There is no "Left" in America.

& I cringe every time I see that term, "the Left," used as if there were some sort of "Left" group with some sort of power in America. I see people here and elsewhere who call themselves "leftists," as if they had some sort of "Left" to join. I suppose it's harmless. Of course, it's now fashionable to criticize "the Left," just as it's now fashionable to blame Russia for Trump. Both fashions serve to define the fashionable as "sensible" people who would never advocate for, say, real solutions to the problems facing America and who are instead interested in their public images, which is ostensibly why we should suck up to them.

What was once "the Left" was and is either of two groups:

1) sellouts, who use the symbolism and rhetoric of the Left to advance right-wing goals

-- and --

2) sectarians, whose identification with "the Left" is about clinging to personal identity, as if being a vanguard made one a "leftist" in the absence of any proletariat to lead. The sectarians typically live in an imagined past era in which the TV set and the dollar bill did not rule America's consciousness and they could pursue politics with some hope of success.

It's all a myth, of course. Here's Aldous Huxley, from 1926:

But never, except at the present time, and nowhere but in America, have the necessary millions believed themselves the equals of the unnecessary few. (from Jesting Pilate, p. 313)

Perhaps America's conservatism did not appear as conservatism in previous eras in which Europe was ruled by arrogant nobles and in which uprisings of the despairing multitudes were as real as the nose on your face is now. Those eras came and went, like the Populist Party, or the Popular Front of the late '30s, or the New Left, and now they're gone. Much of those "Lefts" were destroyed by the Red Scares of the Twenties and the Fifties, but that was only the worst of it. The only permitted "solution" to all of America's problems now as then, endorsed by four out of five technopeasants, is new and improved consumerism, in the service of the rich few. George Carlin:

In this regard there are about two and a half groups in American politics today. There are also:

1) the corporate conservatives, whose basic differences of opinion revolve around how much it will take to buy off the working class and whose basic orientation is a preservationism of the current neoliberal world order. You are no doubt familiar with this group from their support of last year's consensus candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and their support of the last thirty years of Demopublican and Republicratic candidates, not to mention their monopolization of Congress and the DC bureaucracy. In this regard Bernie Sanders appears as a deviant conservative for his support for a few expanded social programs; perhaps the campaign itself went beyond what Sanders was, or what he could have done in the White House, although those exciting phenomena were contingent upon Sanders himself. The Sanders campaign revealed that there is still a taste for "Left" culture in America without actually producing a solid foundation for such a culture, and so it was reabsorbed into corporate conservatism. At any rate, did you all notice how long it took anyone to notice that Sanders had no ideas of substance about American foreign policy? American foreign policy is one of the most reprehensible things on Earth, and a cornerstone of the neoliberal vision of America as a military guarantor for the neoliberal economic order. But I dunno, maybe the Saudis ought to pay some more for their adventures in Syria or something like that.

2) the antipublic conservatives, to which I defer to this diary of mine, once at Daily Kos and now transferred to my Wordpress site. The antipublic conservatives are:

conservatives who are interested in destroying the public sphere and the commons for the sake of some idea of radical, disconnected individualism that imagines everyone as individuals defending property with guns, or as beholden ideologically to the church of their choice (see e.g. Rick Santorum). In this version of conservatism, losers without property or religion don’t matter. A typical example of the ideology of this group would be the recently-passed Arizona law forbidding schools to teach ethnic studies content:

In 2010, after several attempts, the Republican-controlled Legislature and the Republican governor passed a law prohibiting classes that advocate overthrowing the government, are designed for students of one ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating pupils as individuals.

The Arizona law thusly intends to forbid public-school discussion of the notion that students constitute an ethnically-coded public, rather than being a mere collection of individuals. One looks at this text and recalls former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s famous statement to Women’s Own back in 1987:

who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families

This statement captures the essence of antipublic conservatism in a nutshell. There is no such thing as society, and so antipublic conservatives want a society which doesn’t regard itself as such. In the US version, it attempts to return America to an era before the cultural revolution of the 1960s, and to an era when the Left did not matter much (say, for instance, the Gilded Age of the 1870s and 1880s).

