EMAIL PAGE SEVEN
COLUMN SIXTY-SEVEN, JANUARY 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)
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FUZZY THOUGHTS FROM THE DOCTRINAIRE LEFT
A Lesson in
Kautskyism and Betrayal
by Jose G.
Davidson, who used to be a leftist of some note and notoriety, and is a member
of the National Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and
Socialism, has collapsed under the pressure of the imperialist offensive and is
offering his services as an advisor to the US campaign against terrorism.
the portside mailing list (which---my opinion---seems to be listing to starboard
rather heavily nowadays), Davidson argues that September 11 was an attack on
"two Americas" namely and to wit, "the America of Empire"
and "The America of Popular Democracy."
post---for those who can stomach it---is here:
rhetorical device of speaking about "the two Americas" is a
time-honored one among revolutionaries going back at least to the times of
Eugene Debs. It is especially useful at moments like these, when the country is
gripped by a fevered bloodlust and hysteria, to counter charges of lack of
patriotism and the like. But people forget it is just that, a rhetorical device,
at their peril. Those who start to imagine that the really ARE two Americas are
invariably lost to the revolutionary cause for good. Because there are most
decidedly NOT two Americas. There is ONE America, a very specific social,
economic and political formation, the very heart and soul of the world
Like a good
Kautskyite, Carl Davidson believes the current U.S. policy is a
White House and the media immediately described the hijackings and attacks as
acts of war, and that the required U.S. response was to wage war in
return," he writes, sagely opining, "This was their first
assures us, because it wasn't an act of war but because "it ceded to the
terrorists exactly what they were trying to do: provoke a holy war between the
U.S. and militant Islam."
urges instead an alternative policy:
better approach for our America is to name the Sept 11 events as a crime against
humanity, a crime that has evoked a national and international security
emergency. Because of its scope, all necessary forces-police, civil authority,
national guard, intelligence and military, here and abroad-should be mobilized
to deal with it. But the insistence on the criminal character of the
perpetrators is required, not only to deny them a political victory, but also to
frame further action and response within the duties, limitations and constraints
of law, national and international."
dispute with Bush seems to be on a couple of levels:
is a truth in labeling issue: this is a police action that should not be foisted
on the public as a war.
is the matter of the "duties, limitations and contraints" to be
followed in carrying out this war, I mean police action. But as for the essence
of the matter, he is in full solidarity with Bush: this is a "security
emergency" and all "necessary forces" ought to be "mobilized
to deal with it."
the war, I mean police action, OUGHT to be
stop and defeat this danger is the principal question on the minds of the
American people. It can't be ignored or set aside by any progressive force
working for peace that wants to be taken seriously.
We may not
yet have all or even a substantial part of the answers to the questions
involved, but we must do our best to deal with it.
include a focus against al-Quaida's terrorism as a critical part of the struggle
for peace dooms the movement, at best, to irrelevancy and failure."
on to argue at some length that he knows how to run the campaign against Al
Qaida better than Bush. He urges people "to focus on the hard right ...
rather than, say, imperialism generally" to bring about "the military
defeat of the present immediate danger, al-Quaida."
revolutionary working class has a decidedly DIFFERENT opinion about "the
present immediate danger." It isn't Osama Bin Laden who is starving working
people the world over, raping the land, denying shelter to the homeless,
medicine to the sick and dignity to the dying.
A couple of
days ago on the Marxism list I saw a post querying about how to characterize Al
Qaida. It seems to me a correct understanding begins with viewing them as an
etreme expression of imperialist decay, and in a fairly direct way: it is very
revealing that the groups charged with doing September 11 were originally
trained by the CIA. But is also true in a more general and deeper way,
imperialism is pushing the Third World back towards barbarism. It is doing so
through the "automatic" mechanisms of the imperialist world economic
system, and to such a degree that it is no longer just Fidel saying that the
current world economic and social order inunsustainable;
Just a few
days ago I heard the head of the World Bank making the same argument in an
interview with CNN, including the point that it is illusory to think that the
"West"---the imperialist countries---can somehow isolate themselves
from being affected by the growing catastrophe.
discussion now beginning among some in imperialist circles about returning to
old-style colonialism is, in my opinion, deadly serious, and seeks to address
this problem. "Nation building" is failing across the entire third
world. The operation of the economic mechanisms of the imperialist system simply
do not allow sufficient resources to remain in country for any such luxuries.
The U.S. and company may succeed in taking apart Al Qaida, but even so, given
current world conditions there are going to be more Al Qaidas, because there is
going to be even more misery and despair.
advocated by Davidson of trying to nudge imperialism towards being a little bit
more democratic, a little more social, a little less greedy, a little less
heartless and soulless and cruel, is self-defeating. The problem is NOT the
excesses of the worst imperialists, but the automatic operation of the
imperialist system itself.
* * *
with Davidson's position is that it fails to recognize that the primary planter
of terrorism in the world today is the CIA and NSC, and that its ideological
seed-bed is extreme reaction. Ideology does not spring into the world without a
class base. Ideas reflect the interests and prejudices of a class, and the ideas
of terrorism are the transport of capitalist ideology into nominally
anti-capitalist movements. The working classes of people have no interest in
racism, religious fanaticism, sexism or reactionary nationalism.
of the situation is that US imperialism, a.k.a. "Empire", through its
intelligence agencies, eagerly promote such ideas among its enemies and actively
organize and arm them against their own people. That these adventures blow back
on them occasionally actually can actually serve their purpose, as in the
current situation demonstrates in the drive toward fascist-like measures within
the US (secret, undocumented arrests and detentions, a la Pinochet, for
example). The movement must support the legitimate demand of the people for
government action against terrorism.
Carl Davidson is right about this. But he fails to link his position with
the reality that progressive support means demanding that the government
extirpate the authors of terrorism, and defend democracy in the US.
There can be no progressive struggle against terrorism without struggle
against the chief terrorists, who are here. If we're not clear on this, then
we'll be severely hobbled.
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