How the Left Should Exercise Power Once They Have It

Yves here. On the one hand, it can seem churlish to question efforts to revive the enfeebled left. On the other, in the US, first the great reduction in funding of state schools and the explosion in college costs due to “access” to student debt has cut into the pool of young people who could serve as activists. They can’t afford an arrest for protesting because that could impair their ability to get hired. And a debt millstone forces them into being careerists, whether they wanted that or not.

The fact that Sanders did well and had such strong support from young people, and uncomfortable facts like “socialism” having positive connotations among the young suggests that there’s far more potential support for bona fide left wing proposals and candidates than their poor showing would have you believe. But Sanders does not have great organizational skills (this from former staffers) and the caliber of potential leaders all across the political spectrum sucks. The effectiveness of Team Dem kneecapping of Sanders was intended to discourage any other dark horse aspirants to the role of champion of the little guy.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at God’s Spies

As we wait in the interregnum between Biden’s next possible sabotage of the left (the Actual Left, not the soi-disant left) and Trump’s or DeSantis’s possible future ascendancy, I want to call your attention to something written by Ian Welsh.

First, on Biden’s “possible sabotage”:

  • Will he cave to the Jim Jordan Right and cut Social Security or Medicare, despite his claims to the contrary ­— and the media’s support of those claims?According to Braco Marcetic, writing at In These Times in 2019, “Biden [took a] leading role in the Obama administration’s 2011 efforts to slash the deficit by offering Republicans spending cuts to Medicare and Social Security.” Has he changed his stripes? Or just his tune? The novelist in me is eager to find out.
  • Will he declare his once-ballyhooed climate emergency, or let that dangled promise float away like last year’s dying leaves?On July 20 he said with a straight face, “This is an emergency. And I will look at it that way. I’ll use my executive powers to combat climate — the climate crisis in the absence of congressional actions.” Think he’ll make good on that?

If you’re on the Not Right side of the fence, you’d like to think people who want us to call them “our side” would at last come through. But as Sheldon Whitehouse confessed recently, when it came to the right-wing packing of the Court, “We were sleeping sentries.”

Nice admission. But a little too late.

As to the “possible ascendancy” of the Right:

  • Consider that Trump nearly won the last election. According to NPR, “just 44,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin separated Biden and Trump from a tie in the Electoral College” (emphasis mine).
  • And as Howie Klein has noted, the Democratic 2022 loss of the House was self-inflicted, fueled by their own determination to run “Republican-lite corporate shills,” people as unlike progressives like AOC as they can possibly find. Do you think their next refusal to seize the populist moment will tip the teetering scales in their favor once more?

Into these bookended sabotages of America’s citizens, freedoms, and future, comes the following advice.

Breaking the Rules To Sabotage the Left

In a piece called “Why the Left Keeps Losing and What They Must Do to Win,” Ian Welsh writes this about what happens when anti-Left governments take power (emphasis mine):

Once [these anti-socialist, anti-populist] governments were in power, they used the force of the state to destroy their left-wing enemies.

They did things they would never do against right-wing or centrist opponents.

That’s because, to them, the left cannot ever be allowed to take or hold power, period. If a left-wing government gets in power, it is prima facie illegitimate.

This is a profound and genuine belief.

And it has an effect even before the left gets into power. The best recent example is that UK Labor party staffers were working actively to lose the 2017 and 2020 elections. We have emails, we have proof. They went so far as to micro-target Corbyn with Facebook ads tailored just to him, so he wouldn’t see the real ads that they were running–ads meant to make Labor lose.

In part, this is a case of the iron law of institutions: It’s better to run a weaker institution than to lose control of one.

But it is also an ideological matter: The left is considered illegitimate. Therefore, you do not have to play by they rules when fighting it.

The left, bless their hearts, tend to think that there are rules, and that they can play by them, win, and be allowed to rule. But all along the process, the left’s opponents do not and will never play by the rules when facing the left.

This applies not just to right-wing governments in right-wing countries, like Bolsonario’s Brazil. Note the UK example above. Welsh again: “Corbyn was deliberately sabotaged by his own bureaucracy, because he thought there were rules.”

This is about any anti-socialist, pro–“rule by the rich” government in any of our first-world Western nations as well: “The US overthrew multiple elected governments overseas if they considered them left-wing. At home, coincidentally, JFK, RFK, MLK, and Malcolm X were all assassinated within a period of less than ten years, and we are expected to believe that the US security apparatus had nothing to do with that.”

(The Malcolm X assassination story has finally been told, by the way, not that anyone noticed.)

The best response to this sabotage is brutal. But given the revolutionary nature of the opposition — “The left is illegitimate, so we don’t have to fight by the rules” — brutal is the only way for the actual left to keep power once they gain it.

Brutal is also what the Actual Left encounters every time it threatens the Establishment.

The Other Iron Law

Time for the left to get brutal in return? If so, here’s how (emphasis mine):

If you get into a place like where Corbyn was, you have to get rid of all the internal enemies. Not people who just disagree. This means all staffers who are not ideologically-aligned. As for MPs, test them; the moment they do something traitorous (as Labour’s MPs did over and over again), remove them from the party. For all MPs, re-select. Note that Boris Johnson immediately removed all MPs who challenged him on Brexit (his main issue) when they crossed him. He then won the election handily.

You do this because neoliberals and conservatives cannot be trusted because they do not believe that left-wing government is, or can be, legitimate. They already view it as war and they will cheat, lie, and put you in jail if they can. Failing that, they will engage in coups and assassination if they can.

You can’t play a game by the rules if the other side is determined to cheat and thinks you shouldn’t even be on the field.

It’s pretty simple, isn’t it, this logic? If you leave your enemies in place after you take power, they’ll work against you constantly despite the fact that you won legitimately. Chuck Schumer would have sabotaged every Sanders initiative he could, if Sanders had won in 2016 or 2020. And Schumer would do it even as Sanders was trying “work with him.”

Why work with him? Why not work to move him out instead, retirement, say, to a place where he and his kind can do no more harm?

My Bottom Line

All this is to say, if the progressive left in the country, the Actual Left, really wants to govern America, they have to be willing to use the spoils of victory, once they win them, to cement their hold on power.

A simple example: The first contrary peep out of self-styled President Manchin, and real-President Sanders attacks him in his state, incumbency or not. How many times has the Party sabotaged progressives? Why not pay them back?

Until progressives on the actual left take real control of the Party, the Party will fight their every initiative. Until it’s too late, and fighting makes no more sense.

If progressives won’t do this, sorry, they’ll never succeed in making the change the country desperately needs. If they ever get power, they’ll have one chance to use it. They have to use it effectively.

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  1. dolores ibarruri

    If you get into a place like where Corbyn was, you have to get rid of all the internal enemies. Not people who just disagree. This means all staffers who are not ideologically-aligned. As for MPs, test them; the moment they do something traitorous (as Labour’s MPs did over and over again), remove them from the party. For all MPs, re-select.

    This sounds sensible but I think misses out on the genuine double bind of left-wing electoral politics. If you were to do this, sure, you would deal with internal enemies within the party bureaucracy- but!! You would get absolutely savaged, most likely beyond recovery, by the corporate media.

    Using the Corbyn example, recall the corporate media reaction to Corbyn saying something apparently innocuous like ‘Palestinian children shouldn’t die’. Okay got that? Now picture how they would react to a genuine political purge. The news cycle would go wild, labour and its supporters would become unelectable pariahs in the eyes of the corporate media who ultimately (let’s not kid ourselves) still control the barometer of public opinion.

    But this is it, isn’t it? That’s how the system works- ‘heads I win, tails you lose’. As a left-winger you either play by the rules and get stabbed in the back by your erstwhile neoliberal allies or you try and face them head on and end up being portrayed as some kind of mutant fusion of Stalin, Hitler nad Charles Manson to boot.

    Meanwhile Keir Starmer gets into power and starts ruthlessly purging left-wingers. The response from corporate media? Crickets. Again, that’s how the system works. Funnels all legitimate left wing energy into electoral politics and then chokes the life out of it.

    Honestly you’ve got to respect the sheer, devastating efficiency of it all.

    1. hunkerdown

      The corporate media can be disciplined with angle grinders, and so can the families of the corporate media. It worked a treat for The Guardian. If that doesn’t work or offends one’s sensibilities, in the US we have RICO.

      1. dolores ibarruri

        I think you miss my overall point- yes it worked when security services did that to the Guardian, precisely because they could trust the rest of the corporate media to not kick up too much of a stink about it. Because, at the end of the day, they recognise that they are all on the same team.

