The Center Crumbles; the Right Grows

Ironically, the American Left has pined for the collapse of the Center, assuming that the outcome would be more progressive. But as the Center now crumbles, the result seems more likely to be a lurching toward an irrational Right under corporate dominance, writes Danny Schechter.

By Danny Schechter

Sometimes, we have to turn to our poets for real insight into our current global condition. It was back in 1919 in the aftermath of World War I, that Irish wordsmith William Butler Yeats put pen to paper and came up with “The Second Coming,” verses that have stood the test of time.

Yeats was born the year the American Civil War ended in 1865 and died in 1939, the year World War II began.

Noam Chomsky, one of America's leading thinkers on the Left. (Photo credit: Duncan Rawlinson)

His most famous lines:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;   

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;   

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,   

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;   

The best lack all conviction, while the worst   

 Are full of passionate intensity

I am not so categorical about putting down “passionate intensity,” but it is certainly true, as every reader of every newspaper knows, the political center (or Centre in its Anglicized spelling) cannot hold and is not holding.

As a result, we see more volatility leading to instability, along with new stirrings on both the Right and the Left as the global economy weakens and many nations find themselves saddled with acrimony, debt, disillusion and decline. There is virtually no consensus on solutions.

Perhaps because of the entanglements and interdependency fostered by globalization, governments, right, left and center, don’t seem able to solve their economic crises or governance responsibilities. You see it everywhere as political schisms, irrespective of ideology, degenerate into canyons of disbelief and invective. Both socialist and capitalist governments are broken by endless dickering with patching efforts underway that seem to only lead to more crises, not the end of crisis.

Two recent developments point to issues that almost every country faces, including my own United States, where stalemate and polarization are the order of the day, or should I say, the disorder of the day?

Consider China. The New York Times reports fear and loathing as debates emerge, first in private and then in public: “the private gatherings are a telling indicator of how even some in the elite are worried about the course the Communist Party is charting for China’s future.

“And to advocates of political change, they offer hope that influential party members support the idea that tomorrow’s China should give citizens more power to choose their leaders and seek redress for grievances, two longtime complaints about the current system.”

Now, turn to, Israel, where for all its talk of a united people, disunity reigns:

“JERUSALEM, The broadest unity coalition Israel has seen in many years broke apart Tuesday evening, rent by irreconcilable differences over how to integrate ultra-Orthodox men and Arab citizens into the military and civilian service, a fundamental question for the future of the Jewish democracy.

“After stunning the political establishment with a secret, late-night deal in May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz, the leader of the centrist Kadima Party, failed to achieve their top priority and agreed to part ways.” In Hollywood, this is known as “irreconcilable differences”

One reason may be that the people who often appear to be in charge are, in fact, not. Elected officials are, in many cases, in office but not in power. They have ceded power to military interests such as Israel’s “War Cabinet” or America’s Pentagon or the lobbyists for economic power structures in Wall Street, the City in London or parallel financial centers in every country.

Central banks and international agencies like the IMF seem to be governing by default. Misgoverning may be a better word for it, according to top former IMF economist who just resigned and slammed the Fund for incompetence.

The Guardian reports, “In a resignation letter to the IMF’s board and senior staff, dated June 18, Peter Doyle said the IMF’s failures in issuing timely warnings for both the 2007-2009 global financial crisis and the euro zone crisis were a ‘failing in the first order’ and ‘are, if anything, becoming more deeply entrenched.’”

Everyone knows that Iran’s Supreme Ruler is the ultimate power broker in the Islamic Republic but unknown, even invisible, “supreme” forces run other countries while hiding their existence. In the U.S., the unelected “Supreme Court” majority more or less has a right-wing agenda. They selected George Bush as the country’s President in 2000 and then imposed through the Citizens United decision a way that corporations and the wealthy can use their money to dominate our politics. These “Supremes” don’t just review laws; they make them.

There are conflicts and structural weaknesses within nations and between nations that undermine a social stability also insuring that the Center cannot hold. Top-down consensus-based liberalism of the technocratic variety has become more volatile. Third World analysts like Samin Amin have been arguing the Center is not holding, writing: “The world economy (of historical capitalism) moves from disequilibrium to disequilibrium through changes in the balance of power between classes and nations.”

Deep internal conflicts have destabilized the system even as new forces and protest movements emerge to challenge it. MIT’s Noam Chomsky also warns explicitly that the Center cannot hold, but focuses on the victims of its collapse. He writes:

“There are poignant studies of the indignation and the rage of those who have been cast aside as the state-corporate programs of financialization and deindustrialization have closed plants and destroyed families and communities. These studies reveal the sense of acute betrayal on the part of working people who believed they had a fulfilled their duty to society in what they regard as a moral compact with business and government, only to discover that they had only been instruments for profit and power, truisms from which they had been carefully shielded by doctrinal institutions.”

Chomsky fears that growing political resentment will lead to escapes into unreason, feeding the rise of the Right, something we are seeing in the U.S. and parts of Europe. “This is one possible outcome of collapse of the center,” he writes.  He then calls for a renewal of “the radical imagination.”  Says Chomsky: “The center is clearly not holding, and those who are harmed are once again shooting themselves in the foot.”

Interesting that a Left, which has battled the Center for all these years, seems to bemoan its disintegration but for a reason. Those on the Left see a corrosion of formal democracy with corporations and financial institutions increasingly making key decisions with even less transparency and responsiveness to the public. They also recognize that there is less and less countervailing power with the unions weakened but still hoping to reform systems increasingly resistant to reform.

Activists like the Occupy Movement aspire to speak for the 99 percent but do not seem strong enough or organized enough to do so.

