In a recent post at Naked Capitalism, ‘Why Anti-War Purity Tests Are Not Sound Political Strategy’, Yves Smith features comments from a different thread by RedPilled and a long response by Marina Bart. Smith prefaces her post with a paragraph or three on obliquity in complex systems making it impossible to identify simple paths to achieving objectives. Further, she notes that politics is particular subject to obliquity (ahem; I’d had to look up the word, and still don’t quite twig to the concept), and that disregarding time-tested truths like “politics makes strange bedfellows.
She notes that much of the country is against current levels of military spending, but that despite that, “the ferocity of Russian warmongering in the wake of Trump’s victory showed how deeply committed highly influential insiders are to keeping the military machine running on overdrive”.
She includes this sentence: “Another issue to keep in mind is that in battle, reinforcing success is a sounder strategy than sending resources to units that are floundering.” The link goes to a site with this banner: “Seven reasons the conflict in Ukraine is actually a Russian invasion”, so it does contextualize her earlier remarks about Russian warmongering, doesn’t it? She then adds:
“Anyone who opposes the US imperial project is inherently an outsider.” and uses MLK, Jr.s ‘Why I’m opposed to the war in Viet Nam’ speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1967 as a cautionary tale.
“How does this translate into thinking about candidates? It implies that it is naive and self defeating to demand that a “progressive” or bona fide leftist candidate oppose war as a major platform position. Mind you, that it not the same as opposing hawks. And other efforts to build coalitions to oppose America’s costly and corrupt imperialism are important too. But this is a multi-fronted battle, and approaches that are useful in one arena do not necessarily translate into another. Winning in politics is first and foremost about picking winnable fights, scoring victories to gain credibility, skills, and get others to join a successful campaign, and only then moving on to more entrenched targets.
So if an otherwise sound candidate doesn’t campaign on “more war” and gives only at most tepid support, that is far more pragmatic and more likely to win against the war machine in the long run than going after it head on.
April 24, 2017 at 3:14 pm
“Warren, like Sanders, is a faux progressive because, like Sanders, she does NOT challenge the U.S. empire and its imperial, interventionist foreign policy.
Until Warren and Sanders start talking about closing the more than 700 U.S. military bases in 70 countries, stopping the deployment of Special Ops teams in more than 130 countries, ending the seven illegal wars of aggression the U.S. is now waging, and cutting the national security budget (one TRILLION dollars a year!) by at least 50%, they should not be considered progressive, just pro-war liberals…”
April 24, 2017 at 5:28 pm
“What mechanism are you suggesting we use to kill the war machine?
This is my understanding of the available options:
2) Civil War or Violent Revolution
3) Massive citizen unrest that results in enough damage to capital that it retreats once again from open imperial conquest.
Let’s briefly address each, in reverse chron:
Re: #3 — The elite we are dealing with is a global elite, with obscene amounts of stolen wealth that is highly mobile, and properties all over the world. And even during the “Vietnam War” malaise years when the MIC had been somewhat penned in and prevented from launching overt military campaigns, “we” still used the CIA and other arms of the imperial state to overthrow governments not to our liking and clear out whoever and whatever stood in the way of a multinational’s ability to extract monetizable resources all over the world. Just how much damage to capital would need to be inflicted for them to call off their dogs, which is what the US military is? How many people would have to die in urban riots and conflagrations at the hands of our excessively militarized domestic law enforcement agencies, down t(o) the county and town level?
Personally, I believe we have all evidence we need that the bloodshed necessary to also burn down enough corporate buildings and make it meaningfully awkward to enjoy one’s twenty million dollar Manhattan apartment would be extensive. I don’t want to find out how bad it would be. I want to find a less violent way to end state-engineered violence.
Re: #2 — Do I have to detail here how an actual Civil War or Revolution would be even MORE brutal and violent, leading to the loss of even more life, with an outcome even less guaranteed to be the one that we prefer? As a reminder, it’s pretty clear at this point that the South won the Civil War; it just took them a while.
