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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

WHY I AM ALARMED


There is currently a great deal of alarm being expressed in the public sphere over the evidence [which I consider reliable] that the Russian government has attempted, and continues to attempt, to influence American elections surreptitiously.  Some people on the left respond to these expressions of alarm by calling attention to the many successful efforts by the American government to influence the outcome of elections abroad or indeed simply to bypass the electoral process and overthrow foreign governments, charges that I consider to be well-established. 

I am never entirely clear what conclusion I am supposed to draw from this left response.  That America is reprehensible?  To be sure.  That the mainstream expressions of alarm are hypocritical?  No doubt.  But there is sometimes an additional implied assertion, namely that we on the left ought not therefore to share the alarm being expressed, and this I believe is wrongheaded.  Let me explain why.

I want to see the United States changed in very deep, fundamental, and far-reaching ways.  I can summarize these changes briefly with the slogan, suitable for a bumper sticker, “Make America Socialist.”  I am too old and too wise to imagine that anything remotely like this will happen soon, if indeed ever, but that is what I want, and I am pleased, indeed thrilled, by any steps taken in that direction.

Leaving aside divine intervention or the arrival of benevolent space aliens, I can see only two ways in which the changes I want can come about:  through the electoral process, or violently and extra-legally.  It is my considered opinion that violent social revolution in the United States is right up there in likelihood with the Second Coming.  Which leaves the electoral process.  That is why I welcomed the emergence on the national scene of Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a Democratic Socialist even though his policy proposals are really FDR New Deal Liberalism.  That is why I was delighted by the appearance and electoral success of Democratic Socialist Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.  And that is why I am tickled to read that among young people, “socialism” ranks high as one of their preferred economic and political systems, despite the fact that almost none of those responding to the poll have any coherent notion of what socialism is.

I want candidates like Ocasio-Cortez to run for election and win.  There are only two ways that can happen.  Either people supporting such candidates come to the polls, vote for them, and have their votes recorded and counted, or some foreign or domestic hackers meddle with the voting process to the benefit of socialist candidates.  I can see very little evidence that those currently screwing with the electoral process electronically are inclined to do so to the benefit of left candidates.

Which explains why I am alarmed when Russians meddle with our elections.

But, some will respond, desperate not to be seen agreeing with those they hate, what about gerrymandering and voter suppression?  Why aren’t you alarmed about that?  But that is a silly question.  Of course I am alarmed about gerrymandering and voter suppression.  I have been for generations.  Indeed, if we recall that the most successful voter suppression effort in American history was Jim Crow, I can say that I have been alarmed about voter suppression my entire very long life.  Now doing something about gerrymandering and voter suppression requires, among other things, gaining control of state legislatures.  And how do we do that?  Either by spending millions of dollars essentially bribing state legislators or by electing progressive state legislators.  We on the left are not entirely without financial resources, but the noblest among us [perhaps foolishly] look askance at bribery.

Which leaves us, once again, with elections.

Look, the big structural problem with capitalism is that it puts most of the power in the hands of capital.  That is a feature, not a bug, from the standpoint of defenders of the existing order.  All we on the left have to fight with is the truth [good luck with that] and numbers, great big overwhelming numbers.

Which is why I am alarmed by efforts, foreign or domestic, to screw with the electoral process.



26 comments:

David Palmeter said...

Amen.

Derek said...

The human desire for revenge is a deep one. Thought of as 'an eye for an eye', it has the pretense (not so much the reality) of also being a just one. I imagine that explains a lot of it.

Anonymous said...

It must be the day for such ruminations:

Sanford Schram, “I don’t really care, do you? Foreign influence in the U.S. elections,” accessible at

http://www.publicseminar.org/2018/07/i-dont-really-care-do-you/

and Jonathan Chait, “Why are so many leftists skeptical of the Rissia investigation” accessible at

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/why-are-so-many-leftists-skeptical-of-the-russia-probe.html


From my point of view, Chait refers to a larger range of “leftists” than does Schram. But both, again from my point of view, ignore that there are left concerns beyond the orbits of their own. I’d point to the possibility that the Russia investigation is also, no matter its valid purpose, being exploited against those who are challenging the dominance of the Democratic Party establishment—which might be categorized as a democratic issue. I’d also note that some of the discussion of the Russia investigation has become downright “tribal,” where too many people who are seeking to engage with it, with, e.g., its historical origins and its possible consequences, find themselves being accused of being “Putin’s stooges,” “Russian fellow travellers,” and the like. (Yes, I’ve heard as well as read such things.)

