On the Blinkeredness of Soi-Disant Progressives

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Lambert Strether pointed to this video of a Real News Network interview of the very well meaning and articulate Norman Solomon. Unfortunately it also serves as a object lesson of why progressives are losing. The tell is when, close to the end of the piece, he remarks that progressives only have pockets of strength in the US. That may be true in terms of political representation, but it is not even remotely true in term of the sentiment of the public. It;s clear he buys into a view (or more accurately, a set of excuses) that NC regular Richard Kine wrote:

….let’s dispense with several basic misconceptions regarding why progressives are presently so unsuccessful.

“Progressive goals are not popular.” Even with the systematically distorted polling data of the present, this is demonstrably untrue. Inexpensive health care, progressive taxation, educational scholarship funding, curtailment of foreign wars, environmental protection among others never fail to command majority support. It is difficult to think of a major progressive policy which commands less than a plurality. This situation is one reason for the lazy reliance upon electioneering by progressives, they know that their issues are popular, in principle at least. Rather childishly, they just want a show of hands then, as if that is what goes on really in elections.

“The ‘Right’ is too strong.” The oligarchy specifically and the Right in general are far less strong in American society apart from what their noise machines and bankroll flashing would make one think. The great bulk of the judiciary remains independent even if important higher appellate positions are tainted. Domestic policing is, by tradition and design, highly decentralized, with a good deal of local control, making overt police state actions difficult, visible, and highly unpopular (think TSA). While the military is a socially conservative society in itself, it is also an exceptionally depoliticized one, with civilian control an infrangible value. Popular voter commitment to the nominally more conservative political party has never been narrower or more fragile.

The rightist oligarchy does have a stranglehold on the major media, despite which accurate, uncensored, news is widely and readily available to anyone who wants to hear it. The other principle advantage of conservatives is that they are highly organized. Consider how the oligarchy effectively took over the ‘Tea Potter’ lunatic fringe in no time, and still presently stage manages it behind the curtain, or how they are paying some outfit(s) to constantly monitor and surreptitiously disrupt liberal to progressive blog-spaces. The powers of the Right are broad but thin and brittle, like a coat of lacquer on everything. Any organized citizen resistance would shatter that surface grip without great difficulty.

Part of the genius of the Right is that they presently operate through puppets, like Scott Walker or Chris Christie, or even Clarence Thomas, rather than attempt to assume direct power. Individual puppets can be kicked out, but they can always buy/indoctrinate another set of quislings because the supply of wannabes is endless. But that is a weakness, too, in that without such a puppet quisling in the right place at the right time (think Tim Geithner) the Right has no grip on key levers of power. The larger point here is that the mass of institutional governance in the US remains wholly separate from conservative control, and is not notably committed to conservative goals.

“America is a conservative society.” That is demonstrably untrue on any historical analysis. Like the other points here, it is a meme invented and spread by the right wing itself. There are three grains of truth in the contention, however.

More than some West European derived socio-cultures, there is an initial value placed in Christian profession; not faith, profession, and not an enduring one either. I won’t argue this in detail, as it takes a text, but the profession of a higher cause is the personal entry point to belonging in the society distinct from a more discrete paradigm of ethnicity. This makes the society seem from the outside more Christian, and hence ‘conservative,’ than it is in fact. This has for the majority become the ‘civil religion’ of Bellah, but is in effect a secularized form of Christian pilgrimism; one must profess to belong.

Second, there are specific communities in American culture which are deeply conservative, notably most rural whites. Their society is in fact distinct from the culture of the county as a whole, something they understand but that the majority chooses not to. (This concept is argued, if slightly differently, by David Hackett Fischer in Albion’s Seed, an analysis I endorse and would extend.) The point being that their society in America is conservative, but American society as a whole is liberal if one does a sociological analysis.

Third, American society is not radical because it is deeply suspicious of ‘combinations,’ cabals, cliques, or factions who combine to advance their own interests as distinct from the broader public interest. There are deep socio-historical roots for this antipathy to faction, but they are real. One consequence of this, though, is that American society as a whole has generally been hostile to organized labor as a ‘special interest.’ American society also has a bedrock attachment to personal property and personal liberty—essential liberal values, one might add, not conservative ones—which impede any advocacy of leveling or uniformitariansim; i.e. liberty always trumps equality. The flip side here, though, is that Americans are just as suspicious of ‘sections,’ ‘trusts,’ ‘banksters,’ and oligarchs if they see them as an organized, self-interested force. This distrust is not a conservative preference. These are further points I won’t develop, but the in aggregate they make society seem ‘more conservative’ since radical goals are shied away from.

