[Marxism] Why I am a Socialist

Greg McDonald sabocat59 at mac.com
Mon Dec 29 20:26:09 MST 2008

Why I am a Socialist
by Chris Hedges

The corporate forces that are looting the Treasury and have plunged  
us into a depression will not be contained by the two main political  
parties. The Democratic and Republican parties have become little  
more than squalid clubs of privilege and wealth, whores to money and  
corporate interests, hostage to a massive arms industry, and so adept  
at deception and self-delusion they no longer know truth from lies.  
We will find our way out of this mess by embracing an uncompromising  
democratic socialism-one that will insist on massive government  
relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas  
companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care  
program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our  
bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars-or we will  
continue to be fleeced and impoverished by our bankrupt elite and  
shackled and chained by our surveillance state.

The free market and globalization, promised as the route to worldwide  
prosperity, have been exposed as a con game. But this does not mean  
our corporate masters will disappear. Totalitarianism, as George  
Orwell pointed out, is not so much an age of faith as an age of  
schizophrenia. "A society becomes totalitarian when its structure  
becomes flagrantly artificial," Orwell wrote, "that is when its  
ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power  
by force or fraud." Force and fraud are all they have left. They will  
use both.

There is a political shift in Europe toward an open confrontation  
with the corporate state. Germany has seen a surge of support for Die  
Linke (The Left), a political grouping formed 18 months ago. It is co- 
led by the veteran socialist "Red" Oskar Lafontaine, who has built  
his career on attacking big business. Two-thirds of Germans in public  
opinion polls say they agree with all or some of Die Linke's  
platform. The Socialist Party of the Netherlands is on the verge of  
overtaking the Labor Party as the main opposition party on the left.  
Greece, beset with street protests and violence by disaffected  
youths, has seen the rapid rise of the Coalition of the Radical Left.  
In Spain and Norway socialists are in power. Resurgence is not  
universal, especially in France and Britain, but the shifts toward  
socialism are significant.

Corporations have intruded into every facet of life. We eat corporate  
food. We buy corporate clothes. We drive corporate cars. We buy our  
vehicular fuel and our heating oil from corporations. We borrow from  
corporate banks. We invest our retirement savings with corporations.  
We are entertained, informed and branded by corporations. We work for  
corporations. The creation of a mercenary army, the privatization of  
public utilities and our disgusting for-profit health care system are  
all legacies of the corporate state. These corporations have no  
loyalty to America or the American worker. They are not tied to  
nation states. They are vampires.

"By now the [commercial] revolution has deprived the mass of  
consumers of any independent access to the staples of life: clothing,  
shelter, food, even water," Wendell Berry wrote in "The Unsettling of  
America." "Air remains the only necessity that the average user can  
still get for himself, and the revolution had imposed a heavy tax on  
that by way of pollution. Commercial conquest is far more thorough  
and final than military defeat."

The corporation is designed to make money without regard to human  
life, the social good or impact on the environment. Corporate laws  
impose a legal duty on corporate executives to make as much money as  
possible for shareholders, although many have moved on to fleece  
shareholders as well. In the 2003 documentary film "The Corporation"  
the management guru Peter Drucker says: "If you find an executive who  
wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast."

A corporation that attempts to engage in social responsibility, that  
tries to pay workers a decent wage with benefits, that invests its  
profits to protect the environment and limit pollution, that gives  
consumers fair deals, can be sued by shareholders. Robert Monks, the  
investment manager, says in the film: "The corporation is an  
externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing  
machine. There isn't any question of malevolence or of will. The  
enterprise has within it, and the shark has within it, those  
characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was designed."  
Ray Anderson, the CEO of Interface Corp., the world's largest  
commercial carpet manufacturer, calls the corporation a "present day  
instrument of destruction" because of its compulsion to "externalize  
any cost that an unwary or uncaring public will allow it to  

"The notion that we can take and take and take and take, waste and  
waste, without consequences, is driving the biosphere to  
destruction," Anderson says.

In short, the film, based on Joel Bakan's book "The Corporation: The  
Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power," asserts that the  
corporation exhibits many of the traits found in people clinically  
defined as psychopaths.

