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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

My commentary regarding yesterday's posts by Michael Hudson

by Ron Horn for this website. (Edited for clarity at 4:55 PM Seattle time.)

My dramatic reaction to these articles, but primarily the last post, was probably more of a personal nature. So I wasn't sure how much to share of my reaction with readers of this website. I will now attempt to share of a part of my personal reaction which might be relevant to a larger audience of people who are trying to make sense of the current times. 

My reaction stemmed from a sudden awareness that Hudson was a contemporary of mine. I had previously thought that, judging by appearances, that he was in his late 50s (age). But yesterday I realized that he was 79 and was nearly my age (approaching 81). This set me off in different directions parts of which I think is appropriate to share with my readers. I looked up his biography in Wikipedia, and found that Hudson's father was college educated and is described as a "Trotskyist" during the 1930s in Wikipedia. Then I thought about other scholars who had educated and sometimes radical parents such as Richard Wolff and Naomi Klein (red diaper granddaughter)

In my own university education I ran across professors who sometimes expressed radical ideas. My family was from a rather poor, essentially working/farming class background. I looked up to college professors as sort of godlike figures who were engaged in truth-seeking. I have learned otherwise over the years since then. Many of those in institutions of higher learning are compromised politically by having to conform to capitalist ideas which inform every institution of Western society. People who refuse to do so, are screened out as they succeed (or not) to pass over the ideological hurdles they meet somewhere along the way in their schooling or careers. 

I've often wondered why some academic people use the word "Marxian" instead of "Marxist" with reference to themselves and types of literature. I just learned that this is a way for them to separate themselves as academics purely in pursuit of a study of a subject rather than being an advocate of Marxist ideas. Hence such people are accepted on this basis in academic institutions of higher learning. 

The point I wish to emphasize is that in capitalist societies, pro-capitalist ideas reign supreme while other ideas are merely tolerated if not banished. Education particularly in the United States is comprehensively influenced by capitalist ideas and values that are consistent with the current US-led Empire's ruling class's interests. That means both historical facts and contemporary ideas and values are promoted because capitalism is a culture as well as a political-economic system. Thus people who wish to advance their material interests must subscribe to the tenets of this culture, and it helps if they practice capitalist lifestyles by belonging to the appropriate associations, engage in activities such as golf, are good consumers, etc. People who spend a lot of time getting an advanced education in institutions of higher learning are subject to even longer years of capitalist indoctrination.

So, you may ask, what has this to do with Michael Hudson and his views? I think that Hudson is a perfect example of someone who was strongly influenced by his left-wing roots to hold anti-capitalist ideas, but during the course of his education he correctly decided that to pursue radical ideas was not a good career move. Thus he, and many others like him, gradually conformed by compromising his radical heritage into acceptable ideas of social democracy. You will never find Hudson using any words like "deep state" because he assumes that the official institutions really govern what happens in the US and that the election system and political parties are authentic means of expressing "democracy". Although he is critical of financial institutions and the ways they are distorting industrial capitalism, he does not take issue with the fundamental ideas of capitalism. What informs his many writings is that capitalism can be reformed to eliminate the corrupting influence of financial institutions. 

Thus Hudson points to the FDR administration which accepted many restrictions of banks and supported social welfare measures. What he leaves out is that FDR's administration was confronted by many truly militant organizations that threatened the capitalist system from the political left while on the right he was pulled in a fascist direction much like all the Western capitalist countries were. FDR saved the "democratic" facade that had served the ruling class so well for centuries. Hudson asks:
Where are the New Deal pro-labor, pro-regulatory roots of bygone days?
And he ends the essay with this statement which ties to his political roots:
As Trotsky said, fascism is the result of the failure of the left to provide an alternative.
But Hudson's extolling of Bernie Sanders' politics and his identification of Michael Harrington as a "socialist" is a long way from his roots in his father's Trotskyist ideas of a revolutionary working class. I think his father is likely turning over in his grave.

What I do like about his essay is his opposition to identity politics over class politics. It's just that his class politics doesn't change the system at all, it would only soften it. I think Hudson does this to fool himself into believing that he uphold his father's radical views. You can't stop the logical dynamic of capitalist development into ever larger concentrations of profit and power, and even if you could, why work for such program? Capitalism has never served working people. It has only served the capitalist class and the 9% below the 1%, or the upper middle class which academics and other such radical poseurs are located. If one could suddenly eliminate this highly skilled, educated class stratum, capitalist rule would not last a week.

These are the people that true revolutionary activists need to be concerned about. They often take over activist movements and deflect them from truly revolutionary goals. Like I wrote in my commentary to the above linked-post regarding Eric London's article: 
This writer carves out an important strata in our capitalist structured society known as the upper middle class, a class consisting of about 9% of Americans who lie just below the 1% rich ruling class. These people are identified by sociologists as the upper middle class. London shows how this particular class plays such an important role for the ruling 1%. Malcolm X graphically described the role played by the middle class to a largely African-American audience with a metaphor drawn from an historical context of American slavery that is relevant here: the difference between a house Negro and a field Negro, or the difference between most workers and a special subset of workers who identify with the ruling capitalist class.

London zeros in on the critical role played by the upper middle class (business executives, academics, successful attorneys, professionals, trade union executives and trust fund beneficiaries) in supporting the ruling 1%, and specifically how they have used identity politics (aka "multiculturalism") to successfully divert attention and energies away from class-based political activism. Likewise this class have obscured their own role in perpetuating identity politics by pretending to be left oriented activists. His research shows that this upper-middle class loves and serves their capitalist masters so well and that they have been richly rewarded for their efforts--unlike those classes of workers below them. London concludes his analysis with this political lesson:

The working class comprises the vast majority of the world’s 7 billion inhabitants and produces all of the world’s wealth. It possesses immense potential power. But it can advance its own interests only if it is armed with an anticapitalist and socialist program based on the class struggle. In advancing the slogan for a party of the 99 percent, the pseudo-left is perpetrating a fraud aimed at preventing the development of such a struggle and preserving the capitalist system.