The Radical American Left

There actually is a radical left in America. It's not the "Berniecrat Leftists" in the Democratic Party and the infinitesimal amount of coverage radical leftists get in the M$M is limited to dismissive name calling.

Antifa is in the news for relatively innocuous episodes of "violent" vandalism. There is a new book out by Mark Bray that explains Antifa and he was interviewed at Truthout:

Before analyzing anti-fascism, we must first briefly examine fascism. More than perhaps any other mode of politics, fascism is notoriously difficult to pin down. The challenge of defining fascism stems from the fact that it "began as a charismatic movement" united by an "experience of faith" in direct opposition to rationality and the standard constraints of ideological precision. Mussolini explained that his movement did "not feel tied to any particular doctrinal form." "Our myth is the nation," he asserted, "and to this myth, to this grandeur we subordinate all the rest." As historian Robert Paxton argued, fascists "reject any universal value other than the success of chosen peoples in a Darwinian struggle for primacy."

That's a very accurate description of the political force behind Trump's election.

Quoting Paxton again:

Paxton defines fascism as:

... a form of political behavior marked by obsessive pre-occupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

Mark Bray on American Antifa:

Some antifa groups are more Marxist while others are more anarchist or antiauthoritarian. In the United States, most have been anarchist or antiauthoritarian since the emergence of modern antifa under the name Anti-Racist Action (ARA) in the late eighties.

. . .

Despite such differences, the antifa I interviewed agreed that such ideological differences are usually subsumed in a more general strategic agreement on how to combat the common enemy.

The preferred tactic of Antifa:

Most of the anti-fascists I interviewed also spend a great deal of their time on other forms of politics (e.g., labor organizing, squatting, environmental activism, antiwar mobilization, or migrant solidarity work). In fact, the vast majority would rather devote their time to these productive activities than have to risk their safety and well-being to confront dangerous neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Antifa act out of collective self-defense.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/43482-the-importance-of-antifa-in-con...

Here's a link to a follow-up interview with some additional details:

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/43510-at-its-core-anti-fascism-is-...

There is also an active Communist Party USA led by Bob Avakian:

http://revcom.us/revolution/current-en.html?1

To give everyone an idea of how centrist the Democratic Socialists of America are by global standards, here's a critique of Noam Chomsky and David Harvey from the World Socialist Website:

This takes the form of a petition organised by Noam Chomsky and other fake-left figures and academics, including the pseudo-Marxist David Harvey, calling for the US to intervene to guarantee the safety of the people of the northern Syrian city of Afrin and its surrounding region against a military invasion by neighbouring Turkey.

The petition is now being eagerly joined by pseudo-left organisations and individuals around the world in what is another example of the “human rights imperialism” that has come to form the modus operandi of these forces.

A technical condemnation of Chomsky based on an historical Marxist analysis is followed by this:

Similar, but not identical, issues apply in the case of David Harvey. He presents himself as a critic of capitalism and its depredations, claiming to draw upon Marx. But his Marxism is of a purely academic character. Running through all his writings, above all when addressing the vital question, “What is to be done?”, is a persistent theme.

The working class is not the sole revolutionary force created by capitalism through the wages system, whose historical task is its overthrow. Other social forces, based on identity politics or various protest movements, must play a leading role. He continually inveighs against what he considers to be the one-sided focus of Marxism on the revolutionary role of the proletariat.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/02/06/chom-f06.html

"Other social forces, based on identity politics or various protest movements, must play a leading role"? All righty then. You can put me down in the centrist faux left category with Noam Chomsky and David Harvey.

[Edit to add a link to a David Harvey article]:

Consolidating Power: David Harvey: “The left has to rethink its theoretical and tactical apparatus.”

https://roarmag.org/magazine/david-harvey-consolidating-power

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Not Henry Kissinger's picture

Antifa is in the news for relatively innocuous episodes of "violent" vandalism.

Innocuous violence is like being a little bit pregnant.

Also, why the quotes? Violence is violence, and any movement that celebrates violence as a political tactic is not one I can support.

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The drama of the deep state in full factional meltdown makes Mario Puzo look like a dime store hack.

