We in the progressive movement must coalesce around a positive vision for the future. The common thread running through all our progressive causes—from fighting for our freedoms and civil rights to battling for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice—is the struggle for democracy itself. Participatory democracy means decision-making power in the hands of the people. In a functioning democracy, the opinions of ordinary working people influence policy; government carries out the actions determined by the general population.
Throughout U.S. history a perpetual war has raged between grassroots forces demanding more freedom and democracy from below, and authoritarian forces seeking to oppress and control the population from above. Up to this point it has unfortunately been a pretty one-sided battle, as a well-organized wealthy elite have concentrated their capital resources in waging an all-out offensive on working class people and our unions. It behooves those in power to maintain a high level of class consciousness for themselves while eliminating class consciousness from the oppressed working people. That is why it is taboo to talk about class in this country, and doing so makes people feel uncomfortable. People prefer to think of themselves as middle class. In truth, anyone who is forced to sell their labor for money in the wage-slavery market is a member of the working class (or to use the term made popular by the Occupy Wall Street movement, ‘the 99%’).
From the outset of the republic, the elitist-minded founding fathers believed the governing system should be designed to place power in the hands of a wealthy minority of property-owners. These slave-owning aristocrats considered themselves the noblest, most responsible set of men in society who were alone capable of governing the masses. They feared that if the working-class population was granted too much power, they would get together and organize to take away the property & privilege of the rich. Perhaps the founding father James Madison best summed up this elitist mentality in the process of devising the institutions of government when he said, “They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” In 1787 a group of 55 wealthy white men gathered at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and proceeded to establish a federal government that would preserve and protect their power & privilege from the threat of democracy. Senators were appointed from the wealthy class rather than elected by the people. Conspicuously excluded from participating in the democratic process were laborers, women, minorities, slaves, and Native Americans.
Flash forward to today and our political and economic systems remain in the control of a wealthy few who pursue policies that serve their interests at the expense of the many. The ruling class (the 1%) have amassed obscene concentrations of wealth & power. Corporations and mega-wealthy campaign donors have a stranglehold on the political process by purchasing politicians to do their bidding. Through a process of legalized bribery, corporate lobbying and groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) draft model legislation (deregulation, tax cuts, etc.) that further consolidates wealth & power in a vicious cycle. The ruling elites have intricate alliances throughout corporations and government. The same individuals who sit on multiple boards of corporations (interlocking directorates) shuffle between business and government (the revolving door). Corporations not only influence regulatory policy but also implant their lackeys within government agencies so that they are essentially regulating themselves (regulatory capture). Corporations are state-created legal entities that function more like fascist institutions than democratic ones. They are certainly not persons and it is absurd to grant them constitutional rights of persons as the courts have done. Money is not speech and corporations should not be allowed to spend limitless amounts of money on elections as the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case in 2010. These appalling court decisions are an assault on our democracy but exactly what we should expect when judges are appointed by reactionary presidents installed by the ruling class. If the general population allows this process to continue to its logical conclusion it will end in corporate tyranny.
The primary function of any democratic government should be to provide for the needs of its citizens (the welfare state). If we are going to agree to pay taxes to our government to fund essential public services (the social contract) such as schools, libraries, infrastructure, healthcare, etc. then it should be a democratic process by which we have a say in how our contributions to society are spent (participatory budgeting). The problem is that we entrust elected officials to make these decisions on our behalf—crooked politicians who take money from corporations and billionaires and are consequently beholden to the ruling class agenda rather than representing the interests of their constituencies. There are notable exceptions (Senator Bernie Sanders comes to mind), but most sell out to the rigged political system.
During the post-WWII years, New Deal regulations served as a check on big business while social welfare measures such as the G.I. Bill allowed many returning veterans to attend college for free. Tax rates were much higher on the 1% than they are today, as corporations and the super-rich were made to pay their fair share. The 1950’s and 60’s saw a period of unprecedented economic growth, which was relatively egalitarian with the bottom fifth of the population prospering at about the same rate as the top fifth. But such rates of economic growth are unsustainable and growth slowly declined as markets became saturated and resources depleted. In the 1970’s industry began outsourcing productive manufacturing jobs overseas in search of cheap labor, while financial institutions & insurance companies grew exponentially to take over a large sector of the economy. Massive tax cuts were granted to corporations and the wealthy. New Deal regulations were rolled back, including provisions of the Banking Act (Glass-Steagall) that separated commercial and investment banking. Universities shifted the cost burden from government funding to the individual students who, unless they come from privilege, are burdened with enormous loan debt to pay for the exorbitantly high tuition rates. The American dream was destroyed.
Lured by lucrative salaries, the financial sector siphons off our bright, young students (the corporate brain drain) who go off to Wall Street to waste away their talent, conjuring up sophisticated algorithms such as complex derivatives and subprime mortgage loans to bilk people of their money. Hedge fund managers are permitted to profit by playing games with money, devising duplicitous financial schemes that move money around in complex ways without contributing anything of value to society. Goldman Sachs and other unregulated investment banks are permitted to make risky speculative deals. When the system collapses, as it inevitably does, they are deemed ‘too big to fail’ (and as columnist Jim Hightower notes, ‘too big to jail’) and bailed out with our tax dollars. Combine government bailouts with massive tax breaks & government subsidies (corporate welfare) and you get what the American writer Gore Vidal referred to as, “free enterprise for the poor and socialism for the rich.” The wealthy are protected from market principles while everyday working people are brutally exposed to the harsh forces of the market and told not to expect any help from their government.
The dominant ideology, neoliberalism, represents a fanatic religious-like belief that individuals seeking to maximize their own self-gain in a free market will ultimately benefit all of society. Neoliberal economists such as Milton Friedman place an irrational faith in the market’s ability to regulate itself and believe that it will efficiently allocate resources and effectively distribute wealth without any intervention from the state. Like something out of an Ayn Rand novel (for whom there is a cult-like worship among prominent neoliberals such as Alan Greenspan and Paul Ryan), neoliberals envision a global order constructed on the principles of market fundamentalism in which a self-indulgent power elite is free to amass obscene riches while the impoverished masses are callously left to die homeless and hungry.
The ruling class attempts to justify the free-market enterprise system by making it all seem natural, inevitable, and superior to any potential alternative. They created schools of economics to bestow professional titles of PhDs to lend credibility to their ideology and further legitimize it as a science. To control the population, those in power attempt to influence attitudes and beliefs by shaping culture to reflect their own neoliberal worldview. They fund right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, and the Heartland Institute to craft neoliberal messaging that is then disseminated through schools, churches, and the media.
As the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges points out, the power elite control the narrative by pumping out their neoliberal ideology through the mainstream media which serves as the mouthpiece for the corporate state. For example, when government wants to go to war the corporate media (Fox, CNN, MSNBC, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, etc.) fall in line lockstep. In a functioning democracy, the press (The Fourth Estate) serves a vital role in holding power accountable by demanding transparency & independent investigation while keeping the public well-informed. In authoritarian regimes, the press is made to serve as the propaganda wing of the ruling class while critical inquiry and dissenting views are suppressed. In the U.S., the ruling class does not permit public discourse that challenges free-market capitalism.
Neoliberalism isolates and controls individuals by turning them into passive consumers who crave superficial material gain. The advertising and marketing industries fabricate desires, creating uninformed consumers who make irrational choices in purchasing stuff they don’t need. The public relations industry runs our elections in the same manner, creating an uninformed electorate that votes irrationally—even against their own interest. As the economy breaks down, people are made to turn on each other in self-destructive ways. The message is to hate and fear others, care only about oneself and don’t worry about anyone else. The basic human emotions of sympathy, solidarity, and mutual aid are driven out of peoples’ heads and replaced with greed. This phenomenon is corrosive to social relations, family and community.
For the past several decades, the ideology and policies of free-market capitalism have spread like a cancer throughout the advanced industrialized world. Neoliberals talk of trade deficits & balancing budgets as a guise for implementing their austerity agenda—cutting funding for social welfare programs that benefit ordinary citizens while spending lavishly on corporate boondoggles and gifting the 1% with huge tax breaks. In the process of globalization, developing nations fall prey to World Bank-IMF Structural Adjustment Programs which issue loans on the severe conditions that countries cut social welfare spending and open up their markets to privatization & deregulation. Multinational corporations then swoop in and exploit these poor countries for their cheap labor and resources. The local people do not benefit from the foreign-owned business firms which drain the wealth from their country. Capital is free to move about the globe while workers are trapped within arbitrary national borders.
Economists Richard Wolff, Joseph Stiglitz, Michael Hudson, Yanis Varoufakis, Ha-Joon Chang, Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, and others tell us the free-market ideology is not based on empirical evidence and, in fact, people do not behave in accordance with the economic models. In truth, capitalism is neither natural nor inevitable. It grew out of specific circumstances that had much to do with colonialism, the discovery of the Americas, and merchants & manufacturers seeking to gain from the exploitation of people & natural resources. Economic historians such as Karl Polanyi discovered that for most of human history people bartered and traded within the context of the larger social and political framework. Polanyi warned that labor (human activity/life), land (nature), and money (token of purchasing power) are fictitious commodities and that any civilization that treats them as such is destined for massive internal disaster. Anthropologists such as David Graeber point out that human beings are innately social creatures and that for thousands of years economic transactions were guided by socio-cultural norms, religious & moral codes, and political structures all rooted in community values of solidarity, mutual aid, reciprocity, etc. It is only recently in human history that economic behavior has become disconnected from the social fabric of life.
Human nature is not inherently good nor evil. We are all capable of love, compassion, empathy, and selfless acts of generosity, but we are also capable of selfishness, bigotry, deception, and horrific acts of violence. There is an expression within the scientific community regarding the nature vs. nurture debate that “nature loads the gun while environment pulls the trigger.” Neoliberal capitalism brings out the worst in our nature. Greed is glorified and lying, cheating & stealing are rewarded. People are encouraged to follow what the Scottish philosopher Adam Smith referred to as “the vile maxim of the masters of mankind: all for ourselves and nothing for other people.” Working people are forced to compete globally with one another, driving down wages & benefits in a race to the bottom. This downward spiral of stagnating wages & job insecurity leads to chronic poverty, stress, anxiety, drug addiction, crime, violence, mental illness & misery. We in the progressive movement are working to build more humane systems that provide the necessary conditions for nurturing the better part of our nature—firmly rooted in the principles of cooperation & community.
We have been misled through propaganda to falsely equate capitalism with freedom, democracy, and innovation. Regarding freedom, we live in a highly-controlled world which presents us with the illusion of free choice. For example, choosing between the Republican and Democrat parties is like choosing peanut butter at the grocery store—same packaging with a different label. These two corporate-sponsored parties (the Republocrats) are more alike than different, yet actually-existing alternative points of view are marginalized and excluded. Rules, laws, and regulations…lawyers, judges, courts, and prisons…cops, military, FBI, CIA, NSA, and Homeland Security (the deep state)…all serve the ruling elites within the corporate state while continuing to strip the 99% of our rights and freedoms. Courageous whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden have sacrificed their own comfort in an effort to inform us of the sweeping dragnet collection of our private information by the security & surveillance state.
Capitalism is antithetical to democracy. Corporations are totalitarian in nature, with hierarchies that concentrate power in the hands of a few directors who make all of the important decisions that affect the lives of employees (Democratized workplaces such as cooperatives enjoy worker owned and managed operations which share equally in the wealth & decision-making power). Capitalism inevitably consolidates wealth in the pockets of corporate oligarchs who engineer elections and control the political process to impose their neoliberal agenda. These billionaires purchase politicians to pass legislation that further concentrates ruling class wealth & power while undermining our democracy.
