Why I’m Not A Liberal
We often hear that “ends don’t justify the means”. You know who tells this to us and wants us to keep repeating? Those who already are fine with the existing “ends” and don’t want them changed, those who have a stake in the current system and are not in any way, shape or form, interested in a different set of “ends”.
We’re told that we must play by the rules and work through and within the system and within the framework and set of established laws. What gets forgotten is that those rules, framework, laws and procedures have been devised, designed and written to prevent a change in the power structure or the economic system. The economic system at work is conditioned on and depends on who holds the power. The laws and rules are written by the powerful and for the powerful. He who holds power gets to dictate what the rules are and as long as they get to decide that, they also make sure change will never happen by following those rules.
There’s nothing divine or sacrosanct about laws or rules. They’re written by people in position of power and are meant to meet their interests and to keep them in power. Following those rules may be considered fair and playing by the rules, but fair to whom and whose rules and to whose advantage?
The ruling class holds not only the physical power through the police, the military, the spy agencies and courts, it also holds the channels for controlling people’s minds through the mass media which it owns and controls, as well as through education. Therefore, they get to tell us what is and is not acceptable or legitimate or legal. Slavery, for example, was at one time legal. So was burning witches alive and child labor. And it was illegal for women and minorities to vote. I think it was Dr. King who said: Hitler’s actions were legal, whereas Gandhi’s were not.
And there’s more. While those in power preach to us that we must be deferential to and use the accepted means for achieving social justice and refrain from using “all means necessary”, that’s precisely what they do. The fact is: all the talk of legality and respecting laws and playing fair and by accepted and legitimate means and rules is only for us, the people, not for them. Their attitude is and has always been: “by all means necessary”. They disregard the Constitution, the Bill Of Rights and International laws, including signed conventions, diplomatic protocols and rules, not to mention basic human decency and morality, when those rules and laws don’t serve their needs. The world is and operates very much on the basis of “by all means necessary”, as well as “ends” at the expense of the “means”. Only, when it comes to people fighting for much needed change and social justice, we are told we must play by the rules and within their framework.
Some progressive liberals aptly tell us what’s wrong with the current system, from racism to wars, from imperialist plunder of the underdeveloped and poor countries to huge corporations deciding the outcome of elections, from banks ruining the economy to oil and gas companies destroying the environment, from wiping out the middle class and driving them into poverty to taking people’s civil rights away and turning the society into a police state and more. But, most of them stop short of mentioning what the solution or alternative is, or worse, suggest a fallacious solution. And that brings me to the key difference between liberals and the real left. We can misunderstand or not understand everything else, but, If there is one thing that we absolutely must understand is this: holding stats power is the key. It is the only way real, meaningful and fundamental change will be possible. Without taking state power, we can talk about all the social and economic injustices and we can even protest and get beaten and jailed, while following the laws, and none of that will matter. As I said, those who hold the power get to dictate their priorities, their interests and even their worldview, philosophy and culture, including who’s our friend and who our foe and what is legal or fair and what’s not and who goes to jail and who doesn’t.
Without having the power, well, you’re powerless: you cannot make Monsanto stop doing what they do for profit; you cannot stop telephone companies from merging and limiting your choices; you cannot force Walmart to treat its employees fairly; you cannot make insurance companies treat the sick with more humanity and care; you cannot force the government to stop listening to lobbyists and start listening to people, or to stop spying on citizens, or from conducting drone attacks against foreign villagers; you cannot stop the military from punishing Bradley Manning, or going to war for corporations or keeping innocent men in Guantanamo; and you cannot have a more fair distribution of wealth. To accomplish these and many others, we need to have the power behind us. You can’t even protest effectively, without it.
Power does not mean the Constitution. That’s just a piece of paper without the state power. Nor does it mean reason, logic or making a good argument in court. Holding state power means you control the police, the military, the CIA, the NSA, the courts, the Congress, all three branches of the government, and of course, the media, instead of the current capitalist rulers and that requires taking on the power and taking all levers of power from them. It happens when you have defeated the ruling class and wrenched power out of their hands and are now in control of the state with all its branches and organs, putting it to work in the service of a new set of priorities, goals and interests, and a newly empowered people whose interests, needs and priorities are fundamentally different from those previously in power. There is a name for toppling the power structure and taking state power to serve the vast majority, instead of a minority of super wealthy: it’s called revolution.
