Zamfir: Thanks Robert. I appreciate the site, and it’s nice to feel welcome.
Obviously one problem in discussing this is that terms like ‘left’ and ‘right’ or ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ have been given all kinds of different meanings. If economic conservatism is identified with free market ideology then I’m pretty ambivalent about that, at best. And if it’s identified with support for whatever this internationalist economic system is that we have now, I’m against it.
I find it very weird that people who are conservative about social and cultural issues often support “economic conservatism” of that kind. It’s so clear that these things are incompatible! Anyway I certainly have no problem with socialism per se. I would only disagree with certain versions, or cases where I believe socialism ends up being destructive of healthy families and cultures (in much the same way that capitalism can be).
As for democracy I’m not sure what I think about it. I think I’m a reactionary to the extent that I don’t believe that democracy, or any other specific system or procedure, is always good or always essential to a good society. My sense is that some democracies or kinds of democracy are fine, while others are really bad. It all depends on some many factors aside from the system or procedure itself.
I do want a society where the interests of most people, including the poor, are taken into account fairly. But I don’t see any reason why that could never happen in a non-democratic state. Or, more precisely, for anything that’s good about some democracies, I don’t see why certain non-democratic regimes couldn’t also have those good things; it would all depend on other factors such as the culture and history of the people, their typical behavior and beliefs, etc.
So I guess I’d support coups against democratic regimes in some cases–though things would have to be pretty bad–and also against non-democratic regimes in some cases. I don’t think coups are always bad. (In fact, that’s one thing that seems silly about a lot of rigid ‘conservative’ ideology–the wish to preserve order and the status quo no matter how terrible it’s become…)
You say the rich don’t support democracy. I wonder if that’s true. Maybe they don’t support the ideal of democracy, for the reasons you mentioned. But, again, bearing in mind the looseness of terminology here, they sure do seem to support systems that we normally call “democratic”. Is the US a democracy in your view?
Are England or Ireland or Canada democracies? If so, then I don’t agree that the rich never want democracy. My sense is that they long ago figured out how to manipulate these kinds of systems to get the results they want. They manage the perceptions and values of the masses so that they always end up “freely choosing” the same garbage that the elites wanted all along.
A good question is whether this is an inevitable feature of democracy. (I don’t know the answer.) It could be that in any feasible form of democracy, no matter how close it gets to the ideal, you end up with powerful interests rigging the process to maximize their own wealth and power. And I don’t like that, because I want the interests of ordinary people to be taken into account. Ironically, then, I’m skeptical about many forms of democracy because I think the masses deserve to have a say.
So I’d be against democracy in cases where ‘democratic’ systems are hijacked by elites and used against the people. That’s what’s happening in most of the western world, I’d say. Not to say I’d support a coup in this situation–and certainly not if the point of the coup was to install an even more extreme form of exploitation. But I’m not entirely sure what to say about democracy. I think the reactionary critique has merit. (But then, don’t communists also criticize democracy for roughly similar reasons?)
The Communist view is that seeking power peacefully would be a great idea except the ruling classes will never allow it to happen. They say that power never gives up without a fight, and I believe that they are correct. Nevertheless, most Communists support Venezuela, Nicaragua and only leftwing democratic countries. But the Communists would say, “Look what happens why you try to take power peacefully. You get Nicaragua, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Honduras, Haiti, and even Argentina.”
The ruling class will just overthrow the democratic Left state any way they can, always using anti-democratic means to do so. That’s why Lenin called people who supported the peaceful road to socialism “parliamentary cretins.” He thought it was a great idea but it would never work because the rich would never allow the Left to take power peacefully.
The Communist view is also that you never have democracy under capitalism anyway, as the capitalists and the rich always ending ruling the state one way or another through all sorts of means. And yes, the rich and the capitalists always take over all the media in any capitalist country as you said, they use it to shape the view of the people to support the class politics of the rich. Such support being called false consciousness.
Gramsci said that the ruling class took over the entire culture in capitalist countries and brainwashed the masses into supporting the project of the rich. They did this via cultural hegemony. Marx said that the culture of the rich is always the popular culture in any capitalist country. So the ruling class turns all of us into “little rich people” or “little capitalists” to support their project. They brainwash us into thinking we are the same class as the rich and that we are all capitalists ourselves, so we should support Capital. These are lies, but most Americans are easily fooled.
Ralph Nader called this “going corporate” or “thinking corporate.” He says that in the US, most people adopt the mindset of the corporations and think of themselves are part of the corporate structure whether they are or not. If everyone is part of the corporate structure, then what’s good for corporations is good for all of us, which is the project of the Republican Party, neoliberalism everywhere, the Latin American rich, etc. It’s a big fat lie, but people want to be rich and a lot of workers want to think of themselves are busy little capitalist money-making, go-getter, can-do, Bossterist entrepreneurs because it seems to cool to own your own business.
And the Communists would call this false consciousness and their argument would be that under capitalism, most people adopt false consciousness.
