Category Archives: Capitalism

Left Gatekeepers Through the New Left: Monitored Rebellion Part II

Orientation

In Part I of this article, I raised some questions about the uneven distribution 0f media coverage (radio, newspapers, magazines) between leftists, social democrats and anarchists on the one hand, and Leninists on the other. The social democrats and the anarchists receive the most media attention.  Next, I showed how the social democrats and the anarchists can be grouped into a single category of “New Left,” while Leninists represented the “Old Left”. I looked for patterns in their differences as I compared them across thirteen categories.

In the second half of Part I of the article, I discussed the machinations of a CIA front group in the 1950’s and 1960’s called the Congress for Cultural Freedom. The purpose of this organization was to keep communism from spreading into Europe by drawing anti-Stalinists into their organization, writers and artists, to make the case against communism through books, movies and modern art produced by non-communist left.

In Part II of this article, I explore the presence of other organizations today that perform the same monitoring function, except that Left Gatekeeping is directed primarily within Yankeedom. In the second half of this article I identify the characteristics of a left organization that would threaten the Left Gatekeepers. I complete the article by revisiting the characteristics of the New Left I laid out in Part I and show how its theory and practice can work quite well with the goals and purposes of liberal foundations, think tanks, political campaigns and mainstream media. As it turns out, the Left Gatekeepers of the 2nd half of the 20th century use the New Left to do their monitoring of any kind of movement that has any independent aspirations from the Democratic party. These organizations perform a very similar role as the Congress for Cultural Freedom played in the 50’s and 60’s. The leftist patron saints I named at the beginning of Part I are all unintentionally being used as tools of the Left Gatekeepers today.

Stratospheres of the Ruling Class

William Domhoff is a political sociologist who spent his entire life as a social scientist tracking empirically how the ruling class rules. Two of his books that detailed this were The Powers that Be and Who Rules America?. Domhoff found that the three most powerful organizations in the United States are the National Association of Manufacturers, The Business Roundtable and the Rockefellers’ group, The Council on Foreign Relations. These organizations rule through eight descending levels, culminating in the control of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

The first level is through university trustees and the setting up of foundations and grants. The second level are the think tanks which represent conservative, centrist and liberal viewpoints. More on this later. From the think tanks come policy discussion groups which develop public relations campaigns. Out of these public relations campaigns come reports, testimonies, books and newspaper editorials. From these are drawn “opinion leaders” who speak regularly to mass media. Policy discussion groups also lead directly to lobbyists and these lobbyists control the political candidate selection, whether they are Republican or Democrat. Lastly, there is the pageantry of elections where the public gets to vote. The important thing to notice is how passive both political parties are. They are the creatures of the upper levels, both liberal and conservative.

Most pertinent to Left Gatekeeping are the think tanks. Conservative think tanks include the Rand Group, American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Hoover Institute and the Manhattan Project. A centrist think tank is the Brookings Institute. Liberal think tanks include the Center for American Progress, the Ford Foundation, the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

While the Congress for Cultural Freedom has supposedly dissolved, the ruling classes have learned quite well the importance of controlling alternative visions to capitalism through think tanks, media and selected personalities. Their goal is to exclude any serious organizing of a socialist movement independent of the Democratic Party.

But if the Old Left died with the fall of Stalin as I argued in Part I, what do the ruling classes have to worry about? The truth is that the Leninist tradition has not died out, especially outside the United States. It continues to be present in Cuba, in parts of South America, in Europe and in parts of Asia. The job of the liberal think tanks in the United States is to either censor them or vilify them. How do they do this? By indirectly supporting the Old Left’s competition – the social democrats and the anarchists of the New Left.

Liberal Think Tanks, Media, and Left Patron Saints as Left Gatekeepers

In his powerful research paper, Left Gatekeepers, Bob Feldman created a flow chart with ruling class powers such as Council of Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, the CIA, with the Carlyle Group at the top. The funding for liberal think tanks comes from the Rockefellers, Carnegie, and Soros.  The Ford and MacArthur Foundations establish grants for left liberal news and media sources such as Mother Jones, the Nation Magazine, Z Magazine, AlterNet, Fair, NPR, Pacifica, and Democracy Now.

The funding of any leftist organization depends on the organization’s willingness to “play ball” if it expects to get regular funding. In his paper, Feldman asks:

Are the interests of the people being served by dissidents who are being subsidized by the very agencies of the ruling class whom they should be exposing? What does it say about the motivations behind the left establishment ideological warfare against conspiracy researchers, and their adoption of an increasingly watered-down analytical view which fails to look closely at the inner power structures and conspiracies of the ruling elite?

What is Left Gatekeeping?

The purpose of both the CIA, the upper classes and the entire Left Gatekeeping organizational apparatus is to combat communism, whether at home or abroad. Left gatekeeping is a practice by the ruling class of setting up organizations, foundations and think tanks which funnel money into leftist organizations that are:

  1. To the left of Leninism (anarchism)
  2. To the right of Leninism (social democracy, and New Deal liberals)

They do this in order to infiltrate independent working-class movements, whether Leninist or not. This is the job of the CIA and FBI. The second purpose is to indirectly fund what is perceived as the weaker and less threatening tendencies of the left for the purposes of isolating the Leninists. This is the job of foundations, think tanks, the policy-making discussion groups and the political campaigns. Thus DSA, Jacobin magazine, Socialist Alternative and Global Exchange will always find a welcoming ear on the radio waves and journals of the Left Gatekeepers. Noam Chomsky, proclaimed anarchist, can come onto Democracy Now whenever he wants. But Michael Parenti, who will defend the Soviet Union or China and who is quite capable of matching Noam Chomsky, rarely gets on the air. Then, in election years, without too much nudging, DSA, Jacobin and Socialist Alternative will, one way or another, collapse themselves safely inside the Democratic Party. The rightward turn of the Green Party was orchestrated so that they limited themselves to campaigns in “safe states”. This way the Democratic Party will have no competition coming from the Left.

Left Gatekeeping in Action: Let’s Get Personal

In 2002 Naomi Klein made a wonderful documentary with Avi Lewis called “The Take”. The movie was about workers taking over bankrupt factories and running them without bosses. This was followed by a well-researched and popular book of hers called The Shock Doctrine. It described the destruction of economies around the world by a neoliberal economic policy founded by the “Chicago Boys”. A book or so later, she wrote This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. In this book she uses the term “capitalism” in a manipulative way. The word “capitalism” is provocative for selling the book. However, the book does not criticize capitalism as a system, but only the more neoliberalism version of it. So we are left to wonder, is she a Keynesian or is she a socialist?

Naomi Klein could have gone all over the world in a follow-up to her documentary and described workers’ self-management projects. She could have linked that to the workers’ councils that were present and operating in Russia from 1917-1921 and in Spain from 1936-1939. But this was perhaps not a project that a publisher would be interested in or a think tank or a foundation might support or promote.  So, Naomi Klein swings the gate between sympathy towards anarchism (worker occupations) and New Deal liberalism.

Cornel West is another critic who gives his followers mixed messages. In non- election years, he promotes a social democratic program. In most election years he bows to the “lesser of two evils” scenario and tells his followers to vote for the Democrats. Whether or not he promotes the Democrats or the Greens depends on who is running as a Democrat. So, for him, if he likes the person, which party the person is in is not so relevant. From a structural Marxist viewpoint, it doesn’t matter who is running as a Democrat. The Democratic Party is a ruling class party and whoever the individual may be is irrelevant. West also swings the gate between social democracy and New Deal liberalism.

Noam Chomsky swings the gate in a way similar to Naomi Klein. In election off-years, besides criticizing US foreign policy, he will promote anarchism by writing forwards to anarchist books. However, during election years his anarchism seems to disappear, and we will be told that the Republican Party is the most dangerous party in history, and we must vote for a Democrat. Chomsky swings the gate between anarchism and New Deal liberalism. Like the Cold War liberals of the 1950s, Chomsky is a dogmatic and relentless critic of any kind of state socialism and does not make a distinction between communists and fascists. Christopher Hedges also equated antifa to the Proud Boys as equally dangerous in that both advocate armed conflict. All these unwitting Left Gatekeepers share the characteristics of the New Left in Table A in Part I of my article.

Who do the Left Gatekeepers Censor and Vilify?

Any organization that is clearly for the working class. This doesn’t mean unions necessarily. In the business unionism of the United States from the 50s onward, union leadership lost all sense of vision, of fighting for workers to manage the workplace. Union dues were spent by the leadership on promoting voting for the Democratic Party rather than on organizing workers. Union bureaucrats were much more at home with Democratic politicians than they were with their own members. One organization that we predict will not ever make the news at either NPR or the Pacifica radio station is Labor Notes. Labor Notes has been in operation for 40 years. It tracks working class struggles around the United States from the point of view of the rank-and-file. Their goal is to “put the movement back in the labor movement.”

Another enemy of the Left Gatekeepers is the formation of a working-class party that is independent of both political parties. In his article on our website, Joe G. Kaye has nicely identified all the reasons a working-class party has not been formed in the United States. However, he has not included the machinations of the ruling class – the foundations, think tanks, etc. Despite whatever good intentions they may have, DSA, Jacobin, Socialist Alternative on the right, and anarchists Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert on the left, all are colluding in keeping a working-class party from forming when they invite us every four years to vote for the ”lesser of two evils”.

Whatever their shortcomings, Leninist parties all over the world have had some success in Russia, China and Cuba in organizing socialism at a national level and sustaining it over decades. Despite their political authoritarianism, they have done very well in reducing poverty, raising the literacy rate, and providing inexpensive housing. Leninist parties will always be condemned. The social democratic parties of Denmark, Sweden and Norway have also done well but only because their social democratic movement was a separate party and did not try to influence a ruling class party like the Democrats, as DSA has done here. While social democracy in these countries has not been condemned by the Left Gatekeepers, they are ignored as examples of how to be socialist and also produce a high standard of living. An independent socialist party terrifies the Left Gatekeepers.

The third group to be disinvited is any New Left group that is anti-Zionist. US foreign policy is very dependent on having a friendly base in the Middle East and we can rest assured that any group that is pro-Palestinian such as the ANSWER coalition will be attacked as being anti-Semitic. There is good reason why the scholar Norman Finkelstein has never been able to receive a full-time teaching position because of his defense of the Palestinians. The entire New Left must get a permit paper from AIPAC, the most powerful lobby for Israel in Yankeedom.

Another group targeted by the Left Gatekeepers are organizations that actively support anti-imperialism. Any Pan-African movement leaders like Gaddafi in Libya will be condemned as “authoritarian dictators”, mouthing CIA positions. The African People’s Socialist Party in Yankeedom would also be dismissed.

Furthermore, on an international level, any organization or media outlet that show the slightest sympathy to nations deemed an enemy of the United States will be targeted. The Left Gatekeepers will have no problem with anarchists who condemn both US foreign policy and the authoritarian governments of Russia, China and Iran. But any news source that reports some sympathy for Russia, China, Iran, Cuba or Venezuela are deemed enemies. It is very important to the Left Gatekeepers (whether inside or outside the CIA) that the left in the US tow the party line about its perceived enemies.

So, for example, it is impossible to say that that yes, China has an authoritarian government and, yes, there is a deep class structure and, yes, it is state capitalist. Nevertheless, the Chinese state has raised the standard of living for millions of people and internationally it is doing what Marx said was best about capitalism: developing the productive forces through building the New Silk Road. China is also going off the dollar, as is Russia, and they are backing their economies in gold. We think that any nation-states or states that attempt to break the domination of the Yankee empire is worth critically supporting. But for the Gatekeepers and their new left pawns, this is too much.

News sources that defend countries that challenge Yankees’ foreign policy will be harassed. This is the case for New Eastern Outlook, Russian Times, The Greanville Post, TeleSUR, or Venezuelan Analysis.

Lastly any group that suggests the United States has been and is capable of assassinations and false-flag operations at home or abroad will be labelled “conspiracy nuts”. This is certainly what happened and is happening to the 911 Truth Movement.

Strange Bedfellows: Is the New Left a Pawn of the Left Gatekeepers?

In this last section I want to show how easily the beliefs of the new left can mesh with the foreign and domestic policies of the Left Gatekeepers. First, when the New Left uncritically rejects the state socialism of the former Soviet Union or the current state capitalism of China, it cuts itself off from the Yankees’ greatest international rivals and it makes sympathetic collaboration impossible.  Secondly, when the New Left championed identity politics at the expense of social class, it lost the most powerful force for stopping the capitalist system — the working-class production of surplus value in the workplace. Organizing around race and gender does not have a concrete site in which surplus value is produced. As far as gender goes, however real “patriarchy” is, a women’s revolution against men is very far-fetched since it runs against evolutionary psychology’s sexual selection strategies.

When the New Left throws up its hands and says capitalism can go on forever, it deprives itself of understanding the weak points of the system and how it could be overturned. The Left Gatekeepers are thrilled with the 50-year wild-goose chase dissecting language, psychology, and sexuality, none of which are threats to capitalism. It would be one thing if the New Left approached political democracy with its own party. However, the New Left never built its own party and so it has been trapped for 50 years inside the Democratic Party. With the possible exception of the anarchists, the New Left ignored democracy, in the economic sense of democracy, in the workplace. Being trapped inside the Democratic Party is the ultimate aim of the Left Gatekeepers.

When the New Left rebels against social evolutionary visions of progress domestically, it renounces the expectation that capitalism live up to its promises to use science and technology to reduce the work hours while creating a better life for all. It walks away from the prospect that socialism must be based on abundance, not on redistributing scarcity more evenly. With the exception of Murray Bookchin and his followers, when the New Left embraces the ecology movement it treats ecology as separate from political economy, as in the case of Earth First.  Ecological spiritual interventions of the 1980s and 1990s treat nature as separate from capitalism. It also loses the Promethean spirit of humanity as a higher form of nature. When New Leftists renounce the nation-state for localism or “small is beautiful”, these decentralized movements are much easier for the Left Gatekeepers to control.

When the Club of Rome tells us that the Earth has a limited carrying capacity, it looks to the size of the population in peripheral countries as a problem. Instead of understanding that these countries have larger populations because they have a resource base in agriculture, they are seen as irrational. In reality, like all agricultural societies, they have more children because more children mean free labor. If peripheral countries were allowed to industrialize, their populations would shrink. By telling these countries they have to do with less, the Left Gatekeepers deny peripheral countries their right to the fruits of modern capitalism. Less people in the periphery means less competition for wealth.

Internationally, when the New Left becomes anti-western and throws itself into tribal primitivism, eastern mysticism or Wicca, it loses the potential for an organized liberation theology within the major churches. As this anti-westernism spreads around the globe, it opens the door for the Left Gatekeepers’ promotion of religious fundamentalism. This keeps science and engineering from developing in peripheral countries. That is dangerous for the Left Gatekeepers because these scientists might discover new forms of energy harnessing that might undermine the resource base of western capitalism.

In the arts, the Left Gatekeepers are delighted when the New Left rejects representational art and considers socialist realism too constraining. Abstract expressionism doesn’t depict existing social reality or how social reality could be. It describes psychological rumination that is cut off from social issues. The Left Gatekeepers tell abstract expressionists – “by all means, throw paint on the canvas, you rebel you!”

The same goes for personal appearance. In my article Is Shocking People Revolutionary, I explain how infinite personal expression may be psychologically satisfying to some but it also creates distance between the middle class, who might be curious about this, and the 40% of the working class for whom this seems quirky or weird.

While pot smoking and LSD tripping may be relaxing and mind-transforming in small doses, too much of this is a loss of organizing potential. I could not organize anyone who was high on pot or in the middle of an acid trip. The CIA gatekeepers knew exactly what they were doing when they flooded black communities with hard drugs in the early 70s. The New Left began with an interest in Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism. But many disappeared into the rabbit hole of individualist psychology, whether it be primal scream or gestalt psychology. The feminist cry “the personal is political” soon became the belief that the personal is all there is. For close to a century of psychological manipulation of Gatekeepers, see Adam Curtis documentary Century of the Self, especially Part III.

Conclusion

The purpose of this article is not to suggest that the non-Leninist left is the passive victim of the CIA, foundations, think tanks and lobbying groups. After all, these organizations did not create the New Left out of nothing. The New Left created its own politics and culture in reaction to real social struggles of the 1960s. It is instead to say that once these politics and culture were created, especially in the late 1960s, they were massaged, sculpted, cut, pasted and smoothed over to also meet the needs of the Leftist Gatekeepers. It is to say:

  1. there is real documentation in the present and past that shows that most leftist groups were, and are, being monitored and controlled by Left Gatekeepers;
  2. that there is an implied profile of the kind of leftist groups that are the enemies of the Left Gatekeepers; and,
  3. that in the light of the current crisis in capitalism and the coronavirus, it is more urgent than ever to embody, organize and spread a political-economic movement along the profile in line with the enemies of the Left Gatekeepers.

First published in Planning Beyond Capitalism

See Part 1 here

Faschion: Dressing for Obedience 

Asset Deals: John Paul II and his successor ex-Hitler Youth and Roman Grand Inquisitor Joseph Ratzingen, Benedict XVI1

In 2015 I argued that the purpose of the CIA war against Vietnam was two-fold. First of all the company was charged with preserving the now US interest in what had been French business in Indochina. The second objective — a part of its global strategy — was to create a country, the Republic of Vietnam (aka South Vietnam), which could sustain the illusion — created in Korea between 1945 and 1952 — that there were two countries: one that counted as civilised (capitalist and subordinated to the West) and one that was not really Vietnamese (like the PRDK is not really Korean and at that time the PRC was not really China).

To understand this approach to world politics and the general hatred of humanity underlying it, one has to take very seriously a tiny detail in the history of US colonialism. That detail is the personality of the man who turned working class denim trousers into a fashion item, a guy named Edward Lansdale. The history of covert action — namely, the cowards’ war for capitalism or as Agee called it the campaign of “capitalism’s invisible army” — can be simplified as the marriage of desire and deceit. In a sense the opacity of covert action or what has been popularised as the “deep state” can be traced to the doctrine of sacerdotal celibacy. Sacerdotal celebacy — the rule that priests cannot marry — was first a rule to protect the property accumulated by the Church from dissipation by the inheritance in favour of clerical children. The second reason for it was to protect the investments of the Catholic Church in prostitution and slavery.2  As much as I would like to elaborate on this Western cultural phenomenon, a dogma derived from Roman Catholicism, that would go too far for what is intended here as a brief intervention. My intention here is simply to strongly suggest that readers think in broader contexts than are ever presented by any media.

We have now reached a point where the covert action programme formulated by those who organised and conducted the mass killing system in Vietnam and later in Latin America and in Central Asia has become the central product to be marketed worldwide. The so-called pandemic, the Covid-2019, is nothing more or  less than a product of the counter-terror factory that the Anglo-American Empire established in Vietnam — based on the template already developed in Korea.

In Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines and the Surveillance State, Alfred McCoy (2009) wrote that the machinery (now digital) for policing in the US began in the Philippines — a US colony from 1901 until 1949 — and thereafter a protectorate. That is also where the Levi’s marketer, Lansdale, began his career as a terrorist. Douglas Valentine (1990) showed in great detail from the testimony of those who actually created and executed the Phoenix “marketing campaign of South Vietnam” how this system was built and operated. Valentine, in contrast to McCoy,  emphasises the purpose of a system which is consciously defective but infinitely violent. Whereas the vast majority of opponents to US wars object to their injustice, they do so implying that these wars — were they justly waged — would somehow be less or acceptably imperial. Ultimately in his book The CIA as Organised Crime Valentine (2016) shows that the Phoenix program is the “new normal”.

What happened in between October 2019 and March 2020 can be translated into the sequences of the war against the VCI as conceived, planned and implemented by the US Central Intelligence Agency. (Actually it is irrelevant whether it or other government agencies actually was the overall planning and executive instrument.) Daniel Estufin called it in an rather unqualified fashion the recognition that the “limit to growth” had been reached. This explanation reminiscent of the Club of Rome and its eugenic report avoids an elemental difficulty with the entire “growth” concept. One can summarise that in the pathological definition of “cancer” as uncontrolled cell growth at the expense of the healthy organism. This is, in fact, a wonderful example of what the neo-conservative literary scholar described in her book Illness as Metaphor (1978). The economy must grow and grow without purpose or reason. The rulers, like cancer cells, must steal through all seasons. Cancer, the ubiquitous, virtually incurable self-destruction of the individual human body — almost entirely induced by the toxification of the environment by unrestrained theft under capitalism — is the sickness of surplus. In the 19th century people died of consumption — tuberculosis — the toxification by raw accumulation and the exhaustion of human bodies.

However, with the digitalisation of capitalism and its extraction methods, the disease which is the penultimate expression of capitalist pathology, is the virus. Communists were germs or bacteria. After the destruction of virtually anything resembling communism — the European communist parties notwithstanding — a new pathological model was needed. The virus is an insidious metaphor. It is not like bacteria, a life form which can both produce and destroy. The post-communist era — whereby communism was simply a term for any opposition to the ruling gangsters — requires new terror products. That actually means old products in new packages. Anti-communism was repackaged as anti-terrorism (of course, only pseudo-Islamic terror, an utter fantasy, like in the era of the Reconquista and Crusades). The so-called corona virus, for the honest, is really a fabrication — probably developed in the same kind of imperial laboratories where the computer viruses have been designed since a certain entity sought to guarantee the monopoly it expected from its IBM days.

In a previous appreciation I indicated that the “lockdown” should be understood in terms of the “strategic hamlet” program. Now I would advise those who are not saturated in obsequiousness or servility to consider the current phase — called contact tracing — in terms of what was called in Vietnam “census grievance”.

The historical crisis with which we are confronted today is first and foremost a crisis of literacy. It would take too much space to explain what I mean by that. However, reading Paulo Freire’s now very unfashionable Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968) would make my point clearer.

Irony is a term used to describe linguistic practices, reading, writing and speaking. It designates a discrepancy between the circumstances explicitly perceived and the language used to describe them. Yet if one applies the term with that rare quality, sincerity, then there is indeed some irony to be found in the appreciation of that part of the world with the most favourable population density (albeit thanks to the immeasurable homicidal capacity of its ruling class), where the ruling class mandates the most fanatical interest in social distancing and masking (or gloving). The irony lies in the fact that the most sociopathic segment of the world’s population is located in the Western peninsula of Eurasia and North America where very low population densities prevail. People who have on average more living space per capita than anywhere else in the world — just cannot get enough. Now people, who for some five hundred years have vented their malice on Africa, Central and South America, Australia and Asia (not to mention millions slaughtered between 1915-1945) just cannot bear being closer than 1.5 meters to each other and want this to be the British (or German) standard for the world.

It is hard to share sympathy or even affection with much of what is published as “critical” today. It is just as esoteric as the tatoos on so many legs, arms and backsides. Permanent jewelry and stenciled stupidity, masks and gloves substituting thinking or love. My sympathy at least is exhausted by people whose sterility and verility transcend human dimensions.

A few months ago I was adamant about the insincerity of the global warming crusaders. I remain so. I am convinced that these were witting or unwitting campaigners in the crusade of death that the rich white supremacists on this planet are waging against ordinary people. Their message was nothing more or less than the blind religious fanaticism that has made the West the best organised homicidal society on the planet. That is the legacy of Christendom.

Today at lunch I watched a report on the canonisation of the Polish fascist known by his papal name, John Paul II. Roman Catholics are now permitted to venerate this vile cleric as a saint. The rest of the “white” world will venerate him for his contributions to the world we have today. It is a world liberated from every respect for life in whatever form and dedicated to the cult of death.

If we do not resist the cult of death and its sociopathic instruments — like social distancing — we will actually join — but not as TV actors — a society of the “living dead”.

  1. Together with the US regime this dynamic duo in the Catholic cult of death- the ancient foundation of Christendom and global terrorism-  waged war against communism and national liberation.
  2. Henry G. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of Spain, Volume 3, 1907.

Economic Collapse Caused by Capitalism Not “COVID Pandemic”

The aversion of the rich and their political and media representatives to science in general and economic science in particular is legendary. When it comes to making sense of the economy, they rely mainly on irrationalism and discredited ideas. It is no accident that mainstream economics has long been called “the dismal science.” It lacks any robust explanation of economic realities. It is not useful to the public. Back in 2009, leading economists and “financial gurus,” when asked why they think the economy collapsed and wreaked havoc everywhere, relied heavily on “know-nothingism.” “We don’t really know for sure,” many nonchalantly and whimsically repeated.

The need for independent thinking, science, theory, and analysis has never been greater. Society cannot move forward on the basis of outmoded ideas that serve only a tiny ruling elite that is concentrating more wealth and power in its hands with each passing day.

For more than two months now news articles have been carrying headlines and content that create the impression that the massive and destructive economic collapse the U.S. and the rest of the world are suffering through was “triggered” or “induced” by the “COVID Pandemic.”

In other words, the economy was generally fine, or at least working sufficiently well all this time, until we all got sucker-punched by an invisible and sudden “pandemic.” Something “out of the blue,” something external to capitalism itself, is supposedly responsible for 40 million people becoming unemployed in under two months and for trillions of digital dollars being swiftly transferred to the super-rich. According to this nothing-is-inherently-wrong-with-capitalism view, if it were not for the “COVID Pandemic” we would allegedly not be experiencing the economic catastrophe we are experiencing. Things would still be “OK.”

This is the kind of irrationalism promoted recently by Jerome Powell, head of the U.S. Federal Reserve:

This downturn is different from those that came before it. Earlier in the post– World War II period, recessions were sometimes linked to a cycle of high inflation followed by Fed tightening. The lower inflation levels of recent decades have brought a series of long expansions, often accompanied by the buildup of imbalances over time—asset prices that reached unsupportable levels, for instance, or important sectors of the economy, such as housing, that boomed unsustainably. The current downturn is unique in that it is attributable to the virus and the steps taken to limit its fallout. This time, high inflation was not a problem. There was no economy-threatening bubble to pop and no unsustainable boom to bust. The virus is the cause, not the usual suspects—something worth keeping in mind as we respond.1

This is straightforward disinformation designed to divert attention from and cover up an economic fiasco that was inevitable. Such ideas are designed to block people from engaging in a conscious act of finding out what is really transpiring.

Extenuating factors are not the same as root-causes. Unfortunately, investigation and discussion of both are routinely blocked and undermined by the ruling elite.

The stock market was going to crash, millions were going to become unemployed, banks and large corporations were going to get bailed out again, and other horrible economic problems were going to emerge with or without a convenient pretext, with or without a virus. An unprecedented top-down worldwide lockdown greatly facilitated this.2

The economy was never “succeeding” or “doing great.” Economic growth has been anemic in most capitalist countries for years. Under-employment, debt, insecurity, inequality, pensions, and environmental conditions have been worsening for years.

Enormous financial bubbles such as the student debt bubble,3  The tech bubble, the bubble created by endless “quantitative easing,” and the refusal of capitalist firms to invest in real production are all expressions of a dysfunctional outmoded economy. An economy and society fueled almost entirely by credit and debt does not solve real problems.

A repeat of the big 2008 economic collapse, but only more severe, is something many have been discussing and accurately predicting for years. If anything, the launch of the antisocial neoliberal offensive 45 years ago caused the public health crisis everyone is suffering through today, not the other way around. The rich and their allies have been defunding, privatizing, and wrecking healthcare and other programs and services for decades, leaving the society unable to cope with even basic contingencies. Covid-19 did not break society, the economy, or the health care system, it mainly exposed the problems with all three under capitalism. Marciano reminds us that:

Years of austerity underfunding by Clinton, Obama, Bush and Trump have allowed corporations to profit off our public health care system. The underfunding has severely weakened the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Our public health agencies provide fine and vital human services. Since the 2008 Great Recession, however, they have lost 25% of their work force and now face this crisis without adequate resources.4

This parasitic neoliberal strategy is called “starve it, demonize it, privatize it.” This is what happens when the people are left out of the decision-making process and cannot make any decisions that favor the public interest. Instead, the rich and their allies keep making decisions and taking actions that make things worse for everyone.

The underlying cause of all economic slumps, busts, recessions, and depressions under capitalism is the fundamental contradiction between social production and private ownership. While the majority produces all the wealth in society, a tiny ruling elite controls all the wealth. Production of wealth and control of wealth are separate under capitalism. The working people have no control over the economy that they themselves built and operate. They are therefore blocked from setting a new aim, motivation, and direction for the economy.

An economy based on competing private owners of capital who block conscious human control and planning of socialized production is bound to fail and break down frequently. Competing owners of capital negate the development of an independent, diversified, and self-reliant economy, thereby ensuring destruction and insecurity for millions. The pursuit of maximum profit by competing owners of capital necessarily distorts the economy and produces regular crises. Under these conditions there can be no equilibrium that serves the working people.

New arrangements that empower the people are needed. The current health/economic crisis has brought to the fore many contradictions and openings that the people can exploit to forge ahead. There exists an opportunity to think things anew. A break from the old way of thinking about and doing things presents itself here and now.

Change that favors the people cannot be secured by relying on the cartel political parties of the rich or by going along with what the mainstream media says. The cartel political parties of the rich are committed to preserving the status quo that favors narrow private interests, no matter how damaging this is to the social and natural environment. This is why such self-serving political parties have been viewed as illegitimate and corrupt by many for decades. They lack the consent of the governed and operate undemocratically.

In the coming election cycle it is critical not to get caught up in the propaganda emanating from these anachronistic parties that have solved no major problems. The need is for people to think and act independently. Great things can be accomplished by relying on ourselves. Do not succumb to the false choices or self-serving agendas promoted by the rich and their representatives.

  1. Powell, J.  At the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, D.C., May 13, 2020.
  2. In early May 2020, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, revealed that 66% of hospitalized coronavirus patients were at home before being admitted to a hospital. This casts doubt on the efficacy of the lockdown.  See:  Voytko, L.  Majority Of New Coronavirus Cases In New York Are From People Staying At Home—Not Traveling Or WorkingForbes, May 6, 2020.  Mainstream and independent news articles and reports have questioned the efficacy of face masks, ventilators, and social distancing measures as well. And for its part, Oxford University and others have stopped using WHO data on COVID-19, claiming it is full of repeated errors and inconsistencies.
  3. CNBC News states that: “Over the past 20 years, college costs have grown at over three times the rate of inflation. The result: 70% of college graduates have student debt, with the average borrower owing more than $37,000 at graduation.”  Note that many students owe well over $60k. See: Patrick B. Healey.  We should all be concerned about the student debt crisis, November 4, 2019.
  4. Marciano, J.  The COVID-19 crisis: What lessons will we learn?, Ashland Tidings, March 25, 2020.

COVID-19 Great Depression: Global Ecosocialism Is the Way Out

Sunflower field in Hudson — Photo by Larry Goodwin

Suffering in numbers

The abstract science of mathematics is a language like music. But while music is in the realm of pure emotion, the language of mathematics only speaks to the mind not the heart. Numbers and equations do not lie. They are not, by essence, subjective. This being said, when the numbers are those of the dead, they can have the chilling emotional effect of a meat cleaver cutting through bones. While we have tried to stay away from the mainstream media litany of the death tolls, on April 25, 2020 we had passed 200,000 deaths globally. In the United States alone, by the end of April, the COVID-19 pandemic will have killed more people than the reported 58,220 US soldiers who died during the Vietnam war.

from the archive of Urban Museum

Neoliberal and populist war presidents?

Ironically, two political leaders who are supposed to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum have framed their COVID-19 crisis narrative as a war. One is French President Macron, a neoliberal globalist champion, and the other one is nationalist-populist US President Trump. Both, however, have a lot in common: they are proponents of global corporatism, are Commanders in Chief of their respective military but did not serve in the military. Trump was a reputed Vietnam war draft dodger, while Macron was born too late to have done the mandatory French military service. In either case, their war on COVID-19 is not going well. As matter of fact Trump and Macron are winning their war on COVID-19 like the US won in Vietnam or NATO won in Afghanistan. And incidentally, if the COVID-19 is a world war, both of these presidents and other world leaders should consider ordering a military draft.

From the archive of The National Guard

The COVID-19 killing spree is not yet over, even in its first installment. It is hard to forecast, but in a month or two, once countries such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the entire African continent are computed in the tragic body count, we could globally have reached 350,000 deaths. The worldwide government incompetence will continue and the litany of deaths will keep ticking away. Meanwhile human suffering is not a great concern for capitalism’s ruling class, the economy and the financial markets are now their main focus.

Photo by David Shankbone

Capitalism’s callous imperatives

Never mind their countless failures and shortcomings through the crisis. What mostly concerns our callous and cynical political and business leaders is COVID-19’s impact on the global economy. While the lockdown of half of humanity could have been beneficial for an extra couple of weeks from a healthcare stand point, the enforcers of the imperative of global capitalism do not care. As far as salvaging what can still be saved from the current economic collapse, the political technocrats who serve the billionaire class, are perfectly willing to sacrifice thousands of human lives. People are dying. Poor people are starving even in the so-called developed world and relying on food banks in places like Queens, New York; New Orleans; or Seine St. Denis, in Paris’ poor northern suburbs. But what truly matters for the worshippers of capitalism is the well being of their free-market God, a profane deity brought to its knees by the COVID-19 pandemic. Humanity is facing a time of reckoning. Despite what the global ruling class hopes for, the global economy has collapsed, and things will never return to normal.

