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Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story

24 Feb

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Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story

The Cold War displaced the legacies of the New Deal. Time and Trump are now displacing Cold War legacies. Where capitalism was questioned and challenged in the 1930s and into the 1940s, doing that became taboo after 1948. Yet in the wake of the 2008 crash, critical thought about capitalism resumed. In particular one argument is gaining traction: capitalism is not the means to realize economic equality and democracy, it is rather the great obstacle to their realization.

The New Deal, forced on the FDR regime from below by a coalition of unionists (CIO) and the political left (two socialist parties and one communist party), reversed the traditional direction (to greater inequality) of income and wealth distributions in the US. They shifted toward greater equality. US history thus illustrates Thomas Piketty’s argument in his 2014 Capital in the 21st Century about long-term deepening of inequality that can be punctuated by interruptions. Indeed, the New Deal reversal was such an interruption and featured just the sorts of taxation of corporations and the rich that Piketty favors now to correct/reverse capitalist inequalities.

Yet, after World War Two the resumption of capitalist accumulation undid the New Deal and has since returned modern global capitalism to new depths of inequality. What Piketty proposes now again as a remedy proved then to be merely temporary. The reversal was itself reversed. After 1945, corporations and the rich devoted their profits and their high incomes/wealth to buy even further control of the two major political parties. That extra control enabled them to undo the New Deal and to keep it undone.

US history thus exemplifies more than capitalism’s tendency to deepening inequality and the use of taxation to reverse that inequality. It also teaches us how and why that reversal was unable to be more than temporary. That lesson implies skepticism about whether tax-based – or indeed, any – reversals can be more than temporary given capitalism’s proven success in undoing them. Such skepticism hardens when parallel evidence emerges from other capitalist countries’ likewise merely temporary reversals of basic tendencies to deepening inequalities.

The conclusion to be drawn from the US story is not that efforts to reverse deepening inequality are foredoomed to failure. It is to face the fact that mere reforms such as tax law changes are inadequate to the task. To make reforms stick – to overcome temporariness across so many histories – requires going further to basic system change. Because capitalism tends toward deepening inequality and can defeat reversals by keeping them temporary, it is capitalism that must be overcome to solve its inherent inequality problem.

 

 

Capitalism presents a parallel problem in its structural contradiction to democracy. The “democracy” label that so many modern nations use to describe themselves has always been a misnomer. The political sphere was indeed, at least formally, a place where governmental decisions were made by persons accountable eventually to a one-person-one-vote election. In that precise sense, those required to live with a decision exercised the democratic right to participate in making that decision via the accountability of governmental officials.

However, the economic sphere was never organized in a parallel democratic manner. The leaders of enterprises – the owners, shareholders, and the directors they chose – made all the basic enterprise decisions. These included deciding what, how and where to produce and what to do with the net revenues (or surplus or profits) of the enterprise. The leaders were not at all accountable to the people – all the other employees – who had to live with the results of those basic enterprise decisions. The latter were excluded from participating in key economic decisions affecting and shaping their lives. In short, “democracy” has been applied to societies whose political/residential sphere was at least formally democratic but whose economic sphere was decidedly not.

The ideological rigidity of most brands of anti-stat-ism across US history served nicely to keep the focus forever on state/public versus individual/private in thinking and acting about social change. Democracy was redefined in practical terms as the liberty of the individual/private from the intrusion of the state/public. The democratic quality of the individual/private enterprise – the central structure of the economy – was exempted from analysis or even from view in terms of its structural incompatibility with democracy. Legalistic equations of capitalist corporations with individual person-hood also helped to distract attention away from the undemocratic structure of the corporation. Likewise, the US government’s commitment to a “democratic foreign policy” fostered the reproduction elsewhere of the same undemocratic economic structure that characterized the US.

