Posts Tagged ‘Right and left’

The return of right-wing populism

February 10, 2016

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many people in Europe and North America turned to populist radical and left-wing parties, while many others turned to populist nationalist and racist parties.

The first group blamed their troubles on the wealthy elite and a failed capitalist system.  The second group blamed their troubles on foreigners, minorities and a failed democratic system.

There were exceptions and overlaps, but I think these broad distinctions apply.  Nationalism and racism are a way of diverting public discontent away from bankers and landlords.

We have the same two kinds of populism today.  In Europe, we see Jeremy Corbyn in Great Britain, Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, and, on the other hand, the United Kingdom Independence Party, the National Front in France and Viktor Orban in Hungary.


David Graeber on political polarization

October 16, 2013


In the current government shutdown and bond default crisis, the extreme left-wing position, the one that House Speaker John Boehner says would amount to “unconditional surrender,” would be to allow the government to function normally and pay its bills under the “sequester” budget.  This is the austerity budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, which at the time a surrender to the priorities of the Republican right wing.

Candidate Barack Obama, writing in The Audacity of Hope, criticized liberal Democrats for failing to give Ronald Reagan credit for his good ideas.  I should have paid more attention.  What the Tea Party Republicans do is to give President Obama cover for protecting Wall Street and the military-intelligence complex.

I intend to post a review of David Graeber’s The Democracy Project sometime soon, but in the meantime, here is a good quote on what the word “conservative” has come to mean.

DGCNowadays in the United States at least, “conservative” has mainly come to be used for “right-wing radical,” while its long-standing literal meaning was “someone whose main political imperative is to conserve existing institutions, to protect the status quo.”

This is precisely what Obama has turned out to be.  Almost all his greatest political efforts have been aimed at preserving some institutional structure under threat: the banking system, the auto industry, even the health insurance industry.

Not to mention the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon and their contractors.

In America today, “right” and “left” are ordinarily used to refer to Republicans and Democrats, two parties that basically represent different factions within the 1 percent—or perhaps, if one were to be extremely generous, the top 2 or 3 percent of the U.S. population [in income].

Wall Street, which owns both, seems equally divided between the two.  Republicans, otherwise, represent the bulk of the remaining CEOs, particularly in the military and extractive industries (energy, mining, timber), and just about all the middle-rank businessmen; Democrats represent the upper echelons of what author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich once called “the professional-managerial class,” as well as pretty much everybody in academia and the entertainment industry.

Certainly this is where each party’s money is coming from—and, increasingly, raising and spending money is all these parties really do.

My Obamaphile friends rightly point out the delusions of the Tea Party Republicans, but they themselves are committed to the illusion that President Obama is a progressive who is on the side of the common people.

The left, the right, libertarians and Ron Paul

January 9, 2012

As I look at this Venn diagram published by Mother Jones magazine, I see myself in the middle of the Left circle, but I don’t see many national political figures on the circle along with me.

I’d put Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and the Democratic congressional leadership in the Right circle than the Left.  President Obama claims the right to commit acts of war without authorization of Congress, and has acted on that claim.  He claims the right to imprison people without trial, to sign and execute death warrants without due process and may well be authorizing torture on as wide a scale at President Bush’s administration.  He supports NAFA-style treaties with Colombia and South Korea.  His administration is deporting unauthorized immigrants in larger numbers than the Bush administration.  He does not support reproductive rights.  He does support repeal of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, but as part of a package of economic austerity and cutbacks in the social safety net to taxation of the middle class.

President Obama and the Democratic leadership did enact the Affordable Care Act, which may turn out to be a net positive, and repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which I agree with, but not at the price of endless war and suspension of basic Constitutional rights.

All this makes me more open-minded about the Libertarians and Ron Paul than I otherwise would be.   Even though I can’t agree with them on important  matters of policy, they at least support the core values of American freedom and democracy.  I admired the way Al Gore and Howard Dean spoke up against abuses of power during the Bush administration, but they have nothing to say about the equal or worse abuses of power going on now.

The great merit of the Libertarians, and of Ron Paul, is that they have principles that are not held hostage by any political party or powerful vested interest.

Click on The Venn of Ron Paul and Other Mysteries of Libertarianism Explained for the source of this diagram and background on Libertarianism in Mother Jones.

Is the country shifting to the right? or left?

September 20, 2010

Chris Powers writes on the Daily Kos web log that the United States is moving to the left, not to the right as so many people assume.

As evidence, he points to growing tolerance of interracial marriage, growing tolerance of same-sex marriage, the narrowing of the male-female wage gap, growing tolerance of marijuana legalization and increased spending on social programs as a percentage of gross domestic product.

What’s noteworthy about all these is that none of them except maybe the last affects the profitability of corporations or the income of millionaires and billionaires.  And social spending is something that goes up when times are bad.

So is the country shifting to the right, or to the left?  It depends on what you mean by left and right.  If by left you mean more permissive social attitudes, we have moved radically to the left.  If you mean governing in the interests of working people, we have moved in the opposite direction.