The COVID-19 Great Depression

In just two months, the global economy was brought to a standstill. Airplanes are not flying; factories are not manufacturing, with the exception of face masks; oil has become worthless; three billion people are not consuming, at the exception of food products. The imposed hiatus for most global consumption and circulation of people and goods has blown a giant hole in the complex capitalist edifice. The main question now is will it recover. While the notion of a Great COVID-19 Depression has become accepted, governments worldwide are trying to give their citizens the idea that ultimately it will be okay again. As during the crash of 2008, worldwide national or supra-national banking institutions have followed the lead of the US Federal Reserve. Worldwide, the equivalent of about $7 trillion have been printed, and they are in the process of being injected in the financial markets. Without this, Wall Street and the other markets would already be worth as little as a barrel of US crude oil.

The oil war has come home to roost in the US

On April 21, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) benchmark for US crude dropped below zero. As matter of fact, it was trading at -$4.29 a barrel. Needless to say, despite the federal money injection, the impact on the US economy energy sector will be catastrophic. This situation was completely predictable. It was years in the making, with one geopolitical blunder after another. After all, for decades the US and its Saudi allies have used oil price as a weapon. The oil war has come home to roost.

During the Clinton administration an oil price drop was used against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; Bush Jr.’s administration used it against Iran; and the Obama administration used it against Russia as a retaliation over Ukraine. The Trump administration has applied the same policies with regime change goals in Iran and Venezuela. Like his predecessors, the de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin-Salman, has been fully on board for decades. The mechanics are simple: you try to achieve your regime change goals by bankrupting another country’s economy, especially if it mainly relies on oil extraction, as does Venezuela. But Maduro is still in place and the Iranians are holding on against all odds.

The Trump administration, despite its claim of being an America-First isolationist, has dutifully followed the post World War II US empire’s geopolitical strategy of asserting a worldwide dominance, even bigger than the Monroe doctrine, by engineering failed states. It is likely, however, that with 26 million unemployed, millions relying on food banks to eat, and an economy that has imploded, the US empire will have to scale back its ambitions. For global neoliberalism’s prodigal son, Emmanuel Macron, the economic and social landscapes are equally grim.

By Lanpernas

Anger in France: “la racaille” & Gilets Jaunes’ new sans-culottes?

Despite the tough lockdown for more than six weeks in France, clashes have occurred between youths in poor French suburbs and the police. It started Saturday April 18 in Villeneuve La Garrenne with what appears to have been excessive police force against a motorcyclist. From there, it snowballed to the poor suburbs in other parts of Paris and elsewhere in France, specifically in Strasbourg, Roubaix and a Lyon suburb. In Strasbourg a police station was set on fire. The French far-right has done its best to capitalize on the incident, which involved mainly young French citizens of North African or African origin. The far-right populist leader of the Rassemblement National, Marine Le Pen, called for a severe crackdown on the culprits of the social unrest. She made the racist claimed that “la racaille” (the human scum) had to be neutralized. Le Pen also attacked the Macron administration for doing something right, which was the release of 8,000 prisoners from prisons to avoid COVID-19 mass infections. This was to be expected from racist tough-on-crime Le Pen, but Eric Ciotti, a congressman from Les Republicains, a party that is supposed to be less Fascist than Le Pen’s, went a step further and called for L’intervention de l’armee et un couvre feu (a deployment of the military and a curfew).

by Francisco Anzola

Most people understand that, without the work of the six million French citizens of North African or African origin, France’s confinement would be a lot more challenging. Just like in New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles or New Orleans, the mothers and fathers of the angry youths in France are largely the ones who have kept the country going during the lockdown, day in and day out, often risking their lives, anonymously. They are the clerks in supermarkets, the truck drivers and other delivery persons, the janitors, the garbage collectors, the bus drivers and low-paid support staff in hospitals and nursing homes. Generation after generation, since the early 1960s, the largely North African immigrants have done the hard work that the Caucasian French no longer care to do. Former president Chirac called this social inequality a fracture sociale in the 1990s. So it was identified but never fixed, and the COVID-19 crisis has just made it more blatant. France will ease its lockdown after May 11. After this, if the social inequalities are not addressed by actions instead of only words, the angry youths of the poor suburbs could be joined by the Gilets Jaunes, whose movement just went underground.

by Denisbin

Ecosocialism equation: climate crisis + COVID19 = systemic change

So far the central banks’ remedy, quantitative easing — a euphemism for printing money — has been largely futile. The 3 trillion dollars and 1.5 trillion Euros injected are financial band-aids on our global economical Titanic. If this doomed ship represents our pre-COVID-19 mode of development, it should be cheerfully sacrificed along with the giant cargo ships and planes, which are the nervous system of a globalization that is chocking on itself. The unfolding COVID-19 crisis has fully exposed the failures of governance and socio-economic systems worldwide.

Beyond their short-term post-COVID-19 strategies, few policy makers or business leaders have any valid answers. The ruling class’ model of globalization, based on corporate imperialism’s core principle of profit over people, is in ruins. In the middle of an unstoppable worldwide paradigm shift, so-called leaders and thinkers are in paradigm paralysis. They are trapped in a pre-COVID-19 reality bubble, unable to think outside the box.

by Gilbert Mercier

As citizens of the world, we may look ahead possibly to a better future for the many. One critical systemic problem unlikely to survive COVID-19 is the extreme social inequality driven by hyper-capitalist wealth concentration. In a nutshell, the existential problem of capitalism that could cause its end is as follows: exactly 2,019 billionaires worldwide have more wealth than 60 percent of the world population. This is not only immoral but also unsustainable. Let us travel back in time to 1788 for a moment. In France absolute King Louis XVI, who presumably combined the power of Macron and the wealth of France’s richest man Bernard Arnault, thought he was firmly in power. But within a year he was swept away by the French Revolution. The motto of the revolution and subsequent French Republic was Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. These three notions still have power and value. If climate justice is added to them, this could be the foundation of an ecosocialist society.

While the Great Depression of 1929 unquestionably triggered the rise of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, humanity cannot afford for that history to repeat itself. The COVID-19 Great Depression upon us might be capitalism’s end game and the birth of a new global ecosocialist era based on social equality, real democracy with sound governance, zero economic growth, zero global military spending, and respectful harmony with what is left of the natural world.

by Gilbert Mercier

COVID-19 Pandemic: Time for Bold programs from the Left to Help the People

Fred Magdoff, Professor Emeritus of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont and author of many articles and books on ecology, agriculture and economy, frequent Monthly Review contributor and closely associated with struggles of the working people, discusses the coronavirus pandemic in light of capitalism and agriculture in the following interview conducted on April 2, 2020.

*****

Farooque Chowdhury: Since long, you are telling about and analyzing environment and ecology, and the devastation the capitalist system is doing to these. Today, in view of this coronavirus pandemic, how do you find the situation in view of your analysis?

Fred Magdoff: As capitalist relations permeate the world and as forests are cut down and farming expanding, there is more disturbance of ecosystems that previously had little disturbance and were relatively stable. The lessening of the zones available for wildlife to live apart from humans means that there will be more possibility for diseases to move from wildlife to humans. The new corona virus causing Covid-19 is believed to have moved from bats, possibly through another animal, to humans. In this situation, the market for wildlife for human consumption is apparently part of the story. This is one aspect of capitalism turning everything possible into commodities, including nature. But there is also the possibility of future diseases, especially bacterial ones, originating in factory farms where animals live in crowded and inhumane conditions and routinely fed antibiotics. This has contributed to the widespread development of strains of bacteria that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics. Drug companies try to sell as much of their antibiotics as possible (just like other drugs) — for use in humans or farm animals (or pets). Thus, the profit motive directly leads to the overuse of antibiotics and the growing problem of new antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.

FC: In What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism, you and John Bellamy Foster, editor, Monthly Review, singled out the capitalist system as the demonic hand destroying our planet’s environment and ecology, and threatening all life on this planet. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic shows the system’s devastating role in all areas related to life including healthcare, economy, science, nature that encompasses the wild and wild life. The system denies basic primary requirements for life. Now, the people are paying the price with lives. How do you find today’s reality – loss of so many lives, a mass murder scene spanning   continents, due to this pandemic?

FM: This is an example of capitalism’s failings in many ways. One of course, especially in the United States, is the failure of the health care system itself. As the late biologist Richard Levins put it, “Health Service is a commodity, health a by-product.” Hospitals in the U.S. have relatively few beds for patients, at less than 3 per 1000 people they are able to just handle the flow in normal times. There were inadequate stockpiles of supplies and although the national government years ago began a system to purchase thousands of low cost ventilators — now needed in large quantities to deal with this disease that attacks the respiratory system — the program was a failure. As companies involved in the early contracts were bought out by large companies in the continuing process of monopolization, larger firms lost interest in what they viewed as a low profit product. And even to this day, the government has been incapable of developing the needed production capacity not only for ventilators but also for masks and gowns [Personal Protective Equipment] to protect healthcare workers. Literally hundreds of health care workers have gotten sick for no other reason than inadequate protective equipment. And there is no system to date for rational distribution of needed materials to the places of highest need. The situation that we now face in the United States is caused by capitalism, mistakes made in various government agencies, and extreme incompetence at the highest levels of government, including the president. Literally months were lost in beginning to respond to the crisis, especially because of the delay in testing people to see where it was spreading and providing the ability to trace people who had come into contact with those testing positive for Covid-19. To this day, the extent of testing for the virus is inadequate, making it harder to fight the disease. This delay in testing by itself will cause thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of deaths. More people have become ill in the United States than any other country. Deaths due to Covid-19 in the United States have surpassed deaths that have occurred in China. And if trends don’t change very soon the United States will have more deaths than any other country. It is estimated that from 100,000 to 200,000 people may die in the United States under best case scenarios, and this reality is in the richest and most powerful country in the world. This can only happen in a country in which profit comes before health and the government is unwilling to do what was widely known to be necessary to protect the population during a pandemic.

FC: The pandemic-situation the world humanity is facing now is without any precedent. Its full implication is yet to be comprehended. Where is to start to come out of this plethora of death and disease, this system’s indifference to life?

FM: It is not at all clear what society will look like after widespread deployment of an effective vaccine and medicines to treat those with disease. The pandemic will certainly have long-term effects on people, especially those that have lost family and friends to the disease. There will undoubtedly be economic changes, with the larger and stronger companies becoming even larger and more powerful while others go bankrupt. It may take a long time for people to get back to a “normal life” — keeping in mind that “normal life” was not a good life for many people. What will happen to the debts they were not able to pay? What will happen to the people forced out of homes because they couldn’t pay the rent of mortgage? This is certainly a time for bold programs from the left to help the mass of the people survive and recover. The left should push programs that enhance food security for those in need and for universal health care coverage and other social programs like routine paid sick leave from work. Once the economy begins to recover, let’s put people back to work building homes for the homeless and renovating dilapidated schools as well as for other social needs such as fixing other parts of a dilapidated infrastructure.

FC: Thank you for shedding light on today’s burning issues.

 

Revolution Is Inevitable and Necessary

None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrong looks like right in their eyes.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Bk. II, Ch. 5; source: Die Wahlverwandtschaften, Hamburger Ausgabe, Bd. 6 (Romane und Novellen I), dtv Verlag, München, 1982, p. 397 (II.5).

I keep plotting a revolution no one else seems to be interested in having. So be it. I’ll have my solitary revolution. There will be no pink hats, guillotines, or marches, just me and a bitter jaded middle finger saluting towards the firmaments in utter rejection of most what this society represents. Although I hold no lasting contempt for anyone in this society because I understand we all have fallen into cultural traps and have done things that we believed we had to do so that we could be accepted, or just to be allowed to sleep indoors somewhere and be fed; we’ve had to commodify and sell out pieces of ourselves to serve the desires of those in a system of power who sanction and control the flow of money backed by military forces and institutions of incarceration, and this way of being was set into motion a long time ago, but it doesn’t have to continue if that’s not what we really desire, but for right now it’s close to all we know.

So, it does seem a revolution of sorts is inevitable due to inequality reaching grotesque heights of avarice where there is no longer any excuse for the wealthy to hide behind in order to explain why it is they have so much and others have so little. However, this just emphasizes the point that this population is largely not wise enough yet to create a revolution worth having, because a more enlightened culture would have taken a stand a long time ago before things became an emergency. Every second we acquiesce to power and don’t push for something radically better we compound an already grim situation. Globally there seems to be a majority who don’t understand what it is to be free, they merely fight to be better treated servants. So it’s highly likely their coming revolution will be a flailing inchoate attempt at something marginally better than what is here now and won’t set out to correct much, if any, of the underlying structural problems.

Consequently, the odds are the revolution we’ll end up with will circle directly back to where we are now or worse in no time at all. But my critiques and frustrations are mine, not a concern for the coming revolution. I must remember it’s their revolution, not mine. I’m not invited to theirs — well, that’s not entirely true.  I just have to ignore most of what I believe to be true, then I’m invited. As things are, I have only a single pathetic pity party scheduled as an event to prove my revolution ever existed, but I should be appreciative of what I have and cease bemoaning what I do not.

So this is where I will make my stand. The beginning and likely end of my revolution of one. In reality my revolution is simply a rough translation through the English language describing my light of truth within, which I’ve gone to great pains to keep safe, dry, and burning from a clean source of fuel. Probably all done in futility except to selfishly inoculate my own mind from the lurking darkness of the culture cave; still, a lingering desire remains to light a path out for others to follow who have become stuck watching dark Platonic shadows flicker across the walls.

With that said, here’s the path I’m lighting with argumentation and I believe it to be a solid one.  We, as in the we consisting of the global middle/lower classes of the entire planet, aka the 99%, are not a free people now nor have ever truly been free while living in the bounds of a social hierarchy. While many a winsome word has been applied to parchment declaring this or that people free, unfortunately soon thereafter the founding document is handed over to record keepers to energize the narratives of posterity while the same ole domination and ownership-driven society meters out the same ole grind. The reward and punishment operant conditioning culture is uniformly applied and chosen specifically to keep people compliant, reactive, and rutted into perpetual business as usual subservience to authoritative forces.

Constitutions supply grandiose ideas which are undermined by underlying conditional legislature where the original words are made into feckless futile notions that allows the ruling authority to do all the draconian bullshit they’ve always done with prettier sounding words. The powers that be couch authoritarian ideas in language that sometimes sounds reasonable on the surface but ultimately leads people to a deleterious state of believing they are free when they are nothing close to any working definition of freedom. Freedom is a condition which is now only possible within our own minds, but our physical bodies are fodder for the whims of a class of people who clearly believe themselves superior to just about everyone else.

Those causing the most damage are simply playing out a cultural role that’s a legacy of deceit passed down from one generation to the next, and each falling prey to traps of chasing after things; endless shiny carrots on shiny sticks. And not just chasing, but lusting, demanding, an obsessive hedonistic pursuit wanting total ego domination at any macabre cost. Pure obsession with the chase. While irony sits on many of their own bookshelves as Melville’s whale tale of wisdom lies fallow and ignored serving only as bookcase filler to give guests the impression they’re well read.

The ego-driven mind thinks primarily in the language of temporal imperatives. Short term must do this, must do that kind of thinking where all thought is disseminated through a lens of self importance with agendas to accomplish to validate that self importance. And if it thinks itself important enough it will eventually see itself as messianic. After they have assumed role of savior it’s just logically congruent that the ruling class allocate all the resources they desire for themselves so they can help all the people they will eventually save, and they need deep pockets to be the inspiration for the entire world.

Over time the ruling class creates rules and cultural dogmas that they claim are for the good of the people, but oddly enough their beliefs always result in making them richer and giving them more power. What an odd purported symbiosis they have dreamed up. The surest sign of being under an authoritarian power is when they make it really difficult to live independent of them. They demand you be hooked up to their electrical grid, pay taxes to live on the land, and hooked into the public water system. Total forced dependency on their system and it is barely noticed yet subtly removing choice and creating an artificial cage. Creating dependency is the best way to control people, and tyranny is then accepted under the umbrella of the common good, so the messianic ones can provide shelter from the storm while, of course, the common person sacrifices most of their free will in the process in a Faustian bargain which is the default role we are thrust into in this world of imperial forces.

Social hierarchies hold their grip on power in increasingly sophisticated ways. They’ve mostly advanced past public executions to keep people in line. They’ve learned it’s far more effective to manipulate minds into believing all are equals and free, and stoke the fear response towards something external that threatens that equality and freedom. It’s become understood by hierarchy that if the ruling power is perceived as the threat they are far more likely to be ousted from that power, so the engines of power must diffuse the blame of their actions lest they be held responsible for the tyranny they impose.

So semi-plausible sounding fears are brought to the forefront so they can provide you with adequate safety, which gives them the power to deprive you of the liberty they are telling you they are protecting, since you know they care so much about you. The gas-lighting of the masses creates reactionary conditioning that puts people in a state where they no longer trust their own mind and become prone to believing all the fears power claims are real. And fear is then used as a prod to move the human animal in a chosen direction power wishes.

Revolution of a real kind, one where our relationship to power radically changes, will be a series of progressions in pulling our minds out of this culture trap. Change will come in relation to how well we come to understand the implications of centralized power and ultimately integrate that knowledge into how we live. Further, how well we learn to work together cooperatively in a voluntary manner will correlate  directly to how likely it is our species survives past the next hundred years. But curing ourselves of  these brutal mental afflictions is not an easy path to traverse. However, I’ll argue a radical change is needed if we want to once again have human lives worth living with real choice and agency over our own mind, body, and time.

Turbo-charging The Great Depression and Great Repression

Great Depression

Since the 2008 economic collapse engineered by Wall Street, most of the world’s economies have been running on gas fumes and more bankrupt schemes and failed policies. Few, if any, economies have been able to return to weak pre-2008 economic growth levels. Even the Chinese and Indian economic “miracles” are not that miraculous.

To be sure, major capitalist economies have been declining since the late 1970s, and for the past few years imperialist organizations like the IMF and World Bank have routinely revised downward multiple economic growth estimates that are low to begin with.

Financialization, stock market manipulation, the refusal to strengthen the productive sector that actually produces what people need (the real economy), large declines in consumer spending, enormous sums of debt in all forms and at all levels,1 more personal and corporate bankruptcies, endless money printing by central banks around the world, extremely low interest rates, and the non-stop invention of toxic financial instruments, “utilities,” “vehicles,” “facilities,” and arrangements to rescue the rich now dominate the retrogressive direction of humanity. These and other antisocial developments point to a historically exhausted ruling class that is unfit to rule. The financial oligarchy has no solutions for any of the serious problems confronting humanity, just more tragedies.

The last few months have unmasked the most massive economic collapse the U.S. has ever experienced. Officially, 30 million people in the U.S. lost their jobs in about 6 weeks. The St. Louis Federal Reserve noted recently that around 50 million Americans may be unemployed in the coming months, resulting in an “official” unemployment rate exceeding 32 percent.2 The jobless rate at the height of the 1930s Great Depression was 25%.

Millions have also seen their pensions and savings drop substantially and rapidly. Not surprisingly, the mental, emotional, and physical health of millions has also further deteriorated, causing more harm than the coronavirus itself. Insecurity and uncertainty have never been higher.

Globally, a bigger disaster is unfolding. An April 29, 2020 press release from the International Labor Organization states that, “The continued sharp decline in working hours globally due to the COVID-19 outbreak  means that 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy – that is nearly half of the global workforce – stand in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed.”3

The coming months and years will be horrendous for millions worldwide. More intense social, economic, and political turmoil is bound to arise. Few will be unaffected by coming developments.

Fortunately, the fear, hysteria, and disinformation built into the ready-made “COVID Pandemic” narrative promoted by the rich and their allies has not caused everyone to become anticonscious or paralyzed. Many have not abandoned conscious acts of finding out the truth.

The “COVID Pandemic” did not trigger, induce, or cause the current economic meltdown, it simply diverted attention from it temporarily and provided convenient cover for what was inevitable.4 For years, many have been accurately predicting a major stock market crash and a deepening of the economic depression that started 12 years ago. It was not a matter of if the house of cards would collapse, but when it would break down. Many actually came very close to predicting the exact timeline of the economic collapse as well. There really were no mysteries or secrets.

Capitalism has always lurched from crisis to crisis, ensuring instability and insecurity for millions. Chaos, anarchy, and violence are inherent core features of the so-called “free market.” Economic upheavals, slumps, recessions, booms, and busts are fellow-travelers of this anachronistic economic system that further destroys the social and natural environment with each passing day. This will continue so long as conscious human control of the economy is blocked by existing political-economic arrangements.

While comparing the current economic catastrophe to the deep economic crises of 2008 or the 1930s has some value, this value is limited because the breadth, depth, and nature of the current economic collapse is far greater and qualitatively different given the all-around level of development and interconnectedness of contemporary societies and economies around the world. Wealth and power are also more concentrated in fewer hands today than just 12 years ago. Geo-political and geo-economic configurations have evolved and changed as well, presenting humanity with new realities. And never before has most of the world been put on a top-down extended lockdown (a prison term) for months at the same time.

In this dark context, while various benefits, stimulus checks, waivers and extensions for bills, and other social insurance programs are being considered and implemented in order to provide people with some relief, these are all temporary and inadequate—they are largely “stop-gap measures.” Student loans, for example, will have to start being repaid eventually, as will rent, credit cards, mortgages, car payments, service fees, and utility bills.

Here it is worth recalling that the U.S. Federal Reserve recently printed $4 trillion to prop up the big banks and big business. This is in addition to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed a few weeks ago,5 which also benefits mainly the rich. Most of the money that was printed in three seconds will not go to the majority. It will not substantively help the millions who have been harmed by the severe economic collapse that could have been prevented if decisions were made by the people and not the financial oligarchy. This is even more alarming when considering that the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Neel Kashkari, recently stated that the Federal Reserve has an “infinite amount of cash” to bail out the super-rich.

But if an “infinite amount of cash” can arbitrarily and instantly be printed on a whim, why should anything go unfunded? Why not fully fund excellent healthcare for all right now? Why not fully fund America’s public schools? Why not eliminate $1.7 trillion of humiliating student debt immediately? Why should anyone even pay taxes? What meaning does money have if it bears no relationship to the real world and the sphere of production that humanity depends on? Replacing real value with fictitious value is not a recipe for social progress; it lays the groundwork for deeper problems down the road.

Great Repression

The current crisis will lead to the further concentration of wealth in even fewer hands. Everything will be even more monopolized by the super-rich.

Monopoly in economics means monopoly in politics, and monopoly in politics means less democracy and more authoritarianism, repression, surveillance, and war. Things cannot be otherwise in the final and highest stage of capitalism. Economic parasitism and decay will only intensify until a new direction, motivation, and outlook for society and the economy are established by the people themselves.

