Ron Paul: Slings and Arrows, Left and Right

Ron Paul’s simultaneous reenactment of the Goldwater and McCarthy (Eugene, not Joe) campaigns has excited a wave of enthusiasm on both sides of the political spectrum – and also a much less enthusiastic reaction from committed ideologues, left and right. While they come at the Paul campaign from different angles, both wind up with surprisingly similar negative analyses of the Paulian phenomenon, more so than you might imagine.

Let’s take the lefties first, starting with one Sherry Wolf, who, we are told, is an editor of the International Socialist Review. Writing in Counterpunch, she starts out her polemic by acknowledging the utter lack of any alternative to the object of her intense irritation:

“‘Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum,’ goes the revamped aphorism. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul’s surprising stature among a small but vocal layer of antiwar activists and leftist bloggers appears to bear this out.”

By way of understanding the full implications of this statement, perhaps you ought to know that the International Socialist Review, where Ms. Wolf serves on the editorial board, is the quarterly theoretical journal of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), the largest Trotskyist organization in the US, associated with the “Third Camp” views of the late Tony Cliff. Last time around the ISO supported Ralph Nader for President, attracting much criticism from its more orthodox Trotskyist competitors: I remember going to a Nader rally at Mission High School in San Francisco at which Nader attacked the idea of state socialism, much to the embarrassment of the ISO, which provided the organizational muscle for the Nader campaign in Northern California – and their embarrassment must be even greater this time around, when there is no “progressive” candidate on the ballot or likely to appear on any ballot, and Nader is saying good things about … Ron Paul! (at around 4:40 minutes into this Youtubed “Hardball”clip).

Panic! What to do?! Well, Ms. Wolf complains, at length, that Ron isn’t a socialist, which seems to me a rather useless pursuit. After all, neither is Nader. If they want a socialist, then why not run their own candidate, like the Socialist Workers Party used to do? Oh, no, they can’t be bothered. Instead, they recycle the smears initially hurled at Paul by the neocons: he’s a “racist,” albeit Wolf’s rationale is even loopier than that dreamt up by Ron’s opponents on the Right. Paul is a racist, you see, because he “imagines a colorblind world” – as did Martin Luther King, and the entire integrationist tradition of the civil rights movement, oh, but never mind. Aside from citing quotes that were not written by Rep. Paul, and were instead authored by a fired aide, Wolf can’t do any better than that. This is a lot like the Clintonians implying that Barack Obama may have been a drug dealer. One can’t help wondering, if, perhaps, the ISO is secretly supporting Hillary – or else, why the effort to wall off the left from Paul with this ridiculous smear of “racism”? Who benefits from that? Clearly, the Democrats ….

Wolf decries Paul’s opposition to a policy of open borders, and yet Nader took almost the same position as Paul: he opposes illegal immigration, and pledged to reduce it last time around. In an interview with Pat Buchanan published in The American Conservative, when asked about the growth of the US population to 400 million in the near future, Nader said

“We don’t have the absorptive capacity for that many people. Over 32 million came in, in the ’90s, which is the highest in American history. We have to control our immigration. We have to limit the number of people who come into this country illegally. First of all, we have to say what is the impact on African-Americans and Hispanic Americans in this country in terms of wages of our present stance on immigration? It is a wage-depressing policy.”

The hypocrisy of the ISO attack on Paul is breathtaking.

Like the neocons, Wolf attacks Paul for supposedly being one of those dreaded “isolationists.” Does she realize that this is a code-word for anti-war and anti-imperialist? Of course she does, yet she cynically avers: “In the isolationist fashion of the nation’s Pat Buchanans, he decries intervention in foreign nation’s affairs and believes membership in the United Nations undermines U.S. sovereignty.” Such a sentence, dripping with contempt for Paul’s “no entangling alliances” keep-us-out-of-war stance, might easily have appeared in the Weekly Standard, or National Review. Out of the United Nations?! Oh, heavens-to-Betsy, then how would the Security Council enforce all those delightful sanctions against Iran, and threaten to unleash the armed might of the West if Tehran doesn’t bow to the Council’s demands? Of course, this is par for the course for the ISO, whose British predecessors, the Cliff-ite Socialist Review faction, refused to condemn the US invasion of Korea, which was sanctioned, you’ll recall, by the UN and fought under “international” auspices.

The ISO is so f*cking clueless, that I have a hard time taking Wolf’s polemic seriously: it is so obviously the result of pure political calculation, and sheer panic, that one has to wonder if they take it seriously. I have to say, however, that they just don’t get it. They don’t understand Ron’s appeal to the left, aside and apart from his unrelenting opposition to US intervention abroad. They think they can gull the left if they bring up his economic views:

“Complaints against ‘big government’ and ‘over-regulation,’ though often justified, also issue from the privileged who are frustrated at finding that their quest for still greater privileges at the expense of their community are curtailed by a government which, ideally, represents that community. Pure food and drug laws curtail profits and mandate tests as they protect the general public.”

Yet Paul’s critique of state capitalism takes on the commanding heights of the system: the Federal Reserve. Inflation, he says, is the means by which the plutocratic elite gets the freshly-created assets first and gets to spend them at full value – while the currency is debauched and the poor and the middle class suffer. His is also a trenchant criticism of the military-industrial complex, which is the main beneficiary of a system founded on manipulation of the money-supply and a foreign policy of perpetual war. This is real economic populism to suit the times we are living in, and the mainstream media is taking note of how Paul’s message targeting the central bankers is very effective.

To counterpose “pure food and drug laws” against this kind of radical assault on the very foundations of state-capitalism is just pathetic. But just what one might expect from a fossilized Trotskyist sect with a reputation for rank opportunism.

I was going to go into Jonah Goldberg’s analysis of the Paul campaign, but I see this column threatening to get so long as to test the patience of my readers, so I’ll save that for a later date. I would simply note that Goldberg, too, hits the “isolationist” meme – a favorite theme of the lapsed Trotskyists of the neoconservative movement, who also conjure the supposedly scary persona of Pat Buchanan in this regard. What’s interesting is that not only is the analysis quite similar, but so, too, is the motive: Goldberg and his confreres at National Review want to prevent their conservative flock from defecting to the Paul campaign, just as the ISO is horrified that many on the liberal-left and even left-radicals are rallying to the banner of the Ron Paul Revolution.

Well, isn’t that just tough?! Both the orthodox “left” and the neoconservative “right” are intellectually and politically bankrupt: they have nothing to offer but empty slogans, stale dogma, and an outmoded paradigm that has kept us barreling down the road to tyranny and perpetual war, a process that seems to have accelerated ominously since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Rather than support the only antiwar, anti-authoritarian candidate on the ballot, the sectarians of the ISO would rather stand on the sidelines and stew in their own watery juices.

Well, then, let them. The Paul campaign is so much bigger than the ISO, so much more capable of launching a real revolution in this country, that it isn’t even funny. Surely Wolf recognizes this – which accounts, one would guess, for the unusually venomous attack.


Okay, okay, I got a new photo: tell me if you think it’s an improvement. It certainly is more current.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].