Letter: The Barbarism is Already Here

Date: 2024-02-08T05:01:25+00:00

Location: cosmonautmag.com

This letter was written in response to Seth Baker’s letter, “Barbarism is the Biggest Concern for the 2024 Elections” which you can read here.

For Seth Baker, barbarism seems to be the most likely outcome of the 2024 American Presidential election. This much is unfortunately correct. However, in an attempt to take this thesis further, to a positive plan of action, Mr. Baker manages only to contradict himself repeatedly, creating such a tangled pile of arguments he ends up right where he started. Baker implies that “The Left” should vote for Biden, yet he never comes out and says this explicitly. He spends roughly two thousands words meandering around, comparing the Republican party to Nazis and offering up rhetorical questions, only to conclude that he is “incapable of making a moral argument that you must vote for Biden.” A poor display, to say the least. 

Rather than arguing for the election of Biden, Mr. Baker argues against the election of Trump. This is common for “left-wing” defenders of the Democratic Party. Baker argues (or rather implies) that it is necessary to vote for Biden in order to keep a Republican candidate out of office, as failure to do so would result in “barbarism.” In Baker’s own words, he chose the word barbarism over fascism “for two reasons: one, fascism is overused by many sides, and two, Nazis and fascists of the mid-20th century are merely specific types of barbaric societies.” Fair enough. We shall see if Baker himself is capable of avoiding this overuse of accusations of fascism. 

Baker provides three main reasons that the election of a Republican candidate would result in barbarism. Firstly, abortion rights may be overturned. Secondly, immigration policy may become barbaric. Finally, transgender people may face increased discrimination. These are all very valid concerns. However, as astute readers may notice, these things have all already happened under the administration of Joseph Biden. 

Let us take each of Mr. Baker’s concerns in turn.

Firstly, Baker summarizes the situation facing abortion rights quite well, spelling mistakes aside:

After over 30 years of the Republicans treating the Supreme Court as a hyper-partisan body and infamously putting rapists and abusers on the court, Roe v. Wade was finally overturned. The new landscape is clear: if states want to ban abortion, they may, anyway they wish. The right to make medical decisions with a doctor doesn’t apply, with a growing number of states having criminal penalties for abortion. Democrats deserve some credit in places like Maine, pushing for more expanded protections for abortion but, on the flip side, a federal plan to make abortion legal in all 50 states doesn’t seem to exist. The thought of a pro-choice supermajority being able to vote in abortion rights is far less plausible than Republican majorities shutting down abortion rights in the remaining states that allow it.

All this is true, but without a plan of action from the Democratic party to stop this, it amounts to a point against support for the Democrats. The Democrats had an opportunity to codify Roe in the 110th Congress of the United States when they won a majority in both the House and Senate, and yet they did not take it. However, perhaps the Democrats have a plan to reverse their catastrophic failure. Let us see what Mr. Baker has to say on the matter: “It is certainly true that we have no movement from the Democrats on packing the court, which seems pretty insane considering the Republicans have put some of the most corrupt people imaginable on the court. What the way out remains to be seen.” Absolutely stupendous. Mr. Baker has managed to eviscerate his own premise. There are no grounds on which abortion rights justify a vote for the Democratic Party, considering they have no plan to do anything about abortion rights according to Baker. 

Moving on to immigration, Mr. Baker writes the following:

Immigration has become one of the biggest right-wing social issues, with former President Trump claiming he will implement the largest deportation program in history if reelected. […] Housing prices have become a massive problem in American cities, and we have countless examples of Democratic party-run cities that aren’t coming up with solutions for housing people coming to America: homeless shelters and busing them around are part of the ‘solutions.’ The right plays its old trick, turning broke Americans against immigrants, this time more focused on housing over jobs. Without defending or cheerleading the Democrats, if Trump follows through with the biggest deportation program in history we fall closer to barbarism. Using state resources to rid the country of immigrants is above and beyond just capitalism, since it would not expand surplus value extraction at all and would cost the federal government a lot of money. The Nazis didn’t gas people to expand capitalism or win the war, they did this in spite of those goals. Barbarism is much bigger than the value form and history is a lesson.

Putting Mr. Baker’s dubious understanding of the materialist conception of history aside, as we do not have space to address it here, he implies that a Republican administration would be far more barbaric towards immigrants than a Democratic one, and thus we must vote for Biden. But what does Mr. Baker base this on? As of November of last year, the Biden administration was removing over three times as many immigrants monthly compared to Trump’s administration. Perhaps Baker has an explanation for this. It’s possible he is aware of something I am not. Let’s see how he explains the Democratic Party’s role in the treatment of immigrants: “To say the Democrats enabled the Republicans and did very little for a dignified immigration policy is an understatement.” Yet more amazing work from Mr. Baker. He seems to be arguing against himself better than I could ever hope to. 

Mr. Baker has one final stand, one last possibility to make a coherent point in favor of support for the Democratic party without undermining himself. Summarizing the issues facing transgender Americans, Mr. Baker writes,

Finally, we come to the right’s war on transgender people, which has accelerated in ways that absolutely should be compared to Nazi Germany. I don’t wish to do a deep dive into trans history, but it has been shocking to go from the Obama era, in which very few people outside of LGBTQ circles discussed trans people, to the conspiratorial idea that gender clinics are mutilating our kids and that public school teachers are trying to force people to be trans. None of the Republicans’ claims about trans people make any sense, and the right could never get away with the open slurs and lies about any minority in America like they do with trans folks. Just like abortion, honest people who support freedom, justice, and liberty for all don’t get between healthcare providers and gender-affirming care. The right’s claims about trans people today are on the same level as 1930s claims in Germany about blood libel. Multiple states have banned care for trans children with many hoping to do the same for trans adults. Florida doesn’t allow them to use the correct restrooms and now may criminalize trans people for using a driver’s license.

Baker opened his wonderful article by highlighting the overuse of the word fascism, and yet here he is comparing transgender Americans to Jews in the Holocaust and Republicans to Nazis. This is a rather interesting choice. 

The discrimination transgender Americans face is rather horrific, and it is only increasing. However, one must not forget what administration this is happening under. Perhaps the Democrats have a plan to reverse this. I certainly hope they do. What does Mr. Baker have to say about this? “I’m unaware,” he says, “of a plan from Democrats nationally in Congress to address this, and in places like Maine, Democrats have backed down from further protection of trans people in response to right-wing lies and violent threats.” 

Thus far, Baker has identified three key issues for which a vote for the Democratic Party may be justified, and yet failed to highlight how the Democrats plan to do anything better than the Republicans. Baker’s argument is self defeating, and yet somehow it only goes downhill from here. 

Despite failing to demonstrate that the Democrats are a lesser evil in any way, Baker goes on to imply that “The Left” should vote for Biden on the grounds of lesser-evilism: “When considering lesser evil voting for Biden, which I’m reluctant to do (I’ve voted 3rd party for president my whole life), I’d ask a few moral questions in response to the online left-wing discourse. Was it okay for the working classes to support Winston Churchill in their efforts to protect the United Kingdom and liberate Europe? Churchill was no friend of the working class but was far better than Adolf Hitler, and of course, working class people should have supported the end of Hitler!” 

Baker is back to his Hitler comparisons, something he claimed to understand is overused. His implication is that Trump is Hitler and Biden is Churchill. In one sense, this is a very apt comparison. Adolf Hitler murdered his own countrymen (as Baker implies Trump may do) while Churchill murdered innocents abroad (namely in India, as Biden does in Palestine.) In another sense, a hypothetical election between Hitler and Himmler would be a more accurate (though still hyperbolic) comparison: two despicable men who serve the same power, although one very slightly less evil than the other. 

Baker continues,

I would never argue on Biden’s political history that he deserves to be president and, as I’ve pointed out, the Democratic Party has no plans to make abortion legal, end all anti-trans laws, and treat immigrants with respect. The Democratic Party holds the slavers’ constitution just as near and dear as it always has. The irony is that the vast majority of elements of America who should be labeled slavers support Trump and the Republicans. To win the election, Biden clearly needs young people and various elements frightened by the bigoted and barbaric Republicans to come to his side. I don’t for a second think the Democratic Socialists of America or anyone else can push the party or Biden left. That has always failed historically and is not worth my time in any essay. One more time, I’m incapable of making a moral argument that you must vote for Biden but I’m willing to throw it back to others on the left and ask, what else is the plan?

Mr. Baker has admitted that he is incapable of levying even a moral argument in favor of a vote for Biden. His talk of voting for Biden to reduce harm is odd, given he has failed to demonstrate exactly what harm would be reduced.  Yet he still implies that “The Left” must vote for Biden as there is no other option. Baker has managed to perfectly display the pathology of a self-styled Marxist enamored with bourgeois politics. For this, I commend him. Very rarely does someone create a caricature of their own position. 

To answer Mr. Baker’s question, the plan can be laid out very simply, yet it will take an immense effort to realize. The class conscious proletariat must organize itself into a party. As The International Workingmen’s Association realized, “Against the collective power of the propertied classes the working class cannot act, as a class, except by constituting itself into a political party, distinct from, and opposed to, all old parties formed by the propertied classes.” Baker correctly recognizes the current non-existence of such a proletarian party, but rather than working to rectify this, he insists upon a course of action that would only prevent the emergence of said party. Baker sees the predicament that the working class is in and insists they enter into an alliance with the very same powers that put them here in the first place. He has replaced class struggle with class collaboration. Mistakenly believing that the “friendly” bourgeoisie is more friendly to the working masses, he enters into the most abominable alliance with them against the “evil” bourgeoisie. 

Even more shameful than Baker’s poor argumentation is his failure to address the situation in Palestine. There is not a single mention of “Palestine” or “Palestinians” in Mr. Baker’s letter. One would think that someone such as Mr. Baker, so enamored with quantifying harm done and reducing it as much as possible, would take great interest in Biden’s participation in the genocide of Palestinians. Mr. Baker seems to be blissfully unaware of said participation. Perhaps the matter simply slipped his mind. In his attempt to frame the Republicans as the sole barbarians, he has neglected to mention the great barbarity of the genocide perpetrated by a Democrat. He is willing to compare a ban on HRT to the Holocaust, but the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocents doesn’t warrant a mention. 

Baker says that he “won’t claim to care or know who Karl Marx would vote [for.]” Despite his disinterest, I feel it necessary to inform Mr. Baker how Marx and Engels viewed our two great bourgeois parties. For this reason, I would like to end with a quote from the wise Friedrich, written in his introduction to The Civil War in France: 

Nowhere do ‘politicians’ form a more separate, powerful section of the nation than in North America. There, each of the two great parties which alternately succeed each other in power is itself in turn controlled by people who make a business of politics, who speculate on seats in the legislative assemblies of the Union as well as of the separate states, or who make a living by carrying on agitation for their party and on its victory are rewarded with positions.

It is well known that the Americans have been striving for 30 years to shake off this yoke, which has become intolerable, and that in spite of all they can do they continue to sink ever deeper in this swamp of corruption. It is precisely in America that we see best how there takes place this process of the state power making itself independent in relation to society, whose mere instrument it was originally intended to be. Here there exists no dynasty, no nobility, no standing army, beyond the few men keeping watch on the Indians, no bureaucracy with permanent posts or the right to pensions. and nevertheless we find here two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power and exploit it by the most corrupt means and for the most corrupt ends — and the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians, who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality exploit and plunder it.

Evan Linden

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