Global capital, crony capital and the centre-left

by John Quiggin on April 29, 2021

Writing in the New York Times, Elizabeth Bruenig makes the case against an alliance of convenience between liberals and “woke” corporations against the threat posed to democracy by Trumpism . After acknowledging how desperate the situation has become, she presents the argument, to which I’ll respond bit by bit

Capital is unfaithful. It can, and does, play all sides. Many of the courageous businesses that protested North Carolina’s 2016 “bathroom bill,” for instance, also donated to political groups that helped fund the candidacies of the very politicians who passed the bill.

This is the nature of alliances of convenience. When the Western Allies joined Stalin to fight against Hitler they had no (or at least few) illusions about him, and didn’t rely on him to keep his word any longer than necessary, or to refrain from undermining them in other quarters

It isn’t possible to cooperate with capital on social matters while fighting them in other theaters; capital can fight you in all theaters at once, all while enjoying public adulation for helping you, as well.

This simply isn’t correct as the Biden Administration is showing. Despite co-operating with capital on social matters,. Biden has proposed substantial increases in corporate tax rates and global action against corporate tax avoidance. In this context, it is the position of capital that has been weakened by the toxicity of its usual allies, the Republicans.

Setting aside the fact that capital can in a single moment be both heroic and diabolical — Amazon wants you to be able to vote, but it would prefer if you didn’t unionize — it is, incredibly, even less democratic, accountable and responsive than our ramshackle democracy. Capital rallies to the defense of democracy while aggressively quashing that very thing in the workplaces where its workers labor.

Again, this is what happens in an alliance of this kind. Fights over unionization go on, in parallel with an alliance over the right to vote. Once again, it’s the corporations who face the bigger problem here, with opportunistic Republicans pretending to back the rights of the workers.

I have no idea what to do about this other than know it for what it is. If it were ever the case that knowledge was power, it certainly isn’t so anymore: Knowledge is more widely dispersed than ever; power remains notably concentrated. But knowledge confers a certain dignity. It’s worse to be powerless and unaware than to be powerless and perfectly clear on where you stand.

This is a counsel of despair, without any real basis. Bruenig gives no reason to suppose that the fight for democracy can’t be won, even if it requires alliances between groups with interests that are otherwise opposed. But if the Republicans can be held at bay long enough to allow the passage of strong voting rights law, they will have to reform themselves or face permanent minority status. Getting to that point (for example, by winning bigger majorities in both Houses of Congress in 2022, then scrapping the filibuster) will be difficult, but not impossible

An important limitation of Bruenig’s analysis is that she treats “capital” as a unitary force. There is a sharp division between global corporations, with a long-run interest in the preservation of the rule of law under a democratic government, and the crony capitalists, epitomized by Trump himself, for whom the object is to extract as much as possible from the US economy, as quickly as they can.

Someone with more expertise than me could interpret all this in terms of the “fractions of capital” idea put forward by Poulantzas and others in C20. A search on those terms produced this piece in The Guardian, which covers some of those points.

{ 49 comments }

1

nastywoman 04.29.21 at 7:34 am

‘An important limitation of Bruenig’s analysis is that she treats “capital” as a unitary force. There is a sharp division between global corporations, with a long-run interest in the preservation of the rule of law under a democratic government, and the crony capitalists, epitomized by Trump himself, for whom the object is to extract as much as possible from the US economy, as quickly as they can’.

I couldn’t agree more as:

‘An important limitation of any current analysis about the US Chaos is that outdated political labels are treated as a unitary forces. There is a sharp division between so called ‘Elites’ who are considered to be ‘Elites’ because they have a lot of dough, and ‘Elites’ who are able to understand jokes about rich Idiots –
(just joking!)
with a long-run interest in NOT preservation of the rule of law under a democratic government.

2

Mike Huben 04.29.21 at 11:14 am

I think that Bruenig’s basic problem is not so much despair, as the expectations of friendship and loyalty that we want to give and receive. That may work fine in small groups, but fails utterly in larger political and economic situations. Corporations exploit that as much as they can for the benefits of employee and customer loyalty, and hardly ever reciprocate, leading to a lot of disappointment, resentment, and cynicism. I agree with John that there is a different strategy of alliances that’s needed for the latter, and it’s a shame we don’t educate students directly about it.

3

steven t johnson 04.29.21 at 12:55 pm

Major point: Crony capitalism and crony capitalists are hissable villains. Any clique can nominate whomever they wish as Snidely Whiplash, but as an identifiable group, I believe the crony capitalists are even harder to identify than the aristocracy of labor. They are in economic terms, unproductive capitalists. It’s not clear how anyone who rejects the usefulness, or claims the impossibility, of distinguishing unproductive labor from productive labor could accept this as a real category.

