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August 06, 2008


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patrick j. mullins

The Democrats compromise and give in when they don't need to--unless they realize that voters don't matter. They appeal to unity and moving beyond partisanship--as if the problem were not the astoundingly corrupt Republican party.

Why should they care about the 'astoundingly corrupt Republican party'? Non-democrats who are not Republicans just give this 'astoundingly corrupt Republican party' lip service. And what is this complaint for? This kind of thing should make people care even less. They must now agonize on whether or not to vote for Obama, because the Democrats, like the progressives, don't think voting has anything to do with politics--and even if it does, it doesn't matter. Or maybe they can just not even agonize about it.

patrick j. mullins

In other words, progressives like you are not convincing when you talk about the 'astoundingly corrupt Republican party', because, for one thing, you so rarely do so, concentrating instead on the astoundingly corrupt Democratic Party. It is high time that you realized that the real secret is that progressives' opinion of the Republican Party--no matter how corrupt--is the most worthless of all opinions, and that if they are going to even have the vaguest, foggiest credibility, that they should stick to their criticism of the astoundingly corrupt Democratic Party. After all, that's your specialty, so it is not very impressive to try to hitch your wagon (or even more bafflingly, not hitch) to a Democratic star by criticizing the Republicans, when you'll only lose time from the energy you could put into more criticism of the astoundingly capital-loving and totally corrupt Democratic Party. Progressives have no right to criticize the Republicans, whom they've proved over and over that they support in realpolitik terms, led by that Nader of Nadirs, who loves the Republicans and gets them into office.

i'd rather not say

One problem with the anti-war movement, or at least its mainstream version, is that it is so focused on the soldiers. Its empathy is in the wrong place. Yes, I feel bad for the soldiers, but they are not at the top of my list of those to feel bad for/work on behalf of. The top of that list ought to be reserved for the Iraqis (of course), who still have little or no public visibility. The slogan, Bring Home the Troops, still, in my opinion, supports an imperial imperative; it only seeks a more efficient, less dangerous (to 'us') version (e.g. Obama).

Another problem with the antiwar movement is that it has remained for the most part symbolic. The materiality of the war is still lost on most Americans. In Italy, by contrast, certain antiwar groups strategically sabotage train tracks over which they have determined American munitions will ship. I don't think we'll see an American antiwar organization take such measures any time soon. Indeed, it doesn't seem like the US antiwar movement actually thinks of the war as finite, material, and dependent on real, existent processes, ones that can be interfered with, and, I should think, stopped, 'in space and time'.


The anti-war movement became irrelevant because it refused to engage in large-scale civil disobedience, and will not admit or simply does not realize that non-violent action is actually a form of violence. Marches and protests attracting hundreds of thousands of people are basically ignored by the media, or blown off as just another "peaceful protest."


Mullins' argument is that anyone to the left of the Democrats is functionally pro-Republican. Now I wonder who that argument serves.

bob allen

i'd rather not say is onto something-- the valorization of the soldiers, speaking as a former GI, is nauseating and smacks of a Trotskyist fetishism on the left and/or (especially) a naive "patriotism" on the petty bourgeois front, either way the troops are being let off way too easy by the quasi religious do gooders who organize "peace" "vigils" etc. However I am still an active participant in these events, as we must have "boots on the ground", to borrow a metaphor...

patrick j. mullins

Mullins' argument is that anyone to the left of the Democrats is functionally pro-Republican. Now I wonder who that argument serves.

No, it doesn't, because that's the one that's been said a million times. But who cares? Obviously no one who wants to keep talking about how basically either corrupt or ineffective all parties are.

In other words, more blogging, like journalism, for the Silly Season, is all I can see it's got in it.

i'd rather not say

Hrm is right on. The visible antiwar movement remains a petty bourgeois front, explicitly coordinated by Democratic Party PACs like MoveOn. Obama, if elected, will likely put a few more nails in the coffin: his online PR machine, which the netroots community finds so hip and appealing, will soon be incorporated into the executive branch, let's not forget. This will have a devastating effect on previously untouchable communities (like the Daily Kos).

The soldier is about to become even more precious than before. There's a reason why (so-called) opposition to the war has not translated into support for the/an insurgency ...

In any event, it's not clear what kind of opposition will become possible during the next administration. If Obama is elected, the government's style of aggression will likely shift from pseudo-Nazi to British Empire mode, which seems a more difficult enterprise to dismantle.

Some have made the observation that the Iraq occupation more resembles the French occupation of Algiers than the American invasion of Vietnam. I think this is true, especially with respect to the kinds of issues created in the press; so perhaps our future strategies of resistance could learn something from the French opposition, which didn't seem to depend strictly on rallies and protests so much as concerted intellectual engagement with the press, elected leaders, and so forth. I do think this is a form of coercion equal to, if not more effective than, material intervention. Sartre and the like were actually pretty successful in their persistence.


Many of my friends who have diligently soldiered on in the antiwar movement have become exasperated at how little public opinion seems to matter. The establishment seems to grind on within the narrow parameters of "acceptable debating points" regardless of what the public says. I don't know what could be effective at this point. On the one hand, I think that we need to start picking leaders from groups of people that haven't been co-opted by corporate interests--perhaps small labor union leaders or professors who haven't relied heavily on government grants. At the same time, we need to get people to turn off the propaganda on their TVs and think for themselves. Many issues are undoubtedly extremely complex, but there are still many bread and butter issues that aren't impossible to understand. The rapid growth in the rich-poor gap, trillions spent to fight wars against non-threatening nations, and the lack of a workable healthcare system (in contrast with poorer nations with affordable healthcare) are all issues where the main parties are clearly out of touch. Americans also need to re-develop a sense of stubborn refusal to go along with the government. Watching some George Carlin clips today, I was struck by his ability to cut through the propaganda and unanalytical intellectual framework that's put forth in the media. It was especially refreshing to see the collective delusion shattered by a comic. In a real sense, we lose if we take the psuedo-debates and pseudo-issues in the public arena too seriously. Politicians and political parties have devolved into something akin to brand-names, the equivalent to a person preference for Pepsi or Coke (or one of their more "classical" recipes).


Such a pertinent question - I'm hoping to try to come up with a more satisfactory answer in terms of what I think the movement should be or should have done differently. I do think, however, that part of the answer has to be that the administration did a trillion times better job at preparing to handle the domestic anti-war movement then it did at planning for post-occupation Iraq. I suspect that this was totally intentional. A war that lasted several years has made many, many people much richer than they would have been if they had actually handled business with alacrity.

parody center

How utterly presumptuous of you not to mention that most middle class Americans, consciously or not, acknowledge the fact that their relatively comfortably seated asses will be compromised if America doesn't manage to conquer new energy resources in Russia, cf. the new developments in Georgia. The danger of your sort of socialism is that it's half-delusional and confined to safe discussions only. YOUR attitude is what contributes greatly to a lack of dissent.


I guess this is the clear manifestation why it is important to have an organized leftist party. It shows how the state can easilly wash out the struggles of the mass movement by diverting the attention of the public. More so, it shows also that the left is not yet a threat for the state. Unlike in the Philippines or Nepal, the revolutionary movement is strong and the presence of vanguardism heightens the possibility that the proletariat will take over the state until the class struggle faces its own death.


62% disapprove of Bush does not equate to 62% of Americans willing to ditch automobiles, jobs, careers, and other consumerist traps and hit the streets in protest of the war. If so, I think it would be safe to suggest that the war would end, and some politicians might no longer be with us. I think the very important question is why isn’t this happening? I don’t think it’s a lack of knowledge of what’s taking place over in Iraq. Do they ever poll for what percentage of Americans feel the war is for oil and economic dominance/hegemony (if they know what that word means) ? I think most Americans believe that the war is a sham, politicians are liars, protest doesn’t accomplish anything, and all wars are horrific ordeals.

Despite all of this, they still don’t care.

As such, the simplistic Chomsky model of “speaking truth to power” is of no help to us here. I think there’s a major inability on the Left’s part to rethink the notion of dissent, in particular how it can be put into political activism. We are stuck using models of dissent from the past, in particular the 1960s. Take part in any protest on a college campus, and you’ll encounter the fool dressed in brand-new-clothes-that-look-vintage purchased from the Gap banging on his hippie drum. Even the protest songs are cliché now. It seems the script for protest has already been written, and we are merely following its rules. What is problematic about this “Script” is that it has already been appropriated by late capitalism. All the “brands” are selling back to us the 1960s dissent stripped of it’s political sensibility.

Moreover, the media knows how to manage any act of political dissent. It’s kind of perversely funny how you never hear about a cop attacking a protester at an anti-war rally (granted you’ll hear about the rowdy ostensibly drugged-up protesters), yet the media was up in arms over the cop who shoved the biker in New York during the Critical Mass Bike ride through Times Square. The Mass bike ride was, of course, not in protest of the war, but instead a celebration of the bicycle. Nice and safe, and hey, we are all pissed about the gas prices anyway. I wonder what the reaction to this would have been, if it would be covered at all, if gas was $1/gallon.


Gas prices have gone up during the Iraq war. The cost of the war is in the trillions. I don't think that people believe that this war is a fight to preserve the US-American way of life. Additionally, the collapsing economy means the majority of people are being pushed out of consumerism, whether they want to be or not (evidence for this--consumer confidence measures are way down, retail sales down, most of the stimulus checks were used for household necessities, tourism and travel down, etc).

All that said, though, I think the point about a new script for resistance or new ways of imagining opposition is a good one (and I also think the point about an organized left party is good--I've wondered a bunch about the impediments to combining Greens and socialists; also, election laws work strongly against new parties when they disallow fusion voting). I wouldn't put most of the blame on fashion-minded college students, though, although the capitalist cooptation of radicalism is a factor (Apple's use of Marx's image in its early ads is exemplary here). I think a element is institutional: the defeat of labor unions eliminate a major base of left support as well as a location for organizing. The right has been able to use churches; the left tends more toward the universities, but in a highly unstable and competitive economy, students have a strong incentive to keep their heads down and play it safe. I admire groups that work on organizing poor people, although my sense is that this has become increasingly difficult as well.


Whenever one brings out the issue that certain ways for activists in rendering the struggle is deemed as out-fashioned, the problem lies not in being incapable of riding with the current state of things but witht the weak grass root organizing of the masses. If you would imagine, some countries wage armed struggle not on the basis that they are being financed but simply supported by the peasants and locals of an area due to their capacity in constructing a life with the basic masses. It is really hard to organize a certain sector but the possibility of organizing like workers, peasants, doctors, lawyers or students must be guided by a political party that will firmly stand for the masses and have a strong theoretical line regarding the situation of its state would be very invincible. One good example, the Philippines! and Nepal! It has a strong leftist movement that believes in vanguardism and parliamentary struggle working hand in hand. Grass root organizing will be very hard because it is fully submitting yourself as a full time activist for the benefit of the leftist movement and the emancipation of the masses. I think the question here lies with Lenin's famous work "What is to be done?"

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