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Progressivism Versus Liberalism

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An excellent example of the popular confusion between progressivism and liberalism is an article that was published at Strategic Culture on October 28th by Philip Giraldi, titled “The Disappearing America: Progressives Want a Revolution, Not Just Change”. He criticized — and very correctly so — the U.S. Democratic Party’s mischaracterization of America’s main problem as its (supposedly) being a conflict between ethnic groups (religious, cultural, racial, or otherwise), and Giraldi unfortunately merely assumed (falsely) that the Democratic Party’s doing this (alleging that inter-ethnic conflicts are America’s top problem) reflects the Party’s being “progressive,” instead of its being “liberal”; but, actually, there are big differences between those two ideologies, and that Party — just like America’s other major Party, the Republican Party — is controlled by its billionaires, and there simply aren’t any progressive billionaires; there are only liberal and conservative billionaires. America has a liberal Party, the Democratic Party, and a conservative Party, the Republican Party, and both of those Parties are controlled by their respective billionaire donors; and there are no progressive billionaires (as will be shown here). (Also, the differences between those two ideologies will be described.) So, Giraldi was actually attacking progressivism by confusing it  with liberalism.

For example: 

As-of 5 August 2019, when Forbes headlined “Here Are The Democratic Presidential Candidates With The Most Donations From Billionaires”, the rankings were this:

Rank in Billionaire Donors to:

#1 Pete Buttigieg: 23 billionaire donors

#2 Cory Booker: 18 billionaire donors

#3 Kamala Harris: 17 billionaire donors

#4 Michael Bennet: 15 billionaire donors

#5 Joe Biden: 13 billionaire donors

#6 John Hickenlooper: 11 billionaire donors

#7 Beto O’Rourke: 9 billionaire donors

#8 Amy Klobuchar: 8 billionaire donors

#9 Jay Inslee: 5 billionaire donors

#10 Kirsten Gillibrand: 4 billionaire donors

#11 John Delaney: 3 billionaire donors

#12 Elizabeth Warren and Steve Bullock: 2 billionaire donors each

#13 Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang, and Marianne Williamson: 1 billionaire donor each

#14 Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro, Bill De Blasio, and Tim Ryan: 0 billionaire donors

——

And, then, these were the standings among the Democratic Party’s still-active Presidential contenders as-of immediately prior to Super Tuesday, published by Forbes:

——

2 March 2020:

Rank in Billionaire Donors to:

#1 Biden 66

#2 Buttigieg 61

#3 Klobucar 33

#4 Steyer 13

#5 Warren 6

#6 Gabbard 3

#7 Bloomberg 1

#8 Sanders 0

(The others had already dropped out, and were therefore not listed.)

——

The only candidate whom billionaires blacklisted was Sanders. Despite that, Sanders had the most-passionate supporters, and vastly more donors, than did any other candidate in the contest; and, the polls throughout the Democratic primaries showed that he was virtually always either #2 or (occasionally) #1 in the preferences of all of the polled likely Democratic primary voters. But, Sanders got no billionaire’s money. He got as far as he did, only on his mass-base. He was running as the lone progressive in the field. And, unlike any of the others, he focused on the class-conflict issue, instead of on the ethnic-conflict issue — he focused against the money-power, instead of against “racism” (which was his #2 issue). All of the other candidates placed the ethnic-conflict issue (in the form of anti-Black racism) as being America’s most important problem.

Sanders was the only candidate who blamed America’s billionaires (the people who control both of its Parties) for being the cause of America’s problems and the  beneficiaries from those problems. He was the only progressive candidate in the entire contest. Sanders’s competitors were blaming the public (as if the majority of it were anti-Black bigots) — not  the aristocracy (not  the super-rich — the few people who actually control America). So: all of Sanders’s competitors had billionaires already funding them; and, still more billionaires were waiting in the wings to do so for whomever the Party’s nominee might turn out to be — except  if it would be Sanders (who would get nothing from any of them). (And, even if Sanders had won the Democratic nomination, what chance would he have had to win against Trump if even the Democratic Party’s billionaires were donating instead to the Trump campaign?)

Back in 2016, the two most-heavily-funded-by-billionaires candidates were Hillary Clinton (#1) and Donald Trump (#2). And they became the nominees. In today’s America, the billionaires always get their man (or their woman). It’s always a contest between a Republican-billionaires-backed nominee, versus a Democratic-billionaires-backed nominee

What Giraldi blames on “progressivism” is instead actually “liberalism” (which accepts being ruled by its billionaires) but there are more ways than only this that Giraldi misunderstands the difference between these two ideologies.

