Tag Archives: the left

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “I Killed Rosa Luxemburg”

For those who don’t get it, the admittedly labored joke in the title has to do with soon to be Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proudly identifying as a member of the Democrat Socialists of America, or DSA for short.

The overwhelming majority who are not up to speed on these matters will ask “What’s the problem?”
The answer, mavenite sophisticates of Marxist lore will be glad to inform you, has to do with the DSA’s history going back its organizational forebears in the German Social Democratic Party.  The latter was and is notorious within the left for having suppressed the Spartacist uprising and murdering the leadership of German communist party (KPD) including, most famously, Rosa Luxemburg.

But what does this history have to do with the present?

The answer to that is best expressed with an emoji \_(ツ)_/¯

That’s because most active DSA members derive from a variety of left tendencies.  They (or I should say “we” since I just rejoined the organization) work within it based on its proven record of success in advancing broadly held left objectives such as single payer, a $15 minimum wage, abolishing ICE, protecting minority communities from the police abuse not to mention its decisive role in the Ocasio-Cortez campaign. Probably most members have some idea that Rosa Luxemburg is a martyr and left icon.  But few detect any relevance of this increasingly distant past to the present, similar to volunteers with Catholic Charities not seeing much connection between their soup kitchens and the murderous activities of 12th and 13th century  popes.

But there are those who do care about the connection. For them, it is always 1919, and any organization calling itself social democratic is what the KPD referred to them: “social fascists”, opportunists looking for any opportunity to undermine the power of the working class.

Or, to take at random various facebook postings on the subject  “Ebert was a social democrat who used the freikorps to kill her and LIEBNECKT to Stop revolution. That social democrats do they fight communists for the bosses. (sic)” Or “They are not ‘leftist’. They are conservatives in disguise.” Or “A good liberal Democrat. Meaningless. Fake socialist.” Or “I do appreciate the fact that more people are interested in socialism, but I do not support bourgeois candidates or muddying the water. “

Fair enough, you might say.  Everyone has a right to their opinion.  But there is more to it in that most of those taking this line (and it is a party line) belong to one of the alphabet soup of Marxist, Lenninist, Trotstkyite or Maoist sects which have been a feature of the left political landscape for as long as I can remember.

Having written about them before (e.g. here and here) I won’t mention any specifics though I would recommend for those interested Norman Finkelstein’s wonderfully entertaining brief memoir of his days as a “fervent Maoist” some three decades ago.

For years mired in almost complete dysfunctionality and irrelevance, a viable socialist organization of the sort which DSA represents would almost certainly be the coup de grace finally dispatching them into oblivion.

Their increasingly hysterical attacks on a brilliant, charismatic and principled Puerto Rican woman is nothing more than -the death throes of the old as the new is being born.

I for one am thrilled that the baton is being passed and that the future of the left-and the nation-is being placed in their hands.

Eight Theses on the “Revolutionary Left”

1. While they are habitually conflated by the corporate media, that there is a difference between leftists and liberals is obvious: in fact, the former regard the latter as weak allies at best mortal enemies at worst, never to be trusted in either case.

2. Furthermore, basic intellectual honesty requires recognizing that leftists are generally right: liberals do indeed have plenty to answer for, Adolph Reed’s classic essay on the subject providing a litany for those who need to be acquainted with the relevant data.

3. That said, the recognition that liberals are fully deserving of contempt needs to be immediately followed by the equally obvious fact that over the years, it has not been exclusively liberals who have been undermining left objectives. Self described “radical” or “revolutionary” leftists have done their part to drive the left into the ditch we are inhabiting and to advance the prospects of the right.


4. Those of sufficient age will remember grotesque human rights abuses by totalitarian states routinely ignored or explained away by self-described left revolutionaries. Now categorized by the useful term “tankies” (a reference to the hardware deployed in military repression of satellite regimes), their denial of the obvious or their pretzel logic used to defend the indefensible would inflict profound damage to the credibility of the left-damage from which it has yet to fully recover from.

5. While their numbers have been substantially diminished since, the tankies’ descendents, indeed, the tankies themselves, continue to solidier on, albeit figuratively rather than literally within certain outposts of the left. One organization where they have managed to obtain a foothold has been as a dissident faction of the Democratic Socialists of America. In this “entryist” capacity they have promoted their now well worn, traditional “unwillingness (to be) participants in sham bourgeoise ‘democracy”. Applying this to the recent election, they declared themselves “under no obligation” to defeat Trump, thereby joining several other constituencies (including Clintonite neoliberals) in clearing the way for the rightwing nightmare we are living in.

