Saturday, November 17, 2007

Class War

During the November 15 Las Vegas debate, John Edwards, the so-called “populist,” was charged with invoking the specter of “class war.” If only it were so! The “criticism” is risible enough not to warrant further comment except to note how familiar this refrain has become in our political culture. The assumption is that it is normal for state policies to operate first and foremost with the interests of capital in mind; so normal that it goes unnoticed. What is abnormal – and downright unseemly – is to care about the victims of the system those policies reinforce. There is, of course, “compassion.” But within the Clintonized Democratic Party, where the “pain” of the victims is felt, compassion is almost as otiose as it has been for our compassionate conservative in-chief. Of course, both parties will address the problems of the millions at the bottom of our increasingly unequal society if they must; when placation is in order. Fortunately, for them, that is seldom the case, especially in recent years. This is not because the condition of people not at the top has gotten better. It has gotten worse. It’s because our political culture has dumbed down. For that, our economic elites can thank the liberal media – for example, the sponsor of the last debate, CNN. Evidently, outside the Republican base, mind numbing CNN banter works better for fostering acquiescence than Fox style propaganda. Not long ago, things were different. The need to placate was everywhere. It was that need that made the New Deal and later the Great Society necessary and possible. Our rulers have every reason, this holiday season, to give thanks that this is no longer so. After all, placation can have contradictory – even anti-systemic – consequences. Thus the New Deal and Great Society did more than just save capitalism from itself. These brief moments, when an affirmative government actually did worthwhile things, helped move society forward – to an extent that not even dedicated Republicrats (Reaganites, Bush familiars, and Clintonites alike,) can entirely reverse – no matter how much media help they get.

That a class war directed against capitalism’s victims is too normal even to notice, while any hint of resistance from the other side elicits dismissive ridicule or self-righteous consternation is especially evident in the spate of media reports in the past few days in both the financial press and the ‘liberal media” attacking that dastardly Hugo Chavez for using so much of Venezuela’s oil revenues to finance worthwhile social programs for Venezuelans – instead of investing in new refinery capacities to feed America’s oil consumption. Why it is even more outrageous than those lingering old European concerns with income security, leisure time, and social services! How dare anyone think that resources should be used to serve the people, not just to benefit “the investor classes!”

Compared to Chavez, Edwards is a corporate sycophant. But on the off chance that he were to become the Democrats’ candidate, expect the fury now unleashed against Chavez to focus on him. [This would happen ten-fold over were Dennis Kucinich to become the candidate; but of course, in our barely democratic political system, where money is the great legitimator, that’s almost infinitely improbable.] Given how pitiful the Republican field is, an Edwards candidacy would pose a real dilemma for the beneficiaries of the system in place. Will they go with another incompetent fool (who might even someday make the Bush boy look good) or will they be the ones who acquiesce for once by backing someone who might, ever so slightly, buck the Republicrat consensus. Their plight would be wonderful to behold. But I doubt we’ll have the chance because, if the polls are right, Democratic voters are not yet ready to dispatch Clintonism. In other words, too few of them are currently disposed to stop waging class war on the wrong side.

If it comes to this, we “populists” can still, in small and “privatized” ways, express resistance. Here’s one suggestion: if you are going to drive and if it is possible where you live, fill your tank with Citgo gas. That will increase Venezuela’s dividend – infinitesimally, to be sure. But it will feel great. Think of it as a way to flip the bird to both Cheney and Bush, on the one hand, and to the lesser evil party, on the other; and also to defy The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN and all the other movers and shapers of our morbidly acquiescent political culture.

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