Tuesday, August 7, 2018

How Corporatism Is Co-Opting Socialism

Have you noticed that more and more corporate media pundits are paying some positive attention to socialism these days? If they can't beat such attractive upstarts as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, they might as well at least pretend to join them in the pre-midterms interim. There'll be plenty of time after November to curb both their enthusiasm and ours.

Color me skeptical, but when neoliberal scribes Paul Krugman and Michael Tomasky write pro-socialist op-eds in the New York Times on the very same day it does tend to send my bullshit detection radar into high alert.

Krugman even took a break from his European bicycle tour vacation to wax rhapsodic about Denmark's social welfare state. It seems like only yesterday when he was waxing funereal about Bernie Sanders's call for single payer health care and free higher education. O.K., so it was more than a year ago, but time flies when millions of desperate people are logically thinking that their time is running out.

Tomasky, editor of the centrist journal "Democracy" and a columnist for the Clinton-supporting Daily Beast (Chelsea Clinton sits on its board of directors) is not so much enthusiastic about socialism as he is worried that capitalistic greed is creating too much socialistic enthusiasm in the great unwashed masses.
So if you were a person of modest or even middle-class means, how would you feel about capitalism? The kind of capitalism this country has been practicing for all these years has failed most people.
Yes, it’s given us lots of shiny objects to gush about. A smartphone that can display slow-motion video is a wonder. But an affordable college education, though perhaps not a wonder, is a necessity for a well-ordered society. So is a solution to a national drug crisis in which 115 people die every day, as well as a lot of other problems that the capitalism of our era has simply ignored.
I have mixed feelings about this socialism boomlet. It has yet to prove itself politically viable in general elections outside a handful of areas, and by 2021 we could wake up and see that it’s been a disaster for Democrats.
 Mind you, Tomasky mainly has the interests of the plutocrats at heart. His column is an appeal to their alleged altruism and understanding of the lesser people and by no means a list of remedies to ameliorate record inequality. He doesn't go so far as to agitate for single payer health insurance, a living wage, increased Social Security benefits, a federal jobs guarantee or new taxes to fund affordable housing. He only asks that wealthy "thought leaders" care, or more accurately, pretend to care. Otherwise too many leftists might get elected and take away their perks.

Nevertheless, both he and Krugman are being widely praised for saying such pretty, inclusive words. They are good soldiers who will do whatever it takes to get disaffected Democrats to the polls in November.

Meanwhile, since I wanted to find out if socialism is getting even more popular among disaffected young people, I Googled "millennials/socialism/polls" to get some numbers.

Surprisingly or not surprisingly, the very first entry in the Google search results was from a site calling itself "Victims of Communism.Org."

It wants to warn struggling, indebted young people about their deluded thinking. If they persist in wanting guaranteed medical care and other nice things, they might end up in a Stalinesque gulag. Or to be really realistic about it, Maduro's Venezuela!
Unfortunately, Americans are as ignorant of the developing situation in socialist Venezuela as they are of the definition of socialism itself. Six out of every ten Americans surveyed were wholly unfamiliar with Venezuela’s socialist dictator, Nicol├ís Maduro, and the economic crisis and human rights abuses that have occurred under his rule.
So, 100 years after the Bolshevik Revolution, the majority of the largest generational cohort in America show great enthusiasm for socialism while completely failing to correctly identify its definition when asked or examine its consequences. It gets worse.
Seven in ten Americans drastically underestimate the number of people killed at the hands of communist regimes over the last century. This is unsurprising, given the fact that half of all Millennials say they have never heard of Mao Zedong, a man whose policies killed nearly 60 million people, making him the greatest mass murderer of the twentieth century.
 It goes on to equate the neo-Nazi provocateurs at Charlottesville with the anti-fascist protesters "with hammer and sickle flags" despite the fact that the anti-fascists are not members of the Communist Party.

A click on the miniscule link to "Leadership" reveals that, unsurprisingly, the people in charge of Victims of Communism.Org hail from conservative think tanks, the finance industry and the security state. The executive director, Marion Smith, is a Heritage Foundation alumnus. Look for his re-education campaign on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, Fox and other echo-chamber outlets of the corporate propaganda consortium.

Chairman of the Board is Lee Edwards, also of the Heritage Foundation, who cut his own anti-socialistic teeth as director of communications for Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign.

Not that the Victims of Communism organization is totally Republican, of course. Since "bipartisan" is establishment-speak for "noble, altruistic and honest," there is even a congressional Victims of Communism Caucus to more ably represent the interests of unfettered capitalism.

Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Dennis Lipinski (D-IL) joined with their GOP colleagues in urging EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to boycott the unveiling of a statue of Karl Marx (a gift from China) in his hometown of Trier, Germany this past May in honor of his 200th birthday. No matter that Marxism was co-opted by such despots as Joseph Stalin in order to do some truly evil things. According to the official US corporate bipartisan consensus, Karl Marx personally was and is responsible for all manner of global evil.

To his credit, Juncker not only ignored the US politicians and right-wing hecklers, he publicly derided them in his speech at the statue's dedication:  
Mr Juncker said: "Anyone would do well in remembering Marx because remembering and understanding are part of securing the future.
"Without memory and thought, without understanding memory, there will not be much for the future.
"Marx isn't responsible for all the atrocities his alleged heirs have to answer for.
"One has to understand Karl Marx from the context of his time and not have prejudices based on hindsight, these judgments shouldn't exist".
He went onto discuss Marx's influence on the European Union, saying that Marx's philosophy taught Europeans that it was the “task of our time” to improve social rights.

No word on whether the Bipartisan moralizers back in the USA will demand that Marx's books be banned as well. But no matter. In the American Land of the Free, Marx is rarely, if ever, taught in institutions of higher learning. And most important of all, curious learners anxious to learn about socialism and polls and young people always have the Google to set them on the right-wing path.

Google, you might remember, has not only given the reactionary website "Victims of Communism" the top spot as a result of this query, it has actively suppressed such leftist groups as the World Socialist Website from its results pages.

Here are the other top hits to the query "socialism/polls/millennials" on Google's front page of results:

"Majority of Millennials Want to Live In Socialist, Communist or Fascist Nation Rather Than Under Capitalism" (Washington Times)  According to the lead, "this troubling turn highlights widespread historical illiteracy in American society."

Sound familiar? Maybe it's because the source of this scare-mongering piece is none other than the above mentioned Marion Smith of the Heritage Foundation. For a guy so concerned about education, he certainly has a parallel agenda of the destruction of public education in the United States. He also has an addiction to false equivalency, the way he equates socialism with fascism.

Third-ranked on the Google search results page is a Chicago Tribune piece titled "Why Are Millennials So Hot on Socialism?" (Hint: they are woefully uneducated, not knowing such uncomfortable factoids as "the forcible removal of ghetto children" from their parents in Denmark... so they can go to school for 25 hours per week!) Also too, the American millennials who favor socialism are the same depraved individuals who believe in birth control and extramarital sex.

It's only until you get halfway down the Google search results page that you get to read more objective and relatively unbiased articles about young people and socialism, which are largely centered around the upset primary victory of Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Still, as CNN reported on the recent polling, millennials still like capitalism and free enterprise right along with their newfound enthusiasm for socialism. So all is not lost. As long as there's Google to supplant critical thinking skills and the deep study of history, there's life in the old Oligarchy yet.

So the corporate media will keep their fingers crossed until such time as they can get back to business after the November midterms. They'll keep inviting reactionary shills like Marion Smith on their air to keep the conversation balanced, the concern for the poor as shallow and perfunctory as possible, and the capitalistic cancer in fake remission even as it grows and multiplies under all the concern-controlling and co-optation and snake-oil treatment.


mistah charley, ph.d. said...

i was surprised by krugman's phrase "butter republic" - i've never been there, unlike krugman, but i knew before looking it up in wikipedia that denmark is a monarchy, albeit a constitutional one

Jay–Ottawa said...