Minor point: The supposed alliance of convenience of the “Allies” with “Stalin” is not quite the point believed. The supposed allies of Stalin delayed meaningful entry into the war, the second front. And the supposed allies of Stalin turned against the war-ravaged USSR as quickly as possible, launching decades of hostility, including military actions, attempted subversion and economic warfare. This example of “alliance of convenience” means the corporations will rely on the small-d democrats to fight the bulk of the war, then attack their convenient allies as soon as possible.

4

Gorgonzola Petrovna 04.29.21 at 2:51 pm

“There is a sharp division between global corporations, with a long-run interest in the preservation of the rule of law under a democratic government, and the crony capitalists, epitomized by Trump himself, for whom the object is to extract as much as possible from the US economy, as quickly as they can. ”

Whoa. I happen to feel (and it seems fairly obvious to me) that it’s exactly the opposite: domestic capital is interested in long-term prosperity and stability, while global capital operates by invading, squeezing all juice, and moving on.

Could you elaborate on this, please.

5

BruceJ 04.29.21 at 4:12 pm

Bruenig would have liberals fight a war on all fronts, apparently, without any allies.

[Amazon] is, incredibly, even less democratic, accountable and responsive than our ramshackle democracy.

Well, that may be because it is not in any sense a ‘democracy’. It is a corporation operating within the state framework of a representative democracy.

Corporations are quite responsive to societal concerns the moment their bottom line is threatened. This is the power that consumers have in a consumer-driven economy.

Certainly “Capital” has deep and abiding shared interests with the Republican party; the GOP has long been their reliable partner delivering the things they want, less taxes, regulation and free reign in international markets; trumpism threatens that, because the essence of Trumpism is it’s chaotic arbitrariness.

Witness the whole arc of the ‘banning’ of TikTok because people using that platform humiliated Dear Leader. In the end it amounted to…well, we still don’t know what, exactly it has amounted to.

This kind of chaos isn’t even beneficial to crony capitalists, because as we’ve seen time and time again in Russia…your status as a ‘crony’ is always precarious, subject to the whims and paranoia of the autocrat.

6

marcel proust 04.29.21 at 6:23 pm

The linked Guardian piece has the added appeal for you (I imagine) of using chemistry metaphors similar to the phase transition ones you used here.

On the broader topic of instrumental alliances, you are of course correct, at least if the desired end is achieved goals rather than individual purity. Tom Lehrer’s Folksong Army may be a useful counter to Breunig’s argument.

7

Stephen 04.29.21 at 6:58 pm

OP; “When the Western Allies joined Stalin to fight against Hitler they had no (or at least few) illusions about him.`’

Umm. It seems fairly clear that Roosevelt said, at Yalta “Stalin doesn’t want anything but security for his country, and I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he wouldn’t try to annex anything and will work with for a world of democracy and peace.”

Now with Roosevelt, perhaps even more than with other politicians, there may be a gap between what he really thought and what he wanted his listeners to believe he thought. All the same …

As for steven t Johnson @3:
“The supposed allies of Stalin delayed meaningful entry into the war, the second front.”
I would be interested to get an explanation as to why stj thinks that

a) the allied actions before the invasion of France (which is what all good Communists in Britain meant when they painted “SECOND FRONT NOW” on walls in 1942 or 1943) were not meaningful; and

b) how an invasion of France in 1942 or 1943 would have in fact have shortened the war, other than to Germany’s advantage.

Over to you, comrade.

8

nastywoman 04.29.21 at 7:09 pm

@4
‘Could you elaborate on this, please’.

Oh? –
I just would love to – as aren’t you the ‘Petrovna’ who once wrote that Greedy Outsourcers are NOT ‘Greedy Outsourcers’? –
so how does square with your idea of:
‘domestic capital is interested in long-term prosperity and stability, while outsourcers operate by invading, squeezing all juice, and moving on’.

9

Trader Joe 04.29.21 at 7:39 pm

I’d say Ms. Bruenig is primarily just someone who needs to grow up and understand that the entire world isn’t arrayed around whatever she imagines democracy might be about. She appears as someone who thinks democracy is about waiting your turn in the Starbucks line and tipping the minority barista because they’ve had to face struggles in life.

Score this as the latest in a line of ‘woke’ media who sit and vilify Amazon by posting their views on Facebook, ignoring that every few days a fresh box shows up with a swoosh on their doorstep.

This one uses the NEW YORK F-ing Times as her soapbox – ironic, no? Last I looked they weren’t exactly a not for profit, indeed manufacturing fake concern, real concern, any concern for money is why they exist – not exclusively, but if not for the $$$ their impact would be equal to the same article in the East Overshoe Nebraska, Gazette.

Many might rail against Exxon and pals but when the tank is on E and its the only station on the highway I know of none that pull over and walk instead of fill up.

Companies exist to fill particular needs – their political, environmental and social impacts (all of which are important) are by products of their primary mission and are managed as needed in proportion to the degree it impacts their objectives (which heavily involve profit making but only rarely are exclusively focused on profit making).

As JQ notes, they will be an ally when it suits them or (or when it suits you) but they are tools to their own end, not a tool to be wielded by others.

10

Lobsterman 04.29.21 at 7:41 pm

Bruenig has the right of it, of course – Biden will help drive our civilization into the climate apocalypse as eagerly as Trump did, and the end result will be the exact same levels of brutality and misery. Biden and Trump are two sides of the same coin; salvation does not come from the “Senator from MBNA.”

Sooner or later, Biden will get tired of pretending to be benevolent papa. He’s already there on weed, police brutality, and imperialism. It’s just a matter of time.

11

Starry Gordon 04.29.21 at 11:53 pm

I find it difficult to believe in the naiveté exhibited in Bruening’s article, as if she had never read or heard any serious analysis of power and class. It’s as if presenting thumb-sucking as a stance. In the alleged real world, those liberals (whatever that now means) tempted to pick a side in the current ruling-class struggles should remember what Mr. Carlin said: ‘They got a club, and you ain’t in it.’

12

steven t johnson 04.30.21 at 12:53 am

Stephen@7 is preaching to the choir, thus briefly as possible: The USSR joining the UN; restraining the Italian and French CPs; surrendering the Greek CP (well, to be fair, Tito was even more important to this, but still); withdrawal from Austria and Iran; neutralization of Finland; the recognition of Israel; the offer of neutralization of Germany; limited aid (to put it mildly) to the Chinese CP, etc. There are an estimated 20 million reasons why “Stalin” played it that way. Nonetheless, Stephen’s Cold War triumphalism is still wrong.

And as to the alleged mysteries Stephen doesn’t understand? The number of German divisions tied down in Italy was about, if I remember correctly, was eight. Churchill may have coined a vivid phrase in “the soft underbelly of Europe” but it was BS meant to divert troops away from fighting Germans save to protect Egypt etc. The Soviet Union defeated the Nazis, not the Allies. It’s true that if the Allies had managed to join the Nazis in alliance with the Finns that the Soviet Union would almost certainly have been defeated. No doubt Stephen regrets the lost opportunity. Or, along with David Brin, wishes the atomic bomb could have been used in Europe to stop…Stalin?

The other question, as phrased suggests that a second front in France in 1942 or 1943 would have been advantageous to Germany. I suggest this is simply nuts. Unless there’s some assumption that a second front would have promoted the chances of a negotiated peace between the Allies and the Nazis? But this I think is just wishful thinking.

13

J-D 04.30.21 at 2:15 am

I think that Bruenig’s basic problem is not so much despair, as the expectations of friendship and loyalty that we want to give and receive.

As Obsle said to Estraven in The Left Hand Of Darkness (by Ursula Le Guin), ‘We can pull a sledge together without being kemmerings.’

14

J-D 04.30.21 at 2:16 am

Bruenig has the right of it, of course – Biden will help drive our civilization into the climate apocalypse as eagerly as Trump did, and the end result will be the exact same levels of brutality and misery. Biden and Trump are two sides of the same coin; salvation does not come from the “Senator from MBNA.”

Sooner or later, Biden will get tired of pretending to be benevolent papa. He’s already there on weed, police brutality, and imperialism. It’s just a matter of time.

Elizabeth Bruenig says nothing whatever about Joe Biden (good or bad), so why are you trying to change the subject in this way?

15

J-D 04.30.21 at 4:51 am

I find it difficult to believe in the naiveté exhibited in Bruening’s article …

Naïveté (like the misspelling of people’s names) is extremely common. Being unable to credit other people’s naïveté is itself often a sign of naïveté.

In the alleged real world, those liberals (whatever that now means) tempted to pick a side in the current ruling-class struggles should remember what Mr. Carlin said: ‘They got a club, and you ain’t in it.’

You don’t think that refusing to take your opportunities where you find them is a kind of naïveté?

16

Tm 04.30.21 at 7:38 am

It seems to me that certain fractions of the left are just awful when it comes to tactical politics. Tactical alliances are part of almost all successful politics. One doesn’t have to always be friends to have common political goals under selective circumstances.

17

MisterMr 04.30.21 at 8:48 am

@Stephen 7
Umm. It seems fairly clear that Roosevelt said, at Yalta “Stalin doesn’t want anything but security for his country, and I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he wouldn’t try to annex anything and will work with for a world of democracy and peace.”