The contrast is pretty stark. And while Solomon is of the view that the left needs to be better “organizing,” readers have discussed the notion, spurred by OWS, that broad social interests have gotten the most traction from groups that apply pressure but don’t become very closely involved in the political apparatus.

I’m not saying that there is not a useful role for people like Solomon in the system. But he seems not to recognize that a much bigger, and ultimately more radical, approach is needed to achieve the sort of changes he’d like to see.

More at The Real News

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  1. Eureka Springs

    Remarkable lack of fighting spirit in the congressman’s tone. NPR must love this guy. I left the d party because of this lack in both fighting tone and lack of resolve in the progressive caucus.

    No regrets.

    1. Mike Folsom

      You are just one of many.

      I’m really surprised how blind the Dem Establishment is! Since there is no way to register as a fed up Dem they just see you as a nonvoter and forget you exist. It would be fascinating to know how many votes a Dem could pick up if they stood up and fought for something.

      1. Blue Meme

        This stuff disgusts me, too. But, sad to say, we have an example of what happens when a real “out” liberal stands up. Remember Alan Grayson? He tore it up in the House… and lost his bid for re-election.

  2. psychohistorian

    Another meaty posting and Richard’s description of the fog of blinkeredness is well done.

    I thinking going forward we have two very difficult nuts to crack unless we just nibble at our problems around the edges.

    The first and I think hardest nut is characterized by Richard as our “bedrock” belief in private property issue. As someone who in the past year bought a house outright, I feel the bedrock feeling. That said I keep looking at private property from the point of view of the younger generation. If you look at the existing ownership of everything in the “western socialized” world, there isn’t any chance of the younger generations owning property except through inheritance or high achievement. If the current trends continue the consolidation of ownership will only increase until all property is held by the 1%. I find that sort of future unacceptable as do the younger generation that I talk to. Answers/alternatives folks?

    The second nut is inheritance. While I harbor the potentially deluded view that it is possible to get folks to agree to place some limits on the concept, I find less consensus on exactly what the simple but still provide for family limitations should be. My strict goal would be to not allow accumulations of wealth that could effect any sort of social policy. Again, other approaches/alternatives?

    Other than solving those two issues, taking the existing overlords out of control and evolving a better social system that balance cooperation and competition, what else is needed? Where did I put those silver bullets…..

    1. liberal

      The best approach to the private property “issue” was produced over a century ago by Henry George.

      It’s really the key to everything.

      For example, look at the recent (Elizabeth Warren?) bit about the social contract—IIRC it said “you only got rich because society nurtured your start.” It really misses the point. What’s the real point? Namely, that the vast majority of the wealthy got that way by collecting economic rents. I.e., legalized theft.

      Hence, the way forward is pretty straightforward: “We agree that productive individuals who become wealthy should keep much of their wealth. The problem is that most people who become wealthy get that way by making no productive contribution to the economy whatsoever, but rather by acquiring state-granted privileges.”

      One big problem is that most people on the so-called left either don’t understand this or refuse to understand this. (Meaning, when presented with well-laid out schemes to tax away economic rent, they’re as liable to raise the “It’ll throw Grandma out of their house!” red herring as much as anyone else.)

      Ultimately, we need to firmly recast the discussion of government-caused redistribution of wealth: on net, government (at least in the US) redistributes wealth _upwards_, not downwards.

      1. Richard Kline

        Henry George had a good critique that’s still a relevant read, yes. Turning it into policy is work; selling that policy to the citizenry is demanding work for which progressives have no stomach. It’s left to those outside party and institution to advance these concerns.

    2. Cugel

      These two problems are not that hard:

      1. Like the right wing during the 1940’s to 1960’s we will have to “nibble around the system” because it is basically hostile to everything we want. First step is to stop the hemorrhaging. Stop the attacks on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and on unions and public service workers. Then go on the offensive ourselves around the notion of social justice.

      The OWS movement is doing this. It will be a long time before we have real impact, but we are already driving the debate.

      2. Inheritance. Not a problem if there is an estate tax. Doesn’t matter if the exemption is $5 million ($10 million for a couple). That doesn’t begin to touch the real wealth of this country which is in the top 1/2 of the top 1%.

      And no exemption is going to help them. They have so much money that only total REPEAL can help them.

  3. mmckinl

    Solomon is running for a US House Seat. He must adhere to the narratives of his betters to have even a slight chance.

    His demeanor of surrender is the defeatism that all good progressives must embrace or face a tidal wave of money in the primaries.

    Kucinich and others have all faced the same marching music from the Democratic Party … toe the line or toe tag.

