We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Saturday, September 9, 2017
My take on today's activist politics from a class perspective
Often you will see in left-wing blogs highly educated people like Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges offering criticism of anti-fascist violent clashes with rather openly fascist demonstrators. I believe their criticisms are muddled because they, like many other highly educated people of the upper-middle class, are mostly ambivalent about any significant clashes with ruling class authorities. They fear losing the privileges and wealth they have gained from many years of their active participation in ruling class institutions. In reading a recent article by Hedges, I was impressed with his progress in understanding political-economic issues, however his long years of indoctrination in capitalist views and values handicaps him from offering positive advice to young activists who want to fight fascism. He can only offer such harmless activities against the system as projects like Cooperation Jackson. With this essay I will attempt to suggest other activities that are far more promising. First, we must have an understanding of basic economic and political concepts related to capitalism such as liberalism and fascism.
Capitalism is a comprehensive social-economic system that integrates every institution in service to capitalism's core beliefs: the private ownership of the economy with the concomitant power to rule over society. Many of today's capitalist societies have been shaped by their history to present a facade of democratic rights and freedoms (see my commentary here) to such an extent that they regard their rule as "democratic" and sell many of their policies to ordinary people as promoting democracy and humanitarian concerns. In other words, they must use deception to promote their self-serving rule and to portray their rule as legitimate.
Liberalism is another concept that has been shaped by history. Of course the etymology of liberalism is freedom from restrictions. The early capitalist class was bound by charters issued by the monarchs which severely limited their enterprises. Thus when they came to power they declared their rule as "liberalism" which has become the classic use of the term meaning capitalist ideology or capitalism. Nowadays the meaning has evolved into freedom from arbitrary rule, freedom from restrictions on civil rights, tolerance for different opinions and lifestyles, and a belief in the possibility that capitalism can be reformed or adapted to meet society's needs. As you can see, its meaning is highly ambiguous and depends mainly on the context in which it is used. For this reason, I don't like using the word by itself without some clarifying remark.
Fascism is a confusing word for most people. The classic definition is used to describe Mussolini's rule in Italy in the 1920s and 1930s which featured the rule of the state which directly served the interests of corporations under a dictatorship in which the rule of law was only superficially respected, and maintained by a police state to suppress any significant opposition. (Note that capitalist classes and their governments always favor corporations which they created as engines to generate so much of their wealth and power.) With this definition it is easy to see that there is no definite boundary between fascist rule and capitalist rule because the latter always contains elements of the former. Pure fascist rule is capitalist rule shorn of the facade of what is known throughout the world (excluding the US) as bourgeois democracy--a mostly fake form of democracy. However nowadays the term is often used casually and pejoratively to mean extreme authoritarian rule such as in a police state, but without any reference to a capitalist ruling class. Such a meaning is flawed. I believe that the classic definition is the most useful, and I always use the term in that sense.
As you can see, these terms are very confusing and deliberately so because the capitalist ruling class rules largely by deception and they want concepts confusing and ambiguous to undermine any real understanding of their rule. This is because the system of capitalism serves the interests of a relatively tiny capitalist class who "own" the economy under the rules and laws of the system, and this, of course, dramatically conflicts with their propaganda about their rule as representing "democracy".
The vast majority of people are workers who under capitalism are reduced to merely rented workers (some people regard them as simply wage slaves) who have no control over their work or the value they create. The history of capitalism has revealed its tendency to promote the concentration of wealth (and power) in fewer and fewer hands. Hence such a capitalist ruling class always favor the use of deception to maintain their rule and the operations of their corporations. However when deception through their propaganda and organs of indoctrination fail, capitalist ruling classes always turn to their enforcement agencies (police and military) to suppress any significant resistance to their rule. When this occurs that type of rule is correctly identified as fascism.
Nowadays they depend heavily on deception mostly through the control of information by their giant media corporations, but Hollywood entertainment corporations also contribute to this deception by promoting themes which tend to reinforce the propaganda put out by their media corporations. Such deception is also supported by the operations of 17 of highly secret (from us) "intelligence" (often subversive) agencies, and NGOs with nice sounding names (examples: National Endowment for Democracy, Center for American Progress, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Open Society Foundation) that advocate, and sometimes carry-out, policies that promote capitalist enterprises or governments which support their interests of profit and power. The rich capitalist class even support progressive organizations and individuals to act as "gatekeepers" (def.) for their interests. In this ruse such organizations and individuals pose as advocates of progressive actions, but in the end they carefully guide activists away from any effective activities. With these definitions clarified and the ruling class methods to quash dissent in mind, I want to proceed to describe today's other political realities.
There are signs everywhere that our ruling class of capitalists are increasingly relying on the classic methods of fascism to suppress resistance to their rule. However they are also using and improving upon every past method that every ruling class has used to suppress resistance like divide and rule, bribery, disinformation and propaganda, co-optation, PSYOPs, etc. In recent decades Empire agents have also been perfecting the use of well-funded subversive organizations hiding behind NGO organizations (with bland sounding names) that function in targeted nations by hiring local dissidents to foment conflicts and strife. Added to these traditional methods is a fairly recent method that they have developed to a high degree since their successes in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and many other countries: the use of gut-wrenching fear in the form of terrorism to induce compliance.
This new method was first applied domestically on September 11, 2001. As you can see it worked with astounding success by permitting the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then our ruling masters have applied this method successfully again here and elsewhere in the world (Ukraine and Libya) to overthrow governments which stood in the way of the Empire's global interests, and less successfully in Egypt, Syria (largely because of the interference of Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah forces), Georgia, Chechnya, and western China. (If you have doubts, listen to this podcast interview with Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI employee and whistleblower, wherein she gives a summary of such operations (in addition to the Paris shooting incident in 2013) which she refers to as "Gladio B". See also this.)
As you can see, the Empire's ruling class has a number of weapons in their arsenal to manage and control dissent and to shape consent to their policies which always promotes more wealth and power in the world for them. If activists are to become effective in this country to not only oppose the application of these methods but to end them by creating a new social system, they must become aware of this sophisticated arsenal; and this awareness must inform their strategies and tactics. Otherwise many people will be hurt without any positive effect, and nobody wants that.
Personally I think the best path to this education is through a positive project like the one I have advanced in the series "A Revolutionary Model". Instead of merely reacting to fascist activities like speakers and demonstrations that are likely organized in collaboration with the ruling class's subversive agents to foment conflicts, activists would engage in activities to advance the truth about the real world. Activists would also be educating themselves, the wider public, and at the same time, learn how to really deal effectively with the many efforts by ruling class agents to sabotage their activities. The exposure of the US-led Empire's criminal activities domestically and throughout the world is where they are most vulnerable; and by revealing these acts, we can destroy their credibility. This could lead to even greater conflicts, not with mostly created fascist provocateurs, but with the many real fascist forces within the US.
The point I wish to make is that activists should not let themselves be manipulated by simply reacting to fascist machinations, but to work actively to end the rule of capitalists and to establish a truly egalitarian society that functions of, by, and for the people. People would inevitably get hurt, but their injuries and even deaths would not be in vain. Such a future is well worth fighting for.