'The superstructures of civil society are like the trench systems of modern warfare"
Over ten years ago, in the middle of the last cycle of 'Culture Wars' in the US (anyone remember the wholesale assault on 'political correctness'?) Rush Limbaugh wrote a book called See, I Told You So in which he made the by-now hackneyed - yet incredibly successful - argument that the Left had, since the 1960s, successfully staged a take-over of the cultural landscape and its key institutions and that the Right had to fight back and recover them. More interesting than the argument itself - clearly the Right took his words and prescriptions to heart - was his quoting of Gramsci. Yes, as in Antonio.
Surprised? It's even more fun to quote him directly:
[I]n the early 1900s, an obscure Italian communist by the name of Antonio Gramsci theorized that it would take a 'long march through the institutions' before socialism and relativism would be victorious...Gramsci theorized that by capturing these key institutions and using their power, cultural values would be changed, traditional morals would be broken down, and the stage would be set for the political and economic power of the West to fall (p.87).
Apparently, the 'sixties gang' - "a relatively small, angry group of American radicals" took this to heart and with a missionary zeal (which the Right wouldn't know anything about) gradually masterminded the hijacking take-over of America . They did this one PBS show at a time, until they were finally "firmly entrenched in all of the key cultural institutions that are so influential in setting the agenda and establishing the rules of debate in a free society". Some of them even "bullied their way into academia" - how prescient, when we think about the witch-hunt being conducted against the likes of Ward Churchill and Joseph Massad who are now presumably to be made to pay for "bullying" their way into positions from whence they could take over 'hearts and minds'. All of this is ironic, of course, given that whatever 'bullying' has ever been evident over the last few years, has been from the Right. The Right, according to Limbaugh, had ceded the cultural front to the Left, naively concentrating on the political front.
As we saw during the 1980s, we can elect good people to high office and still lose ground in the Culture War. And, as we saw in 1992, the more ground we lose in the Culture War, the harder it is to win electoral victories. What we need to do is fight to reclaim and redeem our cultural institutions with all the intensity and enthusiasm that we use to fight to redeem our political institutions.
He forgot to mention all the chicanery as well; that sure came in useful in 2000! A strategy as successful as that must be applied everywhere - which is why we witness the underhanded and aggressive crusade against the 'Leftist hordes' once the terrorist attacks of September 11th created the opportunity.
The McCarthyism on display within US academia has a history which is well worth revisiting, as is the self-conscious, well-considered, well-planned and executed strategy behind it. Indeed we are living through a Gramscian historical conjuncture par excellance . The last decade has been a time of the regrouping of the forces of the Right and the launch of a full-scale take-over of U.S. academia; the 'War on Terror' proved to be a God-send for the likes of Lynne Cheney and Joseph Lieberman and their posse of watchdogs, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni [ACTA]. The latter's report Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America, And What Can Be Done About It contained, among other things, a blacklist of 40 academics.
As the submissions to this issue attest, the Right has strategically and cynically used the discourse of liberalism itself, claiming that the 'liberal bias' in these institutions needed to be corrected. 1 Chi-Ming's article demonstrates the assault on liberalism and the Left has been staged especially cogently within cultural institutions, particularly the media and academia. In 1995 Lynne Cheney had said that
[t]he main threat to academic freedom today is from political intolerance on campus. Alumni and trustees must make sure our colleges and universities remain forums for open debate. They want to support their colleges, but they are often shut out of discussion. This organization will serve as a voice for interested and concerned alums. 2
ACTA's stated mission is to "help meet the challenges facing higher education - from political intolerance and speech codes to declining academic standards..." and to "challenge policies and practices that threaten academic freedom and excellence". The Right has appropriated the discourse of victim-hood, arguing that the rabid leftists on campuses silence those whose ideas contradict their own. One ACTA official was quoted as saying that it "was hard for non-tenured professors [who support current policies] to speak up" in the current environment. In light of what academics - tenured and untenured - who dare to hold views contradicting the official establishment line have gone through in the post- 9/11 period, this statement is obscene.
