"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Illusion Of Participation’

“Simulation Hits Reality”: The Postmodern Left And The Success Of Neoliberalism

In Uncategorized on January 11, 2016 at 8:14 pm
The Postmodern Left and the success of neoliberalism

The international Left promotes its own image rather than engaging in the bitter reality of resistance against neoliberalism. It does not need to believe in postmodernism because it is postmodernism.

Oldspeak: “The Postmodern Left is the simulation of a Left, with all of the chants, banners and other paraphernalia of a militant Left with few to none of the acts of resistance. It simulates struggle, basks in the glorious imagery, then wonders why it never achieves victory, which is impossible unless there is an actual battle. Most of the time these battles will end in defeat, so the Postmodern Left accepts the happy illusion over the sad reality. Of course, working class people cannot ignore the bitterness of their own lived reality, but the Postmodern Left generally does not inhabit this world so it is not a problem for them.

On the one hand, Postmodern Leftism has completely failed to challenge neoliberal austerity measures. On the other hand, we can see that full-time staff of the Postmodern Left has done a spectacular job of staving off austerity once we realize that the only jobs they are committed to protecting are their own…

The Postmodern Left… merely needs to confuse such activism as a challenge to the system without identifying its severe limitations. And why would anybody do that? Because this sort of activism is so exciting! And everybody else is doing it. And being the sole figure in the room who says there is something wrong here is a terribly lonely place to be, especially when you are attempting to build a base or recruit people or just mobilize people around anything at all in the hopes that something will be a basis for future struggle. But instead of struggle we get the performance of struggle.

In short, if social movements do not directly hurt the people in power–and not just mildly embarrass them–or empower the exploited and oppressed–and not just temporarily mobilize them–then it may not be a worthwhile strategy. It may simply feel like one…. In other words, if it feels good, don’t do it.”  -Scott Jay

“Great piece. Goes a long way toward explaining the utter failure of the postmodern left to affect substantive change on a variety of fronts, most especially climate change. “New Environmentalists” and “Climate Activists” performing resistance and struggle with farcical marches (eg: The People’s Climate March), photo-op worthy but not much else “actions” (Kayactivists, Keystone XL protests) and toothless, but profit/click generating “movements”, conferences and forums (e.g. The Left Forum and IPCC) directed by greenwashed and freeze-dried NGOs and their ilk under the sway and on the payrolls (via foundations and myriad other .001 percenters money laundering organizations) of the very sociopathic oligarchical collectivists who’ve done the most to put us in this intractable predicament.  Simulated radical and leftist movements encouraging people with no real inclination to change what needs to be changed to engage in activist tourism.  Concerned more with appearances than substance and creating feel good experiences that you can bring the whole family to. Giving the feeling of dissent/protest/activism/opposition without any actual threat to the ecocidal power structure that supports and controls them. This is by design. Genuine threats to Inverted Totalitarian Kleptocracy are quickly & brutally repressed and disappeared. Not invited to moderate debates between corporate controlled political parties, or given gargantuan budgets to “build movements” to “challenge the fossil fuel industry”, or “change everything”.  Anything and everything is being done to convince people to keep giving their life energy to the ecocidal heat engine that is Industrial civilization. “Ignorance Is Strength.” -OSJ

Written By Scott Jay @ Libcom:

The rise of neoliberalism across the globe for decades, and its continued resilience since the 2007-2008 financial crisis in particular, forces us to ask why there has not been a more successful resistance against it.

We might start with the changing structure of the working class, especially in the West, and that would be worthwhile, but it is not as though neoliberalism has abolished working class resistance entirely. It is not as though there have not been multiple general strikes in Greece, for example. Additionally, the United States just recently saw a series of urban rebellions against police killing Black people, with buildings set on fire and police cars destroyed in revolt against the conditions imposed upon them by the state. Many of the participants have since been convicted of arson and other crimes and are now serving out years-long prison terms.

The problem is not that militancy is not possible or even at times imminent. Working class people in the US have shown great courage against police terrorism, and in Greece refused to accept yet another round of austerity even with European capital holding their economy hostage.

The alternate question to ask, then, is why has the Left specifically failed to resist neoliberalism?

We might answer this question in dozens of ways, one answer for each Left that exists. But the failure of SYRIZA in Greece to resist yet another wave of austerity measures–in fact to embrace austerity–sharpens and clarifies the problem, posing uncomfortable truths.

That is, perhaps the Left hasn’t failed to resist neoliberalism. Perhaps it has not even tried.

Wasn’t SYRIZA a decade-long project to build up an alliance of radicals in response to the collapse of social democracy into neoliberalism? It certainly seemed so at the time, probably to its participants most of all. And yet the entire project collapsed so immediately and so spectacularly, going from the cutting edge of the international Left to the symbol of all that is wrong with it, in less than a week.

The defining moment of SYRIZA and of the international Left of the current generation occurred in the early morning hours of July 11, 2015. Many histories will forget this detail as just one of many parliamentary sessions, yet this was by far the most significant. In this moment, just days after the spectacular “Oxi” vote by the Greek people rejecting austerity, their parliamentary representatives chose to embrace it. With 149 seats in parliament, only two members of the radical coalition of the Left dedicated to ending austerity found themselves voting “Oxi” along with the people they claimed to represent. It was a stunning moment that no radical should forget for the rest of their life, unless they simply want to repeat these exciting failures over and over indefinitely.

Certainly, the votes improved later in the month, but the collapse of July 11 should not be so easily forgotten. For a brief moment we saw the crux–or one of the cruxes–of the problem of the international Left.

In short, these members of SYRIZA were more committed to the image of SYRIZA as a united coalition of the radical Left than they were in actually opposing austerity when the opportunity to do so was right in front of them. They recoiled from reality and its consequences and embraced the image of what they had built instead. This is the Postmodern Left in practice.

In the face of unrelenting neoliberalism, the international Left has embraced postmodernism, not in theory but in practice, putting style over substance and feel good moments and flashy leaders over the brute reality of resisting capitalist exploitation. The Postmodern Left does not reject metanarratives or objective reality in theory. In fact it embraces the metanarrative of its own centrality to altering the course of history, but when it finds itself at the center of historical development, then history is treated like an ethereal, formless blob that nobody can make any sense of. It simply happens, and no options are possibly available that can shape it. Once the Left is placed in the driver seat, there is no alternative other than to passively participate in the machinations of the system. Anything else is just too difficult

The Postmodern Left avoids building actual power among the poor and the oppressed, instead focusing on self-promotional spectacles which feel like struggle and power but are entirely empty.

The Postmodern Left talks about “class struggle unionism” then carries out pension reform in the name of a balancing the budget and then insist that they never supported any such thing because words are meaningless and have no relationship to objective reality.

The Postmodern Left is detached from reality because it makes its own reality.

The Postmodern Left does not believe in postmodernism. The Postmodern Left is postmodernism.

The material roots of Postmodern Leftism

The Postmodern Left is not the result of the declining relevance of objective reality. On the contrary, it has a solid material base from which it arises, and to which it is shackled, specifically in the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) form. Under neoliberalism, the destruction of social welfare programs and other sources of stability for working class people have been replaced by services granted by NGOs, funded by foundations and governmental grants as well as directly from corporations. This organizational form has extended beyond the service sector and into the Left itself, where protest movement organizations can build up an infrastructure of full-time staff members through many of these same grants. The problem for NGOs, then, is to challenge the status quo without challenging the elite sources which fund the operation. This has proven to be an impossible problem to solve, and instead NGOs have served to reproduce neoliberalism rather than challenge it.

A few examples will illustrate this.

The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung is a global network of organizations based in Berlin and New York that celebrates the life of Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish revolutionary best known for her role in the German socialist movement as a critic of its support of electoral reformism and imperialism. She was later killed by her reformist comrades when they came to power. Meanwhile, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung has taken her name while supporting the the United Nations and hailing the electoral victory of Alexis Tsipras after he embraced austerity. Her name has become little more than a tool for garnering funding.

DeRay McKesson is an activist who rose to prominence during the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, especially in Ferguson, MIssouri. While he is known as an activist, few people can point to what he has accomplished beyond amassing an enormous Twitter following and gaining the accolades of the corporate media. McKesson was also a school administrator associated with Teach For America, a pro-corporate school “reform” organization which weakens teachers’ unions by supplying schools with inexperienced, low-cost and temporary teachers fresh out of college. More recently, McKesson quit his job to become a “full-time activist” working with the Democratic and Republican parties, Twitter and other corporate sponsors to host presidential debates. In short, DeRay McKesson is not really a left-wing militant, but at times he sure looks like one. The problem is, there are so many McKesson’s on the activist scene, typically much less tied to corporate interests than he is, that it can be difficult to discern the difference between a “real” militant and “fake” one.

A group of non-profit organizations recently held a housing and tenants rights conference in Oakland, California. This is a city where two-bedroom apartments regularly rent for $2,000 or more and the Black and Latino working class is rapidly being displaced. One of the sponsoring organizations was recently bargaining with the City of Oakland over a $320,000 contract to oversee Oakland’s Day Laborer Program, which supplies low wage immigrant labor to various employers. Meanwhile, one of the speakers at the conference plenary session declared the enemy to be no less than the capitalist system itself. Recently deposed mayor Jean Quan, who was sitting in the audience and maintains a close alliance with many of the organizers, did not bat an eye at such a statement, and neither will anybody in Oakland City Hall, because this is all just window dressing to create the illusion of radicalism. Nobody who takes $320,000 from the city is going to threaten the political alliances that helped them garner it, no matter how loudly they proclaim their opposition to capitalism.

The Left exists in the general milieu of NGO activism created by such organizations. That is, not all radicals have to succumb to the NGO form, they merely need to adapt to the activism led by NGOs, which is the appearance of militancy, in order to build up a base of support and win reforms, without the substance of militancy, in order to avoid embarrassing important funding sources and allies. In short, the image of something that seems fundamentally revolutionary–Rosa Luxemburg, and the urban rebellions against police terror–can be used by people whose aims are totally compatible with neoliberalism.

The Postmodern Left does not need to take money from the City of Oakland, or even have a tax-free status. It merely needs to confuse such activism as a challenge to the system without identifying its severe limitations. And why would anybody do that? Because this sort of activism is so exciting! And everybody else is doing it. And being the sole figure in the room who says there is something wrong here is a terribly lonely place to be, especially when you are attempting to build a base or recruit people or just mobilize people around anything at all in the hopes that something will be a basis for future struggle. But instead of struggle we get the performance of struggle.

Anybody who attended one of the larger meetings of the British Socialist Workers Party in the past will be aware of the performative aspects of this organization. Having failed to build a workers party during its decades of existence, it must create a performance as though it is a workers’ party, otherwise workers won’t join it, capped off with chanting “The workers united will never be defeated!” Who they are chanting to is unclear. There are no bosses nearby, so it is more likely directed to the workers in attendance, or perhaps just to the party faithful to remind themselves of their commitment to the working class. It is not as though they are not committed–they certainly believe they are–rather the problem is that their commitment is a performance. Rather than build a workers party, they simulate one in the hopes that the workers will join it.

The Postmodern Left is the simulation of a Left, with all of the chants, banners and other paraphernalia of a militant Left with few to none of the acts of resistance. It simulates struggle, basks in the glorious imagery, then wonders why it never achieves victory, which is impossible unless there is an actual battle. Most of the time these battles will end in defeat, so the Postmodern Left accepts the happy illusion over the sad reality. Of course, working class people cannot ignore the bitterness of their own lived reality, but the Postmodern Left generally does not inhabit this world so it is not a problem for them.

On the one hand, Postmodern Leftism has completely failed to challenge neoliberal austerity measures. On the other hand, we can see that full-time staff of the Postmodern Left has done a spectacular job of staving off austerity once we realize that the only jobs they are committed to protecting are their own.

Postmodern social movements

Arun Gupta discussed the postmodern method behind many social movements, describing the People’s Climate March in 2014, a stunning victory of style over substance. He noted that there were “no demands, no targets,and no enemy. Organizers admitted encouraging bankers to march was like saying Blackwater mercenaries should join an antiwar protest. There is no unity other than money.”

How could a march of hundreds of thousands be made so powerless? Because it was run by NGOs committed most of all to continuing their own stream of revenue. All that was necessary was the image of a mass march, the feeling that we are doing something. That this was entirely inadequate to the problem at hand–saving the planet from destruction by capitalism–is not so much a problem if your real goal is to get donations, sell books and set up speaking engagements. In other words, this is not struggle but merely marketing in the form of struggle. It is merely a simulation.

Or, as Gupta described the logic:

Branding. That’s how the climate crisis is going to be solved. We are in an era or postmodern social movements. The image (not ideology) comes first and shapes the reality. The P.R. and marketing determines the tactics, the messaging, the organizing, and the strategy.

One of the most blatant current examples of illusory struggle is the Fight for Fifteen campaign, particularly at the national level, which has led thousands of low-wage workers in strikes against fast food employers. Or have they? One participant describes her experience: “In Miami, I’ve attended Fight for $15 demonstrations in which the vast majority of participants were paid activists, employees of NGOs, CBOs (Community Based Organizations), and union staff seeking potential members.” In fact, many people who have attended these actions will look around and ask, who is really on strike here? There are certainly people who risk their jobs to participate, but in many cases the hundreds of people who attend one of these “strikes” are simply supporters of the idea of low-wage workers striking. The striking workers are far and few between, with a small handful designated as media spokespeople and none others identified at all.

Jane Macalevy is a former staffer with the Service Employee’s International Union (SEIU), the union which runs the Fight for Fifteen in the background, but quietly in order to maintain the image of a worker-led campaign. She has described how illusory this campaign really is: “The problem is that there isn’t any depth to the Fight for 15 campaign. We call it the Berlin Rosen campaign: one hot-shot media firm that’s gotten something like $50 to 70 million from SEIU to paint, through social media, the illusion of a huge movement.”

Berlin Rosen is a public relations firm employed not only by SEIU but also by the current Mayor of New York City and was involved in the bankruptcy of Detroit, the belly of the beast of neoliberalism. They were also employed by the leadership of the United Auto Workers to convince Chrysler employees to accept a contract after these same employees rejected an earlier one that did not go far enough in cancelling the two-tier wage system. In this case, postmodern activism and neoliberalism are one and the same. Berlin Rosen proves, if nothing else, that there is good money to be made in postmodern social movements.

SEIU has since endorsed Hillary Clinton, who does not support a $15 per hour minimum wage. Meanwhile, the most recent Fight for $15 strike ended with appeals to get out the vote in 2016–we can imagine for whom–and has shifted its campaign slogan to “Come Get My Vote.” That is, the movement is being openly positioned to being co-opted by the Democratic Party. This is not usually how a national workers’ rebellion plays out, but might be how a simulated one could be directed.

Richard Seymour described the empty, feel good activism, in which the good feelings of people finally able to express their opposition to the horrors of neoliberalism overcomes the question of what can we do to actually stop these things. Why ask these difficult questions when it feels so good just to finally be marching?

It was, indeed, a joyous occasion [Seymour writes of a march against austerity]. The people thronged into streets barely big enough to contain them, and chanted and sang in notes of cheerful defiance. Those who claim that such events are ‘boring’ are wrong in point of fact, and give the impression of political thrill-seeking. We all had a lovely time. And this was precisely the problem.

A minimum condition for sentience on the left is an awareness that this protest is itself evidence of at least five years of catastrophic failure. There is something powerfully and stunningly incongruous in the subjectivity of a left marching as if in recreation, when we know we are also mourning for the casualties and the dead. It suggests that we don’t really mean business. It suggests that, rather than wanting to shake the walls and pillars to the earth, we want to grab some ice cream and go home.

