Left and Right

Defining Revolution Down

By Kevin Carson

Center for a Stateless Society

Cass Sunstein is such an excellent, if unintentional, parody of liberal goo-gooism that it’s hard to tell him from a creation of The Onion. As proof that “our democratic system structures” are not rigged — whatever Gloomy Guses like Elizabeth Warren and Lawrence Lessig may think — Sunstein (“The American System Isn’t Rigged,” BloombergView, August 25) provides a series of examples of “extraordinary reform” designed to “help those against whom the system is supposedly rigged.” They include the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank banking reform, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas regulations, the 2010 food safety law, the stimulus package of 2009, and improvements in civil rights for gays like the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling. “A rigged system couldn’t have produced such a range of reforms, many of them aggressively opposed by well-funded private interests.”

No doubt from Sunstein’s managerialist perspective on the Center-Center-Center-Left, these policies represent the outer fringe of wild-eyed leftism. But the cliche about American politics being a game played between the forty and sixty yard lines, if anything, gives the major parties too much credit. The two major parties represent two coalitions of corporate capitalist interests, and even the furthest “Left” Democrats like Warren and Sanders never remotely approach the edge of that middle zone. The New Deal or Social Democratic model favored by the left wing of the Democratic Party is simply a more sustainable model of capitalism favored by the smarter capitalists, as opposed to the kind of strip-mine capitalism favored by the Reagans, Thatchers and Delays.

Although I am an anarchist, I’ve seldom seen anybody better than the Marxists at describing the function of the state — and “radical” reforms of the kind Sunstein salivates over — under capitalism.

The state is, in Marx’s brilliant turn of phrase, the “executive committee of the ruling class.” Sometimes it undertakes actions that promote the interests of one faction of capital at the expense of another (for example, the economic coalition behind the New Deal consisted of the kind export-oriented, capital-intensive industry exemplified by General Electric under Gerard Swope). Sometimes it undertakes actions that are opposed by the majority of capitalists, or negatively affect the profits of major sectors of the capitalist economy, for the sake of the long-term stability of the system as a whole.

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