Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 30, 2014

John V. Walsh, Ralph Nader and the right-left alliance — no thanks

Filed under: right-left convergence — louisproyect @ 5:39 pm

john walshDr. John V. Walsh

On June 16th John V. Walsh declared his support for Ralph Nader’s urging the left to learn from Tea Party leader David Brat’s victory over Eric Cantor in Virginia. These two characters are on the front lines calling for a right-left alliance.

Walsh, a Professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has been around the left for well over a decade, showing up at Left Forums and writing for leftist websites like CounterPunch and DissidentVoice. Although he describes himself as a “man of the left”, most of his energy is devoted to the cause of the Ron Paul wing of the Republican Party. In an article for a New Hampshire newspaper titled “Thoughts of a doctor driving for Dr. Paul”, Walsh puts it this way:

I am certainly a man of the Left. My support for Dr. Paul has had surprising effects in my personal life, with some friends no longer eager to talk with me. And yes, I have my differences with Dr. Paul. For example, I would like to have Medicare for all — national health insurance. But Dr. Paul’s commitment to civil liberties means that I can quarrel with him over this. I will be able to make my case and he his in open discussion and vote. What more can one ask in a democracy?

So I will work for Ron Paul, a man of principle and consistency. I hope that others of my conviction will do likewise. War and empire threaten our existence more than any possible environmental catastrophe. If we continue on our present path, sooner or later we will stumble into a world war trying to “save the world.” If we turn away from this path, we can create a paradise on earth. Let’s take the right path and bring America home.

What utter stupidity.

Walsh says that he can “quarrel” with Ron Paul over Medicare for all as if public policy in the United States is a fucking debate club event at an Ivy League school. Does this guy have any idea of the power of corporations over such decisions? Does he have an analysis of capitalism? Maybe the fact that he is a professor at a medical school earning a $150K a year makes him less sensitive to class distinctions than someone in Ron Paul’s district who made $15K a year.

This is Ron Paul on raising the minimum wage:

Raising minimum wages by government decree appeals to those who do not understand economics. This appeal is especially strong during times of stagnant wages and increased economic inequality. But raising the minimum wage actually harms those at the bottom of the income ladder. Basic economic theory teaches that when the price of a good increases, demand for that good decreases. Raising the minimum wage increases the price of labor, thus decreasing the demand for labor. So an increased minimum wage will lead to hiring freezes and layoffs. Unskilled and inexperienced workers are the ones most often deprived of employment opportunities by increases in the minimum wage.

But don’t get all hot and bothered by the class war against the poor as long as Ron Paul opposes imperialist war. There is of course a long tradition for this kind of anti-imperialism. If you go back to the original Anti-Imperialist League in the United States, you will discover that Andrew Carnegie was a member, the steel magnate who called in a small army of Pinkerton guards to break a strike at his Homestead plant in 1892.

Another prominent member was former Democratic Party president Grover Cleveland who opposed empire-building moves by Republican presidents. Our kind of guy, right? Well, not exactly. Cleveland pushed for the Dawes Act that divided up Indian land to individual members of the tribes, a piece of legislation that allowed “excess” land to be sold to non-Indians. Now some hair-splitting Marxists like me view such a policy as consistent with an internal colonialism that goes back to the time of Washington and Jefferson but not if you think—as Ron Paul does—that private property is sacrosanct.

Since Walsh is just as enthusiastic over Rand Paul as he is over his father, one imagines that he would have no complaints about junior’s carrying on in the Grover Cleveland tradition as Indian Country reported on February 8, 2011:

But Paul isn’t worried about broken treaties. He’s fretting about broken U.S. piggy banks. Whether he’s doing away with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (which subsidizes tribal reservation home building) or cutting the Department of Agriculture’s food stamp program (which disproportionately aids Indian families), it’s all part of his ruthless plan to shrink the ever-growing federal deficit.

But that’s okay. Since Rand Paul is for free speech, John V. Walsh can persuade him to go easy on the survivors of 500 years of genocide.

Like fellow anti-imperialist Andrew Carnegie, Grover Cleveland showed his mettle in standing up to the unruly workers. In 1894 Eugene V. Debs led workers at Pullman, the manufacturers of railroad passenger cars, out on a militant strike. To protect the interests of his class, Cleveland ordered the army to break the strike, resulting in the death of 30 men and wounding hundreds of others. After he was arrested for his role in the strike, Debs read Karl Marx in prison and became a committed socialist. Those are the sorts of people I identify with, not scum like Grover Cleveland and the Pauls.

Turning now to Ralph Nader’s article, there is a depressing sense that the old man has completely lost his way. My worries began after he came out with a book titled “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us” that was described on Amazon.com as a:

vivid fictional account by political activist and bestselling author Ralph Nader that answers the question, “What if?” What if a cadre of superrich individuals tried to become a driving force in America to organize and institutionalize the interests of the citizens of this troubled nation?

The naiveté incorporated in this blurb staggers the mind. It is based on press conferences by the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and other plutocrats worrying about the state of the nation. Here are the opening words of this ludicrous work of fiction:

In the cozy den of the large but modest house in Omaha where he has lived since he started on his first billion, Warren Buffett watched the horrors of Hurricane Katrina unfold on television in early September 2005. . . . On the fourth day, he beheld in disbelief the paralysis of local, state, and federal authorities unable to commence basic operations of rescue and sustenance, not just in New Orleans, but in towns and villages all along the Gulf Coast. . . He knew exactly what he had to do. . .

In a nutshell, Nader is reprising the “message” of many a Dickens novel with some rich bastard like Ebenezer Scrooge having a change of heart. Maybe it’s too bad that Nader hadn’t been thrown in jail at some point in his life and accidentally stumbling across Karl Marx like Debs did. Then again, the words might have been lost on this man whose ideology seems like the bastard spawn of a marriage between Thomas Jefferson and Frank Capra.

Nader finds himself in an advanced state of intoxication over David Brat’s anti-corporate demagogy:

First, among all the reasons for Cantor’s fall, there were the ones encapsulated in the Nation’s John Nichols’ description of Brat as an “anti-corporate conservative.” Repeatedly, Brat said he was for “free enterprise” but against “crony capitalist programs that benefit the rich and powerful.” David Brat pointed out that Cantor and the Republican establishment have “been paying way too much attention to Wall Street and not enough to Main Street.”

This, of course, is the stock and trade today of ultraright politicians across the planet. The Tea Party is evidently learning from groups like Hungary’s neo-Nazi Jobbik Party that lays down the “anti-capitalist” rhetoric as good as the original Nazis. Straight from the Jobbik website (http://www.jobbik.com/policies):

Across the world a global capitalism based on the free movement of multinational capital has broken down. Billions have been made destitute, and ever widening gulfs have grown in societies. In Hungary the effects of this crisis have been greatly magnified, given an environment made noxious by the workings of a politics that has been both nefarious and corrupt.

As long as the domination of profit does not rob it of the opportunity of doing so, the Hungarian nation is quite capable of thriving on the produce of its own homeland; provided of course that relations between countries are also permitted to be ruled by considerations of cooperation, equality, and solidarity, rather than a rule of acquisition that demands that one subjugates the other.

Since the Tea Party is notoriously anti-immigrant, Brat’s positions might have shown up on Ralph Nader’s radar. Unfortunately, he adapts to them:

He [Brat] chastised Cantor on immigration, taking advantage of the latter’s wavering appeal to voters who believe that large corporations, represented by Cantor, want a never-ending supply of cheap foreign labor to hold wages down. On the other hand, Brat opposes a minimum wage on libertarian grounds.

I don’t see the point of “on the other hand”. The two positions go together. Demagogy about a “never-ending supply of cheap foreign labor” and opposition to a minimum wage go together like bread and butter.