What Seymour describes is the problem posed by February 15, 2003, the high point of postmodern activism, when millions around the globe marched against the war in Iraq in possibly the largest day of demonstrations in world history. Millions of people flooded the streets and for many it felt like the most empowering moment of their lives, and yet how little power we actually had. Of course, millions of people have an enormous amount of power, but not when they just stand there on the street, even if they are carrying a banner or wearing a political t-shirt. The Postmodern Left can still be heard, from time to time, saying how we nearly stopped the war in Iraq. Nothing could be further from reality, but reality does not bother the Postmodern Left.

“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living,” wrote Marx in the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. In this case, it’s more like a daydream, a fantasy of struggle with all the imagery of resistance and none of its substance. If this is all we can do, and no more, then we are utterly lost.

Some people have been grappling with the problem posed by February 15 for the last decade. Others are perfectly content to repeat this same process over and over again, as it allows them to continue selling books, booking speaking engagements, recruiting people to their organizations and funding their non-profit organizations. These machinations can continue indefinitely and are entirely compatible with the capitalist system. One can make can make quite a satisfying career and lifestyle as a revolutionary of sorts, so long as it is all within the confines of the Postmodern Left.

SYRIZA’s Postmodern Neoliberalism

If this is the age of illusions, then the rise of SYRIZA in Greece must be the penultimate illusion. Sadly, but predictably, the SYRIZA bubble has been popped and we have all been forced back down to reality. Since SYRIZA’s acceptance of austerity, former SYRIZA Central Committee member Stathis Kouvelakis has written a number of autopsies of what was once the SYRIZA dream. In one especially revealing statement, he notes how so many moves by SYRIZA were so contrary to what any radical Leftist would accept.

For example, he notes the acceptance of an early agreement on February 20, 2015, to extend the bailout, well before the July capitulation:

Its first and most immediate consequence was to paralyze the mobilization and destroy the optimism and militancy that prevailed in the first weeks after the January 25 electoral victory. Of course, this downgrading of popular mobilization is not something that started on January 25 or February 20, as a consequence of a particular governmental tactic. It is something that was preexistent in Syriza’s strategy.

This is the exact opposite of what was supposed to happen, but the facade had to be maintained. Kouvelakis then notes the rapid decline of internal democracy in SYRIZA in the last few years.

What we saw being constructed after June 2012 — step by step but systematically — was a party form increasingly leader-centered, centralized, and detached from the actions and the will of the membership. The process went entirely out of control when Syriza went into government.

None of this should be unexpected. These are the well known consequences of electoral strategies, which Marxists have been aware of for a century, since the capitulation of European Social Democracy to World War One and repeated many times since. Yet, eager Marxists the world over looked to SYRIZA as something different, but it was merely the illusion of something different. In the end, it was exactly the same sort of radical electoral strategies of the past, but the appeal that these plucky Marxist intellectuals and activists could take on the European powers was far too seductive. In SYRIZA, the international Left saw itself, and could not imagine that it, too, might collapse in much the same way under similar circumstances.

The problem is that these strategies appeal to a certain brand of Leftist occupying a certain social position–specifically, intellectuals and NGO leaders–including those who have spent their careers explaining the limitations of electoralism. The appeal of electoral glory is simply too great for these people to be withstood against a rock-solid critique of reformism.

After July 11, no serious Leftists can ever, for the rest of their lives, look a prominent left-wing figure in the eye and take their promises at face value. We just cannot take ourselves seriously if we continue to pretend that lofty promises from self-important, self-selected leaders can be trusted. And yet, this is precisely what the Postmodern Left will continue to do, assuring everybody that no, this next project is not an other SYRIZA, even though they almost certainly said the some sort of thing about SYRIZA itself.

Greece has had dozens of general strikes over the last few years and some even predicted that the working class might rise up in response to SYRIZA’s capitulation. There was even a one-day general strike of public sector workers carried out the day that the first round of austerity was approved by the Greek parliament on July 15. Surprisingly, this general strike seemed to have no impact whatsoever on parliament. “The fight is now on,” heralded one breathless commentary announcing the impending strike. “It is not off: it’s the period of shadow boxing that is over.” The strike came and went, but the mere shadow boxing continued.

We are left to wonder whether or not working people can challenge their own governments if even a general strike cannot alter the course of history. There is, of course, an alternate explanation, which is that at least some of these may have been mere simulations of general strikes, turned on and then turned off by the union leadership with little threat of disrupting much beyond halting a days’ work, after which order was fully restored, if it was ever even threatened in the first place.

If we cannot tell the difference between simulation and reality, we risk descending from a healthy pessimism over the current state of affairs into believing that working class struggles can have no impact simply because it deceptively appears that they don’t.

Simulation hits reality

SYRIZA played out like a simulation of Marxist theory. The collapse of social democracy required a new electoral force to take its place. In stepped SYRIZA, an electoral alliance that assured everyone that they were actually going to take on the financial powers in Europe. Marxists around the world who have documented in detail how social democracy has flailed and decayed for decades suddenly believed that yes, this electoral reform project would succeed, and no, there was no reason why it was any different than the failures of the past. Without a “fake” Marxist Left–the Stalinists, reformists and other revisionists of the past–the “real” Marxist Left stepped in to take its place, heralding the dawn of a new age in Europe, for a few exciting months anyway.

It can seem impossible at times to tell the difference between the real and the fake, the simulation and reality, but ultimately we do not live in a postmodern world. We simply live in a world where so many on the Left act as though it is. Nonetheless, all of these simulations do eventually confront the brute material forces of reality, and suddenly the complete inadequacy of the simulated Left–not just in SYRIZA but across the board–is laid bare for all to see. Eventually, a Ferguson or a Baltimore revolts and the irrelevance of the Postmodern Left to the project of organizing working class resistance is made completely clear.

If there is any way out of this rut, it is to reject the spectacle and the simulation in favor of substantive material resistance. The feel good moment of triumph with a hollow center, the exuberant meetings and chants that people remember for the rest of their lives, just might be an obstacle toward building something with actual power. The image of revolt, and even talk of socialism and–hold onto your seats!–“political revolution” coming from the Bernie Sanders campaign for President will go nowhere. It is the courageous act of resistance and the rein of terror that it must face in response from the neoliberal state that transforms a class into a force for rebellion.

In short, if social movements do not directly hurt the people in power–and not just mildly embarrass them–or empower the exploited and oppressed–and not just temporarily mobilize them–then it may not be a worthwhile strategy. It may simply feel like one.

In other words, if it feels good, don’t do it.

We may struggle to see past the illusions from our current vantage point. No doubt, we will find ourselves in the trenches of class war, only to look outside and realize that the entire spectacle has been constructed by a charlatan. This will continue to happen, so long as neoliberal capitalism provides career opportunities for charlatans, as it no doubt will.

There is a great need, then, to breakdown the facade, to no longer allow the false images of resistance that surreptitiously enable neoliberalism and distract from the fundamental project of resistance. The SYRIZAs of the world will insist that this is counterproductive to their project. And that is exactly the point.

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Polishing The Brass On The Titanic: Will Paris Climate Talks Be Too Little, Too Late?

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2015 at 10:01 pm
2015.11.23.Jamail.main

A recent study revealed 41 cases in which “abrupt changes” in the permafrost, sea ice, snow cover, ocean and terrestrial biosphere could trigger natural disasters. (Photo: Studying of climatic and weather changes in Antarctica via Shutterstock)

Oldspeak:Well in advance of the Paris talks, the UN announced that the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere has locked in another 2.7 degrees Celsius warming at a minimum, even if countries move forward with the pledges they make to cut emissions. Hence, even the 2 degree Celsius goal is already unattainable. However, similar to the way in which national elections in the United States continue to maintain the illusion that this country is a democracy, and “We the People” truly have legitimate representation in Washington, DC, illusions must be maintained at the COP21.

Thus, the faux goal of 2 degrees Celsius continues to be discussed. Meanwhile, the planet burns.” -Dahr Jamail

“Short answer to the title question; Yes. Far too late and little With beyond the faux goal of 2c warming inevitable no matter what we do and non-binding contributions that in all probability will not even be implemented for years to come; why continue to pretend that COP 21 will produce anything meaningful? Kabuki Theater, nothing more. Dahr Jamail’s latest dispatch from the global climate calamity is more of the same. Shit is bad, and it’s getting worse, faster every day, with no end in sight.” -OSJ

Written By Dahr Jamail @ Truthout:

“But it is here at the head of the river, under the snow peaks and the waterfall that thunders down out of the magic lake, that I shall pass from one world to another.”—Peter Matthiessen

In the book The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiessen’s journey deep into the Nepali Himalaya to spot a snow leopard merely scratches the surface of his inner journey. Nature and our experiences in and with it are, I believe, the clearest mirror of ourselves we could ever hope for.

I told my father I’m rereading this book, and he wrote me back: “Love that book. It was a time in that part of the world when things were still pristine before tourism brought the kinds of people that should never have polluted that sacred environment.”

Agreeing with him, I shared what I’d always believed, or at least had always hoped to believe: that there are still those pristine places to be found – it is just that one must travel further, much further, into the “frontiers” to find them.

I’d love to believe this possible, but I know it no longer is. Not anymore, given what the industrial growth society has done, and is doing, to the planet. There is no place left on earth or in the atmosphere or deep within the oceans where the toxic fingerprint of industry has not left its indelible mark.

The faux goal of 2 degrees Celsius continues to be discussed. Meanwhile, the planet burns.

During the first week of December, delegations from nearly 200 countries will convene in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) climate conference. It has been billed, like the last several, as the most important climate meeting ever. The goal, like that of past COPs, is to have governments commit to taking steps to cut carbon dioxide emissions in order to limit planetary warming to within 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial temperature baseline.

Yet this is a politically agreed-upon limit. It is not based on science.

Renowned climate scientist James Hansen and multiple other scientists have already shown that a planetary temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius above preindustrial baseline temperatures is enough to cause runaway climate feedback loops, extreme weather events and a disastrous sea level rise.

Furthermore, the UK meteorological office has shown that this year’s global temperature average has already surpassed that 1 degree Celsius level.

Well in advance of the Paris talks, the UN announced that the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere has locked in another 2.7 degrees Celsius warming at a minimum, even if countries move forward with the pledges they make to cut emissions. Hence, even the 2 degree Celsius goal is already unattainable. However, similar to the way in which national elections in the United States continue to maintain the illusion that this country is a democracy, and “We the People” truly have legitimate representation in Washington, DC, illusions must be maintained at the COP21.

Thus, the faux goal of 2 degrees Celsius continues to be discussed. Meanwhile, the planet burns.

Japan’s meteorological office announced that this past September was, by far, the warmest September on record, and records now show that October has also become the hottest recorded October. As a whole, 2015 remains easily on course to become the hottest year ever recorded.

As if to place an exclamation point on all of this information, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels hit a new milestone in excess of 400 parts per million in early 2015 – a 45 percent increase over preindustrial levels.

Extreme weather events propelled by anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) abound in this month’s dispatch.

Hurricane Patricia tore into the West Coast of Mexico, becoming the strongest hurricane ever recorded, with sustained winds of 200 miles per hour.

Yemen was struck by its first hurricane in recorded history, dumping what is normally a decade’s worth of rain in a matter of merely two days. As if that is not enough to show how intensely ACD is ramping up global weather events, less than a week later the second hurricane in Yemen’s recorded history made landfall, bringing fresh hurricane-force winds, torrential rains, flash flooding and death.

ACD is, quite literally, extinguishing oceanic life across the planet.

An ACD-driven El Niño brought October storms that wreaked havoc across southern California. Record storms in the high desert and mountains of the southern part of that state brought massive mudflows across major highways, which trapped hundreds of vehicles in mud that was 20 feet deep in places, stranding motorists overnight. The rainfall from the storm, which in one area fell at a rate of 1.81 inches in just 30 minutes, was described by the National Weather Service as a “1,000-year event.”

Meanwhile, a recent report shows that marine food chains are at risk of collapse due to ACD impacts, overfishing and pollution. ACD is literally erasing species from coral reefs, the open ocean, Arctic and Antarctic waters, and the tropics.

Moreover, another recent report reveals that bleaching and disease are combining to destroy the largest coral reef in the continental United States, a 150-mile reef found off the coast of Florida. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it is the third-largest barrier reef ecosystem on the planet.

A critical study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, titled “Global alteration of ocean ecosystem functioning due to increasing human CO2 emissions,” warns, “The future simplification of our oceans has profound consequences for our current way of life, particularly for coastal populations and those that rely on oceans for food and trade.”

It is yet another scientific report that shows how ACD is, quite literally, extinguishing oceanic life across the planet.

On that note, a paper recently published in The Anthropocene Review reminds us of a sobering fact that other peer-reviewed studies have confirmed: We are indeed living in the sixth mass extinction event, which we ourselves have created.

And when we look across the planet for this month’s dispatch, all of the signs appear to indicate as much.

Earth

The signs of ACD across this sector of the planet continue to be glaring.

In the South Pacific region, a full one-third of the total population of Papua New Guinea is suffering from a drought crisis that is the worst in the last century. Nearly 2.5 million people in the country must deal with a critical lack of food and water, and the drought is expected to persist at least into March 2016.

In southeast Alaska, Native communities are struggling to continue harvesting traditional foods due to ACD’s impacts in that region. From herring to blueberries to shellfish, many of the region’s original plants and animals are disappearing.

Drought continues to plague vast expanses of the planet as ACD progresses.

In nearby Canada, as well as across Alaska, much of the northern United States, Scandinavia and Eurasia, the massive boreal forests, which comprise a full one-third of the planet’s forest cover, are undergoing a startling decline due to ACD. This is evidenced by permafrost that is thawing and burning up in wildfires, insect outbreaks assaulting the forests, and climate zones that are moving 10 times faster than the forests are able to migrate. These forests are also plagued by logging and oil and gas drilling.

A recent study suggests that in the United States, we need to develop new models aimed at the conservation and preservation of our national parks. The traditional approach of setting land aside to protect its biodiversity is no longer sufficient, since ACD impacts like drought, increasing insect infestations and wildfires do not respect park boundaries.

On a similar note, the rare snow leopard from Matthiessen’s famous book is now officially in even greater danger of extinction due to ACD, as warming temperatures continue to shrink the cat’s habitat.

Across the world, ACD is also shrinking the habitat of some of the more rare birds in Hawai’i, including the yellow honeycreeper, according to a recent report. The bird’s habitat is expected to vanish completely by the end of the century.

Looking southward to colder climates, the king penguin saw a 34 percent decline in population following a year of extremely warm waters in their normally cold southern ocean environment. Their changing climate is forcing them to have to swim farther for food, causing many of them to starve to death.

Drought continues to plague vast expanses of the planet as ACD progresses.

In Ethiopia, the worst drought in a decade is wiping out the country’s agricultural sector, upon which most people there depend for their livelihood.

Stepping back and taking a broader view of drought’s global impact, the UN recently announced that it expects at least 50 million people will become refugees within just the next five years because their land is literally turning into desert.

Water

As usual, evidence of ACD’s impact abounds in the watery realms of the planet.

California faces a future that will likely bring twice as many droughts and three times as much flooding, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications. Of course, the state has its hands full with the current disastrous drought and floods – and unless drastic changes are made, these weather patterns will only deepen and worsen.

Looking now at the ongoing loss of ice around the world, a study by Australian- and New Zealand-based scientists, which was published in the journal Nature, shows that the planet will be locked into thousands of years of unstoppable sea level rise from a melting Antarctic, as temperature increases of just 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius will lead to a massive reduction in ice. Remember that the UN announced that we are already locked into 2.7 degrees Celsius warming even if countries move forward on the pledges they brought to Paris for the COP21.

Recent NASA data show that the melting ice in western Antarctica is already in “irreversible retreat.” That ice melt alone is likely to bring three meters of sea level rise.

