A viewer writes: should Paul Jay’s critique of Biden wait till after the election? Jay says we need to defeat Trump, but without creating illusions about Biden. We have to build a non-sectarian, broad people’s movement with a class conscious core. Lucas Alden interviews Paul Jay (Pt2) on theAnalysis.news podcast.
Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to theAnalysis.news podcast. And for those of you that like the Analysis, and are listening and not donating, now is a good time to go find the donate button. We’re about to play a little music. Maybe while the music’s playing you can find the donate button, because if people don’t donate, we can’t do this.
So today, the guess is again, me, and Lucas Alden, who interviewed me for part one of this, and you might want to go listen to part one if you haven’t. We’re going to switch hats here, and Luke’s going to be the host, and I’m going to be the guest. Luke is an educator who teaches school in Rome, Italy. He’s a political activist who’s worked on many campaigns dealing with issues of war, and peace, and military spending, climate, and U.S. Israeli aggression in Palestine, and other things.
And here we go. So over to you.
Well, regarding the theme, you know, not only interpreting but changing the world, what do you see as the alternative media’s role in not only informing the working population but, you know, in popular left movements itself? You know, do you believe alternative media should be an ally for mass movements, but not actually part of them? How do you see that dynamic?
Well, both is the answer. There should be media, and is, which is an outgrowth of the advocacy. And there should be media, which is journalism, which will go where the facts lie and damn the consequences, you know, because the movement needs both.
I’ve been mostly positioning myself in the journalism realm. I would say with theAnalysis a little more overt, I mean, I was never shy about saying what I thought, but it wasn’t front and center. With the Analysis I feel a little less restricted, partly because I feel like I know a little more than I used to, I actually feel like I have more to say. But I am still a little frustrated with the role of media, period. That, you know, in some ways, if I was in the right place, I almost wouldn’t mind being directly involved in one of these progressive political campaigns, you know, somebody running for office. I mean, I have this weird dual citizenship so I can play that role in the US or Canada.
But I find these progressive candidates, you know, AOC and the others that are happening, a lot’s going on in New York, but elsewhere. I think it’s encouraging; I think it’s very important, I don’t think it’s everything.
I think the more important thing, and I hope the Analysis maybe becomes a platform for helping create this, but I think in the US, and Canada, and probably every country, we need a broad popular front that has as its core, you know, a very class conscious core, non-sectarian, and willing to unite with like every section of society that’s willing to fight against fascism, and to save the world vis-a-vis climate against war.
And you must add to that the danger of nuclear war.
And, you know, the broad fronts that were anti-imperialist, anti-fascist fronts of the 1930s and, you know, even the Chinese and so on, you know, you unite with whoever the hell you have to within a certain historical period.
So, I guess if I could find a way to play more of a role in helping that, I would like to.
I’m not sure exactly whether I’m the right person or have the right relationships, but I hope the Analysis is a platform for that kind of. I do not like some of the media and for the reasons that will become apparent in my next few sentences, I’m not going to say who they are, but there is a part of the left media that loves to attack other parts of the left media.
Because it gets ratings, it gets you Twitter following, and even though some of the people doing it have very good, sometimes journalism, and sometimes quite good analysis, if you’re not helping build the movement, then what’s the point?
Who cares? And I’m not saying that means you shut up about critiquing, like where I’ve been getting some critique; why are you running critical stories about Biden right now?
You know, right now, like if you really think it’s all about defeating fascism and Trump, why don’t you shut up about Biden until after the election? And I wanted to respond to this today because, I think it’s very important that, first of all, Biden isn’t part of the progressive world. So let’s be clear about that, he represents a section of the elite that, to my mind is more rational, is in a sense more pragmatic in terms of they actually get there’s a climate crisis, at least they acknowledge it, but, you know, he represents a section of capital. And that section of capital, especially in terms of foreign policy, can get very vicious.
But. It doesn’t mean that section of capital isn’t preferable to the more overtly fascist section represented by Trump. So, yeah, I think yeah, someone’s asked me, yeah, I think I would, and I think others should vote for Biden, but with eyes wide open, no illusions.
And let’s be realistic. Who watches the real news?
I mean, it’s not like because we critique Biden, someone’s not going to vote, or you know, is going to go out and vote for Trump.
But I got one letter from a guy.
I’ll even use his name because he said his last name is Vidal. And he said, you know, after watching your after your interview with Bob Poland on climate, critiquing Biden’s climate policy. It made me feel like just staying home on Election Day. Of course, he’d never vote for Trump. But he says, “it’s hard to get motivated and is what you want?” And I told him I would answer him publicly, and so here I am. No, of course it’s not what I want.
You know, if you’re in a swing state, this is Chomsky’s line and I think he’s correct, if you’re in a swing state, then you got to vote for Biden. You can’t have these overt racists and fascists in power, and in the next four years, if Trump wins again, I think what we’ve seen in the first four years is going to be nothing.
It will be a real unleashing of fascism.
And the economic crisis is likely to be much deeper.
There may well be a rise in real working-class opposition, an uprising, and under Trump, it will be absolutely crushed, military-style. He’s already made it clear how he’s going to deal with this.
So, no, I don’t want anyone to stay home if you’re in a swing state, if you’re not a swing state, I mean, I if I vote, I’d vote in Maryland, and I’m not going to vote for Biden, probably I may not vote at all, because my vote isn’t going to matter. Maryland will go for Biden, and this doesn’t matter.
And I don’t, you know, it would make me a little nauseous to have to vote, you know, unnecessarily for the Democratic Party, partly because I’ve seen what the Democratic Party has done in Baltimore. I mean, the Democratic Party runs Baltimore. It’s terrible. But yeah, but if I’m in a state that is at all in question, of course, you have to vote for Biden, and then and then fight it out.
And then the reason we’re raising these critiques now in terms of Biden’s relationship to Wall Street and finance, the lack that the climate policy seems like it’s not going to phase out fossil fuel, and it’s going to depend on carbon capture, which is an entirely untested technology.
Right. They just recently dropped some of the most progressive language from their climate platform, from the DNC website, not just a few weeks ago.
Apparently, Biden said that wasn’t his policy, and they went back and changed it again, or they don’t agree with it.
But that’s actually secondary, because when you go to Biden’s website, and you read the climate plan, which I did with Bob Pollin in this piece, it’s all about carbon capture and nuclear.
I’m not as opposed necessarily to nuclear as some others are, but the truth is, no one’s going to build enough safe nuclear in the next seven, eight years to make any difference anyway. So I don’t even see the point of talking about a totally theoretical proposition.
The real thing has got to be solar, wind, and geothermal, not geoengineering, which is also totally unproven. But at least within the Biden constituency, there’s a recognition of climate, and there’s another factor which I think could be encouraging, maybe. Somebody will think I’m being overoptimistic.
Kamala Harris knows in 2024 she has to have the left of the Democratic Party.
If she alienates Sanders, AOC, over the next four years, she’s going to be up against a very tough progressive opponent, and maybe it will be AOC. And then she’s going to have serious trouble in 2024, and so maybe, for purely her own electoral reasons, and I will add, I think there is some indication that there are some individuals in the financial sector and some areas of the corporate sector who are actually starting to get the real danger of climate.
Of course, they can’t look at anything without trying to figure out an angle on how to make money out of it.
And honestly, I don’t even care if they can make money if it’s effective. The problem is every way they came up to financialize, you know, tax and trade or whatever, even carbon tax, they always figure out ways that are actually not that effective, that don’t work.
So, it’s not like I have a religious opposition to them making money out of something green. It’s just so far it’s been mostly bullshit, that’s the problem. Anyway, so that being said, yes, there’s no question that people, I think if you’re in a swing state, you’ve got to vote for Biden, and more importantly even, really try to support progressive candidates if you’ve got one anywhere near you.
Right. Right. And again, you know, along those lines, just to preface this, this is obviously in no way from my end any kind of support, act of support for the Democratic Party, for the crimes they’ve been involved in over the decades. But, you know, it’s an unbelievable irony in a sense that, you know, the left, rightfully so, many sections of the left, they’re rightfully criticizing the falling into identity politics, and all this kind of superficial sense.
But what in many sections of the left I’ve seen on the ground even commit themselves to, and that not only contained to the to North America, also in Europe, is a kind of identity politics in themselves.
If they’re not, you know, following some kind of communist or socialist line, you know, I agree with mostly all of those precepts. But, you know, if they happen to vote for in the electoral arena a mainstream party, then, you know, they’re considered, you know, cowards and…
Right, exactly. Kind of traitors in a sense. And I think, you know, that is just another form of identity politics, you know.
Yeah, I agree with that.
Well, I’d go even a little further. If we’re going to build a broad front, we better start with respecting each other.
And people come to identity politics, why?
Because they feel their identities are under attack. If it wasn’t for that, there wouldn’t be this urge to have identity politics.
So let’s stop putting it down.
It has a negative consequence. It does create these silos. It can create kind of its own form of sectarianism. But denouncing identity politics is its own form of sectarianism.
Absolutely. They’re engaging in the heaviest form of identity politics in that sense.
Yeah, we need to help people understand that you can’t defend your identity, and you can’t resist the attacks on your identity without systemic change. And get people to understand the need to take up, together with the defense of your identity and your community, climate, war and peace, the big questions of economic inequality, and more so the big question of who owns stuff, who has power. You’re not really going to defend your identity, and if you just look where has identity politics successfully defended identity, maybe, maybe, to some extent against homophobia, because capitalism was able to assimilate.
You know gay marriage, even at the Republican convention, Trump had Peter Thiel, one of the founders of eBay who’s gay, come up on stage. And I think if I remember correctly, Trump even said at one point, we love our gays. I mean. But of course, part of it is that amongst the ruling elites, I got to know Gore Vidal very well, who was gay himself, or bisexual, or whatever, he one told me to understand the elites, you have to understand they are completely amoral.