    1. rotter

      Thats why, at this stage, electoral politics are a waste of time for genuinely trying to shake things up.

  4. okie farmer

    Soloman, is essentially on target in this interview, and to get picky with his last statement about lack of organization of progressives misses his main points. Richard notes that progressive positions are majority positions in any broad polls taken of the American people, but fails to note that turning those positions into electoral results mostly doesn’t happen because not enough of the right voters are registered, and vote. To beat the Dem party “mainstream” candidates with a progressive candidate is hard. Witness the Senate primary in Colorado, where the DNC poured $7M dollars to beat (barely) a progressive challenger to a recently appointed senator with center-right politics, who then, incidently, spent less and a million to beat the Republican in the general. Trying to fight the Dem ‘establishment’ on their ground, money based campaigning, is likely to lose. The only way to get it done is with massive voter registration of poor and working poor voters, then getting them to the polls. ACORN was a poorly run effort to do that, but was so poorly run that they were taken out with a silly video that was mostly a fake. Labor has the ability to do the mass organization but won’t do it. Labor’s interest is too narrow – and sold out. So the mass organization that Soloman speaks of will continue to be undone, because the effort required will be huge and, frankly, I don’t know where it could come from. The great effort of the Rainbow Coalition to register 8 million new, mostly black, voters mostly in the southern states was hugely successful. Where will that effort come from now?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I beg to differ. It’s due to identity politics. You can sell out people economically if you appeal to their civil rights issues. So give gays civil unions and talk sympathetically but don’t give them marriage, and sell them out on bank reform, progressive taxation, health reform, and other social safety nets. Rinse and repeat with women, Hispanics, and blacks. The Dems have really treated unions badly but still get them too by being slightly less awful than the Republicans.

      1. okie farmer

        Well, I’ll differ in one important and overriding respect – politics is about money. As far as I’ve been able to ascertain in nearly 60 years of political activity and scrutiny, everything in poltitics will reduce down to money. And, politicians will absolutely not tell you that. How could they? Indentity politics is exactly about NOT telling you what politics is about. Indentity politics is part and parcel of the money-machine politics that has come to dominate so-called political discourse: ‘Don’t look over here where we’re operating a money machine political system; look over there at those gays and gun ban groups and groups that want to remove God from our country.’ etc, from the Republican side; and as you pointed out: “give gays civil unions and talk sympathetically but don’t give them marriage, and sell them out on bank reform, progressive taxation, health reform, and other social safety nets. Rinse and repeat with women, Hispanics, and blacks…”, from the Dem side.

        Trying to get the country to a non-money machine politics is the task. How to get there the big question. So the Dem money machine can’t be broken up without a different set of congresspeople. OK. And progressive candidates running as Dems are always going to be outspent by the money machine candidates. Where does that leave us? Maybe a grassroots voter registration movement will come out of OWS? Doesn’t seem likely at this point, but it could, I suppose, if they move in a voter organizing direction. Jesse Jackson! where are you when we need you? – again. Oh, sitting comfortably inside the money machine? Al Sharpton, too?

        How do we get there from here?

        1. Lew Glendenning

          “Money buys power”, so the people with money get the laws, rules and regulations they want. Those always restrict competition and drive up prices, make ordinary people poorer and the rich richer.

          Nobody seems to understand that dynamic of power and money, tho it was the common assumption underlying the Constitution, the insistence on minimal government.

          Since the Romans, people have understood that money will corrupt government. No country has solved the problem, although ‘minimal government’ can minimize the problem.

          If you are a Left Progressive, Right Progressive, social conservative, etc. you have to use minimal government as the base to build private institutions that accomplish your goals. Large government, in many variations, has failed around the world. There are no examples of successful socialist countries, e.g. all of the European ‘mixed economies’ have very serious social and economic problems which are now hitting them. There are no examples of successful countries following Keynesian policy.

          I am reading De Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”. It shows how many of our social institutions have been lost, how little society independent of the gov remains.

          1. rotter

            So you would solve the problem of a class of powerful, directed, private wealth weakening the govt, by ..weakening the govt further? That sounds like a call for volunteers to help the with the destruction. What “private institution” could possibly (or more to the point WOULD possibly) do what the weakening govt is failing at? I cant think of one either. I dont want private government. I dont want to volunteer to return the Borgias to power. If they get there anyway it will be over my best efforts.

      2. Richard Kline

        So okie regarding money, I would say that politics is first about constituencies, and that secondarily most constituencies are interested in goodies (principally money). Constituencies are often quite interested about some other things, too.

