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Each year Leftist Democrats, Socialists and Radicals are asked to hold their noses and vote for the lesser-of-two-evils. This is a false choice because we live in a rigged One-Party state – a plutocracy run by the Business Party, a Syndicate with Democratic and Republican wings. “Syndicate” is the proper word for our corrupt One-Party system because there is no real choice – only the appearance of choice. We are onlookers cheering for the villain or the babyface in a pro-wrestling spectacle we call elections orchestrated by a complicit mass media. We must open our eyes to this facade for “the first revolutionary act is to call things by their true name.” (Rosa Luxemburg)
At both the state and national levels, the candidates offered up by the Syndicate are corporate-funded purveyors of empire whose primary loyalty is to the investor class that funds them. In fact, the only requirement the Syndicate makes on their candidates is that they are capable of raising massive amounts of money from corporations, or the corporate rich, to ensure they have the blessing of the investor class. There are no requirements on morality, voting record, or policy positions within the Business Party Syndicate. Mark Twain was correct when he wrote: “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress.” This corruption is as true today as it was 150 years ago. And the higher that one is elevated in the party wings of the Syndicate, the more fundraising dominates their time and focus. It is this process that transforms politicians (who might initially believe they can honestly represent the public) into marketers whose role is to convince the public that there is no alternative to the capitalist system or the policies written by corporate-funded think tanks. “Corruption is not an anomaly but an essential element in the functioning of managed democracy.” (Sheldon Wolin)
In addition to fundraising, rising in the Party Power Structure requires adherence to the status quo ideology of the Washington Consensus. To obtain backing in the Syndicate, candidates must first profess a belief in American mythology: that the U.S. is the “indispensable country” – a benevolent force where Americans are innocent in our hostilities, that capitalism is the only method for organizing an economy, that free markets and free trade function without government help and benefit all, that inequality is a natural state in a meritocracy, and that growth is necessary. One must also show fealty to the Pentagon and arms industry, to the financial interests of Wall Street, and to multinational corporate interests. Martin Luther King Jr. saw it clearly: “It means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.”
Fealty to the Syndicate translates to support for endless wars, oil subsidies, bank bailouts, free trade agreements, environmental exploitation, and coups against any country that fails to embrace neoliberal ideology. This fealty also translates to lower wages, increased health care costs, poorer schools, soaring housing costs, growing homelessness, and massive student debt. It doesn’t matter which wing of the Syndicate the candidate chooses to join, they must embrace the core mythology designed to maximize corporate profits. And “if voting made any difference, they’d make it illegal.” (Emma Goldman)
The continued lesser-of-two-evils voting by the Left has facilitated 50 years of neoliberal policies that have created the highest level of wealth inequality that the U.S. has ever seen, and a series of endless wars instigated and perpetuated by both wings of the Syndicate. Einstein stated, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So why do Leftists continue to behave in this manner? Have we forgotten that “he who chooses for the lesser evil all too readily forgets having chosen evil.” (Hannah Arendt) Why do we continue to vote for false-choice candidates that move us farther and farther into a hegemonic empire of bases occupying the world? To answer this question, and envision a path forward, we must first understand the history and nature of the corruption and then ask what can be done differently.
We begin by acknowledging that U.S. representative government was designed by the founding fathers to insure that the wealthy, slave-owning elite controlled the State. James Madison wrote “Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability.” Representative government was never designed to be democratic – it was purposely designed to be anti-democratic in order to partner with property owners and assist their crimes of asset theft – primarily through slavery and land stolen from indigenous nations.
Early on, the mythology of white supremacy was intertwined with our other mythologies of capitalism, meritocracy and rugged individualism to hide this immoral theft – this piracy. Together these myths act as a social glue that justifies the inequalities apparent throughout society. This mythology still blinds most Whites to various forms of institutional racism – racialized mass incarceration being the most obvious. “Understanding the foundation of capitalism requires a consideration of ‘the hidden abode of race’: the ontological distinction between superior and inferior humans – codified as race – that was necessary for slavery, colonialism, the theft of lands in the Americas, and genocide.” (Michael C. Dawson). Racism and impoverishment are the nature of our capitalist system. Neoliberal mythology developed over the last 50 years is just the latest form of propaganda used to justify a system that uses racist oppression to control and rob us of our labor, our assets, and our dignity.
But this early system of government designed to partner with slavery has evolved into a system designed to partner with corporations: “Representative institutions no longer represent voters. Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the major corporations and wealthiest Americans. The courts, in turn, when they are not increasingly handmaidens of corporate power, are consistently deferential to the claims of national security. Elections have become heavily subsidized non-events that typically attract at best merely half of an electorate whose information about foreign and domestic politics is filtered through corporate-dominated media. Citizens are manipulated into a nervous state by the media’s reports of rampant crime and terrorist networks, by thinly veiled threats of the Attorney General and by their own fears about unemployment. What is crucially important here is not only the expansion of governmental power but the inevitable discrediting of constitutional limitations and institutional processes that discourages the citizenry and leaves them politically apathetic.” (Sheldon Wolin, “Democracy Incorporated”)
We now live in a system of “Inverted Totalitarianism.” This is not classical totalitarianism where a strong leader seizes power. Paraphrasing Wolin: Today our leaders are products of a system–a system gradually created that retains old myths. It values corporate power over the public good, the economy dominates the political, and it uses economic instability to generate passivity in a demobilized society. The system is designed to seize the assets of the poor and funnel them to the rich, and then criminalize the poor to cover up the theft. We citizens are complicit in this process by accepting a passive spectator role. We are no longer involved in setting policy or choosing potential leaders, and a captured intelligentsia offers a false utopian vision while the ruling elite “manage democracy.” We are apolitical subjects not citizens – fixed irrevocably in childhood hoping that the leader-messiah will bring us to salvation.
However there are moments when the public recognizes that they have been deceived, that the system is broken and corrupt. At these times our political leaders offer a salve of technical fixes using the obtuse language of economics to obscure both the reality of the problems and the cause. And when all else fails, they blame the bureaucrats of government rather than the beneficiaries of government corruption and largess. In this system of managed democracy, the “two major parties are very protective of their monopoly over US politics. Should any third party begin to gain a significant following that could compete with either party in the polls, they will make common cause in attacking and bringing about the dismantlement of the third party.” (Steve Martinot)
Internal reform of the Business Party Syndicate, or either wing of that Syndicate, is prevented by the structure that governs promotion within each wing – a structure that is based upon fundraising from powerful corporations. Should any leftist candidate manage to bypass the corporate-controlled gates via small-donation fundraising, they are either destroyed via redistricting or from direct personal attacks by corporate-funded think tanks and corporate-owned mass media. Examples of the former are anti-war Rep. Dennis Kucinich, while examples of the latter are too numerous to list. Recent examples of these attacks include those on Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for her anti-war position, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her Green New Deal, and Rep. Ilhan Omar for criticizing Israel.
When you examine the arc of history since WWII there is a consistency between the two wings of the Syndicate on both foreign and domestic policy. It is clear that our One-Party criminal system is designed to fund the military industrial complex, to support Big Oil so as to maintain the U.S. petrodollar as the global currency, and to destroy any liberation movements that threaten corporate profits and U.S. hegemony. Manifestations of this Syndicate include the endless wars for control of oil, coups carried out by the CIA to eliminate socialist programs, embargoes imposed on any countries that do not submit to neoliberal monetary policies, and the creation of a surveillance and police state to crush any dissent at home. Members of both wings of the Syndicate have judiciously carried out these actions.
Tens of millions of people have been sacrificed by the Syndicate over the past decades in order to maintain U.S. hegemony, and we, a docile public are complicit in these acts. We need to understand that this ruthless clinging to power at all costs is no different than what is seen in other criminal syndicates. There appears to be no moral limits to the Syndicate’s piracy, including accelerating the global climate crisis to maintain power. This latter policy of the Syndicate is apparent in both wings, with Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy and Trump’s climate change denials. U.S. hegemony and corporate profits depend on controlling the global demand for oil, and the Syndicate cannot allow any policy that is a threat to this power – including the Green New Deal. Most environmentalists still do not understand this and assume they can work within the system. They have been fooled. Media manipulation has produced an expectation that the Democratic wing of the Syndicate will adopt environmental policies to avoid this disaster. Unfortunately, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” (Mark Twain)
Manipulation of Americans, by limiting the dialogue allowed around political problems and by only giving voice to a narrow range of solutions acceptable to the Syndicate, is a key element in maintaining “manufactured democracy.” This control is accomplished with commercial and social media organized by a handful of corporations that use “divide and conquer” propaganda techniques, honed over the last century, to sow fear, racism, xenophobia and misogyny. The planning and propaganda centers for the globalist policies that maintain this control are the decentralized corporate-funded think tanks whose mission is to maintain US hegemony, protect global capital, and defend neoliberal social policies of austerity.
Within this system of propaganda, political campaigns work to construct an image least offensive to their wealthy benefactors and to the voters. This image is then marketed to us. Noam Chomsky writes: “It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.” Voters are bombarded with messages both from the not-so-independent corporate media and by political campaigns who now tailor their individualized messaging based on your Facebook and Google profiles. In this sea of propaganda, the voter is left to choose between Coke and Pepsi – or during the 2016 presidential campaign between Caligula and Nero. And by voting for members of the Syndicate, we give tacit approval to a corrupt system that robs us of our power, our assets, our labor, and our freedoms.
What does it mean to choose between candidates that are incapable of addressing the primary existential threats to humanity – namely climate change and war? What does it mean to choose between candidates who are guaranteed to favor Wall Street over Main Street? What does it mean to choose between candidates that will continue to pursue policies designed by corporations that remove the last safety nets we have for health, education, food security, housing and retirement? By choosing between the Syndicate candidates, are we collaborating with a system that perpetuates economic and social inequality controlled by an ever-growing military and police-surveillance state? Can lesser-of-two-evil voting be justified in such a system? Does such participation indicate consent in a system of injustice? Is there a way to break the cycle?
All attempts to reform the One-Party system over the past four decades have proved futile due to the structural reasons described above. In fact, corporate control of the Syndicate has strengthened. Any efforts to work within the corrupted structure, and that deviate from the Syndicate’s Washington Consensus, are crushed. Attempts thus far to run a non-Syndicate candidate in a winner-take-all election system have been futile both due to lesser-of-two-evils voting which causes small Party candidates to be ignored or, on the rare occasion when an outsider wins, because individual representatives within that system have no power. What is especially needed now is an effort to build something outside this system – something outside of the control of corporate money. Let’s call this something “The Movement” just to give it a name.
The Movement must be broad based and inclusive to face off against the Syndicate, therefore it must combine all the issues that the Left struggle against. No one issue can dominate. This uniting is possible because all the political struggles have a common enemy – namely the Syndicate – which is too powerful for any subset of organizations to challenge. In addition, all the various political objectives of the Left – preventing war and climate change, ending oppression and racism, promoting democratic participation, ending corporate control, preventing environmental degradation, dismantling capitalism, providing affordable health care and education, and ending poverty – are all intertwined with the power structure of the Syndicate. And because the Syndicate controls the current power structure, it will not allow any challenges to its power within that structure. The Movement must be built outside that system and in such a manner that the Syndicate is unable to control or destroy it.
So what form can The Movement take and what role can existing progressive and leftist organizations have with regards to The Movement? First, the Left must acknowledge that all political organizations that currently exist will be unsuccessful in achieving their objectives if they require defeating the core objectives of the Syndicate. For example, any organizations attempting to impact policy as regards global climate change will fail because Syndicate power relies on maintaining an oil-based economy, and control of that oil maintains petrodollar hegemony. It doesn’t matter that this Syndicate control will result in the deaths of billions of people because the Syndicate’s corporate-machine structure will eliminate any member whose primary concern is not maintaining Syndicate power.
Alternatively, any attempts to reduce global poverty and inequality will fail because Syndicate profits depend on that exploitation. And any attempts to move away from endless war will fail because the Syndicate’s control and profits depend on the maintaining a growing military industrial complex. Any targeted efforts at change will never be powerful enough. Only a combined effort that involves all Leftist interests with massive participation can be successful. And any organizations who choose to focus on a narrow set of goals, rather than topple the Syndicate, will fail over time and slowly become more concerned with maintaining their operations rather than reaching their goal — which would eliminate their reason for existence. In fact, such behavior can now be seen in many “leftist” or “progressive” organizations, with many environmental organizations fully captured and beholden to corporate funding.
So what can organizations do to build The Movement? First, they must be willing to sacrifice their narrow political interests to the larger goals of The Movement. This should be declared openly and their education programs must address the interconnectedness of all our political problems. They must also identify the primary driver of these problems – namely the Business Party Syndicate with its Democratic and Republican wings. Organizations must focus on community building of democratic structures outside the Syndicate’s control.
Organizations should spend little time on election-related issues except as outreach to educate and draw in others to The Movement, and should instead focus on building coalitions with other groups. Organizations must emphasize bottom-up democratic operations that build solidarity and interconnections with other organizations. The Movement will need to develop its own internal super-structure that is independent of the old systems of power, with safeguards to prevent power consolidation and disruption by the Syndicate. And The Movement must wait till it reaches a critical mass of people capable of challenging the Business Party Syndicate before it wields its political power.
So what can be done by individuals now while the path to building The Movement is unclear? A first step is to do anything one can to disempower the Syndicate. One way is to demonstrate that your loyalty is not to the Business Party by registering to vote with a non-corporate Party. No Party Preference fails to do this since this does not demonstrate interest in building an alternative to the Syndicate. Second, vote for candidates who are not members of the Syndicate and who are not from corporate-funded Parties. Third, form local groups to discuss the history and structure of the Syndicate so we understand what we are up against. Fourth, join leftist organizations and begin a dialogue about the interconnected nature of all our social problems and the need to unite against a common enemy – namely the Syndicate. Fifth, in building The Movement we must focus on the ideology and vision that will unite us and not on candidate or leader personalities. Sixth, building The Movement means doing the hard work of community outreach and education, and in particular getting outside one’s comfort zone. This will include defending those who are attacked by the Syndicate and providing the needed economic and educational support to those communities who join The Movement. Seventh, dialogue is critical, so all members of The Movement must work to develop critical thinking and listening skills. Training must include recognition of the various propaganda techniques that the Syndicate will attempt to use to divide us.
“We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.” (Ursula Le Guin) Therefore start doing the work to build The Movement today so we can do away with the corrupt Business Party Syndicate which is now the greatest existential threat humanity has ever experienced. Don’t be fooled into thinking that participation in elections means that we really have a choice or that this is democracy. Your choices are extremely limited and will not change the system nor will they help avert disaster. This can only be done by building The Movement and taking back our power from corporations. “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)