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Topics: Propaganda • Iraq • Media • Militarism • Iran • Israel • Religion • Strategy • Islam • Racism • Venezuela
January 30, 2005
Capitulation is no cure for division
The Left (or the liberals, to use the US term) has been greatly concerned about the long-term effects of political division in society. The political division has, of course, been greatly exacerbated by the alienating policies of the current US administration. The liberals, being liberals, see division as unfavourable, that is, as something that one should try to reduce, even at the cost of compromising one's own principles. The hope is that attempts at dialogue with the Right may help bring them to one's own side. The experience of the last four years has demonstrated the exact opposite. Attempts at dialogue with the Right are interpreted as weakness, and leave them even more confirmed in their beliefs. It is clearly impossible to convert the extreme segments of the Right, although the less extreme segments may be open to seeing the light. However, the latter will see the light only if we remain steadfast in our praxis, and refuse to make unprincipled concessions.
Another aspect of this issue that has worried the Left is that each camp seems to talk only amongst themselves. There does not seem to be much of any kind of communication between the Right and the Left. I would again suggest that this is not necessarily the end of the world. The more we are confronted by invective and irrationality from the Right, the more convinced should we become that we are on the side of truth and justice. The fact that they hate us so much is proof positive that we have been effective, and confirms that we should continue and intensify our activities. And talking amongst ourselves is the best way to build coalitions and reinforce each other's efforts. Just consider the fact that, four years ago, there was a clear distinction between "left" and "liberal" in American political discourse. Today, that distinction has, for all practical purposes, disappeared.
In a well-intentioned post on the "Bad Attitudes" blog, Moe Blue points out what he sees as a "collective amnesia" in the Democratic Party as far as its basic values are concerned. As a reminder, he then goes on to list what the Party has stood for during the last century. I felt something was lacking while I was reading through his list. Although, as I said, he is well-intentioned in that he wants the Party to halt its right-ward drift, he in fact demonstrates exactly why Social Democracy has continued to drift right-ward in the last hundred years. Humanism nourished SD's original vision, and humanism calls for an absolute and unconditional value system. Stressing the values that Moe lists is not the remedy for SD's ailment, because those are not even values. They are the program that SD has developed for itself over the said period. They are, therefore, conditional and instrumental. The "collective amnesia" should instead refer to the fact that Social Democrats have forgotten that their original stance consisted of a set of items with intrinsic, unconditional, and non-instrumental value. The Right has no problem thinking of what it stands for as having intrinsic value, so why not the Left? The following is Moe's list (the text within quotation marks), together with my parenthetical indications of the intrinsic values that have been abandoned along the way:
1-"Give the poor and impoverished a hand up to lift them out of poverty because more people with more money makes our economy grow." (And not because doing so is a primary responsibility of a just society)
2-"Guarantee that all citizens are equal before the law because justice is the only path to social stability." (And not because justice is a good in itself)
3-"Promote science and education because they are the foundations of prosperity." (And not because having an educated and cultured citizenry has intrinsic value)
4-"Maintain strong alliances around the world because true security comes from being surrounded by friends, not enemies." (And not because peace is an indivisible aspect of human happiness)
5-"Create, enforce, and protect the rights of workers because America is not about enriching the few while crushing the many." (And not because there is nothing that should take precedence over the rights of producers of wealth, that is, the workers)
6-"Protect the environment because our children will have to live in the world we leave them." (And not because the environment has intrinsic value independently of whether there are human beings around or not)
7-"Keep the government out of the lives of citizens because the most fundamental right we have is the right to be left alone." (And not because the government's job description does not include a right to interfere in the lives of the citizens)
Of course, perhaps a more fundamental decision for the Democratic Party is whether it wants to be a Social Democratic party in the first place, or whether it wants to languish in its New Deal legacy. The New Deal, to those who know what it was really about, was fundamentally anti-worker and anti-progressive.
Bush apologists love to go on about the beheadings in Iraq as soon as you bring up the subject of the responsibility of US soldiers for Abu Ghraib and, much more seriously, the civilian casualties in Fallujah. But are the same standards to be applied to professional soldiers as to individuals who are, after all, "terrorists" and "insurgents"? There is no logical equivalence between the killings by US soldiers and the killings by the "insurgents." This is not just for the basic reason given above, but also because of the deeper reason that the US has been massacring members of a completely legitimate resistance movement. There is no ethical equivalence between the actions of a member of a resistance movement and those of a soldier of an occupying army. Even the Nazis in France didn't use the excuse of the presence of members of the French Resistance in French cities to destroy those cities and massacre their populations. A parallel case to the above situation has been going on in the Middle East in the American proxy state of Israel, where the Israeli government has for years used the attacks by members of the Palestinian resistance movement against Israeli targets to rationalize its own attacks against innocent Palestinian civilians.