Stalin did, for example, call the communist italian partigiani and told them NOT to attempt a communist takeover in Italy, but instead to collaborate with other democratic forces.
This is because Stalin agreed at Yalta that Italy was to be under the western sphere of influence, and he didn’t want stir too much the situation.
What are the acions that Stalin did outside of the USSR that prove Roosvelt wrong?

That Stalin was a terrible tyrant inside the eastern block is obviously true but this is not what Rooselt was speaking about, I think.

It seems to me that you (Stephen) are underplayng the poular support Stalin (and on the other side, various fascist movements) had in many parts of Europe at the time, and therefore you don’t see how Stalin’s actions were, in fact, not all that aggressive on the international scene.

18

Saurs 04.30.21 at 9:28 am

I don’t see any meaningful and substantive distinction between the phenomenon Bruenig purports to describe and as a consequence what she is counseling (despite saying she isn’t) and the We Should Improve Society Somewhat toon. It’s a more or less perfect distillation of nominally pro-labor anti-Democratic thinkythoughters who for the sake of purity preach no collective action or cooperation beyond the right kind of trade unionism. Yet another entry in the prevailing Atomized Style.

19

Ebenezer Scrooge 04.30.21 at 11:45 am

Breunig is religious left. Religious types tend to be very deontological–they care much more about right v. wrong than good v. bad. Many readers of this blog might agree that capital is “wrong.” (Not, you, Tim W.!) But since we are good consequentialists here, we would also agree that this particular alliance with capital is “good.”

20

Bruce Baugh 04.30.21 at 1:55 pm

Bruenig has a problem most of us don’t: she wants abortion banned, and she wants to continue thinking this position is both liberal and popular out in the public at large. It’s pretty clear that corporate America at large isn’t going to help get her any closer to that.

21

J, not that one 04.30.21 at 2:32 pm

“This is the nature of alliances of convenience.”

Bruenig is typical of a school of thought that would like everyone to act on principal 100% of the time. Is it possible to persuade someone to do the right thing even if they didn’t already want to? Apparently that’s even worse than if they can’t be persuaded by any means. Is it possible to persuade imperfect people to improve the world? That’s not good enough. We should live with the world’s problems while continuing our search for perfect people.

When this goes along with treating “capitalism” as both a totalizing force and something that can never be worked with, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything short of a kind of leftist Benedict Option, unless it’s total war against even quite mild manifestations.

22

Stephen 04.30.21 at 6:46 pm

MisterMr @17: thank you for a rational, though I think in several ways mistaken, reply.
I quoted Roosevelt’s belief at Yalta that Stalin would “not try to annex anything” and “work for a world of democracy and peace.” Even before Yalta, Stalin’s behaviour in foreign policy (Nazi-Soviet pact, annexation of the Baltic states and eastern Poland, Katyn) and domestic policy (Holodmor, the Great Terror) should have been enough to show that he had no interest refraining from annexation, nor in democracy or peace.

You ask ” What are the actions that Stalin did outside of the USSR that prove Roosevelt wrong?” Well, apart from those above, there were his postwar annexations of as much of Europe as he could manage, and his behaving there as (in your own words) ” a terrible tyrant”.

You say I am “underplaying the popular support Stalin … had in many parts of Europe at the time”. I can’t quite see how that is relevant: I don’t think he had much support in the parts of Europe he annexed. Among the French and Italian Communist parties, yes, but I think those countries were much better off for not being annexed.

23

Stephen 04.30.21 at 6:51 pm

As for steven t johnson @12: I am entirely unable to understand how your intemperant rant relates to anything I wrote, or have previously written. In other circumstances I would have concluded “the man’s clearly delusionary, ignore him” but you accuse me of regretting an opportunity for the UK to ally with the Nazis and defeat the Soviet Union. or even of wishing for atomic warfare in Europe. These are completely unjustifiable and seriously defamatory conclusions, such as I had not expected to find on CT. What train of thought – I can hardly say, of logic – led you to them, I cannot say.

As far as I can follow your argument, it is that
1) Regarding the Allied contribution to defeating Germany before the Normandy invasion, “The number of German divisions tied down in Italy was about, if I remember correctly, was eight.” I don’t have a history of the Italian campaign to hand, but the Wikipedia article states that in May 1944 the German forces in italy numbered 439,224. Eight bloody big divisions, surely.
It also gives Axis losses in Italy, before the final surrender, as being about 530,000. And I don’t know why, apart from sheer ignorance, you regard the Allied contribution, pre-Normandy, as being restricted to the Italian campaign. Which, incidentally, made the rather important Allied invasion of southern France possible.

2) Arguing that there were cases where Stalin did not invade and tyrannise his neighbours does not refute the obvious case that there were many times when he did.

3) ” The Soviet Union defeated the Nazis.” In terms of the land battle in eastern Europe, of course that’s true, apart from the rather embarrassing period when they were trying to help the Nazis to defeat the Western democracies. Whether they could have succeeded without help from the West is not at all obvious.