Now, let’s look at option #1 — The only potential option I’m aware of that could bring change peacefully. I will stipulate to start that our electoral system is profoundly corrupted. Simply relying on the “democratic process” wouldn’t work, because we are in no way a democracy. The two parties that control the system utterly won’t even let all American citizens vote, or have their votes counted if those ballots would lead to “unacceptable” desires and outcomes. So even an “electoral” strategy is fraught with difficulties and would necessarily require some degree of citizen protest and destruction of property, to put some force behind the expression of discontent, and drive home to the elites that the people really have become ungovernable being whipped down the neoliberal path. Remember, even an election they have to steal sends them a message. The Democratic Party, run by incompetents though it may be, knows perfectly well its traditional base now hates them*. That’s why they’re trying to steal the Republicans’ base.
But back to option #1: The theory of change being advocated by me, and I believe by Naked Capitalism, is that if we focus on the universal benefits most Americans desperately need, we will energize and awaken a massive coalition with the potential to break the chains and escape the pens we’ve been herded into on our way to the slaughterhouse. If that coalition can be brought together quickly and effectively enough, we can scare off some low-hanging courtier donations the establishment Dems rely on, while putting them in a status bind: their personal status relies in part on their sanctimonious pretense of virtue; without that, what are they? They are deeply invested in this idea of themselves as kind, loving and diverse — see pretty much every tweet from “Chelsea Clinton” of 2017. Taking that identity away from them has many benefits, in terms of everything they care about. Remember, when your material needs are met (and for all Democratic Party functionaries, they are in spades), your psychological needs become paramount. They do not want to accept that they are exploitative warmongers. Believe me. I have directly and personally confronted Democratic trust fund scions on this and faced immediate, life-threatening blowback. The oligarchs aren’t going to fund the Democrats as robustly if it’s clear they can’t get the presidency back,
So, this campaign for universal benefits, which Bernie is pushing for from inside the belly of the beast, creates and energizes a status-quo shattering coalition, while destabilizing the Democratic Party and draining it of funding and allegiance. It weaken our opposition — the Democrats — while fueling our funding and activism. Because the Democrats are already so weak in terms of governing, it offers the opportunity to purge them out of the apparatus of the party, which then offers the opportunity to change the current electoral dynamic. If leftists controlled the Democratic Party in California, 2016 would have gone very, very differently. Among other things, a lot of leftist ballots would have been counted that were shredded or flipped. With each increase in power inside the party system, the left gains the ability to protect the right to vote and have that vote counted, moving us closer and closer to something like actual democracy. The Democratic Party cedes both ideological ground and access to the levers of party power.
Americans don’t want war. There is consensus on the actual left and the segment of the right that actually sends its members to fight about this. In an election where everybody got to vote and have their vote counted, we would have less war. And if we could get universal benefits flowing, that dynamic would strengthen.
You want to push to cancel the war economy first, to pay for the benefits. But I don’t see the coalition for that working. We only have two parties, and both are officially dedicated to war. The Dem/CIA coup was to bring apostate Trump in line. We can’t end the warmaking electorally (i.e., relatively peacefully) until one of the two parties is controlled by anti-war forces. To do that, we have to purge the warmongers out of the Democratic Party (there’s no point in trying this with the Republicans; they have actual governing hegemony). To purge them out, we have to energize people along viscerally urgent lines. Which gets back to why pushing for universal benefits FIRST makes both strategic and moral sense. (Let’s not forget that the United States government is colonizing and brutalizing its own people in massive numbers, every day.)
My strategy has the added benefit that we don’t actually need to start by cutting spending to deliver those benefits. We can use benefits payments to change the political economy, and after gaining power, start to pull all that stolen tax money back into our coffers for the peoples’ use, and correct our budgeting priorities to shrink the military way, way down, and start using it for national defense, rather than corporate wealth acquisition.”
Her final paragraph seems inconsequential to her over-arching theme, so I’ve omitted it. Come to think of it, the only reason I’ve left all of the others intact save the portions I’ve bolded, was out of a sense of fair play. ;-) Some of her claims are either questionable or baffling, but I demurred on offering side commentary.
I was glad to see that some of her commentariat pushed back against what they saw as bogus Rebecca Solnit-esque rationales, and even more that some just said “No! This strategy is not morally justifiable whatsover!”. Some offered other fusion politics on anti-authoritarism both domestically and in militarily, and so on.