Meteor Man's picture

@Not Henry Kissinger @Not Henry Kissinger @Not Henry Kissinger
I put "violent" in quotes to distinguish property damage from assault, battery and physical violence that results in death. The J20 prosecution is an example of overcharging protesters for property damage:

In an indictment issued in April, each of the more than 200 defendants at the time were charged with at least 8 felonies each–riot, inciting a riot, conspiracy to riot and multiple counts of property destruction. But, on Wednesday, Judge Leibovitz corrected the ‘engaging in riot’ and ‘conspiracy to riot’ charges by reducing them to misdemeanors. Each defendant is still facing as much as 60 years in prison.

http://defendj20resistance.org/2017/11/02/judge-reduces-two-felony-charg...

And:

The defendants have had to spend thousands of dollars each traveling to DC, often for cancelled hearings. They have had to miss work while incurring additional costs securing housing and other resources in Washington, DC.

Altogether, this adds up to well over the already inflated $100,000 that the government claims was caused in property damage on J20, almost all of which was covered by insurance.

https://crimethinc.com/2017/12/21/justice-for-all-the-j20-defendants-the...

[Edit to add further details:]

The charge carried a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment because of the total cost of damage caused by the individuals who smashed windows as the six defendants in court Wednesday walked nearby.

There must have been additional vandalism to total $100k, but broken windows alone does not seem like "violent vandalism" to me, not to mention that these particular defendants we're simply walking past the vandalism.

https://thinkprogress.org/judge-strikes-felony-charge-j20-bc4904dcc9d7/

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

Not Henry Kissinger's picture

@Meteor Man @Meteor Man during a political protest is not the same as excusing it.

Lotsa reasons not to prosecute including the possibilities of agent provocateurs and the pretextual round up of bystanders, journalists, and others not directly implicated in the acts themselves (as happened here).

You argue a very slippery slope, though, in trying to normalize the use of violence in political discourse. After all, they called Kristalnacht the 'Night of the Broken Glass' but it was a lot more than just breaking windows.

From where I sit, there is very little daylight in both the ideologies and methods between Antifa and the Fascists they seek to counter.

Both:

  1. Believe in the genetic superiority of certain people over others.
  2. Seek not to change the existing system as much as usurp the power of it.
  3. Advocate the use of violence and suppression of speech to achieve these aims.

I no more want to see an America run by Antifa than I do one run by Fascists. They are just two sides of the same intolerant coin.

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The drama of the deep state in full factional meltdown makes Mario Puzo look like a dime store hack.

Meteor Man's picture

@Not Henry Kissinger

Both:

Believe in the genetic superiority of certain people over others.
Seek not to change the existing system as much as usurp the power of it.
Advocate the use of violence and suppression of speech to achieve these aims.

I'm not sure what your source is, but I have to question your conclusions.

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

Not Henry Kissinger's picture

@Meteor Man

What don't you agree with?

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The drama of the deep state in full factional meltdown makes Mario Puzo look like a dime store hack.

Meteor Man's picture

@Not Henry Kissinger
I would hazard a guess that the conclusions you presented are the reason Mark Bray wrote his book.

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

Not Henry Kissinger's picture

@Meteor Man @Meteor Man

specious appeals to authority, let me ask you:

Who is Mark Bray, and why should I follow his doctrine of violent political action rather than the doctrine of nonviolence as promoted by MLK and Gandhi?

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The drama of the deep state in full factional meltdown makes Mario Puzo look like a dime store hack.

Meteor Man's picture

@Not Henry Kissinger
You are missing the point of my OP that Berniecrats are NOT radical leftists. I have no more idea about the whole truth behind Antifa than anybody else who is not an Antifa insider.

Mark Bray may be a Breitbart provocateur for all I know. To some extent I am relying on the editors at Truthout to evaluate his credibility and credentials for writing a book on Antifa.

I have never even seen a suggestion that Antifa believes in genetic superiority and it sounds like an accusation from way out in far right field.

I'm done here. Peace Out.

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

Not Henry Kissinger's picture

@Meteor Man @Meteor Man @Meteor Man @Meteor Man

I have never even seen a suggestion that Antifa believes in genetic superiority

How many diaries and comments per day discount the value of a political opinion based solely on the race and/or gender of the person making it? With some of the most virulently demeaning screeds made by the proprietor himself.