        By contrast, a left-wing government doing what exactly? Legal intimidation of establishment journalists? The alarm that would be raised about that, the calumny that would be heaped on their heads- it would be biblical. I don’t even think it would end there- you’d seriously be risking some sort of coup being enacted against you if you tried something like that.

        That’s my point- left wing electoral politicians find themselves in a double bind. On the one hand if they ‘play nice’, they will be stabbed in the back and knocked out of the runnings. On the other hand if they try to act ruthlessly, even by doing things that aren’t considered particularly controversial when establishment politicians do them (e.g. purging opponents), they’ll find themselves being stabbed in the front, and not one of the entities that control public opinion will lift a finger to help them.

        1. ArvidMartensen

          Yes, the cards are stacked against any person or organisation that challenges the entrenched power structure.
          Which organisations are the strongest?
          A. Elected governments that are transitory, with every move and alliance scrutinised? Or
          B. Institutions that continue to amass power through money and networks and laws for decades and centuries with little to no oversight or transparency (eg bankers, secret services, police, military, near-monopolistic businesses, the legal fraternity)

          A right wing government comes to power with entrenched and rich networks in place to support it.
          A left-wing government comes into power with entrenched and rich networks in place to destroy it.

          Because they are generally excluded, genuine socialist politicians have little idea of the millions of links between the rich, nor the ferocity with which the rich defend each other’s right to keep everything they have. And socialist politicians threaten everything that the rich and powerful hold dear, by wanting to share the wealth.

          An example of a left-wing politician who upended a country for a tumultuous 3 years was Gough Whitlam in Australia, Prime Minister 1972 – 1975. His government liberalised the law in too many ways to mention, funded schools, created a universal healthcare scheme for all citizens, built new universities. They tried to be independent in foreign policy, and some wanted to buy out the multinationals so that Australia owned its own mineral wealth.
          The rich and powerful fought back, ferociously.
          Whitlam was forced to a new election within 18 months of taking office to get legislation passed. Some sections of the press ran hysterical headlines against them day after day, smearing Whitlam and his Ministers. Whitlam’s weakness was naivety, he didn’t listen to those around him who could see treachery.
          When the British crown, in league with the US CIA, deposed him in a coup at the end of 1975, he thought that the rules would save him. For such a clever man, he could not see that those who make the rules feel free to break the rules.
          And so he was comprehensively defeated and his name was so thoroughly smeared that it took 40 years for anybody to acknowledge his great contributions.
          The rich and powerful have worked for 50 years to remove most of his achievements including universal healthcare. They keep grinding away …..

        2. hunkerdown

          Look at the Guardian affair in terms of denial, rather than discipline. What did the G irreparably lose? Their credibility as representatives of the labour force. Now it’s all social-capitalist Starmerite psyops, all the time. Anti-state, anti-capitalist forces lost a big megaphone there, and no likely forces would credibly flip it back.

          John Robb introduced a notion he calls the “Systempunkt”, as a designator for very important nodes in a network ­— social, human, digital, or otherwise — that will, if damaged, generate failures that cascade to other nodes and impair the function of the system disproportionately. They are especially interesting targets in hybrid warfare. A hypothetical regime interested in destroying its neoliberal order could find those points and attack them personally, professionally, financially, socially, etc. so as to impede the smooth operation of the neoliberal order.

          My point is that neoliberalism was brought to us by a series of coups (strokes), presented as decisive, done deals. I propose that the point of a war is to destroy the enemy’s ability to wage war, and seniority within the political nobility may be less important than giving the neoliberal intelligentsia a terminal case of spongiform encephalopathy and ruining their work. Elections are just the way to get in the door and break things with impunity. Sure, the media class will scream bloody murder, but they’re paid to emote on command and can be disregarded as unserious. State actors have further capacities which need no further discussion.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      Given the abject hatred for most elected and appointed government officials, the lack of trust and disgust with most corporate media, and the fact the one recent president was elected on the (broken) promise of “draining the swamp”, the elites might be surprised at just how welcome their defenestration by any means necessary would be.

      It would be nice if this could be done by some combination of the ballot and then those newly elected cleaning house. Abolish government agencies that serve no purpose – pretty sure we could get along just fine without the “Homeland Security Dept”. Just for starters.

      1. Oh

        Clean house we must and do it mercilessly. Distract the media with rumors, innuendo and made up stories and when they report them by taking the bait, attack them for false reporting and take away their cloak of respectability.

        As for the agencies that don’t perform or go against the agenda that created them, starve them and get rid of them.

        The left has to fight fire with fire. People like Manchin should be shamed on a daily basis.

        1. spud

          this is correct. till the elites pay a price for their follies, and the left figures out that social rights, can only be secured if economic rights are first, then the left is basically paper mache.

          then we go either the stalin/Mao way, or the hitler musolinni way. history shows us that is the end game if the left does not get some guts.

          the price they pay can be something as simple as the pointing out the absurdities and contradictions of crap like we free trade for the poor, and under free trade, no one wants to upset the apple cart. i know many a do gooder lefty type that actually believes this.

          follow bill clinton around relentlessly, holding up signs that he committed treason selling us out to wall street and the chinese communist party.

          make sure you are ready to respond that it was just not him.

    3. responseTwo

      “As a left-winger you either play by the rules and get stabbed in the back by your erstwhile neoliberal allies or you try and face them head on and end up being portrayed as some kind of mutant fusion of Stalin, Hitler and Charles Manson to boot.” – Yes that’s how I see it.

      WSWS has a good description of how it works.

      This section is a good part to skim through – “The creation of Ocasio-Cortez’s story”.

  2. JohnA

    To relate this piece to Britain, where it is equally applicable, in the case of:

    ‘All this is to say, if the progressive left in the country, the Actual Left, really wants to govern America, they have to be willing to use the spoils of victory, once they win them, to cement their hold on power.’

    When Tony Blair finally came to power in a landslide victory, Robin Cook, a brilliant left of centre MP and foreign secretary till he resigned over Iraq, and who subsequently suffered a fatal heart attack in a very remote part of Scotland (John Smith, Blair’s more leftish predecessor, similarly suffered a sudden fatal heart attack in London), told Blair the first thing he should do was abolish the first past the post election system that is very undemocratic and unfairly advantageous to the Conservatives in particular.
    Blair dismissed this advice out of hand.
    Like Starmer today, he had no intention of challenging the establishment.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, John.

      The Blairites and, to a lesser extent, the Brownites* are scathing about Smith and reckon that Labour would not have won with him in 1997. I doubt that. Smith wanted Brown to succeed him and was suspicious of Blair.

      Chequers is a few miles east from where I’m typing. Wotton is a few miles west. Blair is obsessed with living like a country gentleman. His neighbours at Wotton are descendants of the founders of ICI and Gladstone. As PM, Blair complained that he was CEO of the UK, but not paid like one. As with that other minor public school boy, Starmer, and as you say, neither intends to challenge the establishment.

      You and I have exchanged comments about the fakes at Private Eye and Have I Got News For You. Not a peep from these loud mouths about their colleague and friend Nick Cohen leaving the Observer on grounds of health. Whose health is not specified, his or the many women he has harassed for the past thirty years with the assistance of the Grauniad, which usually loves a #me, too story.

      1. JohnA

        Thanks Colonel. I was a neighbour of Mandelson in Islington and had the odd chat with him. Subsequently one of my daughters was in the same primary school class as one of Alastair Campbell’s kids. (Campbell at one time was a frequent visitor chez Mandelson). Cherie Blair was obsessed with property prices, after Campbell persuaded the Blairs to sell their Islington house when they moved into No. 10, and therefore missed out on a juicy capital gain when they were in No. 10.
        To be honest, I have not read Private Eye or seen HIGNFY for years as Hislop is a complete phony in my eyes. I did read elsewhere about a spat Nick Cohen had with some investigative journalist who had labelled Cohen a Guardian journalist, that Cohen jumped on as fake news because he actually worked for the Observer, the Guardian sister Sunday paper. He wont be missed.

  3. gnatt

    “president” sanders had his chance. he was screwed in iowa by the dnc overriding the locals vote count and giving buttegieg a “tie.” the locals tried to complain. did bernie scream about it? did he even say anything? of course not. we can say he was afraid of splitting the party and handing trump a second term. but he already had a huge following, and he was the only one who wasn’t afraid of fox news so his following was the broadest coalition possible. (he made other mistakes. he could have brought in jesse jackson and other black supporters long before south carolina, etc. etc.) but basically he chickened out. as he’s done on ukraine. we need a trump of the left – a finger-pointing call it like it is warrior. roosevelt mocked his enemies. he was not a nice guy. at this point the left has a thousand paul reveres and not even one general washington. sad, as the real trump says.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said.

