Category: Antiracism


Hillary Clinton and the politics of race

Hillary’s landslide victory in West Virginia, along with some particularly interesting quotes on race from a USA Today interview, have made a connection between the former first lady and race perfectly clear.

Hillary won West Virginia by 41 points, where Obama had most difficulty attracting white, working class voters.  Exit polls showed that Obama had support in West Virginia from less than one quarter of the voters in that demographic.  Of the three fourths who voted for Clinton, 1 in 5 voters said that race was a factor in their decision.  In other words, 20% of 3/4 of the white working class in West Virginia voted for Hillary because she was white, and Obama is black.  That is, 15% voted Hillary because they were casting an anti-black vote.  How does she feel about being the official democrat for white, working class racists?

Last Wednesday, Clinton gave an interview to USA Today, arguing that she had a broader base of support than Obama.  Evidence?  She cited an Associated Press article published one day after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries that, in her own words, showed “”how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”  (http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-05-07-clintoninterview_N.htm)

Yup.  Clinton not only knows that she’s the official Democrat of the white, working class racist, but she embraces it.  Brags about it, even.  Notice her further lumping together “hard working Americans” with “white Americans.”

But, as she recently said after her West Virginia win,””I am more determined than ever to carry on this campaign until everyone has had a chance to make their voices heard.”  That is, until every racist has had a chance to make their voices heard.  Go Hillary, the official candidate for the white, working-class, racist Democrat!

One eminent result of the fall of the Soviet Empire–for all its faults–has been a crisis of faith in Socialist circles. The fall of the USSR has made socialism look untenable, and as a result, many socialists have been searching for an alternative to a centrally planned, bureaucratic economy. Some have collapsed their demands, and choose instead to advocate some sort of social democracy, like Sweden. This, unfortunately, proves unstable by allowing private ownership of capital, and thus containing within itself a constant pull towards capitalism with all its faults. Others have turned towards market socialism, but this, too, contains the seeds which made market capitalism so prone to allow self-interest to dominate social interactions, among other faults of capitalism. In short, many socialists have relaxed their demands or given up substantial portions of their goals. This, combined with the success of free market ideology and power consolidation, has created a void of socialist advocacy and activism where it is needed most. But in perspective, this is a time for celebration.

The fall of the Soviet Union has given us socialists the opportunity to try to create the best socialism, the most equitable, efficient, democratic socialism possible in practice. On the other hand, while power has been consolidated by the neoliberal empire, their power is augmented by an appeal to legitimacy, saying (in effect) “our competition is gone, so we win by default,” but such a claim appeals for legitimacy. It begs us to consent and obey; it begs us to filter out and water down our hopes for a just world. But such a tactic cannot remain impervious to critique, and for legitimacy’s sake, it must allow critique. The global system cannot both critique the Soviets for tyrannical power over markets and denying political and civil liberties, AND suppress global movements in an overt fashion. Don’t get me wrong, the CIA has a history of destroying Leftist movements, but it has done so with an eye towards suppression the information. Consequently, we socialists must gain our voices; we must be loud, strong, and proud! We must be international, and forge relationships with feminist, pacifist, and environmentalist groups.  We must establish collectives that will help us take care of each other, to make it possible to go into the world without needing a paycheck, making us independent.  All socialists, of all countries, religions, genders, races, ages, and socialisms must come together and unify under one overarching group.  This is the way we can make some headway against the neoliberal empire.  We must raise our voices until we become a public force, and with publication comes protection from destruction.  If we become public, if we become loud, strong, and proud, then the neoliberal empire will have to maintain legitimacy by opposing us through normal means–we force their hand to engage in debate.  The neoliberal need for a successful ideology will give us a voice.  I propose (at least) the following prescriptions for a successful socialism.

(1) Leftist journals, individuals, organizations, political parties, etc., must unify under one international movement and have representatives meet regularly to establish objectives in the collective advocacy of socialism. While there is still debate over what socialism is best [and it should not be necessary to establish ‘hierarchical determination of party principles’ as the Soviets did], the most immediate ends that can be established are (1) an international socialist bill of rights, and a plan for (2) a future international confederation of socialist states, as well as (3) the consolidation of political and economic power that a dispersed socialist movement cannot accomplish.  Socialists need to become an international power-bloc and work together on the movement as a whole.

This is NOT a demand for unified agreement between socialists, nor is it an argument for a centralized socialist order.  This is a call for the unification of the movement.  There should be doctrinal disagreement and living debate, but these disagreements should not fragment the movement.

