From Debate over Fairness to Debate over Socialism? How?

Thanks to Jay  for suggesting we post this.

Fox asks East Lansing Mayor Verg Bernero if autoworkers shouldn't have their wages and health care cut. Bernero rips back in angry protest against the attacks on working people. His response is shaped as  an argument for "reciprocity" between workers and Wall Street -- and opposition to a global "race to the bottom." ("We'll take our lumps, but....")

It is a snapshot of a debate that is erupting over the economic crisis.

Jeffrey St. Clair's Red State Rebels titled this video clip "How to Destroy a Fox News Anchor." But really, Bernero's defense of wages and benefits  (though fiery, populist and far to rarely heard on TV) concedes far too much to capitalism. He assumes precisely the framework that must now be challenged.

So this is actually NOT HOW we should want to  "destroy a Fox News Anchor."  Something far more radical, biting and true is needed. This spontaneously emerging debate (framed by acceptance of this system and the terms of trade unionism) sharply poses questions of how revolutionaries should speak to these questions. And how we should start to mobilize people to speak and act.

A major contest will now emerge (within official politics, within the public debate andwithin the ruling class) over whether to confront this crisis by pressing a "thirdworldization" of more sections of the U.S. working class, or by adjusting the social contract with fresh elements of social net. One suspects that the first will happening in many ways (seen and unseen), and the latter will receive layers of lipservice but little funding.

and in the midst of this, as people are drawn into such policy struggles on such terms -- how can the political horizons of people (broadly) can change?  How does the question of genuine socialism (not Keynsian nationalization) get raised? What programs and avenues will people pursue politically before thinking about more radical solutions? What are sections of the people who have more revolutionary inclinations and can be encouraged to speak loudly amid the awakening and discontent of other broader sections? How can conscious revolutionaries fight to get a hearing from desperate people, and what will we say as we rise to speak?

Dig in.

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People in this conversation

  • Guest (Adrienne)

    I previously saw this video last week on a progressive blog I've been reading for many years, and who is now blogging for Salon: Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory.

    Here's Greenwald's take on the video:
    <a href="/http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/02/19/bernero/index.html" rel="nofollow">The Face of Shrillness</a>

    A quote from the piece:

    <blockquote>Even more notable is the dripping condescension directed at him by the Fox personality at the end of the interview for having committed the sin of exhibiting genuine passion and anger over something as trivial as the disappearing middle class and the massive and growing rich-poor gap. That's the crime of Shrillness, one of the prime hallmarks of Unseriousness -- failing/refusing to suppress one's anger towards our political and financial establishment</blockquote>

    Greenwald talks a lot about Shrillness and Unseriousness in his blog. He claims (rightly in my view) that anyone who dares to speak the truth when referring to this system rigged for the wealthy is automatically dismissed with haughty, arrogant disdain by the media, and those in Washington.

    These people have gotten away with this BS for a very long time -- but now the mood and the landscape is beginning to change drastically. I think the more angry progressives who let it rip while on television (even though they're always talking about how they want to work within the system, rather than dismantle the whole system), the better things will be for the Left. <em>No matter the variety of ways we choose to speak to the many questions facing the people of this nation.</em>

    Because the truth is, the unchecked greed of the capitalists has now destroyed their own system -- and an enormous number of angry, average people in this country already fully understand this fact, or are just now beginning to grasp it.

  • Guest (Carl Davidson)

    <blockquote>...and what will we say as we rise to speak?</blockquote>

    I'd start with getting a good answer to that question, one that's not warmed-over stories about the GPCR or earlier glories in the CPSU. Once you're clear on that, the questions preceding it are a lot easier.

  • Guest (Jose M)

    Carl, why are you so against learning from the past and using it as a means to rally people around what communism is and what it means?

    I'm not saying we should ONLY use it, but "warmed-over stories about the GPCR", when utilized critically can serve as lessons, guidance, and inspiration.

  • Guest (Tell No Lies)

    The problem with Carl's response isn't so much that he is against learning from the past, but rather that it only suggests what not to do. There are, of course, moments when what is demanded is PRECISELY a discussion of the experiences of the Soviet Union or the GPCR, but Carl is generally correct in his perception that those are probably not the best places to start conversations about socialism or communism (especially if one happens to have a minute or two on TV by some chance).

    There are a number of reasons for this: First, this almost immediately gets you into a defensive posture in which you have to refute widely and deeply held anti-communist beliefs before you can even talk about what communism REALLY is. Second, the conversation is likely to end out there anyway so there is little need for us to take it there before we have to. Third, Russia and China are very different societies from the US and those experiences are not probably the best in getting people to imagine socialism or communism in the US. Finally, and most importantly, those experiences ended badly making it difficult to convey what is most inspiring about them to people with only a superficial familiarity with them.

    The problem with Carl's response is that it doesn't really suggest what we SHOULD say. Here I think it is critical that we speak passionately in the language of the present about the complete failure of capitalism as a system, about the neccesity for replacing it with something radically different in which the oppressive shit of this society is done away with and in which the full potential of humanity presently thwarted by poverty, ignorance and oppression is able to flower. There needs to be poetry in our words that is able to inspire people to take risks, not least of which is the risk of daring to dream.

    Forty years of retreat has cramped mnay of our imaginations. The incessant insistences that we trim our sails and only speak of what is "realistically" achievable within the present framework is lethal. People don't put their lives on the line for a nickle an hour pay raise, they do it for a better world for their children. We need to use our words to paint a picture of what such a world might be. Far more important than that picture seeming "realistic" is it being delicious and worthy of big sacrifices.

  • Guest (Keith)

    I think we can learn alot from the past. For example, the slogan that brought the Bolsheviks to power: "Land, Bread, and Peace."

    Land for peasants, bread for workers, peace for soldiers. The slogan land, bread and peace was revolutionary under certain conditions. It is actually a very "moderate" demand.

    I think that is exactly what we need today. We need moderate rhetoric with radical content (we usually get it the other way around-- a whole lot posturing and no content)

    For example, we should insist that people stay in their foreclosed homes and we should organize to make sure it happens. The right to live in a house that has all of your stuff in it is not especially radical except that under these conditions it undermines the foundations of bourgeois property.

    I am not so sure people fight with stars in their eyes, I think people fight when the continuation of the system comes into conflict with their way of life.

    I think the mayor in the clip is on track, but we need to say Wall St. should take the whole hit, Wall st is full of parasites who should either get real jobs like sweeping the floor of a school or they should go to prison. Their bonuses should be seized retroactively etc. But the main thing is to speak about a plan that people can participate in to transform the society-- as in providing an answer to the question" "what should we do?"

    The answer to the question should start by explaining that right now the main enemy is financial capital and they must be politically defeated and dis empowered as the next stage of the struggle.