by Ron Jacobs
The show is essentially over. There might be some good floor fights at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia later this summer, but the rigged odds combined with an equally pervasive corruption has given the Democratic Party nomination to Hilary Clinton. Hillary, who reminds me of Richard Nixon in terms of her love of power and combative fear of political rivals, will be closer to her desired goal of the White House than the time since she lived there with her husband. This time, though, it will be all hers. That in itself is reason for the left side of the world’s polity to organize. In case that is not enough, the proto-fascist and right wing forces mobilizing around the other party’s candidate, Donald Trump, should be motivation for anyone who acknowledges every human’s basic humanity to get into the streets and resist.
For those around the nation who have become politically involved for the first time by working or even just voting for Bernie Sanders, the fact of Hillary Clinton’s arrogant certainty that she would win the Democratic nomination and that Sanders never had a chance might be too much to take. Indeed, one might be already thinking that the whole campaign was a waste of time and, consequently, so are politics in general. Or, one might be saying to themselves, “fuck this, we can’t ever change anything so why bother. As for some older folks, who worked or voted for Sanders just like they might have voted for Kucinich, or Jesse Jackson or George McGovern, they might be saying—I can’t believe I fell for this game again. Although the desire to go back to being cynical or depressed might be strong, don’t. Why not? Because this campaign has made one thing clear: a substantial number of Americans are interested in redistributing wealth and making government work for the 99 percent.
This simple fact means that we must not despair. Instead we must go beyond the paradigm, think outside the box of bourgeois electoral politics and determine how to make the social change we desire take place. How can we redistribute wealth and guarantee homes, education, health care and an income for all? How can we end the rule of Wall Street and the Pentagon over our lives and the lives of people around the world? How can we dismantle neoliberal capitalism and put human needs before any profits? How—and this is the fundamental question—can we prevent the planet from becoming uninhabitable?
The answer to most of those question lies in the answer to this one: How can we dismantle neoliberal capitalism and put human needs before profits? Furthermore, the answer to the second part of that question—how can we put human needs before profits—lies in the answer to the first part—how can we dismantle neoliberal capitalism?
That is the challenge of the next ten years. Why ten years? Because ten years is an understandable number, a “do-able” time span. We can see ourselves in ten years. Also, because, according to Kevin Schaefer, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, we may have reached the “starting point when melting permafrost begins a likely irreversible release of 190 gigatons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. “Thawing permafrost is threatening to overwhelm attempts to keep the planet from getting too hot for human survival. Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, as much as two-thirds of the world’s gigantic storehouse of frozen carbon could be released…this might be irreversible.”
In other words, humanity’s future might very well depend on what we do to end the rule of neoliberal capitalism. Indeed, it makes necessary the end of this economic system that demands an intensified rape of the planet’s resources, the ever-increasing presence of armed conflict by the imperial powers and those opposed to the destruction of their homes, culture and existence, and the super-exploitation of those who labor for the profits of the powerful. It is not enough to demand a livable wage for those of us who work under that system, although that is a starting point for a deeper and more complex challenge to the rule of the 1%. It is also not enough to vote or campaign for candidates trying to reform the current system, no matter what party they are part of. As the downfall of the European system of social democracy seems to prove, the hegemonic domination of the neoliberal capitalist system is not satisfied until those who were once Socialists do the work of the global financiers: privatizing health care, tossing tenants from their homes and selling them to banks and well-heeled real estate racketeers, re-arming their nations and sending soldiers off to fight ill-defined wars whose only purpose seems to be the selling of weapons so that more can made along with the profits accompanying their sale, shutting down public libraries, public schools, putting the elderly and disabled into the streets, removing the hungry from food stamp rolls, denying the veterans of those aforementioned wars health care and work and even citizenship, sending migrants to their certain deaths…the list continues—you know the litany.
Neoliberal capitalism is, like all previous versions of capitalism, a hubristic and greedy beast. It exists to feed its already bloated being and it has no soul. It exists outside of greed, because it is an amoral phenomenon, but when the greedy participate—as they will—the damage done is exacerbated exponentially.
So, where does this leave us? Are movements for reform pointless? Are those of you working for Sanders wasting your time? Is the “Fight for 15” movement a movement for nothing? What about “BlackLivesMatter”, movements against drones and war and struggles around gender issues and women’s rights? Of course they are not. Especially given the current situation. Without these and other movements for social justice, this nation would be much further down the road to a purely authoritarian corporate state ruled by the small-minded and the money-changers. The aforementioned movements and those like them not only keep the proto-fascists at bay, they also provide the entire population with alternatives to the world the 1% would like to make permanent. In a political climate defined by monopoly capitalism and its human clones in the banks, the stock exchanges, the Pentagon, and the other halls of power, any resistance in the name of progressive social justice is crucial to our survival.
At the same time, what I have described is not nearly enough. We must go further. Our challenge must be broader and deeper; broader in its reach and deeper in its analysis. We must acknowledge that neoliberal capitalism is the problem. In doing so, we will then understand that capitalism itself is the problem. So, we must fight capitalism. This is where the “broad in its reach” part comes in. The popularity of the Sanders campaign and the struggle to raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars proves that such breadth exists. By deepening the analysis of those campaigns to one that analyzes and challenges capitalism on its fundamental claims that it is an economic system that works for humanity and, this cannot be emphasized enough, making that analysis an essential part of our organizing, it will be possible to involve almost every people in every other social justice campaign, making a broad popular coalition possible. Imagine a movement of groups and individuals dedicated to ending capitalism. If you can’t imagine that, at least you can imagine a movement dedicated to insuring free or affordable health care, quality public education and housing for every individual. A movement dedicated to ending the stranglehold of the military-industrial complex and the financial industry on our lives. A movement to end imperial wars. A movement determined to end police brutality and murder. A movement to end systemic racism and make reparations to those so wronged by the racist history of this nation. A movement to end systemic sexism and create gender equality.
If you can imagine such a movement, then you can imagine a movement to end capitalism—since these are symptoms of that cancer upon humanity’s soul. But, it seems to be strategically smart to begin with a movement around these reforms, with an approach that encourages an understanding that capitalism is at the root of the problems the movement hopes to reform.
How would that movement take shape? What would be its various manifestations? A political party? A movement in the streets? These are difficult but essential questions. The moment to begin asking them—locally, nationally and ultimately internationally, is now. I am a firm believer in creating a Left movement in the streets like that created in West Germany in the 1960s and early 1970s known as the Außerparlamentarische Opposition (APO). This was a radical left movement of groups and individuals opposed to the Grand Coalition of the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats. Since the Coalition controlled much of the government, the Left represented in the APO pressured the system from the streets, in local elections and other manifestations.
The thinking behind this is that by not supporting a candidate or a party, but important and radical issues instead, the resurgent Left in the US will be able to exercise its power. The movement will exist for the people, not for candidates. If a candidate subscribed to the movement’s politics, they would join the movement, not have the movement join their pursuit for power. It must be emphasized over and over–we can’t leave it up to Bernie to create that movement—that’s never been his thing. We must do that by bringing together the multitude of issues, approach them through an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist lens, and move forward. We might just save the planet.