Guest Post by Steven Miller
(In this final of 6 guest posts, Miller discusses the role of reform in drawing people into action against the state.)
Nothing Can Be Done by Fighting for Reforms and Nothing Can Be Done Without Fighting for Them
We can summarize the salient features of the situation. Speculators wield massive political power in the US and the world. This is rooted in their absolute control of all forms of technology as private corporate property. At the same time, corporations are merging with the state. Speculators direct the capitalist class to use state political power against the people. They are engineering an escalating class war from the top against the rest of society. The capitalist class is compelled to implement electronic laborless production only in the narrow and limited ways that guarantee corporate profits.
Speculators crashed the economy in 2008 by bundling toxic mortgages into “investment tools”. Now they are doing the same with rents. Meanwhile, the situation has metastasized. There is no longer just one economic bubble. The Masters of the World are addicted to financial warfare based in bubble wars. In essence, these are just sophisticated video games that are played 24 hours a day using the assets of the public. Like days of yore, armies of mercenaries rampage across the land, despoiling the public. Like video games, they produce thrilling speculative battles with individual winners and losers. Unlike video games, they do this with the necessities of life.
So… can this situation be reformed? In other words, can the power of capital be limited or significantly altered so that the current crisis of destruction can be reversed, so that humanity can develop a sustainable economy that benefits people, rather than debasing them?
The answer is pretty clear: there can be no significant reforms. Capitalism’s feeble efforts to address Global Warming indicate this. As with the economy itself, capitalism is driving things inexorably towards greater instability and crisis. Reforming even one aspect of the situation – simply halting evictions, for example – would take a social movement on a scale never before seen. Even the uprisings of the Arab Spring have not fundamentally altered the situation. Everything today is influenced by the subjective understanding of the enormous class of people who can only survive by working.
The paradox is that nothing can be won by fighting for reforms and nothing can be won without fighting for them. There are no revolutionary reforms by definition. Reforms do not alter political power, yet reform is what draws people into action against the state. People must engage in the revolutionary struggle for reforms by doing the teaching, by elevating the discussion of where these political struggles are headed. This includes presenting a revolutionary vision of what society could be if technology were used to create real economic democracy, with democratic popular control of technology guaranteed at every level.
Capitalism intends to control and sanitize this debate:
“Capitalism is a sorry excuse for an economic system. With no present viable alternative, contemporary capitalism continues to produce cruel economic results and a twisted morality. But a debate is underway. Even the Harvard Business School, the birthplace of many of capitalism’s excesses has a large project in ‘Rethinking Capitalism.” (23)
So re-think this. Everyone sees that the private corporate control of technology is not sustainable. It inevitably leads to short-term thinking, based only on the interests of private profit. This produces nightmares in every direction from climate change to corporate agriculture, new diseases, Big Pharma and the despoliation of the environment from the insane overuse of petroleum in all forms. Corporations are behind it all.
But the corporate control of technology is not an Act of God. In fact, in the ‘90s, the US Post Office proposed developing an open and democratic Internet for everyone. Bill Clinton immediately squashed that one, intoning that corporations are the best way to develop this amazing tool. Since corporations inevitably deform the potential uses of technology in order to make a profit, they are not fit to control it. Period.
Youngdahl can see “no present viable alternative” because he cannot imagine the public seizure of private corporate property. Capitalism uses its Media-Industrial State to confuse the issues. We are supposed to believe that democracy is an economic system, which it is not. Then they confuse the concepts of the government and the state. We are supposed to rail against “big Government” when government is a fundamental necessity to guarantee people the things they cannot provide for themselves. Like sewers, for example. What people really don’t like – as we see with the NSA scandal – is the capitalist state, not the government.
Some people believe that we can succeed in replacing the rule of the 1% by ignoring it and building local cooperative efforts. This view is what Chris Hedges argues in “Overthrow the Speculators!”:
“We can wrest back control of our economy, and finally our political system, from corporate speculators only by building local movements that decentralize economic power through the creation of hundreds of publicly owned state, county and city banks… Public banks also protect us from the worst forms of predatory capitalism.” (24)
Interesting question. Why bother to get rid of simply the worst forms of predatory capitalism? It’s still predatory; it’s still capitalism.
Today Americans are under an onslaught from ALEC, the corporate lobbyists who write the corporate laws, the NSA and public surveillance in many forms, a governmental refusal to regulate capitalism in any form, plus the legalizing of extraordinary rendition and drones. The state is not going to permit any weeds to grow in the garden of speculation. This strategic question is not something to ignore.
Takeovers can work both ways. America has reached the point twice before where forms of private property were strangling the very life out of society. In the 1770s, when the 13 Colonies were the private property of the King, the American people rose up and abolished this private property. This power was exercised through private corporations, such as the Virginia Corporation, which raised private armies of mercenaries. Corporations today have reclaimed this power, aided and abetted by the Department of Homeland Security. In the 21st Century, there are more private police than public police in America.
In the 1850s, private property in slavery controlled all three branches of government – the Presidency (which includes the army), the Supreme Court, and the Congress. Slave property worked day and night to extend its rights over the rights of regular people, through the Dred Scott decision, the Fugitive Slave Act and a host of other actions. Recognizing that they could no longer continue to live free, the North waged the Civil War to expropriate private property in slaves and break their political power.
Move To Amend – an organization developed to abolish corporate rights as people and money as speech – is one group that addresses the issue of expropriation: “Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person.” (25) After all, if corporations can expropriate the public – as they are actively doing today – the public can expropriate the corporations.
The third time is the charm.
Steven Miller, Oakland, California, January 2014 – email@example.com
….And a big Shout-Out to the Zapatistas – 20 years ago today!
References and Resources
23) Jay Youngdahl. “2013 was a year of Heroes and Hope”. East Bay Express. 12-25, 2013
24) Chris Hedges. “Overthrow the Speculators!”. 12-29-2013
25) The Myth of Corporate Personhood. Turning the Tide.
photo credit: ryanophilly via photopin cc
Steven Miller has taught science for 25 years in Oakland’s Flatland high schools. He has been actively engaged in public school reform since the early 1990s. When the state seized control of Oakland public schools in 2003, they immediately implemented policies of corporatization and privatization that are advocated by the Broad Institute. Since that time Steve has written extensively against the privatization of public education, water and other public resources. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally posted at Daily Censored
A good friend and mentor expressed it more briefly: “Making successful revolution requires infinite patience.”
The old commies were so right. The bastards aren’t satisfied until they have it all.
Great post! It has re-occurred to me that perhaps THIS is the real why our Queensland Government (as a test run for other states in Australia) is currently passing laws to make it illegal to be in or associate with (supposed) Motorcycle Gangs. Not for crime but because they could be a huge civilian army resource to wrest power back should there be a real revolution.
I like the idea of decentralisation and supporting local owned business. I saw a post the other day on another page I follow about un-privatising banks, which I thought was a great idea. Also my rather radical idea would be to dismantle the share market. So much wrong is being perpetuated in the name of profit and share-holders.
Thanks, PV. I agree that decentralizing and supporting local business and un-privatizing banks (especially ending their ability of private banks to create money out of thin air) are the way to go. I think Miller makes a great point, though. The 1% will do everything in their power to keep us from implementing these reforms. Even if we succeed, they will do everything in their power to overturn them (and probably succeed). Thus we must never lose sight of the long game: namely removing these bastards from power altogether.
This has been an excellent series of essays. We need many more people to see that the state religion of Capitalism is a violent, predatory system in which human beings lose their humanity by competing against each other for the crumbs left behind by sociopathic rulers instead of cooperating in a civilized manner. It is a daunting task to educate the masses in an attempt to evolve beyond mindless greed and end this obscenely barbaric system. But, try we must. Thank you both for this important contribution.
Daunting task is right. It’s something I ruminate over daily.