Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Progressive Path

I agree unreservedly with Ian Welsh's 44 Explicit Points on Creating a Better World, because they all lead us away from our current winner-take-all version of capitalism and because they are based on sharing power, not hoarding it. I do not believe that we cannot change our future, the future will change no matter what we do or do not do. We must attempt to push the course of our country into the right direction, not by giving our personal power to an authority, but keeping it for ourselves and magnifying it through the weight of numbers.

In A brief note on why the progressive blog movement failed, Welsh points out that progressive blogs did not have the money or backing to succeed, the ultimate problem of any group trying to enact policies hated by the rich.

The nail in the coffin was the 2008 primaries.  To put it simply, Obama bypassed the blogging gatekeepers. Commenters, whether free or bought (and yes, I believe many were on the payroll) capsized DKos and other major blogs.  Obama did not need the gatekeepers, he simply bought out the movement.  The bloggers were irrelevant.  At least one major blogger acted as a conduit for Obama hits: was fed oppo, and put that oppo out there.

Unlimited money in politics means that movements are bought and sold like baseball cards. The Tea Party was a few wingnuts and Ron Paul supporters until the Koches bought themselves their very own political machine, bypassing the right's politicians. In 10 months Ted Cruz made the leadership look weak and powerless. He used his bought-and-paid-for power to advance himself in his party at the expense of the leadership's power. He acted, for how would he know how much power he had unless he flexed it? And Boehner was afraid to use his power against Cruz until the economic elite made it very clear that the Tea Party was going too far and the money people were worried that the suffering they wished to impose on others might actually affect them as well. So Boehner lost power.

The Tea Party, say what you will about them, gets a great deal of obeisance from Republicans for one simple reason: they will primary you if they don’t like how you’ve been voting, and they’ll probably win that primary.  They are feared.  Progressives are not feared, because they do not believe enough in their ostensible principles to act on them in an effective fashion. 
That is why the progressive revolution of the early 2000s failed.  If you want the next left wing push to succeed, whatever it is called, learn the lessons of the last failure. 
(Note: I poured years of my life into the movement. Its failure is my failure, and I take no pleasure in it at all.)
If progressives want to actually enact progressive policies, instead of policies that simply are not as bad as the Republicans' policies, they must bypass the power elite. "Everyone" says this will not work because the left does not have enough power, but the left will never have enough power because they will not take that power from those who have it. This will be a dangerous and ugly fight, but the progressives will win because people who refuse to use their power always lose.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Unlimited money in politics means that movements are bought and sold like baseball cards.

It also means that "our" Democrats, at least the dominant neoliberal wing, serve the same plutocratic interests that the Republican do.

Note President Hope and Change's ongoing efforts to cut Social Security.

Downpuppy said...

Of Ian's 44 points, the more concrete - like 34 & 36 - are pretty good. The more abstract can get a little shaky, and some times - like 7 - a combination can be outright funny:

7) The forms of the old world must be gotten rid of, and must be seen as anathema. You cannot save the world and keep American style suburbia as it is now. You cannot change the world so people are happy and healthy and prosperous and keep wage labor as your primary method of distributing surplus value to the commons.

Wage labor beats slavery in my book. Restoring equitable power relations between labor & capital, rather than changing humanity - Yes, I'm a squishy gradualist.

Susan of Texas said...


But what a great technique to gain power. You don't have to give up anything to get votes because your base will give you their vote in the hope of influencing your actions. You dangle SS cuts before Wall Street and they give you money. When the left becomes alarmed you tell them that the right will make even bigger cuts so you must be elected which means they must give you money. You play each side against the other.

Most people do not believe our system will collapse in their or their children's lifetime so they do not see the need to prepare for it. They are working to gain power, not give it away. They do not understand the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Giving away your power increases it exponentially.

Susan of Texas said...

What do we do when wage labor can't absorb all the unemployed?

Downpuppy said...

The general issues of how civilized countries should deal with downturns, and the need of every society to take care of those who can't take care of themselves, are not exactly novel, or unsolved.

No matter how badly managed the latest depression has been, we know better. Yes, the failures are due to power - too much to money, none to labor. All painfully documented.

Anyhow, I had no idea that there ever was a progressive blog "movement", or that it had died, and apparently neither did anybody at Balloon Juice -

Ben said...

I think the more abstract of Ian's points - especially in the beginning, like 7 - are more designed to get the reader in the right frame of mind for thinking through these issues, and not linear logical arguments.

And the progressive blog movement he talks about is centered mainly around Kos and those who had an explicit goal of acquiring or influencing power. It's kind of confusing to hear folks like Cole and Thers who are all "news to me" and then two sentences later say "I was never into that Kos stuff". He's not talking about them. (Even though Thers used to write under Ian for a bit.)

But Downpuppy I'm totally in agreement with your take on the whole issue of power. It's nice to hear it expressed. I have no idea why the left writ large doesn't adopt a simple, coherent and uniform "more power for labor, less for money" position.

Ufotofu9 said...

What does "the progressive blog movement failed" mean?

Anatole David said...

These prescriptions are largely hygienic measures from a didact which every classic liberal(Libertarians and Neoliberals) espouses. Starting with "changing ideology" belies a naivety founded on the hackneyed view that education(credentials, etc) is a panacea. Didacts tend to be conservative in deed, liberal in thought--they have that luxury. You can teach people the most noble ideas at Harvard, and they'll still think Larry Summers is a brilliant man and respect Economics as a field of Science.

The most amusing suggestion was creating a "Transnational Force to handle the environmental crisis"--NATO,UN,(transnational forces) are the vanguard forces protecting and defending entities destroying the environment to enrich a few.

Another absurdity: He places the cart before the horse by blaming the horrors in Somalia on statelessness when colonial states' intervention for decades have created the horrific conditions.

In short, his hand-wringing prescriptions are useless. He wishes for everything good about capitalism without the bad, an impossibility. His cant on consumption and suburbs fails to recognize that production itself is the consumption of human labor power. His points about wage labor exploitation misses the point: Wage labor is a form of slavery and, in time, wages will continue to go down as profits rise--cf. Marx, "Wage Labour and Capital"(written in 1847).

Capitalism has always featured exclusion practiced by the wealthy via private property. Wage Slavery and Colonialism are two forms of the privation of property(land and labor power). Welsh never acknowledges the primary source of all iniquity, Private Property. History is strewn with the useless and well meaning homilies of goodhearted liberals who want all the benefits of exploitation and privation without any of the messy stuff. This is corporate boardroom eye-wash to save Liberalism from Liberalism. While reading his list I thought of the "Paradigm Shift" nonsense of the late 90's--the rage in Corporate Boardrooms and Upper Echelons of Bureaucratic Circles.

Pardon the rant. Still tons of great blogs. Happy that Susan is posting again, despite disagreement.

Susan of Texas said...

I don't think of his post as a plan, it is the way things ought to be. He is starting at the very beginning. What do we want? What do we believe in? What do we want to work for?
Most people start out by saying that we can't do anything so we must do what the powerful want and hope that if we are obedient and work through the system we will gain power. But power is almost always taken not given.

THe world is changing. We are not.

Downpuppy said...

With people freaking out about Agenda 21, a Transnational Force to take over environmental enforcement is a wonderful thing to propose.

Susan of Texas said...

Heh. I think that we will continue on our present path until we do the equivalent of Easter Island cutting down all its trees, after which we will have war and chaos. That's a realistic projection. People don't want to believe that, so they try to figure out a better future. It's a starting point, at least.

Mr. Wonderful said...

(Tiny cavil: Anatole David, you don't mean "privation," which means a state of being deprived. You mean privatization, no? I did a mental double-take until I realized.)

IS the Tea Party "feared"? Or is it influential because its funders are feared? When he says "they will primary you," who is "they"? The money (and centralized strategizing) behind each local Tea party?

What happens when some garden-variety terrible GOP incumbent is primaried by a hideous, radical idiot from the right, but still wins? The ardor of the faithful is useful (and money from a sponsor is useful), but sometimes isn't a sock puppet still just a sock puppet? I'm not sure what kind of lesson can be drawn from all this.

Susan of Texas said...

I need to do more research but the Santelli rant is an indication of how they operate. Corporate leaders use corporate cheerleaders to agitate, organize and use grass-roots groups and individuals.

Anatole David said...

@Mr. Wonderful, I mean privation. Private Property licensed by the state is a form of exclusion. It is a system of privation. It denies land and resources to many and hands them over to individuals or single entities(corps, etc). No private property without privation and when it comes to property--anything can be property, even water, air, even ideas(IP). A NESTLE CEO was rightfully condemned for stating that people have no right to free water and should have to pay for it recently.

The patterns in our lives, the way things are set up, determine ideals. To start at Ideology without attempting to destroy the institutions that inspire and influence these ideals is like trying to chop down a Sequoia by picking off leaves. It's a comforting labor, but goes nowhere.

Much of Welsh's prescriptions/suggestions are Classically Liberal propositions couched in hygienic phraseology. How can US and Europe tell developing nations they can't exploit resources like they have on several continents for 4 centuries? I could foresee Obama or maybe President Hillary Clinton bombing a country in the future over "Environmental Concerns", and have a "Transnational Consensus" for it---like they did for the needless carpet bombing/mass murder in Libya based on false pretenses. Everyone on board with that? Exxon/Mobil/BP, etc hates competition, they won't mind if, in the future, an African nation is attacked for daring to mine and refine oil for themselves.

Ideal prescriptions are fine. They can make us feel better, especially if they are listed out like a primer(prayer book form or lesson), but when they ignore the primary source of all iniquity and violence on this planet, they're worse than useless, they mislead.