 

 

 

The right wing of US politics has long understood and responded to social movements for equality and democracy as threats to capitalism. Its leaders built their coalitions by working to mobilize public opinion against those movements as threats to the “American way of life.” It built its ideology on the notion that democracy meant a state kept from intruding on the lives and activities of persons and enterprises rendered as equivalently “individuals.” Equality to them meant equality of opportunity, not outcomes: and then only if opportunity was strictly disconnected from the wealth, income and social position each individual was born into.

The left wing of US politics has always tried hard to sustain the notion that capitalism was not only compatible with egalitarianism and democracy. It would also be strengthened, not threatened, by moving capitalist society closer to equality and democracy. In practical terms it contested against the right wing by insisting that the mass of people – the workers in capitalist enterprises – would become disaffected from and disloyal to capitalism if it indulged its anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic tendencies. Capitalism, it argued and argues, will be strengthened not threatened by less inequality and more democracy.

Both left and right – and their expressions in the leaderships of the Republican and Democratic Parties – live in fear, conscious or otherwise, that the mass of people, the working class, will become disaffected from capitalism. “Populist” is the currently popular epithet that expresses this fear.  Both parties contest for the support of the leaders of capitalism – major shareholders and the corporate boards of directors they select – by offering their alternative strategies for avoiding, controlling, or safely channeling mass disaffection with capitalism.

 

 

The GOP offers a mix of (1) repression for egalitarian and democratic (i.e., populist) social movements, (2) support and subsidy for capitalists, and (3) symbolic gestures and policies pandering to certain sectors of public opinion (fundamentalist religion, patriotism, nationalism-anti-immigration, and so on). The Democratic Party offers a mix of limited, gradualist support for movements toward less inequality and more political democracy. It offers itself as the means to bring marginalized groups into full participation in capitalism, thereby keeping them from populism. Each party leadership deplores populists and tries to associate them with the other party. Democrats especially see populism in Trump; Republicans and quite a few centrist Democrats see it especially in Bernie Sanders. Both parties rarely refer to “capitalism” per se. Both proceed as if no critique of or alternative to capitalism exists or makes any sense.

Not only the Republican Party, but also the Democratic Party support, serve and reinforce the capitalism that stands as a basic obstacle to economic equality and democracy. Because those goals are never achieved they have long served as objectives to which both Parties offer lip service. The absurd contradiction of their shared position is now giving way to the recognition that the necessity for system change is the lesson of US history. If, in place of capitalist enterprise structures, a transition occurred to worker cooperatives with democratic organizations and procedures – likely to distribute net revenues far less unequally among enterprise participants than capitalist structures did – it would have removed a key obstacle to a broader social movement toward equality and democracy.

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Richard Wolff is the author of Capitalism Hits the Fan and Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens. He is founder of Democracy at Work.

 

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Source: Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story

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A Timeline of 1968: The Year That Shattered America;

9 Jan

                               January 15

The nation is still reckoning with the changes that came in that fateful year

Movements that had been building along the primary fault lines of the 1960s—the Vietnam War, the Cold War, civil rights, human rights, youth culture—exploded with force in 1968. The aftershocks registered both in America and abroad for decades afterward.
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At age 87, Jeannette Rankin, who as a congresswoman from Montana voted against U.S. participation in both world wars, leads some 5,000 women on a march in Washington, D.C. to protest the Vietnam War. The event highlights generational, political and class differences among the marchers but gives the growing women’s movement a motto: “Sisterhood Is Powerful.”

January 20

Game of the Century! Top-ranked UCLA, led by the future Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, faces second-ranked University of Houston, led by Elvin Hayes, at the Astrodome. Houston snaps UCLA’s 47-game winning streak, 71-69, in the first NCAA basketball game to be nationally televised in prime time—the granddaddy of March Madness.

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January 22

“Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” debuts as an NBC-TV series and, over six seasons, sets a standard for sketch comedy unmatched until NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” launches in 1975.

January 23

North Korea seizes the USS Pueblo, claiming the surveillance ship strayed into its waters. One U.S. crewman is killed and 82 others are imprisoned; an 11-month standoff with the United States follows.

January 30

 

January 30

 

North Vietnamese communists launch the Tet Offensive. The assault contradicts the Johnson administration’s claims that the communist forces are weak and the U.S.-backed south is winning the war.

 

 

Memphis sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker are crushed to death by a malfunctioning garbage truck. Their deaths lead to a strike that becomes a civil rights movement.

February 7

After a battle for the Vietnamese village of Ben Tre, an American officer tells Associated Press reporter Peter Arnett, “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.”

The quotation, printed in newspapers nationwide, becomes a catchphrase for opponents of the Vietnam War.

February 8

At the South Carolina State campus, police open fire on students protesting segregation at Orangeburg’s only bowling alley. Three protesters die and 27 more are wounded. Nine officers are tried and acquitted of charges related to the use of force. A protest coordinator is convicted of inciting to riot, serves seven months in prison—and is pardoned 25 years later.

February 27

March 1-8

 

 

February 27

(Matthew Twombly)

Walter Cronkite, in a CBS-TV special on his recent tour of Vietnam, says the U.S. war effort is “mired in stalemate” and amplifies public skepticism of the war.

 

February 29

The report of the Kerner Commission, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to examine the causes of race riots in American cities in previous years, declares the nation is…“moving toward two societies, one black, one white–seperate and unequal.”

March 1-8

March 1-8

Some 15,000 Latino high school students in Los Angeles walk out of classes to press their demand for a better education.

March 5

The government of Czechoslovakia abolishes censorship, underscoring the expansion of freedom during the “Prague Spring” and angering its Communist overlords in the Soviet Union.

March 6

Some 500 New York University students picket a university-sponsored recruiting event for the Dow Chemical Company, the principal manufacturer of napalm.

March 12

Nixon wins 78 percent of the vote in New Hampshire’s GOP primary. Eugene McCarthy, Minnesota’s antiwar senator, takes a shocking 42 percent of the Democratic vote.

March 13

Atlantic Richfield and Humble Oil (now ExxonMobil)  announce the discovery of an oil field beneath Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the largest oil and natural-gas discovery in North American history.

March 16

New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy enters the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, saying McCarthy’s showing in New Hampshire “has proven how deep are the present divisions within our party and country.” It “is now unmistakably clear that we can change these disastrous, divisive policies only by changing the men who make them.”

 

March 19

 

March 19

(Getty Images)

Hundreds of students take over the administration building at Howard University in Washington, D.C., seeking a greater voice in student discipline and the curriculum.

March 31

As war pressures mount, President Lyndon B. Johnson—who in 1964 won 61 percent of the popular vote, to Barry Goldwater’s 39—announces he is not running for re-election.

April 3

Some 1,000 men return their draft cards to government offices all over the country.

April 4

 

April 4

(Getty Images)

Martin Luther King Jr., in Memphis for the sanitation workers’ strike, is fatally shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Gunman James Earl Ray, a white supremacist, flees the country. Over the next week, riots in more than 100 cities nationwide leave 39 people dead, more than 2,600 injured and 21,000 arrested.

April 6

After a 90-minute shootout between Black Panthers and police in Oakland, California, police shoot Bobby Hutton, 17, as he tries to surrender.

April 11

Johnson signs the Fair Housing Act, banning discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. It is the last of the landmark civil rights laws he signed.

April 23

Students take over five buildings on Columbia University’s campus and briefly hold a dean hostage, calling for the university to cut its ties to military research. Before dawn on April 30 administrators call in the police, who respond with about 1,000 officers. More than 700 people are arrested, and 132 students, four faculty and 12 officers are injured.

April 29

Hair opens on Broadway and runs for more than 1,700 performances, introducing mainstream theatergoers to sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll and draft resistance.

 

May 6

 

May 6

(AP)

A riot breaks out between police and more than 5,000 university students in Paris. Within a week workers throughout France are staging sympathy strikes, threatening the economy.

May 10

The United States and North Vietnam begin peace talks in Paris.

 

May 17

 

May 17

(Getty Images )

Nine antiwar activists enter a Selective Service office in Catonsville, Maryland, remove nearly 400 files and burn them in the parking lot with homemade napalm. The example of the Catonsville Nine (later convicted of destruction of government property and sentenced to jail terms between 24 and 42 months) spurs some 300 similar raids on draft boards over the next four years.

 

The Supreme Court rules 7-1 that burning a draft card is not an act of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

 

May 27

 

June 3

 

June 3

(Matthew Twombly)

Andy Warhol is shot and critically wounded in his New York City loft by Valerie Solanas, apparently for losing a copy of a play she’d written. She pleads guilty to assault and spends three years in prison.

 

June 4

 

June 4

(Getty Images)

Robert F. Kennedy, gaining momentum in his presidential campaign, wins the California primary—and is assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Gunman Sirhan Sirhan, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian descent, is captured at the scene. Now 73, he is serving life in prison.

 

June 8

James Earl Ray is arrested in London. Extradited to the United States, he pleads guilty to murdering King but later recants, saying he was an unwitting pawn in a conspiracy. He dies in prison of liver failure in 1998, age 70.

 

June 8

(Matthew Twombly)

 

June 19

 

June 19

(Getty Images)

The efforts of the Poor People’s Campaign climaxes in the Solidarity Day Rally for Jobs, Peace, and Freedom in Washington, D.C. Fifty thousand people join the 3,000 participants living at Resurrection City on the National Mall to rally around the demands of the Poor People’s Campaign on Solidarity Day.

July 1

 

July 1

(Getty Images)

Johnson signs the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which remains the world’s primary means of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear states and reducing nuclear weapons in the world.

July 18

Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce incorporate their microprocessor manufacturing firm. After rejecting the name “Moore Noyce” as too close to “more noise,” they eventually settle on Intel.

July 20

The first Special Olympics opens at Chicago’s Soldier Field, with more than a thousand athletes with intellectual disabilities competing in 200 events.

July 23

 

July 23

(The Cleveland Press Collection)

In Cleveland, the Glenville Shootout, between police and black militants, leaves three dead on each side, plus one bystander. Riots rock the city for five days. Mayor Carl Stokes, seven months into his term as the first black official to lead a major U.S. city, later writes, “That night was to haunt and color every aspect of my administration.”

 

July 25

 

July 25

(Matthew Twombly)

Pope Paul VI issues Humanae Vitae, reaffirming the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial contraception and rejecting recommendations made under his predecessor, Pope John XXIII.

 

August 5–8

The Republican National Convention formally nominates Nixon for president.

August 20

The Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia, halting the Prague Spring.

August 21

 

Pvt. First Class James Anderson Jr., who died covering an enemy grenade to protect fellow Marines during a firefight in Vietnam, becomes the first black recipient of the Medal of Honor.

 

August 21

 

August 26

“Hey Jude,” the first Beatles single issued on their Apple label, is released in the U.S. At more than seven minutes, it becomes the longest song to hit Number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

August 28

 

August 28

 

At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, police and Illinois National Guardsmen go on a rampage, clubbing and tear-gassing hundreds of antiwar demonstrators, news reporters and bystanders, with much of the violence broadcast on national TV. The next day, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, perceived as the heir of Johnson’s war policies, wins the Democratic nomination, mostly through delegates controlled by party bosses.

September 7

 

September 7

(AP)

Feminists protest the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

 

September 9

 

September 9

(Matthew Twombly)

Arthur Ashe wins the U.S. Open, becoming the first black man to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament.

 

September 16

 

September 16

(Wiki Commons)

Nixon, seeking to dispel his sourpuss image, appears on Laugh-In just long enough to proclaim, “Sock it to me” on-camera. It is a rare intersection of politics and entertainment—Humphrey declines a similar invitation.

September 24

 

CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes” debuts. It is now the longest continuously running prime-time program in history.

 

September 24

 

September 30

 

September 30

(Getty Images)

Boeing rolls out the 747 Jumbo Jet, the biggest passenger plane the world has seen to date—231 feet long, wings spanning 196 feet and seats for 490.

October 2

 

October 2

 

In Mexico City, police and troops fire on a student-led protest, killing or wounding thousands. The precise number is still unknown.

October 11-22

The Apollo 7 mission, which spends more time in space than all the Soviet flights to that time combined, makes the first live TV broadcast from up there.

October 16

 

October 16

(AP)

At the Olympic Games in Mexico City, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos receive the gold and bronze medals in the 200-meter dash, then raise gloved fists during the national anthem to protest violence toward and poverty among African-Americans. The next day, the International Olympic Committee strips their medals and sends them home.

October 31

Citing progress in the Paris peace talks, Johnson orders a halt to “all air, naval and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam,” effective the next day.

November 5

 

November 5

(Matthew Twombly)

Nixon wins the presidency, beating Humphrey by just 0.7 percent of the popular vote. Segregationist candidate George Wallace carries five Southern states.

 

November 5

 

November 5

(Matthew Twombly)

Shirley Chisholm of New York becomes the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

November 9

 

November 9

(AP)

Yale University, after 267 years, decides to admit female undergraduates, beginning  in 1969.

November 12

The Supreme Court unanimously rules that an Arkansas law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in public schools violates the First Amendment.

Novem​ber 20

Consolidation Coal’s No. 9 mine in Farmington, West Virginia, explodes, killing 78 miners and becoming a catalyst for new mine-safety laws.

November 26

O.J. Simpson of USC wins the Heisman Trophy. (In 1999, it is auctioned for $255,500, which goes toward the $33.5 million civil judgment against him in the killing of his ex-wife and a friend of hers.)

 

December 3

 

December 3

(Matthew Twombly)

Elvis Presley begins a comeback from years of torpor and schlock with a one-hour special on NBC-TV.

 

December 9

Douglas C. Engelbart’s 90-minute demonstration at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco includes the world’s first mouse and word processor.

 

December 9

(Matthew Twombly)

 

December 21-27

 

December 21-27

(NASA)

Apollo 8 becomes the first manned spacecraft to orbit the Moon and return safely to Earth. During the mission the “Earthrise” photograph is taken.

December 23

 

December 23

(Getty Images)

North Korea releases the Pueblo crew but keeps the ship. It is now an exhibit in the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang.

 

 

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Noam Chomsky: Neoliberalism Is Destroying Our Democracy 

24 Oct

 

How elites on both sides of the political spectrum have undermined our social, political, and environmental commons.

 

 

In 1947 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists inaugurated its famous Doomsday Clock. You know, how close the minute hand was to midnight? And it started seven minutes to midnight. By 1953 it had moved to two minutes to midnight. That was the year when the United States and Soviet Union exploded hydrogen bombs. But it turns out we now understand that at the end of the Second World War the world also entered into a new geological epoch. It’s called the Anthropocene, the epoch in which humans have a severe, in fact maybe disastrous impact on the environment. It moved again in 2015, again in 2016. Immediately after the Trump election late January this year, the clock was moved again to two and a half minutes to midnight, the closest it’s been since ’53.

So there’s the two existential threats that we’ve created—which might in the case of nuclear war maybe wipe us out; in the case of environmental catastrophe, create a severe impact—and then some.

A third thing happened. Beginning around the ’70s, human intelligence dedicated itself to eliminating, or at least weakening, the main barrier against these threats. It’s called neoliberalism. There was a transition at that time from the period of what some people call “regimented capitalism,” the ’50s and ’60s, the great growth period, egalitarian growth, a lot of advances in social justice and so on—

CL: Social democracy…

NC: Social democracy, yeah. That’s sometimes called “the golden age of modern capitalism.” That changed in the ’70s with the onset of the neoliberal era that we’ve been living in since. And if you ask yourself what this era is, its crucial principle is undermining mechanisms of social solidarity and mutual support and popular engagement in determining policy.

