We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Lies and Deceptions on the Left: The Politics of Self Destruction
I hesitate to be critical of Petras who has written extensively on political subjects that have shed much light on what is happening across the world. But in this piece unfortunately for the average reader Petras introduces a lot of confusion about the political choices that citizens in Greece, France, Brazil are facing. Mostly this has to do with the blurring of political parties under the post-WWII hegemony of the US Empire whose ruling class has done everything in its power to insure that choices people have are strictly within limits acceptable to capitalists. The "left" prior to this period meant anti-capitalist or advocates of public ownership of the economy.
This development was also aided by capitalist ruling class directors who had no compunctions about renaming parties to deceive people into thinking that they were pro-worker or even socialists advocating public ownership of the economy. (Keep in mind that even the right-wing fascists of German capitalists used the term "National Socialist German Workers' Party" as a label for their Nazi party.) Hence, the deliberate confusion spread about political terms used to describe parties and programs. Aside from naming parties "socialist" and making all kinds of promises that they never intended to keep, left bourgeois (capitalist) parties, with considerable support from the hegemonic US Empire, have been able to move the entire political spectrum from left to right by eliminating outright anti-capitalist parties.
Another source of confusion is the change in meaning of "liberal". In the classic sense derived from the early history of capitalism, the term was a synonym for capitalist. The generic meaning of "liberal" is freedom from restrictions, and naturally early capitalists strove to free themselves from restrictions on their economic activities by monarchical regimes. (This is precisely the reason that the term "neoliberalism" is used today to denote the supremacy of capitalist interests to override national boundaries--freedom from the restrictions posed by national governments.) Since then the term "liberal" has changed to a contemporary meaning to denote a much narrower sense: freedom from restrictions on the civil rights of citizens and the promotion of the welfare of citizens under capitalism. The only way one can distinguish the two meanings (classic and contemporary) is in the context which the term is used. I think that Petras in this piece adds to this confusion if one is not already aware of such capitalist deceptions and the changes of meaning of the term "liberal".
With this confusion cleared up, we now see that it is liberal (contemporary meaning) middle class people that constitute the "left" in these countries that he describes, and these people never were "left" in the traditional sense of being anti-capitalist advocating public ownership of the economy.