Friday, March 06, 2020

Have Fun Storming The Castle

Based on my keen observation of the obvious, it seems clear that, on a very basic level, many politically moderate Liberal persons fundamentally do not understand how politically radical Leftists persons think and act, and vice versa.  So, as a public service, allow this tiny blog in the middle of Middle America to be your bridge to a greater understanding.

For politically moderate Liberals, the complexities of the world are ... complex and costly.  Providing health care for everyone while not bankrupting the country is a complex problem.  Operating a humane border with Mexico that serves both countries interests is a complex issue.  Making sure college is affordable to anyone who wants to attend is a complex issue.  Amending to constitution, whether to guarantee a woman's reproductive rights or to drastically curtail the power that wealthy donors and dark money have over our politics, is a fraught and hugely complex undertaking.

Each of these are laudable goals, but each come with a very high degree of difficulty given the deliberately hobbling setup of our constitutional democracy, and the inevitable lockstep and well-funded opposition each of these noble projects would face from the Republican party and the mainstream media.

For the radical, the complexities of the world are radically simplified.  Whatever the problem, the revolution will solve it, which is why the revolution is the all-important goal, and why all conditions and circumstances are seen within the revolutionary context.  That which advances the revolution is to be nourished.  That which stands in the way of the revolution must be converted or destroyed.

Moderate Liberal persons see suffering and calamity and work to alleviate it by whatever means are available.  Usually those solutions are frustratingly flawed and imperfect, but they act anyway because doing something is better than doing nothing.

For politically radical Leftists persons the exact opposite is true.  Suffering or calamity are real and tragic, but their importance is inextricably tied to how they serve to bring about revolution. Which means that, for the committed revolutionary, the moderate/good will always be the enemy of the revolutionary/perfect.

You see, for the revolution to work, it must be the answer to all questions, which means that any compromise or half-measure that falls short of revolution is not just a failure, but the rankest betrayal.  Positively counterrevolutionary.  Because any improvement in circumstances or alleviation of suffering short of revolution saps the revolution of its energy by showing the masses that things can get somewhat better without resorting to burning the system completely to the ground.

Therefor those who advocate compromise must be destroyed.

And this is where politically moderate Liberal persons get very confused.  Because they cannot understand why politically radical Leftists are so contemptuous of them when everyone agrees on the goal of the alleviation of human suffering and improving people's circumstances.  Why such loathing when we just disagree on the means to those ends?

And the answer is, that moderates and radicals do not agree on the goals.  The goal of the moderate is to alleviate human suffering and improve people's circumstances, and the moderate's means to those ends are various policy proposals they would like to see debated, enacted and funded though the frustrating, boring, contentious political process.

The radical's goal, on the other hand, is a revolution which would sweep away that frustrating, boring, contentious political process because it is that system which is the root cause of all injustice and suffering which both groups claim to care about.  Moderates wish to patch up the rattletrap American political system so it can enact the policies they believe are critically important to the life of the nation.  Radicals cannot settle for anything less than overthrowing that system in its entirety and replacing it with ... something.

Which is where things get always get hazy.

Because where a moderate will acknowledge the specific structural impediments that they need to overcome (example: the filibuster and/or the lack of a solid supermajority in the Senate) and quantifiable outcomes that are required to overcome them (getting rid of the filibuster and pouring resources into down-ballot races in Democratic-flippable states), radicals speak of The Revolution in quasi-mystical terms.  Somewhat akin to a Catholic trying to explain the Holy Spirit.  The Revolution will manifest itself as ineffable force which shall be loosed upon the land and before its irresistible power, no obstacle can stand.

Or whatever.  As I said, details are hazy.

Finally, like any other form of fundamentalism, the radical worldview is reduced to a simple, all-inclusive Manichean struggle between the Saved and the Damned, which dooms any debate over any issue from the start.  Since the only acceptable solution to all problems -- the only path to salvation -- is revolution, if  you are down with the revolution, you are Saved.  And once in a state of revolutionary grace, it not only doesn't really matter that Trump won in 2016 (or that the Both Parties Are Equally Damned ethos of the revolution may have helped him get elected) but Trump winning re-election might actually be a good thing because it heightens the contradictions!  Because all suffering and catastrophe are grist for the revolutionary mill.

Contrariwise, if you are not down with the revolution -- if you are willing to accept imperfect half-measures rather than accept that a rising tide of misery and Republican fascism provide the necessary rocket fuel that will bring about the revolution -- you are Damned. Worse than Republicans, really, because while they're just racist brutes acting on instinct, you know better.  You pretend to care about human suffering and you have been bathed in the light of glorious revolution but have walked away from it.  And since you refuse to embrace the only true path to salvation, for some dark reason you must secretly really want people to die for lack of health care.
You must really not give a shit about babies in cages.  You must really want to see the planet burn.

OMFG, you're the worst!

And as the worst, you deserve to be slagged and berated on social media.

Because you're not being bullied, you ignorant corporate establishment stooge.

You're being Truth-Bombed, for your own good and as a lesson to others.

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan...


MikeAdamson said...

It is complicated. Too often revolutionaries disconnect the conditions that require revolution from the day to day building of the revolution. Too often moderates are content with incremental gains because we can't really expect to change the system. We need both types really but it's inevitable that the two groups will butt heads and sometimes allow things to get worse.

Same as it ever was I suppose.

Kelly in Texas said...

I only remember as far back as LBJ. He brought us the Great Society, he brought us Medicare.
Can you imagine a country with no healthcare guarantee for the elderly? He brought about great changes to race relations, for the better. He brought us Vietnam; "LBJ....LBJ...How many kids have you killed today!!!"
Then we got Nixon. I'm sure you've all heard of the horrors he brought us. But he also brought us the EPA.
So things are complicated. I have to say, I'm stumped to find anything that little Donnie has brought us, for the better.

bowtiejack said...

Donnie's mentor was Roy Cohn.
LBJ's was Sam Rayburn (who incidentally brought us the 1930's SEC Acts over the venomous Wall Street opposition of John Foster Dulles).

Anonymous said...

I'd like to think the "heighten the contradictions" crowd would see that having Trump as president led us to Biden as the Democratic nominee and, uh, rethink things a little.

That's not going to happen, is it?

Anonymous said...

Another great essay by driftglass.

Protest votes are civic suicide.

Hurt the Democratic party’s nominee, or don't vote at all, and Trump's second term is on you.

It is really that simple.

MrTact said...

"Protest votes are civic suicide" is going right into my lexicon, thanks!

dinthebeast said...

This morning I read something to the effect of: "You Warren people need to stop crying and get over it. When Bernie lost in 2016 we sucked it up and voted for Trump."

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Robt said...

Consider how the right wing travels further into the Fascist bliss. How unrestrained and ruthlessly cram it .

They've moved their goal posts of ideology constantly to the right. They purity purged their Red Dogs.

The Democratic party has not purged their blue dogs. They continually move to the right just to stay in the middle. to be a moderate / blue dog/

The right wing has been republican-izing the left for a long time.

As Biden said he will bring republicans into the fold to do great things. Republican things or Democratic things?
If we win this election (bigly) and congress majorities. Do we just move foreward and leave GOP gains as established and live with it?
They went on the erasing of the black president rampage. Overturning Democratic gains. No respect or consideration whatsoever.

Biden was a big part of the first time the Bush tax cuts came up expiring. Did the GOP moderately work something out? No!. And the Obama Adm caved when they did not have to. Biden said at the time it was to grease the wheel for future negotiations to get things done bipartisan-ly.
Did anyone learn their lesson?

Robt said...

Will a democratic president victory come with the unity dictator presidential powers as Trump has embraced and his freedom patriot MAGAS who willingly give up their freedom just to hear "their guy" tell them how they are winning. Because after dropping the farm at the craps table. They are being given other people;s money to cover their loses.

gocart mozart said...

Well said

Unknown said...

But the other part of this is that Sanders platform is hardly revolutionary. He's a SITO, socialist in tweets only. His basic economics is the same old mixed market economy social democracy of everyone from Joe Biden to Angela Merkel to Justin Trudeau supports. His fabulous M4A plan leaves the provider side in the hands of the rapacious monopolistic private provider industry in the US (other countries with something like single payer have much bigger public provider systems) and starts with the horrible public option, only shifting over 4 years later (supposedly). Biden proposes bigger reforms of the provider side! Sanders foreign policy is US imperial. So what he proposes is all the yelling and sectarianism of revolutionary politics, in the familiar consensus of first world normal. So Sanders has solved the problem of what system we get after the revolution: it's the same system, maybe with more big government programs or regulations, but with a surfeit of self-righteous yelling.

Phil said...

This has been blocked from posting to Facebook because "people" reported it as abusive.... Amazing. I'm gonna copy/paste (with credit) and try to post it that way because I've got quite a few friends who need to see this.

D Joseph said...

Before the dogs attack me, I feel as if I am watching Snowball leave the farm and I am left to decide between Napoleon and Mr. Jones while the sheep tweet that 'Four legs good, two legs bad.' And I am Benjamin in more ways than one.

Robt said...

Phsssssst. Meow. Phssst.

Not concerned about the cats?

Robt said...

With Warren out. That is another I will not get a chance to vote for.
A lot of wimpering about no female candidate left. Tulsi anyone?

I think they need to reconstruct the , VOTE women chant.

I would vote for a Warren but not a Susan Collins or a Joni Ernst.

Fact is, I would vote for a Democratic male over a female Republican Joni Ernst.

You tell me, what is Bloomberg purchasing from the DNC?

Anonymous said...

Yasss! Slay!

Anonymous said...

THEY are the worst. And Corona. Bernie. Just saying... :P

Fritz Strand said...

I have never met a warm and friendly Marxist.

Anonymous said...

We don't need them. Let them Bern.

joejimtree said...

Good writing.

I know someone who is 65, on immune suppressing drugs and in ill health in the middle of the corona virus. Disabled, in public housing, food stamp income. They volunteer in prison, running a program, recruiting other volunteers, and have done so for a decade. Tutor immigrant kids in disadvantaged neighborhood, and help in a small school in the basement of a large inner city shelter, teaching people how to Google and access email, use city resources, pass GEDs, get into union training etc.

In the Revolutionary Commentariat, if this person, for instance, praises Warren for the CFBP, (or god forbid, says that expressed rage is an ineffective campaign technique because it is simply unattractive, and if you want votes you should likely be attractive) this person will be bashed for their comfortable life where they don't have to worry about insurance and the minimum wage or housing whereas angry people are frightened and have reason to be rude...

This person has confided to me that they are getting tired of it.

Anonymous said...

I think that the dynamics and trends are well stated. When speaking to Revolutionaries it helps to explore the quantifiable measures necessary to bring about a full-on revolution. As in: exactly how bad does it have to get to get a revolution going. Read up on the pre-revolutionary French society. You had widespread starvation, sexual abuse by royalty and The Church that make present child abuse by priests sound like Romper Room. Massive labor exploitation, to the point of death. Diseases rampant. Essentially the entire system was broken, and had been broken for generations. Long enough to make clear that there was no hope for your children, or their children. It was when all possible hope of reform and moderation was lost that revolution became a possibility.

You see, IMHO, the revolutionaries are not wrong. They just don't really know where on the full scale of societal suffering they are. They imagine that this or that imaginable outrage will be enough to cross the line. What they don't know is that not only do the outrages and deprivation have to be at an entirely unseen level but that that situation has to be endured for generations. Revolutions don't manifest themselves in a single decade. It takes generations of profound suffering. I'm talking people dropping dead in the streets. An economy straight out of the darkest days of the Irish potato famine. Bone crunching poverty, heinous exploitation, masses of people with no hope and nothing left to give. People so desperate that they are willing to sacrifice their lives as long as they don't have to live another day in that intolerable situation.

On that scale the vast majority of revolutionaries are posers. Most are wealthy and white. Most have never missed a meal. Not one in thousand has any idea of what sacrifice looks like. IMHO the vast majority are attracted to their revolution because they want a cause. They like to glow of ideological purity, and the lack of any need to think things through, get their hands dirty, or undertake both change, and then, governing.