It's the very definition of a genetic unter/uber menschen mentality. That somehow a class with one set of chromosomes or another has more right to an opinion than others.

It's also a completely absurd idea and certainly no ideological basis on which to govern a country.

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The drama of the deep state in full factional meltdown makes Mario Puzo look like a dime store hack.

Wink's picture

difference between
breaking windows and
breaking somebody's face.
@Not Henry Kissinger
One is violence, the other
is vandalism. The M$M apparently preferred to use the word violence for vandalism.
Aren't they special.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

Not Henry Kissinger's picture

@Wink @Wink

History shows that one almost always leads to the other.

Once you decide it's OK to start smashing things to make your political point, the differences between those things becomes less and less important.

Besides, it's not as if Antifa itself has made any distinction between violence against property and people. Quite the contrary as a matter of fact.

Not to mention that violent protests simply serve to discredit otherwise peaceful protests, which is actually the true underlying purpose of the people running these militant groups in the first place.

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The drama of the deep state in full factional meltdown makes Mario Puzo look like a dime store hack.

QMS's picture

@Not Henry Kissinger the gestapo will allow violence, as long as it suits the law-enforce-mentors. Stand against the official playbook and watch all hell break loose. Not about equal protection under the law. Useful hate goes unabated. Saves em from having to tie so many nooses.

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Intelligence is being redefined as the ability to repeat ever more complex instructions.

@Meteor Man Sorry, but that makes no sense. Vandalism indicates you are speaking of property damage. How violent could modify that term (unless it is an attempt to minimize the vandalism itself) is beyond reason.

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arendt's picture

I insert this seemingly off-topic comment in your thread because I question the genuineness of Antifa, which just happened to appear at the height of the Democratic primary and was used to discredit the "looney left". Since then, it has fallen completely off the radar and has done nothing in public that has shown up on my radar. It smells of a well-funded psyop, not a genuine political movement.

Back to the results of the googling. The stories show a completely partisan distribution.

If the stories come from the right, they are convinced that Soros is funding Antifa, BLM, and lots of other "threats" to freedom.

If the stories come from the left, they insist Soros is a public spirited philanthropist and huge supporter of women's rights.

I can't generate any solid evidence to support either position. I can generate piles of evidence that Soros was up to his eyeballs in the Ukranian coup d'etat, and that he is a kneejerk hater of Russia (as opposed to a hater of Communism, which is OK).

Bottom line: I have more questions about the genuineness of Antifa than about its ideology.

That said, I do note your deep exegesis about the nature of fascism. I agree with a lot of that. Perhaps you could read my essay posted a few minutes ago, about "The Age of Anger". It also touches on the nature of anti-establishment protests, whether of the right or of the left.

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Meteor Man's picture

@arendt
I also was not endorsing The Communist Party USA. The point of my OP was that Berniecrat Dems are neither far left nor radical.

I'm skeptical that Antifa actually constitutes a genuine political movement. As far as I can tell it is a small loosely knit group of pissed off leftists.

I completely agree that Antifa has been used to demonize legitimate protesters and their issues as coming from "the loony left".

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

arendt's picture

@Meteor Man

Yes, whatever Bernie started out as, he has become another sheepdog.

He always had a completely conventional, pro-war, pro-Israel foreign policy. He started out having some solid old New Deal ideals; and he did, for a moment, change the conversation and show that there was a huge constituency for his social programs.

I think Communist Parties at this point are as relevant as the Whig Party. However, Marxist analysis is a different story. I think the tone was set by Thomas Piketty's book, "Capital", in which he said (paraphrasing) Marx had the diagnosis correct but the prescription wrong. I think that neoliberalism is completely open to a Marxist critique.

I did like David Harvey's book on Neoliberalism; but I am sad to hear that he and Chomsky (could write a book on that man's contradictions - which appear to him as extremely logical conclusions) endorsed some BS about Afrin at this late date when it should be obvious that the USA/KSA/Israel have been raping Syria for seven years and refuse to stop.

Its so hard to know how many transgressions are allowed before one must stop thinking that a public figure is "on your side". Chomsky did some great work. The man is 85+ years old. (Harvey is 82.) I can cut them some slack for having difficulty dealing with the non-stop propaganda barrage after all these decades.