It’s not called that. What it’s called is “freedom,” but “freedom” means a subordination to the decisions of concentrated, unaccountable, private power. That’s what it means. The institutions of governance—or other kinds of association that could allow people to participate in decision making—those are systematically weakened. Margaret Thatcher said it rather nicely in her aphorism about “there is no society, only individuals.”

She was actually, unconsciously no doubt, paraphrasing Marx, who in his condemnation of the repression in France said, “The repression is turning society into a sack of potatoes, just individuals, an amorphous mass can’t act together.” That was a condemnation. For Thatcher, it’s an ideal—and that’s neoliberalism. We destroy or at least undermine the governing mechanisms by which people at least in principle can participate to the extent that society’s democratic. So weaken them, undermine unions, other forms of association, leave a sack of potatoes and meanwhile transfer decisions to unaccountable private power all in the rhetoric of freedom.

Well, what does that do? The one barrier to the threat of destruction is an engaged public, an informed, engaged public acting together to develop means to confront the threat and respond to it. That’s been systematically weakened, consciously. I mean, back to the 1970s we’ve probably talked about this. There was a lot of elite discussion across the spectrum about the danger of too much democracy and the need to have what was called more “moderation” in democracy, for people to become more passive and apathetic and not to disturb things too much, and that’s what the neoliberal programs do. So put it all together and what do you have? A perfect storm.

CL: What everybody notices is all the headline things, including Brexit and Donald Trump and Hindu nationalism and nationalism everywhere and Le Pen all kicking in more or less together and suggesting some real world phenomenon.

NC: it’s very clear, and it was predictable. You didn’t know exactly when, but when you impose socioeconomic policies that lead to stagnation or decline for the majority of the population, undermine democracy, remove decision-making out of popular hands, you’re going to get anger, discontent, fear take all kinds of forms. And that’s the phenomenon that’s misleadingly called “populism.”

CL: I don’t know what you think of Pankaj Mishra, but I enjoy his book Age of Anger, and he begins with an anonymous letter to a newspaper from somebody who says, “We should admit that we are not only horrified but baffled. Nothing since the triumph of Vandals in Rome and North Africa has seemed so suddenly incomprehensible and difficult to reverse.”

NC: Well, that’s the fault of the information system, because it’s very comprehensible and very obvious and very simple. Take, say the United States, which actually suffered less from these policies than many other countries. Take the year 2007, a crucial year right before the crash.

 

 

What was the wondrous economy that was then being praised? It was one in which the wages, the real wages of American workers, were actually lower than they were in 1979 when the neoliberal period began. That’s historically unprecedented except for trauma or war or something like that. Here is a long period in which real wages had literally declined, while there was some wealth created but in very few pockets. It was also a period in which new institutions developed, financial institutions. You go back to the ’50s and ’60s, a so-called Golden Age, banks were connected to the real economy. That was their function. There were also no crashes because there were New Deal regulations.

Starting in the early ’70s there was a sharp change. First of all, financial institutions exploded in scale. By 2007 they actually had 40 percent of corporate profits. Furthermore, they weren’t connected to the real economy anymore.

In Europe the way democracy is undermined is very direct. Decisions are placed in the hands of an unelected troika: the European Commission, which is unelected; the IMF, of course unelected; and the European Central Bank. They make the decisions. So people are very angry, they’re losing control of their lives. The economic policies are mostly harming them, and the result is anger, disillusion, and so on.

 

 

We just saw it two weeks ago in the last French election. The two candidates were both outside the establishment. Centrist political parties have collapsed. We saw it in the American election last November. There were two candidates who mobilized the base: one of them a billionaire hated by the establishment, the Republican candidate who won the nomination—but notice that once he’s in power it’s the old establishment that’s running things. You can rail against Goldman Sachs on the campaign trail, but you make sure that they run the economy once you’re in.

