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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The GOP resurrects Marx

 Marxism seemed dead and buried in the U.S.  But the GOP has revived it spectacularly. 

After the Soviet Union disintegrated 20 years ago, Marxism seemed to die as a viable political theory.  Aside from being a violently oppressive form of politics in practice, many of its theories were absurd.  In the minds of many, Marxism is what went on in the former Soviet Union.  But there are many versions of Marxism and some forms of communism that are not based upon Marxist theory.  The dismantling of the Soviet Union occurred because the Kremlin brand of politics simply did not work. The Bolshevik revolution was driven by a desire to be free from the tyrannies and gross inequities of czarist rule, but it was soon taken over by the lust for power and oppression of Stalin and his cohorts.  It's an old story.  People looking to be freed often follow those who lead them into another siege of oppression.  Stalin rivaled, often surpassed, Hitler and the Nazis in reigning by prolonged atrocity.

Americans at the prompting of the brain-washing media have so fixed on Soviet Marxism as the defining form that they are totally ignorant of how Marxist theory is applied in China or what is taking place politically in South America.  The countries which are displacing the hegemonic dominance of America are doing so with policies and practices that draw from the range of left-wing theories--socialist, communist, yes Marxist, and forms of regulated capitalism.  The last election campaign was fraught with charges of Obama and the progressives being Marxist, anti-American, and hell-bent on instituting totalitarian communism in America.

While much media attention is being paid to the Republican takeover of the U.S. House, its gains in the Senate and state governorships and legislatures, and the influence of the tea party movement, the attention neglects the obverse effect that the invocation of Marxism is having.  The Republicans, tea party spokespersons, and American conservatives in general have incited a new interest in Marxism.  A Pine Ridge colleague commented sarcastically that if these people are so vehemently against Marxism and communism, it probably deserves another look.  It must embrace something of virtue.  That Pine Ridge viewpoint is informed by author Adrian C. Louis, who worked and lived on Pine Ridge for a time:  

This country was founded on violence. So its kind of like karma coming back to haunt us, you know. When the Spaniards came into the towns here they killed more Indians than Hitler killed Jews in his ovens. It's a greater holocaust here than there was in Europe during World War II. That's a historical fact. America is a schizophrenic country. On the one hand, it purports to be the peace loving center of the universe. On the other hand, it's got everything it has from violence from taking and taking.

Revolutions are nearly always motivated by the desire to free people from oppressive discrimination, violence, gross inequality, and economic bondage.  People who are looking for liberty, equality, and justice follow the movements that seem most able to put those qualities into operation.

No one in America would choose Chinese communism with its oppression, bureaucratic control, and human rights record as a form of government, but that should not hinder an American from recognizing what Mao and his successors have accomplished with China since World War II.  Over the years, I have had many students from China, including some who protested in Tiananmen Square in 1989.  I directed the master's thesis work for some who  examined how American writers, such as Pearl Buck and Edgar Snow, presented China to American and  other English-speaking readers.  The students had a fondness and appreciation of America, but also a sound knowledge of the turmoil and hopeless  poverty in their own nation.  While some of them admired American democracy, they could not escape a history of exploitation within their country and the huge task of liberating and developing their country out of the caste-systems that denied livable lives, let alone opportunity, to so many people.  Whatever one thought of Mao, and he was reviled in the conservative west, he was making changes for his people.  My students stressed the improvements time and again.  Now that China has become the biggest world economic power next to the U.S. and holds much of the U.S. debt, there is a grudging admission that, with all its drawbacks, the Chinese government is doing something right and is making progress for its people.  It is tempting for Americans to say the successes of China rest  on its adoption of  capitalist economic policies.  There is a big difference in people protesting political repression and seeking the overthrow of communism.  People will not generally overthrow the government that moves toward freedom and offers opportunity to rise out of poverty.  The number of poverty-stricken people in China's rural areas decreased to 14.87 million in 2007 from 250 million in 1978.  A World Bank report released in 2007 said that China accounted for 67 percent of the achievements in global poverty reduction in the past two decades.

Left-wing regimes have made similar advances in Latin America.   Brazil inaugurated Dilma Rousseff  as president this month who had been imprisoned for being a left-wing guerilla fighter.  She is expected to follow the policies of the former president in whose cabinet she served in continuing to lift Brazil  from poor and bankrupt to one of the most promising economies in the world.  Former president de Silva reduced the percentage of people living below the poverty line in Brazil from 28.2 per cent in 2003 to 22.7 per cent in 2005.

Left-wing governments are holding power in other Latin American countries, including Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Vincente and the Grenadines.

While these countries are reducing their poverty rates, the U.S. is going in the opposite direction.  Last year, the U.S. saw those living in poverty raised to 44 million, or one in seven residents, 14.3 percent.  The country has seen wealth and wages concentrated in the top 20 percent of the population, with the middle class being pushed toward the poverty level, as:
The GOP sees attempts to extend some economic equity, honesty, and fairness as establishing socialism and Marxism.Perhaps, most significant is that the GOP doesn't see poverty levels, income and wealth distribution, or the decline of the middle class as a problem.   My Pine Ridge friend comments that Americans congratulate themselves on what a great country they are while its people sink economically and politically and the rest of the world overtakes it.   He refers to it as the United States of Delusion.

As Adrian Louis says, America established itself through violence, taking land by genocide and establishing wealth through slavery.  It returns to the obscenities of its past while the rest of the world is trying to rise above theirs.  The view point from Pine Ridge is a look at the realities of America which give Marxism, socialism, and all the alternatives to the GOP vision a more hopeful and positive outlook on what is possible.

While the right wing rails about the left wing concern about the struggle between classes, the GOP engages in war that pits the 20 percent privileged against the 80 percent being dispossessed.   The Pine Ridge sage says the fight between Republicans and Democrats is an absurdity.  To the people being oppressed, it doesn't make any difference if the oppression emanates from the Kremlin or Beijing or the corporate offices and financial houses on Wall Street.  Partisan politics is irrelevant to the real struggle facing America's working people. When one looks at the way the GOP regards them, Marx seems to offer a more viable future.  Of course, one might look at Lincoln, but the GOP claims the franchise on him. 

UPDATE:  An indication of the degree to which the GOP is declaring war against workers is in proposed South Dakota legislation to outlaw governments from  collective bargaining with public employee unions. 

    1 comment:

    commoncivicgood said...

    I do agree with this post. We are regressing backward in South Dakota and in the United States. We did not become a great nation in the 20th Century because of deregulation, but because of regulation and looking out for the common worker with Unions. I am scared of what America will become if we continue on this path of pro-business regulation. Looking at the future, I feel we will move back to a new version of serfdom with Big Business being our lords. With deregulation and government not willing to protect its people from a greedy system we are going to "owe our souls to the company store." I really hope that this will not happen.

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