“Capitalism is not ‘free enterprise,’ an incentive for success, ‘a chance for all.’ Capitalism is trusts, speculation, parasitical usury. Capitalism is J. P. Morgan, Rothschild’s bank, ripping apart the nations like maddened swine. Capitalism is the jewish frying pan in which culture is rendered down to the grease of money.” William Striker
Revolution/change is not always what it seems at first. Just ask the Russians. This time the genocide may be here.
I heard a couple of local farmers here lately call our government ‘communist.’
More people are catching on that things are getting out of hand, but are they willing to do anything about it?
Zionism, communism and capitalism are intimately intertwined. History repeats if we let it.
Excerpt from a 1980 interview with Professor Antony C. Sutton, highlighting the capitalist-communist connection.
From Sutton’s book ‘Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution’ (1974):
Therefore, an alternative conceptual packaging of political ideas and politico-economic systems would be that of ranking the degree of individual freedom versus the degree of centralized political control. Under such an ordering the corporate welfare state and socialism are at the same end of the spectrum. Hence we see that attempts at monopoly control of society can have different labels while owning common features.
Consequently, one barrier to mature understanding of recent history is the notion that all capitalists are the bitter and unswerving enemies of all Marxists and socialists. This erroneous idea originated with Karl Marx and was undoubtedly useful to his purposes. In fact, the idea is nonsense. There has been a continuing, albeit concealed, alliance between international political capitalists and international revolutionary socialists — to their mutual benefit. This alliance has gone unobserved largely because historians — with a few notable exceptions — have an unconscious Marxian bias and are thus locked into the impossibility of any such alliance existing. The open-minded reader should bear two clues in mind: monopoly capitalists are the bitter enemies of laissez-faire entrepreneurs; and, given the weaknesses of socialist central planning, the totalitarian socialist state is a perfect captive market for monopoly capitalists, if an alliance can be made with the socialist powerbrokers. Suppose — and it is only hypothesis at this point — that American monopoly capitalists were able to reduce a planned socialist Russia to the status of a captive technical colony? Would not this be the logical twentieth-century internationalist extension of the Morgan railroad monopolies and the Rockefeller petroleum trust of the late nineteenth century?
Consensus history teaches that capitalism and communism are at opposite ends of the political-economic spectrum, and that communism is the bitter enemy of capitalism. In some ways this may be true. But those at the top of the global banking system — who are often labeled “greedy capitalists” — are not by any means classical, free-market capitalists. They are monopoly capitalists who are after complete control. They exercise their control over the people by their control over the money supply. Perhaps this can all be best summed up by one of the conspirators themselves; for instance, John D. Rockefeller, who once stated “competition is a sin.”
Communism IS monopoly capitalism. Lenin once stated that “communism is socialism in a hurry.” Communism is often brought about through violent and bloody revolution, whereas socialism often takes a more incremental and stealthy approach. However, the end game is still the same. For the past many decades, the countries of the West have been gradually moving in the direction of socialism, as people are losing more and more of their freedoms while government becomes bigger and ever more encroaching upon people’s rights, often under the pretense of solving the problems the system itself creates (poverty, crime, terrorism) to gain more control.
In order to have monopoly control over the people, you must first gain monopoly control over government through the issuance of credit (debt creation). This is what the international bankers have done.
This video takes a brief look at the role that the Anglo-American financiers played in fomenting the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, marking the rise of communism in Russia, and a dialectical antithesis to capitalism that would play out on a global scale, moving us ever closer to the “third way” synthesis of a one world government, currency and military.
January 27th, 2009 The Greanville Journal
A CYRANO’S JOURNAL VIRTUAL UNIVERSITY SELECTION
By Michael Parenti
Dateline: published in 2009
After the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe, capitalism was paraded as the indomitable system that brings prosperity and democracy, the system that would prevail unto the end of history.
The present economic crisis, however, has convinced even some prominent free-marketeers that something is gravely amiss. Truth be told, capitalism has yet to come to terms with several historical forces that cause it endless trouble: democracy, prosperity, and capitalism itself, the very entities that capitalist rulers claim to be fostering.
Plutocracy vs. Democracy
Let us consider democracy first. In the United States we hear that capitalism is wedded to democracy, hence the phrase, “capitalist democracies.” In fact, throughout our history there has been a largely antagonistic relationship between democracy and capital concentration. Some eighty years ago Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis commented, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Moneyed interests have been opponents not proponents of democracy.
The Constitution itself was fashioned by affluent gentlemen who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to repeatedly warn of the baneful and dangerous leveling effects of democracy. The document they cobbled together was far from democratic, being shackled with checks, vetoes, and requirements for artificial super majorities, a system designed to blunt the impact of popular demands.
In the early days of the Republic the rich and well-born imposed property qualifications for voting and officeholding. They opposed the direct election of candidates (note, their Electoral College is still with us). And for decades they resisted extending the franchise to less favored groups such as propertyless working men, immigrants, racial minorities, and women.
Today conservative forces continue to reject more equitable electoral features such as proportional representation, instant runoff, and publicly funded campaigns. They continue to create barriers to voting, be it through overly severe registration requirements, voter roll purges, inadequate polling accommodations, and electronic voting machines that consistently “malfunction” to the benefit of the more conservative candidates.
At times ruling interests have suppressed radical publications and public protests, resorting to police raids, arrests, and jailings—applied most recently with full force against demonstrators in St. Paul, Minnesota, during the 2008 Republican National Convention.
The conservative plutocracy also seeks to rollback democracy’s social gains, such as public education, affordable housing, health care, collective bargaining, a living wage, safe work conditions, a non-toxic sustainable environment; the right to privacy, the separation of church and state, freedom from compulsory pregnancy, and the right to marry any consenting adult of one’s own choosing.
