Famous political activist Studs Terkel wrote an editorial for the New York Times that is a textbook case of Amerikan nationalism. Responding to the controversy in Congress regarding surveillance of Amerikans, Studs Terkel says, "I hope Congress thinks carefully before denying me, and millions of other Americans, our day in court." (1)
Terkel stated the essential premise of the left-wing of white nationalism very well:
"I always feel uplifted by this: Given the facts and an opportunity to act, the body politic generally does the right thing. By revealing the truth in a public forum, the American people will have the facts to play their historic, heroic role in putting our nation back on the path toward freedom. That is why we deserve our day in court."(1)Terkel has been a so-called labor rights activist.
Terkel buys into a white nationalism with major overlap coming from so-called Marxism that holds that there is a majority proletariat in the united $tates with an intrinsic interest in freedom, especially in its struggles against the ultra-rich. These typical social-democratic white nationalists always point to inequality within the united $tates instead of taking into account global inequality. In fact, the Amerikan population takes into account the global class structure and fights for its petty-bourgeois status.
The typical college-taught fallacy is that the white people of the united $tates express "false consciousness" in not taking on the ultra-rich. If enough graduate school tuition tickets were sold, the Euro-Amerikan so-called workers would know enough to fight the ultra- rich according to the left-wing of white nationalism.
Thus in theory, the case of surveillance of Amerikans offers a political opportunity for struggle, and although we agree with Terkel on a philosophy of struggle, he is struggling for and with the volk and MIM is struggling against it. Terkel is complaining exactly at this moment when a Rockefeller is involved in trying to pass the surveillance law Terkel disapproves of. It could hardly get any clearer than when the corporations want freedom of vigilante action and Rockefeller agrees.
The trouble for Terkel--where is the white worker rebellion for freedom is the perennial question. Even the ACLU has had to admit that 35% of the Amerikan public is for warrantless searches in principle.(2)
It is not a case that struggle brings libertarian clarity for the white workers. The stance of the public on such questions is structural--based in the global class system.
In some localities, the 35% of monarchists are the majority. In many more localities they are the majority depending on the details of a given surveillance case.
The fault for not recognizing this truth lies with Liberals who have bought into the case-by-case approach of the court system. The underlying extent of monarchism does not change via struggle over surveillance cases in court. What can change is the public's knowledge of the details of various cases.
If the case involves someone attractive and white, possibilities increase for freedom. If the case involves suspected terrorists, communists, Islamists and other controversial minorities, the prospects decrease. There are few people who will oppose surveillance of Amerikans in principle.
At the moment, various confused people suspect Terkel is correct, because there are indications that the warrantless surveillance of the Bush administration was disgusting in the details. In fact, via a strictly structural analysis of what is public knowledge so far without knowing the details, we can be pretty sure that the details would not be accepted by an Amerikan majority.
On the one hand, Reagan and Bush Sr. attorney generals are arguing that the Fourth Amendment protects against "unreasonable" searches, which means that "reasonable" ones are allowed. At the same time, the same people are telling Congress that surveillance lawsuits could bankrupt the telecommunications companies.(3) That is a contradiction in the argument of people supporting the surveillance. Apparently the details are so disgusting--not "reasonable"--that juries would send these companies into bankruptcy. This combination of arguments is a hint to the intelligent that without even knowing the details we can figure out that the story is not quite straight.
Now here is the rub. If court cases go forward and they lose, because Amerikan juries decided law-abiding Islamists, terrorists etc. should have surveillance on them, then that is a loss for civil liberties. The problem is that the exact opposite outcome is also not an advance for civil liberties.
Supposing that a civil liberties suit went forward and bankrupted all the major telecommunications companies except the one that actually abided by the law, and supposing the details were so disgusting that the Amerikan public rallied against this surveillance, then that would put the fear of god into the telecommunications companies it is true. The net result would be to rebuff extreme vigilante politics.
When it was all over, in the best-case scenario of a total blowout in court and a mass media blitz against the perpetrators of the surveillance, the conclusion would be similar to what happened to other corrupt corporations. It would go down as another case of Enron and the ineptitude of a few lawyers, plus Bush and Cheney. There would be no change of underlying opinions regarding surveillance in principle.
There is a big difference in opposing legal "ineptitude" or above- average political and corporate corruption and taking the stand of the proletariat needing freedom. The petty-bourgeoisie opposes ineptitude and backfiring corruption on the part of its imperialist leaders, because the petty-bourgeoisie opposes disruption of the gravy train.
In the Iraq War, the situation is the same. From the beginning, one- third opposed the war. One third bought Rumsfeld's assurances, and one third will apparently support any war that U.$. leaders can come up with, regardless of various detail considerations. The middle one- third is centered on questions of ineptitude and the one-third really opposing the war is disproportionately composed of oppressed nationalities. With time, U.$. opinion of the Iraq War shifted, because more details became known and the middle third concluded the war was "inept." To this day, Kucinich is the presidential candidate with the second-highest negative rating, so there is no real major lesson learned from the Iraq War. The reason is that the "ineptitude" and "corruption" outlets reflect the interests of the petty-bourgeoisie. These channels prevent the petty-bourgeoisie from ever overstepping the bounds of the imperialist alliance. If need be, the imperialists can trot out and say, "yes, that Enron was way out of bounds." That will be the end of the discussion. There is no advance in underlying opinions from political struggle, just proof that Iraqi insurgents are not as inept as the Amerikan public would have assumed.
Real Marxists look out for the interests of the proletariat. If there is no proletariat to rally, we do not lie to ourselves or keep watering down our stance in order to appease a majority. We can accept being in a minority and work with the cards History has dealt us.
Terkel is correct that in all likelihood the people under surveillance are not corporate executives at the telecommunications companies, so this plays out once again as corporations against whatever slight political yeast there might be in U.$. society. Perhaps the Congress should offer the telecommunications companies a settlement on behalf of the Amerikan people. The companies should pay fines sufficient to pay for settlements to be paid by the federal government. Law-abiding terrorists, Islamists etc. should receive settlement money, less than the total fines so that the entire public also receives a tax rebate on the next income tax. This will not restore civil liberties, but it will put the monetary fear of god into vigilantes while not opening the state secrets can of worms. If signed into law, it would be the Congress and executive branch taking responsibility together in order to keep that state secrets can of worms shut. MIM does not believe that going public with this sort of material would really change much underlying public opinion, even if a few Enrons bit the dust. The most we can say in agreeing with Terkel is that there must be some way to give vigilantes reason to think twice.