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Good Night Sweet Left

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair

“I speak only one language, and it is not my own.”

—Jacques Derrida

“The stereotype of the public intellectual, from Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek International to Christopher Hitchens, the freelance British gadfly, would offer statements describing US policy, coming out promptly in response to every crisis. This is undoubtedly worthy, often requiring personal courage, but it is not a response. It enhances the charisma of the intellectual and produces in the reader a feeling of being in the thick of things.”

—Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

“The representation of private interests … abolishes all natural and spiritual distinctions by enthroning in their stead the immoral, irrational and soulless abstraction of a particular material object and a particular consciousness which is slavishly subordinated to this object.”

— Karl Marx

“In recent years I have concluded that there is a strong penchant among some sectors on the left to desire glorification of leaders and strongmen (and they’re almost always men) who espouse a favored political position in opposition to the U.S.”

—Sonali Kolhatkar

“You want to tell people that their concern and their desire for clean air and clean water is elitist? Tell that to the kids in the South Bronx, which are suffering from the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Tell that to the families in Flint, whose kids have—their blood is ascending in lead levels. Their brains are damaged for the rest of their lives. Call them elitist.”

—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

“You ever notice they always call the other side ‘the elite.’ The elite! Why are they elite? I have a much better apartment than they do. I’m smarter than they are. I’m richer than they are. I became president and they didn’t.”

—Donald Trump

“Woman is the opposite, the ‘other’ of man: she is non-man, defective man, assigned a chiefly negative value in relation to the male first principle. But equally man is what he is only by virtue of ceaselessly shutting out this other or opposite, defining himself in antithesis to it, and his whole identity is therefore caught up and put at risk in the very gesture by which he seeks to assert his unique, autonomous existence.”

—Terry Eagleton

“It seems to me that the binary opposition that is so much embedded in Western thought and language makes it nearly impossible to project a complex response.”

—bell hooks

All of those on the left agree that the Russiagate story was a distraction at best. What remains deeply troubling though is that the entire (anti) establishment continues to position Russiagate itself as the boogeyman in the era of neoliberal fascism. Rather than confront the present fascist threat in the White House the opposition remains focused on defending Trump.

This is first and foremost a trait of Trump supporters. Their embrace of fascism as simply the binary opposition to neoliberalism is not only perilous but reflects a mindset that remains deeply colonized by the manipulation of thought in a conversation completely dictated by the 1%. It is only this context, with a mass media and educational apparatus abandoned by both political parties an embrace of fascism primarily as a mode of opposition when in fact there is nothing oppositional about it. This is a society totally bound to militarism and colonialism as its logic. It is a society that has abandoned the material needs of its own working class. It is a society that has morally and spiritually collapsed as the public institutions necessary to hold it up have been systematically dismantled by the 1%.

In addition, the present propaganda apparatus has so many modes of operation in the media that it is difficult to transcend the colonizing process of thought production. The propaganda, with near complete control by the 1%, bombards the citizen who consumes it and forces a response. This article will try to argue that responding strictly in opposition to this propaganda in just as problematic as believing it. In addition, this response is just as limiting, predictable and controlled because it is an elicited response.

What the so-called opposition is doing now is fighting for a side that needs no assistance. Putin’s Russia a far cry from communism, but this fight was never really about Putin or Russia, for any of the sides involved. This was always a fight over the chief collaborator with Russia, U.S. President Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is attacked relentlessly by the corporate press. They treat him with open disdain that has no recent historical precedent. This is certainly well-deserved, but ultimately counterproductive. The media itself is so unpopular that Trump gains popularity simply by positioning himself as Public Enemy #1. Furthermore, the amount of air time given to Trump amounts to free advertising for Trump himself. The corrupt media also gets something out of covering Trump: more profits.

Indeed, Russiagate can largely be viewed as a ratings scam. An old, yet familiar story of Cold War villains was the number 1 story for over two years. Furthermore, the investigation itself never seemed to be focused on the ways it could actually uncover any real facts. The storyline and the ratings to come from it drove the whole plot.

All dramas in the US are more or less cowboy and Indian. Cops are celebrated because they are cowboys and their lawlessness represents a sort of unlimited freedom for the American individual even when they often bring exactly the opposite. And now in this scenario both Mueller and Trump are cowboys. Trump has the frontier, Mueller has the badge. And the left, as well as more and more people are becoming more skeptics of the badge which is good. Black Lives Matter has brought this a long ways. But it is apparent that there has been little alternative developed. At least not yet.

But one could argue that this repositioning of the plot as cowboy vs. cowboy reveals a couple of things. One is the complete silencing of the Indian character, which obviously most applies to real Native Americans, who are entirely left out of all stories. The other is that the ruling class has responded to this hackneyed narrative of cowboy vs. Indian being discredited in many circles. The side of the binary to choose is increasingly obvious not only as the 1% gains power. Therefore the binary must be muddled into easily triggering categories that elicit responses. With Trump, his illiberalism triggers responses. But with the Democrats, there are equally predictable reasons to oppose them as a singular entity rather than a product of a false binary ruling class. These road signs should be avoided precisely because they are manufactured. Anti-elitism when manufactured by the ruling class does us no favors.

The way this power works is like the relationship between ranchers and law enforcement. Both believe in the same environmental degradation and ethnic cleansing and have the same smug masculinity so we therefore see a sort of allegiance by default even when specific interests are at odds. This was clearly the dynamic of Mueller and Trump where Mueller had a job to do and he could do anything but actually accomplish it beyond what amounts to theatre.

