Saturday, December 11, 2010

At this point do we have to be hoping for a revolution?


Are they starting the revolution without us? First there were the French workers, now the British students.

"It’s clear at this point that America is only the shell of a democracy, and instead is run by a self-perpetuating oligopoly whose only law, whose only imperative, is its own survival and aggrandizement."
-- Ian Welsh, in his blogpost "An American Future"

by Ken

Last night Howie shared his airport's-eye view of the confrontation between British students and the police agents of the burgeoning British-coaliltion security state.
At Heathrow passengers had been clustered around the TV sets watching the demonstrations against the move by the right-wing Conservative/Lib-Dem government to raise the cost of university tuition in the name of "austerity," the term the servants of the wealthy use instead of "concentrating the nation's wealth in fewer and fewer hands." I kept hoping the students would really go for it and spark a worldwide uprising against the international ruling elites. By the time we had to board our plane, they hadn't.

The above clip of a 15-year-old British student fighting back is getting a lot of attention, and understandably so. I should add that it's attracting a certain amount of backlash from people who dismiss him as a snotty young elitist, calling police "stupid." It's an accusation that seems to me made by people who are too lazy and/or senseless to watch what's before their eyes. The speaker is talking about police who, at least in his view, are serving as mindlessly thuggish, violent enforcers of an authoritarian regime.

It helps that the U.S. is a country now in the throes of a hatred for knowledge, education, and the pursuit of understanding of the world around us, amounting to a worship of ignorance and imbecility, all of which handsomely serves the economic interests of the people who increasingly own us, or at least act as if they do. Just how bad it's gotten was laid out in a remarkable piece our friend Ian Welsh wrote recently, called "An American Future," which I encourage you to read in its entirety. I'm offering just some bleeding chunks here, and even these without the links you'll find onsite:
So, I’m peering into my looking glass today, or rather tonight, as the snow eddies down, the first snowfall of winter, and it’s winter I see for America, and for the world.

It’s clear at this point that America is only the shell of a democracy, and instead is run by a self-perpetuating oligopoly whose only law, whose only imperative, is its own survival and aggrandizement, no matter what the cost to America, to American citizens, or to anyone else in the world who is not part of the western elite class. The same is, with America switched to Europe, true of the oligopoly who run Europe. . . .

They have created a surveillance state where they track in real time, without warrants, the movements of citizens through cameras and by tracking credit cards, debit cards and even loyalty cards. Their servants stare at the naked bodies of everyone who wants to travel by air or grope their genitals, inflicting sexual humiliation on the public as a matter of course.

When embarassed, as with Wikileaks leaks of diplomatic communiques, their response is a deranged manhunt combined with a truly Soviet-style screaming of “I can’t hear you” as they try and ban soldiers, the Library of Congress and public servants from reading information everyone has access to. This isn’t just authoritarian, it isn’t just jejeune, it is delusional. Every principal and teacher knows that if you tell people they shouldn’t read something, that will make them want to read it. If they wanted people to think they shouldn’t read these revelations, the reaction should have been muted, “ho, hum, nothing there”, not a deranged attempt to shut down anyone who mirrors the Wikileaks site and threats against anyone who dares read the information. . . .

[I]f you have to stay, make sure you’re on good terms with your neighbors, your spouse, your friends and your family. Figure out how to grow food wherever you are and how to reduce your dependence on anything but people you trust. (Don’t trust any corporation.) And, if you can, organize. Organize locally, organize at the State level, organize nationally. Understand the age of compromise is over. It is now too late to save the old system. It’s over. We tried, and we failed. It is beyond “reform”, it is going to flame out, the only question is how many people it will burn to death as it does so.

Yet, as Ian has been the first to note, there are pockets of resistance. There were the French workers striking against the high hand of the Sarkozy government. And now there's the developing support rising for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, about which Ian has written a piece called "Why Assange and Wikileaks have won this round":
The odd thing about Wikileaks is that their success has been assured, not by what they leaked, though there is some important information there, but by their enemies.

The massive and indiscriminant overreaction by both government and powerful corporate actors has ensured this, and includes but is not nearly limited to:

* Shutting down Wikileaks servers, starting with the Amazon server
* Stopping domain name server propagation
* Paypal refusing to send payments
* VISA and Mastercard refusing to process payments
* The Swiss Bank PostFinance shutting down Assange’s account
* Senator Lieberman pressuring firms over Wikileaks
* The odd behavior of prosecutors in the Assange rape accusations/case

Wikileaks and Assange have now been made in to cause celebres. If corporations and governments can destroy someone’s access to the modern economy as they have Wikileaks, without even pretending due process of the law (Paypal, VISA, Mastercard, Amazon, etc… were not ordered by any court to cut Wikileaks) then we simply do not live in a free society of law, let alone a society of justice. . . .

To be just, law must be applied to both the big and the small. Thousands of executives at banks who engaged in systematic fraud were never charged, out and out war criminals are actively protected, and Wikileaks and Assange are hunted like animals?

This has enraged, in particular, the Hacktivist community, with Anonymous forming Operation Payback and shutting down both Mastercard servers and the Swiss Bank PostFinance’s website. As they themselves say, what enraged them was multiple companies attempting to shut Wikileaks down, both on the web, and financially. . . .

It has proved that the West is run by authoritarian thugs with completely twisted priorities. Kill hundreds of thousands of people and engage in aggressive war? No big deal. Cause the greatest economic collapse of the post-war period sending millions into poverty? We couldn’t possibly prosecute the people who did that, but we will give them trillions! Reveal our petty secrets and lies, and that we know the war in Afghanistan is lost, have known for years and continue to kill both Afghanis and our own soldiers pointlessly? We WILL destroy you, no matter what we have to do. . . .

Because of the massive overreaction to Wikileaks, the [rape] case against [Assange] is completely tainted. He might be guilty as sin, but justice can no longer be seen to be done, because it is far too evident that too many powerful people, corporations and governments want him taken out.

And so he has won. Whether he winds up free, in prison in Sweden or the US, or winds up dead, he has won this round. He will be a martyr and an icon, and his child, Wikileaks, whether it lives or dies, will become a rallying point and a symbol of how corrupt and unjust western society is.

And now there are the British students.

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At 7:56 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

On the other hand, more rich people and the criminal spawn can hang themselves, the way Mark Madoff did. That's justice served-- and revolutionary enough.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger bujeeboo said...

And then, in America, one man stands in the well of the Senate trying to stop the juggernaut of a government desperate to hand even MORE of the money and spoils in this country to its wealthy elites. He will fail, of course. But a few do get it.

At 10:00 AM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Great point, Bujeeboo. I've heard Bernie Sanders' efforts derided by folks on our side for their undoubted futility. I'm sure he knows he's going to fail, but at least he's taking a stand -- and from his example some people may draw inspiration.


At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a huge difference between the Republicans and the British Conservatives - student protests or not. The Republicans are dominated by very far-right wing, neo-fascist religious nutters who deny science and believe in literal interpretations of the bible and the consitution to drive their every thought.

British Tory leadership accepts the basic premises of universal healthcare and the welfare state, would run a mile from any serious connection with religion and supports - at least at a leadership level - climate change and scientific research. Yes they may believe in a smaller state than their opposition but have achieved their cuts by, amongst other things, raising revenue taxes on the wealthy and cutting middle class benefits rather than just attacking the poor. They may still be unpalatable to the far left, but they are in my view nothing like the psychopathic undereducated Republicans.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger bujeeboo said...

Ken, this tax cut fight is tearing people on the Left apart. I am having real battles with very Progressive friends of mine who I love dearly. Suddenly, I am being accused of believing in unicorns & fairies because I think running things according to the GOP boilerplate has to stop. Now. This is the key disappointment that many on the Left feel about Obama. I cannot get over our compliant demeanor in this country. The government could bulldoze our houses and we'd maybe write a letter to the Editor. I see the stopping of the tax cuts for the rich akin to self-survival.

Sorry, sort of off-topic to the WikiLeaks matter.

BTW, this is my first time posting here, but I do love this blog.


At 1:45 PM, Blogger Avanticorpo said...

Madoff was taken down because he dared steal rich people's money. Now if he was snookering little old ladies living on SS he'd still be in business.

At 1:57 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Thanks to all for the good comments, and Sonya, let me say how happy we are to have you reading and commenting. I don't think your comment was at all off topic -- I think you hit the topic exactly.


At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Straight out of Grover Norquist's playbook: tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, meant to shrink government revenues so that public programs and services can be cut to the bone and/or regressive taxes raised, all so that the wealthiest can hold onto or increase their wealth. Fascism. Oligarchy. A Banana Republic created by Banana Republicans.

If this Obama/GOP "compromise" gets passed, $5 to $6 trillion will be added to U.S. federal budget deficits over the next ten years, with two-thirds of this amount coming from extending the Bush era tax cuts and the other one-third coming from further tax cuts, including the rich-slanted change in the inheritance tax.

The Bowles/Simpson Deficit Reduction commission, created by President Obama at the urging of Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats, just recommended federal budget cuts in public programs and services over the next ten years of only $3 to $4 trillion, falling $2 to $3 trillion short of "filling" the hole blown in the U.S. Treasury by the Obama/GOP "compromise" tax cut package, meaning even more severe cuts in public programs and services or a huge increase in regressive taxes.

Of course, doing this to the federal government doesn't even take into account the "trickle down" impact that this will have on state and local governments across America, even more so than that which has already happened since the 2001/2003 Bush era tax cuts went into effect.

So, why would any sane person want to makes things worse? Oh, right, the Grover Norquist playbook: starve the government of revenue so that public programs and services can be slashed, while engineering a disinformation campaign to fool enough people into believing that this is in their best interests, not just the best interests of the wealthiest.

At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Mark Centz said...

Since Professor Beck has announced on his blackboard the the Revolution Starts Now two days ago, we can dispense with the question of what point. Aside from that, damn fine post.

At 10:30 PM, Blogger Ron said...

Anon, good point about the difference between Tories and the modern US conservative. It's a point I have made myself more than a few conservatives. You are hard pressed to tell me a more conservative,reactionary major party in an industrialized country than ours.

At 12:51 AM, Anonymous Dr. Brian Oblivion said...

Tory and Labour seem quite united in their embrace of the nanny state, both backing intrusive policy that the public would otherwise reject. The pub culture is dying as traditional behavior is denormalised and the public "nudged" into compliance for the sake of 'public health.'

The Tories are certainly not Republicans but in many ways they differ litle from the Labour party they replaced. So much for elections as a vehicle for change.

Ian Welsh's understanding of and interest in political realities is impressive for his age. I hope that there are many more out there like him. Far too many adults just can't be bothered with any of it.

At 2:27 AM, Anonymous jungle said...

"British Tory leadership accepts the basic premises of universal healthcare and the welfare state, would run a mile from any serious connection with religion"

They openly support these things only because in the UK we still have a reasonable approximation to a democracy. In reality, they are dismantling universal healthcare and the welfare state as fast as they possibly can given that the majority of the British people remain pretty stubbornly attached to these ideas.

These ideas are unacceptable to corporatists, since they restrict profit by providing people with a safety net should corporate employers make unreasonable demands. Being able to make unreasonable demands is profitable.

The propaganda from the right wing press on welfare has been relentless. They want us to believe it goes to the feckless and foreign. One example:

(By the way, the one white family wasn't there in the paper version, and there were a whole bunch more Muslims. They tend to tone down the racism for the web.)

Yes, the Tories are different from the Republicans, but that's primarily because they are corporatists who don't believe half of what they say. The Republicans started off like the Tories, as shills for corporate profits, and over time they recruited so many people who actually believed their own propaganda that the party got taken over by true believers.

This is why it's critical to take back the UK from their propaganda now, not later.

At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, the Brit conservatives are different?

Can you spell "Thatcherism"?

Well, the alternative spelling is “Reaganism.”

Ian W, despite Glenn Beck's apparent efforts to legitimate a military coup to save the Constitution from such Marxist foreigners as Barak Obama, the right in America might be able to undermine democracy more formally and more legally.

Not that it isn’t already doing just fine, though!

For years, leading pundits have urged repeal of the 17th Amendment.

And now the head of the tea-baggers has urged a return to property qualifications for voting rights.

They get bolder every day, don’t they?

The American plutocrats are too powerful and too smart to allow themselves to become dependent on the good will of a dictator or a junta.

And they can pretty much get all they want by other, entirely legal means.

Even if they can’t get rid of the 17th or universal suffrage.

Can’t they?

At 11:05 AM, Blogger ecosutra said...

I hope the revolution is non violent, and it can be so easily. All we have to do as a society is start putting value to the latest innovations in green energy sustainable settings called Permaculture. It is an evolving movement that grows with every new innovation that keeps coming in as exponentially fast as the extreme weather patterns in the world. We need a government that will launch Manhattan projects on green energy systems that are appropriate. Algae bio diesel, OTEC, CO2 sequestration systems. Solar thermal into Geo thermal energy systems. Switch grass ethanol. The time just keeps slipping away. I have the companies in check. I know how to make this happen as do all the other "small world" of green energy pioneers that have been waiting for 35 years. If we do not take on the green energy revolution as a catalyst we are destroying democratic civilization. If you add efficiency designs with Permaculture, you can sell your energy products to the grid.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger natasha.the said...

The situation definitely puts me in mind of points in the cute cat theory of organizing: government overreactions and censorship radicalize people who would never have heard anything about the initial story in the usual course of their lives.

Alternately, there's the WWI examples of what happened in Russia, Ireland and the UK with worker discontent exacerbated by wartime privations. In the UK, the British government decided to negotiate and improve people's lives to stave off rebellion. In Ireland, they took the same hardline approach that Tsarist Russia did, and in both cases, the government oppression got unsurprising results.

But yes, it's all broken. And if anyone actually has a theory of change that can get us out of this mess, I'd like to hear it.


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