The Third International after Lenin

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bill Fletcher Jr. schools us on acceptable levels of Marxism for the 21st century

A writer named Bill Fletcher Jr. has had his article "Marxism, the 21st Century and Social Transformation" posted on the website of a pro-Democratic Party outfit calling itself the Online University of the Left. This online university seems to be a collection of social democratic [to be generous] fakers and also-rans, all of whom enjoy academic employment, as seen on the faculty list here.  The dear old school's motto on the top of the web page states:  "Changing Our Thinking, Changing Opinion, Changing the World," a lovely way of phrasing the old New Left shibboleths of careerists who never built anything more in the last thirty years than their own resumes. 

Bill Fletcher Jr.
co-founder of "Progressives for Obama"

Warning bells went off as I studied the faculty list.  Present was Gar Alperovitz, an important revisionist scholar of US history who has gone off the deep end with a from-below winning-without-taking-power pipe-dream he is currently flogging entitled "co-operative and community-based economy."  [Understand who will!]  I was further dismayed for the future of OUOTL when the name Paul Buhle hove into view.  Buhle has edited some excellent books and periodicals, for which we are grateful.  But Buhle today is also the peddler of poison around anti-war/anti-intervention unity of left and right in US bourgeois politics.  His own version of the sordid dream of conjugal bliss between left-liberals and libertarian quasi-fascists can be read here.  [For clarity on the subject, my own thoughts can be read here.]

Regarding Fletcher and his article sucking the Marxist meat off the bones of the history of struggle and revolution by workers and their oppressed allies around the world: apparently 20th century socialism is dead, Lenin's Imperialism is obsolete, and so is the revolutionary party.  Instead of a modicum of class clarity and scientific socialism, Fletcher douses the reader in a miasma of hazy and useless but cozy-sounding generalizations like "national populist projects," "global South,"  'left," "popular," "popular movement," "mandate," "Mass Left radicalism,"
and my personal favorite among petty bourgeois radical euphemisms that are actually useless unless dog-whistling in the Democratic Party, "social justice."

Nothing like disguising reformism in the mask of 18th century socialism, then parading it as 21st century socialism. Who could oppose a popular mandate for social justice in the global South, after all?

Or perhaps it is just Menshevism, to whit this quote from the article:

"It becomes the task of the Left to advance a project for social transformation even under democratic capitalism.  The framework for such an approach can be found in both Gramsci and, indeed, Lenin.  Lenin's advocacy of the position of the Left as being the chief advocates for consistent democracy should mean that it is the radical Left that is advancing a program and practice for the democratization of society.  This includes, but is not limited to significant structural reforms that improve the basic lives of the people but also involves opening up the means and opportunities for the oppressed to educate and free themselves.  As has been seen in parts of Latin America, this necessitates a struggle over the very constitution of the state and a fight to democratize that constitution in such a way to begin to break the back of ruling elite.  To borrow from Harnecker, the rules of the "game" must be changed in favor of democracy and in favor of the oppressed."

What indicates most strongly that Fletcher Jr. is a liberal-left US Democratic Party anti-communist hack [other than his sinecure as a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies (Washington, D.C.), and his position on the editorial board of], is the fact that, missing from his article on 21st century Marxism are these words: labor, union, labor union, labor movement.  All the more curious given the fact that, in the bio at the bottom of his article, we are told he "is the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of Solidarity Divided (a book which analyzes the crisis of the US trade union movement)." 

Today's U.S. working class does not appear on the radar of Mr. Fletcher Jr.'s article.  I'm sure from the Institute of Policy Studies there is no window on the valiant pickets at Caterpillar and American Crystal Sugar.  It is useful, from one's Washington think tank, to praise "left radical movements" in Athens and Madrid, but supporting a strike in the United States might offend a foundation donor.

This is the kind of sordid intellectual double-dealing by social democrats [quote unquote] we will have to get used to tearing down as the class struggle intensifies.  We'd better get used to it now.


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