First my deepest gratitude to Barbara Mor (The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth; Harper Collins, New York: 1987), for the enormous compliment she paid my “Doorways: Portrait Of The Artist, Perhaps As An Old Fool” on 14 June. Next big thanks to Chris Rawlings (photographer and longtime friend from New York City), for his applause in response to "Barack The Betrayer: Behind Republican Noise, A Colossus Of Deception" on 28 May. It is only the emotional and aesthetic support of colleagues like Barbara and Chris that keeps me working in such wretched times as these. As Barbara suggested to me last year: “try to proceed as if writing matters” – exactly as I have done ever since.
Several people have wondered if I am sick – if my long silence is the result of illness. Indeed it is, but my affliction is neither viral nor bacteriological. It is instead political: the fact our collective powerlessness has become so obvious – and so depressing – there is little I can do beyond the proverbial wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Not only has “change we can believe in” been proven a big lie; the combination of “jobless recovery” and the continued elimination of governmental services demonstrates that expectation of betterment is sheer folly. From now until Nature herself revolts and declares our species extinct, the only certainties of Working Class life are that we will be gradually stripped of our few remaining liberties and that our socioeconomic circumstances will steadily worsen.
Indeed we are assailed by the earthly equivalent of the (presumably) fictional Borg; as the 2008 election and its aftermath prove beyond rational debate, resistance of any kind is truly futile.
Already we are as slaves, captives of a Ruling Class ever more brazen in its tyranny and increasingly without restraint in inflicting misery or death and publicly celebrating the result.
The credo of this Ruling Class is Ayn Rand capitalism: infinite greed as maximum virtue; limitless selfishness as ultimate good. Its devotees – Big Business executives, Wall Street fat cats and the politicians who do their bidding – gleefully embrace values formerly damned as expressions of absolute evil.
Thanks to the Roberts Court – more appropriately the Robbers' Court – Ruling Class control of candidate selection and campaign finance is absolute and irrevocable; to believe a Congress owned by the Ruling Class will ever turn against its masters is to believe a Democracy Fairy will restore constitutional governance to the United States. Our elections are compromised beyond any possibility of reform. Voting is a meaningless charade. Government at every level now serves only one purpose: the expansion and protection of capitalism – absolute power and unlimited profit for the Ruling Class, total subjugation and bottomless poverty for all the rest of us.
Meanwhile the Ruling Class is restructuring human society to eliminate forever the prerequisites of liberation – to abolish or prohibit the conditions that formerly enabled the Working Class to sometimes free itself from Ruling Class tyranny.
Whether such freedom is gained by violence (as in the American Revolution) or achieved by nonviolence (as in the New Deal and the Civil Rights Movement), the lesson of the 2008 election is that Working Class liberation has already been rendered impossible in the United States – that our hope for liberation – expressed as “change we can believe in” – was not “audacity” but imbecility.
The broader lesson is that if the Ruling Class has its way, liberation will soon be just as impossible everywhere else: welcome to Slave Planet Earth.
History demonstrates that liberation from tyranny has four basic requirements. (Yes, I have written several variants of this list, and it changes slightly each time I better understand its elements, but the elements themselves are always the same.) When any one element is missing, liberation invariably fails; when all four elements are present, liberation – whether as reform or revolution – always succeeds.
The first prerequisite for liberation from tyranny is ideology and ideological solidarity – at the very least the solidarity of a common list of grievances and demands for redress.
Our capability for evolving ideology and thereby achieving solidarity – for reaching common agreement on grievances and measures for their resolution – was once a fact of U.S. political life. But the McCarthy Era – in reality a war against intellectuals in which intellectuality itself was made synonymous with treason – robbed us of that skill. This was not accidental; the societal function of intellectuals is to ask questions that reveal provocative truths. While earlier aristocracies typically discouraged such questions, the capitalist Ruling Class demands not only that the questioning be prohibited but that the very impulse to question be suppressed. Why? Because the inevitable consequences of capitalism – enslavement, genocide, ecocide – are history's most powerful goads to reform and revolution. Hence the Ruling Class struggles to keep these outcomes hidden – chiefly by eliminating intellectuals (or anyone else) whose questions who might reveal capitalism's hideous truths.
Predictably, the McCarthy Era's purge of intellectuals and its criminalizing of intellectuality cleared the way for our methodical dumbing-down by Big Business public education and Ruling Class Media, which eventually led to Moron Nation and its cult of mindless celebrity. Our anti-intellectuality became not only reflexive but savagely so; combined with our ever-deepening ignorance in general, it binds us in an inescapable prison. This not only prevents us from developing indigenous leadership; it enables the Ruling Class to herd us with its Judas goats: not only Sarah Palin and her Teabagger storm-troopers but Obama and his Big Lie of “change we can believe in.”
The second prerequisite for liberation from tyranny is organization, the product of a disciplined population from which to evolve leaders, activists and supporters.
Effective political action requires discipline and teamwork. The requisite interpersonal skills can be acquired in many ways, but for the males of the western world they are typically a byproduct of universal military training, which has been denied the U.S. citizenry since the abolition of the draft in 1972. While this was cravenly cheered by the pseudo-radical bourgeoisie and portrayed as a major step toward world peace – “a huge victory for progressive peoples everywhere” – in truth it was just the opposite. The end of U.S. military dependence on draftees – the military's transformation to an imperial war machine of kill-hardened mercenaries – cut away the last vestiges of the Founders' efforts to grant us (We the People) the ability to restrain Ruling Class aggression.
More to the point, the historical context in which the draft was abolished strongly suggests the Ruling Class already feared that compulsory military service was training its own (revolutionary) enemies.
Since then it has become apparent the draft is gone forever: obviously the Ruling Class understands that without the vital lessons in the principles and practice of disciplined teamwork provided by universal military training, no movement against tyranny can survive.
The third prerequisite for liberation from tyranny is mastery of – or at least the ability to master – the extant technologies by which the Ruling Class maintains its power.
Violent or nonviolent, no revolution can succeed without mastering the technologies of its era. Four examples make the point:
(1)-The American Revolution succeeded primarily because of the colonists' mastery of military and communications technologies.
(2)-Success of the Russian Revolution of 1917 was ensured when the rebels seized control of the telephone and telegraph systems, the railroads and (above all else) the government arsenals: note the “Proletarians! Know Your Rifle” footage in Serge Eisenstein's Ten Days That Shook the World.
(3)-The victory of the New Deal was guaranteed by the ability of its proponents – a Popular Front that included Communists, socialists, anarchists, liberal Democrats, original Progressives – to neutralize Ruling Class control of information technology. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's coalition grew a communications network that not only bypassed Ruling Class Media (the vast majority of the nation's papers were – then as now – owned by Republicans), but defeated government and/or Ruling Class surveillance and thuggery and so mobilized enough voters to win the 1932 election: a 56 percent popular-vote majority and an Electoral College landslide of 472-59.
(4)-The Civil Rights Movement likewise understood the potential of information technology. It fostered the development of the alternative press that would serve the much broader spectrum of rebellion arising during the 1960s and 1970s. More importantly, the movement turned the Ruling Class Media's fixation on the spectacular – its sensationalist response to perverse U.S. fascinations with violent police actions – into a publicity campaign that mobilized not just U.S. humanitarians but mustered a vast and powerful international community to protest the atrocities of Jim Crow.
But the Ruling Class is not a band of boardroom buffoons – it is in fact the most brilliantly Machiavellian aristocracy in human history – and it devises countermeasures with predictable rapidity. Less than a decade after the Civil Rights Movement and chiefly via the Central Intelligence Agency's Operation Chaos, the U.S. government methodically destroyed the alternative press. This was the key factor in fragmenting the Counterculture's Revolution in Consciousness into separate and often mutually hostile movements: the anti-Vietnam War, feminist, environmentalist and back-to-the-land factions. A parallel campaign perverted U.S. feminism into the Ayn Rand credo of female-supremacist consumeroid capitalism it has become. Meanwhile the government's murderous demonstrations of military superiority at Kent State University (4 May 1970) and Jackson State College (14-15 May 1970) combined with alleged “vigilante” actions against back-to-the-land communards to slaughter – literally – any lingering impulse toward effective Countercultural rebelliousness.
Since then, Ruling Class control over the U.S. population has become absolute. Ruling Class mastery of surveillance technology has forever abolished our personal and collective privacy (without which no genuinely radical movement can arise), and military technology has given the state literally unlimited retaliatory capability: absolute power which – now that the government has openly proclaimed its intent to murder at will – is no longer subject to any restraint. Thus no genuinely radical movement can ever again sustain itself anywhere on the planet – the Ruling Class will simply not allow it.
The fourth and final prerequisite for liberation from tyranny is the support of a major foreign power.
Every successful revolution in history has had the active support – sometimes clandestine, sometimes overt, often both – of a major foreign power.
For example the American Revolution was supported by Bourbon France; the Haitian Revolution of Toussaint l'Overture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines variously by Britain, Spain and Bonaparte France; the Soviet Revolution by Imperial Germany; the Chinese, Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions by the Soviet Union. Enactment of the New Deal would not have been possible without the support of the Communist Party, an instrument of the Soviet Union. The successes of the U.S. labor movement were likewise facilitated by Soviet support – the Ruling Class feared that if capitalism were not given a humanitarian facade, a Soviet-organized revolution would inevitably triumph.
By contrast, the ultimate failure of the first French Revolution (1789-1815) was due not just to its lack of foreign supporters but to the overwhelming hostility of literally all the other nations of Europe.
Though the Soviet Union was never the worker's paradise it claimed to be, the fact remains that without its Marxian presence in the global socioeconomic equation (and the broader impetus of socialism in general), capitalism would never have been forced to disguise its inherent savagery.
Today, with the Soviet Union dead, China bribed to submission and all lesser socialist nations either marked for overthrow or targeted for eventual extermination, capitalism is showing its true malevolence. Even the U.S. Labor Department – itself surely no defender of workers' rights – admits the sweatshop conditions that characterized the U.S. workplace a century ago are once again becoming the national norm.
But this time there is no power on earth capable of re-imposing the sorts of humanitarian restraints on capitalism that were characteristic of the middle 20th Century in the U.S. and yet linger – albeit in steady retreat – in Canada and Europe. Nor will the U.S. – in its mercilessly imperial military superiority already the de facto Fourth Reich – ever allow such a power to emerge in the future: clearly, this is the real reason the U.S. retains its thermonuclear arsenal.
Today's would-be Gandhis – all the more so the would-be Che Guevaras (not to mention the Right's would-be Adolph Hitlers) – are all so caught up in their own self-indulgent fantasies, they fail to understand that the pivotal event of the past 47 years is the advent of an entirely new political and socioeconomic paradigm, a reality that has no precedent in human experience save perhaps in the genocide inflicted by industrial-age conquerors on colonial subjects too primitive to muster effective resistance. In the so-called civilized world, the distinctions between Ruling Class and Working Class were hitherto always a matter of degree: once rebels had achieved the four prerequisites of liberation, their victory was assured. Now though the Working Class/Ruling Class distinction is a matter of kind; we in the Working Class are reduced to a powerlessness analogous to that of aboriginals who have nothing but sticks and stones to defend ourselves against killer robots and death rays.
Indeed the oppressive methodology of the Ruling Class is already so far beyond our grasp, it is exactly as if we have been conquered by aliens from outer space. The resultant gap in knowledge and technology is prohibitive and steadily widening – which means it cannot ever be closed. The Borg metaphor again: not only is resistance futile; rebellion is suicide.
The slave nation into which we are being herded by capitalism -- the slave world into which the capitalists are transforming our planet -- is truly forever: until human consciousness is no more. The triumph of greed is our failure as a species; Deep Horizon is the event horizon of our extinction. This is the realization by which I am sickened, the dread certainty no amount of scholarship can heal, the anguish that too often reduces me to horrified silence.
LB/16-24 June 2010