We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Sunday, July 10, 2016
The Co-Option Pillar of American “Democracy”
The article begins with the lyrics and YouTube video of a popular activist song by Phil Ochs, a genuine radical during the Vietnam War. This is followed by a list of the previous articles about the pillars that support the ruling capitalist class. Then Nissani gets into the meat of the essay with the section entitled "Benefits of Leading, Infiltrating, or Co-opting the Opposition". (Although the title indicates this is part 1, I don't see that it has been followed up by a part 2.)
What follows is essential reading for any serious activist to understand. I learned these lessons about co-option over many years, but Nissani gives us this knowledge in one essay. I see this pillar as probably the more powerful than the previous two discussed in this series (see here and here) because it functions so skillfully below the consciousness of most activists. This pillar allows the ruling class (Nissani refers to them as "bankers" because they are so numerous at the top of the ruling class) to very capably manage dissent. The co-option pillar supplements all the ideological organs of capitalism in that those who escape capitalist indoctrination are herded into what appears to be activist publications or organizations which are often managed by well-meaning people who fool themselves into thinking they are uninfluenced by taking money from agents of the ruling class. As a result much of seemingly progressive activism or media is defused and limited, and thus is no threat to capitalist rule.
It is when all of these pillars fail to contain activists that they will bring out the mailed fist of fascism or a police state to crush dissent. They didn't hesitate to do this in the 19th century when the new ruling capitalist class used private armies as well as their government armies to thoroughly crush organized worker opposition. Farmer resistance during the Populist Movement was more easily managed by capitalist political operatives which co-opted resistance leaders and diverted activists toward dead-end projects like silver coinage.
Today our ruling masters are once again prepared to do this with their creation of militarized police forces, 24/7 surveillance of citizens, stacked courts with ultra-conservatives, Patriot Acts etc that lay a veneer of legality to their police state methods, unaccountable secret agencies, and the armed forces if all else fails. However they depend on ordinary people to staff all these agencies of control, and frequently there are people like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and William Binney who rebel. This is their weakest link in the chain of control, and it is this link that we must work hard to break.
But first we must attack their control of pseudo-activist organizations and pseudo-activist media, and to do this we must be able to identify them--Nissani helps us with that task in this article. Simultaneously we must financially and otherwise support genuine alternative media who bring us information that we vitally need to act intelligently for our interests in creating equality, social justice, and sustainability.