Warming Antarctic oceans, which are a driving force behind the melting of the western Antarctic, are now threatening to kill off krill, the organism that forms the entire basis of the Antarctic ecosystem, according to biologists with the Australian government’s Antarctic Division.

Melting continues apace in Greenland as well, where recently published data reveal how an ocean-based glacier has begun a rapid retreat, and will ultimately add one and a half feet to global sea level rise all by itself. Disconcertingly, another nearby glacier there is also in rapid retreat, and the two together will add over three feet to global sea level rise.

Recent NASA data show that the melting ice in western Antarctica is already in “irreversible retreat.”

By 2050, the Arctic coast, along with most of the Arctic Ocean, will be completely devoid of sea ice for at least an additional two months per year, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change on November 4. This absence of ice will dramatically change both the Arctic and the planet itself: The Arctic will reflect far less sunlight back into space, hence increasing the speed of planetary warming.

The issue of rising sea levels has motivated a coalition of small Pacific Ocean nations, including Tuvalu, Tokelau, Kiribati and Fiji, to band together and request that wealthy nations work toward assisting their people to migrate and find jobs as they begin to flee to higher ground. The countries cited “major existential challenges” to their populations due to ACD impacts.

Similar to the crisis facing the island nations of the South Pacific, the Saloum Delta islands of Senegal are also seeing their way of life – and their very existence – move into the firing line of ACD impacts. Since their livelihoods are based on fishing and low-lying agriculture and both are disappearing, due to smaller fish catches and rising seas, respectively, the islands’ people are left with no income and are facing starvation.

Back in the United States, the people of the Quinault Indian Nation on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State are dealing with sea level rise that is also threatening their way of life. A 2,000-foot-long sea wall is being constructed to protect houses, but it’s only buying them time; the sea level rise isn’t stopping. The tribe has developed a $60 million plan to relocate the entire village to higher ground.

Sea level rise is, of course, already impacting the coastal United States. A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows how major cities like New York, Jacksonville, Sacramento, Boston, New Orleans and Miami are facing an existential risk given that dramatic and immediate mitigation efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions are not happening. Remember that we are already locked in to a minimum of 2.7 degrees Celsius warming by 2100, even if dramatic mitigation efforts are immediately undertaken on a global level. The future of US coastal cities is looking bleak.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, sea level rise is set to cause large portions of Australia to lose their coastal mangrove forests before the end of this century, according to recently published research. “Without mangrove forests, fish decline, there’s reduced coastal protection, there’s reduced coastal carbon sequestration,” University of Queensland researcher Catherine Lovelock said of the situation.

On the US East Coast, Atlantic cod, a fish that has long been critical to New England’s fishing industry, is now on the brink of vanishing completely. The fish’s spawning and survival are being thwarted by rapidly warming waters in the Gulf of Maine, fueled largely by ACD.

Looking south, recent US research shows we should expect dramatic and abrupt changes in oceanic food chains of the Southern Ocean, as it continues to acidify at a dramatic pace. Some of the key organisms in the food chain there are expected to be wiped out in as early as 15 years.

Fire

While the most intense wildfire season in US history has come to an end, 2015 officially became the worst wildfire season in Indonesia’s history. By mid-October, that island nation saw more than 100,000 individual fires, and damages by the end of that month reached more than $30 billion, and more than half a million people were reported sick from the smoke.

This telling global map shows how ACD-fueled wildfires continue to ramp up across much of the Southern Hemisphere now as their summer approaches.

Air

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a chart that shows, very clearly, how 2015’s global temperatures are exceedingly above the historic norm.

Air temperatures are becoming so hot as ACD progresses, in fact, that the oil-and-gas-producing Gulf countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, among others, will soon become unlivable because of the extreme heat and humidity, according to a report in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In the extreme weather realm, while it’s been a relatively quiet hurricane season in the Atlantic, there were, nevertheless, 21 record-shattering hurricanes and typhoons, all but one of which occurred in the Pacific Ocean.

On the methane front, news comes from the Woods Hole Research Center, which released a policy brief that concluded that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not account adequately for the warming feedback loop that is both caused by and is causing methane releases into the atmosphere. Methane is, depending on the time frame used to measure its impact, roughly 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Meanwhile, evidence of more methane release comes in the form of “accelerating” warming of permafrost across vast portions of Alaska. This warming was brought to light in another recent report, which describes how, when the permafrost melts, the methane frozen within it is released, which accelerates warming further. This causes the permafrost to melt faster, hence the positive feedback loop.

With 2014 already logging in as the warmest year on record for Alaska – and 2015 now on pace to beat it – farming in the state is actually increasing along with the temperature. Think about that for a moment: Farming is now becoming a growing business in Alaska because the northernmost state in the United States is warming so dramatically. The world is rapidly becoming a very different place in which to live.

Denial and Reality

Given the Republican presidential candidates’ attempts to vie for the title of “most backward,” there is no shortage of ACD denial this month.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz publicly stated that he believes ACD is “religion.”

“Climate change is not science. It’s religion,” Cruz told Glenn Beck.

More information was recently released about how Exxon Mobil, via deep collaborative efforts with the Bush and Cheney White House, sowed doubt about climate science over a period of decades by playing the “uncertainty” card.

Good news connected to that massive bit of well-funded denial comes in the form of a message from former US Department of Justice attorney Sharon Eubanks. She both prosecuted and won a massive racketeering case against Big Tobacco, and now thinks the agency should consider investigating Big Oil for similar claims to those made by Big Tobacco: claims that deliberately mislead the general public about the risks of its product.

Eubanks believes Exxon Mobil, along with other fossil fuel companies, could very well be held liable for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) if it turns out the companies actively worked together to suppress knowledge about the reality of ACD.

On that note, the New York attorney general’s office, in November, opened an investigation of Exxon Mobil, and this investigation could well generate legal inquiries into other major oil companies for similar actions. The investigations may lead to legal actions against all of the companies.

More good news on the reality front: A recent poll shows that a minimum of 70 percent of Americans now believe that ACD, over the last 40 years, is real and supported by solid scientific evidence. The same poll reveals a huge drop in the number of self-identified Republicans who doubt the reality of ACD, the numbers falling from 41 percent last fall to 26 percent.

Over in France, a high-profile TV weatherman in that country, Philippe Verdier, has been removed from being on air after he wrote a book that questioned the reality of ACD. In his book, he casts doubt on the findings of leading climate scientists and political leaders, and says they had “taken the world hostage.”

“I received a letter asking me not to come [back to work],” Verdier told the media. “I don’t know any more than that, I don’t know how long it will last. It’s all to do with my book.”

To wrap up this month’s dispatch: A recent study revealed 41 cases in which “abrupt changes” in the permafrost, sea ice, snow cover, ocean and terrestrial biosphere could trigger natural disasters. The abstract of the study, which was published in the esteemed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reads: “Eighteen out of 37 events occur for global warming levels of less than 2 [degrees Celsius], a threshold sometimes presented as a safe limit.”

This means the scientists have identified these “tipping points” where abrupt regional climate shifts can occur due to ACD.

Predicting when they will occur remains challenging, but the results of the study show that all the state-of-the art climate models demonstrate that abrupt changes are likely. The first two hurricanes in recorded history to hit Yemen both striking the country in a six-day period and dumping a decade’s worth of rain in 48 hours is an example of this.

“Our results show that no safe limit exists and that many abrupt shifts already occur for global warming levels much lower than 2 degrees,” said lead author Professor Sybren Drijfhout from Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton.

Despite the now common warning of “no safe limit” of the ever-increasing global temperature, the COP21 will be held with all of the attendant fanfare, media coverage and protests.

Global leaders will appear as though they are doing something to address the single greatest crisis that humanity has ever faced, despite the most respected, prestigious scientific bodies in the world producing one report after another that shows us we have run out of time to turn the ship, as the iceberg has long since punctured the hull.

Rather than pinning false hope to the COP21, perhaps now each of us might sit still, feel what is happening and listen deeply to the earth. If we do, then we might know from within, what is most important, and what we should do next.

Like a Dull Knife: The People’s Climate “Farce”

In Uncategorized on September 21, 2014 at 6:27 pm

2014.9.16.NYC.MainOldspeak: “Reality versus farce. Fascinating distinction. This march is a farce, “full of sound and fury signifying nothing“. The time for action has passed. What needs to have happened by now has not and will not happen. Carbon emmisons need to have peaked in 4 months. All indications is they’re steadily increasing with no peak in sight. We’re done. Have all the fucking photo ops and fundraisers you like. As the writer so artfully articulates, the reality is this:

The climate justice movement has an expiration date. If the tipping points in the earth system are passed, and the feedback loops begin their vicious cycle, human attempts at mitigation will be futile, and climate justice will become an anachronism – or at worst a slogan for geo-engineering lobbies. Thousands of scientists have come to consensus on this point, and many years ago gave us a deadline: A carbon emissions peak in 2015 followed by rapid and permanent decline.     

In other words, we have roughly four months to work for climate justice. The world is literally at stake; all life on earth is at risk. Never has there been a more urgent or comprehensive mandate.

Even the guardians and gatekeepers of the ruling class, from politicians to scientists, are forthcoming on this point. Listen to Al Gore: “I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers, and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants.” He said that in 2007. It is in this context that we must seek to better understand and analyze the People’s Climate March…

No target, no demands, no timing, no unity, no history and no integrity amounts to one thing: No politics. The whole will be far less than the sum of its parts. The biggest climate march in history will amount to something less than Al Gore.

In discussions over the past month with a wide range of people – UN diplomats, radical Vermonters, unionists, professors, liberal Democrats, etc. – the same thing has been repeated to me by everyone: “If we get a huge number of people, no one will be able to ignore us.” “The mainstream media will be forced to cover it.”

So what is being billed and organized as The People’s Climate March, and An Invitation to Change Everything, turns out to be a massive photo op. The spectacle of thousands of First World citizens marching for climate justice, while they continue to generate the vast majority of carbon emissions, brings to mind the spectacle of George W. Bush visiting New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.” –Quincy Saul

By Quincy Saul  @ Truthout:

In the lead-up to any large-scale protest, it is useful to bear in mind the potential dangers and drawbacks of such an endeavor. On the eve of what is being advertised as “the biggest climate march in history,” we might reflect on Malcolm X’s experience of the March on Washington, as recounted in the Autobiography of Malcolm X:

“Farce in Washington”, I call it. . . . It was like a movie. . . . For the status-seeker, it was a status symbol. “Were you there?”. . . . It had become an outing, a picnic. . . . What originally was planned to be an angry riptide, one English newspaper aptly described now as “the gentle flood”. . . . there wasn’t a single logistics aspect uncontrolled. . . . They had been told how to arrive, when, where to arrive, where to assemble, when to start marching, the route to march. . . . Yes, I was there. I observed that circus.

Of course, not everyone present concurred with Malcolm X about the March on Washington – and even in a top-down format, one hopes the upcoming march could draw much-needed attention to the climate movement. The question is: At what cost? In this vein, what follows are a few reflections on the buildup to the September 21 People’s Climate March in New York City, to provide some concrete analysis of concrete conditions, and propose some solutions.

Deadline

The climate justice movement has an expiration date. If the tipping points in the earth system are passed, and the feedback loops begin their vicious cycle, human attempts at mitigation will be futile, and climate justice will become an anachronism – or at worst a slogan for geo-engineering lobbies. Thousands of scientists have come to consensus on this point, and many years ago gave us a deadline: A carbon emissions peak in 2015 followed by rapid and permanent decline.

In other words, we have roughly four months to work for climate justice. The world is literally at stake; all life on earth is at risk. Never has there been a more urgent or comprehensive mandate.

Even the guardians and gatekeepers of the ruling class, from politicians to scientists, are forthcoming on this point. Listen to Al Gore: “I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers, and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants.” He said that in 2007. It is in this context that we must seek to better understand and analyze the People’s Climate March.

“An Invitation to Change Everything”

The People’s Climate March has a powerful slogan. It has world-class publicity. But the desire to bring the biggest possible number of people to the march has trumped all other considerations. The results are devastating:

No Target: The march is a U-turn through Times Square, beginning at a monument to genocide (Columbus Circle) and ending . . . in the middle of nowhere. Here in New York City where the ruling class of the whole world has made their diverse headquarters, the march will target none of them. The march will not even go near the United Nations, its ostensible symbolic target.

No Timing: The United Nations will convene leading figures from all over the world – several days after the march. The march does not coincide with anything, contemporary or historic.

No Demands: Again, to attract the largest number of people, the march has rallied around the lowest common denominator – in this case, nothing. Not only are there no demands, but there is in fact no content at all to the politics of the march, other than vague concern and nebulous urgency about “the climate,” which is itself undefined.

No Unity: While a large number of people are sure to converge on Columbus Circle on September 21, the only thing they will have in common is the same street. The revolutionary communists will link arms with the Green Zionist Alliance and the Democratic Party, and compete with Times Square billboards for the attention of tourists and the corporate media.What is the binding agent for this sudden and unprecedented unity? Fifty-one years later, the words of Malcolm X still ring true: “the white man’s money.”

No History: Instead of building on the momentum of a decades-old climate justice movement, this march appears to be taking us backwards. Here’s what Ricken Patel of Avaaz, one of the main funders of the march, said to The Guardian: “We in the movement, activists, have failed up until this point to put up a banner and say if you care about this, now is the time, here is the place, let’s come together, to show politicians the political power that is out there on there.”

It is as if the massive mobilizations outside the United Nations meeting in Copenhagen (2009), Cancun (2010) and Durban (2011) never took place, let alone the literally thousands of smaller, more localized actions and gatherings for climate justice. At all of these gatherings, activists convoked the world to demonstrate the power of the people, under banners which were far more radical and transformative than anything we have seen so far for this march.

No Integrity: The invitation to change everything has been permitted and approved by the New York City Police Department. This permit betrays a lack of respect for the people who will be making sacrifices to come all the way to New York City to change the world, and a lack of integrity among those who want to change everything, but seek permission for this change from one of the more obviously brutal guardians of business as usual. This lack of integrity sets up thousands of earnest souls for an onset of depression and cynicism when this march doesn’t change the world. This will in turn be fertile soil for everyone and anyone hawking false solutions.

No target, no demands, no timing, no unity, no history and no integrity amounts to one thing: No politics. The whole will be far less than the sum of its parts. The biggest climate march in history will amount to something less than Al Gore.

In discussions over the past month with a wide range of people – UN diplomats, radical Vermonters, unionists, professors, liberal Democrats, etc. – the same thing has been repeated to me by everyone: “If we get a huge number of people, no one will be able to ignore us.” “The mainstream media will be forced to cover it.”

So what is being billed and organized as The People’s Climate March, and An Invitation to Change Everything, turns out to be a massive photo op. The spectacle of thousands of First World citizens marching for climate justice, while they continue to generate the vast majority of carbon emissions, brings to mind the spectacle of George W. Bush visiting New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

So what are we left with? James Brown knew, when he said: “You’re like a dull knife; Just ain’t cutting. You’re just talking loud; And saying nothing. Just saying nothing. Good luck to you; Just allow you’re wrong. Then keep on singing that; Same old money song . . .”

So What Are We Going to Do About It?

