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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
As I noted a few days ago, a handful of prominent voices on the left are finally calling for open opposition to the Obama administration. While the letter itself is perhaps a little on the tame side, the goals espoused on the official website are highly admirable and worth discussing in more detail:
1 | Militant Protest. The December 16th White House civil disobedience should be the beginning. Protests should take their inspiration from the British Students, the French unions’ shutdowns of oil refineries and transportation hubs and the general strikes engaged in by Greek and Spanish workers protesting neo-liberal austerity.
2 | Independent Left Politics. Political organizations independent of the Democratic Party and its satellites in the foundations, think tanks and the academy.
3 | Viable and Competitive Third Parties: Serious commitment to the development of Green Party, U.S. Labor Party, Peace and Freedom, and Socialist Party infrastructure (including strategic mergers of these where appropriate) on local, state and national level.
Cutting straight to the chase, the writers (of the website at least) start with the crucial objective of “militant protest.” Now, unlike the pathetic Teabaggers who wax on endlessly about “watering the tree of liberty,” and who actually carry assault rifles to at least some of their rallies, “militant” protest on the left is basically code for passionate protest. It means, in essence, demonstrations which are exactly the opposite of the apathetic Rally to Restore Sanity, which gathered quite an impressive crowd but failed to carry any bite. And as that particular rally amply demonstrated, crowds without passion have absolutely zero impact on national opinion and, not surprisingly, Washington politics.
And if people truly understood what was at stake here, they couldn’t help being anything but passionate. But the problem is that the mainstream media – in its myriad fronts – has managed to be frighteningly successful in lulling the population to sleep. Why aren’t more people enraged about the hundreds of billions of dollars being wasted in two utterly pointless wars, or the trillions being thrown at Wall Street and various multi-billion dollar corporations, while millions of Americans struggle just to pay the rent and put enough food on the table? While the extent of the corruption might not be all that obvious, the results speak for themselves when, during an economic slump unparalleled since the Great Depression, corporations are experiencing record profits.
So the first step in organizing militant protests is to get people fired up, which, as we all know, is a dreadfully challenging task. The December 16 protest mentioned above seems to have been an abject failure, with a mere 500 participants turning up – 131 of whom ended up being arrested. But in large part this was due to a lack of publicity – people weren’t made aware of the event early enough to make plans to participate, and the Open Letter itself has failed to garner much attention. As I discussed earlier, what we need is widespread solidarity among the voices of the left. In simpler terms, we need to get organized.
As much as I hate the analogy of warfare, in a very real sense we are at war – against a tiny fragment of society which wields unfathomable power and wealth. It is, literally, a case of the masses fighting against the empire. And the first step in this struggles is simply getting the attention of the empire, in the hopes that we might attract some dissenters within the enemy’s ranks. Bernie Sanders seems to be one such anomaly, but certainly there are more.
At the end of the day, however, it is important that we understand the true workings of power in the modern world. As Chomsky has noted at length, the government is not the actual center of power, in spite of widespread public perception. The genuine core of power lies with the myriad corporations who, for all intents and purposes, run the show. In light of this, protests aimed at the government might have limited potential effects. Chomsky has often suggested that reigning in the corporations simply isn’t possible with our current form of government – the flaws are simply too intractable to overcome. If such is the case, we would be well-advised to direct our protests the corporations themselves – the puppet masters, rather than the mere puppets.
How this can be done effectively I can’t, at this point, say. But goals 2 and 3 mentioned above seem to be a step in the right direction. The Democrats are but a secondary branch of the corporatist party, and as Obama – and Clinton before him – has amply demonstrated, they can offer us nothing but symbolic victories. And in the case of Obama, we fail to receive even that. It is time to stop wasting our time, energy and resources on a political party which offers absolutely no chance of genuine assistance; the Democrats are but a decoy which prevent us from pursuing other viable options.
But perhaps the key here is the sentiment expressed in Goal 2: political (and one might surmise social) organizations completely independent of the Democrat establishment. The reason that progressives in this nation have been able to accomplish anything at all of substance is not because of affiliation with the Democrats, but because of vibrant social movements which, at their core, were comprised of various grassroots organizations. The labor movement, for instance, united millions of workers in the common cause of improved working conditions and recognition of workers’ rights. The civil rights movement represented a conglomeration of concerned citizens nationwide – of all skin colors – who united to overcome a specific form of injustice – Democrat or Republican had nothing to do with it.
So it would seem the following course of action is the most appropriate:
1 – Unite the voices of the left in order to bring together the isolated pockets of progressive Americans, creating one large movement as a consequence.
2 – A united left will represent quite a formidable force, which can then be utilized to attack strategic corporate and governmental targets.
3 – As more elected officials begin to take notice of the movement, it can be hoped that the government would at least attempt to reign in the worst abuses of corporate power.
4 – In conjunction with the pressure on elected officials, militant protests and boycotts will strike at various corporate targets – though at this point I cannot imagine how we could hope to have any impact. Corporate power is simply too vast.
But I fear I am getting ahead of myself. The lethargy of the masses in modern America has become so immense, nothing short of bringing down Facebook would elicit anything more than a slightly perturbed, “meh.”