People have been creative innovators from the inception of our species, long before capitalism arrived on the scene. Knowledge is collective, with each successive generation building upon all that has come before. For thousands of years, people have been sharing innovations without the capitalist concept of intellectual property rights. For example, who created the first Acheulean hand axe, and how would our world be different had the first stone tools been patented? People will continue to use the power of imagination and ingenuity to create new innovations regardless of the economic system. The economic system is simply the mechanism that distributes the products & services, as well as the resources & wealth within a society. Automation has the potential to enhance our lives with less work and more time for leisure, but only if we collectively own the advanced technology and equitably share the wealth that is generated.
Let’s use the creation of Facebook as an illustration of what innovation looks like within the framework of the capitalist system. The creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, had the privilege of attending a private high school where he was the captain of his fencing team. He then followed the prescribed course for similarly privileged white kids, attending the elitist Ivy League school of Harvard University. Capitalism has allowed Mr. Zuckerberg to amass a grotesque sum of wealth ($60 billion), with a lot of money coming from advertisers given access to our private internet information. Internet activists believe knowledge is a common good rather than a commodity, and continue to fight for a free and open internet (net neutrality). If free market capitalists have it their way we will all be paying to use internet sites such as Facebook, and only those privileged enough to afford it will have access. When distributing resources, capitalism does not account for human need or the common good—only profit.
Meritocratic individualism, the belief that success is based on merit, is a self-congratulatory ideology which serves the ruling elite. It values some people over others. Those with a certain intellect and skills are given just enough power & privilege to keep them content while the rest of humanity, including the working poor and most vulnerable, are left to fend for themselves. Capitalism creates a stratified class system in which a few ‘haves’ gain privileged access to a quality education and thus the upper echelon of high paying jobs, while the many ‘have nots’ lack access to the better school districts and are consequently condemned to a harsh life of struggle with stagnant wages & job instability. Think of all the potential innovators, all the potential Mark Zuckerberg’s, who are lost to the system because they aren’t born within the affluent zip-codes where the best schools are located, and don’t get the chance to realize their creative capacities. Now imagine a classless society in which all people are provided with the basic necessities of life and are truly free to pursue their passions in the process toward what humanist psychologists such as Carl Rogers refer to as ‘self-actualization’. That is the world we progressives are fighting to achieve.
We’re taught in school that capitalism is natural and inevitable, while words like socialism and anarchism are demonized and their proponents vilified. We learn to associate anarchism with violent chaos, and socialism & communism with centralized bureaucratic governments & brutal dictators like Stalin. With a lack of understanding of political economies, and with all dissent repressed, we’re made to believe there can be no better alternative to capitalism.
Here’s what we’re not taught:
The brilliant political philosopher Karl Marx was way ahead of his time in his critique of capitalism. Marx accurately analyzed how the capitalist class brutally exploits workers’ labor to concentrate vast profits in the hands of a privileged few. He postulated that capitalism, being based on an unchecked growth model, is unsustainable and will inevitably collapse and that the working class will ultimately rise-up and overthrow their oppressors. Marx did not believe that a capitalist society will magically morph overnight into an ideal world in which all people are truly free to pursue their creative passions. Instead, Marx suggested that society will first require a transition to something akin to social democracy, in which working people will control the means of production and a participatory democratic government will serve to meet the needs of its citizens. Gradually, as people gain direct decision-making power in all aspects that effect their lives within their communities, the formal institutions and apparatus of government will wither away as they are rendered increasingly futile and obsolete. In the words of the preamble to the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) constitution, the working-class will achieve revolution by “forming the structure for the new society within the shell of the old.”