And along the way of course it is this story that is privileged as one of interest while others are left out. And the left gets this but seems to at the same time finds some sort of truth to come from the results of this mirage. This idea that somehow we were right is sick when one considers the implications. It also doesn’t really prove anything because the report is still hidden and Trump is still guilty.

And there remain so many excuses by the right and left. The Cold War fantasy is fantastical as Russiagate itself. When the story is framed as elitist this only marks an obsession with the propaganda itself while ignoring Trump’s real destruction with the working class. The war on working class continues as all sides ignore everything outside their own relationship to the ruling class.

Robert Mueller, who was head of the FBI for a very shameful period, headed this investigation. Mueller’s relationship to the Republican Party as well as truth in general should have raised red flags. More red flags still should have come when Trump hired Mueller’s good friend William Barr to be his attorney general and to oversee Mueller’s investigation. Trump publicly feuded with Mueller in the press, but privately he may have been buttering up the man who was investigating him.

Russiagate is unimportant on all grounds. If there was an opposition who was more focused on substance perhaps there would be more means to worry about the implications of this story. As it stands we have the same political scene we have had for the last 25 years. The right rules, the center acts as a disingenuous foil and the left remains nowhere to be found. For the right to be defeated a genuine populist left needs to rise. The non-starter of Russiagate that was constructed by Democrats has only proven how inept that group truly is.

Positioning Russiagate itself as the danger to society shows that this opposition is still stuck in the binary thinking of the corporate duopoly. The left at times is too keen to outflank Democrats who never have shown an ounce of interest in leftism. This, if the left does have any influence, this collapse of our imagination has far more damning implications than anything the hapless Democrats could think of.

This endless defense of Trump as a form of obsession is dangerous precisely because Trump is positioning himself as the populist anti-establishment figure in a space of subversion the left has historically occupied. In the absence of a strong left, populist right-wing forces have risen up as a rebellion against demoralizing neoliberal economic policies. The results have been fatal for the environment, the stateless and the working poor as a whole.

Fascists like Trump frame themselves as against the status quo precisely because it is an easy and popular position. If the left has no principles of its own what is to stop us from being swallowed up by these same forces? Rather than spend so much time and energy denouncing the attempt to oust a fascist from power, the left would do well to tell people what we are actually for. Because being against Russiagate is just as uninspiring and even more perilous than being against Trump.

There is a present moment. It is fascism. If the left cannot be firmly against this moment and all those responsible, what on earth are they good for? The focus remains on discrediting Russiagate for ideological reasons when practical ones clearly indicate that this stance only makes excuses for the fascist regime in power. Imagine if the left rushed to the defense of the Clintons in the same way just because they hated the Republicans. It would be disgraceful.

Trump effectively discredits those critical of his crimes by calling them elitist or by threatening them with violence or conflict if they continue to press him. It is concerning that the left has taken up these two tools in regards to Russiagate. Any attempt to impeach Trump who has arguably been the worst President for the working class in American history is now described as some sort of elitist conspiracy simply because Democrats have the same goal. And a truly fantastical World War III scenario is trotted out every time someone dares to question Trump’s corruption. This is not a realistic scenario, it is a threat of violence.

The opposition won’t win by shame or by force here. There should be no fear in saying that one opposes Donald Trump and would like to do curtail his power and credibility by all means necessary. Ousting Trump is a radical stance. The Democrats faux investigation of him proves that there is no resistance party. Nancy Pelosi doesn’t even want to impeach him anymore. By making excuse after excuse for The Donald, the left sounds just as tepid as the Democrats themselves.

The working class and the world we live in have little time for meta leftist fantasies about being some sort of McCarthyist threat to the Democrats. The real authoritarianism lies exactly where power is, as it always has. The left is opposed to Trump in every way but the way that will get him out of office. His victory is not ours. His populism and Democrat bashing is phony. They are all on the same team. And it’s not ours. Empowering Donald Trump to evade justice for his crimes is collaborating with the bipartisan establishment plot. This plot aims to keep the working class suffering too much to rebel and organize. This plot aims to keep the citizen occupied with their own image. This image knows exactly what it hates, but has no idea what it stands for. Donald Trump proves that this nihilist stance only keeps the door open for fascism in the name of working class rebellion to the grand conspiracies of the time.

But let’s expand our analysis to the Trump Presidency and Russiagate in general. Now the first thing we must notice is that the way media is constant. There must be new material everyday, nay every hour, or however often you check Facebook. This relationship that the media has is one to profit. The story is something to be consumed. This is why Russiagate could continue for literally years and basically provide nothing new the entire time.

One also has to say that the motive is not entirely profit driven in the immediacy for this reason: this scandal was overplayed to the point of over-saturation. But then again maybe the consumer simply doesn’t care. This story became an expression of victory over Trump, although it may be important that the conclusion was just the opposite. And like an orgasm, despite its similarities it is repeated simply because it only uses narrative as a vehicle for a repeating climatic end and therefore the narrative only needs to drive, it never needs to sustain, or even interest as long it is moving.

This acts as a substitution for a feeling that we all know: Donald Trump is horrible and we want this to stop. But the mainstream media and the Democrats are incapable of providing this tangibly. Now maybe they could get Trump out of office. But then they would need to be different than him for this move to make sense politically. Which they aren’t, or at least they would be a disappointment. So this acts as its own distraction in a time of crisis for all people in power. And then there also is the related aspect that what Trump is actually doing, whether that be the destruction of the environment, the deregulation, the war on education, health care, unions, even the crude expression of masculine valor that punishes the underclass—well there is difference only in degree here, if any difference at all between Trump’s resistance and Trump himself.

Therefore this presents a crisis for the ruling class in the long term even more than the short term. Trump’s political embrace of the values of the ruling class is not their problem with him. This is the only reason such an incompetent manager of class relations even works. He merely moves the plot and therefore gets more done than he appears to. The problem is that he presents materially is a deeper problem that can’t yet be resolved as the focus remains so much on the largely exterior plot rather than the internal structures of capital that are having severe environmental effects to the point of the collapse of civilization as we know it.

Trump obviously presents a fear for everybody, or at least the suspicion of future unrest. Because he arose as a character, not manufactured by anything other than a crisis of society. He was not groomed in the same way as Obama, Bush or Clinton as some sort of stock character. He is just a stock character on his own, which is why he is no different and not really a threat to the ruling class unless they actually put their values before their money, which they never would do, because those are the same thing for them.

This character is latched onto as an expression of desperation and a base cynicism that either Trump is right or that we can do no better. He also of course is opposed, but when done by the ruling class, this is only in the way they are different from him. This difference is limited. While the ruling class may do the same things as each other they occupy different bodies, obviously. So the physical removal of Trump from office becomes the focus while his actual actions cannot be opposed besides some of the more ridiculous ones.

But even this physical removal was largely insincere when in the hands of the machine that seems to have adjusted to Trump. Both in the specific actions of the actors and in the scope of the investigation. An undemocratic constitution played a role too.

Regardless, even if there was a more logical attempt to remove Trump from office the whole affair was theatre, even if the end game had consequences. The left presents themselves as all-knowing of the propaganda that governs our lives because they don’t believe it. This is a fine step, but a rather flimsy one. What does one believe? And if wisdom is simply by negation, it ceases to have meaning.

But perhaps the negation is the problem, as it is at the very least, a first step in the process of being disillusioned with the present injustice. What we see that is more troubling is this reproduction of theatre in the response itself. Now just as Russiagate had no goal besides the one it accomplished we can say that the left has been compromised by Russiagate.

And not in the way liberals have. No one was sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for the FBI to save them. Rather the left was engaging in the theatre of the system failing. Every time the media lied, the left knew its own truth. Every time the media failed, the left knew it would have been more successful. But this is strictly engaging in the rules of engagement that have little if anything to do with the struggle of the working class.

This is the main point. The rules of engagement are still being dictated by the 1% when the propaganda is seen as interesting or important. And it is this privileging of an elitist narrative, even when it simultaneously disowned, that makes one think that it is still the ruling class that has complete control over the entirely of ideas that enter into the debate. This is a financial grip obviously. Look at net neutrality, which is potentially fatal to thought, but perhaps in its own way an accerationalist gift. But there is a more deep connection. Which is to the ruling class ideology as some sort of truth simply because it is produced and handed to us.

Using the word truth maybe makes this more confusing. But it a far deeper truth than the factual truth, which few believe when coming from the ruling class. To use a religious analogy. The congregation may not believe in heaven but they are still paying their dues at Church and attending every Sunday. This when believing in heaven may have been the only merit anyways, and the only thing that actually came from working people. Much like this new distrust in elitist education and science and facts only works in reverse of its intended goal of punishing elites.

Furthermore the goal of protecting Trump as some sort of proof of a broken system mirrors the accelerationism theories and even leads one to believe that there is a general nihilism that intrinsically supports Trump at least in a spiritual sense. And this is deeply troubling. And it’s not because of Trump, not really. And it’s not because anyone on the left supports Trump, let alone is a Russian agent or something. It is more to do with the fact that such a conclusion that is naturally bad for the world can be met with some sort of personalized victory as if the left ever had any role in this whole affair.

It seems like a last-gasp effort to assert ourselves within this production by the ruling class. And this is the central difference between the types of populism we see. There is the conservative populism that identifies with the ruling class much in the same way the wife votes for Trump. This presents a world where there is so little hope in communal uprising. As a result everyone more or less takes up things for themselves and pretends they are ruling class even when they have no power other than to identify with the oppressor both to get something from the oppressor (good luck) and just to feel like him. And one shouldn’t get too upset with this sort of populism, even if it has deeply consequential effects. It’s victim-blaming mostly to do so.

There is another kind of populism that does not identify with the ruling class and is even uninterested in the ruling class besides in discovering how to overthrow them. Unfortunately in America we see such an internalized hatred of self, humanity and environment that there is also a knee-jerk reaction to claim victory when our rulers do—whether that be for Trump or in war.

The collapse of populism is evident here. We are living in a mass incarceration state that treats children as criminals and models schools after prisons. There becomes a collapse of the logic of class consciousness as the war on Trump is seen as a continuation rather than a break from the rising mass incarceration state that criminalizes citizens just for being poor. The framing of Trump as a victim reflects the only populism that is allowed to be heard. There is a position of the powerful as the victim that only justifies the future crackdown on the poor. See 9/11.

This marks itself as a problem the higher you go up. With Trump and his base, this is the central mode of governing, if you can even call this anti-governing standpoint to be governing. This belief that by dismantling every single health and safety law, there is some sort of freedom (see Ralph Nader’s analysis). They can only operate from this position of reprioritizing which only reinforces the present hierarchy in place. And we have this most obviously when Trump and his base cry about lost opportunities in order to justify splitting apart immigrant families, as if that isn’t a lost opportunity.

