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Did You Shift To the Right?

Fascist_OK

The reactionary candidate in the Dutch elections didn’t do as well as predicted. Maybe the fascists won’t win in France, either, but Donald Trump will still be President of the United States and the talking heads of the news will still be saying that there’s a “shift to the right”

They don’t say that somebody else shifted to the right, they say that the electorate did. We’re the electorate, so they mean us. Did you shift to the right? I doubt it.

In fact, a “shift to the right” by the electorate is not what is happening at all. If the electorate were becoming more reactionary, we wouldn’t have seen the liberal election results on marijuana and minimum wage. What we’re seeing is something else.

What Are We Seeing?

We are seeing a shift in tactics by the rich.

Throughout written history, the more-or-less propertyless have fought against the propertied for basic sustenance, for rights, and for freedom. We have done pretty well for ourselves, especially under capitalism. Once workers freed themselves from slavery and serfdom, we went on to get better living conditions, a little bit of dignity for workers, and limited democracy.

Limited Democracy?

We’ve always fought for more democracy, more control over our lives, and in generally we’ve been winning. Winning at least until lately. American workers did particularly well during the golden days from the end of World War II to the late 1970s. That’s when American industry completely dominated the world. We got rid of all-white primaries, poll taxes, English-only ballots, fake literacy tests for Black voters, prohibitions on voting for 18-year-olds, and we made other great accomplishments during that period. But our democracy was always limited.

We never won the right to vote on wars, on plant closures, on layoffs, on hiring policies, and lots of other things that are exclusively done by the propertied class. Only recently, most of us realized that we’ve never had the right to vote on Federal Reserve officers. So our democracy has grown, but it was always limited.

After 1982, when the government started coming down on our right to unionize, our democracy began to erode. When the Supreme Court opened our election process to unlimited financial intervention, when they gutted the Voting Rights Act, and when unfair redistricting and voter suppression laws became common, we began to realize that the long-term trend toward more democracy was being reversed.

Why The Reverse in Democracy?

Around 1980, the propertied class changed their tactics. Instead of kidding us along with limited democracy, they decided on an all-out war against our rights. What changed for them was international competition. The United States no longer had the only functioning factories in the world and had to compete with countries who could make better products cheaper. The squeeze was on.

One can validate this with any account of inequality. From 1945 to the late 1970s, American workers constantly improved our lot. After that, it’s been downhill economically. One good book about it is “Runaway Inequality” by Les Leopold. Leopold shows what happened, but he is a little skimpy on “why” and “what the heck do we do about it?”

The owning class changed their tactics, and we have to fight them! That’s the why and what.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review

Billionaires Are Pulling America’s Strings

Mayer, Jane: Dark Money. The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. Doubleday, New York, 2016.

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There’s a great quote at the beginning of this best-selling book:

“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” –Louis Brandeis

This wonderful book solves a number of contemporary mysteries:

  • If Americans are better educated and better informed than ever, why have our political ideas lurched toward ignorance?
  • If we understand economics better than ever, why is wealth disparity so awful?
  • How can our commentators and professors afford to say patently ridiculous things without losing their livelihood?
  • If we all have to live on this planet, why are we polluting so much?

The answer is dark money. A carefully crafted network of billionaires has bought off politicians, economists, professors, and commentators and turned them into ventriloquists’ dummies who repeat and repeat and repeat the things that billionaires want said. They have gone beyond buying a few columnists and professors. They own think tanks, newspapers, information networks, Radio & TV networks, professors and entire faculties, individual politicians and entire state legislatures. Their effect on the federal government is substantial.

Their contributions to this underhanded scheme are more or less legal and even tax deductible!

The main architect of this secret and underhanded network is named Charles Koch. Many years ago, he took up his father’s interest in right wing organizations such as the John Birch Society. As the years passed, Koch and his billionaire co-conspirators became better and better at influencing legislation and public opinion. It’s all detailed in Jane Mayer’s book.

Although most of their maneuvers result directly in more money for themselves, the perpetrators generally claim to be ideologically motivated. The book’s author, in my opinion, gives them too much credit in this direction. She usually refers to them as “arch conservatives” or “libertarians.”

I wouldn’t characterize them so generously. If Benito Mussolini was correct when he defined “fascism” as simply “corporatism,” then “fascists” is the more accurate description of Koch and his cronies. Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels would be proud of them!

In that regard, they are not completely in step with the entire ruling class of America, which has so far not elected to rule through fascism. They still rely on the Republican and Democratic parties to keep our limited democracy working for them. The Koch network operates primarily through the Republican Party, but not completely. They maintain their independence and their “corporatism” fascist goals. It would be interesting to see if they completely try to take over the Republican Party, as seems to be their goal, or if they try to establish a formidable fascist party.

Whichever way they go, a united and well informed progressive movement is the solution to the threat they raise. This book goes a long way toward that solution.

–Gene Lantz