-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Scene from Lawrence of Arabia, while crossing the "Sun's Anvil" in the Nefud Desert)
Sherif Ali: [to Lawrence, after striking him with his riding crop] You were drifting.
Lawrence: [rousing himself from his daze] Yes.
Sherif Ali: Be warned, you were drifting.
See Part One of this post for writings by Stone, North, London and Carter.
Drifting Into Dehumanizing
Given Geoffrey R. Stone's long and illustrious career in the field of law, his contributions as a U.S. constitutional scholar and sterling credentials as a political Liberal, were David North et al. at the World Socialist Web Site overstating the case when they alleged that he was advocating a police state?
I've done a lot of thinking about the question since I first read the June 14 North-London article and the followup argument on July 8 by Tom Carter at WSWS. I'd say Geoffrey Stone had drifted, as had many American Liberals and not a few self-termed Conservatives. In fact, I'd say the entire American society has drifted.
Over the course of decades the individualized "four little children" of Martin Luther King's dream for America had transmogrified into a dream of a 'child demographic.'
How did that happen? In part because leading American Liberals drifted into focusing on achieving parity within certain groupings: gender groups, racial and ethnic groups, income groups, and so on. "Civil rights" became the civil rights of groups, and this view of civil rights gradually came to dominate the American media, academia and political discourse.
The view dovetailed with the economic collectivism that took hold in the USA with the blanket application of statistical reasoning to government economic policies. Little by little Americans got accustomed to hearing themselves referred to on the nightly news as "the Economy," just as they learned to find nothing strange about the civil rights of a group.
The upshot: by the turn of this century the individual was being replaced in American mainstream political discourse by the demographics of collectives. This had also happened in Germany by the 1930s. Yet it took the discourses by three American Trotskyists -- David North, Eric London, and Tom Carter -- to alert me to this. As with most Americans what I knew about the actual workings of the Nazi regime and its justice system would have fit on a flea's wing. And what I had known, and what I knew of the Judgment at Nuremberg, had faded to the back of my mind decades ago.
None of that can fade for Trotskyist intellectuals such as North. And so they administered a sharp verbal blow to Professor Stone. Whether this roused him from his daze I don't know; I don't follow his column at the Huffington Post. But it was a blow I felt. Without those writers to point out the echo of the Nazi justice system in Stone's condemnation of Edward Snowden, I wouldn't have caught the similarities.
I've told before on this blog that I disobeyed my parents and listened to a radio broadcast, actually a rebroadcast, of highlights from the Nuremberg Trials. So before I was 10 years old I knew about key concepts to come out of those trials, including the Nuremberg Principle IV cited by Tom Carter in his dispute with Stone. Yet when I read Carter's discussion I realized that I'd forgotten the principle. That frightened me, to realize I'd forgotten something so vitally important to my survival, to survival of freedom in the American republic.
A part of a society's "drift" is simply forgetting. Yet the situation pointed to by North et al. is a kind of forgetting one should take pains to ward off. The negative feedback loop for drifting into dehumanizing large numbers of people is much longer than say, the feedback provided by violating the desert's unyielding laws. Yet the consequences for both types of drift are the same for humans.
Is Calling it "Nazification" Going Too Far?
While I took literary license in the satire I created to introduce the debate between North et al. and Stone, the Trotskyists didn't actually call Stone a Nazi or Neo-Nazi; they walked right up to the line but didn't cross it. I was the one who crossed the line in the title of the first part of this post. Was I justified?
A glance through these two articles conveys that there are ongoing disputes in academia as to exactly what type of political doctrine Nazi rule represented. And a comparison of Nazism and Stalinism in this Wikipedia article turns up many similarities between the two systems of government. The article cites arguments that when stripped of their respective political ideologies, only the thinnest of lines separated the workings of the Nazi and Stalinist regimes -- although Stalin favored routine mass purges of the Party unfaithful whereas Hitler did not. This is perhaps because Hitler was more dependent on old-line bureaucrats than Stalin, or just simply because he didn't live as long as Stalin.
Yet at the heart of the two regimes was a vast federalized bureaucracy that came to equate with government itself. In his biography of Leon Trotsky, David North noted, "The 'secret' of Stalin’s power lay in his attentiveness to the material interests of the growing caste of bureaucrats, who came to identify their own interests with the Soviet Union as a national state ..."
And the first of the two history articles I linked to above observes about the political system of the Third Reich, "In a sense, you could say that the Nazi system was an intricate maze of competing, multiple bureaucracies ..."
Nazism has been called fascist but according to the second of the articles I linked to the label was first applied by communists. Nazism, in practice, was glop doctrine, a hodgepodge of several elements. I think the only characteristic that clearly distinguished Nazism from other glop governing doctrines was its extreme emphasis on racialism, specifically on racial purity, and defining those with enough pure German blood as the master race.