      I have said it on this blog and will repeat: The (new) left needs its Lee Atwater and Karl Rove and not only to fight hard, but to enjoy doing so, including getting one’s retaliation in first.

      Synoia, who one hopes will chime in, and I went to particular schools, so we know these types personally and have also worked with and for them. They only know one sort of language.*

      Readers will have noticed some of the tidbits I post. This sort of thing was offered to Corbyn and his team, which could have left his tormentors, including the in-house saboteurs, with some explaining to do, but the Corbyn team refused to use the material. Perhaps, they feel this sort of thing is beneath them. This sort of thing has also been offered to the trade unionists organising the current waves of strikes, but they are also fearful and, in some cases, prefer a seat in the House of Lords. Insiders will not deal with fakes like the Guardian, Private Eye and Byline Times.

      I worked in regulatory and trade policy from 2007 – 16 and was amazed at how absent the likes of trade union representatives were from discussions in London, Brussels and DC. Wall Street and City institutions were permanently camped there, “getting up at dawn to fcuk the world as the left sleeps” as we joked.

      When Bank of England materials were published and vacancies posted, trade union representatives were encouraged to comment, e.g. like the EY and City AM shadow monetary policy committees, or apply for policy committee and chief economist posts. They are just not bothered. It’s easier to live well off the subscriptions of the members and grandstand than do anything strenuous, like studying some economics.

      After a while, the left’s insider sympathisers give up. It’s not worth the personal and professional risks.

      *I worked for Coutts in the late 1990s. There was a joke doing the rounds about an aristocratic landowner client warning some ramblers off his estate. When asked by the hikers how he got the land, he replied that his ancestors fought for it (and see it as theirs by conquest). That story could be true. There are many who think like that. Some say the quiet part loudly. The left should realise what it is up against and what is to be done. Grandstanding over identity politics and running meek campaigns like Corbyn and Sanders ain’t gonna cut it.

      One hopes David and Plutonium Kun pipe up as they have commented about ruthless leftists like Francois Mitterand and Sinn Fein.

      1. Anthony K Wikrent

        The “left” can never win because it has a fatal philosophical flaw: leftists believe that human nature can be perfected by changing the institutional structures of the economy and polity.

        By contrast, the philosophy of civic republicanism on which USA was founded, begins by recognizing the defects and weaknesses of human nature, and demanding that political structures be built to guard against those defects and weaknesses by incorporating checks and balances in the political structure.

        Where civic republicanism failed was in not applying the same approach to the economic structure, even though it was well understood that economic concentrations of wealth strongly tend toward corrupting political institutions. This allowed economic liberalism to become ever more powerful, culminating in the new plutocratic oligarchy’s regime of “shareholder value.”

        Contrary to the leftist belief that “creating socialism” will banish the defects and weaknesses of human nature, what actually happens is that as a plutocratic oligarchy grows in wealth and purchases ever more political power, the oligarchs become more and more greedy and intolerant of the majority of people. This is a psychological trait that has been known and commented upon for milleniums, including Jesus’s denunciations of the rich, and non-peaceful eviction of the money changers from the temple.

        The Roman historian Plutarch traced the degeneration of the Roman republic into an oligarchic empire to the growing imbalance between rich and poor. Cicero discussed the dangers of economic inequality, but also included a warning of the peculiar psychological cant of the rich: “When one person or a few stand out from the crowd as richer and more prosperous, then, as a result of their haughty and arrogant behavior, there arises [a government of one or a few], the cowardly and weak giving way and bowing down to the pride of wealth.”

        Another historian of ancient Rome, Livy, was the basis of Machiavelli’s description of how the rich of Rome corrupted the Senate.

        One of the great lies we have been taught is the influence of John Locke’s ideas on the creation of USA. Much more important was Algernon Sydney, who explained the nature of man in his 1680 masterpiece, Discourses Concerning Government:

        “Man is of an aspiring nature, and apt to put too high a value on himself. They who are raised above their brethren, though but a little, desire to go farther; and if they gain the name of king, they think themselves wronged and degraded, when they are not suffered to do what they please. In these things they never want masters; and the nearer they come to a power that is not easily restrained by law, the more passionately they desire to abolish all that opposes it.”

        In other words, if we somehow established universal health care this coming year, the financial predators ensconced at Blackrock and Goldman Sachs and the rest of the financial and banking system would remain predators. And they would be intent on destroying the social and political forces that had somehow established universal health care.

        Which is why I consider the greatest and most concise formulation of an oligarch’s mind is John Milton’s Satan saying in Paradise Lost, “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

        Unfortunately, the “left” has worsened its fatal philosophical flaw by committing the strategic blunder of dismissing much of USA and western history as bigoted, hierarchical, and exploitative, preventing leftists from learning the lessons of history about oligarchy and its nature.

        1. JBird4049

          >>>Unfortunately, the “left” has worsened its fatal philosophical flaw by committing the strategic blunder of dismissing much of USA and western history as bigoted, hierarchical, and exploitative, preventing leftists from learning the lessons of history about oligarchy and its nature.

          Convenient, that.

            1. JBird4049

              It is much like Lambert Strether’s complaints about the takeover of the NGOs by such like this trustafarian.

              If you want a good job, connections are important, but how many people can do a year as an unpaid intern? Or have gone to the right schools or have the social capital of a politician like Gavin Newsom and his family? And it is not a coincidence that these are the people who buy into the identity politics while ignoring class. It is only when your family is upper middle class do you start getting access to those resources.

      2. Synoia

        Not only did we go the the same school, from 9 to 18 tears old, in the UK during term time and West Africa during the holidays,The bullying in the lower school was ferocious for me. The education was first-class, and if one conformed social live was based on making connections for life – a combination of contacts, behavior and social conformity.

        I had the privilege to win a University Scholarship to an all military collage. which was populated by career officers. At one point in my degree there was open discussion of a Coup, and I was asked point blank about my political, sympathies.

        At that time I was quite conservative (Right Wing) and answered that I was with my colleagues.

        My first job after University was a Center File, when learned to code and was the unhappy recipient of British Management and as a result suddenly understood why Britain had a very strong party in Government (Earl7 ’70s).

        left the UK, and have never worked for a UK company since.The unions were tje heart and soul of the UK Labor Party.
        The UK killed it’s unions under Thatcher, by exporting manufacturing out of the UK.

        I’m a Nomad. I have visited over 50 Countries, and lived and worker in about 10.

        The privileged classes, the professionals, generally have a good lifestyle is they toe the line. But only if they excel as kissing ass. Rocking the boat is guaranteed to shorten one’s tenure in any job – and above all people want to preserve their and positions..

        For the PMC, that’s the reality – and equality is not practiced in the PMC, because it is a continual back-stabbing fight for to be recognized or advanced.

        Currently there is a wealthy Prime Minister who was clever enough to marry into a very wealth family.

        Expect mo respite, because there is no empathy, only competent, for those who are less wealthy..

        1. JBird4049

          The disappearance of all the regional schools and industries as well the evisceration of the various cultural institutions like art, music, plays, museums, and sports means that there is little to fall back on if you don’t get one of those disappearing chairs. The reason why nonsense like IdPol has such a hold is because it can be used as a weapon to get and keep the disappearing positions in academia and other cultural organizations; that this also destroys any resistance to the elites’ control of everything is part of why it is encouraged.

          So, go to the right schools, have an unblemished résumé, conform, and obey or else there is the door to that cold outside.

          No wonder we have such problems. We are being governed by robotized, fearful clones. And they are fearful. Honestly, how could any halfway aware member of the nomenklatura, as well as most of the apparatchiks, not be? Subconsciously, if nothing else.

  4. John R Moffett

    To me it has been apparent for some time that by “the Left”, what the people in charge mean is “goody two-shoes”, in other words, honest people who can’t be allowed into power because they would upset the rotten apple cart. The whole system is so rife with corruption and criminality that the key to staying in power is to make sure only dishonest people with criminal intent are allowed in. If you think along the lines of organized crime and how that works, you are talking about the same mentality and behavior. I think of the Red and Blue teams as competing organized crime families fighting over turf. Fixing that is going to be extremely difficult, especially considering how much money the crime families command.

    1. hunkerdown

      It’s not “corrupt” nor “criminal”. It’s system maintenance. In fact, systems do not reproduce themselves. It is always necessary for a system to ensure the conditions of its own reproduction. It is therefore always okay to neutralize opponents to a system by every means available. Or so it is from the incumbent system’s viewpoint, anyway.

      It is the “challenger’s” job to subvert that reproductive process, which (among other things) entails invalidating the myths that encourage people to take part in the process.

