progressivism

The Bernie Congress

There is group of progressives inspired by Bernie Sanders that had decided to run for Congress – that’s the topic of my CounterPunch piece today. An excerpt:

For readers of CounterPunch the candidature of Bernie Sanders has generated mixed feelings. On the one hand he has pushed for progressive policies in economic issues, on the other hand he hasn’t been as antiwar as much of the progressive community wish he had been. But he has inspired young people tired of neoliberalism and imperialism of Hillary Clinton. And not necessarily only young people, there is a list of what has been called the Bernie Congress including progressive challengers inspired by Sanders to run Democratic primaries for Congress. Some would face a relatively easy election in heavily Democratic districts while others would try to compete swing districts and others try to win even in Republican districts with a populist message.

Read the whole thing here to know the complete list of Sanderistas that hope to represent the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in Congress.

Advertisements

Bernie Sanders versus the progressive left

Bernie Sanders Rally: Photo by Melissa Fossum

When Bernie Sanders made his entry into the Democratic field, few people would had imagine that he could become a real challenger to Hillary Clinton, but now he is the champion for the liberal wing of the party. Bernie Sanders, the 73 years old self-described socialist elected as an independent to the House and Senate representing Vermont, wasn’t as popular as liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren but he had a good record of siding with the unions and bashing income inequality. So one would assume that the progressive left would be on board with him, but there are exceptions, both in and out of the party.

From the independent left their major distrust for Sanders is his foreign policy, which is relatively hawkish. The Green Party had mixed feelings about Sanders, but there were some that last year were trying to convince Bernie to run as a Green. Now the feeling is of distrust toward Sanders, most greens and independent progressives fear that an endorsement of Hillary Clinton from Bernie would siphon progressive votes into a militarist and corporatist candidate. Green Party members and allies said that Bernie Sanders isn’t Eugene Debs and they are right, but some on the Trotskyist left think otherwise. Some on the independent left might prefer the Green Party nominee Jill Stein over Sanders but still say some good things about him, while others basically called him a neocon of the left.

If people on the independent left, the Green Party or some Trotskyist outlet distrust Bernie is because he isn’t one them. But why the progressive left in the Democratic Party be against the most progressive candidate of this election cycle. The answer is #BlackLivesMatter and the recent Netroots conference prove that. Bernie Sanders is considered by black and brown liberal activists to be soft on the issue of racial inequality — that’s why they interrupted his speech. His answer that he was active in the Civil Rights movement and that he marched with MLK didn’t calm the angry crowd, neither the fact that his other answer for solving racial tensions was to speak about economics. The hashtag #BernieSoBlack mocked a campaign supposedly out of touch with racial justice topics. The criticism of Sanders has even been made about his white supporters.

I’m a socialist and for me the fight against racism is vital part of politics, but I feel deeply troubled by the attitude of the protesters. Matt Bruenig had alredy made the case that Bernie Sanders had already spoke on issues like racial justice so why are the activists so against the old socialist, but mute about Hillary Clinton, who supported the racist tough on crime legislation of his husband. I’m not by any standard a fan of Bernie, my libertarian socialist tendencies made doubt about his bureaucratic social democrat ideals, but I think than if they want to talk about racism why not to question the role of Hillary Clinton in the Libyan War which prompted a humanitarian crisis that affects mostly poor black Africans?

I was surprised to known that even the two time presidential candidate of the Socialist Party and longtime antiwar activist David McReynolds was disgusted with protesters over the Netroots event. It would be wise bring back to discussion of police unions, which Bernie Sanders and most progressives are usually in favor of. And the fact that he represents a mostly white state doesn’t excuse him from the responsibility of talking about these issues. But even with that said, Sanders is not a Nazi or any kind of racist, and if Sanders hasn’t been the best friend to black communities, is Hillary Clinton any better? She may have a more diverse campaign team, but is a staunch supporter of the racist War on Drugs.

I wonder who the black and brown liberal protesters are going to vote for, the man who had been active in the civil rights movement his entire life, or for the wife of a governor that honored the Confederate Flag. I wrote that liberal identity politics were responsible for the death of the New Left ideals of decentralism and anti-imperialism. Liberal identity politics today is a powerful ally to the neoliberal status quo, because it is very difficult to find a perfect progressive. Liberals are in large part responsible for building the racist Prison Industrial Complex, and with self-defeating strategies like those favored by some activists their cause will be lost. Stop wasting the time attacking a man relatively good on the issue of race and confront the fact that a racist Empire should be the subject in question.

Recently in an interview, Ron Paul said that Muhammed Ali inspired him, and that he would have liked to be as brave as him for resisting the draft. Ron Paul is right, Ali was a brave man but it wasn’t only his refusal of being part of the Army — he talked about an Empire abroad and at home whose victims are mostly people of color.

Exits, the left, and liberalism

Earlier this week, my colleague Mark Lutter attempted to make an impassioned case for the left to embrace the political practice of “exit,” while not making much of an effort to define it in a way that a leftist could make much sense of it.  I say this not because the practice itself is incomprehensible to the left, but because leftist ideas of mass “exit” are already in existence in so many places.  The Scottish National Party leans heavily to the left, as do the Bloc et Parti Québécois*.  The current efforts for Catalan independence are being spearheaded by a leftist party, the Republican Left of Catalonia, with backing from the pragmatic Convergence and Union. SYRIZA, the leftist coalition in Greece led by Alexis Tsipras (above), is pushing hard for a general election after success in European elections last month, so as to set up a possible exit from the European Union after being under severe austerity in recent years. The list goes on.

Of course, with the exception of SYRIZA (which we’ll get to in a moment), one could argue that most of these secessionist efforts are ethnically oriented, and perhaps not what is meant by “exit” in Lutter’s mind. So, let us look at the more basic terminology, the act of free dissociation. Lutter rightly points out that exit was previously associated with the classical left. The Paris Commune of 1871 could be framed as one of the better leftist representations of that from the time period: A dissociation from the nascent Third French Republic in order to protect the interests and livelihoods of the city’s workers from the political machinations of the majority-rural French population.

However, Lutter is not interested in the left of modern times, even though it still exists — albeit as a marginalized fringe group — in American politics.  Liberalism and progressivism, strains of political thought that are often haphazardly associated with the left, are Lutter’s true concern. Yet, both those philosophies are completely incompatible with the concept of “exit.” Why? The answer falls on the basis of what purpose “exit” serves. Lutter’s use of the term “survival” nails the principle: “Exit,” in his mind, serves as an act of self-preservation from change, or from the pressure to change. It serves as a means to survive upheaval of one’s way of life because of these changes.

The important thing to understand about liberal thinking, be it economic liberalism or social progressivism, is that its purpose is to instigate change itself, or at least embrace it. In the liberal’s mind, to allow any and all persons** to opt out of these changes defeats the purpose of making changes to begin with. Their primary act of self-preservation, and often their means of advancing change, is accommodation and compromise. In essence, “exit” by Lutter’s terms is a defense against liberalism, even if one were to create liberal communities as he and Scott Alexander suggested.

(more…)