Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Another Marxist for Kerry



Life is full of bitter ironies! Behold the spectacle of Joel Kovel, who loudly proclaims his credentials as a Marxist socialist, who ran against Ralph Nader for the Green nomination from the left in 2000, claiming that Nader failed to enunciate a sufficiently radical critique of the capitalist system–this same Kovel is out of the closet as a cheerleader for the prowar, pro-Patriot Act, pro-WTO and NAFTA John Kerry–loyal servant of . . . capitalism!!!! How odd that there is not one word from Kovel about Kerry’s failure even to propose incremental progressive reforms of capitalism–much less a comprehensive critique of it–in Kovel’s festival of political double standards, the ardent anticorporate crusader Nader is found insufficiently radical, yet the craven DLC corporate apologist Kerry merits not even a mild syllable of rebuke!

So now Nader’s insufficient radicality of 2000 becomes transmogrified, in Kovel’s infinitely elastic mind, into Nader’s excessive radicality in 2004! This from the same Kovel who, after his presidential aspirations were rebuffed by the Greens in 2000, disappeared to write a book and thus abstained from the Nader campaign, which was responsible for an explosive growth in the Green Party. And this is the man who professes an ardent concern for the growth and welfare of the Green Party? We are truly through the looking glass now.

Behold further the “substance,” such as it is, of the critique that underlies Kovel’s strenuous exercise in posturing and sneering at the “Naderites”: that there is some profound difference between the Democrats and Republicans. Throttling the purple prose into overdrive, Kovel breathlessly intones,

The problem is, however, that a very big difference between Democrats and Republicans has evolved over the past generation or so. It has taken root in the Bush administration, who have every intention of making it a permanent feature of the political landscape. Look at Bush, at Rove, and at Ashcroft, and you can see the newly malignant face of big business linked with a massive social base of Christian fundamentalism. Its inner logic points to the demolition of the Constitution and the replacement of the Republic–however compromised this may be_by a theocratic brand of fascism, in which the space for political change will shrink drastically, and the lives of those who do not fit–women, homosexuals, Muslims, anyone in the crosshairs of the police apparatus_will be greatly worsened. Nobody in their right mind can say that the wretched Democrats promise the same.

Note the lack of a SINGLE SPECIFIC POLICY, the utter void of empirical data, by which one might actually get a grip on this gooey gob of fear-mongering. Could this unspecified threat to the Constitution be the Patriot Act–the act so vociferously supported by most mainstream Democrats, including John Kerry, but opposed by Nader? Could the threat to the rights of homosexuals take the form of a ban on gay marriage, shared by both Bush and Kerry but opposed by Nader? Perhaps the threat to the rights of women was signaled by Kerry’s announcement that he is open to appointing antiabortion judges to the federal bench? Could the “fascist” threat to democracy be prefigured in the systematic assault on the rights of third parties, pursued most vigorously not by the Republicans but by the Democrats, who endlessly rant about leftist “spoilers” of their duopoly rights to office and who openly avow their intention to challenge every one of Nader’s petition signatures throughout the country? Or perhaps Kovel is referring to Clinton’s 1996 Anti-Terrorism bill, which prefigured many of the most noxious features of the Patriot Act, especially in its assault on the constitutional right of habeas corpus? Or perhaps Kovel is speaking of WTO and NAFTA, so ardently pushed by Clinton/Gore/Kerry, which threaten to dismantle the very EXISTENCE of civil society throughout the planet by giving private corporations standing to challenge the labor and environmental laws of sovereign nations in private courts whose proceedings are closed to public scrutiny? Now that REALLY IS FASCISM–corporate displacement of the public sphere of civil society–yet Kovel’s newly beloved Democrats have pushed this authentically fascist threat just as hard as the Republicans.

Is it any of these SPEFICIC POLICIES, supported with equal tenacity by Democrats and Republicans alike, that Kovel might be speaking about in his overheated warnings that the sky is falling? Could it be these policies that are propelling Kovel so swiftly into the arms of the Democrats, who endorse all of them? Yet depending on the Democrats to defend us against policies in which they are 100 percent complicit is so transparently absurd and self-contradictory, that “no one in his right mind,” as Kovel none too delicately phrases it, could possibly seriously argue in favor of it. All of which leads us to believe that Kovel is either (a) not serious or (b) not in his right mind. Given the fact that Kovel is a psychoanalyst who is professionally responsible for the rightness of mind of his patients, I would much prefer to believe the former–that Kovel is having a good joke on us. Yes, Kovel is having a good laugh at our expense–contending that we should have preferred Kovel to Nader in 2000 because Ralph’s criticisms of capitalism were not radical enough, and now urging us to bypass Nader again because Ralph’s criticisms are . . . too radical! Good one, Dr. Kovel!

And what about all the “fascist” bogeymen Kovel parades before us to scare us witless into supporting the corporate hack John Kerry? Bush, Rove, Ashcroft, Cheney, et. al. The simple fact is that the Democrats–the very same Democrats that Kovel now upholds as our last best line of defense against the fascist onslaught–have had enough votes to filibuster and thus block EVERY ONE OF BUSH’S CABINET APPOINTMENTS, INCLUDING ASHCROFT, AND EVERY ONE OF BUSH’S NOXIOUS POLICY INITIATIVES, INCLUDING THE WAR, THE PATRIOT ACT, THE TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH, NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, ETC., ETC. Yet these bold “anti-fascist” Democrats somehow managed to roll over and play dead. Yet these are the very people in whom Kovel wants us to invest our hopes for warding off reaction–the Democrats who have PAVED THE WAY for reaction at every turn. This reminds us of the way in which the liberals and social democrats of Germany were equally docile in the advances of Hitler’s fascist initiatives. The lesson of history is clear–it not by laying down our arms of criticism and trusting the agents of the status quo that we can ward off threats to democracy. It iis only through the indefatigable building of a strong, independent people’s movement that we can defend and extend democracy in the United States and the world. And now that means vigorously supporting and building the campaign of Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo–NOT by playing dead before the Democrats so that they in turn can continue to play dead before the worst depradations of the bipartisan imperial/corporate agenda of the Bush administration and then, if elected, put a reassuing Clintonesque smiley face on the very same policies.

So Joel–you’re kidding, right?

BILL KAUFMAN can be reached at:

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 27, 2016
Paul Street
An Identity-Politicized Election and World Series Lakefront Liberals Can Love
Matthew Stevenson
Sex and the Presidential City
Jim Kavanagh
Tom Hayden’s Haunting
CJ Hopkins
The Pathologization of Dissent
Mike Merryman-Lotze
The Inherent Violence of Israel’s Gaza Blockade
Robert Fisk
Is Yemen Too Much for the World to Take?
Shamus Cooke
Stopping Hillary’s Coming War on Syria
Jan Oberg
Security Politics and the Closing of the Open Society
Ramzy Baroud
The War on UNESCO: Al-Aqsa Mosque is Palestinian and East Jerusalem is Illegally Occupied
Colin Todhunter
Lower Yields and Agropoisons: What is the Point of GM Mustard in India?
Norman Pollack
The Election: Does It Matter Who Wins?
Nyla Ali Khan
The Political and Cultural Richness of Kashmiriyat
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“It’s Only a Car!”
October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases