The socialism of fools.
Patrick Buchanan's brand of right-wing populism has been filling a moral and political void in the bipartisan system for several years. Not only is he the shining knight of the religious right, but he was also the first candidate to tackle corporate power and class divisions in this presidential campaign. Class is nearly unspeakable in American politics. Buchanan not only spoke but roared and jeered about peasants with pitchforks besieging the castle. The bipartisan establishment was appalled, yet Bob Dole was forced to confess in February that "corporate profits are setting records and so are corporate layoffs" Now Clinton is following their lead, doggedly sniffing the cent of Republicans at every turn.
Buchanan has even described himself as "anti-interventionist and anti-imperialist," the kind of language more common on the left. Indeed, the corporate establishment and their pundits have now begun red-baiting Buchanan, sounding the alarm against creeping socialism within the Republican Party. When Republican contender and talk-show host Alan Keyes attacked the Buchanan camp for "sounding like a bunch of socialists," Buchanan answered, "I plead guilty to trying to protect the American worker."
Strangely familiar! In many ways, Buchanan is a throwback to America First isolationism, but he is more cautious in making anti-semitic appeals. His racist policies require coded slogans--though this is more bipartisan business as usual. Buchanan does not need to spell out that "the American worker" is an angry white man: angry at run, away corporations and jobs, working women, godless queers, immigrants, welfare, and affirmative action.
Anti-corporate crusader Ralph Nader has recently taken credit for educating Buchanan in economic matters, perhaps on the principle that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend " In the April 1996 issue of the Progressive, Nader states:
We gave Buchanan huge amounts
of information that he began to
absorb. The issues of disciplining
excessive corporate power over
consumers and workers resonate.
These are the issues that reach
everyone. They cross fines of race,
class, sex. These are the universally
So universally simple! And so Nader coaches Buchanan in populism, h"g uP two teams to play out the game of "The People Against the Bosses."
Nader and Buchanan both hope to use each other for their own aims, both hope to ride the rising tide of class resentment, and both are red-baited though neither is a socialist. In fact, Nader serves Buchanan's cause much better than the reverse. The reasons are not hard to find in history, and yet they are easily forgotten whenever the left seeks a "populist" short-cut to socialism. Members of mass movements are not always class-conscious and, when class-conscious, are not always consistent defenders of democracy. That is bitterly unfortunate but true. The lowest common denominator between Nader and Buchanan is anti-corporate populism, which Nader believes has a universally democratic tendency. He is dangerously wrong. Buchanan in no way aims to cross fines of race, class, and sex." Buchanan may wish to put reins on globe-trotting corporations, but his utopia is a capitalist bunker state with racial and sexual borders wen policed and defended.
Anti-semitism is the socialism of fools," said the great German socialist, August Bebel. Genocide and slavery have taught the far right to signal racism in code, but anti-feminism and anti-gay bigotry is now the explicit socialism of fools. Nader is only one among too many "progressives" who make hasty retreats whenever and wherever the far right advances on racial, sexual, and cultural terrain. Some folks on the left long for the oldtime religion of economic reductionism while shying away from the very name of socialism. This, too, is the socialism of fools, for they cling to the baggage of dogmatism, change the identities on their political passports, and get red-baited anyway.
Nader is a fine case in point. Ironic, isn't it, that a New Yo-rk Times editorial of April 7, 1996, takes a position to the left of Nader on the issue of civil rights for gay people? As the editorial noted: "A `marriage protection rally in Des Moines on the eve of the Iowa Republican caucuses drew predictable support from Patrick Buchanan in person, but also written support from the party's presumptive nominee, Bob Dole." The usual pious mob declares that civil marriage must remain a heterosexual privilege, and the editorial notes, "These arguments, uncomfortably similar to those raised in resistance to repealing miscegenation laws a few decades ago, cannot obscure the entrenched anti-gay bigotry underlying much of the public dialogue."
The editorial fails to mention that "President Clinton opposes same-sex marriage, the White House announced when questioned on the issue this week," according to a Knight-Ridder report of February 13, 1996. Bipartisan bigotry is no surprise, but can we expect better from independent candidates such as Nader, who has begun a marriage of convenience with the Green Party? interviewed by Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" on March 24, Nader was asked, "When the Green Party pushes the issue of same-sex marriages, is that an issue you're going to care about?" Nader answered, "That's not an issue I'm going to speak about. If that's their issue, they're free to advocate it. The key thing is we're rising to a more constitutional level of rebuilding our democracy." Twenty state legislatures are now moving to outlaw gay marriage, which is yet another demolition of democracy, and Nader has now disqualified himself as a constitutional architect. For Nader--as for Buchanan, Gingrich, Dole, and Clinton--queers do not rank as people among The People. By means of just such "populism" democracy is destroyed.
Isn't this the very moment for radical democrats and democratic socialists to throw ourselves into the thick of battle? Maybe--but what good are clarion calls if we rush to fight under false flags and banners? I am disloyal to a bipartisan system which is crudely anti-democratic, but in local elections I still find it possible to vote for a few Democrats in order to stop Republicans. In presidential elections, however, I would rather protest at the polling places and raise the old socialist slogan and banner anew: not one cent and not one vote for this damned system!
Scott Tucker is an artist, activist, and author of the recently published pamphlet, Fighting Words: An Open Letter to Queers and Radicals (Cassell's).
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|Title Annotation:||Our Queer World; presidential politics|
|Date:||May 1, 1996|
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