Besides the distinction that liberals see the big problem as being various sorts of interethnic (or “racial”) conflict (“Black Lives Matter,” etc.), whereas progressives see it as being the billionaires against the public; there is also the distinction that liberals think that their country has a right to intervene in the internal affairs of any foreign country in order to ‘protect’ that foreign nation’s public from its Government (for example, as America has recently done to Venezuela, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, Iraq, Iran, etc.), whereas progressives reject that viewpoint, and they hold, as being the only justification for invading another country, that other country’s having already invaded their own country — only defending against an invasion constitutes a justification for invading another country. Progressives believe that only the United Nations has the right to authorize an international invasion against a country in the absence of that country’s having invaded another country. Progressives make a huge distinction between any nation’s laws, on the one hand, and international laws, on the other; and they say that no country (including their own) has the right to override international laws. Liberals reject that progressive view, and support international invasions by their own country that are in violation of international law (such as America’s invasions against Yemen, and against Syria, and against Iraq, etc. — all of America’s invasions after World War II), in order to ‘protect’ the people there. Progressives are insistent that the U.N. not get involved in individual nations’ internal affairs. The profoundly anti-FDR, anti-progressive, “Responsibility to Protect” idea (which now has even acquired the status of being represented by an acronym “R2P” catch-phrase), has increasingly arisen recently to become a guiding principle of international relations, and progressives believe that it must be soundly and uncompromisingly rejected by the U.N. But liberals support “R2P,” as, basically, being a ‘justification’ for their own nation’s imperialism.

Giraldi is clearly arguing in favor of the Republican Party, and against the Democratic Party, but both of them (both the conservative Republican, and the liberal Democratic, Parties) are pro U.S. imperialism. He also argues there against the Government’s taking measures to reduce America’s racial and other inter-ethnic conflicts, such as policies to penalize racist actions and to eliminate systemic and Governmentally-mandated racial preferences. For example, he says that any such Governmental measures against racism “increasingly turn government into an intrusive mechanism for social engineering, abandoning America’s traditional meritocracy while also creating categories that some might describe as fostering reverse racism and sexism.” Though liberals do favor “fostering reverse racism and sexism,” progressives (which he claims to be attacking) do not. Furthermore, Giraldi’s implying that all policies against racism are “an intrusive mechanism for social engineering, abandoning America’s traditional meritocracy” is doubly false: Many anti-racist policies are nothing of the sort, but are instead essential in order to reduce inter-ethnic conflict and to achieve a more just and effective system of laws and of law-enforcement — and  a more efficient economy. Moreover, his alleging that to do that (to enact legislation against bigotry) is “abandoning America’s traditional meritocracy,” is, itself, ludicrous, regarding a country such as the United States, which had hundreds of years of enforced racist slavery, which were followed until recently by Jim Crow laws that informally continued bigotry by the Government. The scars from all that have still not yet been healed, and to suggest that they have is callous, at best. And, for Giraldi to refer to America’s long prior history of enforced White supremacy as if it had been instead “America’s traditional meritocracy” is beneath even commenting upon.

Giraldi writes as a conservative who uses the falsehoods that are intrinsic to liberalism as cudgels with which to attack progressivism. He doesn’t understand ideology — especially progressivism. Clearly, it’s not within his purview; and, therefore, his intended attack against progressivism misses its mark, and doesn’t even squarely hit its intended target, which is actually liberalism.

Throughout history, the aristocracies have been of two types: outright conservatives, versus the “noblesse oblige” type of aristocrats, which are called “liberals.” The main actual difference between the two is that, whereas the self-proclaimed conservatives boldly endorse their own supremacism, liberals instead slur it over with nice and kindly-sounding verbiage. Whereas conservatives are unashamed of their having all rights and feeling no obligations to the public (even trying to minimize their taxes), liberals are ashamed of it, but continue their haughty attitudes nonetheless, and refuse to recognize that such extreme inequality of wealth is a curse upon the entire society. Progressives condemn both types of aristocrat: the outright conservatives, and the hypocritical conservatives (liberals). Progressives recognize that the more extreme the inequality of wealth is in a society, the less likely that society is to be an authentic democracy, and they are 100% proponents of democracy. Liberals talk about ‘equality’, but don’t much care about it, actually. That’s why aristocrats can support liberalism, but can’t support progressivism. Progressives recognize that the super-wealthy are the biggest enemies of democracy —  that they are intrinsically enemies of the public. Progressives aren’t bought-off even by ‘philanthropists’.

