The Debate Over Tactics In the Modern Left: Radical Opposition or Strategic Inclusive Engagement?

Yves here. This post brings up a classic issue about tactics for achieving change that readers often debate in comments. So it is useful to have an opportunity to focus on this question.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

World CO2 emissions are growing, not falling. What will the children say? (source)

Modern America is a tense place these days. By that I mean, there are a number of tensions in American social and political life that are, this year, coming to a frothy head.

First, consider the tension in center and leftish circles around class war and the 2020 election. Many argue that the right way for to Democrats to win this election is by embracing “identity politics” — that racial justice, justice for women, for gay, lesbian and trans individuals, for indigenous peoples and all other victimized groups must come first, must be placed front and center. And not just for presentation and marketing purposes (though many do argue that vote-getting starts with making the identity case), but because fighting the old white patriarchy is a necessary precursor to fighting the class war — that if the old white patriarchy is in place, the class war can’t be won.

Adolph Reed Jr. has written much about this tension on the left (his latest is here), and proponents of the Sanders candidacy stand almost alone in believing the solution lies in winning the class struggle.

So that’s one tension. Another is the tension around radical, oppositional action versus a more considered, careful, inclusive approach. Visitors to DWT recently read about Rep. Pramila Jayapal and her “balancing act” — her attempt to keep real progressives, not-so-real progressives and Party leaders all aligned with genuinely progressive legislation like Medicare for All. Time will determine if that strategy succeeds; everyone I know hope it does.

Radical opposition, however, has its proponents, and no subject inspires them more than the coming climate catastrophe, which the world is doing less than nothing to head off (see graph at top).

Will the politics of accommodation work in this sphere, or will radical action be required? Must the current system be broken and rebuilt before a climate solution can be enacted?

As writer David Atkins explains it in the following twitter thread, the choices left to us are really one choice. First, the Right will not let — is not letting — the current system survive in any case; they’re breaking norms with everything they touch. Second, the current system cannot provide a climate solution. Thus breaking that system the way the Left wants to break it provides the only hope “for those of us who want to live to 2050.”

Radical thoughts for a radical time. Here’s that thread. See what you think after you read it.

Short thread here on climate change, the norms of democracy, and the battle between the right, center left and progressive left. Ready? Here goes… /1

The Right has always depended for its success on the implicit or explicit threat that it would be willing to subvert all the norms of democracy to achieve its goals, whether it be “2nd amendment remedies” or the Federalist Society’s changing all the rules in the courts…/2

This is how the Right works the refs: they let everyone know that they’re willing to pull out ALL the stops if white male patriarchy and racism don’t stay centered in society, and if rich people don’t get to keep all the loot. /3

The center left has long depended on being the “responsible” party. The cogent ones, the level headed ones. The perpetual Real Mothers in the Justice of Solomon [story] willing to sacrifice almost anything to salvage the system. /4

The problem is that this dynamic between right and center left is codependent and convenient to the status quo. The far right gets to keep the angry old racists happy, the center left keeps the concerned vaguely cosmopolitan educated crowd happy. And the donors always win. /5

The progressive left [is] saying “enough of this game. We, too, are willing to break the norms of American democracy because these issues are life and death emergencies.” We’re not going to play the responsible straight man to the GOP’s destructive clown. /6

Yes, we KNOW the Green New Deal can’t pass through the Senate under the current system. We’re not stupid. We’re [putting] down the marker that if this system won’t let the GND pass, we will change the system until it does–eliminate the filibuster, add states, pack courts, etc. /7

So when the center left says “but I can pass this weaker version”, the answer is twofold:
1) no, you can’t. The GOP is a destructive clown that won’t give you the time of day, either. But also,
2) we don’t care what you think [you] can pass. We’re telling you what we need. /8

And if that means changing the system? So be it. If it means breaking the system? So be it. The norms of 20th century American democracy are worthless compared to the threat of climate change. Also, radical inequality. Also, the declining middle class. /9

The right has been very effective playing this game. They are signaling loud and clear they would rather have a Putin-backed dictatorship under a corrupt idiot than give up old white male privilege or [plutocratic] control. What is the left willing to do? How far will we go? /10

The center left’s answer? Nowhere. We’ll do whatever we can with the system we have, and whatever happens happens…as long as nobody’s stock portfolio takes a hit. That is completely, totally unacceptable to those of us who want to live to 2050. Or have [kids] who do. /11

If the system won’t budge with us, we’ll budge the system. We are dealing with catastrophic threats, and econ/tech challenges well beyond the capacity of our current politics. Your experience within the system means nothing now. Your commitment to the goal is everything. /12

In short, the current system WILL NOT SURVIVE. The right sees an existential threat from a browning, more progressive population. They cannot afford for democracy to survive, and they will kill it if given half the chance. /13

But the current system also won’t let us deal with our environmental, technological and economic challenges in anything like the timeframe we need to solve them. Which means the defenders of that system are just as dangerous in their own way as the right wing is. /14

The future belongs to the side that changes the system to accomplish their goals. Will it be young progressives? Or will it rich old racists? There is no middle ground. There is no responsible defense of the status quo. It’s going to be one side or the other. /fin

His conclusion is striking, but not surprising. We’ve heard it from others as well. As Atkins says:

• The defenders of the present system are as dangerous in their way as the right wing is.
• The future belongs to the side that changes the system to accomplish their goals.

The terms of this debate apply to a number of policy fields, and we’ll be hearing some form of this discussion, of this tension, throughout the 2020 campaign. For example, the Medicare For All debate has already been characterized (accurately in my view) as a battle to replace capitalism (see Ed Walker’s “The Green New Deal Challenges the Domination of Capital“).

But the argument above applies no more directly than it does in the climate debate, where the clock is running, the end (if it comes) is near and total, and there’s no turning back to anything that went before, no matter how much we wish it were not so.

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  1. Anarcissie

    ‘If the system won’t budge with us, we’ll budge the system.’

    Been working on this, not very successfully. Would like to see the author’s plan.

    1. m sam

      ‘Been working on this, not very successfully.’

      Perhaps any plan would be helped immensely by performing a detailed examination of what hasn’t worked.

      1. Sanxi

        You just don’t get it, it really is about living beyond 2050, as everything goes to hell in terms of extreme weather and that our current living arrangements with reality can’t be maintained, it isn’t a matter if we change but how. It’s every a managed long emergency or chaos.

      2. Sanxi

        You just don’t get it, it really is about living beyond 2050, as everything goes to hell in terms of extreme weather and that our current living arrangements with reality can’t be maintained, it isn’t a matter if we change but how. It’s every a managed long emergency or chaos. …

        1. m sam

          What don’t I get? Did I say something that made you think I’m not in agreement with every word you just wrote, except for the first five?

        2. Christy

          Your comments have been double posting. Sometimes a little more patience is required to prevent this from happening.
          Please note, if your comment does not appear right away, wait a moment & refresh the page.

          If it results in an “error” message when you attempt to post, this does not mean it won’t post. Close the window & open the page in a new window & refresh if necessary. It should appear (unless it is in moderation for some reason).

          Please check under Policies on NC (top toolbar), under “why hasn’t my comment appeared” for further understanding on how it works.

      3. Oregoncharles

        @ m sam: That would be “Working within the system.”

        But I have my own take on this discussion: if we can’t even get people to vote for the Green Party – even here on NC – what’s the point of calling for some sort of revolution?

        There is a way it does apply, and it’s pretty grim. Elections are an alternative to violence. If people refuse to use the electoral system to overturn the status quo, they’re likely to blow right past the voting stage to the “torches and pitchforks” stage – widespread violence. And I’m not very optimistic about the outcome of a revolution in this country: who has the guns? Is anybody doing outreach to the military? Actually, I know of an organization that is: Veterans for Peace. Might be worth supporting.

        And a really out there suggestion: the Oathkeepers might be worth reaching out to, as well. Their rhetoric is positive, depending on interpretation, and their intervention in Ferguson was surprisingly positive – they tried to protect the demonstrators. The rhetoric is probably a cover for dangerous intentions, but getting them to live up to it would be worthwhile.

        1. Carey

          I think that people are voting for Greens, but those votes are not accurately
          counted. Stein-Baraka got only 1.03% of the vote in 2016, we are told?
          No effing way.

          1. Oregoncharles

            Good question. I think it was more like 2% in Oregon, which has a fairly honest electoral system. But, for instance, California evidently does not. To say nothing of the South.

            1. Carey

              I’m in California, and I think your perception of its electoral
              system is accurate. I voted for Stein-Baraka, know many others
              who did, but this was not reflected in their vote totals.

          2. habenicht

            Similar but different was the outcome of Tim Canova’s most recent 2018 election as an Independent against DWS in Florida. His votes “capped out” at 5% for every demographic. This is curious to say the least. If I remember right, I think he even had polling data to compare to which was significantly different. (the polls for most races with Greens and Independents tend not to even include these outside candidates in the poll! This serves as yet another way of clouding any sense of what the expectation ought to be for the ultimate vote count for outside candidates.)

            To me observations like this really throw into question the legitimacy of these elections. But here the threats are the software companies with black box counting algorithms running the voting booths, not Russian interference.

            I think the lawsuits and fights over election integrity (hand counted ballots in public as Lambert likes to refer to it) is a necessary condition (but in this case its not sufficient) to be met before we can even think about an overthrow of the status quo electorally.

            I’ve been a little behind on the news on this, but interestingly (or surprisingly!) it’s the Greens who seem to be doing the most work on fixing this.

        2. m sam

          Yes, certainly.

          Btu really Oregoncharles, the Oathkeepers? Perhaps I’m wrong, bren’t they involved on all that nonsense happening there in Portland these days?

          1. Oregoncharles

            Portland? I don’t know – I think that’s “Patrot Prayer” and a couple of for-sure white supremacist groups.

            It probably depends on the local group. But they have an entry to the security forces, which is difficult to get from a lefty position.

            They promise to protect the Constitution; if that means the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment, they could wind up on our side.

            The VietNam War ended, in large part, because the military just refused to do it any more. Similarly, the revolution in Bolivia and some others. That’s what we’re going to need when push comes to shove.

      4. Anarcissie

        It would take quite a while, wouldn’t it?

        I suppose if the well-known substance hits the well-known fan the right-wingers will do something definitive, but it probably won’t be very nice.

  2. George Phillies

    I am most reminded of a historical parallel. A good description is found in David Potter’s The Impending Crisis. He was a great American historian, who described the US from 1845 to 1860. As time advanced, various sides stopped listening to each other, and started seeing each other as bizarre caricatures of what they apparently were actually like. Eventually, the system fell apart.

    The diatribe above and matching diatribes from other sides much resemble the non-functional situation Potter described in his magnum opus The Impending Crisis.

    1. Summer

      “As time advanced, various sides stopped listening to each other, and started seeing each other as bizarre caricatures of what they apparently were actually like…”

      Then and now, there are actual policies affecting people’s that are the drivers of the wedge. It is not only a communications problem.

      “Listen while I explain why you should die if you don’t live like I do.”

      How’s that for an honest conversation starter?

    2. Discouraged in WI

      Another recent book covering the same period is “The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War” by Joanne Freeman, 2018.

      1. Adam Eran

        Don’t forget The Populist Moment that describes the result (the post-war period).

        Plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose.

    3. Sanxi

      Beg to differ. 1. As to the expansion of slavery everyone was listening to each, which was how we ended up with A. Lincoln. 2. There was no diatribe above. 3. Potter was a lousy historian. 4. Beliefs are based on facts yet you offer none, you argue by gibberish.

  3. ambrit

    This hits close to home for me. I have been converted to the “break the rules, they have already been broken” point of view.
    Given how dire the climate change predictions now are, I see the contest now as not who gets to set the climate remediation rules, but who gets to survive the disaster.
    The basic task now is to set the parameters that determine what sort of society the world will have a hundred years hence. That task requires the allocation of present resources to not only slow down climate worsening, but to build the tools to create a resilient future human society. That presupposes a ‘vision’ of a future human culture. In this case, ideology and it’s underlying philosophy are crucial.
    We all are going to have to fight as if our lives and posterity were at stake, because they are.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I believe the most important thing for future survival is Knowledge. Climate Chaos is here now and growing worse. We, all Humankind, have sufficient Knowledge to adapt and survive. Preserving Knowledge is crucial preserving civilization. There is far too much for any one person to Know and preserve. Choose the knowledge you Love — preserve and share that. Retaining civilization requires the Love and actions of many. The presupposition of “a ‘vision’ of a future human culture” as you argue is crucial … but there must be Many visions of that future human culture and many efforts to save what those manifold visions hold valuable.

      As a retired engineer, I value patent literature.

      1. ambrit

        A paper copy of the two volumes of “How Things Work” is worth it’s weight in whatever you value.

        1. anon y'mouse

          which two, and by whom?

          there are many books with similar names when searched.

          thank you for your time.

          1. ambrit

            I’m in a quandry. The copies I have are somewhere in the attic of the old house on the coast. Blast! However, the set “How Things Work” in two volumes from the late sixties and early seventies, by Paladin and Van Amerongen, describe the methods of function of many common machines and processes. Pretty good volumes I’ve read. (Amazon asks an outrageous sum, while Abe books is somewhat better on price. I have seen the set for under ten dollars at other venues.) I’m somewhat at a loss because the books I remember having were, I thought, much older, as in 1950’s vintage. but, at my decrepit stage of life, I could be wrong. Many libraries should have these books on the shelves or available so you can look them over before buying. That’s how I do it.
            Survive in Style!

  4. robert

    “Putin-backed dictatorship under a corrupt idiot ”
    Really? – you really need to re-read Solzhenitsyn.
    “Given how dire the climate change predictions now are”
    Check your Ouji board. The corruption of the source data has been documented. The goal seeking subroutines in the models have been documented.

    1. ambrit

      Agreed about how the data sets are not rock solid. However, even if the phenomenon is part of one of the Grand Cycles, change of one sort or another is happening. I’m basing the root state of the climate on the record over the entire Quaternary period. That’s roughly two and a half million years. During that time, the Terrestrial climate has varied quite a bit. Right now, we probably are enjoying the end of an extended period of unusually quiet and balmy weather. Humans as a species have carried on throughout much of this period, first as proto-Homo and later as ‘true’ ‘Homo sap. sap.’ What might not make the next transition intact is human ‘civilization.’
      Time to build another set of Pyramids.

      1. Sanxi

        The data sets are rock solid, IPCC data is that which is beyond refute. To say otherwise is to engage to be insane.

        1. ambrit

          Sorry to quibble, but you seem fixated on “official” modes of thought.
          The phenomenon of internal bias comes into play. Much data gathering has an internal bias, whether through varieties of learned methodology or institutional political bias. The data sets can be rock solid and yet exclude outliers that do not “fit the narrative” of whatever group is originating the data set in the first place.
          I get where you are propounding the superiority of “science.” I have no reservations there. I do have reservations when I consider that the “science” is being carried out by fallible humans.
          As goes the saying: “Mathematics does not lie. Mathematicians do.”

          1. Tony Wright

            And I have way more reservations about short-sighted, self-serving politicians worldwide ( most of them) who either ignore, or are too stupid to understand, the overwhelming, science based imperative to do the following:
            1. Curb human populations,
            2. Replace fossil fuels with renewables ASAP,
            3. Stop destroying and polluting what precious little natural habitat remains,
            4. Develop an economic system which does not depend on never ending growth. The planet is not getting bigger, only our greedy exploitation of it.

            The bottom line: Start showing some necessary leadership you bunch of ignorant, self serving (expletives deleted), and stop kowtowing to the demands of the top 1% of money grabbers.

            1. John Wright

              I believe politicians everywhere have done a crude calculation of what future economic policies will be needed to keep their populations content enough to avoid internal unrest for the near term future.

              Much of this policy involves food + material comforts (a “better life”) that directly derive from hydrocarbons pulled from the earth and burned.

              While this might appear to be full-speed sailing the Titanic into a (known) climate change iceberg, I don’t see how the trajectory will be (not can be) changed.

              About the only hope I can see is that the world wide hydrocarbon producers have drastically overestimated reserves and we will run out of “fuel” before the most drastic climate changes occur.

              When it comes to climate change and changing human behavior, the American comic strip Dilbert had one character state this:

              “Change is good, you go first.”

              And “self serving (expletives deleted)” may be an apt description for much of humanity as each individual, independent of class, attempts to optimize their own lifestyles.

              1. Tony Wright

                I agree, and in doing so they are condemning their descendents to a planet which resembles a combination of Syria, Mad Max and the Manila Rubbish Tip.
                Anybody who has studied ecology or evolution knows that any population of animals, or even plants, which grows too large is then subject to the same deadly problems; disease, conflict, and famine. We humans have successfully kicked the can down the road as far as disease, and to some degree, famine are concerned via the use of medical and agricultural technology. However the resulting overpopulation is now at the point where we have caused the extinction of over 40 percent of other species, basically by competitive exclusion via the ongoing destruction of natural habitats in favour of human interests, i.e. Logging, farming, mining, transport and housing.
                Add to that the escalating effects of anthropomorphic climate change because of massive overuse of fossil fuels and we are consigning our descendents to a living hell within two generations at best.
                But you are right, most people are too short sighted or ignorant to change. This is made worse by the across the board modern trend to vilify and belittle expertise and institutions , encouraged by populist politicians in many countries and the US in particular.

    2. Jeff Clulow

      He’s quoting from a Twitter thread by the writer David Atkins, not making that assertion himself.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Unfortunately, it’s pretty convincing. the current finagling over the Green New Deal resolution – just a resolution, not law – is a good example.

        He leaves it standing. I think he finds it convincing, too.

    3. Steven

      Robert, Ambrit

      Have you been outside in the last 30 – 40 years? Are all those melting glaciers just Photoshop’d? Apparently the IPCC and all their co-conspirators haven’t been corrupting the data and biasing their goal seeking subroutines enough because all their predictions have been radically too conservative.

      The science is in and has been in for a long, long time. The basic issues involve chemistry and physics not computer science or statistics.

      1. ambrit

        We here in The Bunker do send out robotic investigating teams every year.
        The IPCC does good work. It is the political component that is “skewed.” Data is only as useful as the ends to which it is dedicated.
        The debate, as much as I have seen of it, seems devoted to which types of countermeasures to be deployed as a result of this episode of global warming. Warming has happened in the Quaternary Period several times, alternating with glaciations.
        Something on the historical temperature record:
        Something on the last recognized major climate warm up:
        Finally, something from NASA on the runaway greenhouse effect:
        This entire subject is a classic “work in progress.”

  5. The Rev Kev

    Erdogan of Turkey once said: ‘Democracy is like a train – you get off once you have reached your destination.’ I am going to say that for the Right, that is also true. Yes, they say that they are all for the American way but when push comes to final shove, these very same people will dump American democracy because of the ’emergency situation’ i.e. they are losing – and then claim that they are doing the ‘right’ thing. And this will apply from the Wall Street suit all the way down to the bewhiskered guy in the blackened SUV with his Oakleys & AR-15s.
    Just the threat of a changing world has made the hard Right come out into the open with the newly created ‘Department of Homeland Security’, the Patriot Act, militarized police and the by now obviously fawning media spouting the deep state line. Does anybody really think that an Ayn Rand type is all for democracy? Or a Bezos? Or a Pelosi? And there is not point trying to play fair with the Right. There is no ‘fair’ with them. When Scott Walker’s Republicans lost Wisconsin, they tried to poison the water well by passing a raft of laws to hamstring the incoming Democrat Governor. That is the reality to be dealt with.
    Each year it is getting more obvious that this is going to be a war to the death as the climate breaks down. “Identity politics” is not going to do it. That is how you lose. Again and again and again. Ultimately that is what got people Trump. How about just recruiting ALL Americans no matter their skin colour, religion, beliefs, wealth, etc as in the end, nobody will escape drastic climate change. I am coming around to the belief that the only way to make the critical changes necessary for survival is a political version of the Chicago Way-

    1. Jeff N

      Yes, it took me a long time to understand why communists controlled their media. It wasn’t because communism is “evil.”

  6. Anonymous

    I do not think any real leftist movement will end up in power in the near future in any westernized country, even when the really noticeable effects of climate change will hit the economy hard. There is just too much baggage associated with the left, that the media often points out when they dismantle arguments. This is a view strictly based on what I have seen on the Internet, but I would imagine that it is having a serious effect on society considering the blurring of reality with internet meme culture and alternative media where everyone can regurgitate old as the hills political views and parrot contemporary ones and somehow be considered new and “edgy”.

    The legacy media and right-wing alternative media always make sure to attribute everything that is wrong with leftism. It does not matter to them where you are on the scale of leftist thought, from social democrat to anarcho-communist, you are either an authoritarian marxist that wants to recreate Maoist china with all its horrors or you are an useful idiot for a person like that. They purposefully conflate centrist neoliberal parties with leftists when corporate malfeasance is to blame for something, because socialism cant be used in that case. They attribute everything wrong socially with leftism from the high divorce rates, to the drug epidemic, AIDS, wars, the ever shrinking middle class, natural disasters are because God is pissed off about godless leftists, the poor quality of education etc. Leftist men are all emasculated, whiny, limp-wristed, feminist cucks. Leftist women are all ugly, shrieking radical feminists.
    And the list can go on and on about stereotypes used by the right-wingers with bullhorns whether on TV or online, where it is way worse and much more easily spread around. There is disturbingly large number of sites whose users identify as right-wing where all sorts of conspiracy theories are being peddled and, of course, the vast majority of them attributed to godless, child killing and raping, society destroying totalitarian leftists.

    The political center in terms of parties has mostly been co-opted by neoliberalism. People with fairly large online followings, that identify as centrist, are considered as outside the influence of neoliberalism. They take upon themselves the task of reforming the extremists, the radical nationalistic right-wing and the left, to restore “sanity” and “civility”. And yes, to them all of the left is soviet communism. Trying to argue with them gets you harassed by their followers. In the terms of economic thought, most of these centrist are either libertarian or traditional christian democrats. Somehow, in their worldview, if the left would be more like what they think is proper in term of economics everything would be alright. When it comes to education and culture, both the centrists and the right from the alternative media call for immediate expulsion of anyone with thoughts that can be considered collectivist or leftist and, of course, outright censorship of leftist literature. Somehow, centrists are liberal on social issues such as abortion, drug legalization and other stuff so that is why they do not identify as right-wing. But, the alternative media centrists overlap with the right-wing when it comes to certain conspiracy theories such as the following:

    – the EU wants to dilute the white European race by bringing in Africans and Arabs because they hate white people;
    – the EU is a massive communist totalitarian police state;
    – western countries will all be made of mixed race people if the tough immigration and racial purity laws are not set in place;
    – the Frankfurt school wanted to destroy the West;
    – the left wants to indoctrinate children to be LGBT pedophile monsters to destroy the nuclear family etc.

    And finally, the left. If racial identity politics is an invention of the political center then plenty of people who identify as leftists have fallen for this. Numerous ridiculous articles on mansplaining, micro-aggresions, the need for safe spaces etc. have vomited forth from leftists blogs and publications. Comedy is too harsh, education isn’t focused on equality of outcome, which is impossible anyway, entertainment isn’t racially diverse enough, there aren’t enough women in every job, even though women themselves don’t want to do certain jobs, this comment is racist, that comment is sexist, fire and publicly humiliate all people with comments that can be considered racist or sexist. They have positioned themselves as the fun police, analogous to the religious morality in Muslim countries, and are telling everyone that if they like person X, music Y, movie Z they are racist, sexist monsters. Of course, in some countries this form of thought policing has spilled over politics. These SJW leftists support open borders regardless of the effects mass migration has on the host country, since to them, their native countries are too white and if you are against them you are a racist Nazi. They have infiltrated academia and are promoting their warped agenda. Right-wingers and centrist do exaggerate their influence, since most young people see this for the crap it is, but it doesn’t stop this strand of lunacy from further infiltrating the media, academia, entertainment, culture (with horrible radical feminist “art”), politics and even science (there has been a large increase in stupid research papers that somehow want to prove that science is corrupted by the fact that mostly straight white males are scientist).

    So, how does the “sane” left tackle all of this? The fact that the image of leftism is overburdened with so many negative things that have been attributed, rightly or wrongly by people of other political persuasions, is, in my opinion, a major obstacle. Add to that the infighting between leftist parties, which centrists and right-wingers often point out and relish, the tendency to just call SJW and other extremists as not real leftists or infiltrators (which they can be, but this is thrown around too often as a rebuttal) and the fact that some of the left support Antifa. Even if this organization is fighting for the right cause, their use of violence is extremely easy to misrepresent, so they are a liability, especially when they destroy cars and small businesses. Not to mention the fact that they have a checkered history, with bombings, kidnappings and murders.
    And it is doubtful that climate change will sway most people to vote in favor of leftists with genuinely good plans for reducing and adapting to its effects. People would still hope that some inventions come along and solve everything. Of course, per the current mindset it has to be cheap and smart enough to use else a part of the GDP would have to invested and that is communism.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      your despair comes through loud and clear, and sadly I can’t really argue with anything you say

    2. ambrit

      Oh bugger all.
      I feel like the desperate person who spots a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and then discovers that it is an oncoming train.

      1. polecat

        One could look on the bright side (sorry ambrit) .. and grok that the tunnel bifurcates somewhere between you and the run-away climate train, giving one some extra time to prepare for when the next hammer blow barrels down.

    3. Grebo

      Not to mention the fact that they [Antifa] have a checkered history, with bombings, kidnappings and murders.

      Um, really? I’ve not heard of anything like that. A quick search turns up one nutcase from Oregon, allegedly linked with Antifa, shot by police trying to enter his daughter’s school while armed. Doesn’t sound like an Antifa operation to me. Any other credible reports?

      AIUI Antifa’s purpose (the ones that aren’t cops) is to confront fascism on the streets. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

      1. Plenue

        “It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.”

        Literally no one has to do it. All it does is give Neo-Nazis media attention, which is what they want. This is literally from the early days playbook of the Nazis.

    4. TimR

      Skimming that.. Amusing summary of partisan rhetoric.. I think what you are describing is a situation where Intelligence has infiltrated and co-opted any and all opposition, from left or right. They take valid critiques, and poison the well. Thereby blackwashing all critics of whatever stripe. Most people naively take these loud voices as genuine spokespeople, sometimes getting sucked in (due to the good info they dispense along with the poison.)

    5. notabanker

      I understand your pessimism here, been there. And I think this is a pretty accurate description of the current state of affairs as portrayed through the mainstream.

      But I also think regular people that far outnumber the core GOP and DNC bases are fed up and seeing through this. I do believe Sanders has a legitimate shot to win the Presidency. The main obstacle I see is not Sanders, but Congress. Unless there is a corresponding movement to unseat Congresscritters, then Sanders will be lame duck in terms of legislation. There are a lot things he can accomplish in the administration, but without funding the GND is dead. And we don’t have time to wait for 2024.

      Two other points:
      So, how does the “sane” left tackle all of this?
      Speak the truth. I think the messaging from Sanders and AOC so far has been pretty masterful is is cutting through the din. Personally, I’ve been sampling friends, family and acquaintances and I’ve been surprised how effective a few specific examples have really driven the point home. I think it is easy for regular followers of this blog to get bogged down in how big the mountain is to climb, but most people haven’t the time nor critical thinking skills to put all of this together. They are thirsty for someone to talk to them in real language about real stuff.

      it is doubtful that climate change will sway most people to vote in favor of leftists

      This is no longer a thing that’s going to happen to those poor Bangladeshis. People are seeing this in their neighborhoods. I’m learning through my conversations that fatalism, doom and gloom, chicken little speeches aren’t going to sink in. Neither is kick the can down the road. Stark, real terms and facts do, and what I appreciate about the GND the most is that it presents a framework that gives context to a much larger picture than the evil smokestacks. This is going to start to sink in and it’s going to be interesting how the reactions manifest themselves.

