Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Yellow Vests Are Just The Start Of The Global Working Class Revolution That’s Underway

In December of 1999, the lefty cartoonist Dan Perkins (pen name “Tom Tomorrow”) ended a cartoon with these words:
What can you do? You don’t matter. Your vote doesn’t matter. Your protests don’t matter. Go ahead, march in the streets and chant your little slogans. The political sophisticates and media elites will smirk at your naivete, your misguided nostalgia for the sixties, and then they will steer the conversation back to the stock market or the fabulous new restaurant they’ve recently discovered. They’re not worried about you.
And yet…something extraordinary just happened in Seattle. Demonstrators took to the streets and made their voices heard-and it made a difference. The media were forced to address issues they had previously swept under the rug, to explain why anyone could possibly be opposed to unfettered global capitalism. In a few short days, the entire debate was altered, perhaps irrevocably.
You know something’s wrong. Maybe it’s time to start making some noise about it. Happy new millennium.
Twenty years later, the brief moment of hope for working class revolution that Perkins described has become a routine occurrence. Almost every week since November of last year, France’s Yellow Vests have been agitating in the streets for the restoration of social benefits, livable wages, taxing the rich, climate action, and (according to a Yellow Vests assembly from this month) the abolition of capitalism. As the Yellow Vests in France continue to demand change amid violence from police and attacks from the media, similar rebellions are happening around the world.
Additional Yellow Vest movements have happened worldwide, from Russia to Canada to many countries throughout Europe. America’s lack of such a mass protest effort is clearly only temporary, as the United States is brimming with the same revolutionary energy that’s appearing in much of the rest of the world. This year, strike action in the U.S. has hit a 32 year high as its teacher strikes have escalated. Around the U.S. the Poor People’s Campaign has been using civil disobedience protests to continue Martin Luther King Jr’s vision for a just society. Similar rebellions are underway in seemingly every other place where poor and working people are oppressed, with examples ranging from the additional teacher strikes in Europe to the anti-government protests in Algeria to the massive recent communist-led general strike in India.
These events make up the first stage of a revolutionary period that the capitalist world has entered into. Resistance efforts against corporate power are overall much more frequent than they were just a few years ago, and we have every reason to expect the class struggle to keep accelerating in the coming years. This is because unlike during the time of the WTO protests, the victims of global capitalism have reached their breaking point.
In America most of all, inequality has been steadily increasing throughout the developed world for almost half a century. Those in the more wealthy countries have seen their living standards decline to the point where in the United States alone, half the population is poor by modern standards. The global concentration of wealth has also led to increased poverty in the poorer nations, with NAFTA having devastated Mexico’s economy and similar damage having been done to the Latin American countries where neoliberal reforms have taken place. The imperialist powers have long carried outcorporate looting in the global south, but now that inequality has risen so much in both parts of the world, ordinary people in the dominating nations have a shared sense of victimhood with their counterparts in the foreign sweatshops.
With the capitalist world’s extremely debt-ridden and unstable economic system heading for a crash that will likely be worse than the one from 2008, this restlessness among the lower classes is no doubt going to keep intensifying in the coming years. Unemployment, lowered wages, consumer debt, slashed social benefits, and government handouts for the rich will all explode after the next financial crisis, and this will drive more people to get out and fight for their rights.
But while it’s certain that the next decade will see great efforts to reject the current system, a vision for what we want society to look like next hasn’t yet been adequately articulated. This clarification of our collective goal for the future is where the anti-capitalist movement will be needed. We can’t water down our demands and accept a setup where capitalism continues with some reforms. We need to infuse our protests with an explicitly pro-socialist message, which can be articulated through signs at demonstrations, posts on blogs and social media, and public statements on behalf of the protesters. The world’s poor and working people must unite under an agenda which includes taking the means of production away from the capitalist class.
If this movement is equipped with the aspects that have been historically needed for socialist revolutions-such as an armed population of revolutionaries and strong institutions to support the people’s struggle-we’ll have a much better chance at defeating capitalism. Like all ruling classes, the capitalists won’t give up their power willingly, and they’re demonstrating this by preparing to violently crush a rebellion. President Trump’s declarations of global war on socialism are backed by the power of America’s security apparatus and militarized police departments. And Trump’s statement last month about his supporters potentially carrying out violence on his behalf showed that he and the rest of the ruling class are willing to use military force to defend their power. We’re committing ourselves to a power struggle where violence should be avoided as much as possible, but which will no doubt entail violence because of the violent nature of the people in power.
In short, this revolution will require a lot more than mere street marches. But as Perkins assessed about the WTO protests, any act of resistance can have an impact. And we’ve entered an era where acts of resistance are reaching a tipping point.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Russiagate’s Goal Has Been Accomplished: The Democratic Base Loves War & Imperialism Now

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Last fall, a study published by the The Journal of Politics found that the Democratic voters who preferred Hillary Clinton in 2016 largely have more authoritarian psychological tendencies than Sanders supporters do. Julie Wronski, one of the political scientists who carried out the study, has said that they defined authoritarianism as “an individual’s psychological preferences for social conformity over individual autonomy,” a trait which they looked for among a series of selected Democratic voters. They found that Clinton voters consistently rated higher on the authoritarian scale than Sanders voters did, with “the probability of voting Clinton [increasing] dramatically from 0.18 to 0.867 as young Democrats shift from the lower end of authoritarianism to its maximum value.”
This study explains the behavior and cultural pathologies that so much of the Democratic Party’s base has participated in in recent years. To be fair, I’ve personally met people that voted for Clinton in 2016 who have a quite nuanced view of the world, and who’ve supported the Democratic Party only because they see it as necessary to stop the Republicans. But there’s been so much evidence in recent years, both anecdotal and (in the case of the study) scientific, that’s shown the most loyal parts of Democratic Party’s base to be aggressively attached to the neoliberal, imperialist mentalities which define their party’s leadership.
Throughout the 2016 Democratic primary, it became apparent that Hillary Clinton could most solidly maintain support among the kinds of people who wouldn’t concede that there was anything wrong with their candidate, and who were eager to malign Bernie Sanders and anyone else who challenged their position. Shortly after the 2016 election, the blogger and experienced online political arguer Caitlin Johnstone recounted about the mentality of Clinton’s remaining supporters: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to bring up a legitimate concern about the Democratic establishment in a debate with a party loyalist and been told that I’m crazy or ridiculous because it’s a concern they’d never encountered before. Whether I’m discussing a WikiLeaks release that didn’t get much coverage or the fact that Hillary Clinton really seemed to be gearing up for an all-out war with Russia, I have never, ever been met with sincerity or had my concerns directly addressed in an earnest debate of ideas with a Hillary voter. Not once. Not one single time, ever, to this day. And I’ve spoken to a lot of them.”
At least within online forums, I’ve had the same experience. The Clinton Democrats I’ve interacted with often aren’t aware of the imperialist aggressions that Barack Obama and the Clintons have perpetrated, and the Democrats who do acknowledge these actions tend to rationalize them by claiming that they were all necessary. The fascistic chants of “USA!” that Clinton delegates gave at the speeches of CIA director Leon Panetta and General John Allen at the 2016 Democratic National Convention hinted at how generally comfortable these Democrats are with empire; rather than examine their party’s allegiance to Wall Street and the military industrial complex, Clinton’s backers have directed much of their energy towards spewing hatred against Sanders and his supporters. This was especially the case in the first few months after the 2016 election, when bitter pro-Clinton bloggers like Roy Delfino wrote a litany of angry screeds denouncing the Bernie movement.
It’s predictable that a demographic which so zealously defends their favored political personalities, as well as the militaristic and capitalistic values that these politicians represent, has been very effectively swayed by the pro-war demagoguery and McCarthyism of the recent anti-Russia campaign. The Democratic Party, the American intelligence community, and the corporate media have promoted the bogus “Russiagate” scandal not so much to harm Trump and the Republicans, but to target the left. The release of the Mueller report shows the Trump-Russia “collusion” narrative has been a lie from the start, and Trump’s vindication on the matter has now greatly helped him going into the 2020 election. The people who’ve been hurt by Russiagate are progressives, socialists, and those who oppose the warmongering that’s been carried out by both Trump and the Democrats.