This bunch appears not so much as a threat to the existing order as a group preserving the ongoing dissensus which allows the Two-Party System to portray both competition and stability. The third group, however, is something more evanescent, and so I've referred to it by the name of:

3) "People looking for the exit door to the Matrix." These are the folks who have recognized that mainstream politics is a sham, and who are looking to devise a new politics of whatever sort might possibly survive in this era. The thing to recognize at this point is that the people in this group do not constitute a political group just yet. And they can't be "the Left" if "the Left" is full of quixotic Greens, ideological Trotskyists and other patrons of nostalgia-based politics, bourgeois antiracists-antisexists, and compromised Democrats. To argue thusly is not to say that there is no Left culture in the US -- indeed there is such a thing -- but it's to say that there's a difference between people talking about politics over a few beers or a joint and people who have some connection, however vague, to taking a share of political power for themselves.

Nancy Fraser's essay "Rethinking the Public Sphere" (pp. 109-142 of Craig Calhoun's edited volume Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993)) argues for a distinction in our use of the term "public," between strong publics, comprised of people empowered to make political decisions, and weak publics, who are capable only of political spectatorship. In the political order I've outlined so far, the first two groups are strong publics, and the third group is only a potential strong public.

What comes first to mind when looking at this "people looking for the exit door to the Matrix" group are people such as Aaron Swartz, or Kalle Lasn. What distinguishes this group is the ongoing use of its imagination, and correspondingly its existence can only be verified through its production of the sort of political innovation that is not reactionary innovation. Reactionary innovation is stuff like the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act or the Affordable Care Act or Race to the Top; it looks for new and innovative ways of preserving the existing order against its own contradictions.

*****

Conclusion

The political formation I've described above is stable, and will apparently remain so into the indefinite future. The only thing I can think of that will really disturb this formation is a great surplus of political imagination, over and above the reactionary innovation currently being funded by foundations, sponsored by think tanks, and enacted by the political class. Otherwise, given the inevitability of coming disasters in finance, in climate, and in the human socioecological order, the patrons of reactionary imagination will simply invent new reactionary orders to take the place of old ones.

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Comments

Hey, thanks for the essay! Would just like to mention that I suspect something in the following got mixed:

...argues for a distinction in our use of the term "public," between weak publics, comprised of people empowered to make political decisions, and strong publics, who are capable only of political spectatorship. In the political order I've outlined so far, the first two groups are strong publics, and the third group is only a potential strong public. ...

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9 users have voted.

Psychopathy is not a political position, whether labeled 'conservatism', 'centrism' or 'left'.

A tin labeled 'coffee' may be a can of worms or pathology identified by a lack of empathy/willingness to harm others to achieve personal desires.

Cassiodorus's picture

@Ellen North thank you very much!

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

JekyllnHyde's picture

There IS a "Professional Left" in America. Robert Gibbs insisted upon it in 2010.

Here's the proof.

pro·fess·ional · left, n.

Etymology: from Medieval Latin professionalus and from pre-Chaucerian Olde English lyft.
Dates: 1253, 1606, 2010

Usage: a “term of endearment” first used in August 2010 by an uninformed bloke named Robert Gibbs to describe a group of professional kvetchers who are creating American jobs by the thousands. To cite British spy novelist John Gardner in The Man From Barbarossa Karl Marx, the ‘Professional Left’ is firmly secure in its belief that if 20th century Communism was the exploitation of man by man, then, surely, 21st century American capitalism is just the opposite.

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A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

JekyllnHyde's picture

@JekyllnHyde

This should read:

To cite British spy novelist John Gardner in The Man From Barbarossa paraphrasing Karl Marx, the ‘Professional Left’ is firmly secure in its belief...

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A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

Cassiodorus's picture

@JekyllnHyde There is a "Left" in America, but it's restricted to Humboldt County, California, and even there it's restricted to those who have access to the good stuff.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

ggersh's picture

http://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/

11 MARCH 2017
Democratic Establishment and the 'Professional Class': Whom Do You Serve?

"No one can serve two masters, for he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one, and be neglectful of the other; and so you cannot serve both God and Mammon."

Matt 6:24

"What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in a man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, and that resistance is overcome."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist

It's time for a new New Deal.

But it is not going to happen. The corporate Democrats won't back it, or even mention it. And the Republicans are busy rolling every shred of the old New Deal back, from sound financial regulation to basic safety nets for the weak, the sick, the unfortunate, and the old.

Why?

Because their Big Money master, Mammon, would not be pleased.

News flash.

Not everyone who suffers misfortune does so because they are lazy and purposely made bad choices.