Finally, Nader gets to the point. In the emerging right-left alliance that he and John V. Walsh have been stumping for, the Brat victory is a harbinger of future possibilities:

Brat is a mixed bag for progressives. But in that mix is a clear populist challenge by Main Street against Wall Street and by ordinary people against the corporate government with subsidies and bailouts that the Left calls corporate welfare and the Right calls crony capitalism. Therein lies the potential for a winning majority alliance between Left and Right as my new book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, relates in realistic detail.

I wonder what Nader really has in mind when he calls for dismantling the corporate state. Going back to Jefferson’s time and creating an America based on small farmers and mom-and-pop general stores? I understand why Nader would raise such utopia hopes. With a working class that is quiescent and a feeling among the educated elites like Nader and Paul Krugman that something has to be done—as long as it is not socialism—there will be one snake-oil prescription after another. That’s been true of capitalist society going back for centuries. At some point, the workers will step forward to defend their own class interests. I make no prediction as to when this will happen but I am damned sure that objective conditions will force them to struggle against the Andrew Carnegies, Grover Clevelands, and Ron Pauls of this world.

 

17 Comments »

  1. The issue of the Internal Colonialism / 500years of Genocide ticks me a lot. Please remark where reading more about it, or any other writtings of you on the subject. Mypoint is that the colonization as a kind of ADN of the capitalism has been misregarded everywhere.
    I live in Neuquén,Argentine, an Oil & Mapuce province where the fracking is splending.

    Comment by ernestoro2012 — June 30, 2014 @ 7:28 pm

  2. Andrew Carnegie from Wikipedia:
    “Carnegie’s determination to lower costs included cutting labor expenses as well.[53] In a notably Spencerian manner, Carnegie argued that unions impeded the natural reduction of prices by pushing up costs, which blocked evolutionary progress.[54] Carnegie felt that unions represented the narrow interest of the few while his actions benefited the entire community.[52]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Carnegie

    Comment by Derek Bryant (@DerekJohnBryant) — June 30, 2014 @ 10:59 pm

  3. This is a dead end politics. It has no appeal beyond a small minority of affluent liberals who want to try to shove their way into relevancy by fantasizing about a left/right coalition to dismantle the empire (Walsh) or the corporate state (Nader). It is alarming to contemplate how much their disinterest in the challenges faced by workers, people of color and indigenous people has its roots in the white supremacist progressivism of the late 19th and 20th Century. For example, one of the grounds for opposing the Spanish American War was the belief that it would result in the degradation of the US through contact with the purportedly inferior cultures of non-white peoples in Cuba and the Philippines.

    Comment by Richard Estes — July 1, 2014 @ 12:57 am

  4. “Demagogy about (large corporations wanting) a ‘never-ending supply of cheap foreign labor’.”

    That’s exactly what capital wants. Talk to a young woman who is ready to become a nurse, but she can’t get into nursing school because there are not enough slots. Instead of paying taxes for education, corporations prefer to import nurses.

    You can support taxing wealth for education while unionizing every nurse in the hospital, however she got to her position – as in fact the national nurses union does. Where’s the demagogy?

    Comment by Donna T. — July 1, 2014 @ 2:46 am

  5. Talk to a young woman who is ready to become a nurse, but she can’t get into nursing school because there are not enough slots. Instead of paying taxes for education, corporations prefer to import nurses.

    Yeah, send them damn Filipinos back to where they came from.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 1, 2014 @ 2:48 am

  6. This Right/Left Alliance stuff appears so Peronist on its face. Peron was the poster-child for the left-right alliance. However unlike Peron, there is no program for uplifting the wages of working people: thus no reason for the descamisados to fill the plaza in a show of support for the american Rand Paul brand of right wing populism… and that to me is a good thing.

    Conversely, show me two trotskyists and I’ll show you three factions also seems to apply: if the left cannot cobble a broad-based coalition of its own as a counterforce to liberalism then we are treated to the Walsh/Nader panaceas instead.

    Here in California the new open primary allows for the top two only to move to the general election. So the Peace & Freedom runs a slate as does the Greens as an alternative to the two ruling corporate institutions: where the two competed among each other they split 5% of the vote, where they did not compete with each other for a statewide office they topped 5%.
    The competition among them may result in both losing ballot status come next primary. Thanks to Prop 14 neither will be in the general election.

