Category Archives: Neoliberalism

The Myth of Corbyn’s Labour Failure and Neoliberalism’s Western Electoral Success

In 2020 Kier Starmer became UK Labour leader and promptly reneged on just about every campaign promise he’d made to adhere to the policies, traditional Party principals, and post-war consensus values, that had been restored under Jeremy Corbyn’s previous tenureship.  Starmer has withdrawn the Party Whip from Corbyn – effectively exiling him – and more recently given interviews about the Party supposedly having to ‘recover’ from Corbyn’s leadership.  In this he’s been consistently aided and abetted by various commentariat neoliberal mouthpieces in the corporate media, similarly implying that the Blairite era was some sort of successful norm.

This spin on recent history presupposes two false premises.  Firstly, that the era of Corbyn’s grassroots mobilisation was some sort of oxymoron democratic failure, this the available evidence belies.  Secondly, that rather than being a process of direct democratic representation on behalf of the mass of society, electoral politics should be treated as some sort of advertising/marketing game designed to facilitate the careers of a small handful of individuals, operating on behalf of highly financed corporate lobbyists. This was not what the Labour Party was formed to do.

As a representational organisation, the Labour Party had been originally founded by mass movement Trade Unionists and Chartist campaigners for the poor. Post-war, in terms of representing the economic interests of society’s economically oppressed working-class, the marginalised, and have-nots, it had prior to neoliberal entryism, some similarities with the pre-Clinton insurgency Democratic Party. Contrary to Starmer’s and corporate media’s constructed narrative of supposed neoliberal electoral efficiency, the evidence from recent history of collapsing General Election voter numbers demonstrates quite starkly, that Labour’s social base, has realised it’s being democratically denied the representation from its Party, it historically could have expected and desired.  Its societal grassroots therefore recognised it had no vested interest in continuing to vote.

The Labour Party came unsuccessfully through Thatcherism smeared and bullied by the right-wing Murdoch and Rothermere Press who day-to-day, did the propaganda heavy-lifting for the Tory Party’s campaigning. From this era, Neil Kinnock was the last traditional Labour leader. Kinnock invoked working-class authenticity by claiming to be a proud Welsh socialist – though having subsequently accepted a peerage and later supported neoliberal entryism, this historical claim would seem to have been just spin.

That said, Labour under faux but perhaps at least perceived real traditionalist Kinnock, came out of the 1992 General Election losing, yet with an improved 11.5 million votes. In 1997, years of Tory corruption resulted in Tony Blair riding into power on an anti-Conservative turnout for New Labour, of 13.5 million votes. Yet, five years of pandering to big money and therefore economically attacking his own supporters, meant that at the 2001 General Election only 10.7million voters thought the Party still represented them. Blair had lost nearly 3 million voters — 2 million the Party had previously picked up off the Tories, and nearly a further million, down on the Party’s performance under Kinnock had disappeared on apparent electoral strike (significantly this is well before the Iraq War). In 2005 the deterioration continued under Blair with the Party albeit staying in power, but losing another million Labour voters, now down to 9.5 million.  In 2010 Labour’s neoliberal former Chancellor Gordon Brown, led the Party to defeat and astonishingly only 8.5 million people now thought the Party actually represented them.

In all during this period Blair and Brown managed — via their self-serving corporate lobbying aligned curatorship of the Party — to burn their way through the allegiances of 5 million voters, while losing two thirds of Labour’s once 400,000 strong membership, and this during a period when the UK population was actually increasing. If Labour’s social base had any voice in an ever more unrepresentative billionaire orientated corporate media, somebody surely would have asked ‘just who have these neoliberals been working for?’

Labour’s new young Leader Ed Miliband, rhetorically made the pretence in the 2015 General Election, of apparently moving the Party back to the left and from Gordon Brown’s mere 8.5 million votes, managed to stabilise the rout of its disappearing grassroots, but still only obtaining an electorally failing and underachieving, 9.5 million voters support.

Jeremy Corbyn then became Leader and the Party in losing the 2017 General Election, still dramatically managed to turn around 16 years of decline, with 12.8 million voters now believing Labour once again represented them. Indicative of the renewed long-term health of Labour its now 0.5 million members made it the largest political organisation in Europe.  All of this was achieved with the neoliberal Labour right doing everything possible to bring Corbyn down in the two years prior to the General Election – even restaging a Leadership contest within a year of Corbyn first success.

In the run-up to the 2019 General Election the Party had to contend with a partisan corporate media at war with it, an ongoing pro-Israel moral panic, an attempt to subvert the Brexit referendum by globalised free trade interests, clearly designed to change Labour’s leadership and direction.  All of which was supported by the Party’s neoliberal right.

Given that much of Labour’s heartlands favoured leaving the EU, the anti-democratic attack on the referendum result was probably the most damaging. If you’re not respecting votes cast you can’t expect voters to support you. In any case, contrary to media spin, the referendum result had not been particularly close. The available pool of voters was 46 million. 16 million voted to remain in the EU and lost. That meant 30 million people either favoured leaving or in abstaining, were content to go along with the democratic outcome, whichever way — Leave/Remain — it came out.

Consequently Labour under Corbyn lost a lot of MPs in the 2019 General Election, many in Party heartlands. This was spun in the media as one of Labour’s worst ever results. Actually, even in these circumstances, 10.2 million voters felt that the values and manifesto of Labour with Corbyn leadership represented them. This was more than voted for the Party under Ed Milliband, more than voted for the Party when Gordon Brown was leader. It was even more than voted for the Party during Blair’s last election win. The nature of Britain’s ‘first past the post’ voting system means that if your Party turn-out is not concentrated in specific districts but instead spread-out, you might enjoy popular support but not constituency MP successes.  But at least under a Party traditionalist like Corbyn the future health of Labour as a social movement could be regarded as secure – at least until Starmer came along.

All of which begs the question once the dust from electoral marketing has settled, why comparatively do neoliberals haemorrhage votes so quickly? In the case of Blair and Brown, in wasn’t only the case their reputations were in tatters with Muslims and anti-war groups. In order to maintain a low tax regime on the rich and corporate elites, there was hardly a part of working-class life that was not attacked by them. They abolished the mandatory student grant and introduced fees, so now deeply indebted students had no reason to be grateful to them.  The poor, who had their access to welfare cut while being stigmatised as ‘scroungers… part of a culture of dependency’, had no reason to vote neoliberal New Labour. Low income social housing residents told, their rents would be forced up to market levels, similarly had no reason for gratitude.  And of course neoliberal employment casualisation means that a generation of young workers now have less job protections than previously enjoyed by their grandparents.

As Karl Marx put it and contrary to neoliberal political marketing: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”

We might also presume that the Clintons have done similar damage to the long-term culture of the Democrat Party.  The people of Arkansas experienced three terms of the Clintons in the governor’s office. They had two terms of the Clintons in the White House.  Yet in the 2014 US poverty rankings Arkansas came forty-eighth out of fifty states. One of the two worse-off states was Louisiana. It might be glib and not particularly original but it is possible to conclude that having the Clintons represent you is nearly as bad as experiencing Hurricane Katrina.

Of course it is difficult to identify the same level of voter decline in the United States because in the same 1992 to 2020 time period, the country’s population increased from 256,990,607 to 331,449,281.  This increase of 74,458,674 is so large it’s roughly the size of Trumps 2020 second ever largest Presidential voter turnout (obviously this does not necessarily indicate the same people voted for him).

However, there is one US example that is quite helpful. In 2008 Barack Obama campaigned for the Presidency – like Blair in 97 – as the anti-status-quo ‘change candidate’ and picked up a historically large voter turnout of 69,498,516. But in office he continued foreign wars, protected the professional banking class, little was done to improve the economic or educational opportunities of working-class Americans, and Obama impotently rung his hands while a Black Lives Matter crisis played out on the streets.

In 2012’s election Obama’s turnout dropped to 65,915,795. The resulting loss of 3.5 million voters, who no longer felt represented, is not huge in a country the size of the US. But what happened next is interesting. In the run up to the 2016 Presidential election the Democrats could at least claim to have expanded US medical cover. Yet Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump despite him being depicted in the corporate media as a bogeyman. Clinton’s loss was spun in the corporate media as a popular vote win.  However her 65,853,514 turnout meant she’d struggled to just about get into the ballpark of Obama’s declining second, Presidential vote count.  Significantly Clinton had only made it into the race courtesy of DNC shenanigans in her favour at the expense of grassroots darling Bernie Sanders.

In 2020 Joe Biden made it into the White House on the back of a massive record breaking anti-Trump vote of 81,268,924 million. Biden is little better than neoliberal Hillary Clinton.  Over the next five years every failure, every betrayal of leftist grassroots Democrats will – according to past form – erode that voter turnout. Short of Trump or a significant number of his older supporters dropping dead, come the next election, most of his fanatical 74,216,154 voter turnout will be intact.  The losers will be those who wanted a fairer America but got stuck with neoliberals.

Here in the UK there are local elections on Thursday May 6 2012. Labour Leader Starmer has spent the last year, attacking, smearing and banning the Party’s own constituency groups and supporters. The word is that Labour voters are back on electoral strike. Some have formed The Northern Independence Party (NIP). Activists are refusing to canvass and campaign for the Party.  If results are as bad as expected, Starmer will no doubt blame Corbyn and his legacy. The corporate media will likely choose to echo this untruth.  The message from this is that grassroots groups need to find a way turning their Parties back into representative social movements, instead of marketing machines for unscrupulous careerists, in pursuit of corporate lobbying money.

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No Justification for the Existence of Charter Schools

Non-profit and for-profit charter schools are privatized, marketized, corporatized education arrangements that appeared 30 years ago in the U.S. They are legal in 45 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam. About 3.3 million youth are currently enrolled in roughly 7,400 charter schools.

Charter schools openly embrace “free market” ideology and siphon billions of public dollars a year from public schools, many of which are chronically under-funded. Their academic track record is unimpressive and often very poor. Many do not provide employee retirement programs. Like a private business, charter schools spend lots of money on advertising and marketing and have high student, teacher, and principal turnover rates. They are also frequently mired in controversy, scandal, and corruption. They cannot levy taxes, are run by unelected individuals, and regularly hire uncertified teachers. Most charter schools are segregated and thousands have closed over the course of three decades, leaving many minority families out in the cold. The three main reasons for charter school closures are: financial malfeasance, mismanagement, and poor academic performance. Charter schools also dodge many public standards and laws followed by public schools. Moreover, about 90% of charter schools have no teacher unions and charter school authorizing is defective in many states. Many other problems could be listed.

It is also worth observing that the vast majority of individuals who enroll in teacher education programs do so in order to graduate and teach in a public school. Few, if any, teacher education candidates enroll in teacher education programs because they want to graduate and teach in a charter school. That is typically not the goal or outlook of people enrolled in teacher education programs. Further, as more problems with charter schools are exposed and publicized, the larger the number of people who oppose them. Criticism and rejection of charter schools has steadily increased over the years.

To be sure, charter schools did not start out as a humble, virtuous, principled, benign grass-roots effort. The charter school idea did not come from ordinary everyday parents, students, and teachers. There was never anything grass-roots or pro-social about the charter school movement. It is no surprise that many millionaires and billionaires are involved in charter schools. From the very beginning, charter schools have been a top-down initiative to break the public school “monopoly” and outsource education to the private sector under the veneer of high ideals. Charter schools did not emerge 30 years ago free of the influence of narrow private interests. They are a textbook product of the neoliberal period and project.

The notion that charter schools began as a way to empower teachers, serve as a laboratory for innovative replicable practices, provide parents with “choices,” reach kids who are “at-risk,” or some other lofty goal is designed to fool the gullible and divert attention from their inherently privatized and marketized character. It is not the case that charter schools started out as a great desirable idea that everyone could get behind but later on were hijacked by “the wrong people” and turned into the crisis-prone controversial schools that they are today. Such a perception implies that there is something legitimate or worth supporting about charter schools, which is another way of saying that there is something legitimate or worth supporting about the privatization of public schools.

From a human-centered perspective, privatization only increases problems, it does not solve them.

Privatization usually leads to more corruption, less transparency, poorer services, higher costs, diminished worker voice, more inequality, and less efficiency. Privatization negates the public interest. Privatization leaves workers and the public with fewer funds to serve workers and the public.

Private literally means the opposite of public. Private and public are antonyms. Blurring or trivializing the distinction between public and private serves only private interests and creates the illusion that the public sphere and private sphere do not have irreconcilable aims and practices. Public-private “partnerships” (PPPs), for example, have nothing to do with benefiting the public. PPPs, which are growing rapidly at home and abroad, mainly transfer public money to private hands under the banner of high ideals.

The aim of privatizers is not to advance the public interest but to seize as much public wealth as fast as possible through neoliberal state restructuring, that is, through state-organized corruption to funnel money to the rich. This harms education, society, the economy, and has nothing to do with a modern nation-building project.

The challenge confronting the society as a whole is how to ensure that the country has fully-funded, publicly-governed, world-class, integrated public schools in every neighborhood. Treating education as a commodity and parents and students as consumers and “school shoppers” is not the way forward. It reinforces a “winner-loser” ethos, which has no place in education. A modern society based on mass industrial production cannot operate and develop well on such a basis.

Creating the impression that there is something legitimate about charter schools 1 or that they can somehow be improved and become something other than charter schools does not serve the public interest or jibe with the results of investigation. More charter schools equals more problems, including for charter schools themselves.

Closing all charter schools will help improve education, society, the economy, and the national interest in many ways. The deepening crisis in these spheres cannot be solved by further empowering the rich while further excluding people from making the decisions that affect their lives.

  1. Charter means contract. Charter schools are contract schools. Unlike public schools, charter schools are not state agencies.
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Economic Collapse Continues Uninterrupted

To conceal the economic and social decline that continues to unfold at home and abroad, major newspapers are working overtime to promote happy economic news. Many headlines are irrational and out of touch. They make no sense. Desperation to convince everyone that all is well or all will soon be great is very high. The assault on economic science and coherence is intense. Working in concert, and contrary to the lived experience of millions of people, many newspapers are declaring miraculous “economic growth rates” for country after country. According to the rich and their media, numerous countries are experiencing or are on the cusp of experiencing very strong “come-backs” or “complete recoveries.” Very high rates of annual economic growth, generally not found in any prior period, are being floated regularly. The numbers defy common sense.

In reality, economic and social problems are getting worse nationally and internationally.

“Getting back to the pre-Covid standard will take time,” said Carmen Reinhart, the World Bank’s chief economist. “The aftermath of Covid isn’t going to reverse for a lot of countries. Far from it.” Even this recent statement is misleading because it implies that pre-Covid economic conditions were somehow good or acceptable when things have actually been going downhill for decades. Most economies never really “recovered” from the economic collapse of 2008. Most countries are still running on gas fumes while poverty, unemployment, under-employment, inequality, debt, food insecurity, generalized anxiety, and other problems keep worsening. And today, with millions of people fully vaccinated and trillions of phantom dollars, euros, and yen printed by the world’s central banks, there is still no real and sustained stability, prosperity, security, or harmony. People everywhere are still anxious about the future. Pious statements from world leaders about “fixing” capitalism have done nothing to reverse the global economic decline that started years ago and was intensified by the “COVID Pandemic.”

In the U.S. alone, in real numbers, about 3-4 million people a month have been laid off for 13 consecutive months. At no other time in U.S. history has such a calamity on this scale happened. This has “improved” slightly recently but the number of people being laid off every month remains extremely high and troubling. In New York State, for example:

the statewide [official] unemployment rate remains the second highest in the country at just under 9%. One year after the start of the pandemic and the recession it caused, most of the jobs New York lost still have not come back. (emphasis added, April 2021).

In addition, nationally the number of long-term unemployed remains high and the labor force participation rate remains low. And most new jobs that are “created” are not high-paying jobs with good benefits and security. The so-called “Gig Economy” has beleaguered millions.

Some groups have been more adversely affected than others. In April 2021, U.S. News & World Report conveyed that:

In February 2020, right before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, Black women had an employment to population ratio of 60.8%; that now stands at 54.8%, a drop of 6 percentage points.

The obsolete U.S. economic system has discarded more than half a million black women from the labor force in the past year.

In December 2019, around the time the “COVID Pandemic” began to emerge, Brookings reported that:

An estimated 53 million people—44 percent of all U.S. workers ages 18–64—are low-wage workers. That’s more than twice the number of people in the 10 most populous U.S. cities combined. Their median hourly wage is $10.22, and their median annual earnings are $17,950.

The Federal Reserve reports that 37 percent of Americans in 2019 did not have $400 to cover an unanticipated emergency. In Louisiana alone, 1 out of 5 families today are living at the poverty level.  Sadly, “60% of Americans will live below the official poverty line for at least one year of their lives.” While American billionaires became $1.3 trillion richer, about 8 million Americans joined the ranks of the poor during the “COVID Pandemic.”

And more inflation will make things worse for more people. A March 2021 headline from NBC News reads: “The price of food and gas is creeping higher — and will stay that way for a while.”  ABC News goes further in April 2021 and says that “the post-pandemic economy will include higher prices, worse service, longer delays.”

Homelessness in the U.S. is also increasing:

COVID-driven loss of jobs and employment income will cause the number of homeless workers to increase each year through 2023. Without large-scale, government employment programs the Pandemic Recession is projected to cause twice as much homelessness as the 2008 Great Recession. Over the next four years the current Pandemic Recession is projected to cause chronic homelessness to increase 49 percent in the United States, 68 percent in California and 86 percent in Los Angeles County. [The homeless include the] homeless on the streets, shelter residents and couch surfers. (emphasis added, January 11, 2021)

Perhaps ironically, just “Two blocks from the Federal Reserve, a growing encampment of the homeless grips the economy’s most powerful person [Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell].”

Officially, about four million businesses, including more than 110,000 restaurants, have permanently closed in the U.S. over the past 14 months.  In April 2021 Business Insider stated that, “roughly 80,000 stores are doomed to close in the next 5 years as the retail apocalypse continues to rip through America.”  The real figure is likely higher.

Bankruptcies have also risen in some sectors. For example, bankruptcies by North American oil producers “rose to the highest first-quarter level since 2016.”

In March 2021 the Economic Policy Institute reported that “more than 25 million workers are directly harmed by the COVID labor market.” Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are more than 100 applicants for each job opening in some sectors.

Given the depth and breadth of the economic collapse in the U.S., it is no surprise that “1 in 6 Americans went into therapy for the first time in 2020.” The number of people affected by depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicide worldwide as a direct result of the long depression is very high. These harsh facts and realities are also linked to more violence, killings, protests, demonstrations, social unrest, and riots worldwide.

In terms of physical health, “Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults report undesired weight changes since the COVID-19 pandemic began.” This will only exacerbate the diabetes pandemic that has been ravaging more countries every year.

On another front, the Pew Research Center informs us that, as a result of the economic collapse that has unfolded over the past year, “A majority of young adults in the U.S. live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression.”   And it does not help that student debt now exceeds $1.7 trillion and is still climbing rapidly.

Millions of college faculty have also suffered greatly over the past year. A recent survey by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) found that:

real wages for full-time faculty decreased for the first time since the Great Recession[in 2008], and average wage growth for all ranks of full-time faculty was the lowest since the AAUP began tracking annual wage growth in 1972. After adjusting for inflation, real wages decreased at over two-thirds of colleges and universities. The number of full-time faculty decreased at over half of institutions.

This does not account for the thousands of higher education adjuncts (part-time faculty) and staff that lost their jobs permanently.

In April 2021, the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities stated that, “millions of people are still without their pre-pandemic income sources and are borrowing to get by.” Specifically:

  • 54 million adults said they didn’t use regular income sources like those received before the pandemic to meet their spending needs in the last seven days.
  • 50 million used credit cards or loans to meet spending needs.
  • 20 million borrowed from friends or family. (These three groups overlap.)

Also in April 2021, the Washington Post wrote:

The pandemic’s disruption has created inescapable financial strain for many Americans. Nearly 2 of 5 of adults have postponed major financial decisions, from buying cars or houses to getting married or having children, due to the coronavirus crisis, according to a survey last week from Bankrate.com. Among younger adults, ages 18 to 34, some 59 percent said they had delayed a financial milestone. (emphasis added)

According to Monthly Review:

The U.S. economy has seen a long-term decline in capacity utilization in manufacturing, which has averaged 78 percent from 1972 to 2019—well below levels that stimulate net investment. (emphasis added, January 1, 2021).

Capitalist firms will not invest in new ventures or projects when there is little or no profit to be made, which is why major owners of capital are engaged in even more stock market manipulation than ever before. “Casino capitalism” is intensifying. This, in turn, is giving rise to even larger stock market bubbles that will eventually burst and wreak even more havoc than previous stock market crashes. The inability to make profit through normal investment channels is also why major owners of capital are imposing more public-private “partnerships” (PPPs) on people and society through neoliberal state restructuring. Such pay-the-rich schemes further marginalize workers and exacerbate inequality, debt, and poverty. PPPs solve no problems and must be replaced by human-centered economic arrangements.

The International Labor Organization estimates that the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs have been lost globally as a result of government actions over the past 13-14 months.

In March of this year, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reported that, “Acute hunger is set to soar in over 20 countries in the coming months without urgent and scaled-up assistance.” The FAO says, “”The magnitude of suffering is alarming.”

And according to Reuters, “Overall, global FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] had collapsed in 2020, falling by 42% to an estimated $859 billion, from $1.5 trillion in 2019, according to the UNCTAD report.” UNCTAD stands for United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The international organization Oxfam tells us that:

The coronavirus pandemic has the potential to lead to an increase in inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began…. Billionaire fortunes returned to their pre-pandemic highs in just nine months, while recovery for the world’s poorest people could take over a decade. (emphasis added, January 25, 2021)

According to the World Bank, “The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed about 120 million people into extreme poverty over the last year in mostly low- and middle-income countries.”  And despite the roll-out of vaccines in various countries:

the economic implications of the pandemic are deep and far-reaching. It is ushering in a “new poor” profile that is more urban, better educated, and reliant on informal sector work such as construction, relative to the existing global poor (those living on less than $1.90/day) who are more rural and heavily reliant on agriculture. (emphasis added)

Another source notes that:

Pew Research Center, using World Bank data, has estimated that the number of poor in India (with income of $2 per day or less in purchasing power parity) has more than doubled from 60 million to 134 million in just a year due to the pandemic-induced recession. This means, India is back in a situation to be called a “country of mass poverty” after 45 years. (emphasis added)

In Europe, there is no end in sight to the economic decline that keeps unfolding. The United Kingdom, for example, experienced its worst economy in literally 300 years:

The economy in the U.K. contracted 9.9 percent in 2020, the worst year on record since 1709, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a report on Friday (Feb. 12). The overall economic drop in 2020 was more than double in 2009, when U.K. GDP declined 4.1 percent due to the worldwide financial crisis. Britain experienced the biggest annual decline among the G7 economies — France saw its economy decline 8.3 percent, Italy dropped 8.8 percent, Germany declined 5 percent and the U.S. contracted 3.5 percent. (emphasis added)

Another source also notes that, “The Eurozone is being haunted by ‘ghost bankruptcies,’ with more than 200,000 firms across the European Union’s four biggest nations under threat when Covid financial lifelines stop.” In another sign of economic decline, this time in Asia, Argus Media reported in April 2021 that Japan’s 2020-21 crude steel output fell to a 52-year low.

Taken alone, on a country-by-country basis, these are not minor economic downturns, but when viewed as a collective cumulative global phenomenon, the consequences are more serious. It is a big problem when numerous economies decline simultaneously. The world is more interdependent and interconnected than ever. What happens in one region necessarily affects other regions.

One could easily go country by country and region by region and document many tragic economic developments that are still unfolding and worsening. Argentina, Lebanon, Colombia, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Jordan, South Africa, Nigeria, and dozens of other countries are all experiencing major economic setbacks and hardships that will take years to overcome and will negatively affect the economies of other countries in an increasingly interdependent world. And privatization schemes around the world are just making conditions worse for the majority of people. Far from solving any problems, neoliberalism has made everything worse for working people and society.

It is too soon for capitalist ideologues to be euphoric about “miraculous economic growth and success.” There is no meaningful evidence to show that there is deep, significant, sustained economic growth on a broad scale. There is tremendous economic carnage and pain out there, and the scarring and consequences are going to linger for some time. No one believes that a big surge of well-paying jobs is right around the corner. Nor does anyone believe that more schemes to pay the rich under the banner of high ideals will improve things either.

Relentless disinformation about the economy won’t solve any problems or convince people that they are not experiencing what they are experiencing. Growing poverty, hunger, homelessness, unemployment, under-employment, debt, inequality, anxiety, and insecurity are real and painful. They require real solutions put forward by working people, not major owners of capital concerned only with maximizing private profit as fast as possible.

The economy cannot improve and serve a pro-social aim and direction so long as those who produce society’s wealth, workers, are disempowered and denied any control of the economy they run. Allowing major decisions to be made by a historically superfluous financial oligarchy is not the way forward. The rich and their representatives are unfit to rule and have no real solutions for the recurring crises caused by their outmoded system. They are focused mainly on depriving people of an outlook that opens the path of progress to society.

There is no way for the massive wealth of society to be used to serve the general interests of society so long as the contradiction between the socialized nature of the economy and its continued domination by competing private interests remain unresolved. All we are left with are recurring economic crises that take a bigger and bigger toll on humanity. To add insult to injury, we are told that there is no alternative to this outdated system, and that the goal is to strive for “inclusive capitalism,” “ethical capitalism,” “responsible capitalism,” or some other oxymoron.

But there is an alternative. Existing conditions do not have to be eternal or tolerated. History shows that conditions that favor the people can be established. The rich must be deprived of their ability to deprive the people of their rights, including the right to govern their own affairs and control the economy. The economy, government, nation-building, and society must be controlled and directed by the people themselves, free of the influence of narrow private interests determined to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone and everything else.

The rich and their political and media representatives are under great pressure to distort social consciousness, undermine the human factor, and block progress. The necessity for change is for humanity to rise up and usher in a modern society that ensures prosperity, stability, and peace for all. It can be done and must be done.

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Gates Unhinged: Dystopian Vision for Agrifood Must Not Succeed

We are currently seeing an acceleration of the corporate consolidation of the entire global agrifood chain. The high-tech/data conglomerates, including Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, have joined traditional agribusiness giants, such as Corteva, Bayer, Cargill and Syngenta, in a quest to impose a certain type of agriculture and food production on the world.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also involved (documented in the recent report ‘Gates to a Global Empire‘ by Navdanya International), whether through buying up huge tracts of farmland, promoting a much-heralded (but failed) ‘green revolution’ for Africa, pushing biosynthetic food and new genetic engineering technologies or more generally facilitating the aims of the mega agrifood corporations.

Of course, those involved in this portray what they are doing as some kind of humanitarian endeavour – saving the planet with ‘climate-friendly solutions’, helping farmers or feeding the world. This is how many of them probably do genuinely regard their role inside their corporate echo chamber. But what they are really doing is repackaging the dispossessive strategies of imperialism as ‘feeding the world’.

Failed Green Revolution

Since the Green Revolution, US agribusiness and financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have sought to hook farmers and nation states on corporate seeds and proprietary inputs as well as loans to construct the type of agri infrastructure that chemical-intensive farming requires.

Monsanto-Bayer and other agribusiness concerns have since the 1990s been attempting to further consolidate their grip on global agriculture and farmers’ corporate dependency with the rollout of genetically engineered seeds, commonly known as GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

In her latest report, ‘Reclaim the Seed’, Vandana Shiva says:

In the 1980s, the chemical corporations started to look at genetic engineering and patenting of seed as new sources of super profits. They took farmers varieties from the public gene banks, tinkered with the seed through conventional breeding or genetic engineering, and took patents.

Shiva talks about the Green Revolution and seed colonialism and the pirating of farmers seeds and knowledge. She says that 768,576 accessions of seeds were taken from farmers in Mexico alone:

… taking the farmers seeds that embodies their creativity and knowledge of breeding. The ‘civilising mission’ of Seed Colonisation is the declaration that farmers are ‘primitive’ and the varieties they have bred are ‘primitive’, ‘inferior’, ‘low yielding’ and have to be ‘substituted’ and ‘replaced’ with superior seeds from a superior race of breeders, so called ‘modern varieties’ and ‘improved varieties’ bred for chemicals.

It is now clear that the Green Revolution has been a failure in terms of its devastating environmental impacts, the undermining of highly productive traditional low-input agriculture and its sound ecological footing, the displacement of rural populations and the adverse impacts on village communities, nutrition, health and regional food security.

Aside from various studies that have reported on the health impacts of chemical-dependent crops (Dr Rosemary Mason’s many reports on this can be accessed on the academia.edu website), New Histories of the Green Revolution (2019) debunks the claim that the Green Revolution boosted productivity; The Violence of the Green Revolution (1991) details (among other things) the impact on rural communities; Bhaskar Save’s open letter to Indian officials in 2006 discusses the ecological devastation of the Green Revolution and in a 2019 paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology and Agricultural Sciences, Parvez et al note that native wheat varieties in India have higher nutrition content than the Green Revolution varieties (many such crop varieties were side-lined in favour of corporate seeds that were of lower nutritional value).

These are just a brief selection of peer reviewed and ‘grey’ literature which detail the adverse impacts of the Green Revolution.

GMO value capture

As for GM crops, often described as Green Revolution 2.0, these too have failed to deliver on the promises made and, like the 1.0 version, have often had devastating consequences.

The arguments for and against GMOs are well documented, but one paper worth noting appeared in the journal Current Science in 2018. Along with PC Kesavan, MS Swaminathan – regarded as the father of the Green Revolution in India – argued against introducing GM crops to India and cited various studies about the failings of the GMO project.

Regardless, the industry and its well-funded lobbyists and bought career scientists continue to spin the line that GM crops are a marvellous success and that the world needs even more of them to avoid a global food shortage. GM crops are required to feed the world is a well-worn industry slogan trotted out at every available opportunity. Just like the claim of GM crops being a tremendous success, this too is based on a myth.

There is no global shortage of food. Even under any plausible future population scenario, there will be no shortage as evidenced by scientist Dr Jonathan Latham in his recent paper “The Myth of a Food Crisis“.

However, new gene drive and gene editing techniques have now been developed and the industry is seeking the unregulated commercial release of products that are based on these methods.

It does not want plants, animals and micro-organisms created with gene-editing to be subject to safety checks, monitoring or consumer labelling. This is concerning given the real dangers that these techniques pose.

Many peer-reviewed research papers now call into question industry claims about the ‘precision’, safety and benefits of gene-edited organisms and can be accessed on the GMWatch.org website.

It really is a case of old wine in new bottles.

And this is not lost on a coalition of 162 civil society, farmers and business organisations which has called on Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans to ensure that new genetic engineering techniques continue to be regulated in accordance with existing EU GMO standards.

The coalition argues that these new techniques can cause a range of unwanted genetic modifications that can result in the production of novel toxins or allergens or in the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes. The open letter adds that even intended modifications can result in traits which could raise food safety, environmental or animal welfare concerns.

The European Court of Justice ruled in 2018 that organisms obtained with new genetic modification techniques must be regulated under the EU’s existing GMO laws. However, there has been intense lobbying from the agriculture biotech industry to weaken the legislation, aided by the Gates Foundation.

The coalition states that various scientific publications show that new techniques of genetic modification allow developers to make significant genetic changes, which can be very different from those that happen in nature.

In addition to these concerns, a new paper from Chinese scientists, ‘Herbicide Resistance: Another Hot Agronomic Trait for Plant Genome Editing’, says that, in spite of claims from GMO promoters that gene editing will be climate-friendly and reduce pesticide use, what we can expect is just more of the same – GM herbicide-tolerant crops and increased herbicide use.

The industry wants its new techniques to be unregulated, thereby making gene-edited GMOs faster to develop, more profitable and hidden from consumers when purchasing items in stores. At the same time, the costly herbicide treadmill will be reinforced for farmers.

None of this is meant to imply that new technology is bad in itself. The issue is who owns and controls the technology and what are the underlying intentions. By dodging regulation as well as avoiding economic, social, environmental and health impact assessments, it is clear that the industry is first and foremost motivated by value capture and profit and contempt for democratic accountability.

This is patently clear if we look at the rollout of Bt cotton in India which served the bottom line of Monsanto but brought dependency, distress and no durable agronomic benefits for many of India’s small and marginal farmers. Prof A P Gutierrez argues that Bt cotton has effectively placed these farmers in a corporate noose.

Monsanto sucked hundreds of millions of dollars in profit from these cotton farmers, while industry-funded scientists are always keen to push the mantra that rolling out Bt cotton in India uplifted their conditions.

Those who promote this narrative remain wilfully ignorant of the challenges (documented in the 2019 book by Andrew Flachs – Cultivating Knowledge: Biotechnology, Sustainability and the Human Cost of Cotton Capitalism in India) these farmers face in terms of financial distress, increasing pest resistance, dependency on unregulated seed markets, the eradication of environmental learning,  the loss of control over their productive means and the biotech-chemical treadmill they are trapped on (this last point is precisely what the industry intended).

When assessing the possible impacts of GMO agriculture, it was with good reason that, in their 2018 paper, Swaminathan and Kesavan called for:

able economists who are familiar with and will prioritise rural livelihoods and the interests of resource-poor small and marginal farmers rather than serve corporate interests and their profits.

What can be done?

Whether through all aspects of data control (soil quality, consumer preferences, weather, etc), e-commerce monopolies, corporate land ownership, seed biopiracy and patenting, synthetic food or the eradication of the public sector’s role in ensuring food security and national food sovereignty (as we could see in India with new farm legislation), Bill Gates and his corporate cronies seek to gain full control over the global food system.

Smallholder peasant farming is to be eradicated as the big-tech giants and agribusiness impose lab-grown food, GM seeds, genetically engineered soil microbes, data harvesting tools and drones and other ‘disruptive’ technologies.

We could see farmerless industrial-scale farms being manned by driverless machines, monitored by drones and doused with chemicals to produce commodity crops from patented GM seeds for industrial ‘biomatter’ to be processed and constituted into something resembling food.

The displacement of a food-producing peasantry (and the subsequent destruction of rural communities and local food security) was something the Gates Foundation once called for and cynically termed “land mobility”.

Technocratic meddling has already destroyed or undermined agrarian ecosystems that draw on centuries of traditional knowledge and are increasingly recognised as valid approaches to secure food security, as outlined in Food Security and Traditional Knowledge in India in the Journal of South Asian Studies, for instance.

But is all of this inevitable?

Not according to the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, which has just released a report in collaboration with the ETC Group: ‘A Long Food Movement: Transforming Food Systems by 2045‘.

The report outlines two different futures. If Gates and the global mega-corporations have their way, we will see the entire food system being controlled by data platforms, private equity firms and e-commerce giants, putting the food security (and livelihoods) of billions at the mercy of AI-controlled farming systems.

The other scenario involves civil society and social movements – grassroots organisations, international NGOs, farmers’ and fishers’ groups, cooperatives and unions – collaborating more closely to transform financial flows, governance structures and food systems from the ground up.

The report’s lead author, Pat Mooney, says that agribusiness has a very simple message: the cascading environmental crisis can be resolved by powerful new genomic and information technologies that can only be developed if governments unleash the entrepreneurial genius, deep pockets and risk-taking spirit of the most powerful corporations.

Mooney notes that we have had similar messages based on emerging technology for decades but the technologies either did not show up or fell flat and the only thing that grew were the corporations.

He says:

In return for trillions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies, the agribusiness model would centralise food production around a handful of untested technologies that would lead to the forced exodus of at least a billion people from hundreds of millions of farms. Agribusiness is gambling on other people’s food security.

Although Mooney argues that new genuinely successful alternatives like agroecology are frequently suppressed by the industries they imperil, he states that civil society has a remarkable track record in fighting back, not least in developing healthy and equitable agroecological production systems, building short (community-based) supply chains and restructuring and democratising governance systems.

As stated in the report, the thrust of any ’Long Food Movement’ strategy is that short-termism is not an option: civil society groups need to place multiple objectives and actions on a 25-year roadmap and not make trade-offs along the way – especially when faced with the neoliberal-totalitarianism of Gates et al who will seek to derail anything or anyone regarded as a threat to their aims.

• The report ‘A Long Food Movement: Transforming Food Systems by 2045’ can be accessed here.

The post Gates Unhinged: Dystopian Vision for Agrifood Must Not Succeed first appeared on Dissident Voice.

 Slavery and the Age of Ego

The continual expanse of western enslavement culture has never been directly about race, class, or any other perceived external divisions, rather it’s an ego sickness at its root. When the ego drive is running the show we are slaves to its impulses, subsequently the external world we’ve constructed expresses that which is within: a slavish and reactive social milieu. We are trapped in an ego-centered state of confusion believing in false identities of who we are within this contrived social strata dictated by centralized authorities, which today are namely nation states, banking systems, and corporate conglomerates. Together these authorities conjure an immersive pseudo-reality for the human animal where it is fooled into believing the agendas of the authority are for their own good and necessary for their survival.  Stockholm syndrome essentially is an ego state itself, or an accepted pattern of thought mistaken for absolute truth.

Slavery is an outgrowth of ego sickness, which is at the core of all that is wrong with humans in this time Hinduism refers to as the Kali Yuga, a spiritual nadir in an ongoing cycle where selfishness, materialism, and cruelty are the manifested symptoms of the era, an apt description of our time regardless of one’s personal belief in Hinduism. Further, the idea that human cultures go in cycles exhibiting different patterns of thought at different times collectively doesn’t seem that far fetched either. In this time of ego many can see nothing else, yet indigenous cultures lived for long periods of time over wide expanses of land in relative peace and were not building standing armies or plotting how to plunder their neighbors. What is happening now isn’t a remark on our species as much it’s a commentary on our current mental disposition.

The majority are now slaves to the ego roles traipsing around in their heads, the jealousies, the pride, the perceived insults, all the petty things that can’t be let go of become persistent phantasms haunting their waking minds, giving them reason to fear, to create division in the name of security, and adhere to defensive mechanisms in order to deal with the fear of the “other”, or that which is identified as separate from us and may pose a threat to the intransigent ego identity role.

The ego’s way of dealing with fear is to swat at it from afar and continue to build up defensive structures. This is why the rich and powerful distance themselves so often from the realities they create. The ego role they have assumed is one of a successful person doing something beneficial.  This delusion is easier to maintain if they can avoid receiving sensory input that disrupts their self aggrandizement fantasy.

The illness of ego manifests a buffet of neuroses where unconscious scripts play out running on the well worn grooves established in the default mode network of the brain, acting as an imperialist, expanding and defending all territory by which it defines itself both psychological and material. In its quest for more ego creates blinders for consciousness that filters out that which is profane to the desires of the ego dream. Therefore little can be seen but what is convenient to its objectives, and it is why those who are so caught up in their characters they are playing can’t see the harm they cause others while their own suffering and romance with deception continues.

The seeds of ego delusion are usually planted by people who claim to do so out of love or education. And just about everyone in our society now installs ego identities in children molding the identity of the child to suit the whims of the parent and culture. This is extremely common, and in later years we can all sense the voices of authority from childhood still echoing in our minds.  Sometimes these voices are benign, but other times they are constricting and later confused as our own thoughts.

In Erich Fromm’s book Escape From Freedom, he notes this phenomena of becoming programmed by social conditioning:

Most people are convinced that as long as they are not overtly forced to do something by an outside power, their decisions are theirs, and that if they want something it is they who want it. But this is one of the great illusions we have about ourselves. A great number of decisions are not really our own but are suggested to us from the outside, we have succeeded in persuading ourselves that it is we who have made the decision, whereas we have actually conformed with expectations of others, driven by the fear of isolation and by more direct threats to our life, freedom, and comfort.

If the power of suggestion and social conditioning didn’t work, then advertising wouldn’t be such an extraordinarily profitable industry, billionaires wouldn’t own media outlets, and governments wouldn’t run public school systems and hold ongoing press conferences that are always seeking to put their own unique egotistical spin on reality in an attempt to make their fabricated reality, your reality.

Behind every ego identity in our culture of slavery is a history of conditional love typically dependent on an individual performing in a certain manner in order to be fully accepted and valued by authority figures. Many people give a cat or dog more unconditional love than they give to the people who they claim to care for or are seeking to “help.” There may, in fact, be something authentic about their love, but it’s mixed with the poison of ego needing others to be a thing for them so they can fully accept them, which is how they were conditioned as well. So children set out on a life long mission trying to prove something to an authority so they may at some point accept themselves as valid and worthy of being loved, resulting in a mindset that conflates obligatory subservience with love.

How many have marched off to wars, not because they believe in it, but because they couldn’t stand to face what their family would think or how others might judge them if they refused to take part? How many have stayed in corrosive relationships or stayed in a religion because they might lose acceptance or face judgment if they should try to change? How many have conformed to the expectations of those around them in any way because they didn’t want to be disliked? And due in large part to intentionally created indoctrination efforts by authority people are conditioned to be reliant on approval from power, to not accept themselves as enough on some basic level and use an ego construct(s) to fill in the gaps where their authentic self is not enough.

Once the ego construct is established it makes people truly vulnerable to predation because they become blind. Suckers. Chumps. Wooly-minded. Prone to insults and taking things too seriously or being easily fooled by empty flattery. The ego mind gradually replaces the context of every situation until eventually an immersive trance is all that can be seen or understood. Once consciousness is compromised people are easily infected by a motley collection of mental viruses which consume the mind with paranoia, becoming an unthinking reactionary to stimulus; narrow, uncomfortable, and befuddled.

The ruling class and those wishing to ascend to their ranks suffer from egos that deem themselves to be superior to others, and on the other end of the ego spectrum the learned helplessness of the lower classes is lost in a delusion equally as harmful where trust is placed in those they believe to be their superiors and buy into the idea they are less than, often relegating themselves to a state of perma-adolescence. The ego self is always comparing and contrasting, judging, and believing itself to either be superior or inferior to others, never an equal in innate worth, and can become violent to others or themselves when this belief is challenged, and as such, judgment stemming from ego is the ultimate source of bigotry.

Surreptitious Slavery

Just like people cannot easily see their own ego drive they also can’t see the nature of the society their ego is invested within. The system that most people endorse and identify with, the nation states, the monetary institutions and so on, all that has a long dark history of being an exploitative slave based system rife with inequality, corruption, imperialism, warfare; i.e., rule by manipulation and force. But in the trappings of ego-centered thinking history is reduced, ignored, or forgotten, and the present possibilities are limited to a narrow set of artificial contrivances stipulated by those in power.

And so long as people implicitly trust this system and the game afoot then those in power may easily propagate confusion, which is a forerunner to divisiveness, and they do this by selling everyone their own personalized ego roles which ruling power already knows are reliant on validation from power itself and will greatly narrow the perspective of the average person.

For instance, police or military personnel, assuming they are not mostly corrupt in some way, will believe to some degree that the state is legitimate and they are the good guys there to help people. When this belief is deeply identified with they will forgive evidence to the contrary as exceptions. No matter how many contradictions there might be they all get mentally shuffled and classified as incidents that aren’t indicative of the overall good they do. It may be obvious to everyone else that the problem is coming from an imbalance in power, but if one’s identity gets validation or authority from power itself then they will never clearly see what’s happening until that ego persona they are clinging to is understood outside of the context of their culture. However, those in power can easily see the dependence they create and how that can be used as leverage to elicit the behaviors ruling power desires.

Media punditry, celebrities, the expert class, and public authority figures further serve to buttress the illusions of power via bully pulpits where a voice emanating from a centralized authority can be made to seem like it’s ubiquitous and infers a kind of consensus to the populace when there may be little, effectively manufacturing consent. Once people are physically or mentally dependent upon centralized power then the ruling authority can easily misrepresent or ignore truths that may be obvious to outsiders but can not be seen from inside the ego dream. The lies can be absurd and outlandish but as long as a mind has been properly conditioned in their given ego role, and that role implicitly trusts power on some level, then they will believe close to anything so long as power tells them it’s true.

Slavery is commonly thought of in first world countries as a dramatic and easily recognizable abuse, a barbaric direct ownership of other humans to serve the purpose of producing material gain or monetary profit for the owner. So when contemporary minds who’ve been told their whole lives they live in a free country hear the word slavery applied to their present condition they find it to ring of hyperbole, perhaps worthy of an eye roll, because in first world countries we are not direct commodities that are traded openly in chattel slave markets. The capitalist democratic freedoms we’re told we’ve won through bloodshed over the centuries ultimately must be questioned though, because to a whole lot of people this thing called a free country doesn’t feel very free.

The freedoms granted to us are that we are paid money for our labor time no matter how slight, along with the ability to choose from a small number of employers willing to hire us, most of which are abusive to the environment or contributing to abusive labor somewhere on the planet. And, of course, it’s not acceptable to be directly traded as a commodity in modernity and there are rules that prevent degrees of abuse that used to be common but are harder to get away with now. This thin veneer is all that separates the outright slavery of old from the wage slavery of today. In the end we still spend the majority of our lives doing what a master commands of us, just like the centuries of old.

The modern neoliberal version of slavery is perhaps best defined by a Rick and Morty episode where Morty hears what Rick is doing to another species and bluntly calls him out for using “slavery with extra steps.” And it’s that simple really what we’re doing now, using slavery with extra steps which obfuscates the ugly truth allowing for a normalization of ongoing exploitation and control. People are put in a binding coercion where their options become limited to only the choices the powers that be provide, the human herds are corralled into predefined pathways where they may choose from shitty labor from employer A or shittier labor from employer B, that or go homeless, hungry, and become a beggar, which creates a reward and punishment system of manipulation in the labor system, meaning you do what your boss tells you or they have the power to make life difficult for you, but if you do it well enough they might throw you a Scooby snack for a job well done. You may even win back a small fragment more of the profit you made for your boss/owner, but rarely is that amount enough so that you don’t have to rely on an employer anymore to live. Coercive labor no matter what semantics or legal framework is put around it is always slavery with extra steps. Power never actually changes what it’s doing.  It just replays the same script with different language while functionally doing exactly what they’ve always done.

In a free world who would freely choose to clean hotel rooms for years of their life if they were not made desperate enough to endure the labor? There is no doubt very few would continue to do that job if they had enough money/access to resources where they could choose to forego that kind of work. The conservative rebuttal is that you can work your way out of the worst forms of capitalist labor so it’s not a big deal that people are relegated to those jobs for a time. But that’s not how it works out in reality.  Over the centuries in every monetary system there is always life-wasting labor and people made desperate enough to do it for the long haul. For example, an average yearly wage of a “hotel housekeeper” is a bit over $22k a year.  A person cannot live on that amount alone in most of the US especially in many of the expensive areas where service industry jobs often are. They will work their bodies tired while having little to show for it in pay and will likely be fatigued enough from labor that struggling to free themselves from their current predicament becomes a Sisyphean task, so most come to accept their lot in life and try to simply survive. And in an overwhelming amount of cases there is little to no democracy in the workplace, nor is there much negotiation in terms of what is paid.  There is simply do what you’re told under the conditions they provide and be sure to wear a polite smile about it. The unhappy servants will be replaced with people who can feign happiness in their subjugation and pretend they like being there.

What seems to easily confuse the masses nowadays is the clean look and smiling faces of corporate culture who aren’t readily beating or torturing workers like brutish slave systems of old.  Of course, the powers that be are more sophisticated exploiters now. They smartened up and realized that perception is important to maintaining power, so they are careful to administer the control mechanisms now in ways that don’t show outward bruising. Just as governments have learned over the centuries about the benefits of maintaining a good public image that doesn’t make them an easy target for retaliation over those they control.

And so it is why power no longer publicly hangs or tortures people as much these days for not obeying the demands of the upper classes, as philosopher Michel Foucault made note of in his book Discipline and Punish.   He highlighted the idea that rulers eventually learned that while public torture had its advantages by spreading fear, which served as an effective tool of control; it also gave many people ample reason to rebel against power, thus making the gruesome public displays of punishment more trouble than they were worth. And the same can be said for slavery. They didn’t end chattel slavery because it was too brutal or that the powers that be suddenly became compassionate. It was because it was easier for them to rule over people by instilling the belief in them that they were free in a capitalist system than it was to keep them in a more conventional slave role.

The popular Frederick Douglass quote stating “Power concedes nothing without a demand” is lacking some nuance. Power never concedes anything. They just keep doing the same thing while gaslighting the people into believing the new boss is different than the old boss. And when people are caged in their own minds they’re in a condition which is not capable of making demands to power that would have the effect of actually freeing themselves. So more accurately, power concedes nothing, but if the public becomes unruly over a particular issue and makes a demand then power may be forced to reframe what they are currently doing.  However, just for them to reframe what they are doing requires a fight from the people. And to continue on with the Douglass quote which rings more true if put in the context of  just convincing power to rebrand their current abuse: “and these (the abuses of power) will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” And closer to the truth is if you make things too difficult for ruling power, they will find an alternative that more efficiently oppresses those they rule over by disguising what they had previously been doing out in the open. In reality there has been zero social progress over the ages, just rulers who are better at fooling people into believing they’re free and shifting where and how the pain of oppression is taken out.

The neoliberal version of slavery provides an illusion of freedom and democracy that makes people willing slaves living under the false pretense of equality that anyone can become part of the upper class, and supposedly with a little hard work it can then be their turn to use money to make others their servants. Capitalism plays right to the ego where each participant is encouraged to believe good fortune is right around the corner. In the process capitalism and social hierarchies of all kinds divide and isolate the people who are all scrambling after their own fortune and glory competing with one another while the people ignore that the game being played is detrimental to all.

In a letter Charles Bukowski penned to his publisher John Martin he speaks the simple truth about wage slavery:

You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does. As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

…They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? 1

A World Without I, You, Us, or Them

Ending this slavish way of being means to no longer be seduced by the schizophrenic ego patterns we’ve come to accept as normal. There is no easy fix here, only an inward journey to see ourselves and our mental attachments in meditative silence can break the spell cast by our accumulated thoughts. Policy decisions and economic reforms won’t cure the underlying motivations towards self aggrandizement of those who rule over us, nor will it end the base servility of the masses. Rather ending the cycle of dependence can only come through the acceptance of truth, ending the lies about who we are, and consequently debunking the lies we tell ourselves about others in reference to our false selves.

The often asked question to address the melange of social and environmental dilemmas humans face is “What is to be done?” And to answer that question, at least in part, is that nothing should be done. What is likely to bring about authentic action is to do nothing first. Meditation, or just doing nothing but creating a gap in the ongoing cycle of thought, has the potential to cut through the ego mind in stillness, but it takes discipline, patience, and courage to see and understand the convenient rationalized lies we’ve been accepting for far too long. A rushed impulse to fix the world will damn it at a faster rate. So just be. Be empty. Be open. Defend nothing. Kick the ego crutch out and allow innocence and emotional vulnerability to reemerge which the ego mind blocked off long ago stifling our true selves so far down we forget what’s important, as evidenced by so many who have succumbed to social pressure to become socially programmed automatons. So this work of doing nothing allows us to see past our own subjectivity in order to accurately prioritize what is important so that real change can occur in a very genuine way.

On the path to liberation there will no doubt be hucksters along the way, false idols who will tell you they are there to help and some of them truly believe that; however, who they really want to help is primarily themselves. So many devilish costumes have been unwittingly sewn from threads of good intentions. Politician, activist, union representative, journalist, doctor, entrepreneur, engineer, philanthropist, teacher, lawyer, investor, scientist, cop, banker, soldier, marketer, entertainer, artisan, statistician, expert, and clergy, have collectively served more to prop up the system and legitimize it than do any real good with each group along the way doing things that are truly wicked at times.

The decades roll by and the do-gooders swear to each successive generation they are there to help, giving the people false hope while the rolling tyranny continues its march through time. Those good intentions inevitably decline into being part of the problem they set out to initially solve when do-gooders sell out to their own ego drive as they always seem to do. In Camus’ The Plague he wrote about the harm of good intentions: “The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding.“ The ego hides in the cracks and crevices between good intentions and their implementations, and it is under the premise of good intentions that power always operates while people fall into subjugated ego roles becoming more dependent on the supposed benevolence of authority. And to quote spiritual teacher Shunyamurti: “…you don’t have to be a rescuer, but what you do have to do is rescue yourself from the illusion.

Further, a truly free society that actually has unconditional love at its core won’t need do-gooders because people will genuinely just do good all on their own most of the time, meaning instead of something like environmental damage being the norm it would be the exception because there would be a different understanding, and understanding is all that is keeping humanity from changing from its current locust consumption mentality into that of a sustainable grasshopper. And a society based on love rather than ego drive cannot collectively arise out of self-serving intentions, no more than a flower can grow from being showered with gasoline. At best a superficially good thing done for the wrong reasons may produce a temporary respite from suffering, but due to the direction of the self-oriented thinking the cumulative results over time will almost certainly produce a more selfish society and greater inner discomfort in those maintaining their do-gooder ego when the nagging truth about what they are really doing needs to be further buried from their conscious mind.

Selfishness is so corrosive because it gnaws away at trust over time, thinning relationship ties due to the consistent encroachment of self- serving interests in each interaction. Eventually, if followed to its ends, a me-first based society or person will devolve into the embodiment of Narcissus, who falls in love with their ego image and turns a blind eye towards potential danger while consumed with vanity, which always ends in more suffering.

Transcending all forms of slavery requires reaching a point of understanding beyond self-serving pursuits, where the discomfort of our own emotions is confronted in real time in a honest forthright manner allowing for openness and space in the moment so we may see with clarity and act with wisdom. We may either face the haunting spectre of ego in the ghost house of our minds or resign to the fate of an even scarier material world our impulsive ego-led minds will inevitably create.

 

  1. Bukowski, Charles. Reach for the Sun, Vol. 3.
The post  Slavery and the Age of Ego first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Mad Warhorse of Neoliberalism is Galloping Towards Perdition

We are the United States of Amnesia, we learn nothing because we remember nothing.
— Gore Vidal, Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia, 2004

As Americans drown in debt and atomization, the liberal class applauds the arrival of a post-nation-state neo-feudal order which is devoid of checks and balances, integration, national cohesion, or collective memory, rendering any working class resistance to fascism a Herculean task. This has been made possible because of the demise of traditional American liberalism, rooted in the values of the civil rights movement and the New Deal, and its usurpation by the cult of neoliberalism which is anchored in unrestricted immigration, multiculturalism, identity politics, and the nakedly imperialistic policies embraced by the Democratic Party since Bill Clinton. This growing collaboration between neoliberals and the oligarchy has fomented an unprecedented degree of both tribalism and unfettered capitalism, and placed us on a runaway train racing to authoritarianism.

Identity politics, supported by a cornucopia of faux-left elements since the ‘90s with a cult-like zealotry, has unleashed an apocalyptic counter-revolution that is disintegrating our national identity. The anti-working class has been created to facilitate this dissolution. Children are being indoctrinated in the multicultural curriculum, which is predicated on the idea that white people are the oppressor and people of color are the oppressed. This has made both class consciousness and any understanding of history impossible, while depriving Americans of color and immigrant youth with a proper grounding in American letters and classics of Western Civilization. Such a curriculum constitutes the quintessence of racism, yet has been sold to the masses as “fighting racism.”

The multicultural society, essentially a Tower of Babel, has transformed the US into a hellscape of ghettoized enclaves which break down along lines of ethnicity, religion, and language. It has also facilitated the rise of the vocational community and the phenomenon of hyper-careerism. This, in turn, poses yet another threat to civil society, as fanatical careerists are generally indifferent to everything outside of their field.

Indeed, it has become commonplace for Americans who are ensconced in excellent jobs to be so indifferent to life outside of their specialty that they would shrug apathetically if informed that US and Chinese warships had opened fire on one another in the South China Sea. As long as Weill Cornell, Sloan Kettering, Columbia University, or the Metropolitan Opera House don’t get incinerated, they would only feel a vague and abstract connection to such an event. This obsessive single-minded devotion to one’s career, an identity which has come to envelop one’s very soul, is inextricably linked to the multicultural society, as many Americans increasingly feel that no life exists outside of work. As our society disintegrates, the ability of our countrymen to think rationally unravels along with it.

Since the inauguration of Bill Clinton on January 20, 1993, liberals have collaborated with every reactionary policy that has been promoted by the establishment: illegal wars of aggression, the privatization of the prisons, deindustrialization and offshoring, the oligarchy’s importation of tens of millions of undocumented workers and guest workers to depress wages and foment deunionization, the destruction of the public schools, the Patriot Act (which revoked habeas corpus), the Military Commissions Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the return of Russophobia, the monopolization of the media into just a handful of corporations, the use of academia to generate student loan debt (now in excess of $1.5 trillion), the privatization of health care, the fomenting of unprecedented forms of tribalism and atomization; and more recently, the lockdown. Hitler, Franco, and Pinochet unleashed the dogs of war on the left. In the West today this is unnecessary, for the left has destroyed itself.

The more liberals sell their souls to the forces of reaction, the more they delude themselves into thinking that they are on the left. This has led to a kind of political schizophrenia, as those who betray the legacies of FDR and Martin Luther King are pulled inexorably into a vortex of ignorance, dogmatism, and superstition. Neoliberals, who should really be called “illiberals,” fail to see the preposterousness of their claiming to combat “the far right,” even as deep state operatives like John Brennan are regurgitating the exact same identity politics language that multiculturalists have been churning out for decades. Furthermore, we have political commentators such as General Stanley McChrystal, the former commander of American forces in Afghanistan, comparing Trump supporters (i.e., the scourge of “white privilege”), to Al-Qaeda. Now replete with its own Green Zone, the Capitol is under martial law.

Recall that “humanitarian interventions” resulted in civil wars in Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Iraq, Libya, Syria (granted, many jihadis have been foreigners), and Afghanistan. This pitting of identity politics acolytes against what remains of American society is reminiscent of the way in which Washington pitted Sunnis and Shiites against one another in Iraq.

The anti-white jihadi is the offspring of ghettoization, the multicultural curriculum, and identity studies, and harbors a deep-seated hostility to Western Civilization. This anti-working class is being used by the establishment not unlike jihadis have been used by the Western elites in Syria: as a battering ram to degrade, destabilize, fragment, and if left unchecked, ultimately obliterate our national identity, thereby granting the oligarchy illimitable powers. Our jihadis are undoubtedly less violent than Syria’s (or even Sweden’s for that matter); and yet the two crusades are not dissimilar, as both are fanatically committed to the destruction of a particular civilization.

Siccing a majority on a minority is irrefutably reactionary, but doing the inversion is no less so, especially when there are powerful forces at work attempting to transform the minority into a new majority. A significant swath of leftists in the West have been hoodwinked into believing that multiculturalism is diametrically opposed to Nazism, when they are, in fact, two sides to the same coin. The relentless demonization of Trump, coupled with the dubious nature of his removal, mirrors the demonization and removal of Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Noriega, and Milošević, where the vilification of a head of state served as a pretext for launching wars on the citizenry of these countries.

The loathing of liberals for the Orange One, which they petulantly cling to despite his ouster, is tied to the fact that he made a mockery of the idea that liberals represent the lesser of two evils. While indubitably crass and bombastic at times, Trump had the temerity to take a principled stand on a number of key issues, such as pursuing detente with Russia, questioning the need for NATO following the breakup of the USSR, tirelessly ridiculing the lies of the presstitutes, condemning critical race theory, and denouncing the catastrophic offshoring of jobs. Trump’s support for hydroxychloroquine, and his warnings that the lockdowns were destroying New York City, have likewise proved prophetic. Meanwhile, liberals haven’t taken a principled stand on anything in thirty years.

Don’t misconstrue my intentions: I am not attempting to equate Trump supporters with the supporters of Allende. Undoubtedly, some of his supporters hold certain reactionary beliefs. Yet unlike liberals, whose solution for every domestic problem is to carry out more witch hunts and outsource more jobs, millions of Trump voters have legitimate grievances, as their lives have been upended by deindustrialization and offshoring, the lockdown, the opioid epidemic, inadequate health care, and the systematic dismantling of public education.

Liberal complicity in sustaining our unconscionable for-profit health care system, as evidenced by their enthusiastic support for Obamacare, has resulted in a demise of medical scientific integrity. Vioxx, the opioid epidemic, the psychotropic drug epidemic, and the anthrax vaccine constitute four of the most catastrophic drug regulatory failures in the history of medicine. The problem is that for the pharmaceutical industry, these aren’t failures at all, but successes, as these drugs have yielded staggering profits. The greatest danger posed by privatized health care is that medicines and procedures which represent the greatest threat to patient health are often extremely lucrative. This medical profiteering is so rampant that it is instigating a weaponization of health care and a restoration of Nazi bioethics, where informed consent and respect for patient dignity are completely jettisoned. Should Covid vaccines become mandatory – and keep in mind that drug companies are shielded from liability in the US should their vaccines cause harm – this would constitute an unequivocal violation of the Nuremberg Code. (A code, incidentally, written by white guys, hence ripe for burning). The SS physician credo, that any medical atrocity is justified as long as it is done “for the greater good,” is thriving under the lockdown.

A considerable amount of evidence exists that effective and inexpensive Covid treatment options involving hydroxychloroquine, budesonide, and ivermectin were suppressed (see here, here, here, here and here), which could have negated the need for lockdowns altogether and saved many thousands of lives. Granted, these drugs would have torpedoed the pharmaceutical industry’s desire to profit off of the crisis with Remdesivir and mRNA vaccines, the latter of particularly dubious safety and efficacy. (The authorities have explicitly stated that the vaccines, which are experimental and have only been granted an Emergency Use Authorization, will not end social distancing and the mandatory wearing of masks). We have been told that half a million Americans have died from Covid, but how many of these patients were under the age of 70 and had no significant comorbidities?  PCR tests have churned out vast numbers of false positives which has also helped maintain the hysteria and relentless fearmongering, while the notion of asymptomatic spread remains mired in conjecture. According to Reuters, the US lost over 20 million jobs in April of 2020 alone. Nevertheless, the lockdown did what it was designed to do: further erode civil liberties, while exacerbating atomization and economic inequality.

It is important to note that powerful tycoons that are not ensconced in the medical industrial complex, such as Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, have profited off of the pandemic, adding even more wealth to their already bloated fortunes. Consequently, lockdown profiteering is not confined to the robber barons within the health care oligarchy.

Commenting on the draconian lockdown measures, Daniel Jeanmonod, MD, writes in “Lockdowns are a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:”

The following two examples confirm these results: a country with low lockdown stringency like Sweden has at the moment the same fatality rate per million inhabitants as France, but lower than Spain, Italy and UK, where severe lockdown measures were applied.

In addition, Sweden has had for the second wave a much smaller excess mortality than France, Italy or Spain, an observation which allows one to suspect that lockdown measures are delaying the establishment of herd immunity. This is not desirable, as the time during which the old, sick and frail can be exposed to the virus gets longer.

In “The Covid Pandemic Is the Result of Public Health Authorities Blocking Effective Treatment,” Paul Craig Roberts questions the motives behind the lockdown:

Why are authorities enforcing ineffective measures while ignoring proven successful measures that greatly reduce the Covid threat and perhaps eliminate it altogether? Is it because the proven measures are inexpensive and offer no opportunity for large profits from vaccines?  Is it because the ‘Covid pandemic’ is useful for mandating control measures that curtail civil liberties?  Is it because the lockdowns decimate family businesses and enable further economic concentration?  The answer is ‘yes’ to all three questions.

Dr. Simone Gold, founder of America’s Frontline Doctors (and recently arrested to the delight of MedPage), has reiterated these concerns, tweeting on February 3rd:

What do lockdowns, masks, and panic all have in common?
Their positive impact on hospitalization rates is ZERO.
But their negative impact on life and liberty is severe and totally unnecessary.
The science doesn’t lie. The ‘scientists’ do.

Yet liberals continue to support the lockdowns, and in Germany Antifa have marched against their countrymen who have protested against the coercive measures, equating them with “the far right.” The degree to which Western societies have been tribalized by identity politics has made it very easy for the elites to impose what is essentially a collective house arrest on the entire Western world.

Democracy fell into grave jeopardy when liberals abandoned liberty of thought in favor of genuflecting at the altar of the presstitute priesthood. Indeed, when The New York Times tells liberals to jump they jump, when The New York Times tells liberals to be indifferent they are indifferent, when The New York Times tells liberals to be outraged they are outraged, and when “The Newspaper of Record” tells liberals to be ecstatic they are ecstatic. Can a democracy survive if a vast swath of its inhabitants can no longer differentiate between right and left, journalism and propaganda, psychological operations and intellectual analysis, even day and night? No less worrisome, the majority of American doctors are blindly accepting whatever they are told by the mullahs of FDA, CDC, NIH, The New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet. This is the inevitable result of physicians becoming increasingly specialized while often possessing the humanities education of a junior high school student. In many ways, we have become a nation of Adolf Eichmanns and Albert Speers.

Those who stray from ideological “norms,” regardless of whether it be the lockdown or identity politics, are increasingly portrayed as either unhinged or guilty of incitement, and this language has become particularly vitriolic following “the riot” on January 6th. As Dmitry Babich pointed out on the January 11th Russia Today Cross Talk episode, the precise details of what transpired during the “storming of the United States Capitol” (to quote Wikipedia) are not of paramount importance. What matters is that the incident is being exploited by the establishment as a neoliberal Reichstag fire.

When identity politics youth brigades were assaulting people and inflicting billions of dollars in property damage over a period of many months, in an orgy of violence that was clearly designed to pressure the Trump administration to resign, the media applauded enthusiastically, even referring to the rioters as “peaceful demonstrators.” Calls for revenge against Trump administration officials are likewise unprecedented. As the Democratic Party has thrown away the rule book and turned the country into a banana republic, what is to prevent leaders in the Christian Right from meeting with some like-minded generals and doing the same? The peculiar events of January 6th conveniently scuttled an ongoing congressional investigation into serious allegations of voter fraud, and succeeded in transforming the anti-constitutionalists into the constitutionalists in the minds of millions of people, both at home and around the world.

Those who once sang “Kumbaya My Lord” and “We Shall Overcome” are now calling for dissenting voices to be silenced, either through deplatforming on social media, placing dissidents on a blacklist, or with the iron heel. Writing for The Atlantic, Graeme Wood, in addressing the problem of Americans who object to the dissolution of their national identity, prefers a more refined approach to CIA hit squads: “The proper response to these extremists isn’t counterterrorism. It is mental hygiene.” Having burned their own books, and sworn allegiance to the god of unreason, neoliberals have no other option than to relinquish ties to this death cult or pick up the truncheon of authoritarianism.

The mindless faux-left support for the most barbaric foreign policies could only lead to their support for lawlessness, violence, and barbarism at home. Indeed, those who kill and torture abroad, if not held accountable, will inevitably seek to do so domestically. This fine line is embodied by the story of Sister Dianna Ortiz, an American nun who was brutally tortured by US-backed Guatemalan security forces in 1989, and who recently passed away, another soul lost to the cancer wards. That this totalitarianization is being supported in the name of protecting the country from imaginary neo-Nazis signifies the complete moral and intellectual collapse of the liberal class, a pitiable gaggle that will support any domestic policy, provided it is officially carried out in the name of fighting intolerance and bigotry. Such a tactic was glaringly on display when Biden, in condemning violence against women a couple of years ago, remarked that “This is English jurisprudential culture, a white man’s culture. It’s got to change.” Translation: let’s burn the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the name of fighting racism and sexism.

What are we to make of this strange country where lawyers are indifferent to the rule of law, doctors are contemptuous of informed consent, journalists regurgitate whatever they are told by establishment spokespersons, and leftists speak of the working class as “deplorables?” As conservatives typically associate privatization with democratization, and nationalization with tyranny, there are no longer any significant firewalls in place to protect the people from despotism. Moreover, due to multiculturalism’s antipathy to all things white and Western, the WASP right in turn has rejected all things foreign, even as this leads them to untenable and patently erroneous conclusions, such as the idea that Americans have the best health care system in the world, a canard parroted ad nauseam in online medical blogs.

The multicultural society is an anarchic and atomized zone where solidarity, reason, morality, empathy, and any sense of a collective memory cease to exist. Unsurprisingly, this has turned workers into nothing more than plastic cutlery, to be used once and then discarded. Civilization is in grave danger due to the rise of the woke book burners who have declared classics of Western Civilization to be the quintessence of “white supremacy.” Thanks to their implementation of the anti-humanities, the overwhelming majority of New York City public high school graduates have never even heard of Ernest Hemingway, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Eugene Debs, Helen Keller, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, John Hersey, Theodore Dreiser, Norman Thomas, Carl Sandburg, John Dos Passos, Dalton Trumbo, Gore Vidal, Clarence Darrow and William Kunstler. (I could go on for an entire page, at least). For all their incessant whining about racism, American liberals, who enjoy total ideological hegemony over most urban public schools, look at children of color as less than animals, and take better care of their poodles and dachshunds. Inculcated with the song of anti-whiteness, the post-American, simultaneously ghettoized prisoner and settler, unleashes its rage on America, but in so doing, puts on the shackles of the oligarchy.

The messianic crusade to eradicate whiteness is destabilizing the country and fomenting an inverted Manifest Destiny. Writing in “Whiteness Is a Pandemic,” Damon Young posits that “Whiteness is a public health crisis.” Continuing, he informs us that “White supremacy is a virus that, like other viruses, will not die until there are no bodies left for it to infect.” (Note how the author uses “whiteness” and “white supremacy” interchangeably). Indeed, this article epitomizes the pathological, anti-Western, and deeply divisive and sectarian dogma being pushed on impressionable young people, both by the media and by the multicultural curriculum.

The Taliban recently came for Dr. Seuss, who we are now told is “offensive.” Teachers that challenge these pieties and attempt to introduce children of color and immigrant youth to the dreaded “dead white men” incur the wrath of the anti-literacy overseers, and if they continue to flout neoliberal pathologies, invariably face termination. Perhaps we can take comfort in knowing that instead of “liberté, égalité, fraternité,” the oligarchy has been kind enough to give us a snappy slogan for the counter-revolution: “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” Just bear in mind that the anti-white jihadi isn’t interested in sending the aristocracy to the guillotine but the working class itself.

Historically significant black writers and orators such as Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Paul Robeson, all of whom were unwavering in their support for integration, are dismissed as Uncle Toms and Oreos (black on the outside, white on the inside). To quote Captain Beatty, the anti-intellectual pyromaniac of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451: “If you don’t want a house built, hide the nails and wood.”

As transpires in Orwell’s 1984, the burning of the humanities has turned much of the population into automatons, who are not only illiterate, but who are also stripped of any sense of a cultural identity. Unlike many countries in the global south that have a history of weak democratic institutions, the oligarchy understands that in order to destroy democracy at home they have to sever the link between the American people and their past. Hence, if one were to show a World War II film such as Au Revoir les Enfants to a group of teenagers in an identity politics madrassa, it would be incomprehensible to them, as they aren’t taught anything about fascism, and they wouldn’t understand why on earth white people would be hunting down and murdering other white people. In many ways, both our civilization and our democracy were lost in the classroom.

Liberal cultists (who are, in fact, doubly enslaved, both to the cult of identity politics and to the lockdown cult), rejoice in the dismantling of the nation-state which has ensued following offshoring, unrestricted immigration, and the rise of the multicultural curriculum and identity studies. What they fail to acknowledge are the devastating consequences, as these policies are inextricably linked with the annihilation of the middle class, the public schools, checks and balances, and any semblance of national cohesion. One could make the argument that in this post-nation-state neo-feudal America, the plutocracy has ceased to be a capitalist class in the Marxist sense and taken on the characteristics of a new baronage. Irregardless of whether the establishment’s endgame is tyranny under identity politics or tyranny under the Christian Right, once freedom of speech lies gelid and lifeless on the bloodstained ground it will be lost forever.

There is a chilling passage in John Hersey’s epistolary novel The Conspiracy, which opens a window into life in imperial Rome under Nero, where Tigellinus sends a confidential letter to Faenus Rufus, both of whom are co-commanders of the Praetorian Guard. Addressing his fellow totalitarian, he writes, “We believe we are now on the threshold of uncovering certain crimes of opinion, the punishment of which, I am confident, will provide ample propitiation.”

Aren’t Simone Gold and Julian Assange being prosecuted for “crimes of opinion?” The cruel treatment meted out to Julian serves as a particularly harrowing warning regarding the ongoing implosion of democracy in the West. What a pity that the righteous campaigners who once fought so valiantly for the New Deal and the civil rights movement now look upon those very ideals with sneering, ridicule, and contempt.

The post The Mad Warhorse of Neoliberalism is Galloping Towards Perdition first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Rise of Right-wing Libertarianism Since the 1950s

Sometimes as I read books I like to simultaneously summarize them in my own words to facilitate the intellectual digestion. And also to post my notes online later on, in the probably vain hope of diffusing knowledge to young people and non-academics. I’ve been reading a couple of books on the rise of political conservatism in the last several generations, and since nothing is more important to the future than combating conservatism, I’m going to jot down some notes here. As a historian, I’m familiar with the story and have read quite a few works on the subject. (E.g., this one.) Nevertheless, Kim Phillips-Fein’s Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan (2009) and Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (2017) are interesting enough to warrant some summarizing.

One of the useful functions of the latter book, in particular, is that it brings force and clarity to one’s prior knowledge of the dangers of right-wing libertarianism, or more generally anti-government and pro-“free market” thinking. In fact, this sort of thinking is an utter catastrophe that threatens to destroy everything beautiful in the world. I know that sounds like an absurd exaggeration, but it’s not. What with society and nature teetering on the brink, it’s the literal truth. I suppose the reason leftists don’t always take right-wing libertarianism as seriously as it deserves—despite their deep awareness of the evils of capitalism—is simply that it’s embarrassingly easy to refute. It’s a childish, simplistic, vulgar hyper-capitalist ideology that, once you examine it a little, quickly reveals itself as its opposite: authoritarianism. Or even totalitarianism, albeit privatized totalitarianism. Noam Chomsky, as usual, makes the point eloquently:

… Here [in the United States] the term ‘libertarian’ means the opposite of what it meant to everybody else all through history. What I was describing [earlier] was the real Adam Smith and the real Thomas Jefferson and so on, who were anti-capitalist and called for equality and thought that people shouldn’t be subjected to wage-labor because that’s destructive of their humanity… The U.S. sense [of ‘libertarian’] is quite different. Here, every word has taken on the opposite of its meaning elsewhere. So, here ‘libertarian’ means extreme advocate of total tyranny. It means power ought to be given into the hands of private unaccountable tyrannies, even worse than state tyrannies because there the public has some kind of role. The corporate system, especially as it’s evolved in the twentieth century, is pure tyranny. Completely unaccountable—you’re inside one of these institutions, you take orders from above, you hand them down below…there’s nothing you can say—tyrannies do what they feel like—they’re global in scale. I mean, this is the extreme opposite of what’s been called libertarian everywhere in the world since the Enlightenment …

“Libertarianism,” in short, is a bad joke: morally hideous, theoretically flawed, and empirically without merit. (For instance, it’s well known among economic historians, or should be, that the only way countries have ever industrially developed is through radical state intervention in the economy, which is also the reason that today we have technologies like electronics, the internet, aviation and space technologies, pharmaceuticals, nuclear energy, containerization in shipping, biotechnology, nanotechnology, green technologies, even mass production and electric power.) Still, the simplistic dogma has to be taken seriously and combated because of the incredible damage it has done worldwide, by, for example, justifying state withdrawal of support for vulnerable populations and deregulation of industries that are consequently destroying the natural environment.

Even people and policymakers who aren’t actual libertarians (in the perverted right-wing American sense) have almost always been influenced by pro-market ideologies, because two centuries of global propaganda have made their mark. I don’t want to say markets are necessarily and always, even on small local scales, destructive; I’m only saying that the denigration of government relative to markets is horribly misguided. Besides, what does “the market” even mean? When people talk about “the free market,” what are they talking about? Markets, at least national and international ones, have always been shaped and structured and created and manipulated by states. That’s a truism of economic history. Just read Karl Polanyi’s classic The Great Transformation (1944). “The market” is a meaningless abstraction, an idealization that distracts from the innumerable ways states create rules to govern market interactions, rules that favor certain actors and disadvantage others. No national or international market has ever been “free” of political constraints, structures, institutions, rules that are continually contested and shaped by interest groups in deadly conflict with each other.

Conservative ideologues such as most economists, especially so-called libertarians, always prefer to traffic in idealizations (for instance the neoclassical fetish of mathematical models or the “libertarian” fetish of “the market”) and ignore history because, well, history is inconvenient. Reality mucks up their dogmas. Actual investigation of labor history, economic history, political history, social history leads to such subversive notions as that if workers had never organized, the mass middle class would never have existed. Or that capitalist states have consistently acted for the (short-term or long-term) benefit of the capitalist class or some section of it. Or that classes exist at all! It’s much safer to follow the Milton Friedmans and Friedrich Hayeks and talk only about “freedom,” “economic liberty,” “the market,” “the price mechanism,” “labor flexibility,” and other things that abstract from real-world conditions. It’s also less intellectually and morally arduous. Materialism—historical materialism—leads to revolutionary conclusions, so let’s stay on the level of abstract ideas!

What an obscenity that capitalism is considered synonymous with freedom! When ideologues prate about “economic liberty” or “the free society,” the obvious question is: whose liberty? The liberty of a Jeff Bezos to pay a non-living wage is premised on the inability of millions of people to find a job that will pay more. And when, as a result, they’re (effectively) coerced into taking that minimum-wage job—because the alternative is to starve—their low income vitiates their “liberty” to realize their dreams or have a decent standard of living. Charles Koch, say, has the freedom and ability to influence policymakers at the highest level; in a radically unequal society, most citizens do not have that freedom or ability. A billionaire (who likely inherited a great deal of money) has a heck of a lot more “economic freedom” than the rest of us. But he whines about his lack of freedom because of burdensome government regulations, taxes, and irritating labor unions. If only he could get rid of these obstacles he’d have more freedom—to pay his workers less, fire them for any reason, pollute the environment, and charge consumers more. The “freedom” of the right-wing libertarian is the freedom to dominate others. (More specifically, the freedom of the capitalist to dominate others.)

The truth is that socialism, or popular democratic control of the economy, entails not only more equality but also more widespread freedom. For example, in an economy of worker cooperatives, people would be free from coercion by a boss (because collectively the owners of a cooperative are their own boss). Even in a social democracy, people generally have the means to realize more of their desires than in a neoliberal economy where much of the population lives in poverty. Similarly, the more public resources there are, the more freedom people have to use these resources. Privatization of resources excludes, depriving either all or some people of their freedom to use them.

Needless to say, it took a lot of indoctrination, backed up by a lot of money, to convert untold numbers of people to right-wing libertarianism in the last sixty years. Phillips-Fein starts her story with the famous du Pont brothers who created the Liberty League in the 1930s to fight the New Deal. They didn’t have much success: in the depths of the Depression, it was pretty easy for most people to see through vulgar business propaganda. It wasn’t until after World War II that business was able to regroup and launch successful offensives against the liberal and leftist legacies of the 1930s. You should read Elizabeth Fones-Wolf’s Selling Free Enterprise: The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945–1960 for a broad account of this counterrevolution. Phillips-Fein’s focus is more narrow, on the far-right organizations that sprang up to play the long game rather than just immediately beat back unions and Communists and left-liberalism.

One such organization was the Foundation for Economic Education, which “advocated a stringent, crystalline vision of the free market” and disseminated that vision through innumerable leaflets and pamphlets and LP recordings. It was funded by companies both small and large, including U.S. Steel, General Motors, and Chrysler. A couple of the businessmen associated with FEE helped bring Friedrich Hayek, already famous for The Road to Serfdom, to the University of Chicago (the libertarian Volker Fund paid his salary) and assisted with his project of building the international Mont Pelerin Society in the late 1940s. The ideas of Hayek and his mentor Ludwig von Mises (who was hired as a FEE staff member) would become gospel to the fledgling libertarian movement.

It’s remarkable, and testament to the power not of ideas but of money, that a movement that started out with a few scattered malcontents in the business and academic worlds who were fighting a rearguard action against the internationally dominant Keynesian and social democratic paradigm of the 1940s has snowballed to become almost globally hegemonic by the 2010s.

“Over the course of the 1950s,” Phillips-Fein writes, “dozens of new organizations devoted to the defense of free enterprise and the struggle against labor unions and the welfare state sprang into existence.” Ayn Rand, amoralist extraordinaire, had already become “tremendously popular” among businessmen. But some in the business world didn’t like her rejection of Christianity, and they dedicated themselves to shaping religion in a pro-capitalist direction. “We can never hope to stop this country’s plunge toward totalitarianism,” wrote one of them (J. Howard Pew, president of Sunoco and a devout Presbyterian), “until we have gotten the ministers’ thinking straight.” (The usual irony: to avoid “totalitarianism,” we have to get everyone to think like us. Only when every individual is lockstep in agreement, marching behind us, will the danger of totalitarianism be overcome. These ideologues are pathetic, unreflective mediocrities who take it for granted that they have the right to rule—and anything else is totalitarianism). 1 Pew worked to support an organization called Spiritual Mobilization to get “the ministers’ thinking straight,” and Christian Business Men’s Committees spread in a decade that saw the increasing success of anti-Communist preachers like Billy Graham and the growth of fundamentalism.

One reason for the alliance between religion and capitalism in those years is obvious: they were both anti-Communist. But there are other affinities that are, I think, revealing. What they amount to, at bottom, is the common urge to dominate—an authoritarianism common to both religious and business hierarchies. Most religion by its nature tends to be a rather closed-minded affair (rejection of scientific evidence, doubt, skeptical reasoning), attached to tradition—traditional hierarchies like patriarchy, white supremacy, homophobia. The authoritarian and submissive mindset/behavior it encourages in the faithful can be useful to — and coopted by — business institutions that similarly demand submission and are authoritarian in structure. (Just as Christianity earlier on was coopted by the Roman authorities (after Constantine), and then by medieval authorities, and then by the early modern absolutist state.)

It’s true that in most respects, market fundamentalism and conservative Christianity are very different ideologies. And their fusion in the modern Republican Party can seem odd. The socially conservative and the economically conservative wings of the party, basically anchored in different constituencies, have by no means always been comfortable with each other. (For instance, libertarian attempts to privatize and destroy Social Security and Medicare have been resisted by the socially conservative popular base.) It’s even more ironic because the religious concern for community, family, and tradition is constantly undermined by capitalism, as has been understood at least since the Communist Manifesto. But the reactionary business elite needs an electoral base, so it’s stuck with the rednecks it despises, because of the interests they have in common. And the “rednecks,” or the social conservatives—but we should keep in mind that plenty of people in the business world are themselves socially conservative and religious—end up allying with business for the same reason. For both groups are opposed to democracy and equality. They want the federal government to stay out of their business, for the federal government has historically done a lot more than state governments to empower the oppressed and undermine reactionary hierarchies. Whether it’s white supremacy, conservative Christian values, or the business desire to avoid taxes and regulation, the federal government has frequently been the enemy—as during the era of the Civil Rights Movement and the liberal Warren Supreme Court. “Small government!” can become the rallying cry for authoritarians if government starts to challenge authoritarianism.2

Thus you get the seemingly incongruous but immensely revealing cooperation, starting in the 1950s and continuing today, between white supremacists and “libertarians.” Who thereby show their true colors. Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains is illuminating on this point. Her book describes the career of the influential Nobel laureate economist James M. Buchanan, one of the founders of public choice theory, which is devoted to the impeccably capitalist goal of exposing and explaining the systematic failures of government. MacLean argues that John C. Calhoun, the great nineteenth-century ideologue of slavery, states’ rights, limited government, and “nullification” (the idea that states can refuse to follow federal laws they consider unconstitutional), is an important inspiration for right-wing libertarianism.

Both Buchanan and Calhoun…were concerned with the “failure of democracy to protect liberty.” In particular, Buchanan and Calhoun both alleged a kind of class conflict between “tax producers and tax consumers.” Both depicted politics as a realm of exploitation and coercion, but the economy as a realm of free exchange… Both thinkers sought ways to restrict what voters could achieve together in a democracy to what the wealthiest among them would agree to.

Murray Rothbard, among other libertarians, spoke openly of the movement’s debt to Calhoun. “Calhoun was quite right,” he said, “in focusing on taxes and fiscal policy as the keystone” of democracy’s threat to so-called economic liberty, or property rights. Property rights trump every other consideration, including the right of the majority to vote and determine policy. This is why Buchanan worked with Pinochet’s government in Chile to write a radically undemocratic constitution, and why he worked with Charles Koch and others to find ways to limit democracy in the (already very undemocratic) U.S., and why, in general, prominent libertarians have been quite open about their distaste for democracy. The famous economist George Stigler, for example, once told a meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society that “one possible route” for achieving the desired libertarian future was “the restriction of the franchise to property owners, educated classes, employed persons, or some such group.”

The young libertarian movement was energized by the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. Why? Not because they supported it (as genuine libertarians, people who authentically value human freedom and dignity, would have), but because, like segregationists, they found it an appalling instance of federal overreach. William F. Buckley and his magazine National Review (funded largely by Roger Milliken, a reactionary textile manufacturer) — not totally “libertarian” but very much in that camp —3 published articles denouncing the Supreme Court’s “tyranny.” Others were excited by the prospect that the South’s resistance offered to end public education itself. Buchanan, at the University of Virginia, wrote a proposal to sell off all public schools and substitute for them a system of tax-funded private schools that would admit or reject students as they saw fit. His plan never came to fruition, but in the following years, as the Civil Rights Movement gained steam, libertarians—such as Barry Goldwater—could always be found on the side of “states’ rights.” After all, the Civil Rights Act did interfere with property rights, by dictating to businesses what their policies had to be!

Goldwater’s campaign for the presidency in 1964 was a precocious moment for the young conservative movement, and his landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson showed the country wasn’t ready yet for the mainstreaming of far-right politics. Still, all the organizing during the 1950s, from the John Birch Society to the American Enterprise Association (which became the now-well-known American Enterprise Institute), had clearly made an impact. Goldwater’s bestselling book The Conscience of a Conservative helped his cause, as did Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom. Financial support for his campaign came from conservative businessmen across the country, not only big names like the du Pont family and Walt Disney but also countless small businesses (which are often more conservative than larger ones). The Republican establishment, on the other hand, was hardly fond of Goldwater: Nelson Rockefeller, for example, issued a press release that said, “The extremism of the Communists, of the Ku Klux Klan, and of the John Birch Society—like that of most terrorists—has always been claimed by such groups to be in the defense of liberty.”

To try to get white working-class support, the Goldwater campaign pioneered a strategy that Republicans have used to great effect ever since: capitalize on racial and cultural fears. As one official wrote in a memo, Goldwater should “utilize (and build) fully the one key issue which is working for us—the moral crisis (law and order vs. crime and violence).” Instead of talking about the usual libertarian themes of unions, Social Security, the welfare state, and taxes, he should focus on “crime, violence, riots, juvenile delinquency, the breakdown of law and order, immorality and corruption in high places, the lack of moral leadership in general, narcotics, pornography.”

Phillips-Fein comments: “The issues of race and culture, White [the author of the campaign memo] believed, could easily be joined to the politics of the free market. The welfare state, after all, was the product of just the same unrestrained collective yearnings that produced moral chaos.” Exactly. This, then, is another point of contact between free-market ideologues and social conservatives. Both groups want “law and order” and nothing more. (No equality—and no freedom for “undesirables”—only authoritarian hierarchies, whether of class, race, gender, sexuality, or whatever).

As for Buchanan, in the late 1960s, as he was teaching at UCLA at the peak of the New Left, he found himself decidedly unsympathetic to the student protests. To quote MacLean: “Despite ‘my long-held libertarian principles,’ he said, looking back, ‘I came down squarely on the “law-and-order” side’ of things. He heaped praise upon one administrator who showed the ‘simple courage’ to smash the student rebellion on his campus with violent police action.” –What a surprise. A “libertarian” who cheers violent police actions. (Buchanan also supported the Vietnam War, except that he thought it should have been fought more aggressively.)

Meanwhile, he co-wrote a book called Academia in Anarchy that used public choice theory to explain—abstractly, as usual, with no empirical substantiation—why campuses were in an uproar. It had to do; e.g., with students’ lack of respect for the university setting because tuition was free or nearly so. Faculty tenure, too, was “one of the root causes of the chaos” because job security meant professors had no incentive to stand up to radical students. The solution was that students should pay full-cost prices, taxpayers and donors should monitor their investments “as other stockholders do,” and “weak control” by governing boards must end. Such measures would facilitate social control. “In essence,” MacLean comments, he and his co-author were arguing that “if you stop making college free and charge a hefty tuition…you ensure that students will have a strong economic incentive to focus on their studies and nothing else—certainly not on trying to alter the university or the wider society. But the authors were also arguing for something else: educating far fewer Americans, particularly lower-income Americans who could not afford full-cost tuition.” As we now know, the ruling class eventually adopted Buchanan’s agenda.

The tumult of the late ’60s and early ’70s, combined with inflation, recession, and intensifying international competition, is what finally shocked big business into taking action, much broader action than before. The Powell Memorandum, written for the Chamber of Commerce, is symbolic of this panic. Neoconservatives like Irving Kristol argued that, in order to be effective in the sphere of propaganda, businessmen should stop defending only such grubby, uninspiring things as selfishness and the pursuit of money and instead elevate more transcendent things like the family and the church, institutions that (to quote Phillips-Fein) “could preserve moral and social values and had the emotional weight to command true allegiance.” (These neoconservatives also became militant advocates of American imperialism under the slogans of fighting Communism, spreading freedom and democracy, etc.) Nonprofits like the American Enterprise Institute began to get a much more receptive hearing when they pressed businessmen to fund a free-market ideological counteroffensive. The Olin Foundation, among others, disbursed millions of dollars to a variety of conservative think tanks, such as the new Manhattan Institute. The Coors family were the main financers of the Heritage Foundation, created by Paul Weyrich (a conservative young congressional staffer) in 1973, which would take a more pugilistic and culturally conservative stance than the AEI. For instance, it attacked “secular humanism” and defended the “Judeo-Christian moral order” at the same time as it was attacking big government, unions, and the minimum wage.

Incidentally, if this fusion of cultural conservatism and defense of capitalism reminds you of European fascists in the 1920s and 1930s, it’s because reactionaries always use the same ideological bag of tricks. Fascists and Nazis defended capitalism and even, sometimes, “Christianity” while attacking “decadent” bourgeois culture, democracy, effete intellectuals, socialists and Marxists, ethnic minorities (not Blacks, as in the case of American conservatives, but Jews and others), economic parasites—think of Buchanan’s attacks on welfare “parasites.” Most of these American conservatives would have been Nazis had they been German in the 1930s.4

Corporate Political Action Committees sprang up everywhere. Phillips-Fein:

In 1970 most Fortune 500 companies did not have public affairs offices; ten years later 80 percent did. In 1971 only 175 companies had registered lobbyists, but by the decade’s end 650 did, while by 1978 nearly 2,000 corporate trade associations had lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Thanks in part to…the educational seminars sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations, the number of corporate PACs grew from 89 in 1974…to 821 in 1978. They became an increasingly important source of funding for political campaigns, while the number of union PACs stalled at 250.

Meanwhile, the Business Roundtable “was founded on the idea that celebrity executives could become a disciplined phalanx defending the interests of business as a class.” Its membership was open only to the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. As its executive director said, “Senators say they won’t talk to Washington reps [e.g., lobbyists], but they will see a chairman.” The Roundtable took a less blatantly reactionary (anti-union, etc.) approach to lobbying than many other business organizations.

The Chamber of Commerce was less genteel: it changed its character in the 1970s, becoming much more activist and politicized than it had been. It “believed in mobilizing the masses of the business world—any company, no matter how large or small, could join the organization. The Chamber rejected the Roundtable’s tendency to seek out politicians from the Democratic Party and try to make common ground. It backed the Kemp-Roth tax cuts [based on the new and controversial supply-side economics of Arthur Laffer] long before most other groups…” By 1981 the group had almost 3,000 Congressional Action Committees; at the same time, it was sponsoring all kinds of projects to indoctrinate students and the general public with conservative points of view on capitalism and such issues as civil rights, gay rights, feminism, and school prayer.

The right-wing counteroffensive was so vast it can scarcely be comprehended. New anti-union consulting companies were founded, and employers became more vicious toward unions. Legions of small businessmen, fed up with the costs of complying with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rules, joined the veritable movement to “Stop OSHA” that was coordinated by the American Conservative Union. Colossal efforts were directed, too, at reshaping the nation’s courts so that, as one crusader said, “the protection and enhancement of corporate profits and private wealth [would be] the cornerstones of our legal system.” Entities like the Liberty Fund, the Earhart Foundation, and many businesses funded Henry Manne’s “law and economics” programs to train lawyers in corporation-friendly interpretations of the law. (By 1990, more than 40 percent of federal judges had participated in Manne’s program at George Mason University.) A few years later, in 1982, the Federalist Society was founded—“federalist” because the idea is to return power to the states, as good white supremacists and libertarians (business supremacists) would want. Within several decades it had completely transformed the nation’s judiciary.

The 1970s was also the decade when “the upsurge of religious fervor that has sometimes been called the Third Great Awakening began to sweep the country” (Phillips-Fein), “shifting the balance of the country’s Christian population toward evangelical and fundamentalist churches and away from the old mainline denominations.” Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other evangelical leaders preached not only the predictable homophobic, anti-pornography, anti-abortion stuff, but also libertarian ideology—anti-unions, anti-government-bureaucrats, anti-welfare-state stuff. As Falwell said when founding Moral Majority in 1979, part of its job would be “lobbying intensively in Congress to defeat left-wing, social-welfare bills that will further erode our precious freedoms.” (Roe v. Wade, of course, had helped inflame social conservatives’ hostility to the federal government, providing another reason for the affinity with economic conservatives.) Needless to say, the politicization of evangelicals has had some rather significant consequences on the nation’s politics.