Scientific studies (such as this) have documented that the more wealth a person has, the more conservative that person generally becomes. Furthermore, the richer a person is, the more callous and lacking in compassion that person tends to be. Moreover, the richer and more educated a person is, the likelier that person is to believe that economic success results from a person’s having a higher amount of virtue (and thus failure marks a person’s lacking virtue). And, studies have also shown that the wealthiest 1% tend to be extreme conservatives, and tend to be intensely involved in politics. Consequently, to the exact contrary of Giraldi’s article, the higher levels of politics tend to be filled with excessive concerns about how to serve the desires of the rich, and grossly deficient concerns about even the advisability of serving the needs of the poor. Such attitudes naturally favor the aristocracy, at the expense of the public. Confusing liberalism with progressivism advances the conservative, pro-aristocracy, agenda, at the expense of truth, and at the expense of the public, and even at the expense of democracy itself.

Furthermore: throughout the millennia, aristocracies have been applying the divide-and-conquer principle to set segments of the public against each other so that blame by the public for society’s problems won’t be targeted against themselves (the aristocrats), who actually control and benefit from the corruption that extracts so much from the public and causes those problems. Thus: Black against White, gay against straight, female against male, Muslim against Christian, and immigrant against native, etc. This divide-and-conquer strategy is peddled by both conservative and liberal aristocrats, and has been for thousands of years. Giraldi’s focusing on that as being instead generated by progressives, is not only false — it is profoundly false. It is a fundamental miscomprehension.

So, the popular confusion between progressivism and liberalism is beneficial to the aristocracy, but harmful to the public.

Author’s note: first posted at Strategic Culture

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Americas

Will Geneva Be Any Different Than Helsinki?

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Joe Biden
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

Any meeting between the leaders of Russia and the U.S. is inevitably an important international event. At some point in history, such summits decided the fate of the entire world, and the world held its collective breath as it followed Kremlin-White House talks on strategic arms or the two sides seeking agreements on urgent regional problems or any political signals coming from the superpower capitals prior to another round of negotiations.

The bipolar era has long been gone, and the Russia-U.S. relations are no longer the principal axis of international politics, although the suspense over bilateral summits remains. As before, the two countries are engaged in “top-down” interaction. Summits give the initial impetus to Moscow and Washington’s cumbersome bureaucratic machines, then diplomats, military personnel and officials start their assiduous work on specific issues, collaboration between the two countries’ private sectors and civil society perks up, the media gradually soften their rhetoric, bilateral projects in culture, education and science are gradually resumed.

Still, there are annoying exceptions to this general rule. In particular, the latest full-fledged Russia–U.S. summit in Helsinki in July 2018 failed to trigger improvements in bilateral relations. On the contrary, Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Finland’s capital aroused massive resentment among the anti-Russian Washington establishment. Ultimately, on returning home, the U.S. President had to offer awkward apologies to his supporters and opponents alike, and relations between the two countries continued to rapidly deteriorate after the summit.

Surely, nobody is willing to see another Helsinki scenario in June 2021, this time in Geneva. Yet, do we have good reason to hope for a different outcome this time? To answer this question, let us compare Donald Trump and Joseph Biden’s approaches to Russia-U.S. summits and to bilateral relations at large.

First of all, in Helsinki, Trump very much wanted the Russian leader to like him. The Republican President avoided publicly criticizing his Russian counterpart and was quite generous with his compliments to him, which inevitably caused not only annoyance but pure outrage in Washington and in Trump’s own Administration. Joe Biden has known Vladimir Putin for many years; he does not set himself the task of getting the Russian leader to like him. As far as one can tell, the two politicians do not have any special liking for each other, with this more than reserved attitude unlikely to change following their meeting in Geneva.

Additionally, in Helsinki, Trump wanted, as was his wont, to score an impressive foreign policy victory of his own. He believed he was quite capable of doing better than Barack Obama with his “reset” and of somehow “hitting it off” with Putin, thereby transforming Russia if not into a U.S. ally, then at least into its strategic partner. Apparently, Biden has no such plans. The new American President clearly sees that Moscow-Washington relations will remain those of rivalry in the near future and will involve direct confrontation in some instances. The Kremlin and the White House have widely diverging ideas about today’s world: about what is legitimate and what is illegitimate, what is fair and what is unfair, where the world is heading and what the impending world order should be like. So, we are not talking about a transition from strategic confrontation to strategic partnership, we are talking about a possible reduction in the risks and costs of this necessarily costly and lengthy confrontation.

Finally, Trump simply had much more time to prepare for the Helsinki summit than Biden has had to prepare for Geneva. Trump travelled to Finland eighteen months after coming to power. Biden is planning to meet with Putin in less than five months since his inauguration. Preparations for the Geneva summit have to be made in haste, so the expectations concerning the impending summit’s outcome are less.

