What Conservatives Learned From Communist States

Although I have not become nostalgic for the Cold War days, I can't help but think that the existence of the USSR had a salubrious influence on the American Democracy (red scare aside). I cannot imagine that if the USSR still existed today that Americans would have so easily accepted the new Government powers allowing for the indefinite detention of US citizens without trial, not to mention the legal power to torture them. Americans once thought of such state powers as the devices of oppressive authoritarian communist states and whose existence in the US would be unimaginable. Yet, this fundamental change in our civil liberties seemed hardly worth the discussion.

I find it tragically amusing how much today’s conservatives remind of the ways that their old Communist Party nemesis operated. Both name government actions after the very thing they seek to undermine. The USSR had the Workers [so called] Liberation Party, which was nothing more than another tool of state oppression and in the US conservative sponsored such acts as the Clear Skies Act, the Right to Work Act, and the Healthy Forests Act, which allowed for greater air pollution, made it easier to prevent people from working, and allowed for nearly indiscriminate logging.

The conservative narrative for the housing/banking meltdown also reminds me of the old Marxist propaganda that placed blame for the failures of its economic system on the interference of the global-capitalist system and that the solution could only come from an even greater commitment to a more pure form of ideology. Similarly, the conservative narrative for the current economic depression places the blame not on bank and market deregulation but on Government interference with the only solution being a greater commitment to economic fundamentalism and the implementation of even more radical market and bank deregulation.

Modern conservatism and its market-fundamentalist ideology, enjoys an advantage that State-Marxism ideology never had – the advantage of being an ideology that is not seen as such. In this supposed “post-ideological” era, market fundamentalism presents itself as anti-ideological pragmatism that is itself protecting us from the ideologically driven market regulations of the socialists and liberals intent on stifling competition and redistributing wealth. This is what the philosopher Slavoj Zizek has called “the purest form of ideology”.

I can’t help but think that we are witnessing the redefinition of American Democracy in economic fundamentalist terms. In this new definition of democracy even the most fundamental civil liberties, like the freedom of assembly, are seen as a threat to the stability of the markets and thus to the country. The violent crackdown on Occupy Wall Street across the country made this clear. In comparison to Conservatives, the defenders of democracy and civil liberties are few and largely inept. Even with a popular president, Democrats have largely placated Republicans and have allowed Federal agencies like the NSA to expand their ability to spy on citizens in clear violation of Constitutionally protected rights.

There is one lesson that conservatives undeniably learned from the Communist state of China – a vibrant capitalist economy functions perfectly well without democracy. Is this redefinition of our democracy inevitable?
MtnMig MtnMig
36-40, M
May 8, 2012