Big L writes:
So, Van Jones resigned and took one for the team by backing down from his position as “green jobs czar” for the Obama
administration. This is happening after Glenn Beck, reactionary Fox News anchor, smashed on him and called him out on his show for being a “communist” and part of STORM.
Interestingly, Glenn Beck’s right-wing, reactionary red-baiting actually contains some useful, truthful facts about Van Jones’ strategy. Specifically, Beck’s racist-ass (and let’s be clear, this dude is completely reactionary) brings up the way that Van Jones saw his work alongside Obama as the way to be a “more effective revolutionary.” Van Jones, and many in the non-profitized left, see this “inside/outside” approach as the most effective way of organizing (and as we’ve seen this includes many post-STORM nonprofit organizations.)
What lessons will we draw from Van Jones’ effort to infiltrate the system and change it from within? Is it possible to have an “inside/outside” combination approach to revolutionary organizing (where we work within bourgeois electoral circuits, and outside of them) like the one that Bill Fletcher Jr. advocates for? This Van Jones example is yet another strong sign that it doesn’t work.
Unfortunately, many self-proclaimed revolutionaries see this type of strategy – basically, working within the system – as the only way to engage in day to day struggles: fighting budget cuts means working mostly within the existing student government/organizations and teacher’s union; battling exploitation on the job means working within the official union which is supposed to represent a particular group of workers interests. Etc, Etc.
Perhaps revolutionaries should consider taking the road of building autonomous organizations as vehicles capable of challenging budget cuts, exploitation on the job, police brutality, and other forms of capitalist oppression and exploitation. These autonomous organizations may relate to unions, student organizations, etc, but maintain ideological and organizational independence at the same time. This independence would allow revolutionary minded folks to actually create a magnetic pole of radicalism; providing space for individuals who are ready to take the system on more militantly, and also serve to pull existing organizations like unions and student orgs leftward.
These are some of the most burning questions revolutionaries should be discussing.
Van Jone is down because, first, we don’t have the strength to back him up; and second, because a good deal of the far left can’t stand Obama and wants to take him down, too, even if for different reasons than the rightwing populists. They don’t know were to aim the main blow. Plus as far as I can see, ‘autonomous’ ‘outside’ organizations has produced even less in the way of Green Jobs.
Carl, why don’t leftists who orient towards the Democratic Party have the strength to back him up? Where is the base that you’ve built through participating in electoral movements? Shouldn’t this base be mobilized?
Or is this strategy bankrupt from the beginning . . . and this almost inherent bankruptcy has lead to the racist Right-wing being able to pick off any soft-liberal/leftists from parliament whenever they want.
Score! This exactly the problem with the rhetoric of Carl Davidson. Even with all his “successful” work with Progressives for Obama and the “space that was opened” for millions of people activated by the Obama movement – they’re still too weak to take on the right-wing.
Any how, wtf are you babling about anyway that the “ulta-left” has fault here? How do we even fit minuscule in the equation? Once again Carl is using the same old rhetoric for his own self-proclaimed revisionist politics against revolutionaries.
Get real – Van Jones signed because the Obama administration is a bourgeois administration that is moving further and further to the right of its own accord. But Carl Davidson beckons the call from him, “Onward Good Soldier.”
Not since Joe McCarthy shuffled off this mortal coil in 1957 has anyone made a career by accusing people of being communists. Glenn Beck has resurrected the practice. Not only has he found a cabal of secret communists, he has uncovered an entire communist corporation chock full of commies. The name of this company, you may ask?
THE NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMPANY!
You heard me right, boys and girls. The network that gave us Uncle Miltie and Ma Perkins has apparently been secretly sending subliminal messages endorsing Marxist doctrine since it was formed in 1926. This would make perfect sense to me. Every time I watched the Rockford Files I had an unexplainable desire to read Das Kapital. But seriously, folks. Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, red baiting not only seems silly, it’s also kind of nuts. It’s not-at-all surprising that an organization would give this idiot a forum (after all, he’s on FOX Noise). What’s really stunning is the fact that his ratings are relatively high and that so many Americans take his word as gospel.