On May 2, 2020, the Washington Post wrote:

In a matter of months, tens of millions of people in dozens of countries have been placed under surveillance. Governments, private companies and researchers observe the health, habits and movements of citizens, often without their consent…. At least 27 countries are using data from cellphone companies to track the movements of citizens, according to Edin Omanovic, the advocacy director for Privacy International, which is keeping a record of surveillance programs.6

It is no accident that we are seeing a broad range of enhanced police-state arrangements being put into place during the “COVID Pandemic.” Police-state arrangements are multiplying, often out of sight and with zero scrutiny.

New police-state arrangements include stepping up the number of police departments in dozens of U.S. cities using more drones to “protect public health”—usually without telling anyone. A dystopian atmosphere has even emerged in some places.

We are also seeing big tech companies like Apple launching “tracing apps” so as to “find infected people” and  “improve public health.” Such apps will gather, store, and misuse gigantic quantities of private information, creating much anguish and many headaches for people in a variety of ways.

State “digital checkpoints” have also conveniently emerged during the “COVID Pandemic.” Some states are now setting up arrangements that require those driving into their state to stop at some place close to the state border and complete some sort of digital personal inventory and questionnaire before being permitted to enter the state. Putting aside the many embarrassing logistical and technical problems that have emerged with these poorly-conceived antisocial arrangements, this is nonetheless an effective way to gather extensive private and personal information—and it is probably unconstitutional; certainly not something Americans are used to or should get used to.

Perhaps worse, several mayors of major cities have publicly, casually, and openly called on people to snitch on each other in the name of “improving public heath.” Snitching all of a sudden has been cynically turned into a virtue, even a heroic act. But is such an approach a progressive, responsible, and ethical way to build a modern society that honors the dignity and personality of people? How is sowing distrust, animosity, and fear between neighbors helpful and acceptable? Is this how unity and mutual support are built?

A massive top-down effort to shift many different services and work online is also exposing millions more to frequent invasions of their privacy and hacking, not to mention a range of technology-related health problems (e.g., headaches, eye strain, neck pain, hand problems, shoulder tension, and sedentary behavior). Technology is great in many ways, but it is also excellent at delivering many problems.

For a more extensive and detailed breakdown of the many other aggressive and criminalizing surveillance tactics being used by authorities at home and abroad, see John W. Whitehead’s March 3, 2020 article, “Coronavirus vs. the Mass Surveillance State: Which Poses the Greater Threat?”

Fight for the Alternative

It is critical to consciously reject and condemn police state arrangements and government abdicating its responsibility to the people. As grim and sometimes apocalyptic as the dark situation we are collectively suffering through feels like at times, all is not lost. All is not doom and gloom.

Contradictions, cracks, and openings abound.

While various things have (inadvertently) improved during the “COVID Pandemic,” such as less pollution around the world, clearer skies, cleaner lakes, fewer car accidents, and lower gas prices, to name just a few, we are experiencing a deep crisis, and a crisis presents various opportunities.

What happens next is significant.

It is critical to deprive the rich and their allies of any initiative to further wreck everything. Their ideas and policies are bankrupt and do not serve the public interest. The rich and their retinue, including the cartel political parties, must not be allowed to set the agenda for anything. They have no real solutions.

People are tired of being told what to do by unaccountable “leaders” and politicians, and they reject the ready-made diversionary answers “leaders” are tirelessly promoting. People do not want any more top-down “solutions” that leave them out of the equation. They want to be the decision-makers themselves, which means giving more than occasional “input” that is routinely disregarded or used against them anyway. Decision-making and “input” are not the same. The entire polity must be part of all decision-making. Sovereignty lies with the polity, not “leaders,” different factions of the rich, and politicians.

People can and must boldly speak out in their own name and be accountable only to  themselves and their peers. The polity is very creative and has many intelligent solutions for everything, as well as a strong desire to enact such solutions.

It is harmful to rely on the rich and their political representatives. It is best to avoid them altogether and find new ways to come together and think about, analyze, and discuss new directions, motivations, agendas, and programs for society and the economy. There is an alternative to the highly untenable status quo.

  1. Credit card debt is about one trillion dollars in America and has grown significantly since the 2008 economic collapse. See Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. August 2019. The consumer credit card market.
  2. Miguel Faria-e-Castro.  “Back-of-the-envelope estimates of next quarter’s unemployment rate“. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, March 24, 2020.
  3. International Labor Organization.  “ILO: As job losses escalate, nearly half of global workforce at risk of losing livelihoods“, April 29, 2020.
  4. It is worth noting that, intended or not, social and physical distancing rules have played a big role in blocking rallies, protests, and demonstrations against assaults on people’s rights and livelihoods.
  5. Note that millions of people have still not received their meager stimulus check.
  6. Kareem Fahim, Min Joo Kim and Steve Hendrix.  “Cellphone monitoring is spreading with the coronavirus.  So is an uneasy tolerance of surveillance“. Washington Post, May 2, 2020.

Rich Peasants, Poor Peasants and “Mom-and-Pop Landlords”

In the course of the evolving patchwork of rent strikes happening right now across the US, there is suddenly a lot of talk in the press about how much the landlords are hurting. The landlords, of course, own the press, control the federal government, run all fifty states, and have a stranglehold on most of the city councils, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

My landlord, an investment company called the Randall Group that owns hundreds of residential and commercial properties up and down the west coast, reacted to the rise of a pandemic and the lockdown of the country by raising our rent, as they do every year, bringing it now to exactly 150% what it was when we moved in, in 2007. Back when I made much more money, as a touring musician in the era when people still bought CDs, when we moved in here, the rent was $500 a month. Pre-pandemic, with rents everywhere skyrocketing, venues closing due to that, CD sales nonexistent, income about halved, our rent had risen to $1,175 per month. Weeks after the pandemic hit, the automatons at the management company that is a subsidiary of the company that owns the building sent us a rent increase, to $1,250 a month, for the exact same shithole two-bedroom apartment, that didn’t seem at all like a shithole when we moved in, and the rent was affordable. Now the old asbestos hiding behind every wall seems much more toxic than it used to, and the perpetually broken clothes dryer in the laundry room seems a bit more broken than it used to. And the poor workers sickening us and themselves with gas-powered leaf-blowers around the property every week seem even more pitiful, knowing that none of the skyrocking profits made by Randall Group from all their real estate investments is going to those workers, or to us residents.

But then, after who knows how many of Randall Group’s renters stopped paying the rent, along with us – after the state of Oregon surprised all of us tenants rights advocates by passing a very temporary suspension on evictions, and then the city council unanimously voted to strengthen that suspension, for Portland residents under their jurisdiction – then the landlord’s minions at CTL Management, Inc., suddenly expressed sympathy for their renters in a form letter, for the first time ever that I know of. Now that paying the rent is temporarily optional, they suddenly have to justify their existences.

How did they do that, you wonder? Did they talk about their investors, and how much they’ll be hurting without their quarterly returns? Did they talk about the mortgages they owe? No, because they don’t owe mortgages, they’re not that kind of landlord. They buy buildings and charge as much as they can to rent them to people who need housing, that’s how it works. They take advantage of the fact that rents are higher in other cities, and they raise them here, not because they need to, but because they can. Because the purpose of their corporate existence is the profits of their investors – period. How those profits are made is incidental. But they invest in real estate because it’s the most profitable investment you can make. And the main reason it’s so profitable is because the landlords made the laws, and control the police forces.

CTL wrote us a letter to try to appeal to our empathy for the workers that come around now and then with duct tape to fix our broken appliances, the workers who mow the lawn with a gas-powered mower, and use gas-powered leafblowers, because the company that employs them is too cheap to use electric appliances that don’t sicken the workers and the residents. The workers who are obviously being paid low wages, as evidenced by the fact that almost none of them speak English as a first language. Corporations don’t hire poor, uneducated immigrants out of the goodness of their hearts, because they love Mexicans – they do it because people who are not from here, who don’t speak English as a first language, who don’t have a college degree, and who, in many cases, are not here legally, are easier to exploit, to pay badly – and now the company says they care about them, as they hope we care about them, too. Apparently, all these decades of raising the rent and handing millions of dollars of profits to their investors every quarter did not allow them to put away a little money to pay their undocumented workers, and now maybe they’ll have to lay them off, and blame us rent strikers for this.

But there are, of course, other landlords. Let’s be clear – if you live in an apartment building, your landlord is probably a faceless corporation that exists solely for the purpose of profiting off of your need for housing, in order to pay the investors their profits every quarter. But if you rent in a house, your situation may be different. Maybe you have what they call a “mom and pop” landlord. These are the landlords that are getting the most sympathy from the corporate and “public” media.

In the interest of full disclosure, and to make a broader point, let me say here now that I am one of them. In addition to being a renter on rent strike against a disgusting corporate entity on the west coast, I have inherited my mother’s house in rural Connecticut. My sister also owns a house in Boston, which she lives in. Given that she has experience with these things and is better at math than me, she figured out how much we needed to charge to rent the house in Connecticut, in order to cover the costs of maintenance and taxes. So we charge our tenant $700 a month to rent this beautiful, three-story, three-bedroom house in the countryside. Currently, we charge $0 a month.

If the crisis continues for a very long time, such that our tenant can’t start paying rent again, what will happen? There are many possibilities. Perhaps I’ll have to find another way of paying the property tax next year, or perhaps property taxes will be suspended by the town for the year, since this is ostensibly a democracy, and in democracies these things can be done. Perhaps we won’t be able to put away money this year, for the next time the house needs a new roof, and we’ll have to put that off for an extra year. Houses of this type generally need a new roof every 15 years or so, so you have to plan for this, because it’s expensive. (Incidentally, fixing the roof on our apartment in Portland was used as a justification by a particularly stooge-ish property manager we had for a while for that year’s rent increase.)

But what about these poor “mom and pop” landlords who are not renting out a property they happen to own, basically at cost? What about those “mom and pop” landlords who make much or all of their living from renting a house or two that they bought or inherited, to other people?

Let me tell you a little story. Before the pandemic, I spent most of my adult life traveling the world and playing music for a living. Especially in North America and northern Europe, as it happens. I was visiting my friend Kirsten in Denmark. Her parents had lived well into their nineties, but both of them had recently passed away. Kirsten and I were taking a walk around the public lake near the center of the beautiful town she lives in.

Kirsten is in her sixties, and has spent most of her adult life working as a sort of counselor and as one who teaches other people how to do this kind of thing – a profession they call “pedagogue” in Denmark, but it’s one of many professions that don’t exist as such in the US. And there are a lot of pedagogues in Denmark. Half of the people work for the state, and what they do is they take care of the other half of society, basically, or at least those elements of the other half of society that need help. By US standards, it’s a bit like living in Disneyworld, but without any advertisements, and nothing is made of plastic, and most everyone looks very healthy and fit.

But on this day, Kirsten was having a bit of stress. She doesn’t like dealing with numbers or money, she’s a very down-to-Earth sort who relates much more readily to another person’s emotional state than to something on a screen or in a letter from the tax authorities. I’ll paraphrase the conversation.

Kirsten: “I’m a little stressed, because I really must do something with my parents’ house now, I cannot procrastinate any longer.”

Me: “Are you going to sell it or rent it?”

Kirsten: “I’ve been renting it, for the past year-and-a-half, to a nice family from Afghanistan. But I can only do that for two years, and then I must sell it.”

“What happens if you don’t sell it, but just keep on renting it?” I asked, confused.

