[sixties-l] Fwd: Edward Herman / What is Liberalism?

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Tue Jun 13 2000 - 20:41:21 CUT

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    >Date: Mon, 12 Jun 2000 23:21:28 -0500 (CDT)
    >From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>
    >Subject: Edward Herman / What is Liberalism?
    >If you pass this comment along to others, please include an explanation that
    >Commentaries are a premium sent to Sustainer Donors of Z/ZNet and that to
    >learn more about the project folks can consult ZNet (http://www.zmag.org)
    >and specifically the Sustainer Pages
    >And here is today's ZNet Commentary Delivery.
    >By Edward S. Herman
    >In a May 22 editorial in the liberal The American Prospect (TAP),
    >which he edits along with Paul Starr, Robert Kuttner lauds radicals,
    >for keeping moral demands to the fore and for pioneering on major
    >issues that were central to democratic advance (as in the struggle
    >against slavery). In his editorial, entitled "Why Liberals Need
    >Radicals," he notes that "nearly every great social justice movement
    >was initiated by radicals before it became safe for liberals." It
    >is radicals who "push out the boundaries of the possible....In a
    >ferociously capitalist society, liberals in government and politics
    >need pressure from radicals." Kuttner notes that radicals "are more
    >likely to appreciate the political dynamics of capitalism as an
    >obstacle to the reforms that liberals would like to carry out."
    >And he admits that "Neoliberals are often too quick to accommodate
    >to power."
    >But Kuttner nevertheless declares himself to be a liberal, and asks
    >"Why, then, publish a self-consciously liberal journal? Why not
    >just join the radicals?" His answer is as follows: "Too many radicals
    >think that most ills in the world can be traced to the United States
    >of America. On balance, I consider the United States -- its
    >Constitution, its political liberties, the economic opportunities
    >it offers, and its openness to invention and reform -- a force for
    >good in the world. America needs redemption, not contempt. Radicals,
    >as zealots, are often demagogues and dictators when they attain
    >power. Too many have excused dictatorships that brutally ruled in
    >the name of workers."
    >Kuttner does not explain why he couldn't be one of the radicals
    >who DON'T blame the United States for all the world's ills and
    >apologize for dictators, but who believe that "redemption" requires
    >fundamental change. He seems to be illustrating his own observation
    >that liberals are not able "to appreciate the dynamics of capitalism
    >as an obstacle to the reforms" liberals claim to want, and their ready
    >accommodation to power.

    >But it is also clear from the statement, with its patriotic double
    >standard, that he feels that the status quo is pretty good and that
    >U.S. foreign policy is more than acceptable, even if some marginal
    >changes might be desirable.
    >Perhaps this is the defining quality of liberalism.
    >Kuttner berates radicals for excusing dictatorships "ruled in the
    >name of workers," but the fact that the United States has supported
    >numerous dictatorships "ruled in the service of transnational
    >corporations" he glosses over with vague rhetoric about "on
    >balance...a force for good." He confuses the internal freedom of
    >the United States with what it does abroad, and even as regards
    >U.S. internal affairs he is awfully complacent about "political
    >liberties," "economic opportunities" and "openness" to reform.
    >Radicals might be concerned that plutocracy had eroded those
    >political liberties and reform possibilities, and that the ongoing
    >racist reaction and the increased power of police and moves toward
    >a law and order state designed to control rather than serve the
    >poor and minorities are ugly and ominous. But Kuttner mentions only
    >the positives without any qualification.
    >Kuttner pats the WTO and IMF protestors on the back for making
    >global issues debatable. "Defenders of the prevailing global order
    >now feel compelled to offer decent space to dissenters. Even The
    >New Republic, as the saying goes, published World Bank dissenter
    >Joe Stiglitz." This grossly exaggerates the openness of the media
    >to dissenters on global issues.
    >Stiglitz is part of an establishment that has its own tactical
    >dissenters, and their access does not extend to those with radical
    >messages. Radical messages are still almost inaudible. In their
    >treatment of the Washington protests, the media's defense of the
    >police, hostility to the oppositional forces, and huge skewing of
    >the debate on substantive issues, was a throwback to their pro-NAFTA
    >crusade of 1993-1994. As Rachel Coen points out in her analysis of
    >the media's coverage of the Washington actions, "the small broadening
    >of coverage was accompanied by a formidable backlash on op-ed pages,
    >and by a rash of reports more interested in tittering at activists'
    >fashion sense than in examining their politics" ("Police Militarize
    >D.C., Media Provide Cover Story," EXTRA!, July 2000 [forthcoming]).
    >A similar massive bias has characterized the media's handling of
    >the current debate over the granting of Permanent Normal Trade
    >Relations to China, where the media have once again manned the
    >barricades in service to corporate community demands.
    >Despite this deep apologetic thrust, Kuttner's own journal TAP has
    >had many good articles opposing the ongoing conservative revolution
    >and sometimes even assailing the Clinton abuses and contributions
    >to the erosion of the welfare state. The journal generally eschews
    >foreign policy issues, however, although the Kosovo war impelled
    >co-editor Paul Starr to put up a crude apologetic for the U.S. and
    >NATO actions ("The Choice in Kosovo," July-August 1999).
    >Interestingly, TAP refused to publish a letter
    >of criticism I wrote on the Starr position, as well as at least
    >one other critical letter. (It also refused to publish a letter
    >criticizing Kuttner's "21-Gun Salute" to the retiring William
    >Buckley, who according to Kuttner has been a "role model" in both
    >openness and success in demonstrating "the power of ideas" [Jan.
    >3, 2000]; an editorial that demonstrated Kuttner's integration into
    >the mainstream power structure rather more tellingly than the "power
    >of ideas").
    >So TAP doesn't feel any compulsion on its own part to offer "decent
    >space to dissenters" on something like the Kosovo war or an accolade
    >to William Buckley. Its editor may claim to need radicals, but
    >perhaps more in historical retrospect, honoring their leadership
    >in former battles, rather than in allowing them to contest and
    >debate the liberal apologetics of today! But it is good to know
    >that the struggles of our ancestors are respected.

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