On “strasserism” and the decay of the left.

I disagree with the central premise of this blog post, that it’s in the economic interests of the American working class to shut down the borders to immigration. I think the idea that the working-class can use the bourgeois state (and its militarized borders) in its interests is fundamentally mistaken.

Nevertheless, I do think that in the wake of the utter defeat of the left in the English speaking world over the past year, it asks some of the right questions. Corbyn, Sanders and the movements behind them have failed. There is a class contradiction between the middle-class professionals who make up most of DSA’s membership and the working class. The more closely you look at the Sanders campaign the more you realize how it was sabotaged by careerists brought on after 2016.

So where do we go from here? Honestly I don’t think the left in North America and Western Europe is going to be the driving force behind any revolution. Western Europeans and North Americans are far too dependent on our “imperial privilege,” on military spending and transfers of wealth from the periphery to the imperial core to genuinely want to bring the whole system down. The yellow vests movement in France was an interesting explosion of middle and working class rage, but in the end I think it’s going to be the workers of the global south who will bring down neoliberalism.

Fuck Denmark. Long live Venezuela.

Malcom Kyeyune - Power & Politics

The Socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society, minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best; and bourgeois Socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems. In requiring the proletariat to carry out such a system, and thereby to march straightway into the social New Jerusalem, it but requires in reality, that the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society, but should cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie.

— Karl Marx

Long haired preachers come out every night

Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right

But when asked about something to eat

They will answer with voices so sweet

You…

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19 comments

  1. He does have some points. Esp. about the decay of the left. Same here in Germany. There exists a saying: “Wer hat euch verraten? Sozialdemokraten!” meaning “Who betrayed you (the working class)? Social Democrats did!” Gemany’s SPD is almost dead. And sad to say, but the new opposition, claiming to be there for the working class is the right wing, nationalistic AfD.

    1. Similarly I don’t think Macron and French neoliberals who accused the Yellow Vests of being right wing populists were totally wrong. The center left in North America and Western Europe has largely degenerated into the role of keeping the workers and the left under control. If the right acts like CEOs of the corporation, the center left acts like middle-managers and HR specialists. When you have nowhere else to go you fall into the ideology of the past, nationalism.

      1. what exactly is an HR specialist?

        1. Human Resources specialists. They’re middle level managers responsible for hiring and firing.

          Even the upper-middle-class hates them. Here’s a scene from a movie where a Wall Street guy gets fired by two HR women.

          Most of the “woke” corporate culture (sexual harassment trainings and the like) is developed by human resources departments.

  2. John Thurloe · · Reply

    It would have been useful if the author actual knew the first thing about the politics of Otto and Gregor Strasser. Otto moved to Canada, mixed with the left wing of the CCF and was welcomed into the early post war East German Stalinists. So, the reality is not straightforward.

    This article is the moaning of the Jacobin fake-left whining because the manoeuvring room their sell-out to liberalism has evaporated. It’s the failing liberal left declaiming against perceived enemies which are a libertarian – left front. Which of course has nothing to do with Strasserism.

    The current Covidiot lockdown provides a nice illustration. The liberal left bought the whole horse shit hook, line and sinker. And now look like complete traitors, toadies of the life force crushing Democrats. Typical. The opposition to the the hysteria comes from the radical libertarians and the revolutionary left. Both of which detest liberals in all shapes and forms including the posturers of the progressive left who betray workers over and over again.

    The party of ‘national socialism’ in the US have always been the fake liberal leftists. Who ever have cheer-leaded American bombing, invasions and sanctions, rah-rah’ed after 9/11 and toadied American Exceptionalism. This lot has also apologized when the ruling class imported strike breakers from other countries to crush trade unions and drive down wages. Always favouring to so import the foremost traitors and abandoners of the class struggle where ever they came from. The gusano opportunists.

    1. The party of ‘national socialism’ in the US have always been the fake liberal leftists. Who ever have cheer-leaded American bombing, invasions and sanctions, rah-rah’ed after 9/11 and toadied American Exceptionalism.

      During the early 2000s there was actually a working alliance between the left and even some mainstream liberals against Bush. It broke up after 2006 when Pelosi declared impeachment “off the table” and Obama fully embraced the Bush torture surveillance state. Something really weird went on in Connecticut in 2006 too, when a liberal Democrat beat Lieberman in the primary but essentially took a dive in the general election when Lieberman remained in the election as an independent. Someone (probably Harry Reid) made a few phone calls.

      The real change, to my mind anyway, came after the police smashed Occupy Wall Street. Even in 2010/2011 a lot of liberals were sympathetic to Julian Assange, for example. But after 2012 you started to see liberals and “anarchists” supporting regime change in Syria and Libya. By 2015 people on the left were throwing around terms like “Assadist” against anybody even skeptical about American imperialism.