Or look at Brett Kavanaugh, another sort of public theater operation which acted to demoralize the public and remind us that this country simply doesn’t care about violence against women. In fact many people like it, identify with it, and want to live through this act as a form of bonding. While of course Kavanaugh himself is such a corporate stooge he basically continues this logic of violence against the entire working class with many of them somehow identifying with him through the largely spiritual connection stated above.

But this is a creeping logic. And this logic has basically has taken over the Democratic Party too. This obsession over Russiagate was all about their egos. They hated losing to Trump and rather than fix anything he is doing they wanted to prove they were better than him through some sort of “pure” test of a fair democracy that doesn’t come close to existing in this country. Ironically much of that lack of democracy has to do from Republicans rigging elections, which no Democrat will say, even if that might help in proving their point.

Democrats focus more on their own demise, the loss of their own values, etc. What those values are remain somewhat distant from the material reality. Science they say. Climate change is real. But about the Green New Deal? Democracy they say. But what about money in politics? Giving everyone their fair share they say. But what about Wall St.? Their identification with power is not quite so severe as the Republicans, specifically Trump, whose rudimentary function is the bully. The Democrats are more stuck in between what is clearly an oligarchy and a base that clearly wants something else.

Yet this identification with power remains. And it could cynically be called “practical”. Which it is, obviously. But to what ends? What point is there in electing someone who identifies with the ultra-rich for practical reasons? There is a more innate identification too. The idea that America is supposed to care that these people lost to Trump or that it would be in any justice in seeing these Wall St. dependent corporate elites in office. I mean why would anyone feel bad for them? Yes they may have a few less lines they cross but even if they lose their homes are nicer than everyone else’s, they are getting their health care payed for, etc. They don’t really understand this dynamic at all.

But then there too is the left. Who is positioning itself as the lead in this drama when they don’t even have a speaking role. There is an emphasis on this theoretical Cold War that reimagines the left as a vibrant force in this country. And it distracts from those who can’t speak. It acts as a sort of violence against the real victims of the Trump administration, who would be helped by a real investigation. Which Mueller never did, but it also hasn’t been released yet.

So you have this identification with power once again. And it is a little more complicated here. Where you see this sort of rabid energy directed vaguely against the ruling class but actually seems to be chiefly narcissistic as it more focuses on the subject’s own fall. This is where one has to be very specific about this anger, which is justified many times over.

Because Trump channels it. He speaks about corruption and wages dropping and trade deals and war and everything else the left does. Which is probably why the left continues to apologize for him. But Trump redirects this energy against the poor, specifically against immigrants, while fostering this entitled male energy that takes up more space than it deserves to.

So we have to be very careful here. There is a clear crisis in the legitimacy of the established order. But which way will this go? Because it can get worse. And Trump makes it worse. No one can deny that. Without being very specific about what the real problem is (the 1%) we have an anger that basically begins and ends with the self and therefore focuses primarily on the problems that are visible. Hawk Rachel Maddow for some reason is seen as an intellectual, or maybe there is some problem in someone’s personal life that is hard and you blame people you love, or maybe you blame the local teacher who mails it in but isn’t really getting paid or maybe you blame an immigrant. But the point is that every single one of these things is a distraction. All of them are a product of an oligarchy.

One can look at basically any product of the media and see it as this sort of division that is meant to lead the anger away from the 1% who intentionally remain hidden. And this includes partisan politics too. Which is why it remains a distraction for the left to be so up in arms about Russiagate when there are real problems going on that happen precisely because of the wealth gap and the democracy gap. And identifying with a billionaire, even if it is just with his supposedly subversive energy, this is dangerous.

There is a tendency to focus on this bourgeois drama because the truth is too hard to bare. The real tragedy of this administration cannot and will not be dealt with by anyone within the sensationalist and self-absorbed ruling class from right to left. This brings one to the conclusion that politics and the ideology behind it are secondary, although certainly not inconsequential. Instead class should take the central spot, not just in politics, but above it.

For we see this cultural appropriation of class coming along every step of the way which naturally can only be said by those privileged enough to be heard. Perhaps then class is not a culture. Trump proves this. He is the ruling class fantasy of a poor person: angry, dangerous, lazy and resentful. Rather, class is a material position with material consequences.

Anti-Russiagate may have been a largely forgettable matter, even more so than Russiagate itself. But it did teach this lesson: any politics divorced from the material will never be relevant. What we saw was a lot of sides appearing to disagree when really there was a clear class collusion, even if it was only spiritually, and largely unknowingly. There was a class collusion for about two years that stated that in one way or another politics superseded class. That it mattered more if you were on the right, left or center then it did if you were poor, and therefore vulnerable to the real material violence of the Trump administration and the ruling class behind it.

The failure is that people actually identify with a character within the plot, rather than being able to understand that the production of the circus itself was what keeps the viewer at a place where they aren’t represented in a democratic sense. The fact that the left chose the wrong character hardly matters, the bigger worry is the identification with anyone within the story. For the play can only be consumed. The audience is never given a speaking role other than to applaud.

And this essentially marks a point in our society where the citizen feels so unrepresented that they have to identify with someone within the ruling class to feel as if they have a voice.

