Aug 26, 2010

Anti-war movement and TEA party must hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately

The warfare state and the welfare state are inevitably linked, two sides of the same coin. The elites who run both of these scams have convinced many of those protesting against one to support the other through a false choice between the left and right sides of the same pyramid scheme - with them at the top and most of us at the bottom. As long as our struggles are limited to working to elevate left above right or right above left, the pyramid remains balanced on our backs, ensuring their comfort.

Former Board of Supervisors President and (Nader's) Vice Presidential Candidate Matt Gonzalez, Congressman and former Presidential Candidate Ron Paul, and 8th Congressional District candidate John Dennis (GOP), are scheduled to speak during a non-partisan, antiwar, anti-Washington and anti-incumbency free speech rally, September 4 in San Francisco.

Matt Gonzalez also ran for Mayor of San Francisco as a Green Party nominee. Readers at IPR will also remember Ron Paul was the 1988 Libertarian presidential nominee.

Other speakers are also slated to appear, although they have not yet been named. The event appears to be hosted by Campaign for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty, both organizations that originated from Paul’s 2008 Republican campaign for President.

Others do not get it at all:

Bob Morris in Politics in the Zeros:

Why is the antiwar movement stalled?

So says Raimondo at He is scathing against leftie ideologues who don’t want a right-left coalition to fight against the insane wars of the US because that might cut into their already absurdly small power bases.

The Ron Paul faction of the right as well as the Buchananites oppose the wars too. Does the left want to build little micro-mini-empires or does it want a genuine mass movement to end the wars? Because a real mass movement means people from all across the political spectrum join into together working for a common cause, and ignoring their differences.

A left-right coalition would make the antiwar movement uninhabitable by the inveterate sectarians of the ultra-left, whose only concern is to recruit na├»ve young people into their dying little sects. Trotskyism, today, is about as relevant as phrenology, and about as useful when it comes to building a mass political movement of any kind – and the sectarians know it. They are essentially parasites who converge on any “peace” movement that arises and suck the juice out of it until they’ve had their fill: then they feast on the bones.

A constant for those of us in Arizona who have been in the streets since the passage of SB 1070, has been the troubling presence of political opportunists, or “the hacks” as we’re now accustomed to calling them. A “31 Flavors” of Left-wing political groups, most of them looking to jump on the anti-SB 1070 band wagon as a means to get their name out there, recruit new members, and/or using the human rights disaster we face to raise funds to build their presence.

For months now, the Trotskyist sect, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), have shown up at pro-immigrant/anti-Arpaio demonstrations hawking their paper, “The Militant,” and setting up a table to sell their books. Meanwhile, the ANSWER “coalition” has appeared overnight and called for a demonstration the day before the law goes into effect.

As it’s been documented over the years, ANSWER is a front for the Party for Socialism and Liberation, a Leninist group that broke away from the Stalinist line of the Workers World Party a few years back. From where we stand, these groups, who parachute in with their own agenda, offer no answer from any of their party building, paper selling militants, or disingenuous front organizations for the crisis in Arizona.

With the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), there are plenty of opportunities for a well meaning person to get caught up in their web of front groups.

Although Morris and (at least the sections he quotes from) his sources don’t discuss it, a similar phenomenon exists with small neo-nazi groups infiltrating the ranks of anti-immigration groups and, some have claimed, tea parties.

Just as the antiwar movement has deflated with the election of supposedly (but not actually) antiwar president Obama, many of the TEA parties have in large part become little else except a vehicle to elect the same old Republicans. As Pat Dixon puts it:

Libertarian Party of Texas Chair Pat Dixon in the Austin Statesman:

I remember when the Iraq war protests began. Protesters would march up Congress Avenue and surround the Capitol announcing their opposition to this war.

As time went on, I noticed how the protests evolved. I would start to see people joining these protests carrying signs opposing capitalism, environmental policy, global trade and all manner of policies that had little to do with the war. I also noticed how angry these people were, and the display of signs that showed President George W. Bush depicted as a Nazi.

When the Libertarian Party of Illinois lit the match that became the tea party bonfire, the idea was to promote the principles of the Libertarian Party in protest of continued growth of government, bailouts, a nightmarish taxation system and other policies promoted by Republicans and Democrats.

It now has evolved to include protesters on immigration policy, gay marriage, foreign policy, abortion and all manner of policies that do not match those of the Libertarian Party. We also see angry signs depicting President Barack Obama as a Nazi.

Movements like these are not easily controlled. They can evolve and splinter such that they no longer reflect their origins. This is also true of the tea party.