CL: So, the question is, at a moment when people are almost ready… when they’re ready to act and almost ready to recognize that this game is not working, this social system, do we have the endowment as a species to act on it, to move into that zone of puzzlement and then action?

NC: I think the fate of the species depends on it because, remember, it’s not just inequality, stagnation. It’s terminal disaster. We have constructed a perfect storm. That should be the screaming headlines every day. Since the Second World War, we have created two means of destruction. Since the neoliberal era, we have dismantled the way of handling them. That’s our pincers. That’s what we face, and if that problem isn’t solved, we’re done with.

CL: I want to go back Pankaj Mishra and the Age of Anger for a moment—

NC: It’s not the Age of Anger. It’s the Age of Resentment against socioeconomic policies which have harmed the majority of the population for a generation and have consciously and in principle undermined democratic participation. Why shouldn’t there be anger?

CL: Pankaj Mishra calls it—it’s a Nietzschean word—“ressentiment,” meaning this kind of explosive rage. But he says, “It’s the defining feature of a world where the modern promise of equality collides with massive disparities of power, education, status and—

NC: Which was designed that way, which was designed that way. Go back to the 1970s. Across the spectrum, elite spectrum, there was deep concern about the activism of the ’60s. It’s called the “time of troubles.” It civilized the country, which is dangerous. What happened is that large parts of the population—which had been passive, apathetic, obedient—tried to enter the political arena in one or another way to press their interests and concerns. They’re called “special interests.” That means minorities, young people, old people, farmers, workers, women. In other words, the population. The population are special interests, and their task is to just watch quietly. And that was explicit.

Two documents came out right in the mid-’70s, which are quite important. They came from opposite ends of the political spectrum, both influential, and both reached the same conclusions. One of them, at the left end, was by the Trilateral Commission—liberal internationalists, three major industrial countries, basically the Carter administration, that’s where they come from. That is the more interesting one [The Crisis of Democracy, a Trilateral Commission report]. The American rapporteur Samuel Huntington of Harvard, he looked back with nostalgia to the days when, as he put it, Truman was able to run the country with the cooperation of a few Wall Street lawyers and executives. Then everything was fine. Democracy was perfect.

But in the ’60s they all agreed it became problematic because the special interests started trying to get into the act, and that causes too much pressure and the state can’t handle that.

CL: I remember that book well.

NC: We have to have more moderation in democracy.

CL: Not only that, he turned Al Smith’s line around. Al Smith said, “The cure for democracy is more democracy.” He said, “No, the cure for this democracy is less democracy.”

NC: It wasn’t him. It was the liberal establishment. He was speaking for them. This is a consensus view of the liberal internationalists and the three industrial democracies. They—in their consensus—they concluded that a major problem is what they called, their words, “the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young.” The schools, the universities, churches, they’re not doing their job. They’re not indoctrinating the young properly. The young have to be returned to passivity and obedience, and then democracy will be fine. That’s the left end.

Now what do you have at the right end? A very influential document, the Powell Memorandum, came out at the same time. Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer, later Supreme Court justice, he produced a confidential memorandum for the US Chamber of Commerce, which has been extremely influential. It more or less set off the modern so-called “conservative movement.” The rhetoric is kind of crazy. We don’t go through it, but the basic picture is that this rampaging left has taken over everything. We have to use the resources that we have to beat back this rampaging New Left which is undermining freedom and democracy.

Connected with this was something else. As a result of the activism of the ’60s and the militancy of labor, there was a falling rate of profit. That’s not acceptable. So we have to reverse the falling rate of profit, we have to undermine democratic participation, what comes? Neoliberalism, which has exactly those effects.

 

We will never be Free while the Rich Rule Over Us!! The “Rigged System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does – beungovernable .com 

Listen to the full conversation with Noam Chomsky on Radio Open Source.

Source: Noam Chomsky: Neoliberalism Is Destroying Our Democracy | The Nation

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