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Fascism and Big Business by Daniel Guerin

Sunday, March 18, 2012

PSL angles for Ron Paul supporters, gives their candidate kid-glove treatment

"Isolationism versus revolutionary internationalism: The working class is a global power" is a 16 March 2012 article on the Liberation website.  Liberation is the newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.  The article takes up the cudgels against Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, a long-serving member of the House of Representatives from Texas.  

Paul is well-known for a series of books extolling the libertarian utopia, which appeals to ruined and exploited producers from the middle classes: farmers, fishermen, small businessmen and "entrepreneurs."  These are the captains and kings who, we are told, could save our economic depression were government taxes and regulations eliminated.  Paul is also a thinker, or perhaps fantasizer, of very long standing about a coming race war and the subsequent breakdown of Western Civilization.  

None of these stands, quixotic even in terms of prevailing political assumptions shared by most capitalists and their middle class managers, promoters, publicists and lickspittles, would warrant an article in any revolutionary socialist newspaper.  But Paul's outspoken opposition to Washington's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as his opposition to the Patriot Acts, have gained his presidential campaigns a following among young people on and off campus.  While Democrats and Republicans have consistently demonstrated that they form in fact a bipartisan war party, Paul's stance within bourgeois politics has become a pole of attraction.  Which explains the necessity of a revolutionary socialist newspaper, focused on recruiting anti-war youth, explaining its differences with Paul, and demonstrating the fact that the congressman's line leads to a dead end.

PSL is focused on campus recruitment, and recruitment of youth from the movementarian milieu.  Hence the article's political clarity between Paul and the Marxist politics that underlie PSL's own ANSWER Coalition:

Isolationism under capitalism, particularly in its imperialist phase, is actually impossible. Marx wrote that "the tendency to create the world market is directly given in the concept of capital itself." [Emphasis in the original.] The U.S. capitalists' non-stop appetite for resources and markets abroad produces constant war and other forms of aggression against foreign capitalists and governments that get in their way. This tendency toward militarism cannot be stopped by electing a different policymaker—it requires a new system.

But while the Liberation article does a good job of laying out a scientific explanation of the differences between Marxists and Paulists, it concedes a little too much to the anti-war [or "anti-interventionist"] credentials Paul and his supporters peddle.

To put it succinctly, Ron Paul is not opposed to Wall Street wars.  PSL is wrong to approach the question as one of simple compare-and-contrast on moral grounds:

The principle of non-intervention is of course better for the people of the world than imperialist wars—whether waged in their blatant or more "humanitarian" forms. Socialists, too, demand that U.S. military bases be immediately closed and all troops be returned from Afghanistan, and also oppose intervention in Syria or Iran.

But the libertarian foreign policy is very different from that of socialists.

Libertarians oppose intervention not out of solidarity with oppressed peoples around the world, but out of "America First" patriotism. This encourages workers to think of themselves first as "Americans," who have more in common with the 1 percent than the 99 percent around the globe. For example, Ron Paul advocates for bringing the troops home from Afghanistan—in order to increase troop presence along the U.S.-Mexico border, aiming the guns at workers from Latin America. He supports neoliberal free-trade policies that devastate workers in other countries and only serve Wall Street.

Ron Paul takes advantage of the overwhelming bipartisan support for these wars in Congress to maintain his own niche as a voter against war appropriations.  He has, as do so many representatives on so many issues, the luxury of having his cake and eating it, too.

Washington and Wall Street have launched wars against more than Afghanistan and Iraq.  They have also launched and continued a forty-year anti-labor offensive that has radically altered the relations between capital and labor in the United States.  This can be seen in everything from assaults on democratic rights, legal cover for the government assassination of US citizens, the NDAA, increased imprisonment of oppressed nationalities, and repeated attacks on women's reproductive rights.  

Non-interventionism and what the PSL calls Paul's "America First" isolationism, remind me of the final lines of Woody Guthrie's song, "Lindbergh."  

And I'm gonna tell you workers, 'fore you cash in your checks:

They say "America First,"

but they mean "America Next!"

In Washington, Washington.

Guthrie's fine song epitomized the kind of political stance Paul has today staked-out: anti-labor, anti-woman, anti-Black, all usefully obscured by an appeal to anti-war sentiment.  Paul supports every government cut-back and austerity measure, and cheer leads for the most extreme bourgeois political elements.  He is a promoter of every measure of the "war at home."

Underlying contradictions have given Ron Paul's campaign a serious hearing among people who want to effectively oppose imperialist war.  Various local and national anti-war groups have existed in the United States since 9/11.  But they have made no progress in eleven years in building a sustained campaign to bring the troops home.  Those frustrated by this near-complete lack of progress have been attracted to the siren song of bourgeois electoralism represented by Paul's campaign, just as they have been in the past by wishful thinking about characters as diverse as Ralph Nader, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, and Barack Obama.

PSL would do well to register this brutal fact, and make it part of the context for their gentlemanly dismissal of Ron Paul.


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