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.