Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Capitalism has got to go

Chapter One of Robert McChesney's book on a post-capitalist society is here. Some excerpts:

"In the coming decades we are almost certainly going to see a society the likes of which has never existed and can scarcely be imagined. I argue in this book that if that new society is going to be one in which we want to live, it will require fundamental change in the political economy. Capitalism as we know it has got to go."

"What do I mean by post-capitalist democracy? I mean a society expressly committed to democratic practices first and foremost, and one that directly addresses the ways that really existing capitalism is inimical to democracy, human freedom, and ecological sustainability. I use the term "really existing capitalism" for a reason. I refer to the capitalism of massive corporations, commercial propaganda, political corruption, obscene inequality, poverty, stagnation, militarism, and endless greed. That capitalism, the one people actually experience, is the main impediment to democracy in the United States today.I am not therefore referring to the classroom fantasy of capitalism as a bunch of heroic little-guy entrepreneurs competing for the betterment of consumers, and creating jobs in the communities they inhabit. This is the 'free market' system of public relations missives and politicians' blarney."

"As Noam Chomsky put it, if you act like social change for the better is impossible, you guarantee it will be impossible. That is the choice we all have to make when we look into the mirror. Pessimism is self-fulfilling; it is no way to live."

"Many liberals who wish to reform and humanize capitalism are uncomfortable with seemingly radical movements, and often work to distance themselves from them, lest respectable people in power cast a withering eye at them. 'Shhh,' they say to people like me. 'If we antagonize or scare those in power we will lose our seat at the table and not be able to win any reforms.' Yet these same liberal reformers often are dismayed at how they are politically ineffectual. Therein lies a great irony, because to enact significant reforms requires a mass movement (or the credible prospect of a mass movement) that does indeed threaten the powerful. The influence of mild reformers rises greatly when people in power look out the window and see a million people demonstrating. If there is an iron law of politics, this is it.

"People in power certainly know this. Nothing frightens them like popular uprisings they do not and cannot control. For that reason, cynicism and political apathy are generally encouraged in the United States. It is not a fluke that voter turnout in the United States is well below that of nearly every other nation in the world. In the 1970s, on the heels of the popular uprisings of that era, people in power spoke candidly (to each other) about the need to have young people and the dispossessed return to apathy. Much of their work since then has been to achieve that goal. When we tune out politics, when we abandon hope, we aren't being cool or hip or ironic or even realistic—we are being played.

"This elite fear of genuine democracy should encourage all those dedicated to building a more humane and sustainable post-capitalist democracy. Those atop the system know we have the numbers on our side. They know the system is rigged for them, and they want to keep it that way. They know they cannot win a fair fight. Hence billionaires' energy goes to matters like wholesale voter suppression and flooding election campaigns with unlimited secretive spending. They must feed the machinery of pessimism and despair because they know they cannot defeat an aroused citizenry. That tells me that if we do effective organizing it will be like planting a seed in rich Iowa topsoil. Put this way, I like our chances. I like them a lot."

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