Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Progress, Hope, Unity, Change

... glory, hallelujah!


  1. "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
    -- U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864

    "It is an old maxim and a very sound one, that he that dances should always pay the fiddler. Now, sir, in the present case, if any gentlemen, whose money is a burden to them, choose to lead off a dance, I am decidedly opposed to the people's money being used to pay the fiddler...all this to settle a question in which the people have no interest, and about which they care nothing. These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people, and now, that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel."

    -Abraham Lincoln, January 11, 1837

    Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Obama were and are each extremely eloquent. But one was a racist; the other barely acknowledges the working class. Comparable in some respects, but isn't it a little absurd, this photo you've posted?

    Congrats anyway. Like I've been reading from other pro-Obama progressives: Now the real work begins. Unfortunately that implies the work they were doing before was less-than-real...hmmm. I'll be looking forward to the potentially unified movement that may come out of this though. Onward!!

  2. Hi Charles,

    I think your analysis of Lincoln and Obama is simplistic and out of context... you clearly don;t have a subtle or complex, and thus accurate, view of Lincoln on race, nor do you fairly represent Obama on class issues.

    And, it appears you don't grasp the larger meaning of Obama, regardless of what happens on policy from here on out. Perhaps you might allow yourself a few moments, before your next criticism, to reflect on what happened on Tuesday in the broader context of our nation's tragic history of race. Perhaps you might respect others who feel this victory in a very different way than you, an avowed white Marxist, does. And, by the way, since you claim Marxism, how do you deal with race in your own analysis, since that has been one of the fundamental failings of marxism and the left throughout its history?

    I did see that your guy, Ralph Nader, only received .5% of the popular vote, not exactly a stunning result, or one that illustrates much of any actual democratic support or one which will have any impact at all on building an alternative to the two parties! I guess he'll disappear AGAIN for three/four more years until his ego demands he run against Obama and whoever in 2012.

    What did his campaign achieve? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Didn't build a "movement." Didn't build an alternative institution, like a third party, that will last beyond the election. Didn't press the other candidate to address new issues, or push Obama to the left, or something like that... Isn't your support of Nader "a little absurd"? Nader's top-down approach to alternative politics is ineffective. That has been illustrated over the last four national elections. I suggest you and other third party supporters, focus your energy at the local and state level. Achieve some victories there, get the party rooted and the principles out there, and from those bases of power, build upward. This is how the religious right became so powerful. Work from the grassroots upward, not the other way around...

    As for Obama, winning an election is step one. Obama proved tremendously adept at that. Step two is governing. Very different than winning an election. We shall see how he does with that. In either case, Nader sucks at winning elections, so he'll never get to govern...

    And, before you come back defensively, I'll just remind you I've supported Nader in the past, continue to support third parties and fundamental change in our democratic structures/processes, and advocate what I call "small 'd' democracy as the foundation of my political perspective. But, I also understand that strategy and tactics matter in politics and that the goal is to win power so you can effect change, not simply remain marginalized on the outside, complaining about everything, satisfied with my own so-called lefty righteousness and everyone else's stupidity, but never actually achieving much. Charles, as I've written before, it was simply foolish to support Nader in 2008. No strategic sense there at all. Again, if you or others wanted to support an alternative candidate and build up an alternative left politic and build alternative institutions like a third party, there was really only one choice, Cynthia McKinney and the Greens. For some reason, you have been unable or unwilling to support McKinney/the Greens and never seem to respond when I challenge you on this... that is strange. At least you would have been building something there!

    Anyway, new challenges await all of us. What will YOU do from here...

  3. I realize Lincoln's experience and views toward race were complex...but on several occasions he made blatantly racist speeches and comments, and that's just a historical reality. And I wasn't trying to represent Obama fairly on class issues, I was pointing to something that's just obvious. He talked about the shrinking middle class and the problems of the middle class constantly; what about the growing working class and working poor? Whatever, I wasn't trying to make a profound analysis of their stances, I just don't understand the image...

    Also, just to clear something up, I don't recall avowing myself as a Marxist. I do find it to be a much more meaningful perspective to take than, say, neo-liberal free market economics when evaluating trade-policy of states, or the existence of international markets at all. And there is much to be said about contemporary Marxist analysis of the globalization and the current financial crisis.

    Regarding how Marxism deals with race, well, it varies. Race is a complex concept, and I'm not going to say I've personally been able to come up with a satisfactory way of talking about it. But it isn't just a failure of the Left, and Marxism I think as a perspective rooted in a historical-economic analysis, as opposed to biology or presumptions about human nature has contributed greatly to the relationship between race and class and the origins and effects of racism. W.E.B. Du Bois, CLR James, Angela Davis...Marxists? Not only, but certainly highly influenced by their use of Marxist methods and understandings of class in their analysis race as a socially constructed concept. Even Cornell West, a "non-Marxist" socialist, views Marxism as indispensable in theorizing race, if alone inadequate.