Not everyone who is working a full time job or several part time jobs is in good financial shape, because too many jobs are paying poverty wages with inadequate benefits.

One half of the US population is now living below the poverty level, and are one unfortunate event away from impoverishment and possible homelessness.

Free market competition of the fittest, and might makes right, appears to be the theme of the US elite of both parties. And they are fine examples of the best getting what they deserve, which is the most. Of everything.

And if they have the most because they deserve it, it follows that those who have a hard time of it, the unfortunate, the underprivileged, the other 90% of the country, have less because they deserve that too. How can I be a real winner if there are no losers?

The fortunate think that the others are unworthy, are not human to the same degree as the best and the brightest. They are flawed, disabled, stupid, and they deserve to be deprived, and then eliminated by the market forces. Unfortunate, but necessary. This is the law of nature.

Everyone can cite some example of people that cause all their own problems. And so everyone who has problems is just like them. Losers. If they could only be like me, so good, so virtuous. Winning....

How is this all that essentially different from some of the worst, most vile civilizations in history, except they have not carried this perversion of justice to the next level— yet?

Many do not have healthcare not because they make bad choices, or eat wrong, or don't act like you do. They have problems because it is a dirty rotten system that rips the financial hearts out of people all for the sake of a fortunate few. It is like the financial system that weaves a series of traps for the common person, and then despises them for their weakness.

Here's another news flash.

We are not all that much by ourselves. We may think that we are, but we are not. We may have worked hard, yes, but many people work hard. Most I would say, although we like to imagine some example of unworthiness, and then think ourselves victimized, deprived in some way, by their mere existence.

'All I want it so be left alone.' And so it will be given to you, and that long loneliness will be yours.

The 'lesser of two evils' is not a strategy. It is a convenient rationale to accept a form of evil.

We are making our own choice in this, just as one might judge others harshly to 'make their choices as well.' Just know whom it is that you serve by that choice. Because you will take the consequences of that choice, as it has been promised to you. No one can serve two masters.

Such pride, such perverted justice, such hypocrisy is as old as Babylon, and as evil as sin.

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."

Caution on language.

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“Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Yet those who DO study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it.” Unknown.

mimi's picture

in America, and that is definitely not true.

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"“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?” - Ghandi

Pricknick's picture

@mimi
We're all centrists.
Now if we could only figure out what constitutes a center.

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Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

mimi's picture

@Pricknick

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"“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?” - Ghandi

Cassiodorus's picture

@mimi @mimi So if the Left concedes most of its policy positions to the Right while the Right occupies practically every office in the US above that of city councilmember, there must still be a Left?

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Steven D's picture

@Cassiodorus phantom left, necessary to use as a scapegoat and/or bogeyman as needed.

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"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

mimi's picture

@Cassiodorus

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"“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?” - Ghandi

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

Though I wonder about some of the groups that you think can't be part of anything truly transformative; quixotic Greens--well, believing the human race will survive the next 75 years is starting to look pretty quixotic, so...and Trotskyists...well, in a way isn't it true that there isn't a better time for Marxism than now, when most of its precepts have been more or less proven true?

I guess what you're saying is that anyone in those groups is going to have to imagine their way BEYOND those groups in order to be part of anything transformative....

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Cassiodorus's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal since after all I am one. But it's still a rather poor position to be in, if you have to be a sectarian to avoid being a sellout.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Cassiodorus What makes them a sectarian? Having an ideology? Having an allegiance?

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Cassiodorus's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal Sectarians are vanguards without a proletariat -- people who claim to lead the way to a better world, and (usually) that their way is the only way (arguing there is no sustainability except through my version of bioregionalism, or that there is no true revolution except through Marx and perhaps also through Lenin, just as it was argued that there was no path to heaven except through Jesus), without significant numbers of people actually following them. A member of Socialist Alternative, for instance, once told me with pride that their organization had all of 600 members -- and that was for the whole of the United States!

Sectarians typically form tiny sectarian parties, which pride themselves upon the maintenance of correct lines (which they will explain upon request). If you can't agree with them upon the proper advocacy of foreign policy toward Syria, for instance, you can go form your own sectarian party.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

A lot of intellectual, geeky guys who used to work for the police state.

It's kind of odd that people working for the NSA and CIA would end up being the ones looking for transformation most intensely...perhaps it's because they are in no doubt about what's a produced illusion, and what isn't, since they spent time working at the illusion factory.

