All that’s left melts into air: How the left became part of the right

This post has been incorporated into an even better one !

Who could have expected Revolutionary Marxist Professor Cornel West, a brilliant scholar who combined hip-hop with Marx and Sartre, to say of President ObamaHe has a certain rootlessness, a deracinationDERACINATION?!! Comrade Brother West went on to  lament - “He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want.”  According to West, all this explained why the feckless Obama had not picked someone like Paul Krugman as his economic adviser [no, this is not from a Mel Brooks script - as far as I know]. West then went on tour with Wells-Fargo pitchman Tavis Smiley to rally the masses. West’s Princeton colleague, the eminent liberal scholar Professor Sean Wilentz had exactly the opposite problem, accusing then Candidate Obama of, well, read it:

Before the South Carolina, “Potomac” and Mississippi primaries, Obama cheerfully lifted the “hoodwinked, bamboozled” rant from the Spike Lee film Malcolm X, in order to convey to black voters that, whatever he might say about a “post-racial” campaign, racial solidarity against white traducers was crucial to his effort.

Hide the white wimmin! And then we were informed by left-progressive Bob Scheer, writing in the hallowed pages of The Nation, no less, that Bircher Congressman Ron Paul, despite some regrettable “decades old” racist comments merited being treated

as a profound and principled contributor to a much-needed national debate on the limits of federal power

This is the same Ron Paul who proposed to give George W. Bush authority to charter privateers to roam the world after 9/11, the same one who told his gullible newsletter readers to prepare for race war (regrettably,  I suppose) and so on.  But Scheer is quick to contrast the principled Paul with that Obama feller. On the far left, Michael Hudson, who I guess would call himself a Trotskyite explained:

If capitalism worked 30 years ago with higher taxation, with strong labor power, with a good property tax, and with affordable houses, it can work again.

Thirty years ago from 2012 -  the glorious age of Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher. Capitalism was cool then, man, before it sold out.  Hudson goes on with a deep Marxist analysis of class structure as follows:

The banks have no power at all. The problem is the corruption of the politicians, who are just demagogues pretending to oppose the banks while actually being in their pocket.

And we are back to that Barack Obama again, just so busy doing bad things. He could have just shut down banks, even when George Bush was in office (Hudson is generally not too precise about chronology), but he was too corrupt to bring Capitalism back to the Edenic 1980s. This is pretty typical but I want to take a moment to note just how far away such an argument is from what was called “left wing” even 20 years ago. There used to be all this stuff about class, gender, power structures,imperialism and so on. A Marxist historian is yelling, “banks have no power”, another Marxist tells us the President is “deracinatated”, a Bircher is extolled as great and principled critic by a left-liberal!  Chris Hedges is ready to carry a sign  and walk about Union Square park -at least after his vacation in Maine.

Our political leaders, Democrat and Republican, are complicit in our demise. Our political system, like that in the declining days of ancient Rome, is one of legalized bribery. Politicians, including Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, serve the demented ends of corporations that will, until the final flicker of life, attempt to profit from our death spiral. Civil disobedience, including the recent decision by Greenpeace activists to chain themselves to a Gazprom supply vessel and obstruct a Russian oil rig, is the only meaningful form of resistance. Voting is useless. [Hedges]

And there is a message. Right wing billionaires invested a fortune in voter suppression because “voting is useless”. Of course. And then there’s Matt Stoller whose  now defunct site OpenLeft was simply packed with predictions before the 2008 election that Barack Obama was a stealth Reaganite and empty suit taking advantage of the naive hopes of American white progressives and the tribal loyalty of those ignorant blacks, and who now agrees with Scheer that only One Man Has Moral Authority:

This is why Ron Paul can critique the Federal Reserve and American empire, and why liberals have essentially no answer to his ideas, arguing instead over Paul having character defects.

"Character defects"? CHARACTER DEFECTS! Lord help me, this guy had a 30 year career as a Libertarian, race-baiting, gold-bug. That’s not a character defect. And read the comments at Naked Capitalism for more of Obama Era Leftism - something that is very similar in many ways to pre-Obama right wing mumbling.

The same odd right  wing leftism is expressed by our human rights activists - who pine for the good old pre-drone days of helicopter gunships and free fire zones, when white phosphorus, napalm and fragmentation bombs rained down from the sky, apparently, in accord with the laws of war and stuff. And this is not to even get to the oracular status of people like Bill Black, Matt Taibbi, and Glenn Greenwald in “progressive” America.

 What happened to the American left? Part of the answer has to be derived from looking at how leftists earn a living. Today’s left is primarily made up of academics, Non-Profit “thinkers”,  and media figures  all of whom earn their living by producing entertainment of a particular kind - generally outrage based entertainment. That is, “leftism” has been turned into a commercial process in which money and status are obtained by producing leftist material that is marketable product for the corporate media and institutional networks of foundations and universities. Barack Obama’s Presidency calls into question the roles of some of these outrage producers as representatives of the working class or the oppressed community. Part of the left’s anger is clearly racial: white men find themselves suddenly “robbed of the spotlight”[1]. But whatever the answer, the collapse of the left into peevishness  and outrage has acted to further restrict the range of debate. The question, - Barack Obama, socialist Kenyan or   cowardly disappointment, is not one that has any useful answers.

Those of us who want to understand the world or to change the world to promote social justice are not going to learn much from  this outbreak of incoherent petulance and angry privilege.


[1] “Is the fantasy of the Democrats’ renaissance just a matter of naivete, or is something deeper going on? I suspect it’s of a piece with the denial that culture is important—a defense against the terror of radicalism that must be warded off at all costs. For some, there is also nostalgia for a time when white liberal men like Tom Frank were heroes, before they were robbed of the spotlight by blacks, women and gays, forced to confront private conflicts as public issues, and ultimately pushed aside by the right.”  Ellen Willis