And then, as if all this weren’t enough, there was…Charles Koch, whom MacLean focuses on, together with Buchanan. He’s become even more influential in the last couple of decades—though MacLean surely exaggerates when she says, “He is the sole reason why [the ultra-capitalist right] may yet alter the trajectory of the United States in ways that would be profoundly disturbing even to the somewhat undemocratic James Madison”—but he was already playing a very long game in the 1960s. The son of a co-founder of the John Birch Society, he’s a true ideologue, a fanatical believer in “economic liberty” and Social Darwinism, fiercely opposed to government largesse dispensed to anyone, apparently including (at least in his early idealistic years) corporations.5 From the early days to the present, one of his favored institutions to help carry out the revolution has been the ironically named Institute for Humane Studies, successor to the Volker Fund in the mid-1960s. But in the late 1970s he founded, with the assistance of the even more fanatical Murray Rothbard, the Cato Institute, to train a disciplined “Leninist” cadre that, unlike most conservatives, would never compromise, never forsake its anti-government principles in any area of policy. (Rothbard supplied the Leninism.) Abolish the welfare state and all government regulations! Abolish the postal service and public education! Legalize drugs, prostitution, and all consensual sex! Slash taxes across the board! End American military intervention in other countries! Much of this was a bit shocking to mainstream conservatives, but Koch wouldn’t stray from his divine mission.

With a permanent staff and a stable of rotating scholar visitors, Cato could generate nonstop propaganda… Buchanan played a crucial role in such propaganda, for Cato’s arguments generally followed analyses provided by his team. Koch, meanwhile, provided new resources as the cadre brought in recruits with ideas for new ways to advance the cause. They would then be indoctrinated in the core ideas to assure their radical rigor, all of this held together with the gravy train opportunities Koch’s money made available as they pushed their case into the media and public life…

Koch (and his brother David, who was less political) also supported the Reason Foundation (which still publishes the magazine Reason), a think tank that soon became “the nation’s premier voice for privatization, not only of public education…but also for every conceivable public service, from sanitation to toll roads.” And in 1984—to give just one more example of many—the Kochs founded Citizens for a Sound Economy, chaired by Ron Paul, to rally voters behind their agenda.

The conservative mobilization of the 1970s, combined with the country’s economic woes and liberals’ feckless policies, got Reagan elected—a pretty impressive achievement when the electorate had overwhelmingly rejected his views just sixteen years earlier, in the form of Barry Goldwater’s campaign. But many libertarians were unhappy with his presidency, since he did so little to shrink government. (He did cut taxes, social spending, and regulations, but overall the government continued to expand and, very disappointingly, the welfare state wasn’t destroyed.)

The Cato Institute’s top priority became the privatization of Social Security. Buchanan helped supply a strategy to achieve this wildly unpopular goal. It would be political suicide to just come out and state it openly; instead, devious measures were necessary. First, a campaign of disinformation would have to convince the electorate that Society Security wasn’t financially viable in the long term and had to be reformed. (You may remember this intensive propaganda campaign from the George W. Bush years.) Step two was to “divide and conquer” (in the words of MacLean): reassure those who were already receiving benefits or would soon receive them that they wouldn’t be affected by the reforms. This would get them out of the fight to preserve the existing system. Meanwhile, foster resentment among younger workers by constantly reminding them their payroll deductions were providing a “tremendous welfare subsidy” to the aged. And foster resentment among the wealthy, and thus their opposition to Social Security, by proposing that they be taxed at higher rates than others to get their benefits. Etc. Eventually, popular resistance to “reform” would begin to break down. The financial sector could be enlisted in the fight too because of the windfall of money it would get by Social Security’s privatization.

As always, the ultimate goal was to eliminate all “collectivism,” all collective action and solidarity, which really means to get people to stop caring for each other. The world should consist of private atoms, because that means “freedom”—but more importantly because that means the elimination of resistance to capitalist power. (Ideologues may convince themselves that they’re wonderfully idealistic, but from a Marxian point of view they’re just useful idiots serving the objective interests or dynamics of capitalism to expand everywhere. As I wrote in a brief critique of Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind, power-structures basically ventriloquize certain highly indoctrinated people, animating them to speak for them and rationalize them.) It reminds me of Hannah Arendt’s analysis of totalitarianism, according to which the ideal is that everyone is an atom. To shamelessly quote myself:

As someone once said, the closest we’ve ever come to a society of pure selfishness and individualism was Auschwitz, which was the culmination of a kind of totalitarian collectivism. The ironic parallels between Nazi (and Soviet) collectivism and Randian or Rothbardian individualism are significant: they’re due to the profound atomization that each entails. In the latter, the individual is to treat everyone as a means to his end; in the former, the individual is to treat everyone as a means to the state’s (or the movement’s) ends. In both cases, no human connections are allowed, no treating the other as a being with his own value and his own claims on one’s respect. Hate, mistrust, and misery are the inevitable consequences of both these dystopian visions.

Cf. Pinochet’s regime, beloved by Hayek and Buchanan.

Anyway, the Cato Institute was hardly the only conservative institution fighting to privatize Social Security, but the war was never won. Democracy and “collectivism” proved too resilient. Unexpected outcome! In the 1990s, the Kochs and other funders, Buchanan, Congressman Dick Armey, Newt Gingrich, and the whole 1994 crop of Republicans at the vanguard of the “free market revolution” struggled mightily to shackle democracy by passing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution (along with cutting Medicare, “reforming” welfare, and so on), but again, alas, they failed.

Buchanan was particularly incensed by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (the so-called Motor Voter Act). “We are increasingly enfranchising the illiterate,” he growled, “moving rapidly toward electoral reform that will not expect voters to be able to read or follow instructions.” It bears noting, by the way, that it’s really superfluous to argue that market fundamentalists hate democracy, because it hardly requires great insight to see that the accumulation of wealth by a minority is itself totally inimical to democracy. And such wealth accumulation is not only an inevitable product of “unfettered” markets but openly celebrated by businessmen and ideologues.

In the meantime, George Mason University, conveniently located right next to Washington, D.C., had become a center of the “Kochtopus,” as people took to calling the vast network of institutions the brothers funded. It was the home, for example, of the Institute for Humane Studies, the James Buchanan Center, Henry Manne’s Law and Economics Center, and the important Mercatus Center. Buchanan himself, who had provided so many useful ideas and academic legitimacy, was effectively pushed out of the movement as Charles and his loyal lieutenants (Richard Fink, Tyler Cowen, and others) took control at the university. And now, at last, the long march of the zealots was about to come to fruition.

The last chapter of Democracy in Chains is chilling. In the words of the economist Tyler Cowen, the reality that is being fashioned for us will see “a rewriting of the social contract” according to which people will be “expected to fend for themselves much more than they do now.” From public health and basic sanitation to the conditions that workers toil in, the goal is to dismantle government, which is to say democracy. As the most extreme market fundamentalists have preached for centuries, only the police and military functions of government, the authoritarian functions, are legitimate. (Adam Smith, by the way, did not advocate this position.)

As hard as it may be to believe, one individual—Charles Koch—really is behind a large part of the destruction that conservatives have wrought in the twenty-first century. He substantially funds Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the State Policy Network, the Mackinac Center in Michigan (worth mentioning only because its lobbying played a significant role in Flint’s water crisis), and, in fact, uncountable numbers of institutions from university programs to legal centers. His loyalists control the Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, a massive conservative fundraising machine, and American Encore, a secretive but powerful nonprofit that funnels money to right-wing causes and advocacy groups. He owns i360, a cutting-edge data analytics company that has precise personal information on over 250 million American adults. It’s so sophisticated it has eclipsed the Republican Party’s voter files, such that the party has had to buy access to it to more effectively bombard voters with personalized messages.

(See this Intercept article by Lee Fang on how Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn used i360 to help “inundate voters with anti-immigrant messages” in her victorious 2018 Senate run. The technology shaped “3 million voter contact calls, 1.5 million doors knocked, $8.4 million spent on television ads, and 314,000 campaign text messages,” all of which gave her a commanding lead over her Democratic opponent.)

In 2016, the “Koch network” of hundreds of wealthy right-wing donors he heavily influences spent almost $900 million on political campaigns, which in effect made it a third major political party—and little of that money was for the presidential election, since neither Clinton nor Trump interested the man at the center. Even officials with the Republican National Committee have grown uncomfortable with the power of Koch and his allies: journalist Jane Mayer reports one of them plaintively saying, “It’s pretty clear that they don’t want to work with the party but want to supplant it.”

Ever since the brilliant journalism of Mayer and others brought the Koch underworld out into the open more than ten years ago, much of the politically conscious public has become vaguely aware of the role of this network in funding and coordinating attacks on everything from climate action to unions to public education. But to get a real sense of the radical evil and effectiveness of this “vast right-wing conspiracy,” it’s necessary to read Mayer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

For example, the hysteria in wealthy right-wing circles after Obama’s election precipitated nearly instant mobilizations to create the Tea Party. Citizens for a Sound Economy had tried to create an anti-tax “Tea Party” movement as early as 1991, but these attempts had led nowhere. In 2004 CSE split up into the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity on the one hand and FreedomWorks on the other, the latter headed by Dick Armey and funded by; e.g., the Bradley Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, Philip Morris, and the American Petroleum Institute. In early 2009, operatives from these two groups and a couple of others formed what they called the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition to organize protests across the country, using talking points, press releases, and logistical support provided in part by the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. To help get the word out, FreedomWorks made a deal with the Fox News host Glenn Beck: for an annual payment of $1 million, he would read on air content that the think tank’s staff had written. Pretty soon, the increasingly frequent anti-government rallies were filled with racist slogans (“Obama Bin Lyin’”) and racist depictions of Obama—showing, once again, the deep affinity between pro-capitalist ideologies and racism. It’s hard to argue with the Obama aide (Bill Burton) who opined, “you can’t understand Obama’s relationship with the right wing without taking into account his race… They treated him in a way they never would have if he’d been white.”

From these noble beginnings, the Koch network stepped up its funding for and organizing of ever more vicious attacks on Obama’s agenda, such as cap-and-trade legislation and even the conservative-centrist Affordable Care Act. With the help of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, they met with extraordinary, though not complete, success. And this was in addition to the highly successful efforts to take over state governments. In North Carolina, for instance, Americans for Prosperity (significantly aided by the John William Pope Foundation and other funders, as well as an array of private think tanks) played a large role in the Republican takeover of the state’s government and passage of such measures as slashing taxes on corporations and the wealthy while cutting services for the poor and middle class, gutting environmental programs, limiting women’s access to abortion, banning gay marriage, legalizing concealed guns in bars and school campuses, eviscerating public education, erecting barriers to voting, and gerrymandering legislative districts for partisan gain. State after state succumbed to such agendas. Just between 2010 and 2012, ALEC-backed legislators in 41 states introduced more than 180 bills to restrict who could vote and how.

Thus, a reactionary political infrastructure generations in the making has finally matured, even as its goal of completely shredding the social compact and leaving everyone to fend for themselves remains far in the future (in fact unrealizable). Economic and cultural polarization, consciously planned and financed since the 1950s, has reached untenable extremes. Daily newspaper articles relate the sordid story of Republican state legislatures’ ongoing efforts to decimate the right to vote, as, meanwhile, Koch and his army of allies and operatives frantically work to defeat Democrats’ For the People Act (described by the New York Times as “the most substantial expansion of voting rights in a half-century”). “The left is not stupid, they’re evil,” Grover Norquist intones on a conference call with Koch operatives and other conservatives. “They know what they’re doing. They have correctly decided that this [voting rights act] is the way to defeat the freedom movement.” The class struggle, in short, rages on, with the stakes growing ever higher.

A Marxian, “dialectical” perspective offers hope, however. Being nothing but capitalism’s useful idiots, the vast horde of reactionaries whose handiwork I’ve surveyed is unable to see that history is cyclical. The business triumphalism of the 1920s led straight into the Great Depression, which led to left-populism and the welfare state, which led to the corporate backlash of the 1950s, which helped cause the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left, which bred the hyper-capitalist counter-assault of the 1970s–2010s, which is now bringing forth a new generation of social movements. These are still in their infancy, but already they have been able to push even the execrable Joe Biden to mildly progressive positions (though not on foreign policy). To paraphrase Marx, what the radical right produces, above all—in the long term—are its own gravediggers. For Karl Polanyi was right that before society can ever be destroyed by thoroughgoing marketization and privatization, it will always bounce back and “protect itself” (in his words). At long last, we’re starting to see the glimmers of this self-protection.

As for libertarianism—yes, in an authentic form, a philosophy of freedom must guide us. As Howard Zinn said, Marxism provides the theory and anarchism provides the moral vision. But in order to realize freedom, what we need is the exact opposite of the tyrannical Hayekian model of society. We need an expansive public sector, a society of communal and public spaces everywhere, cooperatives and democratic institutions of every variety—libraries and schools and parks and playgrounds in every neighborhood, public transportation and housing and hospitals, free higher education and healthcare, the transformation of corporations into worker cooperatives or democratically run government institutions (whether municipal or regional or national or international). Even in the neoliberal United States, society has (barely) functioned only through hidden economic planning—and corporations embody sprawling planned economies—and without constant local planning, urban planning, scientific planning, political and industrial planning, everything would collapse. “The market” is nothing but a concept useful to bludgeon popular strivings for dignity and democracy. Its ideologues are the enemies of humanity.

What does it mean to be free? A robust freedom isn’t centered around the property one owns; it’s centered around the individual himself. Every individual should have the right to freely and creatively develop himself as he likes, provided he respects the same right in others. To respect others means to take on certain responsibilities to society—which is already a “collectivist” notion, in a sense. To respect others means to acknowledge their humanity, to treat them as you would like to be treated, to do no harm and, in fact, to do good—to cooperate, to work to advance and protect a society that allows everyone to live a decent life. Rights are bound up with responsibilities. And substantive, “positive” freedom isn’t possible in an environment of significant material deprivation, especially when others have incomparably greater resources and will use them to consolidate power (further limiting the freedom of the less fortunate). So, to permit the flourishing of freedom and thereby respect others’ rights, we all have a responsibility to advocate and work towards a relatively egalitarian, economically democratic, socialist world.

Reverence for “property” (a concept defined by the state and subject to political negotiation) has little or nothing to do with protecting individual liberty. It isn’t impossible to imagine a world in which private property is marginal, the means of production, the land, perhaps even housing being held in common and managed through procedures of direct or representative democracy. That such a world would end up violating people’s freedoms on a scale remotely comparable to that at which our own world does is far from clear, to say the least.

Nor does the radical right’s objection to “discriminatory” taxes on the wealthy make sense. As Peter Kropotkin lucidly argued in his classic The Conquest of Bread, we all benefit from the collective labor of millennia, and of the present. “Millions of human beings have labored to create this civilization on which we pride ourselves today,” he wrote. “Other millions, scattered throughout the globe, labor to maintain it… There is not even a thought, or an invention, which is not common property, born of the past and the present.” Why should a few individuals capture exponentially greater gains from all this labor than everyone else? And if they do capture such gains, why shouldn’t they be compelled to give back more than others to the society that permits them such extraordinary privilege? Right-wing objections are the more absurd in that economists such as Mariana Mazzucato (in The Entrepreneurial State) have shown it is overwhelmingly the taxpayer, not the wealthy investor, who drives innovation forward and has therefore, through the mechanism of government funding and coordinating of research, built the prosperity of our civilization. Capitalist parasites on taxpayers and the collective labor of billions deserve to be driven out of existence through confiscatory taxation—which would give government more resources to invest in publicly beneficial research and development.

“Libertarian” arguments are bankrupt, but that hasn’t prevented the movement from doing incalculable harm worldwide since the 1970s. We can only hope that popular movements defeat it before its environmental consequences, in particular, doom us all.

  1. Think of the famous Powell Memorandum in 1971: absolute panic at the fact that business didn’t completely control the country—there was some dissent among the young and a minority of intellectuals—and fervid determination to (re)impose ideological uniformity on the population…for the sake of the “free” enterprise system.
  2. Notice, however, that reactionaries love big government as long as it supports their agenda. Fundamentalists and anti-abortion types want to use government to impose their values on the country—showing how little they value “freedom”—and big business certainly has no problem with corporate welfare or the national security state.
  3. The National Review is always mentioned in histories of the New Right. As Phillips-Fein says, it is “rightly known for pioneering what the historian George Nash has described as the ‘fusion’ of conservative ideas, joining the Hayekian faith in the market and critique of the New Deal to the larger moral and political concerns” of conservatives who lamented the decline of religion.
  4. There are obvious differences between Nazis’ statism and right-wing libertarianism, but in power the Nazis were highly supportive of business and profoundly hostile to unions. Since modern conservatives attack unions and social welfare far more than corporate welfare and the national security state (neoconservatives, of course, actively adore the latter), it’s pretty clear that in practice they’re not opposed to business-friendly statism. They would have been very happy with fascists—and at the time, their counterparts were.
  5. Koch Industries benefits from an array of federal subsidies, but Koch insists (somewhat comically) that he wishes this whole regime of corporate welfare didn’t exist.
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Banality of Evil in Neo-fascist Times

We live in dangerous times. Neo-fascism is on the rise in many parts of the world, combining the savagery of the market with authoritarian forms of xenophobia. The combinatorial power of individualizing cultural conformism and totalizing statism has resulted in a new “culture of silence”, intended to reduce citizens to passive spectators of the misery and suffering inflicted on others. In a politico-cultural conjuncture like this, a re-examination of Hanna Arendt’s concept of “banality of evil” may prove to be useful.

Arendt coined the phrase “banality of evil” to refer to the crimes committed by Lieutenant-Colonel Adolf Eichmann, who she argued was neither a “monster” nor an anti-Semite but acted from the non-ideological compulsions of careerism and obedience. Instead of being a crazy fanatic, Eichmann was an ordinary individual who simply accepted the premises of his state and participated in any ongoing enterprise with the energy of good bureaucrats.

Arendt described Eichmann’s personal characteristics as follows: “a manifold shallowness in the doer that made it impossible to trace the uncontestable evil of his deeds to any deeper level of roots or motives. The deeds were monstrous, but the doer – at least the very effective one now on trial – was quite ordinary, commonplace and neither demonic nor monstrous”.

There were many people like Eichmann in Nazi Germany. In his book Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, Christopher Browning writes:

Many of the perpetrators of the Holocaust were so-called desk murderers whose role in the mass extermination was greatly facilitated by the bureaucratic nature of their participation. Their jobs frequently consisted of tiny steps in the overall killing process, and they performed them in a routine manner, never seeing the victims their actions affected. Segmented, routinized, and depersonalized, the job of the bureaucrat or specialist – whether it involved confiscating property, scheduling trains, drafting legislation, sending telegrams, or compiling lists – could be performed without confronting the reality of mass murder.

Thoughtlessness

Amos Elon, in his introduction to Arendt’s book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, writes:

Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil.