      I may be naive, but I think there will be a political revolution. I don’t think it will be enough, and I think we are way too far down the path to give the next generation a 1990’s lifestyle that I came of age in (which is the picture the current political apparatus is trying to paint), but there may be a chance to avert total catastrophic failure and we have to go for that. Giving in to the status quo is going to result in much more human suffering.

    6. Sanxi

      Utter nonsense. The focus will be on outcomes, the process used to achieve them will be determined by that. Reality is that which believes in you when you stop believing in it, my friend. Get a grip.

    7. workingclasshero

      To make it worse.last time i went to an”our revolution” web site,they’ve essentially caved in to the Black lives matter and hard feminist crowd.

      1. P Hicks

        That isn’t “caving in.” You seem to think that having backwards regressive attitudes towards women and people of color is an asset rather than the liability it really is. I know that the comments section here seems to skew heavily towards older white men but you should really try to break out of your bubble and see that you are on the losing side of history.

  7. PlutoniumKun

    By nature and inclination I’m an incrementalist. I recall a story told by an Irish politician who, on getting his first senior political post with power was advised by an older colleague ‘don’t try to change the system. Just put your power and focus on one thing that will make a difference, one policy change or law – if you can change one policy for the better, your time will not have been wasted’. In normal times, that’s not bad advice for the political active. But when you are a frog in a pan of water and that water is showing signs of boiling, getting a fan installed in the kitchen is not enough, you need to get out of that water, and fast. The water is boiling.

    One of the huge problems we have politically is not necessarily the power of the oligopolic rich, or climate deniers – to a large extent they have lost the argument, even on the centre right most people will frankly say that inequality has gone too far, that climate change is an existential threat to us all. What we see with Trump and the Brexiteers is a subset of the rich grabbing the last of the loot before they run out the door. The problem is just societal momentum. It is, in short, habit. People have invested in their cars and their sunshine holidays and their weekly shop and don’t really know how to change, even if deep down I think most people know it must change.

    Sociologists will say that much societal change is not gradual – historically change can occur very rapidly when a tipping point occurs. To give what may be a very facile example, I recall that when it was proposed to ban smoking in pubs and restaurants in Ireland, most people – non-smokers like myself included – thought it was too radical and it would never be accepted. But within 6 months it became almost entirely accepted, even the most hard core smoker/drinkers accepted it, and even admitted that it was a very good idea. Society had flipped from seeing smoking indoors in public places as ‘normal’, to ‘weird and dangerous’ within a very short time. What was needed was that radical moment (in this case, a politician who had the foresight to take the above advice, he just happened to be someone who hated smoking). Hence a country in which smoky bars were a central feature of its culture became a country that led the world in making smoky bars unacceptable.

    I believe that only a truly radical break with societal momentum can change the way we do things – we’ve just gone too far and its too late for incrementalism to work. Ironically, I think the political situation now is that radical change would actually be easier to implement than slower change – because we are rapidly reaching a tipping point. Even the oligarchs seem to realised this as you can see by the rush of companies trying to hedge themselves out of businesses that may well soon be seen as socially unacceptable (fossil fuels, etc).

    The strange situation now is that I think the US can lead rather than be a laggard. European politics is too bogged down in its own structural problems to make radical change – I doubt if there are any circumstances the sort of consensus required for a GND type policy in Europe could ever be achieved – for Europe its gradual change or nothing. China and Russia are too deeply involved in their own national aims to be ‘world leaders’ in this sense, although China’s industrial might is crucial to the success of any radical change. The duopolistic nature of US politics means it is the only major country that can exercise the sort of 180 degree turn needed – and then only if one half of the duopoly comprehensively defeats the other half (or, to be precise, the other half within one half of the duopoly, which then defeats the Republicans). This is why I think AOC’s Green New Deal is the single most important policy initiative of the century and we all need it to succeed. And it can only succeed through no-holds barred combat.

    1. Sanxi

      Read all your comments every day I’d say you always find the good in worst use cases, which results in everything be cancelled out. Which is to say you tend to advocate that nothing ever gets done. But here you do advocate strong action, good for you. Extreme weather is going to get more extreme, that is a fact. There is no option for the US Gvt to plod along, in fact at the federal level it is likely to become irrelevant. The amount of suffering that is going to occur is nearly unimaginable. That will force change. But what kind?

  8. el_tel

    I tend towards pessimism and that once the Overton Window has gone through a few dacades of shifting, it takes some kind of national emergency to “reset” things: incrementalism won’t work. However, such an emergency is necessary but not sufficient for a reset to work. I’d put forward the first post-WW2 Labour government in the UK as an example. Whilst the need to properly care for all the population became established during the war, I don’t think the outcomes (the NHS etc) were preordained, at least in the manner we came to know them. One thing many forget is that Prime Minister Attlee was able to hit the ground running in 1945: he had been Deputy-PM during the wartime coalition and had effectively “run the domestic economy” whilst Churchill did the war stuff. Furthermore, a bunch of senior Labour politicians had been in government too. Crucially, and unlike the first (pretty much car-crash) Labour government, they all had had time to “learn the practicalities of government” – how the Civil Service really worked, how to get your agenda enacted in the face of internal obstacles.

    Labour really had to move fast on key legislation. Even then, they had trouble getting their manifesto policies through parliament and ended up having to enact the second Parliament Act to do so – one of those key “actually written down” bits of an otherwise unwritten constitution in the UK. Additional rationing was introduced after the war as the country’s finances really collapsed. I really don’t think incrementalism would have worked in the face of a right-wing opposition jumping on every problem.

    Whilst some might claim that Labour’s almost-defeat in 1950, and real defeat in 1951 provide evidence that “going fast” was misguided, it is interesting that 1951 was one of those elections in which the winner lost the popular vote – in this case the Conservatives under Churchill. Even more interesting is that of all the general elections from 1945 to 1997, the election in which a party won the highest percentage of those eligible to vote (popular vote x turnout) was 1951 – the Labour Party (40% of all eligible voters). The election they lost and which landed the Conservatives with 13 years of power as the economy finally recovered. IMHO history might have been quite different had Attlee won in 1951 and been the one to reap those benefits.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I wasn’t aware of that immediate post war history – I’d often wondered why Labour never reaped the electoral benefits of the great changes they brought in. It shows the importance of luck and timing in politics – you can be forgiven a lot if you have the good fortune to be elected just as an economic wave is gathering steam (see Reagan R., Clinton, B and Blair, T., as examples).

    2. David

      Yes, this is one of the classic examples cited by election reformers. I seem to remember also that there had been a particularly harsh winter that was blamed on the government. But it’s a commonplace in the mad British electoral system that virtually any outcome is possible and that share of the popular vote doesn’t matter that much.

  9. David

    I don’t know about the US but the debate in Europe about radical as opposed to incremental policies goes back well into the nineteenth century. The incrementalists were in general more successful and what was known for example as the « parliamentary road to socialism «  was pretty much the default position of established leftist parties after WW2: this even applied in theory to the Communist parties in France and Italy. The policy was based on the idea that time and political pressure would move the Overton Window steadily to the Left and that what Popper called « piecemeal social engineering «  would change society without the need for unpleasantness.
    Didn’t quite work out like that. From the 1980s it was clear that the forces of reaction were not going to let positive change go beyond a certain point, and indeed were going to put it into reverse. So in a sense the argument of this piece is redundant. The forces of reaction will not go quietly, and even if you could somehow assemble some vast, complex and incoherent coalition to take power, power, in name only’ would be all that it had.
    This is not an argument of despair, just an argument for seeing the problem correctly. As several people have pointed out, governments can and have acted with firmness and decision in the past. But most activists don’t want that, and so over the last generation or so, activism has been increasingly chopped up and retailed into tinier and tinier issues of no intrinsic importance but which offer at least the possibility of a small and largely meaningless victory. If you can’t create a better society you can at least have more black costume designers in the entertainment industry, as the Grauniad seemed to be demanding this morning, unless I was hallucinating.
    So there’s a choice between the politics of substance and the politics of theatré or if you prefer, between being allowed to be in government and having actual power.

    1. Clive

      I agree. There’s a subtext to what Neuburger writes which is that the existing system won’t react to any attempts to change the existing system. Well. Of course it will.

      To my mind at that point not only do you have whatever problem you originally started out with (climate change, income inequality, financialisation of everything, military adventurism — or whatever) but you then have a whole heap of other troubles by pro- and anti- system fracas.

      I’ll have no choice but to drag in the EU here. What the founders of what has become the EU tried to do was very brave and noble. Faced with the frequent ruination and misery that an excess of sovereignty coupled with inadequate politics which we can label “unhealthy nationalism” repeatedly wrought, they believed (and many thinkers who espouse the European Project still hold to this and it still shapes the EU’s integrationist agenda) that through economics — controlling the capitalist environment — they could subsume sovereignty and thereby eliminate nationalism and also constrain politics to a narrow largely social-democratic frame.

      But sovereignty, politics and economics are not interchangeable or replaceable or destructible. They are immutable forces. The best outcomes are where all three are present and expressed but kept in perfect balance. Thus the EU today is subject to counterreformation populism.

