Clerical Fascism

Chip Berlet cberlet at
Thu Oct 4 07:08:49 PDT 2001


Carroll & Kelley answered duetically


From: "Carrol Cox" <cbcox at>

> I have a minor quarrel with this post; I would assume that the value of
> good scholarship such as yours is that, in particular areas, it allows
> people to be lazy, and give their attention elsewhere. There are only so
> many hours in the day. The homework you are suggesting is in effect a
> redoing of what you have already done and summarized rather precisely
> for us. And those who disagree will no more be persuaded by your sources
> than they are by you.

OK, that's a good point.

> Incidentally, the needs of "the people" can only be served by the direct
> active) interference of government. By "direct" and "active" I mean in
> contrast to such governmental _granting_ of that which workers have
> demanded (implicitly or explicitly) through various forms of direct
> action. Social Security is a classical example. In fact most demands of
> the working class do _not_ require the exercise of state (police) power
> but only the extension of governmental services in response to demand.

Sure, but the trick is what "the People" tolerate in their name as exercised by elected officials who decide that the "police poewr" of bombing Afghanistan one step further back toward the Stone Age is somehow protecting us from harm. What do we collectively tolerate on the justification that we have more safety?

The balance is between no security and a police state. Unless you are a total isolationist, or want the US to collapse because it sucks, then the debate is where to draw the line.

From: "kelley" <kwalker2 at>

> i was asking: what if these guys are really really bad guys? what if they
> keep terrorizing. what if it's not enough to "just say no to US imperialism
> and racism?" as i said, these come up in our meetings. if you'll recall,
> carrol claimed that even bringing bin Laden & co to justice in terms of a
> legal proceeding was against left principles because the US injustice
> system sucks and no matter what anyone's crime he wouldn't and we shouldn't
> support it.

Hey, I think they are REALLY bad guys, and thought Wojtek was trying to make that point. I don't agree with Carrol that since the US justice system sucks (and it does) that there is no merit in putting ObL on trial here, because the argument extends to putting anyone on trial and I think there are a lot of people who need to see a jury. BUT, I actually think a UN run mission should collect him through force and put him on trial before some world judicial body as has been suggested elsewhere. It's what should have been done in Serbia instead of NATO bombings.

This is whether or not he was behind the latest terrorism because he was shown to have been involved in other criminal terrorist acts. And I would hope that we would all demand to have any evidence made public before the US engages in any more military action.

And yes, life under the Taliban is arguably worse for many people than life under the grinding oppression of galloping "global finance capital." I vote for neither. So there are times that I really do think that the US should be part of some global effort to stop terrorism or genocide, but in the past our unilateral bullying response has not been appropriate. This goes back to the arguments made by Jared Israel and friends at the emporers clothes website where everything Serbian is fabulous and everyone who thought some form of limited US role in intervention to stop Serb thuggery was a sign that they (including Noam Chomsky) were running dog hind leg lackeys of US imperialism. Kinda a stretch in Noam's case, eh? For a good time see the exchange at:

But a just say "No" to everything is not an organizing strategy with legs. There is a basic disagreement on this list over this question. I understand why some people take it. But as someone who used to do a bunch of organizing, I think the most effective style is to have a strategic vision of what we want as well as what we don't want. The problem is people who want revolution and nothing else. So when I helped organize a neighborhood to throw out the KKK and neonazis, some of my communist friends argued it was not enough. We had to stand up against all forms of racism and prejudice. Too true, but the Black people living in the neighborhood wanted the firebombings and physical attacks to stop first. What to do? All or nothing? I picked neither, and worked on step one. Get rid of White supremacist organizing that prompted young neighborhood thugs to act out their racism through violence. This is not a new problem for the left. I don't support the "all or nothing" approach. Others do. OK.

I also don't support the "let's mess up the US to stop imperialism" approach. Especially with alternatives like the Taliban around. I have no problem with militant non-violent direct action, though. But bricking Starbucks? Forfeit Che T-shirt and go back two spaces.

From: "Carrol Cox" <cbcox at>

> "The People" though have no way of organizing to achieve their demands
> other than by the appeal to the state to exercise its police power to
> suppress certain practices (e.g., high interest rates, high
> transportation costs, etc etc). In other words, some form of
> authoritarian state is implicit in populist goals.

Some form of authoritarian state is what you get whenever you sign the Social Contract. Since I really don't think the state withers away (sorry, I don't) then the trick is how to find the balance. It's the reason I never became a communist. I don't agree with either "democratic centralism" which I consider an oxymoron, and I don't believe that people in power are ever going to let any state they control just wither away. Call me a cynic. I wrote about my problem with cadre organizations in mass popular movements for RESIST at so you can check to see that I was not "red-baiting" in general, but had specific criticisms.

But yes, some form of authoritarian state is implicit in populist and all reformist goals.

-Chip "radical reformist" Berlet

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list