Sunday, March 18, 2007

Field guide to the new political terminology

Since 9/11 things have changed in relation to who's who in the political world to the loosely defined left. "Progressive" can now mean just about anything. In the interest of cleaning the terminology up I'm going to propose a spectrum of terms that reflect how far to the left the people who belong to them actually are.

First up are Socialists and Anarchists. Socialists and Anarchists still basically stand for Socialism and Anarchism. The terms Socialist and Anarchist haven't been co-opted by people who aren't really either, although the process of watering down the term Anarchism was underway before 9/11, most prominently at the World Social Forum of 2002 where some idiot from Italy high on Critical Theory declared that everyone who was at the WSF was an anarchist and a member of the new "anarchist international". But that's sort of stopped since Anti-Globalization has been eclipsed by Anti-war.

More problematic is the term "Progressive". This is where the shifting of terminology has really gone overboard. Now, someone who's a self described "Progressive" can be someone who supports the Democratic Party %100 and just wants Bush out. I think Progressive really refers to people who identify with the Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower, Green party, Ralph Nader, axis of things. People who want progressive reform in the shape of less inequality, more democracy, more environmental protection, more unions, universal health care. Things that are social problems that are independent of 9/11 and Bush. Notice that most of these terms fit in the term before, so that many of the things Progressives believe in Socialists and Anarchists believe in too, albeit with the anti-State proviso of Anarchism making a difference.

Further to the right you have Anti-Bush people. They've been against Bush since the fraudulent election of 2000, have seen how he's been eviscerating the country with right wing, pro-corporate reform, pro-Christian Right stances like the "Office of Faith Based Initiatives" and don't like it.

Then there's the post 9/11 Anti-Bush people, who focus more on what Bush has done since 9/11 and are less concerned with the general thrust of his policies before 9/11 and may or may not have cared about the 2000 election.

Further still to the right are people who are generically Anti-War. What these people believe beyond opposing the war is up for grabs. Andrew Sullivan, a conservative author famous for arguing that gays can have a legitimate place in a conservative party, has come out against the Iraq war. Republicans in Congress have come out against it. Retired generals have come out against it. A dividing line, possibly, between 9/11 Anti-Bushists and anti-war people is which war they oppose. Many generic anti-war people support the invasion of Afghanistan. Many 9/11 Anti-Bush people did as well, but don't mention it because they don't want to admit that they got caught up in the general climate of bloodlust that came after 9/11.

That's basically what I see the continuum as being. After that come more and more levels of mediocracy.

Anti-war people believe in Anti-War, post 9/11 anti-Bush people believe what the antiwar people believe but also oppose Bush's post 9/11 policies, regular anti-Bush people oppose the war, oppose what Bush has done post 9/11 but also object to his usurptation of democracy and to the right wing policies that he was putting into action pre-9/11. Progressives believe in all of the above but also believe in the need for progressive legislation and grass roots action for social reform in order to stop things like growing inequality, lack of democracy, free trade, environmental destruction, an inexcusable health care system, and other general social ills. They're pro-Union. Socialists and Anarchists believe in the same things as all the previous, but with the proviso with Anarchists that they're anti-Statists and so wouldn't agree with some of the progressive proposals, plus, they're Anarchists and part of the Anarchist tradition; Socialists believe in all of the above as well but aren't quite as anti-Statist as the Anarchists, although in actuality the spectrum of Socialist thought goes from hyper-Statist, at least when they're in power, to pretty skeptical of State power, as many of the left-wing non-Stalinist socialists are.

No comments: