Wednesday, January 9, 2008

What Might Karl Marx Say About the Primary "Races" ?by Norman Markowitz

Dare I be so presumptuous to ask what Karl would say if he were around? Why not? Every media punditi presumptuous enough to tell us that Clinton had the Democratic nomination all wrapped up and that McCain was finished before Iowa, that Obama represented a possible wave of the future if he would win in South Carolina and Nevada after Iowa, and that Clinton and McCain are back again after New Hampshire. On what? The votes of relatively small numbers of people for relatively small numbers of delegates who are picked on a proportional representation principle in some (but not all states).

Karl Marx, who said that religion is the opiate of the masses, would probably extend that idea to television in the contemporary U.S. People are asked to believe not in another world but in the mediated reality presented to them on television by pundits(priests) who who seek ratings as the old religionists sought souls. While religion could offer solace for people from the harsh world of real life, as Marx understood, (so can television) it was no real guide to understanding the real world, except, in its institutional forms, to be both a buffer for and a representative of ruling classes (a bit like television).

Marx would follow the movements, the peoples democratic movements, not the candidates as such, because he knew from his own time and his own experiences with all sorts of opportunists and adventurers (La Salle, Weitling, and, with apologies to anarchists, Bakunin, to name three) that classes , not individuals or capitalist parties vying with each other to control the state apparatus, are ultimately decisive in history.

Marx would look at the positive developments in peoples movements that seek to unify the working class against its direct and open enemies--in this case, the Bush administration and the Republican party seeking to escape the penalties for the disasters that its has wrought in the U.S. Just as the Communist Manifesto in its specific programmatic policies reflected what the most advanced elements of the working class movement were calling for at the time, big Karl would look to what the most advanced elements of the working class are calling for, in terms of HR676, Medicare for All,The Employee Free Choice Act, and a peace policy for Iraq and the world, and use them as standards to analyze the political struggle.

He would quite possibly focus on the working class opposition to the export of capital and jobs from the U.S. not as anti-immigrant reactionaries do, of course, but positively, raising as sections of the labor movement have, a call for what in other countries has been called an "industrial policy," namely tax and other subsidy policies that reward capitalists who both keep and produce decent union jobs in the U.S. and punish with high taxes and more restrictions, companies which seek cheap labor either at home or abroad. He would look to those sections of the workers movement who seek a higher level of internationalism among unions and workers organizations, not national chauvinism which creates a win win situation for capitalists.

Big Karl would also look I think toward those elements of the working class movement who continue to fight against the parasitic military budget and demand not only that that budget be very sharply reduced, but that the tens of billions in military cuts go to restoring domestic social programs, creating new jobs and education programs that will strengthen the working class by making it both more secure and more confident in its ability to advance against the capitalist class, even while (as he said famously around 140 years ago, it votes for the candidates that, in reality, the capitalist class chooses for it).

New primaries are on the horizon. 2008's "Super Tuesday" where nearly half the delegates will be chosen, will be upon us in early February. The possibilities exist that the proportional representation system of choosing delegates may(just may) negate the bandwagon effect, which may produce a situation where Clinton, the leading Democratic establishment candidate with the organization and the money about whom capitalists are least uptight, does not have a majority when the convention begins. Then, (and this is purely my analysis, not anything that Big Karl, a scientist would speculate on) mass organizations and the candidates whose positions are better for progressives than Clinton's at the moment, Edwards and Obama, will be in the position to either coalesce around one or the other or commit Clinton to a more progressive program. It is also (and this is I admit a big stretch today) that a "draft Al Gore" movement might develop among the delegates if there is a
deadlock, given Gore's international stature, his experience as a national leader, and the fact of course that he, as tens of millions of Americans know (and not only those who voted for him) really won the 2000 election. I don't know what Big Karl would think about Gore generally, but I am sure that he would agree with him about the urgency of the global environmental crisis.

Let me conclude with this presumptuous statement. Karl Marx wouldn't endorse any of the Democrats and would probably use his remarkable sarcasm against all of the Republicans (Huckabee's musical talents, Romney's "anti-establishment" rhetoric, McCain's man on horseback "above politics" and militarist stands, Giuliani's fading identification with himself as a leader against Al Qaeda on 9/11). He would look to the movements, the struggles that advance the interests of the working class, both in struggle for labor rights and democracy in the U.S. and peace abroad, preconditions for the eventual victory of socialism, which is itself the only long-term guarantor of labor's rights, democracy, and peace. That was what he represented where practical politics were concerned in his lifetime and that is what we, I feel, should continue to represent today.

Norman Markowitz