This is not the place to complain, but to propose solutions. If we are unsatisfied with this march and its leadership, we have to provide an alternative. As James Brown knew, we “have to pay the cost to be the boss.” Here are some suggestions for starters:

  1. We are going to stop lying to the people. This is the primary and cardinal rule of revolutionary politics. To invite people to change the world and corral them into cattle pens on a police-escorted parade through the heart of consumer society is astoundingly dishonest. From now on, we will stop lying to people. Climate justice requires nothing less than a global revolution in politics and production; it requires a historic transition to a new model of civilization, which will demand great sacrifice and creativity from everyone.
  2. We are going to stop making demands of anyone or anything but ourselves and each other. The powers that be are deaf, dumb and deadly, and we will waste no further time trying to pressure or persuade them. We are going to stop speaking truth to power and start speaking truth to powerlessness. Either we are going to become the leaders we have been waiting for, starting now, or we are going to resign ourselves to the inevitability of catastrophic climate change and the sixth mass extinction.
  3. We are going to return to the source. This means three things: (A) Return to the common people from the delirious heights of symbolic protest politics, with dedication to concrete local work, to divorce food, water, shelter and energy systems from capital. (B) Return to the livelihood and wisdom of our ancestors, the indigenous peoples of every continent, who have lived for thousands of years in harmony with nature, and who still possess the knowledge and skills to restore balance. (C) Return to the sun – a second Copernican revolution and a heliocentric energy policy. Either we return to a subsistence perspective that has prevailed for the majority of human history, or all future development of productive forces must be based exclusively on solar energy.
  4. We are going to get arrested! The only thing that we can do to meet the deadline for climate justice is to engage in a massive and permanent campaign to shut down the fossil fuel economy. But we have to do this strategically, not in the symbolic cuff-and-stuffs that are a perversion and prostitution of the noble ideals of civil disobedience and revolutionary nonviolence. So we are going to shut down coal plants; we are going to block ports, distribution centers and railway hubs where fossil fuels are transported; whatever it takes to keep the oil in the soil. We’re going to put our bodies between the soil and the sky.So let’s make sure that the call to “Flood Wall Street” on September 22 is the “angry riptide” it should be, and not “the gentle flood.”
  5. We are going to join the rest of the human race. For 200 years too long, citizens of the United States have been parasites and predators on the rest of the world. To prevent climate catastrophe, we are going to leave our imperial hubris behind, and join with the revolutionary ecosocialist uprisings that are sweeping the global South.

 

 

How All Of Us Are Helping Build A Participatory Totalitarianism

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2014 at 5:51 pm
social-media-state-corporate-surveillance-privacy

In the new public-private surveillance state, we’re so at home with Big Brother that we’re not just passively watched–we actively display ourselves

We are not passive objects of the surveillance state. We are active subjects of our own YouTube channels

 

Oldspeak: “We see, then, that modern technology has led to the concentration of economic and political power, and to the development of a society controlled (ruthlessly in the totalitarian states, politely and inconspicuously in the democracies) by Big Business and Big Govern­ment. But societies are composed of individuals and are good only insofar as they help individuals to real­ize their potentialities and to lead a happy and creative life. How have individuals been affected by the tech­nological advances of recent years? Here is the answer to this question given by a philosopher-psychiatrist, Dr. Erich Fromm:

 

        Our contemporary Western society, in spite of its material, intellectual and political progress, is in­creasingly less conducive to mental health, and tends to undermine the inner security, happiness, reason and the capacity for love in the individual; it tends to turn him into an automaton who pays for his human failure with increasing mental sickness, and with despair hidden under a frantic drive for work and so-called pleasure.

        Our “increasing mental sickness” may find expres­sion in neurotic symptoms. These symptoms are con­spicuous and extremely distressing. But “let us beware,” says Dr. Fromm, “of defining mental hygiene as the prevention of symptoms. Symptoms as such are not our enemy, but our friend; where there are symp­toms there is conflict, and conflict always indicates that the forces of life which strive for integration and happiness are still fighting.” The really hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. “Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been si­lenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does.” They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their per­fect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted, still cherish “the illusion of indi­viduality,” but in fact they have been to a great extent deindividualized. Their conformity is developing into something like uniformity. But “uniformity and free­dom are incompatible. Uniformity and mental health are incompatible too. . . . Man is not made to be an automaton, and if he becomes one, the basis for mental health is destroyed.” –Adolous Huxley

“Share Everything”. “Broadcast Yourself” “Stay Connected”….  Relentlessly, we’re peppered with the propaganda and it is extremely seductive and powerful. Encouraged to incessantly create and consume “content” fashioned from our lives and the lives of others. Preying on the paradoxically profound narcissism/insecurity our maladjustment civilization breeds and selling it via the new virtues of ‘convenience’ and ‘personalization’, our privacy, liberty and ownership of our selves is freely given away to our controllers. Which they then use to surveil, sell, and profit handsomely from. The Stasi had it all wrong. Making the tools of totalitarianism ones that the populace loves, uses of its own free will and can’t live with out, makes things INFINITELY easier. How comfortable are you in your “Velvet Prison”? “Ignorance is Strength.” “Freedom is Slavery.” “War is Peace.”-OSJ

 

By John Feffer @ Foreign Policy In Focus:

According to the Chinese zodiac, the heavens circle around every 12 years. The Year of the Snake, the creature that sheds its skin to emerge anew, marks a time of great transformation. Indeed, for the last quarter century, the world has experienced three profound shifts at 12-year intervals, beginning with the Year of the Snake in 1989.

On June 4, 1989, on one side of the globe, Poles were participating in their first semi-free elections in more than 40 years, which—though few suspected at the time—sounded the death knell for Communism in East-Central Europe. Meanwhile, on the same day on the other side of the globe, the Chinese government was cracking down on the Tiananmen Square protests and ensuring that Communism would continue there as an official ideology for at least another 25 years.

Twelve years later, the Year of the Snake returned, and the ground shifted radically beneath our feet once again. This time, the 9/11 attacks brought the two sides of the world together as both China and Poland threw their weight behind the U.S.-led war on terror. Poland, presided over by a former Communist who’d embraced market reforms, even went so far as to host one of the “black sites” that the Bush administration set up to interrogate suspects gathered up through extraordinary rendition. China, presided over by a current Communist who’d also embraced market reforms, used the opportunity of 9/11 to ramp up operations against separatists in Xinjiang and secure “unprecedented” counter-terrorism information sharing with the United States.

And then last year, the Year of the Snake came around again, and this time it was Edward Snowden who caused a seismic shift in our understanding of everyday reality. We thought that we’d seen through the efforts of the Communist state to control our minds and the efforts of the corporate state to control our desires. But it turned out that we really didn’t know the full extent to which intelligence services and corporate entities had invaded our private spaces. Nor had we understood our own complicity in this brave new world. It wasn’t just states like Warsaw and Beijing that had joined forces with Washington against non-state actors. We had all become informers under this new regime, whether we liked it or not.

The old metaphor for surveillance was the Panopticon: the warden, sitting at the hub of a penitentiary, could see what all the inmates were doing along the perimeter of the structure. Then came the Big Brother of the Cold War era: a state apparatus that used informers, propaganda, and interrogations to infiltrate every crevice of society.

Today’s metaphor is still Big Brother—but it’s the TV show, not the sinister presence of the George Orwell novel. In this reality TV show, the public watches what goes on inside a house fully monitored by surveillance cameras. But here’s the twist: we are both voyeurs and exhibitionists, for we have also turned the cameras on ourselves so that the surveillance can be mutual. We don’t just like to watch, like Chance the gardener in Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There. We like to be watched as well.

It’s time to update Socrates for the era of selfies and YouTube: the unwatched life is not worth living.

The novel that out-Orwells Orwell in its depiction of this new reality is The Circle by Dave Eggers, in which characters willingly wear cameras that track their every movement and broadcast to an ever-increasing number of social media followers. The novel exaggerates only slightly what we are already doing through Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, or what is being done to us through our cell phones and our credit card purchases and our Google searches.

To rein in Big Corporations and even out the inequities of Big Politics, activists have long clamored for participatory democracy. What we didn’t expect was that Big Corporations and Big Politics would team up in what I’ve previously called the “surveillance blitz” to create a new phenomenon: participatory totalitarianism.

If we look at the three seismic shifts that have taken place between 1989 and today, they all center around the state and its ability to maintain its authority in the post-modern world. In 1989, the Communist states failed in their effort to manage the economy through five-year plans and artificially fixed prices. In both post-Communist Poland and post-Deng China, the market became the arbiter of production and consumption, restricting the state largely to redistribution (with a bit more capacity for strategic investments in China). Privatization and austerity budgeting in the capitalist world also whittled away what remained of the welfare state’s ability to intervene in the economy. This was the neo-liberal victory in what had been an epic 20th-century war, though many skirmishes continue to this day and a second grand battle may yet take place in the wake of the global financial crisis.

In 2001, states faced a second major challenge from al-Qaeda, though more as an idea than an actual military force. Al-Qaeda is an unusual hybrid of the globalized and the localized. It grew out of a specific context (the mujahedeen’s attacks on the Soviet army in Afghanistan) and has taken on a different character in each national context where it has taken root (Yemen, Syria, North Africa). Al-Qaeda is a franchise not unlike McDonald’s, offering a universal product (a global caliphate) that can be adapted to the cultural preferences of local consumers just as McDonald’s sells its well-known French fries with the McAloo Tikki burger in Mumbai or the McArabia Chicken sandwich in Doha. To use the awkward phrase from academia, al-Qaeda is a “glocalized” phenomenon. It thus has represented both a global and a local challenge to the state—offering a vision of subsuming the state into something larger and, from below, attacking the state’s monopoly on violence. It’s no wonder that states as different as Poland and China found common cause in fighting against al-Qaeda.

And now, after 2013, the state is suffering yet another challenge to its authority. After the revelations of Snowden, the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman and his colleagues point out, “It may not be going too far to suggest that what we still call national security has been colonized by a new nobility of intelligence agencies operating in an increasingly autonomous transnational arena.” National security, as the phrase suggests, has been the responsibility of the nation-state. But intelligence agencies, led by the disproportionately powerful NSA, have skirted the traditional mechanisms of the state to operate across borders and with little oversight. Members of Congress, even though many have branded Snowden a traitor, havepushed for changes in the way the NSA does business domestically. The leaders of Germany and Brazil who discovered to their dismay that they too have been punked by the NSA—U.S. spies listened in on the communications of both Angela Merkel and Dilma Rousseff—are also pushing at an international level for reform.

The state’s status has deteriorated over the decades. It no longer provides the “iron rice bowl.” Its monopoly on violence has been challenged by non-state actors, and many states have failed or are near failure as a result. And intelligence-gathering organs have metastasized beyond the control of the traditional nation-state in order to sift through the rapidly expanding universe of global data to stop plots while they are still twinkles in the eyes of the conspirators (shades of Minority Report).

If surveillance was monaural during the Cold War and became stereophonic in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, it is now quadrophonic. It can’t be reduced to the activity of a single state or even a particular government-industrial complex. We are all now embedded in a veritable matrix of surveillance. It has become surround sound.

In the Communist era, Hungarian writer Miklos Haraszti wrote about what he called the “velvet prison.” Under state socialism, he observed, the vast majority of artists accommodated to the strictures imposed from above. “We learn to live with discipline,” hewrote. “We are at home with it. It is a part of us, and soon we will hunger for it because we are unable to create without it.”

We are at home in the new surveillance state, for we barely register all the cameras, all the targeted advertising, all the intrusions into what had previously been considered sacred private space. We are not passive objects of observation. We are active subjects of our own YouTube channels.

This is not inevitable. States like Germany and Brazil are fighting back. Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are fighting back. Whistleblowers and journalists are fighting back. So, perhaps when the next Year of the Snake rolls around and we are preparing to shed our skin once again, we will see a shift in the other direction—toward a new economy, a new kind of politics, a new definition of security, and a new way to interact with our fellow citizens that relies on mutual solidarity and not mutual surveillance.

Empire Under Obama, Part 1: Political Language & The ‘Mafia Principles’ Of International Relations

In Uncategorized on October 11, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Oldspeak: “When it comes to empire, language is equally – if not more – deceptive; hiding immoral, ruthless and destructive interests and actions behind the veil of empty words, undefined concepts, and make-believe ‘values.’ I firmly believe that in order to understand the world – that is, to gain a more realistic understanding and view of how the global social, political and economic order actually functions – we need to speak more plainly, directly, and honestly to describe and dissent against this system. If we truly want a world without war, destruction, empire and tyranny, we must speak honestly and openly about these concepts. If we adopt the language of deception to describe that which we are given no accurate words to describe, we run a fool’s errand….

To rectify this, we must speak and think honestly about empire. To think and speak honestly, we must look at the world for what it is, not to see what we want to see, that which supports our pre-conceived notions and biases, but to see what we want to change. We have at our fingertips more access to information than ever before in human history. We have the ability to gather, examine and draw explanations from this information to create a more coherent understanding of the world than that which we are presented with through the media and political pandering. In establishing a more accurate – and ever-evolving – understanding of the world, we are able to reveal the lies and hypocrisy of those individuals, institutions and ideologies that uphold and direct the world we live in.” –Andrew Gavin Marshall

“Basically, our society is structured to perpetuate and proliferate this “the language of deception” a.ka. Propaganda. The public mind is utterly enveloped in and animated by the language of deception. We’ve created whole industries to propagate it, we’re bombarded with waves of deception on multivariate and variegated media and infotainment platforms. it’s much like Chomsky said when he remarked “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” We must awaken from our comfortably numb, narcissism and ego moderated states of passivity and obedience. We must look beyond  and let go of the “necessary illusions” of political, social, cultural, material & spiritual differences. We must resist, degrade and withdraw our support for this latest imperial empire. For the sake of our life support system, our mother earth, we mush reverse this cursed course we’re on. We must cease valuing consumption of life over conservation of life. We’re losing, 200 species A DAY. We’ll bear witness to the extinction level events we’ve precipitated, i guess at this point it’s just a mater of how we choose to face the end of our civilization. As gluttonous blood lustful infinitely growing locusts,  devouring all in our paths?  Or as courageous, accepting, fearless lovers of all that we see before us…” -OSJ

By Andrew Gavin Marshall @ The Hampton Institute:

In the first part of this essay series on ‘Empire Under Obama,’ I will aim to establish some fundamental premises of modern imperialism, or what is often referred to as ‘international relations,’ ‘geopolitics’, or ‘foreign policy.’ Specifically, I will refer to George Orwell’s writing on ‘political language’ in order to provide a context in which the discourse of imperialism may take place out in the open with very little comprehension on the part of the public which consumes the information; and further, to draw upon Noam Chomsky’s suggestion of understanding international relations as the application of ‘Mafia Principles’ to foreign policy. This part provides some background on these issues, and future parts to this essay series will be examining the manifestation of empire in recent years.

On August 21, the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad was accused of using chemical weapons on its own population, prompting Western countries – led by the United States – to declare their intention to bomb Syria to somehow save it from itself. The reasons for the declared intention of launching air strikes on Syria was to punish the Syrian government, to uphold international law, and to act on the ‘humanitarian’ values which the West presumably holds so dear.

George Orwell discussed this in his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, written two years prior to the publication of 1984. In his essay, Orwell wrote that, “the English language is in a bad way” and that language is ultimately “an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.” The decline of language, noted Orwell, “must ultimately have political and economic causes… It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” Still, Orwell suggested, “the process is reversible.”[1] To reverse the process, however, we must first understand its application and development.

When it comes to words like “democracy,” Orwell wrote: “It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.”[2]

In our time, wrote Orwell, “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties.” Thus, he noted, “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” Orwell provided some examples: “Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification.” This type of “phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”[3] Today, we use words like counterinsurgency and counterterrorism to describe virtually the same processes.