        Now, _electoral_ politics is overwhelmingly about money, there I’ll agree. I suggest you do an archive search here at NC for the guest post of mine from which Yves used excerpts here; my views on this are broader than shown. However, one proscription I advanced in the conclusion of that post was that progressives have to forget about the electoral cycle. That is my answer to your remarks on ‘What is to be done with this rigged Democratic Party?’ Forget ’em, get past ’em, and work from the outside. This is why I’m with the Occupiers: real change is only going to come from action outside the existing parties since they are both utterly corrupt. (I’m completely sympathetic to your example from Colorado; there are dozens more like that.)

        The position of ‘leave the Donkey Party’ isn’t as defeatist as it likely sounds to you on its face. Yes, whoever is in power might pass ‘terrible laws’ to do X. —But they already have, and are busy doing moreso, liberal electoral gaming notwithstanding. Where do you want to put your time and effort, on a losing hand or a meaningful stand? Moreover, citizen activism has a much greater record of success in _influencing_ policy from the outside than you man credit. Virtually any ‘progressive reform’ you might think of was pushed first by those _outside the political parties_. Indeed, this is the ONLY way to succeed if one considers the historical record as a source. Progressives getting themselves suckered into lining up behind politicos, often for identity politics ribbons to put in their lapels and little more, are a far greater brake on change than _any_ organizing by the ultraright.

        [Note: I’m entirely supportive of many of the issues or rights and identity within identity politics. It is a question of political organizing how to balance objectives, though, and it’s self-defeating to be blind to the effects of demands and politics as they are presently configured.]

        1. okie farmer

          Richard, in case you get this post, I have to say that we are almost in total agreement. I have never thought of myself as a Progressive. I gave up on liberals under Jack Kennedy’s presidency. I’m on what many would consider the left, far left, if being a socialist-populist qualifies me for ‘leftist’. When you say “it’s self-defeating to be blind to the effects of demands and politics as they are presently configured” and “citizen activism has a much greater record of success in _influencing_ policy from the outside than you may credit. Virtually any ‘progressive reform’ you might think of was pushed first by those _outside the political parties_. Indeed, this is the ONLY way to succeed if one considers the historical record as a source. Progressives getting themselves suckered into lining up behind politicos, often for identity politics ribbons to put in their lapels and little more, are a far greater brake on change than _any_ organizing by the ultraright”, I agree with you.

          Still, we have seen grave changes in our political system since we stopped the Vietnam war with our anti-war organizing. Those grave changes, first suggested by Samuel Huntington in “The Crisis of Democracy” (1973), was to make ellections so expensive that ordinary citizens could not afford to ‘throw their hat in the ring’. In other words, doubling down on money-machine politics to make elected officials beholding to no one but moneyed interests. Throughout history politics has always been mostly about money, but today its ONLY about money, identity politics is a complete distraction, even if its identified around good progressive issues. How much effect did the massive demonstrations against Bush’s wars have? Ignored by the media for the most part – also a part of Huntington’s prescription – bought and paid for media. Things have changed.

          My main thrust has been that to rid the country of money-machine politics is gong to take a great effort that counters the money machine, and the only way I can foresee that happening is to either enter into another great depression which could eventually lead to getting another FDR elected with enough congressional support to ‘save capitalism from itself’, OR, organize at the voter registration level. The poor don’t vote in this country – you’ve seen the numbers. They need to.

    2. rotter

      The “silly video that was mostly fake”, was reported as the truth by CNN and the all the other major MSM info-ganda hours for almost 3 weeks. It wasnt till well over a month later, well after congress rushed to revoke all federal assistance they were recieving (which for ACORN and the people they advocated for, as everyone knew, was pretty much the whole taco)that the video came into question. That is, after ACORN was effectively destroyed. Congress never offered to restore the funding, or even to allow them to reorganize.Democrats were every bit as responsible for crushing ACORN as Republicans. The fact that ACORN, as an organization, was libled in a “silly mostly fake video” never seemed to come up much after that. ACORN may have been “poorly run”, but they were after all a non profit organization working to further the political power of the hated poor and could not afford to hire Lee Iacocca or Colin Powell.The democrat-republican partisan struggle is as meaningless to the welfare of American poor and the working class as the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was to Siberian peasant farmers.

  5. Mikey M

    Dear me, and i thought the world was moving on from simple right versus left type nonsense, but this article proves me wrong.

    I dont know where to start but the sort of stereotypes in the above piece are almost childish.

    for instance what and who is the rightist oligarchy? The article claims the MSM is part of it. That’s funny because the only big media orgainsation now in the US which i would class as of the right would be FOX/News international.

    I’m assuming Obama is now part of the rightist oligarchy right? and Barney Frank? Or are they with the leftist oligarchy?

