The Choice for Progressives

The Zeitgeist of revolution. There are uprisings against the old order in Arab countries; some appear to be indigenous uprisings (for example, Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain); others appear to have imperialist hands behind them (most notably in Libya). Iceland in 2009, and this year, Europeans in Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain have rebelled against the imposition of austerity measures by financial elitists. In February 2009, Wisconsinites began protesting against the neoliberal agenda of the state government; since then a Occupy movement has spread across the United States and elsewhere to protest the economic disparity endemic to capitalism. It remains to be seen what becomes of the movements. Will they wind up fully fledged revolutions that will be celebrated in future history texts? Will Egyptians remove the military from government? Can the al Khalifa and Saud clans thwart the will of the Bahrainis? Will Europeans in the end submit to austerity? Do the Occupy masses have the courage and solidarity to stand strong against the state machinery, and do they have the will and gumption to push the state back when needed?

There is a hint of guarded optimism in the air, and it seems like an inspiring time for progressives. At a time when so many people voice defiance against the status quo, it seems like a propitious moment for progressives to stake out a new revolutionary path — a path not laid down by the establishment preceding them.

In the progressivist realm, Norman Solomon is a well-known figure. Yet, has Solomon embraced the swirling winds of change?

Solomon must have pondered many choices available to a well-educated and articulate man as himself. For instance, have any opportunities been opened up for progressives to seize in the electoral arena? Should progressives even participate as candidates in the highly rigged system of elections that some people refer to as democracy. Do people really think that a system which elects 90+ percent of the highest campaign-spending candidates is democracy?1

Solomon has decided to participate in the farce of elections. That left the choice of being a candidate dedicated to the reform of a corrupt political body from within or to participate in kick-starting or reviving a progressivist political movement without the corrupt baggage. It seems unlikely that Solomon even considered the latter option as his candidature appears opportunistic. He made his announcement when it became known that the Democratic incumbent Lynn Woolsey would not stand for re-election to the US Congress.

Robert Jensen wrote about Solomon’s declared candidature.2

One DV reader took exception to the article. He wrote,

Are you having an attack of dementia? Norman Solomon? You might as well post a piece praising Obama, they both stand for the same bullshit. wake up. Jezuz.

Solomon’s record is clear, he’s a DemoRat operative. All that crap about “green” and “pwogwessif” is just cover for his real job: misleading the dull of wit.

First, I agree with the basic sentiment expressed by the reader, although I would not impugn the integrity of Solomon. Second, I would choose a different phraseology. Third, regarding the tactics of Solomon, I respect the right of readers to reach their own conclusions about what progressivism really is and how best to attain the aims of progressivism.

It is clear that the Democratic Party is part of the political-corporate duopoly in the US. The Democrats are a warmongering party serving elitist interests that differs from the Republican Party ever so slightly in that they are less open about their corporate and militaristic ties.

Solomon touted Barack Obama — the hyped “hope” and “change” candidate — for the presidency in 2008, and when Obama demonstrated himself to be anything but the Great Progressivist Hope, Solomon complained. Now he wants to join Obama’s team. How does Solomon reconcile the contradictions?

“I’m skeptical about election campaigns that abandon principles, but I’m also skeptical about campaigns that have no hope of winning and that are only for protest or public education,” Solomon said.

With all due respect, I’m skeptical of Mr. Solomon. Before Obama, Solomon also supported the presidential candidacy of Democrat John Kerry. Solomon and colleague Jeff Cohen pointed to leftist author Tariq Ali’s support for Kerry. Ali opined that since an Al Gore was not a neo-con, his administration would not have attacked Iraq, and presumably since Kerry was not a neo-con, he would be more dovish than his opponent George W. Bush. The argument is severely flawed because facts contradict it. The Bill Clinton-Al Gore administration enforced genocidal sanctions against Iraq and ordered bombing campaigns in Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Kosovo. Kerry’s rhetoric suggests that his administration would have been just as violent as the Clinton-Gore administration.3

Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama. There has been no let-up in warring by either the Democrats or the Republicans. Moreover, they both support the neoliberalism which oversees the transfer of wealth from the have-nots to the haves.

Despite the record of the Democrats, Solomon argues the solution is more progressive-minded politicians: “Having John Conyers, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Jim McGovern, Raul Grijalva, Lynn Woolsey in Congress is important. We need more of those sorts of legislators as part of the political landscape.”

However, Kucinich is a good example of a progressivist voice being drowned out by the Democratic Party’s corporate cacophony.4 What makes Solomon think his fate would be any different than the political veteran Kucinich? The fact is that Solomon has shown the same willingness to compromise progressivist principles as has Kucinich by supporting the candidature of Kerry and now Obama.

Lesser evilism is a large part of the problem.5 As long as people continue to confine themselves to the choice between neoliberal warmonger 1 and neoliberal warmonger 2 (as Solomon and some other “progressives” advocate), then why would the system change? Do the progressives have the cash for the highest-spending-candidates-win electoral system? Solomon claims to be running a grassroots campaign. I’m skeptical.

Lesser evilism has not brought about change, and part of the reason is that the term is misleading. It is just plain evilism (there is no lesser) — whether it is a Democrat or a Republican administration.6

The reader added,

Now I consider the problem presented by Solomon, Moveon, Obamism among African Americans, Trumka and others claiming to represent the interests of the “American People” while really working for the interests of the SuperRich to be a top priority, a key obstacle, maybe THE key obstacle to efforts to oppose the current insanity and all its evils.

I agree.

Forget change! It is past time for a revolution. It is past time for an end to warring, an end to poverty, and an end to inequality. Hope is not enough. The Occupy movements must stand firm. Either people power wins or it is the continuance of a top-down society where the elitists wage war, profit from corporate greed, and oppress Indigenous peoples, minorities, Palestinians, workers, and the poor.

The stamina and solidarity required for a full-fledged revolution will be demanding, but then living on the trickle-down droplets from the so-called 1% isn’t a cakewalk either.

  1. See Communications, “Money Wins Presidency and 9 of 10 Congressional Races in Priciest U.S. Election Ever,” OpenSecrets.org, 5 November 2008. []
  2. Robert Jensen, “Occupy Congress: Norman Solomon sees a role for progressive legislators,” Dissident Voice, 28 November 2011. []
  3. See Kim Petersen, “The Futility of Revolving Warmonger Regimes: Time for the Revolution,” Dissident Voice, 14 August 2004. []
  4. See Kim Petersen, “Same Shit Different Asshole!Dissident Voice, 19 February 2004. []
  5. See Kim Petersen, “The Utter Futility of Lesser Evilism,” Dissident Voice, 24 May 2007. []
  6. See Kim Petersen, “Evilism: There Is No Lesser: The Left Can Pose Its Own Challenges to Ron Paul,” Dissident Voice, 29 July 2011. “… there is little substantive difference between the Republicans and Democrats; they are both corporate dominated and controlled parties. As futile as lesser evilism is, it is also futile to talk about there being a lesser evilism between the two utterly dominant political parties in the United States.” []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.