In short, while I’m alarmed about possible Russian meddling in elections, I’m also alarmed by the tenor of the debate which has emerged on the center left in the US.

Anonymous said...

I want to see the United States changed in very deep, fundamental, and far-reaching ways. (...)

Leaving aside divine intervention or the arrival of benevolent space aliens, I can see only two ways in which the changes I want can come about: through the electoral process, or violently and extra-legally. It is my considered opinion that violent social revolution in the United States is right up there in likelihood with the Second Coming. Which leaves the electoral process.


In my considered opinion, if that's the case, then we better go home watch TV or drink ourselves into oblivion.

-----------

But I'll engage with Prof. Wolff's argument. Let's concede, for engagement's sake, that the violent, extra-legal path is out of the question. That leaves us with the electoral path.

Judging from American history I wouldn't bet on it. It's not like the "electoral process" idea had never crossed anybody's mind before. It was tried. Names like the Independent Party, the Greenback Labor Party, the United Labor Party, the Populist Party, the Socialist Party all attempted much more moderate changes than the ones you guys seem to have in mind, all strictly within the electoral process. Things like "free silver" and Henry George's land reforms come to mind.

Where are those parties now? What did they achieve? Or, let's be more modest, who still remembers them?

Let's consider then the international experience, lest readers think that's a peculiarity of the U.S. What did Salvador Allende in Chile achieve? The grotesque Chavista "Bolivarian Revolution", what did it achieve? That farce has been going on for two decades! Evo Morales in Bolivia? Equador? Brazil? Argentina? You know, the so-called Latin American "Pink Tide". All of that the result of peaceful, legal, gradual, moderate, electoral processes.

What I find perplexing is that Prof. Wolff, an anarchist, has so much faith in elections, which depends fundamentally on the state. The fact Prof. Wolff has read Max Weber on bureaucracies makes that worse: party bureaucracies sooner of later develop their own (as opposed to their supporters') dynamics, their own goals and objectives.

----------

So, while we wait for a successful electoral change, we better pray for either divine intervention or the arrival of a benevolent alien species. You know, just in case.

MS said...

(This comment will be in two parts.)

Well put.

This defense of opposition to Russia’s meddling in our elections reminds me of the reason for Lincoln’s opposition to secession. The South, frankly, from a strictly legalistic standpoint, had a valid reason for supporting secession – they had voluntarily joined the United States; nothing in the Constitution precluded their voluntarily leaving it. The main reason for Lincoln’s opposition to secession was not his opposition to slavery – this was a secondary reason. The primary reason is clearly stated in the Gettysburg Address, which does not mention slavery. “[T]hat we highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” From Lincoln’s standpoint, the United States represented “the world’s last hope” for a democratic government to succeed on earth. At the time of the Civil War, the US was the only existing democracy. The rest of the world’s nations were ruled either by monarchies or dictatorships. In fact, the monarchies in Europe were pleased with the prospective dissolution of the US. Its continued existence threatened their domination in Europe. The only other nation that had attempted a democratic government, France, had ended in a Reign of Terror and the rise of a war mongering dictator. Lincoln realized that if the South were allowed to secede, it would spell the demise of the only democracy on earth and allow the preservation of slavery in a separate and independent nation. In condemning those who claimed “all men are created equal,” but who supported slavery, he said, “When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

MS said...