By painting Trump as “Putin’s puppet” and attacking him whenever he hasn’t completely fulfilled the political and media establishment’s desires for cold war escalations with Russia, the new cold warriors have been able to associate the anti-war left with a nefarious allegiance towards Vladimir Putin. No one has been able to oppose the manufactured anti-Russia propaganda narratives, NATO troop advancements against Russia, sanctions against Russia’s people, or U.S. interventions in Syria and Ukraine without being attacked as a Russian operative. This year, pro-war pundits have even started attacking Tulsi Gabbard as a Russian asset because she opposes the illegal U.S.-backed coup in Venezuela. The consequence of all of this has been massive new censorship measures against independent journalists and alternative media outlets in the name of fighting “fake news” and Russian propaganda.
Russiagate, which has been so thoroughly hammered into our discourse that I’ve even seen many Sanders supporters who’ve bought into it, is the tool that imperialist propagandists use to get liberals to trust U.S. the intelligence community and to support war. And among Clinton’s supporters, who’ve had an egoic urge to defend their position after the loss of their candidate, these manipulations have clearly worked very well. After the U.S. strike against Syria last year, a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll showed 49% of Democrats supported President Trump’s action despite the fact that it constituted a blatant violation of international law. A Gallup poll from this February has shown nearly half of Democrats see Russia as America’s greatest enemy. And following the hysterical reaction from anti-Trump neoconservatives when Trump raised the possibility for a Syria withdrawal, a survey came out this January showing far more Democrats than Republicans want America to continue its involvement in Syria and Afghanistan.
Democrats have been an aggressive war party since Obama decided to continue and expand on Bush’s wars through escalated dronings and bombings. But after Russiagate, much of the party’s supporters are now solidly on the side of the Washington imperialists. Neoconservatives like Bill Kristol and Max Boot have been rehabilitated as allies of liberals because of their opposition to Trump. And war criminals like George W. Bush and John McCain have been glorified in recent years by Democrats who are entirely too comfortable with aligning themselves with these types of figures.
This toxic shift in the consciousness of liberal America has been engineered seemingly deliberately by politicians and pundits. It was Hillary Clinton and her team who decided to use Russia as a public relations tool within 24 hours after their election loss. And the media figures who share Clinton’s agenda for war escalations with Russia have often very transparently exploited Russiagate to manipulate public perceptions and policy outcomes; Rachel Maddow even explained at the start of Trump’s presidency that she and others would use Russiagate to pressure Trump into keeping troops near Russia’s borders.
The new cold warriors aren’t going to let their anti-Russia campaign die, even now that Mueller has proven Russiagate itself to have been completely wrong. The larger belief that Russia is an enemy that’s “attacking our democracy” is being used to justify the persecution of Julian Assange, and to continue the drive towards escalations with Russia. Hillary Clinton is using what relevance she still has to push the world in these dystopian directions, with Clinton having recently written a factually challenged Washington Post op-ed that claims Russia committed “a serious crime against all Americans.”
As this march towards lost freedoms and world war continues, we now can expect the Democratic Party’s base to reliably go along with it. In their desire to conform and to see themselves as in the right, establishment Democrats and the other loyalists to the U.S. empire have put themselves in a very unfortunate situation.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Rise And Future Of Capitalist Totalitarianism In The Anthropocene

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The middle of the 20th century was a historical turning point in two ways. One was that this time likely marked the start of a geological period where the impact that human civilization had on the planet couldn’t be undone. Many scientists consider 1950 to be the year when, amid the boom of industrial development after World War II, human-created species extinction and pollution produced an irrecoverable new epoch called the Anthropocene. The correlating event of 1950 was the emergence of a new era in how society was structured, one where a mentality of perpetual war created the pretense for the stripping of liberties and the domination of a powerful class over culture and politics.
