August 14, 2009

Health Reform Fight (2 of 3)

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Health Racket Bailout — Tags: — Russ @ 3:13 am
In my last post I described the uncivil fascist unruliness of today’s right wing mob scene. Today let’s consider some possibilities for direct counteraction as well as broader civil disobedience in the face of tyrannical policies.
To begin with, there is progressive protest going on, as detailed in Peter Dreier’s Nation piece of August 6. If you haven’t heard of campaigns like the Home Defenders anti-foreclosure/anti-eviction activism, part of the reason is that the corporate media has basically imposed a news blackout on such actions, even as it hammers us ad nauseum with accounts of every crackpot right wing screaming session.
So perhaps one thread of activism we need, as assistance to the others, is to pressure the MSM to cover the protest of real Americans every bit as much as it does that of “real Americans”, that is the bad, worthless, vandalistic disgraces Palin calls by that term. 
On the level of conventional politics, everyone has the idea of pressuring individual Congressmen to do the right thing. And many of us are familiar with how FDR had to be pressured from below to institute the real New Deal, the part that actually helped Americans rather than just stabilized the banks.
The lesson here, sometimes missed, is that pressure did not mean e-mail campaigns. It meant strikes. It meant physical resistance to plant closures, scabs, thugs of every sort. It means counterdemonstrations at these “town halls” where so far the enemy has mostly had the space to himself. Only lately has there been some (literal) pushback, which I’m certainly happy to see, although the counteraction is still nowhere near as coordinated as enemy aggression. 
A big disadvantage the people suffer vis their enemies is the lack of a coordinating network for counteractivism and self-defense, the way the right has such networks of their astroturfing, fraud, and smear campaigns. It’s an ugly truth but a truth nevertheless that every kind of ruthlessness must be met with surpassing ruthlessness, if you want to win a war.
Pressuring the MSM; pressuring Congressmen, online but also in person; demonstrating for the right programs, counterdemonstrating against the bad and against the scum who would shut down the people’s discussions; direct resistance to social and environmental crimes such as mountaintop removal mining; setting up a national clearinghouse for witnesses to report environmental crimes; organizing farmer resistance vs. banker and biotech thugs; antiforeclosure and eviction programs like the Home Defenders, and many other such actions are available.
We can especially encourage more assertive labor action. Here let me recommend Fred Goldstein’s excellent free e-book Low Wage Capitalism which offers an abundance of tactical suggestions stemming from the strategic principle that the rank and file are ready for direct action, and strong direct action will communicate its energy to more and more among the dispossessed. To put it in the Yeatsian terms I discussed in the last post, this would invigorate and impassion the best. Throughout this economic disaster one constant has been how the workers have been both beaten and cursed, their jobs eradicated and their well-being scapegoated as the real source of corporate ill-health. This is so despicably wrong, factually and morally, though all too normal according to disaster capitalist tactics, that by itself it lays bare the fundamental wickedness of government and media, that they have abetted such a lie.
So those who would fight for the people must especially be ready to fight for the workers in their direct actions, and against their enemies, against the thugs and scabs. If all decent people could just resolve to hold this line, “right or wrong”, it would invigorate and in itself bring into being the whole renewal.
In the aftermath of the financial crash and the widely perceived absolute forfeiture of all moral and rational credibility on the part of monopoly finance capitalism, the political space still remains fairly open for reform and reconstitution, in spite of the despicable failure of the nominal “progressives”, starting with Obama, to enter that space with a new idea and a complete call for real Change. This is also in spite of the deranged attempts by the rabid reactionaries to fill the space themselves with their standard tactics of lies, fear, and hate. That they have largely failed so far is a testament to the bankruptcy of their screams and the new, more mature outlook of Americans.    
What do we fight for? An American renewal, where wealth becomes a source of beneficence and health for those who created it, instead of being stolen and hoarded and used as a weapon by parasites and gangsters. Where the land and the law are once again the domain of the people and not a private reserve and demented pleasure palace. Where the existing toxic and brutal wasteland can be replanted and repeopled with a better world of community and freedom, things which today are only words, not even memories.  
But this renewal must be led by a break with the criminals of today, those who have so corrupted and polluted the system that it must be swept absolutely clean. While individuals may have their personal preferences, the call must be both positive and negative. We have an enemy whose utter destruction is both a necessity and a moral and aesthetic value in itself. 
Part of the reason I bring this up is because lots of people don’t like a negative emphasis. They so dislike the sense of fighting “against” something, as a matter of personal temperament, that they come to deny the basic truth of political struggle, and of history itself, that all action is dialectical, and has both its creation and its creative destruction, its affirmative striving and its ruthless purging. That the negative can be just as motivational and inspiring as the positive. Anyone who studies the history of resistance to the Nazis sees how they fought just as much against the Nazis’ evil as for justice and freedom.
In the last post I described how the socialists finally joined the Dreyfusards against the antisemitic thugs. The workers established a presence on the streets, opening a political space for the Dreyfusard activists to operate without having to fear so much for their literal physical safety. This was of critical importance. But as Arendt describes, the workers were motivated primarily in a negative way:
At last Clemenceau convinced Jaures that an infringement of the rights of one man was an infringement of the rights of all. But in this he was successful only because the wrongdoers happened to be the inveterate enemies of the people ever since the Revolution, namely, the aristocracy and the clergy. It was against the rich and the clergy, not for the republic, not for justice and freedom that the workers finally took to the streets. True, both the speeches of Jaures and the articles of Clemenceau are redolent of the old revolutionary passion for human rights. True, also, that this passion was strong enough to rally the people to the struggle, but first they had to be convinced that not only justice and the honor of the republic were at stake but also their own class “interests”. 
I cite this truth not to applaud it but to accept it as a fact of political nature, especially in the far more fragmented and meaner world of today. We have to seize every vantage point, sound every rallying cry, exalting the good and demonizing the bad, without being overly precious about the ivory tower ethics of it all.
In the case of the Dreyfus Affair, the end result was victory over what looked for a time like impossible odds.
There remains one last arena for action and even civil disobedience, involving our horrendous debt load, much of it contracted with con men and predators, even as they don’t have to honor their debts or face the consequences of their fiscal recklessness and failure. I’ll talk about this in the third of these posts. (There I’ll also be getting back specifically to the health care fight.)  

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