About a century ago, US labor leader Eugene Victor Debs was thrown into jail during a strike. Sitting in his cell he could not escape the conclusion that in disputes between two private interests, capital and labor, the state was not a neutral arbiter. The force of the state–with its police, militia, courts, and laws—was unequivocally on the side of the company bosses. From this, Debs concluded that capitalism was not just an economic system but an entire social order, one that rigged the rules of democracy to favor the moneybags.
Capitalist rulers continue to pose as the progenitors of democracy even as they subvert it, not only at home but throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Any nation that is not “investor friendly,” that attempts to use its land, labor, capital, natural resources, and markets in a self-developing manner, outside the dominion of transnational corporate hegemony, runs the risk of being demonized and targeted as “a threat to U.S. national security.”
Democracy becomes a problem for corporate America not when it fails to work but when it works too well, helping the populace move toward a more equitable and livable social order, narrowing the gap, however modestly, between the superrich and the rest of us. So democracy must be diluted and subverted, smothered with disinformation, media puffery, and mountains of campaign costs; with rigged electoral contests and partially disfranchised publics, bringing faux victories to more or less politically safe major-party candidates.
Capitalism vs. Prosperity
The corporate capitalists no more encourage prosperity than do they propagate democracy. Most of the world is capitalist, and most of the world is neither prosperous nor particularly democratic. One need only think of capitalist Nigeria, capitalist Indonesia, capitalist Thailand, capitalist Haiti, capitalist Colombia, capitalist Pakistan, capitalist South Africa, capitalist Latvia, and various other members of the Free World–more accurately, the Free Market World.
A prosperous, politically literate populace with high expectations about its standard of living and a keen sense of entitlement, pushing for continually better social conditions, is not the plutocracy’s notion of an ideal workforce and a properly pliant polity. Corporate investors prefer poor populations. The poorer you are, the harder you will work—for less. The poorer you are, the less equipped you are to defend yourself against the abuses of wealth.
In the corporate world of “free-trade,” the number of billionaires is increasing faster than ever while the number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. Poverty spreads as wealth accumulates.
Consider the United States. In the last eight years alone, while vast fortunes accrued at record rates, an additional six million Americans sank below the poverty level; median family income declined by over $2,000; consumer debt more than doubled; over seven million Americans lost their health insurance, and more than four million lost their pensions; meanwhile homelessness increased and housing foreclosures reached pandemic levels.
It is only in countries where capitalism has been reined in to some degree by social democracy that the populace has been able to secure a measure of prosperity; northern European nations such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark come to mind. But even in these social democracies popular gains are always at risk of being rolled back.
It is ironic to credit capitalism with the genius of economic prosperity when most attempts at material betterment have been vehemently and sometimes violently resisted by the capitalist class. The history of labor struggle provides endless illustration of this.
To the extent that life is bearable under the present U.S. economic order, it is because millions of people have waged bitter class struggles to advance their living standards and their rights as citizens, bringing some measure of humanity to an otherwise heartless politico-economic order.
A Self-devouring Beast
The capitalist state has two roles long recognized by political thinkers. First, like any state it must provide services that cannot be reliably developed through private means, such as public safety and orderly traffic. Second, the capitalist state protects the haves from the have-nots, securing the process of capital accumulation to benefit the moneyed interests, while heavily circumscribing the demands of the working populace, as Debs observed from his jail cell.
There is a third function of the capitalist state seldom mentioned. It consists of preventing the capitalist system from devouring itself. Consider the core contradiction Karl Marx pointed to: the tendency toward overproduction and market crisis. An economy dedicated to speedups and wage cuts, to making workers produce more and more for less and less, is always in danger of a crash. To maximize profits, wages must be kept down. But someone has to buy the goods and services being produced. For that, wages must be kept up. There is a chronic tendency—as we are seeing today—toward overproduction of private sector goods and services and underconsumption of necessities by the working populace.
In addition, there is the frequently overlooked self-destruction created by the moneyed players themselves. If left completely unsupervised, the more active command component of the financial system begins to devour less organized sources of wealth.
Instead of trying to make money by the arduous task of producing and marketing goods and services, the marauders tap directly into the money streams of the economy itself. During the 1990s we witnessed the collapse of an entire economy in Argentina when unchecked free marketeers stripped enterprises, pocketed vast sums, and left the country’s productive capacity in shambles. The Argentine state, gorged on a heavy diet of free-market ideology, faltered in its function of saving capitalism from the capitalists.
Some years later, in the United States, came the multi-billion-dollar plunder perpetrated by corporate conspirators at Enron, WorldCom, Harkin, Adelphia, and a dozen other major companies. Inside players like Ken Lay turned successful corporate enterprises into sheer wreckage, wiping out the jobs and life savings of thousands of employees in order to pocket billions.
These thieves were caught and convicted. Does that not show capitalism’s self-correcting capacity? Not really. The prosecution of such malfeasance— in any case coming too late—was a product of democracy’saccountability and transparency, not capitalism’s. Of itself the free market is an amoral system, with no strictures save caveat emptor.
In the meltdown of 2008-09 the mounting financial surplus created a problem for the moneyed class: there were not enough opportunities to invest. With more money than they knew what to do with, big investors poured immense sums into nonexistent housing markets and other dodgy ventures, a legerdemain of hedge funds, derivatives, high leveraging, credit default swaps, predatory lending, and whatever else.
Among the victims were other capitalists, small investors, and the many workers who lost billions of dollars in savings and pensions. Perhaps the premiere brigand was Bernard Madoff. Described as “a longstanding leader in the financial services industry,” Madoff ran a fraudulent fund that raked in $50 billion from wealthy investors, paying them back “with money that wasn’t there,” as he himself put it. The plutocracy devours its own children.
In the midst of the meltdown, at an October 2008 congressional hearing, former chair of the Federal Reserve and orthodox free-market devotee Alan Greenspan confessed that he had been mistaken to expect moneyed interests–groaning under an immense accumulation of capital that needs to be invested somewhere–to suddenly exercise self-restraint.
The classic laissez-faire theory is even more preposterous than Greenspan made it. In fact, the theory claims that everyone should pursue their own selfish interests without restraint. This unbridled competition supposedly will produce maximum benefits for all because the free market is governed by a miraculously benign “invisible hand” that optimizes collective outputs. (“Greed is good.”)
Is the crisis of 2008-09 caused by a chronic tendency toward overproduction and hyper-financial accumulation, as Marx would have it? Or is it the outcome of the personal avarice of people like Bernard Madoff? In other words, is the problem systemic or individual? In fact, the two are not mutually exclusive. Capitalism breeds the venal perpetrators, and rewards the most unscrupulous among them. The crimes and crises are not irrational departures from a rational system, but the converse: they are the rational outcomes of a basically irrational and amoral system.
Worse still, the ensuing multi-billion dollar government bailouts are themselves being turned into an opportunity for pillage. Not only does the state fail to regulate, it becomes itself a source of plunder, pulling vast sums from the federal money machine, leaving the taxpayers to bleed.
Those who scold us for “running to the government for a handout” are themselves running to the government for a handout. Corporate America has always enjoyed grants-in-aid, loan guarantees, and other state and federal subventions. But the 2008-09 “rescue operation” offered a record feed at the public trough. More than $350 billion was dished out by a right-wing lame-duck Secretary of the Treasury to the biggest banks and financial houses without oversight–not to mention the more than $4trillion that has come from the Federal Reserve. Most of the banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of New York Mellon, stated that they had no intention of letting anyone know where the money was going.
The big bankers used some of the bailout, we do know, to buy up smaller banks and prop up banks overseas. CEOs and other top banking executives are spending bailout funds on fabulous bonuses and lavish corporate spa retreats. Meanwhile, big bailout beneficiaries like Citigroup and Bank of America laid off tens of thousands of employees, inviting the question: why were they given all that money in the first place?
While hundreds of billions were being doled out to the very people who had caused the catastrophe, the housing market continued to wilt, credit remained paralyzed, unemployment worsened, and consumer spending sank to record lows.
In sum, free-market corporate capitalism is by its nature a disaster waiting to happen. Its essence is the transformation of living nature into mountains of commodities and commodities into heaps of dead capital. When left entirely to its own devices, capitalism foists its diseconomies and toxicity upon the general public and upon the natural environment–and eventually begins to devour itself.
The immense inequality in economic power that exists in our capitalist society translates into a formidable inequality of political power, which makes it all the more difficult to impose democratic regulations.
If the paladins of Corporate America want to know what really threatens “our way of life,” it is their way of life, their boundless way of pilfering their own system, destroying the very foundation on which they stand, the very community on which they so lavishly feed.
Michael Parenti’s brave analyses of politics, media, and history have introduced generations of social change activists to the unvarnished realities of U.S. and world politics and fortified their arguments in the culture struggles of our time. His recent books include: Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader (City Lights); Democracy for the Few, 8th ed. (Wadsworth); and God and His Demons (forthcoming).
Source: The Greanville Journal
Of speciesism, capitalism, and shaking their foundations
December 28th, 2008
By Jason Miller
Even the most ardent reactionaries, deluded ‘patriots,’ and apathetic cynics, whose myopic, Panglossian perspectives ensure that they continue to reflexively genuflect to the deeply criminal enterprise of American Capitalism and rationalize the savage imperialism of US foreign policy, are beginning to concede that we are in the midst of a crisis of epic proportions.
So lack of awareness, which is usually the first obstacle to solving a problem, isn’t the real enemy here. Our chief foe is a swarm of greed-driven, self-absorbed, mean-spirited locust-like human beings who are dedicated to “reforming” and perpetuating capitalism, the very system that has led us to this woeful state of environmental, economic, social, and political affairs.
Capitalism, the systemization of greed, selfishness, subjugation, and exploitation camouflaged by the narcotic of consumerism, the irresistible illusion of equal opportunity for all, and its ostensible compatibility with liberal democracy, has seduced hundreds of millions of people into ignoring its contradictions, injustices, and malevolence.
Capitalism has inflicted deep wounds upon the Earth and is the persistent infection that must be eradicated to avert the sixth mass extinction, the ongoing torture and murder of billions of non-human animals, an acceleration of Climate Change, further economic collapse, mass starvation, severe shortages of potable water, perpetual resource wars, and a host of other catastrophic events.
While much of its foul stench emanates from the United States, the foul odor of capitalism has wafted its way into the nostrils of nearly every citizen on the globe. Capitalism’s cockroach-like apologists, propagandists, beneficiaries, enforcers, and power brokers scurry in and out of nearly every nook and cranny of the planet.
Global and dominant as it is, capitalism is the culmination and perpetuator of a number of vile social, economic, political, and cultural elements and dynamics, many of which began rearing their ugly heads with the advent of agriculture, domestication and civilization. Starting about 10,000 years ago, as humans became “civilized,” we alienated ourselves from nature, psychologically enabling us to exploit non-human animals and savagely abuse the Earth for our enrichment, amusement and comfort.
As a collective, we human animals have hubristically determined that we are the master species, endowing ourselves with the right to dominate, enslave, torture, humiliate, murder, and eat any sentient being on the planet (with the almost universal exception being the taboo of cannibalism–which is a bit perplexing considering the numerous other evils we inflict upon one another and the fact that human over-population is a tremendous problem).