All kidding aside, half-witted ideologues are a dime a dozen. What separates Glenn Beck from his peers is the fact that he is doing some serious damage to the country he professes to love so much. For all of the comparisons to the Nazis he likes to make with regard to Liberals, Beck’s program has much in common with Adolf Hitler’s 1923 screed, Mein Kampf. Eighty-six years ago, Hitler attempted to arouse the anger of his fellow Germans by spouting half truths and utter nonsense – exactly what Glenn Beck is doing in 2009. So much of the insane dialogue that has been spewed forth at these Town Hall meetings across the country in recent weeks might have been lifted straight from a transcript of any of Beck’s programs.
Beck and his twisted ilk have done the seemingly impossible. They have deflected the blame for America’s current economic distress toward Barack Obama. An incredible feat when you take into consideration the fact that the President is one of the few people in government today whose guilt in the matter is almost nil. They have also let loose with a vengeance the very worst angels of the American nature. Opening this Pandora’s box was relatively easy. Closing it might prove to be a bit of a problem.
Deep in their hearts
They do believe
That they shall undermine someday….
This is like Mazen Asbahi’s resignation from the campaign team last year.
We could use some historical material (sciological) analysis here, and i know somebody’s got plenty lying around somewhere . What are the historical origins of modern liberal psychology and politics, and what role do they play in the psychological economic and political landscape of the US? Liberals can’t defend folks like Jones because they dont really stand for anything. They are well meaning people who dont actually want to fight for justice but think it is a good idea, and want to come off as good people but are mainly interested in deflecting guilt and avoiding conflict. They don’t have an analysis of how racism, privilege, class inequality and capitalism or institutionalized oppression works or an understanding of the lengths people in power will go to to to maintain that power. Politically, liberals make no sense. On one hand they demonstrate popular support for social justice and a moral america through their values and optimism, but on the other hand they seek to appease the oppressors, avoid conflict, and they are duped by the bourgeois democrats monopoly over the democratic system. They may serve a function to show popular support for a more humane society and help maintain the status quo by slowing down the right wing (which in fact illustrates the heart of this system), but ultimately the struggle for a just world can only be advanced from outside that system–or rather, from the bottom up. Like the welfare state and non-profit system liberals represent a humane and moral veneer on what is fundamentally a corrupt evil system of oppression, and they are having a bout as much success in stopping budget cuts and ending the war today as they did pretending to try end slavery back in the 1850’s. We also have our on problems on the left of trying to keep our shit relevant.
[from “The Why and How of Civic Engagement” Thomas 2006] an organizing manual for moving from liberal framework to grassroots revolutionary action. note the similarities and differences to Mao’s Combat Liberalism.”:
– – – – – – –
• Many of the leaders and participants in this social movement are affected by “Liberalism” and have an aversion to active ideological struggle. Liberalism rejects ideological struggle and stands for unprincipled peace, thus bring about political degeneration. As organizers with the Youth Organization for Black Unity (YOBU) between 1969-1975, we outlined some key examples of Liberalism.
Some Examples of Liberalism:
• To let things slides for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong, and refrain from principled argument because he is an old acquaintance, fellow townsmen, a schoolmate, a loved one, an old colleague or old subordinate. Or to touch on the matter lightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms. The result is that both the organization and the individual are harmed…
• To indulge in irresponsible criticism in private instead of actively putting forwards one’s suggestion to the organization. To say nothing to people to their face but to gossip behind their backs, or to say nothing at meetings but to gossip afterwards…
• To let things drift if they do not affect one personally; to say as little as possible while knowing perfectly well what is wrong, to be worldly wise and play safe and seek only to avoid blame…
• To indulge in personal attacks, pick quarrels, vent persona spite or seek revenge instead of entering into an argument and struggle against incorrect ideas for the sake of unity or progress or getting the work done properly…
• To see someone harming the interests of the masses and yet not feel indignant, or dissuade or stop him or reason with him, but to allow him to continue…
• To work half-heartedly without a definite plan or direction; to work perfunctorily and muddle along…
• To regard oneself as having rendered great services to the revolution, to pride oneself on being a veteran, to disdain minor assignments while being unequal to major task, to be slipshod in work and slack in study…
The above conditions are linked to the fact that the worldview that dominates a major sector of U. S. society is postmodernism.