    Ya its all so silly. We are obviously a long way from solving our problems, and i despair when i read juvenile articles like the one above…really depressing.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      If you think the only right wing media outlet in the US is FoxMurdoch we can’t have an intelligent conversation.

      The Washington Post is right wing. Look at its position on the war, the budget deficit, and entitlements. The New York Times is neoliberal with leftie decoration to cover that fact. Ditto NPR

      Crimeny, the Torygraph (the Telegraph) in the UK is regularly to the left of the above mentioned outlets.

      1. Mikey M

        Of course there are other conservative newspapers, but i wouldnt call the Washinton Post an oligarchy. Otherwise we could call every left leaning paper a leftist oligarchy.

        What are we going to do, go through every newspaper labelling is left or right?

        I love it how its so easy for you to categorically label a newspaper as part oif the rightist media but then you talk of the NY Times in more ambiguous terms.

        You are being more than a tad selective, which is just a demonstration of your natural bias.

        Tell me which newspapers would you class as part of the leftist oligrachy? Any at all or doesnt it exist?

        1. Foppe

          What on earth are you going on about? You attribute a straw man to Yves, and then you argue that it’s not allowed to say that the WaPo is an establishment newspaper because that would leave too few “left” newspapers? It would seem that you’re caught in your own silly logic, where you feel that there must be an identifiable left and right, and that no matter how right the left is, we must call it “left” because it is important to have a left “option”.

          “I love it how its so easy for you to categorically label”; “a demonstration of your natural bias” < The only person engaging in spurious labeling and strawmanning here is you.

          1. Mikey M

            I really dont see your point. I was saying the article above trying to place everyone in a neat box re good/bad is no longer relevant.

            Even the word “progressive” is a joke in itself. What does it mean? Who is so above the crap that they can pronounce what is deemed “progressive” and what is not.

            Is Obama progressive? He was classed as such until his support on the left ebbed away.

            My point is no-one is unbiased, and we all come at this with our own rose tinted spectacles and the article above is a great demonstration of it.

          2. Skippy

            Mickey… its anti corruption even from the start. They hate cheaters.

            The Progressive Era in the United States was a period of social activism and political reform that flourished from

            the 1890s to the 1920s.[1] One main goal of the Progressive movement was purification of government, as Progressives tried to eliminate corruption by exposing and undercutting political machines and bosses. Many (but not all) Progressives supported prohibition in order to destroy the political power of local bosses based in saloons.[2] At the same time, women’s suffrage was promoted to bring a “purer” female vote into the arena.[3] A second theme was achieving efficiency in every sector by identifying old ways that needed modernizing, and emphasizing scientific, medical and engineering solutions.

        2. liberal

          “Of course there are other conservative newspapers, but i wouldnt call the Washinton Post an oligarchy.”

          First, a note on language. The WP (I regularly read the deadtree edition) isn’t “an oligarcy”; rather, the claim is that it’s part of or supports the corporate oligarchy.

          “Tell me which newspapers would you class as part of the leftist oligrachy? Any at all or doesnt it exist?”

          You’re totally confused. There is no leftist oligarchy in the US. There are some elements in US society with a little power, say public sector unions and this or that identity group; but in terms of total amassed power they’re tiny when compared to corporate power.

          If you ask a more empirically-based question, like “What newspapers have a leftist bent?” the answer (at least in the US) is still “None.”

          Why would you consider this wrong-headed or mysterious? To have power, you need either lots of guns or lots of money. No one in the US has lots of guns except for elements of the state (police and armed forces). Money (and wealth in general), most of the wealth is controlled by huge corporations. (Yes, notionally the stockholders, some of whom are middle class, own the corporations, but that’s meaningless in terms of true control.)

        3. rotter

          Do you believe what read in the Washington Post about Iran? How about the banks? Do you think WAPO is a disinterested publisher of information? Whos interests do you think they are most sensitive to? Yours? Mine?

    2. Jon

      Your mistake lies in having a narrow, MSM defined view of left/right.

      Conservative canon more or less defines conservatism as a form of counterrevolution against populist struggles which may threaten private hierarchy (at home, at work, at church, etc).

      In that sense Obama certainly functions on behalf of a right wing oligarchic class.

      1. Mikey M

        ya right so who are the purist leftist ones? Since now the left has jettisones Obama as its bright light on the left.

        In fact my point was exactly your point above which is that these classifications are all subjective at the end of the day.

  6. Mikey M

    Anyways I was just saying that these labels are complete bollocks and just a continuation of the same old left right bull.

    At some point most folks will wake up around the world and realise the left and right are the same oligarchy, no difference whatsoever, they just take turns back and forth.