I have yet to meet even one that can grasp how bad it has to get for people to revolt, or how good they have it presently. Yes, there are revolutions. But they are bloody and very messy affairs and there is a very good chance that the revolutionary regime is even worse than the one that was replaced.

There is also the very real matter of sampling error. Yes the British colonists revolted against British rule, and for very good reasons. Yes, we had a war. Washington lost damn-near every battle until the very last ones. But this was not an existential threat to the British. We won by raising the cost of governance and offering the opportunity to still exploit the colony.

The revolution being pushed is an existential threat to the people who run this nation, and the world. Any revolution will be strangled in the crib for the same reason the Haitian slave uprising was so brutally put down. Slaves rising up in Haiti was a bad example for all slave holding nations. It could not be allowed to be sustained.

The powers that be cannot entirely stop political, economic and social reform undertaken within the system. They can intervene once a revolution is under way. Think of the Russian revolution, and how many nations sent armies to fight. How it got so confused and bloody that famine and disease were inevitable. How this predetermined that Stalin would be the right sort of man for the job. And how the character of the revolution had caused Russia as a nation to be so hard on the Russian people as it slams from one extreme to the other over the last century.

Mush the same evolution can be seen in Chinese history.

I think we need to stick to incremental change and reform of the systems. Far fewer broken hearts, minds, and bodies under that curve.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, oh dear... it's rather a remarkable skill Bernie Sanders has in exposing the limits of liberal solidarity. As a 10 year listener to your podcast, Driftglass, it's... disappointing.

Regardless, I'm not really one for the thought-terminating cliches of Twitter. However, when folks deploy memes like that, the intention is to contrast the thin-skinned ease by which liberals give up on a fight with the threat and the stakes facing them. Because make no mistake: health care in the United States--to say nothing but climate change--will require nothing less than bodies cramming every legislator's office (or phone lines jammed solid, COVID notwithstanding).

And I say this as a Canadian who had a Bernie Sanders from Saskatchewan pave the way for the health care coverage I take for granted every day of my life. He had to fight for 20 years to get the national health act past. What do you think it's going to take after 40 years of entrenched neoliberalism?

This is why the "What's your plan?" question always struck me as an equally thought-terminating cliche. You're not going to *trick* the entire Health Insurance industry with legislative sleight-of-hand. You're not going to hoodwink them when they aren't looking and magically pass even *Biden's* plan through the Senate. The Health Insurance industry has to be met with the only thing that can counter big money: people power. ANYTHING SHORT OF MASS MOVEMENT WILL NOT MOVE THE NEEDLE. This is exactly why I found Bernard Sanders the most realistic of the Democratic nominees: he knows what he's up against and how long the odds really are! He's not so enamoured with process that the inevitable Joe Liebermans and Bart Stupaks are going to trip him up when they oppose him (and their current analogues will, mark my words)--he would mobilize the base in kind to oppose them. Unlike Obama, who dismantled his grassroots organization.....

My American friends, the one I've met both online and off... they're suffering and dying *right now* and they are taking stock of who's actually standing for the principles they claim to espouse and who's giving in to manufactured consent about "electability". They're not going to be swayed by appeals to loyalty and they *definitely* won't be blackmailed by the spectre of Donald Trump. "We're slightly better than the Orange Ogre" is a pathetic rallying cry. Give them an indication that you will actually stand and *fight* for them, or they'll be staying home in November. It's that simple.

Keeping an eye on your solidarity.

-- Katamount in Toronto

Frobisher said...

This is way too reductionist for me. The real action is about power. Moderate centerless liberal Democrats do not play to enhance their power, they play in order to be correct and doing what they call the politics of the possible. The main distinction between moderate liberals and leftists is that leftists are much more likely to ask the hard question, who benefits? liberals don't like this question because it turns out the direction of their politics strategy and tactics does not lead to the benefit of ordinary people unless it also confers significant benefits on the holders of capital. Obamacare is the shining example of this.

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