Speciesism, the mental perversion that afflicts most people–causing them to view themselves as superior to all other species, is the one of the most blatantly exploitative and reprehensible of all human ideologies. Yet it remains “socially acceptable.” Inextricably linked with the bourgeois belief in the supremacy of profit and property over life, speciesism reveals the ferocity and grotesquery of savage capitalism. Animal exploiting capitalists of all stripes, including ranchers, biomedical researchers, meat processors, egg producers, fast food restaurateurs, and their ilk spend billions of dollars on agitprop each year to ensure that both the law and those who consume their products continue to view non-human animals as property, worthy of no more consideration than a lawn-mower. In fact, many people treat their Lawn Boys far better than factory farmers treat “their” sows.
Remember that human slavery, in which certain members of the human species were reduced to the status of property, was once institutionalized. The United States, the self-proclaimed land of the free (and not coincidentally the nexus of parasitic and decaying capitalism), was one of the last “advanced” nations to abolish slavery. And abolition wouldn’t have occurred had it not been for great sacrifices by many people of conscience and a civil war. Such is the pernicious and relentlessly cruel nature of capitalism.
Patriarchy and racism were once institutionalized too. Yet despite the fact that women and minorities have made significant legal, political, and social strides, the white man still wields tremendous power in this world, much of it economic in nature.
Overt and unapologetic imperialism and colonialism may be relics of the past, but conquest and subjugation still thrive under the guise of humanitarian intervention, loans to developing nations requiring corporate-friendly economic reforms, and aid to puppet regimes amenable to the rape of their country. All this to satisfy capitalism’s insatiable appetite for new markets, cheap labor, and natural resources.
Many people are concerned about the devastating and noxious impact we humans are having upon the Earth. But thanks to corporate green-washing, the globalization of the American Way of Life, and the deep allegiance many people have to capitalism (a system that is based on infinite growth on a finite planet), the rape and plunder of Mother Nature continues at an alarming rate. Relentlessly bludgeoned by the unquestioned supremacy of capitalist “ideals,” potential solutions that might interfere significantly with growth and profit are beaten to death before they can fully emerge from the womb.
Meanwhile, anti-capitalist radicals, including Marxists, socialists, anarchists, deep environmentalists, anarcho-primitivists, animal liberationists, members of indigenous movements, feminists, and many others who recognize that the problems we face are systemic in nature and that capitalism must go, remain marginalized, persecuted, ridiculed, vilified, and perhaps worst of all, divided.
An example of the agitprop the ruling elite successfully deploys (despite its obvious absurdity) to throw the true left to the margins of society. Obama is, AT BEST, center left on the political spectrum, yet the deeply indoctrinated amongst the working class–who remain faithful to their capitalist exploiters–swallow this nonsensical portrayal of him as a communist as if it was gospel….
American Capitalism’s power elite, comprised of the upper strata of the economic, corporate, political, and military hierarchies, enjoy tremendous advantages over those who oppose them. Despite their obvious economic and military might, their most powerful weapon is actually their seemingly omnipotent abilities to prevent any ideology from challenging the national religion of capitalism, to maintain the allegiance of most of the working class, and to demonize those who dare to blaspheme against their economic rape.
In a recent interview, internationally-renowned progressive political analyst Michael Parenti described the means by which the ruling class manipulates the masses into supporting such an obviously wretched system:
“Through control of the universe of discourse, including the media, the professions, the universities, the publishing industry, many of the churches, the consumer society, the job market, and even the very socialization of our children and the prefiguring of our own perceptions, the ruling interests are able to exercise a prevailing ideological control that excludes any reasoned critique of the dominant paradigm.”
It is imperative that those of us who recognize that electing a Democrat who is a racial minority and who talks a progressive game is a band-aid, at best, and that the real solution is to drive a stake through the heart of vampiric capitalism by uniting and by finding a means to take on the corporate media in such a way that we begin winning significant numbers of hearts and minds.
Anti-capitalist academics, writers, publishers, organizers, speakers, community leaders, politicians, and activists need effective conduits through which they can meet, communicate, educate one another, derive a sense of solidarity, and coordinate their efforts.
It is essential that we break down the perceived barrier between intellectuals and activists so that we can unify against regressive forces that thrive on inequality, injustice, environmental abuse, speciesism, and hierarchy—or in other words let’s come together and crush those loathsome bastards who prosper via the domination and abuse of the Earth and its sentient inhabitants.
Derrick Jensen has called on rational people of conscience to form a culture of resistance against the soulless insanity of a status quo that empowers and rewards those who are the most sociopathic and the most devoid of empathy. And if we are to create this culture of resistance and strive to forge an egalitarian, just, ecological, non-speciesist and democratic society, it is crucial that we expand our moral circle and bring animal liberation into the fold.
Aside from the morally indefensible fact that we enslave, torture, and murder sentient beings who feel pain and fear just as we do, consider Charles Patterson’s powerful argument he advanced in Eternal Treblinka. Patterson demonstrated that there is a frighteningly thin line between the abuse, objectification, and industrial torture we routinely inflict upon cows, for example, and that which we inflict upon other members of our own species. Many of the techniques the Nazis employed in the Holocaust came directly from the livestock and meat-packing industries.
Because our delusional notion of superiority is so deeply ingrained in our psyches, even many people of good conscience ignore the fact that non-human animals, who have no voice, no legal rights, and no viable means to defend themselves, are the ultimate victims of the ‘might makes right’ capitalist mentality. As the radical front line of a culture of resistance against a brutal social structure that thrives on abuse and exploitation, we need to attack the problem at its root. Leaving racism, sexism, classism and even Zionism in the dust, speciesism is the most enduring, savage, and widely accepted of the cultural ethos that enable capitalism to thrive, as it enables morally retarded wretches to pitilessly damn billions upon billions of innocent beings to a nightmare of Hobbesian proportions.
If we truly intend to subvert the dominant rapacious paradigm and replace it with something that will serve the greater good and heal the Earth, we must put animal liberation on our agenda.
So, how can we create a formidable culture of resistance and establish animal rights as one of the pillars of the radical agenda?
The Transformative Studies Institute (TSI) at http://transformativestudies.org/, a radical educational entity that “fosters interdisciplinary research that will bridge multidisciplinary theory with activism in order to encourage community involvement that will attempt to alleviate social problems,” is sponsoring Thomas Paine’s Corner (TPC) at www.bestcyrano.org/THOMASPAINE/, which partners with Cyrano’s Journal Online (www.bestcyrano.org) to provide a media platform for radical writers, scholars, poets, playwrights, activists, and groups. No significant social movement will take place if the intelligentsia is cloistered in ivory towers, alienated from the activists who need them for education and guidance. We have an abundance of theory, but a dearth of praxis. TSI and TPC intend to get ideas into the heads of those who will translate them into action!
Both TSI and TPC will work in conjunction with the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS) at http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/ to promote “critical scholarly dialogue and research on the principles and practices of animal advocacy, animal protection, and animal-related policies in the fields of social sciences and humanities.” ICAS, TSI, and TPC will push to catalyze the inclusion of animal liberation into the broader radical agenda through critical pedagogy and again through facilitating the conversion of theory into praxis.
With noted scholars, activists, thinkers, and writers such as Steve Best, William Blum, Ward Churchill, Anthony Nocella II, Richard J. White, John Asimakopoulos, Lisa Kemmerer, Gary Corseri, Jason Bayless, Michael Parenti, Adam Engel, Ed Duvin, Gore Vidal, Richard Kahn, Joe Bageant, John Steppling, and many others behind this ambitious under-taking, the project has great potential. We desperately need ventures like this one to succeed.
As Adorno wrote in Minima Moralia, “A breed of men has secretly grown up that hungers for the compulsion and restriction imposed by the absurd persistence of domination.”
Capitalism and speciesism are woven into most of the world’s cultural and socioeconomic DNA. This ensures that the sociopathic “breed of men” to which Adorno referred enjoy the perpetual existence of the “absurd persistence of domination.” Which in turn is ensuring the rapid acceleration of widespread suffering and calamitous events.
As radical scholars or activists, we face the daunting task of exterminating capitalism and speciesism. And time grows short. Yet we can find solace in the fact that resistance is NOT futile!
Jason Miller is a tenacious anti-capitalist and vegan animal liberationist. He is also the founder and editor of Thomas Paine’s Corner, associate editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online, blog director for The Transformative Studies Institute and associate editor for the Journal for Critical Animal Studies.
TSI and ICAS do not endorse the content of TPC. TPC and CJO are independent media sources for writers to express themselves in an open democratic manner. TPC, CJO, ICAS and TSI do not intend to encourage illegal/unethical activity or behavior. The information herein is solely intended for entertainment, educational, research, academic, or other lawful purposes.
By Morris Berman
The notion that the parliamentary democracy of the industrial nations is a sham, and that the real power lies not in the hands of the people (or their elected representatives) but in the hands of a small, ruling elite is a view most closely associated with Karl Marx. This is one meaning of the word “conspiracy”: the ruling class knows what its interests are, and it acts to protect them. In this sense of the term, conspiracy is equivalent to elite theory, because the implication is that the ruling class acts with a unified consciousness. Indeed, Marx argued that the emergence of conflicts within the ranks of the elite was a sign that the system was ripe for revolutionary overthrow.
Elite theory, then, holds that the people (or masses) are under the illusion that through their vote they control the direction of the ship of state, whereas the real captains of the ship–the captains of industry, the eminences grises–are not themselves on the ballot. The public does not get to vote for them, but rather for their paid representatives. Thus the post-election euphoria in the United States over Barack Obama is nothing more than a bubble, an illusion, because the lion’s share of the $750 million he collected in campaign contributions (according to the Australian journalist John Pilger) came from Goldman Sachs, UBS AG, Lehman Brothers, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and the huge hedge fund Citadel Investment Group. These corporations, it hardly need be said, do not have the welfare of the American people as their top priority; and it is also the case that having invested in a president, they expect a return on that investment once he takes office. And if history is any guide here, they are going to get it. It is for this reason that what we have in the United States, according to Harvard political scientist Michael Sandel, is a “procedural democracy”: the form, the appearance, is democratic, but the actual content, the result, is not. As the eminent sociologist C. Wright Mills put it in 1956,
“In so far as the structural clue to the power elite today lies in the political order, that clue is the decline of politics as genuine and public debate of alternative decisions….America is now in considerable part more a formal political democracy than a democratic social structure, and even the formal political mechanics are weak.”
While it is undoubtedly true that elites occasionally act in a deliberate and concerted way, it was Mills in particular who pointed out that the reality was significantly more nuanced than this. For the most part, it is not that the rich or super-rich get together in some corporate boardroom and ask themselves, “Now how can we best screw the workers and the middle class?” No, said Mills, what in fact happens is that they socialize together, in an informal sort of way, and recognize their class affiliations:
“Members of the several higher circles know one another as personal friends and even as neighbors; they mingle with one another on the golf course, in the gentlemen’s clubs, at resorts, on transcontinental airplanes, and on ocean liners. They meet at the estates of mutual friends, face each other in front of the TV camera, or serve on the same philanthropic committee; and many are sure to cross one another’s path in the columns of newspapers, if not in the exact cafés from which many of these columns originate….The conception of the power elite, accordingly, does not rest upon the assumption that American history since the origins of World War II must be understood as a secret plot, or as a great and co-ordinated conspiracy of the members of this elite. The conception rests upon quite impersonal grounds.”
We are not, in short, talking about some sort of organized brotherhood, some quasi-Masonic financial clique, as it were. However–and this is the crucial point–in terms of concrete outcome, we might as well be. Mills goes on:
“But, once the conjunction of structural trends and of the personal will to utilize it gave rise to the power elite, then plans and programs did occur to its members and indeed it is not possible to interpret many events and official policies…without reference to the power elite.”