Thus, noted Orwell: “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms… All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia… But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can be spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better.” Political language, wrote Orwell, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”[4]

These critiques are arguably more valid today than when Orwell wrote them some 67 years ago. Today, we not only use political language to discuss ‘democracy’ and ‘liberty,’ but to justify war and atrocities based upon our ‘humanitarian’ interests and ‘values.’ I have previously discussed the uses and abuses of political language in the context of the European debt crisis, using words like ‘austerity,’ ‘structural reform,’ ‘labour flexibility’ and ‘economic growth’ to obfuscate the reality of the power interests and effects of the policies put in place, spreading poverty, misery and committing ‘social genocide.'[5]

When it comes to empire, language is equally – if not more – deceptive; hiding immoral, ruthless and destructive interests and actions behind the veil of empty words, undefined concepts, and make-believe ‘values.’ I firmly believe that in order to understand the world – that is, to gain a more realistic understanding and view of how the global social, political and economic order actually functions – we need to speak more plainly, directly, and honestly to describe and dissent against this system. If we truly want a world without war, destruction, empire and tyranny, we must speak honestly and openly about these concepts. If we adopt the language of deception to describe that which we are given no accurate words to describe, we run a fool’s errand.

In other words, if you are against war and empire in principle, yet engage in the concocted debates surrounding whatever current war is being pushed for, debating the merits of the one of usually two positions fed to the populace through the media, punditry and pageantry of modern political life, then you simply reinforce that which your own personal values may find so repulsive. If you are not given a language with which to understand issues and the world in a meaningful way, then you are curtailed in your ability to think of the world in a non-superficial way, let alone articulate meaningful positions. By simply adopting the political language which makes up the ‘discourse of empire’ – allowing for politicians, pundits, intellectuals and the media to justify and disagree to various degrees on the objectives and actions of empire – your thoughts and words become an extension of that discourse, and perpetuate its perverse purposes.

In the recent context of Syria, for example, those who are ‘in principle’ against war, and hold personal values akin to those ‘humanitarian’ values which are articulated by the political elites in the name of justifying war, may then be succumbed into the false debate over – “what is the best course of action?” – “to bomb or not to bomb?” – and while the horror of chemical weapons use may trigger an impulse to want to end such usage, the media and political classes have framed the debate as such: should we let Syria get away with using chemical weapons? Should provide more support to the ‘rebels’? How should we try to end the conflict in Syria?

This is a false debate and empty, for it poses answers as questions instead of questions looking for answers. In other words, the question is not – ” what can we do to help Syria?” – the question is: “what have we done in Syria?” When you ask that question, the answer is not appealing, as the strategy of the West – and specifically the United States – has been to prolong the civil war, not stop it. Thus, when you have asked the right questions, and sought more meaningful answers, then you can ask – “what can we do to help Syria?” – and the answer becomes simpler: stop supporting civil war. But one must first learn to ask the right questions instead of choosing from one among many pre-packaged “solutions.”

Mark Twain once wrote, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uniformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.” If you view yourself as ‘politically conscious’ or ‘engaged,’ and yet, you engage only with thoughts and words presented to you by the corporate-owned media and politicians – who allow for a very limited spectrum of variation in views – you’re not “politically conscious,” but rather, politically comatose. Though your own personal values, interests and intentions may be honourable and sincere, they are made superficial by adopting superficial language and thoughts.

To rectify this, we must speak and think honestly about empire. To think and speak honestly, we must look at the world for what it is, not to see what we want to see, that which supports our pre-conceived notions and biases, but to see what we want to change. We have at our fingertips more access to information than ever before in human history. We have the ability to gather, examine and draw explanations from this information to create a more coherent understanding of the world than that which we are presented with through the media and political pandering. In establishing a more accurate – and ever-evolving – understanding of the world, we are able to reveal the lies and hypocrisy of those individuals, institutions and ideologies that uphold and direct the world we live in. The hypocrisy of our self-declared values and intentions is exposed through looking at the real actions and effects of the policies we pursue under the guise of political language.

If the effects of our actions do not conform to the values we articulate as we undertake them, and yet, neither the language nor the policies and effects change to remedy these inconsistencies, we can come to one of two general conclusions. One, is that our political leaders are simply insane, as Einstein defined it – “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results” – or; they are liars an deceivers, using words for which they hold personal definitions which are not articulated to the populace, attempting to justify the indefensible, to promote the perverse and serve interests which the general population may find deplorable. While I think that – in many cases – it would be presumptive to rule out insanity altogether, it strikes me as more plausible that it is the latter.

Put in different terms, politicians – if they rise high enough to be in positions in which they become advocates and actors in the propagation of empire – are high-functioning sociopaths: they deceive and manipulate for their own selfish interests, hold no hesitations to act immorally and knowingly cause the suffering and destruction of others. Imagine what our world would look like if serial killers were running countries, corporations, banks and other dominant institutions. I imagine that our world would look exactly at it is, for those who run it have the same claims to moral superiority as your average serial killer; they simply chose another path, and one which leads to the deaths of far more people than any serial killer has ever – or could ever – achieve.

So, let’s talk about Empire.
Mafia Principles and Western ‘Values’

Renowned linguist, scholar and dissident Noam Chomsky has aptly articulated Western – and notably American – foreign policy as being based upon ‘Mafia Principles’ in which “defiance cannot be tolerated.” Thus, nations, people and institutions which “defy” the American-Western Empire must be “punished,” lest other nations and peoples openly defy the empire. This principle holds that if a smaller, seemingly more insignificant global actor is able to “successfully defy” the empire, then anyone could, and others would likely follow.[6]

Thus, for the empire to maintain its ‘hegemony’ – or global influence – it must punish those who detract from its diktats, so that others would not dare defy the empire. As Chomsky has suggested, this is akin to the way the Mafia would punish even the smallest of vendors who did not pay their dues, not because of financial loss to the ‘Godfather,’ but because it sends a message to all who observe: if you defy the Godfather, you will be punished.

Extending this analogy to ‘international relations,’ we can conclude that the United States is the ‘Godfather’ and the other major Western states – notably Britain, France, and Germany – are akin to the Mafia ‘capos’ (high-level bosses). Then you have China and Russia, who are significant crime bosses in their own right, though far from holding anywhere near the same weight of influence as the ‘Godfather.’ Think of them as separate crime families; usually working with the Godfather, as there is a relationship of co-dependency between them all: the Godfather needs their support, and they need the Godfather’s support in order for all parties to have a significant influence in their criminal racketeering and illicit markets.

As with any crime families, however, cooperation is often coupled with competition. When the Godfather steps on the personal turf of the other crime families – such as Syria in relation to Russia and China – then the other families push back, seeking to maintain their own turf and thus, maintain their leverage when it comes to power and profits.

Now, for those who believe American and Western political leaders when they discuss ‘values’ that they uphold, such as ‘democracy’, ‘liberty’, the ‘rule of law’, or any other ‘humanitarian’ notions of life, justice and peace, I have two words for you: grow up. The Western world has no precedent for upholding values or acting on the basis of ‘morality.’ One of the central issues we face when dealing with modern empire is that we have very little means – or practice – in communicating honestly about the nature of the world, or our role within it. Language is undermined and inverted, even destroyed altogether. Waging war in the name of ‘peace’ undermines any meaningful concept of peace which we may hold. Supporting coups in the name of democracy reveals an empty and inverted concept of what we may typically think of as democracy. Yet, this is common practice for the West.

When Cuba had its revolution in 1959, brining Castro to power on a little island just south of the United States, overthrowing the previous American-supported dictator, the U.S. implemented a policy of covert, military and economic warfare against the tiny and desperately poor nation. The main reasoning was not necessarily that Cuba had become ‘Communist’, per se, but rather, as a 1960 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate noted, Cuba had provided “a highly exploitable example of revolutionary achievement and successful defiance of the U.S.”[7] For the ‘Godfather,’ such an example of “successful defiance” could spur other nations to attempt to defy the U.S. Thus, Cuba had to be made an example of.

When the Eisenhower administration imposed economic sanctions upon Cuba (which have been extended through every subsequent administration to present day), the objective was articulated within internal government documents of the National Security Council (NSC) and other U.S. agencies responsible for the maintenance and expansion of American imperialism (such as the State Department, CIA, Pentagon, etc.).

Noting that the sanctions “would have a serious effect on the Cuban people,” denying them medical equipment, food, goods and necessities, President Eisenhower explained that the “primary objective” of the sanctions was “to establish conditions which bring home to the Cuban people the cost of Castro’s policies,” and that, if Cubans were left hungry, “they will throw Castro out.” Under the Kennedy administration, a top State Department official stated that, “every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba… to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of the government.”[8]

In other words, the intentions of sanctions are to punish populations in order to undermine support for regimes that “successfully defy” the empire. No concerns are paid to the actual suffering of human beings, though, as these policies are articulated by the political class – and their supporters in the media and intellectual establishment – they were justified on the basis of a grand struggle between the “democratic” West and the “threat” of totalitarian Communism, of upholding “values” and supporting “freedom” of peoples everywhere.

Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, was appointed by President Reagan in the early 1980s to chair the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America (known as the ‘Kissinger Commission’) which was created to assess the strategic threat and interests to the United States in Central America, as many nations had been experiencing revolutions, leftist insurgencies against U.S.-backed dictators, and large social movements. The Reagan administration’s response was to undertake a massive war of terror in Central America, killing hundreds of thousands and decimating the region for decades. Kissinger provided the imperial justification for the U.S. to punish the tiny Central American countries for their “defiance” of the Godfather, when he wrote in 1983, “If we cannot manage Central America… it will be impossible to convince threatened nations in the Persian Gulf and in other places that we know how to manage the global equilibrium.”[9] In other words, if the Empire could not control a tiny little region just south of its border, how could it be expected to wield influence elsewhere in the world?

Henry Kissinger and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski co-chaired President Reagan’s U.S. National Security Council-Defense Department Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy, outlining U.S. imperial strategy and interests over the long term, publishing the report, Discriminate Deterrence, in 1988. They wrote that the U.S. would continue to have to intervene in conflicts across much of the Third World, because they “have had and will have an adverse cumulative effect on U.S. access to critical regions,” and if such effects cannot be managed, “it will gradually undermine America’s ability to defend its interest in the most vital regions, such as the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean and the Western Pacific.”[10]

Noting that most Third World conflicts were “insurgencies, organized terrorism, [and] paramilitary crime,” which included “guerrilla forces” and “armed subversives,” referring to revolutionary and resistance movements, the U.S. would have to acknowledge that within such “low intensity conflicts,” the “enemy” is essentially “omnipresent,” meaning that the U.S.-designated enemy is essentially the population itself, or a significant portion of it, and thus, “unlikely ever to surrender.” But it would be necessary for the U.S. to intervene in such wars, the report noted, because if they did not do so, “we will surely lose the support of many Third World countries that want to believe the United States can protect its friends, not to mention its own interests.”[11]

In other words, if the U.S. does not intervene to crush insurgencies, uprisings, rebellions or generally steer the direction of ‘internal conflicts’ of Third World nations, then its proxy-puppet governments around the world will lose faith in the ability of the Godfather/Empire to support them in maintaining their dictatorships and rule over their own populations if they ever get into trouble. It would also damage the ‘faith’ that the Godfather’s ‘capos’ (or Western imperial allies like France and Britain) would have in the U.S.’s ability to serve their imperial interests. If client states or imperial allies lose faith in the Godfather, then the U.S. likely won’t remain the Godfather for long.

An internal assessment of national security policy undertaken by the Bush administration in 1991 was leaked to the media, which quoted the report’s analysis of U.S. imperial policy for the future: “In cases where the U.S. confronts much weaker enemies, our challenge will be not simply to defeat them, but to defeat them decisively and rapidly… For small countries hostile to us, bleeding our forces in protracted or indecisive conflict or embarrassing us by inflicting damage on some conspicuous element of our forces may be victory enough, and could undercut political support for U.S. efforts against them.”[12] In other words, the weaker the “enemy,” the more “decisive and rapid” must be their defeat, so as not to “embarrass” the empire and undermine its reputation for maintaining power and punishing those who defy its power. Imagine a small-time crook standing up to the Godfather in defiance: his punishment must not only be quick, but it must be severe, as this sends a message to others.

It has since been acknowledged by top imperial strategists and government agencies that the Cold War was little more than a rhetorical battle between two behemoths to advance their own imperial interests around the world. Samuel Huntington, one of the most influential political scientists of the latter 20 th century, closely tied to the American imperial establishment and served in high-level government positions related to the running of foreign policy, commented in a 1981 discussion, when reflecting upon the “lessons of Vietnam,” that “an additional problem” for strategists when they decide that there is a conflict in which “you have to intervene or take some action,” he noted, “you may have to sell it in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting… That is what the United States has been doing ever since the Truman Doctrine [of 1947].”[13]

In other words, the concern of the ‘Cold War’ was not really the Soviet Union, it was the populations across the ‘Third World’ who were seeking independence and an end to imperialism. However, to intervene in wars where the interests were about repressing popular uprisings, revolutions, crushing independence movements, maintaining imperial domination and subjugation, one cannot – if you proclaim to be a ‘free’ and ‘democratic’ society upholding grand ‘values’ – articulate accurately these interests or the reasons for intervening. Thus, as Huntington noted, the United States would “create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting.” So long as the domestic population was made to fear some outside malevolent enemy – formerly the Soviet Union and today ‘terrorism’ – then strategists manage to justify and undertake all sorts of atrocities in the name of fighting “communism” or now “terrorism.”

When the Cold War was coming to an official end and the Soviet Union was collapsing in on itself, President George H.W. Bush’s administration released the National Security Strategy of the United States in 1990 in which it was acknowledged that following decades of justifying military intervention in the Middle East on the basis of a Cold War struggle between democracy and communism, the actual reasons for intervention “were in response to threats to U.S. interests that could not be laid at the Kremlin’s door.” Further, while the Soviet Union collapses, “American strategic concerns remain” and “the necessity to defend our interests will continue.”[14]

In 1992, Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote an article for the establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, in which he bluntly assessed the reality of the ‘Cold War’ battle between America and the USSR – between the causes of democratic ‘liberation’ versus totalitarian communism – writing: “The policy of liberation was a strategic sham, designed to a significant degree for domestic political reasons… the policy was basically rhetorical, at most tactical.”[15]

America’s imperial interests had long been established within internal government documents. In a 1948 State Department Policy Planning document, it was acknowledged that at the time the United States controlled half the world’s wealth with only 6.3% of the world’s population, and that this disparity would create “envy and resentment.” The task for American in the world, then, was “to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming,” and instead focus “on our immediate national objectives,” which were defined as managing foreign policy in such a way as “to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.” With such an objective in mind, noted the report, “We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.”[16]

In other words, to maintain the “disparity” between America’s wealth and that of the rest of the world, there was no point in pretending that their interests were anything otherwise. Imperial planners were direct in suggesting that “we need not deceive ourselves” about their objectives, but this did not imply that they did not have to deceive the American population, for whom internal documents were not meant to be read.

In the Middle East, imperial interests were bluntly articulated by the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, who defined the region as “an area in which the United States has a vital interest.” The oil wealth of Saudi Arabia and the region as a whole was said to “constitute a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history,” and that controlling the oil would imply “substantial control of the world.”[17]

Threats to these interests were quick to arise in the form of Arab Nationalism – or “independent nationalism” – most effectively represented by Gamal Abdul Nasser in Egypt, where nations sought to pursue a policy both foreign and domestic in their own interests, to more closely address the concerns of their own populations rather than the interests of the Godfather, and to take a ‘neutral’ stance in the Cold War struggle between the US and USSR.