And here’s some more of what we’re not taught:
Any government with centralized power is prone to the evils of inequality, injustice, deception, and oppression—a fact that anarchists, from writer/orator Emma Goldman to public intellectual Noam Chomsky, are quick to point out. That is why anarchists oppose not only the inhumane exploitation of capitalism but also the brutal oppression of the state. Therefore, anarchists strive for democratic horizontal (egalitarian) rather than authoritarian vertical (hierarchical) power structures. Anarchists believe the burden of proof is always on those in positions of authority to justify their power over others. All forms of authority must be critically examined and any found to be illegitimate should be dismantled and replaced with more egalitarian structures to bring about a freer society. The noble aim is direct democracy, as manifested in worker cooperatives and general assemblies which honor free association and put into practice the process of consensus. The British writer George Orwell fought alongside anarchists (before they were massacred by the Communists) against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War, and wrote in awe of the classless society they had established in the region of Catalonia. Anarchists reveal through their actions the truth that viable alternatives to the corporate state are numerous, all sharing a firm commitment to human need, the planet and peace over profit. They remind us that all meaningful change throughout history—the abolition of slavery, the labor movement, women’s rights, civil rights, environmental protection, etc.—has come, not from the electoral process, but through the direct action & mutual aid of grassroots people’s movements. Through an unwavering moral courage, anarchists keep alive the rebel spirit encapsulated in the words of the great abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
Capitalism is founded on the principle of greed which inevitably leads to unchecked growth in the relentless pursuit of new markets & profit. The profit-motive places the desire for money above human need and the well-being of the planet. Naturally, this process has led to massive levels of wealth & income inequality, with obscene riches for the privileged few and abject poverty & misery for many throughout the world. Corporations negatively influence our public education system, from the development of school curriculums and the co-optation of university research & development programs, to the diversion of funds from our public schools funneled into voucher programs as part of the neoliberal agenda to privatize education. Private insurance and pharmaceutical corporations dictate the terms and prices we pay for our healthcare and medications, as thousands of people go bankrupt due to exorbitant costs and thousands more die without needed healthcare services. Industrial agriculture poisons our food & water, while rendering much of our agricultural lands infertile. Finite natural resources including water are being depleted. Species extinction and destruction of ecosystems are rapidly accelerating. Global warming from the burning of fossil fuels has led us to the brink of climate catastrophe, while polluting corporations lobby to repeal environmental protections and funnel millions of dollars into a strategic campaign of climate science denial. The fossil fuel industry locates dirty extraction and refinery sites nearby our working-class communities where they pollute our air, soil, and drinking water. They use our minority communities as dumping grounds for industrial waste. More and more of our working-class brothers & sisters are incarcerated for petty crimes to the benefit of private prison corporations (the prison-industrial complex), while Wall Street hucksters who scam millions from the public and crash the economy get off scot-free. The military-industrial complex runs up an appallingly large budget, diverting our tax dollars from social programs here at home while waging perpetual imperialist wars of empire abroad which destabilize entire regions, creating terrorists as well as mass waves of displaced refugees (to whom we then deny asylum). Under the patriotic guise of spreading freedom & democracy, the ruling elites capitalize on war not only for profit & power but as a means of distracting the American people and diverting attention away from domestic issues. Tragically, it is our working-class brothers & sisters who are sent overseas to kill and be killed for the enrichment of rapacious war profiteers. It is important to remember that all these atrocities—from the neoliberal assault on our education & health to the ravages of industrial pollution and war crimes—are being perpetrated contrary to the will of the people. Capitalism is unsustainable and, if allowed to run its course, will inevitably end in disaster for our species and the planet.
The one democratizing force that has traditionally served as a barrier to corporate tyranny is the labor movement (Working people fought and died to achieve the gains we have today, including: minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, child labor laws, the weekend, the middle class, workplace safety, and pensions.) For that reason, unions and worker centers are reviled and relentlessly attacked by the ruling class. The progressive movement must work to strengthen our unions and band together with organized labor to transform our economic system so that it works for everyone rather than the 1%. At the same time, we must work to build viable alternatives to the capitalist state such as worker-owned and operated cooperatives, local organic food co-ops, and other democratic projects of various scale. For example, the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) is removing land from the speculative market and agribusiness such as Monsanto, and turning it over to young sustainable farmers to grow healthy food. On a larger scale, within the Basque region of Spain, the Mondragon federation of worker cooperatives are thriving under the humanitarian principles of solidarity, mutual-aid, and reciprocity rather than competition & greed. To explore gift economies (see Charles Eisenstein), slow money (envisioned by Woody Tasch), and other alternatives to capitalism in more depth, check out The Next System Project.
It is not just a coincidence that government is largely composed of rich white men. Dr. Cornel West, Angela Davis, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Van Jones, and other prominent figures in the racial justice movement call attention to how structural racism serves to relegate black & brown-skinned people to neighborhoods of chronic poverty where they are subjected to police violence and incarceration for petty crimes. Working class people of color lack access to a quality education, effectively excluding them from participation in government and other social institutions. Women are subjected to a glass ceiling, denying them access to positions of power. Women are paid less than men for equal work, and are subjected to a misogynist culture that subordinates and objectifies them. The widespread acts of violence perpetrated against women largely go unnoticed. The LGBTQ community is stripped of their rights and civil liberties while being relentlessly persecuted by religious fundamentalists on both the left and the right. We stand united with the Black Lives Matter movement, the intersectional feminist movement and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in opposing the racist, patriarchal corporate state.
We must acknowledge that the problem is not immigrants, Blacks, Russians, Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, socialists, communists, anarchists, protestors, guns, gays, abortion, drugs, criminals, terrorists, welfare chiselers, unions, taxes, government regulations, or any of the other scapegoats used to scare us, divide us up, and divert our attention. The problem does not lie in any individual or political party, nor can the solution be found in them. The root cause of our collective woes is the system itself—a political economy controlled by the ruling class (a fraction of 1%). Systemic problems require systemic solutions. At the heart of our movement for progressive social change is the recognition that sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other forms of hate stem from a brutally inhumane economic system and the patriarchal corporate state. All oppressed groups are vital to the functioning of the economy and should share equally in the generation of wealth. All must prosper, or none should prosper. As the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) remind us, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Ours is an inclusive movement of solidarity that welcomes working people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, colors, ethnicities, and religions.
We believe all human beings have a right to the basic-necessities of life, including: clean air, water & healthy food; affordable housing; quality education & healthcare; free association (the right to form unions); humane work that pays a living wage; and a dignified retirement. Education is a common good that benefits all of society, not a for-profit commodity to be purchased on the market. We demand a well-funded public education system—steeped in the progressive ideals advocated by American educational philosopher John Dewey—that is free to all students from pre-K through higher education. Health care is not a for-profit commodity to be purchased on the market by the privileged who can afford it. We demand a universal single-payer, Medicare-for-all health care system that guarantees lifetime comprehensive coverage for all people. A single-payer system publicly funded through progressive taxation and accountable to a democratic government will eliminate greedy insurance companies along with their wasteful administrative costs as well as expensive premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and surprise medical bills. We demand environmental stewardship and a transition away from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable sources of energy. We heed the words of the great orator of the Civil Rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who warned, “A nation that continues year after year, to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” We demand nuclear disarmament and a diversion of funds from the bloated military budget to be invested in social programs that lift up our battered down communities.
Government policy is always rooted in values, principles, and ideology. Currently the dominant values and principles are greed & competition within a self-regulating free market—an ideology referred to as neoliberalism. Most working people do not subscribe to those values & principles, and want the world to move in a direction that values human need over corporate greed—or in the words of the Green Party slogan, ‘People, planet, and peace over profit’. People do not want to live in a social-Darwinian world but rather one that values solidarity, mutual aid, and reciprocity…a world in which the dignity of all people is valued based on the communist principle of distribution, ‘from each according to ability, to each according to need’. Democratic socialism is a very real possibility if the 99% work collectively to bend government to the will of the people.
The desire to make the world a better place for our future generations is not some pie-in-the-sky fantasy. It takes some idealism and vision to imagine a freer, more just society but we can all take practical, realistic steps toward getting there in our everyday lives. We can use our progressive values as a guide, consciously examining our daily actions to ensure that we are furthering the principles of freedom, justice, equality, and direct democracy. We have an innate sense of justice that we can foster in our children. Unfortunately, when our kids indignantly declare that something is unfair the knee-jerk reply is often to tell them, “Too bad but life’s not fair.” Although the intentions may be good, this is a dangerously misguided response as the message is to passively accept injustice rather than do anything constructive to change reality. Instead, we can encourage our children to embrace their inner sense of fairness and empower them to act in ways that make their world a more just place to live.
The American historian Howard Zinn warned us that “when a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them.” As citizens, Zinn urged us not to sacrifice our progressive values for the sake of compromise or pragmatism, but rather to maintain our integrity and follow our conscience in demanding what is right—not what is winnable. He reminded us that when a law is unjust, we have a moral obligation to defy it through peaceful acts of civil disobedience. He highlighted the important truth that the rights & freedoms we enjoy today were achieved through the collective struggles of the activists of the past. In studying social movements, we know that radical change never comes from the top down but from the bottom up with grassroots participatory democracy & direct action. The seemingly insignificant acts we make on a daily-basis have an accumulated effect. Our collective strength lies in our numbers. We must unite to resist and dismantle the fascist/authoritarian institutions of oppression that seek to take away our hard-won freedoms & civil rights. We must organize as a powerful force to wrest our democracy from the ruling class oligarchs and forge a government of, by, and for the people rather than corporations. At the same time, we must all work together at the local level to build more democratic institutions and a freer, more just & equitable society.
The American sociologist C. Wright Mills studied the relationships & class alliances of the power elite, and concluded that structural immorality is built into the political system…that powerful internal forces within government corrupt, co-opt, and crush any opposition that dares to challenge the existing power structure. We are not overly-optimistic nor do we suffer from a sense of false hope that revolution will come from within the institutions of a centralized bureaucratic state which permits only minimal reforms. We are fully aware of the limits to which any degree of meaningful change can be gained through the narrow parameters of the political process. True freedom can only be won when we put an end to our brutal exploitation from the capitalist class and abolish our enslavement to the oppressive corporate state.
The French philosopher Albert Camus posited that we search in vain for meaning and clarity in a cold world that offers none. Faced with this predicament, we can acknowledge the absurdity of our existence while choosing to act with courage & integrity in rebelling against our current condition. We are battling an overwhelmingly powerful juggernaut and the odds are not in our favor, yet we choose to struggle on against seemingly insurmountable forces…not because victory is assured but because, regardless of the outcome, it’s the right thing to do. Rather than give in to despair, we choose to embrace the hero within each of us.
Those who study empire and systems of political economy tell us these processes play out over the course of hundreds of years. These same experts recognize that capitalism as well as American empire have passed their zenith and are now in the final stages of terminal decline. Multinational corporations are quickly usurping national governments and building a massive security & surveillance apparatus in the march toward corporate tyranny. The question is not whether it’s practical, realistic, or feasible to transition to an alternative social order but whether people power will organize the strong democratizing movement desperately needed to bring about such a radical transformation of society. Until that day comes, capitalism will continue to collapse and be bailed out by our tax dollars, and climate crisis and nuclear annihilation will continue to loom heavy over the fate of humanity.
Independent progressive media sources that practice journalistic integrity (not corporate mainstream media which serves as a mouthpiece for the corporate state):
Common Dreams http://www.commondreams.org
In These Times http://inthesetimes.com
Popular Resistance https://popularresistance.org/
The Intercept https://theintercept.com/
Jacobin Magazine https://www.jacobinmag.com
Democracy Now! (video) https://www.democracynow.org/
Pacifica Foundation (radio) http://www.pacifica.org
Progressive organizations doing good work:
International Workers of the World http://www.iww.org
Democratic Socialists of America http://www.dsausa.org
Democracy at Work http://www.democracyatwork.info
The Next System Project http://thenextsystem.org
Sustainable Iowa Land Trust http://silt.org
Organic Consumers Association https://www.organicconsumers.org
Anarchist Black Cross Federation http://www.abcf.net
National Lawyers Guild https://www.nlg.org
Southern Poverty Law Center https://www.splcenter.org
American Civil Liberties Union https://www.aclu.org
Doctors Without Borders http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting http://fair.org
Brave New Films http://www.bravenewfilms.org