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8 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

gendjinn's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal The Falcon and the Snowman was always my favourite and Boyce got out in 02 after 25 years (despite escaping and committing 17 bank robberies).

It is the very nature of evil to defeat itself, we just pay an ongoing and unacceptable price in blood until we pitch in and help.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

In order for their to be a great overflow of imagination, conditions have to be created which will allow for that, if not outright encourage it.

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4 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Cassiodorus's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal are already here. Conditions to apply the human imagination to actual political practice are what need to be developed.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Cassiodorus There has been an assault on human imagination from more directions than I can count, for the last few decades. The assault on time is an assault on imagination. The assault on education is an assault on imagination. The increasing encouragement to engage in conformity and groupthink, the extreme decline of logic as a shared value, the reliance on character assassination as a discursive technique, all are assaults on the imagination.

David Graeber even sees student loan debt as an assault on the imagination, and he makes a pretty good case, though he's only looking at one end of the process of creating art and music (production);

http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/david_graeber_there_has_been_a_war_...

And certainly what's been happening in the political sphere is an assault on the imagination. That's what "lesser of two evils" thinking is; it's demoralizing the subject into voluntarily abnegating the power of their imagination. That's what's most wrong with it.

This is an excellent article on some of the implications of the war on imagination:

http://time.com/4235720/democrats-sanders-clinton-black-voters/?utm_sour...

One of the greatest aims of the establishment is to subjugate the human imagination. They've even invented phrases like "opinion management" and "perception management" to professionally describe the techniques of that subjugation.

In my opinion, Aaron Swartz is a casualty of that war.

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6 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Cassiodorus's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal but I'm not convinced that the depreciation of imagination is any worse today than it was in any previous time. Au contraire, I think we've got more in the way of imaginative resources than we've ever had, and I think we can thank our imaginative forefathers for this.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

SnappleBC's picture

I certainly don't really identify on the left/right spectrum anymore. I live in a top/bottom spectrum politically now.

The one thing I tripped over was calling the ACA an innovation. All I saw was a straight-forward bit of corporate dole with some sprinkles on top to make it sound palatable.

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11 users have voted.

A lot of wanderers in the U.S. political desert recognize that all the duopoly has to offer is a choice of mirages. Come, let us trudge towards empty expanse of sand #1, littered with the bleached bones of Deaniacs and Hope and Changers.
-- lotlizard

@SnappleBC

Never in history has a bill forced people to buy something from private vendors, which obligation is enforced by government. And never has government had so many fingers in your private health care for which it is not paying.

It has helped people, yes, but the costs are rising and rising and rising. So again, you either qualify for government assistance or you're rich enough to afford whatever you want, or you're in between those two extremes and totally screwed. Politicians keep talking about the middle class and working people like they're demigods, though, don't they?

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Cassiodorus's picture

@HenryAWallace The ACA was designed to save the insurance industry from itself, from the doom predicted for it in John Geyman's (2009) Do Not Resuscitate...

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

@Cassiodorus

only health insurance companies. The first part of the first ACA SCOTUS opinion is not limited to being forced to buy health insurance from private vendors. It relies on the taxing power, which the Constitution does not limit.

For example, it leaves the door open for the Government to require you to buy life insurance or be taxed, lest your spouse and minor or disabled children be dependent on the state. Or something entirely outside the insurance field. Jeans, for example. Shouldn't every American really have at least one pair of this archetypally American garment?

All most Americans grokked was that, thanks Obama and Justice Roberts, we finally have a national health plan of sorts. Hallelujah. But, it was a horrible, horrible decision. Funny thing: Obamacare may go soon, but the holding of that case will live on as precedent when that "buy jeans (or whatever) from private vendors or be taxed" case goes to court. Thanks, Obama.

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@HenryAWallace

... Never in history has a bill forced people to buy something from private vendors, which obligation is enforced by government. ...

Laying the ground for the off-shoring of domestic law to corporations seeking global monopolies and having their own corporate/billionaire-only court where the public interest - including their immediate and ongoing resultant loss of health and lives - could not be considered under corporate law essentially making the public liable, regardless of circumstance, for providing each of thousands of involved corporations and billionaires with their self-estimated maximized profits, as with the TPP and other pre-Fast-Tracked corporate coup 'trade deals' Obama was still pushing until actually leaving public office?

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0 users have voted.

Psychopathy is not a political position, whether labeled 'conservatism', 'centrism' or 'left'.