      No solutions to the problems of humanity will be achieved by seeking to control only one of these three vectors or attempted destroying of any of them. Gaining control of all of them and advancing them all, in sync, in the desired direction, is required.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        But sovereignty, politics and economics are not interchangeable or replaceable or destructible. They are immutable forces. The best outcomes are where all three are present and expressed but kept in perfect balance. Thus the EU today is subject to counterreformation populism.

        No solutions to the problems of humanity will be achieved by seeking to control only one of these three vectors or attempted destroying of any of them. Gaining control of all of them and advancing them all, in sync, in the desired direction, is required.

        Thats a very important point, succinctly put, thanks for that, I’ll certainly be remembering it and re-using it (with attribution of course). It might also be the reason I think that neoliberalism will finally fail (if not before it thrashes the planet).

        I would just add that I think the EU founders were aware of the importance of sovereignty – hence the central role of the Council of Ministers over the Commission and Parliament – but they did hope that notions of sovereignty could be subsumed within a greater variety of sub-national and EU level identities.

    2. diptherio

      As the Sufis put it, “You may have sanctity, or you may have the appearance of sanctity. The choice is yours.”

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          Virtue-signalling is apparenty it’s own reward also, sad to say: one reason why liberal/left politics is often so exasperating and cringe-inducing…

    3. norm de plume

      ‘the debate in Europe about radical as opposed to incremental policies goes back well into the nineteenth century’

      There’s an interesting piece on Victor Serge in the NYRB which describes the evolution of his political thought, from radical and immediate to parliamentary and incremental:

      ‘His heresies grew more serious as he said that “socialism must renounce the ideas of dictatorship and worker hegemony and become the representative of the large numbers of people in whom a socialist-leaning consciousness is germinating, one obscure and without a doctrinal terminology’

  10. Mark Gisleson

    I have a somewhat different perspective on things. I wrote 5,000 resumes for clients in all walks of life. What I witnessed was Wall Street grinding up our workers to make their bread. No one was safe, every year I’d see a new wave of clients from an industry that had figured out how to cannibalize itself for the benefit of (usually) new management. Or old management with new “very smart” advisers. All focused on quarterly profits, none investing in the long-term.

    When everything is about money now and the rules define who wins, everyone loses.

    I think Bernie and socialism are the best response to a very limited menu of choices.

    But something must change or everything will continue to change for the worse for everyone. One of my favorite history lessons while studying slavery systems in the Americas was learning that one factor leading to excessive deaths in childbearing by plantation owners’ young wives was their diet. Some of them chose to eat only cake and other sweets with obvious consequences to their health.

    The rich will kill themselves, the challenge is to keep them from taking all of us with them.

    1. notabanker

      True story, names changed to protect the innocent.

      My kids went to international school overseas. They would bring friends home from different countries regularly. One evening my wife picks me up from the train station with the kids in the back seat and one of their new friends from school. The new friend quickly introduces himself: ‘Hello sir, my name is Cristobal, I’m 11 years old and I’m from Chile. We just moved here 6 months ago.’

      It was a very articulate, well mannered introduction that expected a follow up question. Me: ‘very nice to meet you Cristobal, what do your parents do that brought you here?’

      ‘Well, my father used to work for (insert large American investment bank) but he became angry with them. So he stole all their secrets and took them to work for (insert large overseas investment bank). Now he’s the boss.’

      Out of the mouths of babes.

  11. pjay

    It is hard to respond to this twitter thread without some clarification. It seems that “the Right” = GOP, who “would rather have a Putin-backed dictatorship under a corrupt idiot than give up old white male privilege or [plutocratic] control.” The “center-left” apparently refers to mainstream Democrats who, for *some reason*, are unwilling to be as ruthless as the GOP.

    So (1) who are the “progressive left”? Are they activists? On what issues? Political figures? Pundits? DWT commenters? And more importantly, (2) how do they link up with or mobilize with *the vast majority of citizens in the US?* — because right now there are ZERO linkages that I can see, “The Left” being represented by Nancy Pelosi in most American minds.

    Perhaps I’m being obstinate, but to me this is addressing an existential crisis with the usual partisan political rhetoric (“real” progressives vs. overly cautious Dems vs. the *real* bad guys — the old white male patriarchy Putin Republicans). The author states: “The future belongs to the side that changes the system to accomplish their goals. Will it be young progressives? Or will it rich old racists?” Is this our choice? Where is the rest of society in this dichotomy?

    The good and serious comments of NC readers so far contrasts greatly with the trivial level of “analysis” in this tweet. Am I missing something??

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      1. We use “left” to signify those who seek to improve the conditions of working people.

      2. Despite what you hear from the MSM and the punditocracy, “progressive” positions like strengthening Social Security and Medicare, ending wars, increasing taxes on the rich, have for decades gotten majority approval. The idea that progressive positions are out of line with the desires of most Americans, or way to the “left” of what voters want, is a position that has been aggressively sold by monied interests.

      See here for a classic on this topic:

      1. pjay

        No argument about either of these points — and the essay by Kline is very good.

        I know what I mean by “progressive” and “left,” which is similar to that of the majority of NC readers. But I was questioning Atkins’ usage in the above quotes. I’m trying to identify his “progressive left” as a political actor vs. the “center left” (mainstream Dems) or the Right (Repubs). He seems to want to make a different distinction than that between “class-based” and “identity” positions, which Nueberger notes at the beginning of the essay. And even though the majority of citizens favor what we would define as progressive policies, these preferences have to be translated into political influence somehow if they are to lead to anything concrete. That’s what I mean by “linkages” and “mobilization.” What actors, through what mechanisms, are these preferences to be mobilized so that they don’t continue to be ignored? How is the “system” going to be changed?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          That’s a fair point, and we argue over terminology a lot. Doesn’t help when people of the classic Thomas Frank “liberal” persuasion call themselves progressives…and then the media calls them “left”.

          1. Anonymous

            Old union (Wobbly?) saying:

            ‘A liberal is someone who is on your side (or is it, “at your side”?) until the police draw their truncheons.’

  12. Vbv

    It was largely Atkins who engineered the purge of the non-“centrist” commentariat at Hullabaloo. In other words, after he came on board, basically everyone who took stances even remotely similar the one he advocates for above was summarily booted out of the Hullabaloo comment section. Take that for what you will.

    (And fie on the “Russia!Russia!Russia!” meme. Sheesh)

    1. Eureka Springs

      Oh my, thank you for reminding me. That was a horrible thing to watch. It was like watching a mass poisoning… Jim Jones blog style.

      While there are extreme difficulties ahead and mighty forces will have to be beaten my problems with so much of these posts/conversations remain. There is no democracy. American democracy is a lie. Without actual democracy leading to specific binding issue based platforms or something very similar used by other words/names/process this is all circular nonsense. This problem is systemic – no progressive-centrist-moderate-conservative calls out this lie much less wants to change it. Yes there is window dressing like calls for change in campaign finance, but it’s nowhere near establishing an systemic process/ obligation to represent.

  13. Mr.P

    This article and the comments thus far presuppose that Marx is correct (and that everybody agrees Marx is correct), presuppose that Marxist Class Theory is correct (and that everybody agrees Marxist Class Theory is correct), presuppose that Marxist Communism is correct (and that everybody agrees Marxist Communism is correct).

    However, not everybody agrees that Marx, Marxist Class Theory, and Marxist Communism are correct. Just the opposite. Many agree that Marx is wrong, Marxist Class Theory is wrong, and Marxist Communism is wrong, because reality has proved over and over that Marx is wrong, that Marxist Class Theory is wrong, and that Marxist Communism is wrong. Worse than wrong, because Marx, Marxist Class Theory, and Marxist Communism lead directly to empty store shelves, famine, and the murder of tens of millions of people, hundreds of millions of people in the case of the Soviet Bolsheviks.

    This article and the comments thus far are why I — a Hubert H. Humphrey liberal democrat — am no longer a Democrat, no longer a Progressive, no longer a left-leaning-anything, because this article and the comments thus far fail to recognize that every measure espoused in the article and comments does not work, has never worked, and will never work.

    1. urblintz

      well then, thanks for setting us straight there… whatever would we do without your opinion?

      1. Samuel Skinner


        Except Tucker Carlson of Fox News is saying the same thing. I have no idea why you don’t think the right won’t act- are you dropping ‘fascists are right wing’? Is the China or South Korean model not usable by the American right? The corporatist wing won’t like it, but no one actually cares about their opinion.

    2. Robert Valiant

      Marx was wrong about everything? You’ve picked a tough row to hoe, there. Putting reality in bold doesn’t help. Sounds like your mind is ossified and you aren’t interested in conversation on this topic, so why bother?

    3. Carla

      “this article and the comments thus far fail to recognize that every measure espoused in the article and comments does not work, has never worked, and will never work.”

      Until it does.

      You sound very frightened to me.

    4. Clive

      You are Joe Biden and I claim my £5.

      Either that, or it is going to be Hillary 2020 and you’ve leaked her announcement of candidature.

      I’m trying to decide which I’d prefer.

      1. ambrit

        I’m betting on it being “Hillary/Michelle 2020.”
        Picture Hillary lumbering out onto the stage encased in her Mark IV military “Combat Class Exoskeleton” and declaring the first Cyborg Presidency.
        “Prepare – to – be – financialized. @the – resistance – is – no – longer – futile.”

