Neoliberalism and Political Strategy

This page includes a series of three articles on Neoliberalism plus a few earlier articles that developed the idea of Corporate Power. I want to thank my old friend and long-term organizer Geoff Herzog for his close reading of these essays. His editorial suggestions and political insights limited my errors in judgement, strengthened my main arguments and vastly improved the readability of the articles — no small accomplishment when dealing with a topic as confusing and contradictory as neoliberalism.

 

cropped-DgABhdBXUAAXMoK.jpg

Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?

I’ve been hearing about neoliberalism for a long time now and never could make much sense of it. It turns out the story we tell about neoliberalism is as contradictory as neoliberalism itself. Two currents within the critique of neoliberalism offer different analyses of the current economy and suggest different strategies for dealing with the gross exploitation, wealth inequality, climate destruction and dictatorial governance of the modern corporate order. 

These opposing currents are not just different schools of thought represented by divergent thinkers. Rather they appear as contradictions within the critiques of neoliberalism leveled by some of the most influential writers on the subject. These different interpretations are often the result of focus. Look at neoliberal doctrine and intellectuals and the free market comes to the fore. Look at the history and practice of the largest corporations and the most powerful political actors and corporate power takes center stage. 

The most influential strain of thought places “free market fundamentalism” (FMF) at the center of a critical analysis of neoliberalism. The term was coined by Nobel Prize winner and former chief economist of the World Bank itself –Joseph Stigliz. FMF is usually how neoliberalism is understood by progressives and conservatives alike. In this view, an unregulated free market is the culprit and the oft cited formula — de-regulation, austerity, privatization, tax cuts — is the means used to undermine the public commons.

David Harvey’s, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, is perhaps the single most influential book and the author begins with the free market. Harvey sets it up like this:

And it is with this doctrine…that I am here primarily concerned. Neoliberalism is…a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human wellbeing can be best advanced by liberating individual entreprenaurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade. The role of the state is to create…an institutional framework appropriate to such practices. [1]

Not a mention of the massive modern corporation just those 19th century individuals and institutions that are the stock characters of FMF. But to be fair, Harvey moves on to the “paradox:” neoliberalism is a political project that needs state power.

This creates the paradox of intense state interventions and government by elites and ‘experts’ in a world where the state is supposed not to be interventionist.[2]

The idea that the “free market” is an accurate description of reality or a good basis for strategy has worn thin. What started as the less influential reading of the neoliberal critique is gaining ground. The market economy and the state changed over time into something quite different — something we might call Corporate Power. And that is a far cry from a fundamentalist return of the liberal free market of the 19th Century. 

graphic1

Instead, we confront a new form of capitalist order: the merger between the biggest corporations and the state. The corporate power dominates nations by hollowing out and commandeering the institutions that were supposed to represent people. Economic decisions are made behind closed doors at the Treasury Department or Federal Reserve where bankers rule and regular citizens dare not go. The same power operates on the global stage through international institutions and regulatory bodies that do not even pretend to be democratic such as WTO, IMF, and World Bank. Corporate power tends toward fascism by destroying democracy and imposing austerity — the very conditions that give fascism mass appeal.

The national and global institutions that have been so essential to the creation of the neoliberal order provide rich evidence that we can no longer tell where governments end and corporations begin.

The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein, remains very influential and delves deeply into both critiques. But the closer the author got to the military-industrial complex and war —the core functions of the state — the clearer the corporate power argument became.  

[T]he stories about corruption and revolving doors leave a false impression. They imply that there is still a clear line between the state and the complex, when in fact that line disappears long ago. The innovation the Bush years lies not in how quickly politicians move from one world to the other but in how many feel entitled to occupy worlds simultaneously ….They embody the ultimate fulfillment of the corporatist mission: a total merger of political and corporate elites in the name of security, with the state playing the role of chair of the business guild—as well as the largest source of business opportunities…[3] 

Exactly. But, FMF and “a total merger of political and corporate elites” are completely at odds with one another. Another widely read author puts it this way:

“There is a profound irony here: In that neoliberalism was supposed the get the state out of the way but it requires intense state involvement in order to function.” — George Monbiot

'Is it irony, parody, paradox, satire or what when we earn a profit despite our many plunders?'

If the contending ideas of FMF and corporate power were strictly academic it would not matter so much but we will not develop a successful strategy to counter corporate power without knowing what the actual material conditions are. While FMF obscures the current state of our economy, corporate power helps us to see through the seemingly ironic fact that the so-called free market relies upon regular government interventions and support.

We’re dealing with irony or paradox only in as much as we’re dealing with modern mythology. Myths endure because their stories resolve contradictions that logic, reason and facts cannot.

Let’s Stop Repeating the Bosses’ Propaganda.  

The emphasis on FMF has unwittingly contributed to the deeply rooted mythic aura of free markets. Adam Smith, the first philosopher of markets, had to resort to an unexplainable “Invisible Hand” to argue that capitalism was good for everyone. This faith lives on in the neoliberal portrayal of global markets as omnipotent, unknowable forces that work in mysterious ways. If that sounds like the god of capital — it is.

But we need to come to terms with the fact that the free markets’ mythical and mystical nature is precisely why it has such a grip on the popular imagination — and on our own. If we believe free markets actually exist then even our critiques are offerings to its god-like power. When we say “free market” it works like an incantation summoning a complete worldview into being. 

For example, critiques of the free market too often internalize the neoliberal claim that it’s the natural form of human exchange and production. According to this view, the market exists independently somewhere “out there” in human nature or society. Lack of regulation allows market freedom to run to its logical or natural conclusion even if it’s prone to excess and crisis. So the role of the regulatory state, in this argument, is to control the natural freedom and drive of the market actors.

But corporate power imposes its ideology by force and often violence. It exploits people in accordance with law. It plunders resources and poisons water without consequence. This is not freedom. It is dominance and supremacy which puts us on a path to environmental destruction, oligarchy — maybe even fascism. If your “freedom” is my exploitation then you are my master, I your slave, but neither of us are free. Corporate power is the opposite of freedom.

Market ideology has always hidden authority, power and responsibility behind a screen of individual freedom and anonymous actions. If the free market is the outcome of millions of interactions between free individuals, and no one is really in charge, well, what is wrong with that? Plenty, starting with the fact that this utopian ideal in no way describes the dominant form of capitalism in our time — if ever.

And if we believe there is a free market then how do we deal with the widely held belief in the morality of the market? Millions still believe the economy to be moral because it works like a true and transparent regulator of merit. The good rise, the weak fall. The Protestant Work Ethic remains the most powerful spiritual belief shoring up capitalism. If we accept the market as the actual basis of our economy then how can we oppose the idea that hard work is in fact justly rewarded?  

