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Red No Matter Who

Drawing By Nathaniel St. Clair

We all know the question one is asked by liberal Democrats during the primary season. It is not: which candidate do you support? It is rather: will you vote for the Democratic candidate, no matter who it is? Now this presumes two unexpected assumptions, both of which are in support of Bernie Sanders. The first assumption is that you (common person) support Bernie Sanders. The second assumption is that even though this is true Bernie will not win the nomination (the system is not democratic).

There is a third assumption here that is even more radical. This assumption is that the democratic side of the Democratic Party should not triumph. Instead the nomination should go to who the Party sees fit. This is communism.

In this sense the Republican Party is even more communist. They are now led by someone the entire party establishment supposedly disagrees with but because he is good for the Party he is never challenged.

And yet there is a paradox here that can’t be ignored. Slavoj Zizek has repeatedly made an argument against ideology while I have gone as far to claim that ideology is totally false and that politics is only strategic and class based. However this is not a necessity but a historical moment we arrive in based on the grip of capital and its clarifying nature of self-interest. One could really make the argument that we no longer have ideology and that is the problem.

What I mean by this is that ideology today isn’t bad, it simply is increasingly false. The Republican Party does have a clear ideology but it is never used. Promises of freedom and prosperity ring hallow to the deregulation, austerity and war of this extremist Party. However, the Republican base is so extremely ideological they simply don’t notice.

The Democratic Party is at a vulnerable place because its base will not fall in line. There are three ways to gain political power outside of communism. The Democrats only have the advantage in one. The one way they have the advantage in is ideology. The Republican Party simply has no morality and is even openly destructive. The Democrats will never lose the ideological battle here. The common person will choose decency.

The second way to power is the ruling class. The Democrats try their best but they likely will never catch the Republicans here. The Republicans have no morals and even their ideology is largely based in corporate rule.

The third way to power is the working class. This is often expressed by the word democracy. Communism really functioned as a political power because of its ideological goals which did not so much need support of the people but will by them. Democracy is not ideological. Its purpose is to meet the subject where they are and it takes the Party out of its own ideology in much the same way as allegiance to the ruling class does.

Ideology is so absent from the Democratic Party today and one can see it on the divide on health insurance. Take the difference between two candidates: Bernard Sanders and Alfred E. Neuman. Sanders supports single payer health insurance because he wants the support of the working class. Neuman supports private insurance because he wants the support of the ruling class. This is disguised as an ideological debate but neither side is swayed. Supporters for Sanders aren’t scared of the ruling class, supporters of Neuman are scared the ruling class will take away their health care or do something even worse.

Okay but maybe that’s even a superficial point. What I’m more interested in is this idea that even having an ideological debate within the Party is not of any interest. The staging of already asking if one would vote for the winning candidate if he won the nomination implies that the primary basically is just for show and that the party does not operate democratically. This is, once again, a false hope.

The Democrats continue to lose because their Party will not get in line. Most progressive people simply don’t vote at all. Many more support some version of the Party that will never come true within the Party structure (Sanders). A few potential Democrats find a new Party. But the Democrats are so afraid of being called Communist they never even take their own side.

There is always this ideological turn to democracy. Joe Biden says he hopes Donald Trump doesn’t destroy the Republican Party. This is an extremist democratic position to the point where it even undermines his supporters claim to democracy. The Democrats are always emphasizing their voter’s individual rights to choice, the importance of free and fair elections, etc. but then wonder why they lose to a Party whose goal is to take away these rights from the Democrat’s own base. The Democrats have the need to always be morally superior and therefore will never take the communist step of the ends justifying the means.

Ok. So maybe you think I’m talking dangerously here. But I think the danger is the opposite. I think the danger is this dynamic within the white liberal class to do no harm and that by the natural superiority of liberalism everyone will be fine. This is a privileged position and a self-exonerating one. I do think the refugee crisis brings this to bear. We can’t just say accept everyone and they will be accepted. There are serious capitalist incentives going on here that are beyond our idealistic hearts.

But it’s not just the Democrats who are guilty of this. It’s the left too. The death of communism for the left is not even hidden. I think there is this horror of being guilty of something which privileged people want no part of. Which means just giving up power to the fascists.

Okay let’s take it the extreme and talk about Stalin. Horrible things he did, yes. Ok but what does this prove, to say this? Would we rather have Hitler? Capitalism without resistance? Some communism that never takes power? Why not try? Once again we just have a negative function. Zizek uses Beckett to explain Stalin: “try again, fail again, fail better”. Which I think is the way we have to think about this. The problem with communism is that there isn’t enough of it. And maybe there never will be.

But when we isolate people or ideologies in his way we make a claim that communism failed because it is communism not because capitalism also existed. Now the sin of any successful communist is that they actually believed in what they were doing to the point they did what was necessary to maintain power. When this happens you do have a victim blaming going on. If the rich let the communists govern, we’d see horrible things sure, but also a sincere attempt at fulfilling the ideology. My point is that we don’t know. The rich are so threatened by communism they always sabotage it. Not that Stalin is a victim, obviously. Who cares about him? Political issues shouldn’t be so personalized.

What I more mean is that if one simply gives up, throws up their hands and says: it’s all bad, we should believe in nothing, we should have all decentralized projects and so on, well this functions for the ruling class. It for one makes the subject an individual who is weak and can’t organize with others. It also encourages vague politics, such as Brexit, or even Trump. I think the left is so caught up in questions of power it ends up leaving responsibility to the right. The left is just as likely, if not more, to critique a government than a corporation. This makes it indistinguishable from the right.

Now once again we have to be careful. This is by design. No one should blame the left, which is my point. We should blame corporations for sabotaging government, which opens the door for this alienation. But that brings us full circle. We can see how government, rather than abstract anarchism, is the threat to corporate power.

Briefly let’s return to the left’s leading anarchist Noam Chomsky, who is so dismissive of the left’s leading communist Slavoj Zizek that one has to wonder what the project is for anarchism besides criticism. Now Chomsky’s strategy with the Democratic Party is almost paradoxical here. When he advocates Blue No Matter Who we can see how a universal no-goal (anarchism) can also become a universal goal (blue no matter who). While for Zizek a particular goal (communism) can more easily translate to a particular compromised goal (support for Sanders). Chomsky is wonderful of course. I feel the need to be politically correct here and say that. It’s important to recognize his greatness with sincerity even if he haunts me personally.

Ok let’s get more controversial here, more specific. Because I will readily say now I’m not a leftist. Communist and Marxist are good terms but leftist now feels strictly ideological to me. And I have to thank a singular person who brought me out of the left. I don’t even agree with him. His name is Andrew Deziel.

Now he exited the left for one reason only: Venezuela. So yes he is critical of Maduro in a simplistic imperialist way. Ok, fine. But what stuck with me is his criticism of the American left, who rather than consider actual accounts of Venezuelans chose to construct an ideological utopia. Where there was such a need for a place for left purity to actually work all facts were denied.

But here the left wants to escape guilt and responsibility and we can see the white privilege. I think on the one hand there is a denial of the tremendous amount of blood shed because the ideas must eclipse the brown people. I like the joke black people make about there being dogs in Flint, Michigan. The joke of course is that when white people realize dogs have to drink the water there they will clean it. I think the same is true for Venezuela here. Brown people dying in the name of communism and as soon as there is capital, the whites say, oh, how horrible!

What I’m saying here is actually is that the left paints a cartoon picture of the brown nation here, no? What is obvious is that there is a lot of similarities to us, not this abstract utopia. Now Chavez/Maduro did tremendous work for their people but the problem was that it wasn’t sustainable in the increasingly capitalist unequal society. So conditions change, and so do tactics, right? I mean this is just simply Marxist materialism. The conditions were changed because of US imperialism and capitalism, yes. So I don’t know why the left runs from this.

Capitalism makes things worse, no one can afford to govern as a true communist, so people must be controlled to subvert democracy and attempt to maintain communist ideology. This is horrible, Stalin was horrible, bla bla, but the lack was created by capitalism. So the only sin is faith. A costly sin. And if we ever want people to have faith in the communist project we should be honest about it. And be able to explain it.

I think there has been severe consequences to the neoliberal project within the dominant psyche. Instead of broad humanism with obligation to the community we have become so individualized that we can only have obligation to the Other. This is an important distinction between communism and liberalism. Liberalism has a preoccupation with the self that can only care for self-reversals, rather than the radical anonymity of the self within the communal. The liberal treats the Other as the self they can’t be. The brown person is kinder, more virtuous. This is not just racist (a liberal individualized term) but also self-obsessed to the point that the brown person has no ideological utility besides filling the master’s lack.

So my conclusion is perhaps a paradoxical one that also runs from responsibility: the Democratic Party is right to demand a communist like allegiance. But it has no such demand of corporations. Corporations do not have to obey the Party line. So in this sense the freedom to have an ideology of one’s own remains an illusive privileged right. We should recognize this and demand an ideology that does not reflect our own democratic interests but that of the communal working class. We do after all enjoy submitting ourselves to corporate power everyday and the fact that we are incapable of doing this for a political Party shows the extent of our alienation.

But here perhaps we assert some sort of democracy again when we say that the communist takeover should not be democratic in an institutional sense but should better the lives of poor people or else it simply is a pointless ideological assertion. This is exactly why the corporate duopoly must be called out. I for one will be thrilled to submit to a a grander project than the individualistic negative anarchism that infects the left today. But the Democratic Party is putting the cart before the horse when it demands we vote for them without obeying their own ideology. The first step of good faith would be to scrap this democratic primary and nominate the candidate that would clearly help the American people. This candidate is Bernie Sanders. For all his flaws, this would inspire the communist loyalty the Democrats are looking for.

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

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