    5. m sam

      Sounds like maybe you think Marx/Marxism began and ended with the USSR. With such a limited, no-nothing view as this, I don’t see how it’s possible to treat your opinion with any seriousness, Mr. Ex-anything.

      1. Sam

        He explicitly mentions the Soviet Union as a special case, not the entire story. It is clear he thinks it is a continuing issue.

    6. Oregoncharles

      So Humphrey won the election in 1968?

      Others have heard this before, but again: that was the first year I voted. Humphrey (1) SUPPORTED the war in Vietnam until too late; and ((2)opened his big yap and SUPPORTED Daley’s storm troopers (which they still are) at the ’68 Dem convention. The police state, in other words.

      So confronted with a choice between human pigs, I voted for the real one that the Yippies “nominated.” And I suspect that Pigasus defeated Humphrey. It was very close. Nobody counted, so nobody will ever know. In reality, Humphrey defeated Humphrey, and I think that’s the last word on your comment.

  14. Ptb

    So much going on here.

    In the opening, tension betw. economic class-struggle, vs race/ethnic/etc inequality.

    My answer is to recognize that minorities are more likely to fall into the lower economic levels – thus reforms targeting economic inequality truly do benefit all. At the same time, you won’t build an effective movement targeting economic inequality, if you can’t bring in people from across lines of race/gender/ethnicity.

    The trick is completing. Both status-quo Dems, and most Repubs, are using race/ethnicity/gender as a wedge issue. Mainstream Dems make double use of it, with the secondary use being to prevent a more leftist political movement from taking over the party. As a result, a class-but-not-race void is formed, which the ‘anti-establishment’ right step right into.

    I’d say taking over the D party and restoring its once-proud stance on economic equality, simultaneously keeping the gains in race/class/gender equality is the way to go.

    As for ‘incrementalist’ vs ‘radical’ … my take is that too often, incrementalist rhetoric is simply Clintonesque triangulation – lacking a deep desire to effect the policy in question.

    Radical change means significant reorganization, not necessarily abrupt and destabilizing in implementation. One can phase in. But it does mean a clear focus and determination to not go half way, firmly locked into the legislation.

    Finally, threatening to force ‘radical’ policy on Democratic leadership against their will, even if ‘politically impossible’ (in their sometimes dubious assesment) is absolutely fair game. Top Dems engage in hostage tactics against leftist voters, all the time – figuring we have no other options. The reality is they need us no less, if they want to keep their seats. If Dem leaders in Congress want to continue to lead, then it’s time they figure out how to make the solution to these real problems of economic inequality, and climate, become ‘politically possible’. Otherwise, step aside.

  15. chuck roast

    The argument and following discussion in Why Carbon Prices Are Not Enough of two days ago comes immediately to mind. When Economists embrace environmental solutions that involve “sine/cosine”…beware. What was for generations Political Economy has long-since become Economics. What the late Keynesians would call “value neutral.” These were my teachers. Almost all Old Lefties. By embracing the “science” of economics, these sons and daughters of the Great Depression paved the way for the demolition of the “art” of economics as well as their own demise. It always hurt me that these (for the most part) caring people went out with such a whimper. Maybe they should have refused to teach Marshall.

    The career of Yanis Varoufakis is very demonstrative of a new way. Here’s a guy that could do “sine/cosine” with the best of them, but realized it was of little actual value to real human beings as well as being masturbatory in the extreme. He has taken the road less traveled and his thoughtful analysis is always worth listening to. The resurrection of theorists like Minsky, Kalecki and Polanyi; digging the grave of the loanable funds theory and integrating debt and finance into macroeconomics through MMT all give me hope.

  16. michael

    Radical opposition!

    I am tired of reading about the Buffets of the world saying they should be paying more taxes and inequality is going to far. What we need are leaders, outside of govt, who actually do something today.

    Extinguish the debt of the poor for one. This high interest rate debt is unpayable. The fees associated are unconscionable. The suffering generational.

    Provide free minimum level health care for another. Our nation’s health is regressing at an alarming rate.

    Accompanied by the new socialist thinking, the bully pulpit, and progressive legislation I see a glimmer of hope.

    I would love to see Buffet, Schultz and the outspoken hedge fund billionaires and corporate CEOs who believe we are on the wrong track call out McConnell and Schumer and Pelosi personally and watch them squirm as the public takes note and the activists energize their troops.

    I would love to see self promoting congress critters defend their inaction and hand wringing in the face of a new wave of pressure with real leaders staring them down, not their govt cronies.

    Short of this we face the continuing guerilla warfare of power based on lies and blue ribbon committees.

    DT is the perfect president for this to occur under. 2020 should be a wide open no holds barred contest anyway so no better timing could be asked for.

    My senior high school independent study project in 1971 was to explore the question, “Do leaders make the times or do the times make the leader.” Still relevant today.

  17. David(1)

    The graph shown in the article is horrible. A better description of the situation is in the source article.

    The United States, however, commands just 15% of total emissions. The EU commands a further 10%, while other rich states (such as Japan, Australia, and so on) add another 8%. This means that the rich states only control about a third of total emissions. China controls nearly another third (about 30%), and the rest comes from the remaining developing countries, with India and Russia making the largest contributions (7% and 5%, respectively) of that bunch. These developing countries are not merely failing to cut emissions–they are continuing to increase their output. This means that reductions from rich states are cancelled out by the growing emissions of developing countries. The IPCC report recommended making this cut from the 2010 level, but by 2014 China increased its emissions by nearly 15% over that 2010 level, and global emissions rose 8%.

    Global emissions won’t significantly change without the buy-in of China and the developing world. AFAIK, none of these countries have shown any interest in curtailing their development or emissions.

    How does that resonate with the identarians? Will non-white countries get an Obama-ish exemption to the emission reductions? Should the white countries be required to implement more reductions due to past injustice? Will the U.S. be invading countries in order to reign in their greenhouse emissions?

    1. Cal2

      Population growth is the problem, not smokestacks. Population growth will overwhelm all attempts at a green anything.

      Soon, as an example, there will be more Nigerians than Americans;
      Current population almost 200 million, median age 17.

      All that the U.S. can do is to fund global birth control efforts and to not let high fertility, large family size immigrants into the U.S., where they will use far more energy per capita then they would at home.

      1. Mr.P

        Right on, Cal2!

        Global Warming: The … single … greatest …. threat … to human civilization and all living beings. Everything that can be done to mitigate global warming must be done — not tomorrow, not the day after, but yesterday.

        Demographers report that the TFR, or Total Fertility Rate, in the Industrialized World is below replacement level fertility of 2.1 children per woman. TFR for the U.S., for example, is 1.886. Canada’s TFR is 1.6. Germany, 1.47. Taiwan has the lowest TFR at 1.218. THIS IS FANTASTIC NEWS! Resident populations in nations with resource-intensive, high-fossil-fuel-burning lifestyles are shrinking, getting smaller, often dramatically as in Eastern Europe. THIS IS GREAT CLIMATE NEWS! The faster high-fossil-fuel-burning nations shrink, the quicker they burn less fossil fuel and reduce their carbon footprint. Call it “Global Warming Mitigation By Attrition.”

        Meanwhile, the UN plans to ratify international migration as a human right, “enhance availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration,”[1] make it easy for people to migrate from low-fossil-fuel-burning nations with a high TFR to high-fossil-fuel-burning nations with a low TFR, paving the way for potentially exponential population growth in nations that burn the most fossil fuel.

        Here’s my response to people who tell me global warming is the greatest threat to humanity. I ask them if they support immigration at current or higher rates into the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. If they answer yes, then I say, “So global warming must be no big deal.”

        1. “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration”

        (Beware: The following url will load a 36-page PDF.)

      2. Joe Well

        This has been written many times on NC but it bears repeating:

        1. There is no way that birth control can achieve significant population reductions by 2035 (the deadline before things really hit the fan).

        2. China’s + Global South’s per capita emissions are still lower than the US’s.

        2a. Much of those emissions are just “exported” emissions from First World/global middle class consumption.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Per capita emissions are lower, but TOTAL emissions are much higher. I don’t think the climate cares about “per capita.”

          Maybe China shouldn’t have given up on their “1 child” policy. Apparently it worked.

          1. witters

            And total amount now is not the same as total amount from historic emissions. You might think about this. ( Or is it, as you see it, simply “So what if we did all that? What you add to what we already piled up is ALL that matters!”)

            1. Dwight

              Good point. The U.S. and other rich countries agreed in the 1992 climate treaty that historical emissions also mattered, and that rich countries should act first in light of that, both because of responsibility and capacity resulting from historical emissions. This was just a principle, and soon ignored, but worth bringing up when US uses China as excuse for inaction. China was much less developed in the 1990s,and the US could have driven positive change instead of just offshoring production.

          2. Joe Well

            Per capita CO2 emissions per country.

            Nigeria’s emissions per capita are about .5 ton, while for the US it’s 16.5, so it would take 32 Nigerians to match 1 American. How would population control there reduce CO2 significantly in the next 20 years?

            As for China, it’s leading the world in photovoltaics and its emissions are at 7.5 per capita, and as you noted, population growth is low there so the population control argument is irrelevant.

            The US+Canada is absolutely the world’s main culprit in climate change and Western Europe is close at our heels.