4) I await, without much hope, svj’s explanation of why a cross-Channel invasion in 1942 or 1943 would have been other than an extensive and complete catastrophe: Dieppe writ very large, Kasserine-sur-mer? If that had happened, I suspect that a negotiated peace might have resulted. but I would regard that as fearful, not wishful thinking.

5) I wrote that Roosevelt was naive in believing that the concept of “noblesse oblige” applied to Stalin, and that therefore I am guilty of “Cold War triumphalism”. Well, I lived through most of the Cold War, and could foresee four possible developments:
a) War in Europe becomes hot. I hope stj would agree that would have been a global catastrophe, even if the Soviet Union had in some sense “won”.
b) Cold war continues indefinitely, so that in 2021 we would still have the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact and NATO confronting each other, with (a) on the cards, and eastern Europe under unwelcome Soviet domination.
c) Cold War in Europe ends with collapse of Western alliance under the influence of Communist-Neutralist-Defeatist elements, followed by the installation of Soviet-type domination in Europe.
d) Cold War ends with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its domination under the weight of its own internal contradictions.
Personally, I am very glad that (d) happened. I suspect – though I would be happy to have stj’s own opinion – that he would much have preferred (c) or failing that (b).
Pre-emptive comment: no, of course I don’t think that the effects of the collapse of Actually Existing Socialism have been always desirable. A basic lesson from history is that solving one problem always leaves many other problems unsolved, and often gives rise to new ones.

24

Gorgonzola Petrovna 04.30.21 at 7:22 pm

@nastywoman, 8
“aren’t you the ‘Petrovna’ who once wrote that Greedy Outsourcers are NOT ‘Greedy Outsourcers’?”

I wouldn’t anthropomorphize economic phenomena. It tends to obscure rather than illuminate, imo.

25

Tm 04.30.21 at 8:22 pm

MisterMr: „What are the acions that Stalin did outside of the USSR that prove Roosvelt wrong?“

Umm, what definition of USSR are you applying here? This thread is a distraction and we should better not feed it but I can’t help being curious…

26

Starry Gordon 04.30.21 at 8:38 pm

J-D 04.30.21 at 4:51 am @ 15 —
I misspelled ‘naïveté’ too, didn’t I? Actually I thought putting in the diaeresis might be a bit much.

You ask: ‘You don’t think that refusing to take your opportunities where you find them is a kind of naïveté?’ I think that would depend on the context and the nature of the opportunities. He that sups with the Devil should take a long spoon and all that, no? Maybe if Bruenig had read more commie literature she could have located her disquiet more precisely. But then, could she work for the Times?

27

Tm 04.30.21 at 9:19 pm

The posturing of Republican corporate stooges complaining about corporations is quite amusing:
https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/04/ted-cruz-has-been-a-corporate-stooge-his-as-long-as-hes-been-a-senator-says-ted-cruz

28

John Quiggin 05.01.21 at 12:32 am

Unless someone wants to make the case that the US and UK governments should not have allied themselves with Stalin, I request that we draw a halt to the discussion on that point.

29

J-D 05.01.21 at 1:49 am

It seems to me that certain fractions of the left are just awful when it comes to tactical politics.

In my experience, many people have trouble with thinking tactically much of the time.

I misspelled ‘naïveté’ too, didn’t I? Actually I thought putting in the diaeresis might be a bit much.

The dictionary offers more than one spelling. You chose the one you preferred, I chose the one I preferred. I am more sensitive on the subject of misspelling of names. For all I know, Bruening is in fact a correct spelling, it’s just not the correct spelling of Elizabeth Bruenig’s surname.

You ask: ‘You don’t think that refusing to take your opportunities where you find them is a kind of naïveté?’ I think that would depend on the context and the nature of the opportunities. He that sups with the Devil should take a long spoon and all that, no?

There is an important difference between the advice ‘If you sup with the devil, you should have a long spoon’ and the advice ‘Never sup with the devil, no matter how long your spoon, even if the alternative is starvation’.

30

Robespierre 05.01.21 at 4:33 am

Since Bruenig is “naive”, don’t be naive in turn.

1) To the extent that corporations do this to ally themselves with the Democratic party’s power, as opposed to conforming to consumers’ woke orthodox culture, what do they want in return?

2) Corporations in America are uniquely (in the rich world) able enforce correct speech and thought because of the unusually big power they have over their employees. The answers I usually hear from democratic party supporters is a mix between rejoicing in woke mccarthyism and “lol, the first amendment doesn’t apply to corporations, you dummy!”.
The point is: is this healthy and what are we going to do about it?