No wonder millions of American workers don’t embrace or cannot understand the neoliberal critique: who can really oppose nature — or society, or freedom, or morality? But unlike the “free market,” which everyday people often associate with small entrepreneurs and mom and pop shopkeepers, millions of people can oppose corporate power.

By shifting to the idea of corporate power we can make claims in keeping with day-to-day experience of the working class: work is not about freedom but instead compulsion and coercion; the economy is not based on merit but rigged to favor the powerful. The common understanding that the economy is rigged has outpaced the viewpoints offered and believed by many progressives. The people are leading, let’s catch up.

There is no market in pure or natural form. Instead market forces and political power interact to create the economy, in other words we have a political-economy. Corporations were born political actors. And the corporate power, not the free market, is the only form of capitalism worth overthrowing.   

Does History Matter?

The irony or paradox at the heart of the FMF critique is really a failure to give history its due.

When societies reach this kind of end stage, the language they use to describe their own economic and political and social and cultural reality bears no relation to that reality…. The language of free market laissez-faire capitalism is what they feed business students and the wider public but it is an ideology that bears absolutely no resemblance to that reality…..In a free market society all those companies like Goldman-Sachs would have gone into bankruptcy but we do not live in so-called free market….Chris Hedges 

So where did the free market go? The modern corporation itself overcame the many inefficiencies of 19th century free market capitalism; it replaced “cutthroat competition” with the coordination, cooperation and economies of scale to destroy smaller firms or consolidate them into monopolies. Over time competition evolved into monopoly power. Individual entrepreneurs were dwarfed by concentrated wealth’s immense power. The free market was replaced with a public/private mix where both public policy and market signals regulated and promoted economic activity. [4]  

iu

This long historical shift away from free markets and toward corporate power has left such a clear trail of evidence it’s a wonder it’s not self evident. How else can we interpret the corporatization of war and the military and the billions in direct and indirect subsidies to corporations? Government shelters banks, guaranteeing loans and mortgages while bailing out stupid investors.[5] Wealth is redistributed to the top though massive tax breaks and cuts to social programs. Legally enforced starvation wages push workers to public assistance ultimately subsidizing their bosses. Tax codes encourage the rich to shelter trillions in tax havens while the unrepresented masses make up the difference. Federal programs like “quantitative easing” pumps free money into the financial system. The risk and losses from environmental destruction are for us to reckon with while the rule of law has been suspended for corporate criminals of all kinds. Major economic decisions have largely migrated from national governments to even more dictatorial global bodies. The IMF, WTO and World Bank do the bidding of the largest corporations that are the foundation of the US imperial alliance.

But this history holds opportunity as well. This is what it’s come to:

[P]rivate forms of corporate ownership are “simply a legal fiction.”* The economic requirements of the modern corporation no longer justify its completely private control, for “when we see property as the creature of the state, the private sphere no longer looks so private.”**….In this regard, property reassumed the form it took at the dawn of the capitalist era when “the concept of property apart from government was meaningless.”*** [6]

By merging with the state the largest corporations have turned themselves into a new form of social and public property. It’s up to us to take what is ours.

Everything lives and everything dies. The most important lesson from the history of capitalism is this: It has sown the seeds of its own destruction. 

The critique of neoliberalism as FMF unconsciously promotes what it intends to criticize precisely because it imagines the current system as essentially the same system that existed in the 19th Century. This critique smuggles in the lack of historical thinking that is so essential to maintaining dominant culture in the US.  

FMF is a form of American exceptionalism. If the current economy is essentially the same as more than a century ago, then it is truly exceptional and outside of history — just like America itself. Isn’t it? Does capitalism have a history or doesn’t it? In general, the lack of historical consciousness lies at the heart of American exceptionalism. It hobbles our capacity to think and act. This denial of history is the masters’ mythology, not ours. Corporate power is not eternal but historical. It too shall pass — but only if we make it so.

 

[1]Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, p. 2.

[2] Harvey, p.69 Over time Harvey has tended to highlight the political not doctrinal aspects. See  Neoliberalism as a Political Project

[3] Naomi Klein, Shock Doctrine, p. 398-399.

[4] I borrow the idea of a public/private mix from the work of the underappreciated new left historian Martin Sklar see: United States as a Developing Country.  For more on Sklar look here or here.

[5] Nomi Prins All The Presidents Bankers, see p. 372-375 for an account of the so-called Mexican bailout and the role of former Goldman-Sachs executive Robert Rubin in saving the bankers.

[6] Richard Moser, Autoworkers at Lordstown: Workplace Democracy and American Citizenship” in The World the 60s Made, p. 307 *Bell, The Coming of Post-industrial Society, p. 294. **Jennifer Nedelsky, Private Property and the Limits of American Constitutionalism, p. 263. ***Arthur Porter, Job Property Rights, p. l.


 

sold_glory_the_corporate_states_of_america

You Can’t Go Home Again: The Liberal State Is No More

In a previous article I argued that often confusing and divergent arguments within the neoliberal critique could be best understood as the tensions between two opposing currents of thought. One tendency understands neoliberalism as the unfettered reign of the free market, often called Free Market Fundamentalism (FMF), the other sees neoliberalism as the fusion of the corporation and the state sometimes called Corporate Power.

If it’s FMF what does that mean for activism. If it’s Corporate Power what does that imply for strategy?

The greater the emphasis on FMF then the more possible it might seem to re-regulate the corporations back to within tolerable limits after recapturing the state through elections. The greater the emphasis on corporate power the less possible incremental (primarily) electoral approaches seem, and the more likely that revolutionary measures will be required to abolish corporate power.

You Can’t Go Home Again

FMF remains such a popular idea among progressives precisely because it allows us to imagine an easy escape. That escape is a return to the liberal-regulatory state that governed the US between the mid-1930s and mid-1970s. The problem — and most likely an insurmountable one — is that the old liberal-regulatory state was dismantled and replaced by a new corporate-regulatory state.

This bit of wishful thinking also forgets that the now defunct liberal state was codified by law and mandated by election due to massive protest and organizing in the 1930’s and cemented into place only at the high human costs of world war. The construction of the liberal state required mass movements, some with revolutionary aspirations, and it’s reconstruction would require nothing less. 

Equally daunting is the fact that the decline of the liberal state wasn’t caused by the rise of neoliberalism alone but by urban rebellions and social movements. Why would we return to the liberal state that brought us the Vietnam War, COINTELPRO, environmental destruction and the urban crisis among other wonders?  

In Death of the Liberal Class, Chris Hedges argues that the liberals who once managed the regulatory state were marginalized or adapted to the corporate state.

“But the assault by the corporate state on the democratic state has claimed the liberal class as one of its victims. Corporate power forgot that the liberal class…gives legitimacy to the power elite. And reducing the liberal class to courtiers…who have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, shuts off this safety valve and forces discontent to find other outlets…The inability of the liberal class to acknowledge that corporations have wrested power from the hands of citizens, that the Constitution and its guarantees of personal liberty have become irrelevant, and that the phrase consent of the governed is meaningless, has left it speaking and acting in ways that no longer correspond to reality.”[1]

The Bill of Rights is in tatters. “We the people” do not rule. Representative democracy is all but dead. Welcome to the real world.

wsf_montreal_2016_banner_slider_

Q: What killed Democracy? A: Corporate Empire.

The corporate power destroyed the limited democracy of the liberal state because it was an obstacle to its insatiable need for power and profit.

If democracy is dead, what is the new reality we face? By the 1980s a new version of the two-party system emerged: the extreme right-wing takeover of the Republican Party accomplished largely by the “Reagan revolution” on one hand and the rise of “third way” or corporate Democrats represented by the Clinton machine on the other — both wings of one duopoly dedicated to establishing and maintaining the new corporate order.

Along with the earlier restructuring of the US government in order to wage our imperial wars — it was this corporate takeover of the political parties and the government they have a chokehold on that killed American democracy. And, both parties championed policies that were responsible for a steep decline in the power of the working class.  

158045-20179

Follow the Money

This new corporate political class managed the fusion of the state and corporation — as can be clearly seen in the history of finance capital. Banks are the executive branch of corporate power dispatching capital, natural resources and labor in a war for profits. To the degree that capitalism is planned, bankers do the planning. During the exceptional period of limited economic democracy from the mid-1930s to the mid-1970s, capital was forced to share the wealth. But by the 1970s big changes were underway. As a response to the upheavals of mid-20th century, the ruling elites reasserted their class power and bankers were their vanguard.

159010-20211-2

In All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power, Nomi Prins documents the relationships between presidents and bankers. By the 1980’s that relationship had grown less personal and more institutional. Not only were bankers routinely appointment to powerful government posts but all agreed that free-market neoliberal ideology was the best rhetorical strategy to maintain US hegemony — even as they created the corporate state.[2] 

Before long the power of capital grew to such proportions that it overshadowed even presidential power, as well as the other branches of government. The bankers’ supremacy was based on the remarkably rapid concentration of capital and control in the hands of a few. Between 1960 and 1979 there were 3,404 bank mergers, from 1980 to 1994 there were 6,345, but in a short period from 1995 to 2000 — in the middle of the Clinton presidency — 11,100 banks merged, crushing competition, centralizing power and overtaking the state in the name of the free market.[3]

Corporate Coup or Merger of the Corporation and the State?

The rise of the corporate state was nothing so sudden or confrontational as a coup. Nor will it be undone easily. Corporate power is the outcome of a century of growing corporate influence, imperial war and the historical development of capitalism itself. There was no hostile takeover — the economic policies of Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump — and the parties they led — fully supported the aims and ambitions of the largest bank and corporations. 

[T]he federal government and Fed response to the third world debt crisis, S&L bailout, and 1987 stock market crash was to subsidize the banking system with federal and multinational money. The bankers had succeeded in pushing the presidency to back losses….They had succeeding in privatizing their profits and socializing the costs of failure.  This fiscal policy had officially become US domestic and foreign policy.[4] [emphasis added]

Socializing costs and privatizing profits reached new heights after the 2008 crisis but the instruments of corporate power were already well in place. On a few days notice the elites launched a global bailout of unprecedented scale and scope that rescued banks “too big to fail.” Few asked how we were going to pay for it but during the height of the crisis 19 $trillion was made available in subsidies and bailouts to bankers.[5] Profits and wealth inequality soon returned to record levels while permanent austerity for millions was sold as the cost of “shared sacrifice.”

The faux reform of the Dodd-Frank bill was a revealing response to the crisis because it only further cemented the corporate state while preserving the largest concentration of capital in US history.

The bill was riddled with holes punched out by bank lobbyists with Washington connections: forty-seven of fifty Goldman Sachs lobbyists had previously held government jobs (or were “revolvers”). In addition forty-two of forty-six JPMorgan Chase lobbyists in 2010 were revolvers, as were thirty-five of Citigroup’s forty-six. President Obama signed the bill into law on July 21, 2010.[6]

Dodd-Frank was the corporate-regulatory state in action.

The unprecedented concentration of capital through mergers, loan guarantees, massive bailouts to investors, enormous subsidies, tax breaks and virtually free cash infusions — while shielding the same bailed-out bankers from prosecution for fraud — made the US government the agent and guarantor of vast wealth inequality. If these payments were cash transfers to the poor it would clearly be understood as part of the liberal-regulatory state but cash transfers to finance capital are seen as what? Free market fundamentalism? No, its corporate power.

The merger between corporations and government was accomplished at the pinnacles of power. Antonio Gramsci showed us the right place to look when he wrote, “The historical unity of the ruling classes is realized in the state.”

The great wall between public and private, between government and corporation has come tumbling down. Maximizing profit and power are the new rules shaping the regulatory environment because under the dictates of the corporate state, power = money and money = power. The 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United simply legalized the existing order by protecting corporations as people and money as free speech. The consequences? Corporations are the only “people” who matter and money the only form of “speech” heard by politicians.  

iu-18

This fusion of finance capital with national executive power may well be the economic foundation of fascism. In order to secure the equivalence of money and power, the corporate state seeks to weaken democratic institutions, such as trade unions, and institutionalize austerity — paving the way for the rise of fascism. The concept of corporate power helps us better understand that neoliberalism and fascism are blood kin. One cannot save us from the other — that much should be clear. 

What is the Passage Beyond Corporate Power?

The corporate capture of the state means any return to the liberal-regulatory state — let alone genuine economic democracy — would require something more like revolution. History would suggest that the kinds of popular unrest and social movements responsible for the long period of reform from the Great Depression to the end of the Vietnam War are the true engines of history and should be the true goals of strategy. For it was those movements that both created the liberal state and began a transition beyond it.

In the last revolution, the civil rights/black power and the peace/anti-imperialist movements provided transition beyond what was then called the “liberal consensus.” Many people started out from a straightforward moral perspective wanting something that seemed like an achievable and reasonable reform: peace and racial justice. Later many discovered that the entire system was largely based on racism and empire and that both Democrats and Republicans were guardians of the establishment. So to win those seemingly simple reforms people had to build disruptive movements that raised the question of capitalism, white supremacy and empire itself as a necessary part of challenging power. What will allow us passage beyond today’s neoliberal consensus?

Climate Crisis and War

The return to the liberal state would require us to literally live on a different planet. The environmental crisis will prohibit returning to past ways of reforming capitalism because past models were also based on permanent war, unsustainable growth and the insatiable drive to plunder earth’s resources and human labor. It’s unlikely that legislation or even significant electoral victories are going to be enough to re-regulate the corporations and scale back, let alone dismantle, the world’s largest empire. Show me an empire dismantled by legislation or an ecosystem saved by the profit motive. Show me an example from history when a crisis — of similar proportion and scale to what we currently face — was resolved by “normal” electoral means.

When the people of Standing Rock stood up against some of most powerful corporate interests in the world, their prayers, their prophecy, their vision was not to cage the “black snake” but to kill it. We defeat corporate power or it will defeat us.

Climate destruction may just be our last stand, our greatest opportunity and most dangerous crisis. But, to make the most of it we’ll have to raise revolutionary demands and adopt the movement-building strategies that have the best chance of challenging corporate power.

 

 

[1] Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class, p.9

[2] Prins, All the Presidents Bankers p. 319-323 

[3] Prins, 382

[4] Prins, 356

[5] Prins, 411-414

[6] Prins 415


iu-26

 

Beyond Corporate Power

The problem is not that the corporations are “out of control,” the problem is that the corporations are so much “in control.” By seeing neoliberalism as Free Market Fundamentalism (FMF) rather than Corporate Power we underestimate the challenges ahead. FMF does not help us to know what tactics and strategies are best because it cannot tell us about the enemy we face: Corporate Power.

If the corporations have merged with the state, then the liberal-regulatory state is finished and our faith in it’s ability to protect us is a poor substitute for self-knowlege and self-determination. Instead, we should realize that we are finally on our own. Mass movements making revolutionary demands and organizing projects aimed at building independent people power will have the best chance at overthrowing the corporate power.

The tension between seeing the problem as FMF or as corporate power will only be resolved by the highest stakes gamble imaginable. Can we dismantle corporate power and stop climate change through normal electoral means or will revolutionary upheavals provide the answers we need?

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

The recipes for action suggested by those writers who emphasize FMF give too much weight to elections and incremental change. Take Monbiot’s Out of the Wreckage for example. On the one hand Monbiot supports community projects. Agreed. Communal approaches are very important and benefit from being rooted in existing institutions and relationships.

Monbiot also calls for the return to the “protective,” liberal state including an intriguing call for a constitutional convention by citizens and important electoral reforms. But his proposals for recapturing the state are essentially a more energetic version of electoral campaigning. The mass upheavals and deep organizing that created the liberal state in the first place are largely absent. We need both the commune and revolution

Naomi Klein’s No is Not Enough, while full of good advise and insight, also shows just how hard it is to see a passage beyond the corporate order. The author’s vantage point shifts back and forth between FMF and corporate power and her strategic advice reflects that.

Klein’s re-telling of Standing Rock is moving and true. Standing Rock calls on us to take action by building transformative social movements against what Klein rightly calls “ecocidal capitalism.” She recognizes that native communities have the experience and knowledge to lead the new environmental movement. So far so good.

Klein’s other major example is the LEAP Manifesto. It’s another good start, as is the coalition-building it hopes to promote: but to what end? Utopian visions are important, as Klein argues, but the future LEAP calls for is not nearly utopian enough. LEAP calls for more rigorous corporate regulations, ending austerity and expanding social inclusion. It’s all fine, but how is that different from returning to a new and improved liberal-regulatory state?

Klein praises social movements but tends to distill them into their programs, platforms and manifestos, which can then be deployed in the electoral arena. Although Klein addresses the shortcomings of the electoral process she then writes, “But the real trick is going to be to get those dreams on the ballot with a winning strategy as quickly as possible.”

Programs and manifestos are half the story. The other half is the capacity of social movements for disruption. Martin Luther King’s take on this is classic:

“The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”

Yes, social movements are the true creators of ideals and visions but they are also the source of the kind of actions that put pressure on the system from the outside.

For Klein, recent “left-wing almost-wins” in US or French elections, took us “within an arm’s reach of power.” While a Sander’s win may well have been, and may well be, a huge step forward, his agenda would have been hamstrung by the corporate state and the war machine. The fact that corporate Democrats closed ranks to cheat Sanders out of the 2016 nomination was a very telling indication of what Sanders would have faced if elected — even from his own deeply corporate and pro-war party.

If we ever want to get closer than “an arm’s reach of power” we will need millions of people acting in ways that threaten the elite’s power and profit. The quest for limitless power and profit is the new rule underlying the corporate state and the main driver of climate disaster. We must overturn this rule knowing full well just how deeply entrenched corporate power is. No easy victories.

So instead of revolution — a word barely mentioned — or the stranglehold of the two-party system on government — a problem not analysed — or electoral fraud by both parties — an obstacle not considered — Klein’s understandable desire to instill hope, plus the focus on FMF, cycles us back to elections as the main strategy.

If only neoliberalism were simply an extreme form of capitalism we could turn off like a switch — instead of the final outcome of capitalism’s historical development — or just bad ideology and bad policies  — instead of a system of corporate rule exercised by the state — then maybe the people could take power using normal electoral means.

Solutions Need to Match the Scale of the Problems

Among the popular writers on neoliberalism Chris Hedges most persistently points to the need for massive non-violent civil disobedience as the way forward. Perhaps it was his 20 years as a war correspondent that allowed him to see the depths to which we have fallen and the heights to which we must climb — if we want to win. It is no coincidence that Hedges uses the concept of corporate power more than any other major popularizer of the neoliberal critique.

“The problem is not Trump. It is a political system, dominated by corporate power and the mandarins of the two major political parties….We will wrest back political control by dismantling the corporate state, and this means massive and sustained civil disobedience like that demonstrated by teachers around the country this year…”[5] 

Corporate power has produced multiple interlocking crises that cannot be resolved within the existing system. Consider the mountain of evidence on wealth inequality — a crisis responsible for much of the social dysfunction we face precisely because it combines and intensifies the inequalities of race, gender and class, threatens our environment and democracy and magnifies global inequalities produced by empire and colonialism.

Researchers from fourteen universities have studied wealth inequality over thousands of years finding that the US is one of the most unequal countries in all of history. In The Great Leveller, Stanford Universities’ Walter Scheidel has concluded that once inequality has grown to existing levels, history gives us no examples of it being resolved using normal means. Scheidel claims that mass warfare, plague, state collapse or transformative revolution are the most likely outcomes.  

50252790_10213094604859373_4275355491778953216_n

All the Means At Our Disposal

It’s hard to see that any movement against corporate power could succeed without using all the non-violent means at its disposal: social movement unionism, tenants unions, massive non-violent civil disobedience, strikes, communes, cooperatives of all sorts, occupations, rank and file groups, full-fledged social movement for peace and justice and all the forms of disruptive protest activities they can produce. Election do matter, but without these struggles and disruptions electoral efforts will fail to deliver. 

No one is going to save us. How do we save ourselves? It is impossible to know in advance, with any certainty, which tactic or strategy is best. Wild experimentation with strategy combined with disciplined, dedicated practice will resolve what debate alone cannot.   

We must also use all the visionary means at our disposal.  

We should make revolutionary demands that would lead to dismantling corporate power: abolishing the fossil fuel regime, ending empire and war, converting large corporations — the banks first of all — into public utilities placed under democratic control, expropriating billionaires, cancelling debts, abolishing the militarized penal system, returning large tracts of land to natives, paying reparations to populations once enslaved and no taxation without representation. We need many forms of experimentation in economic and workplace democracy, including worker ownership of enterprise and housing, public promotion of local economies and the transfer of significant political authority to local assemblies.  

Revolutionary demands take on their ultimate power when linked to universal values — for it is with universal values that we can communicate with the millions. When such demands are carried by mass movements in the name of values like freedom and democracy, then the political climate changes and new horizons become visible. Whatever name you wish to call it, this would be transformative revolution.

A new political climate based on revolutionary expectations will be the conditions under which the demands for minimum standards and minimum reforms can best be gained — rather than relying on a slow build-up of reforms. Minimum standards such as universal health care, free and fair elections, living wages, decent housing, ending prison labor — these kinds of reforms are achievable only when we aim much higher. 

Revolutionary Reforms

We might bridge the gap between reform and revolution, developing better synergy and coordination between different wings of the movement, by pursuing “revolutionary reforms.” What issues will move millions by the self-evident righteousness and reasonableness of the cause but also be something that corporate power cannot agree to without undermining their own hegemony?

We need a special kind of intermediate program sometimes described as a transition program or revolutionary reforms. What kinds of struggles would allow millions of people to make the passage between what is and what ought to be?

Perhaps the best bet is the environmental crisis because it is so universal and so catastrophic. The Green Party’s Green New Deal recalls past periods of reform but since it must include an uncompromising call for an end to war and dismantling of empire — if it is to work — then we have a reform with revolutionary potential.

50639486_539269073217234_1850913952892977152_n

Naomi Klein starts us off on the climate crisis with a focus on ideology and markets when she writes,

“To admit that the climate crisis is real is to admit the end of the neoliberal project….[T]o avert climate chaos, we need to challenge the capitalist ideologies that have conquered the world since the 1980s….[T]he oligarch class cannot continue to run riot without rules.”

But, Exxon the Davos elites, the IMF  the corporate Democratic Party leaders and the US Military “admit that the climate crisis is real.” That has not stopped their predatory practices.

Obama proved, with record oil production, that it takes more than admitting to problems — it requires sweeping and decisive action — and fast. Massive movements for a whole and healthy earth will finally reveal whether or not neoliberalism is more than just an “ideology” and whether or not it “runs riot without rules” or has created a new set of rules enforced by the state.

By recognizing corporate power Chris Hedges offers a strategic counterpoint:

“To assume that Obama or the Democratic Party, simply because they acknowledge the reality of climate change while the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party does not, is better equipped to deal with the crisis is incorrect. [B]oth parties have and will do nothing to halt the ravaging of the planet. If Sheldon Wolin is right–and I believe he is–then when we begin to build our mass movements–and…acts of civil disobedience…We have to understand that the corporate state, including the Democratic elite, will react the way all calcified states react. They will use the security and surveillance apparatus….If the response of the corporate state is repression rather than reform, then our strategy and our tactics must be different… We will have to view the state, including the Democratic establishment, as antagonistic to genuine reform, and we will have to speak in the language of overthrow and revolution.”

The corporate state is not just bad ideology. It’s a system of hard and fast structures that command violence, surveillance and propaganda to achieve its goals. When “the language of overthrow and revolution” is spoken, it will be given voice by mass movements to defend the planet and realize the promise of universal values.

iu-24

Finding Passage

While different interpretations of neoliberalism lead to different strategies, the point is to plot a course that can allow better synergy between reform and revolution — a course that will allow millions of everyday people to transition beyond the existing order. If people want to stop big oil’s pipelines thinking regulation is the answer — there is nothing wrong with that. Let’s test it out. Projects like the Green New Deal can draw support from reformers as well as revolutionaries. Let’s test that one out too.

Let’s be good organizers and start where people are at, not where we want them to be. If we do that we just might end up with a whole people fighting for a whole earth. And that would be enough to bring down the corporate empire we have bowed down to for far too long.


 

How Corporate Power Killed Democracy

For more see the series on What Killed American Democracy.

 

iu-3

Corporate Power is the Fusion of the Corporation and the State

The rise of Corporate Power was the fall of democracy.  Over the long haul, US politics has revolved around a deep tension between democracy and an unrelenting drive for plunder, power and empire. Granted that our democracy has been seriously flawed and only rarely revolutionary, yet the democratic movements are the source of every good thing America has ever stood for.

Since the mid-1970s, when the corporations fused with the state, a new imperial order emerged that killed what remained of representative democracy. Not only would corporations exercise public authority as only government once had, but government would coordinate and serve corporate activity. Power and profits became one and the same. Corporate power has replaced democracy with oligarchy and replaced justice with a vast militarized penal system. Instead of innovative production, they plunder people and planet.

To achieve this new order, elections and the economy had to be drained of any remaining democratic content. Both Democrats and Republicans were eager to have at it.

By the 1990s “Third Way” Democrats like Bill Clinton abandoned what was left of the New Deal to try to outdo the Republicans as the party of Wall Street. The Republicans pioneered election fraud on a national scale in 2000, 2004, and 2016; a lesson the Democrats learned all too well by the 2016 Primary. Neither major party wants election reform since free and fair elections would threaten the system itself.

So-called private corporations like Facebook, Google and Twitter control information and manage the 1st Amendment. The corporate media now broadcast propaganda and play the role of censor once monopolized by the FBI and CIA. The migration of propaganda work to civilian organizations began under Ronald Regan.

While both major parties offer the people nothing beyond austerity and the worst kind of identity politics, the big banks like Goldman Sachs gained positions of real influence with both Republican and Democratic administrations and always with the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve.  Without public money and political protection the banking system — the headquarters of the mythical free market — could not function.

The Rise of Corporate Power

Corporations made the first big power grab in 1913 when the Federal Reserve was created. Banks were given the power to impose corporate regulation on the “cutthroat competition” of the free market.  Competition was chaotic and lowered profits. Corporations killed not just democracy but the free market as well.

Corporations also had their own private militarized police force. The Pinkertons, infamous for attacking striking workers, was the largest armed force in the US in the early decades of the 20th century: larger than the US Army at that time.

The mid-1970s were nonetheless a pivotal time as corporations achieved unmatched political supremacy and overthrew a brief period of relative economic democracy. Corporate power was the reaction to the American revolution that occurred between 1955 and 1975.

The corporations wanted to lower wages while maintaining high levels of consumption and profit.  Their solution was to deny workers raises while offering instead record levels of credit and debt. And for that move they needed massive banks.  Finance capital then leveraged even greater profits by repackaging debt as an investment and selling the world on their scheme. And for that maneuver to work banks needed to act with the full faith and confidence of the US government.

The shift to austerity for workers and power for bankers began during the mid-1970’s as wage increases no longer tracked productivity.  During the last two years of the Carter Administration — with a majority Democratic congress — those trends continued and were dramatically accelerated by Reagan who empowered bankers, revised tax codes and redistributed wealth. By the 1990’s the corporatization of government was more or less complete.  Take Robert Rubin’s career for example: he was a 26 year veteran of Goldman-Sachs and Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary.  Along with Henry Paulson, Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers, Rubin rewrote economic rules in the image of the corporation: a law unto themselves and in direct command of the power of the state.[1]

A well-funded revolving door insures the power of “Government-Sachs.”

After the 2008 crash $19 trillion was destroyed as everyday people lost their homes, jobs and pensions but the banks received the largest global bailout in history.  Big banks grew larger and more powerful than ever. Not only were there no indictments, but Obama returned Summers, Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke to power despite their roles as architects of the crisis. Hillary Clinton pandered to them, Trump railed against them, but after the 2016 election Trump appointed Goldman-Sachs executives to key postions.

Property is the Creature of the State

In order to kill the economic underpinnings of democracy, Corporate Power rigged the game. So deep is the fusion between the corporations and the state that profits are now created largely by political means. There is nothing “free” about this market; instead it is driven by political intervention every step of the way. From start to finish, the supply chain of corporate profits is government action.

If the true costs of risk, labor, research and development, environmental damage, war, and taxes were charged to their accounts, what corporation could claim profits? On environment costs alone, almost no industry would be profitable.

The fusion of the corporation and the state, not free-market capitalism, is the true political economy of the U.S.

 The State is the Creature of Property

Want to kill democracy? Rig the elections and restrict political rights.

While there are many, many, many ways to prove that big money rules America, Supreme Court decision “Citizens United” provides compelling evidence that corporations wield state power. Instead of insuring that the people have protections like the Bill of Rights against the corporations that now govern, “Citizens United” repealed the 1st Amendment by recognizing corporations as people and protecting money as a form of free speech. Corporate power is cloaked and protected, the peoples’ rights are stripped and rejected.

Justice Steven’s dissenting opinion in “Citizens United” argued:

“The Court’s…approach to the First Amendment may well promote corporate power at the cost of the individual and collective self-expression the Amendment was meant to serve. It will undoubtedly cripple the ability of ordinary citizens, Congress, and the States to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process.”

The “corporate domination of the electoral process.” Done.

Given that the top 0.1% is now worth as much as the bottom 90% and that long-standing inequalities in wealth have only increased during the Obama Administration and are sure to continue under Trump, the super-rich have the capacity to drown out all others voices and secure their domination of politics in the US.

The price tag for federal elections held in 2016 was $6.5 billion. A tidy sum for an election so bankrupt and dismal that over 90 million eligible voters stayed home and at least 1.75 million that did vote refused to do so for President. Millions more could do no better than hold their noses and vote, once again, for some fabled lesser of two evils.

Corporate Power Must Be Confronted

It’s late in the day. In a 2014 study — the most comprehensive of its kind — Princeton and Northwestern University researchers have demonstrated the utter lack of democracy in the US. Corporate Power and the US Empire killed American democracy while political cowardice and propaganda have us looking for other perpetrators. No it’s not the Russians. Its our own history, culture and political system. American democracy is dead and we must own it in order to revive it.

Corporate power has created a world so unequal that there is no way to change it within the existing political framework.  Teams of researchers using data that span thousands of years have concluded that the current extremes in wealth are setting the stage for conflict. In The Great Leveler, historian Walter Scheidel, concludes that only mass mobilization wars, transformative revolutions, pandemics or state collapse have redistributed wealth once it has reached current extremes.

Americans have always dreamed that we are an exception to history but we are not.   Not only will “incremental change” or the “lesser of two evils” or faith in the wonders of technology fail to prevent disaster — such ideas have delivered us to the crisis we now face.  We long for an easy way out — a way that does not demand risk — a way without the only kind of struggle that has ever made history. Of the most likely outcomes that lie ahead transformative revolution and transformative social movements like Standing Rock, are our best chance to minimize violence, reduce harm and create a better world.

Corporate Power is so destructive to democracy and dangerous to the planet because it recognizes no limits other than those imposed upon it. Corporate Power has but one reason for being: the maximum possible profit and the maximum possible power.   Corporations must grow or die but now their growth threatens ecocide, perpetual war and the death of democracy.  Such a way of life cannot be sustained. There are but few possible outcomes: the internal contradictions of the system will drive us to desperate crisis, or we intervene first, rebuild democracy, protect the planet, and overthrow the corporate dictatorship.


 

[1]. The 2010 Academy Award winning film Inside Job documents the rise of the corporate state in the context of the 2008 crisis.


fightrich

Corporate Power and Empire

For more see the series on The Political Strategy of Martin Luther King


[T]he Black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws—racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggest that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.[1]

King repeatedly identified the “giant triplets:” racism, materialism/exploitation/poverty and militarism. This post suggests a slight revision of two of the triplets I believe still in keeping with King’s vision.

The Corporate Power is immense economic wealth merged with unrivaled political might. Corporations govern.  The Corporate Power is the only form of capitalism worth taking about except that we do need a useful historical understanding of the long-gone free market and how earlier forms of capitalism were based on slavery, class exploitation and many other forms of conquest and domination.  But, there is no system in existence today — save the Corporate Power — responsible for the materialism/exploitation/poverty that King understood as racism’s “kin.”

US Militarism is not simply a body of ideas, or a culture of war, or policy decisions, or economic dominance, although it is at least all four. Militarism in our time is a structure — hard and fast. US elites control a global fortress of approximately 800 military bases. A system such as this —created by any other country, in any other historical period — would have but one name: Empire. And we can see — in how and where this Empire fights wars — an institutionalized racism equaled only by the vast militarized penal system that has finally gotten our attention by the uprisings, protests and disruptions of the new civil rights movement.

Racism, The Corporate Power and Empire — now that’s one mean-spirited brood of triplets.  But, back to our story of King and the Civil Rights Movement.

War, What is it good for? 

After Selma and the passage of the Voting Rights Act the movement turned to ever more challenging tasks but every attempt to root our racism became entangled with other great problems: war and economic exploitation.

King became one of America’s most powerful voices against war. In 1967 his address at Riverside Church in New York City, “A Time to Break the Silence” was one of the most visionary yet effective speeches made on any topic in the 20th century.

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal opposition to poverty, racism and militarism.”[2]

King’s entire moral, political and intellectual life was inseparable from his opposition to war and empire. His dissent, and those of other Civil Rights and Black Power leaders of the day, broadened the anti-war movement and had a decisive impact on African-American solders and veterans who played important roles in resistance to the Vietnam War.

Part of King’s global appeal was his understanding the so many of the problems of Latin America, Africa and Asia were the result of western colonialism and the continued exploitation by corporate investment.

“Americans in particular must help their nation repent of her modern economic imperialism.”[3]

King took a lot of heat from many in the Civil Rights movement for his anti-war and anti-imperialism but would not retreat.  He knew then what has become increasingly obvious:

[T]hat America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

And do not the wars continue endlessly with the same results?

The Political Economy of The Civil Rights Movement

After 1965 or so King became the truest of  labor leaders, one that advocated for the entire working class, not just his members. And, it can never be forgotten that he was assassinated while supporting a strike of sanitation workers.

What is stunning by today’s standards is the sweeping nature of King’s plans, vision and proposals. He proposed programs for poor people drawn on the grand scale of the Marshall Plan or the GI Bill.

King was killed before the movement could occupy Washington DC with a multi-ethnic encampment called the Poor Peoples March. The Poor Peoples march was the first massive embodiment of how fighting classism had to be part of fighting racism — about how organizing around the shared economic interests of the working class — black, white, native, asian and latino was an essential direction for future movement building.

King was gone but his vision leads us to challange corporate power.

And one day we must ask the question, “ Why are there forty million poor people in America?” And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about the broader distribution of wealth….You begin to ask the question, “Who owns the oil?”. You begin to ask the question, “Who owns the iron ore?” You begin to ask the question, Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?”[4]

Who owns America? Now we know it’s the 1%. But King dug deeper still.

All men are interdependent. Every nation is an heir of a vast treasury of ideas and labor to which both the living and the dead of all nations have contributed. Whether we realize it or not, each of us lives eternally “in the red.” We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women.[5]

King tried to subvert the common notions of property rights and profit motives that are the cultural and economic foundations of corporate power. The earth — our first and truest commonwealth — should not become the private property of a few. And, who does the past belong to?  It is the labor of human beings — “living and dead,” “known and unknown” that is also commonwealth — a wealth we all should protect and spend wisely.

We must create full employment or we must create incomes….[W]e need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted. New forms of work that enhance the social good will have to be devised for those for whom traditional jobs are not available. In 1879 Henry George anticipated this state of affairs when he wrote, in Progress and Poverty: “The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind, the work which extends knowledge and increases power and enriches literature, and elevates thought, is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves, driven to their task, either by the lash of a master or by animal necessities. It is the work of men who perform it for their own sake, and not that they may get more to eat or drink, or wear, or display. In a state of society were want is abolished, work of this sort could be enormously increased.”[6]

Kings anti-poverty strategy recognized that the relationship between work and reward, and between work and economic necessity, had already been altered.  Mass production had abolished true scarcity.  The corporations themselves had already made political power  — not hard work — the path to wealth.

This is a boon to humanity that  the corporations hoard for their class alone.  Do we have the courage and ability to take it for all of us?

If the billionaires and corporations can lay claim to almost all of the productivity gains of the last half century it is because they have the political power to separate work from reward — but only in their favor. If they can impose austerity upon us while holding trillions of dollars out of circulation — then austerity and poverty is a matter of political power and policy not economic necessity. King saw that, finally free from economic necessity, guaranteed jobs or guaranteed income was an achievable, if monumental, political project.

The Threshold

Not only did King point the way toward the end of wage-slavery but his political and intellectual journey proves that race as a category of analysis and action was not just central to politics but in all respects universal and revolutionary in scope and consequences.  As the movement approached the threshold of the “radical reconstruction of society itself,” the struggles over race, class, and empire began to fuse into a broad revolutionary surge that included all, but was greater than the sum of its parts. 

And, King knew full well that the movement had crossed beyond the liberal consensus and into revolutionary territory.

Exactly one hundred yeas after Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation for them, Negroes wrote their own document of freedom in their own way. In 1963, the civil rights moment coalesced around a technique for social change, nonviolent direct action. It elevated jobs and other economic issues to the summit, were earlier it had placed discrimination and suffrage. It thereby forged episodic social protest into the hammer of social revolution.[7]

As we know, that stage of the revolution failed. King, the civil rights movement and other social movements of the day failed to win a lasting peace, let alone transform the empire into a democratic republic. They, and all the movements since, have failed to achieve a decent measure of economic justice let along transform corporate power into economic democracy.

Yet, there is something vitally important to be learned from these failures.  Organize!


Next: Where Do We Go From Here?


All citations are from A Testament of Hope [1] A Testament of Hope, 315. [2] A time to Break the Silence. 242. [3] The Trumpet of Conscience, 652 [4] Where Do We Go From Here? (SCLC Presidential Address) 250 [5] Where Do We Go From Here? 626 [6] Where Do we Go From Here? 615-616. See Also “Face to Face” Television News Interview 409. [7]Hammer On Civil Rights, 169.


13652514_10154450274692873_713090278_n

The Democrats Must Attack Democracy to Serve the Corporate Power

Insatiable

You might think that pervasive election fraud, the conversion of mass media into propaganda, and the already insignificant role that everyday people play in federal government would be enough to satisfy the elite’s lust for power.