Adapted from, “Developing Core Groups: Principles of Organization and Structure of the Youth Organization for Black Unity (YOBU) May, 1970”
What is Postmodernism?
• Postmodernism is set in contrast to modernism, which emphasizes trust in the empirical scientific method and distrust in ideologies and religious beliefs that can not be tested using scientific methods. Postmodernists think of humans as “social constructs.” We do not exist independently of the community with which we identify. Rather than conceiving the mind as a mirror of nature, postmodernists argue that that we view reality through the lens of culture. Consequently, postmodernists reject the possibility of objective truth.
• Postmodernists are skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions or races. Instead, they focus on the relative truth of each person. Reality, they say, only comes into being through our interpretation of what the world means to us individually.
• Reality, they say, is a “social construct” or paradigm. In the place of objective truth, we have “metanarratives” (comprehensive world views) Thus, they find “local narratives” or stories about reality that work for particular communities—but have no validity beyond that community.
• Postmodernists hold that the pretense of objective truth always does violence by excluding other voices to the benefit of white heterosexual males, specifically marginalizing the voices of women, people of color, homosexuals, the disabled, and other disadvantaged groups. Among some of today’s youth, there is a belief that reason and truth are inherently political and subversive.
• Thus, every time somebody claims to be in the possession of truth, it ends up repressing people. So, it’s best to make no claims to truth.
How Social Change Agents Should View Postmodernism
• We do not object to the premise that our perception of reality is mediated or socially constructed. What we object to is the conclusion that there is no truth, that all claims have equal status. We would argue that although we do not possess ultimate truth and never will, it is possible to expand our understanding, and it is worth the effort to gain more knowledge—even if that knowledge is always subject to revision.
• We agree with the postmodernists that language and culture play a major and often unrecognized role in shaping society, that things often regarded as natural which are actually socially constructed.
• However, we disagree with the attempt to make culture the first and only level of explanation. It is no better to argue that everything can be understood in terms of culture or language than to argue that everything is driven by economic forces, or by the quest for political power.
• The project that frames post-modernism is the critique of Enlightenment rationality; there are aspects of that tradition that deserves to be criticized, such as the tendency to take the white male as the model of rational subjectivity, and the equation of truth with the discoveries of Western science, excluding other contributions.
• But the postmodern critique of the Enlightenment is one-sided. It forgets that a universalist view of humanity was a major (and only partially accomplished) step away from narrow nationalism, and that the concept of truth is a weapon in the hands of progressive social movements, that they relay on opposing the truth of oppression to hollow official claims that society is just.
• Notwithstanding our acceptance of some of the concepts of post-modernism, progressive social change agents see it as having a stance of pure criticism. It avoids making any claims, asserting any values 9or acknowledging its own implicit systems of values…)
• Progressive politics requires a conception of a better society and an assertion of a better set of values than those now prevail.
• This does not mean that any particular vision of society or any particular definition of those values is the last word; it does, however, require ongoing discussion and debate. But it is clear that postmodernism which function as a purely critical stance can not serve as the basis for progressive political unity.
Adapted from Post Modernism and Christianity, found at:www.apologesticsindex.org/p02.html; and “Postmodernism and the Left,” Barbara Epstein, found at: http://www.wpunj.edu/~newpol/issue22/epstei22.htm
dont know wtf “old subordinate” is supposed to mean btw, sounds like some authoritarian baggage the left also needs to reconcile. sorry for too many posts.
I agree that this whole affair calls into question some aspects of the “inside / outside” approach, and should make us think about how we are really putting our revolutionary politics into effect in mass work.
At the same time, if we are prioritizing building independent movements – which, in general, I think is the right orientation – we also need to think about whether there is any way to intervene in very damaging, mainstream political debates. We are seeing a resurgence of the Right, and we need to understand that this is not just a recapitulation of the 1990s, or, for that matter, the 1930s.
Very few left-of-center movements have actually broken into mainstream, national political discourse in the past ten years: global justice, immigrants’ rights, arguably antiwar and same-sex marriage. Of course at a local level, movement-builders do have political alternatives to corporate liberalism and the Right, but one thing the Jones affair reminds me is that we seem unable to translate those into the broader conversation. So it’s unclear how to relate the task of building independent movements to that of combating the Right politically, though I agree we need to do that.
I think part of the work is admitting that we’re (the “left”) at an incredibly low level, with a lot of defeat and dogma accumulate over the past decades. Exploiting the opportunities to learn how to engage in struggle ont he “local level” as you put it. it’s partly about being humble. how do we expect to exercise revolutionary hegemony over a movement of millions if we aren’t practicing now.
That’s part of what was included in the last two paragraphs of the lil blurb: the question of HOW do we engage in these relatively “small” battles (though considering the nature of the budget crisis in Cali, it’s really not small at all.)
I think that instead of trying to build movement from within existing political formations like institutionalized student orgs, or unions which are entrenched in state-based politics, we should begin experimenting in creating more autonomous formations. Why? For the important reason that by taking a more independent route the basis of the political vision may be established from the get to, rather than half-stepping by trying to get-in within the established structures and politicize them from within.
How do we even get into a position where we emerge from our isolation (whether social or political) and have the basis from which to even begin thinking about forming these types of political projects? We’ve got to be humble enough to admit that we lack roots in oppressed communities and begin going out there and talking to people. We don’t have all the answers, but we do have something. We should talk to people about what we know, and see what they can teach us. This is where a whole pedagogical strategy of dialogical political work comes in . . .
No answers, but asking the right questions and acknowledging the correct weaknesses is an important start.
Hahaha yo this dude wasnt half bad when he was young “If i’d been in another country, I probably would have joined some underground guerrilla sect”. Hahaha Yarrrrrramean! Thats dope. But chea. I agree with what big L basically said: the inside/outside strategy is pretty fucking stupid. If the you tube is right and dude read Marx and Lenin when he was younger, then dude read his stuff wrong yo! Hahahaha Jones is a clear cut example of a dumbass revisionist. Foo aint revolutionary. Maybe at one point he was but he sold all that out. How the hell you gon change the oppresive system, capitalism, for the better of the people with the parameters that same system gives you?? Ya cant!!! You can defs maybe barely aleviate oppression but you cant get rid of it the way Jones is trying to, or pretends to try to. And fuck alleviation!! I want abolishment of oppression!! Yayyyyaaaaa! You feel me! And that will only happen from the bottom, not from the top!! You dig?! Ya you do. PrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrA!
Fuck Mao and Moism! “)
I was excited to see Carl Davidson’s post on the blog, though not surprised at his continuing sectarianism towards those on the left who reject working within/in alliance with the Democratic Party, politicians and the capitalist state.
He needs to be taken to task. I was rereading his “The Bumpy Road Ahread” piece last night and all the sectarian words he dished out for folks on the left who for many good reasons reject working within bourgeois politics and was wondering a few things….
-His idea that we need to back Obama’s green, hi-tech, emerging industries capitalism against GOP old industry, is exactly in line with Van’s “business based solutions to poverty.” Advocating state policies that create jobs and help out capitalism is not necessarily any worse than raising money for Jerry’s Kids or breast cancer research, it just doesn’t have anything to do with building a revolution.
-Now that Obama is shifting dramatically to the right, where are all the leftists who backed him to hold him accountable, call him out, point to the important role they played in his campaign, etc etc? … they seem eerily quiet. oh, wait, they are probably all busy eating a large slice of humble filled with sour gobs of “we told you so.”
Davidson’s program and what he advocates may put forward some positive policy changes and build some great coalitions with some nice politicos in the leadership, but it really has nothing to do with building the mass movements from below that will make a revolution.
humble *pie* that is.