      1. John R Moffett

        When you sacrifice lives for profits, you are in fact engaging is criminal capitalism. The Covid response, the arming of Ukraine to force Russia’s hand, even the WMD lies on Iraq were trading lives for geopolitics and profit. In my mind that is criminal behavior. This is why they must keep honest, empathic people out of high government office. The only way to protect the crime family is to make sure no snitches get into the organization.

        1. hunkerdown

          Emotions don’t matter, though. The insurgent is still dead, the system has successfully eliminated a threat, and we can cry as loudly as we like about it. Liberal-capitalist ideologies of moral progression ultimately serve to greenlight such system maintenance behavior recoded as a “failing” of which one can “repent” or be “saved” from.

          It is a very Puritan tendency to double down on the status quo and blame individuals for not putting enough effort into make a defective system work. If your scheme of competitive moralism worked, it would have by now. In fact, it only preserves the problems of competitive moralism: crackpot ideals, bombastic speech, and (particularly, in this case) perverse sacrifice.

          If anything, we need less morality and more materiality. Food first, sermon after.

        2. spud

          remember Yugoslavia was a complete fraud. how many goody two shoe lefties were fooled by bill clintons kosovo assault on sovereignty.

          after bill clinton got away with it, no country in the world today is safe.

    2. Jeff

      Your analogy seems accurate. You can’t reform anything you don’t control and there is no way of wrestling control away from the criminal class controlling the parties.

      I see no path out of the duopoly control by attempting to reform it. It’s akin to reforming the CDC or FDA – an impossible task as both organizations have proven incompetent. Or to use a corporate example, Ford Motor Company when they hired Alan Mullaly. The ONLY way to reform organizational cultures is to fire every leader and replace them with outsiders unencumbered by organizational norms.

      Anything short of this is a half measure.

  5. zagonostra

    The effectiveness of Team Dem kneecapping of Sanders was intended to discourage any other dark horse aspirants to the role of champion of the little guy.

    Perhaps, Bernie was a willing participant to what happened in the last presidential cycle; rather than being kneecapped it might have been a self-inflicted wound to avoid battle, an appeasement to the political powers that be which allowed them to install their desired nominee.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, sorry, this is bogus.

      After the Weekend of the Long Knives, half if not a bit more of Sanders’ staffers told Sanders to quit.This was reported long form in Politico. Pramila Jayapal also told Sanders to end his campaign.

      This meant if he didn’t, they would, or would start looking for another job ASAP and be dialing their campaign work in.

      Losing half your staff = no campaign. It was done once so many of his staff effectively said they would leave.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Back in that year I linked to a video by an activist in Bernie’s campaign that was going crazy because Bernie was taking aboard people in his campaign that were deliberately sabotaging it such as blowing huge stacks of campaign money raised on rubbish stuff. One time, some true believers tried to confront him because the main guy Bernie took in to run his campaign (can’t remember his name at the moment) was destroying it but Bernie sided with that guy and fired those true believers instead. In the end the Bernie campaign was bringing in all these Democrat operatives (according to this girl) which finished off his campaign. But Bernie, who was been in politics since Pelosi was a young girl, should have hired staff that was actually loyal to him and not the Democrats. I am sorry to say if the half the staff people turned on him, then that was on him for hiring them in the first place. As that girl said, Bernie could have won it but chose the wrong damn people.

        1. britzklieg

          (can’t remember his name at the moment) – Matt Duss may not have “run” Bernie’s campaign but he was almost singularly responsible for the deal breaker between the real left and the posers who’ve destroyed the meaning of the word – he assured that Bernie would toe the line on “Russia, Russia, Russia” (as well as the Maduro/Guaido farce) and proved that the Democrats are and have been, for a very long time, THE war party. And now the war is here, the biggest war yet, hybrid… whatever… it’s here and the Democrats, led by blood-soaked Joe, are making bank.

      2. zagonostra

        Blame it on the staff, just like the House progressives did over the debacle of rescinding letter to Biden urging peace in Ukraine 1 day after they sent it.

        I can’t help feeling that Bernie just didn’t have the fight in him, I supported him both times and felt/feel let down. Bogus? Maybe, hard to tell really.

        1. Donald

          I think Bernie was sincerely trying to win in both campaigns, but once it was clear he wouldn’t, he did everything he could to demonstrate that he was a team player (with the Democrats), so to speak. Whether that was a good or bad decision I don’t know. I tend to agree with Dolores Ibarurri upthread, in that if Bernie (or Corbyn) had been ruthless the hysteria in the press would have been stratospheric.

          I am not saying what he should have done–it just isn’t clear to me what would work. But you have to get around the MSM somehow. Trump could do this because Republican voters don’t trust the press anyway, but for many on the ostensible US left, trusting the press to some degree marks you as a sophisticated educated person who doesn’t believe in conspiracy theories. Of course these are the same people who swallowed Russiagate whole.

        2. Jeff W

          “I can’t help feeling that Bernie just didn’t have the fight in him…”

          Well, aside from losing half his staff, the primaries in March and later were taking place against the backdrop of the pandemic. Sanders called Wisconsin’s in-person primary election voting “dangerous” and said it “disregards the public health experts.” Despite Sanders’s call that the primary be postponed, it was held as planned on 7 April; Sanders withdrew from the race the next day.

          I thought at the time, that, given that his path to victory was, by that time, extremely unlikely, rather than play a role in further jeopardizing voters who might take part in in-person primary voting, Sanders instead threw in the towel. The primaries would proceed, of course, but voters at least would not feel compelled to show up at the polls to vote for him. (I have, admittedly, no evidence, aside from what I just mentioned, to back that up.)

    2. Kurtismayfield

      Bernie was a willing participant because he didn’t believe that his opponents would fight dirty. A successful leftist in the US has to go into the process realizing that the entire system will fight them, and you have to consider that every part of that system is hostile to you.

      This is why I will never trust AoC. She is married to the press/internet, and she cannot separate herself from it. She is part of the system.

  6. digi_owl

    I fear that labels like Progressive and Socialism has lost all meaning in this social media driven age.

    1. Not Again

      I’m still trying to figure out “what Left” they are talking about? Ro Khanna? AOC? The whole article is delusional. I only read it for the laughs.

      1. semper loquitur

        Whenever I hear someone say “progressive Left”, I recall that Joy Behar has declared herself a Lefty.

      2. Jeff

        It’s a self declared label with no meaning. Most of the political left or progressives either have no integrity, courage or are as corrupted as they claim of their competitors. It doesn’t really matter which it is because the result is the same.

        Bernie showed how to really be a coward with tough words and then proving they’re a paper tiger.

        It’s a good show.

    2. LifelongLib

      Along with “capitalist”, “fascist”, and “PMC”. They’ve all become terms of abuse (Chomsky); none have technical meanings any more.

    3. hunkerdown

      They were always particular self-identities. There is no meaning in them other than those which have persisted to this day: the movement celebrating scientific management of all things, and the left-capitalist movement, respectively.

  7. Lexx

    Spy vs. Spy? Ideological twins at opposite ends of the political spectrum gun for each other equally in a no holds barred war for legitimacy and power over the country and empire. Three hundred thirty five million people passively watch how it plays out on their screens while munching popcorn like it was a tennis match. Vested interests sit up in the boxed seats raising their bets depending on how well ‘their side’ is doing on the field. It’s all just a game where no one wins but the rich. Really, I would rather the Left didn’t double down.

    The feds can’t lead anymore. If we in the middle or the Left want change, it will have to be done at the state and local level, and then the feds can just follow when it’s politically safe for them to pretend it was their idea all along. Sometimes I envy Iceland, where your political rep may live next door or just down the block, it’s that small a country. We’ve outsourced our voices to others; we need to bring those voices back in-house and speak for our selves as loudly and frequently as possible until we’ve been heard… or else, and that’s where I start thinking about new rules, not no rules, and forcing my opponent to play my game.

    Rule #1: This is the one Ian got right… know your enemy. Before engaging, take an inventory of every weapon they have, knowing that inevitably they will use them to hurt you. It’s a matter of strategy in deployment; not if but when. They just can’t help themselves. Make their pathology work for your team. Coyote blew himself up, Roadrunner was fine, beep-beep.

  8. Ignacio

    You can play strong and you can also play dirty this meaning breaking the rules, even the most trusted ones, “when necessary”. To do so you need to start thinking in “practical” ways such as it is not the means, it is the final outcome what matters. Need also to break a few other asymmetries in the world of communication, information, finance-monetary system, justice etc and start this from the basis all the way up. This is tall order when the powers-that-be are well entrenched and have all their weapons ready and well greased to use some warfare language. May be the way would be to focus in a few but big wins by encirclement if I am allowed to keep the language. If I am correct Sanders focused on single payer and the goal might not be to reach Presidency but to somehow force the existing to fall in line playing hard in this particular matter.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Sanders abandoned Medicare For All way back in April of 2020 when he said ‘‘Let me be clear: I am not proposing that we pass Medicare for All in this moment. That fight continues into the future.’’ And let me be clear. He did this when Americans were only about three months into a world-wide pandemic which would have given a massive boost for the case for M4A. And just to put the boot in, he said this in a speech about his plan to deal with the Coronavirus crisis. The biggest opportunity to bring in M4A in a generation and he threw it away.

  9. @mikeriddell62

    The left should exercise power by giving it away. Anything else is political nonsense from yesteryear.

  10. Terry Flynn

    Some of this is perhaps a bit naive, some doesn’t recognise principles of (e.g. MMT) but this is a piece I keep bookmarked as a useful starting point.

    I’d personally make a part of the constitution that anybody who owns >5% of any media organisation cannot have citizenship of ANY other country and must be resident in the (in my case) UK for 183+ days in every calendar year.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Terry. Hear, hear.

      With regard to media, I would further restrict ownership, too. So no mixing of broadcasting and press.

      1. Terry Flynn

        Many thanks Colonel. All sorts of things that have relevance to this topic are happening in my constituency (Gedling) – key “red wall” and bellwether seat that fell to the Tories last time round (along with all the other previously Labour ones). The latest (2nd round) of leveling up (ha) money has been announced. Gedling is one of the sections of the “donut” of marginal constituencies surrounding Nottingham proper – we’re administratively under various Notts Borough councils even though to all intents and purposes we’re part of Nottingham city.

        All other “sections of the donut” got money. Not Gedling. Our PPE Oxon MP (Cantab Econ prejudices showing here) young man (who had got immediate elevation to the 1922 on election – what?) made a big fuss about complaining to Rishi! about this. Few days later he’s tweeting obsequious messages that frankly don’t (to me) match his style saying how wonderful Rishi! is and problems are entirely due to Labour held Borough Council.

        Deputy leader of aforementioned Council will be the Labour candidate trying to retake the seat. Now colour me cynical but have we just seen the PM show that “Gedling is lost so we’re not giving it money….. Plus you in your role on the 1922 didn’t exactly toe the line in the leadership contest by backing me – bye bye”.

        Responding to another post of yours regarding minor public schools – I attended one (at that point 9th best in the UK) and though my contemporaries were all Tory clones, the TEACHERS turned out to be very left wing. The one we had pegged as “dyed in the wool Tory” was very upset when we charged into further maths class telling him “Thatcher’s pulled out!”. He wasn’t frustrated because of Tory values…… He (correctly) predicted that her replacement would be a “Tory-lite” who would probably win the next election and had been relishing prospect of seeing her thoroughly beaten in a general election.

        Suffice to say at next election I’ve difficult choice to make….. Probably spoil my ballot like I’ve done before in face of choice that echoes the one in THAT infamous episode of South Park.

    2. Keith Newman

      Canada already more or less has what you suggest: “strict laws around non-Canadian ownership of cultural industries where a media company in Canada may not be more than 20 per cent foreign-owned. ” (per Wikipedia)
      The result is a few more Canadian TV shows and a few less US ones; on the news the ostensible social democratic party (the NDP) gets some space (currently calling out the Liberal government for allowing some public healthcare to be turned over to for-profit private investors); but on foreign affairs it’s almost entirely US propaganda.
      By the way Canada also has strict rules and regulations about foreign-owned banks. Occasionally a foreign-owned bank makes the mistake of setting up shop in Canada. It usually doesn’t last more than half a dozen years before selling off its operations to a Canadian bank.

    3. BillS

      Thanks for the link Terry. Machiavelli really is worth reading, since little has changed in human nature in the last 500 years. The Prince and his Discourses on Livy really are masterpieces on the art of politics – which in reality – is only one step from open warfare. And it helps to have armed partisans, when you need them (Sinn Fein anyone?) The performative Left has no idea what they are up against, because no one reads these classics anymore.

      These seven rules could have been lifted from V. Lenin, himself!

      If you stand up to the Princes, you need to have an army and a plan, and even then you may fail. Omnia sunt comunia.

    4. spud

      Terry Flynn, 100%!!!!! also no one in government in any positition, should have dual citizenship, that applies to family members also.

  11. Power Politics

    Die Linke, the left-party in Germany is lead by two fools that have zero will to power. Last year before the presidential elections in Germany, they introduced their candidate, some physician volunteer-pro. The words of the leader Janine Wissler to explain the choice of the candidate were “it is not about the presidency, it is about putting poverty (or whatever this volunteer-pro was doing) on the agenda”.

    A person in politics that don*t care about the position is in the wrong game, either by being a total fool or an infiltrator with the mission to destroy.

    I really hope that Sahra Wagenknecht is a real power-player and starts a real leftwing party.

    1. JR

      Don’t seem to be able to post a comment with the video link, but Glenn Greenwald interviewed Sahra Wagenknecht on his rumble channel earlier this week.

        1. Sibiryak

          That Sahra Wagenknecht interview is incredibly lucid and incredibly important, imo. Short excerpt:

          SW: I have no support from the right-wing camp because I reject their positions. For me, the right means unconditional support for the logic of the market, neoliberalism, cuts in social spending, and, ultimately, war policy. They don’t support me. Those who argue that we don’t need decent pensions and that we should reduce wages are not on my side. But the public debate in Germany has shifted radically.

          What used to be left-wing is now considered right-wing, and vice versa. Nowadays, campaigning for diplomacy and against rearmament is considered right-wing because the AfD (Alternative für Deutschland – Alternative for Germany), Germany’s right-wing party, partially supports such positions. We can also see this in other countries, where right-wing parties say we have to have a good relationship with Russia. Well, right-wing parties sometimes also say that the sky is blue. Do I have to say it is green so that I am not right-wing?

          The same applies to other problems. For me, it is not a left-wing position to say we are for massive immigration, economic immigration. Because economic immigration is used to lower wages. It goes against the interests of ordinary workers, especially the less skilled. I’m in favor of accepting and protecting people who are persecuted or fleeing war. But I am not in favor of economic immigration. I was not in favor of the EU’s expansion to the East because it was a program to depress wages in the West.

          Right and left are upside down today. Being left has become an ideology and a way of life of the well-off urban middle class. They shop at the health food store, and they ride their bicycles downtown, where it is possible. They believe they are better people because they have this lifestyle. And they partly despise the poorer people who go to Aldi and buy the cheap schnitzel, and they speak badly about them for not being ecological. That’s how this reversal of left and right has happened.

      1. JustTheFacts

        Yes, she was very interesting. The reason the left has devolved is because its electoral base changed from workers to so-called professionals (i.e. the working class who are better paid, but don’t get how precarious their livelihoods really are).

        The link seems to be blocked, I presume by mistake since, the interview is well worth watching. Type rumble ‘dot’ com ‘slash’ v27rlj8-system-update-31’dot’ html into your browser’s location bar, replacing ‘dot’ and ‘slash’ by the appropriate symbols . and /

        1. LifelongLib

          “…so-called professionals (i.e. the working class who are better paid, but don’t get how precarious their livelihoods really are)…”

          Hear, hear!

        2. hunkerdown

          No, they aren’t the working class. They reproduce capitalist society against our wishes, and for that reason have no business presumptuously insinuating their coddled selves into some kind of moral equivalence with primary producers. It’s not even remarkable that they do so; they are simply applying their world-building work skills to creating property where they are entitled to none, as they do. Read Ehrenreich.

          1. JustTheFacts

            I beg to disagree.

            The computer you are writing on was invented by “professionals”: Electronic Engineers, Software Developers, Physicists, and so on. The assembly workers in China would not be able to make a computer without them, because there would be no parts, so these professionals are producers. Yet, a whole load of them have lost their jobs in the last month because the investment class wants to tighten the money spigot. Now these professionals learn what precarity is, and that they might have working class interests.

            1. hunkerdown

              Self-sacrifice is no argument at all. It’s just a bourgeois liberal feeling. They didn’t need to form a class to do any of that. In fact, it’s probably better had they not.

              Deifying job descriptions by capitalizing them as if they were proper names to be revered? How infantile, but how PMC. They upheld capitalism, and they continue to uphold social capitalism. As a class, screw them. As people of NO class, having no self to sacrifice, then they might be worth something.

              Now, are you going to read Ehrenreich and discuss this materially, or are you going to waste time with emotional performativity for an absolutely disinterested interlocutor?

  12. Samuel Conner

    > Will he declare his once-ballyhooed climate emergency, or let that dangled promise float away like last year’s dying leaves?On July 20 he said with a straight face, “This is an emergency. And I will look at it that way.

    Come on, man! This one is easy. Based on historical patterns, the answer is that he’ll implement some good-looking but inadequate policies that will encourage behaviors that actually worsen the emergency and then, under pressure from Congressional Rs, he’ll declare the emergency to be over.

  13. KLG

    When the Left (a real Left) takes power…That is equivalent to my idle dream, “When I win that billion-dollar PowerBall…” Say what you will, but the Right plays to win and is willing to play the long game to do it. Clinton Obama Biden Pelosi & Schumer LLC are interested only in their status in Washington DC, primarily on K Street, and how that can be “leveraged” into benefits for their benefactors and houses in Georgetown, The Vineyard, Pacific Heights, Westchester County, and Hawai’i. Anyway, when I read or hear what the “radical Left” is up to in this country, I laugh out loud. Such a thing has hardly ever existed. The with most recent (only?) version was murdered 100 years ago (Adam Hochschild highly recommended, as always).

    1. Adam Eran

      I second your recommendation of Adam Hochschild’s American Midnight. Reading it leaves no doubt that the attack on the left, labor and immigrants has literally a century of precedents. No law, or custom is to sacred to break if the left, labor and immigrants suffer–and I mean torture, imprisonment and lynching. The good news is that lynching is not as common now (and would shock the public, in contrast to the early 1900s). Maybe the transformation of American values is underway…but very, very slow.

  14. Michael Hudson

    I think Biden and the Dems will use the Bankman-Fried defense: “We meant well. If you just would have given us more time with a few more elected representatives, we could have done it. Let us continue the fight and show your support or what you believe by showing faith in us.”
    My perception all along is that the role of the Democratic Party is to protect the Republicans and financial sector from any left-wing attack.
    Appoint possible threatening politicians who high-paying NGO positions. You don’t need assassination — just bribery. “Play ball with us and we’ll put you on committees that are important to the Donor Class.”

    1. Lambert Strether

      > My perception all along is that the role of the Democratic Party is to protect the Republicans and financial sector from any left-wing attack.

      NGOs = COIN. Not perhaps literally, in the sense of transfer of personnel and vocabulary, but certainly funtionally. Perhaps a case of parallel evolution.

      1. pjay

        I wasn’t quite sure if by COIN you meant *money* or “counterintelligence” (as in COINTELPRO). Either or both seem to work here.

        1. digi_owl

          Two sides of the same coin, when COIN come in the form of marines upholding the banana republic status quo…

    2. Questa Nota

      Uniparty elements like self-preservation. Anything or anyone that might upset that gets targeted.
      Biden is in the cross-hairs now with the growing media willingness to make the public aware of his many family and other scandals. Those who can be deemed guilty by association with him will also be weakened.

      Look for much anti-corruption heat, but not much light if DC remains true to form. The usual suspects like pharma, Wall Street and MIC, to name three, will mount their counterattack forces of lobbyists, media ad budget recipients and billionaires.

    3. eg

      The Democratic Party is the pawl in the US Federal Government ratchet ensuring that policies can only ever turn rightwards.

      Which is to say that the US is a turkey with two right wings …

  15. Cetra Ess

    The left is moral, has principles. If the left goes against those principles it is no longer left, it becomes the right. If JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcom X, etc., had ever come to power they wouldn’t have been as willing to assassinate those on the right as that’s not the example they would have wanted to set, goes against a variety of their humanistic principles. And that’s the crux of the problem, how do you build and keep a movement based on ethical principles, without compromising those principles, when the opposition is willing to do anything and everything, including unethical means, to stop you.

    Stalin is an example. As soon as he started purging he automatically lost any claim that he was legitimately communist, that is not how communism is supposed to work, so he was instead authoritarian, which puts him squarely on the right, alongside Hitler.

    1. semper loquitur

      Yeah, no. Years ago when I worked in environmental activism, I heard similar arguments from the lib-prog leadership in my organization. The idea seemed to be that being morally righteous and playing by the rules was going to win the day. They would deliberately avoid crucial issues like nuclear power and such because it would have involved bare-knuckle efforts like vocal protests and media blitzes. A small cadre of lefties, including myself, were calling for such efforts to rile up the voters. Instead, they opted for mushier issues like better lightbulbs, an effort I anointed the “Charge of the Light-Bulb Brigade”, because it wasn’t in anyone’s face and it preserved their precious “place at the table” that they had been granted at the state capital.

      And they lost, over and over again. More than once, our man in the capital returned back to HQ to report that he had been stymied by the powers that be, that his demands had been watered down or killed by committee, that it was back to square one. Then another puffball issue would be announced with great fanfare and it was off to tilt with windmills again. Won’t you please donate to the cause?

      I saw two themes playing out, one ideological and one practical. On the ideological side, progressives by definition have to believe that reasoned, methodical progress is a possibility. That the system is rational and foundationally sound, it’s just that these bad actors have snuck in. We will vote our way to a better world! They are akin to the high school nerd who boldly tells the bully that what he is doing is wrong and cruel…and then gets his glasses smashed anyway. What the lib-progs fail to realize is that, in politics, the teachers, principal, and administrators are bullies too.

      On the practical side, these people tend to be relatively well off and nicely situated in the power structure. The one’s I worked with (?) were upper-middle class, Ivy League prince and princesses who were loath to get their hands dirty by mingling with the working-class phone callers and even less inclined to get in trouble with the authorities. It might bar them from that MBA program they were eyeing to monetize their undergraduate degrees! It became readily apparent after a few months that they were mostly concerned with moving to DC and getting jobs as NGO lobbyists. A buddy who was of a lefty mentality but whose wife was lib-prog made an enemy of a family friend when he declined her offer to come to DC and work for her in an NGO. He wasn’t a “team player”.

      I’m with Marx and then Lenin on all this. Material issues that benefit the 99% fought for tooth and nail. If and when power is won, drag, what was it, every tenth bureaucrat and priest onto the street and shoot them. Substitute CEO for priest these days but the point remains: hammer it home.

      Not that I think this will happen. The American people have proven to be grotesquely malleable: a million plus dead due to COVID, specious IDpol issues consumed with gusto, 110B$ paid out to the MIC and the Ukrainian Mafia, and little to no visible resistance. I’m sure that’s generalizing a bit but I think it’s fairly accurate. And any real resistance that might crop up will be dealt with neatly by the Powers That Be and their running-dogs in the police, press, professional classes, etc. I’m preparing for societal breakdown and neo-feudalism as best I can.

      1. Cetra Ess

        Just to point out, Marx never specified a way to get from point A to communism. There is reason to believe Marx would be horrified how the so-called “communism” project turned out with the Soviets, it wasn’t communism by any remote measure.

        He appeared to believe capitalism would be the necessary stepping stone to get us from here to there, observed that capitalism had given us a progression away from feudalism, gave us human rights, labor rights, feminism. Nevertheless, he believed capitalism to be bad but also that would self-destruct and the end result of the implosion would get us to communism. He did not prescribe how to get there, but he was above all a humanist and concerned with ending human suffering, not promoting it.

        Lenin even gave a famous speech about this lack of prescribed action. Lenin proposed a prescribed action and set in motion the Leninthink phenomenon, that’s where the party demands absolute and unconditional ideological purity, but he appeared to be worried about where it seemed to be heading, in particular what would happen if Stalin continued it. Stalin then comes into power and institutes government by terror, which is to say let’s kill millions, right or wrong, even if they’re true dedicated commies, ideologically pure, just to make an example – the party is always right, regardless of anything at all, but most especially to hell with due process and truth.

        And this demonstrates precisely why, when we use force and coercion to achieve our means, we just circle right back to everything that communism was supposed to be against in the first place – once again we end up with a group in power and a group not, and the group in power is corrupted by the power and we’re not anywhere near communism.

        The solution is to remove power altogether, not an easy thing to do if it must also be done without force and coercion.

        1. Adam Eran

          Exactly. If force worked, we wouldn’t still be re-litigating the Civil War in the U.S. The real question is “When will people wake up to this?”

          1. semper loquitur

            If and when they do wake up, they are going to meet the full force of the state. Why do you think the police state, the surveillance state, the militarized state exist? Do you think Wall Street and the banks and the corporations, with their innumerable wh0res in politics and the managerial classes, are just going to throw up their hands because people take to the streets?

        2. semper loquitur

          “He did not prescribe how to get there, but he was above all a humanist and concerned with ending human suffering, not promoting it.”