Mills’ work falls more into the category of social criticism than of social science per se; he was not big on facts and figures. But in the fifty-plus years since he wrote the above words, his profile of American democracy as illusory has been fleshed out by numerous sociologists and political scientists armed with reams of data. The most recent work in this genre, Superclass, by David Rothkopf, identifies a global elite of roughly 6,000 individuals who are running the show, worldwide, and the top fifty financial institutions that control nearly $50 trillion in assets. Plot or no plot, the results are the same.
This, then, is elite theory, or what I call conspiracy with a small “c”. And it is a real fact of political life, no question about it. But what may be even more significant than this are what I call Conspiracies with a capital “C”, by which I mean the unconscious mythologies, or isms, that govern American life. This was the thing that Marx, and Mills, both missed (though the Italian sociologist Antonio Gramsci did come close to it with his notion of “hegemony,” or the symbolic control of society): the elites aren’t doing anything that the masses don’t already agree with; which is why, certainly, in the United States, socialism never really had a chance. When Henry Wriston, who was president of the Council on Foreign Relations during 1951-64, wrote that U.S. foreign policy “is the expression of the will of the people,” he knew what he was talking about. As many observers (even American ones) have pointed out, what the American people–less than 5% of the world’s population–want is an indulgent and wasteful lifestyle, in which they consume 25% of the world’s energy. Thus in the presidential debates of October 2008, Barack Obama referred to the 25% figure, and then talked about ways of ensuring that that rate of consumption continue unchecked. He did not, as did Jimmy Carter more than thirty years ago, argue that growth was not necessarily a positive thing, that Americans needed to burn less energy, and that the American military–the guarantor of that profligate lifestyle–had to be scaled down accordingly. Indeed, within two years of taking office, Mr. Carter was popularly regarded as something of a joke, and by 1980 Ronald Reagan, who told the American people they could have it all, was elected by a landslide. (Significantly, the first thing he did upon moving into the White House was to have the solar panels that Mr. Carter had installed on the roof removed.) So while it is true that elites run the show, they nevertheless govern with the (misguided) consent of the people. As the nineteenth-century Sioux holy man, Chief Sitting Bull, was supposed to have said, “possessions are a disease with them.” But his was hardly the majority view–not then, not now.
What, then, are the major Conspiracies, or isms, of American life? I think we can identify four, in particular.
1. The notion of Americans as the “chosen people,” and of the nation as a “city on a hill.” This latter phrase–quoted by both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin in the 2008 presidential campaign–goes back to the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, as he was sailing from England to America on the Arabella in 1630:
“We shall find that the God of Israel is among us….He shall make us a praise and glory….For we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.”
The idea is that it would be America’s unique mission to bring democracy to all the peoples of the earth, inasmuch as the American way of life was (obviously) the best. (Iraq is merely the latest manifestation of this way of thinking.) In fact, the Puritans took the Jews of the Old Testament as their model, in which the exodus from Egypt, and invasion of Canaan, was regarded as the paradigm for the establishment of the Colonies. Cotton Mather even referred to the Massachusetts Bay Colony as “our American Jerusalem.” The notion that the story of the United States is the primary manifestation of God’s will on earth has an enormous hold on the American psyche. “American exceptionalism,” Alexis de Tocqueville called it; it is with us to this day.
2. Along with this we have Ism No. 2: the existence, in the United States, of a “civil religion.” This was first pointed out by the sociologist Robert Bellah in 1967, the fact that despite the presence of Catholicism, Judaism, and numerous Protestant sects in America, the real religion of the American people was America itself. To be an American is regarded (unconsciously, by Americans) as an ideological/religious commitment, not an accident of birth. This is why critics of the US are immediately labeled “un-American,” and are practically regarded as traitors. (Quite ridiculous, when you think about it: can you imagine a Swedish critic of Sweden, for example, being attacked as “un-Swedish”?) The historian Sidney Mead pegged it correctly when he called America “the nation with the soul of a church,” while another historian, Richard Hofstadter, declared that “It has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies, but to be one.” As Graham Greene portrayed it in The Quiet American, this is not a position that encourages self-reflection.
3. The third unconscious mythology is the one identified by Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893: the existence of a supposedly endless frontier, into which the American people would expand geographically. Eventually, it became an economic frontier, and finally an imperial one–Manifest Destiny gone global. This lay at the heart of the Carter-Reagan debate, for the notion of limits to growth is almost a form of heresy in an American context. The American Dream envisions a world without limits, in which the goal, as the gangster (played by Edward G. Robinson) tells Humphrey Bogart in Key Largo, is simply “more”. De Tocqueville had already, in the 1830s, commented on the great “restlessness” of the American people; and more than a century later, the British journalist Alistair Cooke remarked that what were regarded as luxuries throughout most of the world, were regarded as necessities in the United States. If Americans never had much of an interest in socialism, they probably had even less interest in buddhism, the occasional Zen center notwithstanding. It was not for nothing that the historian William Leach entitled his study of late-nineteenth-century American expansionism, Land of Desire.
4. Finally, we have a national character based on extreme individualism–Emerson’s “Self-Reliance.” As the historian Joyce Appleby describes it, this originated in the shift in the definition of the word “virtue” that took place in the Colonies in the 1790s. Previous to that time, the word had a European (or even classical) definition, namely “the capacity of some men to rise above private interests and devote themselves to the public good.” By 1800, the definition had undergone a complete inversion: “virtue” now meant the capacity to look out for oneself in an opportunistic environment. Whereas the former definition was adhered to by the Federalists, the Jeffersonian Republicans actively promoted the latter definition, as part of the new nation’s break with England and all things European. Life was not to be about service to the community, but rather about competition and the acquisition of goods. This is summarized in the popular American expression, “There is no free lunch.” The “self-made man” is expected to make it on his own.
There have been very few dissenters to this fourth ism; in many ways, American history can be seen as the story of a nation consistently choosing individual solutions over collective ones. One American who did dissent, however, was Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. In Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions he wrote: “The philosophy of self-sufficiency is not paying off. Plainly enough, it is a bone-crushing juggernaut whose final achievement is ruin.”
And “ruin” is the operative word here. While there is certainly an upside to these four isms–the sunny side of technological innovation and the Yankee “can-do” mentality, for example–in the long run these unconscious mythologies, in dialectical fashion, began to turn against those caught up in their magic spell. It surely cannot be an accident that 25% of all the world’s prisoners are incarcerated in American jails (1% of the entire US adult population); that two-thirds of the world’s consumption of antidepressants occurs in the United States; that 24% of the American population say that it’s OK to use violence in the pursuit of one’s goals, 44% support the torture of alleged or suspected terrorists, and 39% want Muslims in the US to be required to carry a religious ID on them at all times (why not just make it a yellow star, and be done with it?); that the country has the greatest percentage of single-person dwellings in the world, the highest homicide rate, the largest military budget (by several orders of magnitude), and the greatest number of square feet of shopping malls on the surface of the planet. The data on ignorance, which I have documented elsewhere, are breathtaking, and Robert Putnam’s description (in Bowling Alone) of the collapse of community, trust, and friendship is one of the saddest things I have ever read. Dialectically, and ironically, American “success” became American ruin; the crash of October 2008 was merely the tip of the iceberg.
The power of isms, certainly in the American case, derives from the fact that they are unconscious, embedded deep in the psyche. They constitute Conspiracies in that those who hold them are like marionettes on strings, screaming “Obama!” (for example) without realizing that the new president can no more buck the elites running the country than he can dismantle the mythologies that drive its citizens–himself included. As for the individual, so for the nation: the only hope is to see ourselves as we are seen, from the outside, as it were. And therein lies the paradox. For the four Conspiracies close in on themselves, forming a kind of mirror-lined glass sphere that does not permit any dissonant information to enter. Sandel, Mills, Rothkopf, Bellah, Mead, Leach, Appleby, Putnam–America’s finest, really–will never become household words, and if they did, it would probably be as objects of contempt. For this is finally the most terrifying thing about isms or Conspiracies: we do not choose them; rather, it is they that choose us.
Morris Berman is well known as an innovative cultural historian and social critic. He has taught at a number of universities in Europe and North America, and has held visiting endowed chairs at Incarnate Word College (San Antonio), the University of New Mexico, and Weber State University. Between 1982 and 1988 he was the Lansdowne Professor in the History of Science at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Berman won the Governor’s Writers Award for Washington State in 1990, and was the first recipient of the annual Rollo May Center Grant for Humanistic Studies in 1992. In 2000 The Twilight of American Culture was named a “Notable Book” by the New York Times Book Review. Other published work includes Dark Ages America (2006) and a trilogy on the evolution of human consciousness: The Reenchantment of the World (1981), Coming to Our Senses (1989), and Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality (2000). Dr. Berman has done numerous radio and television interviews in Europe, the United States, and Asia, and in recent years has lectured in Australia, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Venezuela, and New Zealand. During 2003-6 he was Visiting Professor in Sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and is currently Visiting Professor in Humanities at the Tecnológico de Monterrrey, Mexico City.
©Morris Berman, 2008
Also see John Stepplings latest article: “The Spectacle Lurches On”
By Adam Engel
We really make me sick.
I used to think we were all a bunch of clowns.
Where did I get the arrogance, the audacity, the sheer chutzpah to believe we were equal to clowns, who after all, are entertainers, in their own way, make-up artists, acrobats, performers who get paid at the end of the night, scrub off their grease-paint, twist off their rubber noses, and sleep well, while we, we are merely children in the audience bedazzled and beguiled by the clowns while outside the big top, under the benevolent watch of the Strong Man, The Knife-Thrower and Lobster Boy (”support our freaks”) our parents are signing away the family farm, our inheritance, and that of our children, to the Ringmaster, who orders the Strongman to bugger Dad while Lobster Boy and Knife-Thrower do unspeakable things to Mom, for after all, they got paid for the gig, gotta make ‘em earn their freak. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be natural.
That we dare flatter ourselves with such attributes as clown, buffoon, jester, jackanapes, lummox, oaf…another testimony to our unmitigated gall.
Communication Breakdown in the Great Beyond (Apropos Fox, not Cox)
How telling that the television ghost-hunters (all right, we’ll go along with it: “there are more things in heaven and on earth, Horatio,” yadda yadda yadda) were worried about entering the haunted basement because of the POWER PROBLEM. That is, there was no place to hook up their fancy high-tech ghost hunting doo-dads, so they had to bring down a generator. Interesting that even in the “other world” communication depends on non-renewable – or re-incarnationable – energy sources.
Cox Says “No!” to Unmarketable Drugs
We paranoids don’t do well with hallucinogenics. Then again, maybe it’s the epoch; it’s not like I’m hanging out with Grace Slick on a warm June night in San Francisco, circa 1967. The sixties had pot and acid; the seventies had heroin and Quaaludes; the eighties cocaine and Ecstasy; the nineties anti-depressants; and our current era a mishmash of anti-depressants, benzodiazepams, and highly caffeinated “soft drinks.” Booze and nicotine throughout, of course; the timeless “legal” drugs we are actually encouraged not to “say no” to — don’t let the anti-smoking ads fool you; besides encouraging smoking as an act of rebellion via corn-ball reverse-propaganda, the hardest drug of all to kick is Nicotine gum. It’s like chewing cocaine.
We’re All Better Now: The Post-Election Irrelevance of Cox
The modern president is like a systems administrator of a system that’s been fixed for years with minor “patches” and “upgrades,” only making it even more complex and subsequently closer to chaos, a system that can only be “fixed” by a complete “power down” and rewrite of the kernel and OS code; no matter how colorful and dazzling the screen-saver, it’ll only save what it’s meant to save – the screen; thousands of lines of code between pressing a key and the instant appearance of a letter or number on the screen.
