In the world of the lunatic Marxist left (apologies to non-deranged Marxists out there), anything that capitalists and imperialists do must automatically be opposed, regardless of fact or even reality.
We have a fine new example of this. The British Socialist Workers Party has proclaimed that Hitler was not planning to invade Britain and that Churchill’s air war resistance was just a devious ploy to get the US involved. Ouch, that makes my brain hurt. They also darkly hint that Churchill was not a serious anti-fascist. So, does that mean he was a secret fascist? Who knew??? I’m certainly relieved that SWP has beamed in with their alternate view of history from the planet Arcturus informing us that Churchill was in fact not an implacable opponent of Hitler. Goodness, he certainly fooled a bunch of people, didn’t he?
A few years ago a senior member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in the US told me in apparent complete seriousness that Mugabe of Zimbabwe must be supported because he stands against imperialism. No, really, he actually said that, apparently forgetting Mugabe is a thug who has ordered the imprisonment, torture, and murder of thousands while looting a country for himself and his cronies.
For members of such Marxist cults, shades of gray never enter into their calculations. Anyone the US or Britain doesn’t like must immediately be supported and anything those countries do must always be opposed.
And such extremists wonder why they have a miniscule amount of followers.
Your mind is so narrow
And it’s no surprise
If you fell on a pin
You’d be blind in both eyes
Quite regularly when I read something, I learn something new. On occasion I suspect that the author is mistaken in facts or in interpretation of facts. But there are those special times when I wonder what kind of drugs the author took to write such mumbo-jumbo.
Such deranged fanaticism is one of the worst enemies the left has, especially since it’s internal. Their deep and abiding belief in their inerrancy makes them quite similar to extremist Christianists on the right. It’s the same mindset. One says they and only they have the correct interpretation of the Bible, the other says only their interpretation of Marx and Lenin is valid. They aren’t interested in compromise or in listening to what you say. They preach, you listen. Then they tell you what to believe and how to act. Questioning is not an option.
And that’s not how to build a genuine people’s movement, not at all. Real mass movements are built by organizers who listen to what people’s concerns are, then help them find solutions. Power to the people means letting the people be in charge. It also means not having a preconceived notion of what the answers are.
Doug Henwood hosts Behind the News, a left economics show on Pacificia affiliate WBAI in New York. He just sent an open letter to the chair of the WBAI board about the station’s disintegrating situation. He’s been there over 20 years.
Whatever you’ve heard about the decline of Pacifica lately, well, it’s getting much worse. The financial situation at WBAI is dire indeed. Yet the board and many others continue to fight insane battles against each other rather than actually do anything to fix their multiple problems.
Then there’s the premiums they offer to subscribers.
A few words about those premiums. During the last few drives, WBAI has offered a variety of rather embarrassing videos and publications. We’ve now moved well beyond the familiar 9/11 conspiracies. Now we also have miracle cures (which, it wouldn’t surprise me, could put us at legal risk for offering, since they make claims about curing disease that, to put it gently, would be very difficult to prove), stories about chemtrails (the theory that the government, for some mysterious reason, is poisoning us by spraying chemicals from the sky), and most recently, a series of videos explaining how the Illuminati are about 90% of the way to taking everything over (it’s only a matter of time until they plant microchips in our heads and solidify a regime of total control). (Tastes of that stuff here and here.) I’m told, though I haven’t heard this stuff myself, that we’re also hawking the work of Kevin Trudeau, who’s been convicted of credit card fraud and has been fined for making false and misleading claims – and who’s been frequently sued by disgruntled customers. Of professional interest to me are stories about financiers and the Federal Reserve which have no basis in historical fact – and I say this as someone who knows more about Wall Street and central banks than anyone involved with Pacifica. Many of these narratives have deep roots in far-right politics – the Wall Street/Federal Reserve stuff has long been associated with crypto-fascist organizations like Willis Carto’s Liberty Lobby (e.g. the works of Eustace Mullins). Trudeau is a big fan of Matt Drudge and the odious Michael Savage.
None of this stuff can be taken seriously by anyone with an ongoing relationship with Planet Earth. For that reason alone, it’s a disgrace that we give it such prominence. The health claims expose us to prosecution and litigation – a legal risk we can’t possibly afford. But, that aside, airing this sort of stuff drives away sane and solvent listeners. Given the recent drop in our fulfillment rate, it seems reasonable to surmise that people who pledge on this stuff are more likely than most not to come through. So this strategy fails even on purely monetary grounds. But by driving away the audience, we’re undermining the station’s future. Do we really want to be known as the nonprofit telemarketing arm for lunatics and convicted criminals?
The fulfillment rate is the percentage of pledgers who actually send in money. The WBAI fullfillment rate is dropping like a rock. This should come as no surprise considering much of the audience is now arguably detached from reality.
So, if Pacifica goes down and the stations have to be sold, that would be several hundred million dollars.
Who would get that money and who would control it?
I volunteered with Los Angeles Pacifica affiliate KPFK some years back. Their internal politics were gibbering lunacy then, and it’s clearly gotten much worse.