          I submit that material benefits to the 99% is about as humanist as you can get. And Marx understood what it would take to claim such benefits. He may not have laid out a particular plan to achieve the communist state but, if my memory of my labor history serves, he supported those who took to the barricades to fight for their liberation.

          Lenin was right to fear the rise of Stalin but what does “due process” and “truth” mean to entrenched power that will stop at nothing to maintain hegemony? What was that saying about Gandhi? That he was lucky he wasn’t facing a Stalin or a Hitler or some such? Someone who would have run him over with a tank?

          And what if Stalin hadn’t risen to power? I seem to recall Trotsky in his autobiography noting how many times he told Lenin to get rid of Stalin. What if he had? Would the prescribed action then have been justified, if a regime held power that oversaw a just distribution of resources and power? I say yes, it would have been justified.

          “The solution is to remove power altogether, not an easy thing to do if it must also be done without force and coercion.”

          Your solution needs a solution. How in the wide, wide world do you expect to “remove power altogether” from human affairs? Not “easy”? Try utterly impossible. This all smacks of liberal fantasizing, an homage to some lofty ideal engraved in marble somewhere.

          1. Cetra Ess

            I have lots of thoughts around solution but none of them work if all participants don’t share the same general ideas and agree around the principles. For example, I’m an advocate of stateless participatory economy. For us to get to this, we need to all agree and understand that money, usury, inheritance, profit, etc., has been the bane of our existence, have led us down the completely wrong path. I think we’re getting there organically and we need to get there organically. If forced or coerced into it, it won’t take or hold. People truly need to come to the realization themselves, on their own.

            A little help can be provided, of course, in the way any movement is started with exposure to new thinking and ideas.

            But I get that if you’re deep in the heartland of the US it’s probably very difficult to see how anything but force can be used for almost anything at all. In some countries force and violence is the only language anyone understands.

      2. spud

        and now the better light bulbs are made in china, and the do gooder dupes point out how cheap the bulbs are, and we should thank wall street and the chinese communist party for this. you can’t make this stuff up.

    2. hunkerdown

      Oh boy. Moral perfectionism is a dissipative structure designed to preserve the liberal state and to give the petty landed something to be precious about to justify their leisure time and labor exploitation. More importantly, it functions as a permission slip for pro-capitalist action, as long as the appropriate penitent rituals are performed afterward.

      We should really just knock the sad little puppet theater of moral exhibition down so that people can be judged on the quality of their food rather than how much time they’ve been allowed to waste on childish ideations of greatness.

  16. John Mc

    Good idea to consider and there should be much more robust scholarship in this area, but I am of the mind that after Kennedy, the empire established institutions, monetary regimes, and networks to ensure that they remain the sovereign decision maker here (military, corporate, and political leaders that caused the rot).

    Any power they cede is likely to be an operation that blows up the final vestiges of any viable anti-imperial left project or is more of the same sell left during the nomination and tack right every opportunity after that. In my estimation, we are in the final throws of imperial decay in the interregnum where carcass/head of empire still believes it is the unipolar power.

      1. John Mc

        Love his work and probably should have cited him in my post tbh – he’s from my hometown and someone I consider to be a friend.

  17. voislav

    The left has the same problem that the working class has. War is being waged on them and they are “not aware of it” (more like willingly ignoring it). So, they need to gear up for war and wage one.

    To quote from Herbert’s Dune “He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing”. The reason that “centrists” have so much power over the Democratic party is that they are willing to destroy it if they can’t keep control of it. The left has shown over and over that they are not willing to destroy the party to push their agenda and they need to change this approach.

  18. chukjones

    There does not seem to be a true “left” in usa usa, certainly not within the Democratic Party. And from what little I see and read thru my rightwing filter, the repugs and the right consider the Dems to all be leftists. Given that sentiment, I expect they consider any opponents to be evil, demonic, an Illegitimate. No rules apply in the pursuit of power. As Kurt Vonnegut said: “and so it goes”

  19. Tom Pfotzer

    The proscriptions offered in the article seem like more top-down political maneuver, conducted on a battlefield that’s overwhelmingly controlled by the elites.

    No military strategist would endorse this approach. Pit your weaknesses .vs. their strengths? How would Sun Tzu respond to that strategy?

    How did Ghandi and Malcolm X/MLK and the womens’ suffrage movements succeed?

    a. They told a compelling story of what’s gonna be different if you throw in with us. Clear, simple, potent message.
    b. They had a bottom-up plan for _marshaling the power of the many_
    c. The “many” was suffering so much that it was worth the retribution and repression they had to endure in order to prevail
    d. The “many” were in it for the long haul, and a long haul it was indeed

    Which of those crucial ingredients for a successful war effort do the Progressives have in-hand?

    In the examples I cited above, please note that most of the battles were not fought on the turf controlled by the elites. The battles were fought at the local level, at the interpersonal level, where the elites’ power was weakest and the many’s power was greatest.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Not to take anything away from the courage and political acumen of MLK and his comrades, but the Civil Rights movement was supported by most sectors of the federal government, in it’s Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union. The Soviets were having rhetorical and ideological success pointing out Jim Crow violence and US hypocrisy to the anti-colonial movements in the Third World, and support for desegregation was an effective response.

      As it happened, King was only assasinated after he came out against the Vietnam War, which was clearly beyond the beyonds for the liberal warmakers of the era; had the State not seen the marketing benefits of civil rights on the world stage, he would have been eliminated, one way or another, much sooner.

      1. Tom Pfotzer


        your statement:

        “the Civil Rights movement was supported by most sectors of the federal government”

        is a great big clue about strategy.

        My two objectives re: economics are:

        a. to redesign economic activity so that it repairs the planet instead of degrading it, and
        b. to enable the 99% to retain a great deal more of the wealth they create for themselves

        That said, I definitely believe that there are a great many people – with great powers – in government that either do now, or shortly will become committed to those goals, and for the same reason the elite grudgingly supported FDR (safer; fewer pitchforks to dodge).

        Certainly there are many powerful forces that would oppose those goals, but I think the balance of power is rapidly shifting in favor of a) and b) above.

        As the war for resources and global hegemony unfolds, and some failures are sustained by the NeoCons / sociopaths, the pace will quicken a bit. That would be one of those “defining, tectonic events” I allude to below, re: Carolinian.

        If the focus stays squarely on a) and b), and not on “take power from them and give it to someone else”, then it may be entirely possible to achieve a) and b) above, on a gradual basis, and leave the existing social order – the hierarchy, not necessarily the wealth concentration – largely intact.

        And that would be just fine with me. There is always going to be a social order, and I’m not interested in belonging within one.

        What I want is a) and b) above.

    2. LY

      The proscriptions are what to be done once in power.

      Gaining power, now that’s the hard part, especially when there’s so much institutional rot and resistance to overcome. Look at most of the WEIRD world. The mainstream center left and social democrat parties have all been captured by Neoliberalism. See Britain, Canada, France, Germany (including the Greens !?), Sweden, etc.

    3. spud

      Ghandi’s non violent approach was, that he was surrounded by violence on both sides. if the side he represented was not violent, india would have never gained their independence.

  20. Carolinian

    Since “the left” doesn’t make the rules then why should they be surprised that the game is rigged? It seems to me that history shows that only “events,” not ideology, drive reform. It took a Depression to create the New Deal, WW2 to create the NHS etc. The powerful are never going to give away their power voluntarily but they are quite capable of sabotaging themselves and that is always what gives reform an opportunity. And when that opportunity comes you need the right leadership to take advantage. Therefore Corbyn was the wrong leader and Sanders too.

    The power problem is the great dilemma in making societies work. Our constitution took a stab at it while making sure to not too greatly inconvenience the then wealthy and powerful. But at least they were on the right path. ID pol is totally the wrong path, therefore popular among the current so-called “left.”

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Carolinian said:

      It seems to me that history shows that only “events,” not ideology, drive reform.

      Exactly correct.

      Next question: what are the defining, tectonic events that are currently or shortly to exert excruciating pressure on the “many”?

      Follow-on: And what is the left/progressive (your label here) solution (not “response”, but “solution”) to those excruciating forces?

      And how long does it take to do the prep work for those solutions to be viable?

      1. Adam Eran

        “History does not march on its head” – Karl Marx
        “…nor does it think with its feet.” – Jean Paul Sartre

    2. Maha

      While the Depression contributed to the New Deal, don’t forget that 20 years of labor uprising, strikes, and violence played a major role. So much so that industrialist were willing to consult with Roosevelt.