3) Related to (2), woke monopolies have crippled the right-wing social media infrastructure (after cultivating the fash-curious information bubble for years) and are big enough to bully states into changing their election laws -for the better, this time.
Again, the point is “is this healthy and what are we going to do about it”.
If the “left”‘s reaction is “be happy that Daddy beat up my enemy today”, cool, but maybe it’s not the best way to go about it.

31

J-D 05.01.21 at 6:32 am

1) To the extent that corporations do this to ally themselves with the Democratic party’s power, as opposed to conforming to consumers’ woke orthodox culture, what do they want in return?

The meaning of the question is unclear, because it’s not clear what the word ‘this’ refers to. However, if corporations support (in whatever manner) a cause which is also supported by the Democratic Party, it is reasonable to suppose that the people who make those decisions calculate on deriving asome kind of benefit from doing so. Those calculations may be right or they may be wrong; but even if they are right, that’s not something which should affect Democrats’ decisions about which causes to support.

2) Corporations in America are uniquely (in the rich world) able enforce correct speech and thought because of the unusually big power they have over their employees. The answers I usually hear from democratic party supporters is a mix between rejoicing in woke mccarthyism and “lol, the first amendment doesn’t apply to corporations, you dummy!”.
The point is: is this healthy and what are we going to do about it?

It’s not clear that American corporate employers (or American employers generally) have a higher level of power over their employees than is the case in other rich countries. There are power imbalances everywhere between employers and employees, and the traditional strategies everywhere for people who seek to reduce those imbalances are (a) building union strength and (b) seeking changes to the law (and to the administration and enforcement of the law) which favour employees (including by creating a more favourable environment for unions).

3) Related to (2), woke monopolies have crippled the right-wing social media infrastructure (after cultivating the fash-curious information bubble for years) and are big enough to bully states into changing their election laws -for the better, this time.
Again, the point is “is this healthy and what are we going to do about it”.
If the “left”‘s reaction is “be happy that Daddy beat up my enemy today”, cool, but maybe it’s not the best way to go about it.

The statement that woke monopolies have crippled the right-wing social media infrastructure is not an accurate description of anything that has actually happened.

Changing election laws in ways which make it easier for people to vote is a good thing. To the extent that it’s happening, the reason that it’s happening is not that politicians are being bullied into making those changes.

32

John Quiggin 05.01.21 at 7:06 am

Getting the impression that a lot of people are opposing a left-corporate alliance not because it will fail, or even because it will undermine fights over economic issues, but because it might succeed on cultural issues.

33

nastywoman 05.01.21 at 12:27 pm

and. are you guys seriously… serious?

Or did I just read some stuff about ”Stalin” on a thread about:
‘Global capital, crony capital and the centre-left’?

and about: ‘Biden and Trump are two sides of the same coin’ –
that’s IT –
that’s the HUUUUGEST idiocy who got US into this… pickle in the first place where people couldn’t differentiate anymore between Trump and… and… who? –

Who was this Stalin-Dude anyway?

Was he a ‘crony capital’ or the ‘centre left’
or ‘Global Capital’ and should we ask Glenn Greenwald who helped to create this funny Internet meme -(and narrative) that everything –
or every politician
or Obama and Bush are alike – and that’s why we had to suffer four years of ‘trump’
(the worlds new word for: ‘Stalin’)
in order to get to somebody who really seems to care about his American people and NOT his Golden Toilet?

34

steven t johnson 05.01.21 at 2:29 pm

Stephen@7 condemns Roosevelt for the alliance with Stalin on the grounds that it supported Stalin’s invasion of central Europe, culminating in the sack of Berlin. (I call it liberation but that’s me, not CT.) The relevance to the OP is that somebody is just another enemy whose destruction is more convenient another day. The ostensible question is whether the “left” should be considered “Stalin” in the analogy, or whether it’s the corporations playing the devil. I think this is misleading, that the corporations, precisely because they are not unitary, overlap with Trumpism. I think a largely imaginary distinction between crony capitalists and the pure in heart competitive free market belongs more in an Ayn Rand-imitating novel.

35

Tm 05.01.21 at 2:38 pm

Robespierre 30: „ The answers I usually hear from democratic party supporters is a mix between rejoicing in woke mccarthyism and “lol, the first amendment doesn’t apply to corporations, you dummy!”.“

I suspect you are making these „democratic party supporters“ up. The position that I typically encounter is along these lines:
https://crookedtimber.org/2018/03/04/free-speech-unfair-dismissal-and-unions/

36

Tm 05.01.21 at 2:59 pm

The other typical liberal response is to point out the countless cases of rightwingers advocating firing or other reprisals against liberals for political views they dislike. These are often the exactly same people, pundits, politicians, who rail against “cancel culture” and “woke” companies. This has been a frequent topic on CT and Robespierre is certainly aware of it. A few recent examples from elsewhere:

https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/03/campus-cancel-culture-is-out-of-control
https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/03/cancel-culture-has-never-been-more-out-of-control

37

Starry Gordon 05.01.21 at 4:10 pm

J-D 05.01.21 at 1:49 am @ 29 —
My repeated experience as a activist has been that bourgeois institutions do their best to bourgeoisify entities they come in contact with, and often succeed. I will spare you the war stories — anything you imagine will probably be accurate enough. It may be that corporations have an interest in Woke politics because Identity has proved to be a useful tool with which to suppress or disorganize their class-war opposition — good old divide and rule. When supping with the Devil, one had better pay close attention to the length of one’s spoon.

38

J-D 05.01.21 at 11:23 pm

My repeated experience as a activist has been that bourgeois institutions do their best to bourgeoisify entities they come in contact with, and often succeed.

I have no experience of my own by which to evaluate what you tell me about your experience, and also no reports from anybody else of their experience. However, what Elizabeth Bruenig is discussing is not ‘coming into contact with corporations’ (beyond the baseline level of contact with corporations which is part of quotidian existence in our corporation-heavy society); it is ‘discovering that corporations are supporting the same causes you yourself are supporting’, which is not the same thing. Whatever merit there may be in the advice ‘avoid contact with corporations as much as you can’, there is none whatever in the (non-synonymous) advice ‘abandon support for any cause as soon as you discover that the same cause is also receiving support for corporations’.

I will spare you the war stories — anything you imagine will probably be accurate enough.

This statement does not correspond with the facts. I am curious to know why you are telling me something which is false. If you believe it to be true, I am curious to know why you believe it true when it isn’t.

It may be that corporations have an interest in Woke politics because Identity has proved to be a useful tool with which to suppress or disorganize their class-war opposition — good old divide and rule.

It may be that this is true; it may be that it is utter rubbish with no truth in it.

When supping with the Devil, one had better pay close attention to the length of one’s spoon.

There is an important difference between the advice ‘When supping with the Devil, pay close attention to the length of your spoon’ and the advice ‘Never sup with the Devil, no matter how long your spoon, even if the alternative is starvation’.

39

Eagles 05.02.21 at 4:22 am

I’m kind of confused by this whole discussion. What would an alliance between “the left” – whatever that is – and corporations look like? What bodies capable of signing binding agreements with negotiable terms are we talking about? Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill were political leaders of sovereign powers capable of negotiating on behalf their polities under established norms of statesmanship. Who are the negotiating parties in this case? The Chamber of Commerce? The AFL-CIO? Left twitter? The DSA? The whole thing strikes as me a silly discussion to have.

What does exist, at least in an American context, is the phenomenon of wealthy individuals and corporate entities using strategic donations and advertising to project an image of social responsibility while covertly taking actions countering that image. In an environmental context, this is known as “greenwashing”.

Two examples:

First: The Koch brothers, of Koch Industries and Tea Party fame, donate heavily to causes like PBS in an effort to project a socially responsible image while financing a political action network that runs counter to that image on a number of issues, from climate change to mass transit.

Second: Toyota, the second largest car manufacturer in the world, long projected a green image in the US on the basis of the success of their hybrid technology. If you visit a Toyota dealership, you will signage and decorations advertising Toyota’s environmental commitments; its a major part of their branding. However, at the same time they’ve financed anti battery electric vehicle ad campaigns and lobbied against electric vehicles, emissions standards, and fuel economy standards. Recently Danish pension funds that invest in Toyota, certainly interested parties in preventing global warming considering their geographic location, protested those actions to that point that Toyota released a statement indicating they were reconsidering their policies towards electrification. In that case, the Danish investors didn’t take Toyota’s claims at face value. Instead, they used their leverage to try to change Toyota’s practices.

Bruinig’s argument would seem to be that “the left” should act like the Danish institutional investors in treating corporate commitments critically and skeptically. Only in Bruinig’s case, that would seem to amount to Twitter campaigns and social media “likes”. Again, kind of silly.

In reality, I would imagine corporations protesting Republican voter suppression and culture war issues will continue to act in their own perceived interests, regardless of what Twitter thinks. I imagine “the left” will do likewise.