6. Their decision to abstain from participation was, they claimed, based on a principled objection to “collaborating with capitalist politicians.” But this principle was somewhat flexible, to put it charitably. That’s because, not so long before, many of them were collaborating with neoliberal Democrats in helping to undermine the candidacy of the declared socialist, Bernie Sanders. Smears manufactured by the Democratic Party leadership in its successful effort to beat back a challenge to its hegemony would be routinely forwarded by left revolutionaries. These included Sanders supposed “problems with black voters”, the “casual racism” and even white supremacist tendencies of his Berniebro or “Sandernista” supporters. That these emanated from both the far left and neoliberal Clintonite center was indicative of a shared recognition that a viable left insurgency constituted a threat to the organizational existence of both.

7. That 4-6 are not just history but fully relevant to the present is apparent in the revolutionary left’s transferring its opposition from the “imperialist” Bernie Sanders to “people like Bernie Sanders”, namely those who were inspired by his campaign and are continuing to advance its agenda. One these is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez whose remarkable campaign has become locus of an massive organizing effort uniting behind her many formerly warring factions of the left.

Most conspicuously, among those endorsing are the iconic liberal organizations Move On and the Howard Dean successor organization Democracy for America. These have been the target of much derision from the left, the mere mention of which a guarantee of snickers at the Left Forum, Socialism and Historical Materialism conferences and from the alphabet soup of self-proclaimed revolutionary left organizations.

8. And these same organizations are on the sidelines, doing nothing to advance the candidacy of Ocasio and other left candidacies which, as neoliberal elites are fully aware, consitute the first viable  threat to four decades of neoliberal hegemony. It is rational elements of the left allied with the liberal center who are now working to advance the movement. Revolutionaries, their fantasies notwithstanding, are functioning, at best, as a minor, but perhaps not insignificant obstacle.

Can someone remind me why I am supposed to regard them as left “allies” and liberals as the enemy?

Was the “Left” Steve Bannon’s Useful Idiot?

Carol Cadwalladr’s Guardian report along with several others deriving from Christopher Wylie’s disclosures form the tip of an iceberg whose dimensions are yet to be fully determined. My prediction, for what it’s worth, is that when the dirty laundry of 2016 is fully aired, the following will be taken for granted as historical fact.

1) The Mercer/Bannon/Cambridge Analytica connection will be found to have been significant and quite possibly decisive in Trump’s victory.

2) CA’s central objective was, of course, a) to actively encourage potential Trump supporters to participate in the campaign. However, just as significant, and consistent with Republican strategy since Nixon, was b) to discourage participation of core components of the DP base.

Continue reading Was the “Left” Steve Bannon’s Useful Idiot?

Ugly is as Ugly Does

image of eric alterman

A recent Facebook exchange brought to mind what always struck me as a significant etymological fact having to do with the German word for ugly.

That word is “hässlich,” an adjective derived from the verb “hasse” which is literally translated as to hate.

When we derive adjectives, an ambiguity is sometimes created in that the characteristics of the adjective can be projected onto either the implied subject or the object of the verb. This is apparent, for example, in the English adjectives “tolerant” and “tolerable.” The former designates an individual who is able to tolerate other individuals or situations while the latter refers to a person or thing able to be tolerated.In the case of hässlich, the adjective is generally understood as referring to the object, namely, a hated person or thing, more or less equivalent to the English word “hateful.”

But also possible is a translation of the adjective which attributes hateable characteristics to the subject. Those who reflexively hate are, by this definition, ugly. All this is directly relevant to a comment on my previous posting which weighed in in support of Eric Alterman’s despicable albeit impressively honest admission that he’s “totally cool with . . Trump voters los(ing) their health insurance, their clean air and water . . . Fuck their economic insecurity.”  Asserting her belief that “Eric is right” the commenter went on to note that we “couldn’t pay (her) enough to be concerned about their well being.”

That the commenter was a self-described revolutionary Marxist was one more data point supporting the conclusion that while professing much mutual contempt for each other, the neoliberal and radical left share common ground, among other things, in their contempt for those who voted for Donald Trump.