Psychologist Dr. Robert Hare lists in the film psychopathic traits  
and ties them to the behavior of corporations:

callous unconcern for the feelings for others;
incapacity to maintain enduring relationships;
reckless disregard for the safety of others;
deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit;
incapacity to experience guilt;
failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior.
And yet, under the American legal system, corporations have the same  
legal rights as individuals. They give hundreds of millions of  
dollars to political candidates, fund the army of some 35,000  
lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals to write  
corporate-friendly legislation, drain taxpayer funds and abolish  
government oversight. They saturate the airwaves, the Internet,  
newsprint and magazines with advertisements promoting their brands as  
the friendly face of the corporation. They have high-priced legal  
teams, millions of employees, skilled public relations firms and  
thousands of elected officials to ward off public intrusions into  
their affairs or halt messy lawsuits. They hold a near monopoly on  
all electronic and printed sources of information. A few media giants- 
AOL-Time Warner, General Electric, Viacom, Disney and Rupert  
Murdoch's NewsGroup-control nearly everything we read, see and hear.

"Private capital tends to become concentrated in [a] few hands,  
partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly  
because technological development and the increasing division of  
labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the  
expense of the smaller ones," Albert Einstein wrote in 1949 in the  
Monthly Review in explaining why he was a socialist. "The result of  
these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous  
power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically  
organized political society. This is true since the members of  
legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely  
financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all  
practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The  
consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact  
sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of  
the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private  
capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main  
sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus  
extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for  
the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make  
intelligent use of his political rights."

Labor and left-wing activists, especially university students and  
well-heeled liberals, have failed to unite. This division, which is  
often based on social rather than economic differences, has long  
stymied concerted action against ruling elites. It has fractured the  
American left and rendered it impotent.

"Large sections of the middle class are being gradually  
proletarianized; but the important point is that they do not, at any  
rate not in the first generation, adopt a proletarian outlook,"  
Orwell wrote in 1937 during the last economic depression. "Here I am,  
for instance, with a bourgeois upbringing and a working-class income.  
Which class do I belong to? Economically I belong to the working  
class, but it is almost impossible for me to think of myself as  
anything but a member of the bourgeoisie. And supposing I had to take  
sides, whom should I side with, the upper class which is trying to  
squeeze me out of existence, or the working class whose manners are  
not my manners? It is probable that I, personally, in any important  
issue, would side with the working class. But what about the tens or  
hundreds of thousands of others who are in approximately the same  
position? And what about that far larger class, running into millions  
this time-the office-workers and black-coated employees of all kinds- 
whose traditions are less definite middle class but who would  
certainly not thank you if you called them proletarians? All of these  
people have the same interests and the same enemies as the working  
class. All are being robbed and bullied by the same system. Yet how  
many of them realize it? When the pinch came nearly all of them would  
side with their oppressors and against those who ought to be their  
allies. It is quite easy to imagine a working class crushed down to  
the worst depths of poverty and still remaining bitterly anti-working- 
class in sentiment; this being, of course, a ready-made Fascist party."

Coalitions of environmental, anti-nuclear, anti-capitalist,  
sustainable-agriculture and anti-globalization forces have coalesced  
in Europe to form and support socialist parties. This has yet to  
happen in the United States. The left never rallied in significant  
numbers behind Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader. In picking the lesser  
of two evils, it threw its lot in with a Democratic Party that backs  
our imperial wars, empowers the national security state and does the  
bidding of corporations.

If Barack Obama does not end the flagrant theft of taxpayer funds by  
corporate slugs and the disgraceful abandonment of our working class,  
especially as foreclosures and unemployment mount, many in the  
country will turn in desperation to the far right embodied by groups  
such as Christian radicals. The failure by the left to offer a  
democratic socialist alternative will mean there will be, in the eyes  
of many embittered and struggling working- and middle-class  
Americans, no alternative but a perverted Christian fascism. The  
inability to articulate a viable socialism has been our gravest  
mistake. It will ensure, if this does not soon change, a ruthless  
totalitarian capitalism.

© 2008 TruthDig.com

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