Fight The Disease, Not The Symptoms

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Above Photo: Mr. Fish / Truthdig

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The disease of globalized corporate capitalism has the same effects across the planet. It weakens or destroys democratic institutions, making them subservient to corporate and oligarchic power. It forces domestic governments to give up control over their economies, which operate under policies dictated by global corporations, banks, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. It casts aside hundreds of millions of workers now classified as “redundant” or “surplus” labor. It disempowers underpaid and unprotected workers, many toiling in global sweatshops, keeping them cowed, anxious and compliant. It financializes the economy, creating predatory global institutions that extract money from individuals, institutions and states through punishing forms of debt peonage. It shuts down genuine debate on corporate-owned media platforms, especially in regard to vast income disparities and social inequality. And the destruction empowers proto-fascist movements and governments.

These proto-fascist forces discredit verifiable fact and history and replace them with myth. They peddle nostalgia for lost glory. They attack the spiritual bankruptcy of the modern, technocratic world. They are xenophobic. They champion the “virtues” of a hyper-masculinity and the warrior cult. They preach regeneration through violence. They rally around demagogues who absolve followers of moral choice and promise strength and protection. They marginalize and destroy all individuals and institutions, including schools, that make possible self-criticism, self-reflection and transcendence and that nurture empathy, especially for the demonized. This is why artists and intellectuals are ridiculed and silenced. This is why dissent is attacked as an act of treason.

These movements are also deeply misogynistic. They disempower girls and women to hand a perverted power to men who feel powerless in the global economy. They blame ethnic and religious minorities for the national decline. They foster bizarre conspiracy theories. And they communicate in the Orwellian newspeak of alternative facts. They claim the sole right to represent and use indigenous patriotic and religious symbols.

India, built on the foundations of caste slavery, has become one of many new neofeudal states, among them Turkey, Poland, Russia and the United States. Its neofeudal structure continues to carry out atrocities against Dalits—the former “untouchables”—and now increasingly against Muslims. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who as the chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat oversaw a vicious anti-Muslim pogrom, has defended sectarian discrimination and violence even though this year he made a tepid declaration that “[w]e will not tolerate violence in the name of faith” and issued other unconvincing appeals for religious peace. As prime minister he has employed threats, harassment and force to silence those who decry human rights abuses and atrocities carried out in India. He attacks his critics as “anti-national”—the equivalent of “unpatriotic” in the United States.

Modi, like his fellow demagogues in other parts of the world, including Donald Trump, speaks in the language of moral purity and promotes self-serving historical myth. Indians who eat beef—a huge number—are targeted, school history books are being rewritten to conform to right-wing Hindu ideology and its open admiration for fascism, and entertainers considered too political or too salacious are under attack.

There are within America’s corporate power structures individuals, parties and groups that find the hysterical, imbecilic and irrational rants of demagogues such as Trump repugnant. They seek a return to the polished mendacity of politicians such as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They hope to promote the interests of global capitalism by maintaining the fiction of a functioning democracy and an open society. These “moderates” or “liberals,” however, are also the architects of the global corporate pillage. They created the political vacuum that the demagogues and proto-fascist movements have filled. They blind themselves to their own complicity. They embrace their own myths—such as the belief that former FBI Director James Comey and the Russians were responsible for the election of Trump—to avoid examining the social inequality that is behind the global crisis and their defeat.

The 400 richest individuals in the United States have more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population, and the three richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the U.S. population. This social inequality will only get worse as the weak controls that once regulated the economy and the tax code are abolished or rewritten to further increase the concentration of wealth among the ruling oligarchs. Social inequality at this level, history has shown, always results in these types of pathologies and political distortions. It also, potentially, presages revolution.

The short-term political and economic gains made by the Democratic Party and liberal class in the last few decades came at the expense of the working class. The liberal class, because of its complicity in globalization, has destroyed its credibility as well as the credibility of the “liberal” democratic values it claims to represent. Enraged workers, lied to for decades by “liberal” politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Obama, delight in Trump’s crude taunts and insults directed at the power structure and elites they loath. Many Americans are perhaps aware that Trump is a con artist, but he at least appears to share their disdain for the “liberal” elites who abandoned them.

It will eventually become apparent to some, perhaps many, of Trump’s supporters that he is cravenly in the service of the 1 percent and has turbocharged the corporate kleptocracy. The Democratic Party, busy purging Bernie Sanders supporters from its ranks, is banking on this epiphany to revive its political fortunes. The Democratic leadership has no real political strategy, other than to hope that Trump implodes. They are backing and funding opposition movements such as Indivisible and the women’s marches, as well as the witch hunt about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, all of which have as their sole focus removing Trump and restoring the Democratic Party to power. This form of resistance is sterile and useless.