At the policy level this racialism translated into dehumanizing Jews and other ethnic and racial groups that didn't possess sufficient German blood to be considered German. These groups were quite literally designated by the Nazis as subhuman. The Nazis even produced charts showing how much German blood it took to qualify as German and therefore human.
American socialists (and Liberals) pride themselves in being free of racialism. Yet I have a question for Messrs. North, London and Carter. Their defense of Ed Snowden is also a strong defense of the rights of the individual. How, then, do they square a defense of the individual with a blanket characterization of Snowden's critics as "the rich and privileged?"
Which is it? Are you going to defend the individual for speaking out against the police state while condemning the rich and the privileged for making the police state possible? Make up your minds, gentlemen, otherwise the jackboot socialists in this country will make them up for you.
If the Trotskyists want to say these aren't true socialists -- I don't know enough about Trotsky's ideas to argue the point. All I know is that Geoffrey Stone is a belled cat, next to what's out there and closely involved with the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve's Daniel Tarullo, who's had a large role in crafting the Dodd-Frank Act. These people are not playing; they want to strip 'the rich' of all the money they stole from real Americans. After that:
Though a self-described "conscious socialist," [Heather] Booth has argued for incremental change vs. wholesale Marxist revolution. However, she once told fellow travelers that "truly reaching socialism will likely take a revolution that is in fact violent, a rupture with the old ways in which the current ruling class and elites are wiped out."(If readers don't know who Heather Booth is, for starters she's one of the 'Chicago Circle' that aided Obama's political rise; as to the rest, better read the article I republish in full below.)
So, okay, the Jews aren't responsible for America's economic woes; the rich and privileged are.
I think all roads in this regard lead to the same place: a dehumanizing view of many people. When the view is translated into government policy I don't see a fundamental difference between such policy and the overtly racialist Nazi one. The difference is a matter of degree, a matter of what can be gotten away with. It was the same in Nazi Germany. First Jewish citizens had to be stripped of the wealth they stole from real Germans. Then they could be butchered.
Finally, North et al. stressed that the American Liberals who vilified Snowden saw him as betraying the state apparatus. At the very end of their June 14 article North and London touchingly, in my view, admonished that it was the "solemn duty" of the workers of the world to support Edward Snowden. The catch, which they didn't mention, is that in the United States of America the federal government is the single largest employer. They also didn't mention that half the labor union members in the United States are now employed by the government (at the federal, state, and local levels). All that conduces to a blinkered loyalty to the state, which North et al. decry.
Socialists Designed Obama's Credit Watchdog Agency
By Paul Sperry
August 21, 2013
Investor's Business Daily
Socialist activists and their front groups played a shockingly outsized role shaping and passing the monumental financial reform legislation that authorized the creation of President Obama's powerful consumer credit watchdog agency.
Their intimate involvement is revealed in a new book, "Financial Justice: The People's Campaign to Stop Lender Abuse," which offers a rare, if biased, behind-the-scenes look at the anti-bank movement's multimillion-dollar lobbying effort in support of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Written by two leftist consumer advocates drawing from interviews with more than 30 of the activist-lobbyists, the book is a road map to their radical activities, from ginning up hatred for "greedy and unscrupulous" bankers to pressuring members of Congress to agree to things even some Democrats didn't favor.
Their highly organized 2009-10 activities were coordinated by a well-funded coalition with a mainstream-sounding name: Americans for Financial Reform. Led by Heather Booth, a Chicago socialist and Friend of Barack, AFR worked closely with the White House and Democrats in Congress to craft the Dodd-Frank law now regulating Wall Street and virtually every consumer financial transaction in the country.
Members of her group have long agitated for affirmative-action lending and "greater public control of economic decision making." And they got both through Dodd-Frank.
Booth's heavy hand in negotiations shatters the administration's narrative that financial legislation was designed to "protect the middle class from another financial crisis."
Long before the crisis hit, Booth and other socialist community organizers from Chicago schemed with Harvard professor (now Sen.) Elizabeth Warren and other leftists from Boston to create what is now the powerful Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). They agreed to frame the issue in terms of helping the middle class, but it was really part of a broader socialist agenda to "eliminate the unfair separate-and-unequal financial system in America."
Much of the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank law reads more like civil rights legislation than financial regulation. "The coalition fought successfully to establish special offices within the CFPB for minorities," the book cheers.
After setting up a war room in Washington in 2009, Booth and her lobbyists met weekly with White House and Treasury Department officials to draft financial legislation and coordinate their efforts to ram it through Congress, wrote the authors.
The Booth team even fed media talking points to Democrat leaders and their staff.
In turn, at least a dozen of the Booth people got star billing at Democrat hearings, where they testified about the need to stop lender "abuses."
"Advocates were experienced at the inside baseball of Washington politics," authors Larry Kirsch and Robert Mayer wrote. "They had connections and credibility within congressional offices, especially with the staff of the key House and Senate committees chaired by (Rep.) Barney Frank and (Sen.) Chris Dodd."
The authors added: "A key was that a number of members of the (AFR) coalition enjoyed good, long-term, working relationships with Chairman Frank and Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C. — the two (House Financial Services) Committee leaders most able to support AFR."
(Obama has tapped the liberal Watt as the nation's top mortgage regulator, overseeing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.)
In addition, the Booth group organized (1) a massive letter-writing campaign, (2) fly-in visits to lawmakers in Washington and (3) showdowns with bankers across the country, threatening them to stop opposing the CFPB.
In 2009, Booth and her team dispatched 5,000 protestors to make "life uncomfortable" for attendees of the American Bankers Association annual meeting in Chicago. The mob shouted, "ABA, you're the worst! It's time to put people first!" and carried signs that read, "We didn't break the banks. The banks broke us."
The next year they deployed as many as 8,000 militants to demonstrate on Wall Street.
They also targeted and vilified key Republicans, most notably Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, as being in bed with "Wall Street fat cat bankers."
Brown ended up providing the deciding vote for the financial overhaul and went on to lose his Senate seat to Warren in 2012.
Booth "had the ear of the president and his staff," the book pointed out, and she and several other AFR leaders stood next to Obama when he signed Dodd-Frank into law in July 2010.
Without Booth, there may not be a new regulatory agency, at least not one with independent funding and little accountability, along with the unique power to write and enforce its own rules.
By all accounts, Booth was the catalyst behind CFPB. "Recruiting her was a stroke of genius," the authors wrote.
They added, "Heather Booth may be the most accomplished community organizer you have never heard of."
Booth flies under the public radar for a reason: She's way outside the mainstream. In fact, she's "the queen of socialist politics in Chicago," said Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington.
But the president knows her all too well. He and Booth worked together on former Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun's 1992 Senate campaign.
A decade later, Booth and her union-boss husband helped finance Obama's own Senate run, then donated to his White House bid.
In 1998, she and Obama were part of a Chicago panel lionizing their community-organizing mentor, the late Saul "The Red" Alinsky.
It was Booth's Midwest Academy — described by Kurtz as a "powerful socialist front group" — that helped fund Obama's early organizing work.
Booth's classmate and fellow Alinsky-ite Jerry Kellman hired and helped train Obama as an organizer in the 1980s.
In fact, Midwest Academy trained and even staffed up the dozens of radical nonprofit groups in the AFR coalition for the financial-overhaul battle. Booth taught the academy's socialism session, which covers the doctrines of Marx and Lenin.
Though a self-described "conscious socialist," Booth has argued for incremental change vs. wholesale Marxist revolution.
However, she once told fellow travelers that "truly reaching socialism will likely take a revolution that is in fact violent, a rupture with the old ways in which the current ruling class and elites are wiped out."
Booth and her academy have been careful not to mention their socialist ideals — namely, "reallocating wealth and power" — explicitly in public. A leaked internal academy paper, however, reveals organizers decided early on that "every social proposal that we make must be couched in terms of how it will strengthen capitalism."
Indeed, AFR in its lobbying for the CFPB stressed how the new agency should ensure financial "safety and soundness" and "protect the middle class" from another crisis.
Yet before the crisis, the same network of social activists pressured banks to ease lending for high-risk borrowers with limited income and weak credit.
Booth's deputy at AFR is Lisa Donner, a long-time employee of the Service Employees International Union and its radical sister organization Acorn. Both groups have deep socialist roots. Some SEIU chapters, in fact, have been tied to the Communist Party USA.
In effect, socialists drafted many of the new rules and regulations for Wall Street and the banking industry. Now their fellow travelers are inside the gates of the giant regulatory bureaucracy they set up, assisting in socially reallocating capital.
Many of these same AFR activists are paid advisers to the CFPB, serving as members of the agency's influential Consumer Advisory Board.
Booth is not done changing Wall Street. She also wants to broaden and strengthen enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act, the federal anti-redlining regulation that the National Bureau of Economic Research recently concluded "led to riskier lending by banks" and higher default rates on home loans in the run-up to the crisis.
Plus, she wants to cap bank interest rates and tax all stock and bond transactions at a starting rate of 10 cents per $100 trade. She says this "tiny tax on Wall Street" would raise $1 trillion over 10 years and help pay for socialized medicine and poverty programs.
"A big battle still needs to be waged to curb the incentive of speculation and to get our money back to fund jobs and health care, climate and more," Booth said.
"This fight against Wall Street is part of an even larger fight over who matters in the society, over our values and our priorities, over whether or not we have corporate control in banking" or state control, she added.
An "action alert" posted on AFR's website in June advises activists to "tell the president and Congress to get behind a Wall Street Speculation Tax," arguing such a levy "could generate significant revenue from a woefully undertaxed sector of the economy."
[END OF REVIEW]