A tin labeled 'coffee' may be a can of worms or pathology identified by a lack of empathy/willingness to harm others to achieve personal desires.

The Aspie Corner's picture

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Wink's picture

our dead ass. I can't imagine a future that looks a whole lot like the last 35, 40 years. The only way that happens is if we do nothing.

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the little things you can do often are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. All about building progressive media. (-1.9) On Twitter @winkradio.

SparkyGump's picture

so the apathetic masses can see just how terrible it can become. Hopefully, they will wake up and actually vote. There is a left in America but it's been cast aside, ignored and vilified. Bernie awakened a basic yearning for economic justice but Hillary stamped it out in her quest to become queen. Millions said "why bother" and didn't stop to vote on the way home from their McJobs. This gave us Trump. Maybe, enough of the masses learn from the pain that will be dealt to us. Maybe enough people will lose their life savings because of chronic illness (like me) or see a loved one persecuted for being different or their drinking water polluted. Probably not, though, the new season of the Voice is on and we could be famous!

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The real SparkyGump has passed. It was an honor being your human.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@SparkyGump No, America doesn't need Trump. The establishment needs Trump. The Democrats and even the Republicans need Trump. The status quo needs Trump. The media needs Trump. America doesn't need Trump. Any "awakening" brought about by Trump will just be one more way for the status quo to redirect revolutionary energy down safe channels, and eventually redirect that energy toward maintaining itself.

America doesn't need one more revolution against the Big Bad Right-Wing Individual Strongman. The last one we had didn't work. It got us deeper into the shit. So will this one, if we keep buying it. Looks like we're going to.

The best possible chance we have is to get together the people who can see through this, what can I even call it? pro wrestling booking? Punch and Judy show? and start building alternatives to the mainstream. We should have done it long ago.

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

gets called "the left" and "liberal" when they are in fact centrists and neoliberals.

http://caucus99percent.com/content/liberals-must-not-say-liberal-left-pr...

However, I don't think one joins the left, as one joins a club or a political party. Your politics either fit somewhere on the left* continuum or they don't. It's not exactly the same as being an atheist, but I'll venture a inexact comparison: One doesn't join atheism. Your beliefs are either atheistic or not. You may join atheist organizations, but you don't join atheism.

There are communists in America; there are socialists (in the classic sense of government owning and operating the means of production). Their politics qualify them as communists and socialist, whether or not they join the Communist Party or the Socialist Party or some other political organization. Hence the difference between a communist and a "card-carrying Communist" that dumbass McCarthy would make.

And they are certainly on the left, whether or not they formally join a party. For that matter, they could even be communists who are members of the Green Party or the Democratic Party for whatever reason. Also, they can be communists even though communists are not in power, just as one could be a socialist or an anarchist in the last half of the nineteenth century, even though they had little power other than detonating explosives here and there, now and them

That's my take, anyway.

I can think of few, if any, U.S. Senators or members of the House that I would deem left. Even if they talk left, they fall in line with the centrists anyway; and I have to go more by deeds than talk.

But again, it would be nice if there were a good name for "right of communists and classic socialists, but well left of centrists" that the centrists cannot co-opt. Maybe there is no such thing as something they won't co-opt, though. At least, people who posted on topic on the thread linked in this post thought there was no such thing.

*Though it has become the norm to refer to centrists and neoliberals as the left, I don't see them that way and refuse to refer to them as left.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@HenryAWallace

However, I don't think one joins the left, as one joins a club or a political party.

Of course "the 'Left'" is not itself a club or political party -- but there should in fact be organizations that are part of "the 'Left'." Mostly, though, they're part of what Jane Hamsher called the "Veal Pen." They are, in short, auxiliaries of a right-wing Democratic Party.

There are communists in America; there are socialists (in the classic sense of government owning and operating the means of production). Their politics qualify them as communists and socialist, whether or not they join the Communist Party or the Socialist Party or some other political organization.

Being a communist in America is mere cultural politics, nice stuff to proclaim over conversations at the family gathering or on one's Facebook profile. In the US the Communist Party is an adjunct of the Democratic Party, and the Socialist Party is a tiny sectarian entity, so they both fit into the sellouts-or-sectarians pattern described above.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

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@Cassiodorus

it were a club or a political party, I was responding directly to the wording in your essay:

I see people here and elsewhere who call themselves "leftists," as if they had some sort of "Left" to join.

