Are “Democratic Socialists” Closet Neoreactionaries?
“The fruits of neo-imperialism may just be neo-isolationism,” Pat Buchanan once facetiously suggested in a 2003 column titled “Are Bush and Rumsfeld Closet Populists?” The crux of his argument was that the Bush administration’s neoconservative foreign policy and defiant embrace of global military interventionism was so at odds with the rest of the world that it might result in the United States being alienated from the international community altogether and forced to reluctantly adopt the kind of isolationist nationalism Buchanan prefers.
The neocons have been mostly discredited and rejected by the American people since then, yet their ideology and its zealots have wormed their way so deep into the US political and media establishment, that neoconservative influence on US foreign policy remains dominant to this day. What brought Buchanan’s obscure column to mind though is the latest ideological craze, “democratic socialism.” It’s been on the rise for quite a while now, as evident by Bernie Sanders’ near win in the 2016 presidential primary. The ascent has continued with the growing popularity of podcasts like Chapo Trap House, as well as the media’s recent gush fest over political newcomers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and (former Sex and the City actress) Cynthia Nixon. The problem with democratic socialism (in the form it’s currently being presented by enthusiasts,) is that the solutions it purports to offer can’t withstand the weight of their own contradictions. Trying to be too many things to too many people in ways which inherently conflict, may put you on the fast track for electoral success and generate a lot of fawning media coverage, but then what? Where will the people that didn’t read the fine print turn when the built-in failure mechanisms are discovered during the activation process?
How can you have a federal job guarantee *and* support practically unlimited immigration from impoverished countries? And what good does it do to implement strict emission controls if you’re going to import so many people that the result will be a net increase in pollution anyway? In contemplating questions like this, one might begin to wonder (but not really) if these DSA types are “closet neoreactionaries,” in the sense that they advocate for “socialist” policies only within contexts which would guarantee said policies’ ineffectiveness (thus subsequently driving people to reluctantly embrace neo-monarchic, corporate fiefdoms.) “Free health care and college education!” but it’s going to be available to every one of the billions of humans on the planet that can manage to simply show up here in our “borderless,” undefined country that exists in name only. Oh, and we’re not allowed to significantly limit immigration from the third world in any substantial way. No physical borders, border patrol, or substantively sovereign nation states, but presumably there will be a distinguishable collective people whom we’re assured these programs are supposed to viably and sustainably benefit.
As Bret Stephens recently wrote in the New York Times:
Today’s social democracy falls apart on the contradiction between advocating nearly unlimited government largess and nearly unlimited immigration. “Abolish ICE” is a proper rallying cry for hard-core libertarians and Davos globalists, not democratic socialists or social democrats. A federal job guarantee is an intriguing idea — assuming the jobs are for some defined “us” that doesn’t include every immigrant, asylum-seeker or undocumented worker.
Trump gets this, as does the far right in Europe, which is why they attract such powerful working-class support. Want to preserve the welfare state? Build a wall — or, in Europe’s case, reinstate border controls. Want more immigrants and amnesty? Lower the minimum wage and abolish the closed shop.
But please choose. It’s one or the other.
“Socialist” ideologies which aim for the dissolution of borders and the elimination of national sovereignty in actuality weaken the federal government’s ability to administer social programs effectively. If there is no authority to differentiate between who is or isn’t a citizen (of where?) and no tangible separation of territory, just whom or what exactly is the federal government presiding over? Is it simply “residents?” One can already envision the financial insolvency and administrative nightmare of this kind of “international airport socialism,” where going to the hospital is like making a trip to a crowded, third world DMV. Such a system would be impossible to manage efficiently, due to the intrinsic lack of organization and ill-defined parameters, rendering a theoretically empowered federal government hapless and functionally impotent. Very few aspiring employees can take advantage of a $15 minimum wage if you cram so many people into a city that there are not enough jobs to go around, and the accompanying demand for housing becomes so high that skyrocketing real estate prices negate any benefits for those lucky enough to land a “living” minimum wage job. Socialists and social democrats like Bernie Sanders used to be fully aware of all this, but they are so averse to being perceived as xenophobic or anti-immigrant, that their stated positions on these issues include a lot of muddled, self-contradictory language and conflicting statements…ultimately revealing themselves to be the product of doublethink.
In such a scenario, multinational corporations become strengthened, because people will feel they have no other alternative but to sign their lives away to Yelp or Amazon or some other corporate cult, which will present as comparably functional institutions. In exchange for being granted the closest thing to stability available, they’ll be inclined to just accept shitty, high deductible health plans that can change on a whim, conditional company housing, and draconian “code of conduct” rules which dictate what employees can do, wear and say on their own time, etc.
That’s the political choice we’re essentially being presented with: overpopulated, third world international airport socialism vs. multinational corporate feudalism. It is probably already too late for any other alternatives you might have in mind. It certainly seems too late for any kind of populist nationalism or to limit mass immigration in any meaningful way at the national level, though I guess pan secessionism and balkanization are distant possibilities (perhaps even inevitabilities.)
Are “democratic socialists” closet neoreactionaries? No, of course not. Are they the useful idiots of neoreaction? That sounds a bit too harsh. One could just as easily argue that many big companies are so greedy that they are actually helping to facilitate the rise of democratic socialism. The way most multinational corporations shamelessly manipulate and exploit their employees, while simultaneously displaying outright contempt for consumers…they certainly aren’t doing themselves any PR favors. Multinational corporations are portable though, and since they have no allegiance to any particular place or country, they are highly adaptable and can remain as elusive as the Black Fortress in Krull.
Ultimately, I think democratic socialists simply represent one half in the next phase of Americans having to hold their noses and choose between systems that don’t represent their interests and which promise things they can’t deliver.