Friday, September 29, 2017

Don't Have Time To Do It Justice...

If you haven't read RMJ's always worth while comments on my earlier piece, you should.

From The Long Detour: Fronts, Decay Amnesia, and a New Left

Still, despite the New Left's disdain for the Soviet Union, the American Communists had a perversely debilitating influence on the movement and on the identity politics that is its legacy.  The New Left's fundamental weakness - which it bequeathed to radical feminism, gay and lesbian liberation, and the separatist wing of the black power movement - flowed from its unwitting replication of popular frontism and the aversion to universal principles at its heart.  For the Communists this approach to politics was necessary.  The party operated through single-issue movements because it could not proclaim its underlying loyalties or principles.   While the party had come out from underground in the early '20s (actually, it was pushed into the open by orders from the International),  it never tested its principles by exposing them to public scrutiny, by running in elections and thereby providing the public with the means of choosing or rejecting them.

But the Party developed a theory that made a virtue of this necessity.  It deluded itself and its fellow-travelers into believing that a pre-ordained historical trajectory made popular exposure to its principles unnecessary.    A "strong and consistent fight for democratic rights under conditions of decaying capitalism must ultimately lead the American people to the choice of a socialist path," the party proclaimed at its ninth convention in 1936.  Or, as party leader Earl Browder said more mechanistically  "History marches toward socialism."   Thus Communists believed that even in an open democratic society such as the United States, a tiny political party could gain power in a time of crisis simply by being strategically placed in popular social movements.  The memory that the Russian party with only 17,000 members at the beginning of 1917, could pull off a revolution comforted them.  If the Russians took power by seizing the movement when the tsarist regime collapsed,  why couldn't they? 

Because Communist leaders could neither be open nor honest about Soviet reality,  they also could not explore corporate capitalism's path of development and the ways in which it provided possibilities of a more humane and socially responsible future.  Indeed, to have the true religion required a private rejection of the more humane aspects of capitalist development - open, multiparty elections, politically independent trade unions, free speech and all the other civil rights and liberties that had been won in the United States by working people over a century and a half of struggles, and even the virtues of market economics.  Most of those things were nonexistent in the Soviet Union, and, therefore, absent from the true believers's concept of socialism  Indeed, insofar as the Communists had a vision of socialism it was closer to corporate capitalism's more undemocratic features; massive corporate and state bureaucracies,  a militarized state apparatus controlled by economic giants and run in the in their interest, a one-party state (although in American capitalism's case this is only a tendency in a legally structured two-party system).  

This way of thinking was never subjected to serious examination, either in or out of party ranks.  In any case, over time, the Popular Front because a custom that those immersed in communism's faux theorizing rationalized as principle.  Old-timers, as well as members who had joined largely because they saw the party as a sincere and effective fighter for its various popular causes, internalized this view.  Younger members knew little or nothing about the Soviet Union's true nature, nor did they believe the lies (or what they saw as lies) in the "bourgeois press" about the Soviet Union.  Even a leader as high up in the party ranks as John Gates, the post World War II editor of the Daily Worker, reported in his autobiography that he joined because of the party's defense of labor, civil rights and civil liberties and he never knew the true dimensions of Stalinism.... 

For anyone who doesn't know, James Weinstein was not only a dedicated socialist, a democratic socialist, he was as critical as anyone about the crimes of capitalism, even that of the relatively benign capitalism that arose after the struggle by people to gain their rights under it, using American democracy to do that.  He was a long time member of the atheist-materialist left who was a frequent ally of the real American left.

The superstition that because Marx pretended what he was doing was science when he wasn't, that his communism was an elucidation of material forces - the ridiculous and absurd boast of all materialist economic, political and sociological theory - any true believers in dialectical materialism would have been easily duped into believing in the scientific inevitability of its fantasies becoming reality.  As, in fact, Oliver Wendell Holmes jr. believed in the inevitability of similar predictions having their origin in Darwinism.  Both materialistic visions of the future accepted, I would say savored, epic violence as a part of the workings out of their two lines of materialist causation - materialism has little use, in the end, for life as a value or living beings as other than material resources.

The extent to which any ideology is materialistic in its foundation is the extent to which it is incompatible with egalitarian democracy, moral responsibility, human life or even, in the end, such virtues as the truth or even, in the vision of Holmes, reason, itself.

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