The Real News Network has started a series of interviews with Ralph Nader with the video McCarthyism Made Us Veer Away From a Systemic Doctrine for Change – Ralph Nader on RAI (1/3) .
NADER: Well, it’s really amazing that one senator, Senator Joseph McCarthy, who defeated La Follette in Wisconsin on the grounds that he wasn’t liberal enough, rather, that La Follette was not liberal enough. Joe McCarthy, it was like a reign of terror. He’s scared people. He intimidated people. He ruined people’s careers through his highly publicized congressional hearings, his wild accusations anonymously against people in the federal government.
But, you know, it spilled over. I mean, there were students at university, college, they didn’t want to show up at what they thought were activist symposiums. They didn’t want to do any marching. They just–they figured, you know, they’d be stigmatized as soft on communism or, you know, reds.
And the overall impact was–on the progressives and liberals was it made them veer away from any kind of systemic public philosophy to change things for the better. So they just became very empirical. They’ll try to get a labor union organized or try to get better working conditions or something like that because they didn’t want to be accused of isms, you know, like socialism or communism. And the other side was, of course, they were all about capitalism.
So just amazing effect, Joe McCarthy and his acolytes, not just on civil liberties, but on the whole mindset of people.
JAY: And how did it affect your mindset?
NADER: Well, it affected it in the sense that you didn’t come forth with any doctrine of social change, because if you had any kind of coherent doctrine or platform, they would label it as a ism. You know, it would be socialism or any kind–syndicalism. You know? So we became very empirical. You know, we went after the auto companies’ unsafe cars. No ism there. People are being killed every day, injured because of unsafe cars, lack of seatbelts and padded dash panels.
And that has affected the left all the way to the present day, whereas the right wing, they’ve got this capitalism–although, you know, it’s–corporate capitalism is the antithesis of capitalism. I mean, owners of corporations, they have no control, the shareholders have no control over General Electric or IBM or General Motors.
So it really had an amazing impact. As a result, there were no big thinkers on the left the way the right wing had Friedrich Hayek, even though they distorted what a lot of–Ludwig von Mises and so forth.
And I thought that the lack of big thinkers on the left was a recent phenomenon. Maybe it is just that after the left stopped thinking big, it took the Republicans a lot of time to catch up and surpass the left in big ideas.
I am beginning to appreciate Ralph Nader more and more. I just didn’t believe him in what he said about Al Gore in 2000, but I am finally coming around to seeing what I didn’t see then. After reading Chris Hedges’ complaint that Nader is being shut out by the press these days, I am glad to see The Real News Network have him on.
My apologies to ChuckS for my defense of Al Gore when Chuck tried to explain Ralph Nader’s value to me.
See the other parts of this interview at my blog posts –
Are Nader-Like Reforms Still Possible? – Ralph Nader on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3).
On Florida in 2000 and What to Do Next – Ralph Nader on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)