(MS continued)

Now Russia, by meddling in our election, has helped install a potential tyrant in this country who threatens to undo the democracy that Lincoln tirelessly sought to preserve. It is only through the sustaining of free elections in this country that democracy’s potentials can hope to be fulfilled. For those who prefer a socialist economy, our Constitution does not preclude it. As Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out in his dissent in Lochner v. New York 198 U.S. 45 (1905), in which the Supreme Court overturned as unconstitutional a New York law limiting the labor of bakery workers to 10 hours per day, “The Fourteenth Amendment does not enact Mr. Spencer’s Social Statics.” Holmes’ dissent found fruition in the New Deal legislation that was later enacted and sustained by the S. Ct against challenges by corporate Republican interests. And when I say “free elections,” I am not unmindful of the anti-democratic effects of gerrymandering and voter suppression. But our elections are relatively more free – indeed, far more free - than those in Russia. And it is only by using the ballot box that those anti-democratic measures can, eventually, be eliminated. I do not expect perfection on this earth. I will settle for an imperfect democracy over the alternatives. It deserves pointing out, moreover, that despite many of the egregious things our government has done – the undoing of a democratically elected government in Chile; the installation of the Shah in Iran; the devastation caused by the Viet Nam war, etc. – the US has also done a lot of good in the world – the Lend Lease program that allowed Great Britain to survive the threat of Nazism; our military contribution to the defeat of Nazism; the passage of progressive legislation, e.g., Title VII and other civil rights legislation; the Endangered Species Act (now threatened by the Trump administration); the Americans With Disabilities Act; the Family Leave Act; the S. Ct.’s decisions protecting a woman’s free choice (now also threatened by Trump) and the constitutional right of gays to marry. None of this legislation or judicial protection has its ilk in Russia. All in all, I believe the world is a better place than it otherwise would have been had Lincoln not succeeded in preserving the republic that was “the world’s last hope.” As Prof. Wolff rightly points out, therefore, those who scoff at protests at Russian meddling in our elections as American hypocrisy do not appreciate that, however flawed our elections may be, and notwithstanding US transgressions elsewhere in the world, it is only through the preservation of those relatively free elections that the fulfillment, over time, of democracy’s promise can be achieved.

s. wallerstein said...

MS,

All the rest of the world's nations were not run by either dictators or monarchs at the time Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address. Switzerland was neither a dictatorship nor a monarchy and some Latin American countries also were neither.

Anonymous said...

Your posts on this topic have been systematically and singularly obtuse to the ideological stakes of this issue. Russian interference in the election has been used, from the very start and predictably so, by mainstream Democrats as (a) a way of avoiding any critical self-evaluation of their neoliberal politics as an important part of the story of 2016; and (b) as a way to shut down critique from the left of said neoliberal politics as either a distraction ("we're all really on the same side, now is the time to unite," etc) - as if critique of the policies and tactics of neoliberal Democrats isn't an absolutely indispensable part of any truly progressive political transformation in this country - or worse ("you're a bot.").

You're complete - full, consistent, utter - inability to see even a glimmer of this is truly a depressing sight to behold given you political and theoretical convictions.

Paul G. said...

Professor Wolff, I actually almost *can't believe* that you've been so committed to the Russia story. I know, from the copious wisdom that you've shared on so many political topics, you have a far-sighted vision of politics. But on the Russia issue, you're alarmingly shortsighted.

The discourse of the Russia story is troubling for several reasons that can be stated briefly. (1) The Russia story turns on accusations of treason. The politics of treason accusations and Russia-paranoia are implicit endorsements of state power and nationalism (see the rehabilitation of the FBI and CIA, and the panegyrics on NATO) AND, more importantly, are incredibly dangerous and difficult to control. This style of politics so infected mid-20th century discourse that countless lives were ruined and the left effectively divided and conquered. And *already* Scott Horton of Harper's is insinuating that far-left candidates critical of establishment Democrats really are just (witting or unwitting) agents of Putin. (2) The Russia story seems to crowd out much more important threats to our democracy and much more important decisions being made by "our" government. (3) The feeling that we've been gripped by paranoia is bolstered by the fact that normal standards of evidence seem to be being thrown out the window. The story is only really interesting--surprising--if there was some sort of illegal collusion. But as Glenn Greenwald and many others have long been pointing out, there's actually very little evidence to support this charge heretofore. Yet so many--including you--seem so ready to believe it. Without collusion, this merely becomes one more instance of what should be a banal political fact: Russia (like America, as you point out) takes steps to undermine democratic processes in other countries to steer things toward their interests. (4) Another worrying symptom of paranoia: that you and others seem to think this latest attempt was a *grave* threat to our democracy. As if all the other threats to our democracy, some of which you mention, were not far *greater* threats. A few internet trolls and some low-level phishing campaigns are so *relatively* unimportant that the overwhelming focus on them seems..disconcerting.

Anyhow, I encourage you to read Corey Robin and Seth Ackerman on the Russia issue. I think they've effectively closed the book on the idea of radical left support for this Russia discourse.

Robin must-read:
http://coreyrobin.com/2018/07/23/the-question-of-russia-and-the-left-a-response-to-ryan-cooper/

Ackerman must-reads:
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/07/russiagate-cant-end-well-for-the-left
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/07/trump-putin-russia-liberals-helsinki

And see this debate with Glenn Greenwald on Democracy Now!:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BK_D4yaTae4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1iq_c3AyGs

Dean said...

I think the conclusion to draw from the critical responses of some of the left, those respecting American culpability and hypocrisy, is simply that their short- to mid-term priorities do not include a fundamentally changed America. (Not that their long-term priorities don't include such an outcome.) In the short term, some want to engage in critical self-evaluation (pace Anonymous @4:51 PM) about, e.g., campaign strategies. They're on board with using the electoral process as a primary avenue for change, but they also believe that one, perhaps the only, effective way to make progress is to make a cold-eyed examination of how the (mainstream, establishment) left, pardon the expression, so astonishingly fucks up. Even if Russia contributed to the outcome, there remains plenty of space for improvement in the precincts of the left, over which we have more control than we do over Russia. (See Noam Chomsky.)

MS said...

To s. wallerstein,

I love it when people try to deflate an argument by making debating points. So, maybe I should have said “major nations,” not to demean Switzerland and the South American countries you refer to. So what is your point? That, because the United States was not unique, Lincoln was mistaken in believing that preservation of the union was an important endeavor in order to continue the American experiment in democracy?

In any case, you are not entirely correct about Switzerland and the unnamed South American countries. Regarding Switzerland, when the United States was in its nascent stages, Switzerland was under the control of the Napoleonic empire. After the Congress of Vienna, Switzerland adopted a constitution with a federal system modeled after the U.S. constitution. So Lincoln would have reason to believe that the United States form of government would serve as an inspiration to other nations. Regarding the status of democracy in South America, in “Democratic Transitions in Latin America,” historian Reynaldo Ortega Ortiz writes: “Since gaining independence at the beginning of the 19th century, the Latin American states have tried to establish democratic regimes. However, most of these efforts failed during the 19th century, in which dictatorships and oligarchic rule were the norm in the region.”

Jerry Brown said...

When 'Anonymous' @4:51 says mainstream Democrats have used this issue as "(a) a way of avoiding any critical self-evaluation of their neoliberal politics as an important part of the story of 2016; and (b) as a way to shut down critique from the left of said neoliberal politics" I agree.

And in truth it is a little depressing that even an avowed Marxist or socialist or whatever does not see the game the centrist Democrats are trying to play here. No one wants a foreign government to try to influence their elections, but as far as I am concerned, unless the Russians actually altered the vote counts in the machines then what they did is comparable to what Fox News did the entire time before the election. Except far less effectively most probably. Not that I like that either. But I would not make Fox News illegal or fault them for getting people to believe the crap they aired and base their votes on that. That's what a democracy is supposed to allow.

s. wallerstein said...

MS.,

I'm just sick of hearing how unique and wonderful the U.S. system is. The U.S. is basically narcissistic about how exceptional it is.

Chile, by the way, had a nominally democratic (or republican) system at the time of the Gettysburg address.

David Palmeter said...

Some of these arguments seem to me to be saying that, since there is no chance the US will ever go as far left as I would like, there’s no point in going only part of the way.

I think that part of the way is highly to be desired. To say that the US would be a different--and better--country today had Clinton been elected is glaringly obvious. Not perfect, not all to my taste, not what I would have preferred. But much, much better than what we got.

