The Neocons in a Nutshell Reply

Larry Gambone had the neocons figured out in this article from 2003.

By Larry Gambone

DEMOCRACY

There is much braying about “democracy” in the neocon press. The reality is however, that this ideology is founded upon   the idea of restricting democracy and not increasing it. Samuel Huntington’s statement in  1976 to the Trilateral Commission, that there was “too much democracy”  and that it needed to be reigned in to allow the elites a freer hand, can be seen as a
seminal neocon concept of “democracy”.

In practice the neocons limit democracy in the following ways: a. through centralization of governmental power at the federal level b. concentration of local government into larger units c. curbing  the power of juries d. replacement of common law with statute law e. weakening of constitutional rights through “special legislation”  (i.e. drug laws(“search and seizure”)
anti-terrorism laws etc. f. making participation in elections too expensive for anyone other than elite g. restricting political choice to two parties with   the same ideology and marginalizing alternative viewpoints. h. centralizing and controlling mass media. i. Continual propaganda against democratic reforms like proportionality, recall, referendum and decentralization.

The Neocon concept of democracy is the unrestricted rule of contending elite factions. Everything beyond the interests of the elite is marginalized. Their concept of democracy is Jacobin in  the sense that state power is unlimited, unrestricted by tradition, common law, or constitutional limits. The state may do anything the elite wishes.

THE ECONOMY

The two pinnacles of neo-con economics are corporate welfare and neomercantilism.

1. Corporate welfare takes the form of: a. military spending b. police-prison-industrial complex expenditure c. vote-buying pork d. gifts, loans and other forms of government expenditure for special interests allied to the neocons. 2. Neomercantilism: a. agricultural subsidies b. NAFTA regulations such as Chapter 11 and guarantees of “intellectual property rights” c. selective use of regulations to crush competition (i.e. soft wood lumber dispute, attempts to exclude hemp products, exclusion of manufactured goods as “not up to standard” . d. use of subversion and military to open and control markets, weaken competition from local goods,  enforce the acceptance of the petrodollar and control access to scarce resources. e. manipulation by central banks of money supply to benefit banks and favored corporations.

COMMUNITY

The needs of the community must never stand in the way of  the needs of corporate capitalism and the state.  Communities are restricted in their ability to “interfere” with corporate enterprise (Chapter 11 of NAFTA) Wherever possible the voluntary must be replaced with  the professional, the small scale with    the large centralized institution. Schools, as one example, must be “nationalized” through direct state control. Social welfare cut to a minimum and replaced with strong centralized authority. i.e., police and prisons. Militaristic “values” seen as good and offsetting the “soft” hedonistic, “feminine”  values of the 1960’s. Essentially, “War is good.”

IDEOLOGY

Neocon ideology is eclectic and contradictory as one would expect from  a rationalization of the unrestricted pursuit of power. Claiming the mantle of conservatism, yet pursuing unbridled destruction of community, customs and traditions. Pillaging the free market libertarians to rationalize cutting social welfare as “anti-statism” while ever increasing state power over our lives. Bellowing about the “free market” while engaging in the worst forms of mercantilist imperialism. Endless blather about  the loss of values and morality, yet a practice  contemptuous of humanity and amoral to a degree rarely seen  outside of a fascist or Stalinist dictatorship. (It should be noted that by stealing and misusing conservative and libertarian  phraseology, the neocons also help to discredit  these ideas, thus marginalizing any opposition on their alleged political right.) Neocons constantly engage in “the end justifies the means” techniques in combating the opposition.  Genuine conservatives are branded “anti-Semites” and “racists”, moderate leftists, “extremists” , environmentalists, “terrorists”
and critics of foreign policies, “traitors.”.

