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Two Johnstones and a Leftish Dilemma: Nationalism vs. Neoliberalism

Two pieces ran in CounterPunch recently attacking and ridiculing the popular political blogger Caitlin Johnstone, one of them by the Managing Editor, and other CounterPunch writers have been piling on with them in the several online debates about these attacks, debates in which I participated in some cases. Then on Thursday, a rebuttal was published in Counterpunch taking these attackers to task and defending Ms. Johnstone, and I found it very good. I had not seen the original attacks – I don’t read CP every single day, and when I do, three or four articles is usually about as far as I get, since about 8 or 9 hours on the internet per day is already too much and I’m trying to cut down.

I praised Ms. J on this page in my recent piece “Hope Is Our Enemy: Fighting Boiling Frog Syndrome” for making me feel optimistic about our progress in discrediting the neoliberal corporate media. Optimism is always welcome at my house these days, being a scarce commodity in my political consciousness. And I felt that her series about Rachel Maddow was the best and most entertaining (I need that!) on the Russiagate psychosis I had seen. After CP published my piece, I was picked up on social media by quite a number of her many readers, and some of them are now following my own articles and my many political posts. Some of them were very upset about the pieces here attacking her, and wanted me to know it. I see no point in rating the political consciousness levels of our readers, who are very diverse, as I never fail to notice (to put it politely) from comments in the Facebook group “Counterpunch Friends and Supporters”. I assume we are glad to have them all, and want – in particular – to keep newer ones who might not be as “ideologically pure” as we old veterans of the 1960s (and even earlier…). But perhaps I assume too much.

One of the main points in one of those attack pieces involved Ms Johnstone’s advocacy of working on some issues with right-wingers who were identified as racists. I am torn on that issue myself. I hate racism and xenophobia with a purple passion, being an American refugee in Europe and feeling as I do that NATO wars are one of the main causes of the refugee crisis taking a huge toll on European Union solidarity. But I also despise neoliberalism and bankster-driven austerity economics, and the idea that neoliberalism and globalism are supposed to be our bulwark against fascism and racism. And it is that dilemma, and its relationship to the issue of making common cause with nationalists, which reminded me of the recent pieces on the French presidential election by Diana Johnstone (no relation as far as I know), who is held in quite high regard at Counterpunch, or at least that is my impression.

Diana Johnstone very rightly heaped scorn on Macron, and pointed out accurately that Marine Le Pen’s Front National and the Left party “La France insoumise” of Jean-Luc Mélenchon had a great deal of common political ground, far more than either party had with Macron, a classic neoliberal bankster. Diana Johnstone came very close to saying that LePen was a better choice for the Left than Macron, although it was not quite that explicit. But in any case, she downplayed the significance — in the big picture — of racism, which made me a bit uncomfortable, as much as I have always admired her highly astute political analysis. Nonetheless I had found my instincts being pulled in that direction for weeks, as I heard the incessant barrage of mainstream media attacks on Le Pen here in Germany, where Macron was portrayed as Europe’s only hope against racist fascism and “extremist populism”.

In the UK election, I was thrilled to see Corbyn’s good showing after watching him smeared for two years, often by the Blair faction of his own Labour Party because he is not a big EU fan, for the very same reasons that Diana Johnstone is not. I saw an awful lot of excitement about Corbyn’s achievement in CounterPunch too. I have read many, many pieces since the Brexit vote from writers on the Left tearing apart the idea that all of the “Leave” Brexit voters are racists. Ditto with Trump’s election.

This is one of the central dilemmas for the Left in our present time. I am very conflicted about it myself. I despise nationalism as much as I despise neoliberalism. But if anyone at CP has ever attacked Diana Johnstone for her position on the French election, or piled on those writers on the Left who believe that nationalism is where the anti-neoliberal action is at the moment, then I must have missed it. Which is entirely possible. Please send me the links. And thanks to CP for publishing rebuttals, even of its editors’ views.

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