So they actually never really cared about homosexuality or bisexuality because they were into everything, I mean, not all of them, but a lot of them, were into everything themselves, total hypocrisy.
I mean, you can go back to somebody like, who the hell? What was the name of the guy that was the head of the FBI…?
Yeah, Hoover, I mean, Hoover was probably gay, and it was always, a thing they could use as part of their politics, homophobia, but other than that, which identity really was successful?
Maybe a little bit about on the feminist side, some women made it to corporate boardrooms, or some women CEOsut, but pay inequality is still bad, you know, violence against women is still bad.
I mean, so we need to figure out ways to talk to people who are really into identity politics that helps unite us not put these people down.
Absolutely. And that’s quite a task in itself, because a lot of them just don’t want to see the systemic nature of our biggest problems themselves.
You know, they just don’t want to see it. But, you know, again, that’s on activists themselves. The first responsibility is to put on yourself, and that’s, you know, if movements are going to get any traction I think that’s a big thing right there.
Well, part of the problem is, so many of the organizations that are involved in identity politics depend on, you know, what some people are calling the nonprofit industrial sector or whatever.
And most of these foundations don’t want to fund stuff that has an anti-capitalist character.
They don’t mind funding identity politics. So, you know, a lot of people’s livelihood is at stake, not allowing the Analysis to broaden.
Sure. Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, the last point about, you know, in terms of, you know, whether to vote for Biden, or not, or whether to sit it out.
I gave a talk in 2016 just after the Trump victory to several groups here in Rome, groups of activists, even part of the Democrats abroad, which is a branch of the Democratic Party itself, and said, you know, it shouldn’t be considered a contradiction, you know, to vote against Trump, not for someone, but against Trump, you know, in a swing state, like Chomsky says, while at the same time, in theory, even working, for example, to get somebody like Clinton put in The Hague, you know, for the rest of her days for war crimes she was, in fact, a part of. You know, I don’t see a contradiction there.
You know, the vote, it’s a defense mechanism. It’s not an ideology as I think someone recently said, and I think much of the left, you know, the radical left would do well to get that.
Yeah, I’ve quoted this many times in the past, and I still love the quote. George Will, this conservative pundit was on the George Stephanopoulos television show back in 20…
It might have been 2006 when Obama was running. And somebody was critiquing, was it Romney maybe, for being rich and having too many houses, and Will got really angry. And he said all of our presidents were rich, and they all come more or less from the American aristocracy.
But the key line was he says, let’s be honest about this. In our democracy, you don’t get to choose whether or not the elites are going to rule. You get to choose which section of the elites are going to rule.
And he said that in some anger. And I don’t think if he wasn’t angry, he ever would have been so honest. But let’s be clear, especially at the presidential level, and to some extent the Senate, a little less on some of the down-ballot, you know, where progressives are running.
But basically, we get to choose which section of the elite is going to rule. So let’s be honest about that. And it does matter which section. It does. You know, there are times maybe not, like during the Vietnam War.
You know, if Lyndon Johnson had run again, I don’t know, you know, whether if, let’s say it had been Lyndon Johnson versus Richard Nixon, I mean, I don’t know what the hell that choice would have been.
Yeah, so, you know, it’s not always does it make a difference, but I would say certainly now there is a difference, and that difference is, that section of capital, that section of finance, is less aggressive.
It doesn’t mean it’s not aggressive, less aggressive. Like, I don’t think that Gore would have invaded Iraq. There’s no evidence, that he would have. There’s just no evidence that he would have invaded Iraq. Who knows? I’m not saying the Democratic Party isn’t capable, obviously, of invading Vietnam and doing other horrible things.
But at that point in history, the actual rational foreign policy pragmatists were against invading Iraq.
And I think the Democratic Party more goes with the professionals than with the crazy, insane Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, John Bolton, neocons.
Right. That’s important for the purely neocon project, the Project for the New American Century.
Yeah, exactly. And, you know, I’ll tell you one thing. There was it would have made a big difference if you were an Iraqi.
You know, these people that poo poo the difference.
It’s a kind of, you know, Western chauvinism almost in a sense, because, you know, in these huge, gigantic power systems, where we’re all alienated to a sense, at least the vast majority of the population is, it’s hard to see that, you know. The Democratic Party has been, let’s just say, it’s been disgusting over decades. But, you know, a Gore victory could have meant literally saving millions of people’s lives in the Middle East.
And there would have been at least a legitimate conversation about what’s effective climate policy.
Absolutely. Yeah, decades ago.
And I don’t care if it was driven by Gore’s ego or not.
There would have been a conversation about it instead of, you know, practically nothing for the last I don’t know how many decades.
Right. OK, thanks. Thanks for listening to Paul Jay and I. I’m Lucas Alden here in Rome, and listen in for the next installment of our conversation. Thanks.