The enemy is at home

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Fri Apr 16 08:26:32 PDT 1999

At 01:58 AM 4/16/99 +0100, Jim heartfield wrote:
>doesn't hand out welfare payments. It blows up trains and convoys of
>refugees. There is no way to make war progressively. You can only make
>war destructively. And the only way that you can justify that is by
>dehumanising your enemies.

While I fully support the position you take, the passage above raises some questions.

War is not necessarily an "un-progressive" thing. It surely demonizes and kills the enemy, but it also requires a mass mobilisation at home, and more importanly, demands substantial sacrifices from the working classes who do the fighting. That, in turn, means that the ruling elites must make some social and economic concessions at home to "buy" working class cooperation in the war effort.

It is not coincidence that the greatest advances of progressive social changes in the US took part during the Vietnam War and Cold War in general.

It is no coincidence that after the end of the Cold War the ruling elites feel sufficiently safe to roll back all those previous victories. A somewhat similar argument, documented by impressive empirical material, is pursued by the historian Theda Skocpol (_Protecting Soldiers and Mothers_) who argued that the American welfare system first developed at the end of the 19th century, for the most part, as an unintended outcome of the Civil War.

This, I guess, poses a true dilemma for the Left. On the one hand, war is the instrument of imperialism, but on the other other - that instrument forces the ruling elite to make concessions toward the working class. That is not very much diffrent from the standard Marx's argument that factories are an instrument of capitalist accumulation, but that instrument may also sow the seeds of capitalism's destruction by bringing a large masses of people together.

So taking your argument that the "enemy is at home" we should stop ranting about real or imaginary evils abroad - and focus on our enemies at home, the Clintons, the Repugs and their corporate bosses. That, ironically, seem to imply that denitch and William's position advocating the introduction of ground troops has, after all, progressive merits, albeit for different reasons. That move would require a tremendous mobilisation at home, and that, in turn would create a greater opportunity for left gaining support than exist in a peaceful, but liberal-dominated economy.

But that also suggests that Left's interests are not exactly pollyannish either.

Any thoughts on that?


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