by John Ward
We have the Clintons, Obamas and Bushes to thank for the emergence of seriously radical politics in the US. The same is true in the UK of the hijacking of a depraved Blairite Labour Party as the reaction to Cameron and May. Across the Western world, extremes are coming face to face. But as always, the oldest admonition in the book of politics applies: be careful what you wish for.
There was a fascinating interview with Julia Salazar at the Jacobin site last week. Ms Salazar is the New York senatorial candidate of the radical Democratic Socialists of America Party
There’s a long way to go before Salazar gets elected to the Senate: she is only 27 years old, and the race she’s involved in is against a multi-term DNC favourite, Martin Malave Dilan. But Julia is being taken very seriously, because, as Jacobin puts it, “Democratic socialism is having a moment in New York politics right now”
I read the interview in fits and starts during a busy family weekend, but several things struck me very forcibly:
- I’m not apologising for saying this, so forget about even asking: Julia Salazar is from Colombia, having arrived in the US as a baby. She is no longer a baby: she is a babe. She has long, willowy legs, sexy Hispanic eyes, a winning smile and a sense of assurance on the issues way beyond her years.
- She has been heavily influenced by a childhood and adolescence dealing with the kind of sociopathic, indolent and generally neglectful landlords that are standard issue at the bottom of New York’s melting pot. She is, by the sound of it, a born organiser.
- The last radical who tried to oust Dilan got 40% of the vote. Salazar is more savvy than her predecessor: she is a very, very good communicator.
Traditionally – even in the worst depths of the post 1929 depression – the image of socialism in the US has been that of Beelzebub made flesh. The very fact that Salazar’s Party has to prefix it’s name with the word democratic is witness to that reality. But neoliberal ideas in America have changed social conditions there in a way that most European social democrats don’t grasp – largely because, like most of the Euroleft, they don’t get out enough. Indeed, it’s possible to draw a parallel here with Nineteenth Century Liberalism in the UK, where the nascent Independent Labour Party – from equally small beginnings – gradually supplanted a Liberal Party that – a century on from its radical phase – gradually lost the moral plot after Gladstone. It’s possible….but it isn’t accurate.
Here’s the thing: Salazar isn’t what we’d call “a social democrat”. There’s far more Corbyn than Blair in this lady….and not a trace of either Clinton anywhere. This is where her analysis of the situation in the US starts to ring alarm bells in my head. For me, there are a three worrying factors involved:
- She talks a lot about the need for “systemic change”. In short – without thinking about it – she’s an ideologue who starts from the principle of mass belief processes, not maximising the potential of each individual citizen.
- She’s fond of that creepy term “normalising”….socialism, Salazar asserts, has been normalised in the US. As yet this is far from being true: but if you have to normalise stuff, maybe there was a damned good reason why it was abnormal in the first place. In the UK, we have come close to normalising extreme feminist alchemy, infinitely amoral greed, paedophilia, the rights of minute identity groups to grab ill-deserved headlines, embezzlement of State pensions, and illegal EU superstate gangsterism. To normalise is, most often, to pervert.
- She correctly concludes that the Democratic Party has been hopelessly corrupted by the terrible twins, tainted donations and tacky lobbying. But from there, she leaps to socialism as the only option. Maybe this is cultural baggage she brought from South America, where too often the Church’s influence alongside hard drugs deliver a sense of hopelessness….the latter being very readily apparent in US urban life. But either way, the leap is performed with a jerk of the knee, not the considered reasoning of the Left Brain.
First up, Julia Salazar is tilting at windmills in the American context: while destroying the unelected Alt State will be a must over the next decade if the US is to survive as a liberal democracy, shattering the belief in opportunity is neither likely nor desirable. The goal, surely, must be to define “equality” as “giving everyone an even break in their childhood without family funds being an issue”. Creativity generates genuine, non-financialised wealth. Equality of opportunity is the best route to that end: flat, one-dimensional uniformity creates nothing but apathy and (importantly) corrupt attempts to get round the edicts of The Big State.
Second – and most of the regulars here will have seen this coming – the finite community based on relatively small numbers and a recognisable geographical entity is a far more sensitive policy tool than some distant apparatchik dishing up remote directives minus only relevance, humanity and accountability.
I’ve written this many times before, but it bears repeating: philosophy – given the goal of maximising individual potential based on empirical social anthropology – is a real, brave and qualitatively fresh start. Ideology – based on fanciful systemic theory and religious claptrap – is at times driving by use of the rear-view mirror, and at others the use of the windscreen to drive straight at the immovable obstruction. It is a nihilistic (and deadly) combination of irrelevance and irrationality.
Neoliberals, hardline socialists, neocon Alt Staters and Islamists take heed: it’s a slow process, but the entire construct of national, international, global and mercantilist monopolism is beginning to be found out. We are on your case: either you silence us with propaganda, poverty and censorship, or reason will prevail. Extremism is and always has been nothing more than an excuse for oligarchies of Right and Left to behave badly.