What a welcome surprise to find that young writers are thinking and writing about radical change, and are even–dare I say– agitating for socialism. I just discovered a new journal that demonstrates (once again) the poverty of Liberalism in its many guises. At the same time, it strives to rescue Marxism from ideological and jargon-induced irrelevance. Jacobin is the brainchild (when am I going to have one of those?) of Bhaskar Sunkara who just got a nice write-up in the New York Times.
I checked out their back issues and discovered this gem: “Burn the Constitution”. Seth Ackerman lays bare the ugly (and simple) reality behind what we are so often told is the marvel of human political thought, the American Constitution. In actuality, the Constitution enshrines a system created by a band of landowning white men to guard against “mob rule”.
[They] rendered it virtually impossible for the electorate to obtain a concerted change in national policy by a collective act of political will. The Senate is an undemocratic monstrosity in which 84 percent of the population can be outvoted by the 16 percent living in the smallest states. The passage of legislation requires the simultaneous assent of three separate entities — the presidency, House, and Senate — that voters are purposely denied the opportunity to choose at one time, with two-thirds of the Senate membership left in place after each election.
Not to mention the Amendment process:
[The] entire system is frozen in amber by an amendment process of almost comical complexity. Whereas France can change its constitution anytime with a three-fifths vote of its Congress and Britain could recently mandate a referendum on instant runoff voting by a simple parliamentary majority, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the consent of no less than thirty-nine different legislatures comprising roughly seventy-eight separately elected chambers.
Yes, we should all have remembered this, but what makes Jacobin‘s brand of up-to-date radicalism so compelling is the kind of analysis Ackerman offers next concerning what has happened to thinking about the Constitution more recently. After WW I, when the desire for radical change inspired Europeans to curtail the privileges of elites, American progressives began to challenge the rigidity of the political system here. That, in turn, inspired a backlash which has solidified resistance to change. Presently, we are consumed by Tea Party-inspired Constitution fetishism and what have Liberals done to combat it? In defending the Constitution against Right-wing interpretations, Liberals take it as an article of faith that the document is actually a living document whose meaning is open to constant negotiation. Hogwash, concludes Akerman, the Constitution is little more than a “charter for plutocracy”.
Ackerman’s article (not the Constitution) should be required reading on Sept. 17, Constitution Day, which itself is a Senate invention of very recent vintage (2004). By law, Constitution Day must be recognized by all schools receiving federal funds. Next time SIUE (or any other public university) holds this remembrance it may be worth noting that this is not an outpouring of civic pride but a government mandate.
There is much more to recommend Jacobin as well. Find out for yourself.