President Obama's rise caps forty years of building new 'nations' from one America, as America's left adapted to the rise of civil rights, and built a power base from fanning discontent.
Newsweek cheers, "We are all socialists now!" MSNBC's Jim Cramer calls Barack Obama's budget a "radical agenda" and points out "This is the greatest wealth destruction I've seen by a President." None of this should be a surprise to anybody who was paying attention to Obama's Hawaii links to the Communist Party, USA or his years of Chicago work with the Democratic Socialists of America. But many voters -- and most of the media -- aggressively avoided paying attention. Now they are literally paying the price.
One Obama mentor who did get some media attention was ex-Communist Saul Alinsky. Alinsky, a harsh critic of Johnson's "War on Poverty," is not usually tied to gigantic federal spending proposals such as Obama's mis-named ‘stimulus' package. Alinsky's claim to fame stems from gritty street-level community organizing. His books on the subject guided a generation of leftist activists.
But there is a connection. Alinsky died in 1972. Towards the end of his life, American society changed in ways which tore apart the stable communities necessary to Alinsky's community organizing model. For Democrats these changes necessitated the use of federal power to create the entirely new forms of consciousness-based ‘nationalism' which now envelop American culture.
One of the best analyses of late-period Alinsky comes from none other than Hillary Clinton. Her political life starts where Alinsky left off. In her 1969 Wellesley College thesis, Hillary explains: "If the ideals Alinsky espouses were actualized, the result would be social revolution."
"Alinsky, when asked by Daniel P. Moynihan to work with the new Nixon administration, grandiosely offered Moynihan his plans for solving the urban crisis, the destruction of the environment, and the dissatisfaction of the citizenry. He urged the establishment of work projects in the Southwest to bring water to that area, in the Middle West to save the Great Lakes, in the Mississippi Valley to prevent flooding and in any other part of the country where men and women are needed to counteract modernity's assault on the land. He never heard from the White House again." (p73)
"The central problem in the late 20th century according to Alinsky is the ‘maintenance of that political mechanism which carries the best promise for a way of life that would enable individuals to secure their identity, have the opportunity to grow and achieve being....'" (p65 emphasis added)
Given that Alinsky spent his entire life organizing Richard Daley's home precincts, "that political mechanism" can only refer to the Democratic machine -- and Hillary makes no bones about it. Speaking of Alinsky's signature community organizing effort in Chicago's then-all-white Back of The Yards neighborhood and nearby Bridgeport, Hillary points out: "... much of the community's influence is traceable not to its ‘burning passion' but to its most illustrious resident, Mayor Richard J. Daley. Mayor Dailey's assumption of political power in the early 1950s curiously parallels the (Back of the Yards) Council's growth in power. Many of the mayor's staff are also residents and share the mayor's loyalty to the neighborhood." (P 21-22). The Bridgeport-Back of the Yards neighborhoods have produced five Chicago mayors. The area was a "Copperhead" pro-Confederate area dating from the Civil War. After 100 years of unbroken Democratic control, what was it that in the mid 1960s suddenly threatened ‘the political mechanism' of the Daley machine?
It was civil rights.
Civil Rights and Alinsky
The (Back of the Yards) Council's Executive Secretary, once Alinsky's fellow-radical, has held his position for over twenty-five years and, if the neighborhood does not "change" (i.e. integrate) he could hold it for another twenty-five....
John Haffner... is proud that few residents move from Back of the Yards. The lack of mobility among the residents is often cited as a criticism of Alinsky for "nailing down" the neighborhood....
Alinsky echoed Senator Moynihan's "Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding" critique of the federal "War on Poverty" -- as shattering the carefully "nailed down" communities he had worked so hard to organize for the Democrats. But Alinsky soon saw the irreversibility of the War's results which a 1969 New York Times reviewer described as, "the developing group consciousness of blacks, Mexican-Americans and others" and "an effort to ‘effect such outcomes as who thinks what, who acts when, who lives where, who feels how,' (which) intensified social conflict among Americans...." With an end to de jure segregation, the white voters who made up the base of the Democratic Party began abandoning the urban communities which Alinsky's techniques could control. Forty years later, Bridgeport is one of Chicago's most ethnically diverse areas.
Johnson's "War on Poverty" also cost black communities their stability -- making them too, unsuitable for Alinsky's street-level tactics.
Obama describes the effect in his first autobiography, "Dreams from My Father." Contrasting the "coherence" of Jakarta, Indonesia to Chicago's Altgeld Gardens housing projects he writes:
...And yet for all that (Jakarta) poverty, there remained in their lives a discernable order, a tapestry of trading routes and middlemen, bribes to pay and customs to observe, the habits of a generation played out every day beneath the bargaining and the noise and the swirling dust.
It was the absence of such coherence that made a place like Altgeld so desperate, I thought to myself; it was that loss of order that had made ...(them)... in their own ways, so bitter..... (p 183)
I do not think the idea of geographical areas, especially of neighborhoods, is any longer applicable. A long time ago, probably with the advent of the car, we came to the end of the definable area. People no longer really live their lives in neighborhoods. We have political subdivisions which are things out of the past, lines on the maps; we are still involved with this idea. But the life of the people is something else. We are going to have to find out where it really is and how to organize it. (emphasis added)
How can public works find "the life of the people"? Hillary explains:
Alinsky's (public works) proposals carry obvious spin-off effects. The need for workers could be filled from among the un- and under-employed in the cities. The model integrated communities constructed to house the workers would be self-governing. The projects, administered by bureaucrats and staffed by credentialed experts, would provide attractive recompense and job satisfaction .... (p. 73)
That was Hillary's 1960s vision of work-as-‘viable community'. One can almost visualize happy workers singing Stakhanovite hymns as they line up to cast their party-line ballots. Public-worker unions are the only sector of the labor movement which has grown since 1968. But do public works create enough new "life of the people" to produce Democrat victory?
The years 1968 and 1969 saw also the rise of campus radicals organized as Students for a Democratic Society. Instead of Daley's well-controlled precincts, Chicago in 1968 witnessed leftist rioters attacking the Democratic National Convention. Fueled by the concentration of draft-avoiders on American campuses, ‘New Left' radicals published the Berkeley Barb, and over a hundred similar rags with names like "The Roach".
SDS radicalism worked to "effect such outcomes as who thinks what, who acts when, who lives where, who feels how...." In the Democrats' desperate years after civil rights "sex-drugs and rock and roll" became recruitment techniques for building a new "life of the people." Democrats' faltering "political subdivisions" were supplanted by environmentalism, feminism, porn, gay rights, marijuana, abortion, draft resistance, and several flavors of ethnic nationalism.
The Changing Concept of Nationalism
How can gay rights, environmentalism, or feminism be a form of nationalism? It may be difficult for moderns to imagine, but nationalism is an ideological construct which emerged only with the French Revolution. Like so many other "isms" it is a European export.
Marxism began as intensely hostile to colonial nationalism. Karl Marx denounced Irish immigrants to England as "little above the savage." Regarding British opium exports to China, Marx wrote: "history had first to make this whole (Chinese) people drunk before it could rouse them out of their hereditary stupidity." Marx critically supported the "superior" British civilization beginning a "work of regeneration" by colonizing India. Frederich Engles in 1849 cheered because, "splendid California has been taken away from the lazy Mexicans, who could not do anything with it...." In 1848 Engles wrote, "the (French) conquest of Algeria is an important and fortunate fact for the progress of civilisation." But the Russian Revolution brought Marxists to power in one of the world's more backwards countries-based more on Bolshevik-organized peasant-soldiers than on Russia's small working class. Power-hungry Marxists began to realize the opportunity created by nationalism. The Communist International began actively working with nationalist forces in China, Central Asia, and the Middle East -- staging the Congress of the Peoples of the East in Baku, Azerbaijan in 1920. Post WW2 decolonization, created a world awash in new nationalisms -- whether the ex-colonial populace wanted it or not. These new nationalisms became a much more important force -- and a better base for Marxists' to take power -- than first-world proletarians ever had been. One-hundred-eighteen years after Engles cheered French colonization, the 1966 film "Battle of Algiers" became a leftist cult favorite. Communism ruled 1/3 of the world's people. Josef Stalin in 1912 had defined a nation as: "a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture." Such nations can exist at the macro or micro level, as local communities. But in the US, civil rights put an end to that "stable community" on which Alinsky's community organizing depended.
Out of One, Many*
As the old Stalinism of the CPUSA faded into the new radical social democracy of SDS, American Marxists took the process of creating nationalisms one step further. The ethnic nationalist movements emerging from the late 1960s seem more in line with Stalin's nationalist model. But environmentalists too, would become a ‘nation.' So would gays, feminists, dopers, and any other group with "consciousness".
These new (and not coincidentally mostly white) ‘nations' would allow Democrats to grab enough of the white vote to hold on to some semblance of power. By 1991 the post-SDS activists of the Democratic Socialists of America were able to found the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The CPC now includes 71 House Democrats including the chairs of 11 of 20 House standing committees. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) technically dropped out of the CPC in 2002 to become House Minority Leader. When Democrats captured Congress in 2006, she became Speaker.
"The alternative to an objective definition (of a nation) is a subjective one....Defining a nation by its members consciousness of belonging to it is tautological and provides only an a posteriori guide to what a nation is. Moreover it can lead the incautious into extremes of voluntarism which suggests that all that is needed to be or create a nation is the will to be one....this has, especially since the 1960s, led to some attempts at nation-building by consciousness raising...." (pp7-8)
Hobsbaum may be stuck on Stalin, but the Democrats have advanced far, far beyond such rigid schemas.
Stalinism was Marxism dictatorially controlled from Moscow. Social democracy is Marxist political entrepreneurship. Gay marriage, eco-terrorism, white guilt, Black Panthers, gays in the military, academic leftism, global warming, carbon offsets, marijuana, veganism, transsexuals, organics, anti-globalization protests, porn, anti-genetic modification, multiculturalism, abortion, animal rights, embryonic stem cell research, new age cults, tribal casinos, affirmative action, political correctness, the Akaka Bill, reparations, apologies -- they all seem like a grab-bag of disconnected, even contradictory, issues and phenomena. But they're not. These products of the 40-year rise of social democratic political entrepreneurship are the foundations of the ‘consciousness nations' which now make up the Democrats' voter base.
Done complaining, Hobsbaum explains: "...whatever the nature of the social groups first captured by ‘national consciousness', the popular masses -- workers, servants, peasants -- are the last to be affected by it. He then provides a "division of the history of national movements into three phases....
- Phase A was purely cultural, literary and folkloric....
- In phase B we find a body of pioneers and militants of "the national idea" and the beginnings of political campaigning for this idea....
- Phase C ...nationalist programmes acquire mass support, or at least some of the mass support that nationalists always claim they represent."
With Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress pushing, the United States now stand on the cusp between B and C. The key to saving the 233-year-old American experiment in republican democracy lies with defeating Democrats' use of federal power to "effect such outcomes as who thinks what, who acts when, who lives where, who feels how." Democrats must be stopped from building even larger "consciousness nations." The individuals who are both the subject and the victim of these "nations" must be saved from their purported liberators.
*E Pluribus Unum, as mis-translated by Al Gore