Aside from critiquing the content of university education, ACTA has also used financial clout to shift the balance of power in favour of the Right. By the end of 2001, it was already "the largest private source of support for higher education". 3 Bill Berkowitz has written that "large donors are frequently advised by ACTA staff as to what kind of influence their money can buy over courses and departments at colleges and universities." 4
The Right has also insidiously taken over administrations and Boards of Trustees of public universities across the country. The typical pattern has been for conservative Republican governors to appoint trustees to the highly influential Boards who are their "political proxies" and are supported by the National Association of Scholars and ACTA - "groups that oppose affirmative action and multicultural studies". 5 It should come as no surprise that Florida 's state university system was one of the early experiments in this grand plan. Jeb Bush replaced the existing Board of Regents which had governed the system with independent Boards of Trustees at each university. The orientation sessions for the new trustees were organized by ACTA; Anne Neal, a co-author of the ACTA report was one of the main speakers. A glance at the details of the drama which unfolded at the University of Colorado at Boulder around Ward Churchill show the same strategy at work in Colorado. The Governor of Colorado was in the vanguard of the witch-hunt against Churchill, using the controversy as a justification for dismantling the tenure system and making it subject to overview by non-academic review boards.
Note that while everyone and their grandmother was focused - and rightfully so - on the case of Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado at Boulder fired another ethnic studies professor, Adrienne Anderson. Anderson was actually a professor of Environmental and Ethnic Studies at UC Boulder and the Western Director of the National Toxics Campaign - a network of community watchdog groups - and a corporate whistleblower. 6 The American Right today consists of a fortuitous coming together of the Religious Right and the Neo-cons. And it is not just the moral outrage of the former which guides action on university campuses. Just as the War on Terror resulted in the loss of civil liberties and specifically the right to dissent - one of the first places where the new political environment was on display after 9/11 was the meeting of the Economic Forum in NYC in October 2001.
The Right has also been flexing its muscles on campuses when it comes to student activism. In 2003 UC Berkeley - a campus that has become synonymous with principled dissent in the popular imagination - harassed student activists, threatening them with expulsion and more. 7 [this is of course in addition to the retaliation against student anti-globalisation and anti-war organizations and demonstrations across the board]. This year anti-recruitment student activists are being targeted wholesale on campuses across the country just as the anti-recruitment campaign has begun to spread. From the University of California campuses to City College , New York, anti-recruitment activists are being arrested and threatened with retaliation by their administrations who have colluded fully with the police. At City College, 3 students were arrested and assaulted 8 on March 9, 2005 for protesting the presence of military recruiters at the College's 'career fair'. One more undergraduate was suspended for 'posing a continuing danger' and barred from setting foot on campus, and a staff member also arrested in connection with the protest.
In California, a number of initiatives are underway as part of the governor's plan to 'reform' education in the state. One such bill is California Senate Bill SB 337 sponsored by republican senator Maldonado which aims to punish any student involved in acts of civil disobedience. It would require the governing board of a community college district and the Trustees of the California State University and the Regents of the University of California to immediately dismiss, from any institution within their jurisdiction, any student found involved in such acts, especially if they fail to disperse when ordered by the police, and if they 'assault' a police officer. 9 By centralizing the decision-making, the Bill would effectively take away any and all discretionary power from the individual college or university in the California system. 10 Not that individual colleges and universities have shown any inclination to side with their students against the powers that be. If anything, they have largely been tripping over themselves on answer the call of duty and deliver dissenting students into the hands of 'the law'. Pretty amazing for a country which (rightfully) decried the Chinese government's actions in Tiananmen Square ! (But then why open that Pandora's box?)
Assaults on students will inevitably be facilitated by the successful passing of [check] bill AB 992, due to be voted on Tuesday April 19th. It will authorize the University of California police to wiretap student phones - actually, all communications including on cellular phones - without asking permission of the local police or citing any compelling reason to place a wiretap on a specific phone. And on and on and on.
We see this strategy of a gradual yet comprehensive takeover being deployed across the board on U.S. campuses, by the American Right, but also Zionists, and increasingly the Hindu Right. In fact, the shameless Islamophobia of the Neo-Cons and their pals on the Religious Right has enabled extremely fruitful alliances in the post 9/11 climate. In the last issue of Ghadar, we explored the emerging 'axis of evil' between these three forces in the political field, manifested in the "Democracies Against Terror" initiative. We also began to chart out the ways in which this common agenda was being played out within academia - the common ground which USINPAC found with AIPAC on HR 3077 (a bill still pending) which was the next stage of the neo-con strategy of policing 'Left-wing' academics and 'reforming' the content of Title VI programs11 , especially Middle East Studies.
