Defeating the Ultra-Right: Know Your Enemy

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It was decided at the Communist Party, USA's recent national convention that the Party will continue to mobilize primarily in order to combat the efforts of the ultra-right. This article is meant to illustrate the basic reasoning behind two ideologies most exhibited by the modern right-wing. It is not meant to address specific issues with which one differs from the right, but to assist in responding to such issues by summarizing the right's ideological foundations.

The ideologies of the right may seem non-sensical to those who do not count themselves among the conservative camp, but their ideological systems are actually quite coherent. We on the left may disagree with the premises of conservative ideology, as they are not quite material, but it is rather hard to disagree with the philosophical conclusions they reach based on said idealistic premises. Even more disturbing is the unity the right's theories produce – the broad left is only just adopting such a coherent ideological set with which to work together in solidarity.

Working together on the right are the fundamentalist-rooted Bush-Era Conservatism and the newly popular Libertarian Conservatism. As they are very similar, most conservatives will mix the two based on whatever works best for them in a given situation.

Let's examine them...

Bush-Era Conservativism:

Most conservative ideology is rooted in a narrow interpretation of Christianity (the premise). All major right-wing figures, from Mike Huckabee to Glenn Beck, believe that the democracy of the United States is rooted in God. The right believes that the Constitution of the United States, especially the Bill of Rights, mirrors God's will, and that the "founding fathers" creation of our nation's highest law was guided by a strong belief in Him.

The founders of our democracy were simply dutiful vessels through which God's wisdom was able to be transcribed into law.

This does not mean that they believe the Constitution was written perfectly. They would argue that, if it was, it would not have included any provision to amend it. It is asserted that any part of the Constitution that has been recognized as wrong, and changed by later amendments, is the fault of the constitution's human scribes, not God.

The conservative idea of God-given rights is important. However, it only goes so far. God would not want us amending the Constitution in a way that rewards the individual things they have not earned. This is where the modern conservative movement really clashes with the left. God-given rights are only meant to protect individuals from the state or collectivism.

This emphasis on the individual is also rooted in Christianity. As conservative commentator Sean Hannity often explains, individuals must live righteously (in a manner consistent with God's will) if they want to succeed. "Sinners" must be allowed to fail.

This belief provides a justification for capitalism. The right believes a strict Christian life is recognized by others as both morally right and highly productive, an idea that has, in turn, perverted Christian theology in a way some educated as Pentacostals might attest to. According to this theory, Christians naturally succeed in capitalism. If they do not, it is either due to some fault of their own, or efforts by liberals to reward the lazy. The social safety net liberals, and progressives, desire only serves to aid bad behavior (sin) by not letting those who have strayed "experience the consequences" of their bad behavior. Progressives, consciously or unconsciously, exist outside of "God's will."

This mode of thought provides us the reason why the right believes the death penalty is justified, while abortion is not. Those on death row have sinned to the greatest degree, so it is justified to execute them according to this theory. The fetus, on the other hand, is 1) human (with a soul), according to the Bible, and 2) must be given the chance to prove itself worthy of life.

Pure capitalism's justice also provides the right with the means to oppose affirmative action. They attempt to avoid being exposed as racist by stating that they are color-blind, "just like capitalism," and that it is actually the liberals race-conscious efforts to promote racial equality via social programs that results in African Americans being disproportionately represented among the poor. To many conservatives, African Americans are disproportionately poor because liberal programs have led their culture to "stray far from positive (European Christian) values" by not "demanding hard work from the individual." "The liberal's idea that African Americans need assistance to succeed in capitalism is racist, in that it does not give African Americans credit for being able to change themselves," conservatives like Ward Connerly spout.

This notion is not only idealistic, in that it does not recognize the material barriers that continue to limit what an oppressed group can achieve, but it is also racist, actually assuming European Christian values are, inherently, the best version of values, and that they ought to be adopted by anyone who wants to become increasing self-determining. It blames the victims for not being more like their oppressors.

The conquering "Christian soldier" of the past has been re-incarnated as today's Culture Warrior.

Nearly any social issue you can think of can be examined using this cohesive theory of God-based rights and the duty of the individual to act in accordance with "God's desires." That is why it is such a powerful theory for the right. Repeated non-stop on conservative talk-radio, expect it will spread unless we on the left affectively address it.

Libertarian Conservatism:

Libertarians make up a sizable portion of the post-Bush conservative movement, and are a large part of those represented in Tea Party associations. While they are conservative, particular philosophical emphasis make them worth distinguishing from other mainstream conservatives. While the primary focus of conservatives is the individual's relation to God, the primary focus of libertarians is the individual, alone. While this may lead to minor disagreement between libertarians and other conservatives when the issue of moral legislation is debated, the two camps tend to be held close by a common desire to promote "free" trade.

Libertarianism owes much of its popularity to the writer Ayn Rand. Rand's stories focus on the individual and the ego. They have a philosophical basis in Aristotle's ethics, but merge Aristotle's idea of self-development with philosophical egoism. For Rand, collective action always falls short of action taken by individuals because of her assumption that collective action requires that those with the best skills compromise with less qualified individuals. Responding to this idea, and her declaration of selfishness as a virtue, Rand believed that competition would lead to the most beneficial organization of society, and proposed laissez-faire capitalism as the way to achieve that society.

Economist Milton Friedman further contributed to libertarian views when he promoted the idea that economists should concern themselves primarily with mathematical problems in economics, instead of any social considerations, the general assumption being that a healthy capitalism resolves social problems itself, and that any attempt to resolve such concerns actually harms the market's ability to solve such problems.

These views grew all the more popular with time.

Alan Greenspan, ex-Chair of the Federal Reserve, recently illuminated us to the fact that his actions as creator of the recent market boom and bust were based on beliefs sympathetic to Rand and Friedman.

At the basis of most libertarian theory is the idea that human beings have an exceptional consciousness, and that this consciousness can be developed into something greater. This much is shared my Marxism, as it and libertarianism are both modern philosophies focused on human development. However, libertarianism believes that what limits individuals' ability to realize themselves is any commitment to give, or accept, assistance. To libertarians, self-realization is necessarily a result of a person's total, independent control over their pursuit of individual self-realization.

This leads libertarians to promote the idea of society as being in a state of total competition, represented by an idealized laissez-faire capitalism.

In economics, the state of society libertarians desire is known as exhibiting perfect competition. While most capitalist economists recognize perfect competition as theoretical and in constant flux, libertarians largely believe that perfect competition is attainable. In this state of society, individuals are perfectly able to work wherever they chose, and there are no forces inhibiting the ability of anyone from starting their own business. Further, prices are kept low by the total absence of any collusion between industries, and growth is determined solely by a product's ability to meet the needs of consumers.

Some libertarians even go so far as to state the all forms of chauvinism disappear in laissez-faire capitalism, because the market is more interested in the skills of a person rather than their race, gender, class, or any other arbitrary distinction.

This notion is what has lead Tea Party backed Republican candidate Rand Paul to state that he would repeal the portion of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits acts of discrimination from being committed by private business.

According to libertarians, any governmental or purposeful social actions that influence the market only maintain old chauvinisms and prevent perfect competition from being realized.

Libertarianism is, essentially, capitalist utopianism.

It totally overlooks the individual capitalist's ability to use the power they have accumulated to their own ends.

Conclusion:

If we are to neutralize the power of the conservative movement, we must dismantle their theoretical assumptions. Debating surface level issues is like removing the head of a Hydra, only to find that it will sprout two heads in its place.

In response to the mainstream conservative movement, we must expose their statements about what God desires to others by linking their own, material desires to their statements. We should utilize research performed on so-called religious political movements that illustrate their perspective is not devoid of material influence, but is self-serving (at best) and chauvinistic (at worst). Our greatest ally in this effort are the multitude of religious groups who are open to membership from all types of people, realize themselves as progressive as such, and are willing to take action that is not self-serving.

In response to the libertarian movement, we must expose them as another utopian trend. History is flush with evidence that, as regulation is removed from the market, the economy tends towards control by fewer and fewer individuals.

George Orwell was quite right when he observed, in a response to Austrian economist F.A. Hayek, that "the problem with competitions is that someone eventually wins them."

Further, we can easily illustrate that these corporate individuals' represent a worldview tied to the specific race, sex, gender, and sexual preference of those who have come before them, and do not care to enact real change.

While it may surprise a Libertarian, a Communist is certainly not surprised that the government, charged with representing the wishes of the people, was the entity that made it illegal for businesses to discriminate based on race, by passing the Civil Rights Act; or disability, by the passing of the ADA; and in numerous other instances.

While the major conservative beliefs are largely idealistic, our theory is based on materialism. The issues addressed by Marxism are bound to adapt when it encounters new material, the method with which to address them remains true. The same cannot be said for our political adversaries, for whom world experience is already removing bits of their idealistic theories' foundations. If we engage in well-informed and serious debate, I am confident in our ability to reach vindication in the long-term.

Photo: Fibonacci, courtesy Flickr, cc by 2.0

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  • To answer the above libertarians challenge about "the Subjective Theory of Value";

    Prices are supposed to measure the "marginal utility" of the commodity. However, prices are required by the consumer in order to make the evaluations on how best to maximize their satisfaction. Hence subjective value, obviously rested on circular reasoning. Although it tried to explain prices, prices were necessary to explain marginal utility.

    Posted by A Progressive, 12/27/2013 6:19am (4 months ago)

  • It's fascinating for a libertarian such as myself to read this, and I have to complement the author for writing something fairly even-handed, even if it widely misses the mark.

    Have you ever read a piece trying to describe Marxism which wasn't written by a Marxist? No matter how honest the author's attempt to understand, it feels somehow like a bad translation of a complex and subtle novel from a foreign language. (I was a Marxist long ago, by the way, but then I discovered Murray Rothbard.)

    I think what the author has described is probably accurate of a good number of people, although most libertarians are neither conservatives nor members of the "right" and definitely not the "far right". I think what the author is describing is the big dumb mass of people in the Tea Party who've been influenced by libertarians but are not in fact libertarians.

    If you want to defeat libertarianism intellectually, you have a daunting task in front of you. While Rand is alright, the three most towering intellects are Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, and F. A. Hayek, the so-called "Austrian economists".

    I can assure you that libertarians of the Austrian school — the majority of hardcore libertarians outside of the Rand camp — do NOT care about such things as "perfect competition" or "self-realization by refraining from giving or accepting assistance." In fact, this is just complete nonsense. It sounds like it's straight out of Ayn Rand, who is NOT the final word on libertarianism. If you try to defeat these arguments, you'd be wasting your time, because we just don't care about them.

    Two of the *real* libertarians arguments you have to defeat are The Subjective Theory of Value (along with its corollary, Marginal Utility), and The Non-Aggression Principle. Those are at the heart of libertarianism, not "perfect competition" or "self-realization through selfishness," which are irrelevant.

    Posted by Rothbard, 05/23/2011 10:42am (3 years ago)

  • Observations from another conservative:
    When and where has socialism/communism/marxism actually worked to the benefit of the people?

    Hugo Chavez now is stealing merchants' food and warehousing it to let rot. And he is falling out of favor with the people. Not to mention he's a fruit cake.

    What happend to the soviet union? Anyone for standing in toilet paper lines? What a life!

    Why are there no people risking their lives to get INTO that sweet utopia known as Cuba?

    What has happened to Europes economy? Crashing under the massive weight of its socialist entitlement programs.

    How well did Spain's "green ecomony" work? It didn't. It damn near ruined them and they admit it.

    Progressives sure can paint a pretty picture (to some I suppose) but the reality of leftist idealogy has been played out again and again. It always ends the same.

    Frankly, I would like it if Conservatives and Progressives could have true meaningful debate. But these are just some of the questions I have that make the attraction to Leftist Idealogy difficult for me to understand. Why would any sane person risk individual liberty and freedom? I just don't get it.

    Posted by Annalee Rye, 06/26/2010 1:12am (4 years ago)

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