I’ve heard these no-point-going-part-of-the-way arguments for so I want to scream. Part of the way is better than nothing. Hubert Humphrey in 1968 was no Gene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy, but he was no Richard Nixon either. Nixon started William Rehnquist on his career the culminated with the Supreme Court, where he did lasting damage.

Al Gore would not have made my ideal president, but compared to George Bush who gave us the war in Iraq, along with John Roberts and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court?

How about McCain or Romney over Obama?

The Court is perhaps the easiest way to see the difference. Of the four liberals on the Court today, two (Ginsburg and Breyer) were appointed by Bill Clinton; the other two (Sotomayor and Kagan) by Obama. If Gore had had the two appointments Bush had, there would be no one worrying about overturning Roe v. Wade; there would have been to Citizens United; there would have been no Heller decision finding a personal right to bear arms.

Get as much as you can from the most electable left candidate and then come back for more. In the meantime, the left should consider how to correct its biggest failure: its failure to convince a majority of the country that to the left is where it should go. That’s how democracy works folks; you have to convince the voters.

Anonymous said...

David Palmeter says: "Some of these arguments seem to me to be saying that, since there is no chance the US will ever go as far left as I would like, there’s no point in going only part of the way."

I do not think it is plausible to glean even *one* example of an argument suggesting from the foregoing comments. The fact that David misreads them this way suggests, I venture, a complete inability or unwillingness even to momentarily come to grips with arguments or viewpoints with discomfiting implications for his desire to stay within the parameters of mainstream Democrat thinking and debate. Rather than even momentarily trying to see what is being said, the easier reaction is simply to misconstrue them into something much easier to reject. But you're not rejecting anything that was said here David; rather simply avoiding it.

s. wallerstein said...

Paul G.,

I just listened to the Glenn Greenwald debates that you link to. Thanks.

The guy he debates with is frightening. If he is on the left as he claims to be, I'm Rosa Luxemburg.

LFC said...

@ Paul G.

I read, several days ago, the Corey Robin post you linked.

I think there's less difference between Robin and Wolff than you suggest. Both accept that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election. Robin endorses increased cybersecurity efforts in response. Beyond that, in terms of general perspective, Robin is somewhat less alarmed, Wolff somewhat more alarmed about the meddling. But the differences are in terms of emphasis only, it seems to me. Both accept the fact that interference occurred and that it went beyond, in your words, "a few internet trolls and some low-level phishing campaigns."

Also, I disagree that the Russia story turns on accusations of treason. It really doesn't. Even without any collusion w anyone based in the U.S. or w any U.S. citizen, the Russian interference represents a significant threat to a process that is already being undermined by gerrymandering and voter suppression. We should be concerned w a range of threats to elections in the U.S., of which the Russian interference is one. That's what I see as Wolff's position, and it seems reasonable.

Ed Barreras said...

To say that mainstream neoliberal Democrats have embraced the Russia story as so much scapegoating and excuse-making is misleading at best. The fact is that Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Gavin Newsom have been very reluctant to play up the Russia story because — why else? — it doesn’t poll well (or it least it hasn’t — truthfully the polling seems mixed at this point). In that regard there’s a disconnect between the mainstream of the party and MSNBC and CNN. For better or worse, the Democrats don’t have a propaganda arm that takes assignments the way Fox News does for the GOP. (See “The Democrats Have an MSNBC Problem,” New York Magazine, May 2018).

It’s been interesting to witness the mass amnesia about very recent history among many on the left. Those who are crying “hysteria” when it comes to Russia would do well to remember how the story blew up in the first place. Hard as it may be to recall now, Russia mostly fell off the radar in the first few months of 2017. Then there came the revelation about Mike Flynn lying to the FBI, followed by the extraordinary firing of FBI director Comey — which, as the current occupant of the White House admitted on live TV, was prompted by his desire to quash the “Russia thing.” This in turn was followed by a steady drip of no less suspicious revelations, like — to take just one example almost at random — Jared Kushner’s repeated omissions on his security clearance application; by all reports, that is a lapse for which any “normal” person would have by now been severely sanctioned.

