Bush's SOU message to spread democracy everywhere had a faintly familiar ring to it, but it took a few days to sink in. What it sounded like wasn't de Tocqueville or speeches about "the shining city upon the hill," or other classics about how America would lead through example. What it reminded me of was Leon Trotsky's classic, "Permanent Revolution."
I'm not that well versed on the theory, but it was published after a split between Trotsky and the Stalinists. The latter "went nationalist", or isolationist, and abandoned the project of aggressively supporting revolution internationally. Instead, they focused on domestic reconstruction. Trotsky rejected this, outlining in the theory, reasons for "permanent revolution", worldwide, until communist revolution occured in every country.
The parallels to Bush's new doctrine of expansionism were uncanny. I thought someone else would have noticed this, and a web search proved fruitful.
The first item to turn up was an essay by Ted Rall. He gets the theory of PR wrong, and took a few stabs at Stalin and Mao for effect, but got some of the gist of the Bush attack strategy spot-on. Trots might want to write him off now, but he's good. Here's the article:
The second item hit paydirt. It was a World Socialist article that critiqued an article by Vicky Pelaez that attributed the neoconservative ideas of permanent expansionism to some individuals' experiences in Trotskyist groups.
Pelaez' original article, in Spanish, noticed what I did. The WSWS soundly trounced her thesis, and defended the purity of Trotskyism. In the same article, they outlined the development of Schactmanism, and attacked it. Wikipedia says that Schactmanism is mainly a critique of Stalinist bureacracy, asserting its validity as a type of socialism. The WSWS, in contrast, attacked Schactmanism in detail, linking Max Schactman's political work with Irving Kristol -- founder of the neoconservative movement (before it was the current, broader neocon movement). It also linked Schactman with Democrat warhawks who turned conservative.
Their argument is that Trot Permanet Revolution and neocon Permanent Expansionism are different, fundamentally. I agree, but... implicit in this is the idea that they are superfically similar. I think they're the same in rhetoric, and ultimately, appeal to the working class. (The WSWS seemed so preoccupied with defending Trotsky and denigrating Schactman that they didn't explore this superficial aspect.)
The Democratic Party has stopped co-opting socialism, and it appears that the field is wide open for a conservative like Bush to take up some of the rhetoric of socialism, but to advance conservative ends. The result could be a mobilization of the traditional Democratic base toward conservative ends.
No essay ends without a few prescriptives, so, here goes. I sure as hell don't know what to do, but the following might work:
- Liberals and Democrats should familiarize themselves with a genuine socialist well versed in propaganda that will appeal to the working class.
- Liberals and Democrats should go on the offensive to defend the worker, as much as possible, in the media... and deliver on these promises.
- Liberals and Democrats should deconstruct the conservative rhetoric, and reclaim it for themselves.
(If you're not a liberal or a Democrat, you should be defending your particular brand of radical political philosophy.)