As far back as February 2007, discussions on the Libertarian Party of Illinois’ email list mentioned a modern-day Boston Tea Party. In late 2008, the party decided to hold a tax protest called the Chicago Tea Party and scheduled it for tax day, April 15, 2009. In January 2009, they began to promote the event through Meetup groups, Facebook and elsewhere.

Then on Feb. 19, 2009, CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, during a live televised broadcast from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, mentioned the idea of a Chicago Tea Party. The broadcast resulted in rapid proliferation of the idea on the Internet, and the event exploded into a mass movement.

It should be noted that the tea party movement started long before the health care debate and while Republicans still controlled the federal government. There was already outrage over the decisions being made in government at federal, state and local levels prior to the swearing in of Barack Obama. At its origin, it was a Libertarian movement. The founders and participants were socially liberal and economically conservative.

Today we have many organizations calling themselves the tea party. There are competing tea parties in several states. The state of this movement today is confusing and uncertain. It has become a prized demographic for talk radio and Republican political groups to romance. It therefore is subject to infusion of those who would coax it toward their opposing ideology.

There is no unified tea party platform. Much of what we see promoted by its presumed leaders is not Libertarian. It has veered in many directions away from its original intent.

The Iraq war protests and the tea party share several attributes. They were both founded with focused concerns. As they grew, they were infused by those with other agendas in order to romance the followers of the movement. They were not centrally controlled, and they diverged into a widening and contradictory set of platform positions that were tangential to the original purpose. The tone became angrier and the messaging more extreme with the use of Nazi labels for their opponents.

What is yet to be determined is whether the tea party will have the same impact as the war protests. My observation is that the war protests don’t appear to have had any significant effect on policy.

Therefore, it is hard to predict how the tea party will influence the November elections. It will depend on whether supporters of the tea party are committed to the Libertarian origin of the movement. If so, votes will go toward those with a Libertarian (socially tolerant, fiscally conservative) platform which challenges incumbent politicians. If not, incumbent politicians will continue imposing anti-free market and socially intolerant policies on us and future generations.

If that happens, the party is over and it won’t matter who lays claim to it. I, for one, won’t want any part of it.

David Nolan wrote at LP blog,

When ultra-right Republican Sharron Angle won the GOP primary in Nevada on June 8, a number of Tea Party types were crowing about it, and heralding her victory as a harbinger of things to come. Even some libertarians, who should know better, were proclaiming Angle’s victory as “proof” that liberty lovers should work within the GOP to achieve Freedom in Our Time, or at least nudge us in that direction.

Now, seven weeks later, the smirks are turning into gasps. Angle has proved an incredibly inept campaigner – running away from reporters at her own press conferences, and taking stands that prove her to be far from a consistent friend of liberty.

Angle is good on most economic issues; I’ll give her that. She wants to cut Federal spending, permanently repeal the estate tax, and so on. But she’s an ultra-hawk in the War on Drugs, saying that she’d like to outlaw alcohol along with the currently illegal drugs like marijuana. She vehemently opposes a woman’s right to choose whether to continue her pregnancy – even saying that a 13-year-old raped by her father should be denied an abortion because maybe the pregnancy was “God’s plan.” And predictably, she’s 100% behind our staying enmired in foreign wars until the end of time.

Sharron Angle’s candidacy is a perfect illustration of how the Tea Party movement has in many states devolved from a genuine grassroots liberty movement into a launching pad for right-wing loonies. 16 months ago, there appeared to be a real opportunity to unite everyone who opposes out-of-control government, by avoiding divisive social issues and focusing on taxes and spending. Now, that hope is all but gone. By abandoning a consistent, if limited, advocacy of liberty, the Tea Partiers, at least in Nevada, have blown it, big-time.

So much for the “work within the Republican party” strategy.

Damon Eris has dubbed the Republicanized Tea Partiers as Tea Party Tories, and some Tea Party organizations have explicitly said that non-Republicans need not apply, although not all of them.Many Tea Party Tories have resorted to repeating the urban legend that Ross Perot got Bill Clinton elected. Even if this falsehood were true, what if he had? Would we have been better off with another term of Bush Sr., or an Al Gore presidency? How's that hope for change thing working out for us, anyway?

Garry Reed explains:

Recently, the Dallas Libertarian Examiner took a road trip down Memory Motorway to the bygone days of newly hatched state Libertarian Parties where its members, fresh from their activist eggshells and still sticky wet, tried to make a few feathers fly by staging tax protest rallies at US post offices across the land.