    If you know of a theory that is self-sufficient and capable of explaining the concept of race and the cultural, economic and political implications of its existence and use...please, enlighten me. If you want to criticize Marxism, go ahead. But it seems you made the assumption that I was uncritical, which isn't the case. However, I can't think of a theory of race which wouldn't take into account social relations and modes of production and remain valid.

    Now on Nader: To call Nader's approach to politics "absurd," is doubly absurd, because he doesn't hold a top-down approach to politics. Look at his record, look at the kinds of organizations he's helped start. It isn't hard to find one you'll appreciate: The Appleseed Foundation. And to suggest he had "no democratic support" is just kind of silly. 670,000 people supported him with their votes, how many couldn't support him because of the way the system is set up? For fear of Sarah Palin? Because they didn't know he was running because he was barely covered? Excluded from the debates? etc...

    And I posted this link on my last comment:
    It's the starting point of what members of Nader's campaign is trying to turn into a movement.

    Obama and McCain wouldn't talk to him. He wasn't allowed to pressure them because he wasn't allowed to face them. At least he put issues on the table, PROGRESSIVE issues, Obama and McCain don't even consider.

    I didn't vote McKinney because she barely ran a campaign, I found out about her months after Nader's run, and I found Nader had a much more comprehensive message. His campaign filed lawsuits, held rallies and protests to get on the no avail. And that's unfortunate. They ran independent because to form a party would require them to get twice as many signatures for most state ballots, and if they ended up not getting on the debates it wouldn't matter.

    But to say his campaign accomplished nothing is ludicrous, and it disappoints me that you would say that, considering the amount of dedicated supporters he's inspired and helped get involved in activist based-corporate free politics. He ran a campaign with 4 million dollars...Obama raised that much every 18 hours. Considering his resources, obstacles against him and the persistence of the "spoiler" and "ego" labels and other forms of politcal bigotry, I'd say he accomplished quite a bit.

    I agree with you on the need for participation in power; we still don't have much of it. Real power can only be evidenced by our ability to affect change, and not just of persons in the White House or which country we'll be occupying in the Middle East next.

    Nader's campaign, for me, represented a realistic conception of power and authentic freedom. "Brand Obama" did not. But there's so much to be done, that "real work." So let's get going on that...



    "The two parties have combined against us to nullify our power by a ‘gentleman's agreement' of non-recognition, no matter how we vote ... May God write us down as asses if ever again we are found putting our trust in either the Republican or the Democratic Parties." (1922) W.E.B. Du Bois

  4. yadda, yadda, yadda, Charles. Marxism has largely failed on race. Hell, most of the history of the American left has failed on race by subordinating it to class. I'll be happy to go toe-to-toe with you on this argument. The historical facts, sadly, support my side on this... I wish it were not so, but it is.

    But the more important point is Nader's meaningless campaign in 2008. He got .5% of the vote. You claimed he had all this grassroots support. Where did it go? And, again, you can present NO evidence that his campaign did ANYTHING concrete and lasting to really build a progressive/left movement. Nothing. Over the last 10 years of presidential runs, what concrete progress has he made for the "movement" or third parties? None. And, yes, his campaign was totally top-down in 2008, despite his rhetoric, since it was all about him and not about building an alternative party or movement. Heck, even the guy you posted on Facebook today supported McKinney, not Nader! That was a wiser choice.

    Charles, why have the vast majority of good, experienced, progressive/lefties, who supported Nader in the past, like me and thousands of others, abandoned him? I know Nader, have met him several times, worked with his main partner, Joel Rogers, in the 1990s, know all the good works Nader did in the past, but also understand that he has really lost his way in recent years. Again, if he is so right, why have most of the other progressive/lefties abandoned him. Why isn't a movement forming around him?

    And, here is the death blow for Nader:

    Any progressive/left movement MUST be multi-racial. Do you think a man who makes such dumb-ass racial comments as Nader does in the above video, could ever possibly forge or lead that movement? Of course not... Nader is a dead-end.

    Again, for the zillionth time, I share many core values and perspectives with you, Charles. Hell, I teach about all this stuff and have lived it, so know it well. I simply think you are following a failed strategic path. You relegate yourself and your ideas to marginality. Clearly, Nader and your way is not viable and is not bearing any fruit. So, another path must be found and followed if we are to ever get closer to a more humane, democratic and just society and world.

    peace, Charles.