Or, that record corporate profits, legal and illegal tax evasion, billions in tax-payer funded subsidies, unprecedented global bailouts and the resulting poverty of billions of human beings would appease the Goldman Sachs of the world and their demand for unlimited wealth.

Or, that endless war on multiple fronts, 650 major military bases,  $600 billion annual budgets, the most lucrative world-wide arms trade, a $trillion more to update our nuclear arsenal and the ritual incantation of American Exceptionalism by Democrats and Republicans alike — even in the face of military failure and environmental disaster — would satisfy the souls of the most ambitious imperialist. But no.

The corporate power is nothing if not relentless. It knows no limits except those we can impose on it. And that is why the managers of corporate power must attack what remains of representational democracy.

Colorado on the Cutting Edge

Colorado is contested turf. It is a battleground between local folks who want to drink clean water, breath clean air, live freely and exercise democracy against the fossil fuel companies that call the shots in both the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Clinton’s choice of Ken Salazar, former US Senator from Colorado and Secretary of the Interior, to lead her transition team, “means the oil and gas industry just hit a political gusher.” But, even with their unlimited funding and political control, the elites are worried about the people of Colorado.  The people have legalized marijuana and now take aim at raising the minimum wage, creating a universal healthcare system and ending the modern slavery of prison labor.

Colorado’s constitution is just too democratic so establishment Democrats have joined forces with Republicans — both bankrolled by big oil and gas — to create proposition 71.  71 is an attempt to “protect” the state constitution from citizen activism. The main media argument is that the current arrangements are far too “messy” and allows “special interests” to amend the constitution. The Democrats plan on “raising the bar” by making constitutional revisions far more difficult and expensive to enact.  In effect, the only special interest that will be prevented from revising the constitution is “We the People.”  There is good evidence that the main goal is to stop the movement against fracking.

Democratic Governor Hickenlooper, Democratic Senator Bennett and media corporations have sided with insurance companies, Republicans and the Clinton machine, to hold the line against universal health care.

It’s not just the bad example of real health care that has Democrats worried. “Amendment T” abolishing prison labor would strike at one of the pillars of profit and social control. The Colorado Constitution, just like the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, allows for slavery — yes slavery — for people convicted of a crime.

The US currently puts nearly 1 million such slaves to task. These prison workers generate at least $2 billion a year and produce military gear. Unlike slavery of old, the new slave masters, often large corporations, do not even have to provide for food, shelter or clothing; all that is done with our tax dollars. And all this publicly subsidized slave labor depresses the labor market for every other worker.

The current Colorado constitution allows citizens seeking justice, but holding little cash, to pursue the unfinished agenda of the civil rights and labor movements.  And that worries Democrats.

So worried are they about democracy that Hickenlooper, once considered for the Vice Presidency under Clinton, and all superdelegates from Colorado maintained their allegiance to Clinton even though Sanders won Colorado’s caucus by a nearly 2 to 1 landslide.

So worried are they about democracy that top Democrats joined forces with the oil and gas lobby to oppose citizen initiatives to empower local communities to resist fracking.  The measure failed to make the ballot because the gas and oil industry spent $15 million in opposition and the Colorado Secretary of State determined that too many petition signatures were invalid. This determination was made after a 5% sample of the 107,000 signatures were evaluated. Why not count the other 95%? Too messy for sure, and too expensive since “we are broke” in the richest county in the history of the world.

And now, Hickenlooper threatens to punish any municipality that bans fracking.

Yet, the people of Colorado tend to be an independent-minded lot. Both Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are polling well. Arn Menconi, the Green Party candidate for US Senator is making a serious run against corporate Democrat Bennett who, like his role model Hillary Clinton, has support and funding from elite Republicans.

The attack on local democracy is particularly revealing given that Colorado is a so-called swing state.  We can give up any hope that the Democrats will offer anything to the millions of Bernie voters beside fear and look instead to the small slice of moderate Republicans disgusted with Trump.

The only “incremental change” will be the incremental growth of Corporate Power and the scaling back of what is left of state and local democracy. Perhaps they learned from the Koch brothers who pioneered the use of big money in small places.

What is the Corporate Power?

Most critiques of the Clinton Foundation and Clinton machine focus on the idea of corruption and scandal. True enough, but the Clintons’ corporate worldview goes far beyond greed, corruption and “pay to play.”

The deeper conflict is between a new form of corporate governance — in full command of all three branches of national government — and the remnants of the older legal and political structure. Violations of the now outmoded functions of government — individual rights, free elections, checks and balances, rule of law and the national interest itself — are called out as corruption but are in fact the “new normal.”

The managers of the new system must be above the law and the Constitution to do their job. These corruptions are but evidence of a Corporate Power that must burst the remaining shell of democracy to complete its ascendancy.

The Corporate Power fuses the corporation with the state. This new relationship — a century in the making — was formally recognized by “Citizens United” and is currently managed by the global political corporation known as the Clinton Foundation.

The boundaries between what was once “private,” such as wealth created by economic activity, and what was once “public,” such as governments, are no longer meaningful.  Corporations were born political actors that must commandeer government to claim and control the wealth created by nature and produced by all the people

The seamless interactions between the “public” State Department and the “private” Clinton Foundation exemplifies corporate rule and is the shape of things to come; unless we revolt.

And revolt we must because profit and power are also governed by the same principles.  Just as earlier forms of free-market capitalism, with its more limited profit motive, have been replaced by the corporate order and the drive for the maximum possible profit; the maximum possible power now moves the Corporate Power beyond the limits of representational democracy. There is no role for democracy in the corporate state, except as an obstacle to it supremacy.

And if you believe that democracy remains a vital part of government in the US, I challenge you to provide evidence for where it exist and how it functions.

Today, the only form of democracy worth a damn is the many growing social movements and our electoral wings: the Green Party, the local activists continuing the work of Bernie Sanders under the banner of Our Revolution and Brand New Congress and the independent Left Elect.

If only this were a simple matter of greed or bad men, but it is not. It’s a system in which each corporation must grow or die; even if ecocide is the outcome of collective corporate growth.   The world is so sick because the Corporate Power has learned to thrive even in disaster, war and chaos.

Perhaps it will die as it has lived. But that is up to us.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.[1]

Enough abuses and usurpations for you? When will revolution stop being for other times and other people and instead become the best way to recover the greatest of American traditions? Whatever happens in November we must organzine like our lives, our security and our democracy depend on it. After all, they do.


[1] US Declaration of Independence