- Category: Repression
- Created on Sunday, 06 September 2009 09:16
- Written by Mike Ely
Many people reading these words know far more about Van Jones than I do. Many here know him personally. Some struggled with him sharply over his political direction in life -- toward working for change deep within the official structures of this existing political system.
Many of us watched this gifted activist as he seemed to sky-rocket on the reformer's career path, ending as an "green jobs" adviser to the new president. (Note: not a policy maker, or a face of policy, not an administrator, but someone allowed to speak in the ear, occasionally, from the inside.)
And now Van Jones has been brought down by a vicious witch hunt that built over the last six month-- one that targeted Jones as a leftist ("Marxist," "communist," "Black nationalist") figure brought close to power by this new administration. He was scoped, targeted and then picked off. And, in the process, he become a poster boy in the hysterical campaign to paint Obama as a secret communist-Muslim-furriner leading a not-so-secret socialist takeover of a once-Aryan nation. Now Van Jones' bloody scalp is hanging from the posse's saddle horn.
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First of all, this witch hunt has been a cascade of distortion, lunatic paranoia, barely concealed racism, and very conscious indifference to burning issues, basic morality and truth.
And the forced resignation of Van Jones is an additional outrage -- on many levels, including in the fact that the liberals are (once again) congenitally unwilling and unable to stand their own liberal ground without abandoning someone like him. (Lani Guenier, anyone?)
All this is not just aimed at Jones himself, or even just at the tepid reforms of this Obama administration (which , after all, have mainly been corporate bail-outs). This witch hunt asserts that any past association with of the socialist left is a permanent life-time taint. And any mere association with someone like Jones, who has been active in radical politics, should be a drop-dead third rail within mainstream American politics. And that the very ideas of socialism, communism, Black liberation, revolution must be driven into deep cracks and ignorable margins within American life.
Look at what just happened: It illustrates a major way this system limits the allowable politics among the people. Look at how it disciplines, chastises, threatens and therefor trains its own political and media figures. Look at how it uses the official reporting and the absurd theater of the central political arena to demand the further exclusion of radical thought -- and the permanent exclusion those who once entertained radical thoughts.
The trickle-down from initiation to complicity
These witch hunts started (as they always do) at the literally-lunatic fringe of the extreme right. In those corners of republican and militia politics that believe the U.S. government is teetering on the abyss of communism, and that whole chunks of the Democratic Party are conscious traitorous elements of one-world government (and the Antichrist). And their ravings bubbled into a world of "questions" raised by right-wing talk shows and Fox News babblers -- until distorted "facts" were gathered like rocks at a biblical stoning. And the question morphs -- beyond "Who is Van Jones?" or "Who is Bill Ayers?" -- into: what does it mean for America's future that liberal politicians know, and respect, or appoint people who have such leftist backgrounds? And with that the trickle-down leaps the divide from the lunatic right to the establishment liberal: Because it then the whip of denunciation changes hands, the leading Democrats themselves emerge as the enforcers of the witch hunt.
Who has the initiative here? Who demands the resignation, and who then carries it out?
Under attack from the right, Obama cut off Reverend Wright (virtually the only person to appear speaking truth in that whole election process). Under attack from the right, the Obama camp acted as if they had never really known, or associated with Bill Ayers. And now, as the attack presses forward, Van Jones is forced to resign -- in a way that is not just a real personal tragedy for him (which it is), but a hard slam at the hopes of an electoral and reform-focused left.
The Obama Democrats shrug off a Van Jones without much of a thought. Just as they have shrugged off (one by one) so many of those programmatic plans that spread excitement and hope among those many who are usually cynical about bourgeois politics.
Our main point is: This is how a system defines and limits allowable politics. This is how a "political mainstream" is invented, and then enforced. This is how the most promising solutions for the worlds problems (socialism, universal health rights, redistributing wealth, opposition to U.S. imperialism, guaranteed jobs, internationalism, the abolition of borders....) become demonized and marginalized.
We have no reason to ourselves dis or demonize Van Jones. He left radical politics years ago because he thought it had no chance of getting a hearing. And we don't agree. Van Jones reinvented himself as a more mainstream political figure -- inhabiting (for the moment) an intersection of black job creation and green reforms. But, I don't think we have to be venomous when someone takes that road -- far better to just watch that process, and help others see what that process is.
Far better to simply say "Tell us how that works out for you?" What does this system force you to become? What beliefs can you keep? What beliefs do they force you to hide or discard? What concessions and alliances are imposed, and at the end of this list of "costs"..... we should carefully and fairly sum up what is gained.
How's It Working For You
For now the story of Van Jones has ended with him being spit out of the system he tried to work within. His remake was rejected. His excited arrival in Washington has been converted into a club used to beat those who mentored him, and especially those who summoned him. His radical past was portrayed as a mark of the Beast (not just on himself, but on those with the power to appoint.)
Radical politics needs to become part of the big leagues. If we are not talking about a movement of millions -- then we are talking about a permanent, self-enclosed bubble of subculture. And the issue is how: How to transition from a movement of radical ideas to a movement of people seeking power.
And in that debate, we are told, over and over and over, that revolutionary politics is just not "practical" in America. That remaining explicitly socialist or communist is itself inherently marginalizing and self-defeating. That it does not engage the world as it really is. That the only way to "scale" our politics to real-world levels is to get on the inside (with whatever compromise or camo that demands.)
And lets be clear: Van Jones left the left behind, to pursue his career and goals within Democratic Party politics. But there are others who (by contrast) want to ORGANIZE THE LEFT to abandon revolutionary politics and join Democratic Party politics en masse -- "inside/outside" -- and wield the tenuously-existing mini-structures of the left as their leverage into official politics -- as capital, as gofers, as poker chips, as "pressure from the left" or whatever. So this debate takes different forms, and not just the ones that Van himself walked out on a few years ago.
When this witch hunt reached out (for the thousandth time in U.S. history) to demonize the only politics that matter -- it has, in the process, given us another glimpse (for the thousandth time) at the impracticality of playing by the enemy's rules -- and why only conscious, relentless, creative revolutionary politics are practical. These are matters of illusion and delusion -- deceit and self-deceit -- a political bait and switch where the left is enticed with promises of influence, and where it can only end up in a mix of inevitable diffusion and servile captivity to its own deadly enemies.
All that's not obvious, of course. The practicality of revolution only seem obvious after successful revolutions.
But looking, with open eyes, at what happened to Van Jones -- seeing an integral connection between the rise and the fall -- gives a sense of how the official mainstream enforces and cleanses itself. Let's incorporate that experience, and then rejoin our debate over what it means to be clear-sighted, practical and successful at changing the world.