Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher, Leslie Cagan, Ron Daniels, Kathy Kelly, Norman Solomon, Cynthia Peters, and Michael Albert wrote an Open Letter to the Green Party, asking them to support the 2020 Democratic candidate regardless who wins the nomination. It was in response to an article well worth reading by Howie Hawkins, The Green Party Is Not the Democrats’ Problem.
It has become too common over the last 15 years to see used-to-be anti-imperialists, or at least harsh critics of the US government’s brutal policies at home and abroad, fold under corporate America’s unrelenting onslaught on humanity and the planet. It is reminiscent of how the mass Marxist Social Democratic parties capitulated to the impending imperialist massacre of World War I, or how the Western nations caved in to Hitler from 1937 on until they saw their bigger enemy, the Soviet Union, take the full fury of Nazi forces and began beating them back.
Digging under the case Chomsky et al. present, we uncover a mother lode of cowardly unwillingness to organize, to mobilize, and do what is necessary to fight back. For instance, we have seen them capitulate on opposition to US invasion of Syria, with Chomsky even calling for US troops to continue the occupation. We have seen them acquiesce to the US-NATO war to overthrow Qaddafi, where the “Libyan revolution” has brought slave markets in the country.
But let us look at what they say. The Greens should not run in states that take votes away from the Democrat nominee able to beat Trump. This argument is founded on a considerable amount of traditional Yankee arrogance, an assumption that Greens are nothing more than disenchanted liberal Democrats who should come back home in a time of need. There is little evidence that Green voters would have voted for Hillary against Trump if there were no Green candidate. Some may have, just as some may have voted for Trump, and probably a great number would not have bothered to vote.
They also have a good dose of that liberal middle class arrogance that Hillary was the lesser evil to Trump and his deplorables. Of course, we can never know what Hillary or any other loser would have done as president because they never won. It does seem pretty clear, though, that the national security state would have been happy with her functioning as their obedient champion in the White House. But now we have Trump, who openly attacks national security state war-mongering and their corporate media fake news. It also seems likely Clinton would have involved us in a new war, which Trump periodically makes noises about but so far has avoided.
Hillary would also have been the lesser evil for the liberal elite by making the US empire more “respected” at home and abroad – that is, making the brutal operations of the empire more palatable for them. She would have made liberals prouder about what America supposedly stands for in the world, just as they were proud of the America of President Obama, as “the shining city on the hill.” Thinking the US empire represents a force for good in the world is a heartfelt need for American liberals.
For anti-imperialists the opposite is the case: what tears off the mask US imperialism wears, what shows the empire’s selfish greed and inhumanity to the world are important steps forward for people’s political education. In that, Trump, not having gone through the standard politicians’ dog-training school to learn how to cover up one’s greed, lies, and crudeness, has done a worthy job in showing to the world the true nature of the empire.
So long as liberals can think US imperialism is slowly improving, slowly reforming its excessive abuses, so long as they can rationalize some of its abuses, and so long as they can live comfortably inside the system, that for them is good enough.
But reality tells us US world hegemony will come to an end. China is slowly putting it out of business, and shocking to liberals, is providing a vastly superior example of how to deal cooperatively with other countries, how to eliminate poverty, how to combat climate change. We are into the period where, as an empire declining in productive wealth, the US must become more nakedly a bully to maintain its control. It must rely more and more on endless war, on economic warfare, on corporate media disinformation, having less wealth available to buy acquiescence.
Both Clinton and Trump knew that and were on board with it. Clinton used traditional feel good liberal rhetoric. Trump was outspokenly “America first,” and “white people first”. Any lesser evilism Chomsky et al. find in the Democrats exists fundamentally in the domain of rhetoric.
How to explain this ongoing liberal-left capitulation to corporate America’s Democratic Party agenda? The working classes, the great opposing power to capital, have not fought the corporate rulers and been defeated. They have not yet begun to fight. When they have been aroused and well led, as in the 1930s and 1940s, they took on the biggest corporate giants, General Motors, US Steel, the coal barons, the US government and martial law, and beat them. In the late 1950s and 1960s working people rose up and crushed the entrenched 75-year-old Jim Crow system. However, the US working class today, the only giant powerful enough to combat corporate control, still remains for the most part quiescent, leaderless. It will again emerge from the shadows and make history.
Liberal-left intellectuals do not identify themselves primarily as allies of this one great countervailing power to corporate America. Probably they don’t even see it. Rather, they see a progressive milieu which can function as a pressure group in the orbit of the Democratic Party against what they see as a right-wing milieu around the Republican Party and Democratic Party bosses. As a result they operate from a perspective of weakness, and feel the popular force behind them continually diminishing since the last mass social upsurge, in 2002-3 against the war in Iraq. Consequently they have slowly and steadily shifted rightwards over the years. However mass movements and mass struggles come in waves followed by periods of quiescence, and inevitably a great new wave will appear.