This takeover didn’t involve the replacement of capitalism with total government control over life, as thinkers like George Orwell speculated would happen in the advent of whatever dictatorship that emerged next in the 20th century. Instead the bulk of the repressive measures happened in the capitalist world, and capitalism was the driving force behind the loss of freedom. The anti-communists of the mid-20th century, especially liberal supporters of capitalism like President Truman, embraced a strategy for undoing the working class gains of the New Deal which centered around associating American socialists with the demonized Soviet Union. In this new climate of anti-Russian hysteria, supporters of social and class equality were marginalized while corporations and the government became more powerful. As Gore Vidal wrote, “We can date from January 1950 the strict governmental control of our economy and the gradual erosion of our liberties, all in order to benefit the economic interest of what is never, to put it tactfully, a very large group.”
The new power structure was facilitated by the network of state propagandists and secret police operatives who’d emerged with the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947, and by the anti-Russian alliance between Western states created in 1949 which is still called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The U.S.S.R. didn’t pose any serious military danger to the West, as the Soviet bureaucracy was concerned with maintaining control over its own population and didn’t have any plans for global expansion. But to stop the spread of the communist ideology, and to maintain an atmosphere of hatred towards a foreign adversary, the American national security state had to constantly put out propaganda against the Soviet Union while engineering military buildup. The goal of the capitalist world’s engagement in the Cold War wasn’t Soviet “containment,” as it was claimed, but to continue the power of the ruling class.
In this situation where the largest empire in history is armed with both a secretive and unaccountable police apparatus and a series of nations that serve American interests under the guidelines of NATO, old concepts of liberty and national sovereignty have vanished. Since World War II the U.S. has interfered in the politics of over 85 countries, and America has invaded 37 nations throughout this time in a series of wars that have killed over 20 million people overall. America has practiced torture, with the CIA’s brutal treatment of prisoners throughout the Vietnam War having set a precedent for the torture that’s taken place during the War on Terror. The CIA has used covert psychological operations to influence public opinion since the agency was started, and since 2013 the use of secret U.S. government propaganda on American citizens has been officially legal. The U.S. government now targets whistleblowers routinely, with the recent arrest of Julian Assange threatening to remove any remaining protections for government leakers. Since 9/11, the U.S. has created the most invasive mass surveillance system in history, with all of Americans’ phone calls and emails being stored and recorded by state computers. The U.S. treasury is currently sanctioning over a dozen countries, with the sanctions mainly targeting their populations. And as WikiLeaks has revealed, U.S. servicemen have regularly committed war crimes throughout America’s most recent wars.
Despite claims that drones make wars more humanitarian, the emergence of drones has in ways exacerbated America’s slaughter of innocent people. In modern times America’s military operations, especially its air wars, are increasingly indiscriminate and deadly towards civilians. During 2017 and much of last year, America dropped bombs on an average of every 12 minutes, and in 2018 the U.S. dropped more munitions on Afghanistan than it ever has before. American drone strikes have also gone up vastly in the last two years alone, with the drone operations in Afghanistan alone being estimated to have killed at least 23 civilians so far in 2019.
These things have matched or far surpassed any transgressions from America’s enemies. But according to the worldview that Americans are told to accept, none of this history should change the belief that America is a beacon of democracy that promotes peace and humanitarianism. Politicians and major media outlets almost never mention war, except when they’re promoting attacks against one of the designated enemies who appear in the headlines. The preferred view for the American public to have about wars is one that’s patriotic, while vague enough that they don’t think about the deadly details of the conflicts or the costs that they have for American society.
America’s extreme economic inequality and lack of civil liberties are also ignored by mainstream political rhetoric, with people’s attention constantly being diverted towards outrage against a political opponent, fear of a foreign enemy, or a colorful new item in consumer culture. The vast U.S. military machine is sustained through these efforts to conceal and distract. As infrastructure crumbles and the social safety net is in tatters, politicians claim that it’s “entitlement programs” and not the excesses in military spending that are wasting the country’s resources. And the draft isn’t needed to maintain America’s global troop presence, since enough impoverished young people join the military for its career benefits.