For Arendt, thinking is a process of conducting an inner dialogue with ourselves about the meaning of what we do. It is fundamentally concerned with recognizing the situatedness of our actions in a social context and translating individual intentions into systemic considerations. Eichmann seemed incapable of taking a larger view of what he was doing — indeed it seemed that at many times he had no view of what he was doing except that he was doing his job and, in his own eyes, doing it well. Describing his activities, he claimed, “I sat at my desk and did my business.”

Arendt links the incapability of a human being to transcend the sheer facticity of one’s actions to a plague of “thoughtlessness”. In The Human Condition, she argues that one of the “outstanding characteristics of our time” was “thoughtlessness – the heedless recklessness – or hopeless confusion or complacent repetition of ‘truths’ which have become trivial and empty”. However, this does not mean that Eichmann inherently lacked the faculties of understanding, judgment, reason and will. Rather, he gave up the active and individual use of these faculties — he deferred in all important respects to the faculties of others.

Although Eichmann did do great evil, he achieved this not so much through the adoption of a well-thought-out and impassioned will to do evil as through a fundamental maxim not to make a personal choice, or stand, in situations where this was required if he was to retain his autonomy. Therefore, Eichmann’s culpability lay in the way he had allowed himself to commit such acts, while seeing himself as an ordinary man doing his duty as an official of the state.

Culture of Silence

In the contemporary period, banality of evil manifests itself in a culture of silence. As citizens of countries under the rule of neo-fascist governments refuse to speak out against overt repression against certain sections of the populace, they risk being complicit in furthering the tyranny of their demagogic rulers. To paraphrase Arendt, the one who remains silent in the face of other’s oppression functions as “the non-wicked everybody who has no special motives and for this reason is capable of infinite evil.” While silence does not designate any overt consent for neo-fascist violence, its consequences inevitably result in the inscription of a code of brutality on the socio-symbolic fabric of existence.

Like Eichmann, silent subjects surrender their agency to authoritarian leaders, all the while seeing themselves as “uninvolved” in ongoing political dynamics. They fail to locate their silence in a wider web of social meanings and understand everything through the prism of abstract individualism. Silence-scarred individuals remain under the delusion that their neutrality is immune to the workings of hegemony operating at every level of reality. When the cumulative effects of passive silence result in the active consolidation of a neo-fascist regime, savagery becomes banal as it starts operating in the normality of the everyday, and gains spontaneity aided by a system in place and a bureaucratic order that lubricates the cogs of cruelty.

A culture of silence can only be combated when we take cognizance of the fact that neo-fascism is aided by “banal” perpetrators of evil who deliberately refuse to look at the costs of their silence.  Passive, benumbed and subjectively isolated in a moral coma, these individuals also symbolize the pervasive depoliticization of entire societies under neoliberalism. To avoid repeating the experiences of Nazi Germany, we need a politics of humanization which fights against all forms of oppressions and convinces people to regain their role as the moving force of history.

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Charter Schools: “Choice” Is Not An Argument

Advocates of privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools have long ignored serious criticisms of charter schools in a variety of ways. They have always believed, for example, that simply repeating worn-out phrases like “charter schools provide choice” will automatically cause everyone to dismiss the need for any discussion, investigation, and critical thinking about the well-documented negative effects of charter schools on education, society, the economy, and the national interest.

“Choice,” however, is not an argument for the existence or expansion of privately-operated charter schools.

When charter school promoters use the language of “choice,” they want people to:

  1. Not recognize that education is an inalienable human right that must be guaranteed in practice by a public authority worthy of the name.
  2. Believe that “free market” ideology is the best and most pro-social way to organize education in a modern society based on mass industrial production.
  3. Ignore how “choice” leads to greater stratification and segregation in charter schools through their geographic location and selective student enrollment and attrition practices.
  4. Disregard the fact that by “choice” charter school promoters really mean education is a commodity, not a social responsibility, and parents and students are consumers, not humans and citizens, who fend for themselves while shopping for a “good” school that hopefully does not close in under 10 years.
  5. Think that there is no need to analyze how and why public schools have been set up to fail by privatizers so as to justify the rise of deregulated charter schools.
  6. Get used to the disinformation that public schools are automatically bad and charter schools are inherently superior.
  7. Ignore the fact that charter schools usually choose parents and students, not the other way around.
  8. Overlook the fact that “choice” does not guarantee excellence, stability, or equity. Several thousand deregulated charter schools run by unelected individuals have closed in recent decades.
  9. Believe that it does not matter who “delivers” education, but what kind of “results” are produced.
  10. Dismiss the fact that “choice” means taking money away from under-funded public schools that educate thousands of students and that public schools in many instances are even compelled to provide some free services to charter schools.

It is not possible to conceal the fact that deregulated charter schools fail and close regularly, educate far fewer students than public schools, are continually mired in fraud and corruption, are governed by unelected individuals, have high teacher and principal turnover rates, spend a lot of public money on advertising and marketing, dodge public standards for meetings and accountability, and siphon enormous amounts of money from public schools every day. Privately-operated charter schools also have more inexperienced and lower-paid teachers than public schools. In addition, many charter schools offer fewer services and programs than public schools. It is also worth noting that the performance of cyber charter schools is consistently abysmal. This is what “choice” has delivered.

The 50 problems plaguing privately-operated charter schools will not disappear by endlessly repeating “choice is good” and by treating parents and students as consumers and shoppers instead of humans and citizens with rights that must be guaranteed. Turning major human responsibilities like education into a “free market” commodity is not a modern way of educating people in the 21st century. It will not solve any problems. Over the past 30 years, segregated charter schools have only given rise to more problems, including many problems for themselves.

Parents and students do not need more problematic “choices” or choice just for the sake of choice. They need locally-controlled, world-class, fully-funded, non-demonized, free schools completely uninfluenced by narrow private interests. A modern nation and economy can’t be built on an education system based on the ideology of “survival of the fittest.”

To be sure, the rapid multiplication of privately-operated charter schools under President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona will go a long way toward nation-wrecking, undermining public education, harming the public interest, and dehumanizing the natural and social environment. It is no surprise that intense controversy and upheaval have characterized the charter school sector since day one and seem to increase every month.

Now is the time to step up defense of public schools and the public interest. The public matters more than ever. The privatization of schools and many other public enterprises through neoliberal state restructuring harms the majority, the economy, society, and the national interest. Privatization increases corruption and inefficiency, while lowering quality, increasing costs, and restricting democracy. The public must not permit neoliberals and privatizers to wreck public schools that have been serving 90% of America’s youth for well over a century. Schemes based on the “free market” and a “fend-for-yourself” ethos will certainly benefit a tiny handful of owners of capital, but they won’t solve deep problems that have worsened due to the actions of major owners of capital desperately hanging on to an obsolete economic system.

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Why Middle-Class Left Liberals Should Dump the Democratic Party: Finding Common Ground with Socialists

Many of you in the middle class are opposed to socialism. You still think there is some chance for you under capitalism and you fear that the socialists will take what little you have and divide it among the shiftless and thriftless. You need not have the slightest fear. The socialist has no use for your small capital; it would do (them) not the least good. (They are) after the earth, the trusts, and the machinery of production. Besides, soon you will have nothing to divide. When the big capitalists get through with you, you will be ready for us. You may not be ready yet, but you are ripening very rapidly. When you have been stripped of what you have, when you have become proletarians, when you have become expropriated, you will be ready to join us in expropriating the expropriators.

— Speech by Eugene Debs over 100 years ago in Chicago about the middle-class fear of socialism

Orientation

Almost five years ago I wrote an article in Counterpunch: “Lost at Sea: Left Liberals Have No Party.” In that article I challenged the blithe interchangeability of the words “liberal” and “democrat”. I tracked eight historical changes of liberalism from left-liberal, to centrist-liberal to right-center liberals (neoliberals). I also argued that the words liberal and democracy are used interchangeably by liberals, even though it wasn’t until the 20th century that liberals were clearly for democracy (translated as universal suffrage for white males).

The problem with my article as I see it today is that I lumped upper middle-class left liberals with middle-class liberals. Two years later I wrote another article called “The Greater of Two Evils: Why the Democratic Party is worse than the Republican Party for 85% of the U.S. Population.” In that article, I outlined how, since the 2008 crash, the social classes whose wealth grew were the ruling class, the upper-class and the upper-middle-class, constituting about 15% of all social classes. Everyone else was doing worse, including the middle-class.

In my first article I slurred the differences between the upper-middle-class and the middle-class, advocating for both classes to get out of the Democratic Party. I have since come to see (as I will get into later) that the upper-middle-class has done very well under the umbrella of the Democrats and it is not in their material interests to leave. This is no longer true of the middle-class. Historically, the material interests of the middle-class and the upper-middle-class has more in common with each other than the working-class. In other words, the difference between news anchors, lawyers, senior managers on the one hand and high school teachers, librarians and supervisors on the other hand are more differences of degree than kind. After all, they all did mental work, as opposed to the physical work of the working-class. However, in the last 50 years middle-class life has gotten far worse than the life of the upper middle-class. It has gotten bad enough to be able to say it is closer to the working-class. Whether they realize it or not, for middle-class left liberals, the Democratic Party has left the building 40 years ago.

My claim in this article is that:

  1. Middle-class FDR liberals need to leave the democrats and be part of building a new party
  2. Middle-class left liberals need to form alliances with the working-class and the poor, not the upper middle-class
  3. The new party should advocate for socialism

What follows is why this should be so.

Difference Between FDR Liberals and Neoliberals

Left liberal values

Left liberals are broadly for the following. They are pro-science as well as for investing in scientific research and development as well as investing in infrastructure. They are for the separation of church and state as well as for the use of reason in problem-solving, such as raising children through what is called “authoritative parenting”. They support the matriarchal state: universal health care, unemployment, pensions, food stamps and a minimum wage automatically raised to keep up with inflation. They expect the state to intervene in the economy to soften the hard edges of capitalism, following a Keynesian economic policy. They are committed to gradual change and a lessening of race and gender stratification. Left liberals support an expansion of unions. This left liberalism has been present in the United States for roughly 40 years, from the mid-1930s to the mid-1970s.  Since then, Democratic Party has slid further and further right to the point that their platform today is a center-right neoliberal party which embodies none of these values. The problem is the collective denial left liberals have in ignoring this fact.

Right-wing neoliberal values

Neoliberals are directly opposed to the matriarchal state. They support the economic policies of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Von Hayek with minimum state involvement in the economy.  Neoliberals have withdrawn funding from long-term science programs. They have presided over the rise of New Age thinking initiated by Marilyn Ferguson’s book The Aquarian Conspiracy. Neoliberals have become extreme relativists championing the rise of identity politics which began in the early 1970s. Neoliberals have lost hope and have failed to bring the principles of the Enlightenment forward. They have abandoned investment in profits made on manufacturing and instead make their profits on the defense industry, arming the entire world. Under their rein most of the remaining profit is invested in finance capital.

Neoliberals have presided over the destruction of unions over last fifty years.  They have stood by and watched the full-time, well paid secure working-class jobs disappear.  Work hours under neoliberalism have gone from 40 hours per week to at least 50 hours per week for those lucky enough to be employed full-time. In general, the standard of living has declined in the US so that the next generation can expect to make less than their parents. It’s no accident that credit cards became available to the working-class in the early 1970s, so workers didn’t have to directly face the fact that their standard of living had declined. The civil rights movement spoke to what minorities had in common with organized labor, which was low-cost housing and fair wages. Today we have individualist identity politics where being recognized for your identity along with using politically correct language is all that is asked for. In the 1960s, community college was free. In the last 50 years the cost of college education is so high that student debt appears to be debt for life.

Neoliberals have supported the explosion of the prison-industrial complex which has expanded many times over since the 60s despite the rate of crime going down. The police departments have been equipped with military weapons that make the equipment of police prior to the 1970s pale in comparison. They have presided over the growth of the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical companies which now have control over our physical and mental health. The official diagnostic manual was 50 pages in 1950. Today the same manual is well over 1000 pages. Today upper-middle-class parents are no longer authoritative but instead are practicing a form of “permissive parenting”, which easily results in spoiled, narcissistic children, with helicopter parents fretting endlessly over their little darling’s self-esteem. Please see Table A for a comparison.

Differences Between Middle Class and Upper Middle Class

Not everyone is middle-class

In the United States, most people think of themselves as middle-class. Last time I checked 80% of the working-class mistakenly thought they were middle-class. Why? Because in Yankeedom, it’s an embarrassment to be working-class. So too, upper-middle-class people, nervous about being seen as well-to-do, play down their wealth. Nevertheless, there are real parameters around what it means to be middle-class, as I’ll get to. But first the social class composition.

Social class composition

Based on the work of William Domhoff, in his books Who Rules America and The Powers That Be, the ruling-class and the upper-class together compose about 5% of the population. They live off stocks and bonds and don’t have to work. Their investments are principally in oil, mining, the military and banking. They have been characterized as “old money” and are mostly Republicans.

The upper-middle-class is about 10% of the population. They make most of their money off scientific innovations like computers, internet and electronics. They are called “new money” and are mostly Democrats. Upper-middle-class people are also doctors, lawyers, architects, senior managers, scientists and engineers, as well as media professionals such as news commentators, magazine and newspaper editors, college administrators and religious authorities.

The middle-class consists of about 25% of the population. Occupational examples include high school and grammar school teachers, registered nurses, librarians, corporate middle managers, self-employed artisans and tiny little mom-and-pop operations. The middle-class is at the bottom rung of the Democratic Party not well-represented at all.

The working-class is about 40% of the population and consists of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers. The skilled working-class include carpenters, welders and electricians, wait-staff and store clerks who are likely to vote Democrat. Their interests are not represented by the Democratic Party either. The semi-skilled are bus drivers or train operators and along with unskilled are less likely to vote. The last 10% consist of what Marx called the “lumpenproletariat” who live by their wits as prostitutes, hustlers, gamblers or those on welfare. These folks are not likely to vote either.

Income is not the most important determinant of social class: the nine dimensions of social class

When most Yankees try to understand social class, the first thing they think of is how much income a person has. But this is only one of the nine dimensions of social class, and not the most important one. Most of these dimensions are covered in the work of Marxist Erik Olin Wright as well as some of the followers of Max Weber. The first dimension of social class is technical, and this consists of three parts: a) the proportion of mental and physical work the job requires; b) the amount of independence or interdependence the kind of work involves; and c) the proportion of the work that is mechanical rote work versus creativity. So typically, a good upper-middle-class job will involve mental work, be independent from others and involve creativity. At the other end of the spectrum is unskilled working-class labor which predominantly involves physical labor and working with other people, while the work itself is repetitive. Other social classes have various combinations in between.

The second dimension of social class is political and economic authority relations. This consists of two sub-categories. The first is the degree of power the person has over resources, tools, goods and services. A capitalist has control over all these things. Workers usually have control over none of them, except that skilled workers might own their own tools. The second sub-category has to do with the proportion of order-giving and order-taking involved. The owner of a company gives orders and takes no orders. His workers take orders and don’t give orders. Middle-class people in corporations may give orders to workers but must take orders from senior management. This category is simply – who gets to boss around who and under what conditions.

The third dimension of social class is mobility. How easy is it to move up or down the class hierarchy both within one’s lifetime or across generations? The fourth dimension of social class is resources. Most people think of resources in terms of income. But wealth also includes assets such as inheritance, real estate, stocks, bonds and property. Sometimes upper-class people may work only part time, but it would be deceptive to make sense of their class position by some part-time job when they have an inheritance.

The fifth dimension of social class is education. This consists of the number of years of school completed as well as the quality of the school attended. The sixth dimension of social class is status. This is the degree of prestige in which one’s occupation is held by others. One reason why income is unstable as an indicator of social class is that some workers can make a good deal of money, such as unionized garbage collectors, but have low status. Conversely, an adjunct college instructor can have high status among the Yankee population but make significantly less money than a garbage collector.

The seventh dimension of social class is lifestyle and consumption patterns. This has four sub-categories. The first is health – birth and death rates. As many of you know, working-class people die on average seven years younger than people in the middle and upper-middle-classes. The second sub-category is how people dress, their speech patterns, body mannerisms and manners. The third sub-category is their recreational habits – whether they ski, play baseball or go bowling. The last sub-category is their religious beliefs. Religions are class divided. In the case of the protestants, there are the Unitarians, Episcopalians and Presbyterians near the top and Baptists and fundamentalists at the bottom.

The eighth dimensions of social class is the degree of awareness people have of their social class. Generally, the upper class and the ruling class are extremely class conscious and are very fussy about who is allowed into their circles. The upper-middle-class and the middle-class tend to be less class conscious. In countries other than the United States, the working-class is very class conscious. But here in Yankeedom, workers see themselves as “temporarily indisposed millionaires”. The last social dimension of class is the ability to take collective action. Capitalists at the end of World War II and soon thereafter organized a big campaign to win back the allegiance of workers. The ruling class has exclusive clubs in which they organize class strategy. The World Economic Forum and the Bilderberg group are examples. At the other end of the spectrum, when workers join unions or strike, they are showing class consciousness. No social class fits neatly into each dimension. There are what Wright calls “contradictory class locations” where a person is caught between two classes either between generations or within their lifetime.

Why does class count?

Why have I gone over the dimensions of social class in such detail? One reason is to show that upper middle-class people and middle-class people are not interchangeable. They vary in the technical division of labor, authority relations, class mobility, resources, education, status, lifestyle, degree of class consciousness and their willingness to take collective action. They also differ in their attitudes towards the meaning of work, as well as in their attitudes towards time and eating habits. If we want to suggest that the middle-class should break its alliance with the upper middle-class and get out of the Democratic Party, we have to expand and deepen their differences as I am starting to demonstrate.

Summary: two reasons why middle-class left liberal should get out the Democratic Party

Summarizing, the first thing we needed to do is to establish that the Democratic Party is a center-right neoliberal party which has next to nothing to do with being left-liberal. This is reason A to get out of the Democratic Party. The second reason is that the Democratic Party serves the interests of the upper-middle-class not the middle-class. The most obvious indicator of why the middle-class should no longer align themselves with the upper-middle-class is to understand what has happened since the crash of 2008. Both Thomas Piketty and Richard Wolff argue that the “economic recovery” was very class specific. The rulers, the upper class and the upper middle-class have done considerably better in that “recovery”. All other social classes, including the middle-class, have done worse. The middle-class, economically and in other dimensions, is far closer to the working-class than it has ever been. Reason B to get out of the Democratic Party.

But can these two classes really get along? There is a built-in tension and discomfort about doing mental work and physical work; there are differences in the degree of status in the two classes’ occupations.  If we want to move middle-class people and working-class people closer together, we have to understand their commonalities and where the tension points are in their differences.

Similarities and Differences Between Middle Class and Working Class People

Similarities

The biggest similarity between the two classes is a decline in the standard of living. This includes income, work stability, increase in hours worked and lack of benefits. Another commonality is sports. Working-class people and middle-class people can unite around being fans of baseball, football and basketball professional teams. In terms of music, rock or country rock might bring these two classes together. Another commonality is that both classes have what sociologists have defined as achieved status. Unlike the upper classes, they usually do not come into life with an inheritance. Lastly, both classes see hard work as a virtue.