            1. Cal2

              What happens when the Nigerians come to the U.S. as refugees or illegals via Mexico and use our level of energy? Or for that matter Guatemalans, Haitians etc?

    2. Min

      The US produces 15% of total emissions? On a per capita basis, that means that we need to cut our emissions by ½ to ⅔. Time’s awasting!

    3. The Rev Kev

      Of course you could take the viewpoint that places like the EU and the US not only transferred their industries to China but their emissions as well by default. Outsourced their pollution so to say. How much of China’s 30% share then is coming from the manufacture of stuff for export to the rest of the world?

  18. Michael Fiorillo

    Oh, so we’re supposed to march behind the flag in “Leftists” who put Identitarianism, age-ism and Russiagate first as part of their analysis?

    I’m a lifelong leftist (a card-carrying Trot – since reformed – at twelve years old), and I want nothing to do with these people. I’m confident that most working people and voters don’t, either. And rightfully so.

    At this point we have years of experience showing us that this is a losing politics, and it’s likely to lead to you-know-who’s reelection in 2020.

    Instead, I plan to go to Erie, Pa. next week, and stand in solidarity (as Bernie alone among Democratic candidates has) with the striking members of the two UE locals fighting to maintain their wages and working conditions at the former GE locomotive plant. Those locals have been in existence for eighty years, and were formed the same year as the Flint (and other) sit-down strikes. In other words, they have had generations of positive material impacts on the lives of their members and other workers, unlike Some People mentioned here…

    I’ll let the NC commentariat know how many Identitarians I find on the picket line.

    1. Mr.P


      How right you are about Identitarians and Identitarianism.

      The road of Identity Politics is a one-way trip either straight into a brick wall or over the cliff.

      Marxists who presuppose that Marxist Class Theory is correct (and presuppose that everybody agrees Marxist Class Theory is correct) may notice that transgen lesbian men are now hating on radical feminist lesbians as sexist and oppressors of transgen lesbian men, because radical feminist lesbians don’t like men all that much, are not fooled for a second that transgen lesbian men are lesbian, have no interest in dating and canoodling with transgen lesbian men because, according to radical feminist lesbians by way of a principled exception to the sacrosanct principle that gender is a social construct (Marx, dialectical materialism), transgen lesbian men are not women, are not lesbians, but are men, and radical feminist lesbians don’t want to date and canoodle with men, even when the men claim to be women.

      1. m sam

        I don’t understand, is it because they are transgen lesbian men that they think everybody agrees with “Marxist Class Theory,” or does that have something to do with their relationship with the radical feminist, dialectical materialist lesbians? You make it so hard to follow.

        1. m sam

          Actually that sounds kin-of bad-arsed. Radical feminist dialectical materialists. Now that’s an identitarian that works! I wish I could meet one some day.

        2. ambrit

          “You make it so hard to follow.”
          I believe that ‘mr p’ is demonstrating that “so hard to follow” is a feature of Identitarian politics. An application of the retail principle that confused shoppers tend to buy more.
          Roughly speaking, Identitarian politics is a giant exercise in misdirection.

          1. Plenue

            “Roughly speaking, Identitarian politics is a giant exercise in misdirection.”

            It is, but what Mr.P is spewing is essentially incoherent. ‘TERFs’ (most of whom are in fact not particularly radical) who reject transwomen as women aren’t doing it because they hate men or anything of the sort. The point is that there is a difference between sex and gender (something the right absolutely refuses to engage with), and such lesbians are attracted to actual XX women, full stop.

            I’m all for letting people present as they want, wear what they want, and I’ll use whatever pronouns they want. But I’m not going to let men pumped full of estrogen have a seat at the table (or at least any more of a seat than any other XY person) on womens issues. The same goes for transmen.

            Also no idea what any of this has to do with class warfare.

            1. ambrit

              To your last point, I would think that the actual physiological transformation costs quite a bit and would be somewhat restricted to middle and upper income populations.
              Once money becomes involved, class is automatically there.

      2. pjay

        Ok… just out of curiosity (I know I’ll be sorry), could you explain how you can give a +10 to Michael’s class conscious post if you believe that “reality” has proven “Marxist Class Theory” (as if there were only one) 100% wrong? I won’t even get into the issue of how your anti-Marxian obsession relates to the “transgen lesbian men” issue.

      3. Cal2

        “The road of Identity Politics is a one-way trip either straight into a brick wall or over the cliff.”

        Why do you think Mnuchin, a Republican banker, donated to Kamala’s senatorial campaign?

        Maybe it was just a tip for her letting his OneWest Bank slide after screwing over 36,000 Californians when she was pretending to be state attorney general? Or, maybe it was just to make sure that no real opposition to his kind would originate from the Democrats?

        1. Cal2

          More failure to prosecute from Kamala. From 2/22/19 N.C.:
          [Los Angeles Times]. From 2018, still germane: “Many of the still-alive monsignors, bishops and cardinals involved in California’s part of the pedophile priest problem have never faced appropriate consequences for their inaction. In New Jersey and New York, the attorneys general have launched new investigations…. Our sainted Sen. Kamala Harris, who trumpets her prosecution of as evidence that she’s tough on sex crimes, is also among those tarred in my mind… In 2005, while she was San Francisco’s district attorney, Harris rebuffed a public-records request by SF Weekly to release personnel files from the Archdiocese of San Francisco….”

      4. Jerry B

        ===The road of Identity Politics is a one-way trip either straight into a brick wall or over the cliff====

        By your continued Marx bashing you are engaging in what I would call “reverse identity politics” i.e. not listening to the pertinent things. Yves and Lambert can probably come up with some better logical fallacy or heuristic but I like “reverse identity politics” i.e. a form of rigid thinking.

        I am no Marx expert and have not read any of Das Kapital. But I have read enough of Marx’s ideas and decent amount of David Harvey, who writes heavily about Marx and Socialism, to not throw out the baby with the bath water.

        In twelve step programs they use a phrase “take what you need and leave the rest”. For me that means I may not agree with everything the “identitarians” believe but to ignore everything they say is to deprive myself of some perspective and knowledge that I did not have before.

        I have not joined the Democratic Socialists of America because I do not agree with their stance on some things. But in a foxhole? I am standing right next to them.

        Lastly, John Bellamy Foster writes about political economy of capitalism and economic crisis, ecology and ecological crisis, and Marxist theory. He would probably call himself a Marxist but did that stop me from reading his book The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on Earth? No, and it is one of my most underlined, post-it noted, etc. books.

        Also the Black Socialists of America have an excellent website. On their site they have a link for resources and if you open up the resource page it has a lot of reading suggestions from introductory reading to much longer reads. You might be surprised to see that some of the authors are not Marxist.

        Here is a recent New York Times article about some students in China who read Mao, Lenin, and Marx and saw the positives in those author’s writings and are trying to make a difference in China

        1. Mr.P

          Marx, Marxism, Marxist Class Theory, Cultural Marxism, Marxist Communism, Marxist Dialectical Materialism, Marxist Critique of Capitalism, and on and on — all have been refuted (but, interestingly, do not go away). Is there any value in studying Marx? Yes. Marx is one example among a myriad of historical examples of how the thinking, especially the philosophical thinking, of human beings can go horribly wrong. Now, instead of arguing with me with an ad hominem response, maybe ask the question, “Hmmm, I wonder whether what this guy is saying might be true?” I do it all the time. In fact, it’s how I came to disavow myself of Marxism and Leftism. Happy journey. It’s a mind-blower.

          1. flora

            Karl aside, do you think our current economics are working well for most people? Why or why not?

          2. ambrit

            Methinks you protest too much.
            The basic measure of whether or not Marx is worthwhile to study and learn from is that his writings have formed and nurtured actual, on the ground, revolutions. Revolutions that worked. Societies that did not dissolve in the Aetheric Dew later.
            Soviet Russia? Not a real Communism. Tito described it best as a State Socialism. Old style Eastern Autocracy masquerading as Modern Political Theory.
            China? The Mandate of Heaven (on Earth.) The Chinese Party inherited a truly Royal mess, and muddled through, even despite the Imperial machinations of the Emperor Mao.
            Those are the high visibility headline stories. Lower down are all the variations of Socialism. Such as Bismark’s Imperial Germany. England’s Labour government post WW2. America’s New Deal, which helped people, and later Self Deal, which is still helping the wealthy. (Both are Socialisms.)
            As for your question, well, I give most people the benefit of the doubt. However, from my personal experience and that which I see going on around me, I can definitely say that much of Marx is worth implementing because the main opposite philosophy, Unfettered Capitalism, is a great failure.
            Unless one is espousing Euthanistic Social Darwinism, some mix of Capitalism and Marxism is the logical optimal system. One that can work, for all.

          3. Anarcissie

            Is thinking that Marx is infallibly wrong supposed to be satire? Isn’t it a logical pretzel? It could be pretty funny but the proponent would have to play it very, very straight — tight collar and all that.

    2. marym

      Tulsi Gabbard @TulsiGabbard

      We need an economy that works for all Americans. I’m joining @BernieSanders to stand with the locomotive manufacturing workers of @ueunion Local 506 and 618 in Erie, PA in their strike for fair wages and stable working conditions.
      9:41 AM – 2 Mar 2019

      1. Cal2

        Sanders/Gabbard would be unbeatable and the best thing for America IMHO.
        She’s 37, a combat veteran, house member, total progressive with real issues, not social window dressings, and she is intellectually rigorous.

        Send her campaign at least a dollar to get her in the Democratic debates. I’m carrying around stamped envelopes addressed to her campaign for my friends to pop a check into. Why?

        “A DNC official said a candidate could qualify to be in the debates by meeting one of two criteria:

        Meet the grassroots fundraising threshold, which requires obtaining 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 states.”

        Garner at least 1 percent support in three separate polls

        1. Carla

          I just sent Tulsi $5 from Ohio. (Leaves me room to scale up should circumstances prompt it.)

          1. Carey

            I haven’t sent Gabbard money yet, but will, because I like what she’s saying. I have to say that something seems off there, though.
            Maybe I’m wrong.

        2. Steven

          Trump possibly excepted there is probably no one with less credibility than “A DNC official”. But OK, I’ll play that game (yet again), i.e. thanks!

      2. ambrit

        At last. She’s off the fence with a vengeance!
        Imagine what a Sanders/Gabbard ticket would do to neoliberal heads everywhere. A Jewish/Hindu ticket!
        Identity politicians would not recover from the shock.

        1. freedomny

          “A Jewish/Hindu ticket!” LOL. I would love this just for the entertainment value – exploding neoliberal heads everywhere….

          1. ambrit

            One can but dream.
            I can also imagine myriads of ‘conservative’ heads going splat too. A ‘Ticket’ that more closely mirrors the actual demographics of America would put ‘conservatives’ in a cleft stick.
            Sanders so far has begun to ‘flush out’ the true colours of the Democrat Party elites. Gabbard could do something similar for the Right in general.
            A transformative campaign, no matter who wins.

  19. rob

    What is interesting about this point in time is that there is a great quantity of undefined potential energy in the human race, the world over.
    What is boring, is that the energy of the human race is as bound to our yoke as it has ever been, by the same tactics of propaganda, myth, and tribalism.

    I dislike the authors assertion that “identity politics” is the way to go. It is really just a trap. Whether we are white or black or brown or male or female or straight or gay or rich or poor… we are people…. There are none of those divisions who can be counted on, or counted out. So that is just a non starter.

    But as far as tactics…. Bombs are too indiscriminate. Tearing down the fabric of the society and the government we have built is unwise, and wastes a valuable asset. The United states, is still an amazing human achievement, despite the fact that it is totally screwed up, and corrupt since its inception. What the declaration of independence and the bill of rights outlined, over the construct of the constitution, is still a hell of an idea.
    one problem we have is the fact that there is no narrative, to go with. We all say we want to build a house, there are no plans, all the materials are scavenged,unsuitable for many uses, many people who want to help, have no idea what they are doing, many who know what to do… already have a house and don’t want to help. everyone is a boss, no one is a helper.And peoples vision of the house is everything from a tree house to a yurt to a cave to a mc mansion to a house boat to an earthship, and then some.
    One of the main obstacles is the fact that we have a media landscape who seems to exist mostly to lie to everyone. They tell stories told by people who have motives to decieve, to lie ,cheat and steal. we are all ex-children who have been lied to by our teachers, churches,bosses,and heros.
    So now is time for anyone to say.. screw it… and do something anyway. Whether it is right or not.
    Until of course there is a great sanity that washes over the land. BUT since we will probably all die before that happens anyway, lets get on with something…. at least some of the young people are moving in a better direction .. lets hope more people like A. Ocasio-Cortez, get into office and stir things up and be the fly in the ointment… that is what we need. Screw the powers that be…. screw the establishment…. but strive to create a more perfect union….

  20. Joe Well

    Most Americans distrust both the mere millionaires like Pelosi as well as the billionaires. The Pelosis are an albatross anyway. So fighting them and the Republicans at the same time would be a win win electorally. This is obvious to anyone who is completely outside the top 1-2% of the population.

  21. Oregoncharles

    (Before reading the article) There’s actually a movie on this subject , called “Waking the Dead,” with Jennifer Connally as a ghost. (For some reason, I remember her name but not the male lead). The premise is that a young couple, very politically active, choose opposite strategies – the ones in the title. She’s the radical. They promise that they will help keep each other honest – a big challenge in the more “engaged” strategy.

    Then she’s killed in a bomb attack by the Pinochet government in DC – a real incident. A bit of time passes, and he’s offered a political entre by the Chicago machine – the perpetual dilemma. Then he starts to hear her, and then to see her.

    The ending is one of the most heartrending I’ve seen.

  22. Min

    I can’t say that I have a solution, but recently this research ( ) has brought some assumptions into question. The research indicates that in the US the main support for democracy comes from the left, and more from the far left than the center left. So the idea that the far left is prepared to break democratic norms is questionable. Some of them may be saying that, but how many of their fellows are on board with that idea? The main opposition to democracy appears to be in the center. Also, the center is the most supportive of authoritarian, strong leader rule. The center is not well represented in national politics now. Which may be a good thing. And, as we all know, the far right is opposed to democracy.

    Given that, it would seem that to strengthen democracy in America, the best thing would be for the left to win, and the far left, if possible. Appealing to the center on a nation wide basis is unlikely to be productive. Deaf ears.

    My own thinking, FWIW, is that the Democrats should embrace a 50 state policy. Not with the idea of winning in the short term, but at least with strengthening the center right against the far right, and with building the basis for wins at the local level in the coming years. Also, I don’t think that getting out the vote is enough. We need voter registration drives, in all states. We needed it in the 1960s, we need it now. The poor and oppressed are likely to vote Democratic. (Not that the point is to register Democratic voters, but the voices of these people need to be heard.) As for identity politics, IMO identity politics has a lot to do with the current mess we find ourselves in: White identity politics, that is. I kind of doubt that identity politics is more likely to get us out of this mess than to get us more mired in it. BTW, the research indicates that the center in the US is the least supportive of civil rights, with support growing as you go to the extremes. Who woulda thunk it?

    1. Oregoncharles

      To repeat: the Democrats are not the left. A few leftists may be in the party; they’re gettng a lot of news play right now on the basis of “man bites dog.” But so far, they’re moderately useful ankle-biters.

  23. flora

    This comment will endear me to no one.
    From the original post’s quoted thread:
    This is how the Right works the refs: they let everyone know that they’re willing to pull out ALL the stops if white male patriarchy and racism don’t stay centered in society, and if rich people don’t get to keep all the loot. /3
    The center left has long depended on being the “responsible” party. The cogent ones, the level headed ones. The perpetual Real Mothers in the Justice of Solomon [story] willing to sacrifice almost anything to salvage the system.

    2 things:
    1.) The ‘white male patriarchy’ as described has visited economic disaster on lower rung white males as much as on anyone else. Think of the Ford motor River Rouge Plant strike, or the strikes of miners in the west which spurred Mary Harris (Mother) Jones to act: “Sit down and read. Educate yourself for the coming conflicts”.
    It is not the ‘white male’ that’s the problem. It’s something else in current economic set up, something which abuses white males as equally as everyone else. Power seeks it’s own kind, but race and gender are not absolute determinants of ‘own kind’.
    2.) The moderates are so far to the left of both parties (though moderates seldom think of themselves as ‘leftists’- however, the Overton window has now moved both parties far to the right) that making claims about ‘center-left’ are meaningless. Centrism is Thatcherism or Reaganism with diversity quotas, to paraphrase Jonathon Pie. Moderates who still believe in progressive taxation, public infrastructure, public education, decent safety nets, fair trade policies, etc. have no home in either the GOP or the neoliberal estab controlled Wall Street Dem party, imo. Heck, old moderates would be considered radical by today’s Dme and GOP party hacks.

    Shorter: challenging the current crony capitalist abuse of everyone economically below the 0.1-1% will be more effective if the challengers focus on the real source of today’s problem, and not yesterday’s source – which gave rise to idpol, which is now a diversion from the real problem. imo.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Sorry … your comment endeared you with me. As a white male I have long wondered how anyone who actually worked within the present workplace could imagine that being a “white male” meant I had any special protection from being abused and exploited. I’m don’t believe I was subjected to the same humiliations as many, but neither was I exempt nor immune. I was not on the the “lower rung” but I was not one of the ‘chosen’, chosen by whatever criteria. And of course I like to believe the criteria had little to do with merit or intellect.

  24. flora

    Longer comment lost in mod-land.
    Shorter: dragging yesterdays arguments into today’s fight only disperses energy.

  25. Paul Jurczak

    You lost me with “Putin-backed dictatorship”. Climate change is a serious issue. Please keep a wild speculation out of it.

  26. vlade

    The author (not sure whether it was raised in the comments or not) ignores one thing. US is not responsible for all the CO2 emissions. Yep, cutting the US emissions would help, a lot.

    But w/o the China, India etc. doing the same, it matter little. So is he proposing to creating revolutions in those countries too? We will NOT solve this problem ourselves. Unless you assume regime changes all aroudn the world and a happy world government, you have to work multilaterally and that means incrementally (ish).

    You can use revolutions on domestic issues. And, I’d argue, there’s time and place to do so – but again, do not be surprised if you end in an entirely differen tplace you wanted to.

    1. Sam

      Solving the problem is easy. Go nuclear and mass produce cheap reactors and sell them to China, India and other industrializing countries.

      Politics isn’t about solving problems. It is about seizing power. So you have the German Green party shutting down nuclear power plants and building additional coal plants.

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