This approach for keeping the people complacent with lost liberties and perpetual war is representative of the model of totalitarianism that we’ve been living in for the last several generations. Called “inverted totalitarianism” by the political theorist Sheldon Wolin, this system of control officially allows for dissent while mass media and a political police stamps out the potential for dissenters to actually gain power. It’s a distinctly corporate form of dictatorship, where people are sold products and political candidates to give them the feeling that the society they live in exists with their consent.
When people have been taught all their lives to view every aspect of society from the perspective of markets and profit, and to hate socialists or anyone who’s labeled a “socialist,” they come to see this corporatized paradigm as normal or even favorable. 80% of Americans effectively live under private totalitarian governments, working for corporations that police their daily activities and often keep them under video surveillance. Out of these workers, around half are poor according to the modern definition of poverty, and 80% live paycheck to paycheck. Yet in conventional thought, the fact that the workers have willingly surrendered their rights to the corporations by signing contracts is taken as proof that they have no right to object to their conditions-a view that doesn’t consider how taking these jobs is usually their only option for staying out of destitution. Even though corporations have a stranglehold over politics and daily life, Americans are told that they’re the ones who’ve brought about what their government is like and what their standing in society is.
Ultimately this logic of private enterprise justifying oppressive systems applies not just to the withholding of worker’s rights, but to for-profit prisons, surveillance capitalism, polluting industries, and the military industrial complex. There are mainstream commentators who argue that perpetuating war is justified because it protects some American jobs and advances corporate profits. In 2016, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said that there would be “a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States” if the U.S. stopped arming Saudi Arabia in its mass slaughter of the Yemeni people. And in 1999 the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman explicitly stated the power structure’s philosophy: “For globalism to work, America cannot be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is…The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist — McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonald-Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”
The subjugation of workers, the daily killings of people in brown countries, carbon emissions and pollution from pesticides, the loss of privacy and intimacy amid intensive social media surveillance, slave labor in private prisons, and the coercing of refugees into for-profit detention camps are all rationalized by the corporatocracy as necessities for accumulating more wealth. The prevailing ideology is one that treats human beings and nature as commodities, with people like the refugee camp prisoners being held in the most contempt.
The irony is that while war hysteria and the hatred of migrants are created through nationalism, the traditional concepts of nations and borders no longer exist. The U.S, Israel, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and the European countries are all part of one alliance of capitalist powers which let multinational corporations decide their internal affairs and foreign policy, and which use global financial institutions like the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund to make disobedient countries conform to their economic interests. If the political and economic manipulations from these institutions don’t make a country obedient, the next option is military invasion.
The main source of oppression in the world is not Putin, Assad, Maduro, or the other leaders who are vilified by Western propaganda. It’s the power structure of corporate totalitarianism which dominates world politics, with the individual countries within the structure being just props for the people of different regions to invest their patriotic energy into. And within the disfavored countries, the cause of oppression isn’t communism but capitalism. Russia is now a neoliberal petrostate where 3% of the population owns 90% of the wealth, and China continues to have billionaires and poverty despite the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to make the country more equal. Capitalism is the force that’s keeping civilization in a state of endless war, artificially created economic stagnation, and militant hierarchy.
This is what capitalist totalitarianism has looked like since the start of its modern version. But as the earth’s climate destabilization feedback loop continues, the power structure will need to drastically change in order to survive. If we let these changes go through instead of replacing global capitalism with a new system, by the end of this century humanity will be locked into a state of dictatorship that’s much more extreme than before.
America’s Republican Party, which still denies the existence of anthropogenic global warming, is an outlier within the world’s ruling class. Otherwise, elites are preparing to try to re-stabilize their power structure by implementingclimate change solutions that they approve of: carbon taxation, geoengineering, and a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” where companies invest in renewable technologies. These things are either insufficient to solve the problem or likely to create new environmental disasters; trying to artificially create a cooler climate could harm the planet more than the already existing climate change, and the technologies that capitalists are hoping to adopt would require mining very limited rare earth minerals and creating more pollution. If the capitalists are allowed to decide how humanity responds to climate change in the coming decades, the planet will ultimately become extremely damaged, and the instruments of control over the population will be vastly expanded.
