Jackson Rising

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Also in Counterpunch

“Revolution is based on land. Land is the basis of all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice, and equality….” Malcom X

Jackson Rising is the most important book I have read in a long time. Organizers are going to love it. If you wonder what democracy might look like in our time — here it is.

Jackson Rising is the rarest of things: a real strategic plan. You will not find a simple wish list that glosses over the hard questions of resources, or some disembodied manifesto imploring the workers forward, but a work-in-progress building the capacity of people to exercise power.

And that project is Cooperation Jackson. Cooperation Jackson is an emerging network of cooperatives and grassroots institutions that aim to build a “solidarity economy.” By seizing on the crisis and weak links of modern capitalism and building on the historic struggles for racial equality by the black people of Mississippi, Cooperation Jackson has created a model we can all learn from.

Just as important, Jackson Rising shows the value of deep organizing. Decades of persistent organizing efforts have empowered the people of Jackson to pursue agendas of their own creation.

The editors, Kali Akuno and Ajamu Nangwaya are both writers and organizers. They have contributed comprehensive, insightful and historically grounded accounts of the struggle in Jackson. The interview with Sacajewea Hall, another organizer, reveals just how central issues of patriarchy are to any attempt to achieve the solidarity economy Cooperation Jackson aims to bring into being. While some essays will be easier for readers acquainted with socialist and anarchist discourse, the general themes transcend ideological borders.

Almost all progressives value, or should value, economic democracy and direct, participatory democracy; cooperation rather than competition; environmental restoration rather than environmental destruction; and the need for a fundamentally transformative political vision. The land is the first and most essential  commons — the original means of production — and all progressives should stand for the return of land to the people.

Decades of experience in Jackson demonstrates that democracy walks on two legs: one economic, the other political. Peoples Assemblies and worker cooperatives are the foundations to both. The People’s Assembly combine both direct democracy and the representative democracy of various coalition partners. Worker and Farmer Cooperatives institutionalize sound environmental practices, promote food security and establish beachheads of a cooperative economy on the margins of the corporate order.

Jackson Rising fuses prefigurative projects, like worker controlled cooperatives, with social change movements, like black freedom struggles. We can combine what George Jackson called “the commune” with political protest as the Black Panthers did with community organizing designed for “survival pending revolution.”

Environmental concerns are inseparable from both survival and revolution in this visionary book. In fact the power of both book  and project draws, in part, from the dawning awareness that survival itself demands revolution. And the project of transformation — the task of turning one thing into another thing through struggle, sweat and study — motivates the essays chronicling this experiment in taking power.

Because Jackson Rising is deeply rooted in the history of the black community and other experiments in worker control around the world it gives us a model for the future that can apply to all of us. Dig into your own radical roots, wherever you may be, and learn from others. Start experimenting in your town. Prepare. When the bubble bursts — and burst it will — we will need a network of worker cooperatives and people’s assemblies to sustain us in the struggle for an authentic democracy.

One of the terrible contradictions of the current struggle for economic democracy is that workers require capital to fight capitalism. I strongly urge you to make a donation today.

Cooperation Jackson has a long complex history and the book it inspired has many moving parts. But for the people of Jackson — and for Chokwe Lumumba who was the leader, organizer and Mayor before his untimely death — one ideal rose above and encompassed all their projects and dreams. This ideal echoes in the streets and meeting halls of Jackson and throughout this remarkable collection of essays: “Free the land!” “Free the Land!” “Free the land!”

 

Posted in American Culture, Corporate Power, Movement Culture, Organizing Method, Organizing Strategy, Racism, revolutionary strategy, White Supremacy | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How Progressives Can Compete for Major Office: A Class Analysis of Political Paralysis

 

Also at Counterpunch

Learning from the Green Party Defeat in New Jersey.  

Local electoral gains are beginning to add up. The Green Party won 45 local seats nationwide in 2017 for a total of 141 in 18 states. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) added 15 new elected officials to their 20 already holding public office. Progressives endorsed by Our Revolution and running as Democrats also did well. Overall third party and independent representation is up 40% since 2014. This bodes well for the long game.

But, how progressives and alternative parties can win major office remains an open question.

In 2017, Wall Street’s strongest candidate, Phil Murphy, won the New Jersey Governors race with under 20% of the eligible vote. But it was “none of the above” that had the big numbers with at least 65% of the eligible voters staying home, making it the lowest turnout in history. The people of New Jersey have rejected the major parties without choosing an alternative.  The Green party was unable to win significant votes, totaling a tiny .5% of the vote cast by a brave and desperate 10,000.

The Class Analysis of Political Paralysis 

Beneath the liberal pretensions and snobbery that shape the narratives of New York City media, New Jersey and New York City have become increasingly conservative. Or more precisely, the remaining voters have become more conservative as a growing number abandon elections altogether.

In both substance and style Chris Christie foreshadowed Trump and he was elected twice. The second time was a landslide with the support of many Democratic voters and officials. New Jersey also voted for Clinton when they had the choice of Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary, as did NYC. Murphy’s victory depended on voters that were willing to overlook the central role of Goldman Sachs in creating the brutal inequality that helped to give us Trump. Nine New Jersey counties voted for Trump as did Staten Island, Orange, Putnam and Suffolk County — the most Jersey-like suburban counties in the New York metro area. Trump is New York City born and bred — a plain fact that the corporate media has all but ignored.  Imagine the scorn that would have been heaped on Iowa, Alabama, or West Virginia had Trump hailed from the deplorable hinterlands.

Is it fundamentally conservative to accept that fact that Phil Murphy can buy his way into the governor’s mansion? I can hear the appeals to so-called realism now and anyway “that is just the way it is.”  Well, that’s the way it was when Jon Corzine purchased the same post in 2005 before losing to Christie in 2009.  The Republican’s open class-war program and New Jersey’s own financial crisis will give Murphy an excuse to betray his promises and — Corzine redux — pave the way for an eventual Republican return to power.

While there are lots of good people within every demographic, New Jersey has two large related social groups that act as a support network for the two-party system.  The urban professional and managerial classes are the core constituency of corporate Democrats and the affluent white suburbanites are the Republican’s base. Beneath the appearance of extraordinary differences between them, they have a lot in common starting with a belief that the established order is the only possible world.

Both believe, in there own way, that the economy is based on merit. Both believe they have earned their social place and their political opinions through hard work or higher education. The liberals just toss in a dash of corporate identity politics to rally their troops and the conservatives stir their side by scapegoating immigrants and calling on  white identity. Both are galvanized by the fear of foreigners — be it Russians or Mexicans — and fall into line by blaming others for problems of our own making.

Many in both these buffer groups have careers with the major industries of the region: insurance companies and Big Pharma that oppose universal health care; Wall Street firms that produce extreme inequality; media conglomerates that control the newspapers and TV; and the large corporatized universities that serve business interests while impoverishing students and workers. These corporations exert enormous economic, political and cultural power, pushing New Jersey and NYC to the right. Voting records too often reflect that conservatism.

Many unions, environmental groups, student organizations, even some civil rights groups remain faithful to the well-worn but worn-out tactic of “access” to the powerful rather than challenging the powerful. They continue on the same path as if the same 50-year period of relying on access has not also been one of across-the-board decline in the fortunes of the multi-racial working class, students, women and the environment.

In 2016, a record 43% of union members showed their desperation and acceptance of  scapegoating by voting for Trump. In 2017, instead of embracing more aggressive campaigns to better educate workers or organize the unorganized, New Jersey’s union officials took the shortcut, circled the wagons and went for Wall Street.  Now we will see what they can make of their victory.

Will the two-party system retain the allegiance of urban professionals, managers and affluent suburbanites as the multiple crisis of environmental destruction, war, inequality and corporate control continue to deepen?  Its hard to say. Many individuals from both groups already do the right thing.  If their complicity with and support for the corporate order can be weakened, even a little, it could mean a lot.  The best way to force their hand however is by exerting pressure and leadership from below.

The Green Party is a Poor People’s Party

The primary problem with the 2017 Green party campaign for governor of New Jersey was the lack of resources. All other problems were secondary.

The Green Party could not have hoped for better candidates and staff.  Given the progressive, visionary, and hardworking leadership of Seth Kaper-Dale, Lisa Durden and campaign manager Geoff Herzog, I think it is safe to say that great candidates are a necessary but not sufficient part of a run at major office

The Green Party has the values, principle and platform to win. The Sanders campaign proved that. Sanders offered a less complete version of the Green Party values to a public more than ready to hear it despite media censorship and a rigged election.

The Greens have it all except a convincing path to power and the resources to make it real.

Too few volunteers and too little money limited the Green Party’s ability to really test the  strategy of reaching out to the young and the largely black and brown working-class communities.  The focus on the most exploited and oppressed was not simply the result of a grand analysis but was the product of face-to-face interactions with people from the outset. People of color and younger voters from all backgrounds were the most likely to take our fliers, talk with us a bit, look us in the eye and thank us for our efforts.

And, we should not forget that Kaper-Dale/Durden did get the endorsement of two local Our Revolution chapters and two civil rights organizations. An unknown but surely substantial number of our 10,000 votes were from immigrant and anti-racist activists, Berners and social-democrats and young people hoping for a better life.  The Jabari Brisport campaign in NYC also suggests a coalition with DSA and Our Revolution is well worth exploring.

The Green strategy was twofold: outreach to the unrepresented and discouraged working class and to other progressives.

The team was approximately 100 people with about a third who made major commitments of time, energy and money. A real run at power would have required a minimum of ten times that much: 1,000 volunteers with 300 ready to devote serious resources to the campaign.

This begs the question: How can progressive campaigns dramatically increase their resources?

It’s Deep Organizing or Deep Trouble 

One possible answer is to conduct electoral campaigns much more like social movements. If the Green Party is going to have successful runs at major office it will be to the degree that it becomes the electoral wing of the social movements.  Can we organize the unorganized?

First we must bring a culture of organizing into electoral politics and then fuse the Green Party with the kind of social movement organizing that continues outside of elections.

For electoral organizing, progressives might start two years out from the election with a series of listening sessions hosted by local leaders from various communities — urban, rural, small town and suburban. Based upon these listening sessions party activists could go on to help people form organizations suited to their needs or support existing ones. These might be community groups to advocate for their neighborhoods at city hall or service organizations to fill urgent community needs. Electoral reform groups, tenants unions, environmental groups, civil rights groups, Green Party chapters — a victorious campaign might be built on any number of organizations. But, there must be “structure” or what Martin Luther King called “units of power.”  Its about building power, not just speaking truth to power. Each community should develop leadership, strategy and units of power based on their own needs.

Given the dismal turnout it would also be wise to aim for an intermediate goal. While we failed to get 5% for Jill Stein, having a strategic goal helped people understand why their participation mattered. Progressives could launch our own “Fight for 15%” as a way of giving people a handle on the value of sending a powerful message still short of total victory. A 15% turnout in a major election would deliver real power forcing the two parties to move toward the people or face the consequences.

This takes time, a lot of time. The lesson of the Green Party New Jersey Gubernatorial race is that a two year campaign would be absolute minimum and only if it is also based on a foundation of ongoing community organizing. It’s a high bar and I wish it were easier but nothing short of a serious long-term organizing approach will prevail against the most deeply entrenched political machines in the world.

Only millions of people can make history. For progressives that means mobilizing the latent power of the occasion and discouraged voters of every class and color. Most people in the US no longer have faith in the system but no convincing alternative has yet to emerge.  And that alternative can only be created with the energy and power of millions dedicated to challenging power and disrupting existing forms of social control. Getting the people back into politics and the money out will take deep organizing and persistence in the face of defeat.

 

Posted in Corporate Power, electoral strategy, Green Party, Movement Culture, Organizing Method, Organizing Strategy | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Russian Hacking. Part I

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One of the America’s leading historians takes on Russia-Gate. Republished as a series from the original London Review of Books article with the permission of the author.

By Jackson Lears

American politics have rarely presented a more disheartening spectacle. The repellent and dangerous antics of Donald Trump are troubling enough, but so is the Democratic Party leadership’s failure to take in the significance of the 2016 election campaign. Bernie Sanders’s challenge to Hillary Clinton, combined with Trump’s triumph, revealed the breadth of popular anger at politics as usual – the blend of neoliberal domestic policy and interventionist foreign policy that constitutes consensus in Washington. Neoliberals celebrate market utility as the sole criterion of worth; interventionists exalt military adventure abroad as a means of fighting evil in order to secure global progress. Both agendas have proved calamitous for most Americans. Many registered their disaffection in 2016. Sanders is a social democrat and Trump a demagogic mountebank, but their campaigns underscored a widespread repudiation of the Washington consensus. For about a week after the election, pundits discussed the possibility of a more capacious Democratic strategy. It appeared that the party might learn something from Clinton’s defeat. Then everything changed.

A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

The centrepiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. It is hard to estimate popular belief in this new orthodoxy, but it does not seem to be merely a creed of Washington insiders. If you question the received narrative in casual conversations, you run the risk of provoking blank stares or overt hostility – even from old friends. This has all been baffling and troubling to me; there have been moments when pop-culture fantasies (body snatchers, Kool-Aid) have come to mind.

Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free ‘assessment’ produced last January by a small number of ‘hand-picked’ analysts – as James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, described them – from the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The claims of the last were made with only ‘moderate’ confidence. The label Intelligence Community Assessment creates a misleading impression of unanimity, given that only three of the 16 US intelligence agencies contributed to the report. And indeed the assessment itself contained this crucial admission: ‘Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.’ Yet the assessment has passed into the media imagination as if it were unassailable fact, allowing journalists to assume what has yet to be proved. In doing so they serve as mouthpieces for the intelligence agencies, or at least for those ‘hand-picked’ analysts.

It is not the first time the intelligence agencies have played this role. When I hear the Intelligence Community Assessment cited as a reliable source, I always recall the part played by the New York Times in legitimating CIA reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction, not to mention the long history of disinformation (a.k.a. ‘fake news’) as a tactic for advancing one administration or another’s political agenda.

