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To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Boot Stamping on a Human Face...

...is OK, just so long as it's the left boot.

Matthew Yglesias quotes Daniel Kurtz-Phelan:

Yglesias occasionally assumes the bloggerish pose of an outsider screaming at the Establishment, but in its substance his preferred foreign policy is as Establishment as could be. What he offers is a livelier version of the sort of "liberal internationalist" platform that might be found in, say, a task-force report put out by a center-left think tank.
Yglesias responded:

To me, though, this is the point. My ideas really are basically the ideas that were at the core of the bipartisan, establishment consensus throughout the Cold War years. And they're ideas that could and should have been the key ideas of center-left think tanks in the post-9/11 world. But that's not what actually happened. Instead, a set of ideas that originally existed as a fringe right-wing position wound up being espoused not only by nearly the entire Republican Party but by a huge swathe of the broader establishment.

When Samuel P. Huntington wrote, in The Crisis of Democracy, of the United States as "hegemonic power in a system of world order," and argued that this hegemonic status depended on the U.S. being

governed by the president acting with the support and cooperation of key individuals and groups in the Executive office, the federal bureaucracy, Congress, and the more important businesses, banks, law firms, foundations, and media, which constitute the private establishment...

...he was talking mainly about a Cold War liberal establishment dating back to FDR and Truman. This is what I had in mind when I left this comment under Yglesias' post:

As a left-wing outsider, I'm struck by the similarities between the old liberal foreign policy establishment you're so nostaligic for and the neoconservative approach. Despite significant differences, you have more positions in common than not. The liberal foreign policy establishment agrees with the neocons that the U.S. should (it goes without saying) have the strongest military in the world, that the U.S. is the rightful guarantor of a corporate world order, and that the U.S. is the only power in the world that has the right to define as a "threat" either what some country on the other side of the world does within a few hundred miles of its own border, or the refusal to recognize the U.S. as hegemonic power. The liberal foreign policy consensus got us all the nasty shit Gabriel Kolko wrote about, like forcibly suppressing leftist resistance movements in former Axis-occupied territories and putting former Axis puppets back in power. It got us Korea and Vietnam (including the installation and subsequent overthrow of Diem, and the Tonkin Gulf incident). It got us Suharto, and endless other dictatorships of, by, and for the landed oligarchs and TNCs.

In short, your "liberal establishment" foreign policy, to the extent that it differs from that of the neocons, reminds me of Chomsky's quip about the liberal wing of the Nazi party that only wanted to kill half the Jews. While it's arguably an improvement, it's still utterly reprehensible.

Yglesias is a textbook illustration of the tendency Arthur Silber observed in "even the most intelligent of liberal-progressive writers and bloggers":

their seeming inability to appreciate the continuity and uniformity of American foreign policy over the last century, and particularly since World War II. It appears that their determination to turn virtually every episode in our national life, no matter how disastrous, into an opportunity for partisan advantage and electoral victory overcomes analytic abilities which can often be very insightful on more limited questions. This myopic slant proceeds, in turn, from a willingness to allow the demands of tribal political identity to trump a more dispassionate (and I would submit, much more accurate) assessment of how the current Bush administration differs from previous administrations -- and how it does not.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Jamesey said...

Hi Kevin,

I think the theoretical foundation for the so-called "liberal" Establishment originated with John Dewey who advocated that socialists should appropriate the term liberal, so as to appeal to the working classes in America, amongst whom classical liberalism was popular. He effectively appropriated the term and turn its aims on its head.

He appears to have been inspired by the teachings of Thomas Hill Green, who believed that people are bound by relations preceded from and manifestd from a cosmic mind and that the State is the representation and expression of collective will.

Its a sentiment thats echoed by many "liberals" here in New Zealand and I think that belief is popular in Europe as well. Pretty bizarre really.

http://www.rightclick.co.nz/Reading/Liberalism/CallingAGiraffeFidoWontMakeHimADog.html

http://www.teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=1450

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/green/#6

June 17, 2008 7:23 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Thanks for the comment, Jamesey. You're right, Dewey was at the heart of it--along with Lippman and others in the New Republic circle. I like to take it back a step, though, to Herbert Croly's *The Promise of American Life*.

Croly's philosophy, and those of his "progressive" followers at TNR, was the philosophy of the New Middle Class of managers and engineers that controlled the new large corporations and government agencies, and wanted to manage American society as a whole like they managed their organizations.

June 19, 2008 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Jamesey said...

Hi Kevin,

No worries.

Though history has been a passion of mine since I was very young, if it weren't for you, I'd still be unaware that the "official" version of history has been distorted to align with the the class interests and political bias of the elites and their sychophants amongst historians like Arnold Toynbee.

Neither would I have realised the true extent of the hypocricy of the neoliberal technocrats and that their claims of limited government and policies, which didn't favor one market participant were completely bogus.

Nor would I have discovered a more consistent economic philosphy thats given me an alternative to the completely inconsistent royal libertarian belief system or the naive State loving socialist ideology, you have "inadvertantly" introduced me to through your article, The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand.

I use the the clenched fist metaphor all the time when describing the government's interventions in favour of select market participants especially when debating with "liberals" online, who believe that the government should protect us from the capitalists.

"You're right, Dewey was at the heart of it--along with Lippman and others in the New Republic circle. I like to take it back a step, though, to Herbert Croly's *The Promise of American Life*."

Yeah I read Eric Husman's review of the book after linking through from your blog post of "Rebirth of American Industry".

The neocons and pseudo-liberals are two sides of the same coin.
Both feel they're superior, fear, and despise the unruly masses and seek to control them only through different means, which is why the far-right conspiracists think they'e one in the same, although perhaps they are, especially when you realise that many neocons were formerly Troskyists. Joseph Stalin's "scientific management" were after all derived from the demands that the Soviet Union should be a "dictatorship of industry" and that the NEP was a corruption of the Soviet Republic.

The "dictatorship of industry" was based on the theories of Evgeny Preobrazhensky, which he wrote down in his book "New Economics".

Stalin and the populist Right in the Soviet actually originally supported the NEP, because it didn't exploit the peasentry,

That is what caused the rupture of the Party between Trotsky's and Stalin's factions.

It was only after he had exiled Trotsky and had the author murdered that he decided to put the economic model into practice.

June 19, 2008 7:13 PM  
Anonymous global issues said...

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June 29, 2008 11:00 AM  

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