Everyone knows that our two-party political system doesn’t really provide anyone with a real choice. Aside for some social policy differences both Democrats and Republicans are two heads on the same capitalist body working to keep a system in place that rewards criminal activity.
However, we must recognize that because of the bickering amongst the bourgeois, the working class and people who are genuinely trying to help one another out are the ones that suffer.
Take, for instance, the IRS “scandal” that seems to be making its way through the mainstream media as being some kind of tyranny against the right-wing brought by the Obama administration. Far be it from me to exclude any president (past or present) from scrutiny when it is called for, but the evidence is pretty clear that people, once more, are mistaking fiction for fact.
David Johnson points out in a blog post that after the Citizens United ruling the IRS was flooded with applications for a special tax-exempt status only awarded to “social welfare” groups not “political activist” groups. Things called FACTS are given:
Fact: Only one-third of the groups that were passed to specialists for a closer look were “conservative.” Lots of other organizations were also checked, including progressive organizations.
Progressive organizations you say? How come we don’t hear about those in the news?
Fact: No groups were audited or harassed or “targeted” or “singled out.” This was about applications for special tax status being forwarded to specialists for a closer look to see if they were engaged in political activity that would disqualify them for the special tax status. This closer look is the kind of review all organization should get, but the IRS was swamped because of the flood of groups applying for a status that let them mask their donors, after Citizens United.
Ah, yes. Citizens United. Money equals speech so therefore the owners of more capital can speak the loudest.
Fact: The only groups actually denied special tax status were progressive groups, not conservative groups. In 2011, during the period that “conservative groups were targeted” the New York Times carried the story, 3 Groups Denied Break by I.R.S. Are Named . The three groups? Drum roll … “The I.R.S. denied tax exemption to the groups — Emerge Nevada, Emerge Maine and Emerge Massachusetts — because, the agency wrote in denial letters, they were set up specifically to cultivate Democratic candidates.”
So wait, the groups that were “targeted” weren’t even denied, yet the Democratic ones were? I don’t see or hear conservatives on the television or radio weeping crocodile tears for them, just for their own. Keep in mind that mid-term elections are swiftly approaching.
Johnson also points to a post by Peter Daou where he explains how the Democratic party has ignored and forgotten about the left, forcing politics to the right, and dragging corporate media along with it. Chris Hedges has written extensively on this.
In the end it’s just one head trying to gnaw away at the other in an attempt to gain control of the entire body. It takes our attention away from the real problems of our government. For instance, how it maintains a global empire through the “war on terror” and transfers wealth and income from the working class to the upper class through the establishment of supply-side economic policies.
A small caveat before I begin. I am well aware that this piece conjures feelings of Marx being anti-Semitic. However, as with most texts, some words or phrases could be interpreted in a different way. I saw Marx’s critique on Bauer’s original text as being not anti-Jewish, but anti-liberal, or in some ways anti-capitalist. It could be said that Marx saw the Jews as being the embodiment of capitalism, and therefore equating or blaming a race for a specific economic and political system (whether egregious or not) is, in my view, quite racist. Therefore, I approached this assignment very carefully to analyze the text outside a religious standpoint and only one of politics and economics.
Bauer and Marx: The Religious Man vs. The Citizen
According to Bauer and Marx there exists a conflict between a man trying to do good by his religion versus trying to good by his state, or rather his duties as a citizen of the state. The actions taken as a religious man are not in direct connection to that of someone being a citizen, which is to say one philosophy contradicts the other. As one follows a religion he or she is bound by a certain set of rules or common laws set by that religion that may supersede the ones set by a state and its people. This statement of course could be reversed to say that the Jewish and Christian man may gain some certain kind of additional freedom by the state that the typical citizen may not be able eligible to participate if he or she is not a part of that religion. This is the question which Bauer and Marx aim to answer: How can a man be faithful to his fellow man in his plight for equal rights among all men if he is only fighting for his rights as a member of a specific religion? Bauer took issue with this, his end goal or answer being from an atheistic position to abolish all religion from society. What would be left is a state in which the common man or worker is not tied to a deity, but to his duties as a citizen of that state.
