform. This bizarre conflation of social democratic and Keynesian is an attempt to re-write history ... if you have not seen Ken Loach's "Spirit of  '45" I would strongly suggest it. It is long, but shows a very different perspective than the US post-war consensus.

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 06:59:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  agreed! dead and politically and economically (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MrJayTee, Le Gauchiste, JayRaye

        bankrupt are not the same thing; alas, things can continue degenerating for quite some time before liberalism actually keels over and dies. The Lib Dems will take one hell of a beating at the next election in the UK that's for sure; they will survive in the areas where they are traditionally the only competition with the Tories (who are going off the deep end) in Devon and Cornwall and parts of the wealthier southeast, but they will lose all inroads that they have made in Labour heartlands under Charles Kennedy after this debacle of a government.

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun May 26, 2013 at 07:11:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'd suggest reading the article linked (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayRaye, NY brit expat, MrJayTee

      Instead of just responding to the title. I disagree with a lot in there, but the split between the neolins and the progressives and the resulting lack of any real political platform other than the neoliberal program, which has failed time and time again. And lets not mince words here, liberalism has been dead for more than 30 years other than neoliberalism. Ideologically, liberals haven't a leg to stand on, and because of that they claim to have no ideology and just want to do "what works." Then they pretend like things aren't getting worse for workers, or if things are then it's the fault of the gop. Despite the role liberal idols like Carter and Clinton played in deregulation and globalization.

      There is no inspiration in liberalism, just calls to remember past liberals who exacted some small measure of relief for workers.

      We'll see exactly how this all works once the assimilationist agenda for lgbt rights is complete and the complete cluelessness about intersectionality that is a Hallmark of the leadership of the dems comes to kick them in the ass.

      If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

      by AoT on Sun May 26, 2013 at 11:24:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  great diary, although (4+ / 0-)

    the alliances of liberals and radicals get fraught with the kinds of problems witnessed in OWS and while mass energy can be galvanized in West Asia / North Africa, the US seems to require significant crisis that minimizes media, class, and institutional filtering, especially given the fluidity of class boundaries in the US

    I suggest that liberals and radicals can come together by focusing on and actively supporting those elements of the US working class--including many working people who identify more strongly in racial or ethnic terms than in class terms--that are engaging in rights' struggles.  We should be looking to them for guidance on the issues, on emerging organizational forms of struggle, and much more.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Sun May 26, 2013 at 06:36:46 PM PDT

  •  US Liberaloids fear their own power.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, NY brit expat

    and have refused to claim it.

    We refuse to frame the conversation, we have allowed, if not abetted the Capitalist paradigm to be the standard they seek only to "amend" to be more profitable for the middle class.

    What we have here is a caste system, and the middle (enabler) class has no real interest in the lowest wage earners.

    I agree that the New Deal was never meant to serve, FDR sat down with the captains of industry (as they were called at the time) and told them if they did not offer scraps to the people there was a huge chance that the Communist Party would become a force with which they would not be able to reckon.

    Those cuts to the profit were never intended to be permanent - once they deflated the grass root anger, they fully expected to be able to incrementally pull the profits back to the top.

    ..the smoker you drink, the player you get....

    by Diane Gee on Mon May 27, 2013 at 04:40:25 AM PDT

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