      Then of course it flipped in 2016 after Trump won, with liberals and a large part of the left embracing Russophobia. It’s not that the right changed. They remained imperialists and radical statists.It’s that the left joined them. Now the American political spectrum is basically Paleocons in the Republican Party vs. neocons in the Democratic Party.

      And it’s going to get worse. The energy the Democrats mobilized to drive out the Sanders movement is going to move the party to the far, far right. The Democratic Party right in Massachusetts, for example is mounting a primary challenge to Ed Markey, one of the few actual liberals left.

      1. John Thurloe · · Reply

        Well yes, the path to political Hell passes through liberalism and it’s downhill all the way worn smooth from treading feet. But there are generations of militants, each having its points of degeneration. I was young but remember the contempt for the betrayals of Hubert Humphrey that Bernie Sanders of hope in his day. I lived through the fury at Steven Lewis, the traitor Premier, the sell-out Governor Moonbeam, Tony Blair.

        They succumb, fall to corruption. But not all. Arthur Scargill. Clean Gene McCarthy, Micheal Collins. Kim Philby. The rats try to drown out those who call them out. The louder for shame. It is therapeutic therefore to hammer the shit out of them. Now, this lot runs out of room. As the tides flow watch as some try to creep back seeing they have no place or home in the midden. Make new friends, seek fresh allies. Always there are the unspoiled waiting for you.

        1. In retrospect the “anybody but Bush” movement was a mistake. In 2008 Obama seemed like the real negation of Bush, a rich, white fundamentalist Christian from Texas. But in the end none of it mattered. He was just Bush 3.0. He also demobilized his own grassroots organization, allowed the far right to destroy ACORN, and reached out to neoconservatives in a way he never did to the left.

          Bernie I think was the attempt to replace the reactionary Obama of 2010 with the the “progressive” Obama of 2008. But it was never going to work. Obama had already diverted the left into identity politics (even if he disingenuously criticized identity politics after he left office).

          I think Biden (not Biden himself but the political and economic forces that gave him the nomination) represent something much darker. In order to defeat Bernie’s supporters they had to push the Democratic Party even further to the right. Going forward, liberals and progressives are just going to be told to shut up while the George W. Bush party campaigns against the Pat Buchanan party.

    2. Medicare for All is dead for a generation but there is going to be a bailout for unemployed lawyers. Don’t you just love how he uses the right woke pronoun?

  3. John Thurloe · · Reply

    Otto Strasser and his ilk were big on the principle of ursufruct. As was Thomas Jefferson and William Tecumseh Sherman. Nobody pays any attention to this or knows the first thing about it.

    Below are some excerpts from a manifesto statement of Otto Strasser et al which likely present a line of thinking that would surprise readers:

    Otto Strasser’s July 4, 1930 announcement of his critical break with Hitler and his resignation from the NSDAP

    “We conceived and still conceive of National Socialism as a consciously anti-imperialist movement, whose nationalism restricts itself to the preservation and safeguarding of the life and growth of the German nation without any tendencies towards domination over other peoples and countries. For us, therefore, the rejection of the interventionist war prosecuted against Russia by international capitalism and by Western imperialism was and is a natural demand.

    For us, sympathy with the struggle of the Indian people for their freedom from English rule and from capitalist exploitation was and is a necessity.

    For us, socialism means an economy based on the real needs of the nation, the participation of the totality of producers in the ownership, management, and profits of the entire economy of this nation, i.e. thus breaking the ownership monopoly of the contemporary capitalist system and, above all, breaking the management monopoly which is today tied to tenure. [ursufructism]

    In our opposition to Marxism and the bourgeoisie, consequently, we did not and still do not perceive any essential difference, since the liberalism working within both makes them equally our enemy.”

    Best know the enemy from the source.

    1. “We conceived and still conceive of National Socialism as a consciously anti-imperialist movement, whose nationalism restricts itself to the preservation and safeguarding of the life and growth of the German nation without any tendencies towards domination over other peoples and countries. For us, therefore, the rejection of the interventionist war prosecuted against Russia by international capitalism and by Western imperialism was and is a natural demand.

      It makes sense that a splinter group of the German far right would declare itself “anti-imperialist” in opposition to the British. You might get some traction with the public. But Hitler’s decision to take Eastern Europe came from two sources.

      The first was the tradition that went all the way back to the Middle Ages, where German speaking people progressively displaced the indigenous (Lithuanians and Prussians). It found expression in German historians like Heinrich von Treitschke.

      But the second was more immediate. The Royal Navy had successfully blockaded the Germans during the First World War and cut off their food supply. Hitler’s decision to invade Russia (and annex Ukraine) goes all the way back to 1916. German self-sufficiency objectively depended on German imperialism in Eastern Europe.

