(Crossposted from Newshoggers)
Freddie DeBoer hits one out of the park as he blasts the sidelining of real left-wing thought in the blogosphere by the A-list’s neoliberal gatekeepers. Read the whole thing but here’s an extended snippet.
There are two axes of neoliberalism. The first, substantive neoliberalism, means fidelity to the economic policy platform of globalization in the elimination of tariff walls and other impediments to the “free market,” incredible antipathy towards organized labor (and, effectively if not intentionally, towards workers in general), resistance to the regulatory apparatus that has protected workers for decades, and the general belief that the way to ameliorate the moral outrages of capitalism is to pursue more capitalism.
The second axis of neoliberalism, constitutional neoliberalism, is the reflexive antileftism within the ideology. This is the tendency of the neoliberal to assume the superior seriousness of the man to his right and the utter moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the man to his left. This is the sneering, superior neoliberalism, the neoliberalism obsessed with status and authority, the neoliberalism that is utterly in thrall to the idea of Intellectually Seriousness and the notion that possessing it means falling all over yourself to dismiss the actual, historical, socialist left.
…The two intermingle, of course. The neoliberal economic platform is enforced by the attitude that anyone embracing a left-wing critique of that platform is a Stalinist or a misbehaving adolescent. This is the critique of the Very Serious Person: there is a very narrow slice of opinion that is worthy of being considered reasonable or mature, and that anyone who argues outside of it should not be given a seat at the table of serious discussion. Genuinely left-wing opinion is not to be debated but to be dismissed out of hand. Those who argue for a robust series of labor protections, an unapologetic and proud left, a meaningful alternative to the capture of our economic apparatus by corporate power, or (god forbid) something resembling genuine socialism– even to speak as if their arguments require rebuttal is too much. Far better to demonstrate true repudiation by assuming away the left-wing critic than to assume that his or her position is at least worthy of attention.
Of all the A-Listers, only Kevin Drum has the gumption to admit DeBoer has a point and admit to his own rethinking of his position.
I plead guilty to some general neoliberal instincts, of course, but I plead guilty with (at least) one big exception: I am very decidedly not in favor of undercutting labor rights in order to stimulate economic growth, and I’m decidedly not in favor of relying solely on the tax code to redistribute wealth from the super rich to the rest of us. What’s more, the older I get and the more obvious the devastating effects of the demise of the American labor movement become, the less neoliberal I get. The events of the past two years, in which the massed forces of capital came within a hair’s breadth of destroying the world economy, and yet, phoenix-like, have come out richer and more powerful than before, ought to have convinced nearly everyone that business interests and the rich are now almost literally out of control. After all, if the past two years haven’t done it, what would?
That’s a damn good argument for a strengthened labor movement from Kevin – after all, the corporatists in Congress are bought and sold by the ultra-rich to the extent that no-one seriously believes regulation from that direction will be efficacious - and not a single one of his neoliberal A-List colleagues will want to admit or debate it in any serious way. Yglesias is simply dismissive of DeBoer’s essay – he really does think he’s as far to the left as it is possible to be and not be “mistaken”.
DeBoer ends with a rousing call for lefties.
All I know is that I look out onto an America that seems to me to desperately require a left-wing. American workers have taken it on the chin for thirty years. They have been faced for years with stagnant wages, rising costs, and the hollowing out of the middle class. They are now confronted with that and a cratered job market, where desperate people compete to show how hard they will work in bad conditions for less compensation. Meanwhile, the neoliberal policy apparatus that brought us here refuses even to consider the possibility that it is culpable, so certain of its inherent righteousness and its place in the inevitable march of progress. And the blogosphere protects and parrots that certainty, weeding out left-wing detractors with ruthless efficiency, while around it orbits the gradual extinction of the American dream.
But Kevin says that call can’t be answered by the traditional union-based labor movement America used to have and most other Western democracies still do.
I have a piece in the next issue of the magazine about the long-term disaffection of the liberal cause from organized labor, something that I’ve come to believe is the single biggest policy disaster of the American left over the past 40 years. Unfortunately, the piece makes clear why I don’t write more about this: I don’t know what to do about it. In fact, I’d say it’s clear that organized labor long ago passed the point of no return, and there’s really no feasible hope of returning it to a state of even moderate influence over American economic life. Practically speaking, then, the question is: what sort of ground-level, working class organization can take its place as an effective countervailing power against the economic interests of corporations and the rich — which, today, reign virtually unchallenged? But I don’t know that either. Any ideas?
Well, yes, I do, Kevin. For a start, the Left has to stop thinking as if it only has a repair job to do. Simply calling for restoring the unions won’t do the job because the bi-partisan consensus is that they shouldn’t be allowed to restore. The bipartisan consensus on the poor is that “we don’t know and we don’t much care”.
Instead, the American Left’s strategy must be to re-create itself wholesale – a project likely to take at least two decades. It will have to eschew the Democratic party in the same way that, back at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, European labor had to eschew the various liberal/whig parties which shared only a part of the Left’s agenda and had no intention of ever delivering on anything else no matter how often Lefties voted Whig. It will have to begin to see the neoliberal pundits of today as political rivals, rather than as outright allies. It will have to mobilize, turn into voters, the 30% or more who are currently able to vote but do not do so. They come overwhelmingly from the poorest segment of society and do not vote purely because they see neither mainstream party as having anything for them. The Left must build its own electorate and its own party, and leave the Democrats to sink or swim as they are able.
As to the tactics, those are simple and Kevin points the way: we must use the rhetoric and the logic of Class War, for that is indeed what it is. And your either for us or against us. Ffor the Left as a reconstituted movement of the poor, the struggling and the working-to-get-by (what used to be the Middle Class), or for the “interests of corporations and the rich — which, today, reign virtually unchallenged”. The latter includes both the Democratic party’s leadership and the A-list blogospheric shills who enable their faux-leftism time after time. As Chris Hedges wrote recently:
We decry the excesses of capitalism without demanding a dismantling of the corporate state. The liberal class has a misguided loyalty, illustrated by environmental groups that have refused to excoriate the Obama White House over the ecological catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Liberals bow before a Democratic Party that ignores them and does the bidding of corporations. The reflexive deference to the Democrats by the liberal class is the result of cowardice and fear. It is also the result of an infantile understanding of the mechanisms of power. The divide is not between Republican and Democrat. It is a divide between the corporate state and the citizen. It is a divide between capitalists and workers. And, for all the failings of the communists, they got it.
The basic problem is that the Rich ate all the pie. What do you intend to do about it? Snuggle up to their Democratic Party incarnation some more in the hope of getting some crumbs? There used to be a term for that, on the plantations. House N****r.