Differences

One of the major differences between these two classes is that middle-class people make their living primarily by doing mental and/or supervisory work. Working-class people make their living primarily with their hands and their bodies. A second major obstacle to overcome is that middle-class jobs usually have higher status. The third difference is that middle-class people often give orders to working-class people, but the reverse is not the case. This can lead to jealousy and resentment among working-class people. Middle-class people are very individualistic and not likely to organize as a class. There is likely to be tension between the classes when the working-class agitates to start a union or take strike action. There are also differences between the classes around the meaning of work. For working-class people, the meaning of work is less important than the money and material benefits. Some middle-class people might trade off a higher paying job for work that seems socially redeeming to them.

In terms of resources middle-class people today are likely to own their own home and have stocks and bonds. Working-class people’s assets are usually a car and possibly a home. Mostly they do not own stocks. Whatever savings account they have, that is it. There are also differences in their health conditions. Working-class people are likely to have eating, drinking and smoking problems and middle-class people are healthier. Working-class people are more likely to go to gambling casinos and play the lottery. Middle-class people see that as a waste of time and money.

Another tension point is education. Usually, middle-class people will have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, while working-class people will have no degree or an associate degree at best. Middle-class people will dress, speak and have manners that will be different from the working-class, and this will produce class tensions. Middle-class and working-class people will attend different religious denominations. Working-class religious services invite submission, confessions of being a sinner as well as altered states of consciousness like speaking in tongues, singing and dancing in the church aisles. In middle-class religions, there is less pressure to make you feel like you are a sinner. At the same time, sermons are designed to appeal to what is reasonable rather than to force you to have a revelatory experience which alters one’s state of consciousness.

Middle Class People Meet Socialists

Surely you are kidding

Let’s suppose middle-class left liberals have enough doubts about the Democratic Party because they are no longer New Deal liberals, and they’re starting to see that the party no longer looks out for middle-class interests. Let’s assume that economic, political and ecological disasters will continue to plague capitalism, and somehow a third party – a mass party – has emerged founded on socialism and is getting up a head of steam. This party has some working-class support as well as some union support. What would it take for middle-class left liberals to join?

Fears Middle-class Liberals Have About Socialists

Dictatorship and one-party rule

In its propaganda war with socialism, capitalists inevitably point out some of what it perceives to be the dictatorial tendencies of communism – in Russia, China and Cuba – as the archetypal example of socialism. What it does not do is study the conditions under which one-party rule occurred and what the authorities were up against. I am not going to get into pros and cons of this here because this kind of socialism – whether Stalinist or Maoist – is only one type of socialism. There are six types of socialism. Starting from the right and moving leftward there are social democrats and then three kinds of Leninists – Maoists, Stalinists and Trotskyists. Continuing leftward, there are left communists or council communists and the anarchists. In my efforts to convince middle-class liberals of the feasibility of socialism I will address as much as I can what most or all of these types are in agreement on. For now, let’s just say that dictatorial rule is not a foundational principle of socialism, even for the Stalinist and Maoist parties that have been called dictatorial by capitalists.

Furthermore, I think it is ludicrous for members of the Democratic Party to complain about the one-party rule of socialists when in Yankeedom there are only two parties. The Democratic Party is hardly democratic when it only serves the interests of the about 10% of the population (Republicans serve the ruling and upper classes) and leaves over 85% with no representation at all. The party I call the “Republicrats”, representing 15% of the population, is one party, the party of capital.

Confusion of personal property with social property

We socialists have a running joke on our Facebook posts, mostly in reaction to over-the-top conservatives who think we want to abolish personal property. We say “yes indeed, we are coming for your tooth brush.” That perceived threat is accompanied by imagining that socialists are all having group sex. But seriously, when we socialists say we want to abolish private property we only mean social property. We want to abolish capitalist control over water, food, energy systems, tools, all the necessities that people need to live. We don’t believe resources that everyone needs in order to live should be privately owned. On the other hand, personal property will remain with the individual as it would under capitalism.

Discouragement of innovation

Capitalism has a very shallow and narrow understanding of human nature. Capitalists imagine that people are lazy at heart and unless the carrot is held in front of people – the prospect of being a millionaire – they will do nothing. Further, they look at the types of “leisure” activities a working-class person enjoys after another 50-hour work week and take those as representing what human nature is really like. For example, on Friday night the worker wants to play cards. On Saturday he watches a ball game and have a few beers and on Sunday he sleeps in. For the capitalist this is lazy. What the capitalist thinks is that if workers did not have to work, then playing cards, watching football, drinking, getting laid and sleeping is all he would ever do. What the capitalist doesn’t understand is that the entire weekend is not leisure at all. Its recovery from the week and preparation for the new week.

Under conditions of socialist work, alienation would be minor – and I am being conservative here. The natural collective creativity on the job will arise. People will work less, perhaps 30 hours a week at first. Because workers will control the workplaces as well as decide what to produce, how to produce it, how much they should work and how they will be compensated, work will be a joy, not a curse as under capitalism. There will be plenty of room for innovation, in fact, much more than under capitalism where most workers are imprisoned in wage labor and told not to be curious and not have their own ideas about how things should be run.

All this collective creativity gives the lie to the ridiculous capitalist notion that people want socialism because they want “free stuff” with no contribution. All socialist plans have a budget and decisions have to be made about what and how the budget will be spent. No one will “get out of working”. What the capitalist cannot imagine is that under socialism people will want to work. The idea of not working would be painful – not liberating.

Equality of poverty

In its heyday, between the 1930s and the 1970s, the Swedish Social Democratic Labor Party was a socialist society which produced great material wealth. The socialist countries that have been showcased by capitalists as poor – the Soviet Union, China and Cuba – were only poor during certain times of their existence. What capitalists fail to inform us of is that before the socialist revolutions, as Michael Parenti points out, those countries were even more poor. What material wealth does exist in capitalist societies has taken hundreds of years to build up. In China today, absolute poverty was eradicated within 40 years.

There will be far more innovation than existed under capitalism because under socialism the workplaces will be controlled by the workers and workers’ activities will be guided by an overall plan. To cite one instance, before Yugoslavia was destroyed by capitalists, Yugoslavian productivity under worker self-management was higher than in any capitalist country. The same was true during the Spanish Revolution under worker self-management in both industry and in agriculture.

People are naturally greedy

Cross-cultural research on happiness has found that there is a direct correlation between money and happiness when people move from poverty to a middle-class life. However, the movement from middle-class to upper-middle-class and beyond is no longer correlated to happiness. In other words, people who are upper class or upper-middle-class are not any more likely to be happy than are middle-class people. This gives the lie to the capitalist notion that people are greedy and that everyone secretly wants to be a millionaire. What is more likely is that people want to be middle-class. They want basics in material security. After that they want other things; creativity on the job, to be able to contribute to society and to be recognized for their work, to mention only a few things.

Socialists will want to abolish religion

I admit that the state socialist attempt to decree the abolition of religion was a big mistake. I also think that doing so was contrary to the principles of materialism Marxists aspire to. While I stand firm in the ontological belief that there are no gods or god, at the same time I understand the degree to which people wish to hold on to religion as an expression of their alienation of social life. As generations pass and prosperous ways of life become normalized, I predict three things will happen. First, more people will become atheists. Secondly, those who continue to believe in religion will notice that the nature of the gods, or god, will change. The gods or god will blend more with the nature we know because social life will be more likely to begin to resemble heaven on earth. Third, the fundamentalist religions that plague many working-class people will disappear because the working-class will no longer consider themselves sinners or need fire and brimstone to make things right.   

Commonalities Between Middle-Class Left Liberals and Socialists

Need for a mass party

We socialists think you’ll agree with us that we badly need a mass party that can speak to the needs of the 25% of us who are middle-class and the 40% percent of us who are working-class. This party will develop a program and a step-by-step plan for implementation of the plan over the next 5, 10 and 15 years. It will be a dues-paying party and we will implement methods for getting input into what the plan will be. The issues will be prioritized, and everyone will have a say in carrying out the plan. Once the plan is set, people will be able to sign up for tasks they agree to carry out over the course of weeks and months. In addition to a thirty-hour work week, approximately five hours per week will be devoted to this “political” work.

Massive support for Unions

We socialists know that you left liberals have supported unions from the 1930s to the early 1970s. However, we also know that it was under liberal presidents that the best organizers of unions, the communists and the socialists, were drummed out of unions in the 1950s. This limited the vision of unions as they turned into “business unions”. We also think you should be very upset with the neoliberals in the Democratic Party who have not supported unions for the last 50 years, causing union representation in Yankeedom to be now less than 10%. We hold neoliberals directly responsible for the fact that wages, working conditions and job security are pretty much last in the industrial capitalist societies. The vision of unions needs to be built back up to the ways of the Industrial Workers of the World who saw unions as workshops for how to run a society, not merely a way to sustain and improve everyday working conditions.

Society can be engineered

Like you, we socialists agree with the great project of the Enlightenment that a better society can be engineered by its members. Unlike conservatives, we do not accept that social organizations should be ruled by kings, aristocrats, priests or any traditional authorities. Neither do we think society is some kind of reform school in preparation for the next life. We also don’t think society is best governed by the automatic preservation of traditional institutions that have been here the longest. Like you, we agree in the notion of progress.

The value of science and technology in producing a society of abundance

Like you we are very disappointed and angry that capitalists have chosen to invest their profits in warfare and in finance capital rather than in scientific research that could make our lives better. We also think you should blame the neoliberals for allowing this to happen over the course of the last 50 years. As socialists we have always felt that the scientific method is the best way to know things and that science is a crucial ingredient in Marx’s call to “develop the productive forces”. For us, the creation of socialism was never any kind of sacrifice or doing with less. Nor are we unrealistic about human nature. We fully understand that the foundation of socialism has to be the production of more than enough wealth to go around. With abundance in place, there is no motivation for stealing or wanting what others have.

The value of the state overview

We socialists are in complete agreement with the value you hold about the importance of the functions of the matriarchically state. We also think it is important that the matriarchal state take over the realm of overall planning. This does not mean that all social production and distribution is centrally planned with no feedback from the local and regional levels. We see the relationship between the three in a dialectical manner. The local and regional levels feed up to the state level what products and services are needed. The state incorporates our feedback but then makes adjustments based on the fact that at the local and regional level we cannot see the whole. Once the state produces an over-all plan, that is then fed down to the local and regional levels. It will no doubt take a number of times for there to be a smooth “cybernetic” rhythm established.

Micro-level – the value of cooperative learning and authoritative parenting

We socialists are well aware that you middle-class left liberals have always supported public schools. Some of the more visionary of you might have had the money to send your children to a Montessori school. Some of you might have heard the name Lev Vygotsky and associated him with cooperative learning, which is used in Montessori education. What you probably were never told was that Vygotsky was a communist and he and his followers, Alexander Luria and Aleksei N Leontiev, founded a whole school of psychology, the “socio-historical school of psychology”. They developed a theory of cooperative learning that has been applied not only in school settings but in the design of social intelligence tests, the development of theories of cognitive development and in working with the deaf. Vygotsky’s work could be massively applied to the fields of social psychology, and possibly to therapy, as one group in New York City is currently doing.

Lastly, we admire the way that many of you have raised your children using authoritative child-rearing methods. You have avoided both extremes in child rearing. On the one hand are the authoritarian methods of conservative child rearing which raises children who are repressed, frightened and lack curiosity. On the other hand, it is the permissive parenting of upper-middle-class neoliberal parents that has turned out a generation of narcissistic, entitled, ungrateful brats who are the product of neoliberal schooling where the focus was on raising self-esteem in every school program. We think the authoritative (as opposed to authoritarian) method with its flexible structure, welcoming of dialogue, appeal to reason, rather than emotion is the best way to raise children. We are on the same page with you.

Deeper Differences between Middle-Class Left Liberals and Socialists

Commitment to an antiwar international policy

We socialists have always been against wars because we know they are usually turf wars between capitalists about resources and that it is the workers and the poor people who do the fighting, not the capitalists. As far as wars go, we know that your class has supported the Cold War and the war in Vietnam. Beyond the 1970s you seem to have treated these wars with less enthusiasm except for perhaps, the war on Iraq. As it stands now, the capitalists in Yankeedom not only make a fortune in military warfare to “protect our borders” but they also arm the entire world. If counties decided to end their wars the capitalists here would be destitute. These wars need to end, not just because of the senseless deaths at home and abroad, but for pragmatic reasons. All this money could go into the trillions of dollars’ worth of infrastructural work that is left undone. Suppose the military was employed on these infrastructural projects. Suppose the military was employed to build low-cost housing in every city. Living in a society of abundance requires the reinvestment in the military from wars abroad to infrastructure and natural disaster relief at home.

Anti-imperialist international policy

We socialists are also against imperialist wars where capitalists invade other countries to steal their political or economic resources, land and labor to make a profit. This can be most blatantly seen in Africa. Yankeedom also continues its imperialist ventures in Latin America, regularly attempting to overthrow governments there. Why? For the simple reason that freely elected governments (socialist or not) may have the nerve to set their own economic policy, which might not necessarily be friendly to transnational corporations.

Yankee capitalists want to rule the world and they don’t want any competition.

China, Russia and Iran refuse to tow the line and have formed an alliance. The Chinese represent the best hope of the world now. Why are they such a threat to the United States? Because they are making a profit through building infrastructures, not just in China but in other parts of the world. China, Russia and Iran have also withdrawn from the US dollar as a use of international currency, which costs the western banks in significant loss of profits. Yankee capitalists are slitting their own throats, and ours as well, by acting like big-shot imperialists fifty years after their time has passed and their own territory is falling apart. As middle-class people we think you can see that nothing good can come from this and we need to rebuild our own society.

Dismantling the Deep State

Unfortunately, most middle-class people don’t know any more about the FBI and the CIA and what these organizations do to promote themselves, including what is on television and in movies. The FBI has upended or ruined the lives of socialists for decades. Their role in undermining the New Left has been documented in David Cunningham’s book There’s Something Happening Here. The CIA is in a class by itself, the world’s most powerful terrorist organization. I will limit myself to three books: The Mighty Wurlitzer by Hugh Wilford; The Cultural Cold War by Frances Stoner Saunders and The Devil’s Chessboard by David Talbot. Funding for these organization should be ended, and the sooner the better.

 Class Dismissed, Where Left Liberals Missed the Boat

For socialists of any stripe, social class has been the foundation for understanding capitalism. The capitalist class makes its profits by exploiting the working-class. As Marx points out, workers produce all the wealth, but they are given only about 40% in the form of wages (the first four hours of their labor) which allows them to support themselves. But the worker works another 6 hours. Who gets the value from that? The employer. The employer uses the rest of the surplus value produced by the worker to pay the middle-class managers, pay landlords for the use of plant and set aside funds to pay the state in taxes. They claim the remainder of the surplus as profit.  Middle-class people have stood structurally between the working-class and the capitalists, giving orders to workers, taking orders from capitalists. There are other social classes as I’ve discussed earlier but the major dynamic is between the capitalist and the worker.

Middle-class people, like most other classes, do not talk about this because class is about political and economic power between groups. It is uncomfortable and middle-class people among others have been afraid to discuss this. Why? Because they feel guilty, that maybe it is their fault they have a better life? Maybe they owe the workers something? Middle-class people need to get over this, because the fact is, you are sliding south, in the same direction as the working-class. In fact, you now have more in common with working-class people than upper middle-class people.

Race relations: Social Movements vs Individualist Identity Politics

Strange as it may seem, middle-class people have been more comfortable talking about race than class. After all, many middle-class people prided themselves as left liberals by supporting the civil rights movement. This was a social movement in which racial minorities joined together to fix objective conditions such as higher pay, better housing, legal rights. I suspect most of you did not know that Martin Luther King, a paradigm of middle-class respectability, was a socialist.

However, since the mid 1970s, but especially from the 1990s on, race relations have turned from a social movement into something different. Identity politics is a psychological spin-off from the civil rights movement with a very different agenda. In the hands of upper middle-class, neoliberals of all colors, including lawyers and university professors, identity politics has been used to win political seats in the Democratic Party. They do this by focusing on the rights of individuals to recognition, the right to be called a certain pronoun and rights to declare being offended by this or that innuendo. Identity politics has crippled the ability of working-class and middle-class people to form alliances by dragging meetings through competitive battles as to who is more offended than whom. When an organization as corrupt as the ruling class Democratic Party starts babbling about “white privilege” it’s time to get off that sinking ship. The mess that race relations are today is made worse by the upper middle-class neoliberals seizing on identity politics. Here is yet another reason to dump the Democratic Party and any alliance with the upper middle-class. A terrific short book that lays out the limitations of identity politics is Mistaken Identity by Asad Haider.

Democracy is economic and participatory more than political representation

Middle-class left liberals in the 20th century have thought of democracy as synonymous with voting. Democracy was having the right to vote for one of the two major parties. For socialists this is a sham. Both parties are ruling class parties and workers have nothing to say about what candidates are running and what they will do after the election. For us, democracy is economic. We think it is ridiculous to imagine we live in a democracy when we go to work to be bossed around from beginning to the end of the day by the employer. For us, democracy begins and ends in the workplace. Workers should have a say in what is produced, how it is produced, where it is distributed, how long we work and how we are compensated. In addition, within socialism democracy is also present by its involvement in city planning. This includes participatory planning councils at the local level, participating in setting agendas and deciding how city revenue should be spent. Under socialism, political parties will still have their place, but they will operate under direct democracy, not representational democracy.

The future of capitalism

All socialists are against capitalism except for some right-wing social democrats who believe in a mixed economy. For us, capitalism is a system plagued by crises and inherently unstable. Various Marxist crisis theorists have developed theories about how and why capitalism will end. Even non-Marxist political economists have theories about how it will end. Please see my article “Name Me One Capitalist Country That Works: A Thirty Year Reckoning” for more sources. Where I think we can agree is that capitalist profits should not be made on wars, or on fictitious capital. It is the neoliberals, not you, who have made profits on fictitious capital and wars over the past 50 years. Rather, capitalist profits should be made on the production of goods and services. We still think that eventually capitalism will fail even if it only produces goods and services, but we can’t convince you of that until we are further down the road.

What is the place of competitive markets? Some of you might feel that having markets is a better mechanism for quickly finding out what people need and how those goods and services have been delivered. As Michael Parenti writes in Black Shirts and Reds, the central planning mechanisms in the USSR were no bargain. At the same time, we know that during the Spanish Revolution, the workers and peasants self-organized in industry and on farms for 3 years, covering millions of people and had better production records than the Spanish government had before the revolution. So, our choices are more than choosing between the state and the market. In the new society perhaps there might be a minor place for markets instead of state planning or worker planning, but the markets should never be among the major players. We can do better than markets.

• Published first in Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

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