    I suppose that Prop 14 ensures that any progressive change will come thru popular movements built on a single issue or cause rinsed and watered down by liberals which by its very nature cannot be permitted to challenge capitalism. It is so monolithic that we on the left cannot unite even for the purpose of building an electoral edifice as an alternative to the two ruling institutions masquerading as political parties. Where is our Allende ?

    If one is committed to democratic change then one sees that an alternative vision is vital to win over the liberal center outside the control of the Democrats..but so far left-factionalism leaves the door wide open for the american brand of Peronism being touted by Walsh & Nader. These guys are getting air time on Pacifica. Nader has his own show promoting peronista politics and KPFK has a show promoting Bob Avakian… I ask is there an any space here?

    Comment by Scott Edwards — July 1, 2014 @ 2:56 am

  7. So what is your solution writing reviews about indy movies, and whining about Nader? Let us all be realistic I have seen no change, and I see no prospect for it. Maybe this will catch fire and save some lives. Nader is an unreasonable man, and unreasonable ppl are the only way things will ever get better.

    Comment by Mike Bison — July 1, 2014 @ 4:34 am

  8. “I wonder what Nader really has in mind when he calls for dismantling the corporate state. Going back to Jefferson’s time and creating an America based on small farmers and mom-and-pop general stores?”

    Yes, exactly, 100 percent!

    Nader is and always has been a petty-bourgeois reformist, and that’s been reactionary since at least Marx’s time.

    Remember what the Manifesto said about the petty-bourgeois reformers of Marx’s time: They “aspire either to restoring the old means of production and of exchange, and with them the old property relations, and the old society, or to cramping the modern means of production and of exchange within the framework of the old property relations that have been, and were bound to be, exploded by those means.”

    And later in an 1847 address:

    “The republican petty bourgeois…. cherish the pious wish to abolish the pressure exerted by big capital on small capital, by the big bourgeoisie on the petty bourgeoisie.

    “The democratic petty bourgeois, far from wanting to transform the whole society in the interests of the revolutionary proletarians, only aspire to a change in social conditions which will make the existing society as tolerable and comfortable for themselves as possible. They therefore demand above all else a reduction in government spending through a restriction of the bureaucracy and the transference of the major tax burden into the large landowners and bourgeoisie. They further demand the removal of the pressure exerted by big capital on small capital through the establishment of public credit institutions and the passing of laws against usury, whereby it would be possible for themselves and the peasants to receive advances on favourable terms from the state instead of from capitalists…. In order to achieve all this they require a democratic form of government, either constitutional or republican, which would give them and their peasant allies the majority; they also require a democratic system of local government to give them direct control over municipal property and over a series of political offices at present in the hands of the bureaucrats.

    “The rule of capital and its rapid accumulation is to be further counteracted, partly by a curtailment of the right of inheritance, and partly by the transference of as much employment as possible to the state. As far as the workers are concerned one thing, above all, is definite: they are to remain wage labourers as before. However, the democratic petty bourgeois want better wages and security for the workers, and hope to achieve this by an extension of state employment and by welfare measures; in short, they hope to bribe the workers with a more or less disguised form of alms and to break their revolutionary strength by temporarily rendering their situation tolerable.”

    Comment by Steve D. — July 1, 2014 @ 6:20 am

  9. “This, of course, is the stock and trade today of ultraright politicians across the planet. The Tea Party is evidently learning from groups like Hungary’s neo-Nazi Jobbik Party that lays down the “anti-capitalist” rhetoric as good as the original Nazis.”

    Actually, a common [confused] refrain from much of the right, especially in the US and Western Europe, is that countries like the US are “no longer capitalist” due to regulation and government interference, and that this is the real source of all the economic problems. This comes from everyone from Tea Partiers, libertarians, even some extreme rightists. It’s one of their insane bases for calling Obama a socialist.