A 1958 National Security Council report noted that, “In the eyes of the majority of Arabs the United States appears to be opposed to the realization of the goals of Arab nationalism,” and rather, that the US was simply “seeking to protect its interests in Near East oil by supporting the status quo” of strong-armed ruthless dictators ruling over repressed populations. This, the report noted, was an accurate view that Arab peoples held of the U.S., stating that, “our economic and cultural interests in the area have led not unnaturally to close U.S. relations with elements in the Arab world whose primary interest lies in the maintenance of relations with the West and the status quo in their countries.” Further, because the U.S. was so closely allied with the traditional colonial powers of the region – France and Britain – “it is impossible for us to avoid some identification” with colonialism, noted the report, especially since “we cannot exclude the possibility of having to use force in an attempt to maintain our position in the area.”[18]

Thus, a key strategy for the U.S. should be to publicly proclaim “support for the ideal of Arab unity,” but to quietly “encourage a strengthening of the ties among Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq,” all ruthless tyrants, in order to “counterbalance Egypt’s preponderant position of leadership in the Arab world.” Another strategy to “combat radical Arab nationalism and to hold Persian Gulf oil by force if necessary” would be “to support Israel as the only strong pro-West power.”[19]

In Latin America, long considered by U.S. imperial planners as America’s ‘backyard,’ the “threat” was very similar to that posed by Arab nationalism. A 1953 National Security Council memo noted that there was “a trend in Latin America toward nationalistic regimes maintained in large part by appeals to the masses of the population,” and that, “there is an increasing popular demand for immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses.” For the U.S., it would be “essential to arrest the drift in the area toward radical and nationalistic regimes” which was “facilitated by historic anti-U.S. prejudices and exploited by Communists.” To handle this “threat,” the NSC recommended that the United States support “the development of indigenous military forces and local bases” to encourage “individual and collective action against internal subversive activities by communists and other anti-U.S. elements.” In other words: the U.S. must support repression of foreign populations.[20]

American strategy thus sought to oppose “radical and nationalistic regimes” – defined as those who successfully defy the U.S. and its Mafia capos – and to “maintain the disparity” between America’s wealth and that of the rest of the world, as well as to continue to control strategically important resources and regions, such as oil and energy sources. America was not alone in this struggle for global domination, as it had its trusted Mafia capo “allies” like Britain, France, Germany, and to a lesser extent, Japan, at its side. Concurrently, other large powers like Russia and China would engage in bouts of cooperation and competition for extending and maintaining influence in the world, with occasional conflicts arising between them.

The International Peace Research Institute (IPRI) in Oslo, Norway, compiled a dataset for assessing armed conflict in the world between 1946 and 2001. For this time period, IPRI’s research identified 225 conflicts, 163 of which were internal conflicts, though with “external participants” in 32 of those internal conflicts. The number of conflicts in the world rose through the Cold War, and accelerated afterward.[21] The majority of conflicts have been fought in three expansive regions: from Central America and the Caribbean into South America, from East Central Europe through the Balkans, Middle East and India to Indonesia, and the entire continent of Africa.[22]

Another data set was published in 2009 that revealed much larger numbers accounting for “military interventions.” During the Cold War era of 1946 to 1989 – a period of 44 years – there were a recorded 690 interventions, while the 16-year period from 1990 and 2005 had recorded 425 military interventions. Intervention rates thus “increased in the post-Cold War era.” As the researchers noted, roughly 16 foreign military interventions took place every year during the Cold War, compared to an average of 26 military interventions per year in the post-Cold War period.[23]

Interventions by “major powers” (the US, UK, France, Soviet Union/Russia, and China) increased from an average of 4.3 per year during the Cold War to 5.6 per year in the post-Cold War period. Most of these interventions were accounted for by the United States and France, with France’s numbers coming almost exclusively from its interventions in sub-Saharan Africa. During the Cold War period, the five major powers accounted for almost 28% of all military interventions, with the United States in the lead at 74, followed by the U.K. with 38, France with 35, the Soviet Union with 25, and China with 21.[24]

In the post-Cold War period (1990-2005), the major powers accounted for 21.2% of total military interventions, with the United States in the lead at 35, followed by France with 31, the U.K. with 13, Russia with 10, and China with 1. Interventions by Western European states increased markedly in the post-Cold War period, “as former colonial powers increased their involvement in Sub-Saharan Africa,” not only by France, but also Belgium and Britain.[25]

Meanwhile, America’s actual share of global wealth has been in almost continuous decline since the end of World War II. By 2012, the United States controlled roughly 25% of the world’s wealth, compared with roughly 50% in 1948.[26] The rich countries of the world – largely represented by the G7 nations of the U.S., Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Italy and Canada – had for roughly 200 years controlled the majority of the world’s wealth.[27] In 2013, the 34 “advanced economies” of the world (including the G7, the euro area nations, and Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea) were surpassed for the first time by the other 150 nations of the world referred to as “emerging” or “developing” economies.[28]

Thus, while the American-Western Empire may be more globally expansive – or technologically advanced – than ever before, the world has itself become much more complicated to rule, with the ‘rise’ of the East (namely, China and India), and increased unrest across the globe. As Zbigniew Brzezinski noted in 2009, the world’s most powerful states “face a novel reality: while the lethality of their military might is greater than ever, their capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low. To put it bluntly: in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people.”[29]

Notes

[1] George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Austerity, Adjustment, and Social Genocide: Political Language and the European Debt Crisis,” Andrewgavinmarshall.com, 24 July 2012:

http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/07/24/austerity-adjustment-and-social-genocide-political-language-and-the-european-debt-crisis/

[6] Seumas Milne, “‘US foreign policy is straight out of the mafia’,” The Guardian, 7 November 2009:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/nov/07/noam-chomsky-us-foreign-policy

[7] Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Economic Warfare and Strangling Sanctions: Punishing Iran for its “Defiance” of the United States,” Andrewgavinmarshall.com, 6 March 2012:

http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/03/06/economic-warfare-and-strangling-sanctions-punishing-iran-for-its-defiance-of-the-united-states/

[8] Ibid.

[9] Edward Cuddy, “America’s Cuban Obsession: A Case Study in Diplomacy and Psycho-History,” The Americas (Vol. 43, No. 2, October 1986), page 192.

[10] Fred Iklé and Albert Wohlstetter, Discriminate Deterrence (Report of the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy), January 1988, page 13.

[11] Ibid, page 14.

[12] Maureen Dowd, “WAR IN THE GULF: White House Memo; Bush Moves to Control War’s Endgame,” The New York Times, 23 February 1991:

http://www.nytimes.com/1991/02/23/world/war-in-the-gulf-white-house-memo-bush-moves-to-control-war-s-endgame.html?src=pm

[13] Stanley Hoffmann, Samuel Huntington, et. al., “Vietnam Reappraised,” International Security (Vol. 6, No. 1, Summer 1981), page 14.

[14] National Security Strategy of the United States (The White House, March 1990), page 13.

[15] Zbigniew Brzezinski, “The Cold War and its Aftermath,” Foreign Affairs (Vol. 71, No. 4, Fall 1992), page 37.

[16] George F. Kennan, “Review of Current Trends U.S. Foreign Policy,” Report by the Policy Planning Staff, 24 February 1948.

[17] Andrew Gavin Marshall, “The U.S. Strategy to Control Middle Eastern Oil: “One of the Greatest Material Prizes in World History”,” Andrewgavinmarshall.com, 2 March 2012:

http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/03/02/the-u-s-strategy-to-control-middle-eastern-oil-one-of-the-greatest-material-prizes-in-world-history/

[18] Andrew Gavin Marsha, “Egypt Under Empire, Part 2: The ‘Threat’ of Arab Nationalism,” The Hampton Institute, 23 July 2013:

http://www.hamptoninstitution.org/egyptunderempireparttwo.html#.UjTzKbxQ0bd

[19] Ibid.

[20] Andrew Gavin Marshall, “The American Empire in Latin America: “Democracy” is a Threat to “National Security”,” Andrewgavinmarshall.com, 14 December 2011:

http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2011/12/14/the-american-empire-in-latin-america-democracy-is-a-threat-to-national-security/

[21] Nils Petter Gleditsch, Peter Wallensteen, Mikael Eriksson, Maragreta Sollenberg, and Havard Strand, “Armed Conflict 1946-2001: A New Dataset,” Journal of Peace Research (Vol. 39, No. 5, September 2002), page 620.

[22] Ibid, page 624.

[23] Jeffrey Pickering and Emizet F. Kisangani, “The International Military Intervention Dataset: An Updated Resource for Conflict Scholars,” Journal of Peace Research (Vol. 46, No. 4, July 2009), pages 596-598.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Robert Kagan, “US share is still about a quarter of global GDP,” The Financial Times, 7 February 2012:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d655dd52-4e9f-11e1-ada2-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2euUZAiCV

[27] Chris Giles and Kate Allen, “Southeastern shift: The new leaders of global economic growth,” The Financial Times, 4 June 2013:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b0bd38b0-ccfc-11e2-9efe-00144feab7de.html?siteedition=intl#axzz2euUZAiCV

[28] David Yanofsky, “For The First Time Ever, Combined GDP Of Poor Countries Exceeds That Of Rich Ones,” The Huffington Post, 29 August 2013:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/28/gdp-poor-countries_n_3830396.html

[29] Zbigniew Brzezinski, “Major Foreign Policy Challenges for the Next US President,” International Affairs, 85: 1, (2009), page 54.

Howl Now: The Beaten Masses & Mass Disaster

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm
Howl Now: The Beaten Masses & Mass Disaster

Oldspeak: Ginsberg would be proud. 🙂 This brilliant riff mirrors sooo many of my thoughts. Enjoy. Hope it speaks to you as deeply as it did to me. :-)” –OSJ

Related Content:

By David DeGraw @ Daviddegraw.org:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by debt
Struggling to get by, dying to make ends meet
Shopping for an angry fix
Wage slaves burnin’ for the illusion,
a fleeting connection to the celebrity driven machinery of slow death
Assembly line souls who had no choice but to sacrifice themselves
to the false idols
of almighty mass consumerism as their only religion
Illuminated through the church of television
& every medium of ill communication
Force-fed into their head… mind raped, since birth
Overwhelmed, sound bite attention span
Over-prescribed, bi-polar ADD youth
Bred to be numb, a dumbed down mindless consumer drone
No depth of thought, untaught
As they slept walked through universities
Not realizing the cost of it will enslave them
in a never-ending vicious cycle of debt
Naive youth first time away from home, on their own
Targeted by credit cards & loans
& taxes… to pay for endless war… against themselves
Death by a thousand cuts
Nickel & dimed, every second of… all the time
A generation chained to a game not of their making
Rat racing, inner-self repressed, freedom denied
Thinking thoughts of suicide inside sanitized walls
Surrounded by electronic plasma radiating terror, cellular cancer
Diseased souls smoking & drinking & drowning in flashing light
Trying to escape their repetitive life
by popping ecstasy & snorting coke in a paradise of bass beats in the night
Filled with… emptiness
Having random meaningless sex, hoping not to get STDs
Searching… for any hint of love & life
as they go through the motions
Day after day more of the same meaningless game
Monotonous & mundane
Work, shop, TV, sleep
Work, shop, TV, sleep
Routine, repetition
Less than human
Nothing left to believe in…
Praying…
Yearning… for a last minute escape, that never comes, from this madness
Flipping… through channels & tabloids
Vicariously living through the stars
Daydream delusions of fame
While eating… genetically modified, supersized fast food & drinking diet coke
Running on a treadmill in a plastic paradise of silicone & botox
Energy bars & supplements
Downloading / streaming porn & sterile music
Hoping to meet someone, anyone, online
Instant messages from distant “friends”
Like, LOL, OMG
Fractured family, holiday acquaintances, obligations
Travel expenses, gifts, time you don’t have to give
Got to keep hustlin’
Bills to pay, bills to pay, bills to pay
Pills to sleep, pills to take away the pain, pills to lose… weight, wait
Wrapped in a womb of insecurity
Giving off the illusion of prosperity
Fancy car lease, overpriced homes they cannot afford
Overpriced doctor bills, overpriced education, overpriced… everything
Runnin’ w/ the Joneses
White picket fences… & mouths to feed
The fake grass is always greener
There is no other side
Shopping malls & destruction
Chemical pesticide, pissing in the water supply
Gas pump pumping toxins into the sky
Ultra Violet rays shinning through ozone curtains
The shade recedes, the tides rise
Tanning under toxic skies
Human waste penetrates skin
Go take a swim in an ocean of pollution
Bathing in… raw sewage
Change in… the weather
A species with a disease
The pathology of greed
Race to the bottom
lowest common
denominator
Dominated…
Chewed up & spit out
Downsized & outsourced
Head hunting for temp work
Without benefits, no vacation, sickness unpaid, no health care
Home searching, showerless in underwear
Hiding behind a computer screen
Staring blankly, clicking madly
Burning bloodshot aging eyes…
Pounding veins & frying caffeinated brains
Who have ceased asking the big questions
Scampering for small lives
Bread crumbs from the table, circuses of distraction
A generation expelled from freedom, unknowingly
for being passive soldiers in the falling empire
Who know their vote doesn’t count
Disillusioned & marginalized, a systematic farce
Blanketed by lies & a four year dog & pony ritual
Watching plastic puppet politicians spew scripted words from tongues on a teleprompter leash
Watching shocking scandal after scandal
Watching unprecedented crimes go unpunished
Watching our future be sold & auctioned off to the highest bidder
A cancerously corrupted civilization
An entire generation born to conform & be blind to wider reality
& anything not repetitively projected on the TV
Who sit thoughtlessly & apathetically while surroundings burn
The silent & passive desperation of a defeated generation
The beaten masses & mass disaster
Denial & death
with little time left…

HOWL NOW

As Obama, Romney Hold First Debate, Behind The Secret GOP-Dem Effort To Shut Out Third Parties

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Oldspeak: “The Obama and Romney campaigns have secretly negotiated a detailed contract that dictates many of the terms of the 2012 presidential debates. This includes who gets to participate, as well as the topics raised during the debates.” This pact ensures that no difficult questions will be asked, and candidates will be able to recite their talking points with no fear of having to talk about issues they don’t want to talk about.  “The Commission on Presidential Debates gets the vast majority of its money from major businesses that support it. Anheuser-Busch is far and away the biggest contributor to the commission. So, by and large, our presidential debates are brought to you by Bud Light. And if you actually go to some of these debate sites — I don’t know how it is this year, but in the past there have been Anheuser-Busch tents where scantily clad women are passing out pamphlets denouncing beer taxes. The CEOs of these companies get access to the debates, they sit in the audience, they’re invited to receptions to meet with campaign staff. They get a wonderful benefit because they are able to simultaneously demonstrate their support for both major parties, hit two birds with one stone and get a tax deduction to boot. –George Farah The U.S. Presidential Debates, brought to you by the Transnational Corporate Network. “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

Guest:

George Farah, Founder and Executive Director of Open Debates. He is also author of the book, “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.”

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting in Denver, Colorado. We are on the road, here, just miles from the University of Denver, the site of tonight’s presidential debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama. It is the first of three presidential debates before the November 6th election. Tonight’s debate will focus on domestic policy, but one issue that will not be covered is the actual structure of the debate itself. The Obama and Romney campaigns have secretly negotiated a detailed contract that dictates many of the terms of the 2012 presidential debates. This includes who gets to participate, as well as the topics raised during the debates. Now 18 pro-democracy groups are calling on the commission of presidential debates, a private corporation that runs the debates, to review the details of the negotiated agreement. Meanwhile, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, has filed an antitrust lawsuit for entry into the debates against the Commission on Presidential debates. In addition, supporters of Green Party nominee Jill Stein plan to protest outside of the debate under the banner of Occupy the CPD. While Obama and Romney debate in Denver, Stein and Justice Party Candidate Rocky Anderson will appear on Democracy Now!‘s expanding the debate exclusive tonight. We will air the Obama-Romney debate, pausing after questions to include equal time responses from Dr. Stein and Rocky Anderson. We invited Gary Johnson, but his campaign said he had other plans for the night. Our special begins at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time. If it’s not being broadcast on your station as it’s being broadcast throughout the country, you can also go to our website at Democracynow.org. To talk more about the debates, we are joined now, in New York, by the George Farah. He’s the founder and Executive Director of Open Debates, the author of “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.” George, welcome to Democracy Now!. You are there in our studios in New York, and we are here just outside Denver where the debates are taking place tonight, so we can bring folks and expanded version of the debates. George, how did it come to be that the commission of presidential debates came in to being? What is this commission?