40

Mitchell Freedman 05.02.21 at 11:44 am

John is falling into the trap so many progressives here in the US are falling into. What Biden proposes means nothing if he does nothing to mobilize Americans or goes into states where recalcitrant Senate Dems are, starting with Manchin. The assumption too often made is Manchin, Sinema, and others speak for the majority of people on the issues most dear to progressives, and the majority of Americans. 63% of West Virginians support $15 minimum wage, and Manchin organized the kill of that provision without not only any repercussions, but is now feted with stories about how he is so powerful. This is the latest Democratic Party charade of promising things that don’t get enacted, while Republicans do their best to promote cultural divisions and hatred–and frustration that government is always going to let us down when it is not killing us. Breunig’s counsel of despair is correct, but, as it is behind the wall, I can’t tell if she agrees with me or not that we who are mere individuals should be pressuring the progressives in Congress by withholding our $25 donations and calling them to start to leverage power as Joe Manchin does every day, including refusing to vote for “must-pass” legislation until provisions are added that happen to be what the majority of Americans support. And okay, now, CT Neo-libs and progressives who give aid and comfort to actual inaction, start shooting at me for being naive. :) I know the drill: I’m either counseling despair or naive–and meanwhile, the oligopoly continues to ride herd.

41

Tm 05.02.21 at 4:31 pm

Eagles 39: „ Bruinig’s argument would seem to be that “the left” should … (be)treating corporate commitments critically and skeptically.“

If that indeed were her argument, it’s hard to imagine anybody on the left disagreeing with it. Her actual rhetoric seems to go quite a bit beyond advocating skepticism.

42

LFC 05.02.21 at 5:13 pm

Someone who is interested in a brief account of the history of the British and American discussions (and disagreements) on a second front, the eventual agreement on a North African operation (launched in November 1942), and the way Stalin reacted when Churchill personally brought him the news (in Moscow in August 1942) of that impending operation, might consult Gordon Wright, The Ordeal of Total War, pp. 183ff.

[Spoiler: Stalin, in Wright’s words, “responded with a surprisingly un-Marxian phrase: ‘May God prosper this undertaking.'” (p. 185) Wright doesn’t source this, since he is sparing with the footnotes. It may come from Churchill’s memoirs, but I’m not sure. Anyway, steven t johnson will doubtless dismiss it, but I thought it worth mentioning.]

43

LFC 05.02.21 at 5:20 pm

P.s. Wikipedia has the Stalin quote as “may God help this enterprise to succeed.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscow_Conference_(1942)

44

Stephen 05.02.21 at 5:59 pm

steven t johnson@34 continues to puzzle me. He writers that the “distinction between crony capitalists and the pure in heart competitive free market” is “largely imaginary”. What can that mean? I can see several possible interpretations:

1) Crony capitalists are really pure in heart and operate in a competitive free market.

2) There is mostly no such thing as a competitive free market, only crony capitalism.

3) Free markets and crony capitalism have something very important in common, which transcends any difference between them.

I would be gratified, though surprised, if stj would explain his words.

I would also be grateful if he would stop pretending that my post @7 “condemns Roosevelt for the alliance with Stalin on the grounds that it supported Stalin’s invasion of central Europe.” I wrote nothing to that effect, only that Roosevelt was naive in claiming that Stalin wanted peace and democracy, and could be trusted not to annex anywhere. If svj is honest he must know that. If he doesn’t, he is deluded to the point where he is more to be pitied than blamed.

45

John Quiggin 05.02.21 at 7:37 pm

I’ve put up a new Twigs and Branches post. Please take the side discussion on Stalin there.

46

J-D 05.02.21 at 11:52 pm

John is falling into the trap so many progressives here in the US are falling into. What Biden proposes means nothing if he does nothing to mobilize Americans or goes into states where recalcitrant Senate Dems are, starting with Manchin. … Breunig’s counsel of despair is correct … And okay, now, CT Neo-libs and progressives who give aid and comfort to actual inaction, start shooting at me for being naive. :) I know the drill: I’m either counseling despair or naive–and meanwhile, the oligopoly continues to ride herd.

This last is false. The problem is not that you are counseling despair and also not that you are naïve; the problem is that, far from knowing the drill, you haven’t a clue. That’s not naïveté, it’s sheer obtuseness. Elizabeth Bruenig said nothing about Joe Biden, good or bad, and neither did John Quiggin, and your misspelling of her name is emblematic of your failure to take in anything of what you read.

47

nastywoman 05.03.21 at 12:51 am

‘Please take the side discussion on Stalin there’.

Please – NOOOOOOOOOO!

Let’s talk about the GREAT Karl Marx instead – when he said so famously:
‘Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others’.

48

Tm 05.03.21 at 7:21 am

J-D 46 Well put.

49

nastywoman 05.03.21 at 12:23 pm

@40
– ‘and Manchin organized the kill of that provision without not only any repercussions, but is now feted with stories about how he is so powerful. This is the latest Democratic Party charade of promising things that don’t get enacted’,

and can you – or anybody explain to –
ME?
MOI –
how somebody can write about 1 Manchin –
ONE –
person ‘kill of that provision’- and then add: This is the latest Democratic Party charade of promising things that don’t get enacted’ – while I
MOI –
are interviewing all these children in Miami – which tell me about ALL of the promising things that got ‘enacted’?

Comments on this entry are closed.