In its eclectic nature, its authoritarianism, militarism, statism, hostility for real democracy, centralism, Jacobinism, mercantilism, corporatism and Big Lie propaganda,  neoconservatism is very similar to fascism. But of course, it is not fascism in the true sense, with its ambiguity about nationalism, and the lack of the party-army, mass mobilization of  the
population, leader-concept and a popular corporatist ideology. It could be seen as a moderate substitute for fascism or a form of Bertrand Grosses “Friendly Fascism” , although the Iraqis might well question the “friendly” bit.
Larry Gambone,  Week 3 of the War on The Arab World.

2. THE DEMISE OF THE NEO-CON IDEOLOGY?

I hope that the messy outcome of Son of Gulf War will result in the demise of the neo-cons, just as the Vietnam War pulled the plug on cold war liberalism. Ideologies have their time in the sun, usually about a generation, then they stumble  and a new ideology arises  to take its place. The post-WW2 “social democratic compromise” lasted about 30 years, neo-conservatism arose in the mid-1970’s, so it getting more than a bit dated.

Of course, there is nothing mechanical or organic in this decline, for an ideologies very success can also lead to its undoing. Certain aspects of an ideology, aspects that are somehow a reflection of the needs of the time, become universally accepted, virtually “common sense”.  With the case of the post-war “social democratic compromise”  the notion of social responsibility
became universal by the 1950’s. Not even the most hard nosed neo-cons, while favoring cut-backs, want to go  back to the 1920’s. The problem with the success of an ideology is that it becomes stale, “old hat”, in people’s minds and they seek a change. This has happened with the neo-con counter-revolution. While the neo-cons were undoubtedly hypocritical in
their demands for down-sizing Big Government and their paeans to the Free Market, today no significant political force  thinks an ever expanding state sector is a good thing or fantasizes about abolishing the market and replacing it with a command economy.

More important than success and the resulting boredom are the crises that an ideology engenders – a result of those aspects that do not reflect the reality of the time. With the social democratic compromise, the demands of  the state began to outstrip the tax base and debt began to undermine Keynsian policies.  In the United States these economic  problems were exacerbated  by the Vietnam War. Furthermore, the political-military disaster  broke  liberalism into two bitterly hostile factions. The right-wing, pro-war faction gave rise to neo-conservatism. In the UK, the old style, moderate Conservatives were unable to defeat the Trade Union Movement. This allowed Margaret Thatcher and the hard right to gain
ascendancy. In Chile the military overthrew the Socialists and introduced a hard right agenda. The economy tanked everywhere, exacerbated by the oil crisis. No one seemed to have any  answers (satisfactory to the ruling elites, that is) so a new right wing synthesis evolved, influenced by these international events, and filled the vacuum. This became the global wave of neo-conservatism.

The present Gulf War has split conservatism into three mutually hostile factions: Neocons, Realists and those who Norman Mailer calls “Value Conservatives” also known as Paleo-conservatives. The first two are Elite factions, contending for power within the government and the Republican Party. The Realists are domestic moderates who fear over-extension internationally. Colin Powell is a good example.  The Value Conservatives are “outsiders,  anti-globalists who  favor decentralization and are opposed to corporate welfare, war and empire. The Paleos  see the other right wing factions as enemies (even traitors)  and  ally with the anti-war Libertarians. Local variations on the three factions occur in Canada and
Britain  and possibly other countries as well. Both these anti-war “right-wing” factions prefer left-wing radicals like Noam Chomsky, Alex Cockburn or Ralph Nader to  neo-cons like Perle or Wolfowitz, whom they regard as virtually Satanic.  It should be noted at this point that Paleos and Libertarians – or at least people influenced by the thinking of these groups – form the core of the various right-wing populist movements.

Right-wing populism, as we saw in the 1990’s, can’t do much on its own, other than be a protest movement, thus it cannot be a possible contender for replacing the neo-cons. Right wing populism has to unite with other forces for this to happen. The war has allowed us to see more clearly who these other groups might be. While the Paleos have been open minded about leftists like Chomsky, the left too, has been evolving. Influenced by the Greens, the protest movements that practice decentralized direct democracy, and the spread of anarchist ideas in publications and the Internet, the left seems to be shedding some of its love of statism and centralization. The recent Anti-globalist movement could be seen as largely  left-wing populist.