"Don't Be Evil," Google's original motto, is about as reliable an indicator of conduct as "Gott Mit Uns" or "In God We Trust."

Erik Roth said...

Consider two remarks for context to what I'll subsequently relate, and beg your indulgence to ponder.

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power." ~ Benito Mussolini

"Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls energy controls whole continents; who controls money controls the world." ~ Henry Kissinger

Now, noted commentator Frank Rich writes that "In 2008, America Stopped Believing in the American Dream"

Ostensibly, this dream is all about money, and Rich (how ironic) relates at length how average Americans lost their money, and with that their hope, in the financial crash of 2008.
But before analyzing what happened to kill this dream, Rich asserts that since 9/11 America has enjoyed basically good times. However unsubstantiated that is, Rich audaciously claims for a plus side to the present that "American troops are not committed en masse to any ground war." Never we should mind that the USA now has some 800 military bases around the world, while all other countries combined have fewer than 40, and that US forces are engaged in covert or overt actions in 70% of the countries in the world. Follow the money, look at the defense budget. Yet according to Rich, "what's not to like?"

Still, he notes that the national mood is dark, and the main cause he asserts is financial. After ponderous exposition Rich proposes, "Perhaps the sole upside to the 2008 crash was that it discredited the Establishment of both parties by exposing its decades-long collusion with a kleptocratic economic order."

Then, without naming the primary culprits (Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama), he acknowledges, "The moral abdication of would-be liberal reformers, who failed to police such powerful economic actors, only added to the national disgust with elites. It’s that vacuum that created the opening for a master con man."

So there we have it, laid out as lame and plain as day.
That Frank Rich cannot propose any action for remedy is not surprising, however depressing, because he is too much a part of the corporate status quo, just another member of the capitalist cult.

As Naomi Klein bravely asserts, it is capitalism that poses the gravest threat to life on our Earth.
But also take heart and note what another hero says:

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.
The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.
Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.
Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
~ Arundhati Roy, "War Talk"

voice-in-wilderness said...

Serious discussions of capitalism, socialism, communism, and other -isms, seem pointless without some attempt to define the terms. It reminds me of the many videos on Youtube that are debates about religion without defining what is meant by god. Such discussions lead to people talking past each other.

Jay–Ottawa said...

More schooling and calls for greater precision can be another way to co-opt the advent of a little more justice.

Aren't the disparities stark enough already without dragging likely supporters off the street and back to Political Science 101 for a deeper understanding of the isms? Haven't the definitions for those isms been established for some time? Playing word games in the rear area will steal time and energy from action on the front lines.

The greed and resulting disparities and injustices are as plain as day to anyone with a pulse. We're in the middle of a class war. All those famous isms have overexploited the environment. The average citizen can fight for sanity and justice by pointing this out to those yet to be 'woked'––if that's the hip term for generalized political ignorance and passivity among otherwise well-intentioned people.

We, the supposed woked, each according to his or her ability and through example, can do lots more immediately without calling everybody back to school. For instance, can any of us survive without giving our money to a business like Amazon? Anybody around here have the stomach to bring Walmart to its knees through an organized boycott? Have you bought anything lately from Nestle, to include its products whose wrappers do not carry its name? How good are you at shaking up people in your circle about the looming catastrophe of anthropogenic global warming? Can you use your time to organize 4-5 associates to disrupt the next public meeting of your senator or representative with well-informed challenges to their voting records?

Don't define; organize, even if everyone you round up isn't at the same stage of enlightenment. Can we not gather enough resisters to move effectively against those celebrated known knowns, I mean the few rich oppressors who are crushing the world? If not, any more precisions in the arts and sciences will serve for nothing.

Erik Roth said...

Dear voice-in-wilderness,

Yes, clarity is critical, and thus it really helps to understand what such terms of whatever "-isms" mean by referring to specific instances, to see how they are manifest in actuality.
So, look at how Iceland, Denmark, and Finland, for example, practice their form of "-ism."

This reference might provide further insight:

"Hoodwinked, An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded -- and What We Need to Do to Remake Them,"
by John Perkins, Broadway Books, NY, 2009.

... from Chapter 14: China - A Lesson in Transformation ...

As I stood on the deck of our boat, Deng Xiaoping's description of a "market economy with socialist characteristics" popped into mind. I had learned from the students that while Mao is often discredited, Deng is revered as the father of modern China. In the early 1980s he decreed that Shanghai would lead the nation into an economic revival like nothing the world had ever before witnessed. The decry worked. He also proclaimed that "getting rich is glorious."

"The Chinese people, including Deng, still to this day are influenced by the ideas of Confucius concerning respect for hierarchy," Mandy said when I pointed out to her that Deng's words echoed Milton Friedman's philosophy. A cool breeze floated off the river, and an oil tanker passed by, a dark shadow among the lights, headed out to sea. "We grow up here understanding that serving our families is the most important thing we can do. Our families extend to our communities and the nation. Deng Xiaoping should be understood in that context."

It was a profound observation. If you promote the concept that making profits is the sole goal of business -- or getting rich is glorious -- in a culture that views the group as more important than the individual, you arrive at a wholly different interpretation of capitalism than when you apply it to a culture that emphasizes rugged individualism. The latter will look out for the greater good only when regulations mandate it, while the former will do so because the ethic is ingrained in them.

Anna Radicalova said...

I do think it's a culture thing, maybe even more than it is a class war. Many people of modest means worship Capitalism and admire the rich, hoping to become rich themselves even when there is no chance of it. They've bought into the great American Dream illusion.

These days I can only manage to do one small thing that I hope makes a difference eventually. Whenever and wherever possible, particularly when shopping, I take the opportunity to remark "Well, that's Capitalism for ya" while shaking my head and pointing out crapification. People listen and relate because it affects them personally - unlike if I was to remark about war profiteering.

I'm not shy about badmouthing Capitalism because that sacred cow needs to vamoose. Remember how speaking openly against the Iraq War encouraged others to do the same? That was done while standing in grocery lines and such, not on soapboxes at rallies. It didn't change foreign policy of course, but it did reveal there were a lot of people deferring to the official position due to media war drums beating, but had reservations until others spoke up. We should speak out about the root of so much evil - corporate Capitalism and worship of the the Almighty Dollar - and give others courage to do the same.

How can people boycott goods if a handful of multi-nationals own so much? Not everyone shops at Amazon but they do shop at stores which appear to offer tons of choices in goods that are actually produced by only a few corporations.

For example, there are only 10 companies that control almost everything we eat and drink. These multi-nationals have no allegiance to citizens' health or safety, only to profits. They are: Nestle, Pepsico, CocaCola, General Mills, Kelloggs, Associated British Foods, Mondelez, Mars, Danone, and Unilever.


Ditto for consumer goods. Procter&Gamble's list of brands is quite a long and varied one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Procter_%26_Gamble_brands

Too many people conflate Capitalism with freedom and democracy. If they only knew! The 6 big media companies sure aren't going to enlighten them since the multi-nationals are their biggest advertisers.

Schools and libraries should teach the tricks, traps, and tangles of Capitalism but since that's such a political hot potato, they won't. But it would make a great project for the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) to offer a consumer civics class throughout the country to enlighten citizens about how the Capitalism racket really operates.

Erik Roth said...

“The complexity of our present trouble suggests as never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. It's proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or "accessing" what we now call "information" - which is to say facts without context and therefore without priority. A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first.”
~ Wendell Berry

Mad Max said...

“[Education’s] proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible.”—Wendell Berry [via Erik Roth]

Reduced to its simplest terms, I guess that might mean no more than what the word “responsible” is CHOSEN to mean by those who happen to be in power at the time.

In the end, “education” is nothing more and nothing less than “indoctrination” into what “we”—or the powers that be—happen to decide is “responsible civic conduct” at that instant in time with respect to “our” society.

There is, alas, no such thing as an “objective” definition of “education.”