Friday, April 4, 2008

What's a Radical?

I use the terms "radical" and "radical left" quite regularly when discussing the antwar left and multicultural racial victimologists.

But what really is a radical?

I offered a couple of definitions in my earlier post, "
No Enemies on the Left? Progressives for Barack Obama." For example, according to Leon Baradat's Political Ideologies:

...a radical may defined as a person who is extremely dissastified with the society as it is and therefore is impatient with less than extreme proposals for changing it. Hence, all radicals favor an immediate and fundamental change in the society. In other words, all radicals favor revolutionary change.
One of the points I've made in the "No Enemies" series is that radicals don't necessarily have to advocate political violence as a means for revolutionary transformation.

Further, I contend that today's "progressive" activists constitute a contemporary radical movement seeking to use the electoral process to achieve a dramatic and fundamental transformation of American political and social institutions. Recall though that the notion of "progressive" has been appropriated by far-left activists in order to make their radical agenda more acceptable):

The term 'progressive' has evolved a great deal over the past 35 years. By the ’70s, many ’60s veterans had concluded that working 'within the system' had become a viable option. As a result, many leftists stopped using rhetoric and slogans that had marginalized them from the political mainstream. Labels like 'radical', 'leftist', and 'revolutionary' sounded stale and gratuitously provocative. And so, gradually, activists began to use the much less threatening 'progressive.' Today, 'progressive' is the term of choice for practically everyone who has a politics that used to be called 'radical.'
Progressives of late prefer electoral mobilization over direct action to bring about radical transformation. For example, the Nation, in writing about the antiwar movement's robust backing of Democratic congressional candidates, indicated an electoral strategy is the most viable option - "barring a draft or a radical turn in public opinion that would once again bring people en masse into the streets" - to bring about a political realignment committed to implementing the left's total surrender agenda in Iraq.

Electoral mobilization to bring about radical left-wing change is also seen in this definition from the folks at
Daily Kos themselves:

The term radical, as applied to political theory and ideology, denotes someone who believes in an ideology or theory that doesn't accept the status quo of society as natural, apolitical, or the way things should be simply by virtue of being the way things are. Virtually all radical ideologies and theories seek to challenge the status quo, to question how things came to be as they are, why they came to be this way, and whose interest things being this way serves.

Most, though not all, radical ideologies and theories also argue that the status quo cannot be fixed by piecemeal reforms and that a more fundamental restructuring of society is necessary to achieve their goals. This may include advocating the armed overthrow of the existing social structure, as in Marxist-Leninism, but often also takes other forms such as many modern socialists who advocate for a democratic means of revolution.
So, according to Daily Kos activists and writers, reforms that might bring about a fundamental restructuring of society - a democratic revolution - can be achieved through "other means."

Now, hardcore opposition to Iraq has been the sine quo non among left blogosphere's main spokespeople, like
Daily Kos, Firedoglake, Glenn Greenwald, and The Impolitic. But radicalism goes beyond opposition to the war to include far left-wing positions on the entire range of major political and social issues facing the country.

Let's lay out the bases of this radicalism.
With apologies to Joe Klein, left wing extremism:

* believes the United States is a fundamentally negative force in the world.
* believes that American imperialism is the primary cause of Islamic radicalism.
* believes the Iraq war was a consequence of America's fundamental imperialistic nature.
* believes capitalism is largely a force for social oppression.
* believes American society is fundamentally racist and unfair.
* believes intractable problems like crime and poverty are primarily the fault of society.
* believes that corporations are fundamentally evil.
* believes religious faith is a source of intolerance, for example, against gays.
This is simply a typology of positions, and logically not all self-professed "progressives" would slide neatly into the rubric.

Many would, however. Indeed, some of the "
aggressive progressives" of the Democratic Party have aligned themselves with the most implacable foes of the Iraq war currently on the scene.

Recall, of course, that
some of these antiwar progressives have formally endorsed Barack Obama's campaign.

See also my introduction to the series, "No Enemies on the Left? Progressives for Barack Obama."


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