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Jeffrey St. Clair: The Silent Death of the American Left

(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

St. Clair gave an address which I just read in digest form in Counterpunch. In it he echoes one of the themes I’ve been riffing on for years, OWS, notwithstanding. Though he does not mention Occupy or Wisconsin or any of the rest of the happy face the left has been putting on activism for the past year or two they stand in as silent sentinels–they were the last gasps of a tired and finished movement.

Does the Left exist as an oppositional political, cultural or economic force? Is anyone intimidated or restrained by the Left? Is there a counterforce to the grinding machinery neoliberal capitalism and its political managers?

The answer is, of course, no such movement exists.

This is the politics of exhaustion. We have become a generation of leftovers. We have reached a moment of historical failure that would make even Nietzsche shudder.

St. Clair is a deeply insightful political thinker who is unafraid of the truth, despite the fact he had to work under the shadow of the petty-tyrant Alex Cockburn. His article is a tale of woe. He notes how the American public actually favors many progressive ideas yet the left gets no traction–he doesn’t say why–his article is just a cry of the heart.

Our politics has gone sociopathic and liberals in America have been pliant to every abuse, marinated in the toxic silt of Obama’s mordant rhetoric. They eagerly swallow every placebo policy Obama serves them, dutifully defending every incursion against fundamental rights. And each betrayal only serves to make his adoring retinue crave his smile; his occasional glance and nod all the more urgently. Still others on the dogmatic Left circle endlessly, like characters consigned to their eternal roles by Dante, in the ideological cul-de-sac of identity politics.

How did this happen? First of all we have to admit that it has happened and things like Occupy with its inarticulate howl of protest was the last gasp of the movement. Occupy got a thumbs down by the public despite the fact that most people were somewhat sympathetic to the 99% meme. Many people who identify as being on the right are anti-corporate and anti-Wall Street because they don’t believe the government ought to aid corporations either. Yet they did not connect with the left in this case. Nor, really did they connect with the left during the Wisconsin crisis–the voters in the progressive state of Wisconsin voted for the right. Why? Why? Wh

The answer I have is that the activist left appears to regular people as more cultural than political so they don’t take the political stances seriously because they don’t see a clear articulation of a vision and they don’t see that there are people with the stamina and courage to carry it out. I claim here that the left has lost its way because people don’t really understand, holistically, what they are fighting or, at this time, not fighting for.

Life has change dramatically since the 19th and 20th century yet leftist ideas haven’t changed much. We offer critiques of contemporary society and the economic oligarchs but we don’t have a clear vision of what we want that we can articulate to the people. If we say, for example, that we should have more government regulation of industry then people on the right and center will say–but the government is broken–why do we want them to do anything? People have lost faith in the federal government and yes, the right set out to undermine and sabotage the federal government and they have done the job. Where was the left? Supporting the Democratic Party as it moved steadily to the right starting with tax reform in the 80s, supporting “re-invention” of government in the 80s and 90s (which introduced the reign of contractors that has hopelessly corrupted the system), supporting anti-worker and pro-corporate legislation. The support of the left for Obama is nothing new–the left moved to the right along with the Democratic Party.

The problem started, to be fair, with the Warren Commission report in 1964. The volumes contains clear evidence that contradicts the official findings. The left refused to listen to Mark Lane or Jim Garrison branding them as nuts–I’m talking about nearly all the left including Chomsky et. al. They saw “conspiracy theory” as a distraction–as if the military coup leading to a major war was a distraction. Hundreds of researchers have worked tirelessly on the case to show, without a shadow of a doubt, that the conclusions of the Warren Commission were wrong–what actually happened is still a mystery but, after, the realease of new documents in the 90s things became clearer. Yet few progressive writers or activists have anything to say about the assassination or the assassinations that followed. The RFK one doesn’t even need much study to debunk the official story. Once you understand that the coroners report wasn’t even entered into evidence you have to throw the case out. Thomas Noguchi found that RFK was shot at point-blank range from the back, not the front and that acoustic evidence and eyewitness evidence shows that about fifteen shots were fired from a 9 shot pistol more rapidly than one pistol can fire.

And I will mention 9/11 in passing. Counterpunch itself savagely attacked those who believe the official story is wrong and we need a new investigation of those events–in fact there was never an investigation of those events. Alex Cockburn published a scathing attack that was one of the most juvenile and irrational attack I’ve seen from left, right or center. Why did the three buildings fall? Because the Mafia had adulturated all the cements, ALL the cement! At the same time the Progressive magazine and all the gauleiters of left, from Amy Goodman on up and down accepted the official story. Daily Kos banned anyone even mentioning 9/11 and doubt about the official story and banned people left and right for bringing up anything about it or the assassinations. For the activist left you had to accept the mainstream media narrative or be banned from their councils. Some real leftist like Michael Parenti did not succumb.

I believe that activist leftists, progressives, liberals by not doubting the media narrative (set by some virtual Central Committee) has lost its juice and its voice. Americans see, when they look at the left, pallid, scared, over-intellectual, NPR listening (how leftist can defend NPRs pro-neo-liberal reporting is beyond me), effete, and boring people who have nothing to say. Young people are looking for a direction and would leap to action if they had a coherent narrative. The left has no coherent narrative if it accepts official explanation for the most major historical events in the past half-century. The takeover of the federal government by forces yet to be named, but the pattern indicates that it is spearheaded by the CIA, has to be the main issue the left can use to leverage a real revolt against this regime.

Sadly, this won’t happen because, in fact, most of the left is complicit and involved in the class-structure and people don’t want to lose their jobs. Journalists don’t write what they write because they are reactionaries–most are on the left–but they write as they do because they will lose their jobs if they don’t–thus, as was reported to me by someone on the inside, so many mainstream journalists are on anti-depressants.

If the left is to resurrect it must do so by forming economic co-operatives, communes, unions, collectives or corporations in order to insure their survival. That to won’t happen because the left is now used to just writing and talking and making videos not organizing anything. Complaining and whining is what we do best—we can’t build a damn thing.

One looks in vain across this vast landscape of despair for even the dimmest flickers of real rebellion and popular mutiny, as if surveying a nation of somnambulists.

I see one movement that is rebelling–it is non the right not the left. Where that will go is anyone’s guess. I will say this–young people in the South are getting angry at their prospects and their increasing poverty–they are ripe for a voice from the left. But they are listening to Alex Jones not Amy Goodman.  

4 comments

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  1. banger

    …if this gets much notice here. It would be nice if we could discuss what has happened to us over the years and what we can do about it instead of just re-reporting the latest outrage.

    There was a sign of hope–Medea Benjamin was not silenced and Obama seemed to genuinely want to change something in foreign policy–but we’ve seen these false dawns before.  

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