CAPITALISM, OF NECESSITY, requires constant use of the Big Lie. That's because, when capitalism is reduced to its lowest common denominator, it is ultimately moral imbecility – infinite greed elevated to maximum virtue – the conscious rejection of every humanitarian precept our species ever set forth. The same is true of capitalist governance – absolute power and unlimited profit for the One Percent, total subjugation for all the rest of us – and for the same reason. Neither capitalism nor capitalist governance can exploit its victims without a perpetual smokescreen of lies and evasions to conceal its quintessential savagery.
While the lies of our capitalist masters are typically blatant – for example President Obama's knowingly false assertions the Russians are to blame for the Ukraine Crisis – sometimes their deceptions are more subtle. One example is the methodical destruction of the career and ultimately the life of the journalist Gary Webb, detailed by Robert Parry in “The CIA/MSM Contra-Cocaine Cover-up.” Another is the lie-by-omission at the core of the Democratic Party's pre-election effort to make us forget how Democrats joined hands with Republicans to try to slash our already inadequate Social Security stipends. Thus a recent Truthout piece, “The GOP Social Security Deception Game Is On - Here's How to Fight Back,” dutifully disseminates the propaganda the Democrats desperately hope will enable them to retain control of the U.S. Senate. Its story-line is the Big Lie that Democrats are eternal fighters for the Working Class, and with Sen. Elizabeth Warren arguing the case, it's an easy lie to believe – especially for those of us foolish enough to still have faith in the possibility of obtaining redress from our hopelessly corrupted political system.
But lest we forget the truth – which Truthout does reliably publish save when the its election-year fealty to the Democratic Party overrides its journalistic ethics – here is an AlterNet report, “Sell-Out Alert: 9 Democrats Already Caving to GOP On Social Security Cuts,” to remind us what really happened. As it says, “...the biggest Democrat of all – and the one not drawing a line in the sand but possibly leading a historic sellout – is President Obama.” In other words, Barack the Betrayer strikes again, targeting Medicare as well as Social Security – and now he's got Sen. Warren, the alleged defender of the 99 Percent, to cover for him. Equally ironic is the role Washington state Sen. Patty Murray – a Democrat who likes to brag about her feminist credentials – played in proposing cuts which (see below) would have been especially devastating to women.
For those who still doubt the Democratic and Republican parties are nothing more than deceptively named factions of a single party of plutocrats, there's the fact 43 of the 55 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus voted just last February to help President Obama impose an $8.5 billion food-stamp cut. Note the Democratic numbers: 43 of 55 is 78 percent. And when you eliminate the two independents and count only the actual Democrats, you have 43 of 53 or 81 percent – which gives us the real percentage of Democratic politicians who are indistinguishable from their Republican counterparts in hatred and contempt for us, We the People of the 99 Percent. As Washington state Senator Maria Cantwell put it (scroll down the linked text), “it's time that we move forward” – never mind the vast majority of the cutback's victims are women and children.
Cantwell is considered one of the Democrats' leading liberals and feminists. But it is her Marie Antoinette indifference to the deliberately genocidal consequences of radically downsizing the food-stamp program that underscores another of the Democrats' Big Lies – their now obviously false claim they can at least be counted on to protect the wellbeing of women. It was Democratic President Jimmy Carter's signature on the Hyde Amendment that robbed lower-income women of their abortion rights. It was Democratic President Bill Clinton's expansion of free trade that took away so many jobs – and so many health-insurance policies – that were the sole sources of reproductive choice for working women who were not independently wealthy. (Rich women, Ruling Class women, always have reproductive freedom; it's one of the innumerable privileges the plutocrats are ensured by their obscene wealth.) More recently it was Obama the Orator's initial shape-shift into Barack the Betrayer – the irremediable betrayal that forever defined Usian health care as a privilege of wealth rather than a human right – that opened the door to Hobby Lobby and all the other looming theocratic restrictions on abortion and contraception. And don't forget the deadly damage the Democrats' proposed Social Security and Medicare cuts would have done to women.
What, therefore, will change if the Republicans – as expected – win a majority of seats in the Senate? Not much; arcane, pro-plutocracy Senate rules already give the Republicans de facto control, so all that will happen is the nation's march toward overt fascism and Christian theocracy and its simultaneous descent to the total wretchedness of de facto slavery for the 99 Percent will merely accelerate a bit. Besides – just as the Social Security and food-stamp issues demonstrate – the only real difference between the two parties is rhetoric. The Republicans are already unapologetic Christofascists. The Democrats meanwhile have become breathtakingly skilled at hiding their fascism behind legislative sleight-of-hand and election-time declarations of humanitarian principles in which they no longer believe. The latter have therefore become Big Lies in their own right: the classic example is Obama's 2008 campaign slogan: “change we can believe in.”
The bitter truth is we are governed by one Ruling Class party of two names. Thus government at every level in the United States, federal, state and local, is by, for and of the capitalists, with the rest of us – despite the Big Lie of “democracy” – methodically excluded. But when oh when will we awaken to the awful truth?
As I said above, Truthout can be counted on to tell the truth about anything save the Democratic Party. Hence the relevance of two unusually insightful reports that explain exactly how capitalism works. One, which describes how New York City perfected a mode of zero-tolerance policing that helps force lower-income people out of neighborhoods targeted for gentrification, is entitled “Policing for Wealth.” The other – a timely essay on how private charity preserves capitalism and thereby facilitates its oppression of lower-income people – is headlined “The Charitable Society or 'How to Avoid the Poor and Perpetuate the Wealth Gap.” It's money quote – no pun intended – lays bare a perfect example of the systemic dishonesty essential to capitalism's survival: “...corporate charity becomes a kind of self-rewarding capitalist enterprise because it is able both to maximize profit through tax breaks, and subtly cement capitalist economic, social and political policies that reflect the interests of the super-rich – from monopolization to privatization of public goods and institutions. So, it turns out that much of the giving involved here is not giving for the sake of promoting the common welfare, but philanthropy for private profit and corporate self-interest at the expense of long-term public good” (italics as in original).
At various times I have pissed off many of my more politically naive comrades in the USian Left by proclaiming that the so-called “revolution of the 1960s” never happened. Yes, it was a potentially revolutionary time – so much so Soviet intelligence scrutinized the era's people and events in a meticulous search for revolutionary potential. But the Soviet analysts, who (let us not forget) were themselves professional revolutionaries, concluded that only the USian minority communities had the requisite combination of grievances, leadership, anger and determination. And even these qualities, the analysts found, were nullified by the communities' relative smallness and the exclusionary bigotry of the Caucasian majority. The rebellious whites were meanwhile dismissed as mostly bourgeois faddists who had merely seized upon revolutionary rhetoric as a means of rationalizing ultimately selfish demands. Hence no Soviet advisers were ever dispatched. The analysis, by the Committee for State Security, Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti or KGB, came to light after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. By then, the accuracy and indeed the prescience of the analysts' work had been confirmed by how quickly anti-war dissent and a plethora of other seemingly “revolutionary” activities were terminated by the end of the military draft in 1972. Hence my “no revolution” argument is – at least in a limited sense – validated by world-class experts.
Not all whites, of course, were faddists. Many were in fact genuine revolutionaries. But their revolution – manifest in feminism, environmentalism, the back-to-the-land movement, the alternative press, the resurrection of paganism and most of all in music and art – was no more or less than what the late Walter Bowart called it in a conversation with me in 1967, “a revolution in consciousness” rather than in political or socioeconomic terms. This was the revolution I described in the forever lost work “Glimpses of a Pale Dancer,” which argued on the basis of a 24-year collection of evidence that the epicenteral rebellion of the 1960s was the first wave of a spontaneous global uprising against patriarchy. (As many of you know already, “Dancer” was destroyed by fire just as it seemed destined for mainstream publication.) But other relics of that era fortunately live on, albeit sometimes only in the contents of academic papers. One of these is a carefully researched, tautly reasoned, competently written masters-degree thesis, a brief history of the feminist back-to-the-land movement, “Country Women: Back-to-the-Land Feminism and Radical Feminist Praxis in the Women's Liberation Movement,” that despite its somewhat awkward title is useful far beyond the realm of women's studies. It contains the most complete back-to-the-land-movement bibliography I have yet encountered. Not withstanding its singular focus, it provides what is probably our best-ever portrait of the attitudes and yearnings that brought the entire back-to-the-land movement, feminist or otherwise, into being.
In this latter context, perhaps my own back-to-the-land piece, a prose elegy to an ill-fated commune, is again relevant.
Unfortunately our understanding of the era in question remains limited by the label – “the '60s” – which the Ruling Class insists we use to describe it. But it was not merely the phenomenon of a single decade. A more accurate chronology would mark its beginning with two events in 1955. One was Rosa Parks' infinitely courageous protest against Southern segregation; the other was Allen Ginsberg's completion of the epic poem Howl. What followed those two seemingly disparate events was an astounding symbiosis of political and aesthetic rebelliousness that not only gave birth to a half-dozen identifiable movements – civil rights, anti-war, feminist, environmentalist, back-to-the-land, alternative press – but evolved its own signature musical and artistic forms. It also legitimized quests in realms of hitherto-forbidden spirituality including Buddhism, First Nations wisdom and goddess-centered paganism. The associated metaphysical rebellion – particularly the evolution of modern Wicca – was especially important in adding spiritual dimensions to feminism and environmentalism.
However, from the bourgeois (and therefore culturally dominant) perspective of Caucasian university students, the era's significant rebelliousness was mostly political and is assumed to have begun with the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, which seemed to end triumphantly and thereby raised false hopes that would eventually be forever shattered as the capitalists fought back with a slow but inexorable vengeance, turning the United States into an electronic concentration camp and relentlessly shackling the population in the same sort of economic and political slavery that has always characterized the lives of USian minorities. Now, 50 years later, Barbara Garson, who was one of the original FSM activists, poignantly wonders what the hell happened: “Who Really Won the Battle of Berkeley.” As if in reply, an analysis by Marlene Dixon, another activist of the era, provides the best explanation I have yet read, never mind “The Rise and Demise of Women's Liberation: A Class Analysis”was written in 1977. Dixon argues – correctly I believe – the era's political and economic revolutionary potential was nullified by widespread refusal to acknowledge the reality of class warfare and by wholesale rejection of ideology and ideological discipline – all of which failings were legacies of the reflexive anti-intellectuality drilled into the nation by the sweeping anti-Leftist purges that followed World War II. While Dixon's work focuses on Women's Liberation, it is, like much feminist writing, a microcosmic portrait of the internal conflicts that characterized the entire spectrum of the era's political movements.
As to when the era ended, that too remains in dispute. But if I were to select an arbitrary date, I'd pick 4 November 1980, national election day, when fully 55 percent of the post-World-War-II baby-boom generation voted their bourgeois, white-racist values and elected Ronald Reagan to the presidency. Thus the same generation that opposed the Vietnam War and claimed to be “revolutionary” later set the United States on the counter-revolutionary path to overt fascism along which it has relentlessly marched ever since. Hence, as it turns out, the aforementioned Soviet analysis was not nearly negative enough. Too many of the bourgeois whites who claimed to be revolutionaries were not just faddists; they were also fascists at heart – a perplexing condition indeed until you factor in the soaring popularity of Ayn Rand's work, particularly Atlas Shrugged, which, when it was published in 1957, even conservative reviewers damned as a fictionalization of Hitler's Mein Kampf. But Atlas Shrugged's promoters claim it sold an average of 73,400 copies per year during the 1980s and now, they say, it sells at an annual rate nearly 4.1 times that. If these figures are accurate, what they tell us is there is no likelihood at all of diverting the already global USian Empire from its ever-more-obvious goal of becoming the de facto Fourth Reich. Exactly as history demonstrates, what is fascism but the mature form of capitalism?
Nor is there any rational likelihood of a movement arising to somehow ameliorate capitalism's ever-escalating brutality. Quoth one of its victims, the activist Cicely McMillan, speaking via a recent interview by Anna Lekas Miller entitled “On Being a Woman Inside and Outside of the Criminal Justice System”: “I don’t see a movement coming unless it is led by women, cross-class, cross-culture, cross-race. I think this has got to be a highly collaborative movement. I think women are the only ones who have been socialized with a certain experience to be able to do that. If we can work on behalf of women, on behalf of families, on behalf of communities collaboratively then we will see a movement of the 99 Percent, and the only way we will get at that is through the inter-workings of the people who are the community leaders and those are still women.” McMillan is obviously correct. As Vladimir Lenin noted in 1918, “the experience of all liberation movements has shown that the success of a revolution depends on how much women take part in it.”
As to what really happened to the USian revolutionary potential, whether from 1955 through 1980 or now, it seems neither Garson nor Dixon – nor for that matter McMillan – are familiar with the works of Sun Tzu. Hence they each overlook the simple fact even the most competent of the nation's would-be revolutionaries committed the always-fatal sin of underestimating the enemy. They failed to recognize the USian Imperial Ruling Class is the most all-powerful, most malevolently cunning ruling class in human history. The Occupy Movement, in which McMillan played a key role, was undone by the same failure. Thus were squandered what were undoubtedly our species' last opportunities to escape the slave-world horrors of capitalism matured to fascism – the aforementioned electronic concentration-camp. More to the point, the rebelliousness associated with the '60s was also probably our last chance to avoid self-inflicted extinction. Already the Ruling Class is moving to ensure a fully indoctrinated, relentlessly ecocidal fascist future: Atlas Shrugged is now required reading in many of the nation's colleges universities. Other Ayn Rand diatribes have been required reading in USian high schools and middle schools since the mid-1960s. Josef Goebbels – who sought to achieve universal German readership for Mein Kampf – is no doubt smirking in his grave.
Meanwhile the terrifying totality of the secret-police operations by which we are already oppressed becomes ever more evident thanks to a few die-hard journalists and civil libertarians – daring men and women who will undoubtedly be among the first persons disappeared when the Ruling Class decides it's had enough dissent and protest and orders the Last Roundup. The following is from “Police Sign Gag Order Before Getting FBI Spy Equipment,” a MuckRock report:“Advanced cell phone tracking devices known as StingRays allow police nationwide to home in on suspects or to log individuals present at a given location. But before acquiring a StingRay, state and local police must sign a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI, documents released last week reveal. The document released by the Tacoma Police Department is heavily redacted — four of its six pages are completely blacked out — but two unredacted paragraphs confirm the FBI’s intimate involvement with StingRay deployment.”
Yes, dear readers, that's the same Tacoma in which I now reside.
For those of us who recognize the course toward overt fascism the U.S. has been steering since 22 November 1963 – and for those who do not, a superb primer is JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters (James W. Douglass; Orbis Books: 2008) – it is no accident an unprecedented campaign for forcible civilian disarmament has emerged just as the 99 percent has begun awakening to the fact the American Dream is dead beyond resurrection. With the nation's socioeconomic conditions in a permanent nosedive and even members of the Ruling Class now openly predicting revolution, the forcible disarmament of the civilian population is merely another (logical) element on the Ruling Class list of measures to ensure we will never escape the electronic concentration camp in which we are already imprisoned. (Yes, it's true a hunting rifle is no defense against a tank or a drone. But a hunting rifle can surely be used to acquire weapons that are – which is why, for example, Hitler began disarming his opponents as soon as he took power.)
However, the USian Ruling Class – bolstered by its mastery of psychology and its manipulative subsets in marketing and behavior modification – is infinitely more sophisticated in its application of the techniques of oppression than ever the Nazis were. That's why, here in the land of the Second Amendment, forcible disarmament is invariably cloaked with a Big Lie, always in the form of deceptions, often by censorship as well. Thus the enormous relevance of a censorship-defying report by Charles E. Cobb, “Guns and the Southern Freedom Struggle: What’s Missing When We Teach About Nonviolence.” Cobb, a former field secretary in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), is the author of This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible (Basic Books: 2014). As I said on the comment thread when CommonDreams, which is often painfully politically correct, dared circulate the aforementioned text:
Thank you for publishing Mr. Cobb's oh-so-relevant report. Especially thank you for having the incredible (and incredibly rare) courage to defy the venomous, maliciously dishonest and sometimes violent hatefulness of the forcible disarmament cult -- the hysterically anti-gun fanatics who, in clandestine alliance with the One Percent, are reducing us all to compulsory pacifism and mandatory victimhood. (Yes, there really are some of us on the Left – far more than the forcible-disarmament cultists dare admit – who support the Second Amendment in its broadest interpretations. And Mr. Cobb's report illustrates one of the reasons why.)
Soon afterward, perhaps fearful of being outdone by one of its rivals, Truthout published a report that refutes one of the forcible-disarmament movement's most oft-repeated Big Lies. Entitled “Fact-Checking Feinstein on the Assault Weapons Ban,” it notes how throughout the 10 years since the federal assault-weapons ban expired, its originator, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), continues to claim the ban reduced crime and saved lives. “But gun violence experts,” the report states, “say the exact opposite.” In other words, Feinstein – like most of her colleagues in the forcible disarmament movement – knowingly lies.
The proponents of anti-gunowner Initiative 594 in Washington state are using the same tactics. They bill their initiative as a “simple” measure to tighten the restrictions that presumably keep felons and dangerously mentally ill persons from acquiring firearms. But its oppressively complex, turgidly written text is laden with prohibitions intended to criminalize many legal and commonplace uses of shotguns, rifles and handguns – including shared usage amongst family members. And it is being promoted by some of the slickest anti-gun propaganda I have yet witnessed. Once again, just as the late Watergate felon John Ehrlichman acknowledged in his 1974 testimony, it seems Washington state is being used as a national proving ground for techniques of oppression.
Nationally the ultimate firearms-related question would now seem to be whether the Left is at long last awakening to the need for an armed Working Class to discourage capitalist savagery. Locally the question is whether the I-594 proponents' Big Lie tactics will prevail in a state the electorate of which – albeit nominally progressive – is nevertheless noted for its skepticism toward any measures that expand the authority of government. The answers will undoubtedly be vital in shaping our national future.
LB/27 September-5 October 2014