That brings me to the second point: if you understand the necessity of taking state power, then, you must also understand that those in power will never give up their power, voluntarily. That means, and hear is that second point: a revolution, in reality, is nothing but war between two classes of people, those who have the power and those who want it. There is no better or softer or nicer way. The reason again is simply the fact that those in power will not give it up without a fight. It’s as simple as that. And just as in war where the advancing troops go all the way to the centers of power and occupy government buildings, military installations, TV outlets, police stations and command and control centers and remove politicians and other key people from office, so it is in revolution.
There is a reason why this simple reality seems so foreign and hard to grasp or looks harsh or extreme to so many people. That’s how we’ve been trained to think: that we must make our voices heard only through the system, that we must voice our grievances through elections, that we must respect the rule of law to effect change, that we must not put ends above means and must stay within the means prescribed to us by those in power. The reason is that real change can’t occur within those rules since they deliberately have been made to preclude any possibility of real change.
There is reason why holding state power or taking power is never mentioned as the game changer. There is reason why classes and class conflict or war is never or hardly ever mentioned. There is reason why, on the contrary, we’re told we’re one big happy family, that we’re all in the same boat, that we’re all Americans, that “there’s just one America” (Obama) with one mission and interest. They don’t want us to know the truth about class war and rich and poor, powerful and powerless, haves and have-nots. The truth is, however, that most Americans have more in common with Africans and Asians and others in far away villages throughout the world than they do with the Rockefellers of this country. That’s a truth we’re not supposed to know or think about.
So, if it is a war for state power between different classes of people with different priorities and objectives, it means the working class must defeat the capitalist class, in order to effect real change. This is not being dogmatic or extreme or inviting violence. This is the simple and unadulterated, unsweetened, unprocessed and organic truth – with no sugar, preservatives or artificial color added. Before you accuse me of being extreme or “old school Marxist” or 1910’s type revolutionary, tell me which part of what I’m saying is wrong.
Go unseat the CEO of Goldman Sachs or Monsanto. Good luck changing Exxon-Mobile or Walmart priorities (you could, if you were a majority shareholder). Tell the president to stop aiding Israel in its genocide against Palestinians. Make the military close the 700 military bases and have the money spent on education, healthcare and to combat rampant poverty. Have workers make living wages and have a say in their working conditions; reverse the dangerous degradation of the environment; eliminate unemployment, homelessness and poverty; reverse policies of war, etc, etc, and do all that with the power structure in place, no revolution and no taking of state power and no need for war on the ruling class. So, tell me I’m wrong.
Besides the issue of acknowledging class war and the need for taking state power through a not-so-peaceful revolution, the other point of contrast between liberals and real left is the former’s assumption that the policies of the capitalist class are nothing but mistakes. A mistake is when you send a text message to the wrong person and go “oops”. Strategizing, planning, preparing and going to war is not a mistake. It’s calculated, deliberate and with specific purpose and objectives, some of them very long term. The attack on Iraq had been contemplated, if not planned, long before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Nor is going after leakers and whistle blowers, or signing the NDAA into law, or monitoring people’s phone conversations, chats and emails, or dividing people based on race, gender, religion or ethnicity, or for that matter, massive incarceration of minority youth, etc. A new way of dividing people to allow attacking their social safety nets is between seniors and the young.
We must understand that the ruling class of super wealthy is not stupid or naive and knows exactly what they’re doing. It’s a classic liberal tenet to underestimate them or to assume they have good intentions, with wrong or mistaken policies. They want to spread democracy, we’re told, but they do it the wrong way (if wiping out entire villages can be called “wrong way”). Show them the right way dear liberals. Or, even worse, they fall into the racism trap and proclaim that the Middle Eastern people aren’t ready for democracy. The Iranian people had an elected Prime Minister whom the CIA toppled in 1953. To these liberals, the US government is doing good around the world, but, sometimes makes errors of judgement. Such crimes of tremendous magnitude as overthrowing an elected government with its consequent loss of many lives and ruining others’ and causing irreparable damage to the country is considered an error. So is waging war for reasons that turn out to be false. But, a 20 year old private’s exposing government massacres of innocent people is not an error to be forgiven, but a serious crime punishable by life in prison, if not execution. How liberals can claim being for liberty and still defend such travesty by their supposedly liberal president is beyond me.
When they do acknowledge imperialism, they detach it from the economic system that gives rise to it in the first place and think of it as the policy of this or that individual politician or party (usually attributed only to Republicans), rather than the class in power setting policy within the economic system and its requirements, and for its own benefit. Using this line of reasoning, many falsely believe that Republicans are necessarily more inclined to wage war than Democrats, not realizing that what determines issues of war and peace is the Empire and its economic and political requirements and constraints and the class the Empire serves, not the individual president. Such decisions are made based on long term goals of the class and with input from the military, the CIA, the NSA and others who maintain continuity from administration to administration. The military industrial complex is much bigger and its requirements much more important to ruling class than an individual president.
Liberals separate the system from its leadership which comes from their thinking that the system is completely blind to, unaware of or unsuspecting of who will next implement their class policies. To them, the system is open for anyone to come along and, if he or she so chooses, change the policies, completely. Someone might be able to do that, but not without a revolution. What they also fail to see is that both parties, despite their differences, represent the same class of billionaires, bankers and giant corporations. This keeps them busy fighting for the “lesser of two evils”, rather than towards building a grassroots movement to challenge the class represented by both parties. That’s why liberals can’t explain why more corporations and their CEO’s gave to Obama than his opponents – in both elections.
The next point that distinguishes liberals from the real left has to do with the understanding of democracy. Liberals separate democracy from the real society where there are different classes of people with different interests, and think of it as an abstract concept detached from the realities of class war and state power. The fact is democracy, as proclaimed and written on paper, means nothing, in and of itself. Democracy without the actual means for achieving social justice means nothing. In other words, democracy must be backed by actions, not just words.
We’re told we live in democracy, but we can’t get working people’s representatives elected – at least not enough to make a difference. Achieving social justice requires, not just democracy in name or on paper, but the means for ensuring what it’s really meant for: rule of the majority which is deliberately and decidedly denied from working people who are the majority. Achieving real democracy for and by the people will require having the state power behind you. And that, as I said, requires defeating the ruling class and taking state power. Only then will democracy have teeth and hence be real rather than on paper. On paper, Snowden should be able expose government misdeeds and at the very least, to take refuge in any country that’s willing to accept him. In reality, they won’t let him. On paper, Bolivia’s presidential jet can land in any nation for refueling. On paper, US citizens must not be spied on without a cause and the president can’t order Citizens executed. On paper corporations are supposed to pay taxes and workers can form unions. These and many other policies, such as wars, corporate welfare, lax environmental rules, minimal or non taxation of corporations, union busting, Fed’s monitory policies, etc., are for the long term interests of the capitalist class, which is the minority, and are made regardless of which of their two parties is given the office. Real democracy requires the majority being in power and setting policy for the interests of the majority. So, you see, not only social and economic justice is predicated on toppling the rulers from power, but also democracy.
I’m not suggesting that all liberals are misled or mistaken in their views. I don’t believe in a loose interpretation of “mistakes”. Belief systems are rarely the result of cognitive or logical errors. They usually stem from one’s own class affiliation and allegiance. The class one mostly identifies with is usually the result of one’s class origins. It’s hard for a white person living in an affluent neighborhood to break with her class and identify with the black young man growing up in the ghetto or the Hispanic woman making her hotel bed, and welcome a movement driven by such individuals.
It’s amazing the excuses one can come up with for not lending support to a working class movement when you’re not one of them or don’t identify with them. These liberals may go as far as supporting people’s demand for higher pay or healthcare and may proudly vote for a black man and consider that out of the care and compassion they feel for the underprivileged, but if people try to bring down the government by resorting to armed struggle, then all bets are off. That’s where they draw their line. And they will tell you that unlawful things are indefensible and “ends don’t justify the means”. That’s because the revolution of the poor scares them and what better place to hide than liberalism with its pseudo-intellectual rejection of revolution and revolutionary tendencies and defense of the rule of capital. With conservatives, at least, there is no pretense and no confusion.
But, even liberalism has its own place and useful function within the system. While the right aggressively pushes for more take backs and more austerity and more unbridled unregulated anything goes capitalism, liberalism, which lately has been hard to distinguish from the hard right, lends its voice of relative moderation which acts to save the system from its own excesses. Liberals talk a good talk for the working class, but ideologically and functionally, they’re for preserving the exploitative and unjust capitalist system which causes wars and poverty and which without that voice of moderation has a tendency to quickly dig its own grave. In fact, one can say that the call for moderation by liberals is first and foremost meant to prevent the collapse of the system. The Koch Brothers are rather the exception to the rule and the majority of billionaires don’t agree or even like them since they tend to expose the system at its crudest and as it really is. That’s why more billionaires gave to Obama campaign than his Republican opponents, notwithstanding the fact that it’s very hard to call the likes of Obama liberal, anymore. But, he is after all, “the lesser evil”, to middle class liberals, as well as most billionaires.