The tendency to dismiss Trump in every way but the one in question actually mirrors much of the leftist dismissal of #MeToo. Here the logic of the left‘s criticisms were outweighed by their glaring tendencies to discredit in the interest of power as a sort of ideological thrust against what was practically relevant. This effort of course is disguised in left Puritanism that always applies so one has to wonder if it was ever the point. If there was a breaking point of this logic, would it ever have presented itself beyond past Gods of socialist history?

Neoliberalism has effectively dismantled public spaces and institutions as we know them. What will rise in its place? It’s a dangerous time, and a pivotal one. Without the institutions necessary to foster a healthy democracy we have cheap replacements formed that alienate. Combined with longer working hours we have a further alienation and isolation. Hence the reason for the truly tone deaf nature of the class divisions in this country.

Liberals sense the left-right spiritual connection with Trump, somehow. They play to it and use it to further fracture the resistance to their failed rule. They aren’t entirely wrong, however. There is on the one hand a cannibalizing populism that leaves the poor on a desert island with the only food being each other. This is called democracy. For those silly enough to have any “analysis” of this dynamic beyond a purely material one we have this cannibalizing populism in reverse.

The rich fights with itself not in a material way, for the rich are rich enough where there needs to be no material battle. Rather the rich fight over ideas and morals, because they lack both, and some of these ideas are politics. This politics becomes very loud but hardly amounts to any real war because no side really wants it, let alone needs it. It is in its way, a Cold War!

Yes the real Cold War may be between the American middle class itself. Between those who feel the pain, those who don’t, those who want to think, those who can’t bare to. Fascinating stuff. The work of high art. But it’s a different fight than say will you pay for my health care or have me die? It’s more of a debate than that, no matter how shrinking our democratic institutions are.

In this shrinking reality we have a debate about what is really elitist. Sort of, to quote that ‘Russian agent’ Jill Stein, a fireside chat. With the fireside being the burning world. This is not to draw false equivalencies. This is actually the biggest problem with the ruling left/right. It is more to say that while the chat may be animated, it is not in the fire, it is on the side. And thank God for that! And this is not to say the ruling class debate is without consequence either. Who else is making decisions? I mean why on earth are the Democrats killing the Green New Deal? Even if that’s a ruling class ploy, one has to say it’s a damn good one.

And yet there clearly is something that is corruptible here, which rarely presents itself for some of the best of us. That is the violence of the ruling class. The silencing of the poor precisely because they do not fit within the ideology of the ruling class who created the very conditions for poor people to have the beliefs they do.

Take the latest spirit animal, whatever you want to call the President of Venezuela. The left joins in with the right and center in a class violence that denies the real suffering in Venezuela in order to justify its own ideology. Oddly enough if this ideology was actually applied we wouldn’t see this suffering. But saying Maduro is corrupt or has done bad things well that is seen as a political crime by the left. When in reality it is a class crime not to point out that poor Venezuelans are suffering.

Now that should be the first priority. Keeping track of the poor. Afterwards you can come with up with an ideology to help. The crisis in Venezuela is 100% a product of colonialism and capitalism and imperialism. 100% But does that mean we have to deny the way their rich leaders have at times collaborated with these forces? Why? To stick with our ideology even when the material positions of the working class beg to be heard?

How much of the information the left believes about Venezuela comes from rich white people getting fully paid trips to selectively see the rich parts of the country? They come back home and declare they have found truth when in reality their class position has just been confirmed. It’s like when the Queen visits her colonies and certain roads are paved to reassure her that everything is hunky-dory. There is a willful ignorance here by all sides of the political spectrum that is continually justifying its own rule and the world’s inequality.

This can stretch to all leaders, and certainly to all people. Everyone should be put in the context of these forces of capitalism and colonialism or else the wrong conclusions will be drawn. Assad, Kim Jong-un, etc. Not much point in criticizing them unless one wants to excuse colonialism. At the same time there is a posture that remains blind to material conditions and ends up ignoring actions that are deeply harmful to working people. Putting these things in context may be important. But ultimately credibility is lost when there is straight denial. And this denial only fits in with the broader establishment that likes to focus on things like the stock market or unemployment numbers to justify their current neoliberal rule. And there is an identification with the strong man too that the left is vulnerable too. Primarily as a punch back against the soul crushing nature and powerless of capitalism, but still, something that should be avoided.

Thinking of the anti-war event in the Twin Cities here recently, events which I’ve been to as much as I can. And despite no one in these bitter hippy groups purchasing a razor for the last 20 years, the class violence leaked out when Venezuelan protesters came to protest a rich white lady fresh off the Maduro all expenses paid trip who was here to tell her fellow white people how great Venezuela was (for her). And when Venezuelans protested, they were shoved out. Given no voice. And hell maybe they were right wing. But this was the point where ideology simply failed in relation to material truth. The subaltern could not speak.

Now it is true that the media exaggerates the crisis on Venezuela. Although it may be more accurate to say it overemphasizes it. And they do this for financial reasons, which the left is largely free of, besides an occasional financial tie to state propaganda. But there is a crisis there. And if the left wants to seriously deal with the material conditions of the working class then it must begin by ending the denial of the material conditions of the working class. The left loses not only its moral credibility but its authenticity if this reality is avoided for ideological reasons.

That the root of all these problems are the 1% and the colonialist world order still in place from an economic perspective that really shrinks any real options for poor countries outside of capitalist growth. Chomsky sort of misses on that in his analysis of Latin America, which blames a reliance on the market while failing to examine on a deeper level while this policy is really the only allowance possible under colonialism, even if it is short lived. The left could be useful in providing an original analysis of this fact. Which the corporate media fails to do. Instead they focus on disputing liberals as a form of petty bourgeois bickering completely divorced from the reality on the ground.