GEORGE FARAH: The Commission on Presidential debates sounds like a government agency, it sounds like a nonpartisan entity, which is by design, is intended to deceive the American people. But, in reality, it is a private corporation financed by Anheuser-Busch and other major companies, that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties to seize control of the presidential debates from The League of Women Voters in 1987. Precisely as you said, Amy, every four years, this commission allows the major party campaigns to meet behind closed doors and draft a secret contract, a memorandum of understanding that dictates many of the terms. The reason for the commission’s creation is that the previous sponsor, The League of Women voters, was a genuine non-partisan entity, our voice, the voice of the American people in the negotiation room, and time and time again, The League had the courage to stand up to the Republican and Democratic campaigns to insist on challenging creative formats, to insist on the inclusion of independent candidates that the vast majority of American people wanted to see, and most importantly, to insist on transparency, so that any attempts by the Republican and Democratic parties to manipulate the presidential debates would result in and of enormous political price. And it’s precisely because the League…

AMY GOODMAN: George, you have a lot of time here, so I really want you to lay out how this happened. Explain the moment when this was taken out of the hands of The League of Women Voters and this commission was formed. How was this justified?

GEORGE FARAH: The best part of the history starts in 1980. In 1980, John B. Anderson, an independent candidate for president, runs against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. President Jimmy Carter absolutely opposed independent candidate John Anderson’s participation in the presidential debates, and The League had a choice; do they support the independent candidate’s participation and defy the wishes of the President of the United States or do they capitulate to the demands of President Jimmy Carter? The league did the right thing, it stood to the President of the United States, invited John B. Anderson. The President refused to show up. The League went forward anyway and had a presidential debate that was watched by 55 million Americans. You fast forward four years later, Amy, and the Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan campaigns vetoed 80 of the moderators that The League of Women Voters had proposed for the debates. The were simply trying to get rid of…

AMY GOODMAN: Eighty?

GEORGE FARAH: Eighty. They were trying to get rid of difficult questions.

AMY GOODMAN: Eight-zero?

GEORGE FARAH: Eight-zero. Eighty. And The League didn’t just say, OK that’s fine we’ll allow you to select a moderator that’s going to ask softball questions, The League held a press conference and lambasted the campaigns for trying to get rid of the difficult questions. Of course there was a public outcry. So The League marshaled public support to criticize when they attempted to defy our democratic process and the result was fantastic. For the next debate, the campaigns were required to accept The League’s proposed moderators for fear of an additional public outcry. And you fast forward four more years later and you have the Michael Dukakis and the George Bush campaign’s drafting the first ever 12-page secret debate contract. They gave it to The League of Women Voters and said please implement this. The League said, are you kidding me? We are not going to implement a secret contract that dictates the terms of the format. Instead, they release the contract to the public and they held a press conference accusing the candidates of “perpetrating a fraud on the American people” and refusing to be “an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American people.”

Well, Amy, conveniently, just a year earlier, the Republican and Democratic parties had ratified an agreement “to take over the presidential debates, and they created this artifice, this commission, and the commission was waiting in the wings and stepped right in and implemented the very same 12-page contract that The League had so effectively denounced, and ever since we’ve had a contract.

AMY GOODMAN: Since The League did release it — The League of Women Voters at the time — what was in this 12-page contract, at least then?

GEORGE FARAH: The 12-page contract then said very specific provisions that the candidates cannot actually ask each other any questions during the debates, that no third party candidates would be permitted to participate in those events, that there would be a certain number of audience members that would be supportive of the various candidates. Actually, it is quite tame compared to the contracts we have seen in recent years. That contract was 12 pages. The 2004 contract that we’ve managed to obtain a a copy of, was 32 pages. So, over time, the candidates have made even greater efforts to control various components of the debates to eliminate both third party candidates, unpredictable questions, and any threat to their dominance in our political process.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this Commission, talk about the heads of the commission and who they are, who they were when it started, Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk, and who they are today, and who they represent?

GEORGE FARAH: Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk were the original co-chairs on the Commission on Presidential Debates. Frank Fahrenkopf is the former hair of the Republican party, and Paul Kirk is the former chair of the Democratic party. When they created the commission, for 15 months, they simultaneously served as co-chairs of their respective parties and the commission, so, it was of course by definition an entity that was absolutely loyal to the two parties. Well, guess what, Frank Fahrenkopf still is co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, decades later. And he has one other job, his day job; he is the director of the American Gaming Association. In other words, he is the nation’s leading gambling lobbyist. When I asked Frank, do you feel comfortable having a beer and tobacco companies paying for our most important election events, our presidential debates? He said, boy, you’re talking to the wrong guy, I represent the gambling industry. The other co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates now is Mike McCurry, former Press Secretary to Bill Clinton and also a lobbyist. He’s lobbied aggressively on behalf of the telecommunications industry. So, you have two people in charge of these presidential debates that, number one, are loyal to their parties, they’re political operatives, and number two, have demonstrated time and time again a willingness to sacrifice the interests of the American people for private, political, and financial interests. These are not exactly people who hesitate to subjugate the democratic process to the private interests that benefit from these actual debates.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what happened this past week, George Farah? The advertising agency BBH, the YWCA, Phillips North America, terminating their sponsorship of the debates. First of all, what are corporations doing sponsoring these presidential debates and why have these organizations pulled out?

GEORGE FARAH: Well, the Commission on Presidential Debates gets the vast majority of its money from major businesses that support it. Anheuser-Busch is far and away the biggest contributor to the commission. So, by and large, our presidential debates are brought to you by Bud Light. And if you actually go to some of these debate sites — I don’t know how it is this year, but in the past there have been Anheuser-Busch tents where scantily clad women are passing out pamphlets denouncing beer taxes. The CEOs of these companies get access to the debates, they sit in the audience, they’re invited to receptions to meet with campaign staff. They get a wonderful benefit because they are able to simultaneously demonstrate their support for both major parties, hit two birds with one stone and get a tax deduction to boot. Back when the League of Women voters used to sponsor these events, they struggled to raise $5,000 contributions from companies, it was very difficult. But, because they are now perceived as a sort of soft money donation, this is yet another avenue for businesses with regulatory interests before Congress to influence our political process.

We have launched a campaign since the inception of my organization in 2004 to pushing our supporters, which number in the tens of thousands, to write letters and e-mails to the very sponsors demanding that they withdraw their support of the commission. This year, with the support of other organizations, one called Help the Commission, an infusion of enthusiasm from third parties, including the Libertarian party and the Green party, for the first time ever we actually have succeeded in achieving some tangible goals. Not just one sponsor, but three of the ten sponsors have withdrawn support. BBH, a British advertising agency, YWCA, a nonprofit, and most importantly, Philips Electronics, a tech giant. Due to the extraordinary public pressure that we have exerted on them, they have said they will no longer be affiliated with an entity that is perceived, correctly, as being partisan and fundamentally anti-democratic. This is a triumph for the debate reform movement and I hope the beginning of unveiling the commission for what it truly is, and displacing it.

AMY GOODMAN: George Farah, say again the companies that continue to support the Commission on Presidential Debates?

GEORGE FARAH: There are seven remaining sponsors. There are three companies; Anheuser-Busch, again the poster child for contributing to the commission, you have Southwest Airlines, you have the International Bottled Water Association, then you have two foundations, The Howard Buffett Foundation, Howard Buffett happens to be a board member of the commission, something called the Marjorie Kovler Fund that’s affiliated with the Kennedy Library. And then you have two law firms, Korman, a specific law firm that focuses on specific issues in Washington, and Sheldon Cohen, a national security lawyer. These are the seven entities that are backing our Commission on Presidential Debates. This is not the way these ought to be run. These should be supported by civic groups, non-partisan organizations with a real focus on the democratic process, and instead they’re subcontracting out our presidential debate process to Anheuser-Busch.

AMY GOODMAN: It will be interesting to see if there is bottled water on their podiums, or if there is Bud Light. I wanted to go to one of the third party candidates shut out of tonight’s debate, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson the former governor of New Mexico. He appeared recently on Neil Cavuto’s show on Fox Business.

NEIL CAVUTO: Governor, half the battle is getting on those ballots and polling well to get in those debates. So, it’s sort of like a tough…

GARY JOHNSON: Very catch-22. Right now I’m 5% nationally. Fact is I’m not being recognized though at 5% nationally and if people recognized that I was at 5% nationally, Neil, the overwhelming reaction would be well who the hell is Gary Johnson.

NEIL CAVUTO: What does it take to get into the debates?

GARY JOHNSON: Well, you got to get in the polls first to determine who’s in the debates.

AMY GOODMAN: And earlier this summer the Green Party wrapped up its convention with the nomination of its presidential candidate the physician Dr. Jill Stein and her running mate the anti-poverty activist Cheri Honkala. Stein called her ticket a viable third-party challenge too corporate-beholden Republicans and Democrats.

CHERI HONKALA: I strongly agree that grass-roots democracy grows from the local community up, but at the same time, we have a state of emergency, I think, at the national level. And to silence the only hope of an opposition voice in this election when so much is at stake, I think, would be just a terrible loss for the American people. There is no reason why Americans should have to walk into the voting booth in November and only effectively two Wall Street-sponsored choices.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein. Democracy Now! spoke to Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida last month.

ROCKY ANDERSON: These two parties, Republicans and Democrats, have a stranglehold on our democracy. They are depriving people around this country of not only being able to get on the ballot. They are denying all us of our freedom of choice. We are seeing it in the most aggressive ways.

AMY GOODMAN: Again, we are going to have this presidential debate, including Rocky Anderson, the presidential candidate from the Justice Party, Dr. Jill Stein, the presidential candidate from the Green Party, we will be doing that tonight, expanding the debates. Just having them, not comments afterwards, but actually they will participate in the debate. We’ll just hit pause on the presidential debate, they will be given the same amount of time in the same format as the main presidential candidates, so that TV and radio and Internet audiences at Democracynow.org can hear what democracy sounds like. George Farah, there was a third-party candidate outside of Anderson, of course, Ross Perot. So, George, how did he get into the debates? Why was it agreed to then?

GEORGE FARAH: Amy, the Ross Perot story is absolutely fascinating, and I’d love to talk briefly. About 1992 and 1996, Ross Perot managed to get into the 1992 presidential debates. One of the great public misconceptions is that the Commission invited him. The commission loves to take credit as well. They say we are not as bi-partisan or as partisan as people accuse us of being. We included Ross Perot in 1992. That is not what happened. President George H.W. Bush believed strategically that Ross Perot was taking votes from then challenger Bill Clinton. So Bush’s campaign insisted on Ross Perot’s inclusion. The commission actually opposed Perot’s inclusion, first pushing to keep out of all three debates, then lobbying for allowing him to participate in just a single debate. It was only because President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton pushed for Perot’s inclusion that he was included. If you fast forward four years later, Ross Perot ran for president again. He had $29 million in taxpayer funds. Seventy-six percent of the American people wanted to see him in the debates. He was widely deemed the winner of two of the three debates in 1992, yet, he was excluded. Why, because this time, the candidates wanted to keep him out.

Bob Dole was desperate to keep Perot out of the presidential debates because he thought Perot would take more votes away from him. Bill Clinton did not want anyone to watch the debates. He wanted what George Stephanopoulos told me was a non event because he was comfortably leading in the polls. So they reached an outrageous agreement; Bill Clinton agreed to exclude Perot on the condition that one of three debates was canceled, and the remaining two debates were scheduled opposite the World Series of baseball, and no follow-up questions were asked. So, this is what viewers at home got. They got not Perot, they got two debates at the same time as baseball and they had no follow up questions, and that’s exactly what President Bill Clinton wanted, by design, the lowest debate audience in the history of presidential debates. Who took the heat? Not the candidates. The candidates never paid a political price. The polls after the debate showed 50% of the public blamed the commission. Only 13% blamed President Clinton, and only 5% blamed the Bob Dole. In other words, the critical role that the commission plays is allowing the candidates to engage in anti-democratic manipulations behind closed doors without having to pay a political price. If Bob Dole and Bill Clinton had to look in the camera and tell the American people, we’re going to keep out a candidate out you’re paying for, that you’re supporting and that you want to see, they would have never have had the courage to do so. It would have been perceived as cowardly and they would have been forced to allow Ross Perot up on that stage.

AMY GOODMAN: What about this comment, that Gary Johnson made, the former governor of New Mexico who’s running for president on the Libertarian line, this point about what you poll and this catch-22 of how you increase your standing in the polls if you are not in the debates?

GEORGE FARAH: Due to explicit criticism of the commission in 1992 and 1996 and an investigation by the Federal Election Commission, the commission was forced to adopting a numerical figure as a kind of decision making, at what point third-party candidates could participate in the presidential debates. So, they have announced that if a third party candidate, or any candidate gets 15% of the polls, that they will invite them to a presidential debate. Fifteen percent of the polls? Amy, that is crazy. There has not been a third-party candidate in the last 100 years that’s gotten close to 15% in the polls prior to any sort of presidential debate, it’s ridiculously high. Congress gives candidates millions of dollars of taxpayer funds if they win 5% of the popular vote. How is it that we actually can we subsidize a candidate, yet they need three times that level of support just to get into these presidential debates? Third-party candidates faced extraordinary structural barriers, discriminatory ballot access, scant media coverage, loyalties of the political class in the voting public, enormous campaign finance disparities. So, if they managed to convince a majority of Americans that they ought to be included in the presidential debates, it is outrageous that a private corporation backed by Anheuser-Busch, controlled by the two parties is telling them no. It absolutely is a catch-22. The presidential debates are the gatekeepers to credibility. If third party candidate gets in, he is instantly deemed credible, viable worthy of voter attention and worth of media attention, but if he is excluded, he is dismissed as marginal unworthy of voter attention of media attention, and his campaign is relegated in many ways to the dustbins of history. These is outrageous that the gatekeepers to our election process are not non-partisan entities like The League [of Women Voters], but partisan individuals with loyalties to the Republican and Democratic parties. It stifles debate, by design.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you see this changing right now, George Farah? You are the founder and executive director of Open Debates. You have been watching this over the years. The League of Women Voters, are they organizing? How are groups actually organizing? How do you see this playing out?

GEORGE FARAH: We created something in 2004 called The Citizen’s Debate Commission in. It was comprised of 17 civic leaders from across the political spectrum, from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council on the right, to Randall Robertson, founder of Transafrica on the left. It was backed by 60 civic groups on its advisory board, 23 newspapers around country from The L.A. Times to The Seattle Times editorialized in support of the Citizen’s Debate Commission. And its specific purpose was clear; we were going to break the monopoly that the commission exerts over our presidential debate process. Unfortunately, Amy, we failed for the simple reason that there wasn’t sufficient public pressure. But, this is not reason to throw up your arms in defeat and say, oh my gosh, we can’t break this, that was just planting the seeds. This was the beginning of a broad based movement. The only way to truly break the monopoly of The Commission on Presidential Debates is to create a viable alternative that has so much grass roots support that it becomes politically costly for the major party nominees to avoid those debates. Once upon a time, the major party candidates could avoid debates altogether. There were no presidential debates in 1964, ’68 and ’72 because it wasn’t expected. Now any major party candidate seen avoiding the debates looks cowardly. It’s impossible, they must debate, whether they like it or not. We just want to take that expectation the public has and elevate it, so that not only will a candidate pay a price if they avoid the debates, but they will pay a political price if they avoid real debates that they aren’t controlling. So this is a matter of evolving and pushing the public expectation and step by step, I think we’re going to succeed. It is just a matter of time. The fact that three of the ten sponsors this election cycle withdrew their support is testimony to the fact that it is now becoming expensive to be too politically associated with the commission. If we can broaden that attack to not just include corporations but actually the individual candidates, we’re going to start to see some headway, we’re going to start to break the commission’s monopoly.

AMY GOODMAN: George Farah, I want to thank you for being with us. Founder and Executive Director of Open Debates, also author of “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.” He’ll be joining us tonight. We will be starting a half hour before the actual presidential debate at 8:30 Eastern Standard time. Vincent Harding will also be with us, close ally of Dr. Martin Luther King. He is based here in Denver. He helped to write the speech that Dr. King gave in Riverside Church in New York, why he opposed the war in Vietnam a year to the day before Dr. King was assassinated. Then we start the debate exactly at 9:00 Eastern time, just as the debate begins here in Denver. We will broadcast the debate, it is moderated by Jim Lehrer of the PBS News Hour. He will put the questions to the major party candidates, Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, and then we will hit pause, we will expand the debate. The candidates will be here with us in the studio also in Denver; Dr. Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson, both presidential candidates, third parties. Gary Johnson was invited but he won’t be in the city. We will expand the debate just as if they were standing right there at the University of Denver.

A Question Of Labor: How Do We Help Workers Connect The Dots To This Larger System Of Oppression?

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm

https://i1.wp.com/www.addictinginfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/labor.jpgOldspeak:”There’s been a fifty-to-sixty year campaign in this country to destroy the reputation of unions. We don’t have a labor page, we have a business page in every newspaper. We get a one-way view from the American capitalist media every day, and it drums into people these horrible lessons. There is a total lack of understanding of what the real purpose of a union in this country really is and what it does. Unless and until labor leaders are willing to take some responsibility for rebuilding the relationship internally to the rank and file, we are in trouble because I think this is where the dot-connecting has to happen.” –Jane McAlevey
The death of the American Middle class is directly correlated to the death of the American Labor Unions as community organizing/educating powerful bulwarks against corporate hegemony. The  Labor unions has largely been co-opted, adopting the practices of the interests they were created to balance against.  Owners.  Top-down management, disconnection of rank and file workers from decision-making.  Mobilizing instead of organizing. Integration into the hopelessly corrupt “Pay-To-Play” system of governance, that has crippled representative government. “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Laura Flanders @ Truthout:

You could choke on the irony in Charlotte this Labor Day. The United States’ faux labor holiday falls on day one of the Democratic National Convention. While the Democrats will no doubt tip their hat to working people and imbibe a beer or two on labor’s campaign tab, the ragged edge of organized labor’s relationship with the Democratic Party will be on painful display. After all, it’s supposed to be a holiday.

Will Barack Obama win this November? Probably. In 2008, the unions spent at least $300 million to elect him president. As will be obvious in Charlotte, they’re likely to spend even more this year. The Democrats are up against far bigger spenders – men like Sheldon Adelson and the brothers Koch – but it’s hard to believe the GOP bankrollers will ultimately hoodwink enough of the American electorate to win, while Republican extremism, on everything from women to wages, gives moderate voters every reason to be rattled by Romney and Ryan. What’s harder to see is how working Americans actually benefit from the situation that will likely squeak Obama back into the White House.

Which brings us back to Labor Day. President Grover Cleveland signed the legislation declaring the first Monday in September a national holiday just days before he sent 12,000 troops to brutally break the Pullman Strike of 1894. The concession wasn’t what international socialists (who observed May 1) wanted in the way of a labor holiday. In fact, it was the opposite, but Cleveland and his successors excelled at dusting repression with just enough reform to defuse industrial workers’ organizing.

Fast-forward to the most bitterly split era since those Robber Baron days of the industrial age and we find ourselves in a rerun. Having free traded our manufacturing jobs to other countries and deregulated our economy to labor death, more than half of all jobs in the US today pay less than $34,000/year, a quarter pay less than $22,000 (the poverty line for a family of four.) Six million people exist on food stamps as their only income – and American labor unions are the weakest they’ve ever been. Gloating from the stage of the RNC in Tampa, we saw Republican Govs. Chris Christie and Scott Walker from the formerly labor-dominated states of New Jersey and Wisconsin, trumpet their success in scapegoating public-sector unions.

As organizer/author Jane McAlevey points out, “We get a one-way view from the American capitalist media every day [that] drums into people … a total lack of understanding of what the real purpose of a union in this country really is and what it does.”

What will turn this around? Not another four years of an Obama in office with only the radical right on the offensive. Labor has failed to win any of the legislation it was promised by the Democrats four years ago, yet the rightward rush of the Republican Party has kept unions in quiescent lockstep behind the Democratic Party.

The great, loud, Labor Day party we need is not at the Democratic National Convention.

Jane McAlevey has a book coming out this fall from Verso called “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement.” I started by asking her to introduce herself, and then to talk about hell-raising in Wisconsin and the lessons the labor movement might draw from that experience, with relevance to the elections that loom just ahead of us.

Jane McAlevey; I’m Jane McAlevey and I am an organizer. I worked in the non-union part of the social justice movement for many years and made a transition into the labor movement on the heels of [John] Sweeney’s election [to be president of the AFL-CIO.] At the AFL-CIO in 1995 – when we had the first contested election in the history of the merged institutions (the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations) – there was a lot of promise in the labor movement, and people like me signed up in droves.

Laura Flanders: You wrote a piece in the June 26 issue of The Nation magazine with Bill Fletcher about the lessons from Wisconsin. Talk about hopes and disappointments, the top lessons, in your view?

JM: I think the top lesson in our view is that there is not enough internal radical, political education taking place inside of America’s unions. If there was one thing we had to do differently, it’s actually trust that our rank and file can handle a lot of the information and that the rank and file will know what to do with real facts, real information, and what’s really happening.

I should back up and say in terms of the introduction, I worked at a place called the Highlander Center for three years when I was young, and I’m quite sure that my bias as an organizer towards intense levels of education with the rank and file comes from being in my mid-20s and working at the most prestigious adult education center in this country. It was the heart of the civil rights movement, and (most people don’t even know) Highlander was the CIO’s official labor education school in the 30s and 40s. With that background to my early years of work, by the time I hit the labor movement, I had a very strong philosophy that I trusted the workers. If you trust the workers, and you actually present a framework for education that helps workers begin to understand that this isn’t just about the boss on the third shift, by the way, it’s the corporation you’re working for, and then … you help workers connect the dots to this larger system of oppression that’s taking place in this country dressed up as free enterprise and freedom.

I was trained by someone named Jerry Brown who is now retired, formerly the head of 1199 [the New England Health Care Employees Union – SEIU] in New England which was a communist-based union by origin that continued (even though they broke with Stalin, etc.) the organizing tradition that came out of the Communist Party in the ’30s – which is deep organizing. It starts with trusting the workers. So when I became a union organizer and I had been organizing already, I thought, what do I need to know? Jerry Brown, who I credit enormously for a lot of brilliant labor work in his time, said to me “trust the workers McAlevey, treat them like grown-ups and teach the workers to run the unions.”

LF: But still, going back to the June election in Wisconsin, one-third of all union members voted for Scott Walker –

JM: That’s right.

LF: … The anti-union governor, to stay in office.

JM: Yes, but I think that’s symbolic of what happens when you don’t trust the workers to be able to make wise decisions once we’ve provided the educational settings that enable radical, participatory, education. I’ve seen some arguments in Wisconsin where people said, “Well, one-third of union members are Republican and always vote Republican,” and I think that’s a bad analysis. The question is what’s the relationship between the leadership of the union and the rank and file members? The 38% that voted for Scott Walker is reflective of a lack of real, consistent, ongoing relationship-building with the rank and file of the union.

When we don’t engage the workers and treat them like grown-ups and say we have to have some really hard conversations – things are looking really bad right now and here’s why – and then explain how Scott Walker connects to what’s happening to the second shift manager or whatever it is; if we don’t do that, we’re going to continue to have 38% of union members voting against their self interests even though – I think Bill Fletcher and I say in our piece – in our own experience, we’ve both done a ton of radical, political education with thousands and thousands of workers, when we do our work right as labor leaders – when we really share what’s happening to these workers around them, give them the space to learn it on their own – to explore the system called capitalism in a way that’s not coming “to” them in some doctrinaire one-way messaging – I think that you would find that they’re not going to vote against their self interests. We’re not helping people connect the dots anymore – and we desperately need to.

LF: The dots in Wisconsin … when I was out there covering the uprising a year ago, were pretty broadly laid out. We interviewed grassroots activists from the world of farming, education, teaching assistants, young people of color fighting against cuts in social services, and more. It wasn’t just about “workers.” What has happened since when it comes to capitalizing (for the lack of a better word) on all those dots that are not in the “work place”?

JM: There’s been a fifty-to-sixty year campaign in this country to destroy the reputation of unions. We don’t have a labor page, we have a business page in every newspaper. We get a one-way view from the American capitalist media every day, and it drums into people these horrible lessons. There is a total lack of understanding of what the real purpose of a union in this country really is and what it does. Unless and until labor leaders are willing to take some responsibility for rebuilding the relationship internally to the rank and file, we are in trouble because I think this is where the dot-connecting has to happen.

It’s through our rank and file in the labor movement that the relationship to the so-called external allies needs to be built. It should not be a professional staff operation. And by the way, it’s not just unions, it’s in all of our movements – whether it’s the feminist movement, the environmental movement, or the labor movement. (I don’t like to just blame labor here – I have organized in all these movements and the same tendency has been taking place.) From the time [Saul] Alinsky published “Rules for Radicals” in 1972, there has been a fairly fast transition away from the deep organizing that characterized American left movements in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s. In the ’70s we take a turn from what we would call deep organizing and into what I call shallow mobilizing where you replace staff for leadership engagement and radical rank and file, participatory education (and I mean rank and file whether it’s environmental, conservation, women, etc. The rank and file meaning the grassroots, the people, ordinary Americans …)

We’ve replaced doing real leadership development and empowering people and trusting that they can figure out what’s going wrong in this country with communications, messaging, pollsters, lawyers, lawsuits and a bunch of staff and a bunch of advocacy organizations that sort of do the work for people. All staff do nowadays is “turn out,” turning out people for a rally. Our movement has become “go turn out bodies for a rally” and that’s why 38% of union household voted for Walker.

LF: You have a book soon coming out in the fall from Verso and we’ll go into this in more depth then, but to give us a taste right now, what happened in the 1970s to make the shift?

JM: So, we had tremendous success in the 30s, 40s, and 50s and that success came from brutally hard work. Brutally hard work: people were shot, killed, etc. I think we got to the height of power, the environmental movement passed all of its biggest legislation in ’71 and ’72 under Nixon. We had won Medicaid, we had won the Civil Rights Act, the National Labor Relations Act; we won a series of very structurally powerful changes that happened from the 30s, 40s and 50s culminating in the early 1970s. So people in the movement thought, HA! We’ve won. We now need to set up highly professionalized, very bureaucratized, nationalized organizations in Washington D.C. Let’s just hire a bunch of lawyers to implement our laws.

By the way, most of those laws have never even been fully implemented because there was a failure to understand that the reason that we passed the laws was because from the 1930s through the late 1950s, there was extraordinary movement in this country, grassroots everywhere. Every movement understood that the odds were against them, we had to build to majorities in the field to win. So they did incredible work, sacrificed so much, built huge majorities, built movements, and passed legislation not from professional staff and lawyers in Washington but from activism at the base, and then we made the fundamental mistake of thinking all we had to do was move to Washington and implement the agenda. We fail the minute we forget that the power is outside of the capitol, outside of every state capitol, certainly outside of the nation’s capitol. We have let our base whither and at the exact same time the right-wing in America begins to realize, ah, it’s the base, stupid, and [with Phyllis Schlafly, the Business Round Table et al] the right begins to build this hugely powerful base.

LF: What would you have done in the last 12 months of Wisconsin or in any other struggle you want to focus on? Concrete steps of how you do this differently.

JM: Step 1: Start having an extraordinary number of meetings. (I’m going to talk about this from a union perspective.) Have one-on-one conversations with every rank and file member there is. People say, well how do you do that? People think that would take a lot of staff. No, I’m not talking about staff, that’s the thing. I’m talking about trusting workers, bringing them in, going to trainings, talk to everyone. Then they begin to systematically map every single relationship they have. What church are they in? What farmers do they know? So that the strategy of the work is not professional staff to other constituencies, it’s rank and file members, doing inventory with them, really tapping what all the union members themselves have in their own community. And instead we sort of drop these layers of artificial coalition building on top as the best source we have.

LF: What about what their lives are like? How much does the workplace organizer know about what their member’s life is like outside?

JM: Exactly, very little. So one of the models of work that I have had the pleasure of using in the labor movement is – we start with these basic discussions. We get through the initial election victory in the union (a hard fought-fight) now we’re heading into our big first contract fight and we know it’s time to build serious allies. We’re looking effectively to build and win what labor folks call “neutrality.” What the labor movement wants is fair rules (which they can boil down to the Employee Free-Choice Act or EFCA, which sounded like some kind of social disease), but what we are trying to get to is, how do we blunt the instrument of the employer? That’s what all the tactical warfare of labor is engaged with.

The model that I worked on and worked with for the last fifteen years in the labor movement was that we said screw labor law, forget thinking we’re changing labor law, forget it, it’s not happening in our lifetime; the odds aren’t there. So instead, how do we create neutrality on the ground? We create neutrality on the ground by having the workers tap their own existing relationships to their own community. To go out themselves, not as I’m the union coming in to have a conversation about why we’re so good, but it’s Sally who goes to Reverend George’s church, and Sally, very nervously by the way (it takes about four rounds of work with Sally because workers aren’t just going to go talk with their religious leader, they are scared of them. Note to Labor movement – the workers are more scared of the house of faith and God than they are of the union or the boss). You have to do training work, you have to get the workers in role plays, they actually have to practice, but once they go and have that conversation you can see their shoulders relax, when they go in and get support from their religious leader it’s like, well, God’s on my side now.

LF: It’s kind of like the reverse of Take Your Daughter to Work Day. Take Your Worker Back Home.

JM: [Laughs] Yes, exactly.

LF: Where do you see it happening? Are there any models right now that are exciting to you?

JM: The places I see it happening most consistently are on what we would call the margins of the former labor movement. Which is in a lot of the immigrant organizing, whether it’s domestic workers … guest workers, the fight we are seeing now in Louisiana around the shrimp house, so there are places where it’s happening, but the big problem of it is – going back to the piece Bill Fletcher and I wrote on it is – these strategies (they’re not tactics, not games), these strategies are not being embraced by main line labor.

LF: What’s your advice to union organizers heading into the 2012 elections?

JM: I think we are in that customary, awful situation we normally are in this country, which is of course we’ve got to get Obama elected. It’s not funny. I find it actually not funny to think about what the alternative is. However, (pause,) if we do anything during the election period from now to November, it’s got to be that everything we are doing is additive, it’s building towards getting ready to launch serious fights the minute the election is over and I don’t care if it’s Obama, and with Romney it’s going to be a different kind of fight, but either way we have to be doing additive work. When we’re out building a base for an election too much of it is tactical, we want one vote out of them, we want to drive them out on Election Day. For organizers it [should be] how are we building for the long haul? How can we not make the same mistake in December of 2012 that we made in December of 2008, which was to be gloves off, access is cool, “We’re back in the White House!” That didn’t get us very much in four years. So, Democrat or Republican, we need to get Obama in, then we need to fight like hell to get an agenda through that’s not two-tiering any benefits that exist in this country, but fighting the next administration, whoever they are, that’s what we have to be building towards in this election period.

Jane McAlevey is, among other things, the author of the forthcoming “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement” that we’ll talk to her about when it comes out from Verso.