FOR MANY YEARS I wondered why the so-called Leftist media in this country, centered most vociferously around publications like The Nation and Harpers, as well as flagships like The New Yorker, Slate, and Salon, never looked or acted very much the way Leftists would be expected to look and act. Their staffs are invariably from affluent backgrounds, and educated at elite institutions; bastions of privilege. Their cultural choices are always of refined gentrified taste and the causes they most care about involve individualistic bourgeois self-indulgence. No one in their ranks is authentically working class, and the working class for them, when not an afterthought, is simply a declared excuse to increase their own power.
Their solutions for every issue involve the creation or expansion of bureaucracy somewhere, with the attendant increased power of bureaucrats.
What exactly is “Left” about this? The leading Leftist theorists from the past century, from Lenin and Trotsky to Georg Lukacs, disdained bureaucracy. The bureaucratic state as we know it was the creation of Bismarck. The most successful builder of state capitalism was the well-known Soviet dictator known as Joseph Stalin. This is the model U.S. media “Leftists” ask us to follow. They’re proponents of a vertical, hierarchical structure. “Power to the people” is the last thing they want.
If such media-member ideologues aren’t really Leftist, then what are they? Based on their similarity to advocates of state bureaucracy last century, on the Right and the Left, one can legitimately describe such folks as totalitarian, albeit one of the milder versions.
This explains, as nothing else explains, their hostility last decade to the working class upstarts of the Underground Literary Alliance. We called for the leveling of hierarchies; for art from the populace upward, not imposed from above. We advocated horizontal participation in culture. This was as anathema to the apparatchiks of U.S. establishment media, as the horizontalists of Solidarity in Poland circa 1981 were to the political bureaucrats controlling their society then. There’s not much difference between the two examples of immovable out-of-touch power.
The struggle of mankind always is the battle of people against power.