I understood the above language as saying people cannot, or are somehow wrong to, call themselves leftists because there is no left to join. Now, you seem to be saying people cannot, or are wrong to, call themselves leftists if there are no organizations for them to join. And not just organizations, but large organizations. Either way, that was not the operative part of my prior post.

Per my prior post, my view is that being a leftist depends upon one's own political beliefs, views, tenets, etc. and not upon membership in any organization, large or small. I believe the same about being a communist or a socialist. If I were on a desert island, I still would not be a Republican, for example. So, you and I simply seem to have very different definitions of what makes one a leftist, or a communist or a socialist. The Other Maven taught me a new word the other day, "parallax." It may fit this sitch.
.
In any event, what really matters to me is whether people to the left of the centrists, however one wants to define or name people to the left of the centrists, have any chance whatever of impacting anything significant.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@HenryAWallace Calling yourself a "leftist" without any serious Left politics is like calling yourself a Dodgers fan and insisting that there is some sort of real meaning to that.

Like, whatev.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Cassiodorus More like calling yourself a Brooklyn Dodgers fan Smile and insisting there's meaning to that.

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

a thing as leftist principles.

Even if the Brooklyn Dodgers don't exist, I suppose one can be a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Go to auctions, buy memorabilia, etc.

I don't think fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers' claim that their being Brooklyn Dodgers' fan means something nationally. It's just what they are. If I were to worship petunias, I'd be a petunia worshipper, wouldn't I, even if it meant nothing to anyone else? The notion that something is wrong or odd about labeling one's own set of political beliefs unless there is some sort of large organization of similar believers is, um, a new one on me. I don't think one has a thing to do with the other. You can say leftist are not powerful and I would agree. But saying I can't label myself a leftist or a populist unless leftists or populists in general are powerful is just wrong.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Cassiodorus It is religion.

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

@Cassiodorus

Okay. It's not parallax or different prisms or just my take. It's not poetry. There is a right answer. I apologize for misleading in an attempt to be diplomatic.

My labeling my self leftist or populist or communist or whatever has nothing to do with whether it's harmless or not. It also has nothing to do with national politics or organizations or the size of organizations. It also has nothing to do with whether or not I am powerful or whether leftists are powerful. I am not claiming any of those things. I am also not claiming that my being leftist (or whatever name) is meaningful. Every one of those is a deflection.

I am simply labeling my own politics for what they are. And I tend to choose the words leftist or populist, because as I said in the essay to which I linked you, finding a name that distinguishes my beliefs from those of, say, Obama or Kerry is nigh impossible.

Someone calling himself or herself a Christian in Syria or a Muslim in Tonga does not depend upon whether Syria has sizeable Christian organizations or even a single other Christian or whether Syrians are persecuted or powerful in Syria. No matter what is going on in the country, a Christian does not become a Christian because of gaining power in a country or cease being a Christian because they have become weak in relation to their countrymen. It's simply about labeling one's own beliefs, principles, values and tenets. Same for being a leftist, a centrist or a rightist, That is correct.

You seem to be saying that I cannot be a leftist, or call myself a leftist, unless the left is powerful in the US or unless my being a left is meaningful nationally for some other reason. That is not correct. What I am has nothing to do with a single other person.
As I posted to CStS: "You can say leftists are not powerful nationally and I would agree. But saying I can't label my own beliefs leftist or populist unless leftists or populists in general are powerful is just wrong." Also, an individual being a leftist and leftist politics in general are two separate concepts.

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Cassiodorus's picture

@HenryAWallace on the part of the diary where I said:

Nancy Fraser's essay "Rethinking the Public Sphere" (pp. 109-142 of Craig Calhoun's edited volume Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993)) argues for a distinction in our use of the term "public," between strong publics, comprised of people empowered to make political decisions, and weak publics, who are capable only of political spectatorship. In the political order I've outlined so far, the first two groups are strong publics, and the third group is only a potential strong public.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@HenryAWallace So you agree with me that it's basically the same as religion--a description of individual beliefs.

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Wink's picture

@Cassiodorus
Left, otherwise C-99 wouldn't exist. There would be no need.

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the little things you can do often are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. All about building progressive media. (-1.9) On Twitter @winkradio.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Wink Opinion seems to be divided between those who think the Left doesn't exist and those who think it will exist no matter what because WE exist.

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Cassiodorus's picture

@Wink we should fill an arena with a group rendition of "We Are The Left," sung to the tune of "We Are The World":

For now we should open a boutique in a strip mall in suburban Portland.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Wink's picture

@Cassiodorus
10% of the thousands that showed up at Bernie Events last year, and that's a good 35,000 or more. At least. Enough to fill a decent size arena. The Left is out there. Herding them has proven to be impossible. Something The Right knows.

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the little things you can do often are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. All about building progressive media. (-1.9) On Twitter @winkradio.

Cassiodorus's picture

@Wink that Bernie is merely a deviant conservative, as suggested in this diary...

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Wink's picture

@Cassiodorus
ten (Reps and Senators) that are more to the Left than Bernie. And thinking... and thinking...
That's Not to say that Bernie's a flamer. But, he's hardly more conservative than those ten are. And, any other flamers inside the Beltway don't have a spine, enjoying their quiet solitude while Rome burns, apparently. Bernie may not be the progressive we want. But he's the only one that's close. Any wannabees remain silent. There's at least 35,000 Berniecrat Leftys out there. Likely closer to 100,000. Getting them to the same place at the same time? That's the trick.

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the little things you can do often are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. All about building progressive media. (-1.9) On Twitter @winkradio.

Cassiodorus's picture

@Wink about what sort of damage to his own reputation Bernie Sanders inflicted by endorsing and campaigning for Hillary Clinton?

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Wink's picture

@Cassiodorus
Mostly becuz I never ever heard him say, "I wholeheartedly endorse Her Highness for president..... " I heard him say "I Support Her Highness....," barely containg himself from coughing, but I never heard him say endorse. Now, that might be quivling, quibbling over semantics, but most people in Bernie's position, making the speech Bernie made in Philly, use the word endorse.
Well, that, and the fact that, for all of his -ahem- "support," he barely did any of that on the campaign trail, instead did as little "support" as possible. So, no, it doesn't bother me much. Well, at all. Politics being politics, and not knowing the circumstances surrounding Bernie's "support," I give him the benefit of any doubt about his bonafides. And, maybe if there were another to stand up as Bernie has, maybe with more solid bonafides, that view might change. But there ain't one. Bernie is what we got. And, for me, that ain't bad. Hell, the best we've had in 40 years!

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the little things you can do often are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. All about building progressive media. (-1.9) On Twitter @winkradio.

Cassiodorus's picture

@Wink all the nice Democrats voted for NEOLIBERALS, like the "Left" they aren't. Sorry. My claim stands: claiming to be a "leftist" in America is like claiming to be a Dodger fan, and is about as important.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Wink's picture

@Cassiodorus
no Chomskys. I guess it all depends on ones mileage. As a -2.1 / -2.1 "Liberal" I find most elected Dems to be to the Right of my measly bonafides. But, that doesn't mean there aren't PLENTY of -3.6's out there. That's Lefty enough for me, but as I said, mileage may vary. I wouldn't - and dont - necessarily consider -2s or -3s or -4s NeoLibs. NeoLib tends to describe ones economic leanings. As a lowly -2 I supported Bernie, not Hillary. There are a whole bunch of -2s out there that I would consider progressive if not liberal. But then there's that mileage thing again. For all my lack of liberal bonafides Daily Kos found me Way too liberal and Bojo'd my butt, so... It's all in the eye of the beerholder.

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the little things you can do often are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. All about building progressive media. (-1.9) On Twitter @winkradio.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Cassiodorus I'm not sure that I agree with you that the nostalgic portion of Bernie's politics makes his politics conservative. Given that for the past 30 years there has been next to no left-wing activity in federal politics, or even in gubernatorial politics, nor has there been any in the media, in that the corporate media not only does not produce left-wing shows (such as All in the Family, or Welcome Back, Kotter, or hell, even The Jeffersons or The Mary Tyler Moore Show or Alice) but also ignores or even misrepresents the left whenever it is talking directly about politics--given this level of repression for nearly two generations, one surely must talk about the 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s, 20s....the alternative would be to throw away the history of the Left altogether. I do think that rather than simply trying to get back there, it would be better to create something new and embed it in a historical context.

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Cassiodorus's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal who thinks that maybe he could get you something for having sold out, like $11 billion for clinics attached to the ACA, which is what he got. I'm sure it's totally worth the hundreds of dollars I send insurance companies every month for a policy which would demand hundreds more before it actually benefited me. Otherwise, yeah, he's one of these cultural "Leftists" who talks up a good game and makes a good posture or two but whose actions say that the status quo is fine. Kind of like how he's an "independent" so that real independents would have to cut the same deal that he did with the Democratic Party to stay in business.

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"Earth/Gaia is maker and destroyer, not resource to be exploited or ward to be protected or nursing mother promising nourishment." - Donna Haraway

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@HenryAWallace I did suggest the term "socialism." In the United States, I doubt they will co-opt that.

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

it is problematic for other reasons. For example, I define socialism as government owning the means of production, which is the classic and original definition. How do you define it? The Scandinavian model?

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@HenryAWallace Technically, as the workers owning the means of production--I'd also include, at this stage of history, workers controlling dissemination/distribution (it doesn't help to own the means of production if you have no control over distribution). How the workers choose to do that--through what kinds of organizations or bureaucracy--is left to be determined. And that's the difficulty of it. But there are surely versions of socialism which don't accord with Leninism or Stalinism, or the gigantic, corrupt edifices that followed, and if we don't like the ones that have existed in the past, we could invent more.

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

future is if they pitch in together and buyout their employers. That has happened, especially when companies go bankrupt. Delta employees bought Delta Airlines at one point. But, then, they become the owners and they sell their shares to outsiders or pass on and leave them to their kids, etc. So, the company doesn't stay worker owned.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@HenryAWallace There's no reason it couldn't. Their choice.

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

future, anyway,it will be their choice. And I believe that most people are unlikely to choose to hand over something for which they paid to strangers for free, just because they themselves are leaving the company or making out a will.

I guess you could, at the time of the original purchase, require every holder and future holder of shares give active workers in the company some kind of right of first refusal. Sometimes, the workers will be able to afford to buy; sometimes, they won't. Eventually, active workers may be minority owners out financial necessity.

I don't see the government forcing them anyone to buy or sell in the foreseeable future. If it did, that might be a taking with due process, aka unconstitutional. And without government involvement, I am not sure it's socialism. The Delta buyout by Delta employees wasn't socialism.

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@HenryAWallace

Democratic Socialist? As in the way that Canada was heading prior to being hijacked by NAFTA?

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Psychopathy is not a political position, whether labeled 'conservatism', 'centrism' or 'left'.

A tin labeled 'coffee' may be a can of worms or pathology identified by a lack of empathy/willingness to harm others to achieve personal desires.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

Everybody is whatever they think they are. Of course, when they define themselves, they will almost certainly look to society for commonly used definitions, and probably will do that without even noticing that they've done it.

If enough people assume that Hillary Clinton, for instance, is "Left," then that's what "Left" will mean. We're pretty close to that, as you pointed out in your recent diary. Without Bernie (whatever his faults), we'd be there now.

If that's what "Left" means, then we have a univocal politics. A Punch and Judy show, a pretend fight between, as Cass says, different versions of conservatism.

Now while that's happening, you might have plenty of people out there who believe the things that used to be classified as "Left," but they'll have few or no words to describe that to themselves, and certainly no way to label themselves, which means no way to conceive of their beliefs as part of a linked structure. What I mean by that is that you might support Fight for 15, but without an ideology, that would be connected to no other issues. And they will have greater difficulty finding others with shared views or creating any persistent political organization.

I'm not sure people often take political power without having at least some kind of shared political philosophy, or something close to it--enough people agreeing on enough parts of a political philosophy to take action together, usually forming a group or groups and giving their shared ideology and groups names, which become their form of visibility in the culture at large.

Without the ability to have an ideology and name it, there is no visibility, no definition, and eventually, little or no ability to conceive of an opposition.

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The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

I'm so sick of that mechanism that it might end up creating in me an actual disgust for binary oppositions of all kinds, which would be a shame, given that binaries are a fundamental part of the human thinking machine. Difficult to do without them.

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3 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

gendjinn's picture

For decades here I've tried striking up casual conversations about politics and 99% of the time people never are interested. That has changed in the last six months, people are either already engaged, or they are starting to, or they know they have to and want to.

I think there is an element of demographics to this - Millennials are finally old enough to have enough voters to form an alliance with Gen X to form a progressive plurality/majority. They also ain't buying the shit the Dems are serving either. It's Sanders positions at a minimum and the lefter the better is the sentiment.

People are waking up and Trumpcare is really going to shake some shit loose.

Things appear darkest right before dawn.

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