Commenter LT brought this, bless his heart:
“For a very long time, for example, America prospered – or seemed to prosper: this prosperity cost millions of people their lives. Now, not even the people who are the most spectacular recipients of the benefits of this prosperity are able to endure these benefits; they can neither understand them nor do without them, nor can they go beyond them. Above all, they cannot, or dare not, assess or imagine the price paid by their victims, or subjects, for this way of life, and so they cannot afford to know why the victims are revolting. They are forced, then, to the conclusion that the victims – the barbarians – are revolting against all established civilized values – which is both true and not true – and, in order to preserve these values, however stifling and joyless these values have caused their lives to be, the bulk of the people desperately seek out representatives who are prepared to make up in cruelty what both they and the people lack in conviction…”
James Baldwin – “To Be Baptized” essay in No Name In The Street.
For me, Western Imperialism is the root cause of not only our own oppression, but the deaths, immiseration and epic numbers of diasporas that include mass starvation and human degradation for vast numbers of the recipients of the US hegemonic ‘Exporting Democracy’© project globally. And of course the same Imperial Projects have been unleashed on all dissenters on Turtle Island, most especially in the US. Militarization of police, spying, criminalizing dissent and dissenters, especially among the Rabble classes and people of color, etc., have been burgeoning since Bill Clinton and Obama, so…no, ‘purging the Democrat party’ to end war…seems downright silly, and even if possible, a long, long process. Even Brother Cornell West, in his and Nick Brana’s call out to Bernie to create a new political party on Democracy Now! claimed that the Bern isn’t a militarist. At least in this iteration, he sure as hell was…just not a neo-con war-monger (a very low bar, imo).
And last I’d heard, and that DSA-promoting Andrew Stewart had heard before April 28 was that while having received continual accolades for promising to offer a Senate companion bill to John Conyers’ HR 676 Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act, Bernie still hasn’t done so. Yeah, Stewart hits the Bern hard; fine with me.
Richard Moser writes at CP that:
“It is empire — most of all — that dooms democracy and constitutional republics. As corporations have an insatiable drive for profit, empires have an insatiable drive for power. And that makes imperial actors hostile to the limits on authority, checks and balances, separation of powers and basic rights that the U.S. republic at least aspired to.
As the institutions of representative democracy become weaker and weaker — devoted only to serving the corporate power and global empire — the need for social control of the people becomes greater and greater.”
He just described Inverted Totalitarianism, didn’t he? Or: government being subservient to corporate plunder and control?
Many ask rightfully “Where is a serious anti-war/peace movement?” There may be one, but in Glen Ford’s ‘Ajamu Baraka: A Renewed Peace Movement Is the Antidote to Misguided Black Politicians’ at Truthdig, Apr 21, 2017 calls out the black misleadership quotes on the current military misadventures in Syria, past ones in Libya. But he offers this as a potential partial antidote:
“Among the most visible signs that a peace movement still exists, is UNAC, the United National Anti-War movement, which is expecting the largest Black presence in its history at its national conference in Richmond, Virginia, June 16-18. The Black Is Black Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations immediately responded to the U.S. air strike on Syria with a large demonstration in St. Petersburg, Fla. Ajamu Baraka views Black Lives Matter as providing a basis for renewal of the Black Radical Tradition. “One of the things that has to happen is a more explicit politics,” he says. Activists need to “make the connection between the national security state and the war agenda.”
It’s not just the $trillion publicly-stated military budget, although consider how that obscene amount of money could make peoples’ lives better instead of hideous. But the lies, the propagandized ‘others’ declared as ‘enemies of the state’, deserving to die. It’s making common cause with tyrannical despots for ‘pragmatic reasons’, selling weapons systems to them for fun and profit, and the Imperium being okey-dokey about which people they kill with them. It’s having to re-learn history contrary to what we learned in school, oh, it’s been going on for so long, so long. USA! We’re exceptional, cuz we get to make the rules!
The actual, radical left, are anti-imperialists, not the fake left, as in: anti-war except for Assad, Gadaffi™, et.al.
Every time I read the news I’m always more confused
Tellin’ me to choose… But there’s only lies to choose from
And how many died today… How many lost their homes or shot a gun
Or a loved one… What happen to our sons
But I know, I know, I know I’m not alone
And I know, I know, I know I’m not alone
I know I’m far away from home but I know I’m not alone
Please share your thoughts on ‘Anti-war purity tests’. And it would be a good thing if you commented to and questioned one another, as well.