In recent diaries and in the http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png”http://newprogs.org/forums/public-forums/draft-platform/final-npa-platform-draft-public-discussion”>draft Unified Progressive Platform, the NPA has been pointing out the differences between the populist revolution that was http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Era”>America’s first Progressive Era and the superficialities of today’s sold-out liberal organizations. Over the past 30 years, the latter have increasingly purloined the term “progressive” in distancing themselves from what Ronald Reagan so successfully trashed as “the L word.”
Of course, that word’s poor connotation would never have gained traction if Liberals had fought to defend it. But defending the values they claim to hold has not been of much interest to Liberals since, oh, 1962 or so.
In http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png”http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781568586441″>“Death of the Liberal Class,” Chris Hedges makes (to a fare-thee-well) the case that if these formerly vigilant, radically people-first organizations had refused to trade on their reputations, America’s slide into perpetual war, worker oppression, and the dismantling of the social safety net would never have occurred.
If one begins with http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y06NSBBRtY”>Eisenhower’s farewell speech of 1961, which warned of the advent of the military-industrial complex, and ends with Hedges’ book, there is little doubt that the former watchdogs of our freedoms have abandoned their principled stands in exchange for entirely imagined “influence” on the political and corporate elites who have systematically stolen those freedoms – along with our rights and our government. Their reward? Cushy jobs on their toothless organizations’ boards, and questionable reputations for fighting “the good fight.”
vector56’s http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png”http://my.firedoglake.com/vector56/2011/07/17/obamabots/”>wonderful firsthand account of how MoveOn.org is ready to do anything except move on, (if “moving on” means actually calling out BOTH major parties for the colossal sellouts they are) drives the point home. Clearly, participation in MoveOn, or in Van Jones’ new organization, “Restoring the American Dream,” which co-sponsored the house party effort about which vector56 writes, is open only to those who embrace the duopoly’s kabuki and agree to attack only Republicans – even when Democrats are trying to out-conservative the most conservative of their supposed “opponents”! The American Dream? http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsL6mKxtOlQ&feature=player_embedded”>George Carlin had the answer to that. Clearly something is happening, but you don’t know what it is… do you, Mr. Jones?
Of course, false Progressive organizations have – for decades now – been winning accolades from clueless supporters, merely for going through the motions of defending the public interest: In short, for appearing to give a shit. Much has been made, for example, of http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png”http://act.boldprogressives.org/survey/survey_obamamedicaress/?source=bp”>the PCCC’s current petition drive, said to have collected more than 200,000 signatures of people threatening to withdraw their support of Barack Obama if he agrees to cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Good as its intentions might be, this effort is about 20,000,000 people too little, 30 months too late.
The time for threats such as this was at the moment this president – and the spineless party he fronts – refused to mount the inauguration dais with this clear statement: “I hereby order the complete and immediate withdrawal of all American troops, contractors, and mercenaries from Iraq and Afghanistan.” Or even, “With this election, America has spoken with one voice and said it is finally ready to join the rest of the civilized world in providing guaranteed, federally funded health coverage for all its citizens.”
Countless other opportunities for ersatz Progs to threaten abandonment of Obama and his sold-out party have come and gone: Their delay in repealing DADT; refusal to end torture; willingness to keep Guantanamo open; treatment of Bradley Manning; their pointless little FinReg bill – well, you know the list.
A few weeks back I challenged another huge, theoretically Progressive organization on its own blog. I asked that they defend their assertion that voting for anything but Democrats (or, by inference, Republicans) is voting for – their word – “spoilers.”
Long story short, my challenge – to simply explain how political parties, let alone populist movements, are supposed to get started without bucking the status quo – went begging. These self-described “Progressive Democrats” http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png”http://www.pdamerica.org/blog/view/the-high-cost-of-voting-for-spoilers/”>shut down the debate, then diverted attention from the question – the real crux of the matter. And they’ve failed to address the question ever since.
The Fallacy of “Infighting”
Everybody – Left, Right, Center – claims they’re tired of “infighting.” They say it’s silly to battle within their ideologies. Some even make a show of wringing their hands over the “uncivil” character of political debate.
This is, of course, a lot of malarkey. Politics never was and never will be pretty or uncontentious, so can we please stop fooling ourselves?
The facts are these: There are powerful, warmongering, for-profit interests whose only concern is increasing their bottom lines, and the less impunity with which they might do so, the better. They will let nothing – human lives, workers’ rights, public health, personal freedoms, or the environment – get in their way. And they have captured our government.
The NPA has consistently stated our intent to disarm the Left’s “infamous circular shooting squad” as we pursue a broad coalition that extends beyond the Left – one that in fact puts the lie to the Left’s (and Right’s) claims that we are in an ideological battle. Because, quite simply, we are not. We’re in a class war, as has always been the case in America: Millions upon millions of poor and working-class citizens versus – proportionally speaking – a few elites.
If we are to succeed in defeating this foe once and for all, common sense dictates the first thing we must do is figure out who is on our side.
Not Infighting, But Inviting
While there is no question that many pseudo-Progressive organizations joined the fray never intending to sell out, at this stage of our oppression, that truth serves little purpose – save perhaps to point up what becomes of good intentions gone awry: They pave the Road to Hell.
The slogan that drives the NPA’s strategy says it all:
The “lesser of two evils”? STILL EVIL.
Interesting, isn’t it, how easily our national situation lends itself to themes of Hell, evil, warfare. As the NPA sees it, the stakes are nothing short of these, and we believe a second Progressive Era – like the Revolution which founded this country, and our first Progressive Era – must also be a populist, all-volunteer effort.
Whether by accepting the elites’ money or perpetuating the “lesser of two evils” myth which has led to those elites’ concentration of power, the complicity of the organizations which choose to remain in our major parties’ orbits is only making our current class war harder to win. They may not like to admit it, but when anybody within such groups takes a salary, “What’s in it for them?” becomes a perfectly legitimate question.
As sure as the Populists and http://my.firedoglake.com/myfdl/wp-content/themes/myfdl_user/_inc/images/domain_blocked_default.png”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Party_(United_States,_1912)”>Progressives fought for what they believed in on principle, not payola (securing, by the way, the eight-hour workday, women’s suffrage, and the federal income tax to name but a few of their victories) – and notably, without ever electing a president – so must today’s Progressive organizations, in order for their people-first advocacy to be taken seriously, put principles above personal gain.
Truly Progressive organizations must remove the compensation component from the equation. They must insist that their directors and staff refuse remuneration of any kind, and the organizations themselves must stop accepting money from national, state, or local affiliates of political parties and corporate interests.
We invite other Progressive organizations to follow the NPA’s lead in refusing such dirty money. To choose instead to engage their human resources – their members and volunteers – in pursuing their agendas. For it has always been, and always will be, people who make the difference.