In his aim to answer the question, Marx thought that religion was so engrained into society already that it would take some kind “human emancipation” and not simply “political emancipation” for everyone to experience a full and true freedom. Marx wasn’t completely against political emancipation when he said it “certainly represents a great progress”(35), even he thought it was important to some extent, but even secular societies like the United States were not completely separated from religion in society. However, political emancipation still meant that the people were not truly free from the philosophical bonds of a religion. It seems as if Marx was not against religion itself but only the political isolation it created among man. Civil society still harbored inequalities that were in no direct connection to one’s religious affiliation. It was for this reason that Marx advocated for the human emancipation to eliminate the contradiction between a worker and his state, or a private individual and the rest of society.
Marx had seen that the laws, which gave freedoms to the citizens of the state, only included those that may lead to liberty and property and caused man to be “withdrawn into himself…his private interest…acting in accordance with his private caprice.”(43) It was because of this egoistic type of society that Marx concluded that the rights of man rest not in terms of ones own private interests, but the interests of the whole human species. Man had disconnected himself from his work treating it as if some means to an end instead of an end unto itself. The shopkeeper, the day-laborer, and the living individual all share the same motive to work within the political state which is given to them by the laws of the state. Instead of freeing the citizens from religion and property liberalized states sought to instead separate man from political society and in turn his fellow species-being. Relationships within the human species became nothing more than the exchange of goods, communal religious piety, and the need to protect oneself from another who seeks to do harm. These actions “no longer constituted the general relation between the individual and the state as a whole”(45) they became private matters and therefore separated man from man, man from himself, and man from politics.
Marx concluded that the only type of emancipation that mattered was human emancipation, the emancipation of the species-being. Since man was the only animal conscious of ones own species it seemed only natural to Marx that human society, and all that lay within it, must be freed through the coming together of all parts of human life – personal and political. This joining of the private citizen back to his political roots would give him enough pause to engage with his political surroundings and thus gives him the ability to criticize that which he finds wrong. It could be said that this is the problem we currently have within our current political landscape. For even now we are subjected to the Washington consensus and whatever that may mean at a certain hour, day, or election cycle. We’ve become so engrossed in our own work that we have forgotten the importance of equality, liberty, property, and security in relation to our species as opposed to just our own personal wants and needs. The alienation from our work that we endure as a society is the same alienation Marx sought to make known in his writings during the 19th century. We will not be satisfied until we have made the transition out of our egoistic tendencies and into ones suited to advance human society as an entire species and not simply the individual.
As I prowl the internet I come across a great many sites that argue over the fact that we do not have more presidential candidates participating in the debates. That it’s “unAmerican” that Ron Paul, or Gary Johnson, or whomever is running on a specific ticket is not allowed to debate with capitalist choice A or capitalist choice B (psst…that’s Obama and Romney) on live television in front of the rest of our country.
I hate to break it to those red, white, and true blue believers, but that isn’t just an American value, that’s a democratic one that isn’t specific our country. We didn’t invent democracy, though many on either side of the political spectrum still considers it an invention of our revolution and subsequent union. But even that kind of democracy – and the one we struggle with today – is a limited one.
We seem to be in the stranglehold of the fist of capital, or wealth, or debt – whichever one you choose really because these days they are all the same in the eyes of the working class. Our capital has been shifted upwards through crony capitalism and corporate socialism. Our wealth (social, emotional, physical) has in most cases been depleted through the longer hours we work for the smaller piece of the pie. And our debt is the only thing handed back down to us as a means to survive while banks make sure we’re locked in to feed them like the good hosts for parasites we’ve become.
It’s nothing new in the eyes of Generation X, Y, or Z. All the lines on the graph of life have been skewing downward for the past 20-30 years no matter where the plot started. That is except for the ruling class who have begun to take notice of the people becoming a bit…upset.
More people have started waking up and realizing that the promise of being affluent like everyone else was a farce. There is no American dream because as George Carlin once said “you have to be asleep to believe it.” But we aren’t totally screwed because we’re only as powerful as we are conscious and active in our political, social, and economic surroundings. And these days there isn’t any shortage of that.
Sure, vote for your favorite candidate come election day, but also take notice of what’s happening around you after you leave the booth. Take notice and be inspired by the teacher strikes in Chicago (they weren’t just striking for more pay), or the recent Walmart ones (they are striking for more pay because their current wage is a joke). Follow economists like Dean Baker, Richard Wolff, and Steve Keen. They all have great ideas and solutions to help get us out of this hole. And above all else, get involved locally. The only way we can have our democracy back is not by waiting for some man or woman to appear on television to speak to us, we need to speak to each other.