Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky, Nicholas von Hoffman, Nation Books, 256 pages.

Alinsky wanted little platoons like the Back of the Yards Council to form “countervailing power” against “the gigantism of government, corporation and even labor union.” In Reveille for Radicals, Alinsky attacked union leaders for trying to block new technologies, for accommodating themselves to corrupt political machines, for restrictionist rules that make it harder for outsiders to get jobs, for racial discrimination, and, in general, for being “the bride of big monopoly business.”

If the Tea Partiers are serious about building a real alternative to the Bush/Obama megastate, as opposed to merely being used by the Republicans and discarded as soon as the GOP is in a position to relaunch the K Street Project, the activists need to build countervailing power of their own, rooted not merely in talk radio and the Internet but in the indigenous institutions that shape people’s everyday lives.

In some areas
  • bank bailouts,
  • eminent domain,
  • the crackdown on civil liberties,
  • America’s imperial foreign policy —

they might even reach across the invisible lines that separate their favorite segments of civil society from the churches and councils that mobilize people on the grassroots left, to work together on issues of shared concern even when they aren’t about to back the same candidates.

The error here is that Alinsky and decentralized progressives were challenging BOTH the nature of statist power AND the power of massive corporations.

I can handle government small enough to drown in the bath tub if corporations are prohibited from growing big enough to drown average folks in the bath tub.

Otherwise, this entire project is little more than one of corporate dominance over government with average folks being ground beneath the dancing elephants.

There is no such thing as “government small enough to drown in the bath tub.” Any government worthy of being called a government is able to “drown average folks” and any internal rivals “in the bath tub.” Government is, after all, merely the best organized criminal gang in any particular locale. If it can be drowned in the bath tub, it’s really not a government — and, whatever it is, it’s likely to be pushed aside by a better organized criminal gang as history seems to show. (Of course, there are cases of stable statelessness and those afraid of rampant governments would do well, in my opinion, to study them.)

Corporations, when there are oppressors, usually either act as governments — in other words, become best organized criminal gang in a particular locale — or partner with governments to “drown average folks” and work against their rivals.

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