“Here in Denmark,” she replied, “if you own two houses, you have to sell one of them within two years, or you pay a tremendous fine. You cannot profit from renting a house you own, the way people do in the United States. You can rent it for two years, under strict conditions set by the state, and then you must sell it. If you can’t find a buyer for what you’re asking during those two years, you must lower your price in order to sell it quickly.”

I had spent time traveling and playing gigs in Denmark often several times a year for many years at that point, but I had never known about how Danish housing laws work. Suddenly, the prosperity of the society, and the egalitarian nature of it, made a lot more sense. It is kept that way, by law. People who want to do what so many “mom and pop” landlords do here – make their own living by virtue of the fact that they inherited a house, or had the money to buy a house or two that they can now rent to someone else – do not have that option in Denmark. They have to work for a living instead, or find another way of getting supported through someone else’s labor, aside from taking advantage of their need for housing, and profiting from it. And then complaining of their victimhood when their tenants are unable or unwilling to play this exploitative game.

Denmark is not a classless society, but it’s a hell of a lot closer to one than anything you’ve ever seen if you have never left the United States. And what we learn when we study the history of land ownership, land reform, rebellions, and rent strikes in the world – as I have been doing for a long time now, like a good anarchist – as with other forms of conflict in society that is basically what you would call class conflict, is it’s never a simple picture.

In the songs and tributes to the fallen martyrs, the picture is usually simple – it was all of us renters against the landed gentry, we were united, they were all scum. And it ended with a massacre, it ended with a bloody revolution, or it ended with a victorious rent strike – with land reform or the dramatic lowering of rents, the institution of effective forms of rent control, etc. There are loads of examples of all three endings to such conflicts, just in the past century, let alone the whole of human history.

If class conflict were simply between the 99% and the 1%, to use the meme popularized by Occupy Wall Street, revolution would be much easier. What makes everything so complicated is not just the fact that the state is controlled by the landlord corporations who then lobby the legislatures, make the laws, and control the police forces who evict people and imprison them when they resist the feudalistic status quo. What makes things complex is the fact that within the ranks of that 99%, there is much division.

For example, the ranks of the 99% in the US consist of millions of people who don’t have anywhere to live; tens of millions of renters who can barely afford to pay their rent, or, currently, who can’t afford to; and a similar number of home-owners, many of whom don’t just live in the homes they own (or that the bank owns), but are also paying off the bank, or surviving themselves, off of the income they make from renting an apartment or a house, or multiple apartments or houses, to other people. Although on paper it looks like the 99% has more in common with other members of the 99%, than with the 1%, who actually own more than the 99% do, in reality, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Although if you own a large apartment complex you’re actually quite likely to be well within the ranks of the 1%, financially, if you own two houses and rent one of them to tenants, you’re probably still a member of the 99%, even if you’ve managed to set things up in such a way that the only thing you normally have to do for a living is be a landlord, and to hire people who will keep your rental properties in adequate condition. And if you’re in that situation now and your tenant isn’t paying rent, because they can’t or because they’re on rent strike for other reasons, you are surely having a hard time. And if you are now still trying to collect rent for the month of May, 2020, then you probably identify more with the investment companies who are complaining about the rent strikes than you do with those of us who are engaging in the rent strikes.

This is the conflict – the conflict among the different elements of the 99% – that tends to cause social movements to collapse, or to turn into civil wars of one kind or another. In Chinese history they refer to it as the conflict between “poor peasants” and “rich peasants.” In the US, India, and many other countries with kleptocratic governments, tragically useless laws, and terribly unequal distribution of land and other resources, the things that are allowed to happen in the absence of the kind of good governance you see in places like Denmark, create a patchwork of subdivisions — not only in terms of farms literally subdivided until they’re completely useless, but by acting as legal mechanisms to create increasing levels of and increasing forms of profound inequality, within the ranks of the 99%.

We have not only landlords like the big investment companies that farm people like me for the profits of their investors, but we have small landlords who charge as much rent as they do because their mortgages are as high as they are. And then among their tenants, there are those who are subletting their apartments at a profit to yet another renter. There are, in effect, these many levels of what we might call rich peasants and poor peasants – some who feel they have enough vested in the capitalist system, as it is, to defend it vehemently, and others who have been so thoroughly betrayed by the workings of the free market that they are ready to rebel against it, by any means necessary. All easily within the ranks of the 99%.

Whether the rent strikes succeed or not will depend not only on how far the actual ruling class is willing to go to defend their wealth. It will depend on the solidarity of the rest of us, with each other – with our fellow renters and our fellow mortgage-holders, along with those lucky enough not to have a mortgage to pay off anymore.

But the success of this movement will, in my view, also depend on another thing: on the widespread understanding that buying a house in order to rent it to someone else and make a living off of that is a fundamentally parasitic occupation, and should be illegal, as it is in more civilized countries than the US or India, such as Denmark.

All of these “mom and pop” landlords – the ones who make a living at it – should be recognized as what they are: parasites. Rich peasants. I have advice for them: sell. Now. Then find a way to survive that doesn’t involve profiting off of our need to house ourselves. If you were so dependent on the income from your rental property that you don’t know what to do without it, what made you think that that was remotely OK as a way to make a living in the first place? Did you think it would all just go fine, and your renters would be happy with whatever you charged, and keep paying their rent on time, and everyone would live happily ever after? Were you expecting to have to evict people, and make use of the armed enforcers of property laws? Or did it take a while to recover from the shock of doing that, the first time you did it? Did it get easier the second time? The rich peasant baby landlords can ask themselves these questions, when they’re living on the streets with the rest of us, after their feudalistic ponzi scheme of real estate investing collapses, as it is now doing.

The way forward is about solidarity, but achieving solidarity will require moving beyond the false consciousness that says it is OK to run a society like this. That housing is a privilege, whose cost is to be determined by profit-minded individuals and corporations, protected by the state’s armed enforcers. We must collectively come to realize that housing is actually a right, that we must demand, as a society. And that a rent strike is an activity to engage in not only if you can’t afford to pay the rent, but if you believe that it is wrong to pay the rent, when so many others are unable to. That an injury to one is an injury to all. That the parasites in this society are not the unemployed, the homeless, the recipients of meager government aid programs, the housing insecure, the couch-surfers, the car-dwellers.

The parasites are those who own multiple properties, and profit off of renting them to people who need housing. This is a parasitic activity, whether hiding behind the fig leaf called “mom and pop,” or whether “mom and pop” has successfully managed to turn their little operation into a bigger one. The rich peasants want to be capitalists, as a rule. This is what needs to change – their minds, and the minds of those who think that what they are doing is OK, who would be doing the same thing if they had the chance. A new world is possible, and a new Portland is possible, but not until we can envision what that might look like — and not until we really know what it doesn’t look like.

COVID-19 “CARES Act” Bankrolls AlI Post-Human Education

In 1982, former Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement for the US Department of Education, Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt, blew the whistle on the Reagan Administration’s Project BEST (Better Education Skills through Technology): a techno-fascist plan to privatize the American school system by selling it out to Big Tech corporations that deliver B. F. Skinner’s operant-conditioning method of “programmed instruction” through computerized “teaching machines.” Almost thirty years later, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act” is primed to pump a flood of federal education funds into online charter school corporations, such as K12 Inc., KIPP, and Connections Academy, which deploy “adaptive learning” software that replace human teachers with artificial-intelligence courseware programmed with “Skinner-box” cognitive-behavioral algorithms geared to condition students for workforce training.

The CARES Act Cares about Robots

As teachers and students are forced to convert their coursework to online platforms during the COVID-19 lockdown, the CARES Act is creating deregulatory loopholes to expand the federal funding of adaptive-learning courseware delivered by online education corporations such as K12 Inc. (which was bankrolled by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos) and Connections Academy (which is owned by the globalist Pearson Education PLC: the “world’s largest education company”).

According to a press release from the US Department of Education, “[t]he new flexibilities, authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allow schools to repurpose existing K-12 education funds for technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning.” In particular, “[t]he CARES Act … now allows states and school districts to devote more of their federal resources to technology infrastructure to support distance learning for students and for professional development for teachers who are teaching remotely.” In brief, the emergency CARES Act authorizes schools to restructure their budgets by diverting funding for brick-and-mortar infrastructure and then reallocating those funds into new “technology infrastructure” expenses that pay for “distance learning” software delivered by online edu-companies.

At the same time, schools can procure more federal stimulus money by applying for CARES Act grants that fall under the provisions for financing “technology infrastructure” geared toward “distance learning.” Hence, the CARES Act incentivizes schools to increase their eligibility for more federal relief money by applying for grants that pay schools to “upgrade” their virtual campuses with commercial “adaptive learning” software, such as Smart Sparrow and Knewton, which have both been financed by the Pearson Corporation. To be sure, these ed-tech provisions in the CARES Act are written to favor online edu-corporations like the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which deploys adaptive-learning software, such as Dreambox and Clever, the latter of which has been bankrolled by Bilderberger Peter Thiel: Trump’s “shadow president” who has also invested in Knewton.

AI Adaptive Learning Is a Post-Humanism: From Social Distancing to Distance Learning

While these CARES Act incentives funnel money into online ed-tech corporations, the new “Proposed Rules” for federal “Distance Learning and Innovation” (85 FR 18638) have been drafted to streamline federal funding for “competency-based” “adaptive learning” through “subscription-based” “artificial intelligence” that carries out “direct instruction” without input from a human teacher. In brief, this litany of jargon is a recipe for economically checkmating locked-down schools into competing for federal CARES Act funds to pay for online edu-corporations that substitute human teachers with adaptive-learning courseware modules which automate “direct instruction” through AI on a monthly “subscription” basis that can be rolled over indefinitely until the student completes all the course modules necessary to earn “competency” certificates at his or her own pace.

  • Competency-Based Education: CBE refers to self-paced curriculums in which the student can learn faster or slower depending on his or her “competence.” 85 FR 18638 states, “CBE programs . . . measure student progress based on their demonstration of specific competencies rather than sitting in a seat or at a computer for a prescribed period of time. Many CBE programs are designed to permit students to learn at their own pace.” Self-paced CBE enrollment is being promoted so that students who are struggling to adjust to online learning during COVID lockdown will be able to spend more time completing their classwork without penalty of flunking if they miss coursework due dates.
  • Subscription-Based Learning: To facilitate self-paced CBE, the new federal “Distance Learning” rules provide legal flexibility to extend course deadlines by converting credit hours on a semester enrollment basis to competency certificates on a monthly subscription basis. 85 FR 18638 proposes more efficient channels for federal financing of “students enrolled in competency-based programs on a subscription basis” in order to fuel the “[e]xpansion of subscription-based programs [which] provides students with the scheduling flexibility they may need,” especially while they struggle to reschedule life under virtual house arrest. CBE subscription fees can be paid for as many months as the student needs to complete all the online course modules required to earn his or her competency certificate.
  • Adaptive-Learning Courseware: The self-pacing of online CBE subscriptions is further “personalized” by servicing students with 24-hour access to instant automated feedback from “adaptive learning” software, which is defined by 85 FR 18638 as “artificial intelligence” that “teaches” students with “feedback from technology-mediated instruction.” Adaptive-learning software, such as Desire2Learn’s Brightspace LeaP, is a digital version of B.F. Skinner’s “teaching machine,” which automates operant-conditioning methods of stimulus-response animal training. With 24/7 access to “Skinner box” methods of “programmed instruction” through AI automation, students can personalize the self-pacing of their own course progress as they can upload the adaptive-learning software anytime, anyplace, without having to wait for a human instructor to be available. 85 FR 18638 states, “[w]ith the introduction of adaptive learning …, a student enrolled in distance education is likely to be learning at his or her own pace” as ed-tech is “increasingly using analytics to identify struggling or accelerated learners in order to refer them to … additional adaptive learning experiences to support their learning needs.”
  • AI Deregulation: If adaptive-learning software is more convenient and efficient than a human teacher, why not “outsource” the entire profession of human teaching to a digital faculty of artificially intelligent bots? The new “Proposed Rules” redefine the legal terms and conditions for “academic engagement” so that it “need not be exclusively with a human instructor.” The new rules on “Innovation” also “remove barriers” to AI ed-tech progress by allowing educational institutions the “flexibility” to effectively write blank checks for new AI courseware programs without prior regulatory approval from the Department of Ed. As AI teacher-bots, such as IBM’s Watson, are programmed to get progressively “smarter” as they evolve over time through “machine learning,” 85 FR 18638 greenlights “future innovations” for Watson and other AI bots to “move forward” with the development of humanoid “artificial general intelligence (AGI)” that can completely replace human teachers “without undue risk of a negative program finding or other sanction.” It should be noted that a Government Relations representative of the IBM Corporation, Edgar McCulloch, sat on the “Accreditation and Innovation negotiating committee” which helped draft these proposed rules. It should also be noted that IBM’s Watson partners with the globalist Pearson Education.

