Sunday, February 7, 2016
Dialectics Dude Is Back
I had gotten my fuel the other night at Speedy's truck stop at the NM-AZ state line on the Navajo Reservation and on the way to the bathroom passed the the little laundromat where a big screen TV is usually on Fox News, and looked up to see a broadly grinning Newt Gingrich tell the host that the Democratic presidential candidate could well be an "open Socialist!"
Bernie Sanders is no Socialist but he hasn't run from the Democratic Socialist label, but maybe Newt Gingrich, despite surely being aware of polling that shows Sanders beating all of the Republican candidates by fairly wide margins, by bigger margins than Hillary Clinton would, thinks he can turn that around with some good old red baiting. At least he knew the Fox News audience he was playing to thrills at the mention of the word Socialism.
There are supporters of Clinton who've tried to instill fear into potential Sanders voters by raising the specter that he isn't electable because Republicans will smear him with the Socialist label. They, too, know about those polls, and it will be interesting to see how their efforts to use Socialism against Sanders pan out. It's no longer far fetched to postulate that the Socialism smears might even help him. Conservatism, the economic philosophy of the "New Democrats" behind Clinton, as a philosophy is losing ground to Socialism, especially among the young people who are taking the brunt of Capitalism's failure to provide a decent standard of living for increasing shares of the population, or even provide the hope for one in the future.
Capitalism just can't capture peoples' imagination like it once did, and there's reputable polling showing that young people have a more favorable view of Socialism than they do of Capitalism (Pew), which probably accounts for the fact that Sanders drew 70 percent of the youth vote in this week's Democratic Iowa primary. Polls even show that as much as 36 percent of the general population view Socialism favorably even when you include conservatives (Gallup.)
What we're seeing is a shift in the electorate that's partly generational and partly due to America's changing ethnic makeup. But it's also that, as the Cold War propaganda that once caused in Americans a knee-jerk aversion to Socialism fades from memory, people generally are realizing that Capitalism simply hasn't delivered on the promises made by people like Ronald Reagan and the Republicans an Democrats in his wake who have tried to purge all vestiges of Socialism from the US political-economic system.
Awhile back the local paper ran an article that described remarks made by Albuquerque's Republican Mayor, Richard Berry, after two heinous crimes had occurred -- a road rage incident in which a young child was shot and the shooting of a police officer. The article included this:
"Berry said no one is responsible for what happened to Garcia and Webster except the criminals who shot them."
The statement was completely foreign to the situation at hand, unless you understood it in a political context. Barry was making a political statement; attempting, by bolstering the philosophy of conservatism, to head off any talk about having to improving the lives of poor people or change society in some way.
Marx, in his philosophical writings, worked out how our economic system, Capitalism, because it sets the rules for how we live out our daily lives and how we make decisions about the future, creates the reality each of us lives. He called this dialectical materialism. The dialectic is a concept developed by Hegel that explains the complex interactions between all things. It shows how when A affects B, A is also affected by B. Marx took the concept of the dialectic further and showed how Capitalism fits into it, by affecting everything it comes into contact with.
In a way he was answering the age old "nature-nurture" question; Are we the products of our environment or are we hard wired by nature to act in certain ways? If, as people Berry maintain, we rob banks because we choose to, why do those type crimes predominant among the lower economic classes? Rich people commit crimes, too. Does crime in general have something to do with growing up in a certain kind of home and social environment? Many liberals tend to believe so, while conservatives steadfastly hold to notions about personal choice, which also happens to excuses their dog eat dog policies.
Marx of course came down on the nurture side. We're the products of our environment, and our environment is the Capitalist economic system and its attendant state, civil society and home life, all of which are conditioned by Capitalism.
But why did Berry choose to insert into remarks about two tragedies his assertion of "nature" over "nurture?" Why have that in the middle of a sometimes tearful talk in which he was trying to reassure the city?
On some level he's no doubt aware of the resurgence of Marxist thinking that's taking place, and that in it's various popular expressions Marxist ideas are providing, to more and more people, a different way of understanding what's happening around us and to us. He surely knows that spells trouble for people like him, who adhere to the "personal responsibility" ethic and who don't want anyone to blame society's problems on the economic system, or the economy, or his policies. He fears it and rightly so. New Gingrich fears it. "New Democrats" fear it. From city hall to the studios of Fox News to Clinton campaign headquarters, it's dawning on the powers that be that there's a reckoning coming, that blame for a fraying society, the obscene inequalities, and the millions of disappearing futures is about to be placed where it belongs. Dialectics Dude is back.