Of course when talking about Venezuela and Latin America as a whole acknowledging the significant gains of the working class in recent history that came through robust social programs—that matters more than ever now. But that’s how it goes. The working class organizes, gains rights. The ruling class responds. And it’s a cycle, in recent history. But it does matter bow long one stays in each place and the severity of the cycle in both directions. True too that Venezuela was targeted because they were successful. But the lack of nuance here is just as concerning as the separation from the material.

This is not to say that socialism shouldn’t take center stage. It must now more than ever. It is however the same useful idiot dynamic that sets up the left every time a small piece of bait is thrown out. And ultimately the intellectual class does deserve its own death if this is the only analysis that can be given. One that is chiefly contained within its own meta-narrative and circulates around itself as if it is not the entire truth, but the entire realm of possibility, with many disagreements within this realm.

Which is actually similar to something Chomsky pointed to when discussing the role of media. That it animates a discussion within a narrow range, seemingly showing a diversity of opinion when in reality basically having the same objective—that is class rule. And maybe this is harsh to expand it to the very people who brought it up but then again to not do so would be avoiding a layering that is obvious.

There is a shrinking of the political imagination going on here. It’s more evident in the liberal press that singled out one country that in appearance or history at least looks like a break from the increasing privatization and austerity schemes that keep the world war-torn and poor. Without the colonialist lens to read the press through one can never get to the root of the problem. It is however a failing too to deny the real state of the working class in order to rebel against a certain posture by the liberal ruling class which is designed to elicit a response. And there is a paternal attitude on race here too that at once has a very idealistic view of race, almost to the liberal narrative like the happy servant The left version is certainly more militarized which is more liberating certainly but also just as racist when such behavior is accepted as a necessity or even a virtue of communities too dangerous for the speaker to genuinely admire, even if there is a certain revolutionary potential.

And here there becomes a blatant class violence that is capable of understanding the causes of suffering without being capable of taking any sort of democracy coming from the working class seriously because this democracy is seen as compromised by the very ruling class that is so self-critical. And there is a truth to this in an almost pure sense. But this doesn’t really do anything for anybody besides reaffirming the power differences.

So it must go on denouncing the assumed right of imperialism, which seems to be becoming such an assumed norm that there actually is more focus on the imperialism that doesn’t happen than the imperialism that does (see Africa, never known or the Middle East, which became almost immediately habitual, or even Latin America, without Trump, would be normal). Russia is protected by the left-right in the same way Europe is protected by the liberals. As an ideological utopia that if left to foster without interference, would bloom into a place far more pure than the multiethnic United States.

This is not to equate USA and Russia or deny the real imperialism on Russia either. It is more to frame the point of emphasis as a problem. The Israel substitute works here too. The human rights violations in Palestine do get both repeatedly denied like no other and to a far lesser extent repeatedly defended like no other. And both are a result of a cultural interest in the Jewish question, unfortunately, which remains as problematic as the Muslim question in academia. Both answers are more interested in the question more than the suffering, given the conditions of the poor in so many parts of the world. Palestine has reached the point of true disaster, and it has few comparisons in terms of devastation, but that is hardly the point for either side, even when both could use it.

This is why someone like Ilhan Omar gets all this coverage by the corporate press. Essentially her pro-Palestine argument, if it even exists, is unconvincing. The anti-Semitism, or at the potential for this framing, is the most glaring part. So she works as a useful idiot here, as does most of the isolated Israel criticism that can really only further the ruling class urge to frame these issues as anything other than class divisions and class consequences.

Now we agree on the problem in Palestine. It is in many ways far worse than even most leftists think. It is a reducing argument to bring Israel into the equation. It is the classic you know black on black crime scenario which sort of acts as an excuse for people to be politically incorrect about something they couldn’t actually believe in good conscious. People like to pretend like this is a more specific problem than it is and it becomes fashionable to blame the Jews. And many aren’t doing that knowingly. But it is a way of speaking past each other when Israel is used this way because it isn’t convincing for people. And this is because the Jewish question is inherently divisive while the rights of Palestinians can’t be. Unfortunately the consensus seems to go the other way: that Palestinians aren’t as important as that intriguing Jewish question. But, yeah, it’s not divisive.

This was where it became clear that for the ruling class ideology takes the place of class interest. Firstly because it is more interesting. And secondly because there is no conscionable way to take the side of the ruling class. It is in this way that the subaltern can never be understood by those trying to explain her.

This naturally brings up the question: who is allowed to speak in our society? Spivak is necessary here. Following the logic that the politics of today is simply art in the context of this mass media spectacle and rigid class distinction. Applying Spivak then means giving no more credit to the left who can read than the rest who can’t: “Reading literature “well” is in itself a questionable good and can indeed be sometimes a productive of harm and “aesthetic” apathy within its ideological framing.” If politics is reduced to this framework then it means zero victories laps when one can see suffering. If one has to ‘read’ suffering and be vindicated when they can see it is then that we see that this only makes the subject itself elite enough not to be touched by it.

Spivak reads the intellectual well: “I have tried to argue that the substantive concern for the politics of the oppressed which often accounts for Foucault’s appeal can hide a privileging of the intellectual and of the ‘concrete’ subject of oppression that, in fact, compound the appeal.” The oppressed are art. They either are disposed of entirely or played with by those who aren’t oppressed as a means to justify this state or even to entertain. Here truth only appears as the aesthetic. Morality is used as a weapon against other elitist opponents and therefore loses all credibility and is repeated so often in this 24/7 media cycle that it dulls and loses all (intellectual) credibility along the way, although there will always be material credibility for the media as long as they remain this rich—and that is by material definition.

It is here where the left’s alarmism of “death of the media” reads just like the false warnings of nuclear war if Trump was impeached. The left will frame Russiagate as the death of the media. This is wishful thinking as the left hopes to rise in its place. In reality the media will continue how it has been. For most people as a sort of catharsis against the automation and anxiety of life on the one hand, while a complete terrorizing force on the other. And for those ‘close readers’ educated enough to read the whole thing as a scam the media will continue to act as a truth-teller. Not that the close readers believe the media. It is more that they believe the media to be important precisely because it comes from the same class that the alternative left and right does and therefore there is a need to discredit it if only to assert its significance where there is little.

There is an equivalence here, if not a total substitution of the role of dispossessed. And this is an important distinction when we live in a country that leads the worst human rights violations in the world, whether you want to count prisons or wars. And in many ways the treatment of the homeless and the poor is unparalleled when one considers the wealth in this country of both the upper middle class and the very rich.

With Trump and his base there is an obvious contradiction, which they may only sense, or at least they think is justified. It is that this expression of victimhood is believed and is, at least superficially (semantically?) accounted for. This in one sense invalidates their posture but certainly given the real state of the working class, will always have some truth to it even if it comes to dishonest conclusions.

We then have a certain dynamic that only considers those who can speak. Freedom of speech puts the buggy before the horse as the first amendment of this country. We have a type of debate that really never reaches beyond itself. And remains self-critical only for the purpose of self-correction, which if done in any sort of fundamental way would eliminate the very process at hand, and therefore this process ceases to be enough.

Now let’s take most literature, most film, most anything produced by those with leisure, those who can afford to take risks, and those who certainly had some sort of access to education, whether that be formal or informal. Note how much the ruling class likes to celebrate dropouts like Steve Jobs, who really actually was a complete failure in all senses besides making money, which is at least, when school is celebrated by the rich, the only point in it. And for most poor people, this is the primary goal, if they can even afford to get quality schooling in the first place.

But back to the point at hand. There is a self-diagnosis which is followed by a class disavowal that is rather useless, if not out right dishonest. Take Russiagate, as the form of concentrated expression of a larger trend. Now you have a juxtaposition here that is downright odd, and if it weren’t running the world, would be completely irrelevant, even if interesting to those in the midst of it.

On the one hand there is an idealism, which can be, to a point, admired. But this more reflects an innocence than anything else. Now we have a class of people, basically rich and white and culturally Christian and Western who are seeing that yes, the world is run by basically a bunch of reactionary savages who have no regard for human suffering at all. This becomes upon first discovery either a paralyzing horror or an intellectual artifact, depending chiefly on one’s relation to the suffering imposed. What Chomsky called the 20%, who are always the subject, are these people. And it is true that there is a squeeze on here. It’s a squeeze by the ruling class, that doesn’t allow for any mercy anymore, completely irrational and unhinged. Climate change appears to guarantee this inequality until the end of our days. Although an optimist one must be, at least to get through the day.

Now, there becomes an error in judgment here. Not so much because the conditions of the self are not seen clearly. If there is one thing the middle class can do, it is see itself. But the relativity remains. And this privileging of people categorically has not changed, if anything it only cements as the squeeze is put on.

There is a desperate attempt, which no doubt comes from a sincere place, to become the victim, to fit in with the news cycle or something. Or alternatively there is a feeling as if you aren’t being heard, and that you are entitled to be heard. Which of course you should feel. But that doesn’t erase the contradiction.

There also is a clear material reality that victories for anyone besides the 1% are few and far between and that it is only through this exterior identification that anything can be achieved or even said. Hillary Clinton victory being a symbol of victory for women, for example. Never mind that she’s just as miserable as the rest of us.

This obviously is a mistake. To identify with the ruling class as if their victories are yours. But it also should be easy to have compassion for this position and pity for anyone who takes it. Donald Trump reads a crowd well. And he does this well because he is extremely self-conscious. He needs their approval but he also sincerely shares that feeling that he has been wronged. As a trade-off for organization, servitude, if not humiliation is accepted.

Onto Russiagate, which remains primarily, if not wholly a display of theatre. It therefore is an act of art and entertainment for anyone who takes anything from it. For Trump and his base, the script was a triumphant one, but so was the trial itself because it gave these people the coveted space of victimhood, which could explain away all their failures, real or imagined. For liberals this was a homage to their shock. Unable to accept Trump, physical removal needed to be a hope, newly printed every day in only slightly different language.

Still, one has to find the left critique of Russiagate to be just as obsessive and imaginary and classist as the liberal embrace of it. There is that awful positioning of the self as the lead in the tragedy. This is for entertainment purposes, and even more so for psychological ones. Pan to big Pharma. Trump as a Russian agent? Hot air. Russiagate as the founder of Cold War? Hot air. Putin as the grand master? Hot air. Russiagate as the new McCarthyism? Hot air.

There are remarkable parallels though to these dual states of delusion. There is, in a time of great peril, some need to turn the spotlight on one’s self and yell look at me! The only reason this goes anywhere, if it even does, is because you own the spotlight. Trump does this too of course. Witch hunt he says. If it was a witch hunt, he’d be in real trouble. But that would end the story.

None of this hardly matters, as it has been stated before. It may interest the reader (and the writer) because it is, in its own way, self-reflective, if not self-obsessed. And it doesn’t matter. Partly because the ruling class is useless to changing society for the good. Always has been. Partly because no one cares. And this is why the left critique of Russiagate falls flat.

In reality the problem may be far worse, although certainly better than the Orwellian fantasies. The reality is that the primary politics is survival. Any looming threat, whether that be Russia itself (liberals) or Cold War (leftists) is completely divorced from class until it actually reaches beyond an intellectual debate about the ruling class itself.

There is something about Trump and most other fascist leaders. There is this air of newness, as if they are seeing the world for the first time and becoming disgusted by it. This naturally involves movement, which makes them effective politicians. Not movement in the sense of organization, but movement as in motion. Trump takes the viewer to a new world. Sure it’s made up. But it is new and it is not entirely stagnant.

The obvious silencer of plot is death. And to many living under Trump and capitalism, this is it. A sobering, but fairly evident point. But there also is a certain end to the plot in all jobs, all money problems, all health impairments, all prison sentences, many marriages or pregnancies. A smothering of desire. Perhaps before it is even formulated. At a young age many times too, given hunger and poverty for children today. Which then can make desire its own predator.

And so, despite the individualization of neoliberalism, or probably because of it, the self soon has to channel the paths available to it. Rarely is there any room for material gains in this system, and even when found, seem elusive, has the subject has lost themselves, and more importantly, everybody else along the way.

There are no longer the institutions necessarily for a democratic society either. No after school programs, no unions, no public spaces at all. Not that there aren’t advantages to this. And certain freedoms gained from it. But it is in the interests of the ruling class, to have this division and loneliness.

It is in these conditions, puny paycheck to puny paycheck and without agency or room for triviality that we find the world today. And most of all an insecurity and temporary nature of things that causes anxiety and stress. Many times working many jobs. Or in other parts of the world, no jobs, or jobs for wages that only pay for gas.

It is here where the news manufactured to Chomsky’s 20% can only be shocking and never accepted. Now perhaps this is an optimistic view. But more likely it will never be accepted simply because it erases any merit to life at all when to this middle class there is merit, even in performative pessimism. Now there has to be a point to that there remains a profound misunderstanding between us all. And to speculate on anything beyond the material conditions remains an impossibility, although many will try. But any donate to a hungry child in blank line comes with a set of assumptions that reflects the giver more than the receiver, who has no say in the matter anyways. Therefore you can learn a whole lot about rich people from their charity organizations, but you will never find the answers they are looking for. Nor should they be looking for them, if they believe anything they think.

There is a fork in the road here, which naturally means hope and uncertainty, and even potential doom, no matter which way the wind blows. There is a split in what could be broadly defined as populism. Whether that is one that identifies with the self or with the oppressor, or in the case of well to do liberal left, a mixture of both.

Here we really do have trouble in the waters on both the well to do populist left and right, will identify with Trump’s persecution and his so-called dragon energy as a sort of punching down in the face of shrinking realities. Intellectually, distinctions can be made. But who could deny that the energy is on the side of the fascists in these circles?

There is a dismissal of populist desire as elitism, whether that be for clean water or even for a ruling class ploy like McDoanld’s or Russiagate or anything else that is systematically deployed. The sort of distancing to the point of disgust reads, and even applies practically, as something left wing. But it also reveals a very real difference which is the matter of choice. A choice to be an activist for the underclass is not the same as being in the underclass itself, which may find little rewarding about that condition, and are likely never asked.

This is all an argument to bring the world back to a material place. Not to erase art, but to expand its miserable consumer base. Materially, the world would be better without Trump. Whether or not that fits with an ideal matters. But only to those whose main mode of life is in fact idealism. This is naturally a class distinction and therefore it is with some irony that we find that poisoned water, not the purging of the intellectual class, will be the main failure of Russiagate. Watching Trump dismantle both at once leads one to assert that these things are not entirely separate issues and even though the only interest of the ruling class is self-examination, there should remain a place for this.

Russiagate then was not so much a distraction as it was leisure for those lucky enough to have it. As long as the left enjoyed themselves, who could fault this? It is, by definition of the somewhat cryptic ideology necessary to the definition of the left that we say it is a shame more people can’t imagine their own persecution and suffering and instead remain in a state where this is their material reality. Life then is merely a joke, but we should be asking if it is funny enough to justify what we do to achieve it.

The fantasy of nuclear war via Russia applies as the equalizer by annihilation. Now instead of the systematic dismantling of the working class we have shared suffering, if only potential, which is really the only way these classes can share anything. Focusing on it ignores the real hierarchies created by the ruling class as they systematically cleanse the population. History is used in a way not so different from the Trump style of disregarding it altogether. Rather we see a need to assert the same nostalgia for communism, when it has been killed, for leftism, when it has been squashed, and even for nuclear war, when it has taken a back seat to the reactionary race-baiting, women groping and poor bashing of Trump and company.

Therefore, it is with some relief that one can they are no longer a leftist. Ideology can and has failed the working class. Every ideology believes it helps somebody but it forgets about everything but itself along the way. Class comes first and it is only afterward that we come up with a politics that explains it.

More articles by:

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com 

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