Reformers Must Unite


The elite campaign for war, self-enrichment, and repression of democracy has an internal logic that this elite understands. The fractured defenders of democracy, financial justice, and peace will continue losing this struggle until they unite.

The cycle of domestic class war, foreign military adventures, and subversion of domestic democracy rests on its own powerful internal logic: the legal structure that permits the wholesale transfer of national wealth from society to the super-rich depends on a submissive political class, which requires a repressed population. A primary source of the wealth of the super-rich is war, so wars of choice, wars that harm rather than strengthen national security, are needed. These foreign wars, like the domestic theft of wealth, require a submissive population. That submission, in the U.S., is obtained in great measure by frightening the people with warnings about “terrorists,” which from time to time require real military action to give them verisimilitude. A further degree of submission is obtained by the very transfer of wealth out of their hands that should, by rights, provoke their resistance: when one is sufficiently impoverished, the struggle for daily survival distracts one from one’s long-term interest, while simultaneously making the effort to participate in democratic action seem simply too difficult. Finally, submission of those few who still insist upon protesting is achieved by overt repression. Wars serve another purpose: the more the population becomes accustomed to barbaric overseas behavior by the government, the less likely they will be to protest when they become the victims. Thus, restrictions on civil liberties, wars of choice, and the impoverishment of the population for the benefit of the super-rich constitute three aspects of a single, coherent policy promoted by an elite coalition of financial, arms industry, and political leaders who understand very clearly their common interests.

Among those with the energy, resources, courage, and awareness to resist, the situation is strikingly different: disunity reigns. An Occupy Movement or an anti-foreclosures protest or a demonstration for public sector contract rights or a Moral Mondays protest or an anti-war movement may occur. A rare reform-minded politician may make a career of demanding that banks deemed “too big to fail” be broken up. Another rare reform-minded politician may take a stand against domestic spying. A whistleblower here may go through the system and quietly have his career destroyed, there go to the press and be loudly condemned as a “traitor” for exposing the treachery of the elite. The repressive elite may react strongly or not, but in fact these individual protest actions, however courageous, are but pin-pricks: all too seldom do the democracy activists present to the public a logical explanation of the struggle as a whole. Each activist group works alone, each reform politician works alone…focused on some specific issue and exhibiting no understanding whatsoever of the underlying logic that unites them.

Do Senators Udall and Wyden speak out clearly in favor of Senator Warren’s battle against the Big Banks? Does Senator Warren speak out clearly in favor of the Udall-Wyden campaign to rein in the national security state’s rising intrusion into the lives of private citizens? And how are they coordinating with anti-war proponents? Does A even understand that B is fighting a different battle in the same war? Are Senators Udall, Wyden, and Warren aware that the Occupy Movement, North Carolina’s Moral Mondays, the Wisconsin teacher-police-firemen protesters, popular movements to defend homeowners from fraudulent foreclosures, the sudden flood of whistleblowers over the last decade, opponents of the drone policy, and the Green Party offer them new sources of popular support?

As long as reformers and democracy activists fight their individuals battles alone, the tightly unified elite coalition of arms manufacturers, financial institutions, and expansionist politicians will continue winning the war. The history of the world since 9/11 is the story of the enactment of a new program by this elite coalition of permanent war against foreign independence activists, the application domestically of the “neo-liberal” policy of enriching the rich via austerity for the rest, and steady expansion of the application to the American public of the new high-tech methods of spying that have been tested on Muslim and other populations overseas. Until this picture is understood by U.S. democracy activists in its entirety, they will have no chance of successfully defending either liberty or the long-term security interests of the American people.

The war is the struggle between liberty and repression. Logically inherent in the process of building democracy (the best tool so far identified to achieve liberty) is a sympathetic search for positive-sum outcomes in international relations. A government that engages in drone attacks in countries with which it is not officially at war, knowing full well that innocents will be killed, will eventually find it irresistible to use its new toys to spy on domestic criminals, then those accused of being domestic criminals, then whistleblowers who will not shut up, then democracy activists, and eventually anyone else the ruling elite considers to be “trouble-makers.” It comes down, in the end, to two alternative views of human relations: either you believe that others have the right to their opinions or you do not.

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