State of the Union and the Right-wing Danger

I haven't written for the blog lately because I have been overwhelmed with work – teaching Winter session courses, doing union work here at Rutgers, etc.  But  I thought I would respond to some developments as President Obama prepares for his State of Union address, which the press is calling "centrist."

First, there are ugly signs of pre Nazi Germany and McCarthyite America today. Congresswoman Giffords continues to struggle  for her life and  future.  Large sections of the mass capitalist media have responded to the Arizona killings  with old 1950s condemnations of "extremism" of the right and the left, as if the criticisms of those who point to the absurdities of the Republican right, the idiocy of the their policies, and the class interests they represent are comparable in any way to the Palins et al who talk about  getting politicians and anyone they don't like "in their crosshairs," using them for "target practice," hunting them down. 

Actually, this is the rhetoric associated everywhere with fascists – the Italian fascists who sang "we are the fascists, we kill the Communists," the storm troopers who sang "when Jewish blood flows from our bayonets, all will be good." 

Although President Obama and others have talked about "civil political discourse," civility, to paraphrase an old civil rights leader, Wyatt T. Walker, speaking about Southern police under segregation, exists only in a moral climate and segegration was not a moral climate. One might say that democracy as it is understood in most of the world, with politicians held accountable for their words and deeds, and serious debate encouraged across the political spectrum, is that kind of moral climate But that is not what we are used to in the U.S.  The kind of rhetoric which has long filled radio and television from the right is what one normally finds in a dictatorship, a junta state etc, where journalists of the regime act often like attack dogs with the blessing of the state authorities.

In that regard, there is a particularly ugly development taking place right now. It concerns a woman I know and have known, although not well, for a great many years, Frances Fox Piven, and a ranting raving reactionary whom most of my students laugh at Glenn Beck. Piven and her late husband, Richard Cloward, distinguished sociologists, played a central role in the development of the welfare rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly to the establishment of the National Welfare Rights Organization. 

 Their studies of poor peoples movements and the tactics and strategies to advance welfare rights were always controversial(I for example was critical of them for advocating mass demonstrations to achieve very modest reforms and ignoring alliances with the trade union movement) but Beck  has come to the conclusion that their calls for sit ins and other acts of non violent civil disobediance forty five years ago is a blueprint for the "socialist takeover" of the U.S.  with the aid of the Obama administration of course. 

Beck reaches a large audience of people who in a general sense already agree with him, although some, like many of my students, watch him from time to time they tell me, to laugh at him.  Frances Fox Piven, a wonderful woman who has spent a lifetime fighting  to educate and organize poor people, now faces threats of physical violence at the age of 78 from the sort of twisted damaged people ready to act out the kind of arguments that ordinarily might lead Beck to be declared psychologically unfit for militlary service.  And, Fox News, has responded to  the criticisms by saying that it will in no way interfere with Beck and that Beck of course opposes all forms of violence.

I wonder if I went on Fox News or national media of any kind and responded to Beck using the rhetorical slogan of the old German Communist Party(KPD) "Strike the Nazi Wherever You See Him"  by saying "Strike Beck and His "Tea Party" Reactionaries Wherever You See Them"  media would be so friendly.  But it is necessary for us to begin to hit back, with reason but firmness, to every attack of this kind, to launch the sort of demonstrations against Beck and Fox that Piven and Cloward advocated against welfare boards and connect that with consumer boycotts of Beck's and Fox's sponsors  as a serious response to this "political discourse."

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin's response to the rational and empirical deduction from the Arizona murders--that the vigilante rhetoric against undocumented workers, the Obama health legislation, the appeals to military , police, and paramilitary violence in Arizona intensified by the clearly unconstitutional immigration law recently passed there had something to do with the murders--constituted  a "blood libel" against  her and her political brethen is  also the kind of statement that one might expect in a dictatorship, where there is no history, no context except what those in power put forward, and  one can say anything and get away with it. 

Of course, Palin has been denounced for this, but she has not responded, not apologized to people of Jewish faith or background  or anyone with any understanding of history for whom "blood libel" means centuries old charge that Jews were kidnapping Christian children, draining their blood, and using the blood as part of religious rituals.

Although I would never use this analogy, Palin's comments that the Obama administration and the Democrats had secret "death panels" as part of their health care legislation(liberals and "socialists" preparing to kill senior citizens as part of their plan for "socialized medicine") has much more to do with any analogy to "blood libel" than Palin's absurd and obscene defense of herself and the Republican Right.

Beck, Palin, Fox  the "Tea Party".  Many of us either laugh at them or shrug our shoulders.  But as a historian I know that many especially urban Germans did that about Hitler and the Nazis through most of the 1920s, ignoring their ruling class financial backers  and the support that sections of the population convinced that the "real Germany" had been betrayed gave them. 

Franklin Roosevelt was famous in hitting back, often using sarcastic humor, against his enemies on the right, and also supporting legislation like the NLRA, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, the WPA for the unemployed, which won the support of working people who then stood up for his administration and its policies to the rightwing dominated mass media and power structure. Although President Obama has disapponted many by his failure to do so, he still has time to confound both the media and his critics on the left and center-left by doing so. The one thing that history shows that he can never successfully do is to  gain anything for himself and the American people by appeasing his enemies on the right.