Once again, the established press is legitimating pronouncements made by the Church Fathers of the national security state. Clapper is among the most vigorous of these. He perjured himself before Congress in 2013, when he denied that the NSA had ‘wittingly’ spied on Americans – a lie for which he has never been held to account. In May 2017, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the Russians were highly likely to have colluded with Trump’s campaign because they are ‘almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favour, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique’. The current orthodoxy exempts the Church Fathers from standards imposed on ordinary people, and condemns Russians – above all Putin – as uniquely, ‘almost genetically’ diabolical.

It’s hard for me to understand how the Democratic Party, which once felt scepticism towards the intelligence agencies, can now embrace the CIA and the FBI as sources of incontrovertible truth. One possible explanation is that Trump’s election has created a permanent emergency in the liberal imagination, based on the belief that the threat he poses is unique and unprecedented. It’s true that Trump’s menace is viscerally real. But the menace posed by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney was equally real. The damage done by Bush and Cheney – who ravaged the Middle East, legitimated torture and expanded unconstitutional executive power – was truly unprecedented, and probably permanent. Trump does pose an unprecedented threat to undocumented immigrants and Muslim travellers, whose protection is urgent and necessary. But on most issues he is a standard issue Republican. He is perfectly at home with Paul Ryan’s austerity agenda, which involves enormous transfers of wealth to the most privileged Americans. He is as committed as any other Republican to repealing Obama’s Affordable Care Act. During the campaign he posed as an apostate on free trade and an opponent of overseas military intervention, but now that he is in office his free trade views are shifting unpredictably and his foreign policy team is composed of generals with impeccable interventionist credentials.

Trump is committed to continuing his predecessors’ lavish funding of the already bloated Defence Department, and his Fortress America is a blustering, undisciplined version of Madeleine Albright’s ‘indispensable nation’. Both Trump and Albright assume that the United States should be able to do as it pleases in the international arena: Trump because it’s the greatest country in the world, Albright because it’s an exceptional force for global good. Nor is there anything unprecedented about Trump’s desire for détente with Russia, which until at least 2012 was the official position of the Democratic Party. What is unprecedented about Trump is his offensive style: contemptuous, bullying, inarticulate, and yet perfectly pitched to appeal to the anger and anxiety of his target audience. His excess has licensed overt racism and proud misogyny among some of his supporters. This is cause for denunciation, but I am less persuaded that it justifies the anti-Russian mania.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Whiteness Won’t Be Wished Away

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Ninth in the series: Organize the White Working Class!

White Workers Have Double Consciousness

White workers have at least a dual identity — we are both workers and white. The history of white working class community organizing as told by Amy Sonnie and James Tracy in Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times suggests that on-the-ground organizing requires us to engage white identity.  We will not succeed in “organizing our own” unless we reckon with the whole person as they actually live and think.

In most radical working class or marxist thinking, class is the primary factor cutting across all other positions such as race, gender, sexuality, or empire. In this view, class is not really an identity but a relation to production, that is to say an objective fact waiting to be discovered as science discovers nature. This approach imagines workers as economic beings that should react rationally to their class interest, if only explained or experienced in just the right way.

I do not dismiss the important work done by socialists or others in addressing race issues. Instead I hope to reflect on history and enrich organizing method and strategy for anyone aiming to confront the way that race and class are tangled and intertwined. Most socialist groups today do highlight the struggles of women, gays and lesbians, blacks and latinx people and embrace “intersectionality” but organized around class as the “primary contradiction.”

The liberal Democratic Party version does the opposite. Class more or less disappears from liberal conceptions of intersectionality and identity. If the Democrats were to put class into the mix, then it might lead to a kind of identity politics subversive of the two-party system itself. Once class is invisible, poor whites become objects of immense condescension; deplorable failures with no excuse other than their own stupidity and laziness. After all, we enjoyed all the privileges but are still losers. Right?

The history in Hillbilly Nationalists suggest a different approach. Class does cut deep sure enough, just not all the way to the bone. JOIN and Young Patriots and Rising Up Angry appeal to white workers not simply as workers but also as “dislocated hillbillies.” O4O and White Lightning tapped into the rich reservoir of European and immigrant labor history. Music, breaking bread, hanging out at the pool hall, street gangs, even the pop culture identities of “greasers” carried class consciousness for those who know how to translate one language into another.

Organizers face a long and winding road.  We travel back and forth between class and cultural identity. That road turns around race every bit as much as class. For white workers, class interest will lead the way to other things. But, race is so deeply a part how class works in the U.S. that it is impossible to separate the two.

People of color, gays and lesbians, sexually minorities, the young, soldiers and veterans, environmentalists — whatever their class background — may find ideas other than class more inspiring and other roads more compelling. And, there is lots of evidence to suggest that there is a transformative core to the ideals behind every social movement.  Each vantage point is as equally indispensable to the revolutionary project as is class consciousness.  We must use all the means — all the forms of consciousness — at our disposal.

There is nothing more important than finding what Peggy Terry called “our natural allies in the struggle for real freedom and real democracy.” We can begin by seeking unity without uniformity and honoring the path each person takes to political life.

Once we shift our vantage point, even partially, from abstract analysis to on-the-ground activism, culture and consciousness come to the foreground and cannot be denied. When we take up the revolutionary act of taking to strangers, we find pretty quickly that there is no uncomplicated point of engagement.  It’s rarely class interest pure and simple. All the deep contradictions of our culture and history govern the organizing encounter.

To dismiss white identity is to take our eyes off one of the main obstacles preventing working people from building the power we need to transform America into a democracy free of war and corporate power.

Waves of Revolution, Waves of Whiteness

In American history our revolutionary traditions have been kept in check and elite rule restored by wave after wave of white identity politics.

As Ted Allen taught, the white race and racism, invented in tandem, were the reaction to a peoples’ uprising that was both multiracial and cross-class. During Bacon’s rebellion, people of African and European descent — united by a shared experience of servitude and hard labor — joined forces and occupied Jamestown the capital of Virginia colony. With the help of free but landless people and a few small land owners, they rose-up against slavery. After the elites crushed the rebellion, the white race was invented and the solidarity on which revolution depends was crushed as well.

After 1776 — when the ideal of equality was at least put on the agenda of history — whiteness and slavery betrayed the promise.  We lost the chance again in the 19th Century when millions of Irish — fleeing their own horrible oppression — migrated to the new republic but wasted their fighting spirit.  Our ancestors sold their class struggles short by settling for whiteness as their meal ticket and assimilation into the “white mans country” they newly called home.[1]

After the revolutionary phase of the Civil War and Reconstruction destroyed slavery and challenged white supremacy, Jim Crow and Klan terror once again restored white identity as the permit that granted political participation. In the end even the mighty Populists succumbed to racial division.[2]

The transformative revolution of the mid-twentieth century destroyed Jim Crow’s legal segregation and challenged empire. For the first time in our history anti-racist ideas gained acceptance by millions of white people. But in the following decades a vast militarized penal system — operating under cover of crime fighting and colorblindness — targeted people of color, reinventing Jim Crow and slavery.[3]

Trump now openly invites us back to white indentity by scapegoating immigrants, blacks, latinos, natives and women to divert our attention from the real culprits: empire, corporate power and mass incarceration.

Whiteness Won’t Be Wished Away

We have a daunting history no doubt but we have had our revolutions and we shall have another. For now there is deep discontent among white workers. The corporations with their insatiable drive for power and profits, the empire with its multiple and endless wars, the two-party system with its frauds and fakers and a labor movement too often timid, too often hobbled by blind obedience to the machine, have led us to down the road to political and environmental disaster. It is time for white workers to rise up.

For organizing purposes — and that is the only purpose that really matters — class should be engaged as both a relation to production and a form of identity.  And engage we must because the Republicans, KKK, and fascists clearly understand that white identity exists.

Ignore white identity and we surrender that ground to the right.  Organize white identity around class issues and anti-racist action and we step closer to the day when whiteness itself will be overcome. All the wishes in the world will not make whiteness go away, it must be transformed through the hard work of raising consciousness and raising hell.

Enter the Young Patriots Organization, Redneck Revolt and Showing Up for Racial Justice. This is how its done. Go with them. Learn and teach others.

The job of the organizer is to help white people discover that our self-interest is undermined by our own racism. If you want working class rebellion, then work on racism. If you want racial justice, then work on class exploitation.

If we can transform ourselves we can change the world. Listen to the words of the great civil rights anthem sung by the great working class hero Bruce Springsteen:

The only thing we did was right
Was the day we started to fight
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on


 

1 Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White

2 W.E.B. Dubois, Black Reconstruction in America

3 Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Posted in American Culture, Movement Culture, Organizing Method, Organizing Strategy, Racism, revolutionary strategy, Strategy, White Privilege, White Supremacy | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How Corporate Power Killed Democracy

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Find this also at CounterPunch and Popuar Resistance

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American Culture, Corporate Power, Empire, History, Labor Movement, revolutionary strategy, Working Class | 14 Comments

David and Goliath. Greens Against the Machines.

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We Are Learning How To Battle Giants.

The giant banks and political machines that control the Democratic and Republican parties of New Jersey represent the reign of money, power and war.  We need a real political contest to restore the voice of everyday people.  In Seth Kaper-Dale and Lisa Durden, the Green Party candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor, we have our champions.  But unlike the Bible story of David and Goliath, they cannot do it alone. This is not single combat.  This is a political revolution: the people vs. corporate power.

Both Democrats and Republicans are deeply entrenched top-down machines interested only in their own power.   But, their obsession with control and money is why both parties repeat the mistakes of the past.  The Republicans nominated Christies’s next-in-command and the Democrats allowed a very wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive to purchase the nomination.  If you are happy with more of the same then vote for the major parties.

Where is the lesser of two evils?

The lesser of two evils argument does not fly. One machine is barely less evil than the other and all too often they act as one instead of two.

The relationship between Democratic machine bosses and Christie was so cozy that in the 2013 gubernatorial race the Democratic party failed to support their own worthy candidate, Barbara Buono. Sixty elected Democrats, the most powerful Democratic bosses and a third of registered Democrats gave Christe and Guadagno a landslide victory.  The Democratic bosses wanted Christie because it was a way to maintain and enlarge their power.  Now they support Murphy for the same reason.  Chris Christie went on to help Trump and Goldman Sachs — they help Trump too.

Where is the lesser of two evils? Nowhere.

Does this sound like the a healthy system with real political competition or bands of cunning machines jostling for position, sharing power, calling the shots and looking out for themselves? No matter who the two corporate parties run for governor the best they can do is run deep cover for a fundamentally corrupt political system. Lesser of two evil voting is surrender to the system.

But we cannot battle giants without clear vision, steady aim, and the best stones and slings.  We have vision precisely because the Green Party accepts no corporate donations. None. We know how to get money out of politics because we already have.  This allows us to think outside of the box, free from the control of Wall Street and the war machine that blinds us to the fact that another world is possible.

Our Vision: The Last are First!

Who is last? We are. The 99% are. “We the people” are last. And so is the Earth we depend on.

The last thing in the crafty calculations of Wall Street and the two-party system are the poor and the working-class – white, black, and brown.  The last thing is the environment — and it’s really becoming obvious.  The children and the old, they are last. The sick, homeless, the immigrant and the prisoner comes last. Women are last, Blacks are last, Latino are last, LGBTQ folks are last too. And everyone that ever dreamed of freedom, democracy and peace:  we are last but we will never forget the promise.

The last gets lip service and crumbs from the table. Our job is to make the last first. But how? Here’s how: with policies and programs that are both bold and practical.

Care, Compassion and Cutting Taxes

Universal health care for the people of New Jersey is not on the agenda of the Democrats or Republicans. A single payer system is the key to solving our tax problems, funding pensions and improving health. Currently we spent $80 billion a year on health-related expenses in NJ. Of that $80 Billion nearly $26 Billion (33 cents of each dollar) goes to the overhead and profit of health insurance companies. Medicare by comparison, has an overhead near 2%. If we could move to NJ Medicare-for-all, and bring our overhead down to even 8%, imagine what we could do with an extra 19.6 billion dollars moving through our state. [1]

Make Clean Water a Sacred Right

The health of our children is at risk due to unsafe drinking water. Since the Department of Environmental Protection posted data showing there is an urgent toxic lead problem in Newark’s and Milltown’s drinking water. Since then more research has shown that the problem is far more widespread. The state of NJ should declare a public health emergency immediately and distribute filters. If we do not have clean water we do not have anything.

Legalize it!

Legalization of marijuana is an idea whose time has come. But what the two parties miss is the opportunity to turn legal weed into a development program for the people of our state — not just a profit making bonanza for big corporations. A majority of people oppose marijuana prohibition. Big Pharma should not control this natural resource. Seth Kaper-Dale proposes that individuals may grow for personal use and worker cooperatives should run farms and dispensaries for the public market. Legalization of marijuana in New Jersey must be an opportunity for working people to have decent jobs. Past prison convictions will be reviewed and prisoners released if serving state sentences related to activities rendered legal under the new law.  Releasing non-violent marijuana offenders will save taxpayers millions every year.

Public Banking for the Common Good

NJ invests it revenues into hedge funds managed by Wall Street banks and in return we pay excessive fees. To add insult to injury, these hedge funds then turn around and loan our money out all over the world, often times to fuel wars or build oil pipelines rather than investing it our future.  The mission for a NJ state bank will include providing low- interest loans to counties and municipalities for infrastructure projects, buying out mortgages of homes in contested processes of foreclosure, re-negotiating fair mortgages and providing low interest loans to NJ university students to make higher education affordable. We would partner with local community-based banks and credit unions to provide low cost loans to small businesses, rather than leaving them at the mercy of banking profiteers.

A Revolution of Values

Many years ago Martin Luther King called the world to a “Revolution of Values.”

“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values….When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

King’s words ring true and we are still trying to catch up to his vision.

For far too long we have been ruled by fear and fatalism instead of guided by our values of freedom, democracy and community.  When the “last are first” we will all be free.

Your future is our future.