The article, complete with vintage yellowed photos from the 1970s era Minnesota Libertarian LP newspaper, headlined "Where’s the Libertarian Party tax protest?" complained that the Tea Parties have taken over the once traditionally perennial Libertarian Party tax protests of yore.

But that was then and this is now, and John Jay Myers, the Energizer Bunny of Dallas LP activism, apparently took the article as a personal challenge.

"The Republicans should not have free reign at these Tea Party events to distort their own irresponsibility," Myers told the Dallas Libertarian Examiner.

The Tea Party, Libertarians contend, has forgotten its anti-tax and anti-big government roots, and is being steered by Republican Party handlers back toward the Neocon fold. They’re forgetting that there’s little difference in the massive multibillion-dollar Bush Iraq war and surge and the multibillion-dollar Obama Afghanistan war and surge.

Reducing taxes and spending begins with ending America’s imperial wars and bringing our troops home.

As Myers puts it, "You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that a huge chunk of our budget is spent on Foreign Policy and DOD."

In a Green Party press release reaching out to elements of the Tea Party, Rodger Jennings says

Republicans and rightwing ideologues in the media are thrilled with a Tea Party movement that will channel votes and money towards extremist GOP politicians. Their idea of the Tea Party has nothing to do with the 1773 Boston Tea Party. They prefer a movement full of people who would have denounced the original Boston Tea Party as leftist terrorism against the British East India Company. They would have criticized Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine for wanting to rein in what Jefferson called ‘the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations.‘* To these Tea Partiers, and to most Republican and Democratic politicians, restraints on corporate power are a symptom of ‘big government.’

In the same press release,

The Green Party has warned that, whether Obamacare is enacted or Republicans succeed in blocking reform, the real winners will be the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and other industry lobbies.

Greens also compared the invasive homeland security measures favored by Republicans and Democrats to the bullying tactics of the British Army and requirement that colonists house British troops on demand.

“We need a Tea Party movement that opposes warrantless surveillance of American citizens, torture, invasion of other countries, and other violations of the US Constitution. [..] We need a Tea Party against predatory private prisons, the war on drugs, and mass incarceration of Americans. We need a Tea Party that defends future generations of Americans rather than corporate polluters,” said Lynne Williams, Green-Independent candidate for Governor of Maine.

“We need a Tea Party that recognizes corporations as artificial entities created by government fiat, and that corporations must not enjoy the same free speech and other constitutional rights as humans."

The one area where this press release goes astray is in its support for a single payer medical insurance system, although the Greens correctly note that "Greens, like true fiscal conservatives, oppose subsidies for health insurance companies in the Democratic plans, including proposed ‘mandates’ that would require enrollment." On this point, Roderick Long explains:

Those who see government power and corporate power as being in conflict, and those who seem them as being in cahoots, each have a point. The alliance between government and the corporate elite is like the partnership between church and state in the Middle Ages: each one wants to be the dominant partner, so there’s naturally some pushing and shoving from time to time; but on the other hand the two parties have a common interest in holding down the rest of us, and so the conflict rarely goes too far. The main difference between “left-wing” and “right-wing” versions of statism, as I see it, is that the former generally seek to shift the balance a bit farther in favour of the state (i.e., toward state-socialism) while the latter generally seek to shift the balance a bit farther in favour of corporatism and plutocracy. (In the U.S., the reigning versions of liberalism and conservatism are arguably both more corporatist than state-socialist; but the liberals are still a few notches farther toward state-socialism than the conservatives are.)

But whether the special interests who are the primary beneficiaries of state power are mainly within the state apparatus or mainly outside it, the actual application of state power remains much the same. Hence it is a mistake to suppose that the corporatist-plutocratic version of statism is in any interesting sense less statist than the state-socialist version.

But it is an all-too-common mistake – and this tendency to underestimate the chasm between free markets and corporatism is enormously beneficial to the state, enabling a slick bait-and-switch. When free markets and government grants of privilege to business are conflated, those who are attracted to free markets are easily duped into supporting plutocracy, thus swelling the ranks of statism’s right wing – while those who are turned off by plutocracy are likewise easily duped into opposing free markets, thereby swelling the ranks of statism’s left wing. (These are the two tendencies that Kevin Carson calls “vulgar libertarianism” and “vulgar liberalism,” respectively.)

As one of the villains in The Fountainhead explains in a moment of frankness, talking about the choice Europe was then facing between communism and fascism:

“If you’re sick of one version, we push you in the other. We’ve fixed the coin. Heads – collectivism. Tails – collectivism. Give up your soul to a council – or give it up to a leader. But give it up, give it up, give it up. Offer poison as food and poison as antidote. Go fancy on the trimmings, but hang on to the main objective.