And the worse thing is that all this was almost swept under the rug. Remember back to the immediate aftermath of the Comey firing. The GOP was happy to let the likes of Devin Nunes and Chuck Grassley oversee the investigation into not only Russian interference, but also any possible criminal conspiracy or obstruction on the part of T***p and his circle. In other words, it looked for all the world like a massive coverup was being orchestrated in broad daylight. Were it not for Rod Rosenstein’s singular display of backbone, we wouldn’t have a special counsel. And let’s not forget, too, the reports that T***p was recently on the verge of firing Mueller and Rosenstein before being talked down by his staff — and he still might!

The lesson of all this is that if the Russia story seems to have swelled to become a veritable preoccupation, blame lies squarely with the current occupant of the White House, his minions, and his enablers in Congress. Had they not acted so guilty to begin with, had they not given the appearance of licensing an unprecedented subversion of the rule of law for the sake of covering for a petty career criminal like the current occupant of the White House, there could not have been such an enraged reaction from the left.

Now aside from all that, it seems to me there are two separate questions implied by this conversation.

First: How worried we should be about future Russian interference? Suffice it to say that these days elections are run on computers, and we all know computers can be hacked or at least manipulated to sow chaos. We know, too, that Russians likely tried funny business with voting software in the last election. So far the Republicans have showed little appetite to address those vulnerabilities. Indeed, if the T***p campaign did collude with Russia in the past — and we’ve now reached the point where they’re barely denying that they did — then we have good reason to think that they’ll positively *welcome* manipulation of vote tallies in the future. This should worry all of us.

The second question is: Aside from threats to voting machines, what should we make of run-of-the-mill propaganda efforts like bots and troll farms? I agree with Nate Silver that when it comes to the outcome of the 2016 election, such efforts probably played a minor but not insignificant role. But in any case, that issue is of course separate from the question of possible criminal acts on the part of American citizens.

LFC said...

@anonymous

Russian interference in the election has been used, from the very start and predictably so, by mainstream Democrats as (a) a way of avoiding any critical self-evaluation of their neoliberal politics as an important part of the story of 2016; and (b) as a way to shut down critique from the left of said neoliberal politics as either a distraction ("we're all really on the same side, now is the time to unite," etc) - as if critique of the policies and tactics of neoliberal Democrats isn't an absolutely indispensable part of any truly progressive political transformation in this country - or worse ("you're a bot.").


That mainstream Dems have used the story in a particular way is a criticism of mainstream Dems but not of the story itself: there is no reason why one can't couple a critique of mainstream Dems w concern about Russian interference and other matters as well. Recall the quip about being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Now it is v. possible that the mainstream media has paid too much attention to the Russia story in comparison w other equally if not more important issues. That statement I might well agree with.

Ed Barreras said...

LFC,

I think your comment is spot-on. The likes of Noam Chomsky have long insisted that the good, decent, hard-working people of this country would of course embrace socialism, were they not being manipulated each election cycle by the same people who sell us toothpaste. Well, if there’s any truth to that (and I think there is), then surely we ought to be alarmed at the prospect of a homegrown, white-supremacist, crypto-fascist government joining forces with a similar foreign government to wage a new type of campaign of psychological manipulation. And you are right, of course, that what we’re talking about goes beyond “a few internet trolls and some low-level phishing.”

MS said...

(Comment in two parts)

I have read all of the comments relating to this installment of Prof. Wolff’s blog and, frankly, I am appalled by some of the things that are being offered as analysis by those who supposedly represent the thinking on the left. And so, I’ve decided to unload.

First, to “Anonymous,” Prof. Wolff is quite able to defend himself, and does not need any help from me, but your ad hominem reference to his post as “singularly obtuse” is uncalled for, and, more to the point, inaccurate. Prof. Wolff has published numerous treatises on Kantian philosophy, Marxist economic theory, the function of the university in American life, and political philosophy. I doubt that anything he could say or write about any topic could properly be characterized as “obtuse” just because you don’t agree with it. Your minimization of the significance of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election by claiming it is a red herring being used by mainstream Democrats to distract from the failures of neoliberal policies is, I would not say “obtuse,” but specious. Russia’s interference, which undoubtedly occurred because, as Putin has admitted, he preferred Trump’s election over Clinton’s, materially aided in the election of a raving maniac who tramples on our democratic values, scorns the freedom of the press, and, by his reckless threats and repudiation of our allies, endangers the lives of everyone on this planet.

To s. wallerstein, at the time that Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, Chile did not have a republican system of government. Chile did not establish a parliamentary form of government until the conclusion of the Chilean Civil War in 1891. Regarding your “how sick you are at hearing about how unique and wonderful the U.S. system is,” were it not for the deaths of American soldiers on Omaha Beach and in the Battle of the Bulge, most of the world, perhaps including Chile, would be living under the boot of a fascist regime far worse than what your regard as American imperialism. Moreover, during WWII, while Mexico and Brazil aided the U.S. in resisting Nazi incursions into South America, Chile and Argentina allowed Nazi agents to operate in their countries unhampered.

I also listened to the two segments of the America Now dialogue between Joe Cirincione and Glenn Greenwald, and of the two, I thought Cirincione made the more cogent remarks. I urge readers of this blog to listen to the broadcast and form your own opinion. Cirincione is not, by any measure, a right wing ideologue. He has been a vocal critic of U.S. foreign policy and a respected expert on nuclear proliferation. I thought that many of the points that Greenwald made, as clearly articulate as he is, were fatuous. E.g., he claims that it has been the policies of NATO and the EU towards the working class that has sparked the rise in support of right wing politicians. No, it has been their racist opposition to immigration of refugees from the Middle East that has sparked that support. He rationalizes Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election by pointing out the U.S., too, has interfered with the internal politics of Russia by favoring certain candidates over others – the favorite argument of pseudo-liberals, the false equivalency. So the U.S. has disseminated propaganda in Russia critical of Russian policies. Russia is a totalitarian state that invaded the Crimea and annexed it; its government kills journalists that are critical of Putin. Wouldn’t you want the dissemination of propaganda that would undermine such policies? Did the U.S. plant ludicrous stories like those planted by Russian hackers, e.g., that Hillary Clinton was running a sexploitation ring out of a pizza parlor in D.C.? What I find especially disturbing about these pseudo-liberal arguments is a failure to make nuanced distinctions between differences in degree – all infractions and transgressions by the U.S. and Russia are alike and equally sinister. Still, as critical as I am of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, I would much rather live in the U.S. than in Soviet Russia.

Anonymous said...

(MS, Part Two)

To Paul G., you seem to be equating what you regard as Prof. Wolff’s and America’s obsession with the Russian meddling in our election with the Red Scare tactics of the McCarthy era. Really? During the deplorable McCarthy era, American citizens who had exercised their rights of free speech and assembly by joining the American Communist Party, or by associating with those who had joined, were persecuted and excoriated. Lives and careers were ruined; victims committed suicide. They were deemed “traitors” not because of any evidence that they had collaborated with Russia to overthrow the U.S. government (with the exception of the Rosenbergs, prosecuted for delivering nuclear secrets to the Soviets, charges which Moscow has recently corroborated), but because of their constitutionally protected activities in this country. By contrast, the evidence indicates that foreign Russian agents actively engaged in cyber activity by hacking into computers in this country, stealing emails, planting false stories in this country, in order to influence the outcome of a U.S. election. If any Americans aided and abetted this activity, or sought to obtain political profit from it, they did not engage in constitutionally protected activity, but engaged in treason.

You indicate that the Russian story is taking precedence over more compelling issues that should concern us. What, for example? The desecration of the EPA by Scott Pruitt? The impending appointment to the Supreme Court of Brett Kavanaugh? The mistreatment of refugees from Latin American countries seeking asylum in the U.S.? The imprimatur prohibiting the recruitment of transgenders in the military? All of these issues have received ample attention in the press and have not been crowded out by the Russian story. More importantly, they are all consequences of the election of Trump, aided and abetted by Russian interference in our election.

You claim, like Glenn Greenwald, that the evidence pointing to collusion by Trump and/or agents in his election campaign with Russia is scanty. Actually, the circumstantial evidence is quite persuasive. See, e.g., the following article by Lucian Truscott IV enumerating in extensive detail the evidence supporting this conclusion: dhttps://www.salon.com/2018/03/03/closing-the-circle-of-collusion/ Persuasive circumstantial evidence is all that is required for a conviction in a court of law. We won’t know how persuasive the evidence is until Mueller issues his report. But that does not mean that one is paranoid if, based on the evidence that has been reported, one concludes that a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to use illegally obtained information to benefit his election occurred. And then you conclude, that if there was no collusion, Russian interference in our election is insignificant, because, well, other threats to our democracy are far greater. What could be a greater threat, with or without collusion, of the installation of an egomaniacal, raging lunatic in the White House?

s. wallerstein said...

MS.,

A little learning is a dangerous thing. Here is a list of the elected presidents of Chile. At the time of the Gettysburg address Jose Joaquin Prieto was the elected president. By the way, there was no slavery in Chile at the time of the U.S. Civil War.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_Chile

Switzerland, which you claim, copied the U.S. form of government did not have slavery either.

Jerry Fresia said...

Just when I don't check the site, there is a post and almost dozens of responses. Having said that, I shall respond.

First:

"I can see only two ways in which the changes I want can come about: through the electoral process, or violently and extra-legally."

I surely am missing something because this statement is a bit odd. You have, Professor, in the past referred to the electoral success of the 60s and the great civil rights legislation of the 60s but surely you are more than aware that all of this legislative success did not turn on this clean dichotomy between the "electoral process" and "violent/extra legal activity." In fact it was both. But let us discount the violence out of hand. There was, preceding the voter/civil rights legislation one of the most noble, sustain, militant social movements ever to grace American. I refer to the Civil Rights Movement that was continuous from the 40s (and before of course) onwards. And it spawned, I would argue, the woman's movement (or at least mightily contributed to and/or led the movement) and a host of other non-electoral movements which rebounded on the electoral process.

So why discount or minimize the charges of hypocrisy? or how Russia-gate, at least on MSNBC, pushes just about all other major Trump policies to the side (the US involvement in the Yemen holocaust, for example). Organizing around such issues and many others only helps to drive the electoral process. It's all connected. Please give social movement building its due. I know you don't disagree but your steady emphasis on electoral politics narrowly defined or juxtaposed vis-a-vis violence is puzzling.

TheDudeDiogenes said...

It is easier to criticize the state of our democracy than it is to do the difficult work of repairing it.

It is also easy to take for granted how good most of us have it, compared to the historical norm for humans.

(That said, I'm not sanguine about the "medium term" [50-100 years] prospects for either liberal democracy in the US [or worldwide] or humanity limiting carbon emissions sufficiently to avoid the most catastrophic of climate predictions.)

Anonymous said...

LFC (July 31, 2018 at 8:41 PM) said

I read, several days ago, the Corey Robin post you linked. (...)
Also, I disagree that the Russia story turns on accusations of treason. It really doesn't.


You must have forgotten the details of Corey Robin's post, then. He was referring to this:

European intelligence analysts I have spoken with over the last month say that they have picked up clear data suggesting that Putin hes authorized and put in play a major active measures campaign designed to split and disable the Democratic Party because he believes this is the surest way to keep Donald Trump in power and undercut any opposition to him. The method used, according to these sources, will generally follow what was done during the 2016 campaign, where one of the core strands of the Russian operation focused not so much on supporting Trump as it did on persuading key Democratic constituencies that it wasn't worth going to the polls to vote. This included general demonization of Hillary Clinton and other candidates as ‘establishment’ or ‘organization’ candidates, and repeating claims that the DNC had "rigged' the vote against Sanders (designed to persuade Sanders supporters not to vote or to vote for another Russia-backed surrogate, Jill Stein); alienating blacks and Hispanics, and persuading them that the Democratic candidates really did nothing for them, etc. The Russian operation will also aim, in the classic fashion, to pick Democratic candidates in the primary period who, for whatever reason are seen as likely not electable.
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1836097259789320&set=a.118864611512602.14898.100001671926022&type=3

That's Scott Horton (NYTimes). True, Horton never used the word "traitor" explicitly as he referred to Sanders and Jill Stein. He was happy with "surrogate". For now.

The American Left has a death wish. You prepare the noose that will be used in your own hanging.