1. Historical Background (skip to section 2. for the red meat)
The comparison of extreme capitalist ideology to extreme communist ideology is hardly new. Back when the Washington Post still paid some lip service to telling the truth, one of their correspondents wrote, revealingly, about the politics of the Soviet Union.
The preeminence of the Politburo - the party's executive board - means that in the Soviet Union state authority is subservient to the leaders of a political party. As a practical matter, state authority is not sovereign in the USSR. The sovereign state authority is a formal structure whose officials would never dream of taking any actions not formally sanctioned by the Party. Nor would any other institution in the country.
A group of young American politicians who toured the Soviet Union in 1973 was overwhelmed by the consequences of Party rule of every aspect of Soviet society. "This is like one big corporation," one of the Americans concluded "USSR, Incorporated." It is a nice image. The Soviet System is more like a corporation than a government in our sense of the word because it is responsible for everything within its domain. Laws, constitutions, and - probably most important - cultural traditions constrain the power of Western governments. Only practical considerations limit the power of the Soviet regime.
- Robert G. Kaiser, "Russia - The People and the Power" (1976)
Is this not where we are in America today? Doesn't capital seem to rule by Divine Right? Are not our legislatures subservient to ALEC, which represents the party of Wall St. and the Military-Industrial complex and the fossil fuel industry? Do you see the Constitution or "cultural traditions" constraining the power of the capitalist oligarchs and their theocratic dupes? Do you see the national Democratic Party reacting in any substantive and coordinated manner to the war on unions by their corporate paymasters? We have not yet arrived at true totalitarianism - with its industrial-scale elimination of "superfluous" people; but we are on the road to it. The governmental assault (by both parties - Obama has been for Charter Schools since before Day One. Can you say Arne Duncan?) on teachers and unions tracks the beginnings of collectivization and the atomization of society in Stalin's Russia.
As under communism, the thrust of corporatism is to corporatize (aka collectivize) small business. They started out with big box stores, which ran local retailers out of business. Then specialty stores in hardware, office supplies, pet food, children's clothing, etc. destroyed those mom and pops. Convenience stores and food stands were replaced by franchises. The next group to be corporatized were the medical professions, who have lost control of their own work - ordered about by bachelor's degree bean counters.
The innovation in Capitalist-Oligarchic America (COA) is that there is no central corporate entity, no obvious central planning, no clear target; just an ever-shifting pack of profit-maximizing corporate wolves, some of whom can occasionally be ceremonially sacrificed to satisfy public demand (usually when said victims have crossed someone else in the Oligarchic Politburo). But, under all the camoflauge, there is a policy coordination as powerful as anything the Politburo had in the USSR. ALEC is but the tip of that iceberg.
I covered the defunct state of our democracy in a previous diary about the total ineffectiveness of democratic majorities in this country to get the government to take the actions they voted for.
To repeat my conclusion in that diary: I believe this country is no longer a functioning democracy. The political leadership does what the capitalist oligarchs want, not what the people vote for. The oligarchs have, over the past thirty years, separated the people from their personal possessions and their political rights. They have built up the world's largest prison population and are in the process of privatizing that "industry". They have built a military machine bigger than the rest of the world combined, and created private mercenary armies to which critical capabilities have been transferred. With the Patriot Act, and Obama's breaking of his promise to close Gitmo (not to mention his open, illegal treatment of Bradley Manning), we have legalized torture and indefinite detention and Star Chamber proceedings. Recently, Obama has declared that the all-purpose label of "terrorist" shall be used as an excuse to strip us of our Miranda rights. All of these privatizations and changes to the legal code are theft of our political rights of citizen control and due process.
The capitalist oligarchs have sent our factories to anywhere else in the world they can enforce labor-camp discipline on the workers. Then, they use the loss of those jobs to pressure people into working under terrible conditions here at home. They have created an artificial "jobs famine" in this country, the same way Stalin's deportation of the kulaks created an artificial food famine in Russia - both were done to brutally advance the bankrupt ideological policy of corporatization (in Stalin's case, collective farming; in our case, the destruction of the middle class). In their next grab for real assets, the oligarchs are trying to steal the solvent and revenue neutral (until Obama broke that, too) Social Security pension fund.
2. Show Trials
And, finally, to the main point of the diary, they are trumping up phony charges against teachers and government unions so they can turn education into yet another profit center that maximizes profits by minimizing services and booting out unprofitable customers.
The baseless indictment of school teachers, ACORN, and minority voter fraud by the corporate media and GOP operatives are nothing more than show trials for the elimination of class enemies.
The attack on teachers is in part, just the next level of collectivization for oligarchic profit. However, it is the first time in a while that the corporate steamroller has come against both an organized union resistance and social outrage at having local control hijacked and decent people being fired and replaced by nasty corporate apparatchiks. Hence the need for the show trial, to dictate the party line (i.e., enforce political correctness).
In America today, the class enemies of the oligarchical revolution are what little is left of the middle class, and especially the educated middle class. It was the same way under Stalin, as he crucified engineers.
For the engineers, there was no way out. They were damned if they did and damned if they didn't. If they went forward, it was wrong; and if they went backward, it was wrong too. If they hurried, it was for the purpose of wrecking. If they moved methodically, it meant wrecking by slowing down tempos. If they were painstaking in developing some branch of industry, it was intentional delay, sabotage. And if they indulged in capricious leaps, their intention was to produce an imbalance for the purpose of wrecking. Using capital for repairs, improvements or capital readiness was tying up capital funds. And if they allowed equipment to be used until it broke down, it was a diversionary action.
- A. Solzhenitsyn, "The Gulag Archipelago" (TGA), Book 1, p 382.
Has anything changed in 80 years? A Fox News host would be perfectly at home being a prosecutor at a Moscow Show Trial. They have the same relentless, one-sided, accusatory attitude and total disregard for the facts.
The result of the Moscow trials were a foregone conclusion:
...all the goals of the trial were attained:
1. All of the shortages in the country, including famine, cold, lack of clothing, chaos, and obvious stupidities, were blamed on the engineer-wreckers...
4. The solidarity of the engineers was destroyed; all the intelligentsia was given a good scare and left divided within itself.
- TGA, Book 1, p 398.
Is this not exactly what is going on in America today? Are not the educated being held up for mockery and scapegoating while their rights, their organizations, and their jobs are being summarily smashed? Are not teachers and unions being blamed for all the country's financial and social ills? The banks? The tax cuts? The endless wars? All of these real causes have been disappeared under a tsunami of denial and whipped up cultural hatred.
Contempt for any kind of thinking is a hallmark of the rage-filled Tea Party and the theocratic fundamentalists. The same was true of communists.
Lenin wrote: "In actual fact they are not [the nation's] brains, but shit."...
This mockery of the intelligentsia, this contempt for the intelligentsia, was subsequently adopted with enthusiasm by the publicists and the newspapers of the twenties and was absorbed into the current of day-to-day life. And in the end, the members of the intelligentsia accepted it too...
- TGA, Book 1, p 328.
Of course, if this teachers' purge stands, the outcome will be predictable: America will even more rapidly descend to third-world status. Throughout the entire descent, the oligarchic propaganda will demonize organizational effort and lionize individual effort, the exact same way that Stalin did:
If the liquidation of classes made no political sense, it was positively disastrous for the Soviet economy. The consequences of the artificial famine of 1933 were felt for years throughout the country; the introduction of the Stakhanov system in 1935, with its arbitrary speedup of individual output and its complete disregard for the necessities for teamwork in industrial production resulted in a "chaotic imbalance" of the young industry.
-H. Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism"
Everyone in America today who is not independently wealthy is, effectively, at the same risk engineers were in the Soviet Union - to be sent to a labor camp. Now, some labor camps are nicer than others (cf Solzheitsyn regarding sharashkas), but they are all places where people are underpaid and overworked and without any rights or security.
We have a growing archipelago of labor camps in this country. We have massive amounts of prison labor producing sub-standard equipment for the Defense Department. Wal-Mart treats its workers like dirt. Ditto for the meat processing industry. These labor camps are a threat to make workers in the nicer labor camps ("respectable" corporations) work harder. It is critical to understand that not everyone has to be in a labor camp for the camps to completely terrorize the population. In the horribly depressing and endlessly encyclopediac "Gulag Archipelago", in Book Two, there is some analysis that is dead on target for America today.
In Part IV, "The Soul and Barbed Wire", in Chapter 3, "Our Muzzled Freedom", Solzhenitsyn addresses how the Archipelago was like a tumor weakening the whole society:
Let us try to enumerate briefly those traits of free life which were determined by the closeness of the Archipelago or which were in the same style.
1. Constant fear
3. Secrecy and mistrust
4. Universal ignorance
6. Betrayal as a form of existence
8. The lie as a form of existence
10. Slave psychology.
...the mass mange of souls does not spread through the society instantly...There is a certain minimal necessary period of corruption prior to which the great Apparatus cannot cope with the people. This period is also determined by the age of those stubborn people who have not yet grown old. For Russia it took twenty years.
-- TGA, last paragraph from body of Point 6 "Betrayal as a form of existence
3. The road ahead
I think by now, both the nature and the validity of the comparison I'm making should be clear. So let me just summarize how I see this playing out.
Our country is run by a Capitalist Oligarch Politburo (COP aka GOP). There are three interlocking factions to the COP: the financiers, the military/intelligence/police complex, and the extractive industries (fossil fuels). It is a closed circle. Money and military force are used to pry open and dominate weaker countries to extract their raw materials and hard currency. That is how we make our living in the world.
Increasingly, that is how the citizens not in the worst "labor camps" make a living at home. They work for the financial industry, the military/industrial/prison complex, or the extraction industries. The rest of our economy is just an increasingly collectivized distribution system that delivers low-grade sustenance to an increasingly propaganda-addled population that is fixated on theocratic nonsense or Hollywood sex and violence.
Except for weaponry, we don't make much anymore that is competitive on the world market. We let our manufacturing and electronics migrate to Asia. Our auto industry is on life support. We buy a lot of our most sophisticated intelligence electronics from Israel. We spend 20% of our income on the most inefficient healthcare system in the developed world.
All we do is loan money and grant insurance at extortionate terms, manipulate the stock and commodity markets, and threaten to use military force, police force, or intelligence service force to maintain our position. We are as much a belligerent, backward, militarized state as the Soviet Union was during the Cold War.
And, like that propaganda-saturated dictatorship, we spend a lot of money indoctrinating our citizens in the ideology of the so-called free market. (Of course, it is never mentioned that the owners of that market are more corrupt than the Soviet Nomenklatura). We continue to try to entice suckers into the burned-out wreckage of little-guy/dumb money stock market investing. We tout franchise opportunities for everyone. Get rich quick schemes abound. The business press breathlessly reports every new "enterprise" as a perfect example of the perfect wisdom of the free market.
The constant repetition that our government is "not efficient" is part of the propaganda. Government is supposed to work for everyone, so it is by definition inefficient. Society is inefficient. Of course, Mrs. Thatcher, the Madame Mao of neoliberalism, long ago gave the party line on that: "there is no such thing as society". The Iron Lady notwiehstanding, we live in a completely propagandized society that is trying to accomplish the same dissolution of private life that the Stalinists attempted:
Equality of condition among their subjects…is not sufficient for totalitarian rule because it leaves more or less intact certain nonpolitical communal bonds between subjects, such as family ties and common cultural interests. If totalitarianism takes its own claim seriously, it must come to the point where it has "to finish once and for all with the neutrality of chess," that is, with the autonomous existence of any activity whatsoever. The lovers of "chess for the sake of chess", aptly compared by their liquidator with the lovers of "art for art's sake", are not yet absolutely atomized elements in a mass society whose completely homogeneous uniformity is one of the primary conditions for totalitarianism. From the point of view of totalitarian rulers, a society devoted to chess for the sake of chess is only in degree different and less dangerous than a class of farmers for the sake of farming.
- H. Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism"
Under our hyper-capitalist ideology, everything is about profit, efficiency, and entrepreneurship. Everything is a commodity to be traded - your health, your children's education. Nothing is sacred, except profit.
Like the Soviet Union, we will spend more and more money on the military trying to maintain a stranglehold on critical strategic resources. At the same time, the oligarchs will spend more and more money on repressing dissent at home. But, like the Soviet Union in its competition with the US, America simply does not have the productive capacity to maintain these efforts. We are heavily indebted to China. We have given our manufacturing capacity to China. We are slowly sinking in a mire of insolvency, incompetence, and corruption. Like the Soviet Union, we will go down suddenly - perhaps as the consequence of this lunatic government shutdown being pushed by the COP.
And then? I have no idea. Theocracy? Anarchy? Democracy? Takeover by Chinese or European interests?
But the route to that breaking point is as clear as day. Obama has proven that our politics is bankrupt, that our democracy is a scripted farce. He has made Frank Zappa into a prophet:
"The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater."
Welcome to the open air Gulag that is America today
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