I wouldn’t be surprised if The Board of Trustees (whoever they really are) sat McCain and Obama in a room and said,
“We need an articulate, relatively young, black man to take off some of the heat, ease tension, bring back that Kennedy/MLK sense of hope and ‘change.’ Sorry, John, you represent the so-called ‘old school.’ Barrack, you’re in. Congratulations. No hard feelings, John. Our men at Diebold have been instructed to give you a number of ‘red states’ so it won’t be an embarrassment.”
“Yes. I understand, sir. Congratulations, Barrack.”
“Thanks, John. If there’s anything I can do, you let me know.”
Comedians as Letter “C”
Ten pies-in-the-face, “to-go”, for the clowns who managed to take a once outrageous weekly (5 minute) skit on the real Saturday Night Live 1975-80 (imagine if, after 1970, they hired four new guys every couple of years to write and play crappy music and called them The Beatles or The Doors? What’s in a name?) into hour-long ACTUAL mainstream “news shows” with ACTUAL mainstream guests (who they josh around with all the investigative chops of Jay Leno) and call it “comedy.” For some reason this pisses me off even more than the fucking election, which is at least a “sort of” funny joke. This “Fake News” using “actual mainstream news” with some limp, sponsor-approved “satire” would make Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor and the real “SNL NEWS” satirists WISH they were dead, if they weren’t already dead, and therefore, most of them being dead, damn proud of it. What did I just say?
Modrun Media Medicine: a Possible (Mis?)Reading of Cox
Actors, formerly lowest of life forms, became icons — literally – once their owners had the technology to reproduce their images so they could earn money off the actors not merely from one or two stage performances a day, but thousands of movie screenings a day throughout the world, not to mention magazines, memorabilia, free media publicity etc. Unfortunately, the actors, never the brightest of the lot, took this to mean that they themselves were somehow more important.
Surgeries don’t matter anyway, especially for women, who once they pass 40 have to wait till they’re over sixty or so to play 40-year-olds and such. Cheaper for celebrities to dress in diapers as a means toward regaining lost youth and more effective than surgery; also, they can “grow into them” as they age…
But the surgeries made them look like teenagers strung out on heroin. So the Owners began to harvest real old people, the ones who still had enough memory left to remember lines (not that it mattered much; in film, you only have to say one or two lines between ‘takes’); also, the old people died before they became annoying; so the owners told the filmmakers to make movies about old people; but the young people weren’t interested in seeing such films; so the Owners had Big Media churn out magazines, websites, television shows etc. portraying the old people as desirable, THE PEOPLE to be; so the young people began buying fanzines and going to films starring old people. Soon the young people wanted to be like their heroes. They tried heroin, but that didn’t work well for more than a few weeks, or minutes, for most; so the stores began selling old people masks and props to make the young folks look old with sagging breasts and low scrotums like melting wax; and the wealthy young people had this done via surgery; so everyone, even the doctors who lost so much business making old people look young — which was way passe — were happy….
To Paraphrase Cox…
Capitalists and their “enablers” cannot be reasoned with or “talked to.” There is no dialog. If there were enough space, and a lot less people, that would be fine with me. They stay where they are, I stay where I am, and we’re happy as pigs in poop with our own peculiar notions about what “is” is. However, Capitalism, which began as a malignant tumor some 500 years ago (some would say “Civilization” itself which began around 8000 years ago), has metastasized to engulf the globe. There is no “escape” unless you’re rich enough to buy a temporary Disneyland off the coast of some third world “paradise” which will, ultimately, be engulfed by the tidal waves of climate change “inspired by” industrialism and post-industrialism – whatever that is. We are what we eat, (i.e., the planet).
The ultimate goal of capitalism is one “legal” Man – the Chief Executives and Board – celebrating absolute monopoly over the wasteland, all the while eying each other hungrily and wondering “gee, who will ‘we’ exploit next?”
…and Add My Own Two Cents
That said, once someone crosses the “line” into my “space,” and worse, threatens to eliminate me in order to occupy said “space,” I don’t think “love” or “tolerance,” as preached by capitalist clergy, are the affectations that are in my “best interest.” In such situations, an absolute devotion to defending “one of god’s creatures” (i.e. moi) BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY, is in order. Just a thought.
American Bards and Cox Reviewers
Of course, Cox’s SICK PLANET , if it’s read, as it certainly should be, will probably generate all sorts of “opinions” among the millions floating around “the information super highway that’s gonna bring us all together” these days, including this one. But I prefer to think of opinions not “like assholes, but like original minds; not everybody has one.”
Beyond Cox and Evil
Maybe all that mumbo-jumbo (see Ishmael Reed) mythopoeic poppycock about the “dead king” sacrifice which culminated in Jesus appeasing his mean old dad for the sins of mankind in order to save mankind was not as wickedly conceived as the mind of mankind is capable of and consistent in conceiving.
Men hate and fear god. The way they hate and fear THE CORPORATION. But like THE CORPORATION, the old testament god, Yahweh, is invisible, immortal, untouchable. But Jesus, his “representative” on earth, was quite mortal, visible and touchable. Better yet, he was capable of being harmed.
Men nailed him to the cross in vengeance, their only means of redress, against the merciless, implacable, unreachable Yahweh.
So what might this mean in terms of seeking “redress” against THE CORPORATION?
In an EMERGENCY SITUATION, such as ours, one must come to terms with whatever interpretation of the cosmic order one may have, then put a lid on it and let’s get down to brass tacks – and use them…
Concluding Unscientific Post-It(TM)
those who can’t do, leach
those who can’t sing, preach
those who can’t grab, reach
agent manage sale
go to beach
agent manage fail
prayer (pitch) = beseech