Henwood vs. Cockburn

Tom Lehman TLEHMAN at lor.net
Thu Nov 11 18:45:33 PST 1999

Are Charles Brown and Adolph Reed Jr. twins seperated at birth?

Tom Lehman

Doug Henwood wrote:

> Yoshie Furuhashi quoted:
> >In "Ebony and Ivory Fascists," Adolph Reed
> Title: Ebony and ivory fascists.(Patrick Buchanan; Louis
> Farrakhan)(Class Notes)(Column)
> Authors: Reed, Adolph, Jr.
> Citation: The Progressive, April 1996 v60 n4 p20(3)
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Subjects: Right and left (Political science)_Public opinion
> People: Buchanan, Patrick_Influence; Farrakhan, Louis_Influence
> Reference #: A18136986
> ========================================================================
> Abstract: Both Patrick Buchanan and Louis Farrakhan have been successful
> in pursuing policies of religious-influenced fascism, and
> their successes point out the failure of the political left to
> relate to certain segments of the population. The influences
> of both men are discussed.
> ========================================================================
> Full Text COPYRIGHT Progressive Inc. 1996
> The American left is a funny place. I recently attended a Labor Party
> Advocates chapter meeting where a gaggle of left sectarians interminably
> vented their disagreement with the executive committee's position that
> the party should be a non-electoral entity. They seemed not to realize
> that whether or not we engage in the 1996 elections is meaningless. The
> left is so weak that we can't hope to have any impact on national
> politics in the electoral arena. In fact, the only thing we could
> accomplish would be to set ourselves up as scapegoats for a possible
> Clinton defeat.
> Nothing underscores the left's irrelevance in the big picture of
> American politics more boldly than Pat Buchanan's strong showing in the
> Republican primaries, just as Louis Farrakhan's bounce from the Million
> Man March indicated the left's irrelevance in black politics. The
> success these salt-and-pepper twins of religious-tinged fascism have
> enjoyed stems partly from a spate of media coverage. But it is also
> testament to the left's failure to connect with the lives of people
> outside our ranks.
> Buchanan and Farrakhan thrive--as demagogues always do--by tapping
> people's anxieties and offering a cathartic identification with
> themselves as the cure. They cultivate a nostalgic wish for an organic
> order, and they offer simplistic solutions that focus on demonizing
> stereotyped enemies. Their world views similarly rest on the staples of
> fascist ideology: racism (including anti-Semitism), misogyny,
> homophobia, and populist authoritarianism. Each presents himself as the
> crystallized essence of Popular Will. Each spouts belligerent,
> borderline violent rhetoric while complaining that he is the
> beleaguered, overmatched victim of vastly powerful conspiracies. The
> complaints grow louder with each success.
> Buchanan may or may not survive in the race until the Republican
> convention. He's not likely to win the nomination. If he does win, he
> could be an easy opponent for President Piggly Wiggly. On that basis,
> some liberals and progressives are secretly cheering him on, seeing him
> as partly source, partly reflection of the GOP's disarray. And some
> progressives may want him to stick around in the race because his
> success seems to validate the power of an anti-corporate, anti-NAFTA
> appeal. But I'd be cautious about either of these views.
> While Buchanan looks like an extremist and a loser who will rally both
> the GOP elite and the establishment media around some other candidate,
> the possibility remains that the popular groundswell he got going could
> take on a life of its own. That's certainly what Buchanan himself is
> hoping. And he could secure the nomination. Reagan looked like an
> extremist loser in 1980, and the right is a lot stronger now than then,
> both ideologically and organizationally.
> Except for his vocal opposition to NAFTA, Buchanan's views aren't that
> out of step with the Republican mainstream; he's just more pugnacious
> than the other national figures when he expresses them.
> Sure, "fiscal conservatives" like Governor William Weld of Massachusetts
> and former HUD Secretary Jack Kemp tend not to be especially concerned
> with restricting abortion or civil rights for well-off women, gays, and
> nonwhites. And "social conservatives" aren't particularly concerned with
> getting rid of government on principle. They unite naturally, however,
> around expanding government's punitive functions when directed at people
> who are poor or different.
> Republican "libertarians" like Weld are among the quickest to go in for
> prison-building. And they should be--they understand that their program
> of gutting government's positive functions creates misery and hardship
> that in turn increase crime. By criminalizing poverty, a punitive state
> also helps discipline workers, a useful thing in a political environment
> encouraging capital flight, "downsizing," and reduction of the social
> wage.
> "Social conservatives" not only want to use the state to enforce their
> notions of moral propriety; they also want to dismantle the positive
> state functions that intervene in the domestic sphere, make it easier
> for women to live alone, support the morally defective poor, and
> guarantee equal rights for gays and nonwhites.
> A basis exists, therefore, for an alliance around cutting government's
> social welfare functions and increasing its punitive functions. An
> authoritarian like Buchanan--like his role model, Hitler--could appeal
> to both. And it's not inconceivable that, like Hitler, he could jettison
> or tone down his already paper-thin anti-corporate rhetoric to allay the
> concerns of his party's leadership. It's only an electoral ploy and
> front for his nativist racism, anyway.
> Just to tease out this hypothetical nightmare scenario a little more: A
> Buchanan nomination doesn't necessarily mean a cakewalk for Clinton. It
> all depends on how Piggly Wiggly responds. What if Clinton were to run
> in the way that seems most natural to him--that is, if he tried to
> occupy both positions simultaneously, playing to Buchanan's punitive,
> racist rhetoric of moral rearmament, making ambivalent gestures to labor
> and blacks while hyping "free trade," a qualified commitment to
> abortion, and platitudes about civil rights for those who "play by the
> rules"? He could very well be vulnerable to the charges that he's a
> shifty character who is trying to put something over on the
> electorate--charges that have dogged his Presidency so far.
> If he were to maintain his current, weak commitment to registering
> voters--which stems from his Republicrat fear of being tainted by
> identification with poor people and blacks--the effect would be to skew
> the electorate in Buchanan's favor. A Buchanan victory would be
> possible.
> Keep in mind that the rightward shift in national politics means a
> campaign strategy frankly attacking Buchanan as a dangerous fascist
> would be roundly criticized as being in scandalously poor taste. A
> recent network television magazine feature on dirty campaigning
> characterized Lyndon Johnson's famous
> count-to-three-and-blow-up-the-world ad against Goldwater as an
> abomination: never mind that Goldwater actively ran on his willingness
> to use nuclear weapons.
> Buchanan's "populist" appeal ought to be more sobering than uplifting
> for the left for another reason as well. As has been noted repeatedly,
> he appeals particularly to Republican voters who earn less than $35,000
> a year. Think about that for a second: Republican voters who earn less
> than $35,000 a year. In simple economic terms that would have to be the
> stupidest fraction of the American electorate. Why do they register
> Republican in the first place? I'll bet the answers have less to do with
> cutting capital gains taxes or "tort reform" than with asserting racial,
> gender, and nativist privilege.
> What we may want to interpret as economic populism could just as easily
> be resonance with a Herrenvolk democracy--a political assertion of
> white, male, nativist entitlement as the only truly legitimate
> citizenship--that has a long history in American politics.
> This is the "anti-corporate" populism of George Wallace, the Ku Klux
> Klan, Tom Watson, Civil War anti-draft rioters, and anti-abolitionist
> mobs in the antebellum era and Jacksonian Democracy. The Dorr War
> rebellion that sought to eliminate Rhode Island's property qualification
> for suffrage in the early 1840s was equally militant in seeking to
> establish a white racial qualification. A strain of this ideological
> orientation was significant in shaping the American labor movement.
> Through its tendencies to romanticize popular insurgency, New
> Left-inspired labor and social-history scholarship ironically helped put
> a sanitizing gloss on this Herrenvolk strain, either by ignoring it or
> by explaining it away as an unfortunate appendage to authentically
> radical and democratic politics.
> But ideologies of "ascriptive inegalitarianism," as political scientist
> Rogers Smith has characterized them, aren't merely quirky growths on
> otherwise laudably egalitarian populism. They are durable,
> self-sustaining perspectives in their own right, perspectives that
> presume that designated classes of people are not worthy of equal
> citizenship by virtue of who they are.
> This shines a different light on the working-class Buchanan voters and
> their Reagan Democrat precursors. Although they seem like dupes or
> hopeless idiots from a crudely drawn standpoint of class, they, like
> most people, don't see the world in neat economic terms. Herrenvolk
> ideology forms its notions of economic justice in ways that typically
> are already racist and sexist.
> That's why economically marginal whites voted for Reagan despite his
> promises to cut the social safety net, and why white welfare recipients
> voted for David Duke in Louisiana. When they hear the right's racially
> coded rhetoric, they infer that promises to reduce government services
> would somehow apply only to minorities.
> From this mindset, Buchanan's anti-NAFTA stance may appeal to people as
> a response to economic hardship precisely because for him it is a coded
> way to project his nativist commitments. He makes economic insecurity a
> politically meaningful category by explaining it within the worldview
> his audience already embraces. The move is something like this: "Worried
> about your job and future? Feel threatened by forces you don't
> understand? Well, I'll tell you who's responsible--anonymous, abstract,
> disloyal multinational corporations, Jews, blacks, gays, liberals,
> feminists, immigrants, and the like. We need to take the country back
> for real Americans."
> Many leftists are dangerously deluded by Herrenvolk populism. The
> anti-corporate language raises hopes that we might be able to connect
> with a real social base. The desire to reach this base leads to an
> opportunistic willingness to accentuate the positive: "If you look
> beyond the racism, sexism, homophobia, and nativism...."
> This disposition combines with a hoary wish on the left that the "race
> issue" would somehow go away. This wish isn't unique to leftists. It
> takes many different forms in the society as a whole. On the left it
> tends to show up as a high-minded class-first view that's not unlike
> Clintonistas' calls to "look for what unites us" as a code for
> evading--and thus tolerating--white racism. The objective is to find a
> way to build a political coalition that incorporates the supposedly
> progressive elements of Herrenvolk populist sensibility.
> "It's the economy, stupid" was the liberals' version of class-first
> politics in 1992. (Which, by the way, wasn't all that effective: Clinton
> got about the same percentage of the vote as Dukakis in 1988. "Thank
> you, Ross Perot" is a slogan that more accurately explains Piggly
> Wiggly's victory.)
> The left, of course, has a long history of economic reductionism that
> has been able to conciliate and rationalize all sorts of ideologies of
> inequality, simply by declaring them artifacts of capitalism that will
> magically wither away with its defeat down the road.
> It's unlikely that anyone seriously identified with left politics will
> go so far as to cozy up to Buchanan. But that may be only because he's
> already too tainted as a "fascist psychopath," in Christopher Hitchen's
> wonderfully succinct description. I certainly was taken aback to
> encounter as much sympathy among lefties as I did in 1992 for the
> welfare-billionaire demagogue Perot, and we already can see signs of a
> classic softening on the Herrenvolk front.
> In casual conversation and in the left media, the outlines of the
> familiar narrative are falling into place: Buchanan has tapped into
> working people's real concerns that no one else is addressing in
> national politics. We need to separate his appeal to justified anger and
> anxiety from the obnoxious directions in which he wants to direct
> them--and so on. Some may well go further still. Alexander Cockburn is a
> good illustration.
> Cockburn has been drawn steadily into the rightwing populist orbit. He
> came away from the militias' Michigan gun carnival last year singing
> their praises as working-class Joes "who aren't all racists" and who
> share the left's basic critique of the world, militantly defending their
> anti-statism. He has since allied himself with the rightwing
> jury-nullification movement, also in the name of a romantic notion of
> populist democracy. In his February 26 column in The Nation, he made the
> ultimate Herrenvolk move in adducing the Confederate secession as an
> exemplary assertion of popular sovereignty.
> It's not surprising, therefore, that two weeks later Cockburn seemed to
> open the door for Buchanan's rehabilitation, in effect calling on him to
> "deepen his message of populist economic nationalism."
> Cockburn's view of Buchanan reveals the limitations of a simplistic
> economic understanding of class as a political force, the confusion of
> militancy and radicalism, and the related confusion of populism and
> democracy. Stir in a suspicion that struggling for ideals of equality by
> race, gender, and sexual preference divides "us," and the desperate
> craving for access to some popular constituency, and we have a recipe
> for dangerous opportunism.
> This is exactly parallel to the situation with black leftists and
> Farrakhan. Substitute a simplistic racial understanding of black
> politics for the simplistic economic understanding of national politics,
> and everything else stays the same. The one difference is that
> respectable black "leftists" have rushed into Farrakhan's orbit,
> concocting shamelessly fatuous and opportunistic rationalizations along
> the way.
> Manning Marable most clearly reveals the bankruptcy of this idea of
> politics. He has argued that I am irresponsible to describe Farrakhan as
> a fascist--sidestepping the issue of my description's accuracy--because
> we "must talk with Farrakhan." Why must we talk with him? Because he has
> black supporters and calling him a fascist "will not facilitate any
> dialogue." This is stunningly unprincipled, and all Marable's empty
> qualifications about expressing profound disagreements with Farrakhan,
> blah, blah, blah, are no mitigation.
> My first thought on reading Marable's line was of identical arguments in
> Germany during the early 1930s about appeasing Hitler: that he spoke to
> legitimate concerns, that he had a genuine popular base. Farrakhan's
> base represents a black version of Herrenvolk populism, which overlaps
> with its white counterpart. Both emerge from the same cauldron of
> authoritarian, patriarchal, and racialist American political discourse.
> Farrakhan is a fascist, and, if he had the power, he'd bulldoze every
> black leftist in the country.
> The Nation of Islam has a history, after all, and Farrakhan is deeply
> implicated in it. And his recent defenses of the Abacha regime in
> Nigeria, the brutal theocracy in the Sudan, and the Mobutu dictatorship
> in Zaire should dispel any doubts about his model of politics.
> Not only is the position Marable takes immoral; it's idiotic
> strategically. Farrakhan has no reason to listen to Marable's tepid
> bromides, even if they were genuinely offered. Marable and his faux
> leftist pals, Cornel West and Michael Dyson, don't represent anything
> that he needs. They have nothing they can withhold from him, no
> political or resource base to which they can deny him access or mobilize
> against him. Marable, West, and Dyson are pimping their association with
> him to legitimize their claims to be in touch with a nonexistent popular
> black politics. Even association with scoundrels can fill the bill
> because this politics isn't about organizing anything real. It's all a
> pose. It's a politics that depends on having someone invite you to a
> meeting. You can't afford to take any sharp positions because doing so
> might keep you off the guest list.
> There are two important things for us to remember about the Ebony &
> Ivory of American fascism. First, it's not unusual for fascists to
> propound left-sounding critiques of bourgeois institutions, including
> capitalism. Mussolini came out of the Socialist Party in Italy, and the
> Nazis were, after all, the National Socialist German Workers' Party.
> Second, it certainly is true that Farrakhan and Buchanan tap into a
> reservoir of concerns about corporate power (and in Farrakhan's case,
> resurgent white supremacy).
> But people are not inert vessels ready to be loaded up with whatever
> strategic program gets to them first. They are inclined to interpret
> those concerns according to their distinct predispositions. For much of
> both fascists' constituencies, the radical-sounding issues--corporate or
> white domination--resonate as symbols of what is blocking their dreams
> of an organic world in which heterosexual male authority (white in the
> one case, black in the other) holds sway. The fascist ideas are not
> peripheral to the more radical-sounding stuff; if anything, it's the
> reverse.
> Many people are fundamentally committed to that fascist vision. We'll
> never win them over, no matter what their place in the system of
> production.
> Others aren't so committed, but the only way to win them over is to
> confront the ugly underbelly of fascist ideas, directly exposing them
> for what they are, and to provide a clear and uncompromising alternative
> vision.

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