Nor are right-wing populists and a potentially libertarian left the only folks concerned about issues like war, globalization, corporate welfare,  loss of community, social breakdown, and decline in democracy. Sincere liberals and moderate religious people are also concerned about these things, and they too, have come to question Big Government as a solution,
even though liberal politicians (those who benefit from the growth of bureaucracy and regulation) have not.

Is it too much to hope that right-wing populists, leftists and liberals might find a common ground and create  a new progressive synthesis? Could such a movement push aside the neo-cons and achieve hegemony like the post-war social democratic compromise? There are historical precedents for such a synthesis. Today, everyone sees the Greens as “left”, yet the early movement owed a great deal to Value Conservatives like Wendell Berry and George Grant. The Canadian social democratic party, the NDP was formed in 1961 from several left wing groups, but gained a great deal of support from
disenchanted Diefenbaker Conservatives (basically right-wing populists) who were attracted to the party by its strong stance on Canadian sovereignty and its social programs.

3. A VERITABLE GROUNDSWELL OF POPULISM CONFRONTS THE NEOCONS

From literally left, right  and center Canadians are organizing around populist ideas.

MARIJUANA PARTY

We will implement a system of proportional representation in the British Columbia legislature  We support the creation of a viable ballot initiative system in BC, which would allow for more grassroots participation and direct democracy.

THE GREEN PARTY

Officially endorses the proportional ballot and historically has favored regionalism, decentralism, cooperatives and direct democracy.

LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF CANADA

INITIATIVES: We advocate that the electorate be empowered to require a vote on any measure at the time of an election, by prior presentation of a petition.If approved, such measures would have the same force of law as any legislation. Initiative measures, like any legislation, must be consistent with the Constitution and the Charter or Rights. RECALL: We advocate that
the electorate be empowered to require a vote on the removal of any piece of legislation, by presentation of a petition bearing the signatures of a specified number of qualified electors. DISALLOWANCE: We would restrict the federal government’s power to disallow provincial legislation to that legislation which violates the Constitution or the Charter of Rights

BC PARTY

We believe in the common sense of the people and their right to affect and direct government action through a workable referenda procedure

BC UNITY PARTY

 Citizen initiative legislation that actually works.
 Binding referendums.
 Workable recall.
 And a new system of voting that truly reflects the decision of the
voters.

ALBERTA FIRST PARTY

Recall, initiatives and referenda.The Alberta First Party support the assignment of government functions to that level of government most appropriate to the situation.

REST OF CANADA PARTY

The platform that the ROC party promotes is similar to that of Switzerland.  The federal government would be restricted to it’s core federal functions while the provinces would deal with the bulk of the functions that directly affect the lives of Canadians.

CANADIAN ACTION PARTY

The Canadian ACTION Party is.dedicated to the principle that Canada can best serve its citizens and the world by re-claiming and maintaining its sovereignty. It is opposed to the rise of “corporate rule” and those aspects of unrestricted global investment that promote the re-colonization of the world’s smaller powers. The Canadian ACTION Party will reform our electoral and democratic systems to give the citizens of Canada more say over their lives…  a complete overhaul — from the funding of political parties to the accountability of elected representatives and the almost absolute power of the prime minister. Canadians cannot express themselves politically in key areas of their lives without a healthy, responsive democratic system.

MARXIST LENINIST PARTY

It’s Time to Take a Stand for Empowerment : The program Empower Canadians: Build Citizens’ Committees for Democratic Renewal (CCDRs) is a program to build the riding associations on a new historical basis. Instead of riding associations being party-based, their membership will be citizens and residents who will comprise the sovereign decision-making power. Real
problems require real solutions. By building the CCDRs, citizens and residents themselves develop a form which they can use to discuss the matters which concern them and affect their lives. They can investigate needed information and adopt positions which favour them. Once this is done, they can select candidates for election from amongst their peers who they
trust to represent their interests. (In their 2000 election statement they endorsed recall, referendum and initiative – classical populist demands.)

UNION DES FORCES PROGRESSISTES

1.e promote an alternative economy based on development that is sustainable, equitable, cooperative, ecological and characterized by solidarity ; 4.g give priority to developing sustainable agriculture ; progressively suppress financial aid to industrial-type farming enterprises and redirect these funds to non-polluting, non-mechanized or family farms.5.c introduce proportional representation nationally, regionally and on the municipal level that is suited to the specific conditions of each of Québec’s regions and that promotes gender parity ; set up a mechanism whereby elected officials are subject to recall during their mandates ; set up grass-roots initiatives (via binding referendums) in compliance with the
Constitution and human rights ; hold regularly scheduled elections.5.d guarantee equal access to the media for all DGEQ-authorized parties5.f ensure that Québec possesses mechanisms to promote greater participatory democracy within our society.11.a increase effective support for regional economic development, particularly by diversifying activities, fostering local processing, developing cooperative projects, building up each community’s collective heritage, instituting regional charges for natural resources management, and introducing fiscal equalization.11.b implement an electoral system that promotes each community’s political and economic mastery over its own development. These regional instances,
elected democratically by universal suffrage, will wield real powers that are distinct from and complementary to those of the national government, as well as the financial resources required to manage them ;11.c promote the implementation and development of small and medium-sized cooperative enterprises 12. The UFP resolves to ensure that Québec recognizes the right to self-determination of the First Nations up to and including their independence…

Of course there are problems with all these parties. With the exception of the Marijuana Party – a single issue group – most of them suffer from a severe case of programmatic diarrhea. It seems that everything under the sun has to be included in their programs. This limits their appeal to other folks who simply don’t think exactly  as they do.  Once more, in spite of populist ideas, sectarianism and True Believerism rears its ugly head. How would gays and single moms feel about the BC Party demand of prioritizing the traditional family? Or Native People with the BC Unity hostility to land claims? How would anarchists and libertarians react to the statist aspects of the UFP program? Should we trust a Stalinist group like the Marxist
Leninists with their born again populism?

In order to make significant structural changes to society one must have a program consisting of, say half a dozen or so key items which the majority of the population might support. The most important point,  AND THE POINT UPON WHICH ALL POPULISTS AGREE,  is the need to empower the ordinary person and their communities and the concurrent weakening  of the  authority of the politico-economic elite. This can be accomplished by combining the traditional populist structural political reforms of  proportional ballot, referenda, initiative and recall with radical decentralization of political
power down to the natural community. The power of the economic elite can be clipped by the abolition of corporate welfare and all other government-granted  privileges. All populist groups either do, or would, agree with   these principles.

Once empowered, the people and their communities could  then seek any  other social, political or economic reforms  they choose, since  they would now have the ability to make those decisions.  The main issue however, is not these other possible reforms, but the empowerment, giving people the tools they need to make their own way. As Karl Marx pointed out 150 years ago, the point of the matter is not to  impose  this or  that program, but “TO WIN THE BATTLE OF DEMOCRACY.”

Even a slight empowerment can make a difference, A DIFFERENCE THAT SAVES LIVES! The neocons have only really been successful in  the Anglosphere. Yet, in no country in the world do they form a majority of the population. They get into power and are able to   impose their unpopular programs (and wars!) on the populace via the Anglosphere’s highly undemocratic
“first-past-the-post” electoral system which allows a minority to form a government. The Thatcherites, for instance, at no time got more  than 43% of the popular vote.   Continental Europe   has the proportional ballot, hence all governments reflect the majority  and decisions have to be the result of compromise rather than bludgeoning the people into passive acceptance. Hence, Western Europe    has avoided the worst excesses  of neo-conservatism. It wouldn’t be stretching it too much to say  that had the Anglosphere been as democratic as continental Europe, there would have been no neocon era.

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