Reflections on a YouTube Video


It’s all delightfully Orwellian: rallying working people with anti-establishment rhetoric to serve the establishment.  96 percent of these people received tax cuts under Barack Obama yet they’re suddenly “politicized” enough to participate in anti-tax rallies.  Despite the natural inclination, I try to avoid contempt for the teabaggers-- right-wing populism does have its roots in real antagonisms.  As much as I like the Bill Mahers and Sean Penns of the world, it seems like liberal “multiculturalists’” and Hollywood psuedo-radicals’ wrath are reserved only for the “redneck idiots,” while capital is left unscathed.  When watching the video I noticed that just like Obama’s mantras of “hope” and “change,” Sarah Palin’s energy and folksy charm are blank canvases devoid of any genuine context.  Summoning my inner-Debord, I’m tempted to label this the spectacle’s psuedo-politics.  Of course, the hopes that the American people had for Obama were “progressive.”  They embodied their dreams for the future;  a fair share of the pie, a decent social safety net and the end of permanent war. On the other hand, Palin’s supporters, like all reactionaries, are motivated by fear. Fear of the Others. The barbarians outside the gates of Rome and those who would subvert her from within. This fear creates the desire for a leader to protect and defend. It is the timeless hysteria of reaction. It's not a stretch to label the Right’s baseless Red-baiting of Obama as racially charged and not unlike the anti-communism used against Black activists during the Civil Rights-era.  In their delusion, Obama’s “Un-American” skin tone has to be augmented by an “Un-American” radical agenda.  Yet, another of the Right’s narratives, liberals as corporatist technocrats… would-be Philosopher Kings trying to impose from above on the polity, isn’t an entirely false depiction of the liberal worldview, the depoliticizing corporatism they strive for and the lack of democratic accountability hardwired into the core of the Republic.

Internationally, we see not only murderous, but utterly inept, liberal imperialism facing off against a demagogic fundamentalism that seems to have, with the support of large segments of the international left, wrestled a monopoly over the word “resistance.”  It’s easy to recall Walter Benjamin’s famous quote, “Every rise of Fascism bears witness to a failed revolution,” as the situation in Afghanistan seems to confirm Benjamin's thesis on a daily basis.  In a bloody farce, a motley crew of narco-capitalists, warlords and NATO forces are trying to hold off Pashtun nationalists, some other warlords and a core of obscurantist, Islamist cadre.

On the other side of the world Hugo Chavez, “anti-imperialist” extraordinaire, one of the great hopes of the contemporary left, sings praises for Robert Mugabe, Iranian theocrats and the late Idi Amin.  Chavez also asserts that Venezuelan-born leftist-terrorist Carlos the Jackal has his full support and is a “revolutionary hero.”  (If the former PFLP-combatant Carlos the Jackal’s open embrace of the doctrine of Jihadism and Osama Bin-Laden while in prison doesn’t tell us something about the character of "anti-imperialism" and the psuedo-left, I don't know what does.)  Chavez’s comments came at a “International Meeting of Parties of the Left” where the leader sought to encourage the building of a new 5th International.  Marx and Engels played leading roles in the First.  Kautsky and Luxemburg in the Second.  Lenin in the Third.  And Trotsky in the Fourth.  Four internationals.  Four histories of defeat and regression for the workers’ movement.  But this time around I suppose we’ll have Chavez and George Galloway to usher in the international soviet.   Hyperbole aside, a united Socialist Party of Latin America would be a tremendous advance, but building it on the back of loose alliances between left-nationalist parties, some of whom are actively managing capitalist states, and their reactionary friends abroad, doesn’t sound like a winning gameplan if the agenda is truly anti-capitalist.

This bleak picture shows gaps that can be best filled by the revival of a Marxian Left.  The task is not only picking up the pieces and rebuilding (action), but also contesting a segment of the left’s aversion to theory and introspection.  Asserting the relevancy of critical theorists like; Marx, Lukacs, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky and Adorno and critically appraising, instead of waxing-nostalgically about, the bitter defeats of the 1930s and 1960s.  Meaningful politics and democracy will both remain effectively dead until an emancipatory Left can reconstitute itself, open up “space” to challenge capital and begin the long fight for hegemony.  And if we fail, we better buckle down for an ecological nightmare, some more imperial misadventures, reactionary backlashes, Michael Bay-esque cinema and that thousand-year bobo Reich David Brooks gets wet-dreams about.

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