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  • @Gary...Then you know for a fact that she didn't call fro violence. But I do agree that we have to be far more effective and convincing people about the need for change.

    Posted by Rose, 01/26/2011 4:51pm (12 years ago)

  • "...protesters need targets, preferably local and accessible ones capable of making some kind of response to angry demands." is as violent rhetoric as anything coming from the right.

    I've known of Piven for 15+ studies...I used to be of a more leftist ideology.

    What I grapple with today (2011) is the affectiveness Marxists have had in convincing Americans that the ideology has a place at the American dinner table. Although progressing as naturally as Marx suggested it would, the theories are inherently un-American.

    But, hey, ya won the White House! And the DNC.

    Posted by Gary, 01/26/2011 2:30pm (12 years ago)

  • Whenever we write commentary on specifics, some of our same camp will spend more effort criticizing the color of paint we used rather than providing constructive feedback on the picture itself. We've been lured into arguments for so long that we've buried ourselves up to necks, and we just keep digging the hole.

    My New Year's resolution is to be less cynical but more sarcastic. Using sarcasm and wit against dangerous nit-wits is like shooting a gun with a silencer on it. Same result, less noise.

    But we need to be aware that after civil discourse has lost its effectiveness, that non-violent mass action will likely be required. Luckily, Boomers are now beginning to retire. Maybe some of us old commie hippies can be talked into doing something with all our spare time, like organizing scoot-ins (filling the streets with electric scooters).

    Thanks for your blog.

    Posted by Craig, 01/26/2011 5:53am (12 years ago)

  • @Gary Not a single one of the comments you quote out of context in your post refers to violence. Anger is not equal to violence. I know Glenn Beck has convinced you to have it in for Piven, and you never even heard of her prior to Beck's new-found obsession with her, but your claims are simply ridiculous.

    Posted by Rose, 01/26/2011 3:22am (12 years ago)

  • Francis Fox Piven has recently called, very specifically, for violence in The Nation (Mobilizing the Jobless, Dec. 22, 2010).

    "...before people can mobilize for collective action, they have to develop a proud and angry identity and a set of claims that go with that identity. They have to go from being hurt and ashamed to being angry and indignant."

    "...the out-of-work have to stop blaming themselves for their hard times and turn their anger on the bosses, the bureaucrats or the politicians who are in fact responsible."

    "...protesters need targets, preferably local and accessible ones capable of making some kind of response to angry demands."

    Posted by Gary, 01/25/2011 5:23pm (12 years ago)

  • There is a tendency among our CPUSA's "leading theorists"to be silent on war,violence and repression in general,and on fascism in particular.
    Even to have this tendency is dangerous,and does not show a bent to protect the working class and the oppressed in word or deed.
    Perhaps this has to do with,in part,that we have a president Obama,who is grappling with the problem of having a both imperialist and anti-imperialist constiuency.
    Leaving the holiday season of MLK,who was anti-imperialist,anti-war,against repression and violence,WHILE racists and fascists bombed and conflagerated churches and homes,billy clubbed skulls open,outlawed peace,Christianity,and integration,called on the National Guard to defend the Nazis and KKKs against school children,firehosed and shot citizens with high powered rifles and declared openly that racism,violence and segregation shall rule forever,in the United States of America.
    Now,comes Norman Markowitz with a badly needed comparative Marx/Engels -Leninist political analysis of fascism,so we can fashion the sharp weapons of unity and peace in the United States of America,and the theoretical "leaders"of the CPUSA are indirect in supporting this,or totally silent,or even worse,suggesting that to be anti-fascist is to oppose the Obama administration.
    Nothing could be further from the truth. The big,big,big lie of imperialism and capitalism is that communism and socialism are fascisms.
    It is no secret that the same imperialists which dispatched the napalm bomb distruction in Vietnam put African-American troops on the front lines there,keeping them in the back of the educational,social and political line when it came to any kind of progress.
    More,the same imperialists who dropped atomic bombs on Japanese cities,getting back to WWII,had racist policies towards Africans,Asians,Jews and Gentiles.
    Imperialism has been the center for both racism and fascism for a long time. The 30 million deaths of those who died because of the irreconcilable conflict between socialism and fascism,have written this into history,with blood,refuting imperialist lies forever.
    Stalinist atrocities against peoples were factual,but they could never mute the peace policies of Lenin or the international peace of Dimitrov's Communist International and the United Front against fascism to which we all owe much of human peace,in our day,in 2011.
    We communists who should know how our German communist,filled Nazi death camps,100,000 of us,some of the first victims of fascism there,precisely because we were the first resisters and fighters of this abomination to humanity,fascism-we must never forget.
    We must help organize and counter all capitulations to fascism,unfortunately they are part of our history,the legacies of which we see today in this so called Tea Party movement.

    Posted by E.E.W.Clay, 01/24/2011 2:11pm (12 years ago)

  • Palin's attempt to make herself out to be a victim is a standard right-wing trick, a la Nixon, and its pathetic and offensive. Her attempt with her recent rants seems to paint herself as a victim of "Jews who control the media," which seems to be a new low, though Pat Buchanan has managed to stay in the media spotlight despite his use of such anti-Semitic claims and rhetoric.

    Posted by Hank, 01/24/2011 9:11am (12 years ago)

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