Another point of comparison has to do with affective style as much as substance. So suffused with hatred is this combined leftist element that they couldn’t stifle their id for a brief moment-parading the ugliness of their views for all to see. These were made more pronounced by the season when even the least charitable are expected to at least give lip service to the gospel sentiment of “peace on earth and goodwill towards men.

While they are, of course, the last to recognize their own ugliness, anyone who has experienced their outbursts has a good visceral sense of it.

And those tendencies, I submit, have a lot to do with why we lose.

But ugliness in the sense in which it seems applicable here is, fortunately, not an inherent characteristic which we are powerless to fight against.

Rather it is a common behavior which we have the collective ability to control.Doing so would go a long way towards building the foundation on which we will need to wake up from the perpetual nightmare we will be living through for the foreseeable future.

Guest Post by Daniel Falcone: John Halle Discusses Electoral Politics, Noam Chomsky, and the Core Commitments of the Enlightenment

John Halle is the Director of Studies in Music Theory and Practice at Bard College Conservatory of Music, a position he assumed after serving for ten years in the music department at Yale University. As an active composer and theorist, his scholarship focuses on connections between the mental representation of language and music. Halle is also known for his political writings and collaboration with Noam Chomsky. Along with Chomsky, he co-authored, An Eight Point Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting), a widely read essay, in the summer of 2016.

In this interview, Halle explains the need to engage in electoral politics while maintaining a high level of skepticism for the paternalistic elites found in both dominant political parties. Further, Halle makes observations of how those on the left can more adequately reevaluate their relationship with activism, protest and revolution. Halle explains how this all can fit into creating a viable and workable policy agenda that can be moved forward until radical structural reform of the current system is achieved. Many of these ideas culminate from his discussions with Chomsky (a family friend).

Daniel Falcone: Should people be more engaged in electoral politics now with the Trump Administration in office? Many have been reluctant to do so in the past. Here, I’m basically expressing the need to strategically vote against Republicans. What are your thoughts?

Continue reading Guest Post by Daniel Falcone: John Halle Discusses Electoral Politics, Noam Chomsky, and the Core Commitments of the Enlightenment

Who are the (Sanders) Movement Candidates?

Those of us who grew up in activist households a half century ago will remember those who were referred to as “movement candidates.”  These materialized when activists, those involved in leafletting, sit ins, phonebanking, and the other retail aspects of anti-war and civil rights protest were either chosen or decided on their own to run for office.  While they were not necessarily reliable once elected, it was reasonable for the protest movement to assume that they would be more accountable and likely to advance their agenda than those who were nowhere to be found on the streets but were asking for their support.

It is with them in mind that the various candidates now being promoted by Democratic Party leadership should be assessed: Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Kirsten Gillibrand and Deval Patrick are in no way movement candidates.  Rather they are longtime party insiders being sold to the left with the expectation they will be able to mollify and demobilize what has become an increasingly effective insurgency centered around the successor organizations to the Sanders campaign.

Continue reading Who are the (Sanders) Movement Candidates?

Seven things Noam Chomsky believes (on electoral politics)

Seven things Noam Chomsky believes (on electoral politics) that much of the “left” do not.

1) Chomsky believes that it is likely that the Bernie or Bust contingent played a role in throwing the election to Trump.

2) Chomsky does not believe that the Democratic Party is “self destructing”. Rather he believes a) that the neoliberal wing of the party is self-destructing and b) that this is a good thing.

3) Chomsky believes that a takeover of the DP by the Sanders wing is possible, desirable (obviously) and very much worth the investment of activist energies.

Continue reading Seven things Noam Chomsky believes (on electoral politics)

The Left is Hopeless, installment 7,329

A tweet from journalist Allison Kilkenny-who has done some good work over the years.

“Key to success: Be old and white and male and make decisions that kill lots of poor brown people.”

So let’s see, the guy who’s signing off on the drone attacks is middle aged and black, his U.N. ambassador justifying them a middle-aged, black female, the previous secretary of state responsible for massive death and destruction was a white female, preceded by a black middle aged female etc. In short, killing poor brown people is an equal opportunity employer.
It has been for a long time. Those who own and operate the political system love it when they can find young fresh faces-especially black and female ones-to do their business for them.

Why can’t we wake up to that fact?