    They are the politcial oligarchy and by playing the silly game in the above article we just carry on in myopic fashion.

    1. Richard Kline

      Oooo-iee, tarbaby troll who knows exactly what he’s doing. Your opinion of political organization isn’t sourced in any substance outside your brain case.

      It’s true that in Medialand, the way the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ are used is: a) bizarre, b) completely disconnected to the history and meaning of those terms, and c) a deliberate distortion. There is however ample evidence on the ground and in the historical record that there are meaningful distinctions between the two. Your remarks demonstrate that you have no information at your disposal that didn’t appear on your telly. When you’ve troubled yourself to get off your sofa and get an education, maybe then we’ll have something to talk about. —But nah, you know what you’re doing, slanging the thread, very deliberately. Who’s paying you, ‘Mikey?’

      And that’s all of my time you’re remarks are worth, buddy . . . .

  7. Mikey M

    What is also interesting is that in the UK its the “right-wing” press which have made the most fuss about the scandalous lack of democracy and accountability at the EU/eurozone.

    The big three on the left in the UK: BBC, Guardian and Independent are all pro-EU, pro-euro and almost never object to the eurocracy.

    So on the face of it,in the UK its the right that are fighting for self-determination, and geunine freedom across europe. certianly not the liberal left.

    Confusing, yes it sure is, hence the labels of right and left are ttoally out of whack. It reminds me of Harvard models which appear to make sense until they are let loose on the real world, where they fail miderably because life is not a model.

    1. Foppe

      Pray tell, how critical do you feel those same “right-wing” newspapers are of the exact same governmentality inside the UK? Do they frequently note that Tony Blair’s third way was basically Thatcher-lite? (I’m not saying that the Guardian etc. are doing this, but rather that the right wing’s critique of the “lack of democracy at the EU level” is a bit convenient and unconvincing when it doesn’t carry over to UK reporting as well)

      1. Mikey M


        Oh I’m not suggesting there is any more merit regarding the right of centre papers like the Telegraph. My point was always that this classification we use of “right and “left” really has no meaning any more.

        It’s all about self interests, and not alot about politcial principles. Most folks just follow principles that will benefit them personally. This is a human malaise and not exclusive to any political ideology.

        1. Still Above Water

          “My point was always that this classification we use of ‘right and left’ really has no meaning any more.”

          Agreed. All that matters now is UP vs DOWN (1% vs 99%). The mainstream media and political parties use “right and left” to divide the 99%. Don’t buy into it!

  8. Middle Seaman

    Richard’s view that progressive ideas that boil down to the US has a progressive majority and a fragile right wing has a slight problem: it is totally wrong. It is not even clear that the US has a progressive movement.

    Motherhood and apple pie are great, but most adults see little of their mom and eat apple pie only once or twice a year. Of course, you can pool people and find that a majority is for universal health care. But the majority is also vehemently against higher taxes (an American hysterical special). The pool results in this case are totally meaningless.

    I can wave away all the arguments Kline makes about progressives ideas. That wont be a comment. What is missing from the discussion is the state of the progressives.

    Supporting Obama wall-to-wall in 2008 makes progressives a laughing stock. Many of us, Yves included, saw Obama for the centrist he is (at best). Progressives also have no political initiative. OWS didn’t come from the progressives; it came from the disenchanted almost centrist young. Progressive are way too elite to support full heartedly the labor movement. They don’t realize that the big ideas come after the farm workers, the janitors and the police officers union.

    The American progressive movement is a sad joke, a travesty and an insult to the old European avant-garde.

    1. Mikey M

      i sort of agree with you but what is a “progressive”? The very term tends to pronounce that the followers of this creed or whatever have some natural born tendency to want progress. So anyone who doesnt classify themselves as “progressive” logically must be regressive.

      Have i got that right?

      1. jameboy

        Mickey, thanks for patiently explaining a useful point. Ahem: A “progressive” who is over 30 is what we used to call a “liberal”, before that term fell into disuse because hardly anyone who thought they were one would admit to being one (unless sure of being surrounded by others under the same delusion). A younger “progressive” who has not submitted to liberal neutering is most likely either on to something good or in for a big disappointment. Says this aging boomer.

    2. Richard Kline

      Uhh, Middle . . . there’s a slight inconsistency in saying ‘there ain’t none’ at the beginning and then calling ‘them’ a ‘sad joke” at the end. Either some exist who advance certain views or they don’t. As you well know, of course they do.

      We are far more in sympathy in our views, you and I, than you may think. I suggest that you do an archive search here at NC for my guest post which Yves has excerpted. I define terms and give historical examples there; it will be much clearer exactly who and what I’m speaking to.

      And btw, many in the Occupations hold historically ‘progressive’ views (even while many hold radical and a few utopian views). The term describes a conceptual space, not a cockade on one’s hat. Many with progressive views are presently self-defeating in their expression of them; that is my larger point. Others have changed their strategy to one that has worked historically—and joined the Occupations, a new development since my guest post was written, and exactly what I called for and presently endorse personally.

  9. Fiver

    The sort of “Progressives” alluded to don’t really WANT to change things. They do not believe there are fundamental, systemically irredeemable faults with the basic architecture. That means they both lose AND render an enormous disservice to everyone, themselves included. This is far, far bigger than some truckload of bad apples:


    1. Blunt

      Not being quite so entangled anymore in the valuing the heroine/hero based on the great men/women/books principle of the ruling elite that we like to think of as “competition,” “creme rising to the top,” & sundry other bs narratives that undermine any sort of common dreams or any sort of understanding of “socialism” and “relationship” in lieu of knowing only that “self-made women and men” & “rugged individualism” are simply lies told to fool and intimidate children (whew!, excuse the lack of punctuation, I seem to have been possessed momentarily by the spirit of either Henry James, William Faulkner or Garcia Marquez!) ….

      I tend to agree with your statement Fiver. Of course the entire environment of Watership Down entails that we all have to own our society, from rabbits to voles to foxes to deer, cougars, sparrows, owls and coyotes. Any sort of value-added attributions to one class, ethnicity, set of beings, age, etc eventually takes everything out of whack.

      Unlike Mikey I cannot grant you 100% togetherness, but your point is a good one. “(T)here are fundamental, systemically irredeemable faults with the basic architecture” of the world as we know it.

      Similar to the dawning of knowledge in the West in 12th century that something was badly flawed in the “medieval synthesis.”

      I suspect that a knew thesis needs be brought forward to clash with the current synthesis. Something perhaps that begins to unearth the profound realizations about political economy uncovered by Marx. Then that adds the very profound truth accepted by every scientific mind that isn’t yet in the pay of the Kochs or Buffet and their buds that “humans are social animals.”

      Just so, until we begin to understand that relationship and compassion, unbreakable symbiosis with the entirety of life in the world and the universe is the iron law of existence as we perceive it, then we merely spout a slogan about being part of the 99%.

      Fact is we are part of the 100% and it’s high time that 1% who somehow imagine themselves to be part of a separate and greatly superior form of life and the 9% who serve as collaborators and hirelings be shown the many errors of their ways.

      Just sayin’.

  10. F. Beard

    Hey Progressives!

    If the banks and corporations were not allowed to steal in the first place (via the government enforced/backed counterfeiting cartel) THEN there would be a lot less need for redistribution and social services.

    Ever think of that?

    The public is tired of you because you offer crummy socialism (minus a lot of bureaucrat salaries) as compensation for their stolen birthright. That’s very lame.

    Get radical! Forget regulating the banks and start thinking about how to reduce them to where they can be drowned in a bathtub (to borrow an expression).

    “Josiah Charles Stamp, the 1st Baron Stamp was born on June 21, 1880 and died during the Blitz of London in World war two. He was a director of the Bank of England and the second richest man in the country when in a talk at the University of Texas in the 1920′s he said the following:

    ‘Banking was conceived in iniquity and was born in sin. The bankers own the earth. Take it away from them, but leave them the power to create money, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough deposits to buy it back again. However, take it away from them, and all the great fortunes like mine will disappear and they ought to disappear, for this would be a happier and better world to live in. But, if you wish to remain the slaves of bankers and pay the cost of your own slavery, let them continue to create money.’ “ from http://freedomforall.net/director-of-bank-of-england-says-banking-was-conceived-in-iniquity-and-was-born-in-sin/

    1. Susan the other

      Hi F. I just got lost in the ether. Somebody’s server went down and my comment was lost. All I can remember saying to you is that I agree with you 100% that inequity (iniquity?) in the money system has caused the whole mess. But I wish you would cut progressives a little slack. Progress isn’t a blunt instrument, whether left or right. It’s just progress. Knowledge always moves forward, right? It is too bad it is such slow going. But what else is there? I think you yourself meet the definition of progressive in the changes you call for. In fact, I think you meet the definition of a radical progressive. Which is my favorite thing about you.

  11. Valissa

    We live at a strange moment in history. Everything has changed. The old ideologies have been disgraced and the old institutions lie in ruins. But the mainstream media and educational institutions have not yet come to terms with this. They continue to frame everything within the old ideas and narratives. …

    The problem is that the old ideologies run deep – very deep.

    Philip Pilkington @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/philip-pilkington-naked-capitalism-%e2%80%93-a-rare-bird.html

    Mikey M states above “My point was always that this classification we use of “right and “left” really has no meaning any more” and IMO that is very true. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that those designations have less and less meaning all the time, even though they still hold power of the minds of many who are still fighting the old fights with the old enemies. btw, dualisms have this tendencey to devolve into battles of good and evil, which are highly emotional, and at that point there is no possibility of rational or objective analysis only self-righteous moralizing (essentiallly religious, as political ideology is essentially a form of secular religion).

    According to a political science text I read a couple of years ago, people form their political identities in their late teens and twenties (and do not generally or easily upgrade their ideological firmware). Many here know that, historically speaking, the political parties change their identities and who they support (i.e. which interest groups buy them) over time. As Philip pointed out, we are in such a time. In such times as these more people are changing how they think politically, but it is very slow.

    Old beliefs and worldviews do not surrender their hold without much inner work and new information and a personal desire to change them. I think this is why there has been an increased interested in history, finance and economics. More are paying attention to the money and power games that are the reality the is happening underneath the disguise of political ideology. More and better information is need to rebuild/remondel personal worldviews… always a work in progress.

    Listening to Solomon talk was like having a bad flashback. What I have liked about OWS is the reluctance to buy into the old left-right paradigm and it seems like there is a move to develop some newer ways of thinking about money and power relations. “We are the 99%” is a good start but there is still a tendency to fall back into old activist mindsets, plus you still have the dualism problem (99% vs, 1%). Instead NEW activist mindsets and worldviews are needed that are multi-polar and multidimensional.

    To be honest, I don’t know how to go about that other than to keep trying to talk about it and brainstrom with others of like mind. I just know that I ditched the left-right dualism back in 2008 because I finally realized it was broken, old, faded, and no longer useful (my 4 years attempting to be a “progressive” and then watching the entire netroots sellout to the establishment and get nothing in return but “access” was very enlightening). Since then I have been seeking new ways to look at and discuss the problems I see in the governance and management of the US.

    I like this blog because it seems there are others here trying to figure out how to break the old paradigms and see what’s really going on. I understand that some are still very attached to the left-right paradigm as I used to be at one time. Change happens slowly until a sudden shift in perspective occurs. But I remain optimistic that the old paradigms will continue to dissolve so that new visions can be born.

    1. Richard Kline

      So Valissa, I’m sorry you had the ‘paid in to be sold out’ experience, but yes I’m sure it was illuminatng. I never gave a dime to any of those netroots onmovers or the like. They were going to go exactly where they went, to Hearbreak Hotel on an expense account.

      Again, the way left-right is used in the media and present discussion, as it has filtered into your commented perspective here, is _entirely distinct and a falsification of the historical meanings of those terms_. That is where much of the confusion lies. ‘Left’ in this context means centrist or center-right liberals by any historical comparison. This ‘Left’ of the last twenty years of media _deliberate_ distortion, has nothing to do with the long term usage of that concept. And furthermore, even many genuinely left or reformist individuals over the last twenty years have been far, FAR to cobwebbed up into electoral politics and lobbying as a strategy. It is exactly these latter individuals who self-defined as ‘progressives.’ I quit marching with them about the time they slapped on that label, because with that approach they were going to end up exactly where they are today, Nowheresville. That is what I spoke to in the large critique of my prior guest post which Yves linked to above.

      I’m all for the Occupations, which were not extant at the time my earlier post was written.

  12. chad

    just want to quote Still Above Water and remind everyone to see the forest through the trees

    “Agreed. All that matters now is UP vs DOWN (1% vs 99%). The mainstream media and political parties use ‘right and left’ to divide the 99%. Don’t buy into it!”

    Right vs. Left is just the divide and conquer of the 99%

  13. tz

    “Inexpensive health care”? Yes, free lunches are popular, but not paying doctors, medical equipment makers, or farmers will limit supply. Healthcare which is expensive to government isnt working.

    That said, Ron Paul is 80% of what you say you want – and on the more critical issues of civil liberties (argue teacher compensation while locked in a militare brig and sleep deprived?) Is 100%, and if it were more than hot air he would win because of the crossover.

    Instead it is likely to be Romney v. Obama, and of course the pro-choice will be the current bankster oligarch.

  14. Otter

    The solution is trivially discovered :

    What is the one thing which they most assiduously forbid us?

  15. Michael

    Since the Romans people have understood that money will corrupt government. No country has solved the problem, although ‘minimal government’ can minimize the problem.

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