The largely (though not completely) illusory conflict between state-oriented Palpatine and corporate-oriented Dooku in the Star Wars prequels is a nice dramatisation of the same principle.

This dynamic applies in particular to the debate over health care policy. The contrast between, say, the Canadian and American approaches is frequently described – by both sides – as a contrast between a “governmental” or “socialised” system on the one hand, and a “market-based” or “free enterprise” system on the other. But the American health care system bears little resemblance to a free market; instead it represents massive government intervention on behalf of private special interests, from insurance companies to the medical establishment. The choice between the American and Canadian models is simply a choice between different two different flavours of statism – each with somewhat different vices, it’s true (e.g., do you prefer higher prices or longer waits?), but ultimately coming down to a matter of the percentage to which control of your healthcare is exercised by people sitting in government offices as opposed to being exercised by people sitting in governmentally-privileged “private” offices – but in either case by ambitious, avaricious apparatchiks who aren’t you.

So what would a libertarian approach to health care policy look like? At a minimum it would have to include:

1. Repealing laws that have the effect of cartelising the medical industry (e.g., the licensure monopoly granted to the A.M.A.), thus artificially boosting the cost of medical care.

2. Repealing laws that have the effect of rendering the labour market oligopsonistic, thus artificially lowering people’s ability to pay for (and collectively negotiate for) medical care.

3. Repealing laws that shift healthcare funds from the 25%-devoured-by-overhead voluntary sector to the 75%-devoured-by-overhead coercive sector, thus decreasing the amount of healthcare that gets to needy recipients.

4. Repealing laws that transfer the power to make medical decisions for individuals from those individuals to centralised bodies, thus increasing the impact and scope of fatally bad decisions and suppressing the competitive signals that allow the identification of better and worse policies.

5. Repealing laws that wiped out the old mutual-insurance systems (basically HMOs run by the patients instead of by corporations) and empowered insurance companies at the expense of patients.

6. Repealing laws that suppress innovation and distribution in the pharmaceutical industry in the name of “intellectual property.”

Until the unlikely day when the Republican Party embraces this program, let’s hear no more of their favouring a free-market approach to health care.

Getting back to the Tea Parties, they may have reached a new low in absurdity in endorsing proud RomneyCare coauthor and all around RINO Scott Brown over grassroots independent libertarian TEA party candidate "the other" Joe Kennedy. During the closing weeks of the campaign, Kennedy received thousands of pleas from "Brown nosing" Tea Party Tories for Brown (aka BrownBaggers) to withdraw, and at least six threats from BrownShirt thug elements of the BrownBagger brigade. In the end, Kennedy held firm, Brown won anyway, and ObamaCare passed.

In 2000, many libertarians supported George W Bush as the supposed lesser evil who would be a compassionate conservative with a humble foreign policy. Instead, we got two unconstitutional, undeclared wars - at a cost of over a trillion dollars and counting, thousands of Americans dead and many more wounded, perhaps over a million foreign civilians killed (and who knows how many wounded, maimed, raped, made homeless, jailed, beaten, tortured, driven insane...), global ill will, and no end in sight; unprecedented violations of civil liberties; federal spending growing at a faster pace than under any president since FDR; Medicare Part D, No Child's Behind Left, raids on medical marijuana facilities in states where they are legal, indefinite detentions, 100,000 SWAT raids a year, obscenity short, the furthest thing from libertarianism on every policy front.

Likewise, in 2008, many libertarians backed Obama because they believed he would bring the troops home, repeal the "patriot act," equalize marriage rights, end torture, indefinite detention, secret prisons and domestic espionage, make at least some moves towards legalizing marijuana...none of which has happened.

It's always been clear, but it is more clear now than ever: swinging the pendulum to the left and right just seesaws us deeper towards the pit. Propping up either wing of the duopoly bird of prey is moving us closer to its beak. We need all our freedoms, all the time. It's not guns vs. butter; a government which gives us more welfare will give us more warfare, and vice versa.

The real atlas that needs to shrug is those of us at the bottom of the pyramid. We have nothing to lose but our ever heavier chains. We can be more prosperous, more equitable, more just and more secure without balancing the pyramid of power on our backs. And we'll either hang together in this, or soon enough we will indeed be hanging separately.


paulie said...

Ugh...blockquote nesting messed up, not sure how to fix it. I copy and pasted from here, where it is right...

d.eris said...

yeah, I see what you're talking about. I'm not sure that any word processing or publishing program will ever be able to work out all the formatting kinks you come across in daily usage.

If the problem persists or returns, you could also italicize rather than nest the quote.