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
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Fake leaders and ineffective movements (final edited version)
Note: My analysis will focus on Americans because I have an intimate knowledge of them having grown up in the USA and having studied American society in sociology classes.
By Ron Horn
Since WWII the US capitalist ruling class began the construction of an empire under the control of transnational capitalists from what was left of the British Empire and European countries, and later they added Israel which was founded by right-wing European Zionists. In the process of building this empire, the new empire-builders of the ruling class, by using manipulative methods to shape public opinion, had deleterious effects on nearly everyone in the USA. They accomplished this by the ongoing application of comprehensive propaganda and proliferation of ideology that appealed to the capitalists' instincts of consumption and acquisitiveness. The new leaders of the ruling class corrupted both the consciousness of ordinary workers as well as educated people who were recruited to manage public opinion. The conditions of the post-war period in which the USA had the only industrialized economy that was still intact, enabled the ruling class used this dominance, to spread the themes of material and other capitalist values throughout all institutions--education, media, entertainment, etc., not only throughout the US society, but throughout most of the empire they were constructing. This false consciousness, in turn, left workers without a real political consciousness that was necessary to confront and fight against the ruling class's exploitation. But the new fascist ruling class didn't stop there.
They initially purged Hollywood and educational institutions of people who had any socialist/communist ideas, and went on to develop very sophisticated methods to promote false movements and fake leaders that led nowhere by co-opting these leaders and movements to serve their fundamental interests of profit and power. Recent such examples we find in the Green Movement and individuals like Sen. Bernie Sanders. I'm going to argue in this paper that liberals like Michael Moore have also contributed to this effort. I want to warn the few genuine activists that in spite of their anti-capitalist rhetoric, these activists are fake, the movements which they lead, or contribute to, are ineffective, and why.
The current US ruling class is worried about their recently suffered defeats in the Middle East, threats by the spectacular rise of the Chinese economy, and is presently tormented by the recognition of diminishing growth on a finite planet. Although they have not given up their quest to rule the world, the ruling class is currently in a dangerous defensive mode. Standing in their way are primarily China, Russia, Iran, and other nations that aspire to a multilateral world. The current US/Anglo/Zionist Empire will continue their traditional offensive operations against these enemies, and create new methods in a desperate attempt to maintain their domination of the world as well as solving the new dilemma of continuing their capitalist operations on a finite planet.
First, it is necessary to review a little history in order to understand the present problems confronting American society and its ruling class. The US ruling class was surprised by their success in rallying the American public behind the war effort in WWI by the use of propaganda. They subsequently saw that propaganda techniques were a vital component to shape public opinion to support the construction of an empire. Thus, after that horrific war the ruling class supported the efforts of propaganda experts like Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann went on to develop advanced techniques of propaganda. They promoted the study of what they called "public relations" which is a euphemism for propaganda.
Communist ideology was quite popular in Europe after WWII, and it posed a major threat to the new empire builders. The US ruling class used a combination of violence (see this and this) and propaganda to put down this threat. During this period within the USA, the capitalist ruling class launched an anti-communist crusade initially using the rabid anti-communist Winston Churchill who had an extensive history of fighting the Soviet Union after its socialist revolution in 1917. The Soviet Union represented a major threat as a successful alternative to the advanced capitalist nations of the world. (That said, I don't want to argue that the Soviet Union represented some kind of enlightened socialism because they were corrupted by a Stalinist-inspired bureaucracy that had long taken control of their nation.) The capitalist ruling class has since WWII concentrated on establishing a highly skilled and indoctrinated upper-middle-class (and throughout the the nations that they controlled) not only to advance their imperial agenda but to recruit people of this class as their ideological warriors to manage their ideological institutions against ordinary workers.
Initially, the new empire-builders used the existing loyal members in Congress against militant labor unions. They passed the Taft-Hartley Act which prevented unions from collaborating in a general strike that was so effective for workers during the 1930s. Then they cleansed the upper-middle class of all dissidents left-over from the Great Depression. To do this they first attacked Hollywood which was soon followed by the educational institution and government during the period known as McCarthyism. Finally, when the alcoholic and unstable Sen. McCarthy got around to attacking the army, the ruling class and President Eisenhower put a stop to it.
(During this period Koreans were trying to set up an independent state free of their old colonial oppressors from Japan. But the US didn't like what the Koreans were trying to do which they saw as too much inspired by communist ideas. The US used the weak United Nations as cover to intervene using primarily US forces to crush the communist tainted forces during the Korean War.)
For many decades the new ruling class continued to play on the threat of communism to the "American way of life" which was mostly defined by endless consumption and by vague notions of "freedom". The USA has been at war formally and informally ever since WWII to put down nations that were seen to establish socialism and those which would not serve US capitalist interests. They used anti-communist propaganda against their own people to engage in one war after another. But, after the Vietnam War the ruling class has used other types of threat-propaganda.
The anti-communist threat, which has never ceased, was followed by the War on Drugs (1971) to oppress largely African-Americans and poor Americans while the CIA, of the empire builders, profited from the drug trade. Then the first shock to the American psyche was carried out in 2001 with the false-flag operation of 9/11, shortly thereafter that the War on Terror was launched to further threaten Americans in order to mobilize them to support the ruling class project to invade one nation after another in the Middle East. And now we have the Coronavirus pandemic and the strategy of laying off all but essential workers, the ruling classes are destroying the lives of many workers--it is too soon to tell how many. Could this be another shock administered to American society and the world? Most detective investigations begin by asking the question: who benefits?
Since WWII it is clear that propaganda has been used by empire-builders of the capitalist class to re-engineer all institutions--films, education, media, employment, etc. to serve capitalist interests, and education was one of their primary targets. Textbooks have been re-written and teachers, professors, and educational administrators have been carefully assigned to schools based on pro-capitalist ideological qualifications. Also, added to this was an infiltration of all media corporations initially by the CIA, and later by people who were thoroughly indoctrination in capitalist values and perspectives.
While the ruling capitalist class has its own well-hidden agenda to preserve their system, they will try to deceive and distract citizens using a whole range of psychological methods: media propaganda and management of news, re-writing the history of the USA and the world, and using false flag ops like 9/11 to shock the consciousness of their working classes. Vijay Prashad explains this process well in his analysis of hybrid wars and US imperialism. Using propaganda and indoctrination the ruling capitalist classes of this Empire, particularly of the USA, has now been rewarded with fabulous wealth and power never seen before in recorded history. To carry out this agenda they have used well-remunerated, highly trained and indoctrinated upper-middle-class workers.
Currently, most Americans are thoroughly brainwashed by these agents who have served the ruling class for many decades since WWII. This highly skilled upper-middle-class class has been tasked to supervise all institutions of our society. Many of them have "alternative" weblogs or write for anti-Empire weblogs, but they do not know the real history of capitalist oppression of workers before the 1930s and the administration of FDR (historian Eric Zuesse comes to mind). These liberals serve the ruling class at election time by dangling various reforms such as universal health care that appeal to the masses, too many of whom are grossly overweight, sickly, and otherwise unfit because they have been conditioned to a consumptive American lifestyle.
Regarding the recent film Planet of the Humans, I agree with John Steppling when he writes "The film ... becomes tantamount to a marketing campaign for depopulation ...". The capitalist class long ago knew about capitalism's imperative of growth in a finite planet. They explicitly wrote this in 1972 when they published the controversial booklet entitled "The Limits to Growth". They soon saw a backlash from numerous activist organizations with the charge that they were advocating depopulation, advocating the depopulation of useless (to them) all those people that didn't contribute to the profit and power that their beloved system supplied to them with such abundance. This film offers the same implied theme--depopulation. The ruling class, of course, don't want to explicitly say it, but they want a depopulation to be driven into our consciousness as a "force of nature", pandemics, etc. The ruling class really wants to rid the Earth of burdensome "useless eaters", introduce comprehensive surveillance a la Bill Gates and digital money in order to track people and other control benefits. A primary benefit of the current pandemic (to the ruling class) was to provide cover for the huge bailouts given to banks and heavily indebted corporations. Could the coronavirus, as a pure coincidence, serve all of these objectives and many secondary benefits?
Please don't misunderstand me by concluding that one of the problems isn't over-population. It is a fact that humans are adversely impacting the environment because there are too many of us. (This fact is in addition to capitalists producing too many unnecessary products by using fossil fuels in their obsessive search for profits.) But capitalists have allied themselves with organized religions for a number of reasons, and important reasons were, and are, to discourage or prohibit women from having abortions and using contraceptives. Thus, capitalist ruling classes always supported various Christian religious denominations that served these purposes (in addition to others). Capitalists saw an increasing population as a benefit to provide more consumers to provide more opportunities for profit. By capitalist ruling classes keeping much of the world in poverty, the only way poor people can survive into old age is to have many children which insured some of the latter would survive and take care of them into old age. This practice is a kind of social security for poor people.
Steppling, in his review of the film Planet of the Humans, is absolutely "spot-on" when he writes "... the essential and overriding two problems with this film can be generalized as an absence of class analysis, and an absent analysis of western Imperialism." In their film Moore and Gibbs, who because of the brainwashing that they have suffered growing up in America, "pulled the punches" of class analysis.
However Steppling fails to develop this criticism; instead, he succumbs to what is currently fashionable criticism by smearing Moore and Gibbs with racism--he often refers to the latter as "white guys". Racism has been practiced for centuries by the capitalist ruling class. We still see the harmful psychological effects today among many people: white people as well as people of color. Racism has been historically useful as an integral part of capitalism by separating workers into mutually antagonistic camps and justifying the wholesale slaughter of uncivilized "savages". But racism is the least of the sins committed in the film by Moore and Gibbs. The lack of class analysis is paramount.
This taboo against class analysis has affected many American intellectuals. They may at most use words that suggest anti-capitalism, but their actions always stay safely within the capitalist framework so as not to annoy their keepers. Most have been so brainwashed by the many decades of propaganda and indoctrination that they think capitalism is like the sun--a fixed entity and an incontrovertible fact of nature.
More recently ruling class propagandists have used the divide and conquer strategy by promoting themes that promote conflicts between men and women and gay people and straight people. They have largely unsuccessful getting us to hate Russia with "Russiagate" propaganda; but because of the Coronavirus pandemic, they may be more successful in getting the American population to hate China.
The fundamental reason why US activists and revolutionary movements have not been effective, nor in the future will they be, is that they have been subject to a long and comprehensive process of capitalist propaganda and indoctrination. As a result, working people along with fake leaders are ignorant of American history and of the heinous effects of US actions on the rest of the world. They have been divided into mutually distrustful and hostile camps, brainwashed, obedient, distracted by vacuous entertainment, and unhealthy due to capitalist propaganda that would only allow them to be mere spectators in sports, and from a poor diet of cheap "fast foods" prepared for them by giant corporations. There is no reason to expect such people to lead or form an effective revolutionary movement. What we will see at most are pseudo movements and fake leaders who promise solutions to our many problems. We will probably need to look beyond the people of the US/Anglo/Zionist Empire to see genuine leaders and revolutionary movements.