There will be no economic or political justice for the poor, people of color, women or workers within the framework of global, corporate capitalism. Corporate capitalism, which uses identity politics, multiculturalism and racial justice to masquerade as politics, will never halt the rising social inequality, unchecked militarism, evisceration of civil liberties and omnipotence of the organs of security and surveillance. Corporate capitalism cannot be reformed, despite its continually rebranding itself. The longer the self-identified left and liberal class seek to work within a system that the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” the more the noose will be tightened around our necks. If we do not rise up to bring government and financial systems under public control—which includes nationalizing banks, the fossil fuel industry and the arms industry—we will continue to be victims.
Corporate capitalism is supranational. It owes no loyalty to any nation-state. It uses the projection of military power by the United States to protect and advance its economic interests but at the same time cannibalizes the U.S., dismantling its democratic institutions, allowing its infrastructure to decay and deindustrializing its factory centers to ship manufacturing abroad to regions where workers are treated as serfs.
Resistance to this global cabal of corporate oligarchs must also be supranational. It must build alliances with workers around the globe. It must defy the liberal institutions, including the Democratic Party, which betray workers. It is this betrayal that has given rise to fascist and protofascist movements in Europe and other countries. Donald Trump would never have been elected but for this betrayal. We will build a global movement powerful enough to bring down corporate capitalism or witness the rise of a new, supranational totalitarianism.
The left, seduced by the culture wars and identity politics, largely ignores the primacy of capitalism and the class struggle. As long as unregulated capitalism reigns supreme, all social, economic, cultural and political change will be cosmetic. Capitalism, at its core, is about the commodification of human beings and the natural world for exploitation and profit. To increase profit, it constantly seeks to reduce the cost of labor and demolish the regulations and laws that protect the common good. But as capitalism ravages the social fabric, it damages, like any parasite, the host that allows it to exist. It unleashes dark, uncontrollable yearnings among an enraged population that threaten capitalism itself. [continue reading]
It’s hardly surprising that there’s no Left in the US, given a) the phobia of socialism that the capitalist media, the educational system, and all other public institutions have fostered, and b) the disasters that Leftist movements have actually inflicted on many societies where they’ve come to power. I mean, come on: the Soviet Union, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, Maduro’s Venezuela…. It’s not a list that inspires confidence–though, granted, the US and other capitalist powers do their best to undermine socialist governments, and the media dwell on the bad examples while ignoring more positive ones.
But if the Left in the US is to be viable, it has to make a case for itself; it has to gather all those disparate elements that Hedges deplores around a coherent and credible vision of where we’re going and how we can get there. Yeah, plutocratic capitalism is bad, and getting worse, and maybe its victims’ pain will ultimately be enough to bring it down. But what then? A reasonable political appeal has to be based, not just on rejection of what is, but also on a positive embrace of what can be.
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This failure to address the economic power and context of capitalism is something the poet Adrienne Rich was very sensitive to. She was part of the feminist movement in the early 70’s and lived through the rise of identity politics. But she was also a Marxist and in her 1997 essay “Arts of the Possible,” pointed out, “I have been thinking about the self-congratulatory self-promotion of capitalism as a global, transnational order, superseding governments and the very meaning of free elections. I have especially been noting the corruptions of language employed to manage our perceptions of all this. Where democracy becomes “free enterprise,” individual rights the self-interest of capital, it’s no wonder that the complex of social policies needed to further democratic equality is dismissed as a hulk of obsolete junk known as ‘big government.’ In the vocabulary kidnapped from liberatory politics, no word has been so pimped as freedom. . . / Where capitalism invokes freedom, it means the freedom of capital. Where, in any mainstream public discourse, is this self-referential monologue put to the question?” Hedge’s essay points out how we have not really deviated from the road we’ve been on a long time. Derber’s rhetorical question about “capitalism” being mentioned on CNN is exactly what Rich was pointing out in 1997. The fact that we have not changed our national conversation might show either how strong a hold corporations have on the national discourse, or how afraid we actually are to have the real conversations, or maybe a little of both. If people have, as Rich asserts, bought into the linguistic perversion that replaces individual rights with the self-interest of capital, then people will be very resistant to consider alternatives to capitalism.
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Chris’s usual trenchant critique of capitalism and of the Left’s recapitulation of it.
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Why is there no real left in this country? Hedges is straightforward: racism, misogyny, homophobia, climate change, environmental destruction, imperialist war, toxic working conditions, unaffordable health care, malnutrition and extreme poverty in the richest nation in history –all very important issues, all necessary targets of progressivism– and all focuses of the identity politics that have fragmented the left and distracted attention from the foundational plutocratic corporate structure of American capitalism that underpins all those cultural issues. — Michael Gregory
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