Seth Kaper-Dale, Lisa Durden and the Green Party are ready to challenge the corrupt machines and stand up for all of us. We are on a tight budget just like you. Donate today and give all you can give.  Volunteer your precious time and vote your precious vote.

Together we can take everything and everyone that has been last — and for the first time in our lives — make them first.

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[1] See the Seth Kaper-Dale for Governor Website.  I have relied heavily on the website for a description of the issues.

Posted in electoral strategy, Green Party, Movement Culture, Strategy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goldman Sachs vs. Goldman Sachs?

VampireSquid

Murphy vs. Trump?

In the race for New Jersey Governor Democrat Phil Murphy is way up in the polls against a weak Republican challenger.  With money and machines both aligned in Murphy’s favor New Jersey faces yet another non-competitive election.

To spice up a bland campaign, Murphy has positioned himself to run — not against Republican Kim Guadagno or Green Seth Kaper-Dale — but against Donald Trump.  In repeated statements on his website and in TV advertisements Murphy claims he will stand up against Trump. This is doubtful, unless you believe that Goldman Sachs is ready to take on Goldman Sachs.  Murphy will likely “take on Trump” the same way Christie was going to “shake things up” in Trenton and Trump was going to “drain the swamp.”  Which is to say not at all.

Goldman Sachs vs. the People

Goldman Sachs is the most politically active financial institution in the US and has  earned the nickname “Government Sachs.” Whether it’s a Democratic or Republican administration, Goldman continues to wield power and win influence despite being the protagonists of the on-going 2008 economic crisis.

The stage was set for disaster when Goldman pumped up the sub-prime mortgage market which they knew was highly risky.  They hawked so-called “derivatives” — investments made up of these bad debts — to insurance companies and pension firms, while betting against these same clients who had bought the tainted products Goldman promoted.

When the financial giants fell, global shock waves rolled out of New York City destroying an estimated $19 trillion of wealth in the US alone. Millions of homes, pensions and jobs were lost. The worst crash since the Great Depression devastated the working class with African American households losing half of their wealth.

Former Goldman executive and Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulsen made sure Wall Street was insulated from risk by arranging massive bailouts from the US taxpayer to the very banks that had instigated the crisis.

Only in 2016 did Goldman Sachs quietly pay out $5 billion for wrongdoing. Informed observers claim that the penalty is itself another sham and that the actual fine is going to be far less.   To this day not a single Goldman Sachs executive has been indicted for crimes, let alone gone to jail. Goldman made billions every step of the way.

Phil “My Pockets” Murphy

Murphy’s vast personal fortune comes from the astronomical pay package he was  entitled to as a Goldman executive. Murphy made his political connections over the course of his 23 years at Goldman Sachs.

As reported in The Nation:

Murphy’s Goldman connections were instrumental in his transition from Wall Street to politics. “He is a close confidant of former treasury secretary and Wall Street veteran Robert Rubin…” reported the German weekly Der Spiegel….“It was through his connection to Rubin that Murphy began working as a Democratic Party fundraiser.” Murphy also had ties to Michael Froman, Rubin’s chief of staff at the Treasury. According to WikiLeaks, in 2008, it was Froman who recommended to John Podesta, then overseeing Obama’s transition, that Murphy get a top job in the administration.

 

In 1999, Murphy joined the firm’s management committee, an elite group that included Hank Paulson, later George W. Bush’s Treasury secretary, and Gary Cohn, now President Trump’s top economic adviser. Two years later, he became co-head of the division overseeing the assets of pensions, foundations, hedge funds, and other institutions…which totaled $373 billion by 2003. And as a prime broker for investors, his division fed hedge-fund clients enormous lines of credit, fueling Wall Street’s speculative bubble.

 

Murphy returned to the New York headquarters in 1999, just as the firm—and Wall Street—were undergoing a dramatic transformation. That was the year Glass-Steagall was repealed and a ban was placed on the regulation of derivatives. Both moves were orchestrated by Robert Rubin, the Clinton administration’s Treasury secretary and another Goldman Sachs alum…

While Murphy bankrolled the hedge funds with billions for their gambles, his confidant Robert Rubin turned Wall Street into a casino. Murphy’s colleagues on Goldman’s elite management team were Henry Paulson and Gary Cohn.  Paulson orchestrated the largest Wall Street bailout in history and Cohn fueled the sub-prime mortgage market. Today, Cohn is calling the shots for Donald Trump.

This is how “Government by Goldman” rolls.

Now Murphy claims he will take on Trump. This is hard to believe when Trump –more than any other president — is himself surrounded by former Goldman Sachs executives.

Trump’s administration has had six major players with deep ties to Goldman Sachs: Gary Cohn at the helm; Steve Bannon, now disgraced but still champion of the far right; Steve Mnuchin is in as Treasury Secretary; Dina Powell, economic advisor with ties to important Democrats and Republicans; Jay Clayton, chair of Securities and Exchange Commission. And, briefly, Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director.