In sum, these emergency COVID deregulations are being touted to purportedly accommodate students during this virtual-online overhaul of the locked-down school system by expanding CBE curriculums so that course deadlines can be rolled over by converting credit enrollment into competency subscriptions. Due to physical classroom capacity and human staffing limitations, brick-and-mortar classes cannot indefinitely roll over student registration on a monthly subscription basis, which means brick-and-mortar schools are being cornered into permanently converting to virtual-online campuses in order to become eligible for more CARES Act money that subsidizes subscription CBE curriculums. At the same time, human instructors who teach online classes cannot provide 24/7 instruction to fully “personalize” the self-pacing of every student’s CBE curriculum, which means online schools will be encouraged to “hire” adaptive-learning AI instead of human beings. In the final equation, online schools will have an unfair advantage to rake in federal CARES Act funds for replacing human teachers with artificial intelligence while brick-and-mortar schools and human instructors are rendered obsolete as they are held hostage by the economic lockdown without the ability to fairly compete for stimulus money from the CARES Act.

The Techno-Fascist History of Project BEST: The Department of Ed in Bed with Ed-Tech Corporations

To set up the institutionalization of Skinnerian adaptive-learning computers, the Association for Educational Computing and Technology (AECT) was awarded an $855,282 federal grant in 1981 to implement Project BEST (Better Education Skills through Technology), which laid out the blueprint for the public-private techno-fascist schooling system that is currently being rammed through by the CARES Act and 85 FR 1863 under the duress of COVID-19 lockdown.

Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt blew the whistle on this corporate-technocratic education initiative in 1982 when she was the Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement for the US Department of Education under the Ronald Reagan Administration. Iserbyt leaked several internal documents from the Department of Ed pertaining to Project BEST, such as an informational brochure that states, “Project BEST is a cooperative effort involving both the federal, state, and local government and the private sector in the planning and use of modern information technologies to improve the effectiveness of basic skills, teaching and learning.” This document reveals that Project BEST, which was buoyed by President Reagan’s Task Force on Private Sector Initiatives, spent almost one million dollars of federal tax revenues on public-private political-economic plans to plug students into Skinnerian IT computers that psycho-behaviorally condition learning outcomes to fulfill job quotas for corporate-technocratic workforce planning.

Project BEST was pushed by President Reagan’s Secretary of Education, Terrel Howard Bell, who was formerly the US Commissioner of Education, which headed up the Office of Education of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) before the Office of Education was assigned its own separate Department under President Jimmy Carter in 1979. At the end of Reagan’s first term as President, Secretary T. H. Bell passed the technocratic teaching torch to his successor, Education Secretary William Bennet, who later went on to co-found the K12 Inc. Corporation until he had to resign from the online schooling company after public backlash from racist eugenics comments he made on his conservative talk radio show, Bill Bennet’s Morning in America.

It should be noted that Secretary Bennet’s speech writer was Peter Thiel, who would become a key financer of adaptive-learning courseware such as Clever and Knewton. According to a Freedom of Information Act report, on July 19, 2017, Thiel met privately at his “Residence” with the current Secretary of Ed, Betsy DeVos, who was also a key investor in Bennet’s K12 Inc., although she divested her shares in the online edu-company before taking her cabinet seat under President Trump. It should also be noted that DeVos has spent millions of dollars bankrolling virtual charter schools with the help of her cronies at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who created the Virtual Public Schools Act: a template bill which lawmakers use to draft boilerplate legislation establishing “virtual schools” that deliver instruction “via the Internet in a virtual or remote setting.”

In sum, Billionaire Betsy DeVos and her Bilderberg crony, Peter Thiel, are carrying the torch for former Secretaries Bell and Bennet as DeVos capitalizes on the COVID-19 lockdown to ram through the next phase of Project BEST.

Lockdown Therapy for Capitalism

One might think that artists wouldn’t mind being isolated and having more time in studios on account of the current Coronavirus situation.  After all, we spend an enormous amount of time alone, and isolation allows us to have uninterrupted amounts of time to let our imaginations fly.

But there are other elements in play when we examine creativity.  For example, it is crucial that we feel safe to expose all our senses to our environment so that we ground our minds properly to our surroundings, harmoniously with all our channels open.

When the “lockdown” started I was at an art residency in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  I lived in a communal setting with twenty other artists and writers.  As soon as public spaces became inaccessible and “social distancing” became the norm at the residency, many of the fellow artists experienced lack of productivity.  I felt an immediate blockage to my making process.

Perhaps, since our society does not make artists’ activities a priority, this might be the last thing one would consider as a serious “problem”  And to a lesser extent such a concern might be secondary to many artists themselves who will be subjected to enormous economic difficulties.

It is “understood” that this is a “crisis” and we must “fight together“ against our “common enemy” which is the virus.

But who could blame those of us who are very much suspicious of such a momentum, as we hear “decrees” being issued to dictate our social activities while all instruments of state violence and repression are in place to regulate our behaviors.

After all we live in the same society which has baselessly demonized Muslims while bombing, colonizing and destroying their countries in the name of “war on terror”.  Young black people have been openly demonized to justify gentrification, mass incarceration, exploitation through substandard labor conditions and so on and so forth in the name of “war on drugs” and “tough on crime”.

We know that a “crisis” presents opportunities and tools for the ruling class to shape and perpetuate the social structure.  The system in which they thrive is always “too big to fail” while oppressed people keep failing so that they are safely cornered into hopelessness, cynicism and complacency to the feudal order of money and violence.

It is not a speculation that there are people who prosper and even benefit during an economic crisis—as smaller business owners struggle, large corporations and banks benefit from huge government subsidies, giving them more power to buy failing small businesses, for example.  And it is a fact that many of those people have enormous economic power to shape the policies that can benefit themselves. It is not a speculation that they would appreciate having strict measures of control against the people by limiting their freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to travel, or by installing means of surveillance, check points and official certifications for activities that might give freedom to the people beyond the capitalist framework.  It is not a speculation that they would benefit from moving our social interactions to the digital realm, which can commodify our activities as marketable data for the advertising industry, insurance industry and any other moneyed social institutions including education, political institution, legal institution, and financial institution.  Such matters should be seen within the context of the western history being shaped by unelected capitalists with their enormous networks of social institutions.  In fact, private foundations and NGOs are working with governmental organizations and global institutions to implement potentially dangerous policies of draconian measures as well as financialization of our activities for some time.  According to researchers—Cory MorningstarAlison McDowell and others, the potential impact of the transformation which is about to take place through the Internet, block chain technology, artificial intelligence, and etc. under the banner of the fourth industrial revolution can be devastatingly inhumane to our species’ path.  Examining those matters must not be subjected to being labeled as “conspiracy” and dismissed.

Needless to say, a draconian momentum against the capitalist hierarchy accelerates hardships of “invisible people” who struggle against economic deprivation and social repression.  How do homeless people “stay home”?  How do people in jail practice “social distancing”?   How are people vulnerable to domestic violence protected?   How do small business owners continue to stay in business?  How do poor people survive while public services and spaces are eliminated, while affluent people are stock piling in their generously equipped gated communities.  How do people with addiction stay sober?  How do people with suicidal tendencies  secure their dwindling connection to humanity?

But those discussions are rare among us.  A hint of doubt can trigger those people who are “fighting together”  Because once our creative minds learn to live safely in an authoritarian framework of draconian rules and decrees, the narrow framework restricts our thoughts and ideas.  Our minds get weaponized to uphold the authoritarianism as a path to “democracy”, “freedom”, “justice” and “humanity”, which have been mere euphemisms to describe blank checks given to the ruling class.  Once people turn into soldiers of the authoritarianism, the path to the ”solutions” is paved by their  relentless adherence to corporate political parties, official decrees and carefully concocted narratives within the capitalist framework.  Our discussions cease to be mutually respectful exchange; instead, they become battle grounds in which dissenting voices are vetted, attacked and eliminated.

A society that can’t sustain artists is a society that kills minds to care, understand, empathize and share.  A society that enforces its imperatives with fear instead of trust in humanity deprives a healthy mechanism to guide itself.

As I see how public sentiment is developing over the virus situation, I must mention one more thing.  There has been a proven method of silencing anti-capitalist voices within our society, used by media, political figures, corporate dissidents and others.  It requires a few steps.

First, amplify the voices of people who willingly sacrifice those who they consider to hold lower positions than they do in demanding their righteous positions within the capitalist hierarchy.  The voices might come from racist nationalists, patriarchal misogynists, flag waving anti-immigrant activists or heartless Trump supporters demanding old people to die during the coronavirus pandemic.  Those people recognize that an aspect or a policy of the establishment will compromise their lives—after all they are also oppressed by the capitalist order.  However, they do embrace the capitalist order in essence.  They do not tolerate sharing their positions with people who they despise.

Second, claim that you are with victims of racism, misogyny or xenophobia, or old people who are vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.

Third, falsely equate an anti-capitalist perspective with that of those political villains.

Fourth, dismiss those who are calling out the ruling class agenda as “racist”, “misogynists”, “fascist worshipers” and so on.

This method has been very effective.  I am sure that anyone who has expressed a concern over capitalist domination can recall being labeled as what they actually oppose.

The method achieves a few things at the same time.  First, it obscures the mechanism of capitalist hierarchy. Second, it divides people who should be fighting against the system together—obscuring the meaning of class struggle.  Third, it augments the capitalist hierarchy.  Fourth, it vitalizes the political legitimacy of corporate political parties which utilize the division.  Needless to say, the narrative of division is actively generated by corporate political parties as well.

It is imperative that we recognize the predicaments of the people who are most oppressed within our society, while we firmly recognize the dynamics within the capitalist hierarchy, and stay away from being a part of the mechanism which safely turns our predicaments into driving forces of capitalism.

I hope above writing can generate much needed discussions on the topic among us.