Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Paul....won't approve of lunch counters being desegregated. Here's his appearance on Rachel Maddow, which includes his Lexington Courier interview where he says it

Jesus, he goes on record with it, then spends fifteen minutes evading the question when Maddow asks him point blank if he would support owners of lunch counters deciding not to serve black people.


Charles Johnson (Rad Geek) said...

Rand Paul is a liar and a politician. (But I repeat myself.) However, in the interest of fairness, I watched that interview, and he didn't say that he was against "lunch counters being desegregated." What he said is that he's against the use of federal antidiscrimination laws to desegregate lunch counters.

The second position implies the first only if there's no other way to desegregate lunch counters except for getting a federal law so you can go hire a lawyer and file a Title II lawsuit against the department store in federal court. But of course there are other ways besides that kind of bureaucratic bullshit. Nothing that Rand Paul said about Title II or Title VII would rule out the use of grassroots organization and nonviolent direct action, of exactly the sort that was already being used effectively to dismantle Jim Crow in towns throughout the South, when the a bunch of grandstanding white Democrats decided to rush in and take all the credit.

John Madziarczyk said...

True, very true. But right now the threat of law suits acts to keep a situation where people don't need to do sit ins, at least on a mass scale, from happening. This gets into the heart of a lot of controversy about the State and about authority in general...on the one hand it's not good to have an over arching federal government, but on the other presumably there would be some sort of mechanism in place in an anarchist society that would penalize establishments or people when they started to violate community standards, used in a broad sense.

Charles Johnson (Rad Geek) said...

John: But right now the threat of law suits acts to keep a situation where people don't need to do sit ins, at least on a mass scale, from happening.

Well, I think that what keeps people from needing to do sit-ins right now isn't primarily government laws; it's the radical shift in community norms since the Jim Crow era. (Also, the fact that business owners in the South are now much more likely to be black themselves than they were in the early 1960s.)

Enforcing a law like the Civil Rights Act isn't free: it took a lot of hard-fought political effort to get it passed, and once it passed, it didn't automagically erase all the segregation in the U.S.; rather, what happened is that some places immediately desegregated and others didn't, and got sued. Eventually, enough businesses were sued that the rest decided it wasn't worth the fight to try to keep their racist policies. But that happens with protests too: if direct action is successful in one campaign, it makes the next campaign easier, because fewer businesses are willing to fight it out with you, and eventually you start winning without even having to fight. (There are plenty of actual cases where this happened -- for example, that's how the NSM won the desegregation of all the downtown businesses in Nashville in summer 1960, even though they had only targeted a limited subset of those businesses for sit-ins.)

So, the question isn't how you can get social change without a struggle (you can't); rather, it's what kind of struggle is the most effective and the most productive. But I think it's obvious here that the most important thing that the struggle did was to change the culture in the South, so that Jim Crow was no longer socially sustainable; that is, black people became too pissed off to take it, and eventually not enough white people w ere willing to dish it out anymore. But what creates cultural change more effectively -- fighting moral battles in the streets and neighborhoods? Or having to hire lawyers and dickering over a bunch of legalistic mumbo-jumbo in federal court? I think that the change of venue to court was at best useless from the standpoint of social change, and sometimes ended up stalling a social struggle by getting it caught up in expensive, slow, and complicated legal battles.

So, setting aside my Anarchist objections to any form of legislative authority for the moment (although I do also have those objections too, of course), I think that it's just far more valuable to concentrate efforts on maintaining a strong social movement and a culture of solidarity, than it is to fritter away energy on political lobbying and trying to work through federal bureaucracies.

John: presumably there would be some sort of mechanism in place in an anarchist society that would penalize establishments or people when they started to violate community standards, used in a broad sense.

Well, OK, but the "mechanisms" that Anarchists have usually envisioned are free associations that work through social sanctions and direct action, not political courts or police forces. So if you want to make sure that businesses don't discriminate (which I think is a perfectly reasonable thing to want), the kind of mechanisms you'd expect to see in an Anarchistic society to would be focused on holding the creep socially accountable, rather than trying to retaliate legally or coercively. That would be acted out through things like labor unions, community groups, grassroots campaigns of protest or direct action (like the sit-in movement itself), boycotts and strikes, social ostracism of the business owner, etc. Not statist mechanisms like threatening lawsuits or filing forms with some tax-funded bureaucracy.

Sheldon Richman said...

Re Charles's comments: Hear, hear! He's nailed it good!

John Madziarczyk said...

I agree with you about the importance of cultural change as the basis for lasting social change . This is one of the things that has crippled the abortion rights movement. Abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court nationwide through the action of lawsuits while on the ground the sort of mass change of attitudes hadn't happened, leading to abortion turning into the political football that is today, complete with not only death threats but actual murders and constant harassment of providers. No matter how right it is that abortion is legal, the lack of change of attitudes has prevented access from becoming a reality in most places around the country.

But I think that it will take a whole lot more organizing and activism to really be able to supplant the process of dealing with these and other issues that we have now.

With the mechanism, the way I think of a future society involves community assemblies and work organized into federations of some sort. I would think that both of these would have some internal process of dealing with both individuals and groups that get out of hand. At some point the distinction between ways that can be thought of as authoritarian, if what's meant by that is ways of doing things that we have now, and non-authoritarian ways of doing things breaks down. If someone has agreed to do something and doesn't do it, or ends up hurting the community, it's easier to impose sanctions of some kind than to rely on more esoteric kinds of punishment. What those sanctions would be, and how they would be carried out, is a matter for discussion. Right now unions with collective bargaining agreements, if they're strong,have a negotiated process in dealing with problems on the job, where when a person is threatened with being fired they talk to a shop steward and then meet with management to discuss the issue and decide on an appropriate penalty if one is required. I think that something like this, which would be negotiated and not an arbitrary exercise of authority, would be a good model for dealing with things.