What the Latin American left could learn from Ron Paul?


Ron Paul is clearly one of the most influential politicians in America. His presidential campaigns popularized libertarianism in a way no one had  before. Libertarians overseas know him, and a lot of them had a genuine appreciation, but people outside the United States who are not libertarians don’t know him. The foreign media probably doesn’t have a clue why a Republican Party presidential candidate is against war and supports drug legalization.

I’m a Peruvian who came to politics from the radical left but after getting familiar with libertarianism, I think there are a lot of things that the Latin America left could learn from Ron Paul.

Ending the War on Drugs is the most obvious libertarian idea that the left should embrace. Prohibition of drugs was part of an imperialist policy that generated the corruption of Latin American governments and had caused the boom of large narco guerrillas which endanger the civil population mostly in Mexico and Central America but also in Peru and Colombia.

The drug legalization argument could be based on the idea of individual responsibility and freedom of choose, conservatives would sound like hypocrites if they attack these policy on that grounds.

Oppose corporate free trade deals. That’s a position that the left wings in most countries oppose, but Chile, now governed by the Socialist Party, supporting TPP shows that there are exceptions. Even in countries where there is a right-wing government the left should use the argument that free trade deals are just corporate protectionism and have nothing to do with free markets. What could be reaction of conservatives in a parliament if a left-wing congressman argue against free trade while mentioning Ron Paul and the works of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute on the matter? The conservatives would not only look like hypocrites but also ignorant if they continue to support that policy.

Show respect for civil liberties. The Latin American left had a bad experience in the past with coup d’états promote by the United States but I hardly believe that the protests of indigenous people in Bolivia or Ecuador are a product of imperialism. The right of free speech and free assembly should be consider fundamental for any left-wing government.

Stand for anti-imperialism. Imperialism is not a myth of the left but a real policy of global expansion of influence by the United States. Quoting a conservative congressman from United States would made clear that imperialism is not creation of the left but a reality.

Closing U.S. military bases in the region should be a priority, and reducing military spending. The nationalism of Latin American armies is dangerous. A lot of corrupt military leaders had participated in coup d’états in the region. Giving more money and power to them is not a good idea.

While maybe some readers could had been surprised at beginning of the text, there are several policies proposed by Ron Paul that the Latin American left could embrace. In the American context, Ron Paul is to the left of Barack Obama. Ron Paul had spoken that despite not agreeing with the policies of Venezuela, he doesn’t think that sanctions have done any good. Ron Paul has been saying that United States shouldn’t intervene in Latin America and that the embargo toward Cuba must end. He has some fans in the region — probably not part of left — but maybe Latin American radicals could learn something from the Ron Paul revolution.

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.

The socialist case for gun rights

The surprise of this primary season is probably Bernie Sanders. The independent Senator from Vermont who calls himself as a democratic socialist and is running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination is doing very well in polls, drawing large crowds to his events, and has even raised considerable funds for a politician who relies on small donors. Some might say Hillary Clinton should be worried. In the beginning no one bet anything on him, and some think that his support for gun rights would affect support from his liberal base, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

In America, people usually assume that everyone on the left supports gun control. Outside America, not many people speak about gun rights. As a Peruvian lefty, I never thought about guns. The exception was when I saw Bowling for Columbine, after that I supported gun control even if in my own country buying guns is actually very complex. I think that non-American leftists tend to sympathize with Michel Moore and other progressives from Hollywood, not out of affection for liberalism but to oppose conservativism; all gun rights advocates in the liberal conception are portrayed as gun nuts.

Some years after I had taken a position on guns, I joined the Socialist Party of Peru and started to be interested in the history of the New Left, first in my own country, then in America. When I read the libertarian Anthony Gregory defending the use of guns by the Black Panthers, my position changed and I became a supporter of gun rights. But that wasn’t my first step to being sympathetic to guns, I think it was reading the left-libertarian Alexander Cockburn that I started to be suspicious of the liberal arguments for gun control.

The idea is very simple — self-defense. Minorities throughout history have had to defend themselves from the aggression of centralizing powers including the State, from the militia movement to the Zapatistas. It doesn’t matter if they are a minority based on ideas or ethnicity, the thing that matters is that they are going to be able to defend their community, just like the Panthers did before the Reagan crackdown.

It is funny that liberals still often portray gun enthusiasts as closet white supremacists or something similar. Sure Dylann Roof was a real racist, but what about the Huey P. Newton Gun Club? Despite the popularity of Bernie Sanders, I don’t think that liberals are going to agree with him on gun rights, I think they would had been more comfortable with a gun control liberal like Elizabeth Warren, but the fact that Hillary was far to the right that Bernie became a choice for an average Democrat voter. Even if Sanders’ popularity hasn’t anything to do with his position on gun rights, maybe there are baby steps to toward a left favorable to the Second Amendment.

Some argue Sanders’ support for gun rights is simply a matter of Vermont being a rural state where guns are popular and maybe there some truth in that, it would be very difficult to get elected as a supporter of gun control. Some people think socialists are just like liberals, but it’s more complicated. In the years of war against the Sandinistas in Central America, even some social democratic parties from Latin America were in favor of them. While social democrats oppose revolutionary socialism, they more or less agreed that the Nicaraguans should resist. If you say that you are a fan of Che Guevara, it doesn’t make sense to be in favor of gun control. On the contrary, if you want to empower people, give them guns and the possibility to defend themselves.