  21. Brooklin Bridge

    Fight dirty with lofty ideals (or even compassion); a hard mix to match. Some rare specimens of humanity that by happenstance are born into soi-disant aristocratic environments where the professed ideals they maintain as legitimizing their advantage coincide with a ready willingness to act like vipers when fangs come to bites can indeed have a significant advantage for the good of mankind over Mr. nice guy to the core, such as Bernie Sanders or Bill Moyers. Not to suggest that is the only way to produce such a combination.

    Putin strikes me as having this potential, though admittedly I’m judging from afar and should qualify that “fighting dirty” in this case has become a standard of behavior for the West that Putin is directly offending in that his response to Western hegemony may be unexpected in it’s breath and resolve, yet it is anything but underhanded.

  22. Michael Fiorillo


    What Left?

    I’ve been a socialist since I was twelve years old in 1968. In my recent experience, many/most people who identify as “Left” still believe that Russia elected Trump, support Ukraine, are totally ignorant (if not supportive) of our actions in Libya and Syria (and Bolivia and Peru and…), and think of “Anti-racism” as the sole measure of moral and political rectitude. In other words, they are political naifs, if not idiots, who for the most part are useless for anything other than donating to the Ds.

    1. Adam Eran

      Sad to say, you’re right. Public policy is idiotic because there’s practically no interest in it, and certainly not much intelligence applied to it, especially by the people who are “activists.”

  23. Alice X

    Capitalism and democracy are incompatible. Big money hates regulation unless it furthers their position and limits their competition. At which point it becomes monopoly. Actual democracy should tell them to forfeit their money. That would be a true left, but it will never take power peacefully. Lucy Parsons said it more than one hundred years ago.

  24. orlbucfan

    I’m reading an excellent biography that also doubles as a very good book on 20th century American political history. It is titled G-Man by biographer Beverly Gage. Gage details the life of J. Edgar Hoover, the founding powerhouse behind the Federal Bureau of Investigation aka FBI. Hoover’s life serves as an outline of American political history from 1895 to 1972. It also details the destruction of the actual American Left. Hoover was an anti-communist and right winger to his core. He was brilliantly and brutally efficient. On a scale of 10, this read is a 10-plus.

    1. Carolinian

      I’ve read that book too and thought it was a fair minded account if easier on Hoover than a lot of people were and are. One interesting bit is that Hoover wanted to take the foreign espionage job but Truman created the CIA instead because he didn’t like Hoover. The implication is that Hoover–the quintessential bureaucrat–might have followed a different path than the secretive and often out of control CIA. Hoover did bad things in secret while at the same time being very concerned about his reputation and the FBI’s reputation and exposure. Therefore there were limits. One reason Watergate happened was that Hoover had decided to call off the black bag jobs and much of the wiretapping due to threat of exposure. Therefore Nixon was on the verge of getting rid of him (despite their tight friendship) before Hoover conveniently died. And this was why Nixon used his own gang of incompetents for Watergate rather than the highly practiced FBI. Bottom line: the FBI was bad–the CIA was worse.

      1. orlbucfan

        I haven’t finished the book yet, but I have no use for the “alphabet” agencies that make up the deep state blob. I’ve felt that way since I was a teenager many, many moons ago. These power hungry yahoos are littered throughout human history. I doubt there is a peaceful fix for them.

  25. Hastalavictoria

    A useful tool is the very simple “wheel of change” which simply requires increasing the forces for change and reducing the forces of resistance.To effect any change program you need to do this and if nothing changes within 3 months it ain’t going to! Thus Obama putting the same faces in within his first 3 months was a classic example. Corbyn likewise.

    A pity that historically best exponent of this technique was Lenin ably assisted by Trotsky.

  26. overoverb

    “The Left, after Bernie, has finally grown just strong enough to know how weak it really is” — Matt Karp

    This article feels like cosplaying a bit. There is little utility in fantasizing taking down the final boss when you are at level 3 in the game equipped with a wooden sword.

  27. Susan the other

    There was a time when we thought we had it all figured out. America was becoming prosperous and the spoils were divided up to maintain the peace. That all fizzled out with WW2. As Phillip K. Dick might say, “We are all fascists now.” And we are in deep shit, having exploited the environment more brutally than we have exploited each other by far. Political parties are frivolous because they are all in denial. When push comes to shove we will all be killers. Our politics is already on crutches. And we need to face our existential challenges with good intentions. We need a new social contract that not only protects human equality but protects environmental rights. No small task. Especially when we have only partially evolved as a civilized animal. If we are going to be brutal defending our delusions why not just face it? That is at least one good use for globalization. The globalization of honesty.

  28. Gulag

    Some important things to keep in mind:

    The metaphor of “left” and “right” have only been with us for some 200 years (a seating arrangement coined in the National assembly in Paris in the early phases of the French Revolution).

    How did such a conceit (a contingent arrangement) become a kind of structural truth or a James C. Scott once said ” a particular vernacular cross-dressed as a universal”?

    What if the visions of progress of both the right and the left no longer work?

    Karl Polanyi’s “The Great Transformation,” talks of a double movement (the first to create a free market from above” and the second movement a quite messy patchwork of responses to the degradation of our existence coming from a great diversity of political, religious, or social starting points.

    Check out the new book by Dougald Hine “At Work in the Ruins: Finding our Place in the Time of Science Climate Change Pandemics and all the Other Emergencies,” for more intriguing insights.

    It just may be that both left and right are terminally broken and cannot be fixed.

  29. ALM

    It’s going to take a mass movement to force our political representatives to enact policies that serve the public interest. And that mass movement will not be possible until Labor is on board. At bottom, this is a class issue.

    I get the impression that today’s Left also has a serious class issue. They appear to be an unorganized collection of underemployed college graduates who spend their time talking to other underemployed college graduates. They are not organized to take collective action. Neither does there appear to be any serious effort to form an alliance with Labor.

    As for Bernie Sanders, whom I once enthusiastically supported, he failed to bring in the working class so he did not have the backing to challenge the Democratic establishment. As it turns out, I don’t believe that he would have challenged the Dem establishment even with that support because the personal price would have been too high, namely exclusion from the club. How else to explain his sycophancy to Biden who stands against everything Bernie once supported?

  30. hk

    The question left out from the beginning of this article is just who this “actual left” is and what kind of coalition it would form to get into power.

    I think, if the premise is that somehow the “actual left,” whoever they are, after ditching their current sort-of-coalition-partners of the soi-disant left, can take power all by themselves, it is delusional. How the left should exercise power would depend on the coalitional circumstances and what concessions they would need to make and extract from whom as the process of getting into power. Indeed, that I think is the real “how the left should exercise power?” question.

  31. karen's hubby

    Missing from this picture is that there is no distinction between left and right, they both work for the big money.
    The right does this through deregulation and “free market” while the left through abolishing all traditions in the name of individual freedom, creating a society of atomized individuals, in fact consumers, to be manipulated at will by the private companies.
    It was the left that wrote the “right to private property” in the declaration of human rights after the french revolution which is contrary to any form of socialism.
    They oportunistically trumped the cause of the workers until the 80s where it was gradually abandoned (to let big corporations delocalize and exploit cheap labor elsewhere) and replace the worker betrayal with the combat in favor of minorities, aliens and other excluded.
    Both parties work for a hyperglobalised market and want you to be an obedient consumer because that is what corporations sponsoring them want.

  32. wendigo

    101 Democrats voted with the Republicans to pass a bill “denouncing the horrors of socialism” today.

    Might be some time before the left exercises power.

    1. Waking Up

      At first I thought that was a joke. Then I found out it really happened.

      Roll Call 106 | Bill Number: H. Con. Res. 9 – This concurrent resolution denounces socialism and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States.
      Passed today: Yea – 328, Nay – 86

      “We the People” are being told in advance basically to expect major cuts to Social Security, Medicare and funding for social programs. This is pathetic and *&#!* beyond belief.

  33. AG

    edit: of course it must say

    “While the Biggies as Amazon, Google et al. publicly raged against THE END of Roe vs. Wade”

  34. Lambert Strether

    > If you get into a place like where Corbyn was, you have to get rid of all the internal enemies. Not people who just disagree.

    The Bolsheviks weren’t dumb. At all. Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast gives a reasonably fair treatment of them (unlike, say, every Russian “history” department or screed emitted by them since the Cold War began).

    Power was lying in the street. The Bolsheviks seized it. Why not learn from “success”? (And from failure, too; even if the Soviet Union did stomp the Nazis — a plus, at least to some — there are many aspects of CP rule that were less than ideal, even if you account for the West invading and sabotaging them; farm policy (collectivization) and the secret police among them. Best not to repeat these…).

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