    Comment by Steve D. — July 1, 2014 @ 6:23 am

  10. ““Demagogy about (large corporations wanting) a ‘never-ending supply of cheap foreign labor’.”

    Of course this is what they want. It was one of the bases of imperialism, chasing down source of cheap labor and cheap resources, along with new markets.

    The answer though is not to oppose outsourcing and immigration but for workers around the world to unite and fight together as a class against the multi-national bourgeoisie. One of the original inspirations for worker organizing was to end competition between workers, which as Marx showed only drives down wages and eliminates any chance of real proletarian action.

    Comment by Steve D. — July 1, 2014 @ 6:28 am

  11. “I wonder what Nader really has in mind when he calls for dismantling the corporate state. Going back to Jefferson’s time and creating an America based on small farmers and mom-and-pop general stores?”

    Pretty close to it, as Justin Raimondo explained back in 2004:

    ” . . . . Just as Nader rebelled against the corporate socialism of the Democratic Party establishment, so the mostly Midwestern progressives turned against the New Deal when it became a stalking horse for corporatism and war. Nader’s views are attractive to the Left but are rooted, at least in part, on the libertarian and populist Right.

    He wasn’t always a leftist icon. One of his first published articles appeared in the Oct. 1962 issue of The Freeman, a libertarian magazine. The piece, “How the Winstedites Kept Their Integrity,” told the story of how a proposal to build a public-housing project met with opposition in Winsted, Conn., Nader’s hometown. He attacked the aesthetic aspect of government housing projects as symbolic of “the drab, uniform, barrack-type existence” that awaits its tenants. He writes:

    “Living under the government as landlord neither teaches children the value of property (which is one reason why public housing deteriorates so quickly) nor produces the environment for the exercise of independence, self-reliance, and, above all, citizenship. Any government intrusion into the economy deters the alleged beneficiaries from voicing their views or participating in civic life. The reason for this goes beyond the stigma of living in subsidized housing. When public housing becomes, as it has over the nation, a source of additional patronage for local distribution to contractors, repairmen, and tenants, the free expression of human beings is thus discouraged.”

    What riled Ralph about the Winsted housing project was that locals were denied access to information by bureaucrats and had to resort to three referenda before they could scotch the plans of political insiders to milk private profit from the public teat. It’s the same old Ralph, albeit a bit more libertarian than we’re used to.”

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/old-right-nader/

    Comment by Richard Estes — July 1, 2014 @ 5:07 pm

  12. mr. proyect, you are against “sectarianism” between ISO ad SALT (the minuscule and “pure” leftest factions need to overcome their ‘differences’ and bring in other forces into the movement ) in one article while lambasting Nader and Walsh for ‘propagandizing’ exactly that in this article, without laying out what other forces you have in mind as acceptable to your non-delusional movement building and what agenda that coalition will achieve and how it’s gonna be achieved.

    provide a better alternative to what you trash, in a coherent and consistent argument.

    Comment by junghi lee — July 4, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

  13. I was strongly supportive of Nader’s campaigns in the past but that was before he became an advocate of alliances with rightwing scum.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 4, 2014 @ 4:19 pm

  14. well those “rightwing scumbags” are the only ones who challenge the system of the fascist war criminals and their global financial terrorist masters in any effective way at the moment. your “ideological purity and perfection” test at this moment makes YOU instant suspect (probably unjustifiably), in the eyes of any “outside forces” that you need to bring in for any real change, which ISO and the likes in the Marxist tradition have been unable to bring about.

    Comment by junghilee — July 4, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

  15. p.s. perhaps, a in-good-faith conference of the left and the right is long overdue. have sincere, respectful debates with ron / rand paul, unless you feel they are beneath you.

    Comment by junghilee — July 4, 2014 @ 5:04 pm

  16. unless you feel they are beneath you.

    Yes, they are beneath me. I piss on their heads.

    Comment by louisproyect — July 4, 2014 @ 5:38 pm

  17. how old are you? never mind.

    Comment by junghilee — July 4, 2014 @ 5:54 pm


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