L. Neil Smith's
Number 205, January 6, 2003


Very, Very Strange Bedfellows
by Joel Simon

Exclusive to TLE

Over the past several weeks I have gradually become aware of a genuine crisis in my world view; a situation that, I begin to fear, might someday force me to use the phrase "paradigm shift" in a sentence.

Here's how it works. My attitude toward politics in general is very easy to explain. All republicrat politicians are loathsome parasites. They're disgusting, and you want to take precautions against them, but they're not really any more worthy of hatred or any other personal feeling than are mosquitoes or leeches. What I mean: You can be revolted by a tapeworm and take active measures to expel it from your body, but there's no point in hating the tapeworm or having contempt for it. It's not really evil. It's just doing what tapeworms do.

There's another group, though, that has always had my most heartfelt sneering contempt. In an example of cosmic irony that tempts me to believe both in reincarnation and that in a previous life I did something very naughty, I find myself living almost within gunshot range of the largest concentration of them in the United States. I refer to Stalinphilia Berkeleyus, the classic Berkeley leftist. This vile, pulsating mass of philosophical goo long ago metastasized to college campuses all over the country, but the mother hive is still right here, just across the bay from beautiful Sausalito.

I despise them, individually and in bunches, even though unlike politicians none of them have done me any personal harm. In fact they've occasionally been good for a laugh. These are, after all, the people who brought us ebonics. They should be thanked for that, if for nothing else. But these are also the people who, alone among terrestrial sapients, still actually seem to believe the world would be a perfect place if only we'd all agree to be equally squalid and let the Central Committee make our decisions for us. All our decisions. They like to call themselves 'pro-choice', but the only 'choice' they have in mind is abortion. Being male, I'm incapable of having an abortion so that would leave me with no choices at all. This is, to put it mildly, not the way to my heart.

So through all the trials of my life, I have until now taken comfort in one great constant. I knew there existed one group so consistently, so categorically wrong about everything that I could simply despise them as the collective they so long to be, and put them out of my mind. They're worse than parasites; they're socialists. They're would- be predators, and their ineptitude is their only virtue.

Imagine, then, my dismay on discovering that I agree with them about something. Something really fundamentally big. This is distressing; bear with me a moment.

Okay, it seems that while they were waiting for the proletariat to rise up, a bunch of red-diaper types in an organization called Refuse & Resist got interested in the USA Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Department, and the idea of the U.S. being a for-real imperialist power. (I began this article bitching about Berkeley, but this group actually operates out of New York. Research can suck sometimes. Anyway, it's a big thing in Berkeley.) Prior to this they concentrated on things like organizing garbage strikes and screaming for the release of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Bush's foray into imperialism redux must have seemed like a dream come true to them. I remember Ann Arbor socialists screaming about U.S. imperialism 'way back in the sixties, and I just laughed them off. I shudder to think they might get the last laugh.

So this bunch started a 'movement', which apparently consists entirely of newspaper ads, called "Not in Our Name." The ads are endorsed by a hundred or so of the usual pack of idiots. I mean, c'mon, when I see a list of names including such luminaries as Ed Asner, William Blum, Ramsey Clark, Angela Davis, Michael Lerner, and Tom Haydn, I don't have to look at the text to know that hot pokers couldn't make me want to buy whatever they're selling. I blew it off without reading it.

But I kept hearing the things the west coast lefties were saying about the New Order and the forever war, and it kept sounding almost exactly like what I've been saying. Things like:

'Tell me again how your monitoring and recording my every movement is going to help you preserve my freedom?'

'So most of the 911 terrorists were Saudis, and the leader of their movement is a Saudi, and a lot of the sponsorship money is coming from the Saudis. So why are you attacking Afghanistan and Iraq? Isn't that like losing a contact lens in the hallway but looking for it in the kitchen because the light is better?'

'If you've declared war on terror, how come you're gearing up to attack a country that can't be shown to have even sponsored an act of terror against the U.S., though God knows you've given them reason enough to want to?'

'And speaking of that, why exactly is it unpatriotic to suggest that somebody somewhere might actually have a reason to hate our bleeping guts? Randomly bombing people for decades can have that effect, you know.'

I'm a talk radio junky, but for the past year I've stopped listening to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Shawn Hannity -- in fact, all the usuals -- because I couldn't take all the war-drum beating. Now I found myself tuning in to NPR and Pacifica radio. And I got to thinking about that "Not in Our Name" ad again. I looked it up on the web.

It's rather long. A lot of it is self-reverent, or consists of global- solidarity catch phrases. At one point it goes off on a tangent about Palestine. But it also says things that make perfect sense:

" ... We believe that peoples and nations have the right to determine their own destiny, free from military coercion by great powers. We believe that all persons detained or prosecuted by the United States government should have the same rights of due process. We believe that questioning, criticism, and dissent must be valued and protected. We understand that such rights and values are always contested and must be fought for.

" ... the mourning had barely begun, when the highest leaders of the land unleashed a spirit of revenge. They put out a simplistic script of 'good vs. evil' that was taken up by a pliant and intimidated media. They told us that asking why these terrible events had happened verged on treason. There was to be no debate. There were by definition no valid political or moral questions. The only possible answer was to be war abroad and repression at home.

" ... In our name, within the U.S., the government has created two classes of people: those to whom the basic rights of the U.S. legal system are at least promised, and those who now seem to have no rights at all ... In our name, the government has brought down a pall of repression over society ... In our name, the executive has steadily usurped the roles and functions of the other branches of government ... We must take the highest officers of the land seriously when they talk of a war that will last a generation and when they speak of a new domestic order ... There is a deadly trajectory to the events of the past months that must be seen for what it is and resisted."

There's more, but this should get the point across. As I said earlier, the thought that a bunch of socialists could be right about anything comes as a disturbing revelation. The thought of forming some sort of coalition with them is as attractive as an invitation to push my face into a bowl of maggots. Nevertheless, on this one topic they are ri... well, they are not as wrong as usual.

On the subject of a coalition, it turns out that something like that was tried, back in the sixties. In the days of Viet Nam and Woodstock, Murray Rothbard, Karl Hess and Walter Block formed an organization called the Radical Libertarian Alliance. The RLA was supposed to bring together all the disparate radical elements of the time under a common tent. They figured that whatever their differences might be, socialists and libertarians did have one thing in common: They were anti-state. It apparently didn't work very well.

Jerome Tuccille's book It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand contains an anecdote of an apparently representative incident at the RLA's one and only convention. It seems a fanatical Randian was alarmed by a leftist denouncing "greedy profiteers." The Randian grabbed the leftist by his shoulders and slammed him repeatedly against the wall, shouting, "Greed! Greed! Greed's what makes the world go 'round, you degenerate altruist son of a bitch, you filthy little whim-worshipper, you collectivist creep!"

You have to love directness like that. But that was about as close as socialists and libertarians ever came to working together in this country.

Another, far less amusing example of this sort of thing happened in Nicaragua in the late '70's and early '80's. To oversimplify almost to the point of fiction, a number of Nicaraguan political groups opposed to Anastasia Somoza Debayle formed a coalition to depose him. The FSLN, a communist group that became known as the Sandinistas, was the largest and best-organized part of the coalition. It was also, as it turned out, the only part with a long-term plan. The coalition won the war, the Sandinistas won the peace, and the condition of the Nicaraguan people went from bad to worse.

When you're a rabbit, it never pays to ask a fox to carry you across a river.

So I've decided that, agreement or no agreement, I want no part of any affiliation with Stalinphilia Berkeleyus.

I might keep listening to their radio programs, though. It can be entertaining, in an appalling kind of way.


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