Part of the elite’s proposed fixes for climate change is the creation of “smart” cities, which may involve the hyper-connected G5 internet system that many governments are trying to install. This would give the government unprecedented ability to digitally surveil in the name of safety. As the Trump administration opens the possibility for an eventual nationalized 5G network, officials are framing it as a necessity for protecting Americans from supposed threats from China. As the destabilization of the climate creates greater and greater crises, the state’s impulse to push through authoritarian measures in the name of national security will no doubt intensify.
With the current trends of increasingly militarized police, declining freedom of speech, and ever-widening inequality, society could be more totalitarian than ever by the time nationalized 5G comes to America. In this scenario, the new surveillance system would be what’s used to give people more reminders not to step out of line. And it would be the logical conclusion of how corporate despotism has worked so far; rather than having technology regress under dictatorship, as would have likely happened if the dictatorship were in the form of a totalitarian government, society has seen massive technological advancements largely because of innovators who work in corporations. But instead of making society more equal and free, the Internet and mobile devices have been used to impose more surveillance, and to enrich tech companies at the expense of the slave laborers who help manufacture computer products. 5G is where all of this has been leading towards.
Just as the oligarchs plan to continue their drive towards internal repression, they don’t want to let climate change or the world’s other crises stop the continuation of war. War is needed to keep disobedient countries under the power of the global capitalist dictatorship, and to maintain an environment where people accept a hierarchical society. The American empire, which has already lost so much geopolitical leverage and economic power that it’s likely to collapse after the next major upset to it, will soon be replaced as the engine for the capitalists to enforce their agenda on the world.
After the U.S. enters its post-empire state, which in all likelihood will happenby the end of the 2020s, another authority which unites the corporate power structure will emerge, likely consisting either of a new version of NATO or of an arrangement where corporations rule directly. Since the Western world has already become locked into a cold war with Russia and China in recent years, this political and military alliance will likely become engaged in nuclear tensions with these two countries indefinitely. Through such developments, our current era of perpetual war could go on for the rest of the 21st century.
These reforms are how the capitalist class, which has mainly tried to hide the deterioration of the climate so far during the Anthropocene, plan to continue their rule after the warming becomes impossible to deny. The emergence of the Anthropocene was linked with the emergence of this era’s capitalist totalitarianism, and the evolution of the Anthropocene will entail the evolution of the corporate regime’s means for holding power.
The question is whether the people of the world will accept the ruling class’ climate change “solutions” and security state expansions, or carry out a revolution that makes society free and equal. It’s whether the pro-labor, civil rights, and anti-war movements which were pushed to the margins during the 20th century will return and transform the world for the better.
Realistically, the next few decades will be a war between the capitalists and the revolutionaries that has a similar nature to the conflict between the U.S./NATO empire and the Russia/China axis. As the socialist movement rises around the world, the ruling class is framing its war with this movement as a battle between freedom and slavery even though the opposite is the case. In France, the Yellow Vest protesters have been frequently targeted with police violence, and an American protest movement would no doubt experience the same. Even if capitalism is soon defeated in one country, the new revolutionary government will have to defend itself from relentless capitalist sabotage, as has been the case for every socialist state from the Soviet Union to the DPRK.
But these struggles will be the cost of achieving liberty. As Vladimir Lenin wrote in a passage from The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolutionthat’s now more relevant than ever:
The victory of socialism in one country does not at one stroke eliminate all wars in general. On the contrary, it presupposes wars. The development of capitalism proceeds extremely unevenly in different countries. It cannot be otherwise under commodity production. From this it follows irrefutably that socialism cannot achieve victory simultaneously in all countries. It will achieve victory first in one or several countries, while the others will for some time remain bourgeois or pre-bourgeois. This is bound to create not only friction, but a direct attempt on the part of the bourgeoisie of other countries to crush the socialist state’s victorious proletariat. In such cases, a war on our part would be a legitimate and just war. It would be a war for socialism, for the liberation of other nations from the bourgeoisie.