In the coming days, we’ll explore this idea – the growing view that while we’re divided by culture the actual ideological battles aren’t between right vs left but they are revolve more around personalities and the idea of community goals v individual ones. Or maybe it’s a battle between interconnected Communalism v classic Libertarianism?
Before we jump into this topic, would love to get reader and general feedback on this thinking.
Yes, we are in a post-ideological era. The elephant in the “room” you’ve constructed is power. The GOP, up-and-down its ranks and rhetoric, is all about the seizure of power and its maintenance. Its ideology was always thin and often contradictory. In an age of disinformation coupled with the irrelevance of factuality or genuineness or compassion or civility, ideology has become irrelevant.
While power is the stuff of politics, democracy is the preferred political system which is all about the balance and check on power by separate interests to circumvent authoritarian impulses. It is democracy that is in question now wherein one political party has made it clear that authoritarian actions are warranted, justified, and acceptable while the other political party acts in a manner more in line with democratic principles. In other words, one party – the latter – is more willing to share purposeful governance with another party of purposeful governance, however, the other party – the former – is not interested in purposeful governance, but in the sheer wielding of power over others.
Frame your concerns about the exercise of power in a democracy and you will find that the magnitude of the discussion is about democracy versus authoritarianism, or simply fascism.
Left vs. Right or Community vs. Individualism
Some thoughts on the change in our political orientations in the United States over time.
I am old, 79, a long time socialist of the old school. I believe that capitalism has anti-democratic and anti-worker characteristics that are integral to its existence and operation. This reinforces my belief in the critical need to use a class analysis in our consideration of the social/political/economic system. This was not unusual prior to the second world war. Prior to the first world war there had been violent repression of strikes leading to the growth of unions, socialism and violent reactions by anarchists. The government reacted with a concentrated program of propaganda, repression and deportations to crush the rise of socialism. It was successful. One result was we lost the most committed labor activists. The second post war scare was best represented by McCarthyism which used federal legislative committees and the complicity of the press to repress socialists and drive them out of government many jobs in the private sector. Since then, the left has been defined as anyone who takes positions contrary to those held by “moderates”, conservatives, reactionaries and the radical right. Leftists didn’t create this definition, it was created by created largely by the press, political conservatives and conservative liberals.
I was taught to not go far in taking a position without defining terms. The LEFT was originally a designation based on the seating arrangement in the pre-revolutionary French Parliament. The aristocracy and clergy sat on the right and the common people on the left. It was clearly and unambiguously a class designation. After the French Revolution and the 1848 European revolutions its color was red for the blood sacrificed in the name of the common people. In 2000 the New York Times decided that red would henceforward symbolize reactionism. None of those leftists in the US could be found to protest. Symbols are important. Why no complaints? Why was it done? This is exclusive to the United States.
In the 1960s the conservative movement continued the red scare tactics and created a well-organized and funded movement to take over state governments by which they created the tools to take over the federal government without the need for majority support. On the other side, with the postmodern tendency to make definitions meaningless and the ascendency of youth as the holders of wisdom, things took another turn. The SDS Port Huron Statement, ironically done at a UAW retreat, disdained exploitation as an issue and fetishized oppression. This made a tremendous difference in the perspective of the liberal/progressive side of US politics and gave rise to the later ascendence of identity politics here and in Europe. Identity politics is the extension of liberal individualism to include people like me. Identity politics, by nature, has never been a unified movement with shared interests and goals. However, one common thing has occurred. Throughout the western world the old social democratic parties, even those calling themselves socialist, have traded their old worker constituencies for a diverse, identarian, college educated constituency. Labor movements have declined measurably, economic inequality has increased enormously and no countervailing power has been contemplated to compete with the power of wealth.
The weakening of political parties, candidate individualism and tribalism have been characteristics of both sides of our politics, just different in expression. The conservatives had been much more effective in organizing disparate forces to promote their interests and divert attention from the reality of the plutocratic rule.
There is no left in US politics. There is a professional managerial identarian movement characterized by conservative liberal political positions opposed to the positions of the demagoguery of the Republicans, churches and the anti-liberal rich. The working class and the poor are disastrously used by both as tools to achieve their primary purpose, winning at politics.
What does community mean today? Does place have a place in the concept of community? Are poor people a community or must the poor be disaggregated into identity types, poor blacks, poor whites, etc. for communities to be formed.
Who are included in the working class? The classic socialist designation had to do with power, what class power included and who had it. Two thirds of US citizens don’t have a college degree. If we figure out who makes it up, is it a community? Why does that matter?
The concept of community in the liberal perspective has been more poetic than an effective concept of analysis. How do you see it differently?
I am not sure I agree that the concepts of left or right are dead. At least I do not think they should be. The power of money and the unbalance of power and money in this society may require something similar if real change is possible. I will be interested to see what you come up with.
I see this struggle as more basic, simply between truth versus falsehood. When the fascists declare with alternative ‘facts’ that the vaccines contain graphene oxide that causes magnetism, or that Ivermectin de-worner for cattle can cure covid, or perhaps bleach injections or UV lights beamed internally can cure covid, I don’t see how this can be described as capital versus labor, or idividualism versus communalism.
GOP concepts create chaos and ruin. Their foundations are built upon lies, myths, fables and propaganda. If Dems eat fetuses, then why do redneck trumpers love baby back ribs? 🤔
One more thing to assist in thinking about left vs right, or community vs. individualism: