W speaks

John Gulick jlgulick at sfo.com
Fri Aug 18 23:03:18 PDT 2000

Doug sez:

>I notice a catastrophism slipping into a lot of left discourse. Gore
>Vidal, Alex Cockburn, John Gulick talking of the depression awaiting
>Clinton's successor. Katha Pollitt told me she doesn't see a left
>revival without a depression. What's that all about? People seem to
>be almost rooting for throwing 30 million out of work. Tight labor
>markets are good.

I say:

Wow, being mentioned amidst various left literary luminaries. But also being misinterpreted. All I'm saying is that unless 150 years of post-1848 capitalist economic history means nada, there is a very high likelihood of a recession, possibly a very severe one (given levels of consumer/business debt, whacko asset values, the balance of payments mess, Japanese stagnation, etc.), and whether you think voting matters or not, whether you're into lesser-evilism or protest votes or not, this looming reality should figure into your political calculus. The way I'm gauging it, exactly which administration is in office when the creative destruction whisks through will determine whether catastrophe is good/bad for the left, and the way in which it is good/bad.

I definitely agree that there's always the danger of a reactionary offensive when unemployment is high and labor is on its knees -- especially when the dominant ideology is that crisis is not a systemic problem but some kind of moral failing. At the same time, labor markets are stretched to the bone here in the Bay Area, nouveau riche dot-commers with vested options are spending wads of cash on fusion cuisine and live-work lofts, and the working poor are being expelled to Vallejo and Fresno. The labor aristocracy carries around Palm Pilots (and I'm talking construction workers here) in order to shift around portfolios 24-7 while the working poor are putting in 60 hours a week just to pay rent and to commute. It's a really confusing and disorienting time to be a leftist, what with all the popular hype about "unprecedented prosperity" (which has very broad resonance) and widespread suspicions that the alienation of demonstrators and activists is just a peculiar expression of middle-class spoiled brat-ness. Sometimes it seems like _One Dimensional-Man_ will just write itself again. Perhaps I yearn for a crash b/c then the lines will be a bit clearer and I won't have to spend so much time mapping this bewildering terrain. At the same time, I try to separate bad prejudices from good politics.


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