In this issue we map the contours of this emerging attempt to secure hegemony - a war of position which includes the strategy of frontal attack in the political sphere as well as the more gradual yet relentless usurpation of the crucial cultural institutions of the media and academia. The dialect of consent and coercion crucial to the construction of a successful hegemony is evident in the strategy of the Right as well - 'moral' persuasion and the 'manufacture of consent' is combined with a strategy of intimidation. The iron hand is well camouflaged in its velvet glove: in academia this has included attempts at policing and tightly controlling what students get taught or the information they have access to, especially in the history and politics of the Middle East (and, if the soft and hard forces of Hindutva have their way, South Asia - and specifically India - studies). The partnership of coercion and consent is represented in the range of threats from character-assassination, to the reversal of the security guaranteed by tenure: the very things which guarantee that the right to free speech is a substantive and not merely a formal one. It also means a conscious and well-planned policy of intimidation in the classroom, of the sort that the Zionist lobby has perfected - the report of the Columbia University committee verified the hostile classroom environment in which professors like Joseph Mossad are forced to teach. This case especially is the result of actors who are not registered students; they are, effectively, members of the Zionist goon squad. This goon squad heckles any attempt at letting the voice of the Palestinians be heard in an environment completely controlled and defined by Zionist propaganda.
Ideologues such as Daniel Pipes and Ann Coulter - whose speech is illiberal beyond belief and who advocate everything from mass-conversion of Muslims to their wholesale internment in concentration camps - are invited to speak on college and university campuses and this invitation protected and justified by 'free speech' statutes. The Hindu Right is fast catching on, with a little help from friends within the university - and so a Ram Madhav is given respectability - nay, honoured - by being given a platform from which to speak to people who are simply in the market for 'more information' about the RSS. And RSS goon-squads feel free to intimidate and threaten participants within the audience and demonstrators who dare to speak truth to power and unmask the true face of this mouthpiece for a party responsible for the largest pogrom against Muslims in 'secular' and 'democratic' India's history. And all, as our submissions in this issue show, in the name of 'free speech'.
We would like to end by pointing out another thread which runs through all the contributions to this issue of Ghadar: the role - implicit and explicit, direct and indirect - of liberals in all of this. Not only are the limits of liberalism - as a (capitalist) political and philosophical creed - increasingly obvious in today's trenches, but the active complicity and collusion of liberals with the forces of darkness constantly reveals its true face. Far from a progressive ideology, it is the soft face of imperialism and thus far more dangerous than the crude bluster of the Rush Limbaughs and the Daniel Pipes or indeed the Ram Madhavs. Instead, we need to beware the legions of 'liberals' who refused to support Ward Churchill, or did so only perfunctorily, the Sunil Khilnanis and Francine Frankels who supported Ram Madhav's 'right' to speak in the interests of presenting a 'balanced point of view' of his fascist party's ideology and actions, the Rajeev Malhotras who want to 'reform' South Asia Studies in order to present a more 'positive' view of India.
We need to take Gramsci back from those twin forces of darkness - neoliberal globalization and the War on Terror - and the true Axis of Evil that is Zionism, Hindutva and Neo-Conservatism. We consider it our responsibility as an eZine for the desi Left, to document and incite resistance against this multi-headed hydra. Consider this a call to arms, comrades.
Revolución, and Laal Salaam.
Faculty Members See Bill as 'Grave Threat' to Freedom:
This Modern World: The vast left-wing conspiracy: Tom Tomorrow:
Manufacturing the Homeland Security Campus and Cadre
- Fox News Channel's use of the tagline 'Fair and Balanced' is thus not an isolated example of unabashed spin but part of a larger strategy.
- Cited by Bill Berkowitz in his article "Lynne Cheney's campus crusade". 11/19/01 . <www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?itemId=12355>. Accessed 4/21/2005 , 8:16 pm
- From the ACTA web site; cited by Berkowitz.
- Annette Fuentes, "Trustees of the Rights Agenda", The Nation, October 5, 1998. http: //members.aol.com/digasa/stats24.htm
- In 1997 Anderson filed a federal lawsuit against a plan to mix plutonium waste with sewer sludge to be processed into fertilizer for use on domestic farms. <Colorado.indymedia.org/feature/display/10153/index.php>
For a review of Anderson 's work, see www.alternativeradio.org/speakers/ANDA.shtml
- Hospital records from Mount Sinai stated that two of them had suffered multiple contusions and postconcussion syndrome.
- Under our current Orwellian system, so much as putting a finger on, or spitting at a police officer, or resisting arrest can be considered 'assault'. This change in what 'assaulting a police officer' means has resulted in this charge being used increasingly in the last few years to arrest those engaged in civil disobedience.
- For complete wording of the Bill, see www.aroundthecapitol.com/bills/SB_337/ . For more information on this issue, see californiaaggie.ucdavis.edu/article/?id=8465 and www.city.davis.ca.us/meetings/councilpackets/20050412/05M_SB337_Expel_Rioting_Students.pdf