But there are other resistance movements—the most prominent being the battle by the water protectors at Standing Rock to block the Dakota Access pipeline—that attack the disease. It is easy to tell the resistance from the faux resistance by the response of the state. During the women’s marches, Democrats, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz, were honored participants. The police were usually courteous and helped facilitate the marches; arrests were few and coverage by the corporate press was sympathetic. In contrast, during the long encampment at Standing Rock, which took place under the Obama administration, the nonviolent resisters were physically attacked by police, the National Guard and private security contractors. These forces used dogs, pepper spray, water cannons in subzero temperatures, sound machines, drones, armored vehicles and hundreds of arrests in their efforts to destroy the resistance.

Attack the symptoms and the state will be passive. Attack the disease and the state will be ruthless.

Once Trump’s base begins to abandon him—the repression in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a good example of what will happen—the political landscape will turn very ugly. Trump and his allies, in a desperate bid to cling to power, will openly stoke hate crimes and violence against Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, progressives, intellectuals, feminists and dissidents. He and his allies on the “alt-right” and the Christian right will move to silence all organs of dissent, including corporate media outlets fighting to restore the patina of civility that is the window dressing to corporate pillage. They will harness the power of the nation’s substantial internal security apparatus to crush public protests and to jail opponents, even those who are part of the faux resistance.

Time is not on our side. If we can build counter-capitalist movements that include the working class we have a chance. If we can, like the water protectors at Standing Rock, mount sustained acts of defiance in the face of severe state repression, we have a chance. If we can organize nationwide campaigns of noncooperation we have a chance. We cannot be distracted by the symptoms. We must cure the disease.

  • Charles_Nusser

    I’d like to see more critical leftist analysis of Indivisible. It appears to me to be deliberately designed to co-opt popular resistance and channel it into support for the Democratic Party.

  • AlanMacDonald

    Yes, Chris, and I could not agree more with you to “fight the disease”.

    But the only proper diagnosis of the disease is EMPIRE, the “final phase of Empire” as Zygmunt Bauman, Morris Berman, William Robinson, Alfred McCoy, Noam Chomsky, and several dozens of historian, academics, serious left socialist progressives, and Hannah Arendt knew when she warned:

    “Empire abroad entails tyranny at home”

    “As Zygmunt Bauman hauntingly puts it, “In the case of an ailing
    social order, the absence of an adequate diagnosis … is a crucial,
    perhaps decisive, part of the disease.”13

    Berman, Morris (2011-02-07). Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire (p. 22). Norton. Kindle Edition.

    Chris, the following is a radical Revolutionary ‘exposure’, ‘call-out’, and loud, public, visible, but totally non-violent firing of a, “Shout (not shot) heard roudn the world” today in the your alma mater, the vaunted New York Times exposing and excoriating this EMPIRE — which you and the above named, and far more powerful voices could carry and rally forward to a Second American people’s patriotic peaceful “Political/economic and socialist Revolution Against Empire” similar to what Pat would have shouted if Tom had taken the paine to edit his shout; “Give me Liberty (from EMPIRE) of Give me Death”:

    Here’s my little contribution to what could be done so much more effectively by more influential voices like yours:

    Alan MacDonald

    Wells, Maine Pending Approval (NOW accepted)

    Socrates, when you say, “Russia is
    one of the world’s great fake democracies, but we’re catching up.”
    —- I would only reply, “You’re close — but close only counts
    in horseshoes and hand grenades”.

    Russia surely was a true Empire,
    including during the Second World War of Empires, when the Soviet
    Army of the Soviet (phony socialist) Republic fought and was greatly
    responsible for defeating the Nazi Empire (which had tried to employ
    the crude disguise of a single regime Vichy facade in “Occupied”

    And any pretense of the Soviet Union
    not being an Empire was blown away, when Reagan shouted-down the
    supposedly last Empire on earth as the “Evil Empire”
    (aren’t they all, Ronnie?).

    But I would argue that “of the
    world’s great fake democracies”, the Soviet Union, and the
    United Kingdom (aka British Empire) can’t hold a candle to the
    ever-proud phrase that Emperor Trump could shout now, “We’re
    #1”, in having the first in world history;
    ‘effectively-Disguised’, dual ‘Vichy Party’, ‘truly-Global’, and
    crony ‘Capitalist-fueled’ EMPIRE.

    But like all Empires, visible or
    disguised, only far less than 1% benefit from it — and only for a
    short time — just ask the average people in 18th & 19th century
    England, France, and Spain, along with the 20th century Japanese,
    German, and Russian people.

  • Margaret Flowers

    I agree with you 100%. It is very similar to MoveOn.

  • Dawn Wolfson

    That was my take on it too.

  • mmckinley

    Yep. No question that, at least here in Iowa, a large faction of Indivisible is devoted to defending establishment Democrats, particularly Obama’s “legacy.” Yet I sense that a large number as well are frustrated with this defense-of-the-status-quo approach and hungry for serious systemic, transformational change.