These differences between Biden and Trump suggest that there is no reason to expect a particularly successful summit. Even so, we should not forget the entire spectrum of other special features of the Biden Administration’s current style of foreign policy. They allow us to be cautiously optimistic about the June summit.

First, Donald Trump never put too much store by arms control, since he arrogantly believed the U.S. capable of winning any race with either Moscow or Beijing. So, his presidential tenure saw nearly total destruction of this crucial dimension of the bilateral relations, with all its attendant negative consequences for other aspects of Russia-U.S. interaction and for global strategic stability.

In contrast, Biden remains a staunch supporter of arms control, as he has already confirmed by his decision to prolong the bilateral New START. There are grounds for hoping that Geneva will see the two leaders to at least start discussing a new agenda in this area, including militarization of outer space, cyberspace, hypersonic weapons, prompt global strike potential, lethal autonomous weapons etc. The dialogue on arms control beyond the New START does not promise any quick solutions, as it will be difficult for both parties. Yet, the sooner it starts, the better it is going to be for both countries and for the international community as a whole.

Second, Trump never liked multilateral formats, believing them to be unproductive. Apparently, he sincerely believed that he could single-handedly resolve any burning international problems, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to North Korea’s nuclear missile programme.

Biden does not seem to harbor such illusions. He has repeatedly emphasized the importance of multilateralism, and he clearly understands that collaboration with Russia is necessary on many regional conflicts and crises. Consequently, Geneva talks may see the two leaders engage in a dialogue on Afghanistan, on the Iranian nuclear deal, on North Korea, or even on Syria. It is not at all obvious that Biden will succeed in reaching agreement with Putin immediately on all or any of these issues, but the very possibility of them discussed at the summit should be welcomed.

Third, Trump was not particularly fond of career diplomats and, apparently, attached little value to the diplomatic dimension of foreign policy. The Russia-U.S. “embassy war” had started before Trump—but not only did Trump fail to stop it, he boosted it to an unprecedented scale and urgency.

Sadly, the “embassy war” continues after Trump, too. Yet President Biden, with his tremendous foreign policy experience, understands diplomatic work better and appreciates it. Practical results of the Geneva summit could include a restoration of the diplomatic missions in Washington and Moscow to their full-fledged status and a rebuilding of the networks of consular offices, which have been completely destroyed in recent years. Amid the problems of big politics, consular services may not seem crucial but, for most ordinary Russians and Americans, regaining the opportunity for recourse to rapid and efficient consular services would outweigh many other potential achievements of the Geneva summit.

From our partner RIAC

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“Choose sides” is practically a bogus idea for US military partners

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“Choosing sides” is practically a non-starter for US military allies such as Japan and South Korea. These nations, first and foremost military allies of the US, are forging cordial and productive ties with other countries based on military alliances with the US. The nature and level of partnerships varies greatly from those of allies, despite the fact that they appear to be quite heated at times.

Military concerns have been less important in the postwar period, but economic concerns have been extremely heated, social and cultural interactions have been close, and the qualitative differences between cooperative relations and allies have gotten confused, or have been covered and neglected.

Some unreasonable expectations and even mistakes were made. In general, in the game between the rising power and the hegemony, it is undesirable for the rising power to take the initiative and urge the hegemony’s supporters to select a side. Doing so will merely reinforce these countries’ preference for hegemony.

Not only that, but a developing country must contend with not only a dominant hegemony, but also a system of allies governed by the hegemony. In the event of a relative reduction in the power of the hegemony, the strength of the entire alliance system may be reinforced by removing restraints on allies, boosting allies’ capabilities, and allowing allies’ passion and initiative to shine.

Similarly, the allies of the hegemonic power are likely to be quite eager to improve their own strength and exert greater strength for the alliance, without necessarily responding to, much alone being pushed by, the leader. The “opening of a new chapter in the Korean-US partnership” was a key component of the joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States following the meeting of Moon Jae-in and Biden. What “new chapter” may a military alliance have in a situation of non-war?

There are at least three features that can be drawn from the series of encounters between South Korea and the United States during Moon Jae-visit in’s to the United States: First, the withdrawal of the “Korea-US Missile Guide” will place military constraints on South Korea’s missile development and serve as a deterrence to surrounding nations. The second point is that, in addition to the Korean Peninsula, military cooperation between the US and South Korea should be expanded to the regional level in order to respond to regional hotspots. The third point is that, in addition to military alliances, certain elements in vaccinations, chips, 5G, and even 6G are required. These types of coalitions will help to enhance economic cooperation.

Despite the fact that Vice President Harris wiped her hands after shaking hands with Moon Jae-in, and Biden called Moon Jae-in “Prime Minister” and other rude behaviors, the so-called “flaws” are not hidden, South Korea still believes that the visit’s results have exceeded expectations, and that Moon Jae-in’s approval rate will rise significantly as a result.

The joint statement issued by South Korea and the United States addresses delicate subjects such as the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. Of course, China expresses its outrage. It is widely assumed that this is a “private cargo” delivered by Biden’s invitation to Moon Jae-in to visit the United States.

Moon Jae-in stated that he was not pressured by Biden. If this is correct, one option is that such specific concerns will not be handled at all at the summit level; second, South Korea is truly worried about the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns and wishes to speak with the US jointly.

South Korea should be cognizant of China’s sensitivity to the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea concerns. When it comes to China-related concerns, the phrasing in the ROK-US joint statement is far more mild than that in the ROK-Japan joint declaration. Nonetheless, the harm done to South Korea-China ties cannot be overlooked.

South Korea highlights the “openness” and “inclusiveness” of the four-party security dialogue system, which allows South Korea to engage to some extent. South Korea will assess the net gain between the “gain” on the US side and the “loss” on the Chinese side. China would strongly protest and fiercely respond to any country’s measures to intervene in China’s domestic affairs and restrict China’s rise.

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Political Violence and Elections: Should We Care?

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The next Sunday 6th of June, the Chamber of Deputies along with 15 out of the 32 governorships will be up for grabs in Mexico’s mid-term elections. These elections will be a crucial test for the popularity of the president and his party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). They currently hold majority in the Lower Chamber of the national Congress, and these elections could challenge this.

Recent national polls indicate that the ruling party, MORENA, is still the most popular political force in Mexico, and they are poised to win not only several governorships, but also several municipalities. They are also expected to maintain control of the Lower  Chamber, although with a loss of a few seats. In order to ensure MORENA keeps its current majority in the Congress, they have decided to pursue an electoral alliance with the Green Party (PVEM) and the Labout Party (PT). It is expected that with this move, they will be able to ensure the majority in the Chamber of Deputies in the Congress.

There is, however, another aspect that is making the headlines in this current electoral process: The high levels of political and electoral violence, The current electoral process is the second most violent since 2000. The number of candidates that have been assassinated is close to 30% higher than the mid-term electoral process of 2015. More than 79 candidates have been killed so far all across the country.

Insecurity in Mexico has been an ongoing issue that has continued to deteriorate during the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). AMLO has continually criticised his predecessors and the valid problems of their approaches to insecurity in Mexico along with the War on Drugs policy. However, to date, he has yet to offer a viable alternative to tackle the security problems he inherited. During his campaign, AMLO coined the phrase “abrazos no balazos” (hugs not bullets) to describe his approach toward improving security in Mexico. He believed that to successfully tackle the worsening crisis of insecurity, the structural conditions that forced people to commit crimes had to be addressed first: Namely inequality, poverty, low salaries, lack of access to employment etc. To date, insecurity in Mexico continues to worsen, and this had become evident during the current electoral process.

This nonsensical approach to insecurity has resulted in the first three years of his government reaching over 100,000 murders, along with the nearly 225,000 deaths as a result of the pandemic.

What should be particularly worrying in this spiral of violence, is the prevalence of political and electoral violence during the current process. Political violence represents not only a direct attack on democratic institutions and democracy itself, but it also compromises the independence, autonomy, and integrity of those currently in power, and those competing for positions of power. It affects democracy also because political violence offers a way for candidates to gain power through violent means against opposition, and this also allows organised crime to infiltrate the state apparatus.

Political violence is a phenomenon that hurts all citizens and actors in a democracy. It represents a breeding ground for authoritarianism, and impunity at all levels of government. This limits the freedoms and rights of citizens and other actors as it extinguishes any sort of democratic coexistence between those currently holding political power and those aspiring to achieve it. Political violence also obstructs the development of democracy as it discredits anyone with critical views to those in power. This is worrying when we consider that 49% of those assassinated belong to opposition parties. This increase in political violence has also highlighted AMLO´s inability to curtail organised crime and related violence.

Assassination of candidates is only the tip of the iceberg. Organised criminal groups have also infiltrated politics through financing of political campaigns. Most of electoral and political violence tends to happen an municipal levels, where it is easier for criminal groups to exert more pressure and influence in the hope of securing protection, and perpetuate impunity, or securing control over drug trafficking routes. This should be especially worrisome when there is close too government control in certain areas of the country, and there is a serious risk of state erosion at municipal level in several states.

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