The most powerful is Gary Cohn, who is Giving Goldman Sachs everything it ever wanted from the Trump Administration.

The Trump economic agenda…is largely the Goldman agenda….If Cohn stays, it will be to pursue an agenda of aggressive financial deregulation and massive corporate tax cuts — he seeks to slash rates by 57 percent — that would dramatically increase profits for large financial players like Goldman. It is an agenda as radical in its scope and impact as Bannon’s was.

The Trump economic agenda is the Goldman Sachs agenda — created and pitched by Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin.

Money Makes the Machine Go Round

Murphy has made no effort to get money out of politics.  The reality is just the opposite: Money Won.

Instead of following the example of Bernie Sanders or Seth-Kaper Dale in refusing corporate donations, Murphy’s campaign would have been a big nothing without his Wall Street fortune. Murphy’s investments made $7.3 million in 2015 alone. He relied on personal wealth to win the nomination.

Big money was decisive.  Murphy paved the way by donating at least $1.15 million to state and local Democratic organizations since 2001. As early as October 2016, Murphy had put up $10 million for his own campaign.  “He’s raised another $613,000, with 30 percent of that coming from people once associated with Goldman Sachs.”  By the time the primary was over Murphy had spent “$21.7 million — or 64 percent of the $33.7 million spent by all the contenders put together. He loaned his campaign $16.3 million.

Once in the general election Murphy shifted gears and went for the public matching funds that gives him tax dollars while limiting his spending and personal loans to his own campaign. But, the program sets no limits on the spending of outside groups.

Chief among those outside groups is the Democratic Governors Association.  A September 25, 2017 fundraiser has revealed both the influence of money and the cozy relationship between Murphy and the old-line Democratic machine.  According to Observer.com:

The Cherry Hill event is a collaboration between Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy and South Jersey power broker George Norcross. Tickets were $2,500 per person, but the invitation noted that the DGA can raise unlimited amounts from U.S. donors.   Murphy and Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1) shared top billing…and another Norcross brother, lobbyist Phil Norcross, was one of the hosts.

Murphy and the Norcross trio. It’s both money and the machine but its also more than that.

Although Murphy has never held elected office he did “serve” New Jersey.

In 2005, then-Gov. Richard Codey appointed Murphy chair of a task force on New Jersey’s pension crisis. One of his recommendations was to sell off public assets, which Corzine proposed but failed to get passed. He also suggested raising the retirement age and base pensions on a longer salary window, both of which were later put into effect. [emphasis added]

And who would put the recommendations into effect? Chris Christie, that’s who. And, of course, his Democratic enablers, Steve Sweeny and Sheila Oliver.

So Murphy’s script is Wall Street’s script: privatization of public assets and cutbacks to workers. The report did not recommend stopping tax breaks to corporations, reforming regressive tax structures or identify universal health care as the best solution to our budget problems.

Instead Murphy recommended “sacrifice.” It’s the same language used by elites to win concessions from workers following the 2008 crash. Did Goldman Sachs sacrifice? In the third quarter of 2007, when every other big bank showed huge losses, Goldman Sachs reported a $2.9 billion profit.  Former Goldman Sachs executives have held positions of immense power in the Treasury, Federal Reserve and as economic advisors to Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump.

“Shared sacrifice” is for suckers and adverse interest is the sucker-punch.

Adverse Interest and the Lesser of Two Evils

Adverse interest” is when someone claims to “have your back” while they are stabbing you in the back.

Goldman Sachs claimed it was acting in the best interests of its clients. It clearly did not. They made billions betting against their own clients.  The Democrats and Republicans claim to represent the American people. They clearly do not. Their real interest is the billionaires and big corporations, and no one else.

American democracy has been ruined because we have accepted a no-win situation. Lesser-of- two-evils voting is the terms of our surrender. Which former Goldman Sachs executive will deliver prosperity?  Which faction of the secret police will protect us: the FBI, the CIA or the NSA? Should we vote for the vulgar racists that call the fascists forward or the systematic racists hiding behind Wall Street, endless war and mass incarceration. Which of the two bankrupt parties will lead? The lack of real democracy leaves us with a servant’s choice: do we want a kindly master or a cruel master?  A truly free people would have no masters at all.

We must stop signaling to the elites that it’s okay if they do not represent us — that it’s okay if they just hurt us a little less than the “other guy.”  Lesser-of-two-evils voting gives the two-party system no incentive to represent us, just like bailing out Wall Street gives them no incentive to restrain their reckless greed.

Instead we must only vote for parties and candidates that actually represent our interests and values. That is, after all, what representative democracy is supposed to be about.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Corporate Power, electoral strategy, History | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments