It’s election time again. Here’s what Karl Marx thinks: “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them”. Lenin echoes thus: “To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament – this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism.” But while the we’re waiting for our own generation’s Lenin to write the next “What is to Be Done” as though he were Godot himself, perhaps the left could manage to squeeze out one of its increasingly rare moments of intellectual honesty.
Nothing is as sad, come election season, as watching good, principled lefties line up behind a liberal, the former trying to pass as the latter, despite the worlds of difference between them. “Liberals,” says Stan Geoff, a former U.S. Special Forces Sergeant, are “conservatives who want to be forgiven.” The late folk singer Phil Ochs was equally suspicious of these “shady” folks who are “ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.” Quite what constitutes the left beyond the liberal is, of course, contentious but here’s an observation that has served me well: “the left” seems to appear in those strange moments when petty bourgeois progressives and radical anti-capitalists aren’t at each others’ throats.
Yet, sure as the moon follows the setting of the sun, every four years the majority of this “left” faithfully straps on the blinders to line up behind the liberals and vote out the “greater” of two evils. What’s made this election cycle particularly depressing—in the clinical sense of the word—has been the contagion of amnesia on the left beyond its usual liberal victims. This is most obviously and painfully played out when the left waxes wistful about that which might have been: a Gore presidency.
Has the left been body-snatched by the pod people from planet Democrat?
Throughout Bush’s reign, but especially now as the next certain election debacle unfolds, we hear the liberal lament on the lips of our friends on the left: If only Gore were president today, the Bushite police state we live now enjoy would still be but a distant nightmare. If only Gore were president today, we would not be in this mess in Iraq. If only, indeed. We need not look far, however, to see just how specious this logic is. The only real question is what level of mental gymnastics and intellectual dishonesty is required to achieve this outlook.
How quickly our comrades forget. Prior to the 2000 election, Gore argued essentially the same point about Iraq that Kerry now argues: an invasion was right in principle, but the Dems can do it better. That, in fact, seemed to be the quintessential theme of the Gore campaign and remains a staple of the Kerry campaign today: whatever Bush has done, a liberal could do better—in spades.
It is more than likely, for instance, that Gore would have adopted a Department of Homeland Security much sooner than Bush, as it already enjoyed a great deal of support among liberal circles of the ruling class when it was still just an embryo in the Hart-Rudman report of four years ago. The report concluded in order to mobilize mass public support for geopolitical ground wars abroad, a large amount of bloodshed on U.S. soil would be required in the form of a “terrorist” attack, and recommended the creation of—surprise—a National Homeland Security Agency. After 9/11, who fought vigorously for the realization of this crytpo-fascist dream? It wasn’t Bush, or even Rumsfeld. It was Gore’s very own Democratic Party.
And as for Iraq, can anyone really doubt that a Gore presidency would have brought us anything than, perhaps, a more “international” invading force? Were the Clinton/Gore years of genocidal sanctions and regular bombing raids as part of a “containment” policy really so benign as to rule out a major pre-emptive ground intervention, especially if Gore had been seated in the oval office on September 11? Leon Fuerth, Gore’s National Security Advisor, was a leading voice in support for the invasion of Iraq, and Robert Satloff, his advisor on Mid-East affairs, beat the war drums as well, saying that the new president has to “have a strong commitment to engagement” in Iraq. It also didn’t hurt that Gore was backed by Rockefeller oil companies.
In a speech on May 23rd of 2000, Gore stated “We have made it clear that it is our policy to see Saddam Hussein gone. We have sought coalitions of opponents to challenge his power from within or without.” He continued, “We have used force when necessary. And we will not let up in our efforts to free Iraq from Saddam’s rule. Should he think of challenging us, I would strongly advise against it. As a Senator, I voted for the use of force. As Vice President, I supported the use of force. And if entrusted with the Presidency, my resolve will never waver.” Do these sound like the words of a presidential candidate with a more refined and reserved policy towards Iraq?
Finally, the DLC, while chaired by former Gore running mate Joseph Lieberman, published a journal named “Blueprint.” In the Winter 2000 edition, Robert Satloff stated that the U.S. ruling class must ready itself to strike while the iron was hot, and attack Saddam. The DLC warned that we needed to overcome the “Vietnam Syndrome.”
But enough of what might have been. What, might we ask the Ghost of Elections Future, of that which is yet to come? Why, it seems, a candidate who will restore dignity to a humiliated nation. A candidate who is a “friend” to labor. A candidate who will recover our ruined economy. A candidate who will execute a more effective imperialism and a more effective “homeland security.” Does this really not sound the least bit familiar to the leftist intelligentsia, or has the amnesia already erased so much?
When is the left going to fess up to reality?
The election is not about which evil is “lesser,” but about a choice between whether we continue to endure the sustained bumbling protofascism of the past four years will have a chance to perfect itself, or whether a popular, social, and more deadly protofascism of a Kerry presidency will have the chance to emerge. It is sickening to watch the left behave as though it actually had something at stake in this race. The Democratic and Republican parties do not represent different class interests, merely the different interests of the same class.
When is the left going to fess up to this unavoidable reality? If history teaches us anything, it is that the answer is nearly always “too late.” I would wager that this is perhaps a greater danger in itself than another four years of the Bush dynasty.
The power of Marxism, at least as I’ve always understood it, is a product of the truth it speaks. The most important truth is that capitalism simply does not work. The left getting behind Kerry, even as the so-called lesser-of-two-evils, does not change this fact. If you’re a doctor treating someone who is suffering from cancer, no matter how terminal it may seem, you don’t just treat the symptoms, you try your damndest to kill the disease.
Realistically, the only question the remnants of this left need grapple with now is what happens if and when Kerry takes the election? The rest of the left has moved so far into the liberal camp this year that it is hard to tell if its amensia will resolve into a more permanent dementia. Even if they do manage to snap back the question still remains as to how it will ever take itself seriously again after having vacillated between anti-capitalism, progressivism, and liberalism, in perhaps the most ironic “flip-flop” yet. Will the real therapy ever begin?