So says Raimondo at Antiwar.com. He is scathing against leftie ideologues who don’t want a right-left coalition to fight against the insane wars of the US because that might cut into their already absurdly small power bases.
The Ron Paul faction of the right as well as the Buchananites oppose the wars too. Does the left want to build little micro-mini-empires or does it want a genuine mass movement to end the wars? Because a real mass movement means people from all across the political spectrum join into together working for a common cause, and ignoring their differences.
A left-right coalition would make the antiwar movement uninhabitable by the inveterate sectarians of the ultra-left, whose only concern is to recruit naÃ¯ve young people into their dying little sects. Trotskyism, today, is about as relevant as phrenology, and about as useful when it comes to building a mass political movement of any kind – and the sectarians know it. They are essentially parasites who converge on any “peace” movement that arises and suck the juice out of it until they’ve had their fill: then they feast on the bones.
Gosh, a conspiratorist might opine that such groups do a fine job of destroying real dissent before it can become bothersome to the state.
What is needed is not another leftist-dominated “coalition,” which puts on conferences that address the faithful, reasserts their well-worn dogmas, and sponsors marches of a few thousand (at most). You’ll note that these marches nearly always take place on the coasts – especially San Francisco, that bastion of the left’s past glories – but never penetrate into the American heartland. Until and unless they do, the antiwar movement, as an organized force in American politics, will literally remain a fringe phenomenon.
Concurrent with that and due to the same mindset –
Marxists don’t do the internet, and when they do, the results are laughable.
That’s because Marxists generally *can’t* do the internet. Building a presence on the web is about two-way communication. You build relationships, you link back and forth, exchange sometimes opposing views, and build a community of equals. But your typical Marxist zealot mini-party has no interest in that. For them, the web is about we tell you what the truth is and you listen. And that’s why their websites tend to be laughable, dogmatic – and irrelevant. It’s all one way. Ever notice that practically no Marxist parties allow comments on their websites? Open discussion and honest dissent is not encouraged. Instead, the Marxists lecture. Readers are supposed to absorb the perceived truth without questioning. But the web doesn’t work that way.
As long as the organized antiwar movement remains a leftist sandbox, where sectarians get to pontificate – and do little else – it will stay a sideshow. Once we get beyond all that nonsense, however, there are no limits to what we can do: just look at the polls. The American people are with us – and they’re ready to join us in our fight. Indeed, they’ve never been readier. The question is: are we ready to receive them, and lead them?
(Reader EnCee on why he left PSL. Promoted from the comments to my Abstaining from bad sects post yesterday. The image is of my choosing.)
This is just a little blurb on my own departure from the PSL after 6+ years. There is so much to get into, but I promised Bob I would keep this short so I will just go into the immediate reason for my departure from PSL.
The political question which led to my immediate departure is kind of a doozy. Basically you had to vote for all the slots on a delegate ballot to have your ballot count in an election. Problem was, if not all the choices available were to your liking then you were kind of in a bind. Either vote for someone you don’t really want to fill up slots on your ballot just to have your ballot count or basically abstain from the whole voting process because you couldn’t fill up a couple slots.
Whenever I have explained it to anyone outside the PSL they have given me mostly quizzical looks. (I have explained it to some people in PSL too and they have not been able to give me an adequate explanation.) Sometimes I think they assume they are missing something but even in those cases given a modest amount of time for a thorough explanation the extent of how warped a sense of political participation the PSL leadership has is allowed to sink in and can only be described as unbelievable.
The situation is so warped that it almost reaches the level of caricature. Remember that book about farm animals that Orwell wrote that was such a favorite tool of red baiters? Well, I hesitate to say it, but it’s kind of on that level of bad. Up is down, bad is good, and full participation means behaving like a good little soldier and voting for something you don’t want to vote for. Because, that’s democracy for you — and if you don’t like it”¦ well, you were probably always unhappy anyway so it must have been a problem with you. (Isn’t it always?)
The fact that I was shouted down at an internal political meeting when I brought up the democratic point related to this flawed voting process just takes the cake when I talk to people about it. Saying people should be forced to vote for something they do not want is flat wrong. It doesn’t even matter if they have strong feelings about it, but when they do it’s even worse. For the vast majority of people, voting is supposed to be an affirmative act. It is supposed to be something you want to do, for something you want to vote for. We already lived in a flawed democratic system where the people we vote for usually don’t represent our interests. Why would you start off a new group that’s supposed to work for progressive causes on the wrong foot by tying it down to a flawed voting process from the beginning?
But, even allowing that there was some unseen rationale for justifying these types of procedures, why would you shut down discussion on the issue?
It’s almost ludicrous the way these people approach political participation. They act like they are the lords and you are the subjects and you will only be allowed to speak when they deign to let you do so.
Fact of the matter is you can’t have a democratic discussion when one person gets to decide who does or does not speak. Doesn’t matter if people come to that person’s defense or support them after the fact.
It’s almost like a bad stereotype of an authoritarian Marxist “leader.” Maybe other people have had enough experience to know better. Who would have thought anyone could be so afraid of losing control that they would be afraid of a little discussion. Last time I checked someone raising their hand to talk about democratic participation is not something that should strike fear in the hearts of man. Obviously this was a naÃ¯ve position.
If there is no truly democratic forum then you can not truly address issues of substance. After looking at it a while, it seems pretty clear that’s what was intended all along. There have been a number of reprehensible behaviors which certain people (ie, the “leaders”) have been allowed to get away with. Some of these involve class privilege, chauvinism, women’s oppression/domestic abuse, undemocratic tendencies, etc. It has been in the interest of those in control to keep a tight lid on any dissent or even information about people’s behavior in order to make sure things go as planned. What that “plan” is the leaders have not deigned to let us know. I guess we’re just supposed to “trust them” but they never seemed too interested in wanting to trust us.
I will just give one glaring example, which is real, but almost seems like a caricature of a “Marxists” group. (There are many other examples, some of which I consider worse.)
There was this guy, lets call him Martie McWar, who used to call for the expulsion of people in the PSL/ANSWER because they did not meet his “high standards” of what he considered to be a revolutionary. Now, some people like me would tell him outright that was wrong while others who I guess were sympathetic to him would say “we’re not at that point yet.” But Mr. McWar would not be dissuaded. So, while everybody thought things were cool he went around to the people he thought should be kicked out and made them feel unwelcome on his own time. For others he would pretend to be friendly then while they were drunk he would goad them into saying negative things, especially about the “leaders.” Mr. McWar would then run and snitch to the leaders and be protected because according to them he was just being “loyal.”(!)
It’s like some weird demented macho frat boy quasi-Stalinist mentality which is hard to describe. Read that again and remember that I’m talking about a group that describes itself as Marxist-Leninist.
Suffice to say I’m glad I stood up for myself and no longer have to put up with this type of behavior. I kind of look at it more and more like getting out of an abusive relationship. When you’re in one it’s hard to see how you could survive outside of it, but ultimately you need to draw a line, stand up for yourself and leave these abusive patterns of behavior behind. It’s hard not being in a political group but it’s even harder not standing up for your principles.
Sectarianism, left cadre organizations, and ultra-leftism too often create a squabbling, ineffective, sometimes fanatical left, filled with schisms and splinter groups. Chip Berlet explores this in an article written in 1999 but just as true now.
Ultra-leftism is an egocentric form of mythopoetic martyrdom whereby practitioners anoint themselves as the beleaguered guardians of the one true political line. They read long impenetrable manifestos at public meetings. They show up at mass demonstrations with helmets and hockey sticks for a game of self-fulfilling prophecy that often results in violence as they hurl themselves at police. They inevitably urge a course of action that is hopelessly out of touch with reality. Even Lenin called this an “infantile disorder.”
They also see themselves as the true leaders of the coming revolution, the vanguard whom the working class will unquestionably recognize one day. Then they (the self-appointed anointed) will lead the masses in smashing capitalism. That dozens of other left grouplets also view themselves as the true leaders does indeed lead to sometimes vicious factional fights.
I was purged from such a group, PSL, two years ago (but was walking away anyway. PSL was formed a few years ago when several dozen members of Workers World split off, the result of a internal struggle. At that time WW controlled the ANSWER Coalition. The members who left took ANSWER with them and started PSL.
I was in ANSWER prior to the split and was thinking of joining WW. I asked Peter Camejo, who I knew from the Green Party, about them. He said he’d talked with WW and that they were upfront with him about starting ANSWER as a way to recruit for the party. He was trying to warn me off. The split happened, and I joined PSL mostly out of curiosity but increasingly got disillusioned with their ever-hardening myopic party line and tactics. It took me three years to understand Camejo’s warning. He was right and had been there himself. He ran for US president for Socialist Workers Party in 1976 and got expelled a few years for refusing to back the SWP policy of forcing members to work in factories, often by making them move too, so they could be proper proles.
The problem with groups like this, and their front organizations, is you can’t have it both ways. Either you build a genuine mass organization, which means moderates and those not affiliated with your group have a real say or you use the front group primarily as a recruiting tool, which means the stated purpose for the group is secondary, and you will never become a mass organization because you deliberately exclude all but the true believers.
ANSWER organized massive anti-war protests that sometimes drew hundreds of thousands. This was important. But it never translated into a genuine mass movement because WW and PSL would not allow moderates to have any genuine influence or power. So, the whole process ends up being self-defeating and self-limiting.
One thing I genuinely do not understand is the almost complete failure by the left to organize on the financial crisis the way they did on the Iraq War. We have a humongous crisis of capitalism and the response from the left has mostly been crickets. I don’t get it.
It might be because there’s a tendency for lefties to say ‘capitalism is bad’ and leave it at that, perhaps because they don’t really understand economics and financial matters that well.
Contrast that with blogs written by financial insiders like Zero Hedge, Naked Capitalism, and The Big Picture. They tend to be more libertarian but are seriously pissed. ZH broke stories about high frequency trading and dark pools, and on at least one occasion, forced Congress to take action. Their articles are in-depth, knowledgeable, and scathing.
The left can do this too, and in the process will attract interest and followers, and that can lead to the building of a genuinely an mass organization to fight against the current financial excesses and predation.