      So even if sincere Strasser was just an insignificant crank well outside the mainstream of German nationalism.

      And the idea that you could somehow remake his ideas to suit an American (or Russian or Chinese) context seems ridiculously far fetched.

      The United States is the imperial hegemon. American nationalism of any kind is essentially American imperialism. China is a manufacturing superpower that depends on the world market to sell its goods. Russia is basically a big petro state (which is why there are so many Saudi and Gulf State funded trolls on Twitter constantly howling for more sanctions) that has to sell oil. None of them can be self-sufficient. It’s probably best they all just try to get along.

  4. John Thurloe · · Reply

    And yet here we are dealing with Strasserism and I don’t see a U.S. Communist Party in sight. The point is that Strasser sounds exactly like an American ‘progressive’. Just minor updating would put Strasser right in the middle of the U.S. political spectrum.

    Here is George Orwell reviewing Hitler’s Mein Kampf in 1940: Note how even at that time, the term ‘progressive’ is regarded with contempt.

    “Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’tonly want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarised version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.”

    1. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.”

      Pretty generic rhetoric for “muscular Christianity.”

      We go to the moon, not because it’s easy, but because it is hard.

      JFK

      But I don’t think the people who wrote the original article would deny that. I think the point is that Strasser was a very marginal figure in the Nazi party. Corporate liberals who conflate that kind of generic muscular Christian rhetoric with Hitler and imply it leads to the Holocaust are not only arguing in bad faith, they’re using actual Nazi propaganda. They’re also using the same type of arguments the far right on Fox News uses. Hitler said in Mein Kampf that he only used the term “socialist” to troll the left.

      Orwell isn’t really a good faith actor here either. He rarely criticized fascism. He was far more hostile to the Communist Party.

  5. John Thurloe · · Reply

    You are right about Germany for ever seeking Living Space in the East. And the Brits blockading just as they did to Napoleon who also headed east. As they did to Japan, who attacked west and aimed for China as their Russia.

    Shoe’s on the other foot today. The flow of power is reversed.

    1. The difference between the US Navy in 2020 and the Russians are Chinese is bigger than the difference between the Royal Navy and the German High Seas fleet in 1914 or the US Navy and the Japanese Navy in 1941. I think at one point the Japanese Navy was the most powerful Navy in the world, but only briefly.

      1. John Thurloe · · Reply

        China and Russia are chiefly interested in naval forces to maintain a stand off from their shores. They have no interest in projecting a naval power beyond excepting the Russian submarine fleet which is part of the nuclear triad. Russian Borei and Yansen subs are first class except their are not many of them. China is cranking out top rate frigates, destroyers and helicopter ships at a ferocious speed. The U.S. fleet is old and the Ford and Zumwaldt rank with the F-35. In a shooting war every carrier will be headed to the bottom in the first hour.

        It’s all about precision ballistic and cruise missiles nowadays. They have far greater range than war planes. Russia and China make the best of them and Russia has air defences that beggars the U.S. which has none. Plus the Russians have hypersonic missiles and dazzling electronic warfare capability. While the Russians haves shown they can design very advanced weapons they stink when it comes to actually manufacturing them. China can build stuff far faster than the U.S. but the quality is less though they are gaining ground fast.

        If China were to acquire Russian technology the U.S would be up shit’s creek. Beats me why they don’t just offer Russia a heap of cash which the latter would value.

        1. China and Russia are chiefly interested in naval forces to maintain a stand off from their shores. They have no interest in projecting a naval power beyond excepting the Russian submarine fleet which is part of the nuclear triad.

          This is precisely what the Germans had in the First and Second World Wars. It’s usually called “the fleet in being.” The British maintained a presence all over the world. The Germans had a navy in the North Sea and the Baltic. It was supposed to have leverage against the Royal Navy. It kind of worked in Norway in 1940 but that was mainly do to British incompetence. I guess the Chinese could get the point where they could make a move against Taiwan. That’s the direction they seem to be moving in.

          If China were to acquire Russian technology the U.S would be up shit’s creek.

          They already have it. They’ve purchased and renovated two Russian aircraft carriers. But the United States has 15. That’s a ratio the British never had against the Germans.

          Where the Russians did recently have leverage over the USA was in Syria. They were willing to use their single aircraft carrier against ISIS and the USA wasn’t willing to go war to stop them.

          You’re right. The real danger to the US navy is a missile. Aircraft carriers make very big targets. But that would mean World War III and I don’t think anybody but upper-middle-class liberal women yammering on about “but her emails” want that. At least I hope.

  6. John Thurloe · · Reply

    In repeated simulations of a war between the US on one hand, and either China or Russia on the other the RAND Corporation found that “the US repeatedly “gets its ass handed to it“.

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