In the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with tens of millions suffering mass unemployment, wage cuts, rising poverty, and homelessness, the Republican candidates have shown their complete indifference to the suffering of huge sections of society.
The depraved, shrill character of the Republican primary election also reflects the fact that Obama (who is denounced by the GOP as a... “socialist”) has continued, in the main, the policies of Bush regarding wars, bailouts, support for Wall Street, and austerity for the mass of the working class and poor. This has made it necessary for the Republican candidates to adopt even more bizarre positions to justify their candidacies.
While Mitt Romney, supported by his close links to the financial establishment and his estimated $250 million in personal wealth, looks increasingly like the GOP frontrunner, the populist campaign of Ron Paul is growing among young people, including sections of the Occupy movement.
Ron Paul Taps Into Anger
The rhetoric of the Ron Paul campaign has the appearance of an “angry citizen” critique of Wall Street and crony capitalism, denouncing imperialist wars and corporate politicians and defending civil liberties from a “Big Brother” government. Paul was and remains a fierce critic of attacks on civil liberties, torture, military tribunals, government secrecy, etc. He has called Bradley Manning a hero.
Paul decries Wall Street’s influence over the government and Federal Reserve policy. He calls Obama, Romney, and Gingrich crony capitalists and makes other criticisms that appear to echo criticisms made by socialists and the left in general.
In reality, Paul’s views derive from a profoundly right-wing, anti-worker ideological outlook. For example, his opposition to war flows from an anachronistic, racist, isolationist, America-first outlook. This is combined with vicious attacks on immigrants and calls for mass deportations of undocumented workers, not support for working-class internationalism and workers’ rights.
Paul’s opposition to the bailouts and the Federal Reserve flows from an extreme free-market ideology, whereas our opposition flows from an anti-capitalist, socialist, working-class outlook. His positions flow from the same libertarian, essentially utopian, outlook that has him advocating the complete dismantling of public education, public housing, welfare, food stamps, and virtually all social safety net programs.
Paul’s concern for individual rights is code for increasing the ability of individual capitalists to better exploit labor without interference; i.e., no child labor laws, no labor rights, etc. Significantly, Paul opposes the existence of unions because they supposedly violate the “individual property rights” of the owners.
At a time of anger at corporate-controlled politicians, part of Ron Paul’s appeal is that he is not a corporate-funded careerist politician who bends to the dictates of big business. He is an ideologue with a clean reputation regarding corruption and back-room deals at a time of rife corruption among career politicians in Congress, who gets most of his funding from small contributions from the middle class, small businesses and even workers.
Paul has managed to tap into anger at the bank bailouts and the wars. In doing this, the corporate media has given him a fair amount of air time. They would prefer to allow a right-wing candidate to tap into that anger than a genuine socialist candidate who would spell out the nature of the capitalist system as to blame for the crisis.
Ron Paul’s Reactionary Policies
Less space has been given to his racist and sexist views, for example, a series of 1980s and 1990s Ron Paul newsletters that are full of openly racist propaganda. Also, in 2004, Paul opposed a bill honoring the 40th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In a sole dissenting vote, he argued that the result of the act was “a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of a free society.” Similar shocking statements can be found regarding the “right to discriminate” against women when it comes to opposing laws concerning workplace sexual harassment.
Ron Paul’s libertarian organization has carefully cultivated links with his traditional base in the Tea Party but has also consciously reached out to elements of the Occupy movement, especially its anti-politics, anti-government, individualist wing. While most in the Occupy movement would not agree with Paul’s views on abortion, gay rights, immigration, etc., his libertarian views dovetail well with some occupiers who oppose government social programs – including public education – on the basis of utopian ideas of mutual aid, local autonomy, etc.
The Occupy movement has proven there is political space for a mass left-wing movement that can challenge capitalism and Wall Street. But as Justice has repeatedly warned, in the context of the current deep economic and social crisis, if the left and the labor movement fail to build a mass working-class alternative and continue backing the “lesser evil” corporate politicians of the Democratic Party, there is a danger of the vacuum being filled by right-wing populism along the lines of someone like Ron Paul or the Tea Party.
Campaign Sows Confusion
Ron Paul’s right-wing views and his candidacy, if left unchallenged, can create enormous confusion by drawing some youth and disenchanted workers, who have until now rallied behind the mainly left-populist Occupy movement, towards right-wing politics. This is especially a danger if Paul breaks from the Republican Party and runs as an independent.
The Ron Paul populist campaign has also created confusion among liberals. Journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote recently in Salon.com: “Ron Paul is the only … major presidential candidate in either party who advocates policy views on issues that liberals and progressives have long flamboyantly claimed are both compelling and crucial. The converse is equally true: the candidate supported by liberals and progressives and for whom most will vote – Barack Obama – advocates views on these issues (indeed, has taken action on these issues) that liberals and progressives have long claimed to find repellent, even evil,” (“Progressives and the Ron Paul fallacies,” 12/31/2011).
Greenwald goes on to list the horrific foreign policy and civil liberties violations of the Obama Administration, from the repeated, ongoing slaughter of children and other innocents through drone bombing campaigns to his support for indefinite military detention or even assassination of U.S. citizens accused of terrorism.
But Greenwald totally fails to warn of the dangers of Ron Paul’s politics. It’s not possible to praise Paul for the good things he appears to be saying while taking no responsibility for the rest of his ideas. A strengthening of anti-worker, anti-woman, racist, and utopian ideas would create major obstacles to the development of serious resistance to the dictatorship of capitalism. This is why it’s essential that the left and the labor movement run an independent, anti-corporate, pro-worker candidate who can provide an explanation of the crisis from a working-class viewpoint and thus strengthen and build working-class struggles against the policies of Corporate America and the 1%.
Instead of the divisive and disastrous ultra-free-market policies of Ron Paul, which will only benefit the 1% who already own major wealth, we need to build support for the ideas of a democratic socialist society, a society where the economy and society are under the democratic control of working-class people, not the dictatorship of big business and capitalism.