This evening I happened to see “A Critique Of Bob Wing’s “Rightwing Neo-Secession...” written by Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist. I would like to amplify from my perspective some of his points which seem valid to me. Bob Wing’s original piece was recently published on this blog the first of August. Louis starts out by giving a history of a variety of left groupings before he gets into his critique. It could seem like he was sort of in the weeds before he got down to the article at hand. If you want to read the entire critique: http://louisproyect.org/category/third-parties. I certainly don’t agree with everything he says but some of the points he makes are important and worth a second look.
He states that “it is a mistake to think that any single organization can be the vehicle for a new resurgence of the left”. Or as I would say, the radicalization (look at the 60’s here) does not come about through an organizational change. Goodness if that was all it took, how easy would that be. The upsurge of the Anti-War (Viet Nam) movement, the struggles against racism, sexism and homophobia were all vibrant movements but they did not occur because of any organizational change. So Louis is looking at the attempt in the 1990’s of what was called “regroupment”. Spearheaded by the Committees Of Correspondence (of which Louis was a member for a period of time). “While regroupment was necessary, it could not by itself fuel a new revived left... The interaction between activists from different traditions produced a certain energy by its very novelty, and many harmful stereotypes were laid to rest. Beyond consensus on a few generalities–democracy, non-sectarianism, etc.– little was produced in the way of strategic unity or theoretical insight into a new model of socialism. Better ties between activists were built, but the ‘socialist regroupment’ current was unable to generate sufficient momentum to conduct large-scale campaigns or undertake any major cross-tendency realignment”.
On Wing’s article Proyect says, “It likens the differences between the Republicans and Democrats to those that existed in the time of Lincoln but with a complete role reversal. In 1860 the Democrats were the pro-slavery party and the Republicans would eventually become the abolitionist party under the pressures of the battlefield.”
Wing writes: “The main precedent in U.S. history for this kind of unbridled reactionary behavior was the states rights, pro-slavery position of the white South leading up to the Civil War. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called out the attempts at nullification in his famous “I Have a Dream Speech,” and the movement of the sixties defeated it. As shown in the ultra-conservative playground that is the North Carolina legislature, the new laws and structures of today´s rightwing program are so extreme and in such stark contrast to the rest of the country that I believe both their strategy and their program should be called “Neo-Secession.”
Proyect responds, “Does anybody believe that the white South is a secessionist threat today? Frankly, this sounds like a variation on the “fascist threat” rhetoric that has been deployed since the Goldwater campaign in 1964 to stampede voters into backing Democrats. The danger of secession is less than zero. There is a simple reason for this, one that does not enter Wing’s calculations. There are no class differences between the ruling class in North Carolina and New York. As Malcolm X once said, everything south of Canada is the South. In 1860 the South seceded because it wanted to preserve chattel slavery. What mode of production exists today in the South that needs to be preserved against Northern designs? Wal-Mart? The oil companies in Louisiana whose toxic dumping has been protected against regulations by Democrats and Republicans alike for most of the last century? The big three auto plants located in the South that cut deals with the UAW to create a two-tier labor system? And what about the crackdown on undocumented workers, a form of racial oppression just one step above peonage? What hope should we pin on electing Democrats when the President of the United States deported 409,849 immigrants in 2012, breaking all records under the evil Republican administration of George W. Bush. How can anybody deny the reality that the Democrats, the ostensible salvation of the South, have had an incestuous relationship to corporations for many years now? Deval Patrick is a Coca-Cola board member. Bill Clinton relied heavily on the Waltons for campaign contributions. Walmart and Coca-Cola have corporate headquarters in the South. Does anybody in their right mind think that the Northern bourgeoisie has class interests opposed to those in the South? Frankly, does it really matter to Bob Wing who sees politics as some kind of battle between “reactionaries” and “progressives”, as if what people think is the main cause of racial oppression in the U.S?
Then Louis takes on the sacred cow - FDR.
“I also find Wing’s take on the New Deal outrageous, with its ostensible distinction between FDR and racists. Is he kidding? He describes Southern racists as having “survived” the New Deal, as if they were trees confronting a forest fire. He also says “Since the Nixon and especially the Reagan administrations, the rightwing has sought to rout both the New Deal and the Civil Rights reconstruction, and replace it with an updated version of racism and reaction.”
Maybe I have my facts wrong but the Southern Democrats were a solid base of the New Deal. Racism did not have to “survive” the New Deal. Indeed, it flourished under Roosevelt.
Back in September 2008, I dealt with FDR and racism and invite you to read the article that includes these facts:
To begin with, the political reality of the Democratic Party is that it catered to the racist wing of the party based in Dixie. Roosevelt felt it imperative to retain the support of politicians like Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, an open white supremacist who proposed an amendment to the federal work-relief bill on June 6, 1938 that would deport 12 million black Americans to Liberia at federal expense to relieve unemployment.
While most people are familiar with Roosevelt naming Hugo Black, a former Klan member, to the Supreme Court, there was just as much insensitivity involved with naming James F. Byrnes, a South Carolina politician, to the same post. Byrnes once said “This is a white man’s country, and will always remain a white man’s country” and most assuredly meant it.
If you are worried about neo-secessionism, you’d better stop kidding yourself that FDR was a “friend of the Negro”.
In summing up, Louis does find some value in the analogy of the Civil War and Reconstruction, just not the way Wing has done it.
"Today the question that confronts the left is not chattel slavery but wage slavery. In Lincoln’s day, there was a Democratic Party and a Whig Party that both supported slavery. There were some Whigs who opposed slavery but not so much so as to bolt from the party. In some ways the far left of the Democratic Party were like the anti-slavery Whigs. But it took independent political action in the form of the Free Soil Party to begin to set in motion the forces that would eventually become the Republican Party, a revolutionary party in terms of its challenge to the backward agrarian wing of the capitalist class in the South.
Our goal today is to create equivalents of the Free Soil Party but along the lines of the Nader campaign, the Greens or any other initiative that refuses to compromise with the two-party system. In 1959 Carlos Fonseca joined a guerrilla group in Nicaragua because the two-party system there had excluded the possibility of reforming the system. In taking such a chance, he risked death.
In the U.S., opposing the two-party system will not get you killed but it will earn you the scorn of people who are committed to piecemeal reform, especially those who enjoy a good living working for a nonprofit funded by some liberal hedge fund manager or real estate magnate. With hundreds of millions of dollars devoted each year to magazines and newspapers that routinely include articles dismissing socialists as hopelessly Quixotic, it is a miracle that any of us keep tilting at windmills. I guess the fact that we are dealing with real horrors rather than imaginary ones is what keeps us going.”