I think in the US, the rich see the tide coming and the rule of the rich is going to end so they want to lock in as much of the state as possible by stacking the courts, gutting the safety net, massive tax cuts that will be impossible to get rid of, and that Constitutional Convention they are two states away from getting where they want to rewrite the whole US Constitution to lock in rule by the rich for as long as possible. The rich see the writing on the wall. That’s why they came up with the computerized elections scam, so they could steal elections as long as people kept voting against the rich.
The gerrymandering of districts now makes it almost impossible to get rid of Republican majorities on state representatives in the House and in Senators and Assemblymen in the states. It’s all locked in.
So as the rich saw the tide turning and demographics moving against them, they instituted a full court press to do all sorts of extremely anti-democratic stuff to stay in power. If the people would just vote for them anyway, they would not have to do that, but apparently most Americans have now turned away from the politics of the rich, so the rich will have to lie, cheat, and steal to stay in power from now on.
Also they elected Donald Trump, by far the most corrupt, authoritarian and even outright fascist leader this country has ever had. And this follows too. Whenever there is a popular movement against the rich and the capitalists, the rich and the capitalists always, always, always resort of fascism to stay in power. This has been proven endlessly over time, even in Europe. Trotsky had some great things to say about this. Check out “Thermidor.” Trotsky truly understood what fascism was all about. It is a desperate last ditch move by the ruling class to seize power in the face of an uprising from the Left.
The rich and the capitalists are determined to stay in power, by hook or by crook, by any means necessary, and they will lie, cheat, steal and kill as many people as they have to just to keep the Left out of power. They simply will not allow the Left to rule. They must rule and if they are out of power, they will use any antidemocratic means to get power back.
Which is the story of the CIA, the Pentagon and 100% of US foreign policy since 1945 and even before then. Read Samuel Butler.
I mean, we on the Left generally allow the Right to take power if they do so democratically. Sure they destroy everything like they always do, but most of us are committed to the democratic means of seeking power. Even most Communist parties will not take up arms against any rightwing government, saying they prefer to seek power by peaceful means. Typically, the CP will issue a statement that the nation is not in a revolutionary situation right now. There are objective conditions under which a nation is said to be in a revolutionary situation. I’m sure you can recall a few. It is then and only then that most CP’s will go underground and issue a call to take up arms.
Frankly, almost all Left insurgencies postwar were defensive. The Left allowed the Right to take power and then the Right started running around killing people. Usually the Left sat there for a while and let themselves get killed before taking up power. I know the Viet Cong just sat there from 1954-1960 while the rightwing Vietnamese government ran amok in the countryside, murdering 80,000 Communists in six years. They kept asking the North Vietnamese for permission to take up arms, but the North kept denying it.
The Colombian, Salvadoran and Guatemalan guerrillas only took up guns after the state had been running about murdering them unarmed for years. The Salvadoran guerrillas said they got tired of sitting in their homes waiting for the rightwing state to come kill them, and they decided that if the state was going to come kill them anyway, they might as well pick up a gun and defend themselves. They also took up arms because the Right kept stealing elections by fraud.
The Right had cut off all methods of seeking power peacefully, so the Left picked up guns. The message is if you elect a leftwing government, sooner or later the Right will overthrow it and then there will be a reign of terror where many Leftists will be murdered. Knowing that, if you were a Leftist in some country, would you not be afraid to put the Left in power knowing you stood a good chance of being murdered once the inevitable rightwing coup took place?
The Colombian and Honduran governments only stay in power by killing people. Lots of people. The Greek Communists only took up arms after the government had been killing them for some time.
Also once a Left government is overthrown by the rich and the capitalists, the new Rightist government institutes a reign of terror where they slaughter the defeated Left for many years. This went on for decades after 1954 in Guatemala, and it goes on still today. After Aristide was overthrown, the rightwing government murdered 3,000 of his supporters.
After Allende was overthrown, Pinochet murdered 15,000 people over a decade and a half. A threat from the Left prompted the Indonesian government to fake a Left coup and murder 1 million Communists in a couple of months. Even before the Korean War broke out, from 1948-1950, the South Korean government killed hundreds of thousands of Communists in the South.
As they withdrew when the North attacked, the South Koreans killed South Korean Communists everywhere they went. After the fascist coup in Argentina, the government decimated the Left, murdering 30,000 mostly unarmed supporters of the Left. The same thing happened in Bolivia with the Banzer Plan when Hugo Banzer took power after the tin miners briefly sought power. The new rightwing government in Brazil is already starting to murder members of the former Left ruling party. They’re not going to stop.
After the fascist coup in Ukraine, the Communist Party was outlawed and many of its members were murdered. War was declared on labor unions. Workers in one union were chained to a heater inside the building and the building was set on fire.
The party supported by half the population (the Russian speakers and their supporters) the Party of Regions, was outlawed, a number of its deputies were murdered and there were attempts to murder the leader of the party, lastly by setting his house on fire which set his neighbor’s house on fire instead. He fled to Russia. Now half the population and all of the Russian speakers had not party to represent them, which is why they took up arms. They were locked out of power.