But, my question is: where are the 60 year old lefties, 50 year old lefties, 40 year old lefties? Have they all been completely banned by the corporate media, the Overton Window, and the general assault on all things vaguely socialist?

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TheOtherMaven's picture

@arendt

Victor Hugo had drawn the same conclusion back when he and Marx were actively writing, around the mid-19th century. He worked his analysis into one of his digressive essays that constantly interrupt the plot of Les Miserables. But - he didn't have a solution to the problems either.

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There is no justice. There can be no peace.

@arendt

Its so hard to know how many transgressions are allowed before one must stop thinking that a public figure is "on your side".

I know this is just a small point on the larger issue you're making, but that struck me as one of the biggest questions out there and it's something no two people would agree on. It's what bugs me about the whole "purity test" smear that people use. How can someone decide what's a valid compromise for someone else? It's hard enough to make that call when you're the one looking at it. It's not fair to impose one's own basis on someone else.

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Wink's picture

on social media.
Not so much anywhere else.
@Meteor Man
But I can almost guarantee
they show up if Bernie shows
up sounding like a candidate.

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the little things you can do are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. On Twitter @wink1radio. (-1.9) All about building progressive media.

call myself a marxist (and no self-respecting marxist would call me a marxist, either).

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Sigh

Meteor Man's picture

@UntimelyRippd
I'm not too sure self respecting Marxists agree on who is or is not a self respecting Marxist. The few Marxists I have talked to are too wrapped up in Marxist semantics to make much sense.

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

arendt's picture

@Meteor Man
..a Marxist. Piketty is the only example I have.

But the labor theory of value is still relevant, despite all the BS about the new economy. The declining rate of profit (and all the financial gimmicks used to save the 1% from that inconvenient truth) is very relevant.

LTV is like a lot of Progressive law, things like monopoly rent, earned versus unearned income.

We can't let the neoliberals throw all that in the dustbin as they re-animate the Guilded Era.

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Meteor Man's picture

@arendt @arendt
His economic critique has stood the test of time exceptionally well. I've just read summaries and thumbed through it years ago. I recently read that Volume 2 of Das Kapital has been overlooked and did not even know there were three volumes.

My biggest complaint with contemporary Marxists is that they are tied to Marx's antiquated lexicon. If you can't explain the theory in reasonably plain English it's useless. The dismal science of economics is obtuse enough to start with.

I'm a fan of Stiglitz, Piketty, Saez and Thorstein Veblen.

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

arendt's picture

@Meteor Man

The archaic verbiage still spouted by Marxists is off-putting/creepy. Sort of like the 19th century garb worn by polygamous Mormon wives (old shirt dresses, zero grooming products) or Hassidics (black fedoras, black coats) as a mark of their blind obedience to dictates that were never expressed in Scripture.

The theory has merit. It can and must be expressed in modern terms. I think I will go see what the MMT crowd has to say about Marxist analysis.

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QMS's picture

@arendt I have with the WSWS in David North. Marxist this and Trotsky that. Can we get beyond historical framing and deal what is current?

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Intelligence is being redefined as the ability to repeat ever more complex instructions.

Meteor Man's picture

@QMS
It is way past time to move past the lessons of the Russian Revolution.

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"They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war." Howard Zinn

@Meteor Man
constrain yourself to a formal structure, you're seriously limiting the range of your imagination.

this is more obvious in the humanities than in the social sciences.

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Big Al's picture

this stuff. Maybe I'm not smart enough. I see a lot of big words and no real solutions. So I'll probably miss the point. All I know is I looked up the definition of radical vs. progressive and determined that relative to politics, I was a radical, at least in what I think should happen. But I'm not sure everyone reads the definitions anymore.

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I don't find the definitions of fascism offered here to be very useful. In fact, (ironically?), they carry a huge dose of bourgeois anxiety about the proletariat. if the mere act of acknowledging the injustices and suffering of the working class and offering a governmental solution carries the taint of fascism, then that definition of prevents populist reform, organizing and activism, etc. How does the early 20th century labor movement, for example, avoid the label fascist under these definitions? Hell, it even has a wide violent streak to contend with.

As for sanders being radical, I don't think anyone has rationally made that claim. Yes, his detractors tried to paint him that way, but his listeners understood he was merely espousing new deal principles, principles that were passed down for generations among the middle, working, and poor classes.

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