(2) This organization must appeal to all progressive movements, feminist, environmentalist, civil rights, NGO’s, etc., over the need to join the cause.  This will greatly assist our movement.

(3) This organization must engage in debates in every intellectual field, most immediately with (1) religious scholars, and (2) economists.  Real Christianity and Buddhism both support socialism over capitalism, and I believe Islam the same.  Additionally, dealing with oppositional economists will show that socialism is viable, and that traditional arguments against its possibility are false.

The social teachings of the major world religions, generally, have been used (at least in the West) to support capitalism, when in fact they most consistently support socialism.  This ideological barrier to socialism should be what it naturally is–an ideological aid.

(4) This unified socialist movement must move to create institutions independent from the capitalist system.  It needs to establish (ideally) communal living situations with proportional private space (for many reasons), schools, provide socialist scholarly resources free to individuals, food and health distribution, etc.  If it is necessary for the good life, socialists must provide it independently from the capitalist system.

(5) Once unified, institutions in place, socialists need to continue their militant advocacy of socialism–and by militant, I do not mean violent, I mean unwavering.  Socialists must unwaveringly pursue a nonviolent revolution.  A revolution is no more than a dramatic change from one system or ruler to another.  How is this to be accomplished nonviolently?  Socialists must simultaneously pursue the following (and this step is more of a systemized presentation of the preceeding thoughts, with some overlap).

(5a) Socialists must pursue political change in all areas of power, be they international, national, state, district, city, or county.  Even socialist neighborhood councils are steps in the right direction to further solidarity.  Socialists must advocate (i) the collapse of international capitalist institutions (WTO, IMF, etc) and their replacement with international socialist institutions, and (ii) the democratic promotion of socialist politicians in every level of political office.

(5b)  Socialists must create institutions independent of the capitalist system as in (4).

(5c)  Socialists must work to change the ideological structure of society, which involves (i) the unification of socialists, and (ii) promotion of socialist ideals in all areas of social thought (such as sociology, psychology, philosophy, economics, religion, etc).  This should also include (iii) extensive research into effective rhetoric, as well as political and activist tactics, and how movements for social change succeed or fail, with an emphasis on lessons for success in contemporary conditions.  Furthermore, these lessons should (iv) be made widely available for socialist activists in free handbooks and other resources to help in the field, while organizing.  Finally, (v) successful socialist organizing and advocacy should include an extensive campaign to democratize traditional media, as well as use internet-based and public information campaigns to ‘spread the word’.

(5d) Socialists must then work on grassroots campaigns to get popular consensus in favor of increasing economic democracy and socialist progress, in addition to supporting the aforementioned programs and increasing pressure on the status quo.

These are only the most preliminary and general of suggestions, and I hope that they serve to stimulate debate.

The distinction between formal and substantive interpretations of rights, to me, is very important in deciding the interpretation of the right.  I think there is a case to be made that you ought to choose the substantive interpretation.  By way of example, lets choose the group of African Americans who live in the post-Jim Crow United States.  Statistically, while they are not formally denied legal equality, and their right to life, liberty, and property is formally protected, statistically many factors in their life reveal unequal treatment.  The formal right is protected, but evidence suggests that their right is not respected.  Where does this difference come from?  It seems that having a formal interpretation of rights applied in a condition where the individuals are on unequal footing does nothing to equalize their footing;  there must be a principle of rectification of wrongs and a realization that unequal footing makes formal rights meaningless.

Lets take, however, the private ownership of capital as an institution.  Perhaps we will assume the starting gate theory in its most egalitarian; a group of people are going to have their initial shares of social resources equalized, and after that point they will have laissez faire control over what they do—there are no limits, because (in theory) as resources were equalized fairly, who can object to what anyone does, or what the results are of what anyone does?  This prima facie seems to account for the substance of my critique, in that it levels the playing field.

But regardless of the equality of the starting point, every time someone purchases something by which they will make money, i.e. capital or land, and it is protected by society, it creates a new starting point, because the conditions that arise are solidified and the options of the rest of society become importantly restricted.  Purchase of capital creates a differential of power and privilege that changes the rules of the game in practice from then on out, and puts individuals on unequal footing from that moment on.  In short, private ownership of capital seems to make rights merely formal for the same reason that African Americans are only formally equal; systemized differential power and privilege translate into differences in the respecting of rights.  Private ownership of capital systemizes differential power and privilege.  So essentially, private ownership of capital translates into differences in the respecting of rights.