There are cycles of history, just as there are business cycles. Marx once wrote that events happen, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” We seem to still be in the tragic phase.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at His latest books are Occupy: Dissecting Occupy Wall Street and Blogothon (Cosimo Books) He hosts a show on Progressive Radio Network. ( A version of this essay first appeared on to [email protected]


8 comments for “The Center Crumbles; the Right Grows

  1. Sidney18511
    July 29, 2012 at 18:08

    So what you are saying….is that land that does not belong to Israel’ and is taken by force is okay dokey because it works to Israel’s advantage. The most important thing is the happiness of israel, and their needs are met. Why don’t they use some birth control instead of breeding like rabbits.

  2. delia ruhe
    July 25, 2012 at 20:51

    The tragedy of the Left is its obsession with purity. Calls for embracing racial, religious, sexual, and gender diversity emanate from the Left, but diversity OF the Left is rarely tolerated. Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore may occupy positions distant from each other, but they are both on the Left and they are both forces for good in the world. What they have in common is all kinds of critics on the Left who just cannot deal with a leftism that is different from theirs.

    It’s one thing to debate differing positions on the Left, and quite another to destroy each other over those differences. It decimated the women’s movement — twice: once in the early 20th century, and again in the 1990s. And it has been a sad sight to watch it decimate the Left more generally.

    • July 27, 2012 at 09:54

      Right on! Of course wealthy right wing groups (or gov. agencies) can and do push $ and work to particularly disruptive voices on the left.

  3. elmerfudzie
    July 25, 2012 at 10:58

    Noam! every time I read an article associated with your name, there’s an Oxford English dictionary in my lap. Yeats? whoa! there’s a fusty reference, even so, still relevant. I beg to differ with the analysis about the “center”, what tripe! Blue collar workers never trusted or had a moral pact with business or government, both institutions proved to not only work against the peoples interests but their own! All those wasted hours debating everything from personnel policies to organized labor contract language, all went up in smoke because workers forgot an essential (Marxian) premiss; that who ever owned the means of production, in the end, held all the power. The means of production meant much more than just corporate property and finished products. It was one of the supporting legs of our very national sovereignty. The whole management-labor culture was so hopeless, even the top union echelons proved to be corrupt, and the rank-and-file members failed to sufficiently help their brothers and sisters (UAW’s failure to underwrite the John Deere strike) or again, corruption such as the Teamsters connection with the mob, and there were many others; “company” unions, special protections for scabs- PATCO vs Reagan, picket-lines and strikes ruled out “in the interest of national security” …on and on and on. However the interests of National Security were never exhaustively argued by our government or the business community when the Tool & Die industry left the USA for the “arm pits” of this world. Feeble attempts such as CO-OP’s and similar type employee owned businesses could not compete with finance capitals thrust to globalize both the manufacturing and service sectors.

  4. July 24, 2012 at 15:55

    All very well said, Mr. Schechter, but also recognize that most people have not been educated about social movements, about popular struggle, about the victories of the past that have been won against determined industrialists and the establishment. The public will not receive from the media or the major party politicians the very knowledge and tools needed to dismantle and re-construct the system to meet the needs of the public. We need Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti, Noam Chomsky, Paul Street, Vijay Prashad, Cornel West, Chris Hedges, Emma Goldman, Dorothy Day, Danny Schechter, David Swanson, Paul Loeb, Arundhati Roy, Cindy Sheehan, John Nichols, Robert McChesney, Barbara Ehrenreich, Glen Ford, Glenn Greenwald, John Pilger, Bob Parry, Tom Engelhardt, Naomi Klein, and so many others who are less well known to help us understand the beast. We should all be reading, debating, discussing–these interpersonal skills and intellectual capacities also take time to develop, something that public education has not emphasized. And we should all be occupying, forming coalitions, learning, questioning, agitating, locking arms, supporting free/open/independent media. Most people seem to lack critical media literacy that is needed so badly in our time.

    • F. G. Sanford
      July 24, 2012 at 17:03

      The people you name are all appropriate candidates for cabinet positions, Presidential Advisory Boards, task force initiatives, ambassadorships, etc. The fact that none of them are EVER chosen should serve not just as an indictment of hidden motives. It should reveal who’s pulling the levers behind the curtain in the Land of Oz. It should reveal whose interests are being served. In legal parlance, “The thing speaks for itself”. There is nothing altruistic about the motives behind those choices, but to a misinformed or completely uninformed public, one “expert” is as good as the next. I would add economist Richard Wolff, but you’ve got a pretty good list. Many current cabinet members are living proof this isn’t a meritocracy.

    • bluepilgrim
      July 29, 2012 at 06:42

      I went looking for more information on ‘deep politics’ (a term coined by Peter Dale Scott), and found some from the deep politics conference in 2010 on Vimeo (google lists them on ‘deep politics’ in their video search section).
      Good stuff!

      There is also a ‘deeper politics’, which covers not just the hidden agendas of the oligarchs, but the sociology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience of the human species, and the systems analysis of all that. We might be a species with a genetic ‘fatal flaw’ bound to end up in a self-defeating local optimization and self-destruction — unless we can develop our conscousness and science to where we can think our way out of the collapse of civilization and the environment, now in progress. But deep politics is something we should be studying.

      P.S. — add Michael Parenti and Bob Altmeyer (his book The Authoritarians is free on line) to the list of people to listen to (and I concur Rick Wolff is on the list). There are a fair number of them, and accessing the web sites, videos, and such of those listed will lead to others — if people take the time to follow up and search further.

  5. July 24, 2012 at 15:11

    Mr. Schechter!
    I’m curious to know what you think about the parallels between OWS and the movements of 1968, what lessons have been learned, what elements or concerns are missing, etc.

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