A Commentary By Ted Rall - July 2019
"Liberals do not demand change; they ask nicely. Because they oppose violence and credible threats of violence, they tacitly oppose fundamental change in the existing structure of politics and society. Unlike leftists, they are unwilling to risk their petty privileges in order to obtain the reforms they claim to crave. So, when push comes to shove, liberals will ultimately sell out their radical allies to the powers that be. And they will run away at the first sign of state oppression."
Living as they do in a bipolar political world where politics consists of Democrats and Republicans and no other ideology is real, media corporations in the United States use "left," "liberal" and "Democrat" as synonyms. This is obviously wrong and clearly untrue -- Democrats are a party, leftism and liberalism are ideologies, and Democratic politics are frequently neither left nor liberal but far right -- but as Orwell observed, after you hear a lie repeated enough times, you begin to question what you know to be true rather than the untruth.
Sometimes it's useful in this postmodern era to remind ourselves that words still have meaning, that distinctions make a difference.
Let us now delineate the difference between liberals and leftists.
Bernie Sanders votes and caucuses with the Democratic Party, campaigns as an independent and self-identifies as a "democratic socialist" -- an ideology without a party in the U.S. but that draws comparisons to Scandinavia. His stances on the issues are left of center, but American politics have drifted so far right that he's really a paleo-Democrat. There's no daylight between Sanders 2020 and McGovern 1972. No wonder voters are confused!
Liberals and leftists want many of the same things: reduced income inequality, better working conditions, more affordable housing and health care. There are differences of degrees. A liberal wants the gap between rich and poor to shrink; a communist wants no class differences at all. They're very different when it comes to foreign policy: Liberals support some wars of choice, whereas leftists would only turn to the military for self-defense.
Liberals like Stiglitz and leftists like me part ways when the discussion turns to solution. As Lenin asked, What is to be done?
Stiglitz answers: "It begins by recognizing the vital role that the state plays in making markets serve society. We need regulations that ensure strong competition without abusive exploitation, realigning the relationship between corporations and the workers they employ and the customers they are supposed to serve. ...
"Government action is required," he says.
We need "a new social contract between voters and elected officials, between workers and corporations, between rich and poor, and between those with jobs and those who are un- or underemployed," he says.
Stiglitz knows what is to be done. Mostly, he's right. What he wants might not be enough. But it would do more good than harm.
What he does not know is how to make his proposals happen. Like the politics of all liberals, his is a toothless musing, a vacuous fantasy.
He said it himself: "Greater economic inequality is leading, in our money-driven political system, to more political inequality, with weaker rules and deregulation causing still more economic inequality." This late-capitalism death spiral will not cure itself. There is no world in which corporations and their pet politicians and corrupt media propagandists will "recognize the vital role of the state." They will not regulate themselves. They will not create "a new social contract." ...
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