Sunday, 27 February 2011


Violence linked to political activism is universal and as old as civilization. Political violence usually comes from groups that represent extreme or ultra-conservative or ultra-left ideological positions. While it may be difficult to defend any sort of violence, including the political variety, it is possible to find transcending moral justification if targeted political violence that may or may not include collateral damage victims is carried out in the name of social justice and it can be demonstrated as such.

For example, was it be morally justifiable for German military officers to attempt to kill Adolph Hitler or Russians plotting to assassinate Joseph Stalin?  In short, there are and should be exceptions to moral absolutes regarding murder if carried out for a higher moral purpose and to advance social justice. On the other hand, was the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi morally defensible merely because a group of people deemed it so, while the vast majority disagreed? The inescapable trappings of moral relativism notwithstanding, rational human thought based on humane and humanist principles with social justice as the ultimate criteria would permit exceptions such as the Hitler and Stalin cases illustrate, at least for the majority given that both the Nazi and Soviet dictators has loyal followers who would object.

This brings us to the question of the USA TEA PARTY and its relationship with political violence, at least the predilection of a segment of its followers toward violence as an acceptable means to solving political problems. According to one public opinion poll, 6% of Republicans and 5% of Democrats feel violence against the government is justified. By contrast, 17% of Tea Party voters stated that Tuscon murderer Jared Lee Loughner was firmly ensconced, 17% between age 18 and 29 approve of violence against the US government, and 13% of all Tea Party age groups.

That 13% of individuals earning $30,000 or less a year believe political violence is justified and that those are mostly under 30 years old is a disturbing trend in the American political arena. In my view the extreme right-wing followers of the Tea Party controlled by a segment of the financial and political elites demonstrates the failure of American democracy to achieve consensus in the center as it has historically.

Sarah Palin and many in leadership and media roles of the Tea Party argue that the biased left and Liberal media portray the activists in this right wing movement as violent, when in fact they are nothing less than real American patriots. Moreover, the Tea Party argues that the center and left activists are the ones advocating violence against 'patriotic Americans' like billionaire Tea Party backers Koch brothers and Justice Clarance Thomas.

Under the cover of free speech, Republican political protection, and funds from billionaires, the Tea Party is shielded from prosecution for hate crimes, simply because the Tea Party is part of the establishment. If a Communist organization or an Islamic group resorted to the same rhetoric as the Tea Party, the authorities would have prosecuted and the courts would have sent people to prison on hate crime and sedition charges. The Tea Party, however, is used by the Republicans and a segment of the financial elites to keep America as far to the right as possible, especially now against the reality of a declining economy, a waning middle class and lower living standards for the vast majority.

What if the Tea Party movement gains legitimacy by winning the White House at some point in the future and evolves into a fascist-type regime? Political movements and political parties, or movements that may evolve into organized parties and eventually regimes (as for example Fascism in Italy) assume characteristics of each country’s unique history, traditions, ideologies (secular and religious), and culture. This is true even if the ideology (eclectic like Fascism or cohesive like Liberalism) has its roots in another country (or countries). Therefore, it is simply not the case that any political movement or party regardless of whether it is right, center or left can be identical with that of another country no matter the common ground they may share in ideology and political orientation. The Tea Party can never be like the Nazi Party, but it can easily develop into a police-state party under certain political, economic, and social conditions.

Differences notwithstanding, there is usually common ground in goals between political movements, parties and regimes in different countries, even though there are nuances in ideology, modalities, and policies. This was the case with interwar political movements, parties, and regimes. The current global crisis has undercut the liberal-bourgeois social order because it has debilitated the middle class, historically the popular base for “democratic” regimes. Moreover, during economic crises political polarization is inevitable, and it is not necessarily the case that people will flock to the traditional center, but a segment of the middle class and workers invariably looks for extreme solutions in ultra-right movements and parties like the Tea Party, just as another segment will gravitate toward the left–more unlikely today owing to the reality that the memories of failed Communist regimes is still fresh. The establishment, however, almost always never gambles with left or centrist political solutions and opts for conservatism, even if that means extreme right wing conservatism like the Tea Party.

This does not mean that the Tea Party movement with the machinery of the Republican party and business funding behind it is identical to the Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Austrian, French, etc. right-wing populist counterparts. European ultra-right wingers draw largely from the inter-war Fascist experience, no matter how they try to sugarcoat that link for obvious reasons. American conservatives reach back to the politics of racism/ethnocentrism (embodying sexism and ultra nationalism), “Christian Identity” (Christian fundamentalism intertwined politics with religion), militia activity, “pure or extreme” libertarianism and anti-statism (the driving force behind the Tea Party), combined with an isolationist (Cold War) ideology (militarism and imperial hegemony).

Both in the case of US and European extreme right wing movements and parties it is the case that they influence national and international politics and their mere presence, no matter how much of a fringe group it may be, tends to impact the entire political landscape. While it is safer to predict that the Tea Party folk have a realistic chance to assume political power, it is difficult to predict if once in power they will move toward the center or more to the right and become like small ultra-right wingers in Europe. It certainly seems that we are headed in the direction of extreme politics that may advocate violence, and if socio-economic conditions do not improve as I doubt they will for the majority, increased sociopolitical polarization is a realistic prediction.

Looking at the issue from a cursory perspective it now seems that the Tea Party people can be as dangerously disruptive to social and political harmony, as well as extremely hostile to social justice in any form than some European right wingers, simply because the former have a realistic chance at capturing political power at the local, state and eventually federal level behind the machinery of the “institutionally respectable” Republican Party.

No comments: