On Liberty and Civil Society

As far as I've been able to tell from my reading of various right wing political critiques of late, the fundamental fear of socialist policies seems to stem from a concern that socialist policies are a curtailment of liberties. The placards and talking points of the right seem to hover around this idea of loss of liberty and for me, as a socialist, I find that very confusing. The easy answer of course is one I suggested in a previous post, that this stems from false consciousness. That's easy, but on reflection I think it isn't the whole picture. To be sure, there's an element of being misled by ideology in the tea party movement, and there is definitely an aspect of manipulation in the various astroturf groups that have worked to organize people who are involved with the tea party movement. But that doesn't explain all of it. Because for any of that to work, there has to be a fundamental, basic fear that's being tapped into and manipulated, and more to the point I do believe that there are honest, intelligent people who support this right wing movement who are not being manipulated but who genuinely see in socialist policy a threat to liberty. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in a sense, there is something true about the critique. There is an element to socialism that is a curtailment of liberty. But what sound bite politics of the moment miss is that liberty is such a loaded term that when one speaks broadly about liberty, then one actually says very little at all.

The Thing About the Tea Party Movement, or False Consciousness for Fun and Profit!

It's not clear that Karl Marx ever used the term "false consciousness" to describe ideology and the way it is used to convince members of the proletariat to act against their own interests politically, but the notion is one that has shown remarkable prescience and staying power as a problem for leftist politics in the last couple centuries or so. It's a useful tool that at least helps to explain how it came to be that Irish immigrants who were apparently no friends of black folks at the time nevertheless joined the Union Army during the civil war to participate in a fight to end slavery in America. It seems to be lurking in the background of the poor kids who got duped into fighting in Korea and Vietnam where it has never been clear that brinksmanship with Mao's China had any real benefit for an American workforce in the middle of the greatest prosperity any labor force has ever had in the history of the world—thanks in no small part to the strength of labor unions in the forties, fifties and sixties; and to President Eisenhower's 70% top marginal tax rate. And frankly, arguments about getting money for school and gaining job skills aside, I can't help but think it's there in the fresh faced kids signing up to learn how to be IED fodder year in and year out in a Military that hasn't had to fight a defensive war in almost four generations now. It also explains to a great degree the question Thomas Frank asked and attempted to answer a few years book in his book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" Frank's answer is wrong because Frank is a milquetoast liberal, and like all milquetoast liberals, he has conceded too much to capitalist propaganda to continue to make a coherent argument for a